Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cde Solly Mapaila, Second Deputy General Secretary contribution at Moses Kotane Memorial Lecture
21 May 2017, Rustenburg

Moses Kotane, a chief architect of the South African struggle

One of the great achievements of communists like Moses Kotane was that he immediately grasped, as Cde Yusuf Dadoo, former National Chairperson of our Party put it:

"...the need to indigenise Marxism so as to give it meaning for the millions of our workers and peasants." (Introduction, Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary, 1975)

For it was and (still) is, as Dadoo eloquently put it, the specific feature of the South African situation that there can be:

" working class victory without black liberation and no black liberation without the destruction of capitalism in all its forms."

Kotane`s contribution to the development and application of the revolutionary theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism in the concrete conditions of South Africa has had a monumental ideological contribution to the worldview of our Party. This is summarised in his famous letter from Cradock to the Johannesburg District Party Committee dated 23 February 1934. Kotane called for the Communist Party to become Africanised or Afrikanised, pay special attention to South Africa, study the conditions of this country and concretise the demands of the toiling masses from first hand information, speak the language of, and know the demands of the masses. He called on the Party, while maintaining (and further developing and intensifying) its internationalism, to become South African not only theoretically but practically serve as a Party working in the interests of, and for the toiling people of our country.

The system of capitalist exploitation of workers by the bosses - the shareholders or stakeholders who enrich themselves by appropriating production surplus - workers` unpaid labour, or profit, interests or rent first emerged and developed in Europe. Historically it makes sense that the emergence of the Communist Party as a response to capitalism also started and developed first in Europe. The problem that Kotane set to address was a tendency to fantasise the struggle fought by the working class in Europe arising out of its conditions at the neglect of the situation of our own country. The ideological articulation by Kotane grounding Marxism-Leninism in our country`s concrete conditions was therefore very profound. From this point of view our Party`s ideological approach, which needs to be sufficiently recognised, can be described as `Marxism-Leninism and Moses Kotane intervention`.

It was from this approach that Kotane contributed enormously in building our Alliance, including taking part in both the ANC and the SACP not only as a member but also as leader. During the period of ten years from 1963 to 1973 Kotane concurrently served both as SACP General Secretary and ANC Treasurer General. The chauvinism and narrow nationalism that can only destroy our movement today and disrupt its unity is opposed to, and has become an agenda against the participation of communists in leading positions of the ANC. If the ANC is to survive and turn the tide against its trend of decline it has to remain true to its character as a mass political organisation of our people as a whole, the majority of whom is the working class and poor. Its orientation must be that of the interests of this overwhelming majority of our people. Once it becomes a vehicle of narrow interests of self-enrichment it will perish.

There are many lessons the whole of our Alliance can draw from the revolutionary orientation of Moses Kotane, a strategist and tactician and arguably the chief architect not only of our Alliance but along with it the South African struggle. All the narrow nationalists and chauvinists want is support and more support for exploitation in pursuit of their narrow, private interests in the name of Africans in particular and Black people in general.

In 1950 when the Communist Party was clearly going to be the first political organisation to be banned in South Africa, then facing the Suppression of Communism Bill, it was under the brilliant leadership of Moses Kotane as General Secretary that the Party tactically dissolved itself on the surface before the Bill was passed into law by the apartheid regime. One of the provisions in the Bill was that any member of the Communist Party would automatically receive a 10 year prison sentence.

At that time the police already had a list of Party members from an earlier raid. In the light of the situation, Kotane crisscrossed the country explaining the dissolution of the Party to members and denied that it would carry on underground. Nonetheless in 1952, two years after the Party was banned with the Bill having been passed into law, Kotane and other Party cadres had already re-grouped the most stalwart members, and in 1953 the Party was re-constituted underground as the South African Communist Party, the SACP.

The central role played by Kotane as the major organiser and chief architect of the South African struggle in its formative stages was immense and critical. He was General Secretary and therefore leader of the South African Communist Party for 40 years, from 1939 until his death in 1978. Kotane joined the Party in 1929, eight years after it was formed in 1921. His growth in the Party was organic. It was anchored in revolutionary activism, including as a worker and a trade unionist.

Two years before Kotane joined the Party, in February 1927, James La Guma, the Communist Party Chairperson from Cape Town was delegated to attend the Congress of the League against Imperialism in Brussels, Belgium. He was accompanied by the ANC delegate, J.T. Gumede. After the Congress, Gumede went to Germany where he was enthusiastically received at a rally of 10 000 German communist militants. He returned to South Africa as a firm friend of the communists. And in June 1927 he was elected ANC President. A Party member, E.J. Khaile was elected as Secretary-General. In November 1927, La Guma and Gumede made another joint trip, this time to the Soviet Union. This trip was to have far reaching consequences for both the Party and the ANC. Gumede returned in February 1928. Addressing a large crowd in Cape Town which had come to welcome him he said:

"I have seen the new world to come, where it has already begun. I have been to the New Jerusalem. I have brought the key which would unlock the door to freedom." (Quoted by Dr Raymond van Diemel in I Have Seen the New Jerusalem: Revisiting and re-conceptualising Josiah T. Gumede and Jimmy La Guma`s USSR visit of 1927 (2001))

Gumede`s affection to socialism attracted other forces that were already at work within the ANC. The conservative wing could not - and did not - remain neutral to the remarks and development of Gumede. One chief warned

"The Tsar was a great man in his country, of royal blood like us chiefs and where is he now? If the ANC continues to fraternize with them [the communists] we chiefs cannot continue to belong to it." (Quoted in the Biography of J.T. Gumede,

Another chief said:

"It will be a sad day for me when I am ruled by the man who milks my cow and ploughs my field." (Quoted in the Biography of J.T. Gumede,

I am highlighting this because some of the problems we are facing today are not brand new, but are a repetition of certain mistakes that were committed in the past and almost destroyed the ANC.

In 1930, Gumede was removed from the position of ANC President, and the position was taken over by Pixley ka Isaka Seme. Under Seme`s leadership, the ANC dwindled and almost disappeared: It was revived in 1937. This was a period of the biggest, longest and severe capitalist crisis, the Great Depression, which erupted in 1929 and last for at least ten years until 1939.

Another similarity between that period and the present one is that we are facing a crisis not only of political leadership but also of a capitalist economic system. As a result of the ongoing crisis, in few years just after its eruption in 2007/8 one million workers in our country were retrenched and lost their jobs, class inequality widened and poverty entrenched.

We are therefore facing a double challenge.

Firstly, we must resolve the crisis of political and organisational leadership that facing our movement and country. We must rescue our movement from the internal bleeding that it is suffering from. It is as a result of the bleeding that a compromised attitude towards the needs of the people because of the dominance of private interests has entrenched. We cannot afford a situation where, like during the Great Depression, our movement dwindles. The repeat of that situation will result in terminal consequences for the national democratic revolution. It will push back our country and continent to a pre-1994 situation. This is because, the main opposition in our country is made up of a political party that has, as part of its constituency, untransformed fellows who supported and enjoyed white privilege during apartheid. The world outlook of these fellows is not that of the African revolution and the international struggle of the historically oppressed and exploited to overcome imperialism. They are a point of entry for more imperialist domination.

Secondly, we must solve the problems facing our people and serve them selflessly. The core of these problems, including racialised and gendered class inequality, unemployment and poverty, corruption and crime, corporate capture and rent-seeking, patronage and factionalism, are essentially the systemic products of capitalist dominance, its system of exploitation of labour by capital, its crisis and destructive competition, including fights for positions of leadership motivated by private interests.

This is the context in which, after a thorough assessment of both the symptoms and root causes of the problems plunging our movement and country in one crisis and blunder after another, we arrived at the difficult decision that President Jacob Zuma must help salvage our revolution, must contribute to rescuing our movement, by resigning. There is just no way we can re-inspire confidence in our movement and government and win back lost ground under the President`s leadership.

To expect that we can turn the tide against the entrenching trust deficit; that we can regain lost ground; that we can convince the people we will stop corruption and corporate capture under the President`s leadership is unreasonable.

Let me reiterate that this is not the struggle against an individual. It is not an anti-Zuma struggle. Let us recall what the ANC in its own words said about the very challenge that we are facing in its Strategy and Tactics (adopted at its 50th National Conference, Mahikeng, 1997).

"In some instances what is hailed in the private sector as "black empowerment" is symbolic and devoid of real substance. There are possibilities that some of these forces are dictated to by foreign or local big capital on whom they rely for their advancement. There are possibilities too, that the path to riches for some can be directly via public office, sometimes through corrupt practices. Though such instances may be an exception to the norm, experience in other countries has taught us that, without vigilance, elements of these new capitalist classes can become witting or unwitting tools of monopoly interests, or parasites who thrive on corruption in public office."

What was seen as "an exception to the norm" has become the norm. We therefore seek to instil political will at all levels, starting at the top echelons, to put our house in order. This is a condition to confront what has become a structural problem destroying our movement from within like cancer. There is no way we will succeed to replace private corporate, personal, family interests and networks of patronage with, and to re-assert the interests of the people as a whole (the majority of whom is the working class and poor) while we are led by a compromised leadership that is either implicated or complicit in the problems we seek to solve.

Lastly, and related to all of the issues we have raised, let us look at the very important issue of patriotism, which is we need to build in defence of our democratic national sovereignty. Asked in an interview on 28 May 2014 by the "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams whether he saw himself as a patriot Edward Snowden had this to say:

"Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from... the violations of an - and encroachments of adversaries. And those adversaries don`t have to be foreign countries. They can be bad policies. They can be officials who... need a little bit more accountability. They can be mistakes of government and - ...simple overreach... - and things that - ...should never have been tried, or... that went wrong."

Snowden is a United States (US) computer professional and former Central Intelligence Agency operative and contractor to the US government. He released classified files in 2013 revealing spying by the US government on other governments. He was later charged and eventually secured asylum in Russia after he travelled to that country from Hong Kong having left his job in the US.

Today we ourselves are facing what was unthinkable, the abuse of our own state organs to target comrades who are opposed to the rot that is destroying our movement and driving our country astray. We also cannot afford a situation where a comrade, Dr Makhosi Khoza for example, is prevented to visit her own children by threats of taking violent mobilisation to her door steps.

When we say we must defend our movement and national democratic revolution we mean not only against the external enemy but internally comrades gone wrong as well. This is a patriotic duty.

The South African Council of Churches Unburdening Panel report

We must indicate that we are very worried about the Unburdening Panel report released this week by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) of the state of capture of our government.

The report among others finds that there is a parallel state to that one we know that takes decisions and implements them through the one we know.

Corruption has deepened to the extent that we believe that the ANC (national executive committee) should take immediate action taking the report seriously (as we do).

The report has gone beyond the Public Protector`s `State of Capture` report.

The SACP-convened National Imbizo

We convened a National Imbizo from Friday to Saturday 19-20 May to reflect on the primary and secondary challenges facing our movement and country and both the symptoms and root causes of our problems as a nation.

The National Imbizo agreed to a declaration calling for immediate implementation of a judicial commission of inquiry into corporate state capture. The declaration called for the disbandment of the existing Eskom board because of the governance decay has found its way in its modus operandi. Linked with this, the National Imbizo called for the irregular re-appointment of former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe back to that position to be reversed with immediate effect.

Last but not least, it was agreed that the National Imbizo should not end up as a talk sure but that is must directly lead to a broad front of progressive forces supporting our democratic transition to fight against corruption and corporate capture in defence of the independence and democratic national sovereignty of our country. This social movement and mass-based mobilisation will prioritise as part of its objectives efforts to tackle inequality, unemployment and poverty.

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