Thursday, January 23, 2020

SACP 25th Joe Slovo Annual Commemoration Statement
6 January 2020, Avalon Cemetery, Soweto

Delivered by SACP General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande

This year marks the 25th year since Joe Slovo passed way. At the time of his death, on 6 January 1995, Slovo was the SACP National Chairperson, having previously served as our General Secretary. He was a long-standing member of our Central Committee and its Politburo. He was a member of the national executive and working committees of the ANC, and was serving as the first Minister of Housing.

A great theoretician, strategist and tactician of our struggle for liberation and social emancipation, Slovo was also a man of practical action. His development of theory, strategy and tactics, was anchored in practice. He was a founding commander of our liberation army, uMkhonto weSizwe, the MK, along with Nelson Mandela. His last responsibility in the MK was as Chief of Staff. He was succeeded by Chris Hani in both this position and that of the General Secretary of our Party, the SACP.

Slovo was involved in the drafting of all major documents that defined our vision, theory and practice of struggle against apartheid, beginning with the Freedom Charter, adopted by the Congress of the People in 1955. The other historic documents include the popular SACP programme adopted underground in 1962, The Road to South African Freedom, and the widely embraced,  first Strategy and Tactics document of the ANC, adopted in 1969 in Morogoro, Tanzania. Slovo’s major works became influential. These include the South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution, which he produced in 1988. 

The significance of Slovo’s intervention in 1988 remains as relevant as ever, more so in this period where as the SACP we are pursuing a programme to build popular Left and widest possible patriotic fronts, and to work together with our allies to deepen the strategic relevance of the ANC-headed Alliance in theory as well as in practice. Some of the negative tendencies that Slovo examined and cautioned against in his intervention still exist. Our task is to overcome them and forge wider working class and broader revolutionary unity. These include a tendency he described as workerist, which sought to divorce the working class from our national liberation movement and expunge the essence of the national democratic revolution. Slovo had the following to say about the tendency, especially its disruption of unity in favour of separatism and therefore disunity:

“A transitional stage of struggle, involving inter-class alliances, is alleged to lead to an abandonment of socialist perspectives and to a surrender of working class leadership. The economic struggles between workers and bosses at the point of production (which inevitably spill over into the broader political arena) is claimed to be the ‘class struggle’. This is sometimes coupled with a view that the trade union movement is the main political representative of the working class.”

Our broad movement is also facing difficulties from within. It is precisely during this time that communists must deepen their role in the broad movement. Hence the focus of our Special National Congress held in December 2019 that we must rebuild our movement.

Yes, rebuilding our movement means paying particular attention to the ANC, but most importantly to our revolutionary movement as a whole, not least attaching great importance to the working class – the main motive force of the national democratic revolution, the most direct route to socialism in our historical conditions.

That is the vanguard role of the SACP, that of pointing the way forward, rather than being the chief mourner and lamenter about the problems facing the movement. That is what Joe Slovo stood for!

The SACP strongly condemns imperialist United States aggression and attacks in the Middle East 

We are remembering Slovo at a time when the United States government is once again embarking on dangerous acts of provocation and threatening war in the Middle East.

The SACP strongly condemns the acts of aggression by the United States against both Iranian and Iraqi people. These attacks amount to a violation of the two countries’ rights to national sovereignty and self-determination. The flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereign airspace is one of the many examples which prove that the imperialist regime of the US has never cared about the freedom of the people in any region or country and is prepared to violate international law whenever it wants to.

It is a well-documented fact that the US’ involvement in the Middle East has nothing to do with peace for the people in that region. Neither does it have anything to do with the promotion of international peace and security. Like in Venezuela, the US’ intention in the Middle East is to achieve control of natural resources, particularly oil, as well as its global market, and the promotion of the US dollar.

In the Middle East, in the year 2000 for instance Iraq decided to use the Euro for its oil exports, but since the illegal military invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003 and the occupation that followed, Iraq was coerced back to the US dollar. It is also no mystery why Iran, with 10 per cent of the world’s oil production, would attract the imperialist US’ violence. The surrounding of the region with US military bases has all the imperialist trappings against which the working class must unite. This is our call.

As part of its strategy of geo-political hegemony, the US also acts to change the balance of forces in the Middle East in favour of its ally, the apartheid, Zionist state of Israel. All peace loving people need to also strongly condemn the habit of all US Presidents to assert their authority through foreign aggression and particularly Trump’s attempt to divert attention from his impeachment process by spilling blood in the Middle East.

The SACP calls for an intensification of internationalist work from the working class, and upon all peace loving people globally to wage a relentless struggle against imperialism. The world’s working class movement must unite in defence of the peace loving and democratic people of Iraq, Iran and the broader Middle East. The SACP is calling for an end to military escalation, militarisation of the Middle East and imperialist occupation in the region and elsewhere.

The SACP further calls upon the Iranian authorities, too, to uphold the human and democratic rights of the people of Iran. These include political rights, including the right to free democratic political expression.

Let us celebrate our national achievements and unite to tackle our societal challenges

This year April will mark the 26th anniversary of our victory over the apartheid regime in April 1994. We stand tall today, in our commemoration of Slovo, in view of the massive social progress we have made, benefiting millions of our people, starting with our enshrinement of the Bill of Rights in our country’s Constitution.

Since 1994, we have massively expanded access to housing, electricity, clean drinking water, health care and built clinics and roads in communities that were previously marginalised.

We have massively expanded access to education all levels.

To alleviate poverty, we have placed millions of people on social grants.

It is a historical fact that life in South Africa is better now than before our victory over the apartheid regime in 1994. This is not just a national reality. It is also an international reality. South Africa is an attractive destination to people from other countries where conditions are comparatively far more difficult.

However, unresolved contradictions and increasing challenges are undermining our achievements. In particular we are severely affected by the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, coupled with factors such as bad governance, poor oversight, state capture and other forms of corruption, in a world dominated by the imperialist agenda of neoliberalism and global capitalist crisis.

Lack of successful national development planning, failures to complete infrastructure and other development projects in time, and a lack of proper quality control also undermine the massive progress we have made since 1994. If he were alive, Slovo would, for instance, certainly be unhappy about load shedding, poor quality or dilapidating RDP houses, and skyrocketing cost overruns in development projects.

Moreover, the crisis of social reproduction, caused by systemic inequality, structural unemployment and entrenched poverty, has plunged many families and communities into distress. Simply put, the crisis of social reproduction refers to the intense difficulty that has crippled the ability of many families to make ends meet.

As if that were not enough, gender-based violence, underpinned by both the economic crisis of capitalism and the historical legacy of patriarchy, has become entrenched. This is a patriarchy that was sharpened and anchored into the capitalist system and its structures of the economic exploitation of labour by capital. It is a patriarchy behind the high levels of gendered inequality, unemployment, poverty, violence and social insecurity.

The SACP is calling for maximum unity of South Africans to overcome the vicious impact of the crisis of social reproduction, patriarchy and gender-based violence, and to confront state capture and other forms of corruption. To this end the working class as the main motive force of our revolution has a crucial role to play.

One of our key objectives this year is precisely to rebuild our movement, inclusive of the ANC, and to move the national democratic revolution, our national transformation and development programme, into a second, more radical phase. Our aim is to advance and defend the democratic transition and deepen the advance to socialism.

We call upon the progressive trade union movement, starting with our ally, COSATU, to convene an all-embracing national summit this year. The objective of the consultative conference should be to discuss the conditions of the workers, come up with a joint programme of action and put co-operation into practice. Unity will not fall from the sky. It has to be worked for and forged from the ground, in the common interests of the workers.

The joint progressive trade union movement campaign should include a dedicated focus on achieving a turnaround of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and other public entities. The SACP will support the programme of action by deepening its efforts to forge popular Left and patriotic fronts, and through direct participation and working with our allies to achieve reconfiguration.  United worker actions, trade union and broader unity are important also to defeat both state capture and neoliberal networks.

Down with neoliberalism and state capture networks

In South Africa post-1994 aspirant capitalist strata (“capitalist without capital”) from within the ranks of the formerly oppressed acquired a degree of hegemony through the language of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Two varieties of primitive accumulation were driven in the state on behalf of these emergent capitalist aspirants.

The first generation was the narrow BEE accumulation strata, which were an inherent part of the 1996 GEAR class project. In this version of primitive accumulation, state power was used to regulate (legally) established corporations. Procurement by the state was used as a policy instrument to enforce BEE share-holding quotas.

Established monopoly capital with varying degrees of moaning, played along with this narrow BEE primitive accumulation, seeing it as a better way of managing change without having to substantially change. The new BEE elite were quickly absorbed, usually as passive and junior partners, into the life-styles of the established capitalist class. The ethos of primitive accumulation filtered all the way down to grassroots with petty accumulation for micro-entrepreneurs. Steadily from the mid-1990s, organisational machinery shifted from popular struggle to a narrow electoralism, and then, in a further debasement, to winning elections in order to occupy office with the primary intention of reproducing and expanding primitive accumulation. 

The first generation narrow BEE was largely played out within the rules of the capitalist system in general. While non-market forces were used (state regulatory power), the empowerment followed the “rules”. Narrow BEE beneficiaries received indebted shares and were expected to repay the loans.

Generally, established monopoly capital played along with, and often actively promoted, this agenda, seeing it as a key means to advance its interests by deepening capitalism in South Africa against “radical” threats.

However, for many reasons, this agenda proved unstable and unleashed many contradictions and rivalries, including within state institutions. Not all aspirant capitalist strata could be accommodated within the 1996 GEAR class project’s inner BEE circle.

Enter the looting class, the second generation of the post-1994 primitive accumulation.

What we loosely described as “state capture”, is a second wave of accumulation using positions within the state and politics. But this second wave no longer played within the parameters of a “capitalist rule of law”. It involved direct looting (expropriation) of public resources (and particularly of key SOEs and other public entities), aided and abetted by gangster/lumpen-capitalists/bourgeoisie – the new dangerous class.

Moreover, it was no longer in the interests of capital, or monopoly capital in general – quite the opposite. While for the “state capture” networks, looting the likes of Eskom and Transnet into near-death experiences is their core business, established capital (and the broader South Africa community, not least the working class and the poor) require functioning, mostly low cost (mainly publicly) supplied energy and logistics systems.

The SACP has used the term “state capture” and even played a leading role in popularising it, while clearly understanding that it was a short-hand term for popular use. We have also sometimes preferred to speak of “corporate-capture” in general or, regarding the state, “corporate state capture” (or “corporate capture of the state).

“State capture” has caused enormous damage to economic infrastructure, the finances of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), other state-owned entities and broadly the South African economy. It further weakened our capacity as a country to face the increasingly hostile global economic environment due to the compromised nature of some of our instruments for economic transformation and development like the SOEs and key institutions such as the South African Revenue Services, SARS. 

Neither state capture nor the neoliberal agenda

Our fight against the corporate state capture networks was in no way intended to make way for a re-assertion of the neoliberal agenda and its policy regime. Similarly, our fight against the neoliberal agenda and its policy regime is in no way intended to give any quarter to the parasitic networks associated with state capture to rebound and resume looting.

The choice between looters and neoliberals is no choice at all. The advocates of the neoliberal agenda use public power and the policy-making space to facilitate and legitimise the transfer of productive state resources to exploitation by private wealth accumulation interests, while the state capture parasites use public power but follow crude, smash-and-grab or outright high-jacking tactics to achieve the same results.

What is the way forward?

A people’s economy and a democratic development state

The necessity for South Africa is to establish a people’s economy and a democratic developmental state.

In other words, without the national democratic revolution being reflected in economic policy, not only will we fail to resolve the immanent capitalist crisis we find ourselves in. We will also inevitably move towards a more complex and prolonged crisis. The unfolding crisis of capitalism, which is global but has specific features in South Africa based on our historical conditions, is certainly generating more crises. These systemic crises are not only economic. They are also social, political and ecological.

Rather than a piecemeal approach and a narrow focus on the effects without paying attention and going to the root of the problem, what our country needs is a comprehensive approach – radical structural transformation. This must build, expand, diversify and raise the levels of national production, benefit the majority of the people and reverse the catastrophic tide of climate change. The national democratic revolution must pursue new ways of production and forge alternative patterns of consumption to protect the environment from degradation. If we do not, future generations, fauna and flora will not survive in our environment.

Already our country and many areas in Southern Africa and other parts of our continent and the world are experiencing the worst drought ever recorded. There is an increase in the number of natural disasters as a result of climate change. The average temperatures increase year by year globally. Australia, one of the world’s relatively developed countries, was on fire this week. Major cities were affected. Certain areas in some small towns have been burned to the ground. These are not the “acts of God” but a direct result of capitalists not caring about anything other than immediate profit. The main cause of the problem is the capitalist mode of production, appropriation of wealth and patterns of consumption.

But part of our struggle to protect our environment must include intensifying educational and ideological work against climate change denialism. It was deeply disturbing yesterday when one of our TV stations was giving a platform to a climate change denialist. Yes, we will defend freedom of the press, but please do not take us back to denialism – whether AIDS or climate change denialism.

It is absolutely important to also take into account the fact that in our country, the colonial character of the capitalist economic foundations, including its legacy of apartheid, remains unresolved. Despite having defeated the apartheid regime in 1994, the hard reality that we are faced with, 25 years after the democratic breakthrough, is that economic control still decisively rests with the old order capitalist economic ruling class. It is a capitalist order whose fundamental character is as a subordinate and semi-peripheral component of the imperialist global economy. It was partly for this reason that narrow BEE, located deeply in this economic framework, could only serve a minority, even with the best intentions to make it broad-based. Interestingly, the first ANC Strategy and Tactics document warned against this:

“…our nationalism must not be confused with chauvinism or narrow nationalism of a previous epoch. It must not be confused with the classical drive by an elitist group among the oppressed people to gain ascendancy so that they can replace the oppressor in the exploitation of the mass.”

The ANC Morogoro Strategy and Tactics document was embraced by the entire Alliance during the time of the most intense struggle against oppression. The document called for the liberation of the oppressed to “extend beyond mere formal political control and encompass the element which makes such control meaningful – economic emancipation.” This historical mission remains essential to the completion of the liberation of South Africa. The working class must unite and pursue it rigorously. To this end we must strengthen and play our vanguard role as the SACP.

Those who have abandoned the course of liberation – for which countless revolutionaries, ordinary South Africans and people in the surrounding countries sacrificed – have embarked on a path of narrow nationalism. Others have branded themselves as champions of “radical economic transformation”, when all they have become are radical looters or advocates of neoliberalism.

It is in this context that privatisation, outsourcing and tenderisation – that is, division of the functions and roles of the state into tenders even where it is unnecessary – were used as the policy instruments of narrow BEE, narrow nationalism and state capture associated looting.

What we need is to move our economy on to a new and qualitatively different growth path that places the needs of the people at the centre of everything.

We must improve the conditions of the workers. In this regard the pursuit of the decent work agenda is important in the present period.

We must push policies that will create productive work for the unemployed to make a living and lead a decent life.

However, while the importance of being employed cannot be overemphasised compared to being unemployed, the reality in our country is that merely being employed does not automatically lift one out of poverty and inequality. This is why millions of workers, primarily because of labour exploitation by capital, remain poor despite being employed. We therefore must push policies with a focus dedicated to lifting people out of poverty through work, systematically reducing inequality and tackling economic exploitation.   

On this basis, and arising out of our Special National Congress held in December 2019, we put forward and pledge to push the following democratic developmental programmes:

Financial sector transformation

Financial sector transformation, including low cost banking and financial services. This also requires systematic elimination of financial exploitation.
A publicly controlled developmental banking and financial sector.
A co-operatively-owned banking and financial sector.
Strict regulation and management of the capital account, among others to protect our economy against volatility and stem the tide against illicit capital flows.
Prescribed assets for productive and developmental purpose.
A sovereign wealth fund to support national development by increasing the levels of public investment, among others in economic and social infrastructure, such as roads, rail, telecommunication, clean drinking water and sewage infrastructure, renewable and cleaner energy production, integrated communities, sports and arts facilities.

Broader economic transformation

A high impact, comprehensive industrial policy, including digital industrial and innovation strategies, aimed at developing our domestic productive capacity and creating decent work.
A comprehensive socio-economic policy approach, and therefore a development-oriented poverty eradication strategy, with emphasis on support for productive activities and sustainable livelihoods.
Revitalisation of the publicly-owned sector of our economy, in particular but not exclusively a turnaround of our SOEs and adequate support for the whole sector to grow and thrive. Our Special National Congress resolutely rejected privatisation of SOEs. Our objective this year, and going forward, is to firmly advance this rejection into practical action. SOEs must be under state-led democratic control on behalf of the people as a whole.   
Combating state capture and other forms of corruption in the public sector as well as across the economy on an intensified basis. Our objective this year is to drive this fight to the finish. What we want to see are real results, including evidence-led prosecution, asset forfeiture and long-term prison sentences for the perpetrators.
Acceleration of land redistribution and support for productive land use, especially for the poor and the working class. We call upon Parliament to complete the process of amending section 25 of the Constitution to make land expropriation without compensation categorical in the interest of advancing productive land use and ending land hunger in our country.
Land and agrarian reform, with focus on but not exclusively women and youth empowerment as well as rural development.
As part of our strategy to act against global warming, a drive to plant millions of trees across the country.
A stimulus package focusing on developing our domestic productive capacity and turning around our economy.
Review of the fiscal policy framework to boost state revenue to support industrialisation and development. This should include the introduction of a wealth tax.
A state-owned pharmaceutical company.

Overall macro-economic policy framework alignment

In line with the commitment made by the Alliance in the ANC May 2019 general election manifesto, overall alignment of our macro-economy policy framework, including the above, and aimed at supporting the objectives of the second radical phase of our democratic transition, the other commitments made in the manifesto, and the measures that follow.
Expansion of the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank to explicitly target maximum sustainable employment, and an explicit balanced and sustainable inclusive high growth target.
Sustainable livelihoods and social protection

Adequate social protection, including social grants that are sensitive to inflation pressures and responsive to the already existing economic and social reproduction crises.
An economic empowerment programme directly linked to production development support for the broad masses, including a targeted focus on fostering worker ownership and a thriving co-operatives sector.
Promulgation of a local economic development eco-system as an integral part of social protection and sustainable development.
Transformation of the public and community works programmes to make them the employer of last resort on the basis of the decent work agenda and a training space for the unskilled.
Forging ahead with the introduction of the National Health Insurance to ensure quality health care for all, especially the poor and working people.
International solidarity

Slovo gained his first fighting experience as an internationalist, long before the founding of the MK, in the Second World War against the forces of Adolf Hitler and fascism.

We take this opportunity, in memory of Slovo, to congratulate the Zimbabwe Communist Party for holding its first Congress in December 2019.

We pledge our revolutionary solidarity with the people of Swaziland in their struggle for democracy.

We call on Morocco to unconditionally end its occupation of Western Sahara and pledge our revolutionary solidarity with the Saharawi people in their struggle for self-determination.

We congratulate the Sudanese people for their overthrow of Omar al-Bashir and pledge our support for their struggle for democracy.

We strongly condemn the apartheid regime of Israel for its human rights violations in Palestine and pledge our revolutionary solidarity with the Palestinian people.

We congratulate the people of Cuba for the milestone of the 61st anniversary of the 1 January 1959 Cuban revolution. We condemn the imperialist regime of the United States for its blockade of Cuba and history of atrocities in Cuba, Latin America and the rest of the world.

We call upon the United States to unconditionally end its illegal blockade of Cuba, occupation of Cuban territory of Guantanamo Bay, and aggression and destabilisation in Latin America broadly.

In particular, we pledge our solidarity with the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Chile, among others, who have continued to suffer the US imperialist offensive. We strongly condemn the racist, right-wing and imperialist backed coup in Bolivia and pledge our solidarity with resistance led by President Evo Morales.

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