By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 18.9.2012, www.thecommunists.net
The South African Communist Party’s leader, General Secretary Blade Nzimande, demonstrated again that his party stands on the side of the bosses and against the workers. In his speech at the trade union federation COSATU`s 11th National Congress on 17th September he expressed the SACP complete support for the brutal crackdown by the South African police forces against the thousands miners and their families in Marikana who fight for a living wage.
In his speech, which is published fully on the COSATU website, he also calls again for the arrest of the strike leaders and denounces the strikers as outsiders who supposedly are not even employed by the enterprise concerned, Lonmin:
„The SACP fully supports government’s crackdown on the illegal carrying of weapons, on intimidation and on incitement to violence. The ring-leaders must be dealt with and separated from the mass of misled strikers (many of whom are not actually employees of Lonmin or even workers). Those possessed of mysterious wealth, who have never worked a day in their lives, those who were recently anti-unionisation in the army, those who are now happily inciting others to kill and be killed must be dealt with. We also require a thorough investigation into where their funding is coming from, whether locally or internationally. Any formal structures of the ANC that are collaborating with the so-called Friends of the Youth League must themselves face suspension from our movement. We have given opportunism far too much space and tolerance. Together as an Alliance and with our local structures, together with government agencies, we need to help to restore basic norms of safety and security into the lives of our mining communities.“ (1)
The fact however is that the South African miners are already in their sixth week of a heroic strike for a living wage. They continue their strike despite the mass murder on 16th August, when the ANC/SACP/COSATU government sent their police forces who killed at least 34 miners. Many of the miners are living in shanty settlements without electricity and water. They miners have the sympathy of the masses because they are suffering from crisis-ridden capitalism. Unemployment in the country is unofficially at over 40% and youth unemployment is over 60%.
At the same time the bosses live a happy life in country which is governed by the ANC/SACP/COSATU government since 18 years! Take Ian Farmer, the CEO of Lonmin: he gets R20.4 million a year (2011) – 424 times as much as the average wage of a miner in his company! A small elite of black capitalists, amongst them ANC and former COSATU leader, have joined the white ruling class and became millionaires too. For example, the Mandela, Motlanthe , Zuma families have all shares in the mines. The notorious Cyril Ramaphosa, ex-communist, former General Secretary of the National Union of Miners (NUM) and later the ANC, is now the owner of the McDonald’s franchise in South African, as well as a Lonmin share owner and board member. Who can be surprised that the miners are disgusted by the trade union and “communist” leaders, desert the NUM and fight for higher wages?!
However in his completely perverse logic, SACP leader Blade Nzimande puts the heroic miners as the spearhead of a counter-revolutionary conspiracy of imperialism against the trade union movement:
“This Congress meets in the shadow of an intensified offensive against the working class in SA. It is an offensive directed primarily against the best organized detachment of our working class - this federation, this COSATU, especially the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and all these affiliates. (…) Here in SA we are no strangers to this offensive. Here, too, the anti-union offensive has intensified and grown more desperate in recent months. It is an offensive also supported by sections of imperialism.”
SACP as a bourgeois workers party
All this confirms our analysis of Stalinist reformism as a bourgeois agency inside the working class movement. The Stalinist bureaucracy is organically connected with the capitalist state apparatus and the bosses so that they defend them unconditionally against the workers who fight for a living wage. They have since the beginning of the miners’ strike repeatedly denounced the strike and called on the capitalist police forces to arrest the strike leaders. As we wrote in an article on miners’ strike:
“Of course, at their party congresses, at international meetings etc. the SACP raises the banner of communism. But these are only words for the reassurance of the honest party members and masses. Their practice is anti-communist, anti-working class. The SACP leaders are not workers communists, but police communists!” (2)
It is a shame that such a speech by the SACP General Secretary was allowed at the COSATU congress. It shows that the trade union leadership is itself in bed with the government and the bosses!
This however must not lead revolutionaries to confuse the SACP leadership with the ordinary rank and file members, of whom many are workers who credit the party with their leading role in the liberation struggle against the racist Apartheid regime from the 1950s till 1994. In fact the SACP leadership did everything to contain the radicalization of the workers and the formation of independent mass organs (like soviet-like councils and militias) which could have formed the basis for the working class to take power and open the road to socialism. But many ordinary activists of the SACP gave scarifies during the struggle against the Apartheid regime and this is the basis for a still existing influence of the party amongst sectors of the working class.
It is important for Marxist revolutionaries to develop slogans and tactics to relate to the rank and file members of the SACP and develop a strategy to throw out the reactionary leadership of COSATU in order to reclaim the unions to the workers. A central slogan is the campaign to break up the reactionary pro-imperialist popular front – the so-called Tripartite Alliance of ANC, SACP and COSATU. COSATU – Break with the ANC! Similarly, it is important to call SACP members to demand from the party leadership that it must break with the government so that the Stalinists cannot use this alliance as an excuse for its treacherous politics.
These slogans have to be seen as part of a revolutionary Action programme for the miners’ strike in the short term and for working class struggle for power in the longer term. (3)
The Stalinist concept of the “National Democratic Revolution” and the reality of “economic Apartheid” today
Finally let us draw attention to the fact that the SACP leadership justifies its support for South African capitalism by referring to the old Stalinist-reformist “stages” schema. This strategy artificially separates the working class struggle for power into two different stages – the so-called “national democratic revolution” and “the struggle for socialism”. So in his speech, the SACP General Secretary calls the trade union members to continue to support the capitalist ANC/SACP/COSATU government by referring to the supposedly realistic “national democratic revolution”: “All the above constitutes the immediate terrain upon which the working class must act as the principal motive force of the national democratic revolution and the struggle for socialism.” And his finished his speech with the appeal: “Take Responsibility for the National Democratic Revolution!!”
This SACP rhetoric is nothing but a charade! We Trotskyists always insisted that this is an impossible utopia which only serves to confuse and subordinate the working class. Even the national and democratic tasks cannot be completely implemented without the working class smashing the capitalist state and taking power.
Just look at the still existing “economic Apartheid”, as many people in South Africa call the continuing extreme social and racial inequality! When formal Apartheid was abolished in 1994 and the ANC/SACP/COSATU government took power, black people owned only 13% of the land, while white people owned 87%. Despite big promises to give the land back to the black majority people, in 2011, less than 5% of South Africa's land has been redistributed. (4)
Inequality today is worse than it was in the days of white-racist Apartheid before 1994. According to COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, in 1995, the so-called Gini coefficient – which measures the gap between the rich and the poor – stood at 0.64 but it increased to 0.68 in 2008. (5) According to the United Nations children's agency more than half of South Africa's children live in poverty! (6)
Another example for the gross social inequality which reflects the capitalist system of exploitation combined with the ongoing racial oppression of black people is shown in the results of a South African Institute of Race Relations survey in 2009. According to the study, the life expectancy of a white South African now stands at 71 years but that of a black South African at only 48 years! (7)
Such is the reality of 18 years of “national democratic revolution” under the leadership of the ANC/SACP/COSATU government! This shows that the national and democratic tasks cannot be solved if capitalism is not overthrown by a socialist working class revolution. It shows once more the validity of Trotsky’s strategy of permanent revolution, which means the uninterrupted class struggle for power, i.e. the relentless struggle till the formation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Only if the democratic revolution is combined with the socialist revolution, only then can liberation of the workers and the urban and rural poor take place.
The most important pre-condition for this is the creation of a revolutionary workers party as part of a new world party of socialist revolution – the Fifth International. The RCIT wants to work together with revolutionaries in South Africa and world-wide to achieve this goal.
(1) Speech delivered by SACP General Secretary, Cde Blade Nzimande, to COSATU`s 11th National Congress, 17 September 2012, http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=6525
(2) Michael Pröbsting: South Africa: The traitors in their own words. On the South African “Communist” Party who call the police to arrest the miners leaders; Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 17.8.2012, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa/sacp-betray-miners/
(3) See for example Perspectives and some first lessons from the miners’ strike and the police massacre in South Africa. Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 20.8.2012, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa/rcit-statement-south-africa
(4) Julius Malema: It's time to dispossess our oppressors, 16 June 2011, http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71654?oid=241284&sn=Detail&pid=71616. See also Tom Goodenough: Jacob Zuma says South Africa is still being controlled by white power-brokers from 'Apartheid-era', 26 June 2012, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2164961/Jacob-Zuma-says-South-Africa-controlled-white-power-brokers-Apartheid-era.html
(5) Chris Hani Memorial Lecture by Zwelinzima Vavi, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary, delivered in Queenstown, October 23, 2010, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/68423
(6) Aislinn Laing: More than half of South Africa's children live in poverty, 21 May 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9280481/More-than-half-of-South-Africas-children-live-in-poverty.html
(7) NGO Pulse: Peoples Budget Coalition Comments on the 2011/12 Budget, 28.2.2011, http://www.ngopulse.org/print/18051 2011/02/28