27 March 2007

Running On The Spot?

Last Wednesday was a holiday (Sharpeville Day) so we missed our usual Communist University gathering. We come back together tomorrow at 17h00 at 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein to discuss the 1962 SACP “Road to South African Freedom” (see the link below)

It is possible to make out a clear list of texts from the 1920s, approximately one per decade, and to demonstrate that the argument built up through these texts has determined South Africa’s history. It is also reasonable to assert that the path taken by this history has always been in the balance and has been argued as such over and over again. The argument is particularly sharp in 2007. It is not a different one, it is the same one, and we stand once again, as it were, in the shoes of Sydney Bunting, Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Rusty Bernstein, Joe Slovo, Jabulani Nxumalo, and Chris Hani (you can add your own favourites – they were all engaged in the same project).

This list could start with the Comintern’s “
Black Republic Resolution” of 1928. Next would be Moses Kotane’s “Cradock Letter” of 1934. After that would come the “Three Doctors Pact” of 1947. Then the Freedom Charter of 1955. Then would come tomorrow’s document, which (except for the “African Communist magazine) appears to have been the first major public statement of the SACP after its banning in 1960. This is the “Road to South African Freedom” of 1962.

Subsequent documents in the same series would have to include the ANC “
Strategy and Tactics” of 1969; the “Green Book” of 1979; and Joe Slovo’s “SA Working Class and the NDR” of 1988. Whether there is a document of equivalent weight in this series for the 1990s is arguable. If so it would probably have to be the “Reconstruction and Development Programme” of 1994 – the “RDP” – but remembering also the quick reversal of “GEAR” in 1996, an event we nowadays use to characterise what we call the “1996 Class Project”. The latest in the series would then be the SACP’s 2006 “State Power” discussion document, possibly to be replaced in due course by resolutions of the forthcoming SACP 12th National Congress (12th-15th July, 2007).

Although the Road to SA Freedom is a long document by our usual standards, it should be relatively easy for us to pick up points for discussion that have relevance in terms of this historically developing argument.

The ANC’s latest draft “
Strategy and Tactics” document is undoubtedly an attempt, like “GEAR” to arrest the forward movement of thought that is evident in the other historic documents linked and listed above. In it, the progressive flow of history is frozen into a static picture now called, in a phrase invented for the purpose, the “National Democratic Society”, a virtual “end of history”.

Together with the ANC’s “
Organisational Renewal” document, and eleven Policy Discussion Documents, the ANC already has a total of thirteen documents, adding up to 98,000 words, to consider in its June Policy Conference and its December National Conference. This is before any resolutions from the lower structures and before any reports (e.g. the Secretary-General’s).

It seems clear from reading the published discussion documents that the new “Strategy and Tactics” draft, published a month earlier than the rest, has been issued and used as the ruler and the template for all the others. It is the master document, and this is a pity, because it is such a pale apology compared to the mighty 1969 Strategy and Tactics (which we will discuss in the following session).

In last Friday’s Mail and Guardian, ANC Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe attempted an outline of the whole process, binding it together with a vision of an ideal branch life within the ANC (see the link below). Yet it is highly questionable whether this year’s conference processes are conducive to healthy branch life. The Randburg Bram Fischer branch that Motlanthe portrays may be an image of perfection at present, but how will it stand up to the task of processing the enormous volume of material that is going to be thrown at it? Can it possibly deliberate and contribute? Or will it just be going through the motions, while toeing the line, and sending an uncritical pot-boiling loyalist to conference? Can this year of conferences really revive the ANC branches, as Cde Motlanthe suggests, or will it turn out otherwise? You be the judge. The picture above is of the late Moses Kotane.

Click on these links:

To complete the revolution, Kgalema Motlathe, Mail and Guardian (1523 words)

1962, SACP, The Road to SA Freedom (18552 words)


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