31 October 2007

Line of March

There was some feedback yesterday. Two comrades wanted to know why Andrew Feinstein’s book-excerpts and supporting articles were strongly featured. One said that Feinstein is a Johnny-come-lately to the ANC. The other one said that Feinstein is a supporter of GEAR.

All of this may be true, but none of it takes away from the interest of the documents as eye-witness accounts of the court of Thabo Mbeki, seen from the inside. It might also be fair to say, although we do not know this, that Feinstein’s memoirs are motivated by “sour grapes”. All political memoirs are under suspicion of being “special pleading” and selective. That is not a sufficient reason for ignoring them or suppressing them.

Another point of feedback was the firm view, from a respected academic, that there is no peasantry in South Africa. We would like to have more views about this. Are there any peasants in South Africa? Or are there only capitalists, working proletarians, and unemployed proletarians? In other words, what exactly is the political economy of South Africa at this conjuncture?

Without an accurate understanding of the country’s political economy, we would be handicapped in the task of mapping a way forward, or “line of march”. We would be half blind, and taking chances. Please offer your empirical knowledge and your views, comrades.

In this regard, personal witness of personal lives is valuable. Is your (extended) family living in a rural area? Are any of them farming (for themselves) at all? Do they own any livestock? Do they have use of land, water rights, equipment and so forth? What are the relations of production that rule their lives?

Our next get-together will be on 6 November 2007, at 17h00 in the SACP Boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street corner Biccard, Braamfontein. Our “codification” will be a prophetic article from ten years ago called “We Need Transformation, not a Balancing Act” by Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin. See the first linked item, below.

Following that, we will move on to try to get a grip on the “Medium Term Vision” (MTV) concepts of the SACP, as they were understood at the time of the 2002 11th Congress of the SACP. Then we will look at excerpts from Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. All of these documents should assist us in getting a grip on whatever is underlying the Polokwane machinations.

Karima Brown is the political editor of the Business Day. She is also following a train of thought concerning Polokwane. She sees the ANC’s centre of gravity disappearing, and the situation as unlikely to be resolved. Karima Brown can also see something called “constitutional crisis” on the horizon. See below.

COSATU GS Zwelinzima Vavi has been singled out for attention in an ANC media release. See below.

Also linked is an article by the sometimes lucid and plausible Business Day and Weekender columnist, Tim Cohen, here examining the circumstances of the purchase of a slice of Standard Bank by the Chinese ICBC bank.

The cartoon is from the
Savage Chickens web site.

Click on these links:

We Need Transformation not a Balancing Act, Nzimande and Cronin, 1997 (3262 words)

What falls by the wayside in fight for ANC, Karima Brown, B Day, (716 words)

ANC media release on 'attacks' by COSATU GS Zwelinzima Vavi (250 words)

ICBC’s R37bn tie-up with Standard Bank, Tim Cohen, B Day (949 words)

Coming Events

30 October 2007

Then Came Feinstein

Andrew Feinstein’s book, called “After the Party”, is published by Jonathan Ball and is to be launched this week. Who is Feinstein? He used to be in Gauteng politics in the early 1990s. Then he became an MP and the leader of the ANC group in SCOPA (the parliamentary public accounts committee) when the IFP’s Gavin Woods was its chairperson. With others, they tried to probe the Arms Deal, but they came up against all sorts of hobgoblins including Essop Pahad and Frene Ginwala. Some of the tatty rogues and scoundrels Feinstein had to face will no doubt be at Polokwane for the ANC’s 52nd National Conference, but Feinstein will not be there. He is an ex-MP these days, and seems to live in London.

Feinstein has plenty to say about President Mbeki’s attitude to AIDS, and how Mbeki generally conducted business. Hannah Arendt said that fascism demonstrates the banality (ordinariness) of evil. Mbeki’s presidency has been the mirror image of this. It has demonstrated the evil of banality. Not so much a “triumph of the will”; more like a mafia of mediocrity.

Fascinating excerpts from “After the Party” have been published in the Sunday Independent and The Star. See the links below. They are well worth reading. If a “codification” is a slice of life, then these are very good “codifications”.

Also linked below are a review of Feinstein’s book, by Donwald Pressly, and a recent article by Feinstein from the Mail & Guardian commenting on the appointment of Frene Ginwala to head the inquiry into the circumstances of Vusi Pikoli’s suspension from the job of National Director of Public Prosecutions. Feinstein knows quite a lot about the Scorpions, as you will find out if you read the excerpts from his book. Jacob Zuma is also mentioned.

Neville Alexander is talking, or debating (but who with?), tomorrow at 13h00 in Room A2 in the John Moffat building at Wits University, about “Affirmative Action and the perpetuation of racial identity in South Africa”, as he puts it. This man is a veteran and he lives in Cape Town. A lot of people might want take advantage of the opportunity to see and hear him in Johannesburg, whether they are going to agree with him or not. Read more details about this and other events by clicking on the “Coming Events” link at the bottom of this post.

The Communist University meets this afternoon at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. Our main “codification” today is to be Lenin’s “
The State”.

The picture above is a poster from the US “Wobblies” (Industrial Workers of the World, IWW, slogan “One Big Union”), founded just over a century ago in 1905. There is a Russian version of this cartoon known as the “Czar’s Wedding Cake”. The words are, reading from the top layer down to the bottom: Capitalism. We rule you. We fool you. We shoot at you. We eat for you. (The bottom layer of the pyramid or wedding cake is made of the workers and peasants who support all the rest): We work for all/We feed all.). This picture can serve as a supplementary “codification” of the State for us this afternoon.

The small picture is of Andrew Feinstein.

Click on these links (your Feinstein library, plus Coming Events):

All over bar shouting for comrades in arms, Andrew Feinstein, Sindy (2339 words)

Dying of Politics, Andrew Feinstein, The Star (1268 words)

Feinstein recounts arms deal conflicts, Donwald Pressly, B Report (796 words)

Party before nation, Andrew Feinstein, Mail and Guardian (876 words)

Coming Events

29 October 2007

Back to the Future

The Alliance Pact proposal is that government will carry out ready-made policies prepared by labour. Deployees to government will be kept to a mandate and be subject to a right of recall. Deployments to Cabinet and Provincial and Local government will be determined by an “Alliance deployment committee”. This Alliance Pact concept is outlined by COSATU in the CC discussion document called “Framework for an Alliance Government and Elections Pact”, published prior to the CC of COSATU held in September, where it was adopted and further elaborated in three CC Resolutions (linked below).

Let us here note something that Joe Slovo wrote in the “
SA Working Class and the NDR”:

“The very fact that the workers’ economic struggle cannot be separated from the struggle against national domination has helped to blur the border-line between trade unionism and the political leadership of the working class as a whole. It is, however, vital to maintain the distinction between trade union politics and overall revolutionary leadership. A trade union cannot carry out this dual role; if it attempted to do so it would have to change its basic character and risk committing suicide as a mass legal force. In addition, the very nature and purpose of trade unionism disqualifies it from carrying out the tasks of a revolutionary vanguard. The most basic purpose of a trade union - to force genuine reforms in the work situation within the existing economic framework - tends generally to nurture reformist rather than revolutionary political tendencies. (Joe Slovo, 1988).”

In that case, where is the SACP in all this Pact business? The SACP’s position is outlined in its resolution on State Power (linked below). It describes something similar, if not identical, to the position later adopted by the COSATU CC. But in addition, it offers an alternative to the electoral side of the pact, namely a separate electoral list for the SACP and a post-election coalition between the SACP and the ANC.

In the previous post, we problematised the relation between the underlying, and necessary, and necessarily explicit, class alliance of workers, peasants and petty-bourgeoisie, and the institutional superstructure that this mass-level alliance gives rise to. In the first place this alliance exists as the ANC. Then by taking the ANC as an autonomous unit, a Tripartite Alliance is has been constructed (with mixed results for the other partners but with resounding benefit to the ANC’s electoral fortunes). Now, on top of that again, we may construct a third layer of superstructure, which is the Alliance Pact, with an implied standing bureaucracy and establishment.

It looks like we will have the popular alliance on the ground (existing as popular solidarity and expressing itself from time to time as concerted mass action); then the ANC; then a super-ANC (the Tripartite Alliance); and finally a super-super-ANC (the Alliance Pact). Each of these layers of superstructure, although distinct, is at the same time a reproduction, or carbon copy, of the one below it. Is this a fair assessment?

Let us look at the matter again from a different angle. Trade unionists know that no deal can be imposed. A proposal will have to be negotiated, and any resulting Pact will be the product of the interests of both sides in such a negotiation. If a Pact is to be negotiated with the ANC, then who at that moment will the ANC be speaking for? The ANC is the vehicle for a class alliance in which the working class is the leading part. Will COSATU then be negotiating with itself? Or will the ANC, for the purposes of the Pact negotiations, be representing the bourgeoisie at that moment? Or will the ANC be negotiating for the interests of its national and other elected office bearers and officials of the day? Or will the ANC be negotiating on behalf of the State in general, or of the government in particular?

In these ways the Alliance Pact, both during its negotiation phase and during its actual existence, could become like a tangled ball of string, wherein it becomes impossible to find the source of any strand. Instead of authority and lines of responsibility becoming clearer, the reverse could be the case.

To assist us in understanding this phase of our politics, the Communist University will tomorrow (at 17h00, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein) return to the fundamental nature of the state as expounded by V I Lenin in his 1919 lecture “
The State” (supplemented, if comrades wish, by Engels’ chapter called “Barbarism and Civilisation”). The following week we will examine Blade Nzimande’s and Jeremy Cronin’s 1997 AC article “Transformation, not a Balancing Act”.

COSATU GS Zwelizima Vavi has laid out COSATU’s stall a bit more succinctly than before during a speech to SAMWU’s 20th Anniversary celebrations. Yet, in another speech, he has stated that if Thabo Mbeki wins a third term as ANC President, then the Tripartite Alliance “will not survive”. What this wild prophecy (or is it a threat?) of Vavi’s is supposed to mean is still open to conjecture. Jacob Zuma (pictured above) has also begun to set out his stall in more detail than before. See the links below.

Click on these links:

COSATU 4th Central Committee Abridged Booklet (4665 words)

SACP 12th Congress Resolutions (7110 words)

Zwelinzima Vavi, Address to SAMWU 20th Anniversary rally (2480 words)

Vavi - Alliance will not survive if Mbeki re-elected, Harper, S Times (530 words)

Zuma moves to quell ‘succession jitters’, Paddy Harper, Sunday Times (575 words)

Coming Events (Index page on Communist University Google Group web site)

27 October 2007

Thabo Mbeki Power Outage

President Thabo Mbeki has his own, revised, idea of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). In his “President’s letter” this week he refers to its goals and objectives, which he then immediately conflates with the original Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) of 1994. This document has also been revised in his memory. The President wants us to think that the RDP has been satisfied if, by statistical measure, today can somehow be shown to be a little better than yesterday. The ever-greater gap between the ruling billionaires and the poor, and the consequent continuing domination of rich over poor in South Africa, has washed itself out of his conscience, along with the real NDR and RDP.

The RDP actually said: “Development is not about the delivery of goods to a passive citizenry”

The President then goes on the attack, with this: “The entirely false argument that sought to portray GEAR as an ANC betrayal of the working people has resurfaced in the recent past under the label of a so-called ‘1996 class project’. The shameless fabrications advanced under this label have sought to discredit our movement in the eyes of the masses of our people, to prepare for its political defeat.”

This is a reference to the SACP, although the President is too ashamed to say so directly. In the days of Marx and Engels, and up to the time of Lenin’s death, political argument was openly directed at named individuals and organisations. From the time of Stalin it has often been conducted in cowardly and dangerous code, such as the President is here using to float the outrageous, demagogic suggestion that the SACP is plotting the movement’s defeat.

The President is undoubtedly manoeuvreing in preparation for an attack on the SACP at the ANC National Conference in December. So let us pick up the Polokwane debate from where we left off.

In South Africa, a class alliance of workers, peasants and petty bourgeois (this is “the movement”) is still striving to construct a popular power that can stand up against the monopoly bourgeoisie. This big bourgeoisie keeps a stranglehold on South African wealth and resources, as it has done since the end of the Anglo-Boer War more than a century ago, and it is determined to frustrate the coming ascendancy of the popular masses, correctly called socialism.

Our popular class alliance is a mass phenomenon, or it is nothing. If it has no reality at the level of “the street”, then it does not exist. Yet it needed to take an institutional form. The first form that it took was the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) of the 1920s. This vast movement collapsed when it expelled the communists from its ranks. From that time (c.1928) onwards, the main institutional vehicle for anti-monopoly class alliance in South Africa has been the African National Congress.

A class alliance of workers, peasants and petty bourgeois has necessarily to be led by the working class. This is because the other component classes no longer have any possibility of creating viable class organisations of their own. The last substantial peasant power to raise its flag in South Africa was the “Mountain” of the Pondoland rebellion (its name echoing that of the peasant party of the French revolution), nearly half a century ago, documented by Thabo Mbeki’s father, Govan Mbeki (Pictured above. See also the documents linked below).

The petty-bourgeoisie, which is an urban peasantry, has never had a satisfactory party of its own in South Africa. Even its attempts at rudimentary self-protection (e.g. NAFCOC, FABCOS) are periodically devastated by downward raids from big-money interests.

The working class is now the only available leader of our class alliance and it is well suited to the task, because of its organising ability and experience, and because of the well-developed theoretical basis upon which it is able to draw. The leadership role of the working class is a living fact in South Africa, and the class alliance has an institutional existence as the ANC. It is not correct to say that the alliance is led by the ANC. This is obscurantism. An alliance cannot lead itself. It has no existence separate from its component parts.

Since the ANC is already an alliance, the concept of a further superstructural, institutional layer, now called the ”Tripartite Alliance”, is redundant. It brings no extra meaning, but only serves as a vehicle for even more obscurantism. On top this shaky superstructure, the building of a third layer is now proposed, namely the so-called “Alliance Pact”.

Greed could tempt us into thinking that as the working class we have, in the “Tripartite Alliance”, three voices where in the ANC itself we only had one (even if it was the leading one). But instead of giving the working class two extra institutional votes (as autonomous COSATU and as autonomous SACP), the “Tripartite Alliance” concept has in practice diluted the working-class role, by raising up the ANC to the status of a power in itself, and after that, by giving it possession of the executive, or government, within our de facto South African bourgeois state.

If the ANC has become a power in itself, as opposed to simply being the institutional expression of a real popular class alliance at street level, then who owns it? The ANC has become available for ownership by the historic enemy of the masses, the monopoly bourgeoisie. Proximity between the institutional ANC and the monopoly bourgeoisie within state circles has accelerated this process.

The big bourgeoisie may well encourage the idea of an “Alliance Pact”, because it leaves the door open for them to enter the alliance as the “sponsors” of the ANC. The new, corporatist ANC “Strategy and Tactics” document is well designed to facilitate exactly this kind of coup d’etat.

From his own standpoint of attempting the “load-shedding” of the popular power, in favour of the technocratic ANC that he has tried to shape for service to the big bourgeoisie, Thabo Mbeki has correctly identified the SACP as his main stumbling block. The attack on the SACP will continue and intensify during the coming months. It will come from all quarters, and not only from the President’s office.

Click on these links:

Chiefs in the Saddle, C8, The Peasants' Revolt, Govan Mbeki, 1964 (5747 words)

Resistance and Rebellion, C9, The Peasants' Revolt, Govan Mbeki, 1964 (8638 words)

26 October 2007


Gillian Slovo is the daughter of Ruth First and Joe Slovo and still lives in England like many of the children of former South African exiles. They call themselves “diaspora”. Gillian’s reflection on the recent honouring of O R Tambo in Haringey, London demonstrates an equal understanding of that place and of South Africa. See the first link below.

The writer of the CU was, in the mid-1980s, the Chairperson of Haringey Anti-Apartheid. We built up a four-figure membership and we were the biggest contributor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement’s coffers in the entire country.

Haringey is a “Borough”, a collection of suburbs, shopping centres and businesses, standing in relation to the metropolis of London roughly as Edenvale or Roodepoort do to Johannesburg. Haringey includes Muswell Hill, where O R Tambo and also Dr Yusuf Dadoo (then Chairperson of the SACP - see photo) used to live, and Tottenham, home of the famous football team.

In those days the Labour-Party-ruled Haringey Council was refusing to speak to, or advertise in, the local newspaper (The Hornsey Journal), because the paper was allegedly biased towards their opponents, the Conservatives. The Labour Party wanted our local Anti-Apartheid group to shun The Hornsey Journal but we said, no, our message is for everybody, and we are not a subsidiary of the Labour Party. We did not boycott the paper and there were repercussions from the stance that we took. So there are still a few things Gillian Slovo doesn’t know about those days. As for Jack Straw, he is a man of straw in this regard. He knows nothing at all about Haringey Anti-Apartheid, and precious little about the ANC.

In a place like Haringey you live among the working class. One thing that is very surprising to people who have lived there, if they return to South Africa, is what you can sometimes hear coming from black South Africans about poor white South Africans, namely: “If they couldn’t make money under apartheid then they don’t deserve anything”. Such blacks have more respect for the exploiters than they have for the exploited. The more polite and “progressive” whites don’t like the poor whites, either. As much as they like to think of themselves as “left wing”, they have no time for these rough characters. So it is nice to see that these particular South Africans, the poor whites, are getting a little attention for once, even if it there is way too much “Ag, shame” and soap opera about it. See the second linked item below.

Getting back to Polokwane, we have said that it is necessary to think of everything, even the splitting of the ANC. Lenin, after all, never expressed any regrets about the split in the RSDLP between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, even though he lost his editorship of “Iskra” in the process. The ANC is not a holy cow or any other kind of fetish. If we do want to keep it together, if we think it can still help to defeat the lockout that the monopoly capitalists enforce on socialism, then we must do so, and that has been the position of the SACP and COSATU up to now.

But what about the other extreme from a split, namely the inclusion of the previous enemy, Imperial monopoly finance capital, so as to create a sham corporatist "alliance" of lion and lamb? To articulate this right-wing goal, we will soon have the assistance of Mr Saki Macozoma, businessman and ANC NEC member. He will address the “
Platform for Public Deliberations” (Xolela Mangcu’s gig) at 17h30, in the Senate House, 2nd floor, Wits University, Braamfontein, on 1 November, 2007. (All are invited, there could be some snacks, seats are unreserved, and doors close at 18h00). Incidentally, the Public Conversations web site now carries an audio recording of Zwelinzima Vavi’s input given on 4 October 2007 in the same series.

“Macozoma will argue that historically the ANC has always risen to the challenges of the moment - the ANC will once again choose a leadership cadre that will help it navigate the organization and the country through the changing times. Macozoma will locate the ANC’s leadership challenge and the country’s leadership challenge within the context of globalization,” says the Public Conversations blurb.

Just suppose that Saki Macozoma and Jacob Zuma fall into each others’ arms at Polokwane, turn their backs on the workers and the poor, and go off into the sunset swearing to make a permanent home together. If you don’t think this is possible, read the remaining two linked items below. The big bourgeoisie is certainly looking for its own “pact”, and Jacob Zuma is not an outsider any more. Jacob Zuma is being shmoozed by Merrill Lynch and Moody’s. Jacob Zuma is lunching with the larnies now.

Click on these links (note the new “Coming Events” feature):

Let us judge them on the now, The Star, Gillian Slovo (1087 words)

Strangled by poverty and rejection, Janet Smith, The Star (1216 words)

Zuma favoured to lead SA, 'Politburo', The Star (505 words)

Zuma charms investors, Karima Brown, Business Day (559 words)

Coming Events (Index page on Communist University Google Group web site)

25 October 2007

They Shall Not Pass!

Kristallnacht (night of broken glass) was a pogrom against Jews throughout Germany and parts of Austria on the night of 9 - 10 November 1938. Jewish homes were ransacked in numerous German cities along with 8,000 Jewish shops, towns and villages, as civilians and stormtroopers destroyed buildings with sledgehammers, leaving the streets covered in smashed windows. Jews were beaten to death; 30,000 Jewish men were taken to concentration camps; and 1,668 synagogues were ransacked with 267 set on fire. (This information is from Wikipedia).

Now, in Prague, in the Czech Republic, a fascist organisation calling itself “National Resistance” is to be permitted to hold a march to celebrate the anniversary of Kristallnacht by parading through the city’s Jewish Quarter. The Prague municipality twice banned the march but Eric Sedlacek of the “National Resistance” went to court to challenge the ban. On both occasions, the Czech courts found in favour of the fascists, and now the march looks set to go ahead on 10 November, 2007. (This information is from Liberation in London).

In South Africa, protests against this vile outrage can be directed at the
Czech Embassy, 936 Pretorius Street ,Arcadia, 0083; Postal address P O Box 13671, Hatfield, 0028: Telephone: 012 431 2380, 012 430 3601, 012 430 2328 and Fax: 012 430 2033. In Cape Town the details are: Czech Consulate, Bergzicht, 2 Fleetwood Street, Claremont, 7700; Post: P O Box 44357, Claremont, 7735; Telephone: 021 797 9835; Fax: 021 797 2776; and e-mail: capetown@embassy.mzv.ca . The Czech National Day is 28 October. (This information is from the SA Department of Foreign Affairs).

The Anniversary of the Great October Soviet Socialist Revolution is on Wednesday, 7th November, 2007. The Prague fascists will undoubtedly have been thinking of this when they planned their provocation for the following Saturday. Let us hope that communists from all over Europe will place themselves in the Jewish Quarter on that day and say: “They Shall Not Pass!”, just as they did in Cable Street, in London, in 1936.

It is good to hear that there are to be 11 simultaneous peace rallies all across the USA on 27 October 2007. These rallies have been organised differently than before. The organisation is decentralised and is in the hands of local structures. This should mean a much more successful event than previously.

In India, the concerted action of the communists over the past two years has included a re-run of the Ghandian “salt march” tactic. The alliance that these communists have led has succeeded in stalling what is referred to in India as the “Nuclear Deal”, between India and the USA. The nuclear part of this deal is scandalous at a time when the USA is threatening war on Iran on the grounds that Iran has a nuclear power programme, while India has long since developed and tested an actual nuclear weapon. But the deal means much more than just lethal nuclear double standards. It means the selling of Indian independence by the Indian bourgeoisie to the US ruling class, and the consequent abandonment of the Indian poor to a terrible fate.

In the article below, the association of the Indian Nuclear Deal with South Africa, both by comparison and by actual links (we have often seen their Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, over here in recent months) is made explicit. Indian Independence in 1947 resulted in the consolidation of a national-bourgeois, anti-Imperialist state that was the first to boycott the racist apartheid South African regime. Yet because India was unable to move beyond its “national democratic society” (NDS) stage, its bourgeois ruling class is now, inevitably, seeking allies among its former enemies against its own working class and poor. This is the fate that South Africa must avoid. The battle to avoid that fate starts anew at Polokwane.

The People’s Republic of China yesterday launched its first lunar probe, called Chang’e 1. This is a satellite that will enter an orbit around the moon, making images and scientific measurements. The Communist Party of China has successfully completed its
17th National Congress in Beijing.

The pictures are of Dolores Ibaruri, “La Pasionaria”, the Spanish communist anti-fascist orator forever associated with the slogan No Pasaran! (They Shall Not Pass!).

Click on these links:

The Nuke Deal is Dead, Vijay Prashad, Counterpunch (2282 words)

The i-Rack (YouTube, 4 minute video)

24 October 2007

Question Everything

Communist University attendance was back up to near-record levels yesterday evening when we discussed “Better Fewer, But Better”. We confirmed that we will use Lenin’s “The State” as the stimulus for our dialogue next week. The 1997 “Transformation, not a Balancing Act” by Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin, will serve us the following week. Both these texts are linked below, plus the one from Engels that Lenin recommends as a supplement to his own. Each will, in different ways, help us to get a handle on the “Polokwane” situation – that is to say, the politics around the ANC’s 52nd National Conference, due to commence on 15 December 2007 in Polokwane, Limpopo.

Somebody has written to say: “I'm trying to understand the difference between communism and socialism.” For the purposes of the Polokwane debates at least, socialism and communism are not going to be usefully treated as belief systems (like, say, Buddhism). It is not a question of which prophet we follow, but more a matter of what practical steps we are going to take. It is a question of science.

Let me offer a working definition for our current purposes (while staying open to dialogue, of course). Socialism is a class-divided society, with the working class in the leading position (just as capitalism is a class-divided society with the bourgeoisie in charge).

Communism is the word for a society with no class antagonisms. The eradication of class conflict is the strategic goal of the communists. The transitional period of class struggle between capitalist oppression and communist peace is called socialism. It’s a technical term for a period of repeated and dramatic revolutionary change. It is not a charmed plateau, or a place of rest. Socialism is indeed a lot more peaceful than capitalism, because the working class has no appetite for bloody war. But politically, it is not a quiet time at all.

For the purposes of Polokwane, fundamental questions have to asked, and then asked again.

For example: has the ANC superstructure detached itself from the mass base? In that case, is it really worth trying to attach it again? Because the objective need is not for an ANC as such, but rather for a vehicle that can carry a true revolutionary alliance of classes, wherein the classes concerned (workers, peasants and petty-bourgeois) all understand why they are in it, and why they must all be full members, and not merely tolerated, grudgingly. The communists' hammer-and-sickle symbol represents the full respect that must be given by the workers to the peasants, and vice versa. Not least, all must understand who they are allied against (i.e. monopoly capital).

Which branch members have not felt the cold wind of exclusion in ANC branches? Which branches have not felt the overbearing presence of the “Essop Pahads” of this world and the smaller Essops all the way down through Provincial, Regional and Zonal structures? Who in the ANC does not feel manipulated?

Such that if you were able (in spite of all the difficulties in your way) to “swell the ranks” in your branch with workers and freethinking petty bourgeois, you would suddenly find that your branch was “not in good standing” any more. Or that a rival group had suddenly appeared from nowhere, denouncing you and claiming all the positions. Or that new demarcation had suddenly caused the branch not to exist in its previous form. The 4000 delegates who have been chosen for Polokwane are the products of these kinds of rat-race tactics, and other ones besides.

The SACP has argued that the ANC must not be handed over intact to the bourgeois class. In that case one possible remedy would be to split the ANC first, and hand it over not intact, but split. COSATU has argued that the ANC should not be handed over because it is our (working class) property. But why should we be held hostage by our own property? If it is dragging us down, and no longer of any use, why not let it go? These are rhetorical questions, but we still need to have answers ready. We will find some of these answers if we continue our dialogue.

Click on these links:

The State, Lenin, 1919 (7209 words)

Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Engels, 1884 (8306 words)

Transformation, not a Balancing Act, Nzimande and Cronin, 1997 (3264 words)

23 October 2007

A Stage-Managed Beauty Contest?

Anthony Butler, the CU’s favourite bourgeois Prof., has done some useful “codification” of the ANC’s internal democracy (See below). He has gone through the Information Sheet on NEC Nominations on the ANC web site, and the old “Through the Eye of the Needle” document, which he attributes to the late Peter Mokaba (it came out under the name of the National Working Committee).

Butler calls the latter document “profoundly undemocratic”. This may be true, but not quite in the way that he says it is. Butler lists the anti-democratic parts, but omits the balancing clauses that confirm, for example, the constitutional right of ANC members to campaign and to canvas.

The “undemocracy” of the ANC is not explicit. It is the opposite of explicit. It lies in the ANC’s love of obscurity, and in what in the British labour movement is called “fudge”, meaning the tendency to leave matters undecided, or even worse, to leave the appearance of having supported both sides of any given contradiction or controversy. The “Eye of the Needle” document is typical of this tendency.

Naturally, “fudge” plays into the hands of the corporatists, because they are the ones who want everybody pretending to be on the same side, and all together in a class-blind “national team”. “Fudge” is the enemy of the revolutionaries, who are always seeking a cathartic “sharpening of the contradictions”. That is why conferences tend not to produce revolutions, but only resolutions, unless they split first.

All agree that ANC structures function more as career paths than anything else. Those most successful at working the system are the ones who denounce it most loudly (e.g. in “The Eye of the Needle”). This brings us to the question: Can such a networking, social-climbing, scrummage, ruck, maul, or food-trough, any longer represent or assist the existence of a conscious revolutionary class alliance at mass level?

The picture painted (codified) by Makhudu Sefara in the City Press (linked below) is of just exactly the kind of unprincipled beauty contest that COSATU used to say should not take place, and it is a very plausible picture. Mosiua Lekota has challenged COSATU to produce its ideas, and COSATU has in response shown that it has prepared a large number of documents, which Lekota knows about. So perhaps what Lekota means is that the working class has no single clear slogan for Polokwane? In that case, he has a point. There are some good songs, and there are T-shirts, and there is a candidate for President, but where are the politics? In the files? Which particular files? There are indeed very many of them.

COSATU has had another exchange with Lekota, this time about T-shirts. COSATU says that Lekota “raises an issue which is symptomatic of the poisoned atmosphere which is developing around the ANC succession contest – the way in which supporters of different candidates are promoting their favoured candidates in the run-up to the 52nd National Conference”, and it complains about the “trend to focus on individuals rather than the organisation and its policies”.

So how is all this to be turned around? It would be a mistake to think that there is no serious challenge facing the working class at Polokwane. It is necessary to think through all of the possible outcomes, good and bad, and to make plans for all these possibilities. We will continue to study this question.

We meet this afternoon at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom on the 3rd floor of COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, to discuss Lenin’s “
Better Fewer, But Better”. Please, please if you can, do read Sibusiso Mchunu’s very helpful reflections on this text, which he sent yesterday (Thank you, Cde Sbu!).

No apologies for another picture of V I Lenin (who attached great importance to slogans, by the way) in the build-up to the Anniversary of the Great October Soviet Socialist Revolution in fifteen days’ time.

Click on these links:

Spanners in the succession works, Butler, Business Day (911 words)

Mindpower vs Showmanship, Sefara, City Press (1333 words)

Life of a deputy; building on our small gains, Sibusiso Mchunu (1149 words)

22 October 2007

Playing God

Henry “The Navigator” (picture), prince of Portugal and nephew of the King of England, sent ships beyond Cape Bojador in 1434. Cape Bojador is in Western Sahara, which is still a colony, the last in Africa.

This event marked the beginning of European external seaborn colonial expansion. It took the Portuguese south of the Sahara for the first time, and the first slaves were taken almost immediately. These slaves were put to work on the Atlantic island of Madeira, which The Navigator’s ships happened also to have rediscovered.

Slavery had by that time long since passed into feudalism on the European continent, in a process that started with the decline of the Roman Empire nearly a thousand years before. Even when there was slavery under the Romans, it did not give rise to racism, and was not understood in racial terms. Most of the slaves in the Roman Empire were white, like their owners.

What the Portuguese did in 1434, then, was not only to re-invent slavery, but also to do so on a new colonial, commercial and racial basis. The consequences were terrible. They include the racism that survives today as part of the capitalist exploitation that later superseded both feudalism and slavery.

Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic to the West Indies in 1492 and touched the continent of South America in 1498, the same year that Vasco da Gama reached India. By 1502 the trans-Atlantic slave trade was in full flow, initially as a Portuguese monopoly. It was to carry millions of people away from Africa to bondage on American plantations, and usually to an early death, during the next three centuries. The profits of this evil trade made Europe and the USA rich and gave birth to capitalism. The memory of it plays out in strange ways, as we shall see.

The linked “codification” for the day is by the editor of the London Guardian, Alan Rusbridger. The general title for his whole series is: “It starts with a village” and the article says that the idea of calling the patronised village “14th Century” came from an “Oxford economist”.

But it is as clear as can be that what these editors and economists really crave is a new start with Africa, on a pure and charitable basis. “14th Century” can only be a deliberate reference to the relatively innocent time before the slave-capturing voyages sponsored by Henry the Navigator. The Guardian, the Kenyan NGO Amref, and Barclays Bank, want to kid themselves that they are starting with a clean slate.

As much as the Guardian’s attempt to help an African village is no doubt both a guilt-ridden and also a highly arrogant affair, South Africans need not feel too smug about it. What, after all, is the difference between this and the widespread “delivery” efforts in our own country?

Lubisi Dam project is one isolated example where a whole new world for the Eastern Cape was supposed to “start with a village” ten years ago, and which obviously failed. But in fact the entire “Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was, in contradiction of its own declared intentions, turned over to this kind of top-down technicist and charitable basis very early on.

What all these “developmental” projects lack is acknowledgement of the people’s political economy. Instead, there is an evident and quite explicit desire to steer the people away from any politics. These projects exemplify the “banking” theory of development, which is identical to the “banking” theory of education as described by
Paulo Freire. A Freirean way forward would be totally different.

Click on this link:

The Guardian plays God in Uganda, Alan Rusbridger (2827 words)

20 October 2007

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

Lucky Dube sang to the heart. He knew the loneliness of the individual under capitalism, which is the dark shroud of the necrophilic system, and the scourge that people in a bourgeois society feel compelled to constantly use upon each other.

In capitalism the deprived and the ostracised are the necessary haunting validation of the system. Lucky Dube understood the house of exile, and the sweet longings that the lonely people have. His tender voice was like no other. He had sung our life and his own fate. How can we forget?

The beautyful ones are not yet born.

Joe Slovo was already pushing 25 years of exile when he wrote “The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution” in 1988. This work of the former SACP General Secretary towers higher with every passing year. It describes exactly what the NDR is. It can be revisited time and time again, because it is rich in meaning, and there is always more value to be got from it. It is today’s “codification”, linked below.

Michael Sachs is the defender, and reputedly one of the authors, of the draft of the new “
Strategy and Tactics” document of the ANC. This document creates two categories previously unknown to Marxism or to any other literature: the “national democratic society”, and the “national democratic state” (NDS for short in both cases). These neologisms, if they have meaning at all, can only signify that the ANC thinks that history has ended and been replaced by a sterile, self-congratulatory, permanent incorporation.

Joe Slovo rejected such mediocre delusions. He wrote that yes, there are stages, but the point about a stage is that it is followed by another stage. Michael Sachs’ document holds out no such hope. After his NDS there is nothing, except more of the same - the frozen gestures of a morbidly institutionalised revolution.

COSATU’s Central Committee discussion document,
The NDR and Socialism, the NDR and Capitalism, leans heavily on Slovo’s work. But the resolution actually passed by the Central Committee shows more of Sach’s influence, when it says: “We insist upon a radical national democratic state… as opposed to a capitalist state”. This is confusion worse confounded. Rejection of capitalism is now pretended to be achievable by resolution, and no longer requiring revolution. Then for encouragement, the zombie “NDS” is politely draped over with the word “radical”, like a coffin draped over with a flag.

All of this is clear evidence of the weak mental condition in which the working class is approaching the ANC Conference in Polokwane, and these are the matters the Communist University discussed last Tuesday. We have with this post concluded the task that Comrade Sbusiso Mchunu, our chairperson by virtue of long acceptance, said should be carried out, namely the creation of a record of that discussion.

We said in the previous post that what Polokwane is all about, in a nutshell, is whether we have a revolutionary class alliance, excluding the oppressor, or whether we fall for a hopeless corporatist class collaboration. This is the same stark choice as between a National Democratic Revolution, in the manner of Joe Slovo, or otherwise a National Democratic State, in the manner of Michael Sachs.

With stale promises of class-blind so-called “development”, the young one has tried hard to cloud the vision of the old departed revolutionary. But Joe Slovo’s words will not die so easily, even if the beautyful ones are not yet born to give them life at Polokwane.

We meet on Tuesday, 23 October 2007, in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein.

Click on this codification:

The SA Working Class and the NDR, Joe Slovo, 1988 (14985 words)

19 October 2007

“The Social Democracy” and the Social-Democrats

At our last session, Kimani Ndungu, twice quoting the title, but not the contents, of Lenin’s “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” voiced some doubts about Lenin’s antagonism towards reformists (see today’s “codification” links, below). Our discussion was related to the 52nd National Conference of the ANC that is scheduled to take place on 15 December 2007 in Polokwane.

This book-title has been misused elsewhere and in the past to imply that Lenin was at the time a gradualist, or in some way similar in outlook to the parties of the present-day “Socialist International” like the British Labour Party or the German Social Democrats. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Lenin wrote the work in 1905 in particular circumstances which are given in brief in the “Notes on reading Lenin’s ‘Two Tactics’”, also linked below. The party to which he belonged was at that point split, and Lenin had played a major role in that split. The two factions were called the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks (“majority” and “minority”). Lenin was an unapologetic revolutionary Bolshevik, and the leader of the Bolsheviks up until, and beyond, the glorious October Revolution twelve years later, the 90th anniversary of which we will celebrate on Wednesday, 7 November 2007.

At the time Lenin’s party as a whole was called the Russian Social-Democratic and Labour Party (RSDLP). The movement in general, especially in Germany where it was strongest at the time, was sometimes referred to as “The Social Democracy” (notably by Rosa Luxemburg in her work “
Reform or Revolution?”). This term had a similar, but more genuine, sense of being a formal institution of the masses, to what the current term “Civil Society” aspires to. “The Social Democracy” was democratically structured, both locally and internationally (as the Second International); whereas today’s so-called “Civil Society” tends to consist of funded voluntarist NGOs, academics, and other professional self-appointed intermediaries, charitably substituting themselves as representatives of the poor.

In 1914 most of the national constituents of the Second International opted to support their national governments in the terrible inter-Imperialist slaughter called the First World War. The Bolsheviks and some others, notably some comrades in South Africa, refused, and opposed the war totally. Only after that time did the permanent distinction grow up between the class-collaborator “Social-Democrat” parties on the one hand, and the Communist Parties on the other.

At no time was Lenin ever attached either to the Mensheviks or to the (new style, gradualist) “Social Democrats”. The book “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” is actually a sustained blast against the vacillating sellout liberals of his day, and in favour of decisive revolution led by the proletariat, finishing up with the resounding rhetorical question: “Dare We Win?”

By the way, what is a “class collaborator”? Is class collaboration the same as “class alliance”? Absolutely not! Class collaboration is a servile abdication whereby the representatives of the working class subordinate themselves to the interests of the ruling (capitalist) class. The working class is very familiar with such collaborators. In South Africa they may be called “indunas”, elsewhere “bosses’ men”, etc.

Class alliance, on the other hand, is the necessary politics of revolution. The working class must be independent and it must be autonomous, but it must also have allies from outside of its ranks. In South Africa such allies can be peasants and small business people, professionals and intellectuals, but not the principal oppressor, which is monopoly capitalism. Class alliance serves to prevent the isolation of the working class, and to split the forces available to the dominant part of the bourgeoisie. Class alliance, as unity-in-action, can secure vital material gains and tactical victories for the working class.

The question of whether we should be in a class alliance, or in the kind of corporatist class-collaboration advocated by the writers of the draft Strategy and Tactics (
now revised) which was hotly debated at the ANC National Policy Conference in June, is exactly what needs to be decided in Polokwane. This, in a nutshell, is what Polokwane is all about.

It is quite likely that there will be a few text-jugglers in Polokwane who will want to use Lenin’s book-title once again to confuse those who have never actually read the book. So read it, and be forearmed, because we must expect that the classics will continue to be abused in this way. And thanks, Cde Kimani, for bringing up this important matter.

Click on these codification links:

Notes on reading Lenin's 'Two Tactics', Tweedie, 2005 (461 words)

Two Tactics of Social Democracy, selected chapters, Lenin, 1905, (10805 words)

The entire book, on Marxists Internet Archive

18 October 2007

Division Of The Spoils

Today’s “codification” (representation of the life situation) is a letter published in yesterday’s Johannesburg “Business Day” concerning the standoff between the South African Police Force (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The latter includes the Department of Special Operations (DSO), otherwise known by its self-invented bravado nickname: “The Scorpions”.

In addition we have the article by our good Cape Town comrade Mervyn Bennun, to which the letter was a response, and the e-mail version of the letter, as it was sent to the newspaper. The sub-editors cut the text from about 550 to about 320 words, but they have kept the meaning very well.

The YCL exhorts readers of
The Bottomline to “Write, write, write!” and many of them do so. They and others could draw a few lessons from the exchange given here. The first lesson is that the sub-editors know their job, and it is better to learn from them than to complain against them. From their point of view a 300-word letter is better than a 500-word one, for a start. That means keeping it short (not like our example), and as simple as possible. One good point makes a letter worthwhile. It’s enough. You can always write another letter, another day, to make another point.

Even if they don’t publish your letter, newspapers are extremely interested in what their readers are thinking. To them, letters are zero-cost, high-value market research. Editors read letters. By the way, the YCL has a discussion forum which you can
join by clicking here. It’s another good way to practice writing.

Now, what about our “constitutional crisis”? Is there one, and if so, what does that phrase mean?

The Constitutional Court’s
web page on the History of the Constitution confirms that the drafting of the present constitution, and the 1993 Interim Constitution that preceded it, was a continuation of the CODESA process that began in 1991. The constitution was passed by the Constitutional Assembly (both chambers of parliament) on 8 May 1996, the year of the “Class Project”, but was then rejected by the Constitutional Court, which demanded, and got, changes! It finally came into force on 4 February 1997.

Our constitution is often boasted as the “best in the world”. This phrase is politically loaded. Communists know that the State is only the “executive committee of the ruling class”. How can the constitution of an openly bourgeois state, or worse, a self-deludedly class-blind state, be “the best in the world”?

For today’s purposes, two things stand out about this constitution. One is the fiction of “Constitutional Sovereignty”, whereby the paper constitution, interpreted by the unelected judges, is held to rule over all. The other is the “Division of Powers”, whereby parliament’s power is even further restricted in a division between it and the executive (government). All of these things mean that “Power To The People”, the great slogan of the liberation movement, has been mocked and trashed in this constitution. Con Court Judge Zac Yacoob told this writer, in public, that majority rule would be “the law of the jungle”.

Between 1990 and 1996, People’s Power was found, lost, and finally stolen in this country. The thieves are still holding power today. It is their bickering over the spoils that constitutes most of our daily politics. But then, division of the spoils is what bourgeois democracy is all about, and always has been.

Frene Ginwala (pictured above) was the first Speaker of Parliament after the 1994 election. She did nothing to exert Parliamentary supremacy. Thanks largely to her, the SA parliament is commonly described as a lapdog or a rubber stamp, because it has no power - least of all over its rivals in the competition for the “division of powers”. In this constitutional league you have government versus judges, contending for the championship of the Premier Division, while parliament is relegated to one or even two divisions lower down. Below that again is “the street”, which is the electorate, the big mass organisations of the working class, and all of the poor in their base communities. The “street” is a far more reliable defender of liberty than parliament is, or ever will be.

After 1997 the judges were lording it over the constitution, but they were still hungry. They started to maneouvre for an extra bite, and for more advantage over their rivals in the “powers division”. They decided to break the power of the police and to take charge of criminal investigation, using the Scorpions as their golem. At the time of his suspension last month, Adv. Vusi Pikoli of the NPA was leading the charge. But these scorpions had gone a bit too far. The “street” had long since begun to detest them.

The aforementioned Frene Ginwala, by now an ex-Speaker, has been appointed to head a commission investigating the circumstances of the suspension of Vusi Pikoli. As a major player in the game of “divisions” since at least 1994, Ginwala is impossibly, outrageously, compromised.

Crisis, or dirty business as usual? You must be the judge. We will return to this question, and to that of
The State in general, very soon.

Click on these links:

When lawyers are investigators, D Tweedie, Business Day (323 words)

Re Mervyn Bennun on the NPA, draft letter e-mailed to Business Day (552 words)

Nitty-gritty of the law, Mervyn Bennun article, Business Day (1372 words)

17 October 2007

Better Fewer, But Better

Yesterday’s session was well attended and lively. The CU is back in full force!

We asked, among other things: If an alliance is an alliance, and a pact is a pact, then what is an alliance pact? Is it an alliance of classes, at a mass level, or is it a pact of leaders, at a boardroom level?

We asked: If “swelling the ranks” has failed, then how is binding the leadership expected to succeed?

We asked: How can a democratic state which is in fact a bourgeois state become a state that goes beyond bourgeois democracy, without a revolution first?

Our next session will take place on Tuesday 23 October 2007 at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein.

Our “codification” for this session is Lenin’s “Better Fewer, But Better”, one of the last things he wrote, done in the last full year of his life (he died in January, 1924), and six years after the Great October Soviet Socialist Revolution, as the Soviets used to call it, otherwise called the Russian Revolution. The 90th Anniversary of that Revolution is to be celebrated in a few days time on 7 November 2007.

“Better Fewer, But Better” is quite famous, and its title has been invoked by ANC President, Thabo Mbeki, particularly at the
ANC Policy Conference of 2002, eight years after the South African “democratic breakthrough” of 1994.

On that occasion Mbeki was trying to explain how all cadres were to be allowed at the same time “to express themselves freely”, while they would nevertheless strictly “work to defend and implement all agreed policies”. Those who could not manage both these contradictory things at once would be removed or perhaps suspended - better fewer but better! This was not exactly what Lenin had in mind.

But read the text for yourself. Is there any similarity between the situation faced by Lenin and his Party, as compared to that faced by Mbeki and the ANC in 2002, or even now?

Lenin talks about management, and about bureaucracy, and about the merger of Party and State. This was at the time of the New Economic Policy, or “NEP”, when landowning peasants and urban small and medium-sized businesspeople had freedom to produce and sell in the Soviet Union.

The NEP policy was scrapped after Lenin’s death in favour of the three five-year plans, starting from 1928, that made the Soviet Union into a “super-power”, and gave the country the industrial strength with which to defeat the German Nazi fascist invaders in the Second World War.

On the final page, Lenin talks about things that most closely resemble our own situation, such as the survival of a revolution in one country, the prospects of a move towards socialism, and the leadership of the peasants by the workers.

Perhaps somebody else can tell us: What happened to the “Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection”? If you don’t know what that means, read the text!
Dennis Brutus plays Karl Marx at UKZN in the Howard College Theatre, 17h00, 25 October 2007.
The picture above is of V I Lenin.

Click on this link:

Lenin, 1923, Better Fewer But Better (5634 words)

16 October 2007

From The Sublime To The Gorblimey

Although Marx and Lenin both had a well-developed sense of the ridiculous, it is but seldom in the revolutionary literature that jocularity is held to be the necessary revolutionary quality that it surely must be, if only because proletarian revolution aims at the recovery of humanity in full.

Joe Slovo did once say that a sense of humour was required if people were to hope to be able to understand dialectics. SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande and his Deputy Jeremy Cronin prefer to lead by example. Each is quick to exploit any opportunity for mirth.

Mirth, like other aspects of humanity such as love, for example, is not yet class-exclusive. For that we should be extremely grateful, and feel free to enjoy the jokes of the bourgeoisie as much as any others.

Anthony Butler is an academic at UCT. He publishes a regular column in the Johannesburg Business Day that often brings a smile to the faces of his friends and his opponents alike. See the one linked below. It can serve as our “codification” for today.

Butler’s generous consideration also extends to the sorrows of exile, which he recognises as “desperate” and “agonising”, unlike other commentators who have tried to depict exile as something easy and not oppressive. Yet still he contrives to separate exiles from others, as if none of the exiles had any prior history of action inside the country under the old regime. Whereas in most cases their exile was the direct consequence of such action, and this sequence of action and exile did not stop, but went on into the 1990s. Many are the individuals who were active inside the country, were then imprisoned (some on Robben Island) and only after that went into exile. Jacob Zuma is one such individual.

From singling out the exiles, Butler moves to singling out the communists. By this point good humour has vanished and been replaced by unpleasant fantasy, in which things are freely represented as their opposites. His purpose is to misrepresent the idea of the vanguard party of service by making it out as a grotesque “monopoly of wisdom about the character of social and political change, and an obligation to act on behalf of the masses in the light of this superior insight”.

By falsifying the relationship between vanguard and mass, Butler is looking for a “triple whammy”. First he wants to traduce the SACP. Second, he wants to tar the ANC with the same brush. And third, he wants to hide his own unsatisfactory relationship with the masses, by accusing others. Because it is he, Butler, the bourgeois academic, who is elitist, prescriptive, condescending, and usurping. The evidence is right there in his writing. Yes, he is affable, observant and smart, but he is also a snob and a hypocrite. It is he, and not the Party, who is really claiming “entitlement to command” and “monopoly of wisdom”, while seeming to preach against these things.

It would be nice if Butler could consider the possibility that his position in relation to the masses, and that of the vanguard Party, should not essentially be different. If Butler, or the Party, are going to have an honest and legitimate relationship with the masses, it will only be in a relationship of service to the masses. That service would be, precisely, to develop “a scientific understanding of history” and to put that understanding at the disposal of the masses.

The vanguard is a servant and not a master. To instead speak of an “obligation to act on behalf of the masses” is to describe a great revolutionary sin, sometimes known as “substitutionism”. This sin undoubtedly can exist. It does exist among the Robespierrean petit-bourgeoisie. But to say that such a common (bourgeois) delusion is authored by the Party is a vile lie.

The organisation-building work of the Party in South Africa over the last nine decades, including the building of an autonomous ANC and an autonomous COSATU, is incontrovertible testimony of its proper understanding of the mass-vanguard relationship. A constant battle has been fought against “substitutionism”. This battle still continues. Butler should open his eyes. The picture above is of Lenin, who described the mass-vanguard relationship very well in his book “
What is to be done?”.

We meet tonight in the SACP Boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, at 17h00. The topic/”codification” is the abridged COSATU CC resolutions.

Click on this link:

Behind Mbeki’s bid to hang on, Butler, B Day (952 words)

15 October 2007

Editors under attack

The Communist University meets at 17h00 on Tuesday 16 October 2007 in the SACP Boardroom, to discuss the abridged resolutions of the COSATU Central Committee (see the first link below).

The previous full CU post was on
24 June 2007 (click here to read it). It explained that the CU was facing difficulties at the time. The first of these difficulties was the necessity for the CU’s writer to work on the development and production of the e-mail publication “COSATU Today” (CT). The latter mailing and its companion, COSATU Media Monitor (CMM), now provide between them a very good daily coverage of working-class concerns. Another member of COSATU’s staff has become responsible for that work.

CT is the unvarnished collected statements of the working-class mass formations, their allies and their friends. CMM is a compilation of the reactions to these statements found in the bourgeois media. You can subscribe both
by clicking here (and following instructions) or by putting your e-mail address in the small box given on the COSATU home page, or in the box on the NEHAWU home page.

The CU will presume that most of its subscribers are getting the two COSATU publications, and that we do not therefore have to duplicate what is already covered, unless there is a particular reason to do so. The previous (flexible) parameters of the CU were that the linked (or attached) documents would be no more than five in number, and not amount in total to more than 200KB. The
blog material, which is also the e-mailed text, was the equivalent of a single A4 sheet. The CU published nearly every day, for a long time.

Just for the record, the Communist University posts have in practice been written by one person. But the CU phenomenon in total is the product of the efforts of hundreds of people over many years.

Because we can now rely upon COSATU’s service, can manage with less CU Internet work than before. “Occam’s Razor” states: “It is vain to do with more, what can be done with less”. We can now concentrate our aim on the
Freirean idea of “codification”, which Peter McLaren defined as follows:

A codification is a representation of the learner’s day-to-day situations. It can be a photograph, a drawing, or even a word. As a representation, the photograph or word is an abstraction which permits dialogue leading to an analysis of the concrete reality represented. Codifications mediate between reality and its theoretical context, as well as between educators and learners who together seek to unveil the meanings of their existence.”

That is a lot of words to describe something that is above all supposed to be simple! In our case it only means that the texts carried by the Communist University are solely intended as a basis for dialogue, and not as prescription or dogma. Nor are they merely “course material” preparatory to an examination, or to any kind of “qualification”, or leveling, or commodification of people. The knowledge that we intend to foster is created socially, in dialogue. This is the only kind of knowledge that can animate the collective social, or democratic, human subject. It is the only kind that is socially available as a defense against dictatorship.

This is not to say that we are eclectic, indifferent, or liberal. On the contrary, at all times we strive to be intentional, and to ascend from the abstract to the concrete, and to move towards “concrete analysis of concrete situations” (Lenin’s phrase). If we have done that much, then we have done the right thing, pedagogically speaking.

So here is a short codification for today. It is from the Introduction, by Ian Birchall, to “
Sketches from the French Revolution” (1890) by Ernest Belfort Bax. It says: ‘For Bax, Robespierre was a “pedantic Rousseauite prig”, and he argued: “The fact is, Robespierre was a petit bourgeois, a Philistine to the backbone, who desired a Republic of petit bourgeois virtues, with himself at the head, and was prepared to wade through a sea of blood for the accomplishment of his end.”’

Pedantic prigs are dangerous. And editors are under attack. See Justice Malala’s article, linked below. The picture above is of Sunday Times editor, Mondli Makhanya.

Click on these links:

Abridged resolutions of the COSATU Central Committee (4665 words)

Mbeki & Co reduce SA to a state of fear, Malala, S Times (920 words)