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)


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