30 March 2008

Sauce for the Goose, Sauce for the Gander

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This post is sent in advance for Tuesday 1 April 2008.
The Communist University meets on Tuesday, 1 April 2008 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. The discussion will be around the two draft resolutions produced by the Branch Executive Committee (BEC) of Johannesburg Central Branch, which are given in the first item linked below. Also given in that compilation are the relevant resolution of the 12th SACP Congress, (“On the SACP and State Power”), and the relevant part of the SACP Constitution, which is Rule 6.4.

The first of the two BEC resolutions (“Interlocking SACP-ANC leadership cores”) seems redundant (i.e. unnecessary) in its present form. The resolution does not spell out what it thinks the coming Special Congress should decide. It only says that it, and the Party beforehand, should discuss certain things. But there is no question that there will be a debate about such things, bearing in mind that the Special Congress has been called for the purpose, and that we are in a pre-Congress discussion period.

The second BEC resolution ("The implications of Polokwane &c...") does propose an action of the Special Congress. It proposes that, by prior agreement with the ANC, 10% of the [successful] candidates in the next Parliamentary election should be allocated to SACP nominees, “with the party enjoying the right within a broad Alliance strategy to direct them as well as to recall them”. The first question about this is: Why only 10%?

But the main problem is that the SACP Constitution, Rule 6.4, expressly forbids this kind of arrangement. There cannot be an SACP caucus within the ANC, because the SACP Constitution forbids it. What is more, the unique relationship between the ANC and the SACP has been built upon the foundation of Rule 6.4. Because of that rule, the ANC comrades have been able know that we are not plotting in their midst. Hence the Party is not likely to scrap Rule 6.4 and therefore the second BEC resolution becomes impossible.

But we will discuss them. The Communist University is not a plenary. The Johannesburg Central Branch is the plenary and it meets on 6 April. Meanwhile, Johannesburg Central Branch members could do well to reflect upon whether the Branch has been exercising any kind of direction on Johannesburg Councillors who are Party members. This is because very serious problems are about to explode in Johannesburg and people, both inside and outside the Party, are going to want to know where those SACP-card-carrying Councillors stand.

The Johannesburg Metro Council, although its income is rising, is going to take away the free 6 kilolitres of water, and reduce the free electricity allocation to a paltry 500KWh, and there is much more to this gross attack on Johannesburg’s workers and poor. It is too much to summarise today and it has probably not yet been completely revealed, but the last three items, put on the
Joburg” web site, in the last few days (26-28 April), give quite a good idea of what is intended, if you read between the heavy spin-doctoring of Emily Visser and Virgil James.

It amounts to the fact that huge changes are to be made and enormous extra burdens thrown on to the shoulders of the workers and the poor, and that these changes are “open for comment” only up to 25 April 2008 (or in another version, 30 April 2008). The only channels offered so far for such public inputs in this city of millions are three e-mail addresses, one fax number, and one person’s telephone numbers! We must demand proper public hearings, comrades! We did not vote for this!

The contacts that are given for comments on the cuts are as follows:

velih@joburg.org.za
Lennette Fouche
on fax number 011 339 2870 or via email on
lennettef@ioburg.org.za
Shenaaz Hoff via email on shenaazh@ioburg.org.za
Virgil James, Communications Specialist, City of Joburg, Tel: 011 407 7226, Cell: 082 467 9415

Click on these links:

SACP Jhb Central drafts, 12th Congress resolution, and Rule 6.4 (1673 words)

Joburg Metro wants to kill people’s water and electricity allowance (940 words)

Residents invited to have their say on city tariffs, Joburg (1115 words)

Calls for comment on City budget, Joburg Metro (592 words)

Events Diary

29 March 2008

Commodities and Exchange

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This post is sent in advance for Monday 31 March 2008.

This week’s instalment of our revision programme on
Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1 is a composite of part of the first chapter, on Commodities, and the whole of the short second chapter, on Exchange. See the first item, linked below.

This is as “classic” as it gets. This is Marx laying down the foundations for the great work to come. It includes Section 4 of Chapter 1, on “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret thereof.”

Just to show how fresh Marx’s ideas still are, the second item is an extract from
William Blum’s “Anti-Empire Report” (an e-mail newsletter that often gets published in full on Counterpunch). Bill Blum has compiled some short, sharp, and witty points that relate directly to Karl Marx’s ideas, yet are entirely located the USA of today, where Blum lives. It can serve as a good companion-piece to Marx’s Chapters 1 and 2 of Capital, Volume 1.

Click on these links:

Reprise 02, Capital V1, C1 and 2, Commodities and Exchange, 1867 (11930 words)

USA, democracy or economy? William Blum, Anti-Empire Report (1578 words)

Events Diary

Eskom and Counter-Revolution

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The picture is of voting in Zimbabwe on 29 March 2008.

Today’s may well be the 1000th Communist University distribution! If it is not this one, then it will be one of the two that will shortly follow. James Tweedie has been keeping count since before the CU had a blog. He can confirm if the "psychologically-important" moment has arrived.

There are good reasons at this moment to reaffirm that the Communist University is founded on, and defined by, certain theories of Critical Pedagogy which are the living legacy of the late, great Paulo Freire.

Anyone who thinks that the CU can be remade into its opposite is mistaken. Down the years there have been quite a few who have thought so. Some have sought to expropriate the CU’s goodwill as if it was a commodity “brand”, and then to fraudulently use that goodwill to pump artificial life into stale, failed schemes of political education of the past, without even a moment’s critical examination of why those older attempts did fail and die.

Let the following be noted at this moment: If something should appear in South Africa, calling itself “Communist University”, offering a prescribed curriculum, “beginners’ classes”, and/or certificates of “qualification”; in short if something appears under our name but offering the “banking theory of education”, you and thousands of others who have been touched by this Communist University will know that the other one is an impostor and a fraud if it claims our legacy as its own.

This Communist University stands or falls with Freire. All temptations, blandishments, inducements, arm-twisting, threats and bullying that aim to make us abandon that legacy will be unequivocally turned down, even if it means extinction for the genuine, Freirean CU.

Now to the business of the day. The South African Communist Party has issued an unequivocal declaration of war on the outrageous proposed Eskom electricity price rises in the following terms: “The SACP will take to the streets against these proposed hikes. We will announce in due course a rolling mass action programme to stop this neo-liberal attack on the quality of life of South Africans.” See the first link below.

At the same time, violent ruptures are appearing within the ranks of South Africa’s big bourgeoisie in relation to Eskom’s attempt to reorganise the South African economy, which amount to a counter-revolutionary coup d’etat. In an extraordinary development, reported as the front-page splash in Friday’s “Business Day”, one of the four monopoly finance houses (Standard) has fallen out with one of the two biggest monopoly resource houses, and all because of the dreaded potlines (aluminium smelters) that have been bleeding South Africa’s power supplies for almost the sole benefit of that transnational resource conglomerate (Billiton). See the second linked item.

Popular resistance to the Eskom coup is breaking out all over. On the Mail & Guardian’s “
Thought Leader” blog site, an experienced engineer, Bryan Hadfield, has applied his expertise and found Eskom’s “myths, misrepresentations and fallacies” very much wanting. See the third linked item.

The past is a contested terrain. The SACP’s past is also assailed with myths and misrepresentations. The last two items are of this kind. The SACP’s former Treasurer, Phillip Dexter, continues to avail himself of the bourgeois press to attack the party he still wants to call his own. His weasely, self-incriminating words will fool nobody. Even the Mail & Guardian, no friend of the SACP, could not resist giving Dexter’s letter a mocking, ironic headline.

Anthony Butler’s peculiar revisionism is only slightly more subtle, and just as laughable, as Dexter’s. It posits two weird “communist conspiracies”, one in 1991 and one in 2007. Butler’s theories are as far from historical science as alchemy and “phlogiston” theory are from chemical science. The most charitable view is probably that Professor Butler is “flying a kite”, hoping to provoke denials or other forms of controversy, and so to lubricate his way towards a lucrative book contract.

Click on these links:

On the proposed hike by Eskom, SACP Media Release (176 words)

Billiton fires Standard Bank for reckless talk, Charlotte Mathews, B Day (568 words)

Energy-crisis myths, misrepresentations, fallacies, Bryan Hadfield, M and G (1950 words)

Lies, lies, all gossip and lies, Phillip Dexter, Letters, M and G (416 words)

Seventeen years on, left strikes again to save ANC, Butler, B Day (810 words)

Events Diary

27 March 2008

ANC and COSATU

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According to James Tweedie, ace reporter of the London’s communist daily newspaper the Morning Star, this should be the 999th issue of the Communist University. The number on the post should be 633; this numbering began when the CU started using a Google Group - http://groups.google.com/group/Communist-University - in 2005, and a blog, http://domza.blogspot.com/ , mashed together with a wikispace web site, http://amadlandawonye.wikispaces.com/ .

Before that, e-mails were sent to an ever-growing copy-and-paste list.

The first beginnings of the CU were meetings held in the Hypercube Resource Centre in June 2003; so it is approaching its 5th Anniversary. Maybe it has done some good. Perhaps it has. At least, it has been part of a general growth of political education in South Africa.

As a
Freirean thing, the Communist University is not likely to become an institution, or to be benevolently taken under anybody’s wing, or to be in secure possession of bricks and mortar. Wherever it hangs its hat is its home. Apart from what is stored on the Internet, the CU is no more secure than it was in 2003. It could fold any day. The reason it does not fold is that people keep coming to our weekly gatherings. Those old-fashioned study-circle sessions remain the power-house of the whole affair.

One more thing should suffice for today. That is to mention the
Marxists Internet Archive, upon which we have relied all along, from the first days when searching the Internet for material to print, then later to put on floppy disks, then later on CDs, and at last in 2005 on to the Internet. We will reflect more about the CU in the next post, but never forgetting that without the MIA there would probably not be anything to write about.

The first, second and third linked items concern the inter-state significance of ANC President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Angola, made on the 20th Anniversary of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

Whether Cde JZ stepped on his predecessor’s toes or not, or had revenge, as the journalists would have us believe, is not the real point here. The point is that Cde JZ appears to have opened the road between Angola and South Africa, two large and powerful countries with a long history of past revolutionary solidarity. The flag is that of the ANC’s ally since Kongwa days: the MPLA.

If Zimbabwe can also come right this week, then South Africa has a great deal to thank Cde JZ for, and to thank what used to be called the “Zuma Camp” for. The working-class components of the so-called Zuma Camp, especially COSATU and the SACP, were the ones who put the Zimbabwe question on the South African agenda. Now, increased mutual trade is gong to help us all.

We also feature a major speech of COSATU GS Cde Zwelinzima Vavi to ECSECC in the Eastern Cape; and an article about COSATU by the respected journalist Karima Brown from the Business Day newspaper. Click on the fourth and fifth links.

Click on these links:

ANC President Jacob Zuma on his return from Angola 24 March 2008 (747 words)

Zuma steps on Mbeki’s toes with Angola visit, Hajra Omarjee, Bday (653 words)

Zuma's revenge, R W Johnson, Comment is Free, The Guardian (512 words)

Challenges for a poor province like E Cape, Z Vavi to ECSECC (2928 words)

Why COSATU should focus on core business, Karima Brown, Bday (682 words)

Events Diary

25 March 2008

Zimbabwe Changing

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From the reports on the Internet it is beginning to look as if Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC has all the momentum in the last week of the “harmonised” (local, parliamentary and presidential) elections in Zimbabwe.

In this quick update you will find, in the first link below, a report of how on Sunday, the last of the campaign, Morgan Tsvangirai drew 30,000 to a field outside Harare (the MDC is being blocked from using stadiums). The atmosphere was described as being like a carnival, and this joy could also be witnessed in the TV images seen in South Africa.

Meanwhile incumbent Robert Mugabe could not even draw 2,000 people in Bulawayo, where he made a sour, begrudging, loser’s speech, full of bad temper and ugly but impotent-sounding threats. Wild threats of the kind he is making are not appropriate to an election campaign. They are more likely to reduce his credibility than anything else.

Worse than that, from his point of view, is that he is beginning to look ridiculous, like Eugene Terreblanche did in the last days of the old regime in South Africa. People are laughing at Mugabe as never before, and there are reports of people shunning him even at Church on Easter Sunday. Other reports say that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is cancelling rallies, presumably for fear of even more embarrassment. Suddenly the fear is all on that side, while MDC supporters are feeling confident and free. See the second and third short items linked below for more detail about these matters.

The fourth item is a repeat from the previous Communist University. It is from the Observer (London). It is remarkable for the fact that it includes reference to an opinion poll as follows: “One of the few polls of voters Zimbabwean academics attempted to carry out showed Tsvangirai leading, with Mugabe second and Makoni third.”

The fifth item linked below is a report from Reuters to say that business people are lining up to rush back into Zimbabwe as soon as Robert Mugabe falls, to acquire assets cheaply and to take advantage of the reconstruction of what should be a booming economy. They know where their bread is buttered. A loaf of bread, by the way, presently costs 10 million (Zim) dollars in Zimbabwe.

It could also be that a lot of Zimbabweans now living in South Africa are, like the MDC, suddenly becoming “cautiously optimistic” and making plans for a different future, suddenly closer than they had previously allowed themselves to think.

Click on these links:

Tsvangirai draws record crowd in Harare, Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa (387 words)

Mugabe will not concede defeat, Lebo Nkatazo, Newzimbabwe.com (639 words)

Mugabe Says MDC Will Never Rule Zimbabwe, Tererai Karimakwenda, SWRA (451 words)

How Mugabe's faithful became the opposition, Tracy McVeigh, Observer (2149 words)

Some foreign investors gamble on Zimbabwe, Nelson Banya, Reuters (964 words)

Events Diary

24 March 2008

Hamba Kahle Ncumisa Kondlo

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The Communist University is sorry to be carrying the sad news of the death of our well-loved and respected SACP Deputy National Chairperson, Cde Ncumisa Kondlo. For a fuller and official statement from the Party please click on the first link below.

Zimbabwe’s “harmonised” elections take place this coming Saturday, 29 March 2008. “Harmonised” means that the local, Parliamentary, and Presidential elections will all happen on the same day.

It is clear that the Zimbabwean people support Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC but the election is quite likely be stolen or mutilated in some way. The MDC has given details of the ways in which the steal is being arranged in front of people’s eyes, which are quite convincing.

Simba Makoni is a spoiler candidate. No such candidate who enters the field at the last minute with no mass organisation whatsoever can be regarded as anything else but a spoiler.

Robert Mugabe is the visible peak of a vicious oligarchy, which may or may not have its client relationships sufficiently well organised to deliver a siginificant vote.

There are plenty of international media people in Harare. They should have been giving us an idea of the support that the MDC has, and what Mugabe has. Instead they have tended to waste time parading the spoiler candidate Makoni up and down like a show animal, which actually has nowhere to go other than back to the Zanu-PF stable.

An exception to the rule is Tracy McVeigh of the Observer (London). She has given a good round-up of things as they stand, with the genuine feel of proper journalistic leg-work about it. See the second link below. Let’s hope that the rest stand up to the comparison in due course.

In Sunday’s post, we said that, apart from the Cubans, there were “many other indispensable components of the struggle.” But, we said, “it was the Cuban military offensive that was decisive, immediate, and irresistible in that crucial moment. For this, and for the blood that they shed and the loved ones that they lost, South Africa owes the Cubans everything.”

A Russian person, somebody we respect, queried this. So let’s get things straight. The ANC comrades in the 1970s already had a tender song that went: “Soviet people, lovely people”. There is nothing to compare with the appreciation that our comrades have for the mighty Soviet Union as it was, without which the victorious phase of our struggle could probably not even have begun. The Soviet Union’s contribution included the incomparable October Revolution, the formation of the Communist International, and the Soviet victory over the Nazi fascists, even before their huge material, educational and diplomatic assistance to our particular liberation movement is taken into account. At Cuito Cuanavale the Cubans could have done very little without the arms that they had got from the Soviet Union, which was still in existence at the time.

We owe the Soviet everything. We owe the Cubans everything. There are others to whom we owe everything. This is the nature of solidarity. In that bank you are going to overdraw many times over.

Cuito Cuanavale was the Cuban’s moment, and it was the climactic moment. This does not diminish our appreciation of the Russians, but nothing can be taken away from the Cubans. See Ronnie Kasrils’ article, published in yesterday’s Sunday Independent, the third link below.

To follow up on the recent YCL statement on the matter that, the fourth linked item is the Wits SRC’s response to the election of Saki Macozoma to the Wits University Council. The statement contains important details that were not in the other statement. See the fourth link.

The Communist University convenes not today, but next week, to open discussion of the forthcoming SACP Special Congress. We will make use of the resolution from the 12th Congress on The Party and State Power (linked below). Any further material that may be forthcoming will be sent out during the week.

Click on these links:

On the passing away of Cde Ncumisa Kondlo, SACP Media Release (614 words)

How Mugabe's faithful became the opposition, Tracy McVeigh, Observer (2149 words)

Turning point at Cuito Cuanavale, Ronnie Kasrils, Sunday Independent (2036 words)

Saki Macozoma’s election flawed and undemocratic, Wits SRC (460 words)

SACP 12th National Congress, 2007, Party and State Power (722 words)

Events Diary

Political Economy

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The “ghost”, or “spectre”, or “distance learning” course on Capital Volume 1 that we have been running in weekly instalments this year will break into actual or “contact” discussions from 6 May 2008 for six sessions covering the demanding central core of Karl Marx's book, Chapters 7 to 11.

We have already passed Chapter 6. Therein we discovered the mechanism of surplus-value in the buying and selling of labour power, by which the overall, but unequal, increase in wealth, or accumulation, that takes place under capitalism is effected.

We now have an opportunity to reprise the material we have covered so far during the 5 weeks available between now and 6 May. The 11 sessions that we have covered have accordingly been reduced to five for this purpose, and they are:

1. Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy, Marx, 1857 (linked below)
2. Capital V1, C1 and 2, Commodities and Exchange, 1867
3. Capital V1, C3, Money, 1867
4. Capital V1, C4, 5 and 6, Capital and Labour Power, 1867
5. Value, Price & Profit, abridged, Marx, 1865

Today’s text reminds us that Capital, Volume 1, our main study, is fully named “A Critique of Political Economy”. This “Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” was written in 1857. It precedes a work called “
A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” that was published two years later, and which itself precedes Capital Volume 1 (the full “critique”) by ten years.

First and foremost, today’s text reminds us that none of these works of Marx’s are comparable to economics. On the contrary, they expose economics as a false and fraudulent discipline. They deal with political economy, or in other words, with the real relations between actual classes of people.

Marx begins by clearly differentiating his argument from that of the romantic philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and also from Adam Smith and David Ricardo, upon whom in other respects Marx relies quite heavily. It is worth quoting this passage at some length:
“The solitary and isolated hunter or fisherman, who serves Adam Smith and Ricardo as a starting point, is one of the unimaginative fantasies of eighteenth-century romances a la Robinson Crusoe; and despite the assertions of social historians, these by no means signify simply a reaction against over-refinement and reversion to a misconceived natural life. No more is Rousseau's contrat social, which by means of a contract establishes a relationship and connection between subjects that are by nature independent, based on this kind of naturalism. This is an illusion and nothing but the aesthetic illusion of the small and big Robinsonades. It is, on the contrary, the anticipation of "bourgeois society", which began to evolve in the sixteenth century and in the eighteenth century made giant strides towards maturity. The individual in this society of free competition seems to be rid of natural ties, etc., which made him an appurtenance of a particular, limited aggregation of human beings in previous historical epochs. The prophets of the eighteenth century, on whose shoulders Adam Smith and Ricardo were still wholly standing, envisaged this 18th-century individual -- a product of the dissolution of feudal society on the one hand and of the new productive forces evolved since the sixteenth century on the other -- as an ideal whose existence belonged to the past. They saw this individual not as an historical result, but as the starting point of history; not as something evolving in the course of history, but posited by nature, because for them this individual was in conformity with nature, in keeping with their idea of human nature.”

A little later on, Marx writes:
“But all this is not really what the economists are concerned about in the general part. It is rather -- see for example Mill -- that production, as distinct from distribution, etc., is to be presented as governed by eternal natural laws which are independent of history, and at the same time bourgeois relations are clandestinely passed off as irrefutable natural laws of society in abstracto. This is the more or less conscious purpose of the whole procedure.”

The entire text is worth reading. It is helpful towards understanding Capital Volume 1, as well as towards understanding the politics of today’s massive price rises, which are invariably, and falsely, presented in our bourgeois media as “governed by eternal natural laws which are independent of history”!

The cartoon is by Tenniel, from the London magazine “Punch”, from the time when Karl Marx was working in London on his critiques of political economy. It illustrates the bourgeois turn from protectionism to “free trade” (now called “globalisation”). This affected Britain approximately a century before the USA.

Click on these links:

Reprise 01, Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy, Marx, 1857

Events Diary

22 March 2008

Cuito Cuanavale of the Soul

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Double-sized Easter Sunday edition

General Leopoldo “Polo” Cintra Frias (2 pictures) was a member of the “26th July Movement”, was in the Sierra Maestra, is Chief of the Cuban Western Armed Forces, Hero of the Cuban Republic, founder member of the Communist Party of Cuba and a member of its Central Committee. These are by no means all of his distinguishments.

Cde Cintra Frias is the victorious General of Cuito Cuanavale. It is a matter of great relief and pleasure that the implications of the decisive battle that took place twenty years ago are beginning to be more widely understood in South Africa, the biggest beneficiary of this action (see the first link below), and elsewhere in Africa. The battle was planned and executed on a vast scale with great skill, courage and precision. It involved deployment of thousands of troops and the best equipment from Cuba across the Atlantic, and the construction of airfields to achieve command of the air, which was quickly accomplished.

Cuito Cuanavale itself was a small town, more like a village, in the South-Eastern interior of Angola. The Cubans under the overall command of Cintra Frias stopped the SADF at that place, but they put equal resources into creating the infrastructure for, and then deploying, a column from the coast in the West, thus quickly rendering the South African regime’s position utterly hopeless and forcing a withdrawal.

The negotiations between the Cubans and Angolans on the one side, and the South African racist regime with its US allies on the other, were led by the extraordinary Jorge Risquet (in a white shirt in the other picture), himself a veteran of the earliest Cuban military interventions in Africa from 1965 onwards. The net result was that Angola’s freedom was secured, Namibia achieved independence, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the SACP and the ANC were unbanned, and the Kempton Park negotiations began, leading to the “democratic breakthrough” of 1994.

The Cuban intervention happened at a conjuncture that included the actions of the UDF and COSATU inside South Africa, the actions of MK, the diplomatic efforts of the web of ANC offices around the world, the campaigns of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement and other such solidarity movements around the world, the educational work of the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania, and many other indispensable components of the struggle.

But it was the Cuban military offensive that was decisive, immediate, and irresistible in that crucial moment. For this, and for the blood that they shed and the loved ones that they lost, South Africa owes the Cubans everything.

Now, twenty years later, there is still unfinished business in Southern Africa. It is still as close as South Africa’s border. His Lordship Bishop M B Mabuza, Chairperson of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), has written an Easter message, the second linked item below.

Illustrating how bad things are in Swaziland, after the recent clothing workers’ strike that was broken by criminally violent police action, Bishop Mabuza writes: “The real tragedy in this is that the terms and conditions under which the women at the factories work under are no longer what is important. The violence has become the story. The fact that the women work for long hours at low pay in dirty and dangerous conditions and cannot make ends meet without resorting to offering sex for money is a shocking indictment on our society.”

Is nationalisation always good? The third item is from the Anti-Privatisation Forum, attacking Eskom, which of course is not privatised. Actually, nationalisation under a bourgeois state will always have to serve the bourgeoisie. Even under socialism, it is likely that there will be struggles in cases where gangster-like formations have infested a state structure (as they did in the Ekhuruleni Metro Police Department under Robert McBride, for example). Such gangster-like closed and self-promoting cliques can hold a country to ransom, just like the Eskom managerial mafia is trying to do at the moment.

Another nationalised entity serving the bourgeois state is the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). It is happy to play a supporting role for the Eskom shysters. Bryan Rostron reports in the Weekender: “An SABC television newscaster delivered a perky, upbeat report about efforts to sort out our electricity crisis as though this was caused by a random freak of nature. Finally, she concluded merrily: ‘Eskom is hoping the general public will come to the party.’ Am I hallucinating?”

Another example of a non-privatised entity being infested by bourgeois interests is that of Witwatersrand University (Wits), where the YCL, SASCO and ANCYL, together constituting the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) are strongly objecting to the appointment of sellout comprador businessman Saki Macozoma as Chairperson of the Wits Council. See the fourth linked item.

This has been a larger-than-usual edition, but there is still, surely, room for some lighter material in keeping with Easter celebrations. The last two items are humourous but with a serious undertow. Xolela Mangcu points out that if you are going to make an escape from someone who “shut up public debate, marginalised rivals and even punished his critics” (Thabo Mbeki), then you should really not complain if the new guy (Jacob Zuma) is a lot more open to debate.

Finally, Guardian (London) journalist Jon Ronson writes of a hilarious but very informative experiment he ran to find out something about the British equivalent of our mashonisas. This was published in the “
comment is free” section of their web site, where you can join in the comments if you wish.

Click on these links and have a Happy Easter:

ANC commemorates the battle of Cuito Cuanavale (324 words)

Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations Easter Statement (1157 words)

APF Statement, Democratic control of energy for all (1265 words)

The undemocratic election of Macozoma as Wits Council Chairperson (437 words)

Argue about anything, Xolela Mangcu, Urban Legend, Weekender (906 words)

Titch, the crunch and me, Jon Ronson, Guardian Comment is Free (800 words)

Events Diary

21 March 2008

Impunity

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Impunity is when crimes are committed with no negative consequences to the perpetrator. The result is that the criminal is strengthened and made bolder than before. The criminal immediately becomes more likely to commit even more outrageous crimes.

Impunity is what the gang of rogues in charge of South Africa’s power generator Eskom has. COSATU demands accountability from them. See the first linked item below.

The ANC calls upon Alec Erwin to deal with the Eskom problem. See the second link below. That won’t do any good at all. The scoundrel Erwin has already been busy doing the opposite to what the ANC is asking, by banging the drum for the Eskom bandits on Moneyweb.
Click here to read about it.

Late last year the Eskom scammers orchestrated the first “load-shedding” (euphemism for power cuts) while lobbying for an 18% price hike. A few days pre-Polokwane, President
Thabo Mbeki suddenly discovered an unprecedented capacity for apology, and by that means created a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for the Eskom plotters. The electricity regulator, NERSA, a far weaker body than Eskom, caved in to them and awarded them 14.2%. That was impunity. The Eskom grifters then helped themselves to fat millions in bonuses, and lay low over the Christmas holiday.

Then from the third week in January the Eskom pirates started hitting the country hard again. They even shut down the mines. After that they were given 60 billion (yes, billion) rands of taxpayers’ money as a soft loan by Erwin’s close colleague Trevor Manuel. That was impunity, rewarded, again.

This week they started whacking us again with the odious “load-shedding” power cuts, while (guess what?) going back to the price hike and asking for another 67% according to Business Report or 60% according to Business Day. See the third and fourth links below. Will this be another replay of the old impunity-reward routine? Could be!

Or maybe not. Some people say that even a worm will eventually turn to face its attacker. There are signs that a serious concerted effort is taking shape to surround and bring down the lords of the rogue empire that Eskom has become. See the fifth item, about the call for an audit. But also note that Raymond Parsons, the eternal capitalist lobbyist, who we had thought was out to grass already, is trying to smuggle in the World Bank on the back of the Eskom imbroglio. As fast as their business interests propel them towards acting as a national bourgeoisie, so, just as fast, does the domineering Imperialist monopoly-capitalist interest click in, like an automatic generator, attempting to dazzle us and blind us all once again.

This time it may be different. Eishkomgate amounts to a new “arms deal”. Of course it is not about arms, but then the original arms deal was not primarily about arms, either. Like the other arms deal, the Eskom shenanigans are in the final analysis designed to push the country into the abject shape and subordinate position desired by the global finance capitalists, or in other words, by Imperialism. The rest is nearly all smoke, mirrors, and dust in the eyes. But the Mail & Guardian has begun the necessary process of exposé. See the well-prepared and humorous sixth item, on the Teflon top brass (i.e. the Eskom mafia).

If you thought that the third TM (after Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel) was free of taint in this matter, then be prepared to think again. Read Barry Sergeant’s blistering, acidic, treatment of Tito Mboweni in the final item.

Click on these links:

COSATU condemns Eskom's tariff hike proposal (1636 words)

Electricity Tariffs, COSATU, Arms Deal, Sharpeville, ANC Media Release (625 words)

Eskom wants 67% tariff increase, Ethel Hazelhurst, Business Report (421 words)

Now Eskom seeks extra hike, this time 60%, le roux, Njobeni, Business Day (679 words)

Eskom's request for hikes sparks audit call, Enslin-Payne, Business Report (458 words)

The Teflon top brass, Kevin Davie, Mail and Guardian (1225 words)

Towers of Babble, Barry Sergeant, Moneyweb (741 words)

Events Diary

19 March 2008

The Revolution Is Ours

3 comments
The Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) of the Free State SACP has met and issued a statement that covers a number of matters, including the matter of the Free State University, the Yahoo section among the white students there, and the underlying problems and necessary solutions.

Meanwhile, on the liberal site called
Politicsweb, there has appeared a very scholarly essay by the veteran opponent of the old regime, and ex-political prisoner, Paul Trewhela. Trewhela’s essay is in response to an article written by Prof. Malegapuru William Makgoba almost exactly three years ago. Both of these texts are linked, below.

Why did Trewhela wait for three years to respond in this way, with his parallels drawn between Makgoba and the German Nazis of the 1930s? Alternatively, what is it in the present situation that would cause somebody like Trewhela to drag up a three-year-old newspaper article and make such a big deal of it?

One clue may be the “comment is free” blog article of
R W Johnson, on the web site of the London Guardian. Johnson associates Jacob Zuma, power cuts, UFS, other universities, and finally Makgoba, all together, for the purpose of pushing out some new “Afro-pessimism”. Some of the commenters below his article have picked up on the “baboon” thing and rushed away with it. This is no doubt what was intended.

The fourth item is from another blog - the Mail & Guardian’s “Thought Leader”.
Reg Rumney, a veteran financial journalist, mercilessly criticises the classic “white elephant” project at Coega. In the comments below the blog, you can see how an extravagant project designed to reward capitalists and to foster new capitalist enterprise, now that it is failing is criticised for being “socialist”!

The last linked item examines the bourgeois compulsion for expropriating the symbols of the popular masses, and for turning them into part of the commodity system, as brands. Capitalism appears compelled to expropriate not only the reactionary folkways that William Makgoba finds comforting, but also the revolutionary political legacy of the people. There are commercials on TV in South Africa showing people turning into M K Gandhi, or O R Tambo. The idea is to associate the honoured revolutionary symbols with capital. The bourgeois must steal everything, even your thoughts. See the fifth item below.

This is the world we live in. The revolutionaries create new things, but as fast as they can do so, the forces of the bourgeoisie seek to expropriate what we have done, or if not, then to block our work and destroy it. This is the common experience of revolutionaries, until the revolution.

The dispossession of the commons of the prior society that was ordered by the mothers was the prerequisite for individual and alienable property. Class society was, and could only have been, built upon the idea and the brutal fact of such property. All class societies have therefore to date been based on the imposed ascendancy of men over women. This was so under slavery and under feudalism. Capitalist society has historically, and additionally, been based on the imposed subordination of people in accordance with a constructed racial distinction, and racial myth.

In the South African revolution it is recognised that class contradictions cannot be dealt with in isolation from gender and racial contradictions. All these contradictions must be resolved in the same movement forward. This is our peculiar contribution to world revolutionary history. These are the three sources and the three component parts of our entire revolutionary transition. Liberal intellectuals will continue to try to expropriate any and all possible aspects of our revolutionary thought, at every possible opportunity.

The image is of Simon Bolivar, and a map showing Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

Click on these links:

Free State SACP PEC, March 2008, Press Statement (979 words)

Two Vice-Chancellors, Heidegger and Makgoba, Paul Trewhela (2407 words)

Wrath of dethroned white males, Malegapuru Makgoba, M and G (1679 words)

Coega and the Radiohead song, Reg Rumney, Thought Leader (557 words)

The Branding of Bolivar and the Cuban Revolution, Valdés, Counterpunch (1275 words)

Events Diary

18 March 2008

Eish, coms...

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The Communist University is cancelled today, because of “loadshedding” (a power cut) in the part of Braamfontein where COSATU House is.

Our next session will be at 17h00 on Tuesday, 1 April 2008.

Comrades, honour Sharpeville Day.

And a Happy Easter to you.

Chris Hani, Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe

0 comments
Using vivid material blogged from inside Swaziland, COSATU is in the forefront of solidarity for the revolutionary mass movement of the oppressed Swazi people. See COSATU’s timely press release below.

John Pampallis is a veteran who was a mainstay of the ANC’s revolutionary school in Tanzania, the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) almost from its founding the late 1970s. He is now the Director of the
Centre for Education Policy Development. Comrade JP advocates a full period of discussion about the proposed “school pledge”.

Comrade JP writes of SOMAFCO: “When the school opened, we used to start every morning with an assembly at which we sang the national anthem (Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika). When the then ANC President, Oliver Tambo, visited the school, I remember that he was uncomfortable about this practice. While he obviously supported the singing of the anthem, he felt that singing it so frequently cheapened it. His counsel was that the anthem should be sung only once a week at school assemblies and on special occasions. The school followed his advice.” See the second link below.

Anthony Butler is a shrewd commentator from a liberal point of view, who adds considerably to the depth and breadth of South African political dialogue. Sometimes he can also be maddening and sometimes his compliments are more of the “back-handed” variety. In the third linked item below, Butler dissects the DA’s opportunistic post-Polokwane tactic of wooing the so-called “Mbeki-ites”. Even from a bourgeois point of view, Butler argues that this tactic is short-sighted, to say the least of it.

The fourth linked item is the full statement of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC). It contains much, and much that is of special interest to the youth. In particular the NEC “unanimously agreed to posthumously award the highest honour of our movement, Isithwalandwe Seaparankoe, to the late Chris Thembisile Hani.”

VIVA!!!!!!

This is not just any old award. This is an honour with real revolutionary content and meaning. Comrades must surely rise up and celebrate the unity of the ANC and the SACP in this act of honouring the late Cde Chris.

The SACP is entering a Congress discussion period. The Communist University will be discussing the forthcoming Special Congress on Tuesday, 1 April 2008, at which point we may have a draft resolution in front of us from the Johannesburg Central Branch. In the mean time, here linked below is the relevant resolution from the 12th SACP National Congress, of 2007. This is a big challenge for the Party. We must get this one right, and we need a real good discussion about it.

This evening we meet to discuss Rosa Luxemburg’s “
The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions”. This work can help us considerably in our current conjuncture, as well as assisting towards the Special Congress discussion.
The Events Diary may not be working properly. Feedback about this would be appreciated.

Click on these links:

COSATU condemns Swazi police brutality (767 words)

Chance for ANC to commit to public discussion, John Pampallis, B Day (899 words)

Architecture of SA red peril flawed, Anthony Butler, Business Day (824 words)

ANC National Executive Committee Statement, March 2008 (1579 words)

SACP 12th National Congress, 2007, Party and State Power (722 words)

Events Diary

16 March 2008

The Secret of Capital Revealed

7 comments
Monday morning has been “Capital Volume 1” morning for a while on the Communist University. Today’s chapter (6) is the one where Karl Marx pops out the secret of the whole deal – the Buying and Selling of Labour Power. The chapter contains no formulas. The air of good humour that Marx has maintained up to now is still present. He concludes the chapter with a pun. But the “Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta” finishing the previous chapter was fair warning. This is it. This is the heart of the matter. Minus footnotes, it is only 3500 words long (less than a broadsheet newspaper page). Here are some highlights:

“In order to be able to extract value from the consumption of a commodity, our friend, Moneybags, must be so lucky as to find, within the sphere of circulation, in the market, a commodity, whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, whose actual consumption, therefore, is itself an embodiment of labour, and, consequently, a creation of value. The possessor of money does find on the market such a special commodity in capacity for labour or labour-power.

“By labour-power or capacity for labour is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description.

“…The second essential condition to the owner of money finding labour-power in the market as a commodity is this — that the labourer instead of being in the position to sell commodities in which his labour is incorporated, must be obliged to offer for sale as a commodity that very labour-power, which exists only in his living self.

“…For the conversion of his money into capital, therefore, the owner of money must meet in the market with the free labourer, free in the double sense, that as a free man he can dispose of his labour-power as his own commodity, and that on the other hand he has no other commodity for sale, is short of everything necessary for the realisation of his labour-power."

The first three paragraphs on page 3 are also crucial, and very surprising at the first reading. And then:

“…Accompanied by Mr. Moneybags and by the possessor of labour-power, we therefore take leave for a time of this noisy sphere, where everything takes place on the surface and in view of all men, and follow them both into the hidden abode of production, on whose threshold there stares us in the face ‘No admittance except on business.’ Here we shall see, not only how capital produces, but how capital is produced. We shall at last force the secret of profit making.

“He, who before was the money-owner, now strides in front as capitalist; the possessor of labour-power follows as his labourer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but — a hiding.”

Before we finish our study of Capital Volume 1, we will need to be able to answer the following Marx-based riddle: Why is it possible to extract surplus-value from the labour of a man, but not from the labour of a horse?

Also linked is SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande’s article from yesterday’s Sunday Times, including this:

“The strength of the ANC lies in its broad character, uniting all these social and class forces for the liberation and reconstruction of our country. It is indeed inevitable that movements as broad as the ANC will be characterised by internal contradictions. But not all such contradictions are necessarily unhealthy, as they are often an expression of a dynamic, living movement.”

Click on these links:

Capital Volume 1, C6, Buying and Selling of Labour Power, Marx, 1867 (4595 words)

Elites trying to blackmail ANC, Blade Nzimande, Sunday Times (1177 words)

Events Diary

Unity At The Base

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The texts (or “codifications”) that we distribute, read and discuss at the Communist University are not intended to be “learnt” as if for an examination. They are meant to provide the basis for dialogue that socialises our understanding of present realities. For that reason, the texts need to be as close as possible to experience. In our current set ending on Tuesday, the texts are mostly from V I Lenin and from Rosa Luxemburg, both writing more than 100 years ago. These texts were selected in November, 2007, yet they have become even more relevant as time has passed, and never more so than today.

Last week we found Lenin in difficulties. The Iskra group had won a bolshinstvo (majority) at the 1903 Second Congress of the RSDLP. Lenin and his comrades became know as Bolsheviks from that time onwards (the picture is “The Bolshevik”, by Boris Kustodiev, 1920). But after the congress they lost control of all the RSDLP’s structures, and even the Iskra, to the Mensheviks, in bureaucratic inner-party coups d’etat. We discussed majorities and minorities, bolsheviks and mensheviks, in relation to the 2007 ANC 52nd National Conference (Polokwane).

Lenin was writing in 1904. By early 1905 Russia was in the throes of a great revolution, the first of three. It checked the autocracy and gave birth to the bourgeois-democratic Duma (parliament). In 1906, Rosa Luxemburg wrote about the lessons of that revolution in “The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions”, which we will discuss next Tuesday. The work concentrates on the relationship of party to trade unions, and the relationship of the organised to the unorganised proletariat.

In the mean time, events have delivered to us a real live test case on the relationship of party and trade unions. In a forthright and frank statement, Gwede Mantashe, in his capacity of Secretary-General of the ANC (he is also Chairperson of the SACP) “shot down [COSATU’s] request to have some of its members sit in on ANC national executive committee (NEC)”. Mantashe describes COSATU's request as “bordering on an ultra-left approach” See the first two links below for full details.

Rosa Luxemburg describes the analogous 1906 problematic, thus: “The German labour movement… assumes the peculiar form of a double pyramid whose base and body consist of one solid mass but whose apexes are wide apart… To desire the unity of these through the union of the party executive and the general commission is to desire to build a bridge at the very spot where the distance is greater and the crossing more difficult. Not above, amongst the heads of the leading directing organisations and in their federative alliance, but below, amongst the organised proletarian masses, lies the guarantee of the real unity of the labour movement.” Read more from the last page of “The Mass Strike”, linked below.

The relationship of the party and the class, or in Luxemburg’s particular terms “the social democracy” and "the trade-unions", opens up in Chapter 6 of The Mass Strike to a vision of a revolutionary ensemble that must necessarily go far beyond the structures of its previously-organised components, which are bound to be a minority of the whole. Luxemburg writes:

“The plan of undertaking mass strikes as a serious political class action with organised workers only is absolutely hopeless. If the mass strike, or rather, mass strikes, and the mass struggle are to be successful they must become a real people’s movement, that is, the widest sections of the proletariat must be drawn into the fight… Here the organisation does not supply the troops of the struggle, but the struggle, in an ever growing degree, supplies recruits for the organisation.

“… it is not permissible to visualise the class movement of the proletariat as a movement of the organised minority.

“…the sections which are today unorganised and backward will, in the struggle, prove themselves the most radical, the most impetuous element, and not one that will have to be dragged along…

“If we now leave the pedantic scheme of demonstrative mass strikes artificially brought about by order of parties and trade unions, and turn to the living picture of a peoples’ movement arising with elementary energy, from the culmination of class antagonisms and the political situation—a movement which passes, politically as well as economically, into mass struggles and mass strikes—it becomes obvious that the task of social democracy does not consist in the technical preparation and direction of mass strikes, but, first and foremost, in the political leadership of the whole movement.”

Luxemburg is saying that the political structure must lead. The trade union movement cannot lead the revolution. Please read Chapter 6 of The Mass Strike, linked below, and especially the concluding words.

The final item (from Free State Province) is a product of the Alliance working in close practical co-ordination at the University there. The powerful text of demands was backed by a united march on Friday 14 March 2008.

Click on these links:

ANC tells COSATU to back off, Rossouw, Letsoalo, Mail and Guardian (1234 words)

ANC’s alliance headache, Karima Brown, Weekender (975 words)

Rosa Luxemburg, last page of The Mass Strike (847 words)

Luxemburg, Mass Strike, C6, Organised and Unorganised Workers (2319 words)

Alliance on Lack of Transformation of University of the Free State (2376 words)

Events Diary (there have been technical problems with this feature)

13 March 2008

A Man Called Horse

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The vile Scorpions have the cheek to talk back to Parliament.

“The South African Communist Party finds it outrageous and offensive in the extreme that the Scorpions are arrogantly challenging the unanimous findings of a duly constituted parliamentary committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI), on the 'Special Browse Mole'.”

Read the rest of the SACP’s forthright anti-Scorpion statement by clicking the first link below.

The National Executive Committee of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has announced its intention to lead a national strike of SAMWU members. See the second link.

SAMWU’s Greater Johannesburg and West Rand Branches have also resolved to strike if the grievances of SAMWU members in the Nelson Mandela Metro are not quickly taken care of. See the third link.

The Communist University’s Coming Events page currently lists 33 events from now to the end of June.

Three of the latest entries are:

* An SACP political school on Saturday in Bellville (Cape Town). See the fourth link.

* Chris Hani month activities during April, all in a table (this single item schedules 12 separate events) linked below.

* A 3-day colloquium in Cape Town organised by Amandla magazine.

The picture is a film poster for “A Man Called Horse” (1970).

Click on these links:

Scorpion reaction to parliamentary investigations and findings, SACP (185 words)

SAMWU announces national strike action (722 words)

Gauteng SAMWU will strike in sympathy with NMM workers (563 words)

Pre and Post Polokwane Proletarian Politics, 10h00, Bellville, 15 March 2008 (flyer)

Chris Hani Month, Commemoration Activities, CHI (table)

Colloquium, Post Apartheid Capitalism, Cape Town, 4 - 6 April 2008 (notice)

Coming Events

Jara Post-Polokwane

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The picture is of Jacob Zuma at the 52nd ANC National Conference (Polokwane, December 2007).

The following message, together with the document linked below, has been received by The Communist University from Mazibuko Jara:


12 March 2008

Dominic

Your uncomradely, opportunist and unprincipled attacks on me and many other comrades on your website notwithstanding, I offer you the attached paper for, if you wish, publication on your website. This is so that your subscribers can hear me speaking for myself instead of your Stalinist falsification. I also hope that you publish this email as a covering note.


Mazibuko

10 March 2008

Lenin Replies

1 comments
Lenin’s account of the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP, called “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”, is the work that stimulated Rosa Luxemburg to write “Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy”, also known as “Leninism or Marxism”, which we discussed last week.

We meet this evening (Tuesday) at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to discuss Lenin’s Reply to Rosa Luxemburg. Lenin gets down to business in the second sentence: “Rosa Luxemburg's …article does not acquaint the reader with my book, but with something else,” he says.

We can say that this text falls into four parts. The first is Lenin’s statements of the ways in which Luxemburg has misunderstood the situation, by ignoring the very nature of his book and its content. The second is a focus on the core meaning of Lenin’s work, which we can come back to, below. The third is a typically short and clear summary by Lenin of the 2nd Congress, compressing into three pages (4-6) the prior history of the RSDLP and the machinations during the months-long Congress itself. The fourth is a short summary of the desperate condition of the post-Congress RSDLP. By the time of writing, all the positions won by democracy appeared to have been lost and doubly lost, to bureaucracy and to opportunism. Hence the meaning of the title, “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.”

Lenin is polite in this reply to Rosa Luxemburg. Yet he does not mince his words. By blurring the faction struggles described by Lenin, and ignoring the essential narrative of Lenin’s book, Luxemburg has made a nonsense of the whole matter. Lenin writes: “Comrade Luxemburg leaves completely out of sight the factual analysis of the different trends in our Party. Yet the greater half of my book is devoted precisely to this analysis, based on the minutes of our Party Congress, and in the preface I call special attention to the fact. Rosa Luxemburg sets out to talk about the present position in our Party while totally ignoring our Congress, which was what really laid our Party's foundation”.

“…there is no such thing as abstract truth, truth is always concrete."

Lenin goes on to call Luxemburg (twice) a “supporter of the minority”, or in other words a Menshevik, because the arguments she repeats (as well as being disconnected from the concrete situation) are also the favourite themes of the Mensheviks. Actually, Luxemburg has at this stage not yet realised that the Bolshevik/Menshevik split has taken place!

The matter that Lenin regards as most central also happens to be the matter that is most central to the 52nd ANC National Conference of December 2007 (Polokwane), namely that the assembled delegates constitute the highest structure of the organisation, resolve its policies and its rules, and appoint a high Committee to carry out its decisions, until the next Congress (or Conference). Here are some quotes:

“Comrade Luxemburg …supposes that I defend one system of organisation against another. But actually that is not so. From the first to the last page of my book, I defend the elementary principles of any conceivable system of party organisation: My book is not concerned with the difference between one system of organisation and another, but with how any system is to be maintained, criticised, and rectified in a manner consistent with the party idea.

“…Rules adopted by a Party congress must be adhered to until amended by a subsequent congress.


“…our controversy has principally been over whether the Central Committee and Central Organ should represent the trend of the majority of the Party Congress, or whether they should not."

Finally, Lenin reports: “The latest phase in our Party struggle is marked by the fact that the majority members have in part been ousted from the Central Committee, in part rendered useless, reduced to nonentities.” The Congress has been stolen, and its decisions have been ignored, or falsified.

Next week we discuss Rosa Luxemburg’s great revolutionary manual, “The Mass Strike” (linked below).

Click on these links:

Luxemburg, 1906, The Mass Strike, Compilation (13893 words)

Coming Events