20 April 2008

The struggle is one

Nqobizitha Mlilo is well known to the Communist University regulars. He is nowadays sending out a stream of high-quality media releases on behalf of MDC-Zimbabwe via a Google group. The content is of great value. It documents what is going on in our neighbouring country to the North. In the case of the first document linked below, Cde Mlilo chronicles the crimes committed by Zanu-PF, naming both victims and perpetrators. This is an invaluable step towards justice.

The liberal media in South Africa have been slow to get behind the MDC, but this is changing, no doubt partly because of better public relations by the MDC, but mainly because there is by this time nobody, anywhere, who doubts that Morgan Tsvangirai won the Zimbabwe Presidency on 29 March 2008, or that his party was victorious in the harmonised general elections in that country. Thabo Mbeki, Sydney Mufamadi, and Robert Mugabe still have the cheek to deny it, denialists as they are, but they are isolated.

See Wilson Johwa’s article, linked below, from Saturday’s Weekender to sense the new mood of respect in the way that the bourgeois press are handling the MDC story.

When the people of a country are determined, and organised, they will prevail. This is shown once again, in Nepal this time, by the electoral victory of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), led by Chairman Prachanda (pictured above) with the support of intellectual Dr Baburam Bhattarai (also pictured, below, at Prachanda’s side).

The short report from the Times of India linked below gives the salient facts. More reports can be
found here, while the CPN(M)’s web site, English-language section, can be found here. This is a straightforward story of revolution, glorious, victorious revolution! It can help us all to regain courage, especially the poor downtrodden Swazi people, who also face a grotesque and oppressive monarchy.

Also linked below is a very fine revolutionary poster, made in 2006 to mark the 10th Anniversary of the beginning of the People’s War of liberation in Nepal.

There is no human process that is without a potential for humour. Thanks to the Sunday Independent’s Karen Bliksem, the absurd side of President Thabo Mbeki’s denialism can, for a short time at least, be appreciated as comedy. Open the fifth link below, and have a good laugh.

The matter in our previous post about the artificial shortages and outrageous price rises on food and fuel in South Africa can be understood in class and in anti-Imperialist terms even by bourgeois columnists. See Khathu Mamaila’s article in the otherwise often treacherous City Press (sixth item below). We can indeed feed ourselves, and also fuel ourselves, and without paying tribute to the Imperialists. Why have we become victims of the whims of Washington and Wall Street? We know why, and so does the City Press. So why has the City Press not been consistent? Why is this paper still, in other articles, pushing the “external factors” myth? It is because it is a bourgeois newspaper, and therefore internally conflicted.

A lot of work has gone into our “
Coming Events” feature, to make it work properly again. It appears to be stable once more, and ready for more events to be added. Please send in your information.

Click on these links:

Zim post-electoral violence, MDC roll of honour, Zanu-PF dishonour (2736 words)

Poll winner leader in waiting, Wilson Johwa, Weekender (1073 words)

Chairman Prachanda to be Nepal PM, Times of India (273 words)

Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), 10 Years of Peoples' War (Poster)

No worries, Dear Leader, Karen Bliksem, Sunday Independent (923 words)

We can feed ourselves, Khathu Mamaila, City Press (657 words)

Coming Events

There are no external factors

The Communist University will meet tomorrow, Monday 21 April 2008, at 17h00 in the SACP Boardroom, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. The topic under discussion is the Red Alert of SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande (pictured) published in Umsebenzi Online of 2 April 2008 and called “Honour the memory of Chris Hani: Defend the living standards of the workers and the poor”, previously distributed by the CU on 8 April 2008 and before that via the Umsebenzi Online list. This text laid down priorities for action, all of which have since then proved to be both correct and effective.

This was proved by Thursday’s dramatic march of thousands of workers in Johannesburg, vividly captured in The Star (see the first link below). Blade Nzimande said, to laughter and applause: "We wish, as the SACP, that this 53% (electricity tariff) increase was a salary increase. We've always found it hard to get past 10% in increases." Read it. It’s a good report.

It can by no means be taken for granted, as at least one person prominent in the labour movement has suggested, that organised labour will succeed in recapturing what it has lost through inflation. There is more on this argument below.

The Johannesburg march was preceded by a COSATU Provincial Shop Stewards Council, reported in the Business Day (second link below). At this meeting COSATU Acting President Sdumo Dlamini said words to the effect that present lame-duck interregnum government is busy trying to sabotage the post-2009 Jacob Zuma presidency by planting booby-traps. It’s about time somebody said that out loud. Thanks to Cde Sdumo for that.

The CU opposes the assertion, sometimes heard from within the ranks of the broad labour movement, that the problem of food being taken out of the now (spuriously) globalised market for conversion into “bio-fuel”, and the consequent multiple rise in the price of all grains, and maize in particular, can be called “long term”. As
Jonathan Swift pointed out in 1728: “there is no dallying with hunger”. In the long term, hungry people are apt to be dead. This is an acute problem, and not a “long term” one.

Nor did not this problem arise long ago. It arose in its present acute form only last year. It was more than adequately publicised then, and without any delay, by none other than Cde Fidel Castro of Cuba.
Click here for his Granma piece on the subject, published on 1 May, Workers’ Day, 2007. No way should this ever be labelled a “long term” problem, as if South African communists and trade unionists can afford to put off dealing with it even longer. People will die if we do that.

One person, at least, has made the proper connections. She is Rehana Rossouw, writing in Saturday’s Weekender (see the third link). The headline is good: “First world fuel trumps third world meal”; but please read it all. The problem is not the “globalisation” of high maize prices and high fuel prices. In a country that produces large amounts of both these commodities, the problem is only our bourgeois state’s agreement to such globalisation. The principal traitors who sold us into this situation are still in power. They are the three TMs: Thabo Mbeki, Trevor Manuel, and Tito Mboweni.

This week the proposal for an ANC newspaper was given an airing (see the fourth link below). The parallel proposal, for a trade union newspaper, is also floating around. These fantasies arise from a wrong conception of the problem of communicating with the masses. The question that is put by history is: How can we better communicate with the workers and the poor, and hear from them? The best answer to that question is still, and always will be: By organising! Organised structures are the revolutionaries' main means of mass communication.

The question is not: “Why can’t we have a bourgeois newspaper like the ones the bourgeoisie have got?” This is childishness. Such folly could not only lead to huge losses of money, as the FXI comrades have said, but also to diversion of effort and a set-back of (potentially) years in organisation.

The last in our revision series, to get us up to speed for the “contact sessions” on Capital Volume 1 that we have scheduled, is very appropriately Karl Marx’s “Value Price and Profit”, also sometimes called “Wages, Price and Profit”. See the fifth link below for an abridged version.
Click here for the unabridged text.

We have dealt with three fallacies in this post. One is that the organised workers can automatically catch up with inflation. Marx explodes this fallacy in “Value Price and Profit” and shows that this is the very reason why unions are not adequate to the task of emancipating workers, who have therefore to build a superior, political, revolutionary organisation: the Party. Another fallacy is that the food price rise is “long term” (or alternately “due to external factors”). No! The food price rise is a direct and immediate act of class war that requires an immediate and drastic response from the working class, directed at the bourgeois forces in this country.

The third fallacy we have dealt with is that the working class needs a bourgeois-style newspaper, in its centuries-old form. The Communist University itself is the answer to that fallacy. It is a tactical, organising response that is designed in the circumstances of the working class today, using the technology of the day. People forget sometimes that the working class is the most advanced class, technologically as much as politically. It has to be, and the capitalists make it so, while they themselves indulge in and promote old-fashioned things, for their own obvious propaganda reasons. Revolutionary communications do not and cannot resemble those of the bourgeoisie.

Click on these links:

Thousands march against rising prices, Bonile Ngqiyaza, The Star (511 words)

Price crisis a ploy to hurt Zuma, Sibongakonke Shoba, Business Day (514 words)

First world fuel trumps third world meal, Rehana Rossouw, Weekender (489 words)

Commercial paper could ruin the ANC, Edward West, Business Day (561 words)

Value, Price & Profit, Karl Marx, 1865, abridged (6563 words)

Coming Events

13 April 2008


The struggle for electricity, as Lenin realised, is a class struggle. In simple terms, less electricity means less development, and a lower standard of living. The 10% reduction in electricity consumption that Eskom is demanding, and trying to enforce, is the same as a 10% de-development or underdevelopment of the country. It is as bad as, or worse than, losing a war. It is, in fact, a class war.

The top picture (like yesterday’s) is by Pavel Filonov, 1883-1941: GOELRO (Lenin's Plan for the Electrification of Russia) 1931. Note the grumpy defeated bourgeoisie in the left-hand panel of the painting. The other picture is of a Soviet worker, with an insulator.

The Eskom onslaught is going to degrade the country by much more than the mere raising of prices plus the loss of productivity and earnings because of load shedding. All kinds of systems are malfunctioning.

By no means all of our bourgeois are ready for this class war. It has been launched unilaterally by a few people. We could speculate about their precise identities. Others among the bourgeoisie regard the Eskom putsch as reckless to the point of insanity. They are unable to see any creative side to Eskom’s destructiveness, which one of their journalists, Tim Cohen, frankly calls an “impending disaster”. (But why “impending”? The disaster is already here. True, it has only just begun. True, it will get worse and more obvious.)

This intra-bourgeois struggle can be seen from today’s collection of articles linked below (and also from the recent fall-out between
Billiton and Standard Bank).

The first linked item is our topic for next Monday’s CU, namely Dr Blade Nzimande’s Red Alert on defending living standards of the workers and the poor, which is clearly very appropriate to the moment.

Second item is Tim Cohen, writing for “Dealweb”, an offshoot of “Moneyweb”. In this article he puts down the groundwork of his critique of Eskom that allows him so much freedom in his later article for the Weekender.

Third item is from the front page of the Sunday Independent, where Eleanor Momberg reviews various opinions, including those of the lively Jerry Vilakazi and the cadaverous Azar Jammine, surely the most dismal of dismal scientists.

On the back of all this the Sunday Independent whacks out a devastating editorial, all the more so for its light-headed exposure of the grotesque, farcical nature of Eskom’s posture (fourth linked item).

Tim Cohen’s Weekender piece comes next, stressing the fiendish pleasure of the scribes as they gather for a feeding-frenzy as the hurly-burly dénouement of this tragic farce approaches.

For contrast, another hurly-burly, the one in Zimbabwe, is well exposed by Moshoeshoe Monare in a fine, lean, stylish article, for our sixth item.

President Morgan Tsvangirai of the Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will hold a Press conference at the 702 Radio offices in Sandton, Johannesburg today, Monday 14 April 2008, at 14h30. Details: Nqobizitha Mlilo, 083 527 4650.

“Events Diary” is still not fixed. Opportunities for repair-work are few in revolutionary times.

Click on these links:

Defend living standards of workers and poor, Blade Nzimande (2361 words)

What Eskom will gain with a 60% price hike, Tim Cohen, Dealweb (965 words)

Shock and awe, forcing consumers to save power, E Momberg, Sunday Independent (870 words)

Oh shucks, it's Eishkom all set to shock us, Editorial, Sunday Independent (513 words)

Pencils are out as disaster looms, Tim Cohen, Weekender (686 words)

Velvet-glove inaction will have dire results, M Monare, Sunday Independent (672 words)

Events Diary

Communism = Soviet Power + Electrification

Today’s is a mixed Communist University post. The first item of business is a reminder that the CU meets tomorrow, Monday, at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. We will not be meeting on Tuesdays from now on because of the Eskom “load-shedding” that has disrupted the entire country like a coup d’etat.

The load-shedding may indeed be part of an actual counter-revolutionary coup d’etat. Privatisation of state industries is a step backwards and is invariably a plundering rip-off, but let us not forget that state industries maintained under capitalism, whether in the plain or the corporatised variety, are designed to serve capitalism. Let us also not forget the revolutionary character of the struggle for electrification. In all cases, the way to constrain the bourgeoisie is education, organisation and mass action. Hence it is appropriate that we are to discuss Dr Blade Nzimande’s Red Alert article “Revolution and Counter-revolution in South Africa”, linked below, now being sent out for the third time.

Also linked today is the second last of our short revision series within the “ghost” course on Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1. This comprises Chapters 4, 5 and 6. Each of them is short and easy to read, but if, taken together, they should seem too much for you, then please read Chapter 6 first, because this is the point of arrival of all these three chapters. In Chapter 6 it is shown that it is the selling and buying of commodified labour-power, and the expropriation of all of the realised human labour by the capitalist, that is the mechanism of specifically capitalist accumulation. See the second linked item.

Now to a problem of the Communist University as
Google Group. During the last three months (coinciding with the load-shedding onslaught) almost one third of the CU’s subscribers to our group have been designated by Google as “bouncing”. As such they remain members but are automatically stopped from receiving e-mails. Some of these subscribers have written in to complain that they have been deliberately cut off. This is not the case! All are welcome!

If your Communist University e-mails should cease for more than a week or two, without prior warning, please go the group site at
http://groups.google.com/group/Communist-University . There you will find, in the right-hand panel, a link called “Edit my membership”. You may have to “Sign in” first (top right hand corner). Click on “Edit my membership” and follow instructions to restore your e-mail deliveries. If this process does not work for you, please e-mail dominic.tweedie@gmail.com and describe your problem, briefly.

The Google Groups are designed to be self-managed from the member’s side, including subscribing and unsubscribing. In “Edit my membership” you also have a number of helpful choices to “customise” the service you want. Please learn how to make use of them, comrades.

If you feel that the CU is not giving you enough topical news these days, it is because more effort is going into COSATU Today and COSATU Media Monitor.

You can subscribe to these at
http://groups.google.com/group/COSATU-Daily-News . Our main and very lively debating group is the YCLSA Discussion Forum, at http://groups.google.com/group/yclsa-eom-forum . Umsebenzi Online is at http://groups.google.com/group/umsebenzi-online .

To join even more groups please go to Plug-in City, either
here, or here.

Another reason that the CU is carrying less material is that it, too, is being disrupted on its communication side by “load-sheds” and by other cuts. In the last week we have been hit by three load-sheds in two different places, plus two very long power cuts due to transformer failure. No doubt these failures were also a consequence of load-shedding, because the equipment is not designed to be yacked on and off on a regular basis. There was also a long water cut-off, plus an e-mail server failure due to corruption of software because of a load-shedding power surge. It’s time for the working class to take power, comrades, and in more ways than one.

Good news: communists (“Maoists”) have been elected to a “landslide” victory in Nepal!

Click on these links:

Revolution and Counter-revolution in South Africa, Blade Nzimande (1959 words)

Reprise 4, Capital V 1, C 4, 5 and 6, Capital and Labour Power, Marx, 1867 (12777 words)

Events Diary

10 April 2008

New Day For Communist University

The Communist University has taken the decision to meet on Mondays from now on, so as to avoid the scheduled “load-shedding” in Braamfontein where we meet.

Therefore we will be meeting on Monday 14 April 2008 (and not Tuesday 15 as previously advertised).

As before, we will meet in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, and the time is 17h00.

schedule on the Communist University Google Group site has been revised so as to accord with the decision to meet on Mondays from now on.

The topic on Monday will be the recent Umsebenzi Online Red Alert by SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande called Revolution and Counter-revolution in South Africa. Please use the link below. This text was also sent out in the last distribution.

In addition we carry ANC President Jacob Zuma’s speech to the Durban Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Those who have for whatever reason been complaining that they do not notice the substance of Cde JZ’s speeches are going to have to come to terms with the reality that the ANC President is a skilled, direct and meaningful speaker, whose special gift is to be able to say things in words that ordinary people can understand. This is quite a different thing from lack of substance. There is a great deal of substance in this speech, for example. Please see the second link, below.

See you on Monday at the Communist University! The picture is of Moscow State University.

8 April 2008

Caucuses, No! Leadership, Yes!

The Communist University, as a study circle, has been hit hard by the power cuts. Twice we have been forced to abandon our class in the cold and the dark. As loath as we may be to have our programme dictated by the odious Eskom, in its new, menacing guise of “Big Brother”, yet we cannot afford to do without the live sessions for so long. They are the life-blood and the nourishment of the CU.

We have reason to believe that there will be no “load-shed” today. Consequently we plan to meet at 17h00 this afternoon in the SACP Boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. Part of our discussion will be around proposals for changing the day, to avoid load-shedding, to Monday. Come with your advice, comrades.

Since we have not lately been able to distribute hard copy texts, it would seem to be prudent to take the scheduled topic of Rule Six Point Four today, because it is only three sentences long, so it can easily be read out to the gathering in its entirety. It is linked below for those who need a URL; but here it also is in full:

“Members active in fraternal organisations or in any sector of the mass movement have a duty to set an example of loyalty, hard work and zeal in the performance of their duties and shall be bound by the discipline and decisions of such organisations and movement.

“They shall not create or participate in SACP caucuses within such organisations and movements designed to influence either elections or policies.

“The advocacy of SACP policy on any question relating to the internal affairs of any such organisations or movements shall be by open public statements or at joint meetings between representatives of the SACP and such organisations or movements.”

Rule 6.4 of the SACP constitution has for a long time defined the relationship between the Party and the ANC and between the Party and all other mass organisations (trade union, international solidarity, and domestic single-issue). The definition of the relationship has thereby, and correctly so, been unilaterally made by the vanguard Party, and not by the mass organisations. The SACP has never alienated its power to make up its own mind about such relationships, and how they are supposed to work.

With rule 6.4, the SACP is never likely to become dependent, like other parties have sometimes been (e.g. the British communist party) on decisions and regulations made in other organisations without any revolutionary backbone (e.g. in that particular case, the Labour Party). Our rule looks, at first glance, like it is written to protect the mass organisations, but fundamentally it protects the Party. The SACP does not mortgage itself. Consequently the SACP has the best and strongest relations with mass political and trade union formations of any communist party in any bourgeois country. Rule 6.4 is our master-stroke and is a good example to all the communist parties of the world.

The other two linked documents are, as we had long planned, the latest issues of Umsebenzi Online, to be taken in the next two sessions. Umsebenzi Online is ideal for study-circle purposes. It is the ideal length (i.e. it can be printed as a four-page folding leaflet on one sheet of A4). It is both concrete and topical at the same time. It is authentic. In fast-moving, revolutionary times we need this thing, comrades, and we need to use it more, for discussion purposes.

Click on these links:

Rule Six Point Four, SACP Constitution, 2007 (115 words)

Revolution and Counter-revolution in South Africa, Blade Nzimande (1959 words)

Defend living standards of workers and poor, Blade Nzimande (2361 words)

Events Diary

6 April 2008


Economists, whose continual job it is to attempt to rationalise the irrational, conflicted, capitalist system, are invariably at a loss to produce a satisfactory definition of their most basic piece of conceptual vocabulary: Money. Karl Marx, on the other hand, who was not an economist but a critic of political economy, described money with ease as a universal measure of value, and continued:

“It is not money that renders commodities commensurable. Just the contrary. It is because all commodities, as values, are realised human labour, and therefore commensurable, that their values can be measured by one and the same special commodity, and the latter be converted into the common measure of their values, i.e., into money.”

Today’s continuation of our revision of Capital, Volume 1 is its third chapter, called: “Money, or the Circulation of Commodities”. It is long. The Communist University’s advice is: read it from the back to the front. Read the section on Universal Money, then the one on Means of Payment, then Hoarding, and so on, until the remainder is small enough to tackle. See the first linked item.

All CU subscribers should by now also be subscribed to Umsebenzi Online, the SACP’s [usually] fortnightly e-mail publication. We link the current one again today because it provides guidance on escalation of mass mobilisation and activism. It sets the agenda, and indicates the form that the mobilisation should take from this (Chris Hani) month onwards. See the second linked item.

ANC President Jacob Zuma, speaking at the funeral of SACP Deputy Chairperson Ncumisa Kondlo, quoted the late former ANC President Oliver Tambo as follows: "The relationship between the ANC and the SACP is not an accident of history, nor is it a natural and inevitable development. For, as we can see, similar relationships have not emerged in other parts of Africa.” Cde Zuma went on to invoke the old liberation-movement slogan: “Don’t mourn, mobilise”. See the third linked item.

In his address at the same funeral on Saturday, SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande said: “In honour of Cde Ncumisa, let us throw our weight behind the SACP’s Chris Hani Month programme, in which we intend to embark on mass action to defend the standard of living of our people.” The call is clearly made. It is an Alliance call. It will be picked up by COSATU in detail as the Federation prepares for an unprecedented number of nationwide May Day rallies this year. From this month on, to borrow from opera (and football): None shall sleep!

Because the CU is a learned institution, and hence broad in its reading and never sectarian, the fifth item linked below can serve to remind us that long before Karl Marx walked the earth, there was already what we now call polemic, and there were pamphlets, and beautiful writing style, and wit, and considerable understanding of political economy, even in 1728. See the link to some writing of Jonathan Swift (pictured), published in Ireland 280 years ago, and contrast and compare it if you will, to the land question (if not as here with grazing, then with game farms and golf estates) and the urban poverty of today in South Africa.

Click on these links:

Reprise 03, Capital Volume 1, Chapter 3, Money, 1867 (17257 words)

Umsebenzi Online, Defend living standards of workers and poor (2361 words)

Address by ANC President Jacob Zuma at funeral of Ncumisa Kondlo (1667 words)

Revolutionary Loyalty, Blade Nzimande at funeral of Ncumisa Kondlo (1744 words)

An answer to a paper on the Poor Inhabitants, Jonathan Swift, 1728 (2999 words)

Events Diary

2 April 2008

Abolition of the Wages System!

At the conclusion of “Value, Price and Profit”, Karl Marx wrote of the working class that:

"Instead of the conservative motto, 'A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!' they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, 'Abolition of the wages system!'"

The question, What is the minimum wage for survival?, is only another way of asking: What is the cost of labour-power?, or, What is the cost of maintaining a worker so that he or she can arrive in a condition to work each day?

It is a bourgeois question. Hence, when this question of minimum wage, or poverty datum line, or living wage is raised, the bourgeoisie is only too delighted to take the lead in the discussion. Reformists in the ranks of the proletariat are apt to amplify the hubbub, to the exclusion of clear revolutionary thought.

We are fortunate that there are revolutionaries within the South African working class who are, like Karl Marx himself, bold enough to think of the abolition of the wages system. One such comrade has recently distributed the four diverse documents on the subject, linked below as our first four items, which the
Communist University is happy to redistribute. He wrote:

“The attached documents are shared with comrades for no other reason but to encourage a continuous interrogation of the current conjuncture against the backdrop of the many different interpretations of the direction of our revolution. A never-ending examination of the tendencies at work in our broad national liberation movement and working class formations is required if we are to reflect on and understand how Communists have historically analyzed these fractions that arises from time to time. The attachments whilst not constituting the ABC of the different strands in our movement and the left in general nevertheless signals what revolutionaries historically had to contend with in the execution of class struggle.”

The fifth item is included lest we forget the struggle of the Zimbabwean people. It is a short, powerful press release from the Global Zimbabwe-Diaspora Forum.

Click on these links:

Communist Theory - Beyond the Ultra-Left, Aufheben, 2003 (4759 words)

Workerism as debated during the UDF period, Isizwe, MIA (4417 words)

Cronin, Neo-liberalism, reformism, populism, ultra-leftism (5550 words)

New social movements, COSATU and New UDF, Oupa Lehulere (194 KB PDF, 19,000 words)

Global Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum Press Release, 31 March 2008 (372 words)

Events Diary