20 April 2008

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)

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