9 April 2010

Pitfalls of national and class struggle

Chris Hani Memorial Lecture delivered by Buti Manamela, National Secretary of the YCLSA, at J Dumane Hall, Vosloorus, 9 April 2010

Chris Hani Memorial Lecture

“The pitfalls of national and class struggle: what role for the youth”

The Struggle Continues

One of the most heroic, brilliant and consistent leader and revolutionary of the ANC, SACP, the working class and the poor - Martin Thembisile “Chris” Hani was assassinated 17 years ago on the 10th of April. The assassins, Waluz Jaluz and Clive Derby Lewis, where later apprehended through information received from a white woman, a neighbour of the Hani family, and confessed their political motives.

When the news of the assassination of Hani spread throughout the country there was chaos in the streets of our townships with the youth of our country vowing to avenge his death.

This may have or not have happened, but there was never an official instruction or action for such to happen.

Chris Hani was bigger than Terreblanche. Hani was assassinated, Blanche was not. Hani’s leadership in the form of Mandela pleaded for calm, Blanche’s AWB did not, but instead vowed to avenge and, if reports from newspapers are to be believed, they are.

Hani will never be forgotten and will always be celebrated by the majority, Blanche will be remembered by the majority as a racist and anti-transition, and will never be celebrated.

But this is not why we are here.

Chris Hani as a symbol of National Reconciliation

In his short biography written in February 1991, at the height of racial tensions, Chris Hani wrote that his “...conversion to Marxism also deepened (his) non-racial perspective...”. This was obviously going to, at the time, with thousands of young people being maimed in the township, going to be unpopular.

But Hani understood that it is not populism that will serve the country at the time. He understood that it is not about the colour of your oppressor, but more about the liberation of the oppressed.

He shared the sentiment that was pursued by Nelson Mandela that national liberation was not about “doing away with white domination, but also about fighting black domination”

This is very important not only because of the manufactured racial tensions and intolerance within the country, but also because many people believed that the struggle against Apartheid was a struggle by blacks against whites. Yes, the majority of white South Africans enjoyed the benefits of apartheid.

Yes, the majority of black people were treated as fourth class citizens in their own country. But not all white people embraced white domination, and equally, not all black people embraced the struggle against Apartheid.

Chris Hani knew that he shared the trenches with white people, and that some of them influenced his joining the South African Communist Party and became more active in the struggle against white domination.

Hani mentions in his 1991 biography struggle stalwarts such as Braam Fischer and Ray Simons, whilst he had led the Communist Party with people like Jeremy Cronin and Joe Slovo. But he also knew that from his own home there where people like Matanzima and Sigcau who sold out the struggle for national liberation by embracing the Bantustan system.

Here, Hani teaches us that the main problem with apartheid was that it was a democracy for the few. He teaches us, as the youth of today, that apartheid was only voted for by the minority in our country and that the majority where being excluded. But he insists that black leadership, dialectically speaking, does not represent the suppression of the white minority.

The reason why I say that the current racial intolerance are manufactured is precisely because their basis are opportunistic and finds no presence within our people. Of course there remains rampant oppression and exploitation of black people.

Of course there are both white and black people who believe that Apartheid was better because it suited them well. Of course there are still those who believe that a white person will forever remain superior because of their colour. But this does not mean that we need to encourage all of these.

The other important lesson from Chris Hani is that to be black does not mean that you can never be racist. That is why he declares that he was converted to non-racialism when he joined the SACP.

This is important because there are those who assume that by being anti-apartheid, they are therefore revolutionary and non-racist. We see them every day. They walk around believing that to swear at a white person means that you are revolutionary. They misrepresent revolution to mean being against white people. That is wrong and we must fight against it.

At the risk of sounding unpopular, let me say, if those two young men killed Terre’Blanche because he was a white person, then they are no better than him because they committed the very same sin he was guilty of.

If the struggle for national liberation was a struggle against whites, it would have been easy to identify the enemy and never to win new friends by labelling every white person as an enemy and killing them. The white people in the Soviet Union, in Cuba, in the US, in Latin America and the entire Europe would not have had the sympathy and solidarity against the system of Apartheid because ours would have been an Anti-White struggle, and not an anti-apartheid struggle.

The important objective here is that our struggle was for “the liberation of black people in general and Africans in particular from economic and political bondage”. Our struggle was for “the creation of a non-racist, non-sexist and democratic society.”

In simple terms this means, instead of instituting black domination, we where for nation building. It means instead of instituting black dictatorship, we were for an inclusive democratic society. It also meant that we would respect the rights of women and ensure that we liberate them from their triple oppression.

We, the current generation, hold the burden of our parents, both black and white. But we equally hold an opportunity to build an equal, non-racist society that does not judge a person on the basis of his or her colour.

Let us expose white racism for the purpose of building democracy and non-racism, but in the same vein, let us not perpetuate black racism as the new symbol of black liberation. Any struggle premised on negative objectives will not succeed. If we insult, threaten, abuse or even kill or perpetuate the killing of people of the opposite race merely because we do not agree with them or we hate their colour, we are no different from those who oppressed the potential of this country for more than 650 years.

The future lies in the hands of this generation and its youth leadership to light the torch that will build a non-racial society for all. We do not need to be members of the SACP, just like Hani, to be converted from racists to non-racialism. We are the modern generation that is learning from the previous, and therefore have an equal task of climbing the pitfalls of national oppression, and actually overcoming those.

We have the advantage of learning in black and white schools. We have the advantage of learning from black or white working class parents. We have the advantage of learning from black and white managers of factories. We have the advantage from learning from black and white political leaders who stands in the same podium and argue for non-racialism. We are living in the world that surpasses barbarism and pre-civilisation. We should make this country work, as black and white youth alike. The future lies in our hands to reverse the sins of our parents.

I said earlier on that I want to be like Hani. I also implore you to be like Hani and let his leadership qualities guide you, and I will tell you why.

But for me being like Hani does not mean committing the same mistakes that Chris has committed. I will be disappointing him, especially when he has left such a wonderful legacy for me to learn from.

You may be sitting here wanting to be like Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo, Govan Mbeki and many other heroes of our struggle. But to want to be like them means learning from them, not repeating their mistakes and actually improving on the good that they have done.

In his biography, Mandela speaks of how he used to disrupt meetings of the SACP. If today, he hears that people are destroying meetings of the SACP because they want to be like him, or that they are insulting white people because they want to be like him, I doubt if they will he proud.

Hani equally would want us to learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. Maturity from the eyes of the previous generations means that we do not repeat the same mistakes that they committed. It is time to move forward and build a prosperous, united, non-racist and democratic society. This is an ideal Nelson Mandela nearly died for, and it is therefore an ideal I implore you to live for

The irony of Hani and National Reconciliation

Chris Hani was killed by white people. From those who planned his murder to those who pulled the trigger, including those who are accused of being part of the plot. But the irony of the death of Chris Hani is that the white murderers where apprehended because of the information from a white woman who happened to be a neighbour. If the neighbour had chosen to keep quite and just said that another black person has been persecuted and it is none of her business, Waluz Januz and Derby-Lewis would not be rotting in jail today and later in hell.

But even in that situation, Mandela, in true leadership style and as guided by the ANC, declared that there must be peace and that there is no way back. He understood that the way back is the way to violence. He understood that violence will not only mean the loss of white lives, but the lives of black lives too. He understood that for this negative act, there is an opportunity for a positive act in the form of advancing the negotiations and attaining peace.

Equally, those who want to use the death of Terre’Blanche as a means to evict black farm workers and retrench them from their jobs, as TAU SA and AWB wants us to do, should understand that Terre’Blanche is no Chris Hani but also that the price may be too heavy as the majority of black farm workers have not much to lose but their chains.

In the same vein, we need to warn those who celebrate the death of Terre’Blanche that racial and ethnic cleansing is not in the interest of the country. Let us heed the words of President Jacob Zuma and ensure that there is peace in our country.

Chris Hani, the man of Peace

"If you want peace then you must struggle for social justice."

One of the major challenges that we face in our country is that of the social injustices that are meted on our people on a daily basis. Many in our country are going on without land, without water, without electricity, without food, without jobs, without decent livelihoods, without education, without decent healthcare and many other social inequities that continues to ravage our country 17 years after the death of Chris Hani.

This happens in the presence of and parallel to both black and white wealth. It also happens in the presence of both black and white prosperity. The reality, of course, is that the majority of impoverished people are black, albeit the presence of white poverty.

The other reality is that in as much as there is an impoverished and mainly black Alexandra township, it also co-exist across with an opulent multi-racial Sandton, where wealth in our country can no longer be associated with white life.

This is not what Hani stood for.

Hani stood for the eradication of poverty from all races. Hani advocated for the creation of a prosperous society for all the people of our country. He would never have stood back and listened to some white capitalists justifying their right to remain wealthy, but he would have equally rebuked some black emerging capitalists who would have wanted to justify their path to wealth at the expense of and in exclusion of others.

For Hani, the end of crime represented the end of poverty. What is regarded as criminal today, is almost the universal definition of crime in the capitalist context. It is people who, because they are excluded from the mainstream of the economy and their social life cannot even attain the bare minimum, then go all out to commit crime and get a plate of food for the evening.

These are victims of social inequalities. That is why, in the vocabulary of Chris Hani, if you want to end injustice and create peace, you must fight for social justice and not for personal accumulation.

Hani should be turning in his grave when people who are supposed to be delivering for the majority of our people from poverty are the same people who justify their right to be first in the queue of the rich.

He would have been ashamed to have seen the same people whom he had shared the trenches with are the same people who justify why they should share the same wealthy villages with the rich.

Hani would have been ashamed when wealth accumulation happens sometimes in the name of black majority rule, and when some who claim to be advancing his legacy of democracy and nation-building are reaping wealth whilst they disadvantage the poor through terrible service delivery.

One of the central themes of Hani’s campaigns was to fight against monopoly capital, and in particular, white monopoly capital. He regarded this as the primary enemy that sustained itself through the disenfranchisement of our people.

He hated capitalism and all its attendant benefits with all of his heart. It is for this reason that Hani instructs us to fight for peace through creating social justice. This is the challenge that we face as the youth of today.

It is a shame that 17 years after his death, we still have a Chris Hani informal settlements that remains as poor as he was still alive, a Joe Slovo Park, a Winnie Mandela Park, and all these other areas which are seen by the elite as crime hot-spots where the only sign of service delivery is to deploy policemen to shoot and kill those who want to create disorder.

The definition of social injustice as advocated by Hani also equally means that had we heed his call, there should be no service delivery protests. The youth of our country should not be rising against their government to demand basic services. The Counsellors and mayors in our municipalities should not be afraid to go to their communities to explain to them the problems and discussing with them the solutions.

One of the characteristics of Hani was his ability to be where the masses of our people are. To ensure that as they engage into collective action to demand a change in their livelihood, he is there and he understands all of these. This is the lesson that our counsellors should assimilated and not start practising in 2011 when we near Local Government Elections.

On debates, and on how to handle the other parties

"We as the ANC-led liberation alliance have nothing to fear and everything to gain from a climate of political tolerance. We do not fear open contest and free debate with other organisations. Open debate can only serve to uncover the bankruptcy of our political opponents.

As a Communist, one of the greatest blackmail that has been used against Hani and his comrades was the history of the Soviet Union and the fact that it was not a free society. Regularly, sometimes without proper justification, and buttressed with propaganda of the apartheid regime and its anti-communist sentiment, the communists and the ANC where accused of stifling debates and not being an open organisation as they flirted with Stalinism.

This was obviously a trump card used by the Apartheid system for its own convenience during negotiations. Equally, this level of blackmail is being used within the movement to try and score cheap political points. When people loose elections or debates they sometimes find comfort in engaging outside the structures of the movement, and on platforms that will never persuade or dissuade their opponents in order for their views to emerge.

The greatest strength that Chris Hani possessed was engagement. He believed that we all have our different views, and that the ANC led Alliance and the SACP where not build by a herd of sheep that shouted the same slogans. He knew that through debates we build each other and we get exposed to different, albeit principled, views on what needs to be done.

He advocated for tolerance within the movement, and that is why, as we are now to know, that he never classified those who differed with the leadership as non-entities, as sell-outs, as enemy agents, as forces of imperialism or any such labels.

He in many instances took the side of the minority view in that they had the right to be heard. In this way, Hani was widely respected in the camps. He knew that as a leader, to concede that a comrade junior than you is right and that you where wrong is not a sign of weak leadership, but a gain of their respect.

He also understood that as a leader you should be tolerant of those who are under your command, and that their different view is not about questioning your leadership and command but as part of assisting you to take clearer and wiser decisions.

Hani knew that the first step of engagement is respect. He in many instance, we are told, differed with Mandela or Gwala or Tambo, but never did they lose his respect or he theirs. He understood that you can differ with a comrade and still remain cordial and respectful of each other.

This is very important. There is no one who doubted the militancy of Chris Hani. We can see this when it required military action. This was the Commissar who fought together with the Zipra forces for the liberation for Zimbabwe. This is the Commissar who was prepared to die in Lesotho as part of rebuilding structures of the ANC into South Africa. This was the same Commissar who was the Commander in Chief of uMkhonto we Sizwe. We will never doubt his militancy and radicalism in the field of battle.

But this is the same Commissar who was prepared to debate and engage with the Apartheid regime. He never said that the regime should live Codesa because they where anti-revolutionary.

He never said that the regime should walk out of Codesa because they were not agreeing with the many positions that the ANC advocated. He understood that the more they are kept on the negotiation table, the more they and their rotten views will be exposed.

To be short of tolerance in a political spectre is childish, populist and cowardly towards debates, as Hani would have retorted. It may in the short-term embarrass your opponents, but in the long term, expose your shallowness and bankruptcy in debates. The only way in which we can expose imperialism, capitalism, racism and the rotten views of their political representatives and agents is through debate, and not insults.

On socialism, and the need to fight for such a system

During the time of the leadership of Hani in the SACP, many a capitalist repeated the slogan: Socialism is Dead in Russia; Socialism will never live in Pretoria. This was obviously meant to continue with the propaganda of “rooi-gevaar” in our country to make people believe that socialism is the cruellest of systems and that capitalism should replace it.

We are still confronted with the same prophets of doom who, as they run out of ideas to discredit the paradise of socialism, label our leaders with all sorts of names; and each time we meet them, we say to them what Hani said to the prophets of doom of his time. He said and I quote:

“Socialism is not about big concepts and heavy theory. Socialism is about decent shelter for those who are homeless. It is about water for those who have no safe drinking water. It is about health care, it is about a life of dignity for the old. It is about overcoming the huge divide between urban and rural areas. It is about a decent education for all our people. Socialism is about rolling back the tyranny of the market. As long as the economy is dominated by an unelected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist.”

Importantly, Hani believed that this socialism cannot just be a dream. He understood that it cannot just end with a plan. This is why one of the most significant characteristic of Chris Hani was action, action and action.

When he became General Secretary of the SACP, Hani’s introduced an active and campaigning party. He believed that through an agitated, fighting, vigilant, educated and learning working class there will always be a case for socialism. One of the most defining features of Hani’s campaigning SACP was his call for Housing, Health and Hunger (or the Triple H) Campaign, of which the current campaigning SACP through the Red October is reminiscent of.

Those who come and tell you, therefore, that capitalism is better than socialism and that socialism is a dream, tell them that it is better to live a dream than the current nightmare of with no housing, no safe drinking water, no health care, no dignity for the old and a huge divide between rural and old; and tell them Chris Hani said so...

We have to ensure that the rot we see, the rot we have to change and the rot we must fight is that of self aggrandisement and personal accumulation, and that through this fight, we shall realise “Socialism in our Lifetime”

On the Alliance: Let us defend it to Death

At the National Lekgotla of the Young Communist League we declared that we will die for the Alliance. We did not say this lightly, but said this because we believed that the Alliance represents the future of South Africa. When we came out in support of the change in the ANC we believed that those who were at its helm where not representative of the ideals that Chris Hani stood for. We supported President Jacob Zuma and his team because they believed in the undying spirit of Hani, and therefore, the strength and unity of the Alliance.

Hani was representative of the Alliance at the time. A leader of both the ANC and the SACP, and equally, the Chief of Staff of uMkhonto we Sizwe. He was never flinching of where he wanted to see the Alliance. He understood in the same vein that without the Alliance, there is no better South Africa.

My appeal to you today, as the future of our country, my fellow young compatriots, is to defend the Alliance to death in memory of Chris Hani. We need to say to those who want to destroy this alliance, sometimes in mere pursuit of leadership position, that you will never do it in our lifetime. We should say to all those whose interest is to divide the Alliance—whether they be in the ANC, SACP or Cosatu or in their youth wings—we should say to them that the Alliance is our future; do not destroy it.

The tendency to determine the strength or weakness of the Alliance on the basis of leadership, on the basis of who leads the ANC or SACP or COSATU must come to an end. The tendency to try and treat our leadership as unthinking and empty vessels who can be removed in the whim of an instruction must come to an end. The tendency to treat our leadership because they are communists or nationalists must come to an end.

We should see all our leaders as the true carriers and barriers of our future. We should respectfully correct them when they are wrong, engage them when we believe they are leading us no to where, but we should never allow anybody to try and break the Alliance or disrespect leaders or want to kick them out because they are communist or nationalists.

One of the basis of the unity of the PYA is to ensure that we defend the leadership of the ANC led Alliance indiscriminately. These are our leaders. To disrespect one of them is to disrespect all of them. Their individual failure is their collective failure, and similarly is their success.

Without the SACP, the ANC is nothing. Without the ANC, Cosatu is nothing. With Cosatu, the SACP is nothing. As Chris Hani said, and I quote:

“...I don't think we should feel shy about saying openly that we actually radicalised the ANC. We have moved the ANC from being a narrow nationalist movement championing the interests of a few, to a movement which has embraced the interests of the workers, the oppressed intelligentsia, the black middle class and I think that is our basic achievement…”

Let us defeat all tendencies that seek to survive through divisions and ensure that unity reigns. Anybody, who seeks to divide the ANC from the SACP, or the SACP from COSATU, or COSATU from the ANC mainly because one of the leaders is a communist or nationalist is no different from Terror Lekota who left the ANC because Gwede Mantatshe is both ANC SG and SACP National Chairperson.

One of the most profound things that Hani said was that:

“The ANC despite being a multi-class organisation, must still retain that element which has made it appealing to the majority of our people, namely, the radical element, the element of addressing some, not all of the aspirations of the working class… Let's accept (my emphasis) that there's always going to be a struggle within the ANC (not a hostile struggle) for the predominance of the ideas of the various classes within the ANC; there'll always be an attempt to balance these tendencies within the ANC. The ANC has always got to have these tendencies, otherwise it wouldn't be the ANC.

The same applies to all the structures of the Alliance.

Just at the point of his death, Hani said that:

 “What is important is the continuation of the struggle - and we must accept that the struggle is always continuing - under different conditions whether within parliament, or outside parliament, we shall begin to tackle the real problems of the country.”

In his view, just before he died, Hani believed that the struggle continues... Aluta Continua.

For as long as there is continued poverty and unemployment parallel to wealth and monopoly capitalism, Aluta Continua;

For as long as there is lack of access to education for some and the best education for others; Aluta Continua;

For as long as land ownership remains skewed in favour of a few white minority, whilst the majority of blacks remains landless and without food, Aluta Contnua


Thank You.

National Secretary of the YCLSA

Buti Manamela


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