30 June 2013

Soul of Socialism

Philosophy and Religion, Part 1

Soul of Socialism

In the Progress Publishers (Moscow) Dictionary of Philosophy (1984 English edition) the Fundamental Question of Philosophy is defined as: “the question of the relationship of consciousness to being, of thought to matter and nature, examined on two planes, first, what is primary – spirit or nature, matter or consciousness – and second, how is knowledge of the world related to the world itself, or to put it differently, does consciousness correspond to being, is it capable of truthfully reflecting the world?”

The Communist University takes this to mean the relationship of Subject to Object (or of mind to matter) of which the Subject – meaning ourselves, Humanity – is our primary concern and source of value, and therefore our source of morality.

We take it from Christopher Caudwell that freedom is the good that contains all good, and we take it from Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto that the free development of each is the precondition for the free development of all. We will contrast this view with the contradictory view, which is that matter can be held as primary, and that human consciousness can be treated as derivative of the material that contains it.

The principal dialectic of this set will proceed in this way, without dogma and without closure.

Socialism’s Soul

Oscar Wilde [an image of him is above], perhaps with assistance from the Communist Manifesto, saw that only from the free development of each could come the free development of all, and that the purpose of Socialism is therefore, as he put it, Individualism. Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” (MS-Word format download linked below) is a very good text to discuss, if people are ready for discussion. It is not necessary to read the whole sixteen pages, but it is very rewarding to do so. Here are a few lines:

“The personality of man will be very wonderful. It will be as wonderful as the personality of a child.

“In its development it will be assisted by Christianity, if men desire that; but if men do not desire that, it will develop none the less surely. For it will not worry itself about the past, nor care whether things happened or did not happen. Nor will it admit any laws but its own laws; nor any authority but its own authority. Yet it will love those who sought to intensify it, and speak often of them. And of these Christ was one.

“‘Know thyself’ was written over the portal of the antique world. Over the portal of the new world, ‘Be thyself’ shall be written. And the message of Christ to man was simply ‘Be thyself.’ That is the secret of Christ.

“When Jesus talks about the poor he simply means personalities, just as when he talks about the rich he simply means people who have not developed their personalities.”

This is altogether a wonderful piece of writing, full of wit, charm and surprising truth. It represents much of what the Communist University aspires towards. May it please you to persevere with it.

29 June 2013

Philosophy and Religion, Introduction

Philosophy and Religion, Part 0

Philosophy and Religion, Introduction

The series now beginning on this Communist University forum attempts to show how it is finally on the battlefield of Philosophy that the struggle for freedom is won or lost. It shows that this battlefield is a Freirean battlefield. It is the crucial battle of the free-willing human Subject, otherwise known as “The Subject of History”.

Our course attempts to show that some of the philosophical touchstones or “shibboleths” of the communist movement have been terribly mistaken. It shows that the opposition of idealism to materialism, where the latter is supposed to eliminate the former, is not dialectical.

What is dialectical is the counterposition of the human with the material world. These two can never be collapsed into one, so long as human life continues. One does not eliminate the other. Hence this is a true dialectic: a unity and struggle of opposites.

In retrospect it seems clear that at the time of the Great October Revolution in 1917 in Russia there was a philosophical deficit among the revolutionaries; and that this philosophical deficit got worse as time went on; and that this weakness eventually undermined the revolution and caused it to topple.

We will succeed or fail in the future in proportion to our grasp of philosophy.

Philosophy is a beautiful study, and nothing to fear.

Illustration: “Question Everything!” – the sometime logo of the Communist University of London

28 June 2013

Organised Women, The Fifth Alliance Partner

Induction, Part 10c

Organised Women, The Fifth Alliance Partner

In the Induction Course, we have tried to convey a picture of the set of democratic institutions that exist and to which we must give continuous new life, and expansion.

This picture will have to include organised women.

We have said, in our course “No Woman, No Revolution”, that the ANC Women’s League is an ANC for women, and that the Progressive Women’s Movement is not a mass democratic organisation.

Therefore there is no mass democratic organisation of woman that can at this moment take up the position in the above graphic, to represent women within the National Democratic Revolutionary (NDR) Alliance, along side of the other components, as illustrated above.

This we leave once again as a “problematic”. It is one that must be solved before the revolution can be successful.

27 June 2013

Trade Union Revival

Induction, Part 10b

Trade Union Revival

This item represents a fast-moving situation wherein the South African working class has an objective need to increase its degree of organisation dramatically.

According to statistics, there are nearly 14 million people working in SA, but only about 3 million of these are organised in trade unions, and only about 2.2 million of those are in COSATU-affiliated unions.

At the same time, there is a new phenomenon now appearing in South Africa that we call “vigilante trade unionism”. This phenomenon is described in the attached document, which is an extract from the Statement of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party of 2 June 2013.

The communists are partisans of the working class. They cannot shirk the task of getting the working class organised into primary mass democratic organisation. It is a necessary condition for the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) to exist. The extension of mass democratic organisation is what the NDR consists of, and the main and leading part of it is the organisation of workers.

21 June 2013

Decade of the Cadre

Induction, Part 10a

Decade of the Cadre

“A cadre’s life is lived within the framework of multi‐faceted relationships. It is these relations that make a cadre a cadre. In these relationships, a cadre is at the same time the cause and effect. A cadre cannot be conceived outside of an organisation, for a cadre is an element of an organisation...

“The essential duty of cadreship and leadership is to agitate for the political consciousness of the people, to mobilise, and continuously organise people as a conscious force to seize and maintain political power.”

The above words are taken from the attached document, “Theory of organisation”, an article written by Cde Nathi Mthethwa, and published in the ANC’s theoretical magazine “Umrabulo” of the 1st Quarter of 2013.

The ANC 53rd National Conference resolved to make the next decade a period of focus on cadre development, calling it “The Decade of the Cadre”.

The second attached document is a report of a speech by the Secretary-General of the ANC in May, 2913. He said, among other things:

“This year, it's the beginning of the decade of the cadre.

"There is a difference between a member and a cadre, you have to go through a process to become a cadre."

So we go forward.

20 June 2013

Year of the District

Induction, Part 10

Year of the District

We have not yet discovered a document dedicated to the “Year of the District”, but what we know is that it refers to the Districts of the South African Communist Party, and not to the Voting Districts.

According to the SACP Constitution, a District, consisting of not less than 10 branches, is formed by a Provincial Executive Committee, according to a policy framework drawn up by the Central Committee, after consultation with the PECs, to determine the boundaries of districts.

The SACP constitution was amended at the 13th National Congress, in July 2012, to allow for the formation by District Executive Committees of Sub-Districts consisting of not less than 500 members or 5 branches.

Below the Districts and the Sub-Districts (where these exist) are the Branches of the Party. The SACP Constitution says: “The basic structure of the SACP is the branch, to be formed at a residential area or workplace, and every member shall be obliged to belong to a branch.”

The attached document is the chapter on “Strengthening the Vanguard Party” from the “South African Road to Socialism” (SARS) document, passed at the same 13th SACP National Congress.

Among other things, the SARS document says: “All our branches must be based on voting districts” (page 124).

The attached document is extracted, without any editing of the text, from the full SARS document, which is downloadable from the SACP web site, or by clicking this link (744 KB PDF). The text does contain some obvious errors and incomplete sentences.

On page 124 and 125 of the SARS, a scheme of political schools is laid out. The Communist University has prepared material in a format that can be used in political schools of any practical size. These are half-day modules. They can be used for single half-day schools, or put together to create schools for up to a week or even more, if required. The number of half-day modules that are prepared at this point is ten. They can be downloaded by clicking here, and scrolling down to the bottom of the page (the half-day course links are numbered 51 to 60). Two more half-day schools are in preparation. One will be based on this Induction course; the other will be based on the Education course.

15 June 2013

COSATU Locals and Socialist Forums

Induction, Part 9c

Two, Three, Many Red Forums

COSATU Locals, Socialist Forums

COSATU Locals are combinations of trade unionists in a locality, corresponding roughly to a Region of the ANC or a District of the SACP, where members of different affiliates of COSATU gather to discuss trade union matters of common interest. They are similar to the area Trade Union Councils or “Trades Councils” of Great Britain, which were the historical precursors of the national federation in that country, the TUC.

Socialist Forums are periodical, if possible regular, gatherings of trade unionists, communist party members and others to discuss matters of a socialist nature, and to conduct “umrabulo”.

“Umrabulo” is a word with South African characteristics, meaning self-help political education.

See the attached document for a description of Socialist Forums as understood by the SACP, taken from the SACP web site.

These initiatives are by nature local and will be a product of original work, custom and practice in the various localities, influenced by the leading personalities in the places where these institutions have taken root.

The attached document includes a comparative note on the role of Chairpersons, Secretaries, Presidents and General Secretaries in the three main components of our Alliance.

14 June 2013

Ward Committees, CPFs, SGBs, IDPs, LED

Induction, Part 9b

SA Government

Ward Committees, CPFs, SGBs, IDPs, LED

This Communist University course on “Induction” has turned out to be one of the most voluminous to date by the number of texts used, and in this item today there are four, which come on top of the three texts already used in this 9th part of the course.

In part 7 we have already looked at the problematic question of the Communes and the Communal Councils of Venezuela, asking, in effect, who exercises agency in such structures? Is it the people who are co-opted into them? Or is it the government department “of the People’s Power” that co-opts them, and funds them, that calls the shots?

We then looked at the specifically South African mass democratic organisations, the ANC, the Leagues, COSATU, SANCO, the YCL and others, and in the following Part 8 we introduced the South African “Local State” and the mechanisms of voting for the state democracy, organised by the Demarcations Board and by the Independent Electoral Commission (the IEC).

In this part, so far, we have looked at the Party (SACP) and the Liberation Movement (ANC) as components of an alliance and of a broader local network, held together by the cadres of the SACP and the ANC. Both SACP and ANC express such a vision, in the documents we shared.

Minister of the People's Power

Now we return to the problematic that was set out in the first item of Part 7, in connection with the interview of Reinaldo Iturriza, Venezuelan Minister of the People's Power for the Communes and Social Protection. But this time we look at it in terms of South Africa, and South African politicians and intellectuals. We begin with Professor Steven Friedman, who wrote, among other things in the attached article (see attached), written prior to the last municipal elections, the following:

“... [Ward] committees were established to enable ward councillors to discover what local voters want. They have never done that... they remain part of the problem, because committees chosen by politicians or small groups will never give grassroots citizens a voice... there is only one way of asking everyone in a ward which candidate they want ‐ it is called an election.” (Business Day, 4 May 2011)

Friedman was responding to a radio discussion featuring Deputy Co‐operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Yunus Carrim, who, Friedman said, “made it clear he understands the problem”, but who was nevertheless determined to persist with the ward committees.

We, too, can see that Carrim understands the problem, from the lecture that Carrim gave the following day (5 May 2011). It is the second attached document. It concludes with a section headed ‘Towards a Dialectic of “Invited” and “Invented” Spaces’ (see page 19 of the booklet). Yunus Carrim in this section is reacting to a publication of the NGO-sponsored “GGLN”, which, in 135 pages of ostensible examination of the “community voice”, treats “party-political” voting democracy as an alien intrusion. “Vote” is just another word for “voice”, by the way, but the GGLN is not concerned about that. For them, the second guess is always better.

The GGLN document sets up an argument between “invitation” (i.e. co-option) and “invention” (i.e. agency) that is an echo of John Turner’s question, “Who Decides?” Carrim suggests being “dialectical”, not so as to resolve the contradiction, or go forward with it, but only to evade it. He says that dialectical means complementary. It’s a pity that our comrade would want to sacrifice such a profound concept for the sake of making such a small gain, over so trivial an opposition.

Actually, Yunus Carrim in this moment at least was more similar to the NGOs of the GGLN than Friedman was, because Friedman is committed to democratic elections. Friedman is not behaving, like the “GGLN” is, as if 1994 means nothing, and as if the vote is now something contemptible, to be second-guessed by all possible means.

Yunus Carrim says he understands that 1994 was a product of mass popular agency, but that for him it could just as well mean that the “invited” space of co-option, such as ward committees, was the fitting outcome of the liberation struggle. See if you can follow his argument.

A week later, Yunus Carrim responded to Friedman’s article, but only managed to dig himself deeper into the hole he was digging before (see the third attached document).

Minister’s Power

Carrim kept pressing on after that, and he did manage, as he indicated he would in this May, 2011 article (“The ANC’s 2012 Conference will provide guidelines on improving ward committees and other forms of community participation”) to get an endorsement of ward committees inserted into the ANC resolution on Legislature and Governance passed at the 53rd ANC National Conference in Mangaung, in December 2012 (fourth attachment).

There it remains. As political and mass democratic organisations, locally, we have to live with this incubus, this cuckoo in the nest, called the ward committee. It takes away our cadres, and it creates a track of decision-making that is beyond the reach and out of sight of the voter, and of the mass organisations.

What about Community-Police Forums (CPFs), School Governing Bodies (SGBs), and Integrated Development Plans (IDPs)? What about “Local Economic Development” (LED)? The Party should try to know what all of these bodies are doing, and what the Ward Committee is doing.

What is dangerous to political life is the removal of any part of it to a secluded area where it is no longer part of the common polity. It is not the fact that these actors are in the field that is wrong. But if they do their business in secret, over the heads of the common people, that is wrong. That is one thing that makes people very angry.

“Nothing about us without us” is a good slogan, with South African characteristics.

The Party in the localities must be an agent of transparency, including with its own activities. Trust the people; “The masses can never be wrong,” said Oliver Reginald Tambo, meaning that if we are standing outside the people, accusing them, then rightly or wrongly, we are out of the game.

Thusong Service Centres are one-stop municipal service access points dotted around a municipality or a metro. This model is how government can usefully be present in the localities, with open access and practical rights available on demand.

12 June 2013

ANC Branches, Zones and Regions

Induction, Part 9a

ANC Branches, Zones and Regions

ANC Branch Manual, Part 2

In this item we will complete the ANC Branch Manual. We have already dealt with the third, and the first, of the three parts.

All of the 24 pages of the attached booklet are of use. SACP members need to read and become familiar with them all.

Particular attention could be given to the final part, starting on page 23, called “Member induction, education and training”. Ask yourself, how clearly is the distinction made between Induction and Politics?

Note that it says:

“Set up a branch Political Education Committee. Identify the areas in which branch members would benefit from political education. Choose debates on theory (such as Strategy and Tactics) on strategy (such as how to mobilise certain communities); discussions on organisational skills (such as how to run an effective project); or training on practical campaign skills (such as writing a pamphlet or preparing a budget).

“Draw up a programme of political education, ensuring a balance between the different areas and forms of political education and skills training. Liaise with regional and local structures of the Alliance and MDM to ensure coordination of programmes.”

This tells us that the ANC is here drawing distinction between what they call theory, strategy, organisational skills and practical skills, while confirming that all are necessary.

It also tells us that the ANC is in principle ready to combine and share with the Alliance and MDM in a complementary way and to avoid duplication in the matter of political education. The existence of Voting District Branches of the SACP will assist this to happen, opening up the prospect of joint programmes of political education which can also draw in COSATU members in an area, zone or ward, depending on what works locally.

The existence of the Branch Manual itself tells that the ANC wants to “induct” in the sense of making people aware of all aspects of the organisation, as soon as possible.

Please study it well, comrades, including the other two parts.

9 June 2013

SACP VD Branches as Keystones

Induction, Part 9

Lusaka Branch of the SACP

SACP VD Branches as Keystones

The branch, and its members, is the most important part of the ANC – ANC Branch Manual

The basic structure of the SACP is the branch – SACP Constitution

The SACP does not have a Branch Manual, as such. The SACP Constitution, which we have already dealt with, describes the branch in a general way.

So for this item, we will give as text the Umsebenzi Online of 14 February 2013, which, among other things, places the Voting District Branches of the SACP in a clear frame of reference relative both to local mass democratic organisation, and to local state institutions. In the main “Red Alert” article of that issue, Dr Blade Nzimande, the General Secretary of the Party, wrote:

“...particular responsibility rests with the voting district (VD)-based branches of the SACP. These structures are closest to the households in our various communities, and the SACP is deliberately restructuring itself to get closer to our communities. We also expect our branch cadres to actively participate in all the sectoral structures at local level, and also ensure that the issue of women’s struggles and dignity is placed at the centre of the activities of these structures. This is in fact the vanguard role that the SACP branch can play at local level.”

While the article is primarily about the struggle against violent abuse of women, yet in passing it makes a very good, concise declaration of the responsibilities and tasks of the relatively-new Voting District branches of the SACP. Dr Nzimande continues:

“The history of the struggles against women’s oppression as well as our own history of the struggle against apartheid tells us that this is a struggle that will be won through hard work on the ground amongst our communities.”

And earlier in the article he says:

“...the struggle to defeat violence against women and children... will in the end be won in organized struggles, led by the working class, for the radical transformation of our socio‐economic terrain. But even this struggle on its own will not succeed, unless premised on the organization of women as part of the overall struggle for radical socio‐economic transformation.”

Each struggle, like this women’s struggle, has specific characteristics, but there are general requirements as well, including mass organisation, and including the connectedness of “all the sectoral structures at local level”. The connection is assisted by “the vanguard role that the SACP branch can play at local level”. This defines the role of the Voting District Branch.

Main text: ANC Branch Manual, Part 1

In this work of connecting, it is of extreme importance that the communist cadres understand very well how people in other organisations think about themselves and about the aims of their own organisations.

Therefore it is doubly appropriate to use here, the first part of the ANC Branch Manual. It is not only a generally good guide to organisation at the branch level, and therefore instructive to communists; but also, communists do not have a monopoly on theory, and especially they do not have a monopoly on experience.

If the Chinese doctrine of “the mass line” has a meaning for us, it must be this: that the masses have a very strong sense of who they are, and what they want, and the communists will get nowhere if they do not thoroughly understand the masses’ conception of themselves.

This is why the SACP cadres must be “more ANC than the ANC”, just like the late General Secretary of the SACP and Treasurer-General of the ANC Cde Moses Kotane was.


“On Monday the 10th August 2009, Lusaka Branch of the SACP held a Lekgotla a normal gathering of the branch that is convened after the AGM. The Lekgotla takes a form of induction to the general members of the branch and develops a program for the year. The lekgotla ends with a walk by all members and a door to door for 30 minutes in the community, asking community members about their priority needs. Luckily I managed to capture the walk for history, using the advantage that technology comes with. Viva the South African Communist Party Viva!!!”

Diteko Moreotsenye

8 June 2013

Stroll On

This entry is from January, 2007. It was taken down and re-made into a "draft" by the Blogger (Google) because of a complaint about the image used. It has been re-posted without the image on 8 June 2013.

If a peasant in Mpumalanga were to stand up at a presidential imbizo and complain about crime, Mbeki would argue with him until he won. That’s how he talks to people.
The above is from the personal column of Peter Bruce, Editor of the Business Day, yesterday. It is easy to recognise the picture of a man who listens only long enough to gain time to compose an argument to defeat the person who is talking to him. And it is easy to believe that President Mbeki is just that kind of person. See the link below.

There was a crisis at the weekend ANC and alliance lekgotla. See the report from the Business Day, below. Hearing the COSATU conference resolution on the NDR and Socialism, the President and his Treasury sidekick, Jabu Moloketi, decided to try to turn the lekgotla into nothing more than a humiliation for the mass working class represented by COSATU and the working class vanguard party, the SACP. This was Peter Bruce’s imaginary scenario made reality. But it did not succeed. COSATU was supported not only by the other working-class elements of the ANC, but even by other senior figures who could not agree to turn such a gathering into an attack on a part of the very alliance that was gathered there.

Read the text of the COSATU Resolution on the NDR and socialism in the linked text, below. Other political resolutions of the COSATU 9th Congress can be found

When people write at a great and inappropriate length it is generally because they are unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Gilad Atzmon in Counterpunch does not write anything wrong. He just fails to make the necessary final step and hence he keeps going too long, even if it is all very readable. He says that the contradiction of which he writes is between Jerusalem and Athens, and this is true, but not only for the Jews and the Greeks. All must choose between these polar opposites. There is no escape from this choice, not for anyone. Africans must choose reason and humanism over identity, and so must Japanese, Indians, and North Americans.

The choice is an inevitable point at which all humans must arrive and have already arrived. It is a point which can only be passed by making the correct choice, and not the choice that leads back into darkness. The step that Gilad Atzmon fails to take is to say that in fact there are no exceptions and therefore in that sense there are no more Jews and there is no more Zionism. There is only the global fight against the irrational, against the so-called post-modernist, against so-called identity politics, against fascism, and in favour of humanism and class politics.

The sewer-like flow of raw lies about Somalia in the South African media is not over, but there is some fresh, clear water flowing through the channels as well now. The Hans Pienaar article in yesterday’s Star is an example (see below). During the worst period, as Pienaar points out:

…the United Islamic Courts (UIC) were described as extremists with links to al-Qaeda, with no proof being supplied, no withholding of such provocative descriptions before asking where they came from, no corrective statements even from UIC sources. Because the US said so, despite the US being so palpably wrong so often on Iraq, with close to a million deaths as the price.
Click on these links:
The Thick End of the Wedge, Peter Bruce, Business Day (769 words)

COSATU walkout narrowly averted, Brown and Ensor, B Day (416 words)

The NDR and Socialism, COSATU 9th National Congress Resolution (812 words)

One Hundred Years of Jewish Solitude, Gilad Atzmon, Counterpunch (6215 words)

US cannot be trusted on Somalia, Hans Pienaar, The Star (1034 words)

More on Elections

Induction, Part 8c

From the IEC web site

More on Elections

Above is a graphic representation of the voting process in a voting station on the day of an election, whether National and Provincial, or Municipal.

Local Authority (Municipal) Elections

Local Authority elections are held every five years in South Africa, on a different cycle to that of the National and Provincial elections. The last local authority elections took place in 2011, and so the next ones are expected in 2016.

Councillors are elected by a hybrid system that is half Proportional Representation (PR) and half “First Past the Post” by ward constituency.

So, your ward has an elected councillor, like all the other wards; and then there are an equal number in total of “PR” councillors. These are appointed by the different parties according to the proportions of votes cast, by party.

In South Africa, councillors are salaried and are encouraged to regard themselves as professionals, with skills and capacities. They receive training. One of the consequences is that they develop a second loyalty. The councillors may begin to regard themselves as being representatives of government to the people. Whereas the local branch of the ANC wants the councillor to be their representative, and the people in general expect to be represented by those they elect.

This contradiction is a natural development, given the nature of bourgeois democracy. It causes problems that can be destructive, if not anticipated, and managed.

Once again on Registration

The attached document is a reproduction of the IEC web site page on registration as a candidate in a Municipal election.

Some other pages with instructions on registration are the following:

1 June 2013

National and Provincial Elections

Induction, Part 8b

1994 Ballot Paper

National and Provincial Elections

The National General Elections take place in South Africa every five years. The last one took place in 2009, when the ANC was elected with a near 2:1 majority over all other parties, under the leadership of ANC President Jacob Zuma, who was afterwards duly elected to the Presidency of the country. The next one is coming in 2014, and the ANC is already beginning to prepare for it.

One thing that parties can do, before the election campaign starts next year, is to encourage voters to register. Voter registration drives are accepted as a way for parties to begin work, without officially campaigning.

The National and Provincial representatives, both to Parliament and to Provincial Legislatures, are elected by a fully Proportional Representation (PR) system. Each party has a list of candidates. When the votes have all been counted, the proportion received by each party is calculated, and members taken from each party list, in proportion to the votes cast for those parties.

Subsequently, if Members of Parliament (MPs), or Members of Provincial Legislatures (MPLs) cease for any reason to be such, they are replaced by others selected by that party.

Page from an IEC comic used in the 2009 national elections

This system is unlike the “First Past the Post” system of representation that is used in many other countries, where members are elected by each constituency on the basis of a simple majority in that constituency.

The SACP does not in principle reject the idea of standing candidates for elections, and it used to do so, as the CPSA, before it was banned in 1950. Since 1994 the SACP has not contested any elections at National, Provincial or Regional level. SACP members are individual members of the ANC and many of them have been chosen at different levels to represent the ANC.