30 November 2007

The end of Mbeki

Politicsweb is part of Moneyweb, and Moneyweb is South Africa’s main dedicated business-news web site. So it is not a small matter when Politicsweb effectively declares “The end of Mbeki” (see the linked article below). It looks like the bourgeois media is turning on Thabo Mbeki.

The main quibble we would have with this Politicsweb article is the figure of R1.34 million mentioned as “paid over” to Jacob Zuma by Schabir Shaik. In fact, most of this figure was calculated out of what the court decided was the use-value of the flat belonging to Shaik, which Zuma had lived in for some time as Schabir's guest. Nor is it mentioned that the rest of the money held by the court as having been paid to Zuma by Shaik was tiny incidents scraped together from a record of many years of friendship, totted up by the miserable, vindictive state prosecutor Billy Downer, under the beady, encouraging eye of the dreadful old Rhodie, Squires. The whole thing was a gross fabrication.

Schabir Shaik must now go free!

YCL National Secretary Buti Manamela has published a fresh article (linked below) concerning the election of Cde Jacob Zuma in the YCL’s online/e-mail publication
The Bottomline. This is in response to the treatment given by the Financial Mail to the political implications of a Zuma Presidency. Just because they are turning on Mbeki doesn’t mean that the bourgeois media are going to be friendly to JZ.

The SACP Central Committee (augmented) meets from today. The agenda (see the notice linked below) includes the 2008 POA, the South African Road to Socialism, ANC Conference (to come) and COSATU CC (past). The timing and the potential consequences of this CC are powerful. We look forward to the outcome.

Jack Bloom is a DA MPL in the Gauteng legislature. In the past he has been a conspicuous, ranting anti-Communist of the most abrasive and irrational kind. Brian Hlongwa is a well-known ANC comrade, currently the Gauteng MEC for health. Comrade Brian is trying to restrict Jack Bloom’s (and any other MPL’s) ability to follow up complaints in the public service, particularly in hospitals. No doubt Jack Bloom is a nuisance from Brian Hlongwa’s point of view, but Brian is surely in the wrong this time around. Elected representatives are licensed busybodies, among other things. Jack Bloom is only doing his job, and Cde Brian should back off. See the FXI statement linked below.

Image: Dead Duck, or in French, Canard Mort.

Click on these links:

The end of Mbeki, James Myburgh, Politicsweb (779 words)

We are not afraid, Buti Manamela, The Bottomline (1346 words)

2nd plenary session of the 12th SACP Congress CC (notice)

GPG attempt to curtail MPL Jack Bloom's freedom of expression (772 words)

Coming Events

29 November 2007

Full Marx

The Communist University completed its last session of the year on Tuesday, 27 November 2007. This was the fourth full twelve-month calendar-year programme of the CU to be completed, and the fifth programme in all. We started in June 2003.

Cde Sibusiso Mchunu, our esteemed and beloved chairperson, wants you all to know that you have all passed!

Those who are still hungry for political education have one more chance. The SACP Johannesburg Central Branch will meet on Sunday, 2 December 2007 and will devote part of the meeting to a discussion on the forthcoming 52nd ANC Conference, “from a Communist perspective”, and the Communist University’s alleged Vice Chancellor has been asked to open this discussion.

Further than that, do please avail yourselves of the
Communist University 2008 Programme. The 2008 opening session, on 29 January, is (as usual) a reflection on political education itself, using, on this occasion, Liu Shaoqi’s “How to be a good Communist”.

From 5 February 2008 we will be discussing a set of texts on the relationship between the Party and the organised masses, and the relationship between these and the bourgeois State. The set goes under the heading “Can we do without a Communist Party?” All the documents for this series are archived and linked from the schedule. They are downloadable as MS-Word files. You can print them. It would be a great help if you could read them all, during the next two months or so, and before we meet again.

The Branch is rumoured to be having a Christmas event on 8 December. Details will presumably be available at Sunday’s branch meeting.

If you want to give a Christmas present to the Communist University, please just find us at least one fresh e-mail address to add to the list. Send that address to
dominic.tweedie@gmail.com, or use the CU Plug-in City facility. If each of you does that much, we will be able to double in size, immediately.

Our drive to grow the Communist University mailing list has been moderately successful so far, with the grand total expected to top 1400 members some time this week. Onward to the psychologically-important 2000 barrier!

The YCLSA Discussion Forum is doing very well. It has grown to more than 600 members. It has been the location of a huge debate around Jacob Zuma and the meaning of populism. If you have not yet seen it, you can read this amazing discussion and/or join the group at:
http://groups.google.com/group/yclsa-eom-forum or else join it via the CU Plug-in City.

Click on these links:

2008 Communist University Draft Programme (table)

Coming Events

28 November 2007

Scorpion vs Scorpion

When one scorpion meets another one, the question is always the same, and a wrong answer can be fatal. The question is: Friend or foe? Love or death?

The article by Mandla Zulu, from Sunday’s City Press, linked below, paints a deadly picture of intrigue both within and without the ranks of the NPA/DSO/Scorpions.

By rights, the Scorpions should be abolished. They are a total mess and a write-off. They are trouble, waiting to happen. Let us just hope that they do not now team up with Jacob Zuma and buy themselves another useless life that way. Why would Jacob Zuma want to befriend his persecutors, the Scorps? Well, perhaps because “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” in some peoples’ eyes. Vusi Pikoli pursued Zuma for two years. Now that Pikoli has been chastised by Thabo Mbeki is he all of a sudden a safe ally for JZ? Some people seem to think so. They should watch that Scorpion’s sting very carefully.

But this nicely raises another question: Who are going to be JZ’s supporters in the future? Will they be the same ones as supported him through his trials? Or will there be an overwhelming rush of new-found lovers, such as embraced the ANC in hordes in the period after legalisation in 1990? And will JZ be strong enough to reject these suddenly super-friendly characters?

Eager suitors are lining up, with money held out in front of them. At least one of them, Tokyo Sexwale, is doing so shamelessly, in flagrante, and in public (see the second item, below). How will JZ handle them? Will he be able to resist Machiavelli’s advice (quoted here from “The Prince”)?

“… those men who at the commencement of a princedom have been hostile, if they are of a description to need assistance to support themselves, can always be gained over with the greatest ease, and they will be tightly held to serve the prince with fidelity, inasmuch as they know it to be very necessary for them to cancel by deeds the bad impression which he had formed of them; and thus the prince always extracts more profit from them than from those who, serving him in too much security, may neglect his affairs.

“And weighing well the reasons for this in those examples which can be taken from ancient and modern affairs, we shall find that it is easier for the prince to make friends of those men who were contented under the former government, and are therefore his enemies, than of those who, being discontented with it, were favourable to him and encouraged him to seize it.”

In other words, a “Prince” (meaning any leader) might decide to turn away from his rebel comrades, and make a pact with the former supporters of his enemy. And Machiavelli advises the Prince to do this, because it is safest for the Prince to do so.

Is this what happened to the ANC in the 1990s? It found it safer to befriend its former foes, the monopoly capitalists, for the sake of an easy life? Then let us hope this does not happen again.

The statement of COSATU’s Mpumalanga Provincial Secretary, Norman Mokoena, gives encouragement (see the third linked item, below). It exposes, in very clear terms, the deliberate processes that have led to Cde JZs current strong position, and urges cadres “not to be complacent by the overwhelming victory over the last weekend, but that we must always be vigilant”.

Indeed, we must.

Click on these links:

Black Scorpions Revolt, Mandla Zulu, City Press (769 words)

Sexwale throws in lot with Zuma camp, Hajra Omarjee, Business Day (704 words)

No one can stop the working class, Norman Mokoena, COSATU (682 words)

27 November 2007

Dustbin of History

In South Africa, Jacob Zuma won the support of the ANC Women’s League, dashing the last hopes of the incumbent for some sort of last-minute reversal. The ANCYL also supported Gwede Mantashe over Mosiua Lekota for Secretary-General, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma over Joel Netshitenzhe for National Chairperson. If the Provincial Nomination Conferences were a tactic that were supposed to give a new lease of life to “yesterday’s men”, they failed miserably. The opposite result has come about.

The only honourable course left for the Mbeki-ites now is to capitulate and to rally behind Jacob Zuma for the sake of the ANC, before they all leave the political stage for good and without complaints. The dishonourable course is to attempt some sort of “scorched earth” or wrecking policy in their last days. Any such “bitter-ender” behaviour should be swept cleanly and with contempt into the dustbin of history, to join Tony Blair of Britain (see picture) and John Howard of Australia.

In Bolivia a Constituent Assembly has been meeting for fifteen months in the town of Sucre to hammer out a new constitution. Sucre happens to be in a part of that country that is still dominated by white settlers, who have now rioted and killed people in an attempt to prevent the new constitution being passed by the majority. Nevertheless the new constitution was passed by the Constituent Assembly. The US Imperialists are continuing to encourage the settlers in their reactionary terroristic actions.

This afternoon at 17h00 the Communist University meets in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, to discuss Local Dual Power. In addition to the first document linked below (which we have not been able to print, so read it on-screen or print it yourself, please), we are also now able to read about and to compare the approach of some of Johannesburg’s “Social Movements” in the form of Operation Khanyisa Movement (OKM). We also have an extract of an important government Foreign Land Ownership Report (Thanks to the comrade who sent it. The full PDF is available on request). See the second and third items linked item below.

On Sunday, 2 December 2007, the SACP Johannesburg Central Branch will meet at 10h00 in the SATAWU offices, 13th floor, Old Mutual Building, 29 Kerk Street, between Loveday and Harrison, Johannesburg. During the meeting there will be a political discussion, led by the Communist University, on the topic of the ANC Conference from a Communist Perspective.

The Chris Hani Institute is going to have one more seminar this year, on 6 December, to discuss the future of the ANC. This will feature Adam Habib, the well-respected academic and political commentator, as well as Cde Gwede Mantashe, who has been nominated for the very important post of Secretary-General of the ANC, and who is currently the Chairperson of the SACP. The event will take place from 10h00 in COSATU House (10th Floor). This is a major occasion. Be there if you can!

All the above three items, and many others, are included in the “
Coming Events” page of the Communist University. Please use this page, comrades. It is not going to be possible to duplicate every mention of every covered there in these e-mails. The link is usually given at the bottom of each post, but it is a constant address, which you can make a “Favourite” or “Bookmark” in your web browser.

Our veteran comrade Esther Barsel is not very well at the moment. She stays at Madison Gardens, in 1st Avenue, Kew, (near the junction with 5th Street, and not far from the Savoy shopping centre on Louis Botha Avenue). Esther’s phone number is 011 440 7322. Please visit Cde Esther if you can.

Finally, from today’s Business Day, Karima Brown quotes the “
Communist Manifesto”!

Click on these links:

Local Dual Power, Johannesburg Labour-Urban Federation (2167 words)

Experiences of Johannesburg Operation Khanyisa Movement (755 words)

Foreign Land Ownership Report, Assessment and Conclusion (3530 words)

CHI Seminar, Habib, Mantashe, Future Challenges of the ANC, 6 December 2007 (notice)

All that is solid melts into air around Mbeki, Karima Brown, B Day (717 words)

Coming Events

25 November 2007

Populism Falls Apart

In August, 2005, SACP Deputy GS Jeremy Cronin gave a lecture to the SACP Gauteng Province on Neo-liberalism, reformism, populism and ultra-leftism, in which he said, among other things:

“… one of the features of populism is that it will often mobilise quite diverse (and even opposed) ideological currents around a single issue/personality.”Populism is essentially a tendency that focuses on the emotional mobilisation of popular forces…
”Populism tends to mobilise popular forces demagogically as emotional fans of a particular cause, often of a particular personality. The demagogic mobilisation also frequently agglomerates a whole series of diverse grievances and unites them around a single issue or personality - – but also AGAINST some demonised arch-enemy
”… populism tends to invoke the “people”, “popular sentiment”, the “nation” etc. in ways that ignore, or deliberately obfuscate diverse class, gender and other diversities and potential contradictions within the people’s camp.”

Jacob Zuma’s populist bandwagon has arrived at the point where its candidate feels obliged to give the appearance, at least, of supporting something that looks like a policy. Or failing that, to oppose something that he assumes that everyone else opposes in a simplistic, kneejerk, brain-free response.

At such a moment, a candidate like Jacob Zuma must know that he is going to shed support. The more definite he becomes about this policy or that one, the more certain he will be to make enemies. This is the hell of it for a political man who has no distinguishing political characteristic of his own, other than long service to an organisation, some personal charm, and considerable courage.

We have supported him for this great, unforgotten, but now past courage of his, when we needed somebody to make a stand against the abuse of state organs to pervert and to corrupt our democracy. He took everything that was thrown at him and we proudly stood with him. We wanted to keep him out of prison! We still want to get Schabir Shaik, put there by the Rhodie, Hillary Squires, out of prison – now!

We have not changed, because we have principles, but the situation now is different. Zuma is not brave any more. He has taken to using the claptrap principle. The policy that gets the biggest clap is in, and if you are not cheering then you become invisible to him, like a ghost.

Like the spectre of communism as told in the Communist Manifesto, the Communist University is not applauding Jacob Zuma when he says that the death penalty should be reviewed, or that: “Criminals must feel they are prisoners. They are comfortable in jail” (see the linked Sunday Times report, below).

We do not applaud because we are disgusted with the spineless claptrap populism of these sentiments. We do not applaud because we have studied this matter of incarceration, what it means, where it comes from, and where it is going. In this study we have had the assistance and the leadership of Angela Davis (pictured, being arrested by the FBI in 1969, and as she is today).

The incarceration of larger and larger numbers of people does not reduce the level of crime. It increases crime. The “Prison-Industrial Complex”, as Angela Davis calls it, is not about reducing “crime”. It is a system that is a direct descendent of the system of slavery, and like slavery, there is only one thing to do with it in the end and that is to abolish it. This is why Angela Davis still calls herself an Abolitionist. It is why we in South Africa, once called “The Imprisoned Society”, are supposed to know better than cheap populists about this matter. (Sufficient links to the Angela Davis material are given below.)

Click on these links:

I'm ready to rule, Zuma, Naidu, Mbhele, Mkhabela, S Times (1007 words)

Challenge of Prison Abolition, Angela Davis text interview (3122 words)

Public Conversation in Johannesburg, Angela Davis sound recording (Internet)

Angela Davis on Prison Industrial Complex, Apr 2007, USA (Internet stream or audio file)

Are Prisons Obsolete? (Extracts from a book by Angela Davis, text on Internet)

Coming Events

24 November 2007

Revolutionary Pluralism

The Communist University aims to publish on weekdays, not weekends, yet this is the second posting on a Saturday morning. Why? To answer that question, let’s look at something that was reported here on Wednesday, 21 November 2007:

ANC has issued a statement detailing the stages in the nomination process prior to its 52nd National Congress scheduled to start on 16 December in Polokwane, Limpopo Province. Provincial Nomination Conferences will have a second bite at the process, in between the branch nominations and the National Conference. Why? Is this normal? Do other organisations do this?”

The bourgeois mass media, and in particular the SABC, have been using the occasion of these “Provincial Nomination Conferences” to project a picture of the “succession race” in which there is a “close contest”. What makes this picture suspicious is that no one can easily know if it is true or not.

But where there is a solid, recent record of grass-roots action on many fronts, as is the case in North-West Province, it seems very unlikely that the leaders of those grass-roots actions, such as for example COSATU’s Provincial Secretary, Solly Phetoe (see his statement linked below), would be completely out of touch with ANC branches. Yet Cde Solly’s view on the matter is contradicted each night on SABC TV and once again in the Weekender report (in the last paragraph) also linked below.

In other words, concerning the ANC Conference, it seems that what the bourgeois media are failing to illuminate, or are even acting deliberately to obscure, is the answer to the following question: Are the branch nominations being interfered with at provincial level, and are the branch delegates being suborned or bought off?

Comrade Solly Phetoe’s message is very timely and should be respected and paid attention to. What is happening in North-West Province is likely to be happening elsewhere.

Another reason for publishing a second extra edition of the CU on a Saturday is the arrival by e-mail of a copy of Mondli Hlatshwayo’s assessment of the “Social Movements” in South Africa, given last Thursday at UKZN.

Is unity just another word for centralism? If centralism is not a necessity, then in what sense is unity a necessity? We could propose different regiments, one army; or different armies, one war. The requirement for unity is specific, not dogmatic, and the specifics are determined by the actual strategic goals and the tactical situations from time to time.

Whether one has arrived at the present conjuncture in company with the vanguard party, or with the massed ranks of COSATU, or like Mondli Hlatshwayo, in association with the Social Movements, there is a certain commonality of terms in which the new circumstances have to be faced. This is very clear from reading Cde Mondli’s presentation. If we are all beginning to problematise our future in similar terms, then there is great scope for movement forward. That is to say: not bureaucratic unity, but de facto popular unity in action, without permission and without commandism. Power to the People!

The picture is from the cover a magazine of the Paris Commune called [in a rough English translation] “Son of Old Man Duchesne, Illustrated”. The caption, given by Wikipedia is: Le Père Duchesne looking at the statue of Napoleon I on top of the Vendome column: "Eh ben! bougre de canaille, on va donc te foutre en bas comme ta crapule de neveu!… (Well now! buggering rascal, we will knock you the fuck off just like your crook of a nephew!…").

That was the end of Bonapartism in France for a while, at least!

Click on these links:

ANC NW Provincial General Council held on 23 November 2007 (916 words)

COSATU hands Zuma its wish list, Musgrave and Omarjee, Weekender (808 words)

Genesis of Social Movements Indaba, Hlatshwayo, Wolpe Lecture, UKZN (3421 words)

Coming Events

2008 CU Draft Programme

In previous years the programme for the Communist University has been prepared several months in advance. This year, things are different, for what appear to be objective reasons.

First, we have covered very considerable ground since 2003. The current “probematique”, or “conjuncture” is not the same as it was four and a half years ago. This is partly because of external changes in the world, but a major part of the reason why things are different is the subjective action of our Party and of the organised South African working class in general.

In other words, we have propelled ourselves forward through action and through study, and now we face new and bigger problems. We have less to guide us because less people have reached this point before. We are becoming closer to the condition of pioneers. We are breaking new ground.

For this kind of circumstance, a different sort of pedagogical programme is required for the CU. It will have large amounts of empty space in it, which will be filled up later with texts from Umsebenzi Online and other topical works that will certainly appear in due course, and in abundance.

After our traditional initial session of self-examination (for which we will use Liu Shaoqi’s “How to be a good Communist”), we will proceed with SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande’s Red Alert on “Dual Power”. This text will set the theme for the entire year. We have no doubt that the topical and tactical material that will be produced in 2008 will be easily organised within this prophetic statement of Cde Blade’s.

Then, three major subsidiary or inset themes will be developed. The first is the question of the Party itself, and for this we will go back to the time immediately following the publication of Eduard Bernstein’s “Evolutionary Socialism”, and the contradiction of that book that was given by Rosa Luxemburg, soon followed by Lenin, and further followed by a polemic between these two. In this historical moment, the first six years of the 20th century, great institutions were re-examined and new ones were created or were at least prefigured. In particular we mean the modern Communist Parties.

The second will be the annual series of chapters from Capital, Volume One. Comrades' ability to engage with this work is the bench-mark of our scholarship and the source of indispensable revolutionary pride and self-confidence. Nor is its relevance ever in doubt.

The third theme is provisionally titled “Revolutionary Pluralism”. Some of the titles of the texts given in the draft are invented. If suitable material is not found in time it may have to be specially written. This is the new ground. It is what is pointed to in Dr Blade’s Red Alert on “Dual Power”. It will be done in the weeks preceding the Conference of the Left scheduled by COSATU for 25-26 September 2008.

After each of these three inserted segments, blank periods are left, amounting to about half of the available time.

A text appeared on Friday (on Counterpunch) that would be a suitable candidate for inclusion (see below). This is an interview with the Vice President of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera (pictured). The Bolivians have arrived at a similar “Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta” point as ourselves, and perhaps a little bit ahead of us.

We are going to have to listen to each other and accommodate each other. We are going to have to learn to cope with, and to make a virtue of, a plurality of democracies within a single country. This is what the “other world that is possible” looks like, in political terms. Concepts such as the dictatorship of the proletariat are challenged, if the centrality of the state itself is challenged. The workerism/charterism dichotomy may be obsolete. The sanctity of institutions may be subverted, to be replaced by an ever-changing and regenerative plurality of democracies, prefigured already by the great mass delegate festivals of COSATU, the SACP and the ANC).

Click on these links:

2008 Study Group Draft Programme (table)

Coming to Terms with Diversity in Bolivia, Laura Carlsen, Counterpunch (2591 words)

Coming Events

23 November 2007

COSATU Speaks!

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) held a Central Executive Committee meeting from 19th to 21st November 2007 and released a detailed statement yesterday. The statement is categorical on many topics. Of particular interest are the concise statement on Industrial Strategy; the public announcement of a Conference of the Left (to be held on 25-26 September 2008); remarks about the Alliance Pact and particular comparisons between the current positions taken by the ANC, SACP and COSATU; and COSATU’s determination to influence the selection of candidates and the content of manifestos in the cycle of national and provincial elections beginning in 2009.

These are some of the highlights, but there is much, much more. The full statement is linked below.

A schedule of 2008 dates is given, which you can put in your 2008 diary or year planner right away.

Annexure 1, which is included as part of the statement document, gives solid support to the SACP’s
Umsebenzi Online, Revolution on Trial 6, 21 November 2007 on the Financial Sector Charter, and condemns the impertinent remarks of the Treasury, which is once more seeking to usurp the power that rightly belongs to the people, and to use it treacherously, in the service of monopoly finance capital.

Annexure 2 is a separate document, also linked below. It lists points from the discussion documents of the ANC, prepared for the 52nd National Conference, and compares them with COSATU’s past resolutions on the same matters. The section of the main report that deals with the Alliance Pact proposes “a document which will compare and contrast the ANC, SACP and COSATU positions”. Annexure 2 is clearly not yet that document, because it contains nothing from the SACP. No doubt it is intended as an assistance to delegates to the ANC Conference; the three-way comparison will presumably come later.

Both of the above items are also archived on the
YCLSA Discusssion Forum site, here. Join this discussion list easily and quickly by clicking here, entering your e-mail address, and clicking “Subscribe”. Then join in the dialogue! The forum is for everyone, hosted by, but not confined to, the YCL.

Finally, just to continue the theme of cities, and to see the vicious side of the history of cities, and to see the very precise and specific connection between capitalism, genocide, slavery, colonialism, racism and mythical urbanism, go to the third linked item below. But be warned: It is a very disgusting story.

The image above was made by the English (Puritan) settlers in North America to record the genocide of the Pequot people. Mike Ely calls it the first example of “the American way of war”. Ronald Reagan borrowed the phrase “Shining City on a Hill” from these Puritan genocidaires during his rise to power. Reagan knew exactly what he was saying. He carried out his plain threat, not once, but many times.

The struggle against these dreadful things is one single struggle. It continues up to today. It will not be over until Imperialism is fully defeated.

But yesterday, 22 November 2007, large numbers of US citizens once again celebrated “Thanksgiving” in the memory of the first white settlers of the North-East American coast. The article puts that history into proper perspective, and helps us to remember that the colonialism that created the US Imperialist monster of today had its origins in the early capitalist revolutions of the Netherlands and England. These revolutions were made against feudalism, in the name of liberty! It was the very same bourgeois revolutions that propelled the first settlers towards the shores of South Africa. The struggle continues.

Click on these links:

COSATU CEC statement, 22 November 2007 (4179 words)

Comparison of ANC resolutions with COSATU position (Annexure 2, 1991 words)

Bloody Myth of Thanksgiving, Mike Ely, Counterpunch (3176 words)

Coming Events

22 November 2007

Cities of Tomorrow

Perhaps cities can only ever be imaginary. Certainly, a map or a photograph is not sufficient to realise a city, let alone a name, or a municipal balance-sheet. Everyone has a different way of codifying the city. Ebenezer Howard, an autodidact, and the author of “Garden Cities of To-morrow” (1902), used a series of trite diagrams, including the “Three Magnets” one shown here. Howard’s proto-PowerPoints are still popular even in the most exalted intellectual circles, and rightly so. They imply a striving to comprehend the phenomenon of urbanism, which by now, 2007, and by any definition, has embraced more than half the population of the world.

Modern urbanism is the creation of the dominant elite of town-dwellers, or in other words the burgers, or in French, the bourgeoisie. Their cities are places of alienation, where workers in particular commonly regard themselves as sojourners, or temporary residents. The laws of apartheid were an overprovision, like belt and braces. The bourgeois city alienates, with or without special laws. Only through socialism, and in the full abolition of the class divisions which haunt every corner of the city fabric, can the division between town and country be broken down and abolished.

The Communist University’s
Plug-in City is a city of the mind, but it is no less real than any other conception of the city. Its Dialogue Page has now been extended with links to some other forums, including the famous DEBATE forum, forever associated with Patrick Bond. (By the time of the next South African general election, the DEBATE e-mail forum will have been in existence for ten years).

The drive to recruit more subscribers to our
Communist University and to other dialogue and distribution groups has been working very well so far. The YCLSA Discussion Forum is cooking, with more than 400 members. That is more than ten times bigger than it was a month ago. The membership of the new, dedicated, Umsebenzi Online distribution list stands at 144 after only two weeks. The CU membership is a fast approaching 1350. (The special list for those who require attachments as well as links, CU with Attachments, must be added to the number on the main list).

The latest Umsebenzi Online came out yesterday (see the link below). It contains the latest (No. 6) in the series called “The Revolution is On Trial”, by SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande. It is a controversial one! Be warned to read it more than once, because as always with Umsebenzi Online, this is original work.

Don’t forget the list of Coming Events linked below. Each listed item is a link to more details of the particular event. See, for example, the “Marx in Soweto” event scheduled for 1 December 2007. Please
e-mail the CU with details of all your scheduled events (not forgetting the date, the time and the venue) for inclusion on this page.

Click on this link:

Umsebenzi Online, Revolution on Trial 6, 21 November 2007

Coming Events

21 November 2007

Imaginary Cities

The next live session of the Communist University will take place on Tuesday, 27 November 2007 at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. We will be using the draft (linked below) on Local Dual Power to stimulate our discussion. Please print your own copy this time, comrades. The CU is temporarily incapacitated in the printing department. The picture is "Imaginary City" by the Haitian artist, Prefete Duffaut.

Karima Brown is unfair to describe Jacob Zuma as a tribalist (see her article below). We feel obliged to point out again, and to contradict Terror Lekota again as well, that the T-shirt slogan “100% Zuluboy” is an ironic reversal of the racist “hoax e-mails”, which plenty of Zuma supporters do not think were hoaxes at all. The “100% Zuluboy” T-shirts are deliberately worn by non-Zulus. They are an anti-tribalist statement!

But people know this. Lekota certainly knows it. As the fading one-man-band for the Mbeki camp, he is grasping at straws. Karima Brown may be more interested in literary “balance” than anything else. As a liberal writer, she may feel that she cannot take a swipe at the “Mfengus” unless she bashes the Zulus first. This is at the least, a misjudgement. By doing so, she is actually opening the door for more tribalism.

There are tribalists who make a point of never being openly tribalist, but only pretending to pointing at tribalism elsewhere. Those who are inclined that way will easily understand the coded message. Spreading the lie that the Zuma campaign is tribalist, when it has never been, only licenses others to be tribalist against him.
However, Karima Brown does make one fair point when she writes:

“[The ANC’s] ideological outlook on race has been stripped of all the progressive content infused into the party by its alliance with the communist and labour movements. Under Mbeki, the ANC has all but completed its transformation into a purely narrow nationalist movement, lacking any understanding of the complexity and nuance of identity. It was always going to be easy for its new brand of racial nationalism to degenerate into a brazen ethnic free-for-all.”

Kenneth Couesbouc has objectified the Internet and previous communication technologies in the Counterpunch article linked below. To that extent he has assisted those of us who toil in the world of words. But he goes too far. Couesbouc believes that the ruling class can always use its possession of the means of media production to overwhelm the popular revolutionary Subject (called “motive forces” in SA). Couesbouc is a fatalist post-modernist who is already flinching, even as he writes, in anticipation of the blows of a “21st Century Counter-Reformation”. Such writers oppress themselves.

It is not the case, and it has never been the case, that objective conditions preclude subjective revolutionary action. On the contrary, what revolutionary theory shows us is that from every objective situation (i.e. every concrete “unity and struggle of opposites”) there is always a revolutionary way forward. The CU says that any way forward must involve learning and dialogue. Educate, organise and mobilise!

The ANC has issued a statement detailing the stages in the nomination process prior to its 52nd National Congress scheduled to start on 16 December in Polokwane, Limpopo Province. Provincial Nomination Conferences will have a second bite at the process, in between the branch nominations and the National Conference. Why? Is this normal? Do other organisations do this?

Click on these links:

Local Dual Power, Johannesburg Labour-Urban Federation (2167 words)

ANC grants old demon new life, Karima Brown, Business Day (740 words)

Circles of Power, Kenneth Couesbouc, Counterpunch (1655 words)

Update on ANC nominations process, 20 November 2007 (489 words)

Coming Events

20 November 2007

Straws in the Wind

Some days you think there is nothing, but then you notice straws in the wind. For example, the ANC NEC notes “challenges and shortcomings, including with respect to the operation and coherence of the NEC”, which are to be reflected in the political and organisational reports to the 52nd National Conference, scheduled for 16-20 December, in Polokwane, Limpopo Province. Could this lead to a serious debate on the reconfiguration of the Alliance at Polokwane? See the first link below.

Mackenzie Kinmond reminds us that there is to be a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Uganda from 23-25 November (i.e. this coming weekend), and what we should be pushing for. Once again, our media have not written about this. Comrade Mackenzie is writing to the
Swaziland Solidarity Network Forum, but her work is of higher quality than the “mainstream” media. This is the way things are going.

Another world story that has been buried by the local media is the
Chang’e-1 Lunar Probe. But if it was something to do with Richard Branson it would be all over our newspapers and TV. The probe will take up its final position on Monday and start its main work. There is a new Xinhua report about it here.

Thanks also to the electronic media, there is a lovely review of the Communist University’s
Plug-in City by our good friend and long-time CU reader Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen. With its Thought Leader pages, the Mail & Guardian is canonising its own stable of bloggers, and so re-expropriating the spontaneity of the Internet and trying to trap its revolutionary power. But where will they get good writers from, if not from the wild - and from the communists?

Dr W E B DuBois (pictured above) joined the Communist Party at the age of 93, and left the United States for good in that year to go to Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana.
Click here for his application letter to the CPUSA, courtesy of the W E B DuBois Virtual University. That’s interesting, but Dubois’ own words are even more interesting. Some great quotes are reprinted within the article by Heather Grey from Counterpunch, linked below.

In Johannesburg this morning, starting at 10h00 in Library Gardens, there will be a march of residents and hawkers. See the statement of the Iketsetseng Hawkers Forum linked below.

The Communist University meets this evening at 17h00 in the SACP Boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. We will look at some chapters from
Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. Next week we will look at a project for Local Dual Power in Johannesburg.

Don’t forget the “Coming Events” (see below).

There is a nice piece based on Eve Hall’s life story in the Nairobi “Nation” newspaper –
click here.

Click on these links:

ANC Conference, Constitution, and NEC Report, 19 November 2007 (654 words)

The Commonwealth and Democracy in Swaziland, Mackenzie Kinmond (1054 words)

The Red Plug-in City, Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen, Chasing Waterfalls (485 words)

Another Look at W.E.B. DuBois, Heather Gray, Counterpunch (1869 words)

Residents, hawkers march to Jhb Mayor, Metrorail, 20 November 2007 (334 words)

Coming Events

18 November 2007

Mass Appeal

This is a special appeal, but not, like Counterpunch and Antiwar.com, for US$70,000. No: Our drive is to become bigger than the straight universities, and we are asking for your help.

The CU’s mailing currently goes to more than 1250 addresses. We do not distinguish between students and teachers. If we take the mailing list alone as a measure of our size, then we will need to grow by five or ten times before we start challenging the biggest conventional universities for size (and a lot more than that to catch up with UNISA, which claims 200,000 students).

So here is the appeal: Please, for the sake of the CU, download and forward the two-page “
Plug-in City” flyer to between five and ten other people, today! It contains all the live links, and it is the only version where all the nice “plug-in” graphics can be seen as intended. It is ready for printing. See the link below.

Plug-in City not only advertises and makes accessible the Communist University’s main list. It also showcases a full family of distribution lists and dialogue forums. There are thirty of them at present, and the number will grow in the future.

Communist University list is central to this appeal, of course. It needs to number ten to fifteen thousand strong at this stage. In addition we would continue to stress the centrality of dialogue in the pedagogy of the oppressed, and so to recommend the YCLSA Discussion Forum as the CU’s and the YCL’s main e-mail dialogue. We also recommend Umsebenzi Online as by far the most crucial e-mail publication in South Africa today. We want to push the growth of these three lists ahead of all the others.

Please assist us, comrades. The availability of “promo boxes”, where e-mail addresses can be entered, and a button clicked to subscribe, makes our goal much easier and very possible. You can enter your friends’ addresses in these boxes - if you have reason to believe that they would want a particular service. Google sends a message in each case, asking for confirmation. Even so, it is not a good idea to subscribe people completely “cold”, or indiscriminately.

Please bear with us if you receive “cross postings” (different mailings of the same appeal). This is an exceptional drive, limited in time, which is unlikely to be repeated in this form in the near future.

There is a lull in the media. The pundits have generally concluded that the delegates, and not them, will decide the outcome of the ANC 52nd National Conference (16-20 December 2007). So now we wait.

Karima Brown’s is the best review so far of Mark Gevisser’s book about Thabo Mbeki. It is notable for her description of RW Johnson as a “Jurassic wall clock”. This is rather unkind of Karima, since it is Johnson who provides her with her main point, namely that Gevisser has failed to see the Mugabe-ist wood for the “upwardly-mobile” trees. Aren’t we just the happy little family? See the link below.

Venezuela seems to be somewhat similar to us, to judge by George Cicciarello-Maher’s article from Counterpunch. There have been some splits and realignments among the “Chavistas”, ie. those around President Hugo Chávez (pictured). This is in advance of the constitutional referendum scheduled for 2 December 2007. The Chavistas are proposing to remove the liberal “division of powers” doctrine (which the South African Constitution is also afflicted with) and to politicise the armed forces as an unequivocal anti-Imperialist servant of the Bolivarian revolution. In the process, some of the more liberal Chavistas have become frightened, while stalwarts have quarreled, only to come back together again. That seems to be the story so far. Plus there is the small matter of presidential term limits. See the link below.

Click on these links:

Plug-in City flyer, MS-Word file download

Plug-in City Main page, with clickable index to four different kinds of groups

Thabo Mbeki - A difficult man to love, Karima Brown, B Day Weekender (2137 words)

Chavez Ally Jumps the Divider, Cicciarello-Maher, Counterpunch (2771 words)

16 November 2007

Plug-in Revolution

The main common characteristic as between reformism (gradualism) and what Lenin called “Economism” (which is what we in South Africa have called "workerism"), is that they both fail to recognise the need for, and the indispensable special role of, the revolutionary party.

Whatever may have been discussed outside of its ranks, the revolutionary movement has always found its origins and its cohesion in arguments about the practical means to be used to achieve freedom and people’s power, the line of march towards this strategic goal, and therefore the immediate way forward and medium-term vision. These arguments arise at the beginning, and they return at crucial moments. Nothing but revolution itself will finally settle them.

In the case of Karl Marx, his opponent was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and their polemic produced what Lenin later called “the first mature work of Marxism”. This was “The Poverty of Philosophy”, published in 1847, one year before the Communist Manifesto. Marx co-founded many vanguard organisations.

Forward to 1899, when Eduard Bernstein published “Evolutionary Socialism” in Germany. Bernstein was not a pirate from outside the movement’s ranks. Like Proudhon before him, he was a respected leader.

Bernstein’s “Evolutionary Socialism” denied the need for the overthrowing of the bourgeoisie by an organised revolutionary agent. It said that Trade Union organisation was sufficient for the workers in the present time, and for the rest, history would take its course and provide solutions.

Rosa Luxemburg (pictured above) was the first to respond to Bernstein (with “Reform or Revolution?” - 1st edition: 1900). Leaving nothing to chance, Luxemburg demolished Bernstein comprehensively and wrote that he had done everybody a favour: He had written the last word on reformism and so provided the opportunity of dealing with the matter in completely and with finality. In the century that followed, Luxemburg’s words proved to be true. For all the many times that the flag of reformism and economism has been raised, no theoretical improvement of Bernstein’s position has been achieved, because none is possible.

Then in 1902 Lenin wrote “What Is to Be Done?” (see the link below). This book is regarded as the genesis of the Communist Parties as we know them. It tackles the question given to Silumko Nondwangu this week (see the link below): “Can trade unions lead the struggle for socialism?” Lenin’s answer was a resounding: No! The working class needs a dedicated political party. Trade Unions are not sufficient for the revolutionary task. And he gives his reasons. But this is not the end of the story!

In 1904 Lenin published “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (The crisis in our party)” and Rosa Luxemburg responded immediately in the work known as “Leninism or Marxism”. Lenin replied to her in September of the same year. Space will not allow much more of this history here. Suffice it to say that the first Russian Revolution followed in January 1905. Let us give the last word for now to Rosa, from “Leninism or Marxism”:

One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward, written by Lenin, an outstanding member of the Iskra group, is a methodical exposition of the ideas of the ultra-centralist tendency in the Russian movement. The viewpoint presented with incomparable vigor and logic in this book, is that of pitiless centralism. Laid down as principles are: 1. The necessity of selecting, and constituting as a separate corps, all the active revolutionists, as distinguished from the unorganized, though revolutionary, mass surrounding this elite.”

Comrade Silumko quoted many books but he skirted round this exchange of Bernstein and Luxemburg, and brings in Lenin three revolutions later, in 1921. He also managed to discuss the relationship between COSATU and the SACP at length without ever mentioning the SACP by name. Well, fine, that’s his privilege. He has already done us a favour by raising this matter in public at all.

The Bolsheviks, those “pitiless centralists” (according to Rosa Luxemburg), were nevertheless flexible enough to see the value of Dual Power (which is not the same thing, by the way, as “Two Centres of Power”!) in the form of the Soviets, and that is how they made the October 1917 Revolution. Is the Communist University centralist? Or not? See the draft CU “Plug-in City” flyer, below.

Click on these links:

Organisation of Workers, Organisation of Revolutionaries, from WITB, Lenin, 1902 (5767 words)

Can TUs lead the struggle for socialism?, Wolpe lecture, Silumko Nondwangu, 2007 (3648 words)

Communist University, Plug-in City, draft flyer-mailer (366 words)

15 November 2007

Cloud of Unknowing

The Communist University is proud to announce some major backroom work, which we have called “Plug-in City” in tribute to the London architectural scene in general and to Archigram in particular (see illustration). The CU’s Plug-in City allows you to sign up to more than 25 Google groups of different kinds (Discussion Forums, On-line Publications, Media Release Distribution Lists, and International Solidarity Networks). Most of these free subscriptions offered in convenient boxes, where you only have to put your e-mail address and click a button. The main page is connected to four subsidiary pages. It is here:

Meanwhile, Business Day’s pundits are at last admitting that they cannot foretell the future. In particular they cannot predict the outcome of the ANC’s 52nd National Conference, due to take place in Polokwane, Limpopo, from 16-20 December 2007. Steven Friedman, Sipho Seepe and Karima Brown all demonstrate, in one way or another, the exhaustion of the “two camps” theory of ANC-ology. The commentariat may finally be waking up to the fact that there is more at stake here than who gets to stay in the biggest hangover palace from the old regime.

Friedman raises the possibility that there may not even be a contest at Polokwane. In other words, a deal may be done behind the scenes (by “horse-trading”) and the new leader may just “emerge” without the delegates being asked to vote. Well, anything’s possible, but in that case there might be quite a lot of fed-up delegates on the day.

Sipho Seepe deconstructs the mix-and-match traditions (“Which tradition are you wearing today, chief?”) of the African National Congress, especially as espoused by T. Mbeki, MA (Sussex). Seepe thinks that there are no genuine traditions beneath the phoney ones, and likewise to hope to discover new ideas anywhere in the ANC is wishful thinking. Maybe Seepe is just covering his own lack of ideas.

Karima Brown comes closest to describing a real underlying Polokwane political nexus, thus: “The ruling party’s crisis of unity is not so much a class chasm as it is a clash of interests within a single inheritor class. It is only a matter of cosmetics that one of these factions has appropriated Zuma, and now deploys the jargon of revolution to assure its ascendancy. On the opposing end, another faction of capital coheres around Mbeki and his inner circle, appropriating to itself not only the machinery of state but the rhetoric of constitutionalism and probity in its attempts to perpetuate its power.”

Wilson Johwa reports in today’s Business Day that Jacob Zuma spent two and a half hours at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange yesterday. Said Adam Habib: “They are covering their bases. This is an initiative from both sides.” Johwa gives a useful list of all the toenadering the Zuma faction has been doing with big capital and its institutions. Fine, they have to do it, but then let’s be transparent. What is on the table? “No significant policy shift” is the commitment Zuma gave to Merrill, Lynch, according to Johwa’s account. That won’t do for the working class.

So, one can learn a lot from the bourgeois media. In London, the Guardian’s man in Johannesburg, Chris McGreal, has written a long article about the South African arms deal, which has a big British dimension. Let one quote suffice: “The offsets proved to be an illusion. The man who negotiated them on behalf of South Africa, Jayendra Naidoo, later said that it was ‘highly questionable’ that the offsets generated any economic development.”

Click on these links (not forgetting
Coming Events):

Cloud of unknowing, Steven Friedman, Business Day (778 words)

Bogged down, bogus traditions, stale ideas, Sipho Seepe, B Day (877 words)

SA 1994 settlement on trial with Zuma, Karima Brown, B Day (749 words)

Zuma charm offensive at the JSE, Wilson Johwa, B Day (415 words)

Double standards, Chris McGreal, The Guardian (1355 words)

Coming Events

14 November 2007

I should apologise?

As much as it may appear to be impersonal and to offer the option of anonymity, yet the Internet is as human as any other product of human labour.

Our Cuban comrades are so sensitive to this. They are publishing the words of the commander in chief, Fidel Castro, just as they come. They are not perfect, yet they are wonderful. They appear more fragmentary as time goes on. Yet they are full of wisdom. They produce feelings of profound emotion, love and gratitude. More particularly, Fidel’s letters remind us, gently, that we are going to carry on, and are in fact already carrying on. How we love this man!

Fidel’s is still the most valuable report of the Latin American – Iberian summit that took place in Chile, and the extraordinary scenes there, even though the commander in chief was not himself present. See the link below for two of the commander in chief’s messages put together in one document.

Phil Hall is “ishouldapologise” and is also the son of Eve and Tony Hall. How to explain? In Monday’s CU we
had a link to Linda Grant’s “comment is free” blog from the London Guardian’s web site (where many of their journalists “blog”, or in other words they publish writing that is subject to instant comment by anyone who cares to do so.)

The story so far is that Linda discovered that the commenter “ishouldapologise” is Phil Hall, son of Tony. Tony Hall had given her (and many, many others) a good start in her working life. This discovery coincided with the death of Tony’s wife Eve, and Linda wrote openly about these things. What happened next, as Tony put it, was that a huge string of comments appeared under Linda’s blog “like a flower opening up”.

One more thing: What Linda Grant may not know but which we can reveal, thanks to Tony, father of Phil, is that “I should apologise?” comes with a question mark, a shrug and a spreading of the hands, and it is the punch-line of a story having to do with Stalin and Trotsky. The meaning of the phrase comes out in opposite ways, depending how you read it, or say it.

So now, read Linda Grant’s latest blog, linked below, called “I should apologise” (straight), and if you want to read the huge new crop of comments there,
click on this link and scroll down.

People continue to send links. From Rasigan Maharajh
comes a link to the Red Shadow Economics Rock Band - some great, very funny, vintage Marxist rock and roll, where you can play many of the songs for free right off the Internet.

There was a time, not so long ago, when we used to think that our truth in word and song was going to carry all before it. Maybe that time is coming again. Remember to have fun while it lasts!

From the great Dennis Brutus, no mean poet himself, comes the link to
Marx in Soho. What is that? Well, it’s a true mash-up. It’s a web site, obviously. It is also a book by Howard Zinn, and a one-person play which you can hire, performed live by Brian Jones, and it’s a DVD or two. And a photo album (see the photo above). Probably there is even more to it than all that. Explore for yourself.

Don’t forget to check out the Coming Events, below. Two that will be added shortly are the last 2007 BGM of Johannesburg Central Branch of the SACP on Sunday, 2 December 2007, usual time and venue, and the branch’s year-end social function on 8 December 2007, at a venue yet to be arranged (any volunteers?).

Click on these links:

The value of ideas, the summit debate, Fidel Castro Ruz (609 words)

I should apologise, Linda Grant, Comment is free, Guardian (1000 words)

Coming Events

13 November 2007

Not Neutral

After yesterday’s thoughts on dialogue and Dual Power the Communist University received some valuable links from one of our most helpful readers, Rasigan Maharaj, of IERI, which is a part of Tshwane University of Technology. These links have to do with a new Marxist book about the Internet by Christian Fuchs, called Internet and Society. On the main link there are two short YouTube videos of Fuchs describing his book so clearly that you will think you have already read it.

Another link is to
Fuchs’s dialogue forum. What a pleasure to be able to go directly and dialogue with the author of such a work!

We are still in the early days of the Internet and anyone who gets into it will learn its future secrets as they develop. The principal aspect is now the social, not the technical. What is the Internet doing to society? Or better: What is society going to do with the Internet? You will have to live out the answers to this question. So rather master it, instead of being carried by it.

This afternoon at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd Floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, we will meet to discuss the
Political Programme and the Medium Term Vision (MTV), as it is revealed from the record of the 11th SACP National Congress in 2002.

After that, from 19h00 until 20h00, Cde Blade Nzimande will be on Metro FM.

Next week we will try to strip our minds back to the beginning of the modern era, in preparation for the rush of unpredictable permutations that will swirl around Polokwane, and so that we are temperamentally prepared for anything. We go back to Machiavelli’s “The Prince” (see the link below).

In the time of Machiavelli, it was still normal in the humanist circles he frequented, to conceive of a human being as an “uomo universale”, a complete person, not a qualified, limited or commodified one. This is “man the measure of all things”, pictured by Leonardo da Vinci as the “uomo vitruviano” that we recently featured. In contrast, we saw that the feeble late-modernist Le Corbusier depicted man not measuring nature, but instead being measured by it in the form of the mystical “modulor” (Fibonacci series). In the "Corb" vision, man has lost free will and has become the object, derivative of a mute and eternal “nature”, and life has become a process without a Subject.

When human beings cease to be in charge of their lives, and become passive recipients of “delivery”, they decline. Anthony Butler wrote in yesterday's Business Day of ways in which South Africans are measured, and of why the Human Development Index (HDI) is left out of the government-spun picture, even though human development is the heart of the matter (see link below).

At the weekend, the fascists did not pass in Prague, and Hugo Chavez told the Spanish king where to get off, correctly naming the King’s favourite fellow-fascist, Aznar, in public as a fascist. Not since Patrice Lumumba told the king of the Belgians his fortune, has there been such a scene.

The picture is a representation of the chariot ride of Arjuna and Krishna, written down as the Bhagavad Gita, during which the God Krishna persuades the warrior Arjuna that he must act on his judgement. It is thought plus consequent action that makes a human being. This is the essence of humanism.

Click on these links (and see the “promo box” below):

The Prince, Machiavelli, 1512 (5131 words)

Staring at sad SA human face, Anthony Butler, Business Day (970 words)

Coming Events

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