19 July 2008

Struggle Continues, Education Continues

We all have a human right to self-defence. Two days ago, in a post to the mighty 800-strong YCLSA Discussion Forum, a comrade quoted the late Comrade Harry Themba Gwala (pictured) as follows: “If the warlords come to fight, you must fight; if they come to kill you, you must kill them.” This is the simple truth.

In two successive issues of
Umsebenzi Online, both linked below, SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande, and Cde Solly Mapaila, SACP Secretary for Organising, Campaigns and Cadreship Development, have dealt with the recent sham furore that the friends of the bourgeois class have attempted to raise around this simple issue and around related claims of dictatorial power by the judiciary, amounting to barely-disguised tyrannical claims upon a monopoly of violence for the oppressors of the workers and the poor.

Just such an elite monopoly of violence, whether judicially sanctioned or de facto, was bequeathed upon more than 50 ex-colonial states of Africa through neo-colonialist manipulations, and it has caused untold suffering to the people of Africa. The monopoly of violence has been treated as a one-time trophy, and then turned against the free peoples. This monstrosity can be seen at this moment in Zimbabwe, where an electoral majority is daily being beaten down by bloody force, vile torture, and death.

COSATU has taken the initiative. See the historic third item below. Among other things it says (please note the events and the dates):

“We seek to declare Southern Africa an oppression-free zone and an oasis of justice and democracy for its people, who for years have suffered different forms of degradation, from colonialism through neo-colonial despotism to neo-liberal savagery with its resultant dehumanising poverty...

“The week from 10-17 August 2008 will be the busiest week in our international calendar this year, with the Zimbabwe and Swaziland Solidarity Conference hosted by COSATU on 10-11 August, the SADC Civil Society Conference on Zimbabwe on 12-14 August, the SACP African Conference on Participatory Democracy on 14-16 August, the SADC Heads of State Summit on 15-17 August, and COSATU’s mass rally on 16 August.”

The ANC has taken the initiative. See the historic fourth item below on the revival of liberation movements, by ANC President Jacob Zuma.

The SACP has taken the initiative. See the announcement of the SACP-hosted Conference scheduled for 14-16 August in Johannesburg (the fifth item below). Updated
details are available on the SACP website, including a call for papers. Get your papers in quickly, comrades! There is serious business afoot!

The Communist University will not meet on Monday. Five years of work have not produced a collective cadre force that can keep the COSATU House sessions going, for the time being. Meanwhile, the command Asikhulume!! has repeatedly been heard and understood in the land. Consequently, comrades are meeting around the country in self-organised groups for umrabulo. There is arguably no need for a study circle located in the SACP head office. The Communist University was always “virtual”. It was never supposed to be centralised. A virtual university can never die. It is like a ghost. It is like the spectre of communism!

The “ghost” course on
Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1 continues. See the last two links, below. Chapters 13, 14 and 15 were originally omitted from the schedule, to keep it brief, but they can still be accessed by clicking on the links in this sentence. Among other things, these chapters deal with work-organisation in an interesting and clear way.


Click on these links:

Open letter to SA Human Rights Commission, Blade Nzimande, Umsebenzi Online (1560 words)

Judicial Dictatorship, Solly Mapaila, Umsebenzi Online (4875 words)

Oppression-free zone, oasis of justice and democracy, COSATU on SATUCC (801 words)

Revival and strengthening of liberation movements, Jacob Zuma (2213 words)

African Participatory Democracy Conference, Johannesburg, 14-16 July 2008 (brochure)

Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 12, Relative Surplus Value, Karl Marx, 1867 (4354 words)

Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 16, Absolute and Relative Surplus Value, Karl Marx, 1867 (4675 words)

6 July 2008


The Communist University will meet on Monday evening, 7 July 2008, at 17h00, in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein.

(Just for the record, the seventh of July is “Saba-Saba Day” in Tanzania (seventh day of seventh month), which is the peasants’ holiday in that country, just as 1 May is the workers’ day.)

Our discussion will be based on Chapter 11 of Karl Marx’s “Capital”, Volume 1 (see the link below). This is a short chapter of only four pages, and it is the last part of Capital that we had planned to discuss in the CU “contact session” series.

Comrades, the Communist University is going to “pause” a lot of its operations at this time. We will continue to meet on Mondays for a while, and perhaps we can provide some material for discussion, distributed manually, with announcements henceforth by word of mouth.

The CU blog is paused, and the CU e-mails are consequently also paused. (The CU blog and the CU e-mails are made in one and the same process.) Comrades, the CU has run for five years. It is time to reflect.

We have shown that there is no limit on political education, when people are willing to educate each other in the Freirean way. There is no lower limit that needs to be put in front of any comrade, to say he or she is not ready to take part. There is no upper limit to say that any matter is too difficult.

We have shown that it is not the text but the dialogue that is the essence of political education.

We have been ahead of our time in the sense that the controllers of resources, as a rule, do not yet accept the Freirean way of education. Hence the Communist University has been left to its own devices, and perhaps that has actually helped us to show the way.

The lack of resources (and the other setbacks like the suspensions) have meant that we have laid down a track record of working that proves that revolutionary education can proceed without any support from above. Of course we are grateful for such support as we have had from time to time. Mostly, we had to do without.

The lesson seems to be that if comrades meet together for political discussion on a regular basis, with a chairperson, at a stable venue, and share texts that are not to be “learnt” but only meant to serve as a common basis (or “codification”) for discussion, then anything is possible. They can reach any imaginable heights of common understanding and knowledge.

If the knowledge of such comrades will never be recognised, it is because it is not commodified. We pass no examinations and give out no certificates. Our common study, and nothing else, serves to give us confidence in our understanding. This is socialised knowledge, which is the kind that we want in any case.

E-mail and the Internet are not of the essence but are good and useful means of communication and sharing of texts. They are cheaper and faster than any previous means of communication that we have.

With “hard copy”, the A4-folded-to-A5 “pamphlet” format has proved to be the popular one. Like any other human design, the Communist University could not exist until it was measured out in detail. These have been some of the details.

The CU web sites remain. They are
http://amadlandawonye.wikispaces.com/, http://cu.domza.net/, http://groups.google.com/group/Communist-University/, and http://cu.domza.net/.

Don’t forget the Marxists Internet Archive at
http://www.marxists.org/index.htm. It was this great resource, more than any other one (except for Paulo Freire’s book “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”) that helped and inspired the Communist University of Johannesburg.

Click on this link:

Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 11, The Rate and Mass of Surplus Value, Karl Marx, 1867 (4 pages)

22 June 2008

People's Education for People's Power

The Communist University meets tonight (Monday 23 June 2008) at 17h00, in the SACP Boardroom, 3rd Floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein.

We offer for discussion a compilation of SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande’s Red Alert from the latest Umsebenzi Online (18 June 2008), and COSATU President Sdumo Dlamini’s speech given at the YCL Youth Day Rally on 21 June 2008.

Click on the link below to read the document.

The key phrase in Cde Nzimande’s text, “People's education for people's power”, is music to the ears of the Communist University.

So are the concluding paragraphs of Cde Dlamini’s address, as follows:

“We must go back to organize in our communities because it is through mobilization that people become actors in the stage of revolution. Without organization, despair, disillusionment and disgruntlement will creep in. This creates fertile ground, as we have seen recently with the xenophobic attacks, for reactionary forces to take advantage of the situation.

“The key message that I want to leave with you today comrades is that we must mobilize, organize and educate. Further, we need a Plan to take forward the transformation of our society.

“On behalf of COSATU I wish you success in all your work and pledge our unwavering support to the cause of organizing young people. Equally we expect from you to encourage your members to belong to COSATU unions in the workplace. We must rebuild the workers-student-and youth alliance of the 1980s. We must rebuild the all-round cadres of the movement of the 1980s.”

Comrades, Asikhulume!!

Click on this link:

16 June 2008, Education for People's Power, Blade Nzimande & Sdumo Dlamini (3177 words)

16 June 2008

Youth, Google Earth, GIS, Street Committees, Study Circles, and more

How are Street Committees to be organised? Street committees are public structures and do not belong to any party, but organising is still organising. The generic name “Street Committee” includes Block and Village Committees, and perhaps more varieties than that, as we shall see.

This Youth Day CU post, marking the Anniversary of the organised township youth uprisings that started in Soweto 32 years ago, is the beginning of an investigation into the technical means that can assist young people to conceptualise, and then to execute, a systematic approach to organising Street Committees. The work of organising the people must once again largely fall upon young shoulders.

To the title above this post we could add “Know Your Neighbourhood”, “Door To Door”, Red October Campaign, Imvuselelo Campaign, Voter Registration Campaign, 2009 Election Campaign, and all kinds of public things, not excluding business, that involve people as they are found, socially organised on the ground.

It helps to see this social organisation in various ways, including in the “plan” view, meaning the vertical view, as if from an eye in the sky. The first document linked below is a view of a part of Johannesburg where one of the Communist University’s participants lives. It is taken from the Johannesburg Metro’s free “GIS” map service which is at
http://eservices.joburg.org.za/joburg/eservices/#clkCntrl (or go to the “Joburg” site and click “e-Services”).

The GIS online image can be zoomed down to the level of individual stands and it shows street names and stand numbers, as well as political ward boundaries and many other things besides. This example has been scaled and sized for demonstration purposes. A bigger scale would show more detail.

The second linked document is made from images generated by Google Earth, a free service that you can get by first downloading free software from
http://earth.google.com/. It is much more spectacular than the GIS map. It shows buildings, trees, sports fields, the true extent of the roads, paved and unpaved, and many other interesting things. It shows the inequality of South African society. It is sharp from a height of 2 kilometres or more (try zooming the image in Word) but gets grainy when you magnify it too much. It does not show street names, stand numbers, and political boundaries.

With these two kinds of imaging, one can start to literally “plan” possible street committee territories. Immediately, different possibilities are visible. One can imagine centring a “street committee” on a café, community hall, crossroads or open space, to give just a few examples.

The third linked document is a simple Excel spreadsheet (which can be modified, and which is sortable by any category of data) for listing the details of the residents in a chosen area for a “street committee. (All these documents will be made downloadable from the linked web pages, or if you want,
by e-mail.)

If you have people’s cell numbers in a locality you can SMS them all at once when there is an event, or if a baby is born, or if somebody is in distress, or to invite them to “umrabulo”. Likewise with e-mail. Communication, education and organisation are inseparable. They make the fabric of the kind of popular socialisation that can break free of the imposed social framework that oppresses the people.

The last two items are Jacob Zuma’s remarks today about Joe Gqabi, which are relevant to the above, as you will see if you read it; and the current reading from Karl Marx, which we may discuss next Monday, unless there is a new Umsebenzi Online by that time. There being no available image of the great Joe Gqabi, the ANC logo must stand for him.

Click on these links:

Johannesburg Ward 81, River Park and LE Extension, Jhb Metro GIS map (1 page)

Johannesburg Ward 81, River Park and LE Extension, Google Earth image (1 page)

Draft Street Committee contact list form (Excel Spreadsheet)

Remarks at renaming of a region after Joe Gqabi, ANC President (1153 words)

Capital Volume 1, Chapter 10, The Working Day, parts 5 to 7, Karl Marx, 1867 (11734 words)

10 June 2008


From SAMWU's Stephen Faulkner:

By way of wishing the Communist University a happy fifth birthday, I would like to respond to the points that Comrade Dominic has raised in relation to political education, because I think they are important issues.

The notion that political education (or any form of education for that matter) can be ‘given’ like development aid to solve problems is an extremely helpful analogy. Using a little of Paulo Freire’s approach, let’s reflect upon what is happening around us to explore this further.

The emergency development aid that we are witnessing in relation to the recent violence in poor communities is mostly aimed at relieving a very desperate situation, but one that has been almost exclusively and expediently defined by aid agencies and disaster managers. This is especially visible in the accommodation that is being provided for internal refugees. The professional agencies make clear that the provision of safe shelter is the overwhelming need at this time. And surely they must know best? If we can also relocate refugees out of police stations and municipal buildings while we are at it, then fine say some.

So what has been their response? Tents. Tents by the hundred. The fact that it is Winter, that there are no mattresses to keep out the cold, or any form of heating allowed, and that the tents are erected in places that are windswept and exposed to the weather, and where basic services are mostly absent, and which will incidentally make a more permanent relocation/reintegration strategy more difficult not less to achieve, are considerations that seem not to have featured in the rush to make an immediate response. But be warned. If you challenge this particular ‘camp orthodoxy’ as I have, you will be accused of being impractical, or cynical, or worse, super critical of anything that good people are trying to do.

Meanwhile, last Sunday, I simply asked five refugees what might be an alternative, and in ten minutes they suggested that the thousands of square metres of perfectly solid building space that is not in use in most urban areas could be made available, and at comparable costs could be utilized to safely house refugees like themselves. Over a short time, electricity, clean water, safe forms of heating, services and security could have been developed. After all this is what is being (slowly) made available at the camping sites. But with the added advantage of being close to transport hubs, schools and community life that are essential prerequisites to any form of integration. Ahhh but this is impractical, and unrealistic I hear the professionals say. Well, comrades, that’s what they say about socialism!

It’s a similar pattern in politics. When there is a crisis, the leadership calls for more political education, (like some form of emergency development aid!) as if the problem is that the masses are not sophisticated enough, are not ‘political’ enough to understand what the leadership is trying to achieve on their behalf. I am reminded of the brilliant poem by Bertolt Brecht where the leadership decide to re-elect the masses because they have failed and disappointed the leadership!

Of all strands of education, political education in particular, (supposedly an education to help make sense of power relations in society in order to challenge them), must empower the learners! When I hear leaderships call for more political education, (like the disaster managers and aid agencies mentioned above), they are trying to solve a complex series of problems through short cuts. It is as if they want to put up a tent that the membership must pass through, and at the other end they emerge enlightened, politically conscious, and ready to appreciate what the leadership is trying to do on their behalf! The membership once politically educated, will no longer be displaced! Ahhh, if it was only that simple.

A few years ago, I asked a veteran left politician in London what he thought members of a progressive political party needed to know in terms of political education, and he said first and foremost, they must know how to hold their own leaders to account, and secondly, how to replace them if need be! In other words, how to take control of their own struggles, their own organizations. How to build membership power, how to build active (as opposed to passive) relationships between memberships and leaderships. And that is why Dominic’s reference to Freire is so helpful. Political education is not simply about appreciating what the leadership are trying to do! It is not even about understanding the main ideas of Comrades Marx, Lenin, Luxembourg etc. Important though they are. Being able to quote Comrade Fidel at a branch meeting should not be central aim of political education however impressive!

So what is political education? Well, it certainly seems easier to define what it is not than what it is, but here goes….I would argue that it must be a dialectical process. Firstly it must be about creating the space for learners to critically engage with the challenges that they face, on every level, and as they themselves define them, including the type and character of the revolutionary organization needed to take the struggle forward. Secondly, it must be about accessing, engaging with, and drawing upon the lessons of all those revolutionaries who have gone before, and who are struggling now, alongside us, even in other countries. And at its core must be opportunities to talk/listen/connect/discuss with one another. Thirdly, to arrive at a place where learnings can be applied in practice, and learners feel sufficiently empowered to act together for change. And finally, to reflect on what has been done in order to inform further deliberations, in other words to use the collective experience as an on-going educational resource. Of course a process like this will be flexible, unpredictable even, and cannot be applied rigidly without being itself subject to change.

This is a process that is very different to a top down approach, and helping to facilitate such a space is amongst the greatest challenges for all those who subscribe to democratic popular education ethos. It seems to me that a leadership that could embrace such an approach would be signaling its maturity, and willingness to be held accountable.

Political education must be a liberating learning experience, and not simply be a conveyor belt for conformity, or complacency or for calming the frustrations of the leadership! Effective political education will produce uncomfortable questions and demands and require an engaged leadership. That’s how movements are built!

What do other comrades think?

With these few thoughts, I would like to congratulate the Communist University for emerging as one of the vital spaces where political education can begin to take place.

Comradely Greetings,

Stephen Faulkner
SAMWU Education Officer

You can comment on this article below, or debate it on the
YCLSA Discussion Forum

9 June 2008

Organise by streets, blocks and villages!

The Communist University meets this evening (Monday) at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. Instead of the second part of Chapter 10, of Karl Marx's Capital, "The Working Day", we will offer the latest Umsebenzi Online, with SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande’s Red Alert on the subject of street committees, which is linked below. This Red Alert was also reproduced in The ANC's weekly online newsletter, ANC Today.

Comrades, the Communist University is five years old; it started in June, 2003. Have we made a difference? Who knows? Revolutionaries seldom, if ever, have the pleasure of knowing the measure of their success. The fruits of their labours are spread wide, and not hoarded up in closed places where they can be counted, as if by a miser like Scrooge McDuck (pictured).

Revolutionaries must also not take themselves, as individuals, too seriously.

One thing seems very clear: The message of Paulo Freire is not well received in high places. Although “political education” is all the rage at the moment throughout the Alliance, what exactly is meant by the phrase is not spelled out. “Political education” is recited like a mantra (a prayer).

When the time comes for practical application, the would-be political educators all too often reach for what they know, and what they know is unfortunately no better, most times, than what Freire called “the banking theory of education”.

So, one by one, the different parts of the alliance are approaching the Communist University and asking for help to compile school-books. Deposits of prescribed “nollidge” is what they are seeking, such as can be “delivered” to the masses like development aid, so as to produce a predictable “outcome”.

Education is not charitable food-aid, comrades. Education is a revolutionary action of the learners, who are at the same time teachers. Nobody must be willingly permitted to be a Scrooge McDuck of education. A miser’s idea of education is not education at all.

In the Communist University’s humble view, there is as yet one crucial ingredient that is absent from the preconception of street committees. We cannot see where their dynamism will come from, unless they are first-and-foremost organised for learning, in the Freirean fashion. Who will champion this view? No-one will, unless the comrades at street level do it, themselves, and not because they are told, but because there is not other way.

Once, long ago, there was a popular movement for parks and gardens at street level in this country. It was a matter of respect and self-respect. It was powerful in its way: ideologically powerful.

This time round we must cultivate the human garden: The garden of the popular soul. Do communists have soul? You bet they do!

Another time, long ago, there was a famous film of a joint concert of African-American and African Music, in Ghana. It was called “Soul to Soul”. Now, we need a new “Soul to Soul” thing, between South Africans and other Africans, right here and now. All the ingredients are available. Nobody needs to go far.

Comrades, the Communist University apologises for the reduced service level (but we are not a bank!). There has been a lot of very strong material, especially about the people displaced by the May pogroms, and more material continues to come through. Follow it on the YCL Discussion Forum, or come to our class this evening, or both.

Click on this link:

Umsebenzi Online, Volume 7, No. 9, 4 June 2008 (2285 words)

2 June 2008

Afrophobia, Out, Out, Out!

The Communist University meets this afternoon (Monday, 2 June 2008) at 17h00, in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein. We are scheduled to discuss parts 1 to 4 of Chapter 10 of Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, called The Working Day. This text has already been distributed, because last week we suspended the programme so as to discuss the latest Umsebenzi Online.

The first item linked below is the declaration of the SACP Central Committee meeting that took place over the weekend. Among other important things, it says: “While there is not yet support from our allies in this regard, the SACP continues to believe that the President of the country should be recalled… our country and our region cannot afford to persist with the current blend of directionless absenteeism, and meddling factionalism and general irresoluteness. All of this has poisoned the security and intelligence forces of our country, the functioning of our public broadcaster, and much more.” This SACP announcement concerning the president, Thabo Mbeki, has already made headlines in at least one London newspaper, as well as South African media outlets of all kinds.

Among the growing body of South African opinion that the SACP refers to as favouring Cde Mbeki’s recall is the Business Day newspaper, which carried a serious but also highly humorous piece by Aubrey Matshiqi (pictured) on Friday, that got noticed everywhere.

Humour is something we all need. It’s hard to see a funny side to the next item, though. This is the situation is Soetwater, near Cape Town, and a very sad situation. The people behind
eMzantsi Ubuntu Coalition seem to be doing a lot of good things and reporting other good work of material aid, but it needs more than this to reverse the consequences of the unforgivable Afrophobia of the last three weeks.

On the political side, COSATU has made a full-colour three-language pamphlet in PDF format. Click on the link below and download it. The Onica Mashego Branch (Johannesburg Ward 81) of the ANC has made a draft flyer, also in three languages. Click to read it and to download it in MS-Word format.

The sixth item is last week’s COSATU Central Executive Committee statement, essential reading for communists. Not only does it have a great deal to say about the recent Afrophobic pogroms, but also about the coming national elections and the very much enhanced position of the working class in the Alliance and the consequently even more crucial part that the organised working class can and must play in ensuring a massive ANC victory.

Lastly, the abolition of a monarchy is generally cause for jubilation, and the case of Nepal this week was no exception. See the last item. Long live the Nepali communists, long live!

Click on these links:

SACP Central Committee, 30-31 May 2008, declaration (1020 words)

SA must carry on without Mbeki, Aubrey Matshiqi, Business Day (689 words)

eMzantsi Ubuntu Coalition, Soetwater latest (465 words)

COSATU appeals to workers - say NO to Xenophibia, pamphlet (942 KB PDF download)

Masihlanganeni – Ha re kopaneng, draft ANC Onica Mashego branch flyer (2-sided flyer)

COSATU Central Executive Committee statement (3788 words)

Nepal abolishes monarchy (637 words)

Coming Events

24 May 2008

Africa Day

The Communist University meets on Monday, 26 May 2008, at 17h00, in the SACP boardroom, third floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, to discuss the urgent statements of the ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe (pictured) and the SACP General Secretary, Dr Blade Nzimande. These statements have been collected into a single document, together with the CU 2008 draft programme, for the purpose of the discussion. See the first linked item below, which must also serve for us to mark Africa Day, in the spirit of Cde Gwede’s words. Please read them.

There have been no full posts to the CU blog since 12 May 2008, until this one. One of the reasons is that this has been the time of the so-called “xenophobia” pogroms, starting in Alexandra in the home area of the CU on 11 May 2008, and at this time of writing still spreading as far away as Cape Town.

You have received some relevant direct messages via the CU list, including material about the COSATU/Civil Society marches that took place all over the country on 17 May, protesting against the xenophobia, the oppression of the Zimbabwe people, and high prices of food and electricity at home.

The CU did meet last Monday. It discussed
Chapter 9 of Capital, Volume 1, on the Rate of Surplus Value. The next part of Capital, Volume 1 that we will discuss is part of Chapter 10, called “The Working Day”. See the last linked item below. In the circumstances it seems necessary to put off the discussion on Chapter 10 for a week, so that we can discuss the pogrom situation and what we can do about it.

There have been two strands of debate in the Internet. Some have said that there must be immediate practical responses to the pogroms. The others say that we must learn about the underlying causes and fix them for the long term. Fortunately, between the SACP’s statement last Wednesday, published in Umsebenzi Online, and the ANC’s statement on Friday, published online in ANC Today, our leaders Comrades Nzimande and Mantashe have between them dealt with both ends of the problem, decisively.

If comrades had implemented the agreed (at Polokwane) plan to build street committees for political purposes and for defence against crime, then the spread of the insane pogrom riots would have fizzled out quickly. In practice, not one single street committee has yet been heard of.

The second item below is our good comrade Steve Faulkner’s vivid account of the shameful events as they unfolded through Kensington and Jeppestown last weekend. This extraordinary piece of writing has whizzed around the world electronically. It is a far better description than the mass media have yet published.

The third item is Cde Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan’s outstanding defence of internationalism and denunciation of the false pretensions of Robert Mugabe and the Zanu-PF party in Zimbabwe.

The fourth item is a well-written article about the mistakes that are being repeated in the matter of housing. These mistakes have already been made many times before, and they have certainly contributed to the situation in which pogroms become possible. Marie Huchzermeyer, an academic, speculates that a combination of organised mobilisation of public opinion, together with a “significant jurisprudence”, will begin to swing the tide in housing.

The CU does not agree with Huchzermeyer’s faith in liberal middle-class initiatives. The lasting remedy in urbanism is more likely to come from politically-organised street committees, than from TAC-like donor-funded lobby structures. Such organisations have existed before in housing but they have all faded, and are hardly ever heard from any more. Huchzermeyer’s own fine initiative, the urbanist debates that are still held at Wits, were heavily infiltrated by banking interests. Such interests have re-asserted a hegemony in academia, so that the organisations of the working class and the poor are once again made to feel out of place at our state-funded University.

Click on these links:

Xenophobia is a Crime, Mantashe, plus Back to Basics, Nzimande, plus CU 2008 (3231 words)

Pogrom report from a friend and COSATU comrade, Steve Faulkner (3248 words)

Zimbabwe - Democracy is not a privilege, Z Pallo Jordan (2037 words)

Slums law based on flawed interpretation of UN goals, Huchzermeyer (1169 words)

The Working Day, Capital, C 10, parts 1 to 4, Karl Marx, 1867 (11,022 words)

Coming Events

12 May 2008

You, too, can have an empty In-box

The Communist University meets this evening at 17h00 in the SACP Boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, to discuss Chapter 8 from Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, on Constant and Variable Capital.

Taming your In-box

There are five important items below, but first, the promised brief tutorial in e-mail management. Taking the Communist University e-mails for an example, the idea is to divert them from the In-box to a folder of their own. In Outlook you do this by selecting one of the e-mails and clicking the “Rules and Alerts” button (in Outlook 2000 the same thing was called “Organise”). “Rules and Alerts” is also in the “Tools” menu.

In the dialogue box, tick the necessary small boxes and browse for the “Folder” you want the messages moved to. If you don’t have one ready you can make it along the way. Use the “Advanced” route if you want more control, including the power to move all past messages that fit the rule, at the same time.

In Google Gmail, the procedure is even easier. Here the equivalent to Folders is called “Labels” and the equivalent to Rules is called “Filters”. Once again using the Communist University for an example, open one of our e-mails, click “show details” at the top and find where it says “Filter messages from this mailing list” in small blue writing. Click on this, and you will get the “Filter” dialogue. If you click “Test Search” there it will show you all the e-mails that will be labelled. Go to the Next Step and select the existing Label (or make a new one), make sure the “Skip the Inbox” and “Also apply…” boxes are ticked, and click “Create Filter”. You can now access all these messages from the “Label” list in the left hand panel of the Gmail screen. You can also see them in All Mail, but they will not “clutter” or “clog” your Inbox any more (as people still sometimes complain they do)!

A tip: don’t be shy to use the “Mark As Read” feature freely in both Outlook and Gmail. Take advantage “Find” and “Search” to locate your messages. They will in any case be easier to find when they are in separate folders.

By gradually using these tools on the rest of your e-mails you will be able to get your In-box tamed, even if, like the CU, you are getting hundreds of e-mails every day.

Very important matters

The first linked item today is given priority because it requires your support for the demonstrations scheduled for this Saturday in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Time is short now so please make yourself available and pass the message on. Further details will follow.

The Alliance Summit document (2nd link) is historic as well as very specific. Note the several further summits and on-going processes that are to follow. The Alliance is back in business!

The third item is also historic, being the courageous announcement by President Morgan Tsvangirai, the victor with his party the MDC on 29 March, that they will contest the run-off forced by the usurper Robert Mugabe. It is correct, as serious as it is, to put the matter in the hands of the brave Zimbabwean people. As O R Tambo (pictured) once said: “The masses can never be wrong”.

The fourth item is an update written on Friday by Cde Vimbai of the ZCTU’s informal desk concerning the arrest and detention of Secretary-General Wellington Chibebe and President Lovemore Matombo. Let us hope they are released today safe and sound. The whole world is watching.

The last new linked item shows how students can contribute to the media if and when they get it together, as Swazi students have done. Let’s hope they also move into electronic media.

Click on these links:

Civil society mobilisation on Zimbabwe and Food Prices, 17 May 2008 (549 words)

Alliance Summit Declaration, 9-10 May 2008, Gallagher Estate (1469 words)

Morgan once more, MDC Press Statement on decision to contest run-off (1135 words)

ZCTU update on Matombo & Chibebe, May Day report, and true reasons for arrest (852 words)

Swazi students write the news, Richard Rooney (520 words)

Coming Events

7 May 2008

National conversation, the cure for Zanufication and Snukification

The Communist University meets on Monday, 13 May 2008 at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to discuss Chapter 8 of Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, “Constant and Variable Capital” – see the first item linked below.

This is a short chapter, easy to read, but very interesting, bearing on the reasons why fixed capital (machinery &c.) does not yield any surplus value during production, which is in turn the reason for the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in “capital-intensive” as opposed to “labour-intensive” industries.

The second item is the announcement by the Coalition Against Water Privatisation of their stupendous court victory over the practice of installing compulsory pre-paid water meters in poor areas. Thanks to Comrade Dale McKinley for sending it, and congratulations to him and all his colleagues.

The third item is a review of the book Flat Earth News, by Nick Davies. The article reveals the reasons for the astonishing “thinness” of the bourgeois media in the metropolitan countries, and Britain and the USA in particular. South African newspapers are not so bad (but SA television is worse). Part of the reason for the relative good health of the SA bourgeois press is the widespread practice of Trade Unions and other mass and specialist organisations of sending their stories direct to the entire press corps, whereas in Britain, this practice seems to have died out and been replaced by the ubiquitous Press Association. This corporation processes nearly all the news in the same skimped and bland manner for nearly all the news outlets. Professional reporting, with checking of plural sources, seems to have largely died out in Britain.

Some journalists like to write from time to time that “blogging is not journalism”. The trouble is rather that journalism is no longer what it was. Good writing is good writing wherever it may appear, but the special function of newspapers used to be to present “a nation in conversation with itself”. The new media (not just blogs but also Google groups and other bi-directional electronic media) have allowed the national conversation to blossom unmediated by the deadening formulas that have got such a grip on the older media.

There are difficulties with the new media, but they tend to be capable of resolution. For example, people occasionally request to be unsubscribed from lists “because their Inbox is getting clogged”. There is a remedy for this. The Communist University has been a little quiet lately because it has been investigating e-mail management. This is mainly a matter of setting up sections of the Inbox, so that different kinds of mail, identified by their addresses, subject or content, automatically go to different sub-Inboxes, and the main Inbox is left to collect mail that is out of the ordinary. At once the problem of dealing with the day’s e-mail becomes easily manageable. We will describe how this is done, for Outlook and for Gmail, in a later edition of the Communist University. Suffice it now to say that it is absolutely necessary to conquer the problem of the clogged In-box. The national conversation depends upon it.

The fourth item is a welcome addition to the SA media fold, a news agency (SACSIS) that will supply free copy (but you must attribute) on various “Civil Society” matters. Congratulations to Fazila Farouk (pictured) and the team. See also
Fazila’s brother Ismail’s site for wonderful photos of Johannesburg. There is a serious shortage of good sources of pictures for the Internet, and especially of good, contrasty, high-resolution face pictures of individuals in the labour movement. Recognition and accountability go together!

The fifth item is SACP Deputy GS Jeremy Cronin’s article from last Sunday’s City Press, with its peculiar headline, added as usual by the newspaper’s sub-editors. Comrade Jeremy (pictured) does not in fact say that SA could not become “zanufied” (or even “snukified”), but rather that the price of avoiding zanufication is keeping the vitality of our popular political institutions, and especially the ANC, COSATU and the SACP, but also other self-defined social movements and civil society organisations.

The final item is the ZCTU’s gracious message of appreciation to COSATU for its (and its affiliate SATAWU’s) assistance to the Zimbabwean people. Viva International Solidarity, Viva! Pictured: ZCTU SG Wellington Chibebe.

Speaking of international solidarity, there is to be a YCLSA Cuito Cuanavale celebration at 18h00, on Constitution Hill, 8 May 2008. Never forget that at the foundation of revolutionary South Africa is international solidarity!

Click on these links:

Capital Volume 1, Chapter 8, Constant and Variable Capital, Karl Marx, 1867 (5806 words)

Water court case judgement, Coalition Against Water Privatisation (893 words)

Riots, Terrorism etc, John Lanchester, London Review of Books (2856 words)

Introducing a New Civil Society News Agency – SACSIS (458 words)

Why SA will never be like Zimbabwe, Jeremy Cronin, City Press (1355 words)

ZCTU letter of appreciation to COSATU (228 words)

Coming Events

4 May 2008

The Whole Problem

The top picture is of Fernando Lugo, the President-elect of Paraguay. He is a liberation theologist, and so has a link with us via the great Paulo Freire. The picture lower down is of some other friendly South American Presidents. There are many!

The Communist University meets this afternoon (Monday 5 May 2008) at 17h00 to discuss the seventh chapter of Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1. We meet in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

This chapter begins with a short summary of the book thus far, as follows:

“The capitalist buys labour-power in order to use it; and labour-power in use is labour itself. The purchaser of labour-power consumes it by setting the seller of it to work. By working, the latter becomes actually, what before he only was potentially, labour-power in action, a labourer.”

The production of surplus value in the dynamic relationship between the capitalist and the working proletarian provides the answer to the question that the book is intended to answer, before any other: Where does the wealth generated by capital come from? Or: How precisely, and exactly where, is the surplus taken? For, early on in his deliberations, Marx had determined that the observed general increase could not be coming from overcharging, because in pure trading, one person’s loss is another’s gain, and all cancel out. The answer is that the surplus arises in the workplace, and not in the market place, and the only source of surplus is this: that a worker can give more labour than it costs to develop his labour-power. Marx explains this patiently and with good humour in this chapter. See the first link.

Yet there is no concealing the bitter harvest of capitalism in all of its moods. It is with heavy heart that we carry the NUM’s Media release from last week, and have to add that nine further deaths followed on May Day itself, again at South Deep mine. Words fail. We await the counsel of the leadership of the NUM and the general movement. See the second linked item.

The SACP’s Political Bureau met last week. Their statement, particularly covering Zimbabwe, Electricity, and Food, is the third document linked below.

The load-shedding is no more. See the report from Johannesburg’s Saturday Star, the fourth item below. The load-shedding episode has every appearance of being a boss’s strike, a fraudulent Enron-style holding-to-ransom, or in other words, domestic terrorism. It was purely punitive. It was extortion. It was undone by the fact that too many people, and especially Eskom’s own employees, could see it for the scam it was. The fact that the equipment could not take the treatment was part of the crooks’ bad luck. Now there is no load-shedding, the sky has not fallen in, and we can all see that it was phoney from the start, and that the top management of Eskom are all liars. They should be fired. We cannot trust them

It is our good fortune that at this moment, the author James Heartfield has very kindly let us have some extracts from his new book, Green Capitalism, sufficient to get a good understanding of what it is about. The book was written in England, but the picture of artificial scarcity brought in under cover of a “green” alibi fits the Eskom putsch precisely. Some of those who gave credence to the Eskom legend no doubt did so in good faith. Those ones should learn now, and not make the same mistakes again. Heartfield conveniently provides the means whereby people can discriminate between the “green” scams and the open rational science that capitalism avoids these days like the plague. The fact that Eskom refused to open its books should have alerted everybody. See the fifth linked item.

Click on these links:

Capital Volume 1, Chapter 7, Producing Surplus Value, Karl Marx, 1867 (10277 words)

Life callously thrown away by bosses' greed, Lesiba Seshoka (209 words)

SACP Political Bureau Press Statement, 27 April 2008 (1201 words)

Load shedding blew it for Eskom, Thabiso Thakali, Saturday Star (925 words)

Green Capitalism, James Heartfield, 2008 (4822 words)

Coming Events

20 April 2008

The struggle is one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on these links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Events

There are no external factors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on these links:

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Events

13 April 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on these links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events Diary