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