30 November 2009

Sahara Libre, Concert for Aminatou Haidar


Concert backs 'Gandhi of Sahara'

Dani Macaco
BBC News, 29 November 2009
Spanish artists, singers and actors have staged a concert in support of a Western Sahara activist on hunger strike on the Spanish island Lanzarote.
Aminatou Haidar, nicknamed the "Gandhi of Sahara" after seeking independence for the disputed region, was refused re-entry to Morocco on 15 November.

27 November 2009

Dual Power in Nepal


Maoists to declare autonomous states

Baburam Bhattarai

KATHMANDU, NOV 26 - The UCPN (Maoist) on Thursday decided to declare 13 ethnic and region-based autonomous provinces from Dec. 11-18.

Maoist Vice Chairman Baburam Bhattarai, who heads the party’s United National People’s Movement, announced the decision on Thursday evening after a meeting of the party’s central office bearers and regional and ethnic fronts.

The Maoists are in the midst of their third phase protests since Nov. 22 demanding ‘restoration of civilian supremacy’ — correction of President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav’s move reinstating the then Army chief Rookmangud Katawal.

As per the third-phase protest schedule, Maoist regional and ethnic fronts will hold massive protests in their respective regions from Dec. 11-18.

Mbeki out of last position


Mbeki out as facilitator of Zim power-sharing deal

Sipho Masondo, The Times, Johannesburg, 26 November 2009

Former president Thabo Mbeki's role as the facilitator of the Zimbabwean power-sharing deal is over.

President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday appointed a new facilitation team that includes his political adviser, Charles Nqakula, special envoy Mac Maharaj and international relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu.

The appointments mean Mbeki will not have any role to play in mediating between the partners in the unity government headed by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Appointed by the SA Development Community as facilitator in March 2007, Mbeki has been widely criticised for being too lenient with Mugabe.

But his efforts did result in a Zimbabwe breakthrough during his last days as president last year when Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who leads a breakaway MDC group, signed the historic power-sharing deal that resulted in the formation of a "unity" government.

Even after his ousting from the presidency, Mbeki continued to play a facilitation role as the SADC's pointman.

Earlier this month, Zuma, who was asked by the SADC to step in as the new facilitator in Zimbabwe, made it clear that Mbeki's services were no longer needed by appointing a facilitation team headed by Nqakula.

Presidential spokesman Vusi Mona said: "Mbeki was mediating as head of state, he did so on behalf of South Africa. It shouldn't be confusing, Mbeki is no longer head of state. The SADC asked South Africa to mediate, and that still stands. Zuma runs the country and he is the one to determine who should mediate."

But Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said he had not spoken to the former president and did not know that his boss had been replaced.

When The Times asked him to ask Mbeki if he had been told about the move, he said: "I know he is not in a position to talk right now, he is in a meeting, and I am also in another."

From: http://www.timeslive.co.za/news/africa/article210878.ece

26 November 2009

Mass Strike in Nepal


Unified Communist Party of Nepal-M to organize nationwide strike

Lekhnath Neupane

Han Jingjing, China View, 26 November 2009

KATHMANDU, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- The All Nepal Trade Union Federation of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN-M) has decided to organize a nationwide strike on Dec. 10, The Himalayan Times reported Thursday.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the United National People's Movement in the presence of representatives of party headquarters and the chiefs of the sister organizations of the party on Wednesday.

"More than 20,000 students from different schools and colleges would march through major thoroughfares of the Kathmandu Valley on December 1," said Lekhnath Neupane, president of the All Nepal National Independent Students' Union-Revolutionary.

Neupane said such demonstrations would also be organized in major cities on the same day. The students will demonstrate demanding that the school education should be basic education and university's education should be easily accessible to the youth.

The teachers affiliated to UCPN-M have decided to shut schools throughout the nation on Dec. 7.

From: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-11/26/content_12542421.htm

Facilitation Team for Zimbabwe


President Zuma appoints Facilitation Support Team

Presidency, 25 November 2009

President Jacob Zuma has constituted a three-person Facilitation support team to work on the Zimbabwean process.

The President’s political adviser Charles Nqakula leads the team, working with Special Envoy Mac Maharaj and international relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu.

The SADC Summit held on the 5th of November in Maputo, Mozambique, decided that the signatories to the Global Political Agreement, Zanu-PF, the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC led by Arthur Mutambara should engage in dialogue within 15 days, not exceeding 30 days, and that the dialogue should include all outstanding issues relating to the implementation of the Global Political Agreement.

The Summit directed the Facilitator, President Zuma, to assess progress and report back to the Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation at the conclusion of the 15 day period.

The Facilitation team will soon engage with the parties as emissaries of the President, and report back to President Zuma.

The dates of their visit to Harare, Zimbabwe have not been finalized.

Enquiries: Vincent Magwenya on 072 715 0024

From: http://www.thepresidency.gov.za/show.asp?include=president/pr/2009/pr11251524.htm&ID=1898&type=pr

24 November 2009

Aminatou still on hunger strike


Saharawi activist refuses Madrid refugee offer

Aminatou Haidar

Middle East Online, 24 November 2009

MADRID - Western Sahara activist Aminatou Haidar has declined an offer by Madrid to grant her refugee status following her expulsion from the territory by Morocco, a representative said Saturday.

Jose Morales Brum, a trade union leader in Spain's Canary Islands, said that Haidar, a winner of several human rights awards, was continuing the hunger strike she began at midnight on Sunday [November 15].

Haidar is at the airport on the island of Lanzarote demanding to be sent back to the Western Sahara capital of Laayoune to recover her passport confiscated by Moroccan authorities last week.

"The government is ready, if Ms Haidar asks, to grant her refugee status as soon as possible and provide her with all the necessary documents (so she can travel)," the Spanish foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.

The ministry said it would act if the Moroccan consulate in Spain turns down her request for a new passport. But Haidar refuses to apply to the consulate, saying she wants her old passport back.

Morocco's ambassador to Spain, Omar Azziman, said she could receive her passport back if she recognized her Moroccan nationality.

"Perhaps if Aminatou Haidar recognized her Moroccan nationality, her passport would be returned. At the moment it is impossible," he told reporters.

"It is not Spain or Morocco that has a problem, it is she, and the solution therefore is in her hands."

Moroccan authorities arrested Haidar on November 13 on her arrival in Laayoune from Spain's Canary Islands.

Immigration officials immediately sent her back to the archipelago after confiscating her passport. She used her Spanish residency permit to re-enter the country.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said that in the face of Haidar's refusal there was nothing more he could do, adding that he had already expressed his concern about her case Thursday in a meeting with his Moroccan counterpart Taieb Fassi Fihri.

In October, Haidar received the Civil Courage Prize from the New York-based Train Foundation for her human rights campaigning in the disputed Western Sahara territory.

Morocco annexed phosphate-rich Western Sahara after Spain left in 1975 and has pledged to grant it widespread autonomy but rules out independence demanded by the Polisario Front rebel movement which has the backing of Algeria.

Azziman said Haidar had been an activist who never had any problems but had recently "drifted towards the separatist thesis of the Polisario".

Earlier this month Morocco's King Mohammed VI warned of a crackdown against "opponents of the territorial integrity of Morocco," referring to Sahrawis who support the Polisario Front.

While fighting halted in 1991, UN-sponsored talks on Western Sahara's future have made no headway.

From: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=35873

23 November 2009

12th International Meeting to be in South Africa

Press Communiqué, November 22, 2009

The following press communique has been issued by the 11th International meeting of the Communist and Workers' Parties:

89 participants representing 57 communist and workers' parties and 48 countries participated in the 11th International meeting of the communist and workers' parties held in New Delhi from 20-22 November 2009, on the theme “The international capitalist crisis, the workers’ and peoples’ struggle, the alternatives and the role of the communist and working class movement”, hosted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India.

The meeting adopted the Delhi Declaration unanimously (see below).

The meeting decided to accept the request of the Workers' Party of Bangladesh to be a part of these international meetings in the future.

The meeting decided that the 12th international meeting would be held in the African continent, hosted by the South African Communist Party. The working group shall subsequently meet to finalise the theme, dates, venue and other details.

The meeting expressed its unflinching solidarity with the worldwide struggles of the workers and people for peace, sovereignty, democracy and social justice.

The meeting decided that concrete actions must be undertaken in all countries and coordinated globally on the following issues:

1. Against NATO and its global expansion; against renewed imperialist military aggressiveness, and against foreign military bases.

2. To observe 29 November as a day of solidarity with the Palestinians struggle, as per the decision of the extraordinary meeting held in Damascus in September 2009.

3. To observe the year 2010 as the sixty-fifth anniversary of the defeat of fascism.

4. To strengthen popular mobilisations in defence of workers rights in coordination with the trade unions.

5. Intensify international solidarity for the release of the Cuban Five.

6. To strengthen popular movements, pressing governments in respective countries, demanding the right to work in coordination with the youth organisations.

Delhi Declaration

This 11th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers' Parties, held in New Delhi, 20-22 November 2009 to discuss on “The international capitalist crisis, the workers’ and peoples’ struggle, the alternatives and the role of the communist and working class movement”:

  • reiterates that the current global recession is a systemic crisis of capitalism demonstrating its historic limits and the need for its revolutionary overthrow. It demonstrates the sharpening of the main contradiction of capitalism between its social nature of production and individual capitalist appropriation. The political representatives of Capital try to conceal this unresolvable contradiction between capital and labour that lies at the heart of the crisis. This crisis intensifies rivalries between imperialist powers who along with the international institutions-the IMF World Bank WTO and others- are implementing their 'solutions' which essentially aim to intensify capitalist exploitation. Military and political 'solutions' are aggressively pursued globally by imperialism. The NATO is promoting a new aggressive strategy. The political systems are becoming more reactionary curtailing democratic and civil liberties, trade union rights etc. This crisis is further deepening the structural corruption under capitalism which is being institutionalised.
  • reaffirms that the current crisis, probably the most acute and all encompassing since the Great Depression of 1929, has left no field untouched. Hundreds of thousands of factories are closed. Agrarian and rural economies are under distress intensifying misery and poverty of millions of cultivators and farm workers globally. Millions of people are left jobless and homeless. Unemployment is growing to unprecedented levels and is officially expected to breach the 50 million mark. Inequalities are increasing across the globe – the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. More than one billion people, that is one-sixth of humanity go hungry. Youth, women and immigrants are the first victims.

True to their class nature, the response of the respective capitalist governments to overcome this crisis fails to address these basic concerns. All the neo-liberal votaries and social democratic managers of capitalism, who had so far decried the State are now utilising the state for rescuing them, thus underlining a basic fact that the capitalist state has always defended and enlarged avenues for super profits. While the costs of the rescue packages and bailouts are at public expense, the benefits accrue to few. The bailout packages announced, are addressed first to rescue and then enlarge profit making avenues. Banks and financial corporates are now back in business and making profits. Growing unemployment and the depression of real wages is the burden for the working people as against the gift of huge bailout packages for the corporations.

  • realises that this crisis is no aberration based on the greed of a few or lack of effective regulatory mechanisms. Profit maximisation, the raison d' etre of capitalism, has sharply widened economic inequalities both between countries and within countries in these decades of 'globalisation'. The natural consequence was a decline in the purchasing power of the vast majority of world population. The present crisis is thus a systemic crisis. This once again vindicates the Marxist analysis that the capitalist system is inherently crisis ridden. Capital, in its quest for profits, traverses boundaries and tramples upon anything and everything. In the process it intensifies exploitation of the working class and other strata of working people, imposing greater hardships. Capitalism in fact requires to maintain a reserve army of labour. The liberation from such capitalist barbarity can come only with the establishment of the real alternative, socialism. This requires the strengthening of anti-imperialist and anti-monopoly struggles. Our struggle for an alternative is thus a struggle against the capitalist system. Our struggle for an alternative is for a system where there is no exploitation of people by people and nation by nation. It is a struggle for another world, a just world, a socialist world.
  • conscious of the fact that the dominant imperialist powers would seek their way out of the crisis by putting greater burdens on the working people, by seeking to penetrate and dominate the markets of countries with medium and lower level of capitalist development, commonly called developing countries. This they are trying to achieve firstly, through the WTO Doha round of trade talks, which reflect the unequal economic agreements at the expense of the peoples of these countries particularly with reference to agricultural standards and Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA).

Secondly, capitalism, which in the first place is responsible for the destruction of the environment, is trying to transfer the entire burden of safeguarding the planet from climate change, which in the first place they had caused, onto the shoulders of the working class and working people. Capitalism's proposal for restructuring in the name of climate change has little relation to the protection of the environment. Corporate inspired 'Green development' and 'green economy' are sought to be used to impose new state monopoly regulations which support profit maximisation and impose new hardships on the people. Profit maximisation under capitalism is thus not compatible with environmental protection and peoples' rights.

  • notes that the only way out of this capitalist crisis for the working class and the common people is to intensify struggles against the rule of capital. It is the experience of the working class that when it mobilises its strength and resists these attempts it can be successful in protecting its rights. Industry sit-ins, factory occupations and such militant working class actions have forced the ruling classes to consider the demands of the workers. Latin America, the current theatre of popular mobilisations and working class actions, has shown how rights can be protected and won through struggle. In these times of crisis, once again the working class is seething with discontent. Many countries have witnessed and are witnessing huge working class actions, demanding amelioration. These working class actions need to be further strengthened by mobilising the vast mass of suffering people, not just for immediate alleviation but for a long-term solution to their plight.

Imperialism, buoyed by the demise of the Soviet Union and the periods of boom preceding this crisis had carried out unprecedented attacks on the rights of the working class and the people. This has been accompanied by frenzied anti-communist propaganda not only in individual countries but at global and inter-state forums (EU, OSCE, Council of Europe). However much they may try, the achievements and contributions of socialism in defining the contours of modern civilisation remain inerasable. Faced with these relentless attacks,our struggles thus far had been mainly, defensive struggles, struggles to protect the rights that we had won earlier. Today's conjuncture warrants the launch of an offensive, not just to protect our rights but win new rights. Not for winning few rights but for dismantling the entire capitalist edifice – for an onslaught on the rule of capital, for a political alternative – socialism.

  • resolves that under these conditions, the communist and workers parties shall actively work to rally and mobilise the widest possible sections of the popular forces in the struggle for full time stable employment, exclusively public and free for all health, education and social welfare, against gender inequality and racism, and for the protection of the rights of all sections of the working people including the youth, women, migrant workers and those from ethnic and national minorities.
  • calls upon the communist and workers parties to undertake this task in their respective countries and launch broad struggles for the rights of the people and against the capitalist system. Though the capitalist system is inherently crisis ridden, it does not collapse automatically. The absence of a communist-led counterattack, engenders the danger of rise of reactionary forces. The ruling classes launch an all out attack to prevent the growth of the communists and the workers' parties to protect their status quo. Social democracy continues to spread illusions about the real character of capitalism, advancing slogans such as 'humanisation of capitalism', 'regulation', 'global governance' etc. These in fact support the strategy of capital by denying class struggle and buttressing the pursuit of anti-popular policies. No amount of reform can eliminate exploitation under capitalism. Capitalism has to be overthrown. This requires the intensification of ideological and political working class led popular struggles. All sorts of theories like 'there is no alternative' to imperialist globalisation are propagated. Countering them, our response is 'socialism is the alternative'.

We, the communist and workers' parties coming from all parts of the globe and representing the interests of the working class and all other toiling sections of society (the vast majority of global population) underlining the irreplaceable role of the communist parties call upon the people to join us in strengthening the struggles to declare that socialism is the only real alternative for the future of humankind and that the future is ours.

22 November 2009

Good Show in Nepal

That was a good show

Hisila Yami, Central Committee member of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), E-Kantipur, Kathmandu, Nepal, 16 November 2009

Hisila Yami

NOV 16 - What started as a focus on protests against military supremacy has silently led to a focus on support for civilian supremacy. The retirement of Rookmangud Katawal, the ex-military chief and the main person who triggered the present crisis, has de facto diverted the attention of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to support civil supremacy. This means the Maoist party has now shifted its attention to House supremacy whereby the unconstitutional move of the president overruling the then prime minister’s order should be tabled for discussion at the CA. However, this shift has not brought any consensus between the Maoists and the governing old mainstream parties.

At present, both hands of the Maoists are filled with agendas. The right hand represents civil supremacy, making a People ’s Republic constitution, adhering to the peace agreement, safeguarding nationhood and making a national coalition government. The left hand represents upholding class, ethnic, regional, gender and Dalit issues. In contrast, the governing old mainstream parties have no agenda except to stay in power by hook or crook. They are shamelessly alleging that the Maoists are using civil supremacy as a ploy to capture state power. They forget that the Maoists had resigned from government, not once but thrice, of their own volition on moral grounds.

Among all the above agendas, civil supremacy stands tall as it is on this footing that the rest of the issues can flourish, advance and become institutionalised leading to democracy, peace and stability in the country. To make this point heard, the United National People’s Movement (UNPM), a united front of the UCPN (Maoist), declared a package of protests spanning 13 days. It started with a warm-up consisting of torch rallies (mashal) throughout the country on Nov. 1. This was followed by a gherao [human blockade] of the offices of 58 municipalities and nearly 4,000 village development committees across the country on Nov. 2. Then came a gherao of the district administration offices in all the 75 districts on Nov. 4 and 5. This was followed by a blockade of the capital valley, Kathmandu, at six entry points on Nov. 10. The climax of the series of protests was the encirclement of Singha Durbar, the secretariat of the Government of Nepal, at eight points for two days on Nov. 12 and 13. Thus for 13 days, the protests paralysed the whole functioning of the present government!

The success of this demo lies in the fact that it mobilised all sections of society. Cine artists came forward to show their solidarity by singing, dancing and airing their views, painters came to portray the current mood on canvas and poets came to recite befitting poems to charge the mood of the people. Cultural groups belonging to the Newar, Magar, Tamang, Kumal, Dalit and other communities performed their dances and songs giving a true festive mood to the whole movement. The highlight of the whole street movement was the presence of senior leaders including Prachanda, chairperson of the UCPN (Maoist) and Baburam Bhattarai, vice chairperson of the CPN (Maoist) and UNPM president, who were on the streets from dawn to dusk cheering and controlling the people and cadres.

The speeches focusing on civilian supremacy could not but have influenced the civil police as they are very aware of the effect that democratisation of the military has had on their own relationship with it. The speakers tried to harness their support by reminding them of their class, ethnic, regional and gender fraternity. No wonder there were very few skirmishes with the police except in a few places which were brought under control immediately. The beauty of the movement was that by chanting for enforcement of civilian supremacy, democracy and peace, it embodied the strength of civilians, the strength of street protests, the strength of a legal struggle, the power of the collective people, the power of a disciplined mass, the power of peaceful protest!

Another hallmark of the present movement was that it tried to prevent causing inconvenience to the people as much as possible. On the other hand, the movement tried to harass and embarrass the government as much as possible. The ministers’ last-minute, face-saving attempt to enter Singha Durbar at dawn exposed them further as it seemed that they were underground and illegal while the movement was legal and overground. If the parties who are in government had any sense of dignity, responsibility or maturity, they should have resigned by now.

The international observers, conflict management experts and political analysts studying conflict in South Asia must have noted the big difference between the people’s movement in Nepal and in the rest of South Asia. Nearly 100 people have been killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan during this period while many more have been injured and maimed. More than that, the Maoists are a political force who are not only working for restructuring the state but also struggling for inclusive and proportional representation of all oppressed nationalities, classes, regions and Dalits in the entire state functioning.

In contrast, the movements in Pakistan and Afghanistan are limited to securing their culture and religion against the influence of imperialist forces without giving much heed to reforming the politico-economic structure. And while UN agencies are facing tough resistance to their technical role in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the people in Nepal welcome them for their broader outlook to bring peace and stability.

It is important to note that the Maoists do what they say; and should they make a mistake, they apologise and try to rectify it. During wartime, they were damn serious about the war; and during peacetime, they are damn serious about the peace process. During the war, they upheld ideological supremacy over military supremacy; and now during peacetime, they are upholding civilian supremacy over military supremacy.

The problem of the Nepali Congress is that it is not upholding its own agendas such as civilian supremacy, rule of law, legislative supremacy, constitutional supremacy, commitment to the peace agreement and respect for the voters’ verdict. And the problem with the UML is that it is following the way of the Nepali Congress. What makes the Nepali Congress pathetically defensive is that they are contradicting their own stand. They recently passed collective leadership in place of a strong president in their own party. It is strange that they are advocating presidential supremacy over prime ministerial supremacy in a prime ministerial system which they themselves chose!

So the problem lies not with the Maoists but with the Nepali Congress and its stooge the UML who have not been able to play their historical roles as demanded by the occasion. Therefore, they are to be blamed if a third and more intense movement is launched after Nov. 20, the deadline given to the government to reach a national consensus to solve the present crisis. International stakeholders, particularly India and China, should too do their part of the homework to bring democracy, stability and peace in Nepal.

From: http://www.ekantipur.com/2009/11/16/Oped/That-was-a-good-show/302950/

VC message


The Communist University recently completed its planned cycle of eight “Generic Courses”. These are “off-the-peg” sets of reading and discussion materials designed for use in study circles without a lecturer, after the manner of Paulo Freire.

The CU has since then been off the air intermittently, mainly because of repeated and extended difficulties with the vital CU Telkom ADSL connection, now fixed.

The “Generic Courses” are presently being re-worked for better use of HTML, among other reasons. The eight that have been published should be sufficient for regular purposes. No new “Generic Courses” are planned to be blogged any time soon.

One possible future (ten-part) course could be on Marx’s “Capital”, Volumes 2 & 3. These works are being referred to with increasing frequency by leadership, e.g. concerning the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (“TRPF”).

The other main possible future “Generic Course” would be on Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right” and “Logic”, supplemented by Marx’s writing on the former, and Lenin’s writing on the latter, plus Lenin’s “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”; also in ten parts.

These two projects would put us in a powerful position. We are not likely to be intellectually challenged on any higher level than this. The two new “Generic Courses” could be realised within six months or so.

That being so, what should then be the content of the CU over the next few months, i.e. while the two new courses are being prepared?

One thing that the CU used to do was to pick up and re-circulate certain news stories, press-releases and documents. We used to archive them and link several each day. There is still a need for such a service, or a similar service, also within the Freirean principle, because these texts are intended to be such as can be used as the basis for study-circle discussion, alongside the classics.

I therefore propose to use the CU blog (and the e-mail circulation that it generates) to publish a mixture of media reports and other documents. This time around they will be published one by one, directly to the blog (i.e. the blog will be the archive), and generally without comment or “gloss” in the first place. They will not be regular, but will be maintained, if possible, at the same rate as recently, which is to say at a minimum average of one per working weekday. There may be occasional “editorials”.

These blogs will be relayed, as a rule, to the YCLSA Discussion Forum and to the DEBATE Forum, and to specialist solidarity groups as appropriate, where more discussion can happen. If more people would do likewise, the work would become less arduous for all.

Stories we would expect to be prominent in the coming weeks and months are Western Sahara and Nepal; the SACP Special National Congress; the January 8th Statement of the ANC; the NHI; and the battle for union rights within the armed services, and in general for the “special bodies of armed men” to be loyal to the people’s movement, and not to the bourgeoisie in South Africa, just as in Nepal.

The picture is of Prachanda.

11 November 2009

New tools for Marxists

Ron Press passed away on 28 October 2009. This article was found, during a Google search, at http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/10/013.html. The article has the potential to help us with many of our current problems, e.g. with parastatals.
Ron Press’s autobiography is at http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?doc=books/press1.html.
New tools for Marxists
By Ron E. Press, 3 December 1994
Editor's note: This manuscript, reprinted here with permission, was received December 3, 1994. It was first published in Forum for Marxism, Science, and Philosophy (c/o Mike Taylor 92 Bowyer Drive Slough SL1 5EQ United Kingdom). I am placing the document here because it applies its conceptual tools to the situation in South Africa.
Political Science
The intertwining of science and society has been a subject of study of many great minds.(1) Marxism was however the first generalized attempt in the light of the scientific revolution of the 18th century, to look at the whole of human experiences as a unified system of thinking, without the invocation of an all knowing extra terrestrial being. Within its parameters were placed the physical sciences, mathematics, the social sciences, economics, politics, etc. and the acceptance that the result would always be imperfect and incomplete. (2) Lenin in Materialism and Emperio-criticism laid the foundation of this integration of science and politics. Science has undergone a revolution since that time but few Marxists have tried to re-posit Lenin's great work into the modern era. I believe modern science has a contribution to make to our understanding of present day socioeconomic forces.
Unfortunately as with all previous summations of human experience, the sum was codified and turned into a rigid dogma. Marxism specifically contained within itself its incompleteness and changeability. But in vain, the mighty while claiming to be practitioners of Marxism patently failed to acknowledge their inability to accept change. One reason was that the sciences which were and are the powerhouse of rational thinking, had not yet developed the tools to deal with the problems of uncertainty, complexity and chaos.
Mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, were still rigorously tied to the concepts of the study of carefully separated and isolated systems. If there was a problem the first thing to do was to study it in isolation. It was further regarded as a major success if the problem could be described in terms of numbers and mathematical formulas. While agreeing that the reintegration of the segment into the whole was essential it was generally considered to be too difficult or complex. For example Chinese medicine which specifically considers the whole person, was and still is ignored or down graded (added to that it is practised by foreigners).
Because there were no scientific tools with which to grasp complexity socialists and humanists did the best they could. If there was no exceptional leader or Guru they set up a committee. If one was in power one had a much more powerful central committee and because that was too large and complex there was a smaller politburo or cabinet. I submit that we are still on the same treadmill and it is no longer good enough. We need to grasp the new developments in the study of complexity, chaos theory, and non-linear mathematics. We must not set up more and bigger committees. Central government structures must be subservient to and act at the behest of the organizations of the people and no longer try to know it all and control.
It is time to stand back and with the latest tools developed by humankind to take a new look at forms of organisation.
New Tools
Information and Computation
Complex systems involve the storage and movement of vast quantities of information. Computers in the last decade have advanced so that they can store and access information with speed and sophistication. This ability is merely an extension of the library at Alexandria. Computers do this in essence by the extremely rapid manipulation of numbers. Thus the trajectory of a space vehicle under the influence of multi-body gravitational forces intractable with standard mathematics becomes quite amenable to numerical methods especially with the help of computers.
Complex questions such as predicting the weather have been possible in theory for decades. However the calculations take so long by ordinary numerical methods that the answers were but predictions of history past. With computers it is now possible to perform these tasks timeous and with increasing, but incomplete, accuracy. The resultant predictions depend critically on the initial parameters, the so called butterfly effect. Meteorologists are on a never ending merry-go-round in their search for more accurate predictions. (3, 4)
Economists are in an even more difficult position. The old Soviet Union organised industrial production by trying to regulate supply and demand with the use of statistics. As the economy grew so the data grew and computers were brought in to assist. (5) History has shown this command economy was too complex to be subject to centralised control. This of course is likewise the case in the so called market economies where computer models have proved to have a very limited predictive success. (6)
Are economies like the weather actually incomputable? There is a considerable part of the economy which is unknown to the statisticians, the so called “black” economy, thus the initial parameters are in their nature inaccurate. Further economies are subject to the ability of people to learn as well as to their whims and emotions. The GATT talks are yet another illustration of unrestrained futility. There is no chance that the worlds economy or even the trade side of it can be understood or directed by any committee let alone one set up in such an unrepresentative manner.
Politics has likewise proved to be like the weather: not only unpredictable but small insignificant actions often cause major storms and changes. There are numerous examples which can be presented but I will confine myself mostly to some from South Africa of which I have personal experience. What was the spark that set off the tidal wave of strikes in the early 1970's? Who heard the initial whisper that grew into the shout that brought the children out onto the streets in 1976?(7) The government, the African National Congress and the Communist Party had led the general public to believe that the “Communists” and “Agitators” were the instigators of the revolution. We thought it meant that the political movement was the spark, the initiator of the actions and storms of the people against apartheid. History should, I submit, teach us that very often it is the action of the butterfly wing that is the initiator of the political storm. Politicians, if anything, can supply the leadership, in theory and practice, that makes that storm a force for progress and not for destruction. Any shop-steward will tell you that although organised workers may strike for higher wages and better conditions when asked to do so by the union, many bitter and successful strikes have been sparked by the flimsiest of reasons. The release of Nelson Mandela is another example of an act which has had far reaching consequences many of which, such as the terrible increase in politically motivated violence, were quite unforeseen.
The real qualitative difference computers have made is the extra dimension given to the mathematician over and above their ability to manipulate data. The computer has given us a tool with which to investigate complexity. These are systems that are intractable without the use of computers. There are so many multiple choices that it would appear that there is no possibility of a non chaotic outcome. I refer to games theory, emergence and the insights these give into evolution, genetics, and similar problems. (8)
Marxists must recognise that change is not controllable or directable but emerges from the complexity of society. It is up to the politicians, the Marxists, to interpret and understand these changes. We are not the directors but the detectors of change.
Information theory
Modern information theory has given rise to ideas such as information bandwidth and entropy, i.e. how much information can be carried by a transmission line, how reliable or incorruptible the system is, how quickly is the information transmitted. In socio-political terms materials and people must be included in the discussion of such exchanges. (9)
These advances in theory and even more importantly in practice are vital for the understanding of present day politics and socio-economics. Ideas like “can a revolution succeed in one country” were more viable in 1917 than today. “Not in my back yard” was a reasonable request a few years ago but not now when we live in each others back yards. The global village or global economy are directly related to the modern facility for the transmission of information and materials. In the mathematics of politics the separation of variables becomes more and more non-viable, the poor cannot be considered separate from the rich. Solutions to problems based on a narrow set of factors prove to be relatively valueless. The present history of South Africa is particularly interesting because it is a country where the three worlds coexist in the same geographical area, and mimics all the worlds’ major problems. (10)
Censorship, restricted access to the media, banning of political parties, trade restrictions, the hoarding of grain stocks, etc. are examples of a narrowing of the information or exchange bandwidth. The use of disinformation organisations and agencies, bans on immigration and unfair trade practices (GATT), are examples on the deliberate corruption of transmission. There is the added danger of a secret network being developed which distorts and eventually even subverts the main system. (Computer viruses, Secret services etc.) (11)
The release of Nelson Mandela together with the un-banning of the numerous organisations of the people dramatically increased the information bandwidth of politics in South Africa with dramatic results.
Chaos Theory and The structure of Complexity
Many systems have been found to be organised into fundamentally similar structures. The universe consists of relatively dense centres of matter, galaxies, which exchange energy/matter in the form of radiation, between them. Stars, of which galaxies are composed, exchange radiation and matter between them. The same pattern is seen with for example living matter. Genes hold the species coding which by the exchange of information carried by messenger proteins allows the reproduction of new genes. Cells are enclosed systems which are alive and stable and constantly exchange materials with their environment. The animal's organs consist of networks of cells just as the animal itself is a set of interacting organs.
Groups of people form clubs or associations. Interacting groups of people make up communities. Communities form countries. The interaction between them is in the form of the exchange of information and goods.
A computer program similarly consists of a set of numbers which constitute the instruction set (i.e. the node) and the electronic system which carries the information in the form of numbers from node to node. But more of this later.
The motif in all these cases can be expressed as a structure of nodes and exchanges. The nodes are stable though not static. The channels of exchange connect the nodes in complex sometimes ever changing patterns.
Additions to the structural picture
Arising out of the theories of the structure and origins of the universe, is the suggestion that a very large percentage of the mass of the universe is as yet unaccounted for. (12)
The weakest force, gravity, is in the end one of the most influential and important of all.
The biochemical processes which define and constitute the life of the human body make up but a small proportion of the mass of the body which is mainly water.
In fact large percentages of any system at the first cursory glance take a back seat in its operation. But on closer examination are non the less very important.
Like wise the “Silent Majority” in the end have a major influence on the operations of society. The CPSU disregarded their own silent majority with disastrous consequences.
Nodal distributions
Nodes are seldom distributed uniformly and this indicates that certain groups of nodes carry extra weight. In galaxies there is usually a definable centre around which the stars revolve. Similarly our sun is the most important body in the solar system. Neurons are distributed throughout the body but those concentrated in the brain pay a major part in the operation of the organism. The CPU is the heart of the personal computer although there is much electronics besides. So in society there are many organisations but central government structures are a major player.
Sequential changes
Quite complex systems such as the shape of a fern or the flocking of birds, have been shown to derive from very simple initial parameters. This has been shown to be very similar to the reasons for the popularity of a pop song, or in some cases the collapse of a political party. It is consistent with the effect experienced when slight deviations from generally accepted norms go uncorrected, for example the “deviations” of a Mao or a Stalin. The progression of Gatsha Buthelezi from being a supporter of the ANC to being one of its main opponents is a case in point. (13)
There is however another form of emergence which arises spontaneously from an initial system which has a seemingly infinite set of possible outcomes. The primordial soup from which an infinite number of possible chemical compounds and biological systems could arise gave birth to the limited set of organisms alive on our planet today.
If we regard successive changes in terms of some sort of progress then perhaps we believe in a benevolent God. Or perhaps we believe in evolution where successive changes adapt a species to better cope with its environment.
Perhaps the past is handed on to the future with our genes.
The concept of successive change or emergence is tied up with entropy, the arrow of time, and the self organisation of complex systems.(14, 15,16)
Stasis Chaos and self organisation
Picture a dam across the Vaal river in South Africa. The water is in constant motion, water comes in and water goes out but the system is clearly recognizable as a dam.
A small leak develops in the dam wall. This will lead to catastrophic failure and devastation. The system will later settle down to a new stable equilibrium.
This picture is extremely common in the workings of nature. Ice is a stable structure with each water molecule in a “fixed” space. Stasis or order dominates. Melt the ice and there is fluid water. It cannot stand on its own feet, so to say, its molecules are in chaotic disorder and all stability is gone. Very interesting structures arise however when a liquid/solid is held just at the melting point.
Consider Yugoslavia. All was stability and order. There were clearly undercurrents and movements of the economy and the socio- political system, but it was recognizably Yugoslavia. How different the picture is now. Chaos high arbiter sits making chaos worse confounded. There are clearly Nodes, the various Serbian, Croat and Moslem armed gangs, communities, presidents etc. There are also exchanges but these are on a very narrow information bandwidth consisting mainly of mortar bombs and bullets, this has severely restricted the possibilities of new structures arising to solve the crisis.
The socio-economic system of the world was in relative stable order prior to the first world war. The war created chaos and disorder especially in the then Empire of the Tzar. Out of this chaos, out of the interface between the stability of Capitalism and the Chaos of famine and war came the first socialist system. In particular the Soviet form of organisation as recognised by Lenin came into being. The `Soviet' system was not invented or created by the communists but emerged from the system itself at a time when the system itself bordered on chaos.
The interface between stasis and chaos is the birth place of the new.
Crisis is the birth place of opportunity. Stability and order is the precursor of chaos.
Computer Simulations
There have been a number of computer simulations of complex systems. They have demonstrated a number of phenomena which mirror various aspects of political life. The instruction set (which is set up to be self modifying) can be considered to be the node and the running of the program is the exchanges being set in motion.
A number of remarkable things were observed in various simulations for example. In one example numbers were sorted by a short instruction set. The original instruction set reproduced itself. A new instruction set evolved which could sort the numbers much more efficiently. This grew rapidly in number. A completely different instruction set then appeared. This grew at the expense of the number sorting set, it was in fact a parasite. The number of the sorting instruction set decreased but the combination of the parasite set and the sorting set proved to be even more efficient at sorting numbers.
In another simulation the instruction set grew rapidly in number. Then it suddenly collapsed to be replaced with a chaotic period of apparently unproductive activity. This was replaced by an sudden blossoming of an even more vigorous species. In looking back into the computer's activity during this time it was found that the seeds of the vigorous species could be found within the developments during the period of chaos.
These and other simulations showed patterns remarkably similar to those found in evolution, economic activity, and the organisation of society. They are recognisably “Marxist” concepts.
Theory and struggle
For example the standard Marxist idea that society passes in a linear manner from primitive communism via class struggle to the ultimate victory when the working class replaces capitalism with a classless society is an unattainable myth. Especially when a classless society was taken to mean the establishment of order and stability, in fact stasis. The theories outlined above indicate that stasis means the inevitable sudden crossover into chaos and collapse. Progress (more satisfactorily the direction of times arrow) is much more like the weather, summer follows winter but there are summery days in winter and wintry days in summer and sometimes the rains fail to come at all.
Strange attractor
Consider a simple two dimensional system (i) where point (a) represents a mode of production based on a free for all with the devil take the hindmost and (b) represents a mode of production where the welfare of all its citizens is its major consideration. In classical terms (a) is represented by the private ownership of the means of production and (b) by their social ownership. The ball will roll to point (a) and then on to point (b). This is an extreme simplification of classical Marxist thinking. It is consistent with the simplistic terminology of 'capitalism' and 'socialism'. (I will use the term socialist in its broadest definition, 'The general advancement of the whole population - not individual enrichment'.)
Consider the more complex three dimensional system (ii). A ball released at point (c) will roll down to the depression (a) but may well not stay there but perform a complex set of manoeuvres before it ends up circling point (b). this sort of picture is more in line with the perspectives of modern mathematics and strange attractors. As an aside, the pattern of path of the attractor is repetitive but never exactly so. This encapsulates the phrase that 'history repeats itself'.
The life of society can perhaps be considered to be a multi-dimensional system where (a) represents “Capitalism” and (b) represents “Socialism.” The dimensions could be perhaps, housing, health, jobs, leisure, and so on. Then society could be expected to move from (a) to (b). The precise definition of either points would be impossible, and society would never be found at either point but would pass from the vicinity of (a) to the vicinity of (b). The terms Capitalism and Socialism become more meaningful and much broader. They do however represent two different types of society, they are distinctly different species. Lenin in State and Revolution continued the work of Engels and Marx in outlining the parameters which form the basis for the definition of systems indicated by points (a) and (b). It is interesting that they did not define the form or structure which socialism will have. Lenin recognised these new structure when they emerged. He initiated the slogan “all power to the soviets”.
There can be little quarrel with the pattern of society passing from primitive communism through slavery.... to capitalism and thence to some better system. Times' (17) arrow is inherent in our understanding of the universe. The idea of the motion of such a complex system such as society being described in terms of strange attractors rather than simple mechanical motion is inviting. As also is the description of society in terms of a multi- dimensional space where an exact definition is accepted to be impossible and where any definition contains multiple facets, private property, the market, co-operatives, ....and so on. Modern capitalism itself contains aspects of slavery, socialism, co-operation and antagonisms etc.
This is the pattern indicated by history and exemplified by the computer models.
But humankind is not a mindless computer. We can think and by understanding the laws of nature can help avoid disasters and create a better life for all.
The organisational form of society must be such that it does not become a straightjacket. We must accept a form of organisation which operates at the edge of order and chaos. Only in this way will we avoid the violent destructive swings of, peace and calm (in essence stagnation) on the one hand, and armed violent chaos on the other.
Some Suggestions
Dictatorships take it upon themselves to organise society for the good of the dictatorship. They impose stasis. “Socialism” under the guidance of the CPSU imposed stasis for the good of the people. In the beginnings of building socialism in the Soviet Union the Party acted as the exchange system between the nodes (for example the Soviets the trade unions etc.). It however became not an instrument for exchanges but for bureaucratic control. Without free exchange the system relapsed into stasis. With modern methods of communication and transport a future governmental structure must encourage, not stifle, free exchanges between the nodes of the new society. The central government whilst remaining the major concentration of nodes must still be but part of the system.
The greater the bandwidth and the greater the speed of communication between nodes of society the greater the possibilities of necessary changes being accommodated and stasis being avoided. The human brain is the bodies most sensitive organ designed to react to and counter danger and instigate action when appropriate. It is however in the nature of the total organisation that the brain cannot control or dictate to the various neural systems in the rest of the body. Mind is very limited in it's power over matter.
Modern capitalism controls the organisational forms of society so that capital will profit but it has learnt to allow a certain degree of anarchy, which in essence acts as a stabiliser.
Socialism by definition is there for the benefit of the people. It is a species different from capitalism. What benefits the people must however be determined by the people and not subsumed by the leadership of political parties even if they are elected. The Congress of the People in South Africa in 1955 was one example of how to do this. If point (a) above is the Apartheid system then the Freedom Charter 18 was an attempt to defined for South Africa the parameters of point (b). Socialism must make this summation of the desires of the people a natural result of the form of organisation of the state.
Since the demise of “Socialism” in the Soviet Union the various Communist, Green, Socialist,... parties and other organisations such as Green Peace, CND, .....are looking for and in serious need of a definition , in the broadest terms of the point (b). The Sao Paulo Forum is a major step in this redefinition. This and other such forums are essential for the world in general since with the tremendous bandwidth of present day communications almost all problems immediately become global problems.
The organisation of socialism must therefore be synonymous with the organisation of the people. A socialist government must encourage and assist any organisation which is based on the principle of sharing and mutual assistance. A proliferation of organizations based on these ideals can only strengthen socialism and democracy.
The organizations of society, trade unions, Co-ops, factories, corporations, political parties, banks......, are the nodes of society, the exchanges are of information, goods, personnel, money, culture....... The State must be the orchestrator the organiser of organizations.
In South Africa the UDF was such an organisation. The lessons of that era must not be lost but revived and implemented once again. The Civics, the Non Racial Sports Congress, the Trade Unions, the various National Forums, ... are correctly being helped and encouraged. The flourishing of these organisational forms was fostered by the broadening of the information bandwidth when the organisations of the people were un-banned in South Africa. Much more must be done especially to free the media and decrease the violence. Both act to prevent and hinder exchanges.
The future state to be democratic must include in its ambit not only organizations which are friendly to socialism, but any organisation which represents a significant sector of society. The CODESA system is clearly a pattern to be followed. It tries to embrace all opinions which can be persuaded by “sufficient consensus” to remain in the process of bringing peace and democracy toSouth Africa. I submit however that the new South Africa that we hope will result from the process must not end up with a government which then ditches the process by which it has been able to come to power. The suggestion of a Government of National Unity extends the lifetime of the “sufficient consensus” process. I submit it must be enlarged and extended to embrace all organizations.
I see no impossibility for education to be run by a “CODESA” of those in the education sector. Or for health to be structured in a similar manner. Various Forums, economic, housing, education, are already in place or being constituted. The demand is already there. The regime barely goes so far as to accept these structures as advisory bodies. We must constitute them as policy making bodies. They are the nodes of society the socialist/democratic state must facilitate the exchangesbetween them and itself. It should be constituted as a central node composed of representatives from and answerable to these nodes of society.
The Reconstruction Pact being discussed by COSATU, the ANC, SACP, SANCO etc., including those of the employers, and others, is an example of this new organisational structure evolving in South Africa. The focus of the pact could be considered to in our previous terminology the point (b), a society designed to benefit the majority.(19, 20) South Africa is at present hovering somewhere between point (a) and (b).
To some it might be construed as encouraging anarchy, or the advocacy of permanent revolution. But if there is a lesson to be drawn from the study of complexity it is that a complex system given a very “simple” goal (in our case the well being of humankind) develops its own best methods of operation and organisation. Solutions emerge from the system itself. Imposition of solutions by committees or wise men (I use the term advisedly) are incapable of any but makeshift temporary periods of stability followed by periods of violent chaos.
On the tentative steps taken by the people of South Africa nationwide a new system of organizing the state is possible. A system is being forged, capable of addressing change in a relatively ordered manner. By understanding that we must live on the edge between stability and anarchy we can perhaps make evolution of society less cruel and destructive than the evolution of species.
Time's arrow in South Africa is in practice acting as an example to others for the resolution of their conflicts. Is it also offering more profound lessons in the progress of humankind to a better more caring future.
In the Soviet Union the “Soviet” i.e. committee system was destroyed by restricting the bandwidth of communication, and making one node all powerful. Once again the chaos interface in South Africa is setting an example for a possible solution to the problem of democratic organisation of a society. One lives in hope although the pressure for “Strong Central Government” increases. The statement by Nelson Mandela at the special congress of COSATU is however encouraging. “ I fully believe the ANC will never betray the cause of democracy, the cause of the workers. ...But your defence is not just the ANC, it is you, the workers yourselves. It is you who must take the defence of your rights, your aspirations in your own hands.....” Behind this thinking is, I believe the structural and organisational system indicated by modern scientific research which I have attempted to outline above. ( 21)
Bibliographic notes
(1) Bernal J. D., (1954), Science in History, Watts.
(2) Various, (1971), Development of revolutionary theory by the CPSU, Progress publishersMoscow; 57, 63.
(3) Gleick. J., (1988), Chaos: making of a new science, Heinemann.
(4) Waldrop M. M., (1992), Complexity, Viking.
(5) Anchishkin A. I., (1972), Soviet Planning: Principles and Techniques, Progress PublishersMoscow.
(6) Ruelle D., (1991), Chance and Chaos, Princeton Univ.
(7) Brooks & Brickhill, (1980), Whirlwind before the storm, International Defence and Aid Fund.
(8) Lewin R., (1993), Complexity, Dent
(9) Various, (1968), Philosophical Problems of Elementary-Particle Physics, Progress PublishersMoscow ; 438,448.
(10) Theoharis A. G. & Cox J. S., (1988), The Boss, Temple Univ. Press Philadelphia.
(11) Molapo B., (1988), “Theory and Practice; S. A. and the Colonial Question,” African Communist, Nos. 113 & 114.
(12) Chown M., (1993), Afterglow of Creation, Arrow ; 152.
(13) Mzala, (1988), Gatsha Buthelezi, Zed Books.
(14) Penrose R., (1989), The Emperor's New Mind, Vintage.
(15) Haldane J. B. S., (1929), Rationalists Annual.
(16) Oparin A. I., (1938), The Origin of Life, New York (first appeared in 1924 in the Soviet Union).
(17) Coveney,The Arrow of Time; Highfield; W. H .Allen.
(18) Various, (1977), ANC Speaks, Documents Published by the African National Congress.
(19) Central Committee, (1993), The African Communist, A reconstruction Pact, 25
(20) Papers & Resolutions, COSATU Congress 10-12 Sept 1993, the Path to Reconstruction.
(21) “Will the ANC sell-out the workers?,” The African Communist, third quarter 1993. See also, “Making people-driven development work," The African Communist, second quarter, 1994.