Let us tell the truth; Blade Nzimande.
Electrifying Speech delivered by Dr. Blade Nzimande, secretary general of the SACP at the Central Committee meeting of Cosatu on 20 May 2017:
The SACP wishes to take this opportunity to wish this 6th Central Committee of Cosatu successful deliberations.
Our message today to this gathering is divided into five parts:
• Current and immediate challenges facing our revolution.
• Progress, achievements and weaknesses since 2009.
• The centrality of driving a second, more radical phase of our transition.
• Necessity to solidify the relationship between the SACP and Cosatu and the necessity to reconfigure our Alliance.
• Some of the tasks facing the SACP 14th Congress.
Current and immediate challenges facing our revolution
Cde President and delegates, it would be disingenuous or untruthful for the SACP not to admit upfront that our revolution and the liberation movement as a whole are facing enormous threats and challenges at the present moment. Failure to overcome this may actually lead to a serious reversal if not defeat of all we have achieved, especially since the 1994 democratic breakthrough. It is for this reason that we must take to heart, what Cde Oliver Tambo – in this year of his centenary – said on 2 May 1984 at the Solomon Mahlangu College in Tanzania: “Let’s tell the truth to ourselves even if the truth coincides with what the enemy is saying. Let us tell the truth”.
It is important to remind ourselves of these pearls of wisdom from those who came before us also in order to expose those who always accuse us of working with the enemy whenever we tell the truth about the weaknesses in our movement. Their aim is to silence us. Let us refuse to be blackmailed into silence so that we can save our revolution.
Whilst monopoly capital remains our strategic enemy, but the most immediate threat facing our revolution are the parasitic networks encircling the state and our economy, at centre of which is the Gupta family working with some of the most senior comrades in our movement and the state.
Sometimes our detractors say, but why is the SACP fighting these parasitic networks but not monopoly capital? But this is a lie! Since our formation in 1921 our primary struggle has been against both national oppression and its economic foundations based on especially mining capital. Since 2000 we have waged a heroic struggle for the transformation and diversification of the financial sector, including the banks.
We have sometimes been accused why the pre-occupation with the Gupta family. This is another lie! When the Kebbles tried to capture some of our comrades in the ANC Youth League, we stood firm as the SACP. Till today we say no to Kebbleism, Guptarisation or any other form of capture of our movement or the state. Even here, working with COSATU we have said no to business unionism – the capture of progressive trade unions by business interests. We also want this Central Committee to stand up with us and say no to corporate capture of our organisations, our movement and the state!
The fifth democratic administration, and particularly since December 2015, has seen the dramatic destabilisation of the pre-existing, but always unstable, post-Polokwane relative co-relation of forces within the ANC and government. Essentially this has been the result of a more determined, more reckless, but relatively well co-ordinated, and well-resourced drive by a networked parasitic-patronage faction connected to the narrow BEE tendency and actively supported from the highest echelons of the ANC and state.
Since 2014 we have seen a greater boldness and recklessness from this networked tendency, associated with:
• Accelerated rent-seeking activities based on state capture;
• Increasing signs of a parallel shadow state and parallel movement;
• Creeping authoritarianism and ambitions for a more presidential system; and
• An attempt at developing a pseudo-radical, populist ideological platform to cover for these activities.
• Accelerated rent-seeking based on state capture
This networked parasitic patronage faction is held together by the plundering of public resources, rent-seeking activities that have focused considerably on parasitic relations with state owned enterprises – not to privatise these entities, but to milk them and direct their billions of rands of procurement into private corporate and even individual pockets. Some of the current parasitism is directed at building war-chests to subvert the ANC’s December 2017 national conference.
In the late 1990s, together with COSATU, we fought a relatively successful battle to stop attempts at privatisation of many state owned companies. However, this victory is now being stolen by the parasitic elements who want to use state owned enterprises not to drive a developmental, job-creating agenda, but to capture the tenders and procurement books of these entities. This must be a lesson that we must always guard our victories closely so that they continue to serve the workers and poor of our country.
In order to advance this agenda, but also to deal defensively with the growing exposure and popular outcry against it, there has been brazen abuse of the presidential deployment prerogative into sensitive institutions (SARS, SSA), and particularly into institutions involved in criminal investigation and prosecution – the NPA, Hawks.
However, while these deployments have delayed, or buried critical investigations and prosecutions, the calibre of those deployed and the resulting inner factional turmoil (for instance in State Security Agency or SARS) has further deepened the crisis. With obvious presidential support, a parallel state has developed – SARS, the Hawks, the NPA are unleashed against Treasury; a rogue unit in the State Security Agency is launched as a factional arm within the ANC and ANC-led movement.
On the policy front, shadowy presidential and ministerial advisers from outside of the state and even the movement are brought in and act parallel to constitutional structures in the university crisis, on the SASSA matter, on nuclear policy, etc.
Linked to all of the above are growing inclinations to authoritarianism and presidentialism. Nostalgia for military-style, top-down command and control is openly expressed. It is important that we remind ourselves that states that are captured, especially when there is resistance to that, quickly degenerate into securocrat, if not authoritarian states.
If opposition to Mbeki at the 2007 Polokwane Conference was centred on the struggle against over-centralisation within the Presidency, we are clearly now in a much worse situation. Imperialist conspiracies, regime change threats are invoked in order to justify this dangerous drift. Assassinations of ANC and alliance cadres often go unsolved, and an emerging pattern of intimidation is apparent (most recently the theft at the Constitutional Court offices; and threatening behaviour at the former Social Development Director General’s private residence, etc).
There is an attempt to emulate a Putin style, authoritarian, low-intensity democracy, with meetings reported between this faction and their counterparts in Russia.
However, both the sometimes amateurish calibre of state/ANC elements involved in these activities, as well as the broader socio-political-constitutional setting in South Africa (a stronger independent media, growing judicial confidence in holding the line, a powerful monopoly capitalist sector, and still relatively strong trade unions) often result in the early exposure of these activities, which does not make them any less sinister. What it does underline is that South Africa’s “civil society” has a much greater depth and resilience, whether from the capitalist or popular sectors, than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe or Putin’s Russia.
All these developments underline the importance and absolute necessity for the labour movement to stand up to defend our gains and our revolution. If workers become spectators we really run the danger of descending into a mafia state.
In the face of growing public exposure of the misdeeds of the parasitic networks within or movement and the state, there have been a number of ideological interventions from this parasitic-patronage faction.
On the one hand, these have involved setting up (or attempting to suborn existing) ideological apparatuses – the SABC under Hlaudi; The New Age (whose “business model”, like most Gupta-operations, consists in funding through parasitism on state owned enteprises, the SABC, and endless advertorials from the some factions in the ANC); and the recent Bell-Pottinger operation, using social media with “fake bloggers” and “Twitter bots”, linked to pop-up “think tanks”, like Andile Mngxitama’s “Black First, Land First”, and Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi’s “Decolonisation Foundation”, etc.
Generally, the stance of the parasitic-patronage network has been a populist anti-intellectualism (“clever blacks” are disparaged.) For the first time in many decades, the ANC no longer has a journal of ideological discussion and debate.
However, over the past several months there has been an attempt to craft a more coherent ideological platform, evoking black and particularly narrow African nationalist themes and the notion of “radical economic transformation” (in the process narrowing the until recently forgotten Mangaung resolution calling for a “radical second phase of the NDR”). This move seems in large part to have been motivated by the hugely negative impact on the parasitic-patronage network of the growing revelations of their subordination to and complicity with the Gupta-family. The Gupta connection clearly has zero positive resonance either with the mass base, or even with the many local aspirant rentier factions who resent the favouritism bestowed upon (or extracted by?) the Guptas. (See Jimmy Manyi’s forced resignation from an official position within the Black Business Council because of his too close association with the Guptas.)
Ironically, given its attempt to cast itself in radical Africanist terms, much of the content and narrative for this ideological platform appears to have been developed by the UK-based PR firm, Bell-Pottinger, working on behalf of the Guptas. This Guptas’ propaganda machinery has sought to portray the multiple revelations of wrong-doing on their part, and the belated closing of their banking accounts, as a conspiracy directed against them by “white monopoly capital” working in tandem with Treasury. (Of course, since this did not square with the narrative, there was silence from these quarters when in February 2017 the Chinese Central Bank also shut down the accounts of a Gupta-related company, VR Laser Asia involved in a dodgy deal with Denel.)
The latest emails revealed publicly for the first time yesterday, if aunthentic, expose the extent and depth of these parasitic patronage networks, and action needs to be taken to go to the depth of this. They in fact underline the importance and urgency of a judicial commission of enquiry, that the SACP was the first organisation to call for, to be set up as a matter of urgency.
Over the past several months this parasitic-patronage faction has sought to re-calibrate its public positioning somewhat. While the Gupta family (and the networks left behind by its erstwhile Bell-Pottinger PR agency) clearly lurk in the background in many cases, there has been an attempt to downplay links in this direction and adopt a more radical sounding, Africanist posture. However, “radical”, in these quarters, is largely rhetorical and is almost entirely focused on advancing narrow black elite accumulation.
The danger posed by these parasitic networks require bold and militant worker organisation led by COSATU, but working with other progressive worker organisations and federations, as well as with the rest of working class communities. Parasites are not an answer to monopoly capital, just as black monopoly capital is not an answer to white monopoly capital. It is important that at this stage we remind ourselves of what the Morogoro Strategy and Tactics said in 1969 on this matter in particular:
“We do not underestimate the complexities which will face a people’s government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting the economic needs of the mass of the oppressed people. But one thing is certain – in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections of individuals be they White or Black”.
Progress, achievements and obstacles since 2009.
The inauguration of the first Zuma administration in 2009, after the significant Polokwane outcomes at the ANC Conference, happened in the wake of two important realities. Firstly, it was inaugurated immediately after the onset of the 2008 global financial meltdown occasioned by the financial crashes in the United States, thus throwing the global economy into a serious downturn. This happened after just over a decade of the implementation of our own (i.e. government imposed) neo-liberal package, GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution), which both the SACP and COSATU had vigorously opposed.
Despite the serious obstacles just outlined the first Zuma administration did make some qualitative advances in changing the lives of our people for the better between 2009 and 2014.
After 1994 there were consistent efforts from within the ANC and ANC-led movement to counter the the “1996 class project” as the SACP dubbed it. These efforts came to a head in the “Polokwane” conjuncture of 2007/8. One of the organising perspectives of the upheaval that occurred at this point was the assertion that the “ANC (or the Alliance, in another version) is the strategic political centre” – and, not, therefore the state-presidency as Mbeki’s technicist approach had sought to locate it.
At face value, and for many, this assertion of the strategic primacy of the ANC-led movement represented an attempt to reassert the democratic and mass-based, movement character of the ANC and its alliance.
However, in practice the Polokwane moment involved a marriage of convenience (or, perhaps, an unholy alliance) of the broad left, anti-neoliberal bloc with demagogic forces for whom the assertion of the ANC as the strategic political centre was a move to displace incumbents in the state with their own, in order to advance an even more aggressive parasitic, rent-seeking agenda. These latter forces identified patronage-based mobilisation within the ANC as the soft underbelly from which to capture strategic positions within the state to advance their parasitic agenda.
In the first Zuma administration (2009-14) there was a relative balance of forces between the divergent agendas that had come together in a marriage of convenience at Polokwane. In some sectors (health with a major shift on AIDS, trade and industrial policy, state-led infrastructure spend, recalibrating competition policy as a means to leverage economic transformation, a greater emphasis on vocational training, etc.) space was opened up for progressive advances, including developing a better working relationship between the state and social movements (the social movement campaign for anti-retroviral treatment being the most obvious case).
There were also other important advances in the significant increases in social grants, increased numbers involved in public employment programmes, increase in RDP houses. But at the same time there was not enough resources invested for instance into the industrial policy action plans. In essence these measures never translated into radical transformation and change in the semi-colonial nature of our economy.
Furthermore, in terms of sustaining and re-building the ANC-led movement’s capacity to mobilise the key motive forces, these and other positives in state deployment, coincided with the weakening of COSATU, partly as a result of the global economic downturn and resultant retrenchments. There was also a loss of momentum on the SACP side in terms of active working class and popular mobilisation (a failure to sustain a very successful financial sector campaign for instance). Deployment advances in some sectors as just noted, however, were always (and surely deliberately) held in check by other deployments in the 2009/14 administration.
Internal political weaknesses in the ANC are particularly glaring. Factionalism and state capture have unfortunately created an internal stalemate in leadership, with an ANC NEC incapable of leading itself and the rest of the Alliance out of this quagmire. Internal stalemates are particularly dangerous in political organisations as their resolution often lead to massive internal destabilisation and often decay.
Ours is a struggle for a socialist South Africa. Whatever we do must always be guided by our overall strategic goal, that the working class must never lose sight of. It is only a highly mobilised and militant working class, with the SACP playing its vanguard role, that is best placed to lead the struggle for socialism.
After a prolonged revolutionary struggle, the 1994 democratic breakthrough in South Africa finally abolished the institutions of white minority rule with their origins in centuries of colonial domination. This radical rupture laid the basis for a democratic dispensation within a progressive, non-racial constitutional order.
Since 1994, the SACP has been actively campaigning for a new push, a second radical phase of the struggle to advance and deepen the national democratic revolution (NDR), on the basis of the bridgehead of the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
We have consistently argued that without urgently opening up this new front of struggle, without an uninterrupted second radical advance, the gains of the first phase would be threatened; the liberation credentials of the ANC-led movement could be increasingly eroded as memory of the anti-apartheid struggle receded; popular power might be dissipated into passive expectation of state delivery, or individualistic consumerism, or, at best, fragmented into thousands of localised and sectoral protest actions. Any undue pause, we have further argued, would allow South African monopoly capital, historically sheltered behind colonial and white minority rule, to re-group. All of these likely tendencies, we said, would leave the structural legacy of apartheid colonialism and the socio-economic crises affecting the majority of South Africans largely intact.
In 2017 it is obvious that these concerns have been substantially correct.
More concerning still, faced with these challenges, the ANC, the leading formation in our liberation struggle over the past decades, a political movement that has enjoyed overwhelming electoral support since 1994, is, itself, now in serious and possibly irreversible decline.
This was the context in which the SACP contributed to and welcomed the ANC’s 2012 National Conference resolution for “a second radical phase of the NDR”. Unfortunately, having taken this important resolution, there was little appetite or interest at first from within much of the ANC itself to provide any substantial content to, let alone active organisation and mobilisation for a second radical phase.
Over the past year, however, there has been a sudden but largely opportunistic resurrection of the idea of “radical economic transformation”. Unfortunately, this belated evocation of radical transformation has typically been associated with the most reactionary, private rent-seeking elements within our movement. They have appropriated this slogan demagogically as a distraction from the increasing exposure of their own parasitic looting of public resources. This looting is carried forward by way of well-organised networks of patronage, coordinated through a strong strategic presidential centre that straddles both the constitutional state and a parallel shadow state.
From a wide range of progressive comrades within the ANC and alliance, from stalwarts and veterans of our movement and armed struggle, even from those democratic forces historically opposed to, or suspicious of the SACP, there has been a growing recognition of the role the SACP has played, working closely with all democratic forces, inside the movement, inside the state and in broader society, in exposing and in fighting both state capture and liberation movement capture. More than ever, the SACP has a critical, vanguard role to play in providing real content to the imperative of a second radical phase of the NDR – not just in theory, but above all in mass-based practice.
What are the critical organisational tasks in this context? How should the ANC-alliance be reconfigured to respond to these challenges? Is reconfiguration even possible or desirable? In taking forward this role, if the SACP is to be credible and serious about dealing decisively with the cancer consuming our movement, we need also to examine self-critically what lessons we can learn from the recent past. What role might we have played unintentionally in creating the crisis?
The SACP says it is important that we give serious radical content to radical economic transformation. There are at least two pre-conditions to this. The first is to locate it within the broader strategic goal of driving a second more radical phase of our national democratic revolution. The second is that a precondition to any radical economic transformation must be the defeat of the parasitic networks like the Guptas. There can be no radical transformation whilst the parasites continue to exist and hold our state and economy at ransom.
The pre-condition to drive a second more radical phase of our transition as our direct route to socialism requires two organisational developments in the short to medium term. In the first instance this requires the solidifying of the relationship between the SACP and COSATU as the socialist axis of the national democratic revolution and our Alliance.
Strengthening our relations must not be turned into a boardroom exercise, but must be based on joint programmes of action.
The SACP and Cosatu have held a series of bilateral meetings since Cosatu’s last national congress. We agreed, among others, on taking forward a common programme, joint work and campaigns, including:
• Decisive implementation of the national health insurance, ensuring, at the same time, that is not hijacked by private or corrupt interests, or watered down: The national health insurance must deliver universal health coverage and quality healthcare particularly to the workers and poor.
• The second financial sector summit, convened by the National Economic and Labour Council (Nedlac) to review progress since the first summit held over a decade ago and to discuss new measures towards a new financial architecture.
• The national jobs summit, convened by Nedlac to discuss effective job creation policies and turn the tide against the persisting crisis level unemployment rate. This must be preceded by a joint SACP-Cosatu national jobs summit preparations prior to the Nedlac convened jobs summit.
• Review of the National Development Plan (NDP) in line with our alliance summit declaration of 1 September 2013: The SACP and Cosatu did not agree to the economic and labour policy content of the NDP. There can be no second radical phase of our democratic transition including real radical economic transformation under the auspices of the NDP, particularly economic and labour policy content in its current form.
• A comprehensive social security for the workers and poor.
• Combat corruption and corporate capture both within the ranks of our movement and the state, and push for insourcing of outsourced, out-contracted or privatised public services or assets. This must for instance include a campaign for all road maintenance and construction to be insourced back to municipalities and for those workers to be permanently employed.
On behalf of the SACP I am appealing to this Central Committee to discuss practical implement measures.
The main objective of our struggle is to complete the national democratic revolution, end exploitation by capitalist stakeholders and build socialism. This is the common thread connecting all the campaigns and joint work we agreed to undertake. It is the basis of our relations and must find its profound expression in our immediate tasks and in our perspectives.
Cde President and delegates we cannot overemphasise the importance of defending our state-owned enterprises. Cosatu and its affiliates in particular organise in the public sector, including state-owned entities. It is important to leverage this structural location to fight corruption, misgovernance, corporate capture and other forms of looting these institutions. SAA, Denel, Transnet, Prasa, SABC, Petro-SA, Telkom, Post Office and Post Bank, Eskom, etc. must not be looted and bankrupted right under the nose of progressive trade unions.
Let us together wage a relentless struggle to defend the basic wealth of our nation and public resources. We need state-owned enterprises at all spheres of government to advance national transformation imperatives as opposed to enriching a few individuals or families.
For instance the irregular and potentially corrupt reappointment by Eskom of its former CEO, Brian Molefe, is something that must not be allowed to happen. This was preceded by an attempt to give him a R30-million golden handshake under the guise of a pension payout.
Our role as SACP and Cosatu will also be strengthened by a thorough reconfiguration of our Alliance. The modus operandi of the Alliance since 1994 has exhausted itself. It cannot be that we all contest elections and we leave all key deployment decisions to the ANC only, and sometimes to individuals. This is not about individuals and positions but about the exercise of state power. The Alliance can no longer function in this fashion, this must come to an end.
We are holding our 14th Congress in this important year of the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917. We will be using this Congress to further discuss all the matters we just raised and more, including the important question of the political tasks and choices facing the SACP currently and in the coming period, as the question of whether the SACP should not consider contesting elections in its own right.
The factionalist battles inside the ANC are exerting a lot of pressure on the SACP in particular. The highest point of this pressure was in the lead up to the local government elections in many localities especially eThekwini in KZN. The SACP was under pressure to register to participate in the elections in its own right.
Since then there is increasing pressure both from inside and outside our ranks for the SACP to consider itself as a new home or to be in alliance with those cadres who feel alienated from the ANC but still see themselves as part of our movement.
There are a growing number of communists and non-communists who feel that the ANC in particular is losing its political and moral authority amongst some of its members and voters.
There is near consensus inside of the SACP that the current modalities in the functioning of the Alliance since 1994 have now exhausted themselves. There is a strong feeling that contesting elections together as allies, but leaving key decisions in the hands of the ANC alone is no longer acceptable. In fact deepening factionalism and the corruption of internal organisational processes have further bedevilled Alliance relations.
These are real pressures that we cannot and should not ignore. But at the same time we need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions, both of a strategic and tactical nature, including the following:
Can the SACP take as fundamental a decision to participate in elections in our own right purely based on reaction to the pressures we have just outlined? Rather is the fundamental question that we need to answer not the one on how will SACP electoral participation advance the struggle for radical economic transformation within the broader context of the struggle for socialism?
Can we be able to change the situation inside the ANC and the Alliance without a fundamental reconfiguration of the ANC/Alliance? Related to this is the fact that reconfiguration of the Alliance is not a boardroom exercise, but a function of struggles on the ground and shifting the balance of forces. Or even further, can we reconfigure the Alliance inside or outside it?
Has the ANC fatally lost its capacity to unite and lead the motive forces of the national democratic revolution? If so how and why? And do we think the ANC can no longer be saved from itself?
How does the SACP, on its own relate to non-communist but progressive forces, in the ANC and broader society, whilst avoiding some of the mistakes we may have committed since 1994, but especially since around the Polokwane conference?
Whatever resolutions we take at our 14th Congress we will come back and engage Cosatu in particular and the Alliance in general.