Opening address by SACP chairperson, Gwede Mantashe

2009-12-10 08:53

Two and a half years ago Communists and the Alliance partner representatives gathered in the Nelson  Mandela Metropalitan  University to do a detailed analysis of the political situation in our country and chart the way forward for the party. At the time there were few challenges that we had to deal with:

  • Within the party structures there was a visible body that argued for the SACP standing for elections independently of the ANC.
  • Alliance relations could be described in simple terms that there was general hostility and a strong drive to break the alliance.
  • As a result Communists and COSATU were pushed to the periphery and their voice almost muzzled.
We then resolved to build a campaigning party. The Medium Term Vision was based on the understanding that communists must be in all centres of power. At the time it was understood that communist set themselves an objective of contesting ideologically wherever they found themselves.

This was a serious task of ensuring that communist earn their place everywhere they are deployed. Our understanding of revolutionary discipline is that Communist must be modest and prudent. They must distinguish themselves as hard working and continuing to struggle.

When contestation emerges pettiness must be left to non-communists who will manufacture some of facts that they use to discredit communists. We must always appreciate that such acts are ideological and are intended to protect class interests of those who own property and wealth, the bourgeois class.

The source of tension is our publicly stated intension, as stated in the appeal in the inaugural congress of the Communist Party in 1921; the call “to all South African workers, organised and unorganised, white and black, to join in promoting the overthrow of the capitalist system, the outlawry of the capitalist class, and the establishment of a commonwealth of workers throughout the world.”

At the time the party pledged to be “the revolutionary vanguard of the labour army of South Africa and fight for the end of futile reformism” ( A/C fourth quarter, 1981 ). These words ring clear in the ears of those who have the sole ambition of personal accumulation and wealth. Those who are driven by greed and are prepared to access wealth in whatever way, will even see corrupt practices as justifiable ways of enhancing BEE.

We must fight corruption in whatever form it manifest itself, appreciate that it has no colour and deal with determination to fight back by those whose interests are threatened by our campaigns. Our theoretical framework has moved on, accepting that the liberation of black majority is critical for the space to build socialism. Our commitment to the National Democratic Revolution remains unwavering, as the shortest route to socialism.

The Communist Party has accepted the leadership of the ANC during the National Democratic Revolution phase of our revolution. We moved away from seeing the ANC as just a bourgeois congress. Communists contributed in shaping the ANC into a revolutionary liberation movement that abandoned its loyalty to the British crown and became anti-imperialist. All the members of the Party are expected to be active members of the ANC. In the ANC structures we must resist all attempts to relegate us into second class members who serve at the mercy of other members.

We must not be apologetic for being communists because we are put under pressure that we get elected to positions in the ANC to serve strong lobbies. There is an expectation that we will be the hardest working cadres of our movement in line with the reputation earned by our predecessors. This will distinguish us as not being entryist in our approach, where we wait in the wings and seize the opportunity to take over the ANC. Those who claim that there is a threat of a communist takeover in the ANC want to project us as being engaged in entryism.

We must never play into their hands by proclaiming our own communist candidates in ANC elective conferences. Communist in the ANC are not communist members of the ANC, they are members of the ANC. When we campaign for them we must do so because they deserve to be elected through their hard work.

Since our last National congress the Alliance relations have improved with the engagement among the partners having been stepped up. There is no hostility despite the attempts to project any disagreement on any issue as division within the alliance. In the May 2008 alliance summit there was agreement that the alliance is the political centre. This has been translated in many ways by our structures. In the majority of cases it was interpreted as meaning that decision making power of the ANC is transferred to the alliance as the political centre.

In the last alliance summit the draft programme that was sent back for redrafting took this thinking another step forward by wanting to operationalise this alliance political centre. This is a tactical mistake that must be thought through carefully if we are not going to push the alliance to the brink. Any notion of liquidating the components of the alliance into a single structure will change the concept of an alliance and replace it with an organisation. An alliance is an association formed for mutual benefit among allies. In our case it is based on the following principles: -

  • It is an alliance of independent partners who have the right to debate issues and take decisions.
  • The alliance partners must seek to influence each other and influenced by the other partners.
  • The historic leadership role of the ANC must be reaffirmed.

In our case resolutions of this congress are not going to be subjected to an alliance review process. We will use them in influencing the other alliance partners. The alliance cannot operate like a structure, hence decisions are taken by consensus. Communist are expected to be leading the efforts of keeping the alliance united and not be seen as reckless in dealing with the ANC in particular. Hurling insults and seeking to attack comrades in person is a sign of political immaturity which is not expected to have space in the SACP.

The much talked about issue in the run-up to this congress has been the deployment of the General Secretary to parliament and ultimately to the cabinet. My views on the question of amending the constitution are known that my preference would have been the adoption of a congress resolution and defer the constitutional amendments to the 13th national congress. That view was defeated in the Central Committee and I can therefore not pursue it. But the challenge facing the party is not a Blade deployment issue.

It is the party being a victim of its own success in implementing the Medium Term Vision of deploying her cadres to all centres of power. We are sitting with a situation where all the National Office Bearers are not full time in the party. The challenge therefore is how to ensure that the party improves its fulltime capacity to do party work. This cannot be a function of the party being absent in government where the highest concentration of political power is.

We must consider restructuring the secretariat by creating full time positions of the Organising and Administration secretaries. This will create the constitutional structure called the secretariat. We must still apply our minds to the reality that the National Office Bearers never meet. To explain it away through difficulties to get them together is not sufficient. These meetings must be scheduled and be reported upon if comrades do not make time for them.

It will make a big difference even we meet once a month. We need the party today more than ever before. Class contradictions within our movement are going to be more intensive as we move ahead. We must strengthen our leadership structures and make the party more effective.

We must confront the reality of racists becoming more confident in society. Organisations like Afri-forum are becoming bolder in fighting for the racist cause. The risk of some of our comrades becoming more extreme in their reaction is real. Both affirmative action and the BEE are under siege and progressive forces are not as forthcoming as they should. This is one area that needs our urgent attention as the movement.

We wish all the delegates successful deliberations that will make this Mid-Term Congress a resounding success.

This mid term congress of the SACP is declared officially opened.

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