South African Students Congress

SASCO Message of Support to YCLSA 4th National Congress

10 December 2014

Receive Revolutionary Greetings from the student movement.

From the onset we would like to say, that SASCO values its alliance with the Young Communist League. We do so because our relationship is an organic one that was conceived in struggle and not in boardroom tables. Together we have fought against colonialism, Apartheid and capitalism. We share a history of being banned, our leaders arrested, killed and abducted. We share a history of working underground, in exile and in the camps of Umkhonto WeSizwe.

When the Young Communist League was launched just over a decade ago, it was SASCO cadres who were at the helm of its re-launch. Even today if you look at the leadership of various structures of the YCL, many are current members and leaders of SASCO and others are our convocants. Therefore our alliance is not about a feel good attitude of leaders, but it's rooted in struggle.

We are proud to be producing leaders for the Young Communist League, if anything SASCO prides itself of being a home for communist cadres. Before we even decided to use Marxism-Leninism as a tool of analysis and guide to action, in fact from inception, SASCO has been a left student formation biased to the working class. To illustrate this, at our launching Congress in 1991, we declared working class leadership as a principle.

Our predecessor organizations were also influenced by communist cadres, including NUSAS, which has been viewed as a white liberal formation. In fact cadres such as Bram Fischer were activist of NUSAS and later became senior leaders of the Party. This trend continues today it is our revolutionary responsibility to ensure that out of SASCO, communist cadres are produced, not only for the YCL, but the Party as well.

Since its re-launch the YCL has supported SASCO, it is also true that our relations have not always been smooth, characterized by non-antagonistic contradictions at times. This has never led to either of our organizations decided therefore to stop engaging the other, or simply walkout from this alliance. We have always understood that what unites us is the program of the National Democratic Revolution and indeed our collective struggle for socialism.

We must inform you officially in this National Congress that at our last Congress we resolved to declare or selves as Marxist Leninist, who are committed to the struggle for socialism as led by the vanguard of the working class, the South African Communist Party. This all the more reason why our alliance is more relevant today than it was at any point in history. The theme of our congress is “Intensifying Youth Mobilization for Socialism.” We as students are an important component of the youth stratum. And therefore as you embark on mobilizing youth behind socialism, SASCO remains a critical partner and ally.

The YCLSA and its cadreship within SASCO should identify SASCO as a vehicle of mobilization for socialism. You should assist SASCO in its ideological work to ensure that its program is reflective of its resolve on socialism. A declaration of Marxism-Leninism is meaningless if the student movement does not live up to its true meaning and implications. We expect the YCLSA to assist us in understand the decision that we have taken.

Karl Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte in 1852 said; “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.”

Indeed the question arises, what are the conditions we find ourselves in, and therefore what is it that we must create as this generation that will be inherited by future generations. Of course we have declared as this generation that we want economic freedom, we have also declared that we want socialism in our lifetime. However what are the prevailing conditions?

We are confident that this Congress will answer these questions and make a detailed analysis of the balance of forces and come out with a clear program that the youth movement for socialism should implement. In brief though we wish to share some thoughts from the student movement.

As SASCO we believe that the world remains unipolar, characterized by a global capitalist from which remains failing to resolve the crisis of society. We believe that capitalism has failed the world but remains dominant world over. The conditions of the working class world over have worsened since the global capitalist crisis, and yet the bourgeoisie has emerged with minor scratches if scratched at all. Capitalism has displaced its crisis on the working class and poor world over.

Lenin states that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism; indeed we have seen the aggressive hand of imperialism not only in Africa but also in other parts of the world, using military force to maintain its control or access to resources and minerals of the people. It is no accident that capital has become even more aggressive, it is as a result of its desire, at all cost, to exploit the working class in order to derive surplus profit and survive.

The working class movement globally has struggled to advance a united onslaught against capitalism. We argue that the capitalist crisis presence an opportunity for progressive forces to wage counter hegemonic struggles and unite the working class globally.

South Africa has now 20 years of democratic rule, where we govern the land of our people and enjoy their support and trust. The South Africa of today is clearly distinguishable from that of pre-1994. This we say boldly not oblivious to the fact that we have a long road ahead of us to achieve the South Africa envisaged by the generation that crafted our Freedom Charter.

Your National Council correctly asserted; “In our country, millions of young people are unemployed, and suffer from class inequalities, exploitation and poverty. This reflects a toxic interaction between the endemic crises of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism and the persisting legacy of colonial and apartheid capitalism despite progress achieved since the 1994 democratic breakthrough.”

You have correctly declared the importance of deepening the democratic revolution in order to transform the persistent colonial and apartheid structure of our economy. This should mean amongst others the intensification of state participation in the economy, regulation of exchange controls, re-industrialization of the economy, skills development, and regulation of finance capital, including the nationalization of the Reserve Bank. We expect this Congress to define the major tenants of what we conceive as the second phase of radical socio-economic transformation. We know that the Party has led the debate.

Our revolution continues to be confronted by an onslaught from the liberal bloc led by the DA with its allies from the media and the right wing demagogues of our time. As young communist, we must be at the forefront of the defence of the revolution. It cannot be that we allow reactionary forces to dominate public opinion without contestation. We have a responsibility to contest within the battle of ideas. In as much as we understand that the dominant ideas in society are those of the ruling class, this statement poses a challenge to the progressive forces to heighten their propaganda work in order to propagate working class ideas and perspectives.

Our parliament has been hijacked by a demagogic militia of anarchy, which views it as a platform to remain in the headlines of the anti-majoritarian media. We must declare war against those who want to turn our parliament into a theatre of drama and a moment of fame. These elements derive pleasure from listening to their own sound bites. We must declare our parliament as a people's parliament, which is a true expression of the will of the people. Having said that, we need to call for this institution to deepen its oversight role and to pass laws that are in favour of the people.

Comrades, your 90 year old ally, the South African Students Congress has recently emerged from its National General Council. We wish to take this opportunity to shortly share some of the resolutions that the Council took particularly on our terrain of struggle, which is higher education and trainings.

SASCO premises its analysis from the understanding that education is a contested ideological terrain. And therefore our engagement to transform education includes the transformation it from the shackles of capitalist domination. We therefore resolved;

We remain an organization engaged in the struggle to transform our society general and education sector in particular from all forms of neoliberal attitudes and policies. SASCO structures exist to advance these and other related struggles.

The council reaffirmed the urgent call for the implementation of free quality education. We noted that free education struggle remains our main focus, and various tactics must be used to advance the strategic goal of achieving free education.

The Council adopted two main campaigns for next year on Free Education; the first is what we called, Education Grab. This will be a campaign aimed at mobilizing students to withhold fees after registration. The second campaign will be our Free Education march, only this time we will declare a General Student Protest across the country, in all campuses in demand for Free Education, instead the fruitless marches we have been having to the department of Higher Education.

We have called on the Department of Higher education and Training to develop a transformation charter that all institutions, particularly universities should adopt. We believe that transformation is a non-negotiable in a democratic dispensation. This charter we believe should be a yardstick for transformation in the sector, and failure to implement should warrant action from government.

Council also discussed the new NSFAS piloted system, particularly the e-Bux system which gives vouchers to students to purchase groceries from selected retailers. Our major concern with this system as Marxist students is that it seeks to almost exclusively secure the student market for big established and white retail capital. This in fact reinforces the Apartheid accumulation patterns. We also believe that this works against the agenda of promoting small enterprises and informal traders who trade in our institutions. What concerns us is that the retail sector remains untransformed and continues to super exploit our people and yet our government seeks to put more money in its pockets. We will campaign against this system and we call on YCLSA to join hands with us.

Our NGC also debated extensively the curriculum of our FET/TVET colleges; our departure point was that we want these colleges to be dedicated centres of technical and vocational education. We problematized the current program qualification mix, which is mainly a mirror of what traditional universities offer, albeit at lower standard. This essentially reinforces the idea of universities being ivory tower and colleges being for those who couldn't make it to university. The prioritization of NC(V) programs, which are mainly theoretical, works against our goal of producing technicians and artisans out of colleges. We call for dedicated focus in technical and vocational programs in order to make FET/TVET institutions of first choice for young people.

We also agreed with government that the role of the private sector in absorbing FET/TVET graduates and supporting colleges is important. However we know how capital in our country operates. Capital refuses to work in the interest of the national agenda that is why it is sitting with a trillion rand worth of un-invested profits. We believe that SOEs must be directed to work much more closely with our colleges and that the state should leverage its legislative hand and buying power to force capital to absorb FET/TVET graduates and to invest in the colleges.

Our council resolved to campaign against the NSFAS guidelines for FET/TVET colleges as developed by the Department of Higher Education. It cannot be acceptable that a female student who stays just less than ten kilometres from an FET college should walk daily to campus, not miss classes and be in time for lectures. In fact even a male FET student cannot be expected to survive under such condition. It's also unjustifiable that student living within 40 km radius from campus do not qualify for accommodation. This logic is unscientific and stands tall on its head. What this does in fact is to lead students to drop out and others to miss class and therefore unable to meet the 80% attendance requirements.

The guidelines are not applied consistently and colleges abuse them to reduce funding for needy students. The department is quick to defend the guidelines on the basis of insufficient funding but is failing to monitor implementation. We call on the YCLSA to join us to ensure that FET/TVET students receive treatment that is decent and fair.

In conclusion, we call on the YCLSA to work hard to deepen the hegemony of the Party and to ensure that more and more young people join the struggle for socialism. We call on the YCLSA to mobilize young workers to work towards the unity of COSATU at all costs. As SASCO we remain concerned at the state of the progressive trade union federation. In fact we are concerned about the disunity in the broader left within the movement. The working class cannot afford the palace politics at play, worse the adventurous attempts of forming a new federation, new unions, and a so called movement for socialism.

We believe that all of this is not in the interest of workers or the class, but is a muscle flexing exercise that will result in disastrous implications for the working class. We call for One Country, One federation, One Industry, One Union. We are against decision to break COSATU, including the expulsion of affiliates. We want a unity COSATU, which will put the interest of its members first.

The Party must lead in forging unity of the working class as a whole; this is the revolutionary responsibility of the vanguard of the working class. The Party must lead all of us as left forces as we march towards socialism. Therefore the YCLSA is critical, because it is a preparatory school for Party cadres. The YCLSA must radicalize the thinking of the Party. It must bring new energy to the Party, but must always uphold the discipline of communist and their organizations.

We wish you successful deliberations and congratulate you on the milestones you have reached since your re-launch.

Forward to Socialism

Hasta La Victoria Siempre

Aluta Continua

Amandla