The aftermath of the 14th National Congress of the South African Communist Party (SACP).
‘The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties. They have no interest separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.’ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1847)
With the recent 14th National Congress of the South African Communist Party (SACP) it is vital to first define the state of the working class in order to understand the national balance of forces. This is important for the following reasons; the Strategy and Tactics of the African National Congress (ANC) remain unchanged on the fact that the South African working class, especially African people are the primary motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and the ultimate orchestration of the socialist society. The working class, therefore, serves as the frame of reference of our revolution, this means that, during the process to analyse the strength, progress and shortcomings of our revolution we need to look at the state of the working class and the poor, this also means that the mirror of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in the progressive trade union federation; Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and other progressive working class formations.
The South African working class can be stratified along racial lines, skilled and unskilled labour and masculinity through gender stereotypes. The democratic dispensation is still faced with the challenge of finding mechanisms to increase the low percentages of African people in the management of the so-called skilled jobs such as; manufacturing, retail, mining and the financial sector. African people still occupy the primary levels of the economic sector, while the poor are still highly dependent on social grants. The inequality rate between the working class, the captains of industry and the capitalist class is widened by the fact that the workers remain exploited, alienated and their remuneration remains hundred times less than the profits made.
In the process of super exploitation and alienation African women remain marginalized and victimized, the tendency of capitalist societies manifest in patriarchal means and this is the reason that many casual workers are African women from disadvantaged backgrounds. For many scholars, the notion of the “feminisation of poverty and capitalist exploitation” remains a great challenge, because capitalism will always triumph through the rise of patriarchal systems.
Within the South African working class there is an emergence of a small, opportunistic, compradorial and parasitic bourgeoisie. Some portions of this group are a direct product of corruption and state capture, while some of its portions are largely dependent on special loans made by established monopoly capital networks. The wealth of the parasitic bourgeoisie is dependent on its ability to maintain its relationship with the broader capitalist class, corruption, through exploitation and alienation of the working class and the poor.
It is no secret that the working class is fragmented by the neo-liberal onslaught, which seeks to strive through dividing the primary motive forces, this manifests through many working class formations in the recent years. The sad part about the formations is that some of them are a direct product of the trade union federation, COSATU. This is evident with the recently formed workers Federation; South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). The Party as the vanguard of the working class has a role not only to build and maintain the hegemony of the working class, but also to unite them. The Party cannot build a relevant and strong working class hegemony in isolation from broader working class formations, Antoni Gramsci makes it clear that the process to build a hegemon, requires the need to build institutions that can maintain and promote the ideas of the hegemon.
Vladimir Lenin in “What needs to be done?” states that, “the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory” The main aim of the SACP is to end the system of capitalist exploitation. Vanguard cadres recognise that this is a gigantic task and that a revolution never moves in a straight line or a smooth surface and that one thing is fundamental. Work to achieve the ultimate decisive transition through a complete revolution must simultaneously take place with work to achieve the immediate aims and enforce the momentary interests of the working class and therefore revolutionary reforms are a necessity; Vanguard cadres are revolutionaries by profession, they live and work for the revolution, they never cease at any moment to advocate and propagate for a revolution at every opportunity, and they are the most advanced and resolution in exposing the class basis of the problems and challenges facing the working class and the poor; maximum unity of the workers and the working class is priority number one, without it the prospects of the revolution will be dealt a blow, and revolutionary discipline based the principle of democratic centralism is fundamental to unity and cohesion, it is, therefore, a prerequisite to vanguard cadres.
The other important task ahead of communists is to build a socialist state, this means that the Party must engage the economic policies and the vision of the ANC. This is important because, the Strategy and Tactics of the ANC as engaged in the National Policy Conference of the ANC, states that “A national democratic society will have a mixed economy, with state, co-operative and other forms of social ownership, and private capital. The balance between social and private ownership of investment resources will be determined on the balance of evidence in relation to national development needs and the concrete tasks of the NDR at any point in time.” (Strategy and Tactics of the ANC, 2017). This alone shows that the ANC is willing to maintain private capital and promote policy framework that has objectives to maintain the capitalist market utility at the expense of the working class and the poor.
The engagement between the Party and the ANC carries many historical value, which cannot be abandon even in hard times, for instance 89 years ago the Sixth Congress of Communist International held in 1928 in Moscow resolved on the following, “pay particular attention to the embryonic national organizations among the (African majority), such as the African National Congress. The Party, while retaining its full independence (we repeat: “while retaining its full independence”), should participate in these organizations, should seek to broaden and extend their activity. Our aim should be to transform the African National Congress into a fighting nationalist revolutionary organization against the white bourgeoisie and the British imperialists, based upon the trade unions, peasant organizations, etc., developing systematically the leadership of the workers and the Communist Party in this organization (we repeat: “developing systematically the leadership of the workers and the Communist Party in this organization”) …The development of a national-revolutionary movement of the toilers of South Africa…constitutes one of the major tasks of the Communist Party of South Africa.”
In 2017 it is important that both the Party and ANC leaders remember that the relationship of the two giant movements is dialectical and plays a significant role in our revolution. If the ANC is weak, then it means that the Party is also weak!
Bhekithemba Mbatha is the Regional Secretary of SASCO Johannesburg, he writes in his personal Capacity.