Fwd: [BLACK-LEFT] SACP Speech to COSATU Congress

Workers World / Chicago wwchi at SPAMwwa.com
Sat Aug 21 18:13:45 MDT 1999

-----Original Message-----
From: James M. Blaut <70671.2032 at compuserve.com>

>Russell hasn't yet answered Lou Paulsen's question: What group or tendency
>do you belong to or identify with?

He didn't answer my other question either, which was what the SACP ought to
be doing now instead of what he believes it is doing.  Or, rather, he said
in essence that there was no hope of the SACP doing anything at all since
its leadership is in his view irreversibly tied to the ANC.  But that just
forces a rephrasing of the question, Russell: If the SACP is now hopeless,
what should its angry rank and file do?  Should they form a new party?  And
then what should that party do or agitate for?  And what are you doing
yourself, by the way? :-)

On this general topic, Jay Moore posted an LA Times article taking jabs at
SACP leaders in government for opposing the workers:

>     Chief among them is Geraldine Fraser- Moleketi, minister of public
service and administration, who is also a top official with >the Communist
Party. In the 1980s, she received military training in Angola and the former
Soviet Union. Later, she served as >personal assistant to Communist leaders
Joe Slovo and Chris Hani.
 >    Today, Fraser-Moleketi looks more the union basher than the keeper of
the proletariat. Insisting that the government's >conservative economic
program will not be knocked off course, she has refused demands by public
employees for wage increases >above the inflation rate, about 8%.
>     This week, fed up with drawn-out negotiations, she unilaterally
imposed a 6.3% increase for most workers; those who join next >week's
protest action, she warned, will not be paid for time missed.

Assuming the LA Times hasn't made this up, I confess that I didn't realize
that the public service minister who imposed the 6.3%, which decision was so
denounced by COSATU, was a CP leader.  I agree that this creates a very
difficult situation.  And it forces a re-reading of the section of the SACP
speech about how the government and COSATU have to come together to resolve
the situation.  It's clever play on the part of the bourgeoisie when they
can get a communist minister to take governmental responsibility for holding
down wages of a sector of the population.  Not only do they keep the wages
down, but then they get to write hypocritical articles "exposing" the
communists as betrayers of the workers, not only in South Africa but also in
Los Angeles.  (Since when is the LA Times in favor of public workers getting
paid for strike days in Los Angeles?????)  And I have no idea how the SACP
members in the public services union are going to handle the situation when
their co-workers ask them why their comrade Fraser-Moleketi imposed the

Still, do I feel I know enough about the situation to jump to condemn SACP
even for the 6.3%?  Not really.  To "completely" represent the workers in
the government, the SACP ministries would have to devise a way to increase
the wage, AND to avoid laying anyone off, AND in fact to create jobs for the
ranks of the unemployed, AND on top of that to continue to increase services
to the most drastically deprived sections of the population, who are in the
villages and rural areas, which is crucially important because otherwise one
of the bourgeoisie's strategies will be to mobilize the village against the
urban workers, stir up ethnic secessionist movements, etc.  Unfortunately it
is not possible to do all these things and at the same time respect private
ownership of the means of production, let alone do it within the context of
GEAR.  Therefore, someone in the SACP might well answer, "We can't really
just raise the wage as much as we would like UNTIL we force the government
to turn away from GEAR and more in the direction at least of ditching GEAR,
increasing taxes on the bourgeoisie, and so on."

Of course the easy response to that is "Well, that's the kind of miserable
situation you end up in when you take ministries in a bourgeois government,
even an ANC-led bourgeois government.  It just demonstrates that communists
should never put themselves  in a position where they have to take
responsibility for the attacks on the workers which are 'necessitated' by
the will of the bourgeoisie."  And this is quite true in general.  But I
think a reasonable communist in South Africa might say that South Africa in
1999 is not the general case.  I guess it comes down to the question of what
the class character of the ANC is.  Surely it is not a socialist party.  But
is it merely a 'bourgeois party', and its government a 'bourgeois
government', in the same way that the Democratic Party of Clinton and the
Labor Party of Tony Blair are bourgeois parties and their governments
bourgeois governments?  Or is its character that of a party of the working
class and the poor masses?  Or is it entirely like a single 'party' at all?
In this last election, the ANC was overwhelmingly supported by the workers
and poor, and received little or no support from the big bourgeoisie who
were terrified of its getting a two-thirds majority and of South Africa's
becoming a "one-party state".  (Russell, correct me if I'm wrong here.)  Of
course the question of where the votes come from does not determine class
character.  But what does?  Can we say that the bourgeoisie has created
structures which ensure that the ANC is completely and irretrievably under
their control, as they have with the Democratic Party in the U.S.?  I don't
think so.  I don't think the ANC is under bourgeois control now.  Of course
it is bullied and harassed and infiltrated and threatened into adopting the
policies that the bourgeoisie wants it to take, but the same can be said
with much greater force of the AFL-CIO in the United States, for example.
That doesn't mean the AFL-CIO doesn't have any working-class character.
Furthermore, I think it's questionable whether the ANC is really completely
in control of the state or not, that is, of the police and the army.

Frankly, and speaking personally, the more I think about the situation in
South Africa, the more I think it resembles a very murky kind of dual power
situation, one which is very unusual and which has arisen only because of
the peculiar and unusual historical circumstances, in South Africa and
globally, which brought it into being.  At the risk of sounding crazy, I'm
going to say that it's sort of as if the demand 'All Power to the Soviets'
had for some unusual reason been won in Russia in July of 1917.  The ANC is
sort of like the Congress of Soviets itself (rather than like one of the
parties within it), but it's not (yet?) a Bolshevik Congress of Soviets.
Therefore, important political struggles are going on within it at all
levels, and the situation is completely unstable.  The bourgeoisie wins the
round if it is able either (a) to completely subvert the ANC and convert it
into its tool, or (b) to overthrow the ANC.  The working class wins the
round if it is able to BOTH (a) win over the ANC to the socialist road and
(b) get a monopoly of armed force (state power) either by stealing the
existing army from the bourgeoisie or by creating new formations.

>From the theoretical perspective, how could such a situation possibly come
into existence?  My best attempt at an answer is probably something like
this: under the apartheid governments, bourgeois rule was maintained by (in
addition to the armed forces) a set of ideological and political structures
which were more of a liability than an asset and which could no longer be
sustained.  And the U.S. and European imperialists made a decision not to
attempt to sustain it.  When the Mandela government came into existence, the
bourgeoisie had not yet been able to create the NEW ideological and
political and military structures which were necessary to fortify and
stabilize the bourgeois state on some basis other than naked white
supremacy.  (This is not to say that they are now reconciled to an end of
white supremacy, but NAKED white minority supremacy of the Verwoerd variety
has proven a failure.) On the other hand, the working class had not yet been
able to create the ideological and political and military structures which
they needed to overthrow the bourgeois state and expropriate the
bourgeoisie.  And neither side has been successful to this day.

But the level of strain and instability is clearly intense.  Or at least it
seems that way from here, although I know that Russell disagrees with me and
says that it is all sham and ritual.  If you are conspiracy-minded enough
and willing to label all political statements as 'sham', then you can come
up with any version of 'reality' you please.  One could just as easily argue
that GEAR is a 'sham' meant to lull the imperialists to sleep while Mbeki,
the dedicated Communist, prepares to slaughter the bourgeoisie in their
sleep.  We have people in Chicago who go around saying that Clinton is a
dedicated Communist tool of Yeltsin, also a dedicated Communist, and that
everything since 1991 in Russia is a sham.  Would it were so.

Lou Paulsen
member, Workers World Party, Chicago

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