Forwarded from Dale McKinley

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Aug 15 08:04:29 MDT 2000

Dear Comrade Louis,

My apologies for not being in communication. I thought that you (and other
comrades on lists etc.) would be interested to know that I have just been
expelled from the SACP.  For your perusal, I have attached the text of the
charges (which read like something out of 1930s Moscow!) as well as my
rather lengthy response to the charges (both as Word files). Below, I have
included my 'Summary Remarks' in response to the charges - I think it speaks
for itself. Please feel free to distribute widely - the implications and
consequences of all of this (while directed at me) go far beyond my person
to the heart of the expressive freedoms and the character of socialist
struggle and organisation.

In struggle,


It is with a profound sense of disappointment and justifiable anger that I
find myself faced with the formal charges as stated above. I have been a
member (in good standing) of the SACP since 1993 and have, at various times
during the last several years held the positions of Branch Political
Education Officer, Branch Chairperson, District Chairperson and PEC member.
I can state confidently that throughout this period, I have, in the words of
the SACP Constitution (Clause 5.4) acted "in a manner which will bring
credit to the SACP and to be a standard bearer of the highest communist
ethic and morality".

According to the "Guiding Principles" as contained in the SACP Constitution,
the SACP (and by implication every member) "will work to end the system of
capitalist exploitation in South Africa and to establish a socialist society
based on the common ownership of, participation in, and control by the
producers of the key means of production" (Clause 4.1). Furthermore, the
SACP will work "to organise, educate and lead the working class in the
struggle for socialism. (and) for working class hegemony over society, in
particular the ownership and control of the economy and the achievement of
one united state of people's power" (Clause 4.2). Alongside other
components, it is these 'guiding principles' of the SACP that have informed
my own understanding of what it means to be a dedicated and disciplined SACP
member, and has informed the practical activities that I have undertaken
since joining the organisation.

As the 9th and 10th Congresses of the SACP have affirmed, one of the key
tasks of all SACP cadres, whatever their position and/or standing in the
organisation, is to engage in the above-mentioned struggles. The membership
of this organisation has, on several occasions throughout the 1990s, given a
clear and unambiguous mandate to all SACP cadres and leaders (as captured in
the 10th Congress Political Programme) - to lead the struggle for socialism
and working class power with ideological conviction, political honesty and
organisational activism. It is this mandate that gives concrete expression
to the constitutionally enshrined principles of the SACP and it is this
mandate that binds every member of our Party. In relation to the serious
charges that have been brought against me, it is my conviction that I have
not, in both manner and content, violated the constitutional and
organisational mandate of the SACP.

Furthermore, it is my contention that these charges represent a misplaced
and dangerous attempt to discourage and/or silence legitimate socialist
debate and critique, whether as applied within the SACP or in the public
domain. It is extremely difficult to comprehend why such charges are being
brought against myself (but which have implications and effects far beyond
my person) for merely expressing, in the socialist tradition of robust and
polemical debate, political arguments and economic perspectives that are
consistent with being a revolutionary communist. I have every right, as
affirmed by the Constitution of South Africa (as well as the SACP
Constitution and Programme), to voice my personal opinions as part of
engaging in the very free speech that we communists fought so long and hard
to gain (and now need to protect). The SACP, better than most other
organisations, should appreciate the absolute need to affirm and defend
these rights. As the SACP General Secretary has recently stated: "The
history of the international communist movement in the 20th century, with
all its achievements and heroism, is also littered with salutary lessons.
Where fraternal parties (and one must include the SACP here) have suppressed
debate - stagnation, bureaucratism and failure have been the inevitable
results". The SACP leadership must think long and hard before embarking on
what now appears to be a reversion to such suppression of debate and free
speech - it is a slippery slope whose 'lessons' are there for all to see.

It is very worrying that the 'charge sheet' itself, reads more like a series
of pre-determined indictments. The tone and content thereof, clearly reveals
that SACP leadership has already passed both political and organisational
judgement. This calls into serious question, the fairness of any subsequent
disciplinary process based upon such indictments. At a time when the forces
of the working class are faced with the most concerted and expansive attack
from the political and economic representatives of capitalism, it is simply
incomprehensible why the SACP leadership would launch a crudely crafted
attack on an SACP member and leader for offering open and honest critical
contributions that seek to take forward and strengthen working class

This is even more so, when, at the same time, there are innumerable and
incontestable examples of leading SACP members who have engaged (and
continue to do so) in activities and/or public interventions that are in
direct contradiction to the SACP's own political programme and principles.
Likewise, there are equally incontestable examples of SACP leaders that have
engaged in what can only be called opportunist and liquidationist activities
that have seen once vibrant Party structures reduced to organisational
shells, once dynamic organic intellectuals and organisers replaced with
procedural quiescence and political cliquism (I will deal more specifically
with these 'examples' in my response below). The SACP leadership would do
well to revisit the meaning of democratic centralism as captured in our 10th
Congress Political Programme - ".while debate and participation by rank and
file members (is) encouraged, once programmatic decisions (have) been taken,
disciplined adherence (is) required".  This is precisely what I have
followed. My critical public contributions have attempted to uphold and
apply the political principles and programmatic mandate of the SACP, not the
perspectives of individual leaders or their interpretations thereof.

It would now appear however, that the growing gap between the 'Aims' and
'Guiding Principles' as contained in the SACP Constitution (or of the SACP's
Political Programme as adopted by the 10th Congress) and the
activities/interventions mentioned above are of little or no concern to the
SACP leadership themselves. If this were the case, then surely disciplinary
charges would have, by now, been brought against those concerned. Instead,
the first disciplinary hearing convened by the SACP Politburo in quite some
time is now directed against someone who has taken the SACP's political
programme and organisational principles seriously enough to engage in the
necessary polemics and intellectual endeavours of class struggle.

As all SACP members are aware, the last several years of the South African
transition have seen a whole range of new challenges and conditions
confronting both the working class and the main political organisation
claiming to represent the aspirations and interests of that working class,
the SACP. The SACP's strategic and tactical approach of the anti-apartheid
years has undergone profound reassessment, not only because of the demise of
the apartheid system itself but also due to the substantive political,
economic and social changes that have taken place in the post-apartheid era.

Many of the challenges that have confronted the SACP have stemmed directly
from the fact that its Alliance partner, the ANC, has gradually but
systematically embraced a deracialised capitalism. The fact that this has
been a focal point of much debate and opposition both within and outside the
Alliance, does not take away from its reality. Indeed, it is precisely the
associated political and economic trajectory of the ANC (both within and
outside government) that has given rise to what SACP 10th Congress documents
correctly identified as an intensified class struggle within the Alliance
and South Africa more generally. A critical engagement with the political
and policy choices of the ANC-led government, and thus with the parallel
consequences for an Alliance that claims leadership by, and for, the working
class is essential communist work. When such work raises difficult questions
centred around the character, meaning and need for the present Alliance,
this should not be viewed as a violation of SACP policy but rather as part
of a necessary, and continual, assessment and critique of the political,
economic and social balance of class forces.

In this regard, it is instructive to revisit the words of the great African
and internationalist revolutionary, Thomas Sankara, who paid the ultimate
price for his unwavering, principled struggle for working class revolution:

"The revolution in Africa faces this great danger: every time, it is
initiated by the petty bourgeoisie. At the beginning of the revolution the
big bourgeoisie is attacked. That's easy.they are the very wealthy, the big
capitalists.But after a few years it is necessary to take on the petty
bourgeoisie. And when the petty bourgeoisie is attacked, we attack the very
leadership of the revolution.Every revolution comes to a crossroards where
it must choose: to go after the petty bourgeoisie and be able to keep the
revolution radical - which causes you many difficulties; or to coddle the
petty bourgeoisie - and you have no difficulties. But then you also no
longer have a revolution. You have a pseudo-revolution. This is why we say
that the petty bourgeoisie is constantly torn between two interests. It has
two books. On the one hand Karl Marx's Capital, on the other a chequebook.
It wavers: Che Guevara or Onassis? They have to choose."

It is this reality, alongside the concomitant political and organisational
principles underlying the very basis for the SACP's existence, that has made
it both strategically and tactically necessary for SACP members to actively
and vigorously struggle for a anti-capitalist, and explicitly socialist,
counter-hegemony. By necessity, this means that communists must confront the
contemporary strategic and political issues of working class revolution.
Whether this is applied to practical, organisational work or in the realm of
intellectual, theoretical contribution, the aim remains the same - to build
the strength and capacity of working class forces to "establish a socialist
society based on the common ownership of, participation in, and control by
the producers of the key means of production" (SACP Constitution - Clause
4.1). Indeed, it is these challenges that lie at the heart of being a
communist and it is by confronting them head-on, without political
rationalisation and/or organisational apology, that communists find meaning
for, and in, revolutionary struggle.

My specific response to the charges levelled against me show that my
activities and contribution as an SACP member and leader are consistent with
the struggles that provide the basis for the SACP's raison d'etre.
Likewise, my response shows that there is simply no objective or subjective
basis for coming to the conclusion that my public, written contributions to
this struggle constitute a violation of Clauses 5.1 and 5.4 of the SACP
Constitution. I have also made it clear that the bases for the accusations
levelled are, in equal measure, misplaced and lacking in truth. If the
national leadership of the SACP is really interested in seeking
"transgressions" and "indiscipline" amongst the ranks of the organisation,
then they have chosen the wrong target. There is ample evidence of the
consistent violation of SACP policies and programmes by many SACP leaders
who have been elected to defend, and struggle for, the socialist principles
and practice contained therein. It can be no coincidence that a blind eye
has been turned to such unacceptable and disreputable organisational and
political 'behaviour' whilst serious disciplinary charges are brought
against myself for trying to do the very things that any good communist
would do.

More than anything else, the political and organisational approach that
informs the content and character of these charges will, if taken to their
logical conclusion, eventually destroy the SACP. The national leadership of
the SACP must decide now, whether an SACP made-up of an organisationally
cowed, ideologically confused and politically unprincipled membership is
what they want to nurture and lead. If this is what the SACP becomes, then,
just like so many other communist parties, it too will gradually slip into
political and practical oblivion. There are few principles more important
than struggling to defend and extend than the basic human right to freedom
of expression. Being a member of the SACP does not translate into giving up
this right, in the name of a misplaced and erroneous application of
'organisational discipline'.

It is no mistake that the main watchwords of all active and dedicated
revolutionaries in the contemporary period have been that if we do not learn
the lessons of history, we are condemned to repeat them. The tragic
consequences of the bureaucratic and politically opportunistic stifling of
open and honest critique and debate within communist parties throughout the
20th century are there for all of us to see and learn from. There are too
many strategic and theoretical challenges to confront, too many working
class struggles to wage and too many opportunities for mass-based,
anti-capitalist mobilisation to grasp for organised revolutionaries to
repeat the devastating mistakes of the past.

As that wonderful revolutionary saying goes - "class consciousness is
knowing what side of the fence you're on, class analysis is figuring out who
is there with you". The SACP has to have both.

Louis Proyect

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