Dale McKinley replies to SACP charges

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Aug 15 08:12:42 MDT 2000


RESPONSE BY DALE T. McKINLEY TO:

"CHARGES RELATING TO BRINGING THE SACP INTO DISREPUTE AND PUBLICLY
ATTACKING AND QUESTIONING THE BONA FIDES AND INTEGRITY OF THE SACP AND ITS
LEADERS"

BROUGHT AGAINST ME BY THE NATIONAL LEADERSHIP OF THE SACP

August 2000


SUMMARY REPLY TO CHARGES

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 struggle.

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.

RESPONSE TO CHARGE NO. 1

"Publicly and consistently attacking the ANC, COSATU and the SACP, and the
leadership of these organisations, without seeking to raise these matters
in the structures or through the publications of the SACP or those of our
Allies".

In the initial text of the charge sheet I am accused of the following: "In
a series of article (sic) this year you have consistently attacked our
organisations and their leaders in a manner not befitting or consistent
with a member and official of an SACP structure."

The M&G article

In relation to the first article referred to as the basis for such charges
('The Evolution of the ANC' - Mail & Guardian: 25 Feb - 2 March 2000), I am
further accused of embarking "on what amounts to a diatribe against the ANC
in a manner fundamentally opposed to the SACP's approach to the ANC and its
history."

I am sure that all members of the SACP Central Committee (and thus this
disciplinary committee) are aware that I have written a book entitled 'The
ANC and the Liberation Struggle: A Critical Political Biography'. This
book, which was published in late 1997, subsequently received wide
distribution in South Africa (over 2000 copies have been sold in South
Africa since publication, many of these within the SACP itself). Simply
put, its main argument was that the petty bourgeois politics informing the
strategy and tactics of the ANC leadership had, throughout the ANC's
history, consistently resulted in the undermining of the possibilities of a
genuine and lasting 'transfer of power to the people'. In the months prior
to, and soon after, its publication I had engaged many comrades in the SACP
leadership as well as members within the Party structures I belonged to, on
the merits and substance of the main arguments contained in the book.
Besides these internal debates and discussion, there was also a full-page
excerpt from the book that was published in the pages of the Mail &
Guardian (Oct 31 - Nov 6 1997) that subsequently stirred some open, public
debate.

The reason for mentioning all of this is to point out that the contents of
the M&G article referred to as the basis for the charges spelt out above,
is merely a summary of the main arguments contained in my book. Thus, it is
beyond comprehension why, over three years after its publication (followed
by vigorous and open debate around its contents, within the SACP and
publicly) the very same arguments are now used as the basis for charges
against me. Why is it that the same SACP leadership that chose to contest
these arguments both publicly (through a letter to the editor in the same
M&G) and within the ranks of the organisation over three years ago, now
chooses to use them as the basis for laying serious disciplinary charges
against me?  What has brought about this radical 'change of heart', of
approach? If indeed, it is the content of my arguments that are at issue
here, it would have been both logical and honest for the leadership to have
charged me with a "distortion of the history of the ANC" and an
"undermining of the Party's own approach to, and alliance with, the ANC"
when such arguments were initially presented. If I am now being charged
with engaging in political debate "in a manner that breaks with the
protocol of criticism within the Alliance", why was I not charged with the
same back in 1997? I can only conclude that the bases of these present
charges are not really a matter of "approach" and "protocol" related to the
SACP and its alliance with the ANC (these have remained relatively
consistent throughout the SA transition), but rather a political decision
informed by a particular (and changed) balance of political forces inside
our Party and the Alliance. There is simply no other way to explain the
'change of heart', after several years, which now sees me being brought in
front of this disciplinary hearing.

Furthermore, if my arguments concerning the character of ANC politics are a
"distortion", and "undermine the Party's own approach to, and alliance
with, the ANC", why is it then that the SACP Deputy General Secretary has
not been brought in front of a disciplinary hearing on similar charges?
Just before the SACP 10th Congress in mid-1998, the D.G.S., made remarks
published in the Saturday Star, in which he declared that, "the ANC is its
own worst enemy…with its fear of dissenting voices…it needs to listen to
the fears and concerns of people. Mugabe epitomises where we could end
up…(with) swings between demagoguery and managerialism". Such public
statements, made by an office-bearer of the SACP, are little different to
my own analyses of important aspects of the ANC's history and more
contemporary politics.

Similarly, critical public statements directed at the ANC and government
policies by other Central Committee members (in different capacities) have
raised many of the same political points and analyses that I have voiced.
This begs the questions as to what exactly constitutes a "breaking with the
protocol of criticism within the Alliance". Are SACP members now to
understand that there is a different way of treating open and honest
critique depending on who one is or what position one holds in the
organisation? For this is the only way to interpret such disproportionate
measures being taken in my case.

Likewise, when senior ANC leaders (who have been, no doubt, upset with the
kind of critical contributions that I have made) launch virulent, public
attacks on the integrity of the SACP and its members (as was the case at
the SACP 10th Congress), how is one to interpret the subsequent response by
the SACP leadership? In the face of a prime example of 'breaking with the
protocol of criticism within the Alliance" the Party leadership responded
by stating that "we are more than ever committed to the alliance and to
transformation", and that the differences and issues raised could best be
addressed "properly at the senior leadership level". Such inconsistent
application of interpreting the parameters of accepted 'protocol of
criticism within the Alliance' speaks for itself.

The leadership, in reviewing the M&G article under question, should not
have been so quick to judge - by stating, for example, that aspects of my
arguments are "without any proof whatsoever" and are based on
"insinuations". The years of research that I undertook for my doctoral
dissertation into the ANC (later, turned into the book previously
mentioned) constitute the most in-depth and systematic look at the primary
source material of the South African liberation movement attempted over the
last decade. The 'proof' of the political and historical points I make in
the article had already been provided, many times over, first in my book
and subsequently in numerous other, longer articles I have written in
various left journals, all of which have been readily available to the SACP
leadership.

It is self evident that any political argument and historical
interpretation is subject to debate and contestation, otherwise we would
never have to engage in such.
Whether or not the SACP leadership is convinced by my own arguments as to
the character of the ANC's history, or contests my interpretation of events
and political choices during the early 1990s, is beside the point. That is
to be expected amongst communists who engage in critical analysis and
debate. The real point to be made, is that a subjective interpretation of
evidence and/or argument is not a sound basis for then proceeding to
declare that such evidence and/or argument is "inconsistent" with accepted
organisational conduct and thinking. But this is exactly what the text of
the charges proceeds to do.

It states that "The claims about the armed struggle are not only based on a
complete ignorance of the real facts about the turn to the armed struggle,
but our own Party was part of, and supported this decision. This, to us, is
tantamount to questioning a very important part of the Party 's own
policies, attitudes and sacrifices towards the armed struggle. This again
is inconsistent of a member of the SACP and an official of a party
structure." Here, it is clear that the 'us' (the SACP leadership) has acted
as judge, jury and executioner. If engaging in a debate about the "real
facts" of liberation history is to be attacked and sullied, simply on the
bases that the leadership of the SACP at the time supported a certain
decision and that the present leadership does not like the "questioning
(of)… attitudes and sacrifices", then what is left of 'real' democratic
debate in the SACP?

The general charge that I have not raised "these matters formally inside
the Party or ANC structures themselves" is simply untrue in the first case,
inapplicable in the latter. Over a period of several years, I have
consistently raised arguments and debate around the main content of the
arguments contained in my book (and summarised in the M&G article) in SACP
structures in which I participated. This applies to Johannesburg Central
Branch Executive Committee meetings, branch general meetings and branch
political education classes; Greater Johannesburg District Executive
Committee meetings, District Councils, Congresses and political education
seminars; and Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee meetings, Provincial
Councils and political education seminars. I have done the same through my
previous work, over several years, at SACP Head Office, as a member of the
National Political Education Secretariat and as managing editor of the SACP
newspaper, Umsebenzi. Again, it is not a matter of whether the raising of
these 'matters' has been met with political approval and organisational
assent - the point is that I have raised them openly and honestly with the
intention of engaging in serious political debate and discussion as a part
of a critical intellectual contribution to taking the socialist struggle
forward.

In relation to ANC structures, the charge is simply inapplicable. As a
member and leader of the SACP I do not have a constitutional or
programmatic mandate to raise these 'matters' in the structures of other
(even if allied) organisations (Section 6.4 of the SACP Constitution).
Indeed, while membership of the ANC, and activity in its structures is
generally encouraged within the SACP, a member cannot be punished for not
doing so. I joined, and have been active in, the SACP precisely because I
am a communist. Whether or not I have been, or continue to be, an ANC
member and active in its structures cannot be used against (or for) me as
an SACP member and leader and certainly cannot be used as part of a
justification for SACP disciplinary charges.


The Green Left Weekly article

In relation to this article, the general accusation against me is that I am
guilty of "attacking COSATU and its leadership, our ally, without seeking
to raise these issues with the leadership of either our Party or COSATU
itself." As with the similar charge raised previously, this is simply
untrue. The main thrust of my article in Green Left Weekly centred around a
critique of the political and organisational approach that COSATU has taken
in relation to the ANC government's main economic strategy, GEAR. More
specifically, the article raised issues dealing with the character of the
COSATU leadership's struggle against the neo-liberal policies emanating
from the ANC government's GEAR framework and, by implication, issues around
the political relationship between COSATU and the ANC.

Not two weeks after the unveiling of GEAR in June 1996, I, alongside the
two other members of the SACP National Political Education Secretariat
issued a discussion document entitled "Critique of Government's Macro
Economic Strategy: Growth, Employment and Redistribution". This document
directly attacked the fundamentals behind GEAR and openly questioned the
immediate, and generally positive, position that had been adopted by the
SACP and COSATU leadership towards GEAR. Indeed, it was this document,
along with others that came later, which sparked heated debate within the
structures of the SACP and COSATU, a debate that eventually resulted in the
respective leadership's taking public positions in opposition to GEAR.

Similarly, in mid-1997, I wrote a lengthy article in the journal LINKS
entitled "The Left and the Macro-economic Battle in South Africa". This
article was the culmination of my own participation in extensive debate and
discussion within the SACP, and to a lesser extent COSATU structures (at
the appropriate levels of my own elected SACP position - i.e. Branch and
District) around the GEAR framework and the intensifying struggles against
policies emanating from it. The article was widely read by SACP and COSATU
activists and leaders (given that the SACP Head Office acted as the South
African distributor of LINKS). Finally, I also wrote another internal
Alliance discussion document entitled "GEAR and Class Struggle" in which I
raised many of the same points as those contained in the Green Left Weekly
article. This article circulated widely within both COSATU and SACP
structures and, like previous ones, was subject to heated debate and
discussion.

What is particularly worrisome about the charges levelled against me in
this regard is the flippant way in which it is confidently and dismissively
assumed that I have run to the public press without any respective
organisational engagement and debate. The SACP leadership must remember
that SACP leaders are enjoined and instructed to prioritise their political
and intellectual engagement at those levels of the organisation (and by
association those of the SACP's working class alliance partner, COSATU) to
which they are elected. That is exactly what I have consistently done
throughout my time as an SACP leader and indeed, have endeavoured to do at
all levels. To base serious charges on the mere statement of something that
is patently untrue shows either a lack of knowledge on the part of the SACP
national leadership of the activities and political debates happening
within lower structures of the SACP and COSATU, or a willingness to
proclaim a guilty verdict regardless of the counter-reality. Either way,
the charges are baseless.

When it comes to the actual content of the Green Left Weekly article, I am
said to be guilty of making a "completely unfounded accusation against
COSATU leadership and questioning their integrity and insulting them as
becoming capitalists" (sic). This is in addition to the accusation that I
"impute personal and career motives in our pursuance of membership of the
Alliance…of being careerists". What the article in question actually argued
was that "a large portion of the COSATU leadership are well are their way
to becoming bona fide members of the 'capitalism with a human face club'".
This argument was based on a critical and well-researched appraisal of the
character and performance of the various investment companies and the
subsequent politics that has emerged as a result of trying to play the
capitalist game. It is an argument that I dealt with at length in various
presentations to COSATU affiliate seminars and in a late 1999 article for
the South African Labour Bulletin.

While my argument has been well grounded, argued and debated, it is the
accusation that I am, by merely making such an argument, questioning the
"integrity" of the COSATU leadership and "insulting" them that is
completely unfounded. What is the SACP leadership saying here  - that it is
unacceptable for a member and leader of the SACP to point out (both
internally and publicly) what is obvious? It is no secret that many COSATU
members and a few leaders have come out strongly against the activities of
the investment companies and the associated enrichment of many of those in
the affiliates and federation associated with their operations. Similarly,
is it not the duty of every communist to argue that attempts to empower
workers through playing the capitalist game are both economically
self-defeating and politically dangerous? When the SACP's own 'Guiding
Principles' state that one of the main struggles of the SACP is for "the
common ownership of, participation in, and control by the producers of the
key means of production", how should an SACP member respond to initiatives
(in the name of workers) that have absolutely nothing to do with "common
ownership" but everything to do with getting a slice of the capitalist pie?

Why is it that the President of the ANC receives warm applause from the
alliance leadership when he publicly lambastes "careerism" in the ranks of
the 'movement', but when a lower-tier SACP leader points to the appearance
of such he is met with cold approbation?  Such critiques do not just jump
out the minds of 'confused' cadres, but are the direct result of ongoing
debate, discussion, observance and the willingness to engage in critical
and open arguments. When the SACP leadership is wholly unwilling to cast a
critical analytical eye and open up debate on the activities of some of the
organisation's own members who are engaged in highly contested (and
secretive) investment 'activities', then they should not be surprised, nor
opposed, if other members initiate such. On many occasions, I have raised
these issues openly within SACP structures, only to be told to 'keep
quiet', that such issues are not 'important or that I have no right to ask
critical questions about the activities and/or lifestyles of leaders. It
says a great deal when the very leaders of the organisation are not willing
to countenance critical and open discussion and debate on such important
and pertinent matters within the very democratic structures designed to
make them accountable.

Another charge is that I "accuse the Party (and COSATU) of strategic and
tactical confusion in our dealing with the GEAR policies" and am therefore
guilty of a "serious transgression of Party discipline". As I have already
pointed out, there was every reason to argue that such 'strategic and
tactical confusion' existed right from the introduction of GEAR. What kind
of interpretation should a Party member have when, on the one hand the
Central Committee releases a press statement "welcoming" GEAR and then
several months later issues another press statement attacking GEAR? What
should SACP members think (and say) when the SACP General Secretary
vigorously and publicly attacks all of the main fundamentals behind the
GEAR policy, and simultaneously another SACP leader is seen (and heard)
publicly endorsing the very same fundamentals with equal vigour?

Indeed, how is it that the SACP leadership can bring disciplinary charges
against me for raising, publicly (in my personal capacity), anti-capitalist
positions in opposition to GEAR, while nothing is done to those
high-ranking SACP leaders who have publicly taken positions in favour of
the capitalist policies of GEAR? When National Ministers, who are also
elected members of the highest SACP decision-making body (between
Congresses), the Central Committee, mount public platforms and argue,
vigorously, for the implementation of GEAR-inspired policies, how exactly
should SACP members respond?

The answers to these questions (and that also apply to the content of my
critique of Budget 2000) must be set against what the SACP's Political
Programme actually says about GEAR because this is what all members of the
SACP (regardless of their position) are mandated to propagate and defend.
The Programme states:
The SACP is convinced that government's macro-economic framework policy,
GEAR, is seriously flawed in certain important respects.  We believe that
the budget deficit reduction targets are arbitrary, based as they are on
macro-economic models derived from a largely unreconstructed Reserve Bank.
GEAR embodies, in its core fiscal and monetary policies, a neo-liberal
approach that is at variance with our reconstruction and development
objectives.  Much of GEAR marks a shift away from ANC economic policy in
the first half of the 1990s, which underlined the interconnectedness of
growth and development, which envisaged a major emphasis on growth led by
domestic and regional infrastructural development.  More and more, there
has been a shift towards the assumptions of an export-led growth, based on
the myth that deregulation and liberalisation, more or less on their own,
will make the South African economy "globally competitive".  Above all,
macro-economic hopes are increasingly pinned upon the massive (but
unpredictable) inflow of private sector investments.  The role of the new
democratic government is more and more centred upon creating an "investor
friendly" climate, rather than on leading an economic reconstruction and
development process.  The economy also continues to be held hostage by a
Reserve Bank implementing narrow monetarist policies, focused on very high
interest rates.

As the SACP leadership is aware, both the District and Branch structures of
which I have been a leader have issued, over a period of several years,
internal Party discussion documents as well as public statements attacking
GEAR and its economic fundamentals accompanied by arguments for feasible
alternatives that are consistent with the SACP's own economic principles
and programme. Only last year, I wrote an internal SACP discussion document
on IGOLI2002 (while I was still a member of the Gauteng PEC) that provided
a comprehensive argument against GEAR and its associated policies as well
as programmatic and constitutional reasons for why the SACP must publicly
oppose such. This document provided the basis for a meeting between the
SACP General Secretary, the SACP Gauteng PEC, the SACP Greater Johannesburg
DEC and the Johannesburg Central Branch Executive Committee, where it was
agreed that the SACP should resolutely oppose IGOLI2002 and do all in its
power to roll-back its ongoing implementation. Nonetheless, the 'end'
result of these internal processes was that I became the subject of
political and personal attack by members of the Gauteng PEC for desiring to
see the SACP's practical activities match programmatic and constitutional
commitment.

Is it the privilege of SACP leaders, who happen to be appointed as ANC
Ministers/MECs and government officials, to adopt completely contradictory
positions and then explain this away as a result of their wearing of
two-hats? And yet, when SACP members, who happen not to hold any other
position other than those to which they were elected within the SACP,
defend and propagandise positions consistent with the SACP Programme and
constitutional principles, they are attacked for actually being consistent
communists.
When the stated programmatic policy of the SACP is to oppose privatisation,
how is it then that not a voice is raised from by the SACP leadership when
those amongst its ranks endorse, without apology or apparent contradiction,
privatisation of the people's property? All of this begs the question as to
whether there is a political and organisational double-standard in
operation, one for national/ provincial leaders and the other for
lower-ranking leaders and ordinary members?

RESPONSE TO CHARGE NO. 2
Publicly and consistently promoting positions that undermine the SACP

In relation to both the Green Left Weekly article and another article in
the publication Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism on Budget 2000, I am
accused of making arguments that "undermine (and contradict) the SACP's own
official programmes and pronouncements" and "publicly attacking" the SACP.

The charge, in the instance of the article in Green Left Weekly, is offered
on the basis that I engaged in a critical analysis (for organisational and
public debate) of the tactics behind the recent COSATU mass action
campaign. It is difficult to comprehend why such analytical debate is seen
as "undermining" of Party programmes and pronouncements, when it is clear
that there is a huge difference between critical analysis and a misplaced
accusation that this constitutes a rejection of the campaign.  If the SACP
leadership is looking for real examples of such "undermining" then they
have to go no further than the consistency with which numerous SACP leaders
in government have unapologetically and publicly supported economic
policies, directly related to GEAR, that are in direct opposition to the
SACP's programme and pronouncements.

How is it that a national office bearer of the SACP, also National Minister
of Public Service and Administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, can lead a
highly publicised attack against the basic bargaining rights of the very
workers who form the backbone of the SACP and not seen to be "undermining"
SACP programmes and pronouncements? If the SACP's official position was to
support, fully, the COSATU campaign for the defence of workers bargaining
rights (specifically as applied to the public sector) then how does an
elected SACP leader escape any censure for systematically attacking those
rights and publicly repudiating the SACP's related positions? Only
recently, the Johannesburg Central Branch Executive Committee sent a formal
letter of complaint to the SACP Head Office in relation to the
pronouncements and actions of Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, asking for a
formal investigation into her clear violation of the SACP Programme and
adopted policies. As of this time, the BEC has not received even a cursory
reply. Clearly, there are serious inconsistencies in the application, by
the SACP leadership, of what constitutes a "violation" of the Party
constitution and an "undermining" of the SACP programme.

Similarly, what would constitute an "undermining" of the SACP's programme
and official policy if not the example of a SACP Central Committee member,
National Minister of Public Enterprises, Jeff Radebe, being in charge of
ensuring that the government's privatisation programme is speeded up and
implemented, even in the face of public statements condemning such from
both the General Secretaries of the SACP and COSATU? It is indeed the
height of irony, that at the very time that I am being brought up on these
charges, the same SACP leader is issuing public statements detailing how
the people's property is going to be sold off to private capitalists and
simultaneously telling the organised working class that this is in their
best interests. What wonderful inconsistency and political/organisational
hypocrisy - on the one hand, I am charged with 'undermining' the SACP's
Programme, and on the other, this SACP leader sits on the Central Committee
in judgement of my supposed 'indiscipline'.

When the SACP has programmatically (and consistently) called for the
implementation of a progressive and inwardly dynamic industrial policy that
would specifically benefit the South African working class, and yet a
well-known SACP figure, National Minister of Trade & Industry, Alec Erwin,
shows equal consistency in implementing the exact opposite (in line with
GEAR policies), what does this constitute in the eyes of the SACP leadership?

It would appear as though national leaders of the SACP can engage in any
amount of activity that directly contradicts the Party's programmes and
pronouncements and still be considered to be disciplined and loyal members
of the SACP. However, when a lower-tier SACP leader like myself, engages in
critical anti-capitalist analysis and argument in an open and transparent
manner, I am brought up on charges of indiscipline and bringing the SACP
into "disrepute". It is simply incomprehensible and hypocritical.

Further, I am charged with "directly contradicting" the Party's official
response to the Budget by writing a critical analysis of Budget 2000
(published in Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism). In this regard, it
certainly could not have escaped the attention of the SACP national
leadership that soon after the unveiling of the budget (and the SACP's
official response to it), the SACP Johannesburg Central Branch Executive
Committee (of which I am Chairperson) issued a lengthy critique of Budget
2000 as a contribution to open and critical debate within the SACP and
Alliance. This specifically stated that "we are at a loss to understand how
such a pro-capitalist budget could be 'welcomed'" by the SACP. The critique
was sent to both provincial and national SACP structures with the intention
of engaging in a serious debate around the content of Budget 2000 as well
as to send a clear message that the leadership of a key SACP branch was
directly and openly questioning the mutuality of the SACP statement on the
budget with the relevant components of the SACP's official policies and
programme. Despite repeated efforts to elicit a response, neither the
provincial nor national leadership responded to this comprehensively argued
critique, thus giving indication that the genuine and openly expressed
views of SACP branch leaders are to be ignored.

My subsequent article summarises and extends the SACP Johannesburg BEC's
critique and was based on the argument that the budgetary 'path' chosen
represented the very 'trickle-down' approach of wooing domestic and
international capital that the SACP's programme explicitly critiques and
rejects (see previous excerpt from Programme in my 'Summary Remarks'). Why
is it then that by publicly supporting the SACP's own democratically
mandated programme, respectively applied to Budget 2000, as opposed to a
press statement issued from SACP Head Office, I am subsequently accused of
"contradicting" the Party's position? As the critique made clear, the
specific components of Budget 2000 (from the freezing of VAT to sadist
fiscal 'discipline') are in complete contradiction to the economic measures
argued for in successive SACP policy documents, including the SACP's 10th
Congress Political Programme.

Is it any wonder then that an SACP press statement that "welcomed" the
budget's "emphasis on the eradication of poverty and inequalities" is
critiqued for lacking critical content? There is a sizeable distinction
between economic specifics and verbal emphases. When this is pointed to, as
a means of reaffirming the parallel content of the SACP's programme, this
is surely anything but a 'contradiction' of such. Rather, the best example
of a contradiction of SACP positions is when senior SACP leaders publicly
support a budget that institutionalises real reductions in key areas of
social spending - spending that would directly benefit workers and the
'poorest of the poor' and begin to address the massive increases in the
poverty being experienced by those who look to the SACP for political
leadership.

Again, it is to the SACP Programme that I turn to remind the SACP
leadership of exactly what our mandate is as communists. It states:
One matter on which we are collectively clear is that a key aspect of the
SACP's vanguard role lies in the domain of ideological work - of taking
theory seriously, of ensuring continuous political education and strategic
debate within our Party and in our broader movement, of engaging in broader
public debate with consistent anti-capitalist, socialist perspectives.

If there is anything that I am guilty of, it is of trying to carry out the
political and organisational mandates provided for in our Programme.



Louis Proyect

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