[Marxism] South African Communist Party 12th congress

glparramatta glparramatta at greenleft.org.au
Thu Aug 16 20:43:47 MDT 2007


The ‘Zumafication’ of Left Politics in the Alliance: A Critical Review 
of the ANC Policy Conference & the SACP 12th Congress
by Dale T. McKinley

The SACP and COSATU have been fiddling with the same strategic and 
political choice for over 15 years now. First choice: to be junior 
partners in an Alliance they will never run/control (but might have key 
positions in) and thus practice a politics of offering critiques of 
existing policy implementation and arguing for policies that have a more 
pro-poor character/more state involvement, engage in occasional 
campaigns and activities designed to ‘show’ that the working class is 
still a force to be reckoned with and simultaneously continuing to be 
part of an ANC electoral machine and to participate in an ANC-run state 
through its various institutional mechanisms. Second choice: to go back 
to the basics of organising and mobilising the poor and working class 
(which must include real, practical alliances with community 
organisations and social movements) based on a radical programme of 
demands for the redistribution of ownership and wealth that will act as 
an organisational and political base to both shift ANC/government policy 
- not through insider bargaining/politicking but through mass 
mobilisation and class struggle - and to re-build a genuine left 
political and organisational power-base to contest power relations 
within SA society (something which is not simply reducible to elections 
and running as an electoral force separate from the ANC).

The problem is however, that the fiddling has been just that – the 
second choice has never really been on the agenda. As a result, they 
have continued to play the Alliance political ‘game’. While this have 
contributed to minor policy shifts and occasional genuflections by the 
ANC/ government towards mitigation of rising inequalities and poverty, 
these have not happened in isolation from the myriad of protests and 
mobilisations that have taken place outside the SACP-COSATU nexus and 
which have arguably been just as responsible for various policy shifts 
and the more recent rise in political contestation within the Alliance. 
Indeed, the ANC is probably more wary of poor community uprisings and 
disillusionment with ANC delivery and socio-economic progress than they 
are with the regular sniping and critiques of the SACP/COSATU.

The unfortunate but predictable result has been that the politics and 
practical work of the SACP and COSATU have become, over the last few 
years, tied directly to what is going on inside the ANC-Alliance in 
direct proportionate relation to intensifying personal and positional 
power struggles. This is the logical outcome of such an 
approach/politics and it has effectively paralysed the SACP/COSATU’s 
ability to organise and mobilise on a genuinely practical, working 
class/poor – centred pole, where their programmes, struggles and 
critiques are actually put to the test in real struggles happening on 
the ground and in the arena of democratic contestation for societal power.

The recently held ANC Policy Conference and SACP 12th Congress reflect 
this state of affairs in the form of the dictates of the 
personal/political battle between the Mbeki and Zuma ‘camps’ – with 
preceding mobilisation campaigns and practical work tending to ape this 
contest (i.e., whether it will, or won’t, take forward the personal 
positions and accompanying politics of this or that ‘camp’). The fact 
that the SACP and COSATU have publicly stated that the outcomes of the 
ANC Policy Conference represent a victory for ‘left forces’ is clear 
indication of this - despite the fact that there was nothing in the 
outcome of the ANC Policy Conference that would indicate any kind of 
radical shift from what has previously been the case (i.e.. a stated 
commitment to a ‘developmental state’ and for better functioning of the 
Alliance etc.).

Similarly, the SACP 12th Congress was mostly dominated by the politics 
of personality and positionality - who would/would not be elected to 
leadership positions based on what ‘camp’ they belong to as well as the 
debate over electoral positioning depending on what happens at ANC 
Congress in December (read: wait and see if Zuma wins the leadership 
contest and if so, then this will determine the strategy and tactics of 
the SACP). It is a sad state of affairs – a situation in which the 
largest and most long-standing ‘left’ party in South Africa is 
effectively held hostage to the outcomes of 
personal/intra-organisational and patronage battles within another party 
and, in which it’s own programme and politics is also effectively 
moulded by the same battles. From the outcome of the leadership 
elections at the SACP Congress, it is clear that those who ‘won’ and 
those who ‘lost’ were largely defined by what ‘camp’ they supposedly 
inhabit (in this case, a clear ‘victory’ for those in the Zuma/Nzimande 
‘camp’ and a clear ‘loss’ for those supposedly allied to the 
Mbeki/Nqakula ‘camp’). Sadly, there was very little evidence of any 
clear ideological and/or organisational criteria being upheld as the 
main arbiter of choice for leadership positions. As one Congress 
delegate succinctly put it, one of the main reasons why Mbeki did not 
show at the Congress, “could be that he would not want to walk into 
Zuma’s den”.

Full: http://www.amandla.org.za/Site/McKinley.htm

Walter Lippmann wrote:

>(The full report is a good deal longer than this and takes up, among
>other things, a number of the SACP's internal problems and alleged
>scandals, and other problems which were addressed, in one way or
>another, at this very large SACP congress. There are substantial 
>political tensions and differences of opinion. However, there's no
>indication in this report that there's any imminent prospect for a
>break-up between the SACP and the ANC in the tripartite coalition
>government in South Africa. The SACP is clearly the largest and most
>influential left-wing organization on the South African left today.

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