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The extraordinary growth of the SACP by Ian Beddowes (Politicsweb), 16 July 2015

24 July 2015

SACP growing at an unprecedented rate!

But being a communist is not only about embarking on a lifelong study, it is about changing the world!

The 3rd Special National Congress of the South African Communist Party (SACP) was convened in order to deal with rapidly changing conditions both within the Party and within South Africa.

Since the 12th National Congress in 2007, the Party has had an unprecedented growth in membership – from 50 000 in 2007, membership grew to 150 000 by the 13th National Congress in 2012 – and now in 2015 that has increased to 230 000. This extraordinary growth is the result of the recognition that there can no longer be any significant advance in the living standards of the South African people under the system of financialised capitalism by class-conscious elements of the working-class which have recognised the vanguard role of the SACP and have decided to join.

Nevertheless, most new members do not understand that a Communist Party built on the principles laid down by V.I. Lenin is a different kind of party to mass parties like the African National Congress (ANC) and in fact to all other parties in South Africa. Joining a Communist Party anywhere in the world is not based simply on a general agreement with its philosophy and political direction. Joining a Communist Party means a commitment to learn and understand the basic ideology laid down by Marx, Engels and Lenin and its development by the world’s Communist Parties in the concrete conditions of struggle. In South Africa we must know the history of the Party and its intimate connection with the national liberation movement led by the ANC. To know where we are going to, we must know where we have come from.

Membership of a Communist Party is not only about embarking on a course of lifelong study, it is about committing one’s life to what Soviet writer Nikolai Ostrovsky described as “...the finest cause in all the world – the fight for the Liberation of Mankind.” Thus one of the greatest tasks of the SACP Special Congress was to develop the mechanisms whereby new members are transformed into active and disciplined Party cadres and communists par excellence.

Since about 1980, there has been a transformation in the world capitalist system which has made it even more destructive than ever before; the old capitalist system during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, through ruthless exploitation of the world’s resources, proletarianisation of the peasantry and exploitation of the working class nevertheless increased production faster than at any time during the world’s history.

The new capitalism, in which money has become more important than production, began with the accession of Ronald Reagan as United States President and Margaret Thatcher as British Prime Minister. Under them, banks became deregulated leading to the enrichment of a tiny minority and the destruction of industry and the livelihoods of millions. This process spread to most of the world, including South Africa.

When apartheid was abolished in 1994 and the ANC took power by ascending to government leadership, it was against a backdrop of the temporary triumph of capitalism over socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The unfortunate, but on the whole necessary, compromise of 1990s negotiated settlement nevertheless led to an improvement of the lives of most South Africans. But the reactionary Class Project of 1996 led to an uncontrolled form of capitalism in some ways worse than under apartheid. The effects of this were not always visible immediately, but we are now seeing the results very clearly.

While the Special Congress was on, President Jacob Zuma was attending a meeting of the BRICS countries in Moscow which was finalising the establishment of the New Development Bank which will have its African regional branch in Johannesburg. This moving away from or providing an alternative to the US controlled Bretton Woods Institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This signals possibilities of a shift away from the use of the US dollar as the main trading currency and from the control of western monopoly capitalism and is one of the reasons for the unprecedented personal attacks on President Zuma and attempts to divide COSATU and the Alliance. It is one of the reasons of the attacks on Russia and Brazil.

As a result of the growing lawlessness of the banking sector, at the forefront of the campaign for “a second, more radical phase of the transition” is the financial sector campaign. This will not take place merely through polite meetings in committee rooms.

As the Special Congress Declaration states:

“An anti-monopoly capital struggle is not an abstract slogan. It is about the struggle against the daily dispossession of homes by the major banks. Inflicted by cartels linking property developers, banking staff and corrupt officials in magistrate’s courts. This massive modern wave of dispossession affects hundreds of thousands of families each year in our country. It is a new, financialised version of apartheid-era forced removals.”

A further resolution coming from the Special Congress was for transformation of the judiciary. The necessity of this has been shown most publicly and dramatically in part by the use of the courts to curb the power of government – for instance to insist on the right of the DA to circulate messages calling the President “a thief” and the right of the EFF to disrupt Parliament with impunity.

The same courts ruled that a R240m capital control exit levy on multi-billionaire Mark Shuttleworth’s expatriation of two billion rand to an overseas tax haven was illegal. Fortunately this was overturned by the Constitutional Court.

But on the question of evictions, the working class and the poor are at the mercy of courts which continually rule in favour of property developers in contravention of the laws and Constitution of South Africa. In practice, as opposed to theory, the Constitution is mainly for those who have large enough sums of money to take their cases there. Poor people, the working class included, do not afford the astronomical fees charged for taking cases up there. They have virtually been shut out of access to justice.

Perhaps the most shocking case recently was the case of Comrade Nombeko Monoalibe. Nombeko lives in a flat owned by her sister under sectional title in Johannesburg. When Nombeko dared to argue with the unpopular administrator of the block of flats she was arrested and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment without trial by a High Court judge, just last month, not during apartheid. Fortunately the efforts of the local SACP (she is a popular branch chairperson) secured her release after 9 days. We believe that there are others without Nombeko’s support network who have been less fortunate.

Apartheid is still alive and well in the South African legal system and is based on class discrimination and class divisions, its essential character.

Finally, the question of the media.

The South African media is predominantly anti-government, anti-Zuma, anti-ANC, anti-COSATU and most certainly anti-SACP. This not only includes the print media but also most of the electronic media – including the national broadcaster, the SABC, which is now effectively under the control of Multi-Choice. By and large the press is a source of disinformation and is under the control of monopoly capital. Interestingly, during the Special National Congress the news content was relatively better and the journalists must be commended in their capacity as workers, the Party’s National Spokesperson Comrade Alex Mashilo said.

However, negativity remained concentrated in the editorials and opinion pieces sections reflecting the formal positions of newspapers and the views they both align and mobilise to give coverage. Democratisation of the media and the dissemination of correct and balanced information is a very important part of achieving the second more radical phase of South Africa’s transition.

Those sections must not be left out of discussion in the media transformation conference that the SACP has called for. The right of reply with equal prominence on those very sections must be a rule and we are to achieve balance and give those who are being criticised space to state their site of the story.

The SACP 3rd Special Congress was characterised by robust debate tempered with revolutionary discipline. It was highly self-critical, as the Party’s National Spokesperson said before the Congress: “The criticisms from the outside are far less sharp than the criticisms coming from the inside and which will be discussed at this Congress.” The Party has to maintain a leading edge in terms of constructive criticism and self-criticism. This was made clear during the presentation of the Party’s organisational review discussion document by the 2nd Deputy General Secretary Comrade Solly Mapaila.

In this report we have by no means covered all the topics debated and decided by the Congress; merely the central issues. But the Party in South Africa is growing in size and influence as are other Communist Parties in the world as capitalism sinks more and more into complete degeneracy.

Ian Beddowes is the Spokesperson of Housing Class Action and General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Communist League living in South Africa.

This article first appeared in Umsebenzi Online, the online journal of the SACP.