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Moleketi's Outburst Undermines SACP

By Gwede Mantashe, Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg),
26 January 2001

Last week Jaspreet Kindra quoted Jabu Moleketi "firing one broadside after another at the SACP" ("SACP 'stuck in a time warp'"). Moleketi is a South African Communist Party member who comes across with an irritable and ill-considered outburst that is destructive, divisive and undermining of the SACP and the alliance.

When the party was unbanned in 1990, some of the graduates of the Lenin school left the SACP with the prediction that it would wither away. Moleketi's attack mirrors the disappointment of some of these graduates that the party has actually not withered away but has grown and that the global challenge to neo-liberalism is growing.

The nub of Moleketi's critique is that the SACP is locked in an ideological time warp, that it has lacked a clear strategic role over the past period and that it is tailing behind the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the current period. But the SACP's actual and continuing strategic contribution across the complicated last 11 years suggests otherwise.

For all left formations, the triumphalist, neo-liberal 1990s were extremely challenging. In the late 1980s the SACP had already begun to debate the failures of the Eastern Europe experience to build socialism. Throughout this debate, the SACP has insisted on not throwing away a socialist vision, nor an anti-capitalist vigilance. At the same time, we have sought to understand the stagnant, often brutal, authoritarianism that stifled the early promise of the Russian revolution.

The SACP has been dynamic and self-questioning in this regard. We have actively de-Stalinised our socialism and have not tailed behind anyone.

Contrary to our "time warp" critics, we have never argued we should opt out of global realities. But, unlike some of these critics, we have argued forcefully against millennial illusions. The simple alignment of our political and economic "fundamentals" with the global vogue will not result in growth, development, the building of a united, more egalitarian society and the eventual transition to socialism.

Guided by this general strategic orientation, the SACP has made a number of decisive inputs into the transition.

The SACP recognised that the apartheid regime was deploying a violent low- intensity conflict strategy as part of its negotiations. Chris Hani played a crucial role in empowering communities to understand this reality and to organise to defend themselves against it.

The SACP's role in locating the negotiations breakthrough within a much broader strategic and transformative framework led to an understanding in the broader liberation movement and country as a whole that the struggle did not end with the defeat of apartheid in 1994.

In the year before the 1994 elections, the SACP played a major role in helping to shape the Reconstruction and Development Programme beyond a suspicious deal, to a much broader growth and development strategy.

Moleketi projects privatisation as a panacea for development. There can be nothing Marxist about this position. Rather it is informed by someone who seeks to rationalise, rather than confront, the realities of retrenchments (including by state enterprises), joblessness and poverty. For instance, Eskom " which had the responsibility of giving low-cost electricity to whites, giving skills to Afrikaners and employing 66 000 people " is today highly commercialised, earmarked for privatisation and employing 32 000.

Over the past few years the SACP has made it clear that our economic growth path and any macroeconomic policy must be based on a coherent industrial policy and an active labour market policy. We have further said that telecommunications, energy, health, education, municipal services, public transport and mineral rights must remain in public hands. It is from this strategic and programmatic angle that we should deal with the transformation of the state, the role of private capital and the mobilisation of our people behind fundamental transformation of the economy.

Moleketi's justification of privatisation through the citing of Cuba and China is either misinformed or opportunistic. There is a big difference between socialists making tactical market reforms while retaining state ownership and other features of a socialist economy. South Africa is a highly unequal capitalist economy, but there are forces that want the state retreating even further. In South Africa no one can argue that privatisation and liberalisation are taking us closer to socialism.

If Moleketi wants to open a debate about the role of the SACP in contesting political power, he must pose the challenge properly and not dismiss the SACP into an NGO and conveniently retain Cosatu. Such a debate needs to be handled cautiously as it could play directly into the hands of counter-revolutionary forces.

Above all, over the past decade the SACP has helped nurture a new generation of activists in government, the ANC, unions and NGOs.

Therefore, if Moleketi is serious about debating the role of the SACP honestly, he is welcome to write in party publications rather than take an opportunistic swipe at the party through the Mail & Guardian. Gwede Mantashe is an SACP central committee member

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