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