By Tiisetso ‘Afrika’ Makhele
South African Communist Party (SACP), the first Marxist-Leninist party in Africa, was formed in 1921 by a cohort of white revolutionary workers. By mid-1920’s, the party was Africanised after stalwarts like JB Marks and Johannes Nkosi joined the party. By the time the Party was banned in 1950, it had strong branches in most townships and was assisting the ANC and other Congress organiaations with mobilisation activities, amongst others.
The banning of the Party was a sign of the fear the colonial state had for the Party at the time. At its underground conference in 1962, the Party adopted a Programme of Action named The Road to South African Freedom. This Programme tabled a number of proposals for the SACP’s vision of a socialist South Africa.
According to this document, the supreme aims of the South African Communist Party were: i) the establishment of a socialist South Africa; and ii) laying the foundations of a classless, communist society. To achieve this goal, the Party states that its task is to work for a united front of national liberation. It strives to unite all sections and classes of oppressed and democratic people for a national democratic revolution to destroy White domination. Looking at the SACP today, does the Party still pursue the goals as enshrined in the 1962 South African Road to South African Freedom?
In his paper; Mass Action, Alliances and the United Front Tactic (1995), late Australian Marxist Doug Lorimer wrote; “The fundamental aim of the revolutionary Marxist party is to organise the socialist revolution. In order to realise this aim, the party must win the ideological and political allegiance of the overwhelming majority of the working class. This cannot be accomplished simply through propaganda alone. It is a general law of history that only through collective experiences of struggle, of action, can broad masses begin to free themselves from the domination of ruling class ideology and become receptive to revolutionary ideas”.
History is amass with evidence that the Party has long stopped to be a “revolutionary Marxist party”, and that it is slowly failing, or is giving up, on organising the “socialist revolution”.
This article is not sufficient to accommodate such accounts. In the past, I have written about the gross de-Marxification of socialist thought, with clear reference to some senior leadership of the Party.
Unlike its predecessor, which was feared by agents of white minority rule as well as apologists of Apartheid and colonialism, the current SACP is a darling to the latter. In fact, it is no longer a taboo for senior leaders of the SACP to share common struggles with parties and formations that openly advocate for imperialist agendas. It is therefore safe to argue that the current SACP is a mere shadow of its former self.
It is for these reasons that I was not surprised when Bhekumzi Charles Stofile, the Provincial Secretary of SACP in Free State, who is also deployed as a Speaker in an ANC municipal council, told the media that the Party will be contesting elections alone in 2019, practically serving divorce papers to the Party’s Alliance with ANC, Cosatu and SANCO. As with many other decisions taken by the Party, there was no scientific or Marxist explanation given for this divorce. One can only note this as yet another sign of the de-Marxification of the Communist Party, right under our eyes.
The primary precondition for socialism, which the Party is purportedly pursuing, is political and ideological allegiance of the majority of the working class towards the cause for socialism. A cursory look at the context and complexion of the current battle of ideas is clear proof that the Party in South Africa has failed to gain the sympathy of the people in its ideological orientation. Let me perhaps rephrase this, the Party has failed to ensure that working class and Marxist thoughts reach every shop floor and every street in South Africa. Instead, Party has become a pseudo-NGO that picks on every prevailing issue without providing Marxist analysis, interpretation and response.
For socialism to prevail, the majority of the people’s consciousness must have evolved to a state where they see socialism as a viable, and the only alternative, to capitalism. Has that stage been reached yet? I do not think so. For socialism to prevail, the Party must have produced the kind of leadership that is more advanced, politically and ideologically, than the ordinary masses. Is that the case? I do not think so. How do you explain a Party leadership that openly supports a multi-billionaire capitalist, Cyril Ramaphosa, to become head of state? Such a support is not wrong on its own merits, but it is utterly ludicrous if it is advanced by a Party that claims to fight for socialism.
I still believe in socialism. I remain attracted to a system that is opposed to discrimination, segregation and exploitation. I shall use all platforms I have to contribute towards Marxist-Leninist thought.
I will use all avenues possible to fight for socialism and, ultimately, communism. I am, however, not convinced that the SACP is a party for socialism. I believe that the Party, in its current form, has abandoned the cause for socialism. But I will continue to vow; “Workers of the World Unite! Socialism is the future, build it now!”
Makhele is an ANC member and Spokesperson to Free State Premier Hon. Ace Magashule. He writes in his personal capacity