Address by the Deputy President of the African National Congress, Kgalema Motlanthe, during the South African Community Party Fundraising Gala Dinner, Rustenburg
31 July 2010Programme Director;
The General-Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Comrade Blade Nzimande;
Members of the Central Committee;
Comrades and friends;
Ladies and gentlemen:
Many thanks for this unique opportunity to address the South African Communist Party’s (SACP) 89th Anniversary Gala Dinner.
Accordingly, I must start off by conveying heartfelt congratulations to you on this special occasion.
The theme for the SACP 89th Anniversary is: “Remember Chris Hani; Fight Corruption and Defend the Unity of our Alliance”.
At first I thought the theme of this Gala dinner was a directive from the Central Committee and thefore as a disciplined cadre of the movement I thought I should not veer away from it.
But speaking as a Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa I decided to liberally take this theme as a guide. I will therefore criss-cross the richness of this history which abounds with lessons.
Because this is the 89th Anniversary we mark it in a manner that takes us to the 90th anniversary. 2010 FIFA World Cup brought about a sense of unity and cohesion across the nation and therefore as SACP we have an interest in marking this anniversary in a manner that serve as a bridge to the 90th anniversary as well as the centenary of the ANC.
My position is that if we grasp the broader historical role of the SACP in our revolution, we will be better placed to understand our duty to defend the revolution by upholding this great legacy, part of which is the fight against the pestilence of corruption in society.
History tells us that throughout its existence, the SACP has not only been a source of inspiration for our struggle for freedom, but also, helped forge an enduring vision for our country.
A list of communists who have held high the banner of our freedom today includes: SP Bunting, TW Thibedi, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Jimmy Gomas, Ruth First, Bram Fischer, Albert Nzula, Joe Slovo and Chris Hani, among others.
Our victory against apartheid owed much to the cross pollination of ideas, the overlapping membership and the sharing of leadership between the SACP and the African National Congress (ANC).
This overlapping membership resulted from conscious translation of revolutionary theory of the concrete conditions in South Africa.
This historical relationship, at once symbiotic and dialectical, fertilised our collective vision as revolutionary forces, guiding our collective march to today’s victory.
Consequently we can correctly submit that South Africa’s democratic dispensation in its present form would be unimaginable without the SACP’s contribution.
Indeed, looking back on these 89 years of history, we are inclined to see the role the SACP played in our revolution with a much clearer perspective.
This historical vantage point enables us to appreciate the Party’s theoretical insights that helped prop up our struggle, personified by a number of leading communists over the years.
The Tripartite Alliance as we know it today is the product of the long history of non-racialism and unity in the course of our struggle.
No less a figure than comrade Chris Hani himself tells us of the catalylising impact of the SACP on his life as a revolutionary.
On this account he says that:
"In 1959 I went over to university at Fort Hare...It was here that I got exposed to Marxist ideas and the scope and nature of the racist capitalist system. My conversion to Marxism also deepened my non-racial perspective" (Chris Hani Biography Online).
Today, we the beneficiaries of this great heritage should know that many a good liberation movement strayed off course due to their blindness to the importance of the underlying priciples of unity.
We could very well ask, rhetorically, what form post-apartheid South Africa would have taken had the early risers of our revolution not had the foresight to espouse this catalytic vision!
Indeed, along with the ANC, history credits the SACP with the act of imbuing our struggle with these abiding credentials of unity.
We should not lose sight of this important fact as we near both the 90th Anniversary of the SACP and the centenary of the ANC.
Both these anniversaries are but the realisation of a humanist and universalist vision developed and gradually cultivated over many difficult decades by self-less revolutionaries.
This long history is beginning to bear results in society.
Today resounding voices outside the orbit of the Mass Democratic Movement are beginning to assert themselves on the question of non-racialism and related principles.
Such voices are saying non-racialism is the way to go. We should not only encourage the rising volume of such voices but, deservedly, also take pride in the fact that they are the vindication of our long history of struggle for a non-racial and just society.
Such exuberant enthusiasm, where it is genuine, is deeply brewed in our own long established tradition.
They are the result of many decades of struggle by many of our leaders from both the SACP and the MDM.
As we said before, many such leaders paid a heavy price in different ways for adhering to the principles of non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy, justice and equality.
So we have a duty to continue to provide society with the necessary leadership to uphold this long cherished heritage, bearing in mind that it is easy to destroy than to build.
To build principles is a painful, hard and difficult exercise that takes years.
A cursory look at our history will show that non-racialism did not come easy, even among our ranks.
It took immense effort to seed the idea in our struggle, to cultivate it and nourish it.
The SACP was not only the pioneer of this conception of the struggle, it also developed comprehensive theory of the revolution based on clear understanding of the necessity for non-racialism as the basis for the vision of the human society we sought to achieve.
It was, after all, the Party that clarified and guided the role of the working class in the national liberation struggle.
It did this by providing theoretical underpinnings between the class struggle and the national struggle, the question of dilectically linked stages in struggle, and the necessity for inter-class alliances in the South African liberation struggle.
Importantly linked to this elucidation of the South African national democratic struggle was the clarity the early communists provided on the question of labour movement.
The evolution of progressive labour politics in South Africa is directly traceable to the formation of the Internation Socialist League and later, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), the South African Communist Party’s predecessor.
This progressive labour leadership would later play a meaningful role in the building of the ANC.
The sparks of non-racialism in our history of struggle sputtered into life with the adoption of the Black Republic Thesis in 1929.
The development of the Black Republic Thesis, the theory that contended that:
''the most direct line of advance to socialism runs through the mass struggle for majority rule'', primed the Party to accept the ANC as leader of the national liberation forces.
The Black Republic Thesis laid firm foundations for the emergence of the alliance in that it defined the form and content of the struggle and the role of each alliance formation.
In the words of the late comrade Joe Slovo:
‘A failure to understand the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle in existing conditions can hold back the advance of both the democratic and socialist transformations which we seek.’
This intertwined themes of the struggle provided conducive conditions in which communists and nationalist could work together to advance the interests of the national struggle.
This, however, did not mean that the relationship between the communists and the ANC was smooth.
Much conflict emerged in this relationship due to different working methods and ideas and political cultures. In this regard the 1930s saw increasing opposition to communism within certain quarters in the ANC.
And yet the imprint of communists on the firmament of the revolution was already indelible.
The intellectual tradition the communists established helped cultivate sharp cadres within the ANC.
It is such intellectual tradition that sustained the struggle that we need to maintain today as we strive to define the course of the revolution.
It would indeed be a serious indictment on all of us, and an insult to this great heritage, if we fail to produce theoreticians and thinkers within the alliance as we near 90th and 100th Anniversaries, respectively.
Today the Tripartite Alliance is faced with a number of challenges relating to how to take our country forward.
And one of the challenges is to produce cadres among our ranks who produce theoretical clarity in the leaque of Kotane, Slovo, Mabhida, First, Dadoo, and Chris Hani, among others.
Reflecting on his experience in the Party, for example, comrade Moses Kotana tells us that:
‘It was at the Lenin School that I learnt how to think politically. They taught me the logical method of argument, political anaylysis. From that time onwards I was never at a loss when it come to summing up a situation. I knew what to look for and what had to be done from the point of view of the working class.’
Along with this level of theoreritcal development comes the ability to accept criticism as the most constructive tool we possess for the prevention of errors.
This then poses the question: have we today developed Party school capable of producing the level of cadreship as captured by comrade Kotane?
In our organisational electoral contests today, is it not corruption of our culture, systems and thinking to submit slates for delegates to vote on, since this is a direct ‘manipulation’ of politcal processes?
Like Kotane, are we incorruptible in our personal and political lives?
I put this rhetorical questions to us, since comrade Yusuf Dadoo taught us this about Kotane:
‘Moses Kotane was a man you knew could never let you down, never do something behind your back, never deceive you. You always knew where you stood with Moses Kotane…He never damanded from others more than what he was prepared to do himself.’
This delineation of Kotane reminds us of the superiority of principles as oppossed to expediency in how a cadre carries him- or herself.
It is a profound critique of individualism that can creep into our system of thought, corrupting us at the level of ideas as manifested by pre-election lobbying within organisations, in some cases as noted before.
Thus it is clear that it is still some way to go to build this culture that charecterised the SACP and the ANC of Moses Kotane and Chris Hani.
Today to a certain extent there is some conceptual confusion within the Tripartite Alliance brought about by the new conditions attendant to governance, including policy direction.
However, we are confident in the innate ability of the Alliance, based on our historical unity to overcome such challenges.
The 98 years of ANC history have been rich in content and fraught with problems, but this self-same history teaches us that these problems can and will be overcome, as Gxobh’iyeza Kwedini observed.
On this account, the same can be said of the Alliance.
The Tripartite Alliance is not a matter of convenience but an organisational expression of the common future under whose purpose we are labouring.
The Tripartite Alliance is based on this primary reality of our history; the need to implement social transformation that improves the lives of all our people.
This historically-based task is made much more urgent by the challenges of service delivery, poverty and the need to defeat corruption in society.
So we have the duty to enhance understanding amongst alliance partners, and to strengthen the organisational capacity of each individual component.
Of course we must also respect the right of individual alliance partners to discuss and arrive at their own decisions on how they seek to pursue their strategic objectives.
The alliance is centered on pivotal goals of the National Democratic Revolution - the establishment of a democratic and non-racial South Africa, economic transformation and continued process of political and economic democratisation.
For this reason, the ANC is charged with the historical responsibility to lead the Tripartite Alliance.
I am confident in the relevance of the alliance, and we are convinced that it remains the only vehicle capable of bringing about fundamental transformation in South Africa.
As we celebrate the 89th Anniversary of the SACP, we should be conscious of the weight of history on our shoulders.
We should be conscious of not only upholding a great legacy but of using this legacy as the basis to realise the objectives of a better human society as envisioned by those who come before us, like Chris Hani.
Equally, we should be careful not be the first generation to betray the legacy of early communists and indeed nationalists, who forged a vision that has successfully translated into the joys of our present democracy.
This awareness will help us become better cadres who always strive for a better society, characterised by the ability to keep out the fumes of corruption from choking our verdant democracy.