This year will mark the centenary the birth Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, the longest serving President of the ANC. Before then Tambo served as ANC Deputy President. President Tambo died in April 1993, a year before our April 1994 historic democratic breakthrough. He did not see the transition that he dedicated his politically active youth and entire adulthood fighting for. Had he lived he would be turning 100 years on 27 October 2017. Let me take this opportunity to thank you for organising this important event to reflect on his revolutionary life.
This event is, concurrently, also dedicated at reflecting on the revolutionary life of Comrade Joe Slovo, former General Secretary and National Chairperson of the SACP. Slovo died on 6 January 1995, a year after our April 1994 democratic breakthrough. Unlike Tambo, Slovo had the opportunity to see the transition. In addition he became the first minister of housing.
But like Tambo, Slovo made an outstanding contribution to our struggle for liberation and social emancipation. He served, along with former President Nelson Mandela, as one of the first commanders of the joint ANC-SACP liberation wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Slovo also served as the MK Chief of Staff, and was succeeded in this position and that of SACP General Secretary by Comrade Chris Hani. It is important that we emphasise the fact that the MK was a joint ANC-SACP military pillar of our struggle for liberation and social emancipation.
If we do not emphasise that the MK was a joint ANC-SACP military wing, the dangerous distortion of our history confining the formation of the MK to the ANC and alienating the MK and its veterans from the SACP will prevail. This will exterminate the values of unity of revolutionary purpose that Tambo and Slovo shared and pioneered, including its expression in the form of our Alliance.
That will at least be reactionary, and at most counter-revolutionary. This is why we must also dedicate this important opportunity, over and above celebrating the revolutionary contributions of Tambo and Slovo in our struggle, to reflect on the shared history of the ANC and the SACP, and on the lessons we can draw from that gallant shared history as the SACP and the ANC in the context of the situation that we are currently facing. This is covered very well by the objectives of this august event.
But, comrades, the year of the centenary of Tambo’s birth and the 22nd anniversary of Slovo’s death is the year of the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Let us link this back to the MK. When the MK was formed in 1961, a year after the ANC was banned in 1960 and ten years after the SACP was banned in 1950, the imperialist West refused to provide assistance and capacity building. In fact the United States listed the whole of our movement and classified our struggle for liberation and social emancipation as terrorist.
The listing and classification, for instance in case of President Mandela and other comrades, were maintained for a long time even beyond 1994 after he was democratically elected. International support for the MK came mainly from the Soviet Union and other countries that adopted the transition to socialism as their development path. This emanated from the Alliance between the SACP and the ANC, and from the formation of the MK as the joint SACP-ANC military wing. The support for the MK emanated primarily from the character of the Communist Party as an international movement, with the Communist International – also known as the Comintern – and the Soviet Union playing a major supportive international solidarity role to national liberation struggles to overthrow colonialism and imperialism.
It is in this context that it was the Soviet Union which gave arms and training to liberation movements of Southern Africa, MPLA in Angola, Frelimo in Mozambique, Zapu in Zimbabwe, Swapo in Namibia and the SACP-ANC’s MK in South Africa. It was not only in the form of military assistance. It was also in the form of training for medical doctors, engineers and administrators for future peaceful development.
Further, the shared SACP and ANC leaders like Moses Kotane and JB Marks, as well as other revolutionaries of our struggle for liberation, social emancipation and democratic national sovereignty, like David Ivon Jones, were buried in Moscow, the Soviet Union after their deaths. Tambo and Slovo laboured selflessly during this entire period, giving leadership politically and ideologically to our struggle, as well as through practical involvement in revolutionary action.
There are many striking similarities between Tambo and Slovo. I would like to touch on a select few before discussing our current situation looking back at the good leadership examples that Tambo and Slovo set. Tambo was elected ANC Secretary General in 1954. In 1955 when the Congress of the People that adopted the Freedom Charter took place the apartheid regime had imposed restriction orders on both Tambo and Slovo. They were both involved in preparations for the Congress. They were members of the National Action Committee that drafted the Freedom Charter.
Slovo was representing the Congress of Democrats and implementing his underground communist activism as a pillar of struggle that the SACP adopted when it reconstituted itself underground after it was banned in 1950. Slovo rejected wallowing in White privilege. He decided to wage a relentless struggle against racial oppression, gender domination, capitalist class exploitation and its highest stage of imperialism. Although today very few White people will admit to ever having supported apartheid, in reality, at the time of apartheid very few of them were prepared to follow the example of Slovo and other White revolutionary democrats who joined the ranks of our struggle for national liberation and socialism, among others Michael Harmel (A. Lerumo), Jack Simons, Ray Alexander Simons, Brian Bunting, Helen Joseph, Bram Fischer, Dennis Goldberg, Ruth First and Albie Sachs.
Slovo and Tambo did not demobilise after they were imposed with apartheid restriction orders: They continued resiliently to work in the background. They both observed the proceedings at the Congress of the People from nearby locations, with Slovo using binoculars from the roof top of the house where he was based. Their resilience deepened throughout the history of our struggle for liberation and social emancipation. We need more time than just today’s session, important as it is, to unpack the whole shared history of our struggle as the SACP and the ANC and the contribution made by Tambo and Slovo, as well as, especially more beneficial to the new generation, their biographical details.
But the importance of this event that you have organised today cannot be overemphasised. It is an innovative contribution of the process that we need to focus on building the unity of our Revolutionary Alliance. We must dedicate this opportunity therefore to reflect extensively on building and further developing unity of purpose. If there is one thing that the ANC in the first place and the Alliance equally need at present, and going forward, is principled unity behind a common programme, which is, at present, the necessity to move our national democratic revolution onto a second, more radical phase.
Unity and cohesion, mass-based radical economic transformation, in memory of Tambo and Slovo!
I would like to dedicate the concluding part of this presentation on the same question of principled unity and cohesion. There are many shared aspects of the history of the ANC and the SACP and the contribution both of Tambo and Slovo, but first of all they were the champions of unity of purpose.
This is clearly evident from their involvement in the co-ordination of the Congress of the People held in 1955 and drafting of the Freedom Charter through their participation in the National Action Committee that drafted the charter, although they could not attend the congress due to the restriction orders that were imposed on them as already pointed out. The Freedom Charter became a common programme, agreed to by communists and non-communists alike. It defined the purpose of the unity of our Alliance and was, and still is, supported by mass democratic organisations.
Another important intervention on unity of purpose from the good leadership example set by Tambo and Slovo and the shared history of the ANC and the SACP came from the ANC’s 1969 Consultative Conference. Held in Morogoro, Tanzania the conference adopted the first ANC Strategy and Tactics document. The document endorsed a number of key tenets constituting our shared theory of struggle. This included perspectives already worked out by the SACP in its 1962 Political Programme entitled “The Road to South African Freedom”, notably the theory of the national democratic revolution and the analysis of the South African situation as constituting colonialism of a special type.
Tambo’s leadership was crucial on the convening of the conference against the backdrop of serious internal challenges facing the ANC and in guiding the conference to become successful. A document that became known as the Hani memorandum succinctly captured some of those challenges, leading to the convening of the conference.
Slovo, who despite the fact that at time he was not in the leadership ranks of the ANC, because the ANC was not yet open in that regard to Whites, nevertheless selflessly contributed to the drafting of the Strategy and Tactics that the conference adopted. Slovo, who worked very closely with Tambo, among others through the Revolutionary Council from 1969 until its dissolution in 1983, as the Chief of Staff of the MK, as well as, through the Alliance, the General Secretary and National Chairperson of the SACP, became the first White member of the ANC National Executive Committee in 1985 at a Consultative Conference held in Zambia when the ANC opened its leadership ranks to Whites.
Tambo delivered the ANC after unbanning intact. This is what he said in his own words when he opened the 48thANC National Conference in Durban, 2 July 1991: “we did not tear ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them. Above all we succeeded to foster and defend the unity of the ANC and the unity of our people in general.”
The question is:
Can we say the same about the leadership role of the ANC to its own members, the Alliance and our people in general today?
Can the leadership of the ANC today say the same about the ANC’s leadership role and willingness to accept own mistakes and decisively self-correct?
To be frank concrete conditions will rebuke any claims that any serious effort has been demonstrated to accept own mistakes, decisively self-correct and unite the ANC, unite the Alliance, unite associated mass organisations and, as Tambo said, unite our people in general. In fact, facts and figures show that the ANC’s support from our people is declining. The last local government elections results contain massive evidence.
But a new denialism has emerged. Even when the ANC is no longer the governing party in the Western Cape at the provincial and local government levels, in the Nelson Mandela, Tshwane and Johannesburg metros, there are individual leaders who still argue that that the ANC did not lose. In Ekurhuleni the ANC is a governing party not because it has achieved the majority of votes required to form a government, but because it has entered into a coalition after it did not secure the required majority of votes to form a government without entering into a coalition. The decline in ANC support did not only occur in the metros, but on average across the country not only in other areas where we lost municipalities but also in many municipalities where we have won.
Beneath the decline lies factionalism, corruption, patronage, distortion of internal democracy, gate-keeping and the rise in influence, of private corporate, personal and family interests and, associated with these destructive tendencies, the rise of corporate capture both organisationally and in the state. Hypocrisy has also taken root. It is not unusual under the circumstances to find a leader who calls for unity disrupting unity undercover through factional conduct thus propagating divisions and disunity.
For instance on 8January the ANC convened a national rally in Johannesburg. It released on that occasion its 105th anniversary statement that called on all members and leaders to refrain from raising names for election at the 54th ANC National Conference scheduled to take place in December. The statement called for the debate to focus on principles that must underpin the identification of names for leadership election. The statement was violated a day before it was publicly released.
A factional consideration behind the violation could have been that once the statement was released the following day, the name that was pronounced for the position of ANC President a day before would have been the last to be unveiled publicly by an integral structure of the ANC when everybody going forward would be required to comply by not violating the statement. As if that was not enough, SABC radio stations were used a few days later to motivate why the candidate who was unveiled qualifies for election to the position.
Insincerity and inconsistency will not unify the ANC and the rest of our movement but will only cause more harm. Without confronting these and all other destructive tendencies that lie behind the decline of the hard-won democratic hegemony of the ANC and the legacy of unity inherited from Tambo it is either going to be more difficult or impossible for the ANC to reclaim lost ground. Internal divisions in the ANC impact negatively not only on the unity of the ANC but also on the unity of the Alliance and our people in general. This is the reason why I felt compelled to underline the problem and appeal that we must take our cue from the good leadership example set by Tambo and Slovo.
Lastly, and related to all of the issues that I have been able to touch on I would like to raise the issue of the necessity to pursue radical economic transformation. Many of the problems that we are facing today – high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty, are a direct result of persisting colonial and apartheid social relations of production.
Related to this, they are the results of the failure after 1994 to pursue radical economic transformation. But linked with this, they are the results of wrong economic policy choices, notably imposed in government in 1996 without consultation the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) strategy. The problems were worsened by the eruption of the ongoing capitalist system crisis of 2008. All of these factors go against the shared revolutionary values that Tambo and Slovo shared and stood for.
But we must be careful. The mere fact that we now agree, after many years of the push by the SACP and Cosatu to radicalise the national democratic revolution, about the necessity to pursue radical economic transformation, does not mean that we agree about its basic content and strategic tasks. We may all be talking about radically reducing inequality, unemployment and poverty. But others may be eying radical looting in the name of all the historically disadvantaged. This is why we must not leave the class content of what we mean by radical economic transformation unattended.
The very correct assertion that radical economic transformation must deliver on ownership by Black people and women may be hijacked to mean ownership by certain individuals through political and business connections and not ownership by the historically disadvantaged or in the words of the Freedom Charter the people as whole.
It is very important that for radical economic transformation to alter ownership structures fundamentally to give effect to, and to regulate collective worker ownership in those companies that employ them as opposed to individuals interested in joining pre-existing economic interests in the exploitation of the masses of workers through private appropriation of the surplus that the workers produce during the process of production. Related to this, radical economic transformation must advance other forms of collective worker ownership in the form of worker-owned companies and co-operatives, but as well as in the form of decisive and expanded public ownership by the state on behalf of the people as a whole.
But learning from the terrible experience of the looting of public entities by an axis of corporately captured leaders and public officials, on the one hand, and on the other hand their corporate capturers who sometimes have business connections with family members of those who they have captured, or their proxies, it is going to be very important, as part of radical economic transformation, to strengthen our fight to combat corporate capture, corruption and patronage. Public entities must not be used as instruments to advance exploitative interests and place such interests ahead of economically empowering the historically disadvantaged and the exploited and systematically eliminate inequality, unemployment and poverty.
Radical economic transformation must essentially constitute a movement to restore the surplus produced in production, which has always been appropriated by the exploiters in the form of profit, interests and rent, to those who produce it each according to their contribution during the production process. This must constitute what we mean by shared and inclusive growth.
Radical economic transformation must alter and do away with the structure of production that we inherited from colonialism and apartheid. This would require rigorous measures to build intellectual, functional and productive capacity to innovate, invent, design and make discoveries of finished products, which we must produce in our economy to create jobs for the millions of the unemployed. We need to convert our raw materials and primary products into finished goods. In particular we need to assert democratic control of our raw materials to build strategic advantage for localised production to create jobs.
It is important that we increase the pace of land redistribution. But, we must assist historically disadvantaged people who already have land to use it productively. This requires support in the form of materials, inputs, equipment, training and monitoring to ensure maximum results and, on a consistent basis.
Radical transformation of the banking and the financial sector as a whole has a crucial role to play in facilitating radical economic transformation and ensuring investment in productive activity. This must be one of the central tenets of the strategic tasks of the second radical phase of our national democratic revolution. It is important that the second financial sector summit is held by the end of this year to take forward the task.
At the same time, we must review our macroeconomic policy framework. So far some of the voices claiming to be advocating for radical economic transformation avoid or suppress a discussion about this important question. There will be no radical economic transformation without radically reviewing our macroeconomic policy framework to support national production development and target employment creation. In the revolutionary spirit of our shared Alliance perspective to push forward with a radical economic transformation programme, and in memory of the revolutionary contributions of Tambo and Slovo to the struggle, I would like to conclude by quoting fundamental principles about this perspective from the ANC’s 1969 Strategy and Tactics document:
“Our drive towards national emancipation is therefore in a very real way bound up with economic emancipation. We have suffered more than just national humiliation. Our people are deprived of their due in the country's wealth; their skills have been suppressed and poverty and starvation has been their life experience. The correction of these centuries-old economic injustices lies at the very core of our national aspirations. We do not underestimate the complexities which will face a people's government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting economic needs of the mass of the oppressed people. But one thing is certain – in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections or individuals be they White or Black.”
The document was decisive, that:
“our nationalism must not be confused with chauvinism or narrow nationalism... It must not be confused with the classical drive by an elitist group among the oppressed people to gain ascendancy so that they can replace the oppressor in the exploitation of the mass[es].
These principles remain valid as ever. We must rigorously defend and advance them. We must not allow elitist groupings to clone their private corporate, personal and family interests as radical economic transformation. We must push for genuine, i.e. mass based radical economic transformation restoring the wealth produced from the process of production to the direct producers – the workers – and to the benefit of the people as a whole, as opposed to some individuals or friends of certain leaders, their business connections, associates, corporate capturers, or hangers-on.
Let me take this opportunity to thank you comrades and compatriots for organising this important activity.
Let us look back at our shared history to draw revolutionary lessons.
But let us develop a clear grasp of our strategic tasks to move forward towards completing the national democratic revolution.