Communists protecting gravy train
After the charade that was the special congress of the SA Communist Party (SACP) ended last weekend, I could not help but remember a challenge posed by a friend who asked me in 2009 why we as the media called Blade Nzimande’s congregation a communist party.
“I think it’s just lazy journalism. What you have is the class of 2009 post-Polokwane displacing the 1996 class project. They all pray at the same altar of capitalist accumulation. So when you guys in the media talk about the left and nationalists, you are being duped and going along with it. What makes the SACP communist? A congress resolution? Please guys! The SACP is the most weird bunch of capitalists.” And my friend Andile Mngxitama was right. His words rang in my ears as I wondered what was communist about Nzimande’s political report to the congress.
Other than a quixotic attack on everything and everyone except government, what else was there? Where was the dialectical materialism? Where we expected an analysis of the state of the SACP over the past two and a half years and how it influenced the course of society, government and policy, we got an angry tirade against the media, the judiciary, film makers, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and more.
Where we expected introspection from the SACP on the performance of its cadres in government and how that strategy had benefited the party, we encountered deathly silence on this crucial debate.
The SACP posts lengthy discussion documents posing pertinent questions about its history, current role and future permutations before such conferences, but when it’s all over, there is an unsatisfactory feeling of been there, done that.
But from the media coverage of the conference, it was clear that what the delegates (as opposed to the leaders) were talking about was whether the SACP should attempt to capture state power for itself instead of being an ANC appendage. Members were frightfully aware that the current favourable dispensation – in which its leaders have been deployed to plum jobs as mayors, MECs and ministers – can change at any time depending on the ANC’s internal dynamics. And they are trying to anticipate and prepare for an eventuality of a new ANC leadership that could be hostile to the SACP.
But it was clear that the top structure – whose three leaders are government ministers – is not prepared to disrupt its gravy train. The leadership has deferred this matter to some task team that we probably will not hear from until the next congress – like they did about eight years ago when members also raised the prospect of the SACP contesting power on its own.
Trivialising and dismissing these calls from the grass roots could be the undoing of the SACP leadership in the long term.
Unless the party engages in a new round of purges to remove those spearheading these calls, it will be difficult to suppress such sentiments forever.
The same applies to the president of labour federation Cosatu, Sdumo Dlamini, who – like the SACP leaders – has fashioned himself as a defender of the status quo.
Dlamini this week became entrenched as the leader of the Cosatu faction that favours close links with the ANC and government.
After expelling metalworkers’ union Numsa, which asked tough questions about government delivery, Dlamini is firmly ensconced, complacent in victory.
However, it is much easier to deal with personality clashes than be a true workers’ voice in tune with and interested in taking up workers’ demands.
As the economy falters and workers lose their jobs or become casual workers, on whose side will Dlamini be?
Just two weeks ago, there was an alliance meeting at which Cosatu and the SACP failed to win any concessions on the dropping of e-tolls as the ANC stood firm. Did we hear Dlamini complain about this? No. Like Nzimande’s obsession with killing the EFF, Dlamini is intent on dealing with Numsa. Gone are the days of challenging monopoly capital. These days the enemy is anyone who challenges the current status quo under President Jacob Zuma.