In his honour, communists now need to fix the rot in the alliance
TApril 10 marked 25 years since the murder of the general secretary of the SACP, Comrade Chris Hani. It emerged he was killed by a racist, fascist clique bent on plunging the country into civil war in a frantic attempt to block the transition to a democracy.
The commemoration of
Hani (pictured) comes at a critical juncture in the national democratic revolution and encourages reflection, analysis and a recommitment to advancing the primary agenda of transforming our society.
In celebrating the life and struggle of Hani, we should reflect on the significance of his contribution to the movement and invoke his spirit to inspire us in tackling challenges that face our revolution today.
In doing so, we should tie this 25th commemoration to three distinctive generational contributions that he specifically and communists in general made to sharpen and advance the movement.
First, Hani, along with others, is mentioned as the catalyst to the monumental Morogoro conference of 1969, widely accepted as a critical moment that decisively shaped the Struggle and the movement’s strategy and tactics.
Before the conference, he and others drafted what is termed the Morogoro Declaration
(and sometimes the Hani Memorandum), which presented the most honest and unflinching confronting of tendencies that were undermining the liberation Struggle in exile.
In the declaration, Hani’s group confronted organisational dysfunctionality, the leadership in exile being distracted from the primary task of political struggle in South Africa, the growing disconnection between the political programme of the ANC and the military (MK), as well as the entrepreneurial inclinations of some leaders giving rise to corrupt relationships, allegations of nepotism, patronage and the widening gap in the living conditions between the elite and the rank and file combatants and cadres.
Second, Hani had an interview with Luli Callinicos a few weeks before his assassination.
In this wide-ranging interview, Comrade Chris reflected on the movement in exile, the armed Struggle, the primary vanguard role of the Communist Party in advancing non-racism, internationalism and the broadbased Struggle for freedom and justice for all, which distinguished the ANC from many other liberation organisations, both in the country and in post-colonial struggles.
Towards the end of the interview, Hani gave a telling prediction of what he saw as the most pressing challenge and enemy of the revolution to confront the movement on the eve of the democratic transition whereby the ANC was to assume power.
Third, the current position represents one of the sharpest contradictions in the national democratic revolution, characterised by the regression of many of the political elite in the ANC to the tendencies Hani confronted, which almost imploded the movement in exile.
Interestingly, his warning a few weeks before his death is now taking substance before us, making it a prophecy of how far the elite would go to abandon the revolution for personal gain.
The Morogoro Declaration, the 1993 interview, the assassination and our present state of affairs represent specific generational crossroads in our revolution, in which Hani had been astute enough to identify the sharpening contradictions in the movement and in the revolution.
Not only had Hani been aware of the possibilities, but he had had the courage to confront the contradictions even at great personal cost to himself, including ultimately his death.
Hani best represents the character of communists in the liberation movement in terms of consciousness and analysis, as the vanguard of the congress alliance ideologically, politically and morally, as well as communists as exemplars of struggles and the practice of non-racism, principled internationalism, justice and the fight against poverty and inequality.
It is in keeping with the spirit of Hani – who himself drew inspiration from Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo and JB Marks – that the SACP has become the leading voice in the alliance and society in confronting state capture.
The communists have been at the forefront of the alliance in exposing the rot, characterised by the unholy marriage between a parasitic bourgeoisie and a clique of captured political elites in government and state-owned enterprises (SOES).
The accumulation, for private benefit, of vast amounts of state resources has debilitated the development and strategic capacity of most of our SOES and eroded public trust in critical institutions such as the SA Revenue Service, National Prosecuting Authority and organs of state security.
Endemic corruption, rent seeking and patronage have had a devastating impact.
It is interesting that the tendencies Hani confronted in exile and which undermined the core of the revolutionary Struggle back then are at the centre of the rot ravaging the movement today.
This has led to the neglect of the alliance, a burgeoning of narrow nationalist chauvinism disguised as pseudo-radical rhetoric, with vulgar scientific tools of analysis used to obfuscate looting as radical transformation.
In commemorating 25 years since the death of Hani, it is incumbent on communists to advance and deepen the Struggle against poverty and inequality and support a sustained fight against parasitic networks that undermine the ability of the state to carry out the transformative agenda of the national democratic revolution.
Just as Hani was, communists must be unflinching in exposing parasitic tendencies and leaders complicit in them, highlighting the direct relationship between corruption and the denial of justice and theft of resources from the working class.
But the fight against corruption is not an end in itself; it must be deepened to advance the Struggle, building a movement we can be proud of.
As Hani said: “We must build a different culture in this country, different from the National
Party, different also from the narrow nationalist politics on the continent. And that culture should be one of service to our people.”
We must bear in mind that Hani’s courage and foresight are praised today in hindsight, but were met with indifference, bitterness and even disdain by those whom he exposed and confronted.
Likewise, communists today should be similarly aware in their analysis and resolute in confronting those who are undermining the advancement of revolutionary transformation.
They also must not expect adulation, rewards and applause.
Just as they vilified Comrade Chris and even killed him, they will vilify and assassinate characters and even kill comrades who dare to confront the rot in their own ranks.
It is in this context that we should understand the notion of a reconfigured alliance, as proposed by the SACP.
In essence, the intervention of Hani, which gave rise to the Morogoro conference, reconfigured the movement and the alliance in exile, culminating in changes in the structure of the movement. In particular, the adoption of strategies at Morogoro guided the Struggle in the days ahead.
The current debate on reconfiguring the alliance must be more than just a structural realignment of consultation protocols between alliance partners.
It should be grounded in real politics and campaigns that drive the revolution forward. In my view, that would be a befitting honour to Comrade Chris.
Bhengu is a director of the Chris Hani Institute.