Address by the Secretary-General of the ANC, Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe, to the 12th Congress of the SACP, July 12, 2007, Port Elizabeth
Comrade General Secretary
Leaders and Cadres of the South African Communist Party
Comrades and Friends,
Thank you for inviting the African National Congress to make its contribution to your debates at this historic 12th National Congress.
Allow me to apologize on behalf of the President of the African National Congress who is unable to attend this watershed National Congress of the SACP. We bring you revolutionary greetings and best wishes from the National Executive Committee and the entire membership of the African National Congress. We sincerely hope that this 12th National Congress will build an even stronger Communist Party in South Africa.
Communists have always been in the forward trenches with our fighters for national liberation. The SACP remains a tried and tested ally of the African National Congress. Your Congress takes place in this friendly city of Port Elizabeth, in the Nelson Mandela Metro, which has been a cradle of countless worker leaders who joined the front ranks of the people’s struggle for liberty. The soil of this great city serves as a shroud to many of our heroes including Vuyisile Mini, oom Gov and oom Ray.
Comrade Vuyisile Mini was a leader of workers in a South Africa where workers were denied the right to strike, could not choose where to live, had no right to vote, and no representatives in Parliament. The brutal and frequent interventions of the apartheid state on the factory floor exposed comrade Vuyisile Mini to the profound link between the exploitation of black workers, national oppression and patriarchy.
He became the secretary of the Cape ANC and later led the Eastern Cape command of uMkhonto we Sizwe. Together with his comrades Wilson Khayingo and Sinakile Mkaba he was executed by the regime in November 1964. Comrades Khayingo and Mkaba were buried in one unmarked grave, together with two common law criminals in the Mamelodi cemetery. Comrade Vuyisile Mini’s remains were buried in a cemetery reserved exclusively for whites in Pretoria with his headstone treacherously marked only with the words ‘V. Mini’ so that none could suspect that he was black. For more than thirty years the families of these brave warriors did not know where the graves of their fallen loved-ones were. It was not until 1998 that their remains were exhumed and reburied with dignity in the soil of this friendly city of Port Elizabeth.
Leaders like these – Mini, Mkaba, Khayingo, Mbeki, Mhlaba – had one thing in common. They were dedicated members, cadres and leaders of the ANC, SACTU and the SACP. Our alliance is embodied in these comrades and countless others. The graves of these comrades and many more others are the foundation stones of our alliance. The recommendations we made at the policy conference of the ANC last month confirm once again that there is no fundamental divergence between the Alliance partners on the nature of the National Democratic Revolution and the most immediate tasks we face.
This is why the SACP is more than just an ally to the ANC. We regard cadres of the SACP as part of the most reliable detachments of the builders of our movement. Our experience in the ANC is that time and again, the party has been able to provide theoretical guidance to our whole movement. The 1962 program of the SACP, The Road to South African Freedom, is an example of this.
Like a bright flare fired into the dark night sky, the Road to South African Freedom illuminated the terrain of struggle for miles around. As it said: “In this Program, the South African Communist Party states its fundamental principles. It surveys the vast changes, which are transforming the world and the continent we live in. It analyzes the historical roots and the underlying realities of South African society. It puts forward its answers to the problems facing the people of our country today.” The approach set out in the Road to South African Freedom served to guide the thinking and practice not only of party cadres, but also of the whole liberation movement.
Dear comrades, This 12th National Congress takes place six months ahead of the 52nd National Conference of the ANC, where vital discussions will include our strategy and tactics, organizational review and our approach to economic and social transformation. We will therefore listen with keen interest to your deliberations, and study the outcomes thereof in great detail.
We hope – in a truly revolutionary sense – that the Party will once again offer us a coherent survey of the vast changes that are transforming the country, the continent of Africa and the world we live in. We will look forward to hearing how the party views the underlying realities of the South African society, and what responses it suggests to the challenges our people face. Challenges such as poverty, joblessness, homelessness, landlessness, poor quality education, lack of skills, disease and ignorance. We are confident that the work you do over the next four days will make our work in the ANC much easier.
We also have a keen interest in the discussions of your new program, the South African Road to Socialism. In a 1961 leaflet of the SACP, the position was articulated as follows: “We stand where Communists have always stood on the great question of ending capitalism and the exploitation of man by man. We believe that the best road for the future of our country is that of SOCIALISM. That is, a society where all the industries, farms, mines and other means of production are made public property; where living standards rise rapidly and progress is planned by a strong workers’ and peasants’ government.”
The same leaflet stated the position of the Communist Party as follows: “On the immediate problem of South Africa, we stand with all other patriots and democrats, irrespective of their views about socialism. We stand for a united front of national liberation. We stand together with the Congress movement for the Freedom Charter.”
By saying these things, clearly the Party was developing its strategy by first understanding that this long journey to Socialism begins at the end. Strategically, we must start at the end. We must understand the end goal, and then identify the most direct path towards its attainment. The Party identified the implementation of the Freedom Charter as this most direct path.
As the President of the ANC said at the opening of our policy conference last month: “The ANC would respect the right and duty of our ally, the South African Communist Party, to lead the struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. Our movement has never stopped or discouraged the SACP from playing this role, and will not do so today or tomorrow.”
The South African Road to Socialism once again places the question of the socialist revolution firmly on the agenda of the Party. The socialist revolution must necessarily place another key question on the agenda of this 12th National Congress: the question of political power. Proceeding from the understanding that all political parties exist in order to take power, the SACP said in its 1989 program, the Path to Power, said:
“The fundamental question of any socialist revolution is the winning of political power by the working class, in alliance with other progressive elements among the people. The working class then sets out to eliminate exploitation by achieving public ownership and democratic control of the means of production.” All of these quotations from the past make it clear that the SACP has always been very clear about its ultimate goal of achieving socialism.
Much ideological water has flowed under the bridge of revolutionary practice since 1989. The 12th National Congress of the SACP must reach a conclusion on whether the afore-stated position remains valid today, and if so, what the implications thereof are. Flowing from the answer to this question will arise the question of how the SACP will contribute towards consolidating the leadership role of the working class as the core and leading motive force in the National Democratic Revolution.
The leading class needs to know on which side of the fence it stands, and who else is there with it. This is a function of a clear understanding of revolutionary theory. But the leadership role of the working class is not something that can simply be proclaimed in the lofty formulations of strategic intentions. Rather, it must be won through practical leadership of the people, by working amongst the people in all of their struggles. In simple terms, revolution means mobilizing social forces. No revolution can succeed on a sectarian basis. No revolution can succeed where one class force is isolated from broader society.
In this the SACP can draw on the huge reservoir of its own experience, as exemplified by the work of comrades like Moses Kotane. It is well known that Chief Albert Luthuli would call upon Moses Kotane, the General Secretary of the SACP, for advice before taking any significant decision. He did so not because Moses Kotane was a Communist, but because it was known that Moses Kotane would apply his mind and consider any issue from all angles, and therefore arrive at the clearest understanding of what the next step forward would be.
This year, 21st July marks the 40th anniversary of the death of President Albert Luthuli. He too was an outstanding leader and a well-rounded human being. He was able to combine his work as a sports administrator, a traditional leader, a Christian preacher, a teacher and a leader of the African National Congress.
In your deliberations we hope you will be inspired by the towering memory of comrades like Yusuf Dadoo, Dora Tamana, Lillian Ngoyi, Chris Hani, Moses Kotane, Rusty Bernstein, JB Marks, Braam Fischer, Moses Mabhida, Walter Sisulu, Ray Alexander, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba and Vuyisile Mini.
As we meet, two of our most outstanding cadres, comrades Billy Nair and Brian Bunting, are engaged in a fierce struggle against ill health. Both are stalwarts of our revolution who have remained in harness throughout their lives.
The ANC will continue to deeply appreciate the fact that over the decades the SACP has defined itself, both in theory and in practice, as an integral part of the national liberation movement. The ANC will continue to draw on the theoretical insights that the SACP develops, which illuminates the terrain of the struggle that we share. The ANC will continue to value and support the SACP’s role in the struggle for socialism.
Dear delegates, It is our firm belief that the everlasting legacy of clarity of vision, courage and selflessness of countless Communist cadres who came before us will continue to enthuse all our deliberations during this 12th National Congress. We are certain that, inspired by their example, we will emerge from this Congress with resolutions, which will continue to mould the Party into a potent instrument of revolution.