Dear comrade Jeremy,
Re: Irvin Jim and Zwelinzima Vavi, the State and Cde Wayile, Marikana, NUMSA and the NUM
How are you?
The last time we came across each other was in a campaign against labour broking and e-tolls, where you offered us some “clarifications”. Long time, no see!
I trust that you have indeed settled down after relinquishing your ANC NEC position to focus on “reading and writing”, doing some “intellectual work” and from time to time, now and then, dabble into leading the SACP, as you said when you declined to be nominated to the NEC of ANC. It is clear that your engagements in the ANC NEC, has led to an overall stagnation in “intellectual activity” in the entire movement. Your engagement in government is consistent with “intellectual work”; you have not resigned there. What holds back “intellectual work” is the ANC NEC, from which you declined to serve. If you can get out of that “un-intellectual” African National Congress leadership, then you can be able to “read and write” and do serious “intellectual work”. Clearly, nothing moves in the entire movement on the intellectual front without you, or does it?
In your very first paragraph of your Open Letter to me, say: “Over the years you and I have had several debates. We have often differed. However, I would like to believe we've always agreed on at least one thing. If we are to build a vibrant socialist left in South Africa, then comradely ideological engagements (even robust ones) are a vital part of that project. Of course, as we proceed, we must safeguard the internal democratic spaces and processes of our respective organisations. Any factional manipulation from the outside must not be tolerated. Public spats in which you or I reach in to support this or that personality within each other's formations would be out of order.”
It is clear, after reading your letter, that you have anointed yourself the official Marxist Pontiff whose duty it is to confer or take away the recognition of who is a real Marxist, “pseudo-Marxist”, “pseudo-militant”, “underlying opportunist”, etc. You have also anointed yourself, and this we all know, to be an “ideological clarifier” in the midst of “ideological confusion”. You “clarified” us on e-tolls, how good they are, if appropriately applied. Now that you have settled down from the hectic ANC NEC engagements, to do some “reading and writing” and “intellectual work”, you seem to be back into the swing of things, pursuing your “intellectual work”, to snuff out the usual “confusion” among “comrades”.
But how are you a comrade to a “pseudo-Marxist” and a “pseudo-militant”? How can you be a comrade to a person you know is a “con-revolutionary”? What makes you to call me, who supports “vigilantes” against “sister unions”, a comrade? I would understand if your charges were only against me, alone, “innocently confused”, as you say, but you state in your letter that the entire NUMSA CC is not innocent. We support “vigilantes” against the NUM. And so, through me, you round us all up in the NUMSA CC and single-handedly chastise us with your whip of “ideological clarity” [“Let’s be clear”, you say, towards the end of your letter].
The NUMSA CC should have waited patiently for you, I suppose, or even postponed its sitting, for you to find space in your extremely busy schedule in government, where you are “analysing certain state configurations”, “discerning and acting upon the main class trajectories”, “figuring how popular mobilisation can alter the class balance of forces”, and so on, in the Departments of Transport and Public Works. Metalworkers should have waited for you to get back to “intellectual work”, I suppose.
Look now, you show us off, how “confused” we are, the whole 311 000 workers, “confused”, shown off by you, and you alone, in the entire country. The fact that many so-called “intellectuals” were quiet about the NUMSA CC statement, released six months ago, is further proof to you, that indeed, “there is no intellectual work” here, in the entire movement. Nothing moves without you Jeremy, especially when it comes to thinking, or does it?
Your open letter to me is the white smoke that signals that the Pope of Marxism in South Africa has arrived in COSATU House; serious “intellectual work” is on offer! I and Zwelinzima Vavi are top of your list of “intellectual work”, you will “work us intellectually”. NUMSA CC is an “intellectual project”. I feel great sympathy for the two of us. But as a member of the NUMSA CC I might as well feel sympathy for my trade union too. Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi is my comrade, we are worker leaders, with limited facility to play with words (I know of no one who is a poet, wordsmith, you know, in the NUMSA CC), to engage in convoluted and “sophistricated logic”, analysing “trajectories” and “configurations”, of your letters and articles.
One thing I am convinced about though is that: your letter is not a comradely ideological engagement with me! Only you could not see that your open letter is in fact a factional manipulation from the outside of both COSATU and NUMSA and you are using your letter as a public spat to attack, isolate, de-legitimise, demonise, and destroy both Cdes Zwelinzima Vavi and myself, in our respective organisations. Your letter does exactly what you claim not to tolerate. You cannot be a comrade to people you know for sure that they are “con-revolutionaries”, “pseudo-militants”, “underlying opportunists” and “pseudo-Marxists”, otherwise you are “pseudo” too. Birds of a feather flock together, English people say! You are obviously not of these “pseudo” feathers, of which we are, “logically”. You are a cut above the rest of us Jeremy; you are a cut above the entire NUMSA CC, “logically”.
Myself and Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi
Unless you take us for absolute fools, anyone or any organisation labelled as you have done cannot be a “Comrade” or “fraternal organisation” by any stretch of the imagination. All these “pseudo” labels you have determined fit us, from high above the intellectual tower, belong to people and organisations one would normally regard as enemies.
You, Jeremy, know very well that the SACP has vowed, officially, to isolate and defeat individuals who are in the formations of the ANC-led Alliance and who fit the labels you have used, among other criteria. For example, in paragraph 8.8 of Blade Nzimande’s Political Report to the 13th SACP Congress, he says the following, with regards to Cosatu and Numsa:
“……..there is a small, but lingering, phenomenon in the trade union movement that of wanting to deliberately cause strain and divide the labour movement from the SACP and the ANC. We must intensify ideological work to expose and defeat this phenomenon within the ranks of COSATU and the progressive trade union movement.”
Speaking specifically to Numsa, the SACP 13th Congress Political Report emphatically says, in paragraph 8.7:
“We all know that enemies of the working class will always attempt to drive a wedge between communists and the labour movement. We must protect this relationship with all we have.”
Thus as the self-anointed Official Chief Ideologist of the SACP (ideological annihilator?), we understand you Jeremy to be simply doing your job – that of isolating, defeating and destroying those people your formation has officially declared war against, in the Alliance. Vavi and I, and Numsa, are top on that list and you have begun with your usual style of “comradely engagement”, of creating nice boxes and attaching labels in which comrades are “classified” in order for them to be first properly identified as the “enemies of the working class” so that they can then be “isolated and defeated”.
Having labelled the box where I sit, “in his red shorts”, to be a “pseudo-Marxist”, “pseudo-militant” box, a box of “underlying opportunists”, you skilfully give Cde Zwelinzima Vavi a stiff “jab in the ribs”. You say my response to the Mail and Guardian was “perfectly cut and dry”. In true style, you begin with your colourful extremes: “In one corner, wearing blue shorts, is the State supporting the ruling class (=the capitalists). In the other corner, wearing red shorts is Cde Vavi representing the working class”. And so, you proceed to savage me for my “confusion”, “logical” and “ideological” confusions. Later, in your letter, towards the end, you get around to clarify: “Let’s be clear”, what you, Marxist Pontiff of South Africa, consider to be what “as Marxists” we should consider to be “a more accurate and constructive position” on the State. Then you talk about “trajectories” and “configurations”, fine, I will come to that.
The point is that you dedicate space to explain why it is “pseudo” and “ideologically inconsistent” for me to put the State “in one corner” with the ruling class. You skilfully avoid explaining the “other corner”, where Cde Vavi is “perfectly cut and dry” located with the working class. I guess Cde Vavi “is not monolithic” too. I guess Cde Vavi is not “a shapeless amoeba, nor a pure labour bureaucrat, floating in a classless vacuum”. I guess, “As Marxists we have a responsibility to always discern and act upon the main class trajectories, the diverse class tendencies and contradictions at play within Cde Vavi”. I guess “we need to analyse how certain configurations in Cde Vavi might be more favourable to one or another class. We need to figure out how popular mobilisation can alter the class balance of forces outside and within Cde Vavi”. Have I got it right, Mr Pope, Sir? Or am I just as helplessly persisting in my “ideologically confusion”, peddling “un-dialectical metaphysics”, engaged in “reductionist economism” as you say? I cannot help myself but speculate, because you skilfully left this gaping hole in your letter.
NUMSA takes great exception to efforts by anyone or any organisation, at isolating any of its leaders at all levels of the organisation, from the organisation, especially if such “sophistricated” manoeuvres are aimed at destroying our leaders. We also take great exception when our leaders are isolated, at the level of the Federation, in order to liquidate them by destroying the confidence of the workers in them. That is what you are doing, Jeremy, leaving unsaid things about Cde Vavi and his commitment to the working class.
Now, to isolate me, the individual, from me the General Secretary of NUMSA as you do, in your Open Letter, can only be for very dubious and un-comradely reasons: you seek to isolate me from the organisation and leadership collective I belong to for obvious purposes – to destroy me. In the prosecution of our official duties, kindly be informed that NUMSA will defend all its leaders and members to their last drop of blood, if need be. You cannot fool us with your tricks, and we will not allow you to divide and weaken us. Remember what Cde Zwelinzima Vavi said in the SACP Congress: Unite Us, Don’t Divide Us! Or perhaps all you could read from Cde Vavi’s speech were “class trajectories” and “configurations”? You, perhaps, I guess, imagined yourself “acting upon Cde Vavi” as he stood there, on the podium, tall as he is, ploughing line by line carefully, reading his modest “workerist” and “anti-majoritarian” speech to the Party Congress?
It is hard to engage in any meaningful ideological exchange with you Jeremy because you disdain to reveal your real positions, clearly. We have known you Jeremy, over many years, to be a man who rarely clearly articulates his position on anything. If you happen sometimes to find yourself having to “come clean”, your style is to construct grotesque extremes and to then take the “more nuanced”, “intellectually sophistricated”, “ideologically clear”, middle road, basically on anything. Example? On the matter of NUMSA’s defence of Comrade Vavi in the Mail and Guardian as articulated by myself, as the General Secretary of NUMSA, would it not have been better first for you, Jeremy, to have stated your position on the matter of the attacks on Cde Vavi so soon after the Cosatu Congress, in which Vavi was elected unopposed? What happened to “defending democratic spaces and processes within our organisations?” No Jeremy, stop making us fools.
Why do you Jeremy, not offer us your views, clearly, on why Cde Vavi is under attack in an organisation that has just returned him unopposed in a Congress? Put differently, why do you Jeremy not defend the General Secretary of Cosatu? Why Jeremy why, do you choose to attack the defence I offered on behalf of NUMSA for Cde Vavi? What problem(s) do you have with Cde Vavi, come on, just tell us. We will tell him, of course. Is it because inside Cde Vavi there are “trajectories” and “configurations”, or are you still “discerning” the currents that are hitting him before “acting upon Cde Vavi/COSATU (=working class)”? Tell us, what’s your issue with cde ZV?
A Bag Full of Wedges and Marikana
After reading your letter, I thought that perhaps, you were munching on rotten wedges while you were writing it. Your letter shows traces of at least three wedges: a) a wedge you are driving inside COSATU, b) a wedge you are driving inside the working class, and c) a wedge you are trying to drive inside Numsa by isolating, delegitimising and demonising myself, thus you hope, effectively causing Numsa members to lose confidence in me, and then proceed to remove me from Numsa leadership!
Regarding the first wedge, it relates to NUM and NUMSA. As is your liberal poetic bent, but quite insidiously, you liberally litter your open letter with such delegitimizing accusations against NUMSA as being “un-dialectical”, practicing “pseudo-Marxism”, using “pseudo-militant rhetoric”, using “reductionist economism”, steeped in “vulgar economism”, “un-dialectical metaphysics”, and ultimately belonging to a “vigilante union” and quite divisively you say “lacking any expression of sympathy for or solidarity with its sister affiliate the NUM”.
Your Open Letter, seeks to polarise and divide COSATU by painting NUMSA “in one corner” as celebrating and benefiting from the challenges of its sister union, the NUM, which sits in “the other corner”. I find this to be too cheap, very vulgar and therefore, disgusting! Why are you, Jeremy, insisting that NUMSA specifically, should have expressed solidarity with the NUM in its CC Statement? What about other COSATU affiliates and the structures of the broad mass democratic movement? True to your style, you prepared a corner in which you seek to paint NUMSA and to pit us against all other Cosatu affiliates generally and the NUM in particular. Not only that, you seek to send a message to all the structures of our broad movement, as the foremost Marxist Pontiff sitting in the top leadership structure of our Alliance and Vanguard Party, to ideologise on our behalf through your “intellectual work”, and to thereafter point at NUMSA, “here lies the enemy of the working class, within”.
Well before the Marikana State Massacre, on 7 August 2012 NUMSA said this in a press statement: "The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) sends its deepest condolences to our allies, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and to the families of workers who have lost their lives. Whatever their grievances, NUMSA does not condone the use of violence by workers to pursue and advance their demands."
Further, in the Statement "Numsa Statement in Solidarity with NUM – SATAWU – COSATU” – published in the "Press Releases" By Numsa General Secretary, Irvin Jim 11 Oct 12, we said the following:
“In the face of the intransigent stance taken by the bosses in the transport industry and by the mining oligarchy, NUMSA calls on all its members to start debating solidarity action in support of workers in the mining industry and the transport sector. If these legitimate and genuine demands of SATAWU in the transport sector, and NUM and COSATU in the mining sector are not met, we might be left with no option but to embark on solidarity strike action. This is a view we will be taking to the COSATU CEC scheduled for next week Monday. NUMSA calls on the mining oligarchy to accept that their stance is understood for what it is: they are union bashers; their actions are meant to undermine COSATU and NUM, and above all to blackmail poor workers and force them into silence, refusing them the right to express their rejection of inferior wages. It is within this context that NUMSA takes a very firm view that the bosses must be compelled to withdraw their mass dismissal of workers. They must not be allowed to replace these workers with contract labour."
NUMSA has issued a warning to strike in solidarity with the NUM. Jeremy you lie, you brazenly lie that we are not sympathetic to NUM, simply because we did not expressly include such a message in our September 2012 CC statement. You have not just appointed yourself a NUM Sympathy Recorder for nothing, where NUMSA is concerned – including by shamelessly lying that NUMSA takes pleasure in the troubles of the NUM and consciously benefits from this by recruiting in sectors in which the NUM also organise.
NUMSA will pursue the ongoing internal Cosatu processes to amicably resolve the matter of boundaries between the NUM and itself and we refuses to be bullied into a false, anti-working class position by anyone, including you, Jeremy.
We are left with no option but to ask the question: why are you so hell bent on isolating, demonising and destroying NUMSA and myself? Why are you, Jeremy, so pathologically obsessed with everything NUMSA says or does? The answer is actually very simple: NUMSA refuses to be banished into focusing purely and narrowly on the immediate bread and butter issues of the working class but it has also openly called for the return to the SACP of all its key leaders. This irks you to no end.
In Numsa we continue to subscribe to the wisdom of Joe Slovo when he properly defined and characterized the role of a trade union from a Marxist-Leninist position. For those in the national liberation movement who continue to be irritated by Cosatu's outspokenness on all matters afflicting the working class, the wise words of Joe Slovo must be like a bell around the neck of a cat;
"A trade union is the prime mass organisation of the working class. To fulfil its purpose, it must be as broad as possible and fight to maintain its legal status. It must attempt, in the first place, to unite, on an industrial basis, all workers (at whatever level of political consciousness) who understand the elementary need to come together and defend and advance their economic conditions. It cannot demand more as a condition of membership. But because the state and its political and repressive apparatus is an instrument of the dominant economic classes, it is impossible for trade unions in any part of the world to keep out of the broader political conflict.
Especially in our country, where racist domination and capitalist exploitation are two sides of the same coin, it is even clearer that a trade union cannot stand aside from the liberation struggle. Indeed, the trade union movement is the most important mass contingent of the working class. Its organised involvement in struggle, both as an independent force and as part of the broad liberation alliance, undoubtedly reinforces the dominant role of the workers as a class. In addition, trade unions' and workers' experience of struggle in unions provide the most fertile field in which to school masses of workers in socialist understanding and political consciousness."
In this context, Jeremy, you deliberately distort and vulgarise NUMSA for its refusal to be confined to bread and butter issues in the workplace. No trade union or labour federation can ever expect to replace the necessary vanguard role of a revolutionary working class party which the CPSA and SACP were established for. But NUMSA refuses to be mum on policies that represent a frontal attack on the working class. We were not mum on GEAR, even as you welcomed and supported it; we cannot be mum now.
Regarding the second wedge, I must say that in the case of violence on the mines I sadly note that the SACP has behaved rather well below our expectations of even a progressive left union – by not elevating the unity of the working class above everything else. In the September 2012 CC Statement, NUMSA says this, about the strategic importance of unity among ALL the working class today, in the face of the vicious onslaught by capital, as the world system of capitalism plunges from one crisis into another:
“An important lesson from the Marikana massacre for the working class is that unity of the organised working class is sacrosanct. Further, we all must do whatever it takes to ensure that we constantly promote that unity.”
It is my understanding that in any situation in which the capitalist bosses create conditions for the working class to fight and kill each other, and the state police then join in to murder the working class, it is the revolutionary duty of every class conscious worker and progressive working class organisation to explain the true causes of the violence among the working class, and to educate them to understand that they are killing each other on behalf of the bosses. Throwing around labels such as “vigilantes”, “criminals”, and using words such as “crack down”, assists the bosses more than any other class. It hides the complicity of the mine bosses, in this instance, and their role in fermenting divisions among the working class.
Thus unity of the entire working class, regardless of the formations they may belong to, becomes an overriding imperative. I thought that it is this perspective that informs Marxists and Communists to oppose bourgeois wars – it is the working class who are made to fight the wars on battle fields for the capitalists, while the capitalists actually count their profits from the blood of the working class. In the immediate vicinity of the violence on the Platinum Belt and Marikana specifically, NUMSA knows that it was its revolutionary duty to contribute to ending the violence among the working class, no matter what trade union they belonged to.
In the recent past, NUMSA has suffered the insult of being told that we are not a political formation but a trade union, by the SACP. Obviously, one of the reasons for such irrelevant reminders is that while a trade union of necessity represents its members, the SACP, for example, must always represent the broadest interests of the entire working class, not just COSATU members. The SACP is duty-bound to play its Communist revolutionary vanguard role even among reactionary trade unions. I therefore find it puzzling, after years of political education and practical experience in working class struggles, that a communist would come and tell us that when workers are killing each other, we should join in and kill “the vigilantes”.
I do not see anything wrong in calling for overall working class unity against bosses, and at the same time providing support to our sister unions. This is an overriding principle that, no matter how hot the moment, we cannot suspend. We do this type of thing every time in NEDLAC, we have a labour caucus, where we agree to agree and agree to disagree with other labour Federations. We always strive to work together and where we differ, we do not “kill each other” for the bosses. We remain united, on one side of the Chamber, with the bosses on the other side. So, that is what I expected from you Jeremy, an acknowledgement, of the need for overall working class unity, against the mining bosses, in Marikana. I am sure NUMSA will continue to resist this wedge.
Our slogan always is: “Workers of the World Unite, You Have Nothing To Lose, But Your Chains”! Every Communist knows this slogan; it is in the Communist Manifesto of 1848.
Our slogan is not: “COSATU Unions Unite Against the Other Unions, Who Are Vigilantes, You Have Something To Lose, Subscriptions!” This is the slogan you are pushing us to adopt, surreptitiously, and we refuse! Why?
The State and Comrade Wayile
I am shocked at your inability Jeremy Cronin, 1st Deputy General Secretary of the SACP, to clearly articulate what you think the state is, in general, and what the South African state is, in particular, in your Open Letter to me. As far as I can recall, Marxism long buried the matter of the origins, history and place of the state in human society. While we, at NUMSA, recognise that our knowledge of the actual forms of the state today must always also be informed by a serious study of actual states in their organic and dialectical developments, the following are the basic elements of the understanding of the class content of the state that we hold: the state is a historic product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms, the state is a special body of armed men and women – the police, army, securitate, intelligence and so on, the state always is an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed class, the state as we know it today with the destruction of its class base shall wither away, and of course the bourgeois state is incapable of being superseded without a violent revolution.
Clearly we seem to have gotten it all wrong! His “Marxist” Grace Pope Jeremy The First has not declared what the state is. But he pontificates that the South African state is not “a bourgeois-democratic dictatorship” (How can it be? You’re in it). “The state is not a shapeless amoeba” [How can it be? You give it shape, you’re in it]. In fact, you instruct us: “As Marxists we have a responsibility to discern and act upon the main class trajectories, the diverse class tendencies and contradictions at play within the state, across its various sectors, spheres, departments, and specific policy programmes. We need to analyse how certain state configurations might be more favourable to one or another class. We need to figure out how popular mobilisation can alter the class balance of forces outside and within the state”.
So here is this thing, the state, which is not shapeless like an amoeba, but it has these various “configurations”, exhibits “class trajectories” and “diverse class tendencies”. This thing is not “cut and dry” it is “integrated and wet”, like an “amoeba” but the thing is that, it has “configurations”, it is not “shapeless”, it is not like an amoeba. The thing, finally, is just complex, too complex for ME and the NUMSA CC to understand.
Lenin says this about people like you Jeremy: “In falsifying Marxism in opportunist fashion, the substitution of eclecticism for dialectics is the easiest way of deceiving the masses; it gives an illusory satisfaction; it seems to take into account all sides of the process, all tendencies of development, all the conflicting influences, and so forth, whereas in reality it presents no integral and revolutionary conception of the process of social development at all”. That is your attitude to the state Jeremy, according to Lenin.
Look at this thing, Jeremy, the state, picture it in your hands. It is not an instrument of bourgeois dictatorship [because you’re in it]; it is not “cut and dry” [Cde Wayile is in it, too]. You say that what we have to do, “as Marxist”, is to “discern and act upon the main class trajectories, the diverse class tendencies and contradictions at play within the state”. Seemingly, as Lenin said 96 years ago, you want us to “take into account all sides of the process [state], all tendencies of development [diverse class tendencies] and all conflicting influences [contradictions at play]”. No Jeremy why do you take us to before 96 years back? Lenin calls this trick of yours “eclecticism, an unprincipled, or sophistic selection made arbitrarily (or to please the powers that be)”.
You want to feel a sense of “Marxist sophistication”, way above the rest of the “cut and dry” stuff I and the NUMSA CC can only reach. Once again, as usual, you create your grotesque extremes. On the “one corner” is myself with my “un-dialectical metaphysics, cut and dry bourgeois dictatorship type of state” view, on the “other corner”, is the view that “the state is a shapeless amoeba”. Then after your gymnastics about logic, ideological confusions and stuff, you “clarify” us with your usual “nuanced middle road”, the state has “class trajectories”, it has “diverse class tendencies”, it has “contradictions” within it. Our task, is just to manipulate these contradictions, “discern and act upon” all these complex things. To you this state thing is like a jig-saw puzzle, some clever game at which the working class can outwit the bourgeoisie, like you are doing now, at Department of Public Works, having applied your strategy and tactics at the Department of Transport, with e-toll success?
Contrary to your “other corner”, where you put me in my “red shorts”, here is a “piece of reductionist economism” that may come to you, from me, as no surprise, to you: “We are in favour of a democratic republic as the best form of state for the proletariat under capitalism; but we have no right to forget that wage slavery is the lot of the people even in the most democratic bourgeois republic. Furthermore, every state is a "special force for the suppression" of the oppressed class. Consequently, every state is not "free and not a "people's state." Marx and Engels explained this repeatedly to their party comrades in the seventies” [Lenin, 1917].
You isolate an aspect of the state [e.g. Cde Wayile, former leader of NUMSA], to illustrate some real or imagined “complexity” of the state to imply that the essential features of any state as “a special organization of force…an organization of violence for the suppression of some class”, dissolves or becomes blurred! By so doing you want to fool us, the workers, so as to blunt our working class revolutionary understanding of the state. You want, as usual, to send us to sleep! I, during the interview with the Mail and Guardian and the Numsa September CC 2012 Statement, articulated what we know to be a Marxist-Leninist understanding of the South African state both as an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed classes and the state as a special body of armed men and women, notwithstanding the fact that the state performs other functions in defence of the exploiting classes. As Cde Jessie Duarte so caustically reminded metalworkers, the state has to deliver sewerage plants, you know.
Numsa, in its CC Statement goes even further and identifies the dominant system of capitalist accumulation in which the South African State is rooted – the Minerals/Energy/Finance Complex, and its social base – the white complex and its colonial subjects – Black people in general and Africans in particular. There is nothing remotely “vulgar economic”, “un-dialectical metaphysics” in this. Numsa articulates its understanding of the South African state as evolving within “Colonialism of a Special Type”.
This is what the SACP said about the origins and character of the South African state, in 1989:
“The South African capitalist state did not emerge as a result of an internal popular anti-feudal revolution. It was imposed from above and from without. From its birth through to the present, South African capitalism has depended heavily on the imperialist centres. Capital from Europe financed the opening of the mines. It was the colonial state that provided the resources to build the basic infrastructure – railways, roads, harbours, posts and telegraphs. It was an imperial army of occupation that created the conditions for political unification. And it was within a colonial setting that the emerging South African capitalist class entrenched and extended the racially exclusive system to increase its opportunities for profit. The racial division of labour, the battery of racist laws and political exclusiveness guaranteed this. From these origins a pattern of domination, which arose in the period of external colonialism, was carried over into the newly-formed Union of South Africa. From its origins to the present, this form of domination has been maintained under changing conditions and by varying mechanisms. In all essential respects, however, the colonial status of the black majority has remained in place. Therefore we characterise our society as colonialism of a special type.”
At Numsa, as the September CC Statement so eloquently captures, we have maintained that some reforms of the colonial capitalist state have, since 1994 been implemented, including the adoption of, arguably, one of the most liberal-bourgeois democratic constitutions in the world today. However, this has not changed the basic capitalist and colonial character of the South African state. We are quite happy to learn from you, Pope Jeremy The First, whether this understanding is false, and why.
The Numsa 2012 September CC Statement is very fluent about the need to radically implement the Freedom Charter in full as the only basis for destroying Colonialism of a Special Type in South Africa post 1994, and locates its demand for ownership and control of South Africa’s wealth including the mines, well within the framework of the Freedom Charter.
Pope Jeremy The First, kindly point to the paragraph in the Numsa 2012 September CC that talks about the nationalisation of the mines in the crude manner you accuse us of and we will gladly email you a copy of the Freedom Charter!
Until 2007, we seemed to think you in fact participated with us in struggling against the neoliberal policies of the ANC, which were best codified in the 1996 GEAR policy. As a second leader of a Communist Party, are you telling us that between 2009 and now the South African state has ceased to be a bourgeois-state with a very liberal constitution? You tell us that these “class trajectories” of yours have now emerged, “the diverse class tendencies” are now palpable, and the “contradictions within the state” are of such content and form that it is no longer “constructive and accurate” to refer to the South African state as “an organ of bourgeois dictatorship”? Why, because you, Pope Jeremy The First, are the only one in the entire democratic movement, who is skilled in manipulating contradictions within the state, you are skilled to “act upon class trajectories” and to discern “diverse class tendencies”. The state is no longer “cut and dry”, because you’re in it, with Cde Wayile?
Apparently before 2009, those comrades who were in the state were fools. They failed to “analyse how certain state configurations might be more favourable to one or another class”. Now you’re in it, and you are showing us, as we speak, how to do Marxism inside a colonial, liberal-democratic, capitalist state, as you meticulously proceed with your duties at the Departments of Transport and Public Works.
The South African state today is one of the most brutal and backward capitalist state the system of world capitalism has ever manufactured. The opulence of the bourgeoisie, local and foreign, starkly coexists with black working class squalor. Colonial and imperialist domination continues in our country, concealed under the cover of the “most liberal constitution” in the world. South Africa has become the most unequal place on Earth, with mass poverty and widespread unemployment, limited to blacks and not whites. The social conditions of the mass of the working class are gruelling to say the least. Inferior education, health, housing, sanitation, and violent crime – all combine to make life unbearable for the majority of the South African working class and rural population. The social crisis in this country still finds expression in the black working class. And which class is responsible for this? Wrong question: it presupposes a “cut and dry” answer. From your “constructive and accurate position” on the state, it is clear that the working class might as well be responsible for this situation just as much as the bourgeoisie is, because now, nothing is “cut and dry”.
That such cruel conditions of existence afflict largely the Black and African working class, Black and African rural populations, African youth and women while the white population and a tiny Black middle class are affluent is further testimony of the colonial character of the South African economy, and its state, actually. The September 2012 Numsa CC statement accurately captures this reality, without taking anything away from the bourgeois-democratic reforms to the state since 1994. Today, Jeremy, almost two decades after the “1994 democratic miracle” in all essential respects, however, the colonial status of the black majority has remained in place. Therefore we continue to characterise our society as colonialism of a special type. Notwithstanding all the improvements the Black and African working class have seen since 1994, we challenge you to refute the statement above!
We at Numsa are quite happy to show you that in fact, in some crucial respects, imperialist penetration and the conditions of the Black and African working class have worsened, and rather dramatically!
We refuse to be boxed into your extremes Jeremy, and we regard your extensions of the grotesquely extreme views you claim are ours, your so-called “logical” conclusions, to be dishonest. To try to conceal knowledge of the fact that the South African state is an instrument of class rule is to advance the interest of the oppressor class. We urge the working class to actively participate in the bourgeois-democratic state; our understanding has always been that any Marxist, let alone Communist class conscious worker in a capitalist state must always think and act in ways that grow the power of the working class.
We thus have no problem in appreciating the revolutionary roles and responsibilities of Marxists and Communists in a capitalist government and its institutions – to advance at all material times the interests of the working class and to expose the limitations and contradictions of the system, not to defend such a state! Not to conceal the real reason for the existence of the state, its class character and its role in class society.
You see “an ideological inconsistency”, I don’t. Cde Wayile was, indeed, a leader of NUMSA, but we never forgot to remind him that he “was managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie”, and he perfectly understood this, and agreed with us. What is the point? The point is not to “occupy opposition benches as a matter of principle”, one of your grotesque extremisms. Rather the point is to win a majority in a bourgeois state and to use that majority to “make inroads into private property” as Engels said, in his “Principles of Communism”. Yes, we seek to use the majority in a bourgeois state to attack bourgeois property, and not to come up with obfuscating “trajectories”, “diverse class tendencies” and “contradictions”, all mere sophistrications that are aimed solely at sedating and numbing us in order to sustain colonialism and imperialism in our country. That is why we see no inconsistency to call constantly for the full implementation of the Freedom Charter by this bourgeois state, until the point is reached where the working class realises for itself, that this state is incapable of taking us forward without simultaneously destroying it and constituting the working class as a ruling class on a different structural basis.
Your dishonest “logical extensions”, such as the statement: “but hang on, if the current state and government are inherently condemned to be the organs of bourgeois dictatorship, then (if we are to bother with elections at all) shouldn’t we be occupying opposition benches as a matter of principle until socialism arrives, even if we have an electoral majority?”, seek to push us into adopting ridiculous and irrational positions. We refuse!
Only a fool will be taken in by your tricks, Jeremy. Yes, the current state (why separate government from state?), like any other capitalist state, is an organ of bourgeois dictatorship. But we refuse your dishonest logical extensions. Read the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin at least, you will find that all of them urged workers to campaign for elections on their own, independent platforms, alongside bourgeois-democrats, for positions in a bourgeois state. The sole aim must be to compel the bourgeois state to attack private property, to push to the limit the bourgeois state, to the point where it becomes clear to even the most backward sections of the working class, that this celebrated “bourgeois-democratic state”, is completely incapable of meeting proletarian demands. What are you doing in the state Jeremy, in the Department of Public Works, analysing “trajectories” and “certain state configurations”, “acting upon diverse class tendencies”, marvelling at the “contradictions within the state”?
There is nothing that you have “acted upon so far”, which clearly tests the limits of South African colonial bourgeois-democracy. Nothing, you gave us e-tolls, and now you dish out the NDP, which you lifted from the DA. I see absolutely nothing beneficial to the working class by your presence in the current state. Nothing at all!
A matter that has always bogged our mind at NUMSA is in fact, what exactly is the revolutionary independent programme of Marxists and Communists serving in the post-1994 bourgeois state? To which class and how do they account?
NUMSA stands firm, on feet of steel, by its position of how it characterised the post 1994 South African state in its September 2012 CC Statement. In that Statement we accurately identified both the economic base and the social forces that constitute the post 1994 South African state. You have not refuted these facts in any way, in your Open Letter.
Shall we, Dear Pontiff Jeremy The First, remind each other of the most cardinal of revolutionary responsibilities of Communists everywhere and at all times?
The Communist Manifesto, 1848, says this:
“In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.
In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.
Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.
Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
Surely it is not too much to ask that you, in your quest to self-anoint yourself Marxist Pontif Jeremy The First of South African Marxism and Communism, you strictly and at all times remain within the bounds set by the Communist Manifesto, as quoted above?
Resolution of the property question leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat, Your Grace Pontiff Jeremy The First, is as important to Marxists and Communists as is the matter of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to real Christians!
In your letter you have done everything possible to confuse, conceal and underplay the significance of the property and class question. I and the Numsa September 2012 CC Statement on the other hand, have both consistently revealed both the property question and the class question at play in the South African state and society.
The ANCYL and its leadership then, which you also savage very brutally in your Open Letter, raised the property question and proposed a consistently democratic demand of nationalisation, which, instead of developing and pushing forward, you Jeremy ridiculed it (bling-bling!). This is very un-Communist Manifesto, Jeremy!
The ANCYL actually propose and demand the nationalisation of the mines and other strategic sectors of the economy, and the expropriation of land, ALL without compensation. They clearly explained that it is foolish for anyone to expect the Liberation Movement to compensate thieves. Explain to us how this would advance the failed interests of mining BEE types and their white cloners.
Real communists know that communists are unifiers of the working class and never carry themselves as a separate factional political party situated outside the working class movement. In this regard, the Communist Manifesto says:
"The Communists are distinguished from the other working class parties by this only:
1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.
2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole".
You Jeremy, even fail to "bring to the front the common interests of the COSATU-organised proletariat". As far as I knew, your role is always to assist all unions, especially COSATU unions, to play a leadership role, in uniting workers, all workers. This unity, is already there, we see it daily in the case of public sector strikes, the transport workers' strike, etc. where COSATU unions engage in mass action alongside other unions, that must be encouraged. But you are killing working class unity with your wedges!
Help us, Your Grace!
Finally, of course, rather than toying around with Numsa statements and media interviews, Jeremy, you should provide us, as is your urgent revolutionary duty today, a Marxist analysis and justification for the SACP’s endorsement of the NDP. We are tired of “endorsements of broad thrusts”, give us details, why the NDP is more revolutionary than GEAR this time around. Further, we ask, that you should explain to us how the NDP advances the Freedom Charter. You must confirm to us that the SACP now thinks the NDP is quite a shorter route to socialism.
NUMSA has published its rejection of the NDP, and its reasons for doing so. What are your views?
At NUMSA we gladly and openly refuse to take responsibility for a capitalist oriented NDR!
I reiterate; your Open Letter has nothing to do with advancing comradely engagements, nor was it intended to defend internal democratic spaces inside our respective organisations. Rather, it is an extremely toxic Open Letter intended to isolate, demonise, delegitimise and ultimately destroy Comrades Vavi and me, and hopefully, the revolutionary militancy of Numsa too.
Still, I must say, after everything you said, tucked right near the end, is this quite correct view, with which I wholly agree with you:
“And, yes, a party that calls itself communist is not therefore by self-proclaimed definition necessarily a vanguard of the working class.”
Yes, Pontiff we agree, but you never cease to amaze me with your tricks even to the end. You demand “logical consistencies” from others, and not from yourself? This comment of yours comes after you said:
“A trade union (particularly a vigilante union) is not guaranteed to be advancing the interests of the working class”.
Instead of providing a parallel for “a party that calls itself communist”, you play with words. Kindly do also take the trouble to correctly fill in the missing word where there are dots:
“A communist party (particularly a…………….party) is not guaranteed to be advancing the interests of the working class”.
And so, everything goes, contrary to your assertions, in relation to the State! Everything now looks like an “amoeba”, except in your case this amoeba has shapes, “configurations”.
All organisations are reactionary and revolutionary at the same time. Nothing is “cut and dry”. Everybody, like Cde Vavi, is characterised by “class trajectories” and “diverse class tendencies”, and “contradictions”, and so carries in their chest a revolutionary side and a reactionary side, including you, Pope Jeremy I. The lie is in the truth and truth is in the lie!
That is your type of dialectics, in contradistinction from me and the NUMSA CC’s “un-dialectical metaphysics, cut and dry piece of reductionist economism which inevitably leads to an unbending fundamentalism in strategy and a pragmatic opportunism in tactics”. Wow, Jeremy!!
Trust us, Pontiff Jeremy, Numsa honestly and desperately wants the SACP to behave and be the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary vanguard of the working class! Will you help us, please?
Numsa shall never be praise singers, court jesters, and will forever be wary of palace politics. Our revolutionary character and history forbids us to do so.
Yours in the Struggle for a classless and truly free world!