South African Communist Party Attacks Road Blockades as 'anarchist and reactionary'

Abahlali baseMjondolo Road Blockade in Cape Town

The South African Communist Party (SACP), long considered one of the most Stalinist Communist Parties anywhere, has joined the liberal NGOs in their attempt to rally public opinion against a two week long wave of popular protest in Cape Town that has included numerous road blockades and some damage to state property. The SACP statement, and a reply from Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape, are both reproduced here.

The Statement from the South African Communist Party

Blockading Public Roads is anarchy and reactionary

As the SACP in the Brian Bunting District (Cape Metro), we are serious outraged about the attitude and protesting method used by Abahlali Basemjondolo in the area of Khayelitsha. If this is the modus operand they use in their struggles, their campaigns will always be characterised as opportunistic, anarchist and populist and that they are using genuine concerns of the workers and the poor of Khayelitsha.

As the SACP, the vanguard of the working class and the poor, ours amongst other things is to fight for decent houses, decent jobs, health, clean drinking water, free and quality education etc. And we must therefore campaign for what we do not have and defend what we already got.

Our struggle is also to defend state property such as public roads, libraries, schools, clinics, police station etc. In our view all these properties are meant to benefit the workers and the poor direct, and destroying them when you wage your struggle is total reactionary and anarchist.

Against this background, as the SACP we call on Abahlali Basemjondolo under the leadership of Mr. Poni to refrain from using these kinds of tactics when they wage in their struggles because amongst other things they are playing in the hands of the enemy. As the working class and the poor we should at all times direct our struggles to our oppressors and its administration and public roads are neither our oppressor nor our enemy.

As the SACP we shall always be in the forefront of fighting for service delivery and we will always condemn all those who are anarchist and reactionary and vandalise the already existing infrastructure in our communities. Lastly, the SACP's doors are open for engagements with any forces or organisation in society and we have leant that there is a service delivery march planned to Western Cape government and we shall support that march.

Statement issued by Benson ka-Ngqentsu, SACP Brian Bunting District Secretary, October 15 2010

The Reply from Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape

ABAHLALI BASEMJONDOLO MOVEMENT OF SOUTH AFRICA (WESTERN CAPE PROVINCE)

Home Website: khayelitshastruggles.com or www.abahlali.org

Email: abmwesterncape@abahlali.org office admin: 073 2562 036

Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape Responds to the South African Communist Party

As Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape we have noted the statement by the South African Communist Party that declares that blockading public roads is "anarchy and reactionary."

If road blockades are anarchistic and reactionary then it is clear that anarchy and reaction are very popular in South Africa. Communities, organisations and movements across Cape Town and across South Africa have been blockading roads for years. We are not the only people that have blockaded roads in Cape Town in the last days. Many of the road blockades in Cape Town in recent days are not organised by us. But our campaign does endorse the road blockade as a legitimate tactic. We think it is quite significant that new communities are supporting our campaign all the time. We have already been invited to visit four new communities that want to join our campaign during this weekend. The rebellions that use road blockades as an important tactic are spreading everywhere. There is real popular support for disrupting business as usual in a system that oppresses the poor. When the SACP condemn us they condemn the struggles of the people across the country. That philosopher called Karl Marx once wrote that communism is the real movement that abolishes the state of things. He didn't write that communism is the vanguard that disciplines and condemns the real struggles of the people.

We also note that:

When we have been evicted the SACP has been silent.

When we have have been arrested the SACP has been silent.

When we have suffered in fires and floods the SACP has been silent.

Yet when we take to the streets the SACP condemns us!

What kind of communism is this? What kind of solidarity is this?

To make matters worse everyone knows that the SACP supported the struggles in Khutsong which were much more militant in their tactics than the struggle that we are now waging in Cape Town. Clearly for the SACP the real problem that theyare having with Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape is not our tactics but the fact that we are organising outside of the ANC and that we refuse to vote for the ANC or for any political party. Local government elections are coming and the ANC is panicking about the fact that while there is tremendous popular anger and protest in Cape Town they have lost control of it. The popular anger and protest in Cape Town is under the control of ordinary people and no political party likes that.

The SACP say that they are on the side of the poor but we don't see them struggling with the organisations of the poor. We only see them trying to discipline our organisations from above and telling us to vote for the ANC!

Everybody knows that around the world Stalinist Communist parties always function to defend states against popular struggles. This was true in Budapest in 1956, in Paris in 1968 and its true right now in Calcutta. We are not anti-communist. We are for a living communism. We are for a communism that emerges from the struggles of ordinary people and which is shaped and owned by ordinary people. We are for a communism built from the ground up. We are for a communism in which land and wealth are shared and managed democratically. Any party or groupuscle or NGO that declares from above that it is the vanguard of the people's struggles and that the people must therefore accept their authority is the enemy of the people's struggles. Leadership is earned and is never permanent. It can never be declared from above. It only lasts for as long as communities of struggle decide to invest their hope in particular structures. Often there are many legitimate and democratic structures involved in the same broad movement of struggle at the same time. This is why we always insist that the autonomy of all democratic poor people's organisations must be respected and welcomed.

We are know that many ordinary members of the SACP live the same challenges as us and that we have a common interest in the same struggles. Like everyone in their right mind we support some of the positions that the SACP has taken in the battles within the ANC - like their position against the tenderpreneurs and before that their position against AIDS denialism. But we are critical of their hostility to freedom of expression. We are also aware that some people in the SACP, like Dominic Tweedie, have, in alliance with the most regressive faction of the middle class left, supported and propogandised for the repression against our movement. We have no choice but to condemn those members of the SACP that support the repression of autonomous struggles.

We are happy to meet with the SACP but our autonomy as an organistion is non-negotiable. That includes our autonomy to refuse to support the ANC in the coming elections.

We note that while they condemn our endorsement of the road blockade as a tactic they also say that they will support our march on parliament. We welcome their support on our march but they will need to understand that we do not allow political parties to take over our protests. We are very clear that we will be protesting and not voting when the local government elections come.

Posted By

red jack
Oct 18 2010 13:05

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Entdinglichung
Oct 18 2010 13:36

"South African Communist Party (SACP), long considered one of the most Stalinist Communist Parties anywhere" ... compared with the Greek, Portuguese or Czech CPs, they look anti-authoritarian

Yorkie Bar
Oct 18 2010 14:21

Yeah, I thought that was a bit wierd (how do you define a political party as quantitatively the most or one of the most Stalinist??). Still a good piece though, the AbM response is a great little articulation of communist politics.

red jack
Oct 18 2010 16:42

To be honest I really don't know if any one CP is more Stalinist than another. I just read this phrase about the South African CP being particular Stalinist a couple of times when I was doing some research a while back but, on reflection, it's not a statement that I can support. Of course it is a fact that the South African CP blindly followed the Moscow line till 1989 and endorsed the tanks rolling into Prague, Budapest and Kabul. But that's probably true of all the CPs.

888
Oct 18 2010 19:14
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Yeah, I thought that was a bit wierd (how do you define a political party as quantitatively the most or one of the most Stalinist??). Still a good piece though, the AbM response is a great little articulation of communist politics.

I wonder how their ideas emerged? Are they the logical conclusions they are drawn to through struggle, or is it more of an external ideological influence? I hope it's the former. Anyway I find it clearer to say "a great little articulation of anarchist politics", especially since they were accused of being anarchist and are arguing against a Communist party.

Yorkie Bar
Oct 18 2010 19:22

They themselves say:

AbM wrote:
We are for a communism that emerges from the struggles of ordinary people and which is shaped and owned by ordinary people. We are for a communism built from the ground up. We are for a communism in which land and wealth are shared and managed democratically.

I wasn't sure if they were explicitly anarchist or not, I don't know much about the group - so I didn't want to put words into their mouths, so to speak. It kind of irritates me when anarchists go about planting flags on everything - from Lao Tzu to Ghandi - often with very little justification. So I'm a bit leary of putting the anarchist stamp on something unless I'm sure that's what it is.

Steven.
Oct 19 2010 10:15

exactly - they are saying that the "communist" party is not communist, but the "real movement" is.

888
Oct 20 2010 05:42
Yorkie Bar wrote:
I wasn't sure if they were explicitly anarchist or not, I don't know much about the group - so I didn't want to put words into their mouths, so to speak. It kind of irritates me when anarchists go about planting flags on everything - from Lao Tzu to Ghandi - often with very little justification. So I'm a bit leary of putting the anarchist stamp on something unless I'm sure that's what it is.

True, that is an annoying tendency when incorrectly applied. I'm interested in struggles that are communist and anti-authoritarian, regardless of what they call themselves. But, the original anarchists were so called by their opponents, before they adopted the term...

ocelot
Oct 20 2010 10:16
888 wrote:
I wonder how their ideas emerged? Are they the logical conclusions they are drawn to through struggle, or is it more of an external ideological influence? I hope it's the former. Anyway I find it clearer to say "a great little articulation of anarchist politics", especially since they were accused of being anarchist and are arguing against a Communist party.

Abahlali have a long-standing relationship with the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front. As can be seen from a persual of either of the organisations websites (http://abahlali.org/ & http://www.zabalaza.net/index02.htm)

Your authentic/inauthentic dichotomy is wierd though - is a book an "external ideological influence"? How about language itself? How can the (authentic) "logical conclusions drawn from struggle" not influence which of the surrounding "external ideological influences" people find relevant to their struggles? I suggest you read Gilles Dauvé's critique of the ICO (in the Eclipse) who were so gripped with an ultra-left mortal terror of becoming an "external ideological influence" that they self-censored themselves to the stage where they were unable to even write articles, limiting themselves to reproducing letters that non-ICO workers had written in to them. Which promptly collapsed when no one did, ovs.

888
Oct 22 2010 00:32

Well, it would be more interesting if it was the former ("the logical conclusions they are drawn to through struggle"), I'm not saying it's a terrible disaster if it's the latter, though. I'm sure there's a lot of overlap between the two - if the "external" ideas fit, they are readily accepted. And of course, those "external ideas" were the product of previous struggles, to a large extent.