This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Session One: Security Briefing
1. a] START: 9.06
b] PRESENT: L, MS, J, CC, SM, BN, G, MV, SA, R, KD, MG,. LO, CD, MM, GM
c] CHAIRPERSON : L
2.WELCOME BY CHAIRPERSON :
2.1 Meeting opened by cde L. He said that the meeting was to have been convened by cde RM. Cde RM was ill and in hospital. In the circumstances cde L convenes this meeting. He pointed out that this was the first conference of this nature in the country since the early 1960s.
2.2 SECURITY BRIEFING :
Briefing given by cde M. He said that the following were essential issues:
a] SECRECY - Secrecy is a key to the success of a conference like this. For example, some of you may have been annoyed/gotten fed up when you were delayed yesterday, had to wait, were taken from one place to another. That is precisely because we wanted to ensure that you had no tail.
This was essential to the success of the meeting. The procedure employed to gather all the participants was necessary to ensure the safety and success of this conference.
b] IN THE EVENT OF A SECURITY PROBLEM:
However should there be any sign of the enemy, we are hoping to do the following:
i] removal of illegals
ii] removal of sensitive documents
iii] convert this meeting into another type of meeting. The papers relating to the conference will be removed and the yellow folder will be used. Comrade PG will stand up and introduce a session on housing. If the police come into the meeting, we will expect a delay to give time to the illegals to move. With respect to notes, we are hoping- it is our suggestion - that no notes actually leave this place. Secondly you will have seen some very familiar faces here but don't make the assumption that they know the nature of the meeting; very few of us know the nature of the meeting. Most of the people around you will assume that this is an ANC meeting. There are some people who might become legal after a while -this still does not allow us to be able to refer to the meeting or that their presence should be publicised in any way.
Departures : return bookings and arrangements are being taken care of. Please be sure to give your details if you haven't done so. Are there any questions?
Chair: Cdes, given that there are no questions, you will have seen the draft agenda distributed. In drafting it we tried to do away with all the procedural items as soon as possible. Unfortunately we had planned for you to have the agenda last night but the comrade who received it for photocopying did not realise that this was to be photocopied and so burnt it. Cdes, have you all read agenda? Can I take it you have read and accept the agenda? Accepted. As we see it there is need for only one Standing Committee: namely Resolutions - Recommendations - Committee. We propose that cdes Jean, MV, Sarah, PG and V be on this committee and that Comrade Jean will act as convernor. Accepted.
Standing Orders: 2 main sessions - today and tomorrow with breaks in between: 9.00 - 11.00; 11.30 - 13.00; 14.00 - 16.00; 16.30 - 18.30 last session today. Start 8.30 - 11.00; 11.30 - 13.00; 2.00 to 3.30 final session. Comrade GM has to leave early afternoon tomorrow for the only available flight so he will not be able to join us for the last session. Are the any other comments, questions, contributions?
CD: We have a slight problem - having to travel by road to Jhb and then proceed further. Agreed that this be discussed at the lunch break.
3. MESSAGE FROM CC : The chair pointed out that the SACP has long been transforming itself, even before the events in eastern Europe. The message of the CC is proof of this, having been formulated in consultation with internal structures. The message was read by MM.
MC: You have before you the message of the CC. For what it is worth, I will draw your attention to one thing. Communists have been accused of many things. Yet our party has long been in the process of transforming itself. The message which was read was drafted and placed before the Central Committee and accepted. Comrade R was appointed convenor but unable to be with us today for reasons of his health and being advised by doctors to rest. He has sent us a message which I will read to you:
"Our dear Comrades,
I very much regret for being unable to attend our historic, mini-consultative conference.
I hope and believe that the comrades shall get down to grips with problems confronting us.
The glorious history of our Party must be maintained. We can only do so if the Party remains the vanguard of the working class. Not only that but that it should be community based.
I wish you every success in planning for the emergence of our party.
Comradely Greetings, Ndobe"
I feel that we should convey to him our acknowledgement of his message and send him greetings and wishes for a speedy recovery. Secondly, not all who were invited are present. Some were unable at the last minute to free themselves of other work; some have not yet entered the country. I don't think it necessary to mention their names - we are still in the process of transforming ourselves. But the Party can be proud to have assembled a meeting that spans every generation of our struggle. Our Convenor's history in the Party stretches from its legal days through his imprisonment to the time it went underground. We also have comrade BN present who joined the party at its inception as an u-g party. Cde GM whose entire life has been devoted to the struggle. I would like us to pay special tribute to them for their past and continued contribution with us in our struggle. There are others who joined the Party some years ago. Yet whenever we joined the Party whether it was yesterday or at its inception, it is the tradition of communists that when we meet and act together we act as equals. Nonetheless I think we need to acknowledge the presence of the experience gathered amongst us.
Chairpersons opening remarks:
"Emergence of our Party as a legal party:
Session Two: Emergence of the Party as a legal party
EMERGENCE OF THE PARTY AS A LEGAL PARTY
CHALLENGE FACING THE PARTY
CHAIR : GM
GM: There you have it before you. I do not have anything to add but let me warn you that I am going to adhere strictly to the instructions of 20 mins to introduce.
INPUT BY Cde BN: Challenge facing the Party (see separate file)
GM: Comrades we have 40 minutes for discussion.
Jean: To throw in something here. BN has correctly pointed our crisis in the socialist countries emerging and posed the question to us that communists in our country must listen to the warning. Reminded of our history and the sacrifices that communists have made and that even though we have been small in number or strength is from our closeness to our people. And we need to avoid becoming remote. Yet in all those countries of crisis, communists were driven by the principles of communism - at that stage of struggle the members of the party sacrificed unto death to bring about their freedom. They were driven by the interests of the people. In this period, there was no corruption. Cuba, Albania, Yugoslavia, Rumania - communists were involved in magnificent struggles. So we are talking about very similar people to us. It therefore means that we cannot take solace in the fact that we have such good leaders past and present. We have to look at the fruits of office. It becomes a real question for us how to move forward into the period where state office looms on the horizon how to avoid the of problems. We must recommend how to prevent that kind of slide taking place. Agree that our strength has been the mass based struggle, with emphasis on grassroots organisations and democracy in those organisations. Yet once one is able to penetrate the superficiality of the society what really was the case, and maybe it is being wiser after the fact, was this alienation - the fact that the party had become remote from the people.
Lara: We need to address the question of prospects of a negotiated resolution, the problems and dangers. I am in favour of the course taken which has opened up a terrain of struggle which needs to be exploited fully. In favour of the initiative to remove obstacles in regain the high ground. But I think it remains a proposition of the movement that we have to ensure that what happens in the negotiations is not divorced from the masses; that we cannot snuff out resistance. The way in which we respond to our masses today will shape the way we build tomorrow. Major obstacles can arise. Our strength at the table depends on what we do on the ground. There is a tendency on the part of the movement not to put the questions before the people and there is a tendency on the part of the people to feel that the question of obstacles needs to be discussed only at the negotiating table. Gazankulu, Transkei: I think that the demand for a referendum raised in December last year was then strategically correct. Yet today I think the masses have outstripped that. We cannot stop the uprising. We must address the people to put pressure on these authorities to democratise the structures - for the authorities to become part of the masses - so that when the question of incorporation is raised the people agree only to be incorporated into a democratic South Africa. We could easily engage in questions of this type. Or what we are unhappy about given that the movement's central focus should remain the question of power to the people. Negotiations will not get us everything; the actions on the ground is the key. Negotiations have not brought out the masses in action nor brought thinking among the masses and this we should address. The preparation for possibilities of partial and total uprisings is still the key perspective. Therefore there is the need to build up our forces. Our key focus: role of the masses + political power to the people.
GM: I am going to allow about 5 minutes for each speaker. One should also take into account criticisms that also come from outside of ourselves - eg from PAC, AZAPO that we are selling out. How do we respond? How do we arm our people to respond? Turmoil in the Bantustans is largely from military councils that have taken action despite the fact that we are saying that we have been there ourselves. The military council in the Ciskei when we established our ANC regional structure gave them two vehicles.
Kaiser: I wanted to talk briefly on the question of Bantustans and our approach. The comrade was saying that perhaps the calling of referendum is something that has fallen into disuse and that what we are talking about is the need for those areas to be democratised. Whilst agreeing with that I think it is important for the need for us to democraticse our own operations. We came up with the Harare Declaration. Conference for Democratic Future. Nothing beyond this was done to take this to the ground. Layers and layers of activists have not been made to understand. Now the ANC is involved in tactical maneouvres to neutralise and win over the Bantustan leaders. But this is taking place over the heads of the people, eg in Gazankulu the people are calling for the resignation of Bantustan leaders and we are not convincing those activists on the ground about tactical maneouvres of the ANC leaders to bring over the Bantustan leaders. What we are doing may be correct yet they are done in a way to confuse our people. There isn't turmoil in Kangwane. I am not suggesting that it is correct to lump Mabusa with de Klerk. Yet we need to make people on the ground understand why. We need to take our perspectives of the current situation to the ground otherwise our people as well can legitimately accuse us of being sellouts as ours is not yet their strategy.
CD: I think it would be mistake for us to say our people should discard the original demand of the dismantling of the homelands. This is correct maybe in
Transkei, Ciskei, Venda. But I don't think it is correct in all other bantustans or township structures. Our people believe that if the homeland leaders are intransigent and are not prepared to be removed, ie be incorporated into SA, I don't think the question of incorporation should be discouraged. Because if the homeland leaders are not meeting the demands of the people, then they must be challenged. If people in Natal demand that KwaZulu be reincorporated now, they would be better off. A solution about the councillors - it would be better that people demand now for one council for the whole town. I think one needs to see this dismantling, building, incorporating as a process and demand for re-incorporation where it is still necessary should be maintained. Because this is becoming a problem - people sometimes now feel that it is better to be in the country which is involved in negotiations than in the Bantustans. We must retain both activities.
SA: We are concerned because of the emphasis on negotiations - there is danger of actions being cut. Whilst at the same time we have said that on the approach that we saw developing through the defiance campaigns it was going to be possible for us to take advantage of some kind of uprising or moves or inspiration. Maybe that is why the regime moved so quickly. What we need to do is look at whether it is possible to undertake major initiatives which would capture resources and energies of the people. The spark is being lost. We need to galvanise people into action once again. This time we need to be prepared to take advantage of the energy it unleashes to be able to create the structures of organs of people's power that we had been doing in the 84-85 period. Structures which would make it difficult for the regime as we were. We are not anywhere near the position of dual power which at one stage we were advancing towards. At this stage the negotiations are a fairly mechanical process. It does seem that we are going to the people but are putting together bureaucratic structures (eg constitutional guidelines) and documents which may be important but are not a programme of action which can involve people as they come into the organisation so that if problems arise we are prepared for the highest form of struggle.
GM: Would like to draw your attention to what is happening on the ground - that local government structures are no longer working and whole local councils have come out with a statement to say they are breaking away from them and are prepared to accept leadership of the ANC. What do we do about that? Individual members of local councils have sought to take up membership of ANC and regional members of leadership and have not known what to do.
Dion: We are in a position now of engaging in talks which could take us to one of instead of dual power but to joint power. A lot of situations could be solved not just by high powered interventions eg by Cde Madiba and our comrades don't go ahead with the mass action they planned (eg: Save the patriots march plus the weeks of planned activity around it and the Campaign supporting the hospital workers). This intervention comes because they were dealing on sensitive issues but the comrades who had been working were not made to understand exactly why. Comrades not very clear about this. There needs to be a much more systematic way of consulting. Even here I find comrades feeling not adequately informed about what happened and Groote Schuur - and comrades here are generally informed about things - and wanting to know what is to happen at the talks. We don't seem to have worked out how we report and how we consult. I think often in engaging in the process we started, we're having to talk about us and them to a point. I think in small ways the process that has started has been used has really been used (you get so entwined with the enemy at a level) to stem the tide.
Joe: How negotiations perceived outside our ranks. We should not conceive the negotiations as a question of the regime sitting and calling us to the table. Having correctly read the signals, the movement began to prepare a whole series of reasons to comrades about to the question of political settlement vis-a-vis the regime. We as the ANC forced the regime to the present conjuncture both with the Harare Declaration and the especially the role of comrade Madiba who even in prison really forced the regime to look at the question of negotiations in a manner that does not compromise us. I think it's important if it is not just left that the regime is the initiating role. As far as the inevitability, there is no way we could have wriggled out of the need to talk - we cannot stick rigidly to a form of struggle. But it is true the observations made by comrades we have to consult as widely as possible.
Mag: demobilisation of masses is very real problem. Activists have been in a state of not knowing what to do. A lot of focus of the ANC to the detriment of the mass structures. We need to focus energies on rebuilding structures. Demonstrations about continuation of sanctions abroad. Yet the people here are not clear of the issues facing. Unbannings. left a lot of loose ends untied. Degie=ance(sic) drew into our ranks some organisations not necessarily part of our ranks. These we have not followed up.
Scott: whilst it is true today - town councils are collapsing, I think we would be making a grave mistake again if in the 1990s we don't give lead to those struggles against the town councils. People are tackling those issues on the ground and it is important that those struggles taking place on the local level need to be tied up to the question of the negotiation process so that the people can understand. It is the masses that should shape the negotiations - we say this but we must DO to make this happen
MV: What has happened with the focus is that we have failed to take full advantage of the fact that some of the preconditions have been met and we have to take full advantage of this in the future. The creation of the negotiations was meant to create the conditions to open the space for us and we are failing to take advantage of this. But we don't have a programme for the branches at the local level. We are saying the local branches must be built up but we are not saying what the branches should do. Much has been said here that we are not consulting or involving the masses in negotiations. How do we involve the masses? The reason that we had a mandate was because the preconditions were the popular demands of the people. In the same way we need to seek a mandate for the next stage of the negotiations: to argue for a constituent assembly; to argue for the wealth, etc. We must do this now and not after the December Conference. The regime's agenda is to legalise the movement and to get us to work within certain constraints and to proceed with certain programmes. Danger is that they will succeed. Not correct to say that the masses are demobilised. It is the activist core that is demobilised. Talks about talks and unbanning has activated the masses - they were the demands of the people. Forms of action which under certain conditions could be described as posing a real challenge to the regime could be launched. If we continue to march with memoranda and present these etc, it is nothing more now. We need to look at this again - eg when the City Council meets we march to insist they no longer have the right to meet. We have to think of different ways of taking different actions so that these challenge the regime. There is very little propaganda work going on. Propaganda about talks about talks has been poor. Failed to allow our propaganda to reach people. This is unacceptable and is precisely the reason that we have not reached our ranks. We must begin to look at how WE spark off a new wave.
Mike: Great task to play. What we have failed to do is to bring down organisation to the level of small containable constituencies which are easier to contain. We have major task to go to the street and area structures and explain - and politicise and put forwards some form of direction. We need to throw a lot of propaganda around. What is happening is not only confusing the masses but also us. So if we are developing some policies and disseminating these it will reinforce the structures especially the local structures they played a key role in 84/6 - they are part and parcel of the liberation movement and will enable us to respond to the issues.
KD: The masses action need to be linked to our demands - eg for a constituent assembly. This tends to focus on the day-to-day issues eg schools - no link is made. The enemy also contributes to this. The level of consciousness re constituent assembly is very low. People face pressure to fight from the ground but they engage in day to day issues without being aware of how to link up with broader issues and the enemy is playing on that, e.g. on the municipal facilities becoming non-racial. I think we should strive for dual power and engage in mass campaign, build organs for people's power such that these are recognised so that whenever the interim government comes it will only be a formalisation of already existing structures.
GM: Any further contributions? Call on introducer to sum up.
BN: If I leave out anything members of the resolutions committee and comrades here will correct me. The errors of socialism of alienating the masses we must avoid. Where organisation itself becomes alienated from the people and people don't know what is going on we run into danger. Unbanning is not demobilising the people; it is the leadership ourselves who have become demobilised and have been caught in euphoria. Mass struggle has to be intensified so that pressure is brought to bear on the state to ensure that people's power comes about. Central to our demand is calling for an interim government and a constituent assembly so that this becomes the focal point so that the present regime does not have the capacity to effect real change. To this end comrades have emphasised the need for the establishment of dual power and organs of people's power to be effectively translated into focal points of action so that when there is a transition there is a base. There is a need for education and intensive propaganda. In this way we can mitigate the sellout accusations. Emphasis given right at the beginning of discussions that the negotiations must be seen as a terrain of battle and what did happen is that we tended to forget the people and that at every stage we need to get the masses to shape and form the character of the agenda/negotiations. We have failed to mobilise effectively those people who we had previously organised through the MDM and so on. There is need for us to get back to them. There was criticism of our conduct in re-emergence of the ANC for not having taken advantage of the space to establish ourselves deeply amongst the people. The discussions should be taken advantage of and we should root ourselves more strongly amidst the people.
GM: Before vacating the chair I would like to emphasise the ff points; the unbanning of the ANC has given rise to confusion. Structures that were not banned have stepped back and the ANC has not given effective leadership for one reason or another - probably it was itself taken by surprise so that it had to operate before it had planned what should be done. The NEC in Lusaka and the ILC in the country - it becomes difficult who should be guiding the struggle on the ground so that if it should appear that people would become paralysed this is not because of lack of fervour on their part but of getting guidance from the top. Serious problem. Second area I would like to refer to and that is that area of what is happening in the Bantustans. The trade union movement has spread to areas outside the cities. Even before SACTU was born trade unions concentrated in industrial areas and also during the '50s and even then not all the main areas were organised - mainly CT, Dbn, Tvl. Was virtually nothing in EL or smaller industrial areas in the country. Now the position since the government embarked on decentralisation policies was that industry spread. Trade union movement started building there without proper guidance from the centre - hope I am not wrong - unfair to put the blame on Cosatu which is how many years? 5 years - it has hardly got off. But despite that I think that Cosatu should take account of the trade union activity that is taking place in these areas and this should be taken together with the political activity which is taking place in those areas. We have called on Cosatu to help in these areas. The situation is very sensitive in those areas. You have these military councils which have come up and you have those authoritarian structures. Now when they take over it is a strange phenomenon when people have been oppressed for a long time they demand more than they have created the space for by themselves. In these places the people did not create but the military councils created and now the people are accusing the military councils of selling out. And now the trade unions are doing the same especially in the Transkei and Ciskei and now these military councils don't find it easy to take the necessary steps to have law and order otherwise they would have to shoot the people and there are also provocateurs in these areas and they are calling for consumer boycotts and we don't know for what reason. And then some of the country shops you must keep open until 10pm and if you don't a consumer boycott will take place. This situation requires very active participation by Cosatu. And here I think Cosatu is needed and there I think they are too slow.
BN: Apart from points Comrade GM made, I forgot in summing up the question about the issue of reincorporation and the homelands strategy. We should organise people in these areas as only through this would we be able to effectively organise the campaign for reincorporation which should not always be discouraged - we cannot generalize, e.g. Ciskei/Transkei may be unlike KwaZulu /Gazankulu
Cde Kaiser takes chair.
Session Three: Party of a new Type
PARTY OF A NEW TYPE
1. INPUT : L
Session began at 11.55hrs:
Chair: I want to leave the chair as soon possible so we are going to stick to the time question. Comrade Lara to introduce Party of the new type:
MC: will deal outside with the chairs remarks.
I have sought to introduce the topic by trying to say we should focus on the key elements that belong to what to focus on: Accountability, inner-party democracy; accountability to our constituency; vanguardism and mass Party; our fountainhead of each of us as communists.
INSERT LARA'S INPUT ON PARTY OF A NEW TYPE
Kaiser: thanks for keeping to time. Comrade has correctly pointed out we do have outlined on the agenda issues that need to be focused on in our discussions. We have 45 minutes discussion and we may have more time after lunch. I ask comrades to be brief in inputs to maximise participation. No one can go for lunch without having made a contribution.
Jean: is this what inner party democracy is about?
ZIZI: Like to focus on the last item - working with fraternal organisations. Almost every member of the CP does belong to some other organisation outside the Party and in the past I think we have erred in that while some of our leading members took an active part in such organisation - especially the liberation movement - not only took active part in those organisations but they slipped into those organisation like a frog that leads a dual life - sometime out and sometime in and when it is in it is so natural. Some of our leaders have done this most eminently. Yet there were a large number among us who never tried to fit in to the national liberation organisation. Sometimes they even regarded national liberation organisation as areas where a genuine communist would not operate. In other cases some of the best dressed gentlemen in the liberation struggle have been communists and some of those comrades would never get down to working in the township and this is something they lacked. They were leaders without this. I think we have to now that we are emerging as a legal Party but not only in words but getting down to the actual deeds. There is another aspect. The CP for years and years has been accused for leading the ANC. For example Patrick Duncan who alleged that the ANC was led by communists in the disguise of democrats - white and Indian communists. And Patrick Duncan found it convenient to agree with the passing of the Suppression of Communism Act. We have Ken Owen as the person who is chief among the people who is taking up this line again and he has been given newspapers by the capitalists. I don't think we should waste our time arguing with Ken Owen but on the ground we should not appear to be coming to any other organisations as bringing wisdom from above. It should not be that now that so and so has come we shouldn't make people feel that the people cant express their opinions. We must guard very carefully against this sort of thing. You have members in the Party who introduce their remarks "we of the working class" and forget that not all organisations which are being addressed are not members of the working class. The present situation has got back in to the field people who have long left the ranks. 1953 virtually threw out the intelligentsia e.g. lawyers. It became too costly for them e.g. because of influx control if you were undesirable you were endorsed out. But I observed at a branch being launched last week in Port Elizabeth there were lawyers at that meeting. So we are going to be faced with this now that the ANC is legal they are going to come back. I am not saying they should be excluded but we must keep an eye on them.
Val: on the question of a mass Party the question we are faced with now is would we as Party members operate only in the national movement and carry the flag of the Party within these organisations or will the Party have its own mass structures or will the Party be underground. This is the question because the ANC even when it was illegal had to be seen to be leading mass campaigns officially led by other organisations. Would we not have to lead campaigns which would be distinguished from the campaigns led by ANC and COSATU otherwise we could find ourselves in a situation in which we exist only through these organisations. Will we not have to consider a programme of action which the branches of the Party have to implement?
Jean: This is a useful question. It takes up something which Lara focussed attention on - the question of activity by Party members. Perhaps it clarifies the distinction between a mass - based Party as opposed to a vanguard Party. We need to avoid feeling that there is something totally akin to talking about a mass Party and the ANC or some popular organisation as a mass based Party. And whether mass-based is the opposite to vanguard. JS is not talking about creating a mass based Party of millions. But he is talking about building the Party in such a way that it is no longer a small group but we really have the possibilities of. recruiting members in thousands (10,20,50) tremendous membership that is not a mass-based organisation. I dont believe that we are aimed for mass based in the 100,000s . We want to move away from elitist organisation. A Party of activists is what counts. This can be a Party of 10,20,50 thousands as long as those members are prepared to be activists of the Party and not simply attend Party meetings once a month and pay subs. So activist can help us here. It then means in terms of the question of a Party of activists we don't only act within unions but carry out organisation work in the name of the Party also for the Party - popularising our Party programme and seek to recruit for the Party at the same time recognising the nature of the alliance we must necessarily be involved in the mass movement, trade unions etc. as communists. I don't see us coming forward with specific program of action for the communists against the regime that is a programme as part of whole national liberation movement. Of course we can have campaigns on specific areas. Govan's point about how communists work in those organisations where we are coming out in our true colour as essential about how we have been judged. Before banning not simply by words but deed and actions. Not simply proclaiming that we are coming from the mountains to deliver tablets but by our hard graft and self-sacrifice that is how our people must judge the communists.
Chair: Are you answered?
Val: asking for discussion - comrade starting to lead into discussion not just question and answer session.
Sandy: The problems in Eastern Europe shows that the parties conducted their affairs in such a way that the people became alienated.
Look at the implications of the Party not competing against the ANC and others in elections. We must not make the mistake that the Party is as acceptable to the people as the ANC. We must not be romantic about how people see the Party. Because of conditions the Party has not been able to explain itself to the people and they can be left with suspicion of the Party.
Because the conditions under which Party has laboured it has not had the possiblities to put its positions. We need to get to a situation that some decisions are decisions of the Party in particular. While we want the ANC in power we acknowledge that in reality it is socialism that enhances quality of life which is something not on the ANC agenda. In order for us to reach a stage where we will not have a situation where we don't have other countries mistakes we need to have a programmes which enables our people to understand more fully what the Party is all about to ensure that that understanding about the people is developed so that the structures must not become merely activist structures which don't have support of masses. We must put that on our agenda.
Mag: one of the things to focus on is that the Party is the premier organisation of the working class and that when we are transforming our membership we must focus on this.
LO: The reason the Party is popular is that the Party had answers to vital political issues. But the Party does not have the answers now, the project of socialism has changed. We must, therefore, be able to explain the vision of the Party if we want to invite mass support.
Val: Fairly large numbers of advanced workers, youth and that would make up the Party. There are two issues we need to look at on the one hand the appeal of socialism in this country is tremendous. Socialism has strong appeal amongst workers. It is likely that more and more people will want to joint the Party. One looks at COSATU members perhaps the overwhelming majority would want to joint the Party. If one looks at eastern Europe and elsewhere we are seeing that even with 50000 members we as a Party can become alienated from the masses. The crucial question is how do the masses own the Party? Even if we have hundreds of thousands of members, how do people relate to the Party? Are we relying on our own ability to always do the right thing? But what will the mechanism of accountability to the people be?
Len: There will be ongoing tension between a mass Party and the NLM. Because of the of mythic status of the Party there will be tremendous pressure from the workers and the youth to join, largely because of the weaknesses in the NLM. But because of emphasis on deeds and not words ultimately the membership will drop and the mythic status will go.
Mike: In the experience of E Europe one way confrontation by the very workers and also the propaganda by capitalist machineries but believe that there are people there who still support the Party but that they have not yet come up and showing their support in one way or another. Running away from such experiences is maybe the question of the mass Party that through involvements in the mass organisations the masses will also in our case rush to the defense of the Party.
CD: By being a member of the Party one does not necessarily withdraw membership of union. Concrete effect on programme to open to anybody not really there. At tripartite meeting the support at the end of the day was that the position would need to be taken forward in the other formations if it comes to decision making obviously... I think that changes the whole system to come that answers the question of addressing the backlog that our people are complaining about.
Kaiser: Still on this question of the mass Party, the CC message refers to relax the membership question. Also in the interview in SALB the GS was saying that the Party is a home for all South Africans. It is not only a forum for debate but where people come in on the basis of their acceptance of the programme. But what we are beginning to see is a sort of clamouring of the socialists who have been independent from the Party in the past and because Party is seen to be moderating views they are now interested. But I ask myself the question that by saying that the people if they accept the programme they will come in and they will be purged later. That needs some attention. Just raising this view for discussion
Dione: Why are we not including UDF formations in the alliance particularly when we say these structure will continue to operate? Then the role that we are mapping out for the Party is almost interventionist where we influence and are part of other structures without own programme etc. There are some indications that we would have a constituency election in June we have said we wont stand and then their is question of election for government and seems the Nationalist Party is quite anxious to push process forward soonest. By all democratic perceptions all parties have to test support among all SA. At what stage are we going to start to do that so that we can measure what support our programmes have. In Cape Town people of Militant Workers Tendency, for example, are joining the ANC. WHY?
Marhs: unbanning of both the ANC and the Party does make it possible for many to join the Party. Not blinded to the fact as the GS observes that there will be elements in the ANC uneasy with the Party in the alliance.
We will have to ensure that our membership and in the drive for new members there is no confusion about the role of members in the national democratic revolution at this state. We must be open and also defend the position of the Party and where mistakes have been made by us or others we must openly admit them. There must be no hidden agendas. Openly raise our relationship and how we see it within the ANC. The election question is discussed in the alliance and that we openly report on these discussions.
These are some of the areas of open dialogue, discussion and education. We will be able to solve the problems without going and conducting a campaign with our allies which has not initially been discussed. At the same time openly propagating those ideas which are our own. Why should the Party fear that because of Eastern Europe we would shy away from our duties. If we don't get the members and retain then on this basis we will have to admit that we have been wrong. If we cannot use such space then maybe we use the space of participating in government even if it is bourgeoisie government but that is something that we discuss at that moment.
ZIZI: This question of the size of the Party: as at present I don't think that anywhere in the world there would be something like a mass Party. I don't think even in the Soviet Union, China we could refer to it as a mass Party. But I think that the Party in our country has been very conservative with regard to recruitment. There can be no doubt that it is desirable that the Party should open its doors to more but how in fact we determine what stage we determine no more. I have a problem if for instance the CP has become very popular in the country and large sections of the working class and people outside would like to join not so long ago I addressed a workshop and this was more that regional. When are we going to transform the communist Party so that all NUMSA membership can become members of the CP. Talks were going on about transforming SAYCO to youth league of the ANC. This is the kind of idea being tossed about. Can we do it. In the first place would we have the personnel to handle such big numbers without proper political education to bring up the level of every member of the CP. A further problem that I am not really happy about is that the Party will have its political education and study group and so has the ANC. The ANC has a department of political education and it is headed by a comrade. What is going to be the relationship on the ground between these two groups. What is going to be the nature of the syllabus of the political department of the ANC and the Party. Is there not a likelihood of some conflict somewhere if they operate in the same environment.
Scott: on role of the Party. A number of the people joining the ANC are diluting it and I think we must ensure that this does not happen in the case of the Party. It is true that we might have 100000 people who might join the Party but we will have to give some sort of guidelines to limit the number but that is a tricky question.
On the relationship with other organisation : its membership must operate in all other organisation, but it must also embark on its own campaigns - which could involve the ANC and other structures at the local and regional levels.
Kaiser: comrades focusing only on question of mass Party not looking at internal democracy and accountability.
Joe: Party must assert its independence - much as we are going to be required to play a role in other organisations. We naturally will have to play this dual role there is nothing inconsistent and not a peculiarity to us. This question does not arise only now when the Party rises to legality. It also is not a new issue. People were just emerging not declaring their membership during illegality and this was also damaging to the Party. People playing a role in these organisations should acknowledge themselves as members of the communist Party and also to tell people that we are a strong Party on our own as well.
The contesting of elections: this must be answered in the future. We will cross the bridge when we come to it. For the moment the main task is the building of the Party - we must use the potential that is there.
No contradiction between us and the ANC recruiting members. The CP must concentrate principally among the working class. We will only answer the question of where we contest elections at that point in the future. At the moment our key task is to see what our potential to emerge and gather strength. When we have utilised the potential. We are speculating what the ANC would do etc. Let us emerge with our own identity.
Mass Party question: the key thing to mass and vanguard is that the Party who we seek to create will not be a Party of supporters and spectators but of activists not only in other organisations but in the building of the Party itself. No conflict between mass Party and vanguard Party. If we put into practice that the Party must be composed of activists in practice we will ensure no conflict. On the question of the humanity which was touched on in the introduction: humanity is vital. Where does it derive from if not from communists effective participation in struggle and thus our knowledge of what peoples problems and struggles are and our involvement in this and what the workers demand. There is a dialectical relationship between this and our scientific perspective. It is the translation of theory into practice. If we are divorced from practice there is no way the two merge. There is a need for us to place ourselves among our people - in the mass organisations - it is through this participation that our humanity and accountability to the people is derived.
Kaiser: Does the UDF have a place in the alliance that we are talking about?
VAl: Internal democracy and accountability: if you are talking about a big membership it is clear that the kind of democracy operating in the Party under illegality has to change for a legal Party. The leadership of the Party will have to be seen to be accountable. We need to develop a system of elections and representation at all levels to ensure this. Every person who holds a position of leadership at national or branch level would have to be accountable in a much more open way. We need to bear in mind that leaders must be honest, accountable and democratic. So from deliberations here that must come strongly. On the question of accountability to the people what is the formula. As the Party opens publicly we must recognise that socialism has been faced with a tremendous propaganda onslaught - and this will be more so when the Party begins to emerge and we must not underestimate this and we must ensure a whole series of consultations with various organisations to explain to them Party policy. The Party must also not feature as it does up to now as a part of the ANC . There will have to be Party rallies etc.
Jean: I think it is so helpful to come not only with questions but also to come with concrete suggestions. Taken up by comrade Val reference even earlier on about accountability within the Party and how does the Party account to the working class and to our people more difficult to answer. The first comrade Valli has answered already. We are moving out of the shadows and we will have all the rules of fully legal Party - of elections to the CC etc. at which delegates are elected and participate at the higher levels and in which strong rigorous accountability must apply and given problems of the world communist movement we must move as one of the banner bearers of communists. Part of this is a question of somebody who is not only a person who serves the people but who is also a part of and living amidst the people. Being activists of the people and then further than that the time of rallies meeting etc. we need these things to account warts and all. The GS is setting the right kind of spirit in that and that is why he is so popular.
Val: on internal democracy: those who are ideologues or well read seem to get more votes and we must address this problem. If you raise the word Lenin as in the manner you refer to the bible most people have not read all of Lenin to be able to argue so that this is a style we need to address this problem.
Kaiser: no more contributions therefore ask comrade Lara to summarise or make comments.
Vali: delay about fraternal organisations Kaiser: see item 5.
Lara: I don't wish to make it easy for resolutions committee. We are discussing an important and difficult area where none of us can claim to have the answers and that as the CC message says it would be premature to discuss the question of our role in the CA precisely because we are in a transitional stage. We will transform ourselves as we go on - we must not get into a rigid frame. We want to set conditions as we develop.
What is clear is that we are moving to the stage of openness and that we want to set a course. The debate on vanguardism and mass Party has been useful one and we must continue it. Communists and non-communists have worked to cement our alliance - this has been an important feat. How will we get to socialism is a question being asked - but it is too early to say. Maybe we will have to shed some of our current perspectives then.
But in this transformation we want to try and ensure that we have certain rules to ensure our openness and at the same need to be compatible with what the Party needs. We have often done more harm to ourselves. Because of our activities we cannot play tennis - therefore we are looked on with respect but no longer as one of the "ordinary" folk. We should be in every grassroots organsations in every area.
We know now that one of the deformations that arose in the Soviet experience was that the soviet was reduced over the decades to a rubber stamp and today Soviet Union is involved in a titanic struggle to reassert their former identity. We will have to be tested in these spheres. Our approach must be that we are servants of the people. On the contrary, when a communist commits a serious error before the people we shall not protect such a person. If the people's judgment condemns you are condemned before the Party and we shall only try to help you refashion your views.
The question fleshed out a bit more in the sphere of organisation and rules of membership. We must be an incorruptible force. How did it happen that self-sacrificing comrades on getting power became corrupted. It is not an easy thing to face but it is a reality. What we do now will also shape the future.
Communists have a duty to be an incorruptible force. One can see whether here or in exile that there is an atmospheres which sucks up one into corrupt things. Do we not need a code of conduct for now to distinguish between simple card-carrying membership from a membership which is being moulded into a fighting force.
I do not think that even I, at this stage, can claim to be a complete communist. We are all in the process of making ourselves as communists- two things that shape this are participation in the struggle and membership of a Party. For years afraid saying that we are communists because we would be locked up .
Today we are so popular that we are afraid of our popularity although we have worked for it - instead of seeing it is a challenge. We will overcome the difficulties - whether it is administrative, organisational or the question of political education. We will sink or swim by the work we do.
In the GDR today leaders facing trials for corruption - 48% voted rightwing after 40 years of socialism from cradle to grave during which the state had opportunity to mould the politics of the people.
The whole question of accountability and consultation must be reexamined. We thought that by posing questions at workshops we were being accountable. We must present facts to the people and the options available and ask people to say to the leadership which option is acceptable. We must not make a nation/membership of sheep. We must inculcate a spirit of challenge leading to dialogue between the leaders and the people. Perestroika is not possible without Glastnost. Isvestia Factoria present facts to the people, and have therefore become very popular.
If the work is not being done it is because we are not doing it. There is a constraint in the sense of responsibility and discipline. We are faced with a challenge unique in this era - nowhere in the world is there a Party which is so popular. I agree that the alliance can act as a conduit for ideas but the Party must be seen to be generating the ideas.
The Party has worthy contribution to make. We are respected because of our work and for the feel we bring from the ground.
Kaiser: break for lunch. Comrade Jean leading and Val chairing. one hour break.
Session Four: Organising a Legal Party
ORGANISING A LEGAL PARTY TOWARDS THE 8TH CONGRESS 1991
Dion chairing: Comrade Jean introduces topic: Organising a legal party towards the 8th Congress 1991
(see separate file for introduction to discussion)
Chair: We are getting to practical issues. I propose that we first take any general points or questions and then address the specific issues that have been raised.
Zakes: I am not clear about what is meant by the process of consultations with the fraternal organisations.
Jean: I mean consultation firstly with party members in those organisations. How do they see process? Who should be appointed to the districts and who nationally and the form of the launch; which urban should constitute our priorities and what areas should be included in that area? Which allies should we consult on these and specific questions? How should the party relate to ANC, COSATU, etc.? The process has been underway - it is quite far gone in fact.
Len: It seems that the recruitment drive and associated propaganda primarily takes place after the launch. At this point it seems that we need to look at the feasibility, the requirements and the way we launch.
Jean: Comrades I may have a strong voice, but please don't take it as a voice of a Stalin. These are just my ideas and are open to suggestion.
CD: It appears that consultation has taken place. It seems like the main question is for us to indicate whether or not July is possible for the launch. But this is difficult to say because we don't know about the outcome of these consultations.
Who should the responsibility of consultation be enthrusted to is the problem. The GS will be returning on Monday and the process can be speeded up
Lara: Let me explain a little about the consultation but I don't think that it should be a problem. A number of us have been consulting from the illegal position; but there are limitations.
Similarly there have been consultations openly - at the level of Comrade JS, but also at other levels. Yet here too there are limitations. When we pose this question of the launch, we need to look whether it can take place in July; do we have the time? I think we have the capacity if we have the time. Who do we surface? This also is related to the question of timing.
LO: I think we need to follow a path of as broad a consultation as possible.
Scott: Talking about consultations I think there is no problem that it is already under way. When we look at the mass launch, I think we need 3 months - basing this on the experience of rallies in the past. As the party we need to prepare the ground. We need to conduct mass agitation with leaflets or whatever.
Kaiser: Consultation with allies does not necessarily have bearing on the launch itself. If we have a task force to consult with the allies it would be better because the allies already have structures. It also means that the information about when and where the launch will be can be disseminated and the organisation of people to attend the launch will already begin to happen. We need to organise the propaganda to be distributed by allies as well as those in the u-g. I think that two months is realistic. Already delays have provoked question from people on the ground as to why the Party is not appearing, is there some sort of conspiracy. There is also an urgency because there is a need for the Party.
Dion: The party is legal but it is also true that the Internal Security Act is in place and this is something we must challenge.
MV: The launch would need to happen in a way that the Party announces its intentions by the latest June. I support the idea of about 10-12 people composed of a leadership who will be able to carry out tasks of the Party. But I feel that certain sub-committee (e.g. propaganda) should all be established prior to the launch.
Len: The process of consultation should be used to generate a task force and it should go beyond formal structures as comrade LO said in an earlier discussion. It should go to those groups who have seen themselves as part of the movement even if they are not part of a formal organisation. So consultation should proceed with a definite sense of what tasks need to be performed.
MV: I am proposing that a sub-committee should be announced simultaneously with emergence of the emergence of the Interim Leadership by the end of June.
Dion: We need to be clear about who should be included in the process of consultation.
Len: I think that the activists should be the first to be consulted both at the national and regional levels and that we need to go as deep down as possible. For example we should also consult the Christians and the Moslem leaders in the Western Cape.
Kaiser: No objections in principle to reaching the religious organisation but how do you talk to a Boesak about this matter?
MV: We would need to clarify our position on the question of religion so that we could neutralise existing misconceptions.
Lara: Cdes also need to consider the question of finances involved in this launch. Firstly there is the question of finances for the launch rally itself and then also in terms of the consultation process. This is part of looking at the real conditions. But in terms of the cost of the rally itself, can comrades tell us what this would involve.
Chair: The recorders are asking that comrades speak up.
MV: The cost of the launch would involve something between R30,000 to R40,000 and this would mainly be for the sound system that has to be hired. We do not include transport any more as we don't pay for that; we feel that people must pay their own transport costs to the rally.
Jean: That's the NFB Stadium. But what would the Orlando Stadium cost?
MV: Only slightly less as the cost is mainly because of the hiring of the sound equipment.
Kaiser: We need to keep our options open on the question of venue because a place like NFB makes 30,000 people appear to be nothing. So as we do on organising, we can choose FNB or Orlando.
Mike: Other centres should know when and where as soon as possible so that we can begin to organise and to raise funds in time and also enable people to raise transport for themselves. Because wherever this would be we would need to prepare banners and everything because definitely for a party launch there would be people who would come from our area.
Dion: It seems that most comrades do think that July is feasible. But I am not sure was Comrade MV suggesting that by the end of June the process of consultation should be complete. Establish the ILG early in June to do the consultation.
MV: I was saying that there is a need to announce the interim leadership by the end of June so that that body can lead the consultations and preparations necessary for the July launch.
Jean: When we talk of consultations maybe I put some confusion. As we have said the consultation process is going on. But the reason that I was raising this here is also because we are seeking to develop the thrust also through you people. For example, even without saying that you are party members because this question of transitionary period still exists, I am suggesting that it could be possible for you comrades to ask around to get the feel for what people are thinking. You know people can do the rounds maybe asking what do you feel. And then the structure can help so that through them an input can be made. We need to get ideas in relation to who should represent the Party. There should also be no Chinese wall between the consultation process and the launch. Even after the launch the process of consultations must continue.
Len: I have a problem with that as I think that on the basis of our discussions this morning that might be a cutting of corners. If we are committed to consulting we must really do this with a rigorous approach.
MV: The consultation about the launch is about who should speak, what should be said - that is at one level. At another level there is the question of organisation of the launch itself. We could organise the launch in terms of booking the venue and beginning to get the people doing physical work; preparing banners, propaganda and so on. If we can decide on a date I am fairly confident that we can fill soccer city.
BN: I am worried we should not be overconfident about filling the FNB. In fact the last rally was not the first time that the stadium was not filled. Even when comrade Walter was released. I prefer the Eastern Cape or elsewhere. I don't know about relying on the Southern Transvaal. There appears to be something radically wrong there. At least in the Eastern Cape the people have already had such massive rallies. Even here. Also the consultation that we are talking about are happening at the national level through comrades such as the General Secretary. I also feel that the other additional consultations would be better if we were to appoint a team of 5-6 people to go to discuss with the ANC so as to obviate problems. The UDF should be consulted and also the religious groups. We could for example call on the SACC to help with convening this. SAYCO must be spoken to. The ANC should have done this. There must be consultation at local level so that there is not misunderstanding. We need a team to be gotten together to systematically engage in this process - we must pull out all stops. We should consult and involve in the process of organising the launch even comrades who are close to us even if they are not in the Party. But I would rely on this Southern Tvl region. Of course they will get assistance from COSATU. In the course of the consultative process we will also know who to recruit later into the party. In fact this should be part of the preparation for the launch. And so the task-force should not just be composed of anybody, but it must be a party task force to consult. And we must launch in such a way that the in the process of organising the rally we create organisation so we don't just have a rally and then something empty. We will in this way prove that we are serious.
Sandy: The process of consultation must be ongoing and I really agree that we should use it to build the organisation for later.
Comrade Lara: the Natal stand
CD: I want to be clear: is it comrade Jean who suggestion that the launch be on 30/7 or is this a decision. Because I wonder is there no way that it could be shifted to another day so that the process spoken about here could take place on a rigorous basis so as to avoid the difficulties of appointments as per the ANC. Also this would even give space for the different areas to organise funds.
Jean: There is not hard and fast date. The only thing is that it seemed apt because of the anniversary. But what is the key, whatever was we feel, is whether this date is feasible to do the job properly and successfully. But we should be conscious of the need to deal with queries about why there are delays.
Joe: I think that although there would be consultation after the launch primarily about the local structures, etc., This happens after the launch when the interim leadership group is set up. Then we can begin in earnest with the actual establishment of the party structures: and we would need the widest possible regional consultations. I don't think the establishment of those regional leadership will be problematic. Here I think we should look mainly consider the question of the consultation necessary before the launch.
Dion: Comrades do you thing that we should move onto the composition of the internal leadership group.
Jean: I feel that we need first to clarify more on the question of the launch. I mean how would comrades see an indoor rally. For example there have been really impressive indoor rallies like the one for the launch of the UDF?
Kaiser: Given the mood I really think that the indoor rally would be inappropriate. People will feel left out. I think we should go for a really big rally.
Scott: The launch date is a questions of the announcement of the central national leadership not a question of having to come up with a fully-fledged national organisation.
LO: I feel that we should re-look at this question of venue for the launch. I mean the support is there in the Eastern Cape. The question of the industrial heartland is not a serious question compared to the question of support at this stage.
MV: I am confident that we can pull it off very successfully. The industrial heartland is important.
Lara: I think that the question of the rallies in the Transvaal was a question of no hard work and passing the buck. But it is the industrial heartland and this is important. We have to change that. It is a challenge. You can't have a revolution in this country without this area.
MV: We must be given advance notice of the event.
LO: The 30th is a weekday so would it be closest weekend?
Mike: Whatever way in which the question of the venue of the launch the main thing we should be concerned with is the future strength of the Party - this is the basis on which we should decide where it should be launched.
Maggie: SACTWU is having its national congress on the 28th.
Kaiser: If we had due notice I think that this could be postponed.
Dion: It could also be the weekend after the 28th. Comrades I think that we must give attention to the number, composition and tasks of the interim leadership.
Joe: Comrades I think that the person who introduced this question mentioned the need to give due regard to the working class, gender question. I don't know if there is anything else unless you are calling for nominations.
Dion: We are not asking for nominations, committee, but for broad parameters.
Sandy: Is the core going to be made up of people who will have time and be able to facilitate in different regions? Not sure if consideration given to district committees and that the national core would not have time to devote to the regions. Consider how the regions needs would be accommodated.
Jean: We had proposed that similar structures will have to be appointed to the regions. But the question of timing is tricky. I did not raise the question of nominations because we cannot be the ones to appoint these structures but in approaching this question the issue of nominations has to be considered. And comrades have to consider whether they are prepared to take up a Party role and show themselves to be party members.
Zakes: I feel that we should have an organising sub-committee.
MV: The party has been banned for a long time and has anybody though who could be on these committees. Maybe we would consider names in order to give our views.
Jean: It is not possible for us to divulge names but definitely we want suggestions but as an imaginative exercise to give ideas of how we view the problems and the profiles we are suggesting.
GM: I am not happy about that. We are tying to establish an interim structure and we are facing a problem of those who have very high profiles and it is a matter that only the Central Committee would know - who can and who cannot even come out. I think this is a matter we should leave to our CC in consultation with our allies.
Lara: I think we should clarify. It is not a question of who in the ANC, which public figures are or are not members. But rather a question of internally who is suggested so as to build up a type of profile.
GM: If that is the case I would say the there should be Cdes Ray, Lara, BN, Jean; the two comrades from COSATU although I only know these comrades from here; we say we need women and so the women comrades here should be on such a body and this is subject to correction as we don't know them. And I think we should think of the regional body but we don't know the regions. How many does that make this? Nine so I think we should get these nine to appoint the tenth.
MV: I was going to say Comrade Ray & Oom Gov. And I also think a person like Mayekiso should feature.
Maggie: We need to take into account the trade union leadership even if not the national but for the regional level.
Zakes: I suggest Comrade Ramaphosa. Sandy: I suggest Comrade Harry Gwala.
Dion: This is not a definitive list but if there are no more contributions I think we can move on.
GM: If my name is there I think I should be excluded. I am the oldest person in the movement and I already have too heavy a load and find it difficult to be packing my bag all the time.
Dion: We will put Comrade GM's view to the CC but I also feel that we don't only need comrades who will pack the suitcases but also those who are tried and tested. Comrades I think we should look at the tasks.
MV: Tasks would include to set up a district interim committees and it would have to consult with Party comrades and with others. It would have to work out a way to do this and through that process with the CC appoint regional structures.
Len: Feel that the tasks outlined in the presentation cover the question: setting up regional and local structures; establishing sub-committees and acting as an interim leadership.
Dion: Are there any contributions on the question of sub-committees?
Len: Under propaganda presumably this entails media and publicity?
Jean: Yes. Can we also have feedback on the areas to be prioritised eg the 3 on the reef.
CD: Agree with having three for the reef but feel we need to know demarcation.
Len: Where does Pretoria fall?
MV: I feel that not much discussion is being had. If there is Johannesburg, the East Rand and West Rand then Pretoria would have to have a structure. So I feel that this needs more discussion.
Dion: Suggest from the chair that comrades can discuss this outside the session with the comrades from each of the areas to get these type of deals.
Jean: I just think we should discuss a bit more to prioritise.
Lara: We also need to consider priorities in terms of more consultation and the outcome of that and also in terms of resources and manpower. I mean it is not going to get us anywhere to prioritise on an area and then not to have anybody to do the work there. What we are saying is not to mechanically divide the whole country is our recommendation but to select realistic priorities. But I think it is a good idea to consult outside the meeting and even beyond.
Dion: I think we should focus on the question about industrial or residential committees.
Kaiser: I have difficulty with this question unless you are talking of questions of organising migrants. Because otherwise I don't think we can organise without relating to the question of where people are living.
Scott: Workers come from the townships and we have to consider this question.
Maggie: Factory committees are good things but in practice where do the workers meet?
LO: Party cells which are formed in the industrial areas in something that can give problems with the existing union structures. But I don't know maybe there are experiences in this regard that we can draw on from elsewhere.
Lara: Well I agree with LO - the only other experiences from elsewhere are worse than that.
Len: While I understand the question of those u-g comrades surfacing, who does the work of recruiting? It seems that we need to create a core of people to train to carry out organisational work.
Maggie: Recruitment of workers is something that should have been the main part of our discussion. And I think we need to examine this and look at the question of study circles.
BN: This could fall under the questions of the mobilisation of women workers into the party. Also under the question of the alliance and the propaganda discussions. In terms of the current discussion I just want to suggest that we should also consider for the leadership core some comrades drawn from the cultural and sport personalities.
Scott: I agree with suggestion of giving some sort of education programme to prepare comrades to perform the tasks of recruitment drive. I think these people will also have a great role to play.
Dion: Well I think we can ask Comrade Jean to close this session with a summary.
Jean: There have been many useful points on the question of branches - residential or industrial. Also very important suggestions on how to go about consultations. But maybe there was not enough time to cover the question of properly. Also education. When we present the resolution we will try to provide something to give practical force to some of these items and to allow for some more thought around them.
Joe: I feel that the question of financial self-reliance is important and we must have contributions on this.
Lara: I suggest that given that we are keeping to the agenda we could cover a number of these items during our session tomorrow.
Session ends 17.05hrs
Session Five: Propaganda
(See Paper in separate file)
The chair suggested that the issue of propaganda be examined firstly form the political aspect and secondly from the technical aspect.
Comrade Maggie: suggested that while retaining Umsebenzi, a weekly Party newspaper be considered. Such a newspaper should take up daily and current issues of workers. It should be distributed at factories through Party structures
Comrade Govan : no doubt that propaganda was needed He recalled numerous problems in the past with propaganda. Enquired about the prospects of having printing machines in the country - in the past there had been problems of finding printing facilities. Today it may be different. In the past we could not use commercial facilities. The Party did persuade small companies to do the work but this was in very small quantities.
On publishing in the vernacular languages: if we are going to mount a campaign to what extent can we be successful if we only printed in English?
We have the example of New Age: It was difficult to produce from week to week. There was often no money. The issue of not reaching the masses was a major one. We sometimes produced 25000 but this was not enough. The New Age editorial suggested that a page be set aside for the vernacular but the printers said that this was not possible.
Isizwe / Sechaba was produced for a short period but no money came back from distribution.
Referring to the 10 000 Umsebenzi's that were produced recently one region he said that this number would have disappeared in one district. Even this was not enough and we are not going widely enough. Therefore if we do not have our own machines we will not be able to respond to the problems. The question is how are we going to get our own machines.
A leaflet is not the same as newspaper. A leaflet is very flexible but it cannot play the role of a newspaper. The question is how to solve the problem of producing a newspaper. We cannot depend on outside countries for our propaganda production e.g. GDR. The editors of the AC are currently looking around for printers.
Comrade Murray: over the last decade a wealth of experience has been acquired in the country: UDF, community, COSATU etc. - expertise in all aspects of production - editorial, layout etc. The problem is finances. We could link through computers to all regions.
Comrade Lara: We ought to look at some of these problems in terms of the alliance. In the long term (within 2 years) we should have our own printing facilities for weekly newspapers; for this we need a financial base. All community and other newspapers have survived through external funding.
Umsebenzi has tremendous reputation; editorial is no problem - but production is the problem and it needs to be produced in massive quantities.
Sactwu has printing facilities. We need to have discussions with them on assisting with production of Umsebenzi at cost with their own labour.
In Joburg a costing was done on 100 000 copies and it came to R27000. It seem that the greater the run the cheaper each copy becomes.
Different fraternal organisations have machines which need to be mobilised and we need to hone in on these. Also how can we use this facility to raise more funds?
Our publications cannot be distributed commercially as this is controlled by a monopoly. Distribution systems will have to be our own through our structure and through our allies.
We will have to transform Umsebenzi from a free publication to a paid publication. AC must be paid for from the beginning.
The AC needs total transformation - change its name; change it into a more lively organ of debate. Set up a separate trust for the AC. Lighten the responsibility of the Party.
On distribution COSATU must be approached and each union must take a certain number of copies and give an upfront donation in cash.
Comrade Lawrence: Suggested that it would be good to approach SACTWU; There are two problems. One is that the existing capacity is stretched. Two is that we have in the union anti-party people and this could divide the Union
Comrade Billy: The prospects of getting funding will be difficult. In the short term we must look at existing facilities. In the medium term we have to set up our own facilities and run it as a commercial enterprise. We should follow up an earlier proposal to sell shares to COSATU and the MDM affiliates to obtain the funding. We need to do a feasibility study on this.
COSATU has given its agreement in principle in Harare that its printing facilities could be used.
Comrade Maggie: distributed Umsebenzi recently and workers will be willing to pay for it.
Comrade Sydney: prospects looking better in the Trade Unions. In respect of WIP and Labour Bulletin unions are giving cash upfront.
Comrade Murray: Asked if we are fixed on the A4 format. If we moved to A5 format then possibilities greater.
Comrade Lara: Not fixed to the format but the issue is size of the print and readability in the townships which do not have electricity.
Comrade Dlamini: not sure whether COSATU has all the facilities for complete production of Umsebenzi or the AC. If there is equipment there then COSATU will be able to do it.
Agrees with change in the AC - get name with which workers can identify - get name from them - let them own the name and the publication.
Comrade Mpo: It is also important to develop underground printing facilities - e.g. propaganda for armed forces etc. These facilities should be decentralised. On the issue of the AC if have an independent trust must watch control does not fall into wrong hands.
The Chair asked for any other responses to suggestions on changes to the AC and Umsebenzi.
Comrade Richard: said T-shirts were very popular - more attractive slogans etc. will sell.
Comrade Vally: AC not serving as a debating forum. Even those not in the Party must feel welcome to contribute. In the past AC was illegal and not accessible. The content was sometimes remote and dead. An Independent trust will be useful from a financial point of view.
Comrade Sydney: AC can be seen to be forum as it stands - but because it was not accessible in the past very few contributions were received. Confused about how the AC can be a party organ and an independent publication.
Comrade Lara: Socialism is extremely popular in the country but the understanding of Socialism is skin-deep. If the theoretical journal is too closely associated with the Party then it could stifle debate. The Party might have to take political stances which all will not agree with.
Because the publication was printed in the GDR we had to defend the GDR even against wrongdoings.
Destruction of intellectuals in socialist countries is a great loss. We have not destroyed our intellectuals but we have not produced enough black intellectuals. If intellectuals are interested in socialist debate then let them contribute.
WIP invited us to be part of the board. In the same way we could have party person plus other persons interested in socialist debate - let them all contribute. Party linked theoretical journals internationally have not been successful. They have tended to be narrow. The AC is stale, a lot of hack, stodgy etc.
Comrade Gene: The criticism of the AC is valid - but the AC coming home can be improved. The problem is that we have been ignoring the AC. We need to look at what publications we require. We need:
- a theoretical journal where real debate takes place and that the Party promotes;
- a newspaper as an organising tool, like Umsebenzi
- the possible production of newspaper on a weekly basis in different languages aimed at the working class.
The Chair said that we should agree on what we need, but question is which will best meet the need; will it be Umsebenzi? how often etc. He asked for the meeting to come to some conclusion on the matter.
Comrade Maggie: We might not be able to get a full-blown newspaper immediately. But we can and must start on a small scale but regularly.
Comrade Dlamini: We need a public which can synchronize the various debates. He supported Maggie's suggestion on a regular publication.
- Continue the production of Umsebenzi -with increasing regularity and wider distribution
- radical transformation of the AC - with livelier debate
- need for newspaper
- also require more flexible forms of propaganda and media - some ideas on how we can cope with production in the short term
- establish a feasibility group that can examine cheap production possibilities and other available facilities.
Comrade Billy: Said that all Comrades had tasks emerging out of this discussion. These included:
- Go to the Trade Unions - explore the upfront payment plan
- Set up a feasibility group to look at existing facilities that can be used to produce propaganda as cheaply as possible.
- Use available facilities which are not been used; where possible commandeer facilities.
Session Six: ANC- SACP- COSATU Alliance
42 AVOCO, EFFINGHAM, DURBAN 1
Open Sunday 8.40 hrs Comrade BN in the Chair.
BN: We plan to finish this item by 10.00 hrs so we must be aware of time. Topic to be led by Comrade CD on the ANC-SACP-COSATU Alliance
(See paper in separate file)
CD: Comrade Chair and Comrades; this brings us to the end of this input which was really intended to lay the basis for more profound discussions.
But having kept within my time limit there is something I would like to add. I feel that the building of the ANC should also be one of our immediate tasks. For anything could go wrong during the process; at the end we as members of the advanced section of the working class will be expcted to put together the pieces, so while we respect the decision of the ANC in this respect, we believe the interventions of the party members where possible is required and is necessary. So our proposal is that we look at some of the shortcomings in the building of the branches in certain areas as well as how the "convenors" could be apppointed.
BN: Comrade Kaiser you participated in the preparation of this paper; would you like to add?
Kaiser: Since discussing this question of the alliance we need to take into account some of the problems presently, eg problems in the Eastern Cape between COSATU and the UDF where firstly there appears to exist in that region a situation where trade unions affiliated to COSATU feel that activists from townships are trying to usurp the trade union role. On a few occasions it does seem to us that there is a division between the community organisation and the comrades in the union. This has got a very bad effect in the sense even when we talk of building the ANC in the region it is highly likely that these problems will be important even for the ANC. For as long as there are tensions between allies it will be difficult for them to see themselves participating fully and freely in the ANC branches we are setting up. The alliance should not just theories and polemics. We need to look at problems on the ground.
Sandy: I feel that looking at the alliance we should also discuss the relationship between UDF and the alliance and the individual parts of the alliance.
BN: I appeal that in the contributions being made, there is no repetition and make sharp conscise contributions.
MV: Taking apoint from the input by Comrade CD, that the alliance needs to be structured at every level. If it has structures it should also have certain work of its own as the Alliance. In the past the particiaption of Party and SACTU in that alliance was not very clear to us on the ground. I think what we should see now is a joint campaign as a campaign of the 3 organisations. That is how the alliance will be kept alive. If all are ANC campaigns with the other members of the Alliance simply playing a supportive role this will weaken the Alliance. What those campaigns would be on at this point we are not clear on. But without this type of thing, local structures are not of much use.
Dion: Just want to pose the question of how do the mass based structures like the UDF etc feed into this Alliance. Do we see the need for us to build up some kind of relationship especiallly with regard to the localised campaigns - which is something I support. But especially at the local level, as comrade Maggie said yesterday, I think we have to take into account the local structures. I just think the alliance will have to play quite a key role in the direction of dealing with the overall organisation at the local level.
BN: Apeal to speakers - including the Chair - to raise your voices so as to facilitate the job of the recorders.
Lara: The Alliance is a strategic alliance based not only on how to defeat the enemy but to also to create organs of people's power. Our actions have to be such that they are geared to benefit each other to take the alliance and the people froward in strength and action. It is a relationship of independence and inter-dependence. The pivot of the alliance is democracy and accountablity within each of the constituents and to one another. But there is also a need for decisiveness and the capacity to act - always on the basis of involving the masses. Otherwise we carry on building huge structures and bureaucracies and nothing gets done. Besides talking about bilateral relationships in addition to the tripartite alliance and with other organisations, the key is a the establishment by the three parties to the alliance of a joint structural stategic thinking body. This body will be in a position to consult but its existence will also give us the possiblity to act on time. Certain examples can be used to guide us. But the way we carry out the work of the alliance must also be considered in the sense of acting to support one another. Eg, when we look at the past example of Inkatha even at time of Diadla when the workers were on strike, Inkatha
went to management and obtained an increase for the workers. But what it did not do was to force management to sit permanently with the union. It did not endorse the capacity to strengthen the union. This type of approach we must avoid. We must effect a style which never act at the expense of any component. Experience is that with all the UDF campaigns, it in the face of all the repression of the state was unable to react in time at the top. The decisive element not there.
GM: We have been hearing reports of the plans to form a national civic association structure - that it is being built. What does this mean? Can comrades from the UDF enlighten us.
MV: I think that both COSATU and the UDF took the decision to do this at conferences; that such a body should be formed which would become an umbrella body of all local civic organisation that exist. It was decided that this should become a main component of the UDF. This was before the unbannings. The reasons for this were based on the need for coordination and with the existence of more and more civics having to deal with the same kind of issues - eg the disintegration of local councils in different places - it was felt that there was a need for a joint approach and coordination. The process for establishing this umbrella body we must say has not gotten off the ground. Both parties have not put in enough energy. With the formation of the legal ANC it was then decided that the UDF itself should concentrate on civics as certain of its functions were being phased out.
Jean: I would like some clarification in terms of the alliances - how formal are these alliances? There was a long period of the ANC-SACP alliance which was informal for many years relying on the coordination between leaders of the organisation; and it was only formalised in the latter years with meetings and resolutions drawn up in the same way as the recent SACP-COSATU meeting in Harare. To what degree is this formalisation? I suggest as well that if we are talking about deepening and strengthening the alliance, we need to consider formalising. About the need for a Joint Planning Body, we would require something formal. This obviously means that the leadership of the organisations have to sit down and address this question which I think is an excellent idea, and draw up programmes.
CD: At the meeting that was held between ANC and COSATU this question was raised. Cdes wanted to know who would be responsible to convene any meeting of the alliance. There was no answer at the time. At the end of the meeting it was left that the General Secretaries of the 3 organisations would have to form some type of interim committee to work out a programme of how the alliance would need to be formalised. They met but we don't know the outcome. Maybe we have to recommend. Then, it was also agreed by the alliance to look into question of UDF, to see whether they could be part of it or not and we as an alliance need to come back to this.
LO: It is important that the alliance must jointly also to look at what happens to the UDF. But also other mass organisational formations. There is the question of youth and women falling under the structures of the ANC. I suggest that this process of consultation and transformation of the existing organisations needs to be speeded up. The sector of the civics is there. We will need to know where a national civic organisation, in addition to the UDF would fit into this.
Sandy: Need to take into account the changes the UDF has undergone. What we have seen as conscious step which has been taken is that the UDF has been not so much playing the role of the kind of broad front involving groups from the churches, traders, business etc, but had come to represent the mass structures in which especially the working class play a major role and though which they have begun to conduct their struggles. These main UDF groups which form its core are bodies like those of civics, women, etc. This gave the UDF more coherence - it led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter. A wider range of organisations at the local level were then willing to relate to this core structure. The MDM managed somehow to pull together different bodies around defiance campaign. etc. Unfortunately, if we don't consolidate this local support that surrounded what the UDF became we will lose them. There are two main things: 1) relationships with also the health sector, education (NECC) organisations and they should come together. There are religious organisations which want some kind of forum. They identify with the Freedom Charter but need a forum. In my opinion they have a place with the tripartite alliance. 2) I also think that the civic coordination is important. But on the general level the ANC can play the former UDF role of giving an umbrella of political guidance. We also need to incorporate what emerged from the CDF campaign.
Dion: How do we tighten the alliance? We must incorporate mass structures and therefore this will make it is difficult to make a tight alliance. I don't think that it needs to be completely formalised but rather based on strong principles. The formalisation will create problems because the processes of communication at the mass level - otherwise we will run into the problem that the necessary type of consultation with these mass bodies is not really following the necessary process required by these type of bodies. With a formalised structure there will hardly be time to filter things to the ground. But what such a broad front would need is to have a clear and independent programme.
Theo: I think that we must separate some of these questions. On the one hand there is the alliance of the ANC-SACP-COSATU how it works (and I think it must have a structured relationship) and how it relates to the UDF and then there is the question of the separate mass structures. Bodies such as civics have a far wider basis that the membership of the ANC and the Party. We want everybody to play a part in the civics - these should not be reduced to adjuncts of political organisations. We want access to this wider community. These are rudimentary organisations which will show us where to go to discuss. But the UDF has come to occupy and important space. It played a very important role. But comrades, who is UDF? They are members of the Party and ANC. If not, they will yet to become. We must avoid over-bureaucratising ourselves. We will move around from meeting to meeting without doing any real work. The UDF is separate because the UDF cannot just be ridden over. But it must be discussed bi-laterally primarily as the responsibility of the ANC. Alliance is not simply built on an artificial basis. Grassroots organs should widen not narrow their basis - they are the checks on us. But it is a problem about the way in which the ANC has emerged to occupy the legal space that has caused great uncertainty about and within these organisations. We have not asked each organisation what is this organisation, what is its tasks. UDF did a magnificent job and now it is in the process of transformation. ANC-Party-Cosatu alliance must formalise but not mechanically. You can't just take anybody. You must have authoritative people e.g. General Secretaries and one other each with a staff. This would be a sort of secretariat. And a planning body could be constituted of representatives from the fuller body.
Kaiser: I saw in an interview with Comrade JS where he was talking of the ANC-COSATU-SACP alliance. He was asked the question of the COSATU and SACP having separate arrangement. (I think it was SALB). And he spoke of a workers' forum but did not really elaborate. Can we shed more light? How does this relate to a formal alliance?
Lara: I think Comrade JS was just throwing about an idea. The tripartite alliance should not become a restraint but a facilitator. There is nothing wrong with a bilateral relationship. The tripartite alliance's task is mainly to look at the overall issue of fighting and building a new South Africa.
Maggie: The decision to convert the UDF to a body which concentrates on civic committees/organisations is something that would be of great help and speedier attention must be given.
Lara: We have example of the survey conducted within SACTWU about the support for the ANC and the Party and how this shows us how to act.
LO: There is a need for such a bilateral relationship between Cosatu and the Party around specific projects (e.g. on exploring the economic options and education). On question of the SACTWU survey it showed around 75% support for the ANC and 30% for the party. But on de Klerk and Cde Mandela, there was around 39% for Comrade Mandela 39% and 51% for De Klerk.
BN: The tripartite alliance is a principled, revolutionary alliance which cannot be loose which means it has to get together to formulate a joint strategy and methods to implement; it has to implement this and also work out forms and structures at national and regional levels. UDF have also had discussions about how we can conduct informal discussions at the local level. What we could be doing, is having the revolutionary alliance at the top but as we filter down to lower level we would have a broad majority front. These local levels would embrace the widest spectrum of support especially of organisations who have supported us during the defiance campaign and Campaign for a Democratic Future. At the area levels too. Civics - those who think that they could rival us overlook our work to get these campaigns started and formed and to bring together other bodies such as sport bodies and education bodies. How do we get these formations at the national and the grassroots level to implement decisions taken at the top? It is the task of the people at the top to work out strategies as to how to reach all the way down. We haven't yet got our act together since the unbannings also on the question of the alliance. It is still loose. Eg the relationship of the top to the Bantustans. We have to get our act together as soon as possible. We must then work out how to get the broadest spectrum behind us both at top but especially at the bottom. There is a question of personnel from the UDF being drawn into the ANC. You will also in the course of things find organisation being naturally phased out.
MV: Latter remarks need to be emphasised if one looks at our discussion yesterday - on the need to have mass campaigns and the need to mobilise the building of people's power and to carry out an organisational drive, etc. If you are going to look at the township situation our joint tripartite meetings will at this stage achieve very little. The point of the matter is we need to mount the offensive right now. Developments are moving at extremely rapid pace. The area committees, zonal committees, units in the border regions bring together wider formations. Over the past few years they have also included COSATU organisations. This was per decision between UDF and COSATU. These local level structures have included church organisations, sporting bodies traders which are not affiliated. And it has been these forums largely who have been responsible for campaigns and that is what we must place emphasis on if we have to move. Whatever the nature of the alliance, principled or whatever, this is the sphere we must work on. The point of Kaiser about the way of thinking is leaving this sphere as a gap. We ignore that formation at the ground. Those in these forums decide on whether to boycott taxis. They take these decisions democratically. Sometimes the community has in it organisations that differ. But in this way this does not have to lead to conflict if only some section of the community agrees. Reference to the MDM. Relationship between the UDF and Cosatu has not always been found. Especially when Cosatu was formed. Over the years we reached a fighting alliance and it was then that our capacity to mobilise increased dramatically and it led to really big stay-aways. It made the defiance campaign the kind of success it was. This is the reality which we must create:- the UDF is broad; it must be broad. At present we are in a state of transitions - we can't stifle the transition by putting it into such an alliance - we must allow the flux and organic process. It is in a bit of a crisis but this is okay.
Dion: Covered mainly through MV. I just want to emphasise real work at localised level. I accept what comrades have said about alliance - I have listened to the ideas and now think that it is okay - with the 3 in a close-knit alliance, formalising and that. But maybe the key to what we have been raising really comes from another direction - I mean we were speaking out of what we see are the problems that we feel about the ANC and its emergence and that when we talk about the party's emergence maybe we try to merge these two issues.
GM: I want to raise an issue which relates to a newly formed hospital workers union. Problems about the way this union is working on the ground. Problems about working in the area of health. In this area more than other sectors especially the sector of nurses - the feeling which seems to have been expressed is that nurses should not have been taken away from duty whatever campaigns we are running even to advance the cause. We are pushing/to take away nurses is to take them away from caring for hospital patients. In the past when we called for stay-aways nurses and medical staff were exempt. Of course those days employed violent methods to break strikes and stay-aways. And those who organised the stay-aways were never certain whether they would need medical attention and it was expected that the nurses would be there. Feeling as I have heard people express on this issue, the union instead of mastering community support may have alienated some sectors. People have relatives at the hospitals and now nurses are there to give them attention, e.g. women in the labour wards should have a full complement of the nurses in those wards; e.g. people in ICU - and yet also an argument has come up strongly that nurses who are in their strength should be reduced in the other departments. The feeling I have been listening to the people at present, they are not happy about the union in this sense.
BN: Comrades, we do have a time problem but we have not yet addressed the issue of the role of the individual in the alliance.
Zakes: Position of hospital union is that the nurses are exempted from participating in stayaways but it is a separate problem when they themselves have day-to-day problems at work.
Kaiser: This question needs to be looked at in broader context - that is in the public sector. In the past we were not strong here also because of the attitude of regime. It took years of struggle to get them to accept that we need
this presence and to set the bargaining process in motion. When the strike occurred they were quick to accuse the union; whereas the union did not call the strike - it was the hospital workers themselves. But it would not have been correct for the union to tell nurses to go back to work; but it was correct to try to go and represent the nurses with their demands to the management. I don't think that we can start from the other side.
CD: Stay-aways have always exempted nurses including to the point of the organisation of transport for them. Neither the union nor Cosatu encouraged the strike. The anger/attitude of nurses was influenced by the attitude of the employers to their counterparts.
GM: We should look at the problem globally. For example not only Bara but in areas like PE. And appeals were being made by nurses that the union was forcing them out of the wards.
BN: Comrades I am sorry but we need to sum up. I think that the point of the role of the individual party member in the alliance can be covered later. CD please sum up.
CD: I don't want to touch all the points but just the essence. Workers issues should be on agenda of all in the alliance - both local and national structures. The alliance must not only be a talk-shop but we must be there to assist each other: independence and inter-dependence. The alliance should encourage the building of a civics national structure. It was noted that there is no significant progress here and UDF must be urged to speed up. Women and the youth are sectors which are organised as part of the ANC. The alliance should find a way of accommodating other sectors. ANC should have bilateral relations with these organsations. It was acknowledged that UDF members are also members of the ANC and the Party. ANC and UDF must discuss together to encourage the flourishing of civics. The setting up of arrangements of the 3 General Secretaries should get going to set up a programme of action. Suggestions of joint projects around working class issues should be discussed by the party and Cosatu. Interactions with community structures and interest groups must take place and the revolutionary alliance will have to work out ways to draw them in. The UDF question should be addressed but the UDF should not be part of the Revolutionary Alliance structure. Area or zone committees which include all who have been responsible for campaigns must be continued to be worked with. Nurses should be exempted from participating in strikes and assisted during stay-aways to save lives. It was suggested any problem on this might be taken further at a later stage.
BN: Thanks Comrades, I am now going to give over the chair to Comrade LO.
10.10 hrs. LO chairs. Comrade Maggie on Party Mobilisation of Women - Particularly Working Class Women.
(See Paper Attached in separate file)
LO: Comrades, there are very practical areas around which we could comment.
Len: Covered a lot of ground in the last two days we have not gotten clarity around how we are going to set these things in motions. We need this.
Session Seven: Relooking at strategies for obtaining power
Commenced at 11:45am
CHAIR : Cris Diamini
Chair said that Comrade Govan was leaving early. He said he appreciated Comrade Govan's presence at the meeting. We hope that he will be always available to be with us in our conferences. Comrade Billy was asked to thank Comrade Govan on behalf of all the participants at the Conference.
Were watershed events in the brief but hectic spell of de Klerk as head of the Apartheid State. These acts signalled beyond doubt that de Klerk sought to accommodate the individual demands of our people, which previous regimes were sworn to decry.
In a very short time the improbable has happened. Delegations of the regime and the ANC sat face to face - and the General Secretary of our Party was participating. What's more, the two opposing parties reached an accord.
In attempting to relook at our STRATEGIES FOR OBTAINING POWER in these changed circumstances, it is necessary to ask ourselves this question: What has made the architects of apartheid want to ditch it? What has made the same NP which for four decades presided over the most systematic and brutal savage suppression of the vast majority of the people of our country in the name of apartheid think it's time that it were gone?
Well, put simply, history had ran its course. Apartheid had reached a dead end. Long before the advent of de Klerk it had become clear even to the NP that this system could only be maintained at the risk of apocalyptic strife and that it would not survive the conflagration anyway. We all should remember John Vorster's admonitions that change had to come otherwise "...the situation would become too ghastly to contemplate."
But from John Vorster through to P.W.Botha this dilemma of reformism had been the utter rejection by the vast majority of strategems that sought to keep them away from central government power and based themselves on ethnicity.
It was, however, during P.W. Botha's tenure in office that resistance built up to unprecedented levels and when the first signs emerged that the Bantustan edifice was set to crumble. The tri-cameral parliament was exposed as a sham.
The economy was in a shambles as a direct result of the policies of the regime. Sanctions began to bite. The international community had lost all patience and there was talk of even more sanctions.
South Africa's rampant militarism was checked in Quito Cuanavale. The world was changing very fast. Glasnost and Perestroika ushered in a new era of searching, understanding and accommodation. Peace question broke out all over. The bellicose talk about the "Rooi Gevaar" could no longer have the same impact.
Inside, the country continued to burn. The masses were defying death and contributing to struggle despite a vicious State of Emergency. The workers were in the thick of these struggles. On the factory floor they were just as militant and restless. It was clear that the calm which prevailed after the State of Emergency was only a precursor to consummate an uprising.
Past regimes had been shackled to immobility for fear of right-wing reaction or because they were themselves prisoners of their own propaganda. They had preached so many lies about the ANC and what ogres its members were, that when it had to consider talking to these people it was difficult. They became victims of their own propaganda. What was needed was boldness on the part of de Klerk to clear them from this political quagmire.
And now the air is filled with hope of a negotiated solution after all these years of NP intransigence. How does this affect us?
We have already spoken of the need to radically alter the style and character of the Party, not only because of the recent lessons of weaknesses which have beset or destroyed many Communist Parties in Europe and the refreshing spirit of Perestroika, but also because of the new dynamics of Pretoriastroika, chief of which is the unbanning of the Party and the ANC.
The Party therefore needs a relook at its programme. As the PB message states: "Certain formulations no longer lie happily alongside recent developments."
But this paper is not intended to address the programme as a whole, only that aspect of it which relates to the methods of struggle with which we intend to bring about the transfer of power from the minority regime to the people.
In other words, how do the momentous events of the past year affect our perspective for achieving our immediate goals of the National Democratic Revolution as set out in our program.
Let us first examine what the key elements of our strategy are.
First of all, let me say that our Program, although it spells out the major strategic thrust which should guide our quest for power, works against dogmatic views as to which forms of struggle are pursued.
Again, what are these key elements?
Our Program is very unambiguous on this. The paramount importance and centrality of the masses in the strategy for seizure of power is emphasised in the very opening sentence of the section on dealing with this question. "The Path to Power" lies with the masses.
The masses have played, and continue to play, the pivotal role in the crises that grips our country and has forced the Pretoria regime to sue for peace and search for radical solutions. The tide of resistance had swelled to such
measures that any further increase and any delay would have made the crossing of the Rubicon very dangerous business indeed.
Apart from being the might force of militant action, our revolutionary masses are also central in the other forms of struggle, like armed struggle. Despite the objective conditions which make the waging of armed struggle in our country difficult, we have argued in our Program that armed struggle constitutes a vital ingredient in the rise of the struggle of our people for power. We have argued that difficulties notwithstanding, it is both possible and necessary to raise the level of our armed activity from being a mere menace to the regime to a real threat.
But our Program makes the correct point that our armed struggle "has to rely, above all, on the people in active struggle. The working class, in particular, possess vast possibilities to take the war to the nerve centres of apartheid colonialism." etc, etc.
Flowing from our analysis, we come to the conclusion in our Program that the South African situation was pregnant with promise of a revolutionary breakthrough. Our Program therefore addressed the likely development of a revolutionary situation which could lead to an insurrection. In this event too, the revolutionary masses, led by a revolutionary leadership, would be central.
The "Path to Power" therefore envisaged several forms of struggle, legal and illegal, armed and non-violent. It asserts that we are on the threshold of a revolutionary breakthrough, and that the situation holds out the possibility of an outbreak of insurrection.
It does not, however, dismiss the prospects of a negotiated transfer of power. It asserts, in fact, that "there is no conflict between this insurrectionary perspective and the possibility of a negotiated transfer of power" and that "armed struggle cannot be counterposed with dialogue, negotiations and justifiable compromise, as if they were mutually exclusive categories."
Negotiations, therefore, are only another terrain of struggle. The struggle on other fronts must continue and intensify.
How does the changed situation affect our perspective?
At first glance the dilemma seems to be explained away by the fact that we see no conflict between struggle and negotiations.
The Harare Declaration states quite clearly that our armed struggle will stay in place until the election of a Constituent Assembly. We have said that when the obstacles are removed in the way of negotiations, we are willing to enter with a mutually binding ceasefire.
But the situation is more complex than that. The regime has been trying to force us to abandon armed struggle and renounce "violence". We have steadfastly refused to do so. But much as we have listed preconditions before real negotiations can begin, on the regime's agenda has been the attempt to cite "violence" and armed struggle as "rhetoric" about those as obstacles to negotiations. This is an attempt by the regime to compel us to bargain away
armed struggle in exchange for the regime clearing away the remaining obstacles in the way of our participation in formal negotiations.
In this endeavour, the regime is not alone. For different reasons, his friends and some of ours also see the need for us giving up some of our methods in what they see as a necessary quid pro quo to establish trust and help ease the right wing pressure on de Klerk.
What, therefore, if anything, can we give, and what do we not? Firstly, de Klerk has gone too far in such a short period that it no longer makes sense for him to hedge on the remaining preconditions. As soon as he moves on this in the spirit of the Groote Schuur Minute then we should be ready to enter into dialogue to bring about a mutually binding ceasefire.
The onus is really on the regime to deliver. We have no power. We seek the power. But this does not mean that we cannot be tactically flexible and offer, say a moratorium on armed activity. I am not advocating this, be assured. I am only saying that if we were to consider gestures to the regime or were put in a situation where it was felt that it would be appropriate to give something. This moratorium would be different from a unilateral ceasefire.
We could do this in, say, after the release of political prisoners and return of exiles and the lifting of the State of Emergency. And this would also be for a stipulated, brief period during which, hopefully, a mutually binding truce will be arrived at. But we can never agree to a unilateral ceasefire.
Even during the mutually binding ceasefire, our armed struggle would stay in place i.e. we would still maintain our camps, our fighters, our equipment and training facilities, the bulk of which are outside the borders of our country. The suggestion here, therefore, is that in the present atmosphere of detente, we could offer to hold back armed action against the regime. But even this is easier said, and such an offer would obviously be for certain situations only.
Many unprovoked instances of police violence occur frequently in which many lives of our people are lost. Right wing violence, both Black and White, has been unleashed with a sudden vengeance and ferocity. Our people cannot bare themselves to attacks without a fight. They must defend themselves. They must take the war to the warmongers. Umkhonto we Sizwe, as defenders of the people, cannot stand by and watch. It must punish the perpetrators of this death and destruction.
Despite the bold steps taken by de Klerk, the situation is still far from normalising. Apartheid, the root cause of all our ills, is still in place. Nor is the reform process irreversible. The possibility of a right-wing inspired coup cannot be discounted. There is great resentment, even in influential circles of the NP about curtailed influence of the military and the admittance by the government of the firm bond within the ANC/SACP alliance that saw Cde J.S. included in the ANC delegation despite their initial objections.
Even de Klerk's own vision of a changed South Africa and how we proceed to achieve it, despite the radical changes that he has instituted, is nothing but a sophisticated brand of apartheid against which we are justified to continue to struggle.
We may bargain away some of our means of struggle in the give and take that may result in negotiations. But we should not bail out the regime from the major cause of the crises it is facing - the masses in action. We as a movement have very little else to rely on. Our people are our main bastion. Their struggle and sacrifices are the main reason why the regime is been to negotiate with us.
Our movement can therefore not move away from its militant tradition before there is fundamental change in our society. Before apartheid is dead and buried. What happened recently in Welkom is instructive. The militancy of our people is not only forcing the regime but also the right-wing gangs to contend with the power of our militant peaceful protest.
We therefore cannot talk about moving away from mobilisation to organisation as though these were variously solid and gaseous states. The organisation and continued mobilisation of our people must proceed simultaneously and with equal zest. And we must increasingly place before them the slogans which firmly address the question of power - the demand for an Interim Government to supervise and guide the process towards the election of a Constituent Assembly.
"The masses are the insurance that the regime will proceed with haste to formulate a solution that will take our country beyond apartheid. Only the militant masses rallying around a militant ANC that dutifully pursues their interests and agitates tyranny will ensure that those locked in dialogue proceed with haste to address the problems of the land. The interlocutors should be charged to urgency by the din of the masses outside banging doors and demanding immediate redress.
This is no time for temporising with the regime. The ANC should lead the masses in a massive, disciplined but resolute and final active protest against the policies of the Nats.
Our re-entry into the legal political arena should aim not just at galvanizing support for our policies and netting membership which will make us the biggest formal opposition to the racist regime. It should be to spur these organized masses to march in struggle at the head of all the anti-apartheid forces.
Harmful trends have begun to appear of people within our ranks trying to outdo each other for moderation in the mass media. Our reasonableness and our commitment to peaceful change and, even to negotiations should never be construed as a signal to the masses to end protest and struggle against their oppression.
This process must in fact intensify a hundred fold. If conditions have been created for open and peaceful pursuit of political change, nothing should inhibit the strongest possible expression of militancy by the masses of the oppressed. We can never bargain away our right to protest.
We should of course call for discipline. The new situation calls for a responsible blend of discipline and militancy. We have pledged to observe the spirit and letter of the Groote Schuur Minute.
But only by our active participation and presence in peoples' protests and struggles will we ensure that acts of anarchy, vandalism and provocation, are brought to a minimum.
Those of us who make a habit of appearing to attempt appeasement run the risk of being spurned by the masses and overtaken by events. Our masses are our greatest hope.
We should not assist in allowing the impression to be created that the regime is in firm control and calling the shots. De Klerk wants to look very much like the man of the moment."
Session Eight: The Input on Women
Commenced: 11:05 am
In the Chair: Comrade Lionel
Comrade Cherryl: Sexism is rooted in us - men and women. A code of conduct is needed for activists - these have been done in other organisations. At the Party level however this will be required and it will have to be followed in its highest form in relation to morality, sexism etc.
Ours is very much a macho culture - patronising responses; aggressive behaviours - which is often intimidating to women etc.
The way in which we socialise is yet another reflection of our macho culture. Reflecting on last night with socialising goes drinking; joking; punching etc. - this is not the normal way in which women socialise.
On Feminism - we must be unapologetic about promoting non-sexism without being afraid about being called feminist or what ever.
Comrade Valli: This has been discussed in the UDF and some progress has been made. But we have to look at ways in which we force change. We should make a strong recommendation that in every branch leadership there will be at least a specific number of persons who will be women. This will give branches a measure of their progress in this regard. This should also apply in other structures. This may look like a group rights proposal but perhaps it is necessary. Would like to hear responses to this proposal.
Comrade Govan: Been unhappy about some observations; about some things that he has read. Within the ANC there is the women's league. In the early days this was formation was encourage to organise the women into the ANC. Within the ANC when it came to debates the women did not claim protection. Why should women be protected. Within the ANC we had some of the leading organisers. We cannot forget people like Francis Baard a widow and others who were giving their full-time to the work of the ANC especially when we had to operate underground - we never had professional people in the ANC - every one was voluntary.
Women like Florence Matobella, Lilian Ngoyi and many others never sought to be protected when it came to the field of organisation. They were in the Women's League because we wanted to draw the women out of their traditional roles and into public life.
Today we have in COSATU a women's forum. I have seen some public documents which say that special attention must be given to women. Are women not part of the working class; are they not asking for the same things that other workers want; Must they form their own organisation to fight for their rights or should they be part of the trade union as a whole. I cannot see why COSATU should have a special women's section.
But ANC and the Party are also saying remember to bring in women. Why should it be so? Are we not encouraging a situation where women will be passive rather grabbing their rights. Reserving seats for them might result in this situation. Women must take part in study groups with everyone else so that purely on the basis of merit they gain their 'position rather than being guaranteed positions. Probably I am wrong because I see I maybe in the minority but I am going to fight this one even if I have to stand alone like Maggie Thatcher (laughter)
Within the Party look at women like Ray Alexander or Betty du Toit - they earned their position. Women like Linda Woza; Ruth First and others earned their position in the party on the basis of merit. No places were reserved for them. If given the position to develop theoretically why could they not earn these positions.
I am not happy about what is happening on the ground in places like COSATU. I am not happy about the position in public documents about the position of women. I want you to persuade me to change my view on this matter.
Comrade Gene: In most cases women are by passed in favour of men. In exile we have seen this. I myself feel guilty of this. When speaking to fellow male comrades there is invariably also an admission. There is need to pay special attention to the women population. We need to draw women into the general struggle because of their disadvantaged position. Drawing women generally into the movement. I am in favour of that position. 95% male leadership is not going to encourage women to join. The example of the socialist countries is an instructive one. Only now are you seeing the women awakening and asserting themselves. Women are now only emerging. It is only now that a women is a Prime Minister in Lithuania. We have to look at the issue of guaranteeing women an X number of places in leadership. I would rather that a more general position be stated.
Fidel Castro and the Communist Party of America have taken a position on positive discrimination towards women. This is necessary if they are to achieve the possibility to rise. We are committed to creating a society where people will be given the opportunity to develop themselves. If we do not support the issues of women we will be seriously wanting I think it would be tremendous if a Women's Charter is established by the Party
Comrade Lara: A Charter already exists.
Comrade Dlamini: Organising women in industry was a big problem. Men had to struggle for equal wages for equal work. Women were treated as a special case. That is the reason that COSATU has identified this as a special issue. We need to address the problem as a people and not as a section. Shop stewards have to contribute money for meetings of women. This forces men to recognise the women's issues. Men have to be educated about their own and the role of women.
Comrade Lara: The issues of Comrade Govan goes back 20 years. Special, attention should be given to discussing it with Comrade Govan. The question of the inequality of women is disguised within national oppression. As a movement we have not addressed this inequality not only within the movement but in society as a whole. We have not tapped into this vital sector of our society.
Comrade Maggie has demonstrated how women get crushed in the home, in the work place, in society as a whole.
We must review our record. I want to suggest that on the basis of our failure to implement this programme of affirmative action that a new programme is needed.
At this conference for the first time we put the category of working women specifically on the agenda. I agree that we need an affirmative programme
Comrade Maggie: In the context of the constitutional guideline and the discussions related to it - we can put this back on the agenda; there is also the workers charter and it must focus on working women.
Comrade Cherryl: Do not think we are at cross purposes with Comrade Govan. Those women who have become leaders have succeeded in spite of the constraints and limitations. However we need a positive programme. Skills training; assertiveness training should be included in the programme. Feel strongly about the personal code of conduct and that this be included
The Chair person asked Comrade Maggie to give a summary.
Comrade Maggie: In summarising Comrade Maggie suggested that the following recommendations could be made out of the discussion.
The following recommendations were
1. Formulate a code of conduct for Party members which will address issues of morality, sexism etc.
2. In the composition of Party structures particular attention must be given to the place for women without tokenism.
3. Formulate a Campaign around the women's charter.
4. Actively join the Workers charter campaign and within promotes issues of working women.
5. Develop training programmes for women to include aspects such as assertiveness training etc.
6. Develop an education programme directed to the upliftment of women and to the education of male comrades. This programme to be jointly planned and implemented with men and women.
7. Specific persons to be deployed to look at the role of women.
8. Develop particular approaches to Indian and Coloured women workers and to African women workers.
9. Examine ways in which persons involved in trade union negotiations can include women's issues and rights in such negotiations.
10. In addressing the organisation and issues of women we should avoid an approach which is considered as militant feminism.
Chair - At the launch of the Party the women's issue should be put firmly on the agenda.
The session ended at 11:45 am.