The postmortem, of our road to and from Mafikeng: we plead guilty of being the Youth wing of the Party
In any democratic organization the year of elective Congress becomes a year characterized with tensions and concerns, more so if such an organization has a pivotal role to play in the society. Those opposed to its agenda will amalgamate with power thirsty elements from within, influencing them to use their "democratic" right to contest for senior positions. If it is seen that, such an agenda is likely to be rejected by Branches, those opposed to the progressive agenda will resort to highly divisive factional means so as to discredit the organization and those who refuse to be swayed towards their destructive direction, thus leading to the liquidation of the organization.
However it is not all democratic organizations that are revolutionary organizations, even worse, not all revolutionary organizations are Marxist-Leninists. To be precise, organizations adopt different practices, principles, norms and even beliefs which form the basis of a given organization(s). As the students of Marxist-Leninist school of thought, we must at all times be pre-occupied by a relevant question, which to some might appear as begging the question: What to do and what not to do in the mane of democracy when belonging to the Marxist - Leninist Party? Ours must be different from a first year LLB student, who seeks to interpret the meaning of every clause in the constitution at times divorcing it from material conditions at play. Perhaps, we must be specific in terms of what do we mean by this.
By the above, we mean that in the name of democracy, freedom of expression and many other similar "neoliberal" praises or values, revolutionary morality and revolutionary discipline must not be substituted by constitutional rights. This is a mentality of ultra-democracy which denounces democratic centralism and is associated with "freedom of criticism". Political mud-slinging, labeling, gossip-mongering, "holier than thou" politics, insulting and demagogic statements becomes the order of the day. For instance, some comrades even fail to recognize seniority since senior leaders of the Party are given tags of preference in that they are said to be supporting this or that comrade. To them there is no difference between YCLSA and the SACP; just like SACP leaders, they also have their constitutional right.
As some will say in the ANCYL "all of us have paid the R12.00 joining fee in the ANC", thus they wrongly believe that all have the same role to play, same responsibility and the same capacity; "it is a world of equality". How did YCLSA, equipped with Marxism-Leninism, allow itself to be a victim of these tendencies? The following short paper seeks to make sense of our disgraceful experience in Mafikeng. The intention is to prepare the organization to deal with tendencies of similar nature in future. It borrows extensively from Moa Zedong, Lenin and partly from comrade Themba Thembu's input in the inaugural meeting of PILC in KZN. Marxism-Leninism is long, complex and sometimes self-contradictory hence this paper is confined to the postmortem of our road to and from Mafikeng, not Marxism-Leninism in its totality. The paper does not claim political correctness; its intention is merely to open a debate.
Revolutionary intellectuals or (liquidisationalist) Petty bourgeois intellectuals
As correctly noted above, the recent development in the Young Communist League has seen a very alien tendency encroaching in the organization in the form of freedom of expression, freedom of choice and freedom of criticism. These developments in our organization, if we are not careful and decisive in liquidating them, will inevitably liquidate us and the Party.
Liquidisationism cannot be separated from the Petty-bourgeois mode of thinking, and it is irreconcilable with the proletarian mode of thinking. History teaches us that the Petty-bourgeois will at all material times, penetrate the working class movement. Given the influence of the upper-arms of the state that seek to influence the manner in which we think as the society, some Petty-bourgeois intellectuals find themselves being members and at times leaders of the Communist Party.
They either join the Party simply because they are sympathetic to its struggle for socialism or join the Party simply because they want to change their working conditions. For example, a political science University lecture who is frustrated by University Professors who want them to teach in a specific way and Journalists who are disillusioned by the manner in which editors want them to report. The Young Communist League on its 2003 re-establishment Congress attracted a number of former student leaders, some University lectures, trade unionists, workers, community activist(s) and so on.
Most of them (even some of us) joined this newly re-established organization weak in theory (surely YCLSA is a political school thus there was nothing wrong with this). We were from a political environment diametrically different from our newly found political home. We were from student movements (COSAS and SASCO). We were in the African National Congress Youth League and community based organization. We were from Trade union movements and so on. Some, but very few of us were active in the Party. Thus, it is not surprising that after the re-establishment of YCLSA, SACP membership increased. On the other hand petty-bourgeois intellectual also joined in, following many working class youth, who wanted a "breath of fresh air" in the Youth politics in our country as comrade Zwelinzima Vavi's said in that congress.
As these Petty-bourgeois intellectuals joined in (either for correct or wrong reasons) the question that always arises is: do they succeed in overcoming the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking by completely adopting the proletariat mode of thinking, or does the petty bourgeois mode of thinking influence the proletarian mode of thinking of the worker? This is an important question in any working class Party, we must at all material times check as to who really influences who. But hold on, was it not Lenin's writing on "The Faction of Supporters of Otzovism and God Building" who once correctly contended that:
"The proletariat everywhere is constantly being recruited from the petty bourgeois, is everywhere constantly connected with it through thousands of transitional stages, boundaries and gradations. When a workers' Party grows very quickly (as ours did in 1905-1906) its penetration by mass of element imbued with a petty-bourgeois spirit is inevitable. And there is nothing bad about that. The historic task of the proletariat is to assimilate, re-educate all the element of the old society that the latter bequeaths it in the shape of offshoots of the petty bourgeoisie. But the proletariat must re-educate these newcomers and influence them, not be influenced by them." (Lenin, Collected Work, Vol.16, pp. 59-60)
Historically, it has always been difficult for the petty bourgeois to change its position and become part of the working class movement. The reason for this difficulty is due to the changing and opportunistic nature of the petty bourgeois mode of thinking i.e.: he is the proletariat today and a bourgeois tomorrow (as it relate to thinking), he has but a vacillating characteristic. At times he is a Marxist as it relates to others and a liberal as it relate to one self. For him to be fully part of the working class, the petty bourgeois must mentally betray his class condition stratum. For the petty bourgeois to become part of the working class, he must totally disassociate himself from this petty bourgeois stratum in terms of its class standpoint.
Navigating the history of Lenin himself, it is apparent that this is possible without failure. This is proven in the article entitled: Lenin, der genial Fuhrer des Proletariats (Lenin, Brilliant Leader of the Proletariat) in Rote Fahne (Red Flag), No.1 1974 which argued as follows:
"Lenin was closely linked up with the workers. No other intellectual was capable of penetrating so profoundly into the workers' intellectual world as Lenin took constant efforts to develop the most progressive workers into future leaders of the Russian Revolution. The workers and peasants lost any shyness in front of Lenin and reported to him about the details of their hard lives. But Lenin could not only listen well, he also knew how to put himself into the thoughts of every worker so that the intellectual world of the worker merged with his owns. Thus he became part of the working class; the workers world became his own."
"How was it possible that the simple workers and peasants placed such unlimited trust in Lenin, that they considered him one of their own kind in spite of his mental superiority? Because his modesty, his personal simplicity deeply impressed everyone who came in touch with him. Any kind of arrogance was foreign to him. People believed in him in the masses."
Lenin was molded by a proletariat mode of thinking, that is, Marxist mode of thinking. To the liquidators, such an attitude is foreign because they are governed by the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. The capacity of fighting it requires knowing it. The essential qualities, aspects, traits and characteristics of petty-bourgeois mode of thinking had been identified by many great Marxist-Leninist teachers (such as Kalinin, on Communist Education and Mao Zedong on his article, Combat Liberalism) in many different ways some of them as manifested themselves in Mafikeng are as follows:
- Self-importance and arrogance
- individualistic claim to leadership and careerism
- Lack of discipline and "independence"
- Ultra-democracy and freedom of criticism
- Dogmatism and Empiricism
- Liberalism and Revisionism
Let us but deal with only four of the above mentioned characteristic of petty-bourgeois. This is so, not because others are not important but because the four characteristic were so glaring in our road to Mafikeng to the extent that to ignore them became practically impossible.
Self-importance, Arrogance, Individualistic claim to leadership and careerism
All of the above mentioned characteristics were at play as we slowly travelled to Mafikeng. Those engulfed by Self-importance, arrogance, individualistic claim to leadership and careerism allotted themselves as the sole intellectuals in the Young Communist League, over night, they became spokespersons of YCLSA, the only voice of reasoning, they divorced themselves from the decisions of the National Committee and even those of the Party. In the smallest platform they got, a decision of the Party to send its finest cadres as led by the General Secretary in Parliament were mocked. They spoke about "re-positioning" the Party, on whose image, for whose interest?
Amongst others, the National Committee decision to dissolve a Provincial Executive Committee of KwaZulu Natal which had arrogantly failed to convene its Provincial Congress on seven separate occasions was labeled as being a decision of "communist by convenience not by conversion." Typical of a holly-wood movie casino star, outside lobbing their positions from within, they rushed to the print media attacking the President of the country labeling Black Economic Empowerment as Zuma Economic Empowerment (ZEE). This pompous criticism was presented in a pro-poor fashion. However, it had nothing to do with the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment and every thing to do with publicity mongering and factionalist tendencies.
The intention of the writer (on behalf of his faction) was to prove to general membership in particular and society in general, that they are now two groupings in the Party: the one for those outside of parliament, radically vocal in "defending the poor" and the second one, is that of sell-outs who because of their deployment in parliament are now troubled to raise issues or challenge the ANC led government. Of course, the officials of the organization distanced the organization from this publicity stance and conflict-ridden utterance and re-affirmed the organizational perspective of BBBEE. Self-importance and arrogance was brutally exposed.
As we are not dealing with these tendencies for the first time and also due to the fact that our Party is rich in terms of history that dealt with this subject, let us once more borrow from Moa Tsetung.
"Intellectuals of petty-bourgeois origin always stubbornly try in all sorts of ways, including literary and artistic ways, to project themselves and spread their views, and they want the Party and the world to be remolded in their own image. In the circumstances it is ours duty to jolt these â€˜COMRADES" and tell them sharply, "That won't work"! The proletariat cannot accommodate itself to you; to yield to you would actually be to yield the big landlord class and the big bourgeoisie and to run the risk of undermining our Party and our country." Whom then must we yield to? We can mould the Party and the world only in the image of the proletariat vanguard" (Selected work of Moa Tsetung, Vol. 3, p. 95)
Central to the pompous and zealous search for short-cut to fames is careerism, as this is closely linked with individualistic claim to leadership and it emerges from bourgeois ambition, Marxism-Leninism teaches us that there are two types of ambitions
- Bourgeois ambition: this kind of ambition puts one's own person into the force, takes a liberal attitude towards oneself, strives for individual honour, pursues personal goals, uses the working-class movement only as a means to enforce personal interest, applies caustic criticism and avoids open and honest self-criticism.(read YCLSA third congress opening address)
- Proletariat ambition: puts the cause of proletariat into the force and hates selfishness; better than average performance in organizational work is intended to be and incentive and model for the other, combined with one's own modesty and with striving for a collective style of work and leadership; it conducts open, honest and comradely criticism irrespective of the personal concerned and practices frank self-criticism. It strives to do and sacrifice everything to serve the working class movement and the revolution.
It is perceptibly that bourgeois ambition, individualistic claim to leadership, careerism, self-importance and misguided arrogance from time to time permit ill-discipline in the organization to prevail.
Lack of discipline, "Independence", ultra-democracy and freedom of criticism
Usually the first step towards ill-discipline in the organization arises through the formation of factions, comrades within the organization who share their own interest other than that of the proletariat Party, seek to create their own "independent emperor", through their utterances they tell us about their love for the Party, in practice they are the first to attack publicly its leadership, making the masses of our people to lose confidence on the leadership and ultimately to the Party. They place themselves first and every thing else follows. They are after prominence and position and want to be shining stars like pop idols.
When individual plans of this faction were frustrated by the intervention of the Central Committee of the Party and the Unity shown by the majority of our Branches, they attacked the podium at the Congress in the most barbaric and wicked fashion, labeled leadership and slandered the Central Committee which smashed the liquidationist performances. This faction's retaliation originates from individualism as a particularly bad feature of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking.
What we had witness at the National Congress was not a spontaneous out-burst of some hoodlum, who could not understand the democratic process as they unfolded at the Congress venue. No, it was a well oiled, program premeditated with extra-care and exact, by our own petty-bourgeois in alliance with some in the mass democratic movement who wanted to take over the Party through YCLSA. They wanted a Young Communist League that is weak and unable to defend the Party when it is under attack. They wanted to draw similarity between the Young Communist League and their own organization: it is a nature of South African Youth politics to degenerate elective Congress into battle field. They wanted to prove.
This was evidence in Linda Jabane District Council; "comrades" came in this gathering as a mob singing songs that discredited not only the National Secretary of the organization but also senior leadership of the Party, in the same vain they sang praises to their National Secretary candidate elect; if this was an innocent act of unconscious masses who simple wanted "new blood" in the organization, why then did those that they were raising did not call for order to prevail: because of the "me-first" attitude of the petty bourgeois intellectual, who believes that he is entitled to leadership. Even if the entire organization collapses, as long as he is elected, that is all that matters.
These developments even turned ugly in Limpopo Provincial and in KwaZulu Natal Councils, the barbaric form in which these interruptions took place in these two Provinces, lead us to the second belief: that the Petty-bourgeois intellectuals, were not alone in their dirty work. While they looked down upon the masses and elevate themselves as sole intellectuals, at times they use them to realize their evil end. The political bankruptcy of those who are communist simple by having their shelters next to the Provincial offices or by their red paraphernalia, (who find themselves in senior positions in these Provinces) was abused, so to ensure that a petty bourgeois clings to power.
For them its ether they led or the organization dies, resolutions agreed upon at high level were disregarded, if they do not advance their individualistic claim to leadership, National Committee members tasked with the responsibility to communicate positions of the organization that do not go well with them faced the danger of being abducted and assaulted, news papers and social-networking over-flows with insult and mischaracterizations of leadership. Begging a question again: What should we do? The SACP 2002 document titled Strategy and Tactis of the SACP in the NDR, observers the following.
"The ANC (like the SACP) is not a federation of factions or tendencies, it is a single movement. But what this means is that, at the end of democratic processes, the ANC (like the SACP) adopts policy positions, programmes of actions, ect. And all members are bound by these decisionsâ€¦ its does not mean that the decisions are not the result of debate, or that diversity and difference have simple evaporated. More importantly, decisions taken by the ANC (or SACP) while they sometimes represent one view (a majority perspective) at the expense of other views, very often represent a management of differences."
What then should be our task as it relate to this organized, open sabotage of our organizational programs, by the Petty-bourgeois intellectual and their mindless stooges? Should we simply show them door or strive to educate them more on democratic centralism? The path to be taken in this regard needs a careful thought.
Our first task
The Proletariat Party can not tolerate open sabotage of its program, as an organization we can not be able to defeat our enemy (monopoly Capitalism) if there are enemy agents in our midst. Already factionalism is a serious offence in our organization, thus opening the exit door becomes the only solution at times. The Secretary General of the ANC in 1950s when the movement was faced with the same question had this to say.
"Congress is the broad and tolerant organization firmly wedded to democratic principle and refusing to impose any single any single ideology upon its members. But, at the same time, the ANC is not merely a debating society, and cannot tolerate open sabotage of it struggle. The National Executive promptly expelled Madzunya and Leballo for their treacherous activities, and it is notable that this action was warmly applauded by branches throughout the countryâ€¦"
"For a few days some newspapers tried to build up the â€˜major split' in Congress as a sensation. It soon became apparent, however, that the departure of this faction had strengthened the organization, not weaken it, and that they commanded no support inside or outside Congress."
It is however important for the organization to handle this task carefully, in dealing with this foreign behavior we should not play in the hands of our critics who will surely see our noble intervention as just another "communist purge", ours must not be intended to silence those with different opinion in the organization. An understanding must be made that ours is not against those who genuinely believe that given the challenges the organization face they prefer different leadership from that one elected in Mafikeng.
Correctly so, the National Secretary of the organization in his closing remarks at the congress argued that the National congress had directed the newly elected National Committee to deal amongst other with the issue of ill-discipline not with people who were holding a different perspective. It is important for us to stress this point as they might be temptation from some amongst us to argue to expulsion of does they differ with, by so doing we will be doing the same as petty-bourgeois whom we seek not to replace but destroy.
Thefore, our fist task is to rid the Young Communist League of all counter-revolutionary tendencies, evidence in our long road to Mafikeng.
Our second task
When the Young Communist League, succeed in hitting on the Petty-bourgeois, some among them will run to trade union movements or to the Party itself in their provinces. When they are in the trade union Movement they play an ethnicity card, mobilizing this ethnicity against the other, this is done disregarding the fact that Africa is full of shameful history of Africans playing in the hands of its colonizers and killing each other, that the very backbone of the National Democratic Revolution is the creation of the united, non racial, none sexist and democratic country. As self-proclaimed Marxist, the NDR should have been an important but minimal program for them, which they hold in high regard and working towards its own logical conclusion. They are supposed to know better on the dangers of dividing the working class power.
From its formation on the 30th of July 1921 the Communist Party of South Africa, had always identified trade union movements and workers as people who need to be in the centre of the struggle for socialism. In its manifesto (1921) the Party called all workers organized and un-organized to wage a struggle against capitalism, it outlined the Party role as that to "guide and inspire the struggling workersâ€¦(and) generally act as the revolutionary vanguard of the labour army of South Africa" why then would they be elements from our ranks that to this day continue to serve as a factory machine of divisions and factionalism, should we be glad that we have brutally smashed this tendency in Mafikeng when it continues to show its ugly face on the trade union movement?
No, the success of our struggle requires us to expose these petty-bourgeois tendencies on all fronts of our struggle. We must consistently expose them, follow them every where they go. This is a task of all Young Communists who take their revolutionary task seriously. If we do not follow these "comrades" to their grave they will pose a danger to the communist Party in future. They will either use their positions in Trade Unions to liquidate the Party or use union resources and platforms to project themselves as genuine representative of the working class. Our responsibility is to smash Petty-bourgeois mentality everywhere in society
The third and the most important task, is perhaps what we had already stated: open a debate around the issue, be prepared to openly admit where we had failed as the organization. As a political school, where did we go wrong, had we allowed ourselves to be led and at times even influenced by these petty-bourgeois intellectualls? If Lenin was to witness the Mafikeng sponsored fiasco he would have told us the obvious:
"When a workers' Party grows very quickly (as ours did in 1905-1906) its penetration by mass of element imbued with a petty-bourgeois spirit is inevitable. And there is nothing bad about that. The historic task of the proletariat is to assimilate, re-educate all the element of the old society that the latter bequeaths it in the shape of offshoots of the petty bourgeoisie. But the proletariat must re-educate these newcomers and influence them, not be influenced by them"
Our task is to learn, mobilize, organize and educate, political education must be compulsory for all. Of cause throwing a series of political education and the constitution will not automatically wash away all our problems, but it is our historical task, as a Marxist-Leninist political school. This weapon (political education) will surely make it difficult for left-wing opportunists to throw in few Marxist praises and fool our members.
Our responsibility is to rid the Young Communist League and the Party of Petty-bourgeois tendencies and we must do so without fear of being ridiculed and labeled as advocates of purging, for it is also our revolutionary duty to outmaneuver any tendency which seeks to portray typical bourgeois-intellect, masquerading as radical and revolutionary more than the revolution itself.
This short paper recognizes that Marxism-Leninism is long, complex and sometimes self-contradictory hence this paper was only confined to the postmortem of our long road to and from Mafikeng, not Marxism-Leninism in its totality. As mentioned earlier, the paper does not claim political correctness; its intention is merely to open a debate. If there is one thing the paper finds correct in relation to those who attack the Young Communist League of South Africa, is the accusation that we had been the frontline in defense of the Party, that we had refused to be anything other than being the Youth wing of the Party. To this, we plead guilty as charged.
Mafika Damane Mndebele is the National Committee member of the Young Communist League of South Africa.