The 9 days beginning this Friday will be another important period in our revolution. The three Alliance partners, the ANC, COSATU and the SACP will respectively be holding their end-of-the year National Executive Committee, Central Executive Committee, and Central Committee meetings. These meetings are important to evaluate the past year and map a way forward for the coming year.

Each formation has its distinct focus points, but there are also overlapping issues. These meetings come in the wake of important mid-term gatherings of the three Alliance partners, the SACP Special Congress in April, the ANC NGC in July and the COSATU Central Committee in August. These executive meetings will naturally further reflect on and seek to take forward some of the key resolutions from the mid-term congresses.

These meetings also come in the wake of the August Alliance 10-a-side meeting which committed the Alliance partners to further discussions and debates on the problems and the many challenges facing our revolution at this point in time, especially the matter relating to the Deputy President of the ANC, Cde Jacob Zuma. Naturally, the forthcoming ANC NEC meeting is the jost significant as its discussions and resolutions will set the tone for the other two executive meetings. The decisions of this NEC meeting will lay an important basis for further engagements within our Alliance.

Our revolution is in a period calling for the frankest of discussions on the challenges facing our own organisations (independently and collectively) and the national democratic revolution as a whole. In undertaking these discussions we should stubbornly refuse attempts by the media to set the agenda for us; rather, we must be guided by what we consider to be in the best interests of our people and our country. Paramount in our own discussions and debate must be the unity of our movement and the Alliance as a whole.

The SACP is determined to do all we can to ensure thorough and frank debate whilst promoting unity, as the two are not opposites but two sides of the same coin. Our forthcoming Central Committee (CC) on 25-28 November 2005, will focus on evaluating the year, as well as discussing and adopting a programme of action for 2006.

From our political evaluation of the year, the SACP CC intends debating a number of challenges facing our movement and the national democratic revolution. To this end we have identified a few critical matters that require thorough and honest debate within our own party and in the movement as a whole. These include the question of leadership of the national democratic revolution, the type of state we have built over the past 11 years, the character of the new ruling bloc, the distinction and relationship between the ANC as a mass-based movement and a ruling party, and the relationship between the SACP and political power 11 years after our democracy.

The Alliance partners all agree that this is a period that, perhaps more than at any other stage recently, requires decisive, unifying leadership that does not try to impose its will on the people, but listens carefully to the voices from the ground.

There is a significant strand of thinking and practice within our own ranks that conceives of leadership as meaning leading over the people, without adequately taking into account what the people are saying. This is normally argued by appealing to the ‘iron law of objective conditions,’ thus emphasising the objective factors at the expense of the sentiment of the masses on the ground. We know that from a Marxist perspective, whilst the objective reality is always the finally determining factor, it CAN be altered, shaped and transformed through conscious (subjective) action and mobilisation. This rather elitist conception of leadership seems to be rearing its head, for instance, in the current disputes and mass action around the re-demarcation of provincial boundaries. Some are arguing that local protests by people in a number of localities are aljost, by their nature, narrow and not informed by the broader picture of the developmental objectives of the re-demarcation processes.

This conception of leadership seems to be spilling over into the state, where there are instances where the state (in all its spheres) seems to sometimes place itself above the people, ostensibly on grounds of acting in the interests of society as a whole. Genuine people’s concerns are sometimes dismissed as ‘populist’, and working class concerns as inherently ‘narrow’ and ‘sectional’. Our CC will analyse and seek to understand the extent to which this technocratic/objectivist conception of leadership has perhaps been fashioned by the type of state we have built. Or, conversely, to what extent is the type of state we have built a product of this particular conception of leadership?

The above raises another critically important but related question of the relationship between the ANC (and its alliance) and the state. Some of these matters were canvassed in the Secretary General’s report to the ANC NGC in July. The SACP believes that this matter is of such significance that it needs further and much more thorough canvassing. Many revolutions, especially in the developing world, have stumbled because this question has not been properly conceived and an appropriate set of practices has not been put in place. The dangers here include use of state organs to pursue political agendas or even factionalist agendas within ruling parties. Another danger is that ruling parties can simply become appendages to the state, reducing ruling movements into mere ‘election machinery.’ They thus become disconnected from their mass base and essentially demobilise the people.

All the above matters are related to what will be one of the major subjects for discussion at the CC, that of the relationship of the SACP to (state) power in the current phase of the national democratic revolution and into the future. This question has largely arisen from the decision of our Special Congress in April to set up a Central Committee Commission to investigate options for the SACP in relation to political power. To discuss this matter thoroughly will require an honest reflection on the relationship of the Alliance, especially the working class, to political and state power, drawing on our experiences over the last 11 years.

As part of canvassing the relationship of the SACP to political power post-1994, the CC will undertake an honest evaluation of the SACP’s impact and influence in South African society and on government policy since 1994. The jost important qualitative development in our revolution since 1994 has been the ascendancy of the liberation movement to state power, albeit under conditions of a negotiated transition, in a unipolar world dominated by US imperialism.

It was this reality, amongst others, that objectively and subjectively impelled the Party to adopt the strategic slogan “Socialism is the future, build it now” at our 9th Congress in 1995. This was premised on the new possibilities created by the movement’s ascendance to state power, with many communists serving in key state and other positions of power. This strategic slogan was perhaps responding to three other critical but related imperatives: the vastly changed and unfavourable global (and domestic) terrain for socialist forces; the task of taking forward the struggle for socialism under new conditions after the democratic breakthrough; and, perhaps in the process, addressing, in concrete conditions after the democratic breakthrough, some of the unresolved debates of the relationship between the national liberation struggle and a transition to socialism.

jost importantly, our CC will not just be about theoretical debates, but also about adopting a programme of action for 2006, as part of consolidating and deepening working class organisation and mobilisation and building a strong SACP. Not only has our strategic slogan informed our campaigns and programmes, but it has been informed and enriched by these campaigns and programmes.

Since 1994, and especially since our 10th Congress, our campaigning and activism have taught us that independent SACP and working class activism and programmes are jost vital. This has led us to conclude that much as ANC deployment of communist cadres in government and the Alliance remains crucial, many of our achievements to-date would not have been realised without conscious working class mobilisation.

In our deliberations we shall be guided primarily by the imperative of building the unity of our movement and our Alliance. It is incumbent upon all Alliance formations to honestly reflect on our strengths and weaknesses, and undertake thorough criticism and self-criticism. We can only face the challenges ahead of us through frank debate and by fostering unified and unifying leadership practices, to unite our people as a whole. This is the challenge of the 9 days we spoke about earlier, beginning with the ANC NEC meeting.