Opinion

Ten things you didn't know about the SACP

Mail & Guardian Correspondent

The Mail & Guardian brings you ten interesting facts that you might or might not have known about the South African Communist Party.

The SACP still identifies itself as a Marxist-Leninist party, that is, the “vanguard” of the proletariat. Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

1. The South African Communist Party was founded in 1921, was banned by the white National Party government in 1950, and was unbanned in 1990.

2. The SACP has just held its 13th national congress. About 2 000 delegates attended. The SACP says its membership is now about 150 000, three times what it was five years ago.

3. Millionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe attended the conference, to the surprise of anti-capitalist members of the party. SACP leader Blade Nzimande (re-elected to his post at the conference), said in response: “Yes, but he’s our capitalist.”

4. Capitalists have funded communist parties before. At least one wealthy Russian industrialist gave money to the Bolsheviks, later the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The Rothschild banking family also funnelled money to the Bolsheviks. After a conference in London, before the Russian Revolution, it was found that there was not enough money to get dele-gates home, so the party borrowed from an American industrialist. It paid him back after the revolution.

5. The SACP still identifies itself as a Marxist-Leninist party, that is, the “vanguard” of the proletariat. Lenin adapted classic Marxism on his way to power as leader of the Russian Revolution. Marx said capitalism would “immiserate” the proletariat, which would then rise up and destroy it. In the absence of much capitalism or even much of a proletariat in Russia in the early 20th century, Lenin felt the revolution could take a short cut to power and worry about the rest later.

6. In his address to the SACP conference, Cosatu leader Zwelinzima Vavi reasserted the union federation’s commitment to socialist revolution and quoted Lenin’s The State and Revolution (1917) at the start of his talk. In it Lenin insists that the state must be entirely “smashed” and the army replaced by the armed populace.

7. Both Marx and Lenin saw the violent seizure of power as essential to a workers’ state. Parliamentary democracy, they said, was a bourgeois plot to keep the workers oppressed.

8. Marxists who argued, 120 years ago, that workers’ parties could make significant gains – and even win power – through democratic means were condemned by Lenin and others as “revisionist” and “opportunist”. The German Social Democrats started as a Marxist party and evolved into a parliamentary party, winning power. The CPSU has ceased to exist.

9. Nationalisation is traditionally a communist war cry, but the SACP is now uncertain about it. The ANC Youth League stole the idea. The SACP now says it is in favour of “strategic” nationalisation.

10.  No communist party anywhere in the world has ever won a free general election – except once, in Chile, in 1970. That government was soon overturned in a coup encouraged by the CIA.

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