[DEBATE] : Independent SACP would vitalise political culture
grinker at mweb.co.za
Thu Jul 12 14:41:00 BST 2007
Independent SACP would vitalise political culture
Max du Preez, The Star, 12 July
The South African Communist Party has a proud and long history of keeping
the ANC honest and stimulating the policy debates in the liberation
movement. In a sense the party was the ANC's left brain - the cognitive,
analytical side of the movement.
But that influence has been declining since the unbannings of 1990. Today
the party has to shout and insult to be heard and, even then, its critiques
and inputs are mostly ignored by those who run the ANC. It has become a
rather undignified affair.
The time has come for the SACP to influence the ANC, no longer a liberation
movement but increasingly behaving like a political party, from outside the
alliance. The alternative would be to disband like so many other Communist
Parties worldwide have done over the last decade or so.
I think the SACP can play a strong role in our democracy. It is the only
viable party on the left in the country - the Pan Africanist Congress and
Azapo clearly only exist in name and fax machine today.
More than even during the turbulent 1980s, the ANC needs to be kept honest
and on its toes. The Democratic Alliance should do its bit from
centre-right, but it will take some time for it to become more than the
primary political home for ethnic minorities.
The SACP role would certainly be to critique the ruling party's
macro-economic policies and be a very real champion of the working class and
the poor, but also to use its own in-built credibility to fight the abuse of
power, nepotism, corruption and ineffective governance.
The party's history would also demand that it continues to fight against
tribalism and regionalism and for non-racialism.
I'm writing this before the SACP's congress in Port Elizabeth where
delegates are discussing the breakaway option.
I understand the leadership's preferred position is to stay in the alliance,
but to demand stronger party representation in the leadership structures.
Some in the party apparently want the decision to be delayed until after it
was clear whether Jacob Zuma was going to be the next president or not.
This kind of opportunism is unbecoming of the party which gave us such
giants as Joe Slovo and Chris Hani. Good communists don't compromise on
principles. Even if he did become the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma
is not going to change the economic policies espoused by the leadership of
the mainstream ANC.
Jacob Zuma is not going to save the SACP from the inevitable obscurity it
faces if it remains the ANC's ugly little sister. And being given a few
token leadership positions in the alliance would simply be to postpone the
The SACP will regain the respect of a large number of South Africans if it
stood up now and declared that it was going to test the support for its
ideals and policies at the polls. It should remind the voters of its role in
the resistance and declare that it had not deviated from its own path - it
was the ANC that had changed.
It will be a radical step, yes. There is no absolute guarantee that the
party would garner more than 1 or 2% of the national vote. But if only a 100
000 or so voters make their cross behind the SACP's name, then at least the
party and the rest of us will know that the Communist Party was an idea
whose time had come and gone.
I personally think the SACP, if they ran the correct kind of election
campaign, could end up with between 10 and 15% of the vote. Apart from
committed communists and socialists, they are likely to also get the votes
of many who feel the ANC has become arrogant, uncaring and removed from the
people. A sizeable portion of Cosatu's members might see a stand-alone SACP
as their new political home.
Such a chunk of the vote would make the SACP a powerful party in parliament,
the provinces and local councils with strong potential to sway the balance
If they can get more than 10% of the vote other parties, especially the ANC
itself, will need them as a partner in strategic alliances in order to rule
in some provincial and local councils and in order to get their legislation
passed. Even 5% of the vote would give the SACP more real political clout
than they have right now.
An independent SACP would certainly be an injection of vitality into our
artificial and tired political culture. It would help us move on from
sheepishly voting for what was in the past rather than for something we
It could help bring about an eventual realignment of political forces that
would be based on policies, political culture and performance rather than on
obsolete loyalties, personality cults, historic myths and largesse. That
would be good for democracy.
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