Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape Responds to the South African Communist Party
Posted by Enaemaehkiw Túpac Keshena
Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu: Shack Dwellers), or AbM, is a shack-dwellers’ movement in South Africa. They are also known as the red shirts. The movement grew out of a road blockade organized from the Kennedy Road shack settlement in the city of Durban in early 2005 and now also operates in the cities of Pietermaritzburg and in Cape Town. It is the largest shack dweller’s organization in South Africa. It campaigns to improve the living conditions of poor people and to democratize South African society from below. The movement refuses party politics and boycotts elections. It’s key demand is that the social value of urban land should take priority over its commercial value and it campaigs for the public expropriation of large privately owned landholdings. The key organising strategy is to try “to recreate Commons” from below by trying to create a series of linked communes.
Here they are responding to accusations levelled by the South African Communist Party that the tactics of roadblocks is “anarchy and reactionary.” But it is also more than that. Lately the African National Congress and its old apartheid-era allies in the SACP have done much to stifle and put down actions by the working class and most impoverished in South Africa that are independent of the ANC lead post-apartheid regime. This can be seen in the ANC’s reaction to the recent Congress of South African Trade Unions lead strike, as well as the demonization of the AbM, the Landless People’s Movement, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign and other autonomous movements of the working class. So here AbM also makes front and centre their right to be independent of the government and its allies, and refuse to endorse the ANC in the upcoming elections.
As Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape we have noted the statement by the South African Communist Party that declares that blockading public roads is “anarchy and reactionary.”
If road blockades are anarchistic and reactionary then it is clear that anarchy and reaction are very popular in South Africa. Communities, organisations and movements across Cape Town and across South Africa have been blockading roads for years. We are not the only people that have blockaded roads in Cape Town in the last days. Many of the road blockades in Cape Town in recent days are not organised by us. But our campaign does endorse the road blockade as a legitimate tactic. We think it is quite significant that new communities are supporting our campaign all the time. We have already been invited to visit four new communities that want to join our campaign during this weekend. The rebellions that use road blockades as an important tactic are spreading everywhere. There is real popular support for disrupting business as usual in a system that oppresses the poor. When the SACP condemn us they condemn the struggles of the people across the country. That philosopher called Karl Marx once wrote that communism is the real movement that abolishes the state of things. He didn’t write that communuism is the vanguard that disciplines and condemns the real struggles of the people.
We also note that:
When we have been evicted the SACP has been silent.
When we have have been arrested the SACP has been silent.
When we have suffered in fires and floods the SACP has been silent.
Yet when we take to the streets the SACP condemns us!
What kind of communism is this? What kind of solidarity is this?
To make matters worse everyone knows that the SACP supported the struggles in Khutsong which were much more militant in their tactics than the struggle that we are now waging in Cape Town. Clearly for the SACP the real problem that theyare having with Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape is not our tactics but the fact that we are organising outside of the ANC and that we refuse to vote for the ANC or for any political party. Local government elections are coming and the ANC is panicking about the fact that while there is tremendous popular anger and protest in Cape Town they have lost control of it. The popular anger and protest in Cape Town is under the control of ordinary people and no political party likes that.
The SACP say that they are on the side of the poor but we don’t see them struggling with the organisations of the poor. We only see them trying to discipline our organisations from above and telling us to vote for the ANC!
Everybody knows that around the world Stalinist Communist parties always function to defend states against popular struggles. This was true in Budapest in 1956, in Paris in 1968 and its true right now in Culcutta. We are not anti-communist. We are for a living communism. We are for a communism that emerges from the struggles of ordinary people and which is shaped and owned by ordinary people. We are for a communism built from the ground up. We are for a communism in which land and wealth are shared and managed democratically. Any party or groupuscle or NGO that declares from above that it is the vanguard of the people’s struggles and that the people must therefore accept their authority is the enemy of the people’s struggles. Leadership is earned and is never permanent. It can never be declared from above. It only lasts for as long as communities of struggle decide to invest their hope in particular structures. Often there are many legitimate and democratic structures involved in the same broad movement of struggle at the same time. This is why we always insist that the autonomy of all democratic poor people’s organisations must be respected and welcomed.
We are know that many ordinary members of the SACP live the same challenges as us and that we have a common interest in the same struggles. Like everyone in their right mind we support some of the positions that the SACP has taken in the battles within the ANC – like their position against the tenderpreneurs and before that their position against AIDS denialism. But we are critical of their hostility to freedom of expression. We are also aware that some people in the SACP, like Dominic Tweedie, have, in alliance with the most regressive faction of the middle class left, supported and propogandised for the repression against our movement. We have no choice but to condemn those members of the SACP that support the repression of autonomous struggles.
We are happy to meet with the SACP but our autonomy as an organistion is non-negotiable. That includes our autonomy to refuse to support the ANC in the comming elections.
We note that while they condemn our endorsement of the road blockade as a tactic they also say that they will support our march on parliament. We welcome their support on our march but they will need to understand that we do not allow political parties to take over our protests. We are very clear that we will be protesting and not voting when the local government elections come.
Posted on October 17, 2010, in Socialism and tagged Revolution, Socialism, The African Continent. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape Responds to the South African Communist Party.
Comments are closed.