Speech of COSATU President Sdumo Dlamini to the 2nd National Council of the YCLSA

Category: Speeches

26 July 2013

The National Secretary of the Young Communist League
The National Chairperson of the Young Communist League

As COSATU we are pleased to have been invited to address the National Council of the YCL.

This day the 26th of July 1953 is a sacred day marking exactly 60 years since the insurrection against Fulgencio Batista. On this day Fidel Castro, along with his brother Raúl, who is now the President of CUBA led an attack on a remote outpost, the Moncada Barracks, in Oriente province, the easternmost province of Cuba.

It is here that a small group of Cuban revolutionaries launched an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago. The attack was intended to start a revolution against the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, and was led by a young man named Fidel Castro, who had been an activist student at the University of Havana. I wish the council to note that Fidel Castro was an activist student from University and not a failed fugitive tenderpreneur, who is on the run from SARS.

Like all other revolutionary initiatives, you do not succeed at first, so were the brave actions of the forces led by Fidel Castro who could not succeed on the 26th July 1953. This attack, despite having had many of the brave revolutionaries killed , and some imprisoned including Fidel Castro it made both a quantitative and qualitative contribution in that it inspired the massed into action and created a platform for mass mobilisation around a common demand for the release of the people`s political prisoners. It is these struggles which led to the amnesty of Castro and other remaining prisoners.

These actions by the masses marked the continuity of the bravery demonstrated by that group of Cuban revolutionaries who led from the front on the 26th July 1953 and thus marked the coming into life of the 26th of July Movement, which became the central organizing force of the Cuban Revolution.

The seeds sown on July 26, 1952, germinated on January 1, 1959, as the victorious July 26th movement marched into Havana marking the defeat of Batista regime and the beginning of the actual takeover of the state and the assumption of political power by the revolutionary forces.

This National Council and the YCL as a whole must derive inspiration from the July 26 movement that with mass power, resilience and patience revolutionary possibilities can be translated into revolutionary reality.

As we mark 40 years since the arrest of the leadership core of our movement at the Lilliesleaf Farm in 1963, we should also know that they were inspired by a similar value system which was driving the revolutionaries under the leadership of the young Fidel Castro. Similarly for us the Lilliesleaf arrest marked a great set back in the history of our revolution and yet like the July 26 Movement which rose at the back of the set back of the 1952 and 1953 experiences, the arrests in Liliesleaf remains a reminder that our movement has the capacity to learn from its setbacks, use the very sets backs to rise and seize the strategic initiative to the advantage of the revolutionary forces.

We are who are gathered here today are an offspring of Mandela, Sisulu , Govan Mbeki, Kathrada who taught us that a revolution does not take a day and have its action and results announced on television or discussed and analysed on twitter or face-book.

So common in the experiences of the July 26 movement and the comrades arrested in Liliesleaf is an understanding that war is not fought by big words but by consistent planning and though patience.

It is this understanding which caused comrades Mandela to write in May 1963 which when he was dealing with the mistakes of recklessness and adventurism in the liberation struggle.

Among other important and striking things said in that leaflet is that “the struggle that will free us is a long, hard job.” He continued and said “do not be deceived by men who talk big with no thought for tomorrow. Freedom is not just a matter of strong words. Neither is it simply brave men and heroic deeds. Impatience, which makes men lose their heads, will not bring freedom. We are all impatient, thirsty for freedom. But impatience alone leads to recklessness, and recklessness can lose us the battle.”

If we read the documents of the movement carefully you will see that this understanding about the need for well thought out process gets carried through in our strategy and tactics which is based on the Marxist- Leninist principles.

Because this year marks 44 years since the ANC adopted its strategy and tactics in 1969 at the Morogoro consultative conference, an approach to our struggle which has always kept our movement on a superior combat position and a step ahead of the enemy.

Among the things said by the 1969 strategy and tactics in line with the principles articulated by comrade Mandela in the 1963 leaflet was that “The art of revolutionary leadership consists in providing leadership to the masses and not just to its most advanced elements; it consists of setting a pace which accords with objective conditions and the real possibilities at hand. The revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the spring-board for revolutionary advance. Indeed what appears to be “militant” and “revolutionary” can often be counter-revolutionary.

Comrades I thought it was going to be important to reflect on these because of the period we are currently going through where the easiest thing to do and the most heroic thing to do is to be reckless and to be impatient to a point of thinking that a new organisation other than the ANC or the SACP or the Alliance as a whole can produce qualitative advances simply because it is new.

Secondly I thought it will be important to start by reflecting on this because I know that I am talking to the youth and if I were to borrow from the ANC`s Kabwe Conference which described the characteristics of youth thus:

It is that section of society which is avidly searching for a rational understanding of the surrounding world and therefore displays curiosity, rebelliousness, impassioned and uncontrolled enthusiasms and quickly forms judgements as it abandons others.

We know that due to their inexperience and illusions bred of their psychological make-up, young people can easily become prey to demagogic tendencies and can easily be swayed into positions that are counter to their interests. Thus a young worker could seek false comfort by abstaining from class battles or even by joining the exploiter`s state machinery. Seldom, young people are enticed en masse to adopt social and cultural value systems alien to their interests.

History has taught us that all societies in general and classes in particular, pay special attention to the youth. For any people or class to shirk this responsibility is to do great harm to itself. This applies particularly to peoples struggling to break the shackles of oppression and exploitation. No revolution can be victorious without the effective education, organisation and mobilisation of the youth into political action. It is none other than the youth (especially the working youth) who form the core of the political and military armies of the revolution.

Their youthful energy enables them to perform great feats in the theatre of battle; their vigour enables them to be the most active transmitters of ideas and skills; their zeal spreads into their surroundings like wild-fire1.

We are fortunate because you are not just youth in general but you are youth organised as communists. It is better when a youth grounded on communist ideology becomes impatient than when a youth whose pre – occupation is making more money becomes impatient.

The result may be destructive because everything is defined around pursuit for money and this is done by all means and all costs. Once the pre-occupation becomes the making of money what is expected to be a disciplined political action becomes gangsterism where there are no leaders but “ring leaders”.

Every action is executed to prove a point that you belong to the gangster, promotion into position of leadership is not on the bases of political clarity but the ability to hurl insults and abuse everyone who may be a threat to your position.

These are the features we have seen to some of the newly formed organisations who promise economic freedom without a class perspective.

The fact of the matter if is that if we are to proceed from an understanding that politics is a concentrated expression of economics and economics a concentrated expression of politics it will be easier to see through a lie being promised in economic freedom. There shall be no economic freedom achieved outside the class struggle under the leadership of a Marxist – Leninist Party. It is the task and duty of the YCL to expose this lie by the so called economic freedom fighters!

As the discussions at the Kabwe Conference said that because of “their inexperience and illusions bred of their psychological make-up, young people can easily become prey to demagogic tendencies and can easily be swayed into positions that are counter to their interests”.

The YCL must be found where young people are located in society but the YCL members must not pretend to be adults, you must be free to express your impatience but such impatience must be guided by Marxism – Leninism and lessons derived from revolutionary practice.

You must remain guided by what Morogoro said that “The art of revolutionary leadership consists in providing leadership to the masses and not just to its most advanced elements; it consists of setting a pace which accords with objective conditions and the real possibilities at hand. The revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the spring-board for revolutionary advance. Indeed what appears to be “militant” and “revolutionary” can often be counter-revolutionary.

Your task comrades is to occupy the front ranks , firstly to expose the ideological hollowness of these newly formed political formations with the same vigour you did when you dealt with COPE. Never take your opponent for granted instead learn from his ways and shape your strategy based both on his weaknesses and strength.

Secondly it is to ensure visibility of your own campaigns and tell society about what the YCL has to offer as alternatives to current challenges facing society today. You must not hesitate to come out and tell us in the movement that there it is wrong to pursue economic policy which remains based on Trade liberalization, Financial liberalization, Labour market deregulation which promotes outsourcing, the allowance of casual labour, the use of labour brokers and illegal immigrant labour, pursues the interest of the capitalist class in a bid to restore profitability.

As we speak the ANC has retracted from totally banning labour brokers after and opted for a 3 month compromise to which our people will be subjected to slavery. Yet in Namibia they have been able to regulate Labour Brokers without giving three months grace and the Namibian government has won the case against labour brokers. Tell our government to use this international precedence to regulate labour brokers out of existence

You must come out and say it loudly that it is wrong to adopt policies which limit the role of the state from productive activity in critical areas which results to the country giving. You must say it loudly that the Private Sector can never correct historical injustice, no matter how much how much the Free Market Foundation is given airtime by the media to bash labour.

We expect you the YCL to challenge economic policies which are based on tight monetary policies which elevates inflation targeting above the development objectives such as job creation and heavily relies on financial market forces, which are dominated by a few large banks, to transmit monetary policy actions to the real sector.

We want to hear you coming to the open saying that it is wrong for our country to have policies which promotes independence of the Reserve Bank from so called government interference which robbed the population of an important institution through which it can allocate resources to advance its democratic aspirations. This made it easy for conglomerate elites to co-ordinate their private interests.

We want the YCL to come and say it loudly that at the centre of problems in our economic policies is the fact that we are hesitant to use our political power to qualitatively address ownership as a central feature of Apartheid and Colonialism of a Special type. For as long as ownership is not addressed our government cannot be decisive in implementing policies of redistribution because every time government has to act, the real owners of the economy raise their heads and points a shivering finger through something called “disinvestment”.

You must come up and say our ANC government must stop only addressing the fears and concerns of investors, what about the fears and concerns of the working class.

Thirdly in that context it is to challenge us in COSATU, in the ANC and SANCO and everywhere about the mistakes we may be committing unaware but do so as disciplined communists and as responsible cadres of the movement.

Comrades it must be clear to all of you that given the current challenges in the ANCYL and in the ANC in general you must swell the ranks of the ANC and the ANCYL and be part of the ANC to play a role of continuously reminding all of us about the character of the ANC, which character is important to determine how the ANC as a leader of our revolution conducts and leads such a revolution.

You must continuously remind all of us that the ANC is a revolutionary, mass-based, national liberation movement, currently operating within a terrain of electoral politics.

The ANC is revolutionary not because we say so but because it recognises the inter-relationship between class, race and gender contradictions that are at the base of Colonialism of a Special Type and that these must be simultaneously tackled, acknowledges the leadership role of the working class in the NDR and seeks to build a revolutionary-democratic state through which a society constructed on the basis of the Freedom Charter can emerge.

You must remind us that the ANC is mass-based not because we wish it to be so but because it derives its perspectives from the masses, “because of its commitment to a mass approach line, based on the belief that the people are their own liberators and that the tasks that confront us require the active involvement of popular forces”2. This also defines the ANC as a movement, because it draws to its ranks people with a view to engage in active struggles and through those struggles, raise their political consciousness to the level of revolutionary consciousness.

The ANC is a national liberation movement because it seeks to destroy colonialism and white minority domination in all sectors of our society”, but also because it seeks to destroy imperialist domination of our country and contribute to the anti-imperialist struggles around the world.

You must continuously remind all of that the perspectives of our movement are based on anti-imperialism, anti-neo-colonialism, and internationalism. For years the ANC actively participated and sometimes led international forums and structures that were a critical part of the struggle for world peace, democracy and justice. In addition it was the decisive contribution of the global progressive movement, at the forehead of which was the anti-imperialist movement that provided consistent and solid support for the struggle against apartheid.

Whilst it is not a socialist movement, the ANCs perspectives are a product of Marxist-Leninist tools of analysis. In its perspectives the ANC has never been ambiguous about "the aims of peoples power and the role of the primary social forces, both inside and outside our movement, which will underwrite these aims, and to gain increasing mass understanding for the idea that, in contrast to many old-style nationalist movements in Africa, we believe that there can be no true national liberation without social emancipation… To postpone advocacy of this perspective until the first stage of democratic power has been achieved is to risk dominance within our revolution by purely nationalist forces which may see themselves as replacing the white exploiters at the time of the people`s victory”3.

You must repeat it until we hear you that in terms of the line up of social forces that is required to ensure an uninterrupted advance towards a revolutionary-democratic social order, the ANC has always maintained the importance of “an understanding that the aims of our national-democratic revolution will only be fully realized with the construction of a social order in which all the historic consequences of national oppression and its foundation, economic exploitation, will be liquidated, ensuring the achievement of real national liberation and social emancipation. An uninterrupted advance towards this ultimate goal will only be assured if within the alignment of revolutionary forces struggling to win the aims of our national-democratic revolution, the dominant role is played by the oppressed working people”4.

You must inspire confidence even to those who are beginning to doubt that the centrality and the leading role of the working class remains at the heart of our revolutionary perspective because the working class has the enduring organisational power, occupies a strategic location within the productive force, suffers the most from both exploitation and domination, and has made the most sacrifices to advance the revolution.

If you dont do this, then dont go around complaining about what the ANC as a contested broad church is saying and doing.

Let me repeat that it is your responsibility to ventilate your anger and militant views where you see that things are moving out of track but as you do so, even when you are angry please leave us impressed with well thought out and educative arguments and not insults, please let everyone who listens to the YCL speaking or in action say I would like to be associated with that organisation.

I want to re-emphasise that there is nothing heroic about criticising the organisation you serve in public as if you have made it your responsibility to appease the enemy camp. If raising issues is about getting results why are comrades not raising issues as critical as they can inside the organisation rather than going public to continue with a practice which we all have learnt over time that instead of producing the results it simply makes comrades to close ranks? So why should we continue with an activity which does not produce the results we expect.

I have been reading one of the Friday newspapers which always claims to be a paragon of investigative journalism but in reading this news paper this Friday I realised that actually what they call investigative journalism is nothing else but systematic leaks intended to serve the agenda of specific factions. Things which are being raised in that News Paper are intended to induce a counter response. I must say that indeed, it is tempting because at some stage society will have to know the truth and get to know all sides of the story.

The discipline of our organisation has taught us that we must not communicate with membership through commercial media but rely on our own internal processes. This is what we will do. We will not pay journalists and give them brown envelopes so that they can publish skewed views in our favour. We know that there is both an open and overt attempt to discredit COSATU`s internal process which was being facilitated by independent people. We will not allow that process to be discredited unless there is a decision by a constitutional structure to abandon the process. Even when the process is no longer there we will continue to raise issues inside the organisation. We will do so not because we cannot go back and articulate our views but we remain restricted by the discipline of the organisation. But what we know is that one day the truth will come out.

Comrades all I know is that the tasks expressed above can only be taken up by activist who has developed to a level of being cadres produced by the Young Communist League.

Comrades our revolution currently requires that we work hard to prepare and produce cadres which comrade Che Guevara described as individuals of ideological and administrative discipline, who knows and practices democratic centralism and who knows how to evaluate the existing contradictions in this method and to utilise fully its many facets; who knows how to practice the principle of collective discussion and to make decisions on his own and take responsibility in production; whose loyalty is tested, and whose physical and moral courage has developed along with his ideological development in such a way that he is always willing to confront any conflict and to give his life for the good of the revolution.

Also, he is an individual capable of self-analysis, which enables him to make the necessary decisions and to exercise creative initiative in such a manner that it won`t conflict with discipline.

Our movement today needs creative people, leaders of high standing, a technician with a good political level, who by reasoning dialectically can advance his sector of production, or develop the masses from his position of political leadership.

This movement requires cadres with political clarity, not unthinking support to the postulates of the revolution, but a reasoned support; with a great capacity for sacrifice and a capacity for dialectical analysis which will enhance the making of continuous contributions on all levels to the rich theory and practice of the revolution.

Comrade Che Guevara said “the cadre is the major part of the ideological motor which is the United Party of the Revolution. It is something that we could call the dynamic screw of this motor; a screw that in regard to the functional part will assure its correct functioning; dynamic to the extent that the cadre is not simply an upward or downward transmitter of slogans or demands, but a creator which will aid in the development of the masses and in the information of the leaders, serving as a point of contact with them. The cadre has the important mission of seeing to it that the great spirit of the revolution is not dissipated, that it will not become dormant nor let up its rhythm. It is a sensitive position; it transmits what comes from the masses and infuses in the masses the orientation of the party”.5

These are the immediate inevitable tasks of the YCL and I know you are equal to all of them

Amandla!

Footnotes

  1. Discussion document adopted at the 1985 ANC Kabwe Conference on the Role and Place of the Youth in Society, the ANC and the Struggle
  2. ANC 1997 Strategy and Tactics.
  3. Green Book, 1979.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Cadres for the New Party, by Ernesto Che Guevara, September 1962