COSATU congratulates SACP on its 90th anniversary

Federation says working class need must be defended against capitalist offensive

The Congress of South African Trade Unions sends its congratulations and best wishes to the South African Communist Party as it reaches a new milestone on 29th July 2011 when it celebrates its 90th birthday.

COSATU and the Party of the Working Class are, have always been, and will always remain, staunch allies, fighting together, hand-in-hand in the trenches, to make a reality of our shared vision - the new worldwide socialist society.

The SACP (the CPSA as it was known until 1953) has consistently been in the vanguard of working class struggles in South Africa, the continent and the world.

Its founders were inspired by the historic 1917 October Revolution and the launch of the Communist International in 1919. Its formation in 1921 boosted the labour movement's many attempts to form a trade union movement that united all workers regardless of race.

Ever since then, Communists have pointed the way forward and encouraged workers to get organised and empower themselves collectively to take on the class enemy - the imperialists, racists and employers.

While always committed to an internationalist outlook and the priority of building a party of the working class, the CPSA never overlooked the national question and the struggles of the nationally oppressed and class exploited black working class in South Africa. By 1928 1,600 of the party's 1,750 members were black.

The party was developing policies which later became entrenched in the Freedom Charter and the programme for a National Democratic Revolution.

Such views inevitably incurred the wrath of the apartheid regime which came to power in 1948. So great was the regime's fear that in 1950 the CPSA was declared illegal, and the government passed the Suppression of Communism Act, which reflected the regime's awareness communism's appeal to all the oppressed masses, and the law was subsequently used against all liberation activists.

The party went underground and in 1953 relaunched itself as the South African Communist Party and was only re-legalised in 1990. Throughout those forty underground years it forged strong links with the African National Congress and the SA Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), which laid the foundations for the tripartite alliance which remains as strong as ever today, with SACTU's successor, COSATU.

Anniversaries are always a time for taking stock of the advances we have made and the setbacks we have faced in the struggle against national, gender and class oppression. How far have we travelled on the path that was set 90 years ago, and how much further do we still have to travel? 

Despite much progress since 1994, for which SACP leaders like Chris Hani and Joe Slovo must be given a lot of credit, 90 years after the establishment of the Communist Party, we are still a long way from achieving the SACP's famous slogan, "Socialism is the future. Build it now!"

The struggle against capitalism and for an equitable and democratic socialist society is as necessary as at any time in those 90 years. We still live in a nation with appalling levels of unemployment and poverty and are the most unequal society in the world.

Despite much progress by successive ANC governments, millions of poor South Africans lack the basic necessities of a civilised society - decent education and healthcare, proper houses, running water and sanitation and affordable public transport.

The Party, as the vanguard of the working class must lead us in the fight to transform the lives of the workers and the poor and to challenge the narrow and selfish interests of the rich big business elite.

As the SACP marches to its centenary, it must give resolute leadership to the struggle for better living conditions in the townships, rural areas and informal settlements and better wages and conditions for the workers. The Party should build on the legacy of the likes of Dora Tamana who led struggles against the threats of resettlement emanating from the apartheid government.

The vigour and commitment of comrades like Matthew Goniwe, a communist and a grassroots organiser par excellence, should inspire the Party in leading working class struggles in workplaces, communities and many other areas.

This 90th anniversary must inspire all of us into defending working class gains against a well-orchestrated capitalist offensive. COSATU and the Party must work together, and with our allies the ANC, to intensify the campaign to build a strong developmental state which will take us ever closer to the socialist South Africa we want to see.

We will not address all these challenge unless we defeat crime and corruption and the culture of self-enrichment, crass materialism and the abuse of state power for narrow materialistic reasons. The SACP must lead us in the campaign against the new tendency who want to transform our congress movement and public service into a market place for tenders and business opportunities.

The source of corruption is the capitalist system itself, which corrupts and tempts public representatives, and encourages the personal accumulation of wealth at the expense of the majority of the people. If we do not unite to eradicate this cancer from our society, corruption will become routine, and far from building socialism we shall be descending into a lawless, immoral world where the pursuit of personal wealth in the only motive force in society.

The lesson that runs through the history of the Party is that the only defence that we have against all forms of bourgeois attacks on the working class is mass power. Only the working class and mass campaigns can defend the party of socialism and its trade union ally from attacks waged on it by the bourgeoisie.

The next ten years must be dedicated to building and reviving mass working class campaigns and waging a relentless struggle against corruption, capitalism and imperialism.

Forward to a strong SACP!

Forward to socialism!

Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, July 28 2011

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter