Is the SACP Communist?

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Picture: Dr. Blade Nzimande, General Secretary of South African Communist Party (SACP) presenting the 13th Congress Central Committee Political Report to the 14th 2017 Congress. Photo: SACP.

The South African Communist Party (SACP)’s congress started in Johannesburg on Monday morning, the agenda of the conference is expected to be dominated by discussions on state capture and the party’s seemingly weakening relationship with the African National Congress (ANC) and the party’s preferred Presidential candidate. This conference has two possible outcomes, one could show the irrelevance of the party in the South African political landscape and the other could show the beginning of major changes to this country’s politics. However, it is first imperative to consider the significance of the SACP in today’s politics and if the party is ideologically apt to even consider standing alone.

The historical union between the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) has been the center of political debate overtime, however there has never been a serious discussion to influence or critically challenge the ideological contradictions of this marriage. The fact that the core political life of the ANC consists of neo-liberal features in its various fundamental founding ideologies and policies and that the core political life of the SACP is supposedly communist shows evidence of the non-arguable contradiction. This contradiction questions the originality of the SACP as “communist” in contemporary South Africa. To further show the weakness of the communist ideology in the SACP is the lack of evidence from the party to show how it has contributed to the building of a Communist society or how it has merely applied the basics of the communist ideology. Another case of evidence of the lack of basic communism in SACP is its support for a neo-liberal and capitalist economic and political system since 1994.

The African National Congress (Then named the South African Native National Congress) was formed in 1912 by a group of black middle class men with a common objective of fighting the oppression of African people; it was established and led by early African Intellectuals whose approaches to the struggle were purely constitutional and legalistic. One of the founders of the ANC Pixley ka Isaka Seme was a Columbia, Oxford and London polished lawyer. The South African Communist Party (Then named the Communist Party of South Africa) was formed by white workers in 1921 who had the goal of spreading Socialist ideologies and agenda. During the early development of SACP in its foundational congress only one black person attended.

It is extensively acknowledged that African nationalism was the glue that brought together the ANC and the SACP as it was argent in the late 1940s. The critic here is not about the union of the ANC and the SACP in an Apartheid context, it is about questioning the authenticity of the SACP as Communist party in a democratic South Africa. The beginning of the relationship between the ANC and the SACP was understood as “an attempt to marry the theories of class and national struggle.”

In its constitution the SACP argues that its aims include:

  1. ‘… to be the leading political force of the South African working class whose interests it promotes in the struggle to advance, deepen and defend the national democratic revolution and to achieve socialism.”
  2. “…building of a communist society in which all forms of exploitation of person by person will have ended and in which all the products of human endeavour will be distributed according to need. The attainment of such a society will require an interim socialist formation in which reward will be measured by contribution.”

This here further serves as evidence of the lack of a communist agenda in South Africa simply because none of these aims can be pointed out to have worked in any case in a post-Apartheid context in this country.