This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Letter of resignation
In May, in the aftermath of Chris Hani's assassination and the mass response to this crime, the secretary of the SACP's Cape Town branch, Theo Molaba wrote a letter addressed to his branch. It was a letter of resignation from the SACP. Some weeks later, fellow branchmember, Fareed Abdullah, wrote a reply. Unfortunately this exchange of letters only came to the notice of The African Communist editorial board recently. In the interests of making this important debate accessible to a wider audience we publish the two letters here.
Cape Town May 1993
Comrades, It is unfortunate that my resignation comes at a time when our Party has become more popular even to the political section of the working people. It is also unfortunate to coincide with that of renegades and opportunistic political bandits like Joe Matthews and co.
This resignation is not only a personal position but, I hope it is also a political position. Of course there is an element of bitterness, emotions and anger on my part, however this has not and does not cloud my political objectivity (soberness) or rather my subjective view about the trend which is gradually developing in the Party. These emotions are a human, rational and satisfied response to a certain set of conditions (as I perceive them). More essentially there is nothing absolute about my resignation, and reasons thereof.
Precisely because any political position, its correctness or truth, is a product of specific and particular conditions. Conditions, like matter, are inherently in constant motion. This makes any truth or correct position to be relative. In this regard, so is my resignation and reason thereof. If practice proves me to be wrong, 1 will unfailingly reconsider my position and go back to the trenches in the Party, a Marxist-Leninist Party
My resignation must not be seen as a flight from reality, and more specifically from the challenges facing the Party, and the Alliance broadly - i.e. limited financial resources, building and sustaining branches, failure to concretely marry negotiations with the mass nature of the national liberation struggle, problems of lack of full-time leadership for the Party, anti-communist hysteria, and many others. Since I joined the Party together with my comrades we have been more than willing to battle with these difficulties. In this struggle to root the Party in new conditions we have been guided by the fact that we make history under conditions we find ourselves in, not those we have chosen. This is a Marxian approach.
On the other hand, my resignation is over theory and practice: the gradual abandonment of Marxist-Leninist principles without enough theoretical formulations. In the first place, the abandonment of a PROLETARIAN ATTITUDE towards armed struggle, negotiations, the alliance and the role of the Party in the context of the alliance as an independent force.
In the second place, the failure to be true to the decisions in resolutions of the seventh and eighth Party congresses - our perspective on insurrection and its relation to negotiations in the struggle for the seizure of state power. This dialectical relationship has been completely under-mined so that negotiations have become an end in themselves.
In the third place, the failure of our Party to criticise and contest with the ANC in public ([ do not know if it happens behind closed doors). For instance, Mandela has made a number of statements which negate the national democratic revolution and socialist project, for instance that he and De Klerk "will save the South African economy". He has said that the Party is a tiny minority and that the ANC will terminate the alliance after elections. All of these might have been individual positions of Mandela, but they do have a bearingon the alliance, given his strategic portfolio. Why didn't the Party put its collective position to counter these anti-communist positions?
Finally and more importantly, the high dishonesty and lies which our leadership is guilty of. This has reached a disgusting proportion. To me the question of honesty is not negotiable, it is what makes a communist. It's a basic communist ethic and in this regard I think that our leadership has degenerated into a petty bourgeoisie aspiring to get into a bourgeois parliament at all cost. For instance, it has become increasingly clear that the leadership sees negotiations as the only terrain of struggle. So why not put this view openly and frankly, to be debated democratically? After the Bisho massacre what did we do to displace or permanently remove Gqozo? What happened to rolling mass action which was supposed to continue until we achieve national liberation? What happened to armed struggle (this is a critical component to successful insurrection)? What happened when comrades in Natal were caught by the SAP with arms caches? They did not even give a revolutionary perspective on the civil war in Natal. What has happened to the DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT? What have we learned from the fall of Allende in Chile, and the Paris Commune with regard to counter revolution?
Le Duan, Dmitrov, Trotsky and Lenin wrote extensively on the independence of the Party in the context of alliances and United Front politics.
Our eighth Party congress elaborated and reaffirmed the Marxist Leninist conception on the independence of the Party, i.e. a mass based, working class, critical and independent Party. Is the practice consistent with this? No, the Party is simply tailing the ANC. The Party is a sub-committee of the ANC's NEC/NWC.
To me, the last CC report was an occasion, not a cause for my resignation. It was so liberal, so moral, so completely devoid of class analysis and working class perspectives. In essence, it was insulting. This report to me represented a pattern which has evolved since our unbanning - i.e. a gradual but definite process of moving away from the revolutionary proletarian perspective. The report also reflected that the Party leader-ship does not want to "harm" the apartheid economy. For instance, it talks about being sensitive to working class interests when we embark on stay-aways, and that workers are reluctant to engage in those activities. To me this is a blue lie. When Chris Hani died our workers went out in their thousands to the streets without being called to stay away. Even on the day of the funeral, as far as I know, there was no definite call for a stay-away. There was talk about a few hours stoppage, but despite that our masses stayed away.
Anyway, how do you hope to win a pro-working class settlement, without organising and calling the workers onto the streets? Crippling the apartheid economy and making the apartheid structures unworkable is the only way. Any other approachis REFORMISM. The CC report calls our people "demagogues" (endnote 1). This is repulsive and an unforgivable strategic error. Implicit in this statement is a direct attack on Harry Gwala, Winnie Mandela, Blade Nzimande and other militant sections of the popular classes. These "demagogues" are more in touch with the masses than the national leadership like Slovo who is a mere negotiator owning a Mercedes with a chauffeur (endnote 2).
In the night vigil (at Hani's funeral) all the regions were calling for revolutionary mass action/war, with the exception of one or two regions. The leadership is out of touch with these sentiments. Who are they rep-resenting? How can national ignore regions? Chris Hanes funeral was supposed to be a COMMUNIST occasion, which is not to negate the NDR, but it is precisely to reflect on its essence. NDR does not mean we must cease to be COMMUNISTS. It does not mean we must defend its multi-class nature at the expense of communism. It means that if the interests of the working class are at loggerheads with those of a powerful but small class in the NDR, we will opt for the former. This, to me, is consistent with the NDR.
This question is linked to forms of struggle. We may decide on certain forms of struggle for the sake of maintaining the "broadness", the multi-class nature of the NDR. But when we come to an insurrectionary situation those strata will inevitably be alienated. This is a basic law of every revolution. When the masses of our working people seize the moment, they will have nothing to lose from the status quo.
Given the nature of the ANC now, it will never support the insurrectionary approach. Is this sufficient reason why we should not pursue it? The ANC will not support it because of forces dominating it, but the SACP should pursue it because it is the path to power. Chris Flani's funeral was an occasion to prepare for insurrection, but our leadership failed. The demand for arms is not an emotional response, but a political response to low intensity warfare. It also shows the readiness to fight on the part of the masses.
I will not be a member of theCommunist Party that sees negotiations as the only option. I will not be a member of the Communist Party that fears a violent revolution/civil war. I won't be a member of the Communist Party that seeks to use the apartheid colonial state, that seeks to use the latter's institutions as an alternative to organs of people's power. Apartheid colonial institutions are a negation of working people's alternate structures.
For these reasons I render resignation.
Secretary Cape Town branch.
1. As the report in question has not been published we believe readers might value a quotation from the section referred to here:
"2.1.4 Demagogic interventions
As a result of the dual character of the mass mood [following Chris Hanes assassination] (massive ANC support but with an undercurrent of frustration) a number of forces were encouraged or tempted to make demagogic interventions into the situation.
In particular, a notable feature of Wednesday 14th [of April] demonstrations, marches and rallies, was the small, parasitic but systematic presence of PAC elements in a great number of our events. In a number of cases, this presence was able, demagogically, to strike a certain popular chord among our own mass constituency.
There were also some populist interventions from our own ranks, in part the product of frustration with the initial leadership reactions noted above.
We need to assess the implications and motivations of these different demagogic interventions, and assess what measures we need to take to avoid a recurrence. But three general points need to be made:
i. these interventions all failed to articulate a coherent alternative strategy to the one collectively offered by the ANC-led alliance, they failed to advance our struggle one inch;
ii. they played directly.'into the hands of the political rescue mission for De Klerk that is currently underway [the attempt to locate De Klerk in the middle-ground between an extremist right-wing and an extremist 'left'];
iii. they gave the ultra-right [with slogans like "One settler, one bullet", or "Kill the farmer, kill the boer"] a perfect platform on which to mobilise and on which to occupy moral high ground.
But the chord struck by such interventions does underline that collectively the tripartite leadership needs (without being populist) to be more in touch with the aspirations and feelings of our mass constituency."
2. For the record, the party chairperson owns a VW Jetta and the "chauffeur" and his associates are MK bodyguards imposed under strict orders from the SACP and ANC on a reluctant Slovo