South African shackdwellers movement statement on South African Communist Party

November 20, 2010

From the Nov.-Dec. 2010 issue of News & Letters:

South African activists slam Communist Party

Editor’s note: The self-organized communities in the Western Cape shackdwellers’ movement in South Africa have protested lack of services and housing through direct action, to be followed by a march on Parliament. The South African Communist Party (SACP), a part of the government along with the African National Congress and trade union federation COSATU, denounced blockading of roads as “totally reactionary and anarchist.” Abahlali baseMjondolo answered the SACP (full statement here):

As Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape, we have noted the statement by the SACP that declares that blockading public roads is “anarchistic and reactionary.” If road blockades are anarchistic and reactionary, then it is clear that anarchy and reaction are very popular in South Africa. Communities, organizations and movements across Cape Town and across South Africa have been blockading roads for years….Many of the road blockades in Cape Town in recent days are not organized by us. But our campaign does endorse the road blockade as a legitimate tactic….


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 communism 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 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?…

Clearly for the SACP, the real problem with Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape is not our tactics, but the fact that we are organizing 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….

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 it’s true right now in Calcutta. 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….


Any party or groupuscule 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….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 organizations must be respected and welcomed.

We know that many ordinary members of the SACP live the same challenges as we 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….

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 of our march but they will need to understand that we do not allow political parties to take over our protests….

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*Tenderpreneur (according to wikipedia) is a South African term used to describe a government official or politician who uses their powers and influence to secure government tenders and contracts. The Star, a South African newspaper describes a tenderpreneur as “someone politically well-connected who has got rich through the government tendering system”.

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