A Revolution Betrayed, Or A Revolution Saved

“At the centre of the battle for power lies a deeper idea: the idea of entitlement and monopoly over the space,” according to a student leader.

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By Letlhogonolo Modisane Maimane (6 mins read)

On the 4th of August 1936 before the ‘terrorist’ conspiracy trial of Moscow was announced, comrade Leon Trotsky published a book titled THE REVOLUTION BETRAYED: What is the Soviet Union and where is it Going? The book served a multipurpose role in defining the character of the revolution after the reign of Lenin and then the rise of Joseph Stalin.

Comrade Leon Trotsky was the most misunderstood communist and this led to many of his writings being disregarded from communist literature. Chief, amongst other purposes of the book, was to define the character of capital and its diabolical tendencies, which are primarily centred around the exploitation of the working class.

The book beautifully narrates the impact of the New Economic Policy and the zigzags of leadership. As a template to my analysis, this text serves to also to define the character of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) in the current phase of our struggle towards the liberation of the poor and working class.

This perspective is focused on institutions of higher learning as they are the knowledge production centres of society. Post the rapture of the ideological mischief called the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) rose a new creature in the spaces of higher learning called the EFF Student Command (EFFSC), which is the student wing of the EFF.

EFFSC rise meant the spaces that were previously dominated by the PYA through the South African Student Congress (SASCO) were bound to be highly contested. The student wing of the EFF brought a fallacious and populist narrative, which claim that they are the only ones with the legitimacy of leading the student populace.

The fallacy unfortunately materialised and this saw many institutions of higher learning having either shared seats with the EFFSC, or it winning elections by majority. This questioned the legitimacy of the hegemon SASCO and its alliance partners: African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA).

Another question, which shies away from focusing on the rapture of the EFFSC, is that, “Has the organisation (SASCO) defined its character in the current phase of the struggle or is it an ideological Vasco Da Gama?” “Might this be the cause of the decline in popularity?” If this is so, “Then what roles do the alliance partners have?”

Pre the 2015 ANCYL 25th National Conference, which adopted as part of its resolutions that the ANCYL should not contest SRC elections, the organisation had taken it upon itself to contest space that has been left open by SASCO.

“Was this a sustainable remedy?” No, it was not. This was a temporary solution to a permanent problem. However, I would like to argue that there was a solution irrespective, and it was correct and justifiable according to the material conditions of that particular institution.

Therefore, the question becomes, “Does such conduct warrant betraying a revolution or saving it?” If then it is betraying, “What informs this betrayal?” and if it is indeed saving a revolution, “What informs the saviour character?” The answers are found in two folds.

Firstly, the idea that SASCO has the inherent role to contest elections is flawed and secondly, the PYA components (SASCO, YCLSA and ANCYL) owe each other no moral or legal obligation not to contest space.

The only underlying principles were instilled through the National Democratic Revolution that primarily evolve around the mobilisation of all motive forces in society towards building a National Democratic Society. This then de facto characterised SASCO as a leader of the PYA in spaces of higher education; the ANCYL having the character of being mass based and the YCLSA being the ideological harbour of the PYA.

However, this was not cast in stone and should never be read like that. In the case where one of the components are limping, there is an obligation for one of the components to contest that space and close the ranks before agent provocateurs emerge. How does this warrant to betraying the revolution?

At the centre of the battle for power lies a deeper idea: the idea of entitlement and monopoly over the space. The zigzag of leadership that Leon Trotsky spoke about is thus reflective in this case. In any case, without there being a centre, there can never be any stability.

In institutions of higher learning, the PYA through SASCO has lost character. In an article written by a fellow comrade in the year 2010, an assertion was made by the leader that SASCO has become a careerist platform and that the ANCYL has followed suit. Therefore, it is only the YCLSA that has the capacity and legitimacy to lead.

In the year 2017, all universities excluding the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in the Gauteng Province were either shared with other parties or SASCO or the PYA completely lost. The PYA at UJ’s Auckland Park Kingsway Campus (APK) had to forge unity and confront the wedge driver. At the centre of this was the YCLSA. Through its ideological and scientific understanding, the YCLSA was able to steer the PYA towards a collectively achieved unity.

This unity, however, did not last as I had hoped. It collapsed like a building under a dynamite. Instead of reconfiguring, the YCLSA lost character too. This was through the introduction of a pseudo feminist outlook that excluded a Marxist-Leninist perspective, which correctly defines the character of the enemy. This then led to the YCLSA being unable to ideologically guide the political perspective of the PYA.

In the absence of a politically viable YCLSA emerged a different breed of leadership. A leadership that has excitement as a primary characteristic and misunderstanding as a secondary characteristic.

The excited bunch found solace in each other’s company and this created a pseudo mafia thinking. A leadership with no understanding of the revolutionary theory. A question is then asked, in such times, “What do we do?” “Do we sit back and look as if the abnormal is normal?” or “Do we save the revolution?”

In his writings when unpacking the dogmatic approach of the bourgeoise, Vladimir Lenin asked a question: “What is to be done?”

A leadership that has no idea of the collectivisation methods of power has the character of capital. In that, all it wants to achieve is to amass – the mind of a rat.

When the SACP in Mpumalanga and Free State took the decision to contest state power, the decision was rational and scientific. When an ideological relationship moves from science towards superstition, there is no other alternative but to contest space. TOJ

Youth for socialism and as for the school of Socialism for the Radical Tourists, our response is:

We shall not enter into a polemic with the productions of this school, since they offer no serious grounds for polemic” – Leon Trotsky, 4 August 1936.

The Double Ninth

Man ages all too easily, not Nature:

Year by year the Double Ninth returns.

On this Double Ninth,

The yellow blooms on the battlefield smell sweeter.

Each year the autumn wind blows fierce,

Unlike spring’s splendour,

Yet surpassing spring’s splendour,

See the endless expanse of frosty sky and water

To the tune of Tsai Sang Tzu – October 1929

Chairman Mao Zedong

20 August 2018

Writing by Letlhogonolo Modisane Maimane; Editing by Gaby Ndongo.

Feature image: Student leader Letlhogonolo Modisane Maimane.

Photo obtained from Letlhogonolo Modisane Maimane official Twitter account.

Letlhogonolo Modisane Maimane is a former Chairperson of the Student Representative Council of the University of Johannesburg’s Auckland Park Kingsway Campus and writes in his own personal capacity.

The views expressed in this article are not of The Open Journal.

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