By Mono Badela
With the South African Communist Party's 70th anniversary just three months away, the party is building structures throughout the country — in the factories, in the mines, in townships and even [middle class] urban centres such as Hillbrow.
Particularly strong branches, district committees and zones are already operating in the Port Elizabeth area, King William's Town and the mining compounds of the Free State and western Transvaal.
The SACP hopes to top the 1000-member mark in Eastern Cape Province by the end of May. Presently SACP's Border region has 700 paid-up members, while the Eastern Cape region, which includes branches in rural towns like Craddock, Somerset East, Bedford, Grahamstown and Uitenhage, has about 600 members.
When the party was relaunched on July 29 last year at a rally of 50,000 supporters, 10,000 application forms for membership were handed out. Since then, 6000 more forms have been issued in the Transvaal alone, according to the party's spokesperson, Essop Pahad.
Jeremy Cronin, a full-time worker of the SACP, told South it was building a "legal party" and that it would not have a secret membership, as was suggested by the minister of constitutional development, Gerrit Viljoen, recently.
"At present the party is in a transitional phase. We have not as yet disclosed [all] our membership ... To suggest that the SACP is fundamentally a secret underground formation is simply rubbish."
Cronin lashed out at Viljoen, who also said the SACP was not committed to the negotiations process. "Again, this is utter rubbish. we have supported the process of 'talks about talks'. Senior party official Joe Slovo is always present whenever the ANC hold talks with the government."
Cronin said one of the goals of the party was to achieve a genuine national democratic transformation of South Africa. "That is our immediate goal, which we share with our allies, the ANC and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions). We make no secret about our medium-term goal, which is for a socialist transformation of South Africa."
Cronin was confident that the overwhelming majority of ANC members supported the perspectives of the SACP. "We are in alliance with the ANC and COSATU, but we are a separate and independent organisation. We feel that working-class interests need to be safeguarded as we go into the process of national democratic transformation."
On the issue of trade union leaders wearing "two caps" or holding important official positions in both the trade union movement and the SACP or the ANC, Pahad said: "We do not see a conflict of interest here. It is our view that both the ANC and the SACP will be the poorer if leading trade union leaders are not part and parcel of the two bodies. "The party needs to have at its highest policy-making structure trade unionists and shop stewards. Being a party representing the working class, it needs these people."
[Abridged from the South African weekly South.]