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The role of the SACP's relationship with its ally, the ANC, has changed completely from what it used to be under Chris Hani and Joe Slovo.
The party has moved from being a theoretical guide to the ANC, to being its watchdog. This has placed the organisations on a collision course on many occasions.
The watchdog approach sounds good to the ear and to populist supporters, but it places the SACP as an opposition to the ANC, a role that should be played by Helen Zille's DA, Bantu Holomisa's UDM, Mangosuthu Buthelezi's IFP and other opposition parties.
In its fight to achieve working- class domination in South Africa, the SACP has always targeted certain policies of the ANC that it believes work against this objective. This has been seen by the ruling party, especially Thabo Mbeki, as imposing socialism on the ANC.
Every time Blade Nzimande, SACP secretary-general, opens his mouth about the ANC, it is to criticise its policies - Growth, economic and redistribution (Gear) and Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBEE) - among others.
While Nzimande's argument that Gear and BBEE have benefited a few individuals is valid, the SACP is not seen as displaying vigour at appropriate junctions - at ANC national conferences where resolutions are taken.
For instance, the BBEE resolution was passed and explained at the ANC's 51st national conference in Stellenbosch in 2002. But at no time did the SACP leadership raise its opposition or record its objection.
While Jacob Zuma, the ANC deputy president, would not agree with this interpretation, his statement at the SACP's 12th national congress in Port Elizabeth recently clarified the original role of the SACP.
Zuma said: "Though the party is small in number, it is big in consciousness and clarity. The task of this mighty organisation is to continue to be a sharp instrument of the poor in this country. The party should always provide a scientific analysis of things."
Without doubt Zuma was, wittingly or unwittingly, referring to the SACP that was led by Slovo, Hani, Moses Mabhida, Moses Kotane and others. Under those leaders, the SACP did not fight the ANC or demand proletariat hegemony from it. It provided clear theoretical guidance to help it chart its way forward.
One good example was Slovo's Sunset Clause. It was this clause that brought the breakthrough at the Kempton Park talks and the subsequent demise of the National Party (NP).
While the compromise shocked everyone inside and outside the negotiations, at the time it helped to usher in the transitional power-sharing government that saw apartheid-era civil servants being retained under a democratic ANC government.
The government of national unity accommodated the NP, which subsequently opted out of it only to disintegrate later with many of its senior leaders, including Marthinus van Schalkwyk, joining the ANC.
The question that one needs to ask at this point is whether this "scientific analysis" that Zuma is talking about still exists under Nzimande's leadership? The answer should be a solid no because the direction that the SACP has taken seems to be about the question of power.
The current SACP is taking a short cut to socialism by trying to grab as much power as possible from the ANC.
This is not the kind of deep theoretical approach or scientific analysis that had helped to guide the ANC since it formed an alliance with the SACP. But the ANC as the government, needs this guidance now more than ever before.
There are sensible issues, however, that the party raised at its congress recently about the re-nationalisation of certain former parastatals such as Sasol and Mittal, formerly Iscor.
Under Hani and his predecessors, members of the ANC made no distinction between the ANC and the SACP, and both organisations were regarded as one.
It was during the Hani-Slovo era that dual membership grew. But as the gap between the party and the ANC continues to widen because of the tensions between them, this dualism is slowly dying. There are many ANC members who are not keen to carry a SACP membership card and vice versa.
Under Nzimande, the SACP is following a strong leftist line, but it would be unfair to describe it as ultra-leftism at this point in time, as Mbeki did at the ANC's 51st conference in 2002.
It will be worth watching if the communists within the alliance movement will be firmer, at the next ANC national conference in December, in demanding better conditions for the working class or whether they will keep quiet as they did at the Stellenbosch conference.
But if the sentiments expressed in Port Elizabeth were anything to go by, such as the decision to make the SACP members in Mbeki's cabinet resign if they are forced to implement anti-working class policies, then the party will be a very different one in Limpopo in December.
Steven Friedman, research associate at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa), says the attitude of the SACP has more to do with its intention to change the way the alliance operated under the ANC leadership. His view is that the party wants to steer the ANC into a socialist direction.
"In effect, the fact that Nzimande puts a lot of effort into supporting Zuma for the ANC presidency, is about pushing the ANC towards socialism.
"Zuma is neither an SACP member nor has he endorsed socialism. This is an attempt to influence the way the alliance operates," said Friedman.
Friedman said that under Hani and leaders before him, there was no democracy in the ANC and the party's sole task was to help the ANC to fight the struggle for nationalism, rather than socialism.
Now the tactic has changed to focus on changing the ANC.