Lessons from Cuba for our youth
South Africa President Jacob Zuma
12 December 2010
CLOSING ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, COMRADE JACOB ZUMA, AT THE 3RD YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE NATIONAL CONGRESS, UNIVERSITY OF THE NORTH WEST, MAFIKENG
General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Comrade Blade Nzimande;
National Chairperson of Young Communist League,
National Secretary of the Young Communist League, Comrade Buti Manamela
Comrades delegates and invited guests
I am truly honoured to be part of the closing ceremony of the Young Communist League's 3rd National Congress, given the importance of this organization in shaping the political thought of our youth.
This is really Red December in South Africa because of the many socialist and working class orientated meetings that have taken place since the beginning of this month.
These include the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of COSATU, the 12th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers Parties, this 3rd Young Communist League National Congress, the 17th World Festival of Youth beginning tomorrow.
In addition, we have also just returned from Socialist Cuba. We all came back from the State Visit inspired by what that country has achieved with very little resources and facing enormous challenges. This is a country that we share bonds of solidarity with, which were forged during the struggle against apartheid and colonialism.
There are many lessons from Cuba that we want to share especially with our youth. Our relations with Cuba were cemented by the blood of heroic Cuban soldiers who died in combat in Africa, especially in Angola, who paid the supreme sacrifice for their belief in freedom, justice and anti-imperialism.
Many of you would have heard about the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the heroic and selfless deeds of Cuban soldiers during that campaign. These were the heroes who made Fidel Castro to comment at the end of that battle that the history of Africa will be divided into before and after Cuito Cuanavale.
This was the very same battle that upon his release and first visit to Havana in Cuba, President Nelson Mandela asserted that: "Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point for the liberation of our continent - and of my people - from the scourge of apartheid".
I am mentioning this because I am among young communists. I am also raising this because of my recognition of the role you play as young communists in the campaign for the release of the Cuban Five and against the Cuban Blockade.
These are no small tasks as they help to further cement and strengthen the relations we have with the Cuban people and also show our spirit of international solidarity.
Indeed, we have a lot to learn from Cuba. This is just a small, poor island that has been facing an economic blockade for over 50 years now. However, the amount of work that it does at an international level is outstanding. Its contribution to the education and health spheres in the world is phenomenal. Cuba is a major producer of doctors and other health care professionals.
Of significance is the fact that Cuba does not just produce doctors but also provides training of young people as medical professionals for our country and other parts of Africa.
They generously train eighty doctors a year from South Africa each year, and there is no other country that has done that for us - it is only Cuba, small as it is and as poor as it is. I committed myself during the state visit to Cuba that I will share with our youth our special relationship with Cuba and the lessons and opportunities that this provides.
One of the major lessons we must glean from Cuba is the depth of their internationalism and patriotism, and how they successfully balanced these two to produce good citizens for their country and the world. The Cuban value system is based on patriotism, national pride and a very deep sense of national history, culture and is based on an ethic of hard work.
As Young Communist League members you must engage with these issues and devise ways and means of how you can instill the same kind of values, and a deep sense of patriotism in our country. Most importantly for us, is the emphasis on education and skills development in Cuba.
The lessons we have learnt in Cuba confirm the correctness of our policy positions in making education and health some of our key priorities as government, the ruling party and the ruling alliance. Despite its many challenges, Cuba has developed an education system that produces scarce skills and even a surplus. That is why it can export doctors, engineers and other technical experts to us and other countries.
We are inspired to work harder to accelerate our programme of ensuring that we eradicate illiteracy rate amongst our people. We have to accelerate our programmes of improving access to quality education, especially tertiary education and Further Education and Training colleges in our country. Fortunately we are already seized with this matter within government. These will empower our youth with technical skills that are required by our economy.
As you end this congress, let us agree that education is the fundamental liberatory tool that this country needs. As young communists, we urge you to work at promoting education to our young people at all levels.
Many countries that were affected by poverty and underdevelopment have moved out of their position of poverty by heavily investing in education. There is no greater liberator than education. When you take a poor yet academically gifted child from Soweto and put him or her through tertiary education, you liberate that child and his or her family and automatically break the chain of poverty.
Another message we wish to leave with you is that we need to break the chain of entitlement and start a culture of people doing things for themselves, with the support of government and the mass democratic movement. This means that our people, starting with the youth, should be at the forefront of development and change.
We have a situation where people expect everything to be done for them by government while they are spectators and are standing aside when they must effect change.
We must instill among our people especially the youth a new culture and the spirit of going out to find opportunities. They must advise government on how it can help them achieve their goals, having identified the goals and possible tools to achieve them. We trust that the YCL can help us turn our youth into agents of change and into constructive, patriotic behaviour.
I believe that the words that were uttered by the stalwart of our struggle Comrade Moses Kotane in 1968 are still relevant even today when he said:
"At this hour of destiny your country and your people need you. The future of South Africa is yours and it will be what you make of it. On the other hand, a people, a country, a Movement that does not value its youth does not deserve its future".
He was talking about the new patriotism that our young people should have. He was talking about youth that is known for ideas and hard work.
I am quoting Moses Kotane to remind you that you come from a revolutionary party that has produced such highly capable and exemplary leaders which include J.B. Marks, Moses Mabhida, Joe Slovo, Govan Mbeki, Harry Gwala, Raymond Mhlaba, Chris Hani and a host of others.
They left our country with a rich and unsurpassed legacy. You must also be proud of being associated with the South Africa Communist Party which has always had clarity of vision and ideas over the years.
As you end this Congress, I trust that you were able to deal with all the critical issues relating to the role of the YCL.
Firstly, in order to answer these questions you need to have tools.
You need to have a clear understanding of dialectical and historical materialism. You need to be armed with a theory of the working class Marxism Leninism. You need to understand this theory as a guide to action. I believe this is the point that Moses Kotane was making when he spoke about his education within the Party:
"It was at the Lenin School that I learnt how to think politically. They taught me the logical method of argument, political analysis. From that time onwards I was never at a loss when it came to summing up a situation.
"I knew what to look for and what had to be done from the point of view of the working class."
The Communist Party school imparted to him the skills and knowledge of how to analyse society.
This means that the Young Communist League must be part of the revival of a culture where political education is at the centre of our political organisational work, where political debate is encouraged and thrives.
Give yourselves the task of mainstreaming political education within YCL. It is the lifeblood of any revolutionary organization. The central task of the YCL should be that of learning all that you must know about the development of societies. You must be armed with the revolutionary theory that enables you to do that. Remember that as the Young Communist League you are the products and inheritors of these revolutionary traditions.
You follow in the footsteps of giants who understood the meaning and importance of political education as a tool of social and political emancipation. Moses Kotane, Moses Mabhida, J.B. Marks, Joe Slovo and Chris Hani were products of such a school. They believed in teaching others so that they can stand on their own in the pursuit of struggle objectives. They believed in developing leadership amongst the rank and file of the Communist party.
Like the Youth League of the African National Congress, you are the preparatory school of the South Africa Communist Party. Within you, we expect members of good standing who are guided by revolutionary morality and iron discipline. We expect members who do not only seek power but also knowledge, passion and a desire to solve the country's problems.
We expect a lot from you, because you come from a Party that produced Harry Gwala and Govan Mbeki who were the best teachers of our revolutionary traditions, long before going to prison.
They continued this tradition while imprisoned on Robben Island. Throughout these periods, they produced some of the best and finest communist cadres and revolutionaries.
They did so under extremely difficult conditions where they had no supporting literature to conduct political education and had to rely on memory and their long service to the movement in general and the South Africa Communist Party in particular. With all the resources and time available to you and the democratic dispensation on your side, you should help us to analyse the balance of forces in our country and globally in this period we are living in.
We are looking forward to seeing the resolutions of this congress and will be going through them with keen interest, to see how they will help us advance the goals of our revolution, as well as those of the revolutionary forces plus the progressive global movement. I am confident that this congress was equal to the task of identifying challenges that face the youth movement today as well as the solutions and corresponding programmes to implement these solutions.
I am confident also that you will emerge out of this congress as a stronger and a united Young Communist League that is ready to deal with the complex world we live in. You need to put any differences you may have had aside, and forge ahead with efforts to build unity.
We must move together as the Alliance to build a nation free from hunger, disease and poverty and a country in which there is security, jobs and comfort. That is what unites all of us - both communists and non-communists within the ANC-led alliance. We all seek the creation of a better life for all our people. These are the critical issues that our country and our government have committed themselves to, and these require that we work together as the Alliance.
In this process of work and life of the Alliance, communists must stand out in many different ways, in the manner in which they do things.
What distinguishes real communists from others - whether politicians, democrats, intellectuals, revolutionaries or freedom fighters?
Communists have always been distinguished by the following:
* They undertake a scientific analysis of any situation and always arrive at scientific conclusions or solutions and then produce scientific programmes of actions.
* They have a capacity to interpret the world differently from all others,
* They behave differently from others.
* They have iron discipline.
* They understand and appreciate unity differently from others.
* They are honest.
In our political classes, let us ask ourselves if we still have the same communists in this period, characterized by the above six characteristics that have stood the test of time. Are we still capable of producing the same communists?
These are matters that must urge us to work day in and day out to achieve what communists stand for. The youth formations must work with the mother bodies - the ANC and the SACP - to build this revolutionary morality and discipline.
Comrades, it is clear that work begins today, as you end the Congress. We have great expectations, but also know that you are all equal to the task.
We congratulate you on your third congress and also extend best wishes to the newly-elected leadership. Work begins today in earnest to improve the quality of life of all our people and to build Cuban-style patriotism and internationalism within our ranks.
Issued by the African National Congress, December 12 2010