As the ‘Dilemmas of Humanity: Pan African Dialogues to Build Socialism’ conference kicks off in South Africa, peoples’ movements and organizations have convened to discuss concrete strategies for a united struggle against the violence of capitalism and imperialism
“What is the path that we are going to chart towards socialism?” This is the question that animated the first day of the ‘Dilemmas of Humanity: Pan African Dialogues to Build Socialism’ conference, which is being held in South Africa between July 17 to 20.
The conference has been divided into commissions, each with a mandate to deliberate upon a particular theme and draft a concrete plan of action which will be adopted in the form of a resolution on the final day. The commissions on July 17 addressed the themes of food sovereignty and agroecology, gender struggles against patriarchy, and urban struggles for housing.
Bringing together nearly 40 progressive peoples’ movements and organizations from across Africa, the four-day event is underpinned by a consensus — “that capitalism has no solutions for the problems that confront humanity.”
Not only is capitalism fundamentally incapable of addressing the crises that confronts the majority of the world today, it has become increasingly violent as its failures have become clear. In this context, that the conference is being held in South Africa provides evidence of this.
Addressing the opening ceremony on July 17, the president and founding member of South Africa’s socialist militant shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, S’bu Zikode, said, “We did not know that when we insist on our humanity, we would find ourselves at war. A war that is fought with live bullets, rubber bullets, tear gas, courts, prisons, lies, and slander.”
“We know that we were made poor, so others can be made rich. We know we are kept poor, so others can remain rich…There can be no justice until capitalism is removed from the Earth, and land, wealth, and power are fairly shared. For us, socialism, or what we have called living communism, must be built from below..”
Zikode further emphasized the need for movements to build their power and defend their gains, as even partial victories would invite attacks by those in power. A central part of this project is ensuring the autonomy and political direction of popular movements against attempts by certain NGOs, individuals, and academics to hijack their struggles.
“We have a responsibility of building stronger organizations that are independent, leaders that are accountable to their members, that is what makes a very strong movement.” Zikode told Peoples Dispatch. “Our humanity is non-negotiable, our autonomy and our right to decide for ourselves is non-negotiable,” he had declared during the conference.
Not only must movements defend their autonomy, “we must build movements of movements, and communes of communes, because for us socialism is a concept that speaks to the values of humanity. So it is important that we are not working in isolation from others.” Zikode added, warning that the forces of oppression were trying to divide the oppressed and the poor, wanting to turn one against the other so “we do not unite against oppression”.
The importance of unity was also emphasized by Irvin Jim, the General Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), “We are here to say, separated by rivers, by forests, we are for another world. A world free of oppression, a world free of exploitation. We are for a world that advances humanity rather than greed.”
“We do not want a loaf of bread, we want the entire bakery for the working class!”
The task then, Jim added, is to put together a revolutionary agenda and mobilize the working class around it. The need to articulate revolutionary objectives was also reaffirmed by Kwesi Pratt Junior, the General Secretary of the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), during his keynote address to the delegates.
This includes a rejection of the attempt by imperialist forces to draw countries on the African continent into a conflict as they scramble to maintain their hegemony. “We will not fight on the side of Britain…of Germany…of France…and we will never fight on the side of the United States.”
“We will no longer fight the war for them, we will fight our own battles. Our battles are for food, for expanding access to education, improving people’s access to quality health, to shake imperialism off our backs, and to unite with the rest of the world suffering imperialist oppression.”
Pratt added, “Our struggle is an international struggle. Our struggle is about making the world a better place, our struggle is about linking with all other struggles to deliver a final, definite blow to imperialism and I know we will succeed, we have no option but to succeed.”
“We will build socialism in Africa, we will build socialism in the world. Socialism will conquer capitalism because it is the only system that can deliver justice- economic…social…political justice.”