By: Justice Piitso
Open letter to Comrade Andile Lungisa by Ambassador Phatse Justice Piitso
Dear Comrade Andile Lungisa,
It is now few weeks since that fateful day of your courageous walk through the narrow corridors behind the high prison walls to serve your sentence. Today we count you to be amongst those who have traversed the same path many of our heroes and heroines had to endure throughout the history of the struggle of our people.
I attentively listened to your painful story as you related the agony of the day during which the incident took place, the friendly and cordial relationship between yourself and the alleged victim, between your two families and more importantly confirming that there is no antagonism between the two of you. The most important question we have to answer is who has then taken you to jail?
The most painful episode was when few days just before the announcement of the appeal outcome, some from the ranks of our own movement joined the chorus with the enemy of our national democratic revolution, calling for your incarceration. This was a foreign tendency contrary to the revolutionary principles which says we must support whatever the enemy opposes, and oppose whatever the enemy supports.
What they do not appreciate is that a revolution by its nature and character is bloody and knows no angels of morality. A revolution is the passage of power from one class to the other.
In the context of the South African situation, it is about the transfer of power from the hands of the white minority to the black majority, and the Africans in particular. It is about the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the people of our country.
Over the long years of the history of the struggle of our people, colonial masters concentrated the fortunes of our economy into the hands of the white minority community, especially a few white men, who today absolutely control our entire economy, the land, air and the waters of our democratic republic.
When the court granted you bail, you did not dash from the prison walls, confirming the myth from your detractors that you were running away from your own sins, but instead, demonstrated your high level political integrity and political character, taking a difficult but most conscious decision of remaining, as a testimony to your commitment, to have time to add flames to your revolutionary soul.
I am writing you this open letter much more confident that you are indeed a political Commissar, who through intense political tutelage, has demonstrated his understanding of the most complex question of the law of the theory of cause and effect. Indeed you master the fundamental theory that a revolution by its nature and character is bloody and knows no angels of morality.
Your comprehension of how the objective factors correlate with the subjective factors during any revolutionary moment, is what will make those prison walls not to be able to separate your struggle and our struggle. The fundamental essence is that your freedom is our freedom.
You are today following the same heroic path the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates traversed, when after being condemned to death by the medieval Athenian state, and when his execution was delayed for 30 days due the religious festival going on at the time, rebuked attempts to escape from prison, citing the following words:
“I would rather die having spoken in my manner, than speak in your manner and live. For neither in war nor yet in law ought any man use every way of escaping death. For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death, if a man is willing to say or do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs deeper than death.”
This is what defined the character of the genius revolutionary philosopher to his last day, when the executioner handed him a cup of the brewed hemlock to drink, walking around until his legs grew numb, until the poison reached his heart, and ultimately, his soul departing the land of the living. The most encouraging is that philosopher Socrates, appeared both happy in manner and words, as he died nobly and without fear, in the face of his executioner.
Our conversation few days before your unjust incarceration was about the question of morality which has now become to dominate the centre stage of our socio-economic and political arena. We agreed that from the theoretical point of view, what is moral and immoral in the present contemporary world of capitalism is a fiercely contested ideological battle.
The definition of what is moral and immoral has become a common vocabulary of the ruling class in our society. I am sure you agree with me that by the ruling class, we do not refer to the public representatives such as councillors, mayors, premiers, members of parliament, ministers or Presidents, but those who own the means of production.
What the rampant bourgeoisie is not aware of is that morality is not just an amorphous concept far beyond the comprehension of society. It is a scientific revolutionary concept which is about the socio-economic power relations of society in a given historical period of its development.
The question we need to ask is whether the morality of the bourgeoisie is the same as the morality of the working class. Whether the morality of the few who control the productive forces is the same as the morality of the majority, the working class and the poor.
Morality has a class character, it is either the morality of the bourgeoisie or the morality of the working class. Similar to democracy having a class character, either been democracy of the bourgeoisie or democracy of the working class.
In his seminal work dedicated to his son who was murdered while he was in exile in Mexico, the polemics titled, Their Morality and Ours, Leon Trotsky accentuates the nature of morality and its rightful place in human society in the following way:
“During an epoch of triumphant reaction, Messrs, Democrats, social-Democrats, anarchists, and other representatives of the left camp begin to exude their usual amount of moral effluvia, similar to persons who perspire double in fear.
Paraphrasing the Ten Commandments or the sermon on the Mount, these moralists address themselves no so much to triumphant reaction as to those revolutionaries suffering under its persecution, who with their excesses and moral principles provoke reaction and give it moral justification.
Moreover, they prescribe a simple but certain means of avoiding reaction: it is necessary only to strive and morally to regenerate oneself. Free samples of moral perfection for those desirous are furnished by all the interested editorial offices.
The class basis of this false and pompous sermon is the intellectual petty bourgeoisie. The political basis, their impotence and confusion in the face of approaching reaction. Psychological basis, their effort at overcoming the feeling of their own inferiority through masquerading in the beard of a prophet”.
His argument is that morality is relative to each society, to each epoch, and above all relative to the interests of the ruling class. He says in its correct context morality must represent the interest of the working class and the whole of humanity.
The institutions of the world of capitalism present morality as a universal and unchanging concept to serve the needs of the ruling class. The new aristocracy of the 21st century is using morality as a weapon against the struggle of the masses of our people.
The new aristocracy of our modern day era is manipulating the concept of morality to sway public opinion, public perception, and using it as a standard bearer that rise above specific material conditions. One of the common path is to repulse revolutionary politics in favour of morality.
The question is what is this caricature called morality? why is the bourgeoisie using it selectively to protect its own interests against the wishes and the aspirations of the majority of our people?
For over three centuries, the racist colonial settlers stole the land of the majority of our people in the name of morality and even today they are still using the same tactic to obscure the struggle of our people for radical socio-economic transformation. For the interest of the white monopoly, what is moral is when the status quo is maintained and for them what is immoral is when the majority of our people want to become part of the ownership of the economy.
We stand astonished by this heavy abnormality in our face, of only accusing black people as the most corrupt, whilst almost over eighty percent of the wealth of our country is in the hands of few white people. What is it that they steal when almost all the sectors of our economy are in the hands of few white males?
Are the black people stealing their mines, banks, farms and property estate? Why are the black people the only ones subjected to the standard barometer of morality, and in whose interests is that morality?
In the recent period of the outcry about the misuse of the COVID 19 funds, the total expenditure from the nine of our provincial governments was almost less than three billion rands combined, even today, no-one ever told our people, as to where the five hundred billion rands of the relief fund went to. I am told that almost eighty percent of the contracts were awarded to companies owned by white people.
If we are true to the cause of the struggle for the emancipation of our people, we must with the same vigor and vigilance, seek for openness and accountability, to know the names of these companies who benefited from the bulk of the relief funds, how they were awarded, at which price, and how much profits they have accumulated. It can not be true that corruption is only black!
I am deeply worried about the growing arrogance of South African white monopoly capital. Similarly I am deeply worried about the determination of the enemy of our revolution to destroy the ANC, and its leadership.
Recently we witnessed some of the parachutes of morality, paraphrasing the ten Commandments before the altar, masquerading in the beard of the prophet, declaring this year to be the year of yellow overalls. These calls were made with implacable insinuations of who must be arrested in the ANC, how to humiliate them, and make them guilty before the eyes of the people.
We have witnessed self-declared angels of morality, having joined the chorus, making major announcements, making this tale of morality the rhythm of our revolution, but what I can not tell, is whether their declarations are just part of the dress rehearsal, or the labyrinth melodies of the choirs at the main competition. What we are yet to see, is when they will still sing louder for all of us to hear.
In their declarations and pronouncements, the most dissheartening is their deafening silence, whilst those who have committed the heinous crimes against humanity are still perambulating the beautiful streets of our democratic republic. The sons and daughters of our revolution are being persecuted when the most unholy have become holier than you.
The renowned philosopher Frederick Engels wrote:
“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders, is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged.
From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in man’s brains, not in man’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes of the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch”.
Our struggle is about economic emancipation. We have to fight this battle, and for the sake of justice for our people we must triumph.
I know that you will wither the storms of your unjust incarceration. You will emerge from the prison walls more triumphant and victorious.
Nothing will stop the battle cries for our political freedom and economic emancipation. We shall achieve our struggle for radical economic transformation during our lifetime.
In revolutionary spirit we are with you there behind the prison walls my dear comrade. You are us, and we are you.
*Ambassador Phatse Justice Piitso is the Chief of staff in the office of the Secretary
General of the African National Congress. Writing this article in his personal capacity.