“Formally the Institute arose out of the resolutions of respective congresses of the SACP and COSATU. It is born out of the need to maximize the voice of the working class in this highly contested transition period and to profile socialist alternatives. These alternatives will take a unique form in that they will not be developed simply out of a critique of the present period but will form what the Institute sees as the building blocks of a socialist society.
The CHI is born out of the need to challenge the hegemony of capitalist ideas in our society. While there is a plethora of perspectives, expert analysis, and institutions very few do so from a working class perspective. Fewer still do so from a consistent Marxist perspective or promote the use of this methodology of social enquiry.
Ultimately, the aim is to build an institute that can serve as a progressive left think tank to conduct political education, research and to promote working class ideas. Furthermore it will promote working class culture and history both past and present. The Institute must serve as a conduit for left ideas and a network for activists, academics and other progressive minded individuals/movements to share ideas and knowledge. Through its education and research programmes it must contest established curricula and serve as an alternative education system that critically engages the formal education system.
The Institute exist to complement existing programmes and other working class instates rather than deduct/compete with them. It will collaborate with SACP and COSATU Departments and other working class institutes.
The agenda of the Institute will be informed not just my local developments specific to South Africa. The programmes and activities will include analysis and investigation into development in Southern African, the African Continent and Internationally to the extent that the issues impact on the working class and the poor.
However, it also has a unique role that is distinct from the programmes of departments of the SACP and COSATU on the one hand; and other working class institutes. The CHI’s unique contribution is to target a broader audience than currently reached by COSATU and SACP programmes. Secondly, its programmes will seek to understand the working class longer term strategic challenges, while informed by ongoing struggles. For that reason, the CHI offers a strategic retreat to reflect on how ongoing struggles build the momentum and capacity for socialism. Third, the CHI intends to offer higher level training and political education than is typically offered by COSATU and SACP in the current moment.
It’s envisaged that the Institute initially commission out work while gradually building its internal capacity. In the medium term, the Institute would build adequate capacity to run most of its programmes in-house.
The aims and vision of the Institute are:
- To support working class struggles through contesting public discourse; research; education and capacity building.
- Analyse and influence South Africa’s transition in the interest of the working class as part of laying the basis for the transition to socialism.
- Serve as a network for collating and disseminating progressive ideas and to that end organise seminars and other such activities.
- Contribute to the deepening of working class consciousness through public forums, education programme and research and other mechanisms.
- Develop working class organic intellectuals through capacity building programmes; education and research.
These broad aims translate into four strategic outcomes for which the CHI would be measured against, namely:
- Contesting public space, discourse and debate from a rigorous working class perspective.
- Create and enrich space for revolutionaries, working class and popular progressive forces to engage in critical reflection and to envision possibilities for realistic alternatives and change thereby contributing to the generation of debate, exploration, reflection on a popularisation of pro working class alternatives and change. This will also specifically aim to revive and encourage the culture of rigorous Marxist debate.
- Conduct and provide ideological and political training and cadreship development primarily through (formal and experiential) education programmes in order to develop a layer of organics working class activist intellectuals grounded in working class theory and practice.
- To interpret and celebrate popular history. To demonstrate how key individuals, specific struggles and heroic events of the working class made a mark in history. For new generations to understand how this history was formative in shaping our struggle to transform society.
The following section elaborates the strategic tasks and programme of the Institute and the programme of the institute. It must be borne in mind that this is a broad strategic framework, around which annual plans would be anchored.