Written: March 1990.
First Published: May 1992.
Source: Published by the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency.
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This piece was completed in March 1990 but at the time had only limited circulation in unpublished form. The aim was to provide a critique of the Harare Declaration and to set out a Marxist basis for the rejection of the negotiation path. Over the past two years political developments in South Africa have confirmed the validity of the main lines of the analysis. Especially in the light of the formation of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and the start of ‘real’ negotiation, we consider the publication both timely and relevant.
The sell-out anticipated at the time of the adoption of the Harare Declaration is today at an advanced stage. The document explains the trajectory of the ANC not on a moral basis but in class terms. It clearly reveals that history proceeds through class struggle – and the class struggle abhors a vacuum. As the petty-bourgeois ANC moved closer to the bourgeoisie, it took ever more obscene steps to demobilise its popular base. It has found it ever more impossible to bow to two gods – the bourgeoisie and the black working class. And so it has chosen to lie at the feet of the former while being ever more contemptuous of the latter.
As we anticipated, mass militancy and armed struggle have been the key victims of the course chosen by the ANC leadership. The petty-bourgeois radicalism of the ANC has evaporated into nothing. As the document explains, from about 1988 the bold rhetoric about the armed seizure of power was replaced by arguments for the ‘transfer of power’ at negotiation table; negotiations, in the new jargon peddled at the time of the Harare Declaration, was supposed to be ‘a site of struggle’. Now even these ideas have been junked in favour of ‘sharing power’ with the former oppressor and abandoning anything remotely resembling a struggle against the oppressors. The Pretoria Minute, the Groote Schuur Minute, the National Peace Accord, the call on De Klerk and the SADF / SAP to restore peace in the townships testify to how far the ANC has gone in joining the ruling class against the masses.
But developments on national terrain are not autonomous; indeed they are only a peculiar combination of powerful international forces. In the document we argued that the politics of Gorbachevism, supported by the ANC and SACP leadership, was the politics of capitulation to imperialism. Two years later ANC-SACP militants are reeling under the impact of the false perspectives of their leadership. The bourgeoisie again proved to have a far more realistic appreciation of things than the unstable and impressionable petty-bourgeois nationalist and Stalinist leaders. The confidence of the South African bourgeoisie today is an integral part of the confidence of imperialism in the wake of the collapse of Stalinism and the counter-revolutionary developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. De Klerk’s ‘glasnost’ was not a product of the pressure of the masses in the way that the ANC-SACP pretended at the time of the adoption of the Harare Declaration.
In the recent period, senior ANC leaders, showing complete contempt for the loyalty and ardour of the young militants who gave up their lives for the guerrilla struggle, proclaim that the armed struggle was the least important of the four ‘pillars’ of the struggle, and that the movement never had a chance of overthrowing the apartheid regime.
Even when the masses enthusiastically rallied under the banners of the ANC and SACP in the weeks after the unbanning of their organisations in February 1990 we boldly stated in the document that the ANC was ‘on a path of gross betrayal’. Today we are more like light years than two years away from that period. The Harare Declaration which we described as ‘a document of capitulation’ today sounds radical compared to what the ANC has indicated it is prepared to compromise on in CODESA.
In 1990 we said in the document that the ANC would ‘not even be consistent in terms of its own pre-conditions’. Pointing to the cynical MDM document which spoke about ‘ultimate’ (!) pre-conditions, we warned that the pre-conditions would be thoroughly compromised. Today, the ANC has expressed its readiness to accept detention without trial during the period of the Interim Government. Just as rotten is the complete abandonment of the call to ‘remove all troops from the townships’. Instead of leading a fight to defend the masses from state-inspired Inkatha attacks, the ANC has begged for the troops to return to the townships to put an end to the violence. Despite repeated exposures of De Klerk’s double game and complicity in the bloody attack on the masses, the ANC continues to play things according to the rules of the bourgeoisie. The ANC has also breached its own Harare Declaration by signing the National Peace Accord, which severely circumscribes political activity. Now it has also given its blessing to the use of the state of emergency to keep the masses in check.
We pointed out that the ANC leadership was completely lost in its own illusions about the bourgeoisie and its leading political representative, De Klerk. This arch-reactionary was labelled a ‘man of integrity’. We warned that there were clear signs that the tired and cowardly petty-bourgeoisie wanted ‘peace at all costs’ and ‘a rotten compromise’, and could not bear to consider ‘a fight to the end’. The Inkatha campaign of terror has driven the ANC leadership even more decisively into the camp of the bourgeoisie. It is obvious that it has crossed its Rubicon; there is no turning back.
In the document we speculated whether the ANC’s rhetoric to its membership about ‘out-manoeuvring’ the South African ruling class and having the upper hand was simply naivete or conscious deception. The formation of CODESA and the horse-trading since confirms that the latter has begun to dominate; they have become ‘willing partners in a sell-out’.
Our opposition to the De Klerk regime being an active party to decision-making was clearly stated in the document. We warned that every compromise would only serve to bolster the position of the ruling bourgeoisie. On February 2 1990, De Klerk made it clear that none of the puppet collaborators with the apartheid regime would be excluded from the negotiations. Despite the ANC bluster that they were only interested in a ‘transfer of power’, they have not raised an objection, let alone conducted a militant struggle, to side-line these reactionary anti-democratic forces. Today, shoulder to shoulder with the ANC and the SACP, they staff the Working Groups of CODESA, presiding over a process that is supposed to lead to democracy.
The document makes clear – and actual experience in South Africa and Namibia confirms – that democracy will not be delivered through negotiation. Its call for the masses to oppose negotiations and to fight to convene a democratic Constituent Assembly remains vitally important. Through correct tactics and a revolutionary programme of action; the struggle for the Constituent Assembly on the basis of all the demands of the masses will once more open up the possibility for the emergence of organs of power. This time we must ensure that the outcome is not capitulation to the bourgeoisie but the establishment of a Workers Government.
But at the moment, in the unions and amongst the youth, there is much preparatory work to be done. We hope that the publication of this document will assist in this.
‘The bourgeoisie needs lackeys whom a section of the working class could trust, and who would paint in fine colours, embellish the bourgeoisie with talk about the possibility of the reformist path, who would throw dust in the eyes of the people by this talk, who would divert the people from revolution by depicting in glowing colours the charms and the possibilities of the reformist path.’ (Lenin, 1919)
‘One cannot lull the masses day in and day out with claptrap about a peaceful, painful transition to socialism and then at the first solid punch on the nose summon the masses to an armed response. This is the surest way of assisting reaction in the rout of the proletariat. To prove equal to a revolutionary repulse, the masses must be ideologically, organisationally, and materially prepared for it. They must understand the inevitability of a sharpening of the class struggle and of its turning at a certain stage into a civil war. The political education of the working class and the selection of its leading personnel must be adjusted to such a perspective. The illusions of compromise must be fought day in and day out . . .’ (Trotsky, Where is Britain Going)
‘ . . . a genuine compromise will serve directly to strengthen the national liberation movement itself, since such a compromise must necessarily mean a qualitative widening of democratic rights. Then, too, such a compromise is likely to mean that the liberation and democratic movement will gain a part of state power, even at the centre of the apparatus, and this, likewise, will be a decisive element for further progress.
‘We must force the ruling class to throw its weight behind such a peaceful perspective, which is in all our interests – the interests of the ruling class, of the national liberation movement, of the people of South Africa, of the Southern African region as a whole, and of world peace.’ (Brenda Stalker, Sechaba, May 1988) (Sechaba, organ of the African National Congress)
This article subjects the position of the African National Congress (ANC) on negotiations to ruthless criticism and offers an alternative revolutionary perspective.
The unbanning of the ANC and the release of Mandela has marked a new stage in South African politics. Before hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, in numerous speeches and interviews, Mandela has revealed everything that is bankrupt about the present course of the ANC. He has torn away the pretences and exposed the ANC leadership’s awkward attempts to render profound their policy of reformism and capitulation to the apartheid bourgeoisie. The way bourgeois public opinion and the imperialist bourgeoisie have lapped up his every word is enough of a sign that something is rotten in the state of South Africa.
It has become increasingly clear that the ANC leadership essentially shares the position of Brenda Stalker as indicated above.
Marxism teaches us to discern, behind the perspectives and policies of leaders and parties, the class struggle. It is only by taking the struggle between the major classes in South Africa, the working class and the bourgeoisie, as our point of departure, that we can make sense of new developments and circumstances. Any other method of proceeding obscures and confuses things.
Objectively, the black petty-bourgeoisie is located between the two major social forces in South Africa, but for a number of historical reasons the petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC presently finds itself at the helm of the masses.
Under South African conditions, the black petty-bourgeoisie has always sharply felt the whip of racist oppression. It was denied the vote, denied equality with whites, frustrated in diverse ways and subjected to many aspects of the apartheid oppression experienced by the majority black working class. In jockeying itself into a position of leadership it always strove to represent its aspirations as the aspirations of the black working class.
The Stalinist theory of two stages amply served to dress up the restricted perspective of the radical petty-bourgeoisie. As far as the Stalinists were concerned, in the course of the first stage of the revolution, the petty-bourgeois ANC was the undisputed vanguard of the struggle. This role being reserved for the ‘Bolshevik’, ‘Leninist’, South African Communist Party (SACP) only once this first stage of national democracy has been completed. For many decades the black working class has thus been tragically kept in check by the petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC and the Stalinist SACP.
Despite the magnificent struggle of the working class over the past fifteen years, the reactionary perspective and policy of this leadership have prevented it from obtaining victory through the conquest of state power.
So in a country with a highly developed capitalist economy, where the working class constituted the majority of the population, and where the oppressed masses time and again have demonstrated their readiness to sacrifice everything to win freedom, the working class has been left without a revolutionary Marxist leadership. Instead it has fallen foul of a bankrupt petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership and the treachery of Stalinism.1.2 The Zigzags of the Petty-bourgeois Nationalist ANC
Lenin characterised the petty-bourgeoisie in the following way:
‘ . . . under capitalism (it) suffers constant oppression and very often incredibly sharp and rapidly worsening conditions of life and ruin, easily becomes revolutionary, but is incapable of displaying perseverance, ability to organise and staunchness.’ (Left Wing Communism)
and of the petty-bourgeois masses he said:
‘ . . . decades of historical experience of all countries testify that they vacillate and hesitate, one day marching behind the proletariat and the next day taking fright at the difficulties of the revolution; that they become panic-stricken at the first defeat of semi-defeat of the workers, grow nervous, run about aimlessly, snivel, and rush from one camp into the other . . ’ (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky)
This general truth about the nature of the petty-bourgeoisie has never been more clearly illustrated than in the last six years in South Africa. In the period 1984-86 the class struggle reached a high point of intensity. The racist South African ruling class experiencing its deepest crisis was driven onto the defensive. On the other hand, the oppressed black masses were driven by their conditions of life to open mass resistance to apartheid rule. All aspects of oppression were subjected to militant, thoroughgoing criticism by wave upon wave of mass action.
The petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC was taken aback by the sheer depth and breadth of the mass uprising. While continuing with its long held objective of pressurising the apartheid regime into conceding to majority rule, it was driven to the left by the insurrectionary activity of the masses. But for all its radical posturing, despite its talk of ‘armed seizure of power’, it proved incapable of the task of seizing the moment and leading the masses to victory. Its semi-anarchist slogan for ‘ungovernability’ appealed especially to the youth – the students and unemployed workers – in the townships. The ANC’s leadership’s entire petty-bourgeois perspective prevented it from galvanising the black working class into an all-powerful insurrectionary force. It failure to secure victory and the ruling class’s offensive precipitated a sharp rightward shift in orientation over the last four years.1.3 No Longer the Armed Seizure of Power?
Revolutionary Marxism does not proceed by ignoring or attempting to leap over reality. But equally it does not bow passively to existing circumstances. In response to each new situation it works out a set of tactics consistent with its scientific analysis, prognosis and its strategic aim of overthrowing the ruling class. At the centre of this entire approach is the nurturing and building up of the militancy, combativeness, class consciousness and organisation of the working class, preparing it consistently for the time of armed insurrection.
The ANC’s perspectives and policy have been otherwise. One opportunist tactic follows another, and in the process the masses, and especially the black working class, is left disorientated and confused.
Today, despite the ANC’s insistence on maintaining ‘the armed struggle’ until ‘a climate conducive to negotiations’ is created by the apartheid regime, it is clear that the perspective of ‘an armed seizure of power’ has been dropped.
Instead, the ANC-SACP has consciously proceeded, making all sorts of rationalisations, on the path of negotiations. In the confident words of ANC leader Cheryl Carolus which thoroughly exposes the inconsistency of the line: ‘The ANC has always known that negotiations will become a reality.’ If this is so, then what has the talk of ‘armed seizure of power’ been all about? Has it been just talk? Or is it just that we must understand its meaning correctly, as SACP leader Kathrada advised us soon after his release, when he said the ANC will seize power over a round table?
For many years, in countless publications, the idea of the armed seizure of power has been in circulation. The following statements sum up the formal position:
‘We accept, not only in principle but also in all its implications, the eventuality of an armed uprising, an insurrection, as a culmination of the combination of mass political action with armed struggle.’ (Alex Mashinini, Sechaba, April 1986)
‘The seizure of power by the people is, after all, the central point of departure of the struggle . . .’ (Thando Zuma, Sechaba, February 1988)
It is this perspective that fed the imagination of the Young Lions. They believed that, arms in hand, the oppressed masses of South Africa would rid themselves of apartheid.
But throughout, with alternating emphasis, this ‘perspective’ was combined with its opposite, i.e. exerting enough ‘pressure’ to ensure the negotiated transfer of power. In a discussion article in Sechaba, Cassius Mandla exposed the confusion in the ANC and the ranks of Mkhonto We Sizwe (its guerrilla army), when he specifically asked the question: ‘What is the strategic objective of the tactic of armed struggle?’ As far as he was concerned there are two completely different approaches. He says, ‘We are talking here of armed struggle as a pressure tactic, and armed struggle as warfare. Which of the two is it really in our revolution.’ Mandla admits that after a quarter century of armed struggle, ‘ . . . this question may sound strange at best.’
It is not so strange really. It is the confusion, vacillation, lack of consistency, which is typical of the petty-bourgeoisie, that explains the ‘strange’ situation. The petty-bourgeoisie proceeds pragmatically, not consistently. Pragmatism, adaptation to the accomplished fact, is not at all the same as tactical flexibility. As Lenin explains in What is to be Done?, only those who have principles can be flexible in tactics. Those who lack principled consistency precipitate confusion and act with political spinelessness in the name of tactical flexibility. In August 1986 already then ANC president Tambo made the preference of the ANC leadership clear: viz. pressure leading to a negotiated settlement. The only missing element at that point as far as the President was concerned was the apartheid regime’s readiness to negotiate: ‘Pretoria must prove its bona fides . . . it can demonstrate its serious intention to negotiate. Its words do not add up to anything. It is actions that must speak.’ In August 1987, Mzala repeated this line: ‘As we see it, the possibilities for negotiation with the Botha regime are absolutely non-existent, because this regime is not yet prepared for a transition to a non-racial democratic society.’ (Sechaba) Two months later an ANC policy statement reiterated this position: ‘There is, as yet, no prospect for genuine negotiations because the Botha regime continues to believe that it can maintain the apartheid system through force and terror. We therefore have no choice but to intensify the mass political armed struggle for the overthrow of the illegal apartheid regime and the transfer of power to the people.’
When in the period 1984-86 the masses took the initiative, made the townships ungovernable, established embryonic organs of power, the ANC made radical noises. There was now talk of a ‘protracted people’s war’ which, according to an official ANC document, ‘ . . . will inevitably lead to a revolutionary situation in which our plan and aim must be the seizure of power through a general insurrection.’ But, in the absence of a genuine revolutionary leadership of the working class, when the insurrectionary wave began to subside under the blows of the ruling regime, the emphasis was switched to one of class collaborationist popular frontism, called ‘wooing the middle ground’ or ‘splitting the ruling bloc’. You could not hope to win allies from the ‘ruling bloc’ and create a ‘broadest possible front’ if you continued to place emphasis on the armed overthrowing of the apartheid regime. Consequently, in the period of downturn, talk of negotiations became ever more strident.
Now the crescendo of voices for negotiation and reconciliation has reached its highest pitch. True to its petty-bourgeois nature, the ANC leadership has vacillated, to and fro, depending on the relative strength of the two major classes. Today talk of maintaining the armed struggle has only gesture value. Moreover, it is repeatedly emphasised that the ANC’s taking up of arms was a purely ‘defensive’ measure. The idea of armed seizure of power has either been dropped or is given the ridiculous meaning coined by Kathrada.
The SACP’s trick: how to get socialism without revolution
The logic of the idea of a negotiated handover of power and a peaceful transition to socialism (‘socialism arriving through debate’, according to SACP leader Slovo) will mean that the bourgeoisie will be expropriated without violence. This is the SACP’s variant on the Eurocommunists’ parliamentary road to socialism. This is the politics of Stalinism in its death agony.
In the new jargon, negotiations are now ‘a site of struggle’. This is an attempt at a clever rationalisation for a bankrupt policy. Rather than basing itself on the revolutionary militancy, organisation and power of the working class, it has turned to the apartheid regime and begged it to be reasonable. On its side, it has promised to be reasonable and has renounced the idea of the seizure of state power. Our petty-bourgeois nationalists clearly lack the necessary ‘perseverance, ability to organise and staunchness’, that Lenin spoke of. Rather than proceeding with the task of patiently restoring the confidence of the working class, rebuilding its structures, tempering the spirit of the masses, and preparing it incessantly for the great historic task of smashing the apartheid state, it took the line of least resistance. It turned its attention to international diplomacy, wooing whites, cosying up to ‘liberal’ elements amongst the bourgeoisie, and, what it called, winning the ‘moral high ground’. All of this was aimed at preparing itself for a negotiated settlement with the apartheid regime.1.4 How the Petty-bourgeoisie Rationalises the Turn to Negotiations
‘The representatives of big capital are capable of following the social struggle very realistically. Contrariwise, petty bourgeois politicians readily incline to accept their own desires for reality.’ (Trotsky, Whither France)
The petty bourgeoisie – with all its prejudices, fears, narrowness, vacillations – is a vital transmitter of the poison of bourgeois fictions and illusion into the ranks of the masses. In South Africa, its ideologues and leaders are going to great lengths to render its collaboration and capitulationist orientation profound.
There is no coherence in the ANC’s justifications for negotiation. It seems that as long as a number of reasons are offered, regardless if they are mutually exclusive, the leadership hopes that the masses will be convinced. Whatever the rationale behind the proposals, the negotiations are a trap for the South African working class. Even worse, they are a trap which the working class has been called to set, but which is designed for it to fall into.
The stated ‘reasons’ are as follows:
i) The idea of a stalemate
In Mandela’s letter to PW Botha / FW de Klerk (written while-still in prison and widely publicised), he speaks of the overcoming of ‘the current deadlock’. This notion has become part of the jargon to justify negotiations. Indeed the social crisis is insoluble, there is a deadlock. The only way out is the socialist revolution. But the petty bourgeoisie lacks the will and the ability to execute this task. It seeks a line that is less resistant. In elaborating why negotiations are necessary now, Mandela comes across not as a hardened revolutionary but as a troubled pacifist. He says that his intervention is a result of ‘the civil strife and ruin into which the country is now sliding.’ He says he is concerned about ‘the spectre of a South Africa split into two hostile camps’, and ‘ . . . by acute tensions which are building up dangerously in practically every sphere of our lives . . .’. These are amazing lines. Surely Mandela does not believe that a ‘deadlock’ has existed in South Africa only over the last three years. Surely Mandela recognises that there is no looming ‘spectre’ of ‘two hostile camps’ but a longstanding reality. After all, his imprisonment is a terrible expression of the existence of ‘civil strife’, ‘hostile camps’ and ‘acute tensions’ that have been with us for as long as there has been a South Africa. What purpose do Mandela’s distorted picture and moral outrage then serve? He seems to be saying that we need peace at all costs. He recognises the death agony of capitalism but blames it on apartheid. Is it mere diplomacy aimed at wooing De Klerk. If so, then Mandela is naive to believe that De Klerk and the South African ruling class, are going to move one inch on the basis of the distorted picture he has painted.
ii) Favourable circumstances: we are strong, the regime is weak
Talk of a deadlock or stalemate is awkwardly coupled with other arguments.
‘We believe that a conjuncture of circumstances exists which, if there is a demonstrable readiness on the part of the Pretoria regime to engage in negotiations genuinely and seriously, could create the possibility to end apartheid through negotiations.’
So states the Harare Declaration (signed in 1989 by the ANC and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which has been accepted as the guiding document for the negotiations process. What is this favourable ‘conjuncture of circumstances’? Apparently it has existed for a long time. Mandela has been engaged in talks with the apartheid regime for over three years.
The Harare Declaration also says that now ‘possibilities exist for further movement towards the resolution of problems facing the people of South Africa.’ It appears that previously no such possibilities existed. But this is not demonstrated. It is merely demagogically asserted that the time is now ripe. Why now, and why not previously?
The first explanation for the new possibilities, apparently, is ‘the liberation struggle and international pressure’.
In other words the liberation movement is in a stronger position now than before. Is this really the case? The truth is that since the heady days of the mass uprising of 1985 there has been a significant downturn in the fate of the liberation struggle. Mass organisations have been crushed, the trade union movement has been badly battered, the working class has been in a state of retreat, and the state and the bosses have jointly gone onto a mighty offensive. The guerrilla struggle, never really representing a significant quarter of ‘pressure’, has in fact been scaled down. It has been severely undermined, not only by state repression (arrests, trials, imprisonment) but also by all Frontline States denying the ANC bases. (The policy statements of Nujoma, leader of the South West African Peoples Organization, SWAPO, are but the last in a line of such moves).
Of course, the politics of applying ‘pressure’, so that the apartheid regime could ‘come to its senses’ and once again be in step ‘with the rest of humanity’, has always been part of the ANC leadership’s strategy. The apartheid regime has never buckled to the ‘pressure’. Even the insurrectionary days of 1984-86, the days of ‘ungovernable’ townships, did not see the apartheid state ‘come to its senses’. Instead, since those heady days, the racist ruling class has gone onto a terrible offensive, smashing the mass township organisations, battering the trade unions, leaving the working class in a state of disorderly retreat. At this point, the lowest point of the mass movement for years, the question of negotiations assumes a special urgency. The readiness to negotiate on the part of the apartheid state would surely arise, not because it is buckling under ‘pressure’, but because it feels it is in a position of strength and can dictate the terms.
Furthermore, international pressure, in the form of sanctions, has diminished in the period, and the world bourgeoisie, despite the protestation of the ANC, has rescheduled South African debts. Sanctions have by no means been a decisive source of ‘pressure’. An important part of the state’s renewed confidence is the steady growth of exports since 1986, after the sharp slump especially during the insurrectionary period of 1984-86. Despite the fact that the economic crisis in general still continues, the regime has been further strengthened by the rise in the price of gold.
It is clear that serious talk of negotiation, on the part of the leadership of the liberation movement, proceeded not in a period of mass ascendancy and strength but in a period of retreat and weakness. Wherein, then lie the new ‘possibilities for further movement towards the resolution of the problems facing the people of South Africa’. In recent times, the South African bourgeoisie and its imperialist allies have never been in a stronger position, and they have proceeded to take the initiative. The ANC-SACP leadership has attempted to dress up the situation. The highest point of the liberation struggle in South Africa, where the greatest possibility for securing ‘fundamental change’ occurred, was in the period 1984-86, when the South African masses took matters into their own hands. The new possibilities that are spoken of now are a fiction that serve to deflect the South African working class from the necessary path of preparing and making revolution. For nothing short of workers revolution will secure ‘fundamental change’.
iii) Unfavourable circumstances
Although not honest enough to state it openly, there is clearly a strong feeling that the forces against apartheid are far weaker than in the period 1984-86, will never be strong enough and therefore will have to accept a compromise with the apartheid regime.
Because victory was not secured in the insurrectionary 1984-86 period, and instead the bourgeoisie went onto a terrible offensive, there is a view within the ANC that the masses are incapable of seizing power from the apartheid regime. ‘We cannot dislodge them’ and ‘we must seek partial victory’ are the kinds of phrases used. This is certainly a view that was strongly argued at the OAU Conference, where the Harare Declaration was adopted. Why incapable? In the words of a report by Cheryl Carolus, a United Democratic Front (UDF) official, who attended the conference, this was ‘given the might of the regime, and the fact that conditions are not favourable for guerrilla warfare’.
iv) Peaceful coexistence Gorbachev-style
A further motivation for perceiving new possibilities is what the Harare Declaration calls ‘global efforts to liquidate regional conflicts’. For the ANC-SACP leadership, the counter-revolutionary foreign policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy has become a driving force for the consummation of the South African revolution. The terminology in which this rationalisation is couched has been provided by Gorbachev. His is the new form of bourgeois public opinion. From George Bush, Maggie Thatcher, Pik Botha, to Joe Slovo, praise of Mikhail Gorbachev has been lavish. Imperialists, nationalists and Stalinist opportunists alike have furiously grabbed at his policy, of the settling of all regional conflicts by peaceful means and an end to the class struggle, as if this policy were a lifeline.
And indeed it is a lifeline – a lifeline for a decaying capitalism, a lifeline for bankrupt nationalists, a lifeline for crisis-wracked Stalinism. It is this lifeline that has been seized upon by the drafters and signatories to the Harare Declaration.
And why has Gorbachev taken the initiative on the world stage? Because he fears what the imperialists, what the capitalist regimes of Africa, what Stalinism has always feared – an angry Soviet and Eastern European working class roused to revolutionary pitch by the rottenness of the theory and practice of socialism-in-one-country, and united with the advanced workers in the capitalist countries, to smash all forms of oppression in the name of the world socialist revolution.
What the ANC-SACP leadership regards as favourable circumstances are in fact the opposite. The rightwing policy of Gorbachev is an expression of the mortal crisis of Stalinism. Of course the SACP, but also the ANC, is seriously affected by this crisis. Rather than these developments being an expression of more favourable circumstances for the ANC and the SACP, they suggest that the De Klerk regime is in a better bargaining position. Certainly De Klerk believes this. In his speech to the apartheid parliament he said that his security advisers had stressed that developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe ‘weaken the capability of organisations which were previously supported strongly from these quarters.’ This was one of the contributory factors to his decision to unban the ANC, the SACP and other organisations, and the lifting of other restrictions on political activity.
The pursuit of negotiated solutions to conflict worldwide is clearly part of a worldwide shift to the right: imperialism has been on the offensive in the capitalist countries and in relation to Eastern Europe; crisis-stricken Stalinism abandons the last bit of rhetoric about the class struggle (Gorbachev’s ‘new’ version of peaceful coexistence), Stalinism-in-crisis in Eastern Europe, abandons defence of nationalised property to save it own skin; petty bourgeois nationalist leaderships push for rotten compromises with imperialism (SWAPO, PLO); left-Bonapartist regimes (Sandinistas, Frelimo, MPLA, etc.) drop their socialist pretensions and opt for peace negotiations with bandit agents of imperialism.
This lurch to the right is analogous to the rise of social-chauvinism and opportunism within the world workers movement from about 1914, and the rise of the Stalinist ‘theory’ of the Popular Front in the 1930s. This variant of peaceful coexistence has now been given a new twist by Gorbachev, as Stalinism faces the deepest crisis in its history. But Gorbachev too, the supposed saviour of the world, the great champion of the peaceful settlement of all conflicts, stands nakedly exposed in the sharp light of the events in Azerbaijan. Saviour has turned to sinner, as hundreds of Azeris are mowed down by Red Army troops. The ‘new’ policy stands condemned by events within the boundaries of the Soviet Union. Stalinism’s socialism-in-one-country and imperialism inexorably engender intense social conflict, under whose impact even the best of wills and purest of motives disintegrate into nothing. But the point is neither the Stalinists nor imperialists are driven by high moral considerations. Fear, cowardice, hypocrisy are more appropriate terms to describe them.
So the black working class is expected to believe that a counter-revolutionary policy in fact is the means for consummating the South African revolution.
So, as far as the ANC is concerned, the time has come to negotiate with the apartheid regime: because there is a deadlock; because the liberation movement is strong; because the regime is weak; because the regime is too strong to be overthrown; because our allies are in difficulty; for the sake of world peace and in the name of Gorbachev’s ‘new’ peaceful coexistence policy; because imperialism is strong. For the desperate petty-bourgeoisie anything and everything will do. Harassed by the apartheid bourgeoisie it readily substitutes its ‘own desires for reality’.
The ANC has thus entered the path of negotiations in a position of relative weakness. Despite the mass resurgence in recent weeks and its now openly expressed popularity, the ANC is on a path of gross betrayal. Similarly, for all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the Harare Declaration, for all its ‘popularity’ (its adoption by the OAU, by the Conference for a Democratic Future (CDF), etc.) it is a document of capitulation to the ruling class. Such a rotten leadership and perspective make the situation all the more dangerous for the black working class.
Revolutionary Marxists must permit no cover up and pretence. They must patiently and consistently explain to the working class what is taking place, so that it can prepare itself for open battle, relying only on its own class power, class methods and class organisation.2.1 The question of the ANC’s Preconditions
The proponents of negotiation have made much of the preconditions that they have drawn up. No revolutionary socialist can disagree with the demands. Indeed all who regard themselves as revolutionary socialists should be in the forefront of the struggle to win these demands. These are basic democratic demands, that have been the stuff of our struggle all along. We champion them because we want the working class to have the widest possible scope for political activity – to promote its political and economic interests; to build its organisations; to develop its confidence, militancy and class consciousness.
But these demands must be fought for as part of the struggle to seize state power. They cannot be trade offs for compromises with and concessions to the ruling class. This is how the proponents of negotiation perceive the preconditions they have drawn up.
Furthermore, we believe that the ANC will not even be consistent in terms of its own preconditions. What it has stated are sub-minima, it will begin to treat as ‘negotiable’ and open to compromise. The Mass Democratic Movement (MDM), which succeeded the UDF when the latter was banned, has already made its position clear. In a barely readable document, titled ‘Negotiations as a terrain and method of struggle’, an argument is advanced for a ‘shift’ in previously held positions on the question of preconditions. Tortuous logic is utilised to arrive at the strange notion of preconditions for negotiation only being secured during / after negotiations!! It is suggested that it might be a better idea to ‘achieve our fundamental, but ultimate, preconditions’ for negotiations, when negotiating!! The idea of preconditions now has a new meaning. It means nothing at all. It is all a case of rhetoric and bluster. The struggle becomes a poker game, and when the hand of the MDM is forced it reveals it has bad cards. But our struggle for power is not a game.
Bad tactics, based on rotten manoeuvres, can only serve to disorientate, confuse and demobilise the working class. When preconditions are spoken about, and the masses are expected to struggle for these preconditions, then it is criminal to change in midstream and reveal that, as far as the leadership is concerned, they were not preconditions at all but a bluff. We cannot bluff the ruling class. Only the masses are caught out by this bluff. Workers do not simply go into action in order to play games. They are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices, but provided there are clear goals and they are for serious ends. In the case of the ANC-SACP-MDM leadership, workers and youth have been led up the garden path. Manoeuvres and tactics become arbitrary. Preconditions are not preconditions but ultimate aims. The entire negotiations process is based on illusion, on the petty-bourgeois leadership’s substitution of ‘their desires for reality’.2.2 Is the Apartheid State Ready to Commit Suicide?
In one part of the Harare Declaration there is reference to ‘a conjuncture of circumstances’ that exists which, if the Pretoria regime responds positively, could lead to a settlement of the social crisis by means of negotiations. The document goes on to say:
‘Together with the rest of the world, we believe that it is essential, before any negotiations can take place, that the necessary climate for negotiations be created. The apartheid regime has the urgent responsibility to respond positively to this universally acclaimed demand and thus create this climate’.
Here too then the Pretoria regime appears to be the only element that stands in the way of negotiations. The creation of a ‘climate for negotiations’ is dependent on it. The blooming daisies and twittering birds have been provided, all that is required for the springtime of freedom is for the apartheid regime to deliver the sunshine. The OAU is ready for it, the ‘rest of the world’ is ready for it, only the Pretoria regime is holding back the process.
This is strange logic indeed. It is like saying: apartheid must go; conditions for its destruction exist; everyone agrees it must go; only the apartheid regime stands in the way; if it agrees to its own dissolution, then it will disappear.
But the apartheid state has always resisted this. This has always been the problem. We have already pointed out earlier that no explanation is offered as to why the question of negotiations and a negotiated settlement is pursued with such determination now, at this time, and at no other previous time? The answer to the question lies in Trotsky’s acute observation based on a Marxist understanding, viz. that, ‘ . . . petty bourgeois politicians readily incline to accept their own desires for reality.’ Having lost heart when the mass uprising failed to achieve victory, it has done an about turn. Peace at all costs, a rotten compromise rather than a fight to the end: this is what the petty-bourgeois leadership has been driven to. This is what lies behind its faulty logic and untenable rationalisation.
The ANC’s positive response to De Klerk’s initiative, as set out in his speech to the apartheid parliament in February, is an indication that it believes that the Pretoria regime is contributing to a climate of negotiations. Mandela has gone even further. He has described De Klerk as ‘a man of integrity’. What can this possibly mean? Our struggle cannot depend on the supposed moral character of one leader or another. Individual leaders are only the historically determined representatives of definite class interests. Mandela is in fact saying that the chief political representative of the South African ruling capitalist class is someone to trust.
The bourgeoisie in South Africa, or for that matter anywhere in the world, has never been moved by high moral considerations in its treatment of the oppressed and exploited. On the contrary, naked self-interest and the ruthless pursuit of profit have been its sole driving forces. And the ruling National Party regime over the last forty two years, has spared nothing by way of oppressive laws and naked force to ensure the best conditions for the squeezing of profit out of the black working class by the bourgeoisie. De Klerk’s specific role in this process over the last few years (member of the State Security Council, architect of the draconian Education Bills aimed at completely stifling student political activity) confirms that Mandela’s observation is dangerously absurd. The petty-bourgeoisie comforts itself with illusions that there are signs of a change of heart or mentality. It refuses to recognise that irreconcilable class interests are in operation, which cannot be resolved by changes of heart but only by the triumph of the working class over the apartheid bourgeoisie.
These class-conciliationist illusions are preached by the Harare Declaration when it argues that ‘fundamental change’ depends on the Pretoria regime. What is this regime, on whose response the liberation of South Africa depends? Can it be expected to change into its opposite? This question must be clearly discussed and answered within the ranks of the South African working class. The leading social force in our struggle, indeed the only force with nothing to lose, and therefore the only force with an objective interest in the complete destruction of apartheid and capitalism, must not be fed on illusions. And all the talk of the Pretoria regime being ready and able to commit class suicide sows the worst illusions. At a time when the confidence of the working class needs to be restored, when its organisations are in urgent need of rebuilding, so that it can defend itself against the merciless onslaught of the bourgeoisie, and so that defensive mass action can be turned into an offensive revolutionary onslaught once more, the Harare Declaration places the initiative in the hands of the Pretoria regime.
And this regime is an apartheid-capitalist regime. All the injustice, inequality, exploitation, oppression and domination that is has defended and will continue to defend is a product of capitalist greed. The black masses, chiefly the black working class, have suffered decade-upon-decade of hell as a result of the objective needs of capitalism in South Africa. Apartheid is more than just ‘a set of abhorrent concepts and practices of racial domination’ (as the Harare Declaration describes it), which a change of mind or heart on the part of the De Klerk regime can end. The apartheid state is a capitalist state. It wields power for the ruling class, the South African bourgeoisie. And it has done the job for the bourgeoisie well.
Herein lies the rub! A ruling class, one of the most openly vicious in modern history, is being called upon to ‘honour agreements’ and liquidate itself as a ruling class. This is nothing but a reactionary fantasy which the whole history of class society contradicts.
The world capitalist system is long established. Its imperialist stage alone has seen almost one hundred years. One hundred years of experience of dealing with threats to its existence, of maintaining its class rule, of putting down revolution. The South African ruling class is the national representative of the international bourgeoisie. It is not some maverick exception, which is out of step with the ruling classes of the other countries of the capitalist world. Indeed, from the point of view of the international bourgeoisie, South Africa is a vitally important part of the world system of capitalism. So the international bourgeoisie is vitally interested in heading off any serious threat to capitalist property relations in South Africa. Does the ANC-SACP leadership think that it is in the process of out-manoeuvring the South African ruling class? Does it think that the apartheid regime has not made its calculations? Only fools or willing partners in a sell-out can think this.
Of course, the deep and insoluble crisis of apartheid-capitalism has profoundly disturbed the imperialist powers. They realise that their ruling representative in South Africa can no longer rule in the old way. It appears to them that the only way out is to replace naked white domination with some form of black rule in which the ANC would play a vital role. For it a negotiated settlement between the De KIerk regime and the ANC offers the only means to effect peaceful and orderly change, i.e. change that is not dictated by the militant action of the black masses. For militant mass action can only unleash the kind of open civil war that obtained in the period from 1984-86. And in such conditions even the ANC leadership was driven by mass pressure to reject the path of a negotiated settlement and to tail-end the calls for socialism advocated by those in the vanguard of the struggle. The chief aim of the Harare Declaration is thus to facilitate the toenadering (closer agreement) between the major parties of the negotiated settlement, i.e. the ANC and the Pretoria regime. The leading imperialist powers have given De KIerk the go ahead, and the Soviet bureaucracy has given the ANC their nod of approval. All the leading participants have agreed to operate within the Gorbachevist framework.
The framework of the bourgeoisie is clear. In 1911, in an important article title ‘Reformism in the Russian Social-Democratic Movement’, Lenin described what he called ‘ ‘the most up-to-date’ bourgeois slogan’ of the time:
‘reform versus revolution; partial patching-up of the doomed regime, with the object of dividing and weakening the working class and of maintaining the rule of the bourgeoisie, versus the revolutionary overthrow of that rule.’
This sums up the position of the South African bourgeoisie today. And how has the petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC responded? In terms quite similar to its Russian counterparts in 1911. This is how Lenin described the latter:
‘The petty-bourgeois masses in our country are prone to lose heart and to succumb to renegade sentiments at the failure of any one of the phases of our bourgeois revolution; they are more ready to renounce the aim of a complete democratic revolution which would rid Russia completely of all survivals of medievalism and serfdom.’ (ibid.)
What stands in the way of the bourgeoisie and the conciliationist petty-bourgeoisie is the black South African working class. This working class has been steeled and tempered by the most intense and thorough-going political experience, by countless battles, on innumerable fronts.
And on all occasions it has always had to fight against the imposed framework of law and order. In its fight to realise its interests, despite the reformist persuasions of its leadership, it instinctively realises the need to rely on its own collective class action and power. It is the only class that is ‘revolutionary to the end’ (Lenin, ibid.). Its own experience teaches it that it has never won any victories from the ruling class by placing faith in the good will of the capitalist bosses or their government. And now, when it demands the highest political prize of all, i.e. the right to exercise direct control over their lives, workers are being asked to concede that the ruling class might be ‘honourable’ and might concede to ‘abandoning’ its class power and rule.2.3 The Apartheid Regime: Equal and Trustworthy Party in Negotiations?
We have attempted to demonstrate that negotiations have been entered into at a stage when the apartheid regime, though still wracked by crisis, is by no means on its knees or with its back to the wall. Even if the regime were tottering on the brink of collapse then we believe the working class should not negotiate ‘the transfer of power’, but proceed to finish off the job, rally behind it the oppressed petty bourgeoisie, and seize state power with arms in hand.
The ANC’s position is otherwise. In reality it is not even approaching negotiations as if it were an enforced compromise that it is reluctantly entering into. Instead it elaborately creates the fiction that the Pretoria regime is or might be sincere about a fair settlement.
Mandela’s stated aim is ‘to bring the country’s two major political bodies to the negotiating table.’ He hopes (imagining that the ‘overwhelming majority of South Africans’ shares this view) ‘to see the ANC and the government working closely together to lay the foundations for a new era in our country.’ Here there is no hint that antagonistic forces are coming together to negotiate a compromise. The dangerous illusion is created that the two parties have sufficient in common to work ‘closely together’ to prepare for a new South Africa.
As far as the ANC is concerned, the proposals in the Harare Declaration ‘constitute a new challenge to the Pretoria regime to join in the noble effort to end the apartheid system . . .’.
This is a bizarre call on the Pretoria regime, the arch-defender of apartheid-capitalism and imperialism, to ‘join in . . . to end the apartheid system’. Rivers of blood separate the oppressed and exploited masses from this regime that the call implies could become an ally. This is treachery of the highest order. It calls on the working class to drop its guard and place trust in its worst enemy.
The Harare Declaration repeats the same line of thought when it seeks to ‘ . . . encourage the people of South Africa, as part of their overall struggle, to get together to negotiate an end to the apartheid system and agree on all the measures that are necessary to transform their country into a non-racial democracy.’
Here reactionary utopia is substituted for material reality. For revolutionary Marxists, appeals to a broad social category such as ‘the people of South Africa’ are quite useless when dealing with a country with such sharp social cleavages. But the call is for this mythical conglomeration, called ‘the people of South Africa’, ‘ . . . to get together to negotiate an end to the apartheid system’. It is as if the supporters of the Harare Declaration see the crisis in South African society as a family squabble that has gone completely out of hand, and which they propose should be brought to an end by a discussion around the dinner table. After all we are all one human family, and fighting has not and cannot solve anything, so let’s get together to sort things out for the benefit of all. Unfortunately, the people of South Africa have never constituted a single family. And for as long as there is capitalism, it cannot and will not constitute a single family.
"The Harare declaration also says: ‘Negotiations should . . . proceed to establish the basis for the adoption of a new Constitution by agreeing on, amongst others, the Principles enunciated above,’ and that the liberation movement and the Pretoria regime should agree jointly on the mechanism for drawing up such a Constitution.
We say, only a revolutionary democratic Constituent Assembly can be entrusted with the responsibility of drawing up a new Constitution for South Africa. The above proposal is undemocratic. We cannot allow the existing regime to be an equal party to determining anything. For decades it has denied us even the most elementary democratic rights, for decades it has oppressed us with its racist laws, for decades it has kept us muzzled with it repression. Now we demand the right to determine our own destiny, without conditions, without restrictions imposed by a dying ruling class. We refuse to allow the racist slave-masters to be party to establishing ‘the basis for the adoption of a new Constitution.’ We cannot allow these despotic rulers, who have been party to so much murder, torture, maiming and destruction of the lives of millions of human beings, to determine political destiny.
The De Klerk regime remains our deadly enemy. It is the protector of the interests of a minority ruling class. And in a capitalist society like South Africa, the privilege and profit of a minority has always been at the expense of the majority. This division in society was not caused because the minority were bad people, blinded by racist ideology and greed. No, they have been racist and greedy because of their historically determined objective class position within South African society. It is not bad people that made South African society. It is the capitalist system, which is based on a definite set of relations between classes, that produced bad people, racism, greed, selfishness etc. There is an irreconcilable contradiction between the interests and needs of the working class and the interests and needs of the bourgeoisie. And the bad people, with their racism, greed for profit, selfish attitudes, etc., will not disappear because these same bad people have suddenly realised that they have been bad and now have been persuaded to change. Class divisions, the cause of all the bitter, bloody clashes in South Africa, cannot be negotiated away. Contrary to biblical notions, the lion will not lie down with the lamb (and the oppressed masses will not be turned into lambs), as a result of imbibing some new spirit of the times. The profit-seeking leopard cannot change its undemocratic and racist spots.
No, changes of mentality and consciousness are dependent on changes in real material conditions. Only a workers’ government and worker democracy, which concentrates all power in the hands of the working class majority that is determined to root out all forms of oppression, can really end the present misery that characterises the crisis-wracked South African society.
We restate our position: irreconcilable class antagonisms cannot be ended peacefully, the class enemy cannot change its nature, the Pretoria regime will not commit class suicide, the only solution is workers’ revolution. We cannot sit down and negotiate ‘the transfer of power’ with the ruling class.2.4 Who Else Will Sit Down at the Table of Betrayal?
De Klerk made his position clear:
‘ . . . all the leaders of parliamentary parties, leaders of important organisations and movements, such as Chief Minister Buthelezi, all of the other chief ministers and urban community leaders . . . Their places in the negotiating process are assured.’
The South African state has relied on the support of a range of sell-out and collaborators, who have served to prop up the apartheid-capitalist system. The bantustan leaders have certainly done their job well. They have earned somewhat more than thirty pieces of silver to do their judas work.
The bantustans are seas of human misery which the bantustan leaders have attempted to keep calm, by means of naked terror and violence. The corrupt and monstrous bureaucratic apparatus has been a vital part of the apartheid state machine. The bantustan puppets have been major instruments in providing the South African bourgeoisie with a working class that is divided, with employed workers in the urban areas and the bulk of the unemployed in the bantustans. Thereby a large section remains disorganised and demoralised, left to rot in the barren wastelands called bantustans. A surplus labour population consisting of millions – driven out of the urban areas, discarded from the white farms, victims of forced removals – have been kept locked in their special prison houses called ‘independent states’.
Furthermore, the apartheid-collaborators who worked the hated Tricameral Parliament system – that obscene toy model of democracy – in exchange for their share of blood-money, they too have their places ‘assured’. These petty-bourgeois opportunists, who have been in the pay of apartheid for years, have played their insidious part in oppressing the masses. Many courageous fighters have died or have been imprisoned for fighting these enemies of the oppressed masses.
But, as far as De Klerk is concerned, ‘in the negotiating process’ the places of these apartheid oppressors, jailers and warders of the masses ‘are assured.’ The Buthelezis, the Hendrickses, the Rajbansis, the hated collaborators who worked the racist system for Botha and De Klerk are also going to be parties to the negotiations process.2.5 An Interim Government? Who Will Wield Power?
The Harare Declaration further proposes that, ‘The parties shall agree on the formation of an interim government to supervise the process of the drawing up and adoption of a new constitution; govern and administer the country, as well as effect the transition to a democratic order including the holding of elections.’
Here the order of things is turned around. An interim government is formed before the masses, who have been starved of democracy, can determine the composition of such an interim government. Instead, ‘the liberation movement’ and ‘the De Klerk regime’ will determine who constitutes the interim government. This reactionary coalition is supposed to act as midwife for the long-awaited baby of democracy. Can it be that democracy will come to South Africa as a result of the decisions of such a reactionary coalition and on the basis of such an undemocratic procedure?
The only interim government that we can accept is the government of the insurrectionary masses that seize state power, and the first task of this revolutionary government would be the convocation of a Constituent Assembly. This is what we mean when we demand a revolutionary democratic Constituent Assembly.
In fact, the entire Harare Declaration makes no mention of a Constituent Assembly, as the sovereign parliament that is to reflect the interests of the masses. This lack of clarity further reveals the inconsistency of the proponents of the document.
Furthermore, on what basis will the interim government of the ‘liberation movement’ and De Klerk and his brutal henchmen ‘govern and administer the country’? Will the ‘liberation movement’ join forces with De Klerk’s bloody security apparatus to maintain ‘law and order’? Will members of the ‘liberation movement’ staff existing apartheid state structures together with the racist and oppressive existing apartheid state bureaucracy? Are we asked to believe that this rotten reactionary coalition will be the instrument of ensuring free and fair elections?
‘ . . . we cannot speak of ‘pure democracy’ so long as different classes exist; we can only speak of class democracy’. Such is the teaching of Lenin. In innumerable writings he hammered out this perspective. For the Third International under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, the dictatorship of the proletariat and soviet power were the ‘fundamental principles’ of the revolutionary struggle. Formal democracy was described as nothing but a form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, whereas soviet democracy, workers’ democracy, was ‘a million times more democratic’ (Lenin) than formal bourgeois democracy. The theoretical perspectives set out by Marx and Engels, and further developed by Lenin, were fully confirmed by the events of the Russian Revolution.’
The petty-bourgeoisie shrinks from these basic tenets of Marxism. It prefers to blur over class antagonisms within society, to represent its own narrow interests as the interests of the entire oppressed people. Its central slogans are ‘the people shall govern’ and ‘national democracy’. In South Africa, the SACP has played an especially insidious role by providing the petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC with a ‘left’ cover, thereby facilitating its ability to fool the masses. With their two-stage conception of revolution, the Stalinists have offered a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ justification for confining the struggle within a formal bourgeois-democratic framework, and indefinitely postponing the struggle for socialism. Left phraseology serves to dress up a narrow reactionary petty-bourgeois vision. In recent times the SACP has gone even further, deliberately dropping any reference to, let alone struggle for, the dictatorship of the proletariat and soviet power.Lenin on the difference between proletarian and bourgeois democracy.
In his work The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky Lenin explained:
‘Under bourgeois democracy the capitalists, by thousands of tricks – which are the more artful and effective the more ‘pure’ democracy is developed – push the masses away from the work: of administration, from freedom of the press, the right of assembly, etc. The Soviet government is the first in the world (or strictly speaking the second, because the Paris Commune began to do the same thing) to enlist the masses, specifically the exploited masses, in the work of administration. The toiling masses are barred from participation in bourgeois parliament (which never decide important questions under bourgeois democracy; they are decided by the stock exchange and the banks) by thousands of obstacles, and the workers know and feel, see and realise perfectly well that the bourgeois parliaments are instruments alien to them, instruments for the oppression of the proletarians by the bourgeoisie, institutions of a hostile class, of the exploiting minority.’
‘The Soviets are the direct organisation of the toiling and exploited masses themselves, which helps them to organise and administer their own state in every way possible. And in this it is the vanguard of the toilers and exploited, the urban proletariat, that enjoys the advantage of being best organised by the large enterprises; it is easier for it than for all others to elect and watch elections. The Soviet organisation automatically helps to unite all the toilers and exploited around their vanguard, the proletariat The old bourgeois apparatus – the bureaucracy, the privileges of wealth, of bourgeois education, of social connections, etc. (these practical privileges are the more varied, the more highly bourgeois democracy is developed) – all this disappears under the Soviet form of organisation. Freedom of the press ceases to be hypocrisy, because the printing plants and stocks of paper are taken away from the bourgeoisie. The same thing applies to the best buildings, the palaces, the mansions, the manor houses. The Soviet power took thousands upon thousands of these best buildings from the exploiters at one stroke, and in this way made the right of assembly – without which democracy is a fraud – a million times more ‘democratic’ for the masses. Indirect elections to nonlocal soviets make it easier to hold Congresses of Soviets, they make the entire apparatus less costly. more flexible, more accessible to workers and peasants at a time when life is seething and it is necessary to be able very quickly to recall one’s local deputy or to delegate him to the general Congress of Soviets.’
‘Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than bourgeois democracy; Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic. ’
‘To fail to see this one must either deliberately serve the bourgeoisie, or be politically as dead as a door nail, unable to see real life from behind the dusty pages of bourgeois books, be thoroughly imbued with bourgeois-democratic prejudices, and thereby objectively convert himself into a lackey of the bourgeoisie.’
‘To fail to see this one must be incapable of presenting the question from the point of view of the oppressed classes.
‘Is there a single country in the world, even among the most democratic bourgeois countries, in which the average rank-and-file worker, the average rank-and-file village labourer or village semi-proletarian generally (i.e. the representatives of the oppressed masses, the overwhelming majority of the population), enjoys anything approaching such liberty of holding meetings in the best buildings, such liberty of using the largest printing plants and biggest stocks of paper to express his ideas and to defend his interests, such liberty of promoting men and women of his own class to administer and to ‘put into shape’ the state, as in Soviet Russia?’3.2 The Origin of the Ideas of Formal Equality and Democracy
Formal equality, equal rights, what the Harare Declaration calls ‘universal principles’, all these notions emerged historically out of the struggle of the bourgeoisie against feudalism. They were part of a political struggle by an ascending class that sought to secure its economic interests by challenging the political system of feudalism. The very system of commodity production itself engendered the notion of equality. Compared to the oppressive political relations that coincided with feudalism, the ‘universal principles’ championed were a tremendous step forward for humanity. But the formal equality demanded, and the cries for equal rights, and the application of ‘universal principles’ were aimed at the universalisation of the right of private property, and they served to sanctify it.
The right and freedom for a privileged minority to acquire and dispose of property is the one right that the bourgeoisie has not in general sought to curb or suppress because this is the very basis of its power, i.e. this is what makes it the ruling class in capitalist society. In South Africa, as a by-product of its struggle to maximise profit in the imperialist stage of capitalism, it did place serious curbs on this right in relation to the black petty bourgeoisie. But worldwide, and in the most sweeping fashion in South Africa, every other bourgeois freedom has been attacked, as the world system of capitalism sinks deeper into crisis. The system of capitalism has lost all its progressive features. In the imperialist epoch, it cannot permit the luxury of consistent democracy. Consequently, it is this rotten system that must go. We have no interest in continuing to provide the bourgeoisie in South Africa the ‘equal right’ to private property, in the name of an abstract, formal, bourgeois democracy.3.3 Forms of Capitalist Class rule in the Epoch of Imperialism
The entire Harare Declaration is characterised by a lack of a class perspective. It says:
‘We reaffirm our conviction, which history confirms, that where colonial, racial and apartheid domination exist, there can neither be peace nor justice.’
This statement is true only if understood correctly. As it stands, it does not go far enough. Indeed, it is entirely in keeping with Stalinist and petty-bourgeois thinking. It sets ‘colonial, racial and apartheid domination’ apart from other no less odious forms of domination. Again there is no class understanding of reality. In a world under the sway of imperialism, all forms of domination, oppression and exploitation are products of the system of imperialism. The hated apartheid system is nothing but a peculiar form of imperialist capitalism. Similarly, the military, Bonapartist or the pseudo-democratic regimes throughout Africa are various political shells with a common capitalist content. Decolonisation throughout the continent merely provided the oppressed but self-seeking petty-bourgeoisie with the opportunity to improve its position, while the position of the toiling masses remained virtually unchanged. Nowhere was the first stage, i.e. the acquisition of ‘independence’, followed by the promised fight for socialism on the part of the Stalinists. The harsh reality of neo-colonialism and continued dependence stood out starkly as the euphoria of formal independence soon faded. Africa today testifies to the truth that for as long as there is capitalism there will be colonialism / neo-colonialism, racism and apartheid. Just as, for as long as there is capitalism there will be domination of the many by the few, domination of the poor by the rich, domination of the propertyless masses by the owners of the means of production.
Consequently, there will be no peace and justice unless through united struggle on a world scale, the working class of each country in Africa and worldwide, leaning on the support of the poor peasants and other sections of the oppressed petty bourgeoisie, seizes power, smashes the bourgeois state, expropriates the bourgeoisie, and on the basis of soviet power and a conscious economic plan, proceeds to establish a new socialist world order. The road to peace and justice, and an end to all forms of domination, including those of a colonial, racist and apartheid type, can only be through workers’ revolution on a world scale.
Of course, the Stalinists and nationalist backers of the HD reject these conclusions. In this they aid the bourgeoisie in keeping down the working class.
For the same reason, throughout the HD there is a failure to explain or analyse the relationship between apartheid and capitalism. It is this failure to understand the class basis of apartheid that is the source of its reactionary politics. There can be neither ‘permanent peace and stability’, nor, indeed ‘a united, democratic and non-racial country’, if the South African working class does not seize state power, break the economic power of the bourgeoisie, establish its class dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, and decisively enter upon the road to socialism. Furthermore, for as long as the entire capitalist system continues to squeeze the life out of the toiling masses, there can be no ‘peace and stability’.3.4 Liberal Reformism versus Revolutionary Socialism
The nationalists and Stalinists preach the doctrine of liberalism rather than revolutionary socialism. They remain trapped in a formal bourgeois democratic perspective.
For example, the Harare Declaration speaks of ‘equal rights to human dignity and respect, regardless of race, sex or creed’ and the belief that, ‘all men and women have the right and duty to participate in their own government, as equal members of society’. But in a class-divided society equal rights and social equality are in fact an illusion. In capitalist society real political and economic power resides in the hands of the capitalist class. So, despite formal legal equality, there is de facto inequality. The will of the strong is imposed on the weak by a whole range of direct and indirect means, including racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.
Even in the most advanced capitalist countries full-blown racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination are deeply entrenched. Within capitalist society humilation and oppression, rather than human dignity and respect, is the norm for the vast majority. This is the reality of ‘equal rights’ in the epoch of imperialism. A semblance of democracy has only been possible in the case of advanced capitalist countries which have been able to pay for this generally expendable luxury from the super-profits squeezed out of the workers of other more backward countries.
It is sheer petty-bourgeois fantasy to believe that South Africa, whose belated bourgeois revolution from above imposed such a harsh undemocratic reality on the black majority, can miraculously escape this pattern. South Africa’s relatively high place in the world economic table has been a result of apartheid and the denial of democracy to the black majority. Genuine democracy and the complete liquidation of apartheid is, has to be, a complete anathema to the bourgeoisie. Only the liquidation of capitalism itself and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat can guarantee democracy and an end to every vestige of the present apartheid nightmare for the masses.3.5 Should Revolutionary Socialists Therefore Reject the Struggle for Democracy?
This would be a false and sectarian conclusion. It would constitute a mechanistic and undialectical understanding of the permanent revolution conception in South Africa. Indeed, our central democratic slogan under present circumstances is for a Constituent Assembly. The term itself comes from the French Revolution, i.e. the bourgeois revolution beginning in 1789. But this call has nothing to do with the Stalinist idea of a two-stage revolution. We are not saying bourgeois democracy first, then socialism.
Our strategic aim is the conquest of power by the South African working class. But the immediate task is to win the hearts and minds of the entire working class. This requires a whole series of tactical formulations, which progressively draws increasing layers and sections of the working class into an all-out battle against the bourgeoisie for power. At the centre of mobilising the masses will be the struggle for 100% democracy and the convocation of a Constituent Assembly. The specific combination of tasks and demands are determined by the peculiarities of South African conditions and the changing situation within the mass movement.
i) The fact that the apartheid system has completely denied the black majority even formal equality and democratic rights, means that the idea of majority rule is enormously attractive in South Africa.
To enforce hideous conditions of exploitation upon the black working class, the bourgeoisie could not even contemplate conceding the political franchise to the black masses. When driven by mass discontent from below, it could only concede to the racist, sham, toy democracy of Tricameralism and the system of community councillors. Having been denied the right to vote for so long, having yearned so passionately to have a democratic say over things, formal democracy, the idea of one-person-one-vote still has immense attractive power for the masses.
Furthermore, racist inequality and the existence of a white minority with enormous privileges evokes powerful feelings amongst the black majority. In South Africa the working class comprises the majority of the population, the oppressed masses by far outnumber their oppressors. Be it urban workers, or workers on the white capitalist farms, or the dispossessed and proletarianised masses of the Bantustans, the idea of a black majority counterposing itself numerically against the white minority in elections inexorably carries tremendous weight.
ii) The vast majority of workers have no clear ideas of what workers’ democracy, i.e. soviet democracy, means.
Only the most advanced, more class conscious sector of the organised workers and the youth in the townships have recognised that formal democracy without power over the economy is an illusion. Only a small section of the vanguard of the working class understands what is meant by workers’ democracy as opposed to bourgeois democracy.
The idea and necessity for soviet democracy has not penetrated the consciousness of many workers. The embryonic organs of dual power and revolutionary class democracy that were established during the period 1984-86 were not invested with sufficient cohesion, and the leadership prevented their further development by failing to provide a clear plan of action, so as to weld the masses into an invincible revolutionary force. Soviet power, in the form of peoples’ courts, area and street committees, was only glimpsed. These first elements of dual power were allowed to fritter away as the ruling class gained ascendancy once more.
So, outside of a small vanguard, for the millions of others – in the townships; in the factories, shops, on the mines, and every other workplace; in the rural towns; on the farms; in the bantustans – it is the idea of one-person-one-vote which grips the imagination.
iii) The illusions in formal democracy are fed by the politics of the petty bourgeois nationalist and Stalinist leadership.
The powerful illusions that the masses have in formal democracy, are fed by the whole politics of the existing leading organisations such as the ANC and the SACP. The ANC has always had a purely formal petty-bourgeois approach to the question of democracy. On the other hand, the Stalinist SACP has been more devious: while pretending to be the party of the workers and socialism, but sabotaging any political independence of the working class, it has perverted the struggle for workers’ democracy. In keeping with a two-stage perspective, and against all the basic principles of Bolshevism, it has conceded the vanguard role to the ANC with its Freedom Charter. It has been a particularly destructive obstacle to the development of a strong vanguard of class conscious workers. Furthermore, over the last three to four year the ANC-SACP leadership has done everything in its power to purge from the consciousness of the most advanced participants of the 1984-86 uprising all vestiges of socialism and workers’ soviet democracy. And this was immediately after the high point when, even according to the SACP’s African Communist, ‘ideas of socialism . . . (were) spreading’.3.6 The Fight for Consistent Democracy and the ANC’s Preconditions
The ANC’s preconditions for negotiation, as set out in the Harare Declaration, are excellent democratic demands. While revolutionary socialists reject the negotiations framework which the preconditions form part of, they must be the most consistent fighters for these, and all the other democratic demands of the masses. The petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC has already proved its inconsistency in relation to these preconditions. For one, it is clearly not even serious about its insistence that all these conditions must be met before negotiations can proceed. It has been erratic in raising these demands, virtually dropping any reference to the vitally important fourth demand for the scrapping of all repressive legislation, including the Internal Security Act.
The preconditions are:
1. Release all political prisoners and detainees unconditionally and refrain from imposing any restrictions on them;
2. Lift all bans and restrictions on all proscribed and restricted organisations and persons;
3. Remove all troops from the townships;
4. End the state of emergency and repeal all legislation, such as, and including the Internal Security Act, designed to circumscribe political activity; and,
5. Cease all political trials and political executions.
It is expressly stated in the Harare Declaration that ‘at the very least’ all these demands must be met before negotiations.
Only one of the preconditions has been met by the state, i.e. it has lifted the bans and restrictions on the ANC, the SACP, the Pan African Congress (PAC) and all other organisations. Although some political prisoners and detainees will now go free, those who have sacrificed most, those who have been imprisoned for taking up arms against the state, will remain locked in the apartheid jails. Although the apartheid government has announced that prisoners on death row have had their executions suspended, there is no assurance that they will not hang (their fate is still to be determined by the apartheid parliament), nor has the De Klerk regime agreed to ‘cease all political trials and political executions’. Aspects of the emergency regulations have been rescinded, so released detainees will no longer be subject to restrictions. But the state of emergency remains in force. The only amendment to the Internal Security Act is the ending of indefinite detention: detainees can now only (!) be kept for six months, and can have access to a chosen lawyer and a doctor. But this heinous piece of apartheid legislation remains in force.
Only one precondition has been met. But with the wide range of security legislation still fully intact, even this precondition is severely undermined. The members of the unbanned organisations can still be detained, arrested, tortured, imprisoned, harassed and intimidated by the apartheid state, their publications can still be banned, their meetings can still be restricted and their activities severely circumscribed. It is disturbing to witness how the ANC has conveniently dropped the demand for the scrapping of the Internal Security Act and all other repressive legislation.
The central question related to the preconditions for negotiation is that, even if the apartheid regime concedes to all the demands, there is absolutely no guarantee that it will not renege. It is clear that only the apartheid state has the power to change the existing laws. It has created these laws, it has the means to enforce, and it has the means to revoke them. But it also has the means to re-install them. In other, words, the question is not settled by moral persuasion. It is a question of armed power. De Klerk is not, and never will be, an honest and honourable man. He might take certain steps which constitute a reform of the existing political / security dispensation, but as manager of the affairs of the bourgeoisie and as its chief executive agent, he also has a bottom line that is clearly drawn. If the masses become too militant, if they resume the path of open class war, then the De Klerk regime will rely on the police, the army and the security apparatus to do what it regards as necessary, regardless of whether it is regarded by the petty-bourgeoisie as a dishonourable breach of an agreement. Matters such as these are settled by force not morality.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) resolution on negotiations half recognises this fact, by calling for the South African Police (SAP) and the South African Defence Force (SADF) to be confined to barracks. A UDF document, drafted before the February 1988 restrictions, included this requirement but went even further, calling for the ‘apartheid vigilantes and death squads’ to be dismantled, and for ‘Bantustan authorities including the so-called ‘independent’ bantustans . . . to be stripped of their powers . . . so that people would have the same freedom to organise as in other areas.’
But these documents omit to explain which force is to execute this huge task of confining the mighty armed apparatus of the bourgeois state. So, in this instance, half recognition means being blind to the whole point. Only the armed masses themselves can guarantee the conditions for fullest democratic participation of the masses in determining their destiny. Only if ‘the bodies of armed men’ (Engels), arch defenders of the apartheid-capitalist state, are disarmed by the armed militia of the people, led by the working class, can the COSATU resolution be fulfilled.3.7 The Struggle for a Revolutionary Democratic Constituent Assembly
Revolutionary socialists must struggle for these demands, not as part of securing the preconditions for negotiations, but as part of the struggle for a revolutionary democratic Constituent Assembly.
* In the Harare Declaration there is a call to ‘Release all political prisoners and detainees unconditionally and refrain from imposing any restrictions on them.’
The two-faced regime, bedevilled by the continuing social crisis, while uttering statements about reform and an end to apartheid, continues to imprison, detain and restrict thousands of militants. Can we treat the existing regime as honest democrats who will unconditionally concede to this demand? Of course we must fight to win this demand. But only the united, militant action of the masses can genuinely tilt things in our favour. It is likely that the last prisoners and detainees will have to wait for the masses to storm our Bastilles. The release of the long-long-serving prisoners has been part of the apartheid state’s manoeuvres, aimed solely at securing a counter-revolutionary compromise deal from the ANC leadership. We cannot talk of a democratic Constituent Assembly if there are political prisoners and detainees. In no way can they be excluded from the elections. They must be freed so that full participation in the elections is guaranteed.
* The demand to ‘Lift all bans and all restrictions on all proscribed and restricted organisations• and persons’, has been met by De Klerk. We must take advantage of this concession. But we must not be blinded by it. Instead, we must understand the motives of the deadly snake we are dealing with. What it gives today it will snatch back tomorrow without compunction. The bourgeoisie cannot 100% democracy. It will do everything in its power to prevent a truly democratic Constituent Assembly from being convoked, including resorting to the draconian measures that it has presently revoked. Only the power of the masses can guarantee our demands.
* De Klerk has made it quite clear that the State of Emergency continues, and the armed might of apartheid will continue to be utili sed against the masses. We support the call to ‘Remove all troops from the townships’. But we must demand more than this.
We do not trust the Pretoria regime. We do not trust imperialism. All it powers of persuasion, conspiracy, sabotage, deceit and force will be deployed to protect its self-interest. We rely only on the masses. The masses themselves must guarantee the 100% democratic and free and fair character of the elections to the Constituent Assembly. And this is only possible if the bodies of armed men that constitute the organs of the existing apartheid state are disarmed, and the oppressed masses armed. We reject United Nations supervision, for the United Nations is not at all a neutral body. Indeed it is what Lenin called its forerunner, the League of Nations: ‘a thieves’ kitchen’. We reject the sell-out they are cooking up for us and will not have our freedom stolen from us.
* Neither the State of Emergency has been lifted, nor has the Internal Security Act been scrapped. The restrictions on political activity remain monstrous. The Labour Relations Amendment Act (LRAA) alone imposes extreme legal curbs on the political activity of the trade unions. For as long as all the repressive legislation exists and the bodies of armed men that protect the apartheid capitalist state continue to operate, fear and intimidation will remain. The masses must rely on their own power to ensure conditions for free and open political activity. The bourgeoisie knows no other way than naked repression to ensure the preservation of its class rule. We demand the right to propagate our revolutionary socialist politics openly throughout the length and breadth of South Africa. We must expose the profoundly reactionary agreement entered into by the ANC, MDM and UDF leadership, that marches, meetings and demonstrations will be peaceful. To talk about not antagonising the security forces is to bind the masses to the apartheid state’s notion of ‘law and order’. Only when the masses themselves are armed and the forces of reaction disarmed can we talk of 100% democracy.
* The Harare Declaration demands ‘Cease all political trials and political executions.’ This the apartheid state has not fully conceded to. We must fight to win this demand in its entirety, for the apartheid courts are tools in the hands of the ruling class to demobilise and demoralise the masses by outlawing its best and most fearless fighters. This is a prerequisite for convoking a democratic Constituent Assembly.3.8 Overcoming the Illusions of the Majority in Struggle
This means we must use what is progressive about these illusions in order to advance our struggle for workers’ democracy. In the course of the struggle these illusions in formal bourgeois democracy, based upon what the Harare Declaration call ‘universal principles’, will be shed and substituted in practice by real working class democracy.
But the question is which social force is capable of securing democracy for the oppressed masses? Only the black working class can be consistently democratic. The highly developed nature of South African capitalism and the related existence of a working class that constitutes the majority of the population is the primary factor that conditions the weighting of demands in the struggle. After the many decades of suffering, the black masses must demand everything. They want a decent life, where there are no measly or starvation wages, with jobs for all, with decent housing, schooling, health care for everyone. Most of all they want a direct say over the running of all aspects of their lives. They want to wield the power to change what needs to be changed, to shape a new society rid completely of all oppression and exploitation.3.9 The Call for a Constituent Assembly and the Struggle for Power
Our rejection of negotiations is clear. We believe that they can only constitute a terrible trap, which takes the initiative out of the hands of the black working class, and places it in the hands of the South African state, acting as representative and executive committee for the South African bourgeoisie and imperialism. We have already explained why we do not think that apartheid can be negotiated away, and why the ruling class will not hand over the reins of power to its class enemy. However, we need to set out how we see the coming period, and which tasks confront the South African working class.
Our strategic aim is to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in South Africa. Only such a class dictatorship can ensure an end to apartheid, establish genuine democracy and open the way to stable peace. Formal democracy, i.e. bourgeois democracy, constitutes the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
As revolutionary Marxists we will consistently expose the fact that bourgeois democracy can only be a form through which the bourgeoisie will strive to continue to maintain its class rule over the oppressed and exploited.
In this context, without conceding one iota on our understanding of the necessity of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, we believe that the revolutionary vanguard will be won from the ANC by a consistent struggle for 100% democracy and the slogan for a Constituent Assembly. This tactical orientation is the best and shortest route to the attainment of our strategic aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
We will not simply become sectarian preachers of the virtues of the dictatorship of the proletariat over the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, or of workers’ democracy over bourgeois democracy. As Bolsheviks, our task is to win the battle for the hearts and minds of workers, by being in the vanguard of the struggle for democracy, offering a clear way forward for the working class, in a ruthless struggle against the treachery, cowardice and vacillation of its existing leadership. We will continue to make propaganda which sets out clearly the theoretical basis of our perspective and our understanding of the relationship between our tactics and our strategic goal. More importantly, in the course of struggling for 100% democracy, through the widest and most militant mobilisation of the oppressed masses behind the call for a revolutionary Constituent Assembly and through a conscious application of our revolutionary programme, organs of mass struggle will grow into organs of dual power, i.e. soviets.
We call for the convocation of a revolutionary democratic Constituent Assembly, convened by the armed militia of the oppressed masses. The demands which the Harare Declaration sets out as preconditions for negotiations with the apartheid regime are excellent democratic demands. But the question is how are these demands to be won? The premise of those who support negotiations is that we can, or even have to, trust the De Klerk regime. The promise to agree to stick to a bargain is all we have. If De Klerk says yes to all the preconditions and proceeds to act upon then, what are we to do if later he reneges. Furthermore, what is the working class and the rest of the oppressed supposed to concede in exchange for the agreement on the part of the De Klerk regime to the preconditions?
There is nothing to talk about. We simply demand the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, without any concessions to racist fears or privileges. It has to be universal (for all persons sixteen years old and over), free and fair, on the basis of secret ballot, on the basis of electoral arrangements and procedures that are completely different from the existing racist arrangements. And only the armed masses, having disarmed the apartheid army, police and security apparatus, can ensure the convocation of such a truly democratic Constituent Assembly.Postscript: The case of Namibia
The events in Namibia demonstrate clearly the treacherous nature of United Nations Resolution 435. The black masses of South Africa must not allow a similar sell-out. We reject any ‘solution’ in which the dice from the start is clearly loaded against us. We say let the masses exercise their democratic right in a truly free and fair election to a genuine Constituent Assembly.
Two things gave rise to the betrayal of the interests of the masses in Namibia. Firstly, the fact that the entire negotiated settlement was designed to guarantee the political and economic interests of world imperialism and its regional gendarme, the South African bourgeoisie. Secondly, the policy of betrayal of the SWAPO leadership. These are the two things that we in South Africa must avoid at all costs. The scene is being set for a similar betrayal, and we must fight tooth and nail against those conspiring to take the South African revolution down the blind alley of a Resolution 435.
The elections in Namibia were not at all free and fair, they were a fraud.
The enormous poll of over 95% of the electorate indicated the extreme hunger for democracy. But the burning desire to have a say, did not by any means signify that the masses exercised their right to vote without fear and intimidation, on the one hand, and confusion and hesitancy, on the other. The elections were neither free nor fair. They were severely weighted against the oppressed masses. The bureaucratic regimentation of the entire process, coupled with the SWAPO leadership’s disgraceful calls for reconciliation and ‘discipline’, kept the elections within a framework that destroyed the political confidence of the masses, disorientating them and ensuring that they were politically passive, rather that strident and militant. The SWAPO leadership treacherously played into the hands of the class enemy. Wooed and cajoled by imperialism, it played along with its designs, refusing to call the Namibian working class and the poor peasantry into militant action on the basis of a clear class programme for full independence and socialism. Consequently, it was the reactionary Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) and the other parties that were allowed to take the political initiative and go onto the offensive.
Who controlled the media?
The newspapers, the television, the radio are all owned by the apartheid bourgeoisie and its state. Every medium bombarded the masses with DTA propaganda, whereas the working class
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By virtue of the SWAPO leadership’s role, the working class and poor peasants were left politically disarmed.
Who controlled the elections?
The White authorities, backed up to the hilt by the South African regime, controlled the entire election process. The elections were marked by an almost unbelievable passivity and calmness. The bourgeois media has explained this with absurd references to the ‘natural dignity’ of the black Namibian population. A significant contributory factor was the fact that the hated apartheid bureaucracy manned all the polling stations. As has been the case for decades of apartheid colonialism, the White oppressor was in charge. Those grim apartheid bureaucrats, who have sat behind government counters – insulting, humiliating, brow-beating the oppressed Namibians – rigidly controlling all aspects of their lives, were now serving up the first dose of democracy. What an obscene and ugly fiasco. We will not allow the boers to be in charge of our democratic proceedings. The oppressed masses themselves must be in charge if the word democracy has any meaning.
Who had the financial backing?
The DTA had unlimited access to financial resources. Like the multi-millionaire politicians in American elections, the DTA candidates could woo, bribe, and buy over tens of thousands of voters. The major conduits were the reactionary tribal ‘leaders’, which for decades had been simply the paid puppets of the South African colonial authorities. Now the biggest pay-off had come, and they danced for their masters once more.
Who had the historical advantages?
Ignorance, illiteracy, poverty and fear all played their part in providing votes for the DTA. Colonial oppression and apartheid capitalism weighed heavily on the masses. The vast majority had not flexed their political muscles in open struggle. They had not as a result of their own activity begun to feel their political power and therefore begun to act in their own real interests. The entire election process was a numbing experience rather than a liberatory one. As a result, the oppressed and highly demoralised masses in a number of rural areas, were ready victims of the reactionary tribal preachings and the financial lures of the DTA and its sell-out puppet entourage. This is why the DTA, who represent the interests of the apartheid bourgeoisie and the white settlers, secured so many votes. In the elections the DTA could rely on White privilege in education and wealth to rally voters. Why else would the oppressed and downtrodden masses vote in such great numbers for the party that represents continued apartheid oppression?
Of course, the SWAPO leadership is to blame for the organisation’s failure to secure a two-thirds majority in the elections. It was determined to play the game according to the reactionary rules established in advance. The masses were simply not mobilised. Their political temper was not raised at all. The counter-revolutionary cast-iron framework of 435, which heavily favoured the party of reaction, the DTA. was not challenged by the calling of the masses to action.
The illusion was created that freedom would be obtained on a plate, with the compliments of imperialism, the South African bourgeoisie and the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy. At the very moment when the attention of the masses was vitally concentrated on the question of democracy and self-determination, the SWAPO leadership persuaded the masses to drop their guard. There was no attempt to ensure the masses themselves became active, articulating their interests.