[A response to Pallo
Millions of workers and
fellow poor supported the UDF and the ANC; millions still support the ANC. Tens
of thousands laid down their lives in fighting against ‘the system’, many
thinking that the ANC would bring liberation and an end to poverty. But today
the ANC is managing the ‘system’, keeping the masses in poverty and starvation,
while a tiny section of the black elite enjoy the crumbs from the tables of the
capitalist masters. The capitalists are making their biggest profits ever while
the masses continue to suffer and die from preventable diseases. We owe it to the
youth, to the many who suffered under the previous regime, to the millions who
still suffer under the ‘system’, to the many who died fighting it, to pose and
to attempt to seriously answer the question: What went wrong? Is it
simply a question of a corrupt few, as Pallo
Over the past 18 years, the ANC-SACP, instead of dismantling the racial group areas, have built ‘housing’ in the ghettoes, thus entrenching racial divisions. Most of the ‘housing’ built are so small and of such poor quality that they are nothing but glorified shacks. The pace of ‘housing’ is less than population growth, so homelessness is growing every year. Now the ANC-SACP government wants to even scrap the small housing subsidy. Schooling, despite the different racial departments being scrapped, still takes place mostly along racial lines. Poverty is so rife that the average life expectancy has dropped from an already low 51 to 47 (some statisticians would even put it at close to 41). More than 2 million workers have been retrenched since 1994 and today more than 2 million of the few who are working, live as semi-slaves at the mercy of the modern slave traders (labour brokers). Many millions are unemployed, and many of the youth face the prospect of never getting work.
While a section of the
ANC-SACP elite have become millionaires and billionaires, the monopolies who
have plundered the riches before 1994, like Anglo American and the Bank of New
York, still continue to make super-profits. In fact these imperialist
monopolies are making the greatest profits ever in their history. For example, in 2007, over R1000 Billion of profits was taken out of the country by the
international capitalists (R500bn, 20% of GDP, was taken out through transfer
pricing according to Ben Fine- The Shop Steward Vol 20 no 4 1 Sept 2011 –‘New
Growth Path for Old’). Transfer pricing is when Anglo American and other
capitalists deliberately lie about the value of their exports, stating it is
much less than what it really is, and so smuggle out hundreds of billions of
The fundamental question then is: What went wrong and what can we do about it?
What we are summarizing, in essence, is the urgent need for the working class to break from the ANC and SACP to build a revolutionary working class party that is independent of the state and the capitalist class, a party that is part of an International (we say this should be the refounded Fourth International).
The early history of the ANC- 1912 to 1965
Edward Roux in his Time longer than rope- the Black Man’s
Struggle for Freedom in
Unfortunately Kadalie was both a syndicalist and a nationalist. When the CPSA (Communist Party of South Africa) tried to build its influence in the ICU, Kadalie had them expelled in 1926.
The CPSA was formed in 1921 with the magnificent internationalist programme which , ‘makes its appeal to all South African workers, organised and unorganised, white and black, to join in promoting the overthrow of the capitalist system and outlawry of the capitalist class, and the establishment of a Commonwealth of Workers throughout the World.’
A struggle developed in the
CPSA which was a reflection of the Stalinist takeover of the Bolshevik party in
Stalin changed the Bolshevik
policy of building independent Communist parties. In
In South Africa, the CPSA was instructed to build an alliance with the middle class ANC and to adopt the infamous 2-stage theory- first a fight to put the ANC in power to achieve ‘democracy’ and then later to fight for Socialism.
It was the work of the
stalinised CPSA that brought the organised working class to postpone its fight
for Socialism and to tie itself to the ANC. This was the origin of the myth
that ‘ANC members are unionists and unionists are ANC members’. Pallo
One of the founders of the
Indian Congress was Mahatma Ghandi. This is what Edward Roux writes about him: ‘ Ghandi took a similar line during the
Bambata rebellion in 1906. This was essentially a revolt against the poll tax
on the part of the Africans and as such it was quite comparable to the struggle
of the Indians against a similar discriminatory law. But Ghandi remained loyal
While the British troops machine-gunned Bambata and his followers, massacring some 500 of them, Ghandi’s supporters stood ready as stretcher bearers to save any British troop who was injured. Such is the nature of the middle class Ghandi, hero of the ANC and the Indian Congress.
By 1928 the Stalinist
bureaucracy in the Soviet Union directed the CPSA to change its programme of
uniting ‘white and black workers’ to adopting the ‘
SP Bunting and others who were expelled from the CPSA, played a major role in building and rebuilding militant trade unions. By 1942 there was a Council of Non-European Trade Unions formed. They claimed membership of 158 000 by 1945. They were made up not only of CPSA controlled unions but unions controlled by the Workers International League (Trotskyist) and 2 groups of independent unions that were previously under CPSA and Trotskyist influence respectively.
Thus the support of the trade union movement, in the early years, for the ANC, was limited and at best contested. It was not a blanket ‘every union member an ANC member’.
Like the party of Ghandi in
By 1948 the fascistic National Party regime came to power. By 1950 all ‘Communist’ activity was banned, including any literature of Lenin and Trotsky. Considering that the CPSA was violently anti-Trotskyist, the banning was aimed not only against the CPSA but also against the Trotskyists. Imperialism and their lackey regme in SA knew the threat posed by independent communist activity. The French Ambassador warned Hitler that the only victor of war would be the Fourth International. Indeed the big capitalists knew the threat of working class independence, especially when the imperialists were fighting one another in a world war over new markets, namely there would be the threat of a revolution like in Russia October 1917 when the working class took power but this time the threat was of workers taking power in France, Britain Germany, or even the USA or even again in the Soviet Union against the Stalinist bureaucracy, or in any colony or country on the planet.
This is what Edward Roux says of this period: ‘Since the war the communists had established intimate links with organizations such as the African National Congress and Indian Congresses. These organizations had not become completely communist bodies, but they had become permeated with many of the ideas of militancy and direct action which had characterised the CP.’ The CPSA/SACP actively built the Congress of Democrats, COD, (for ‘white’ liberals) and the Coloured People’s Congress. Although the CP could not operate openly, they worked through the Congresses and the COD, playing the leading role for the 1955 adoption of the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter was deliberately vague but was written in a way consistent with the notion of Stalin that there would first be a ‘democratic’ revolution led by the ANC, followed at some unspecified date in the future of a transition to Socialism. That the first ‘stage’ is capitalist and not Socialist is confirmed by Mandela, Slovo and recently by Cronin and the 2009 SACP conference:
In an article, entitled ‘In our :Lifetime’ published in Liberation in June 1956, Nelson Mandela made the following statement about the Freedom Charter:
‘Whilst the Charter proclaims democratic changes of a far reaching nature, it is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state, but a programme for the unification of various classes and groupings amongst the people on a democratic basis. Under socialism the workers hold state power. They and the peasants own the means of production, land, the factories and the mills. All production is for use and not for profit. The Charter does not contemplate such profound economic and political changes. Its declaration “The people shall govern!” visualizes the transfer of power not to any single social class but to all the people of the country be they workers, peasants, professional men or petty-bourgeoisie.
It is true that in demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people. The breaking up and democratisation of these monopolies will open up fresh fields for the development of a prosperous Non-European bourgeois class. For the first time in the history of the country the Non-European bourgeoisie will have the opportunity to own in their own name and right mills and factories, and trade and private enterprise will boom and flourish as never before. To destroy these monopolies means the termination of the exploitation of vast sections of the populace by mining kings and land barons and there will be a general rise in living standards of the people. It is precisely because the Charter offers immense opportunities for an overall movement in the material conditions of all classes and groups that it attracts such wide support.’
In other words, for Mandela, the Freedom Charter is
not about creating Socialism but about creating a black capitalist class. In
other words, the Freedom Charter is about creating a small elite that is parasitic over the labour of the
working class, and is not symbiotic,
Knowing full well that the Freedom Charter was capitalist, the SACP promoted the ANC as the leader of the struggle.
While the wave of anti-colonial struggles swept
across Africa, the ANC, PAC and other groupings took to guerrilla struggle, but
by 1965 these had been crushed. For the next 20 years the ANC had virtually no
The periods from 1965 to 1985 and from 1985 to 1994
By 1965 the imperialists, through their lackey, the
National Party regime, had smashed the working class and the broader liberation
movements. By 1973, with the spontaneous
The Scandinavian government and churches were a front for imperialism to fund the development of the UDF (United Democratic Front), which was formed in 1983. The UDF had a start-up budget of R30 000. By 1989 it had a budget of R1.7 million [according to Jeremy Seekings’ The UDF]. This was only for the UDF structures. Many of the affiliates also had their own funding, also from the Scandinavian government and churches. The UDF adopted the Freedom Charter and was thus a front for the revival of the ANC. It rode on the legitimate anger and aspirations of the masses to channel the revolutionary anger of the masses into the parliamentary road, promoting the ANC into the role of becoming the new political managers for the continued exploitation of the working class. The might of all imperialist forces, through the UN, the churches (with the aid of Bishop Tutu and Allan Boesak), set up structures of workers and the middle class, in other words, workers and popular committees that were under the control of the middle class leaders of the ANC. They deliberately set up a fighting organization that was constrained by the ANC’s capitalist programme. There are several historical examples of imperialism even building soviets (councils of workers) but under the leadership of pro-capitalist forces in order to ride out the revolutionary wave and for the chosen capitalist agency to regain control.
In his article The
‘As if the
Soviets cannot be a weapon for deceiving the workers and peasants! What else
were the Menshevik-Socialist revolutionary controlled Soviets of 1917? Nothing
but a weapon for the support of the power of the bourgeoisie and the
preparation of its dictatorship. What were the social democratic Soviets in
The slogans of the UDF deliberately shackled the revolutionary anger and direction of the masses. For example, the UDF called for stayaways rather than for general strikes with workers occupying the factories. How could workers take over the factories and mines if they stayed at home? The UDF called to make the country ‘ungovernable’ instead of calling for workers to mobilise to take over and seize power. Their slogan of ‘People’s power’ hid the class differences between the worker base and the middle class leadership who only wanted to get themselves into office in a capitalist government- after all, the middle class and capitalist class are also part of the people. You cannot say that workers and capitalists can rule as the capitalists exist on the basis of exploiting workers. To call for people’s power as you are saying that the wolf and sheep must rule- you forget that the wolf exists to eat the sheep. The capitalists own the best land, they control the farms, the mines, the banks, the factories- the working class has nothing. How can workers and capitalists rule together and be equal when one group has everything and the other nothing? The SACP raised the slogan of People’s power to hide that the capitalists would rule and the ANC would only be the new managers. The programme of the UDF protected the capitalist control over the commanding heights of the economy- the land, the mines, the farms. Thus it was that the UDF protected imperialism which controlled (and still control) the SA economy.
That the SACP was a key factor in reviving the ANC is seen from Slovo’s speech on 30th July 1986 (On the 65th anniversary of the SACP):
‘The main thrust and content of the immediate struggle continues to revolve around the Freedom Charter which provides a minimum platform for uniting all classes and groups for the achievement of a non-racial, united democratic South Africa based on the rule of the majority’…..
‘In expressing support for the Freedom Charter our 1962 Programme states that it is not a programme for socialism but rather a 'common programme for a free, democratic South Africa, agreed on by socialists and non-socialists'…
For some while after apartheid falls there will undoubtedly be a mixed economy’…
‘The ANC-led liberation alliance, representing the main revolutionary forces, is clearly the key sector of this front’….
‘In our book this does not imply that the Party itself must seek to occupy the dominant position in the liberation alliance. On the contrary, if correct leadership of the democratic revolution requires the strengthening of the national movement as the major and leading mass organisational force, then this is precisely the way in which a party exercises its vanguard role in the real and not the vulgar sense of the term’.…
In other words, Joe Slovo also agreed that the Freedom Charter was not a plan for Socialism. Indeed if it is a plan to ‘unite’ the classes, it cannot be a plan to abolish the capitalist class, the class that controls the commanding heights of the economy. That is, it is a plan to maintain capitalism, to maintain exploitation and maintain imperialist domination.. Slovo also confirms that the perspective of the SACP is to build and thereby revive the ANC.
But the 2 states of emergency of the latter part of the 1980’s greatly weakened the UDF. The SACP also gained control over a number of smaller unions and were a major factor, working with the syndicalist factions against the Trotskyist factions in the formation of Cosatu in 1985. Indeed several of the ‘Trotskyist’ factions also worked to revive the ANC instead of following a class independent policy. But the alliance of the syndicalists and SACP was too strong over the Cosatu apparatus and by 1990, after the SACP, ANC and others were unbanned, the Cosatu leaders formally established the alliance with the ANC and SACP, with the ANC being pushed by the SACP to leadership of the 3. But in the lead up to this, in many affiliates there were battles between the SACP supporters and a section of the ‘Trotskyists’ for the support of the ANC versus another section of the Trotskyists and supporters of the Black consciousness movement. One of the notable clashes was the split in CCAWUSA, where the Cosatu leaders recognised the minority faction which supported the Freedom Charter versus the majority which supported a Workers Charter and an independent class policy. Several Trotskyists who supported an independent policy were expelled from Cosatu.
Thus it was through the programme of the SACP operating in Cosatu and the UDF, that the ANC was revived. The aims of the SACP coincided with that of imperialism, to put the political leaders of the black middle class into political power to prevent a workers’ revolution.
This is the result of the pact of stalinism with
imperialism, not only in
Once the ANC was unbanned, it was necessary to destroy the committees of the working class and the middle class- thus it was that the UDF was disbanded. Imperialism diverted funds away from the UDF and poured them into the ANC, beating them on the head every step of the way to give up on more and more of the democratic aspirations of the masses, in return for the crumbs of privilege from the imperialist table. Meanwhile imperialism funded the ANC with a budget of R4 million per month and gave them a budget for the 1994 elections of R168 million (according to Seekings: The UDF).
The next major step was the Codesa talks which agreed to protecting private property of the capitalists- in other words that there would be no expropriation or confiscation of the wealth controlled by imperialism- indeed the commanding heights could now no longer be touched even if 100% of parliament voted for it.
The SACP leaders in Cosatu played the major role in developing the election platform for the ANC, namely, the RDP. Repeatedly discussions were held, watering down the demands of the masses through several drafts of the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme). Some of the ‘Trotskyists’ also supported the RDP as a election programme, even if was not even a programme to meet all the needs of the masses. But essentially the RDP was a mechanism to tie the masses to a capitalist election, accepting the dominance of the imperialists, turning the eyes of the masses away from a revolutionary overthrow of the ‘apartheid’ regime.
Joe Slovo proposed the ‘sunset’ clauses through which the old state apparatus was to be kept intact for at least 5 more years. Mandela called for the masses to throw their weapons into the sea and totally ruled out nationalization. Thus the revolution was destroyed from within by the SACP and ANC.
Several of the international ‘Trotskyist’ groups like
the Militant, the International Socialist Organization, supported the ANC,
while Socialist Action supported the formation of a reformist Workers party
through Wosa. They abandoned to task of building an independent, revolutionary
working class party as part of a revolutionary International. Such was their
tail-ending of Stalinism and of reformism. These groups deliberately isolated
the struggle in SA from the task of workers taking power in the
From 1994 to 2012
Every economic policy of the ANC has been supported by the SACP. They were among the first to welcome GEAR, a structural adjustment programme of imperialism (although they were forced by workers to backtrack from this position, at least on paper). They supported Asgisa and now the New Growth Path, all of which are programmes for supporting the capitalist class and imperialism.
For example, while the ‘apartheid’ regime had a tax on companies of 48%, the ANC, with the full support of the SACP, have reduced the company tax to 28%. Thus the burden of tax collection has been placed much more heavily on the working class and lower middle class.
The SACP takes credit for the capitalist economic
policy of the ANC and clothes it with socialist phrases. This is what the SACP
said on the 14th Sept 2009 in their discussion document on The SACP on the state of
‘Looking back to our September 2008 National Policy Conference discussions and resolutions, it is possible to realise how influential the Conference has proved to be. Almost all of the key resolutions have been implemented or have been strongly embodied in the ANC's election manifesto and government's recently published Medium Term Strategic Framework.’… ‘it is important that as communists we are clear that working class HEGEMONY doesn't mean working class exclusivity (still less party chauvinism). Working class hegemony means the ability of the working class to provide a consistent strategic leadership (politically, economically, socially, organisationally, morally - even culturally) to the widest range of social forces - in particular, to the wider working class itself, to the broader mass of urban and rural poor, to a wide range of middle strata, and in South African conditions, to many sectors of non-monopoly capital. Where it is not possible to win over individuals on the narrow basis of class interest, it can still be possible to win influence on the basis of intellectual and moral integrity (compare, for instance, our consistent ability, particularly as the Party, to mobilise over many decades a small minority of whites during the struggle against white minority rule). This kind of hegemonic ability is different from a "balancing" act, a "redistributive" programme so beloved by centrist reformism. It is not a question of striking deals with different classes - slicing up the cake.’
The SACP is correct that their policy is not about ‘slicing up the cake’ because the whole cake goes to the imperialists while the rest have to be satisfied with crumbs.
In its 2009 discussion document, the SACP argues that
the major gain of ‘beneficiation’ is the infrastructure programme- thus they
justify the tripling of the electricity price to build coal and nuclear power,
providing a cash cow that gives Anglo American and other imperialists over R
1000 bn just for the build programme. It also guarantees the exploitation of
the masses for the next 30 years with hundreds of billions of
This defence by the SACP of the imperialists to
plunder and steal is confirmed when Jeremy Cronin agues against the
nationalization of the mines (18th November 2009). He argues that
the state owning the mineral rights is already a realization of the Freedom
Charter. He also argues that the mines are in decline and thus the state should
avoid taking on debt should they have to pay compensation for them. Thus while
the ANC-SACP government ‘owns’ the mineral rights, the control should stay in
the hands of Anglo American, the Bank of New York and other imperialist
companies- so says Cronin. The SACP
rejects beneficiation of diamonds as a ‘pipe-dream’, pie in the sky. In other
words, they justify the continued export of all the diamond production to
In 2007, the monopolies like Anglo American under-invoiced over R500bn of minerals that they illegally took out of the country. Within months 1 million workers were retrenched. Combined with the officially declared profits, Anglo American and other capitalists took out over R1000 Bn in wealth just in 2007. This practice of under-invoicing by Anglo American and others has been taking place for many years, even before 1994, with the full knowledge of the state. The SACP and ANC and Cosatu leaders know about this- an article on the ‘New Growth Path’ appeared last year in the Cosatu journal, The ShopSteward, which contained this data. But Cronin and the SACP have no problem with the corruption and large-scale plunder and stealing by Anglo American. We cannot nationalise the mines as they are in decline, says Cronin. Apparently to Cronin, R1000 Bn is too small an income for the state! According to Cronin, having company tax on profits reduced from 48% to 28% is a demonstration of the working class ‘hegemony’ of the state!
Under the disguise of Socialist phrases, the SACP is justifying that the wealth remain under the control of the imperialists like Anglo American. Here we see the real meaning of the Freedom Charter and ‘reconciliation’- the ANC-SACP leaders gets some crumbs from the master’s table while they keep the masses in continued slavery to the imperialists.
Some conclusions and the way forward
While imperialism repressed and suppressed the ANC
when it was convenient for it, when faced with a revolution, they helped revive
the ANC to prevent the masses from taking everything. The imperialists
understood, perhaps even better than many on the left, that the programme of
the ANC was capitalist and that they could depend on them, with the able help
of the SACP, and its 2-stage ‘revolution’, to strangle the uprising in
To call for ‘workers and popular’ committees, limits
beforehand the struggle of the masses and ties it to the whims and prejudices of
the middle class. The Stalin line in
The middle class leaders of the ANC and SACP have
sustained the apartheid ghettoes and
To even call for Soviets (fighting councils of
workers’ delegates) without realizing that the revolutionary party needs to win
leadership of these workers councils, poses a danger that the struggle of the
masses may be hijacked from within by Stalinist and other reactionary forces
operating within the workers’ movement, and indeed within these workers’
councils. If imperialism cannot smash a revolution from the outside, they will
look to smash it from within. In the process of wanting to smash the revolution
from within, imperialism could use the remnants of Stalinism, religious and
nationalist prejudices of the masses to set up their own ‘fighting’ organs, as
they have tragically done in
This does not mean that it was incorrect to make the call for fighting councils of workers delegates, or action committees based on workers delegates. It was correct to do so but not sufficient. It was necessary to have called for committees of action based on workers delegates and to have combined this with freedom of criticism for all political tendencies within the working class to operate openly within them, behind their own banner and contesting with their own programme in front of the eyes of the masses. Thus a revolutionary tendency for the working class to take power could have won out. This was impossible in the UDF as its programme was the capitalist Freedom Charter.
The late coming of Africa to capitalism, when it was in decline on a world scale, meant that the giant imperialist forces have cut it up into areas of influence, suppressing the development of local capitalists and reducing the entire continent to be a producer of raw, unprocessed materials. The development of a class of black capitalists will remain stunted, the class of indigenous capitalists small and the regimes Bonapartist (military or semi-military dictatorships) in character.
The black middle class (indeed the middle class in general) cannot be the driving force even to complete the ‘democratic’ demands, such as housing, work, education, healthcare, nationalizing the land, confiscation of all the imperialist assets- plunder of several centuries, etc.
The October 1917 revolution in Russia shows by the positive and the failure of the working class to take power anywhere in Africa, shows by the negative, that only the working class taking power through a revolution, can complete the democratic programme. Capitalism everywhere organises production on a world scale but divides the masses on artificial bases on so-called national states.
We need to overcome ‘democracy’ that is the dictatorship of the capitalists, with the dictatorship of the working class.
The SACP provides a theoretical cover for the ANC in its implementation of the plans of imperialism in attacking the working class. To fight for nationalization of the land and expropriation of all the capitalists and imperialists means workers must break decisively from the ANC and SACP.
We need to establish revolutionary working class
parties as part of a revolutionary International (we say this should be the
refounded Fourth International). This is the first step to fight for the
completion of the democratic programme such as nationalization, etc. These
parties should be independent of the state and capital. The treacherous
leaderships of the working class should be politically defeated to free the
working class from this parasitic caste. We are part of the world battalion of
the working class. The working class needs to take power in the colonies and
semi-colonies, as well as in the imperialist centres like the
Forward to the Soviet Union of Socialist states of
Forward to Socialism!
15.1.2012 amended 8.2.2012