Originally published in Inqaba Ya Basebenzi No.20/21 (September 1986)
In the last two years millions of black working people have risen to their feet in struggle to end the miseries inflicted by apartheid and capitalism. If the State of Emergency has thrown our movement temporarily on the defensive, it has proved totally incapable of crushing the determination of the working class.
‘It is Botha’s apartheid government, with its murderous police and army, which stands between us and a decent life. It must go.’ That is the overwhelming mood among the black majority.
At the same time, the visit of top SA businessmen to Lusaka last year for talks with the ANC has provoked considerable debate, and led to a certain confusion within our movement. Does it or does it not serve the purposes of our struggle for the ANC leaders to hold discussions with big capitalists, SA and foreign, and with their political spokesmen, if they say they are “against apartheid”?
During the recent strike at Pick n Pay, a worker said of his ‘progressive’ boss, Raymond Ackerman, he “likes to go around shaking hands with us, but this means nothing… management knows nothing about our shop-floor needs and problems.” For such reasons, many are instinctively opposed to any such talks. On the other hand, there are those who say that it may help in isolating and weakening Botha. Still others say that it is hard to tell, since we do not know what the capitalists and the ANC leaders are saying to each other.
Even since the State of Emergency, more talks of this kind have been held. Comrade Tambo, for example, has held talks with British Tory Minister Geoffrey Howe, and has lunched in the City of London with big bankers and industrialists. ANC leaders are also discussing meeting with George Schultz, Reagan’s foreign minister.
Now, for the first time, such discussions have taken place in a public way. On 22 June BBC Radio Four broadcast a one-hour “round table” discussion among seven South Africans. It was also transmitted on the BBC World Service.
Those participating were ANC NEC members Thabo Mbeki and Mac Maharaj, as well as Chris Ball (Managing Director of Barclays National Bank), Neil Chapman (Chief Executive of Southern Life), and Tony Bloom (Chairman of the Premier Group), together with two Afrikaner academics – Deon Geldenhuys and Marinus Wiechers.
Inqaba here publishes a shortened version of the broadcast, to provide more opportunity for it to be discussed in SA. To reproduce it in full would require undue space, but we have attempted to give as complete as possible a treatment of the key issues. (Passages in italics are our summary of omitted parts).
Following the transcript, and in the light of what is said in it, Richard Monroe examines what attitude our movement should take towards the liberal capitalists and discussions with them.
ROBINSON (the presenter): …I would like to start with you, Neil Chapman… what I want to know is what you hope to get out of a meeting like this…
CHAPMAN: I would think that lack of communication, lack of discussion, the very limited opportunities to talk one-to-one must surely rank amongst one of the greatest handicaps that responsible South Africans have in trying to establish what are the aims, what are the objectives, where does the common ground lie and how do we get to a point where people who would like to live together in an atmosphere of equality and of harmony can achieve this. This is a golden opportunity to come face to face and talk…
ROBINSON: Thabo Mbeki: your president Oliver Tambo has recently said that black South Africans must now prepare themselves for war. And if war is imminent, why are you sitting down here with your colleague? What do you hope to get out of this?
MBEKI: I think we would agree with what Neil is saying – we are very concerned to see as quick a resolution of the SA problem as is possible. And we would like black and white South Africans to come together to resolve that problem. We would want to avoid destruction – more destruction than has taken place and deaths of people, and we think it very important that those of us South Africans who have come to the conclusion that the apartheid system needs to go, need to get together and discuss the question – how do we get it to go? And therefore I think however intense the conflict may be in SA, I think the ANC will always seek to build-up that common understanding hopefully leading to common action to produce a kind of SA that would be acceptable to all its citizens.
The discussion continued by rejecting Botha’s reform programme as a legitimate framework within which negotiation over a future SA could begin.
BALL: …we have got to get to the point of agreeing the future constitutional framework of the country. I think we know what the definitions are of that future constitution… in broad terms …. What in my opinion is fundamental is that we start to put flesh on these broad definitions… so that we can get at things that are more tangible, so that we can make people comfortable about getting to the table to talk. That is why I think that meetings of this nature are of fundamental importance…
The participants agreed that the key issue was that of power, in a way which involved getting away from a racial framework.
ROBINSON: Can we move on from the question of power to what happens with that power… for example when that’s translated to what might happen to SA’s economy… is there a role for our three businessmen and financiers here – what do you see their place as in the future of SA? Do you want them at all – do you need them?
MBEKI: Yes, of course we do. It’s very important that a free SA should have an economy as strong as possible, functioning as well as possible to generate the wealth that will be necessary to attempt many many huge problems that the community faces as a result of the apartheid system.
Certainly I think outstanding business people like them would play a very important role in such an economy. Of course the question arising is what happens to the property? Does the ANC nationalise if the ANC becomes the government?
Now what we’ve said about this is that of course that is the policy of the ANC as it is put, that the people shall share the wealth of the country. That the banks and the mines and so on should belong to the people.
But we’re also saying that the restructuring – whatever the ANC’s policy might say – the restructuring of the SA economy must depend on what gets decided democratically. We must get to a stage where a government of SA is elected democratically and presumably that party – all parties – will have in their programme an economic programme.
And if the people don’t accept the ANC’s positions, then people don’t accept the ANC’s positions, but the matter must be put to the people by the ANC.
BLOOM: I have some difficulty with the ANC’s policy on economics and I’ve argued this with Thabo previously. I think there’s a major difference that has to be stressed between exploitative capitalism, with which I’m not comfortable at all, and free enterprise, with which I’m terribly comfortable.
I think if one looks around the world today… at – as somebody characterised it – a list of winners and losers, the extreme forms of nationalisation and the extreme forms of socialism have simply not worked.
And the graphic illustration for this, the empiric evidence, lies in Africa herself. I visit Mozambique very frequently. The economy there is in the most shocking state, as they themselves would most readily admit. And even if you look at the rest of the world and you see the lurch towards some form of free enterprise in China and in some parts of Eastern Europe, I very firmly believe you have to give the people something to reach for – some form of initiative, something to go for.
Because when the state gets its hands on industry they usually make the most unholy mess of it and that’s happened in SA itself incidentally where the state has had its hands on a major proportion of the economy. They’ve done very badly with it and I worry about that and I think it’s something that should form the basis of a very long debate and a very long negotiation between the ANC and their economic advisers and people in business.
MBEKI: I think Tony would accept that there are gross inequalities in the ownership of wealth in SA. Take the question of hind where the law says that 87% of the land belongs to the whiteb. mean that surely must change. And so the issue…
ROBINSON (interrupts): You’re all nodding. You all agree with that?
MBEKI: The issue of the redistribution of that wealth – whatever that means – I think is commonly accepted. Now the question is how to do this.
We are saying from our own point of view, a bigger state intervention would be necessary. It may very well be that the general opinion that emerges – as a result of discussion and of open political discussion in SA which you can’t have today – it might very well emerge that the majority of people will say no, that’s the wrong way.
But I think we can’t run away from the central fact that we need to address very seriously the question of this, as I say, grossly unfair…
BALL (interrupts): Thabo, can I say that I think that this discussion is a brilliant example of the very virtues of negotiation because we are able to take emotive terms such as ‘people’s power’ and ‘redistribution of land’ and try to define more specifically what we mean so that people can understand clearly whether there is fear in the result of our discussion or not.
Now if one says that one has got to get some of the 80% of land away from some of the white people, then that of course concerns a lot of us white people who have the land.
In the matter of nationalisation of the mines, let us accept that something like three-quarters of the revenue of the mines goes directly to the state now. Now, what does nationalisation mean? It doesn’t mean anything’s very different from the current situation. We need to put flesh on that term.
And in economics generally I think that we’ve got to be careful to take these emotive terms, which are used in your economic platforms, and the platforms of a lot of other political parties, and … try to be specific about them.
Clearly in SA we will need a unique kind of economic environment. Because we have two fundamental issues: education, and infrastructural development in the form of housing in particular.
We’re going to have to have an economic ideology which legitimises the economic aspirations of the community as a whole, for the economic community to be stable and viable. It’s this process of discussion which enables us to try and put flesh on those issues.
ROBINSON: President Botha says the ANC is Communist pure and simple… Is he wrong on that?
BALL: Maybe Thabo can answer that. The ANC is very quick to…
MBEKI (interrupts): I think Linda Chalker answered this question in the House of Commons the other day. We were very pleased to see that the British government has at last come to the conclusion that the ANC is not communist – the ANC represents a significant proportion of the SA population.
Discussion followed on whether and why the relationship of the Communist Party to the ANC should be considered a problem.
GELDENHUYS: I don’t think it’s an unfair question. We are talking about the future of our country… What kind of programme would the SA Communist Party offer to the SA electorate?
MAHARAJ: Exactly. That’s what I was coming to. What does the Communist Party say then – what is its programme? What does it say in its publications to the people of SA?
Thabo has referred to the position of the ANC and those Communists, whether the asterisks [placed in SA press reports against names on the ANC NEC, to indicate which are CP members] are correct or not, have supported that position. They have supported loyally the positions and leadership of the ANC. That’s their call.
After further discussion around this point, the participants agreed that the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC were desirable ingredients in moving towards negotiations around a table over the question of power.
ROBINSON: Well who will choose then who sits at the table?
MAHARAJ: Well this is one of the problems we will have to work through in the situation in SA but together with all. This is our insistence – it must be together with all and we believe that as the ANC the position that we reached and the fight that we have waged all this time, and the leadership that we have given, is that it will be a part of our duty to handle this consultation. We believe that we are that force today. Now to carry out that consultation – how it culminates is a question that will have to be worked out within the actual situation. For example, we cannot necessarily rule out a National Convention, but we are saying that the Botha regime has discredited itself.
ROBINSON: Are you saying that President Botha would not be at that table?
MAHARAJ: We are saying that he cannot preside over that process.
ROBISON: But he could sit there?
MAHARAJ: Most certainly. He’ll have to sit there.
Comrade Mbeki suggested, as a comparable framework within which negotiations might be carried out, UN Security Council Resolution 435 on Namibia, which the SA regime at one time accepted. There followed inconclusive discussion over whether the process might be assisted by an external mediating force or ‘referee’ – and the problems of reaching, out of the present situation, the point of letting ‘the people decide’.
ROBINSON: Can I ask you from the ANC’s side if there is anyone with whom you will not sit down? I mean for example would you sit down with Mangosuthu Buthelezi?
MBEKI: Depends in what capacity he comes. I mean, if you just say let us use the present structures of South Africa and have Botha on one side and the leaders of the Bantustans and so on, if you use that formula the ANC would say fine, let the leaders of the Bantustans come, but they are leaders by virtue of leading elements in the state structure. Therefore they sit on Botha’s side.
ROBINSON: Would you sit down with Chief Matanzima of the Transkei?
MBEKI: He belongs to the same group.
MAHARAJ: And we would hope that Tony Bloom and Chris Ball would sit on our side. We would hope that Deon Geldenhuys would sit on our side – on the democratic side because as we are saying, we don’t want to define the problem as a black/white conflict.
ROBINSON: You’re talking about sides on a table? You see President Botha on one side and…
MBEKI (interrupts): President Botha and Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Matanzima and so on, fine, if that is what is thought is the negotiating structure.
ROBINSON: Andrius Treurnicht from the CP, he has a big constituency. Does he sit there? Does Eugene TerreBlanche of the AWB sit there?
MAHARAJ: I think that Thabo is making it straight. At the moment we are talking about the possibilities of a negotiating procedure and what we are saying is that there are two forces and we are saying we’ll define who sits on one side of the table on the basis of their relationship to the current state and power structures. And we define the democratic forces in that way too and therefore we are saying that there are two sides…
It was agreed that the tricameral constitution provided no framework within which negotiations could take place. The ANC spokesmen indicated they did not see negotiations as possible at present; therefore, intensified pressure on the regime was necessary. There was debate about whether such pressures, including sanctions, etc., would be productive or counter-productive.
MAHARAJ: …there is a logic in the idea that – and a historical truth – that this struggle needs to be escalated. If the regime refuse to acknowledge negotiation is a part – then it’s always open that as the escalation goes on the regime will change its mind. And change its position.
Did this mean escalating the armed struggle, and what Bloom referred to as a ratcheting up of violence on both sides?
BLOOM: … What worries me is that at the end of the day we may be faced with a situation where we don’t have a choice between P.W. Botha and the ANC, but we are faced with a choice between Andries Treurnicht or maybe something worse on the right, and some of those steely-eyed kids in the townships who are growing-up with a heady diet of teargas and Molotov cocktails and who may even turn round to the ANC some day and say – where were you fellows when we were facing that struggle? The term that I would use in this context is that we are breeding a generation of Killing Fields – Khmer Rouge – kids whom nobody will be able to control in the end and that’s what terrifies me.
MBEKI: But, Tony, that’s exactly the reason why all of us who are saying that this apartheid system is destructive, has put us where we are. It’s very important that all of us should act now to get rid of this system, to avoid exactly this eventuality which you are talking about. You see, so we need to get hold of anything and everything that we can get hold of in order to get rid of this regime, to get rid of this system before we get to this rather terrible future.
Comrade Mbeki added that the armed struggle was only one of the forms of struggle.
ROBINSON: Do you think that you could control now the people that Tony referred to – the active young comrades. I’ve met them. And do you think you could say to them “stop” and they would stop? Do you think you could say “negotiate” and they would negotiate?
MBEKI: Oh certainly. But if the ANC were to say ‘stop’ then the ANC would have to say ‘stop’ for a very good reason. To say: that it is now clear to those of us who are convinced that there’s a resolution of the matter in this way, and therefore there’s no need to continue this military offensive.
More discussion made clear that no-one could see an immediate way through towards de-escalation or negotiation.
ROBINSON: I’d like to ask you lastly… Has anything come out of this that makes any of you feel more hopeful? …
ROBINSON: Mac Maharaj?
MAHARAJ: Yes. I don’t think this meeting of itself can be said to be such a great movement forward, but I think what this meeting has shown is the common ground and the most important thing I think is that this meeting has brought together a group of South Africans who are all saying that the fundamental question now is the question of political power for the people.
ROBINSON: And finally from the banker’s point of view, Chris Ball?
BALL: Michael, it is of course a pity that a discussion of this nature is not available to the people of SA…
by Richard Monroe
The presenter of the BBC broadcast spelled out its purpose clearly: “can these seven South Africans find common ground about what a blueprint for their country might look like … and … how that blueprint might be achieved.”
The broadcast took place in the same period that the Commonwealth ‘Eminent Persons’ Group was seeking ways of bringing Botha’s government and the ANC leaders together to negotiate. Its brief from the Nassau Conference of 1985 was to persuade the SA government to “initiate, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides, a process of dialogue … with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government.”
The climate for all these meetings has been created by – and only by – the enormous revolutionary upsurge of the last two years, an upsurge itself the product of more than a decade of rebuilding mass organisation.
In that struggle, our central and burning demand, in order to exercise the power to achieve a decent life, is for majority rule – one-person-one-vote in an undivided SA.
Was it correct for Comrade Maharaj, in the broadcast, to say that, were negotiations between Botha and the ANC to take place, “we would hope that Tony Bloom and Chris Ball would sit on our side… on the democratic side”?
While Tony Bloom and Chris Ball – and other big businessmen, SA or foreign – may have been occasional, even vociferous, critics of apartheid, what contribution have they made to the advance of democracy in SA? Can they play any role in securing a negotiated settlement? Is such a settlement with Botha’s regime even possible?
Against the bullets of the state, and despite the bloodshed it has inflicted, elements of democracy have been built in practice only through the struggles of working people.
Never before, in generations of enslavement, has the black working class been able to come together so effectively to discuss grievances, formulate demands, plan action, enforce justice – and thereby gain confidence in its collective power. This has been wholly as the result of its own efforts.
These methods of democracy have been pioneered in the last thirteen years in the trade unions – above all in the factory committees and shop-stewards locals. They were taken up in the youth organisations. From there, in the last two years, democratic organs have been built in townships from street-level upwards – in Cradock and the Eastern Cape, on the East Rand, in Alex and elsewhere.
Overwhelmingly under the banner of the ANC, and fighting for the demands of the Freedom Charter, mass democratic organisation has become an organising principle, not only in the main industrial centres, but in every remote area to which the struggles of the last period spread.
Carried into practice by black working people who form the overwhelming majority of SA’s population, the slogan of “peoples power”, as Elijah Barayi underlined recently, is translated into organs of working class power.
The emergence and rapid spread of these organs of democratic power – bringing together elected representatives of working people at grassroots level to work out a collective plan of action – has been the clearest sign of the revolutionary character of the struggles that have begun.
Bodies of this kind have characterised every working class revolution since the Paris Commune in 1871 – from the soviets of the Russian revolutions in 1905 and 1917 and the German revolution in 1918, through the factory councils in Italy in 1919-20, the juntas in the Spanish revolution of 1931-7, to the cordones in Chile before Pinochet’s counter-revolutionary coup in 1973.
Such bodies arose for a variety of immediate reasons – as ad hoc strike committees, action committees, defence committees, etc. But they became, as the Marxist Trotsky, Chairman in 1905 of the Petrograd soviet in Russia, wrote “a special revolutionary organisation capable of quickly getting hold of the popular masses and making them ready for revolutionary action under the leadership of the workers.”
Such bodies are not merely fighting instruments of struggle against the ruling class. They are at the same time embryos of a new state power in the making – the democratic rule of the working class.
In the course of 1917 the Russian working class led a struggle which overthrew the dictatorship of the Tsar, and took power into its own hands. The foundations of that new state power lay in the soviets which were established during the revolution.
Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik party through which the Russian workers took power in 1917, saw in the soviets those features which identified them as embryos of working class rule.
Their source of power was “not a law previously discussed and enacted by parliament, but the direct initiative of the people from below, in their local areas”.
Through them “the police and the army, which are institutions divorced from the people and set against the people,” were replaced “ by the direct arming of the whole people”.
Officialdom was “either similarly replaced by the direct rule of the people themselves or at least placed under special control”, becoming not only elected but also subject to recall.
Officials “are reduced… from a privileged group holding ‘jobs’ remunerated on a high, bourgeois scale” to “workers of a ‘special arm of the service’ whose remuneration does not exceed the ordinary pay of a competent worker.”
In sum, soviet power was a higher form of democracy, a “revolutionary dictatorship… It is an entirely different kind of power from the one that generally exists in the parliamentary bourgeois-democratic republics of the usual type still prevailing in the advanced countries of Europe and America.”
Who cannot see the embryo of all these features in the democratic organs created in our recent struggles? Though not fully-fledged “soviets”, they can be described as “semi-soviets”.
Precisely because of these embryonic features of mass democratic power, these bodies are intolerable to the rulers of our society. As ‘Law and Order’ Minister Le Grange put it:
Any efforts to erect alternative structures would not be tolerated. Our enemies [i.e. the working class majority] cannot be allowed to create the impression that they are capable of maintaining their own administration. The State’s power and institutions must be protected and maintained.
In our struggle for democracy, the main obstacle which stands in the way is the machinery of this apartheid state – its murderous armed forces, its callous bureaucracy, its prisons, its courts – still firmly rooted in the support of nearly five million privileged whites.
Under the hammer-blows of the state, foundations for a new democratic workers’ state that have begun to be built can suffer reverses. But the experience of the ‘semi-soviets’ cannot be obliterated. Whatever setbacks they may suffer, they will rise again, the stronger, in the bigger upsurges to come.
Lenin, writing the above-quoted passages in April 1917, was identifying features of the Russian soviet power which were also as yet incipient. The working class took power only by smashing the remnants of the old state machine in a mass insurrection in October.
The ‘semi-soviets’ in SA of 1984-86 point in the direction of such an insurrection, in the direction of a new state of workers’ democracy to replace the present apartheid dictatorship.
But what role can the liberal capitalists be expected to play in defeating the obstacle which stands in our way – this monstrous state machine?
Comrade Maharaj said in the BBC broadcast that “we’ll define who sits on our side of the table on the basis of their relationship to the current state and power structures.” On this basis he invited Bloom and Ball to the democratic ‘side’. How does the ANC leadership see the relationship of such capitalists to the “current state and power structures”?
Journalist Howard Barrell, reporting “recent discussions with ANC sources”, asserts that, in dealing with the ‘progressive’ capitalists and their spokesmen:
…it seems the ANC envisages a two-tier alignment around itself, based on a distinction between ‘revolutionary forces’ and ‘forces for change’ …(which latter) comprise those people and organisations (mainly white) beginning to overcome the classic SA liberal dilemma: They denounce apartheid but attempt to steer a middle course between that denunciation and direct identification with, or involvement in, mass mobilisation against apartheid.
Barrel cites the capitalist politician Van Zyl Slabbert, who resigned recently from parliament, as an example of those the ANC leadership had in mind.
These ‘forces for change’ must, in the ANC’s view, be weaned away from any residual confidence in the current government and state system and be drawn into as close an alliance as possible with the primary grouping, the ‘revolutionary forces’.
But, whatever their criticisms of the current government, can liberal capitalists or their representatives be “weaned away from any residual confidence” in the current state system? Can they become allies of a revolutionary mobilisation for democracy, however many ‘tiers’ such an alliance may have?
In many advanced capitalist countries, the capitalist class rules on the basis of parliamentary democracy. Where this has been achieved on the basis of universal suffrage, it has been through the struggle of the working class. To the extent that it allows the working class to raise its material, cultural, and educational level – preparing it to assert its claim to rule – bourgeois democracy is beneficial for the working class.
But if democracy confronts the ruling class today in SA in its revolutionary ‘semi-soviet’ form – this is precisely because the material conditions for bourgeois democracy have not existed, do not and cannot exist in SA.
In the modern world, bourgeois or parliamentary democracy based on universal franchise has depended principally on the ability of the ruling class to secure a relative class peace (confine the class struggle within ‘parliamentary limits’) by making concessions which raise the living standards of the working class.
Capitalism in SA developed late, when the world was already dominated by the big monopolies of the imperialist countries, basing their profits on competing in mass production of cheap goods for the world market.
To carve out a niche in this market, the SA capitalist class has depended on cheap labour, maintained through the enslavement of the black majority under white rule.
The capitalist class has based itself on excluding the majority from the right to vote for central government, and on sustaining or fostering divisions in order to rule: in the first place, on the division between privileged white and oppressed black, and, thereafter, on division upon division among blacks themselves.
Today, with SA capitalism squeezed even more tightly by the world crisis of capitalism – forced to attack workers’ living standards – the economic scope for concessions on the question of democracy is less than ever. ‘Theoretically’, the Bantustan policy, the tricameral constitution, have been based on “extension of the franchise”. In reality, what has been ‘handed out’ is a fictitious currency.
These “voting rights” for “parliaments” without real power merely serve to expose the separation of state power from popular control – and its increasing concentration in the hands of the white military and bureaucracy.
Its rule based on this grotesque machinery, and aided by gangster puppets in the Bantustans and townships, the capitalist class now confronts the spectre of democratic organs of workers’ power, rooted in a black working class stronger and better organised than ever in SA’s history.
The appearance of the ‘semi-soviets’ is living confirmation of the position consistently explained by Inqaba – that the struggle for democracy in SA is nothing less than a struggle for working class power against the regime and the whole capitalist class.
Le Grange screams that the working class “cannot be allowed to create the impression that they are capable of maintaining their own administration”. But the position of the so-called ‘progressive’ capitalists is fundamentally no different on this question.
“Sliding towards anarchy” wailed the Financial Mail, in an editorial condemning people’s courts. In the same issue it quoted the comment of Transvaal Law Society President Edward Southey that “in any civilised country the administration of justice must be carried out by the State. The over-riding maxim, he adds, must be: ‘No person can take the law into his own hands’ a view most, including the FM, would endorse.”
The majority must not “take the law into” its own hands! No – so far as the whole capitalist class is concerned, the majority must rather submit to the law as administered by the apartheid courts and bureaucracy, and enforced by bullets, whips and teargas – in the name of capitalist “civilisation”.
“The State’s power and institutions must be protected and maintained”, says Le Grange. Is this not inevitably the watchword of the whole capitalist class, regarding the state which defends its property – a position from which it cannot be “weaned away”?
Hence – as Tony Bloom conceded recently – most businessmen “welcomed” the State of Emergency “as a forlorn hope of restoring stability”. Hence businessmen sit, together with the police and military, on the semi-secret “Joint Management Committees” responsible regionally for “security management” and controlled by the State Security Council. These bodies are now reportedly involved in the so-called “reabsorption” camps, trying to indoctrinate young ex-detainees, and recruit new spies and informers.
It is true that the liberal capitalists realise that the old baasskap machinery with its crude methods is now an insufficient means for holding the working class in check – indeed, merely an intolerable fetter on its aspirations.
Unable to rule in the old way, the ruling class searches for new ways to rule. In the process, under the huge pressures from below, splits inevitably open up.
Our movement needs to highlight these ruling class splits, to show its weakening and deepen its divisions. This will be achieved by strengthening the struggle of the working class for democratic power. But these splits do not mean that the capitalists can become anything other than opponents of the mobilisation of the working class.
In the search for a new way to rule, the liberal capitalists and their spokesmen are, in their own way, experimenting with the methods used by the ruling class in the advanced capitalist countries for maintaining control. As the working class has increased in strength in these countries, parliamentary democracy has rested increasingly on the capacity of reformist leaders of the workers’ organisations to confine the class struggle within ‘legal’ and ‘safe’ limits.
No less than any other form of capitalist rule, parliamentary democracy rests in the last resort on the state machine – on a standing army, police force, and bureaucracy which (in Lenin’s words), “stands above the people”. In contrast to soviet democracy, parliamentary democracy “hampers and stifles the independent political life of the masses, their direct participation in the democratic organisation of the life of the state from the bottom up.”
In parliamentary democracies it is principally on pro-capitalist leaders of the workers’ organisations that the ruling class depends to try and “stifle the independent political life of the masses”.
Now the liberal capitalists who see revolutionary workers’ power looming in SA, want to test whether the ANC leaders can be used to quieten the revolutionary movement of the black working class, in exchange for some economic and political concessions.
This is what lay behind, in the BBC broadcast, Tony Bloom’s desperation that “we are breeding a generation of … kids whom nobody will be able to control’’ and the anxiety expressed to the ANC spokesmen as to whether they would be able to “stop” the youth.
Even the support of these capitalists for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners does not proceed from genuine democratic or humanitarian motives. We want the release of all these leaders, both for their own sake, and because such a retreat by the apartheid regime would raise the confidence and fighting spirit of the black working class.
The so-called “progressive” capitalists, however, have a different purpose. Chris Ball, writing in the Sunday Star a few days after the BBC broadcast, concluded that “Nelson Mandela and his colleagues should be released from jail as a matter of extreme urgency and, while there are no guarantees, I am influenced by the arguments which indicate that he will be a moderating force in the community.”
In May, veteran PFP politician Helen Suzman, after a two-hour visit to Pollsmoor, said that releasing Mandela was “our last hope”. Commenting on this, the British Financial Times said: “The danger is that unless black leaders are released, and exiled leaders allowed to return, a new generation of radicalised blacks, already emerging, will take control and demand not only political power but the socialist transformation of the country.”
The Commonwealth ‘Eminent Persons Group’ claimed that Nelson Mandela had said to them in jail that, if troops were removed from the townships, bans lifted on political organisations, and negotiations begun, “He and his colleagues would have to take on the active role of persuading people to call-off violent activities and to respect the negotiating process”, and that, were he released, “the unity of all black leaders, including Gatsha Buthelezi” could be achieved.
A recent editorial in the African Communist points out that it is the overwhelming rise in support for the ANC inside SA that has:
…forced many elements that are otherwise hostile to the national democratic revolution, including sections of the monopoly bourgeoisie inside and outside our country, to seek contact with the ANC and to promote the idea of a negotiated settlement of the SA problem.
It is, however, clear that these forces are seeking a resolution of the struggle in favour of the bourgeoisie. They would like to see a bourgeois democratic transformation which would leave the capitalist system intact and create the possibility for the rapid emergence of a small and medium African capitalist class which would ally itself with the local monopoly bourgeoisie and international capital against the masses of the working people of our country.”
Certainly the capitalists are talking to the ANC leaders because of the mass support for the ANC in SA.
Certainly they are promoting the idea of “negotiated” settlement. Certainly they are very concerned that the small and weak African business class is totally inadequate to hold back the force of the black workers. Its development has been held back not merely by the constraints of apartheid, but by the domination of the monopolies, which leave scant room for the rise of ‘small or medium’ capitalists.
But is the African Communist correct in saying that the monopoly capitalists “would like to see a bourgeois-democratic transformation” in SA? Not at all. It seems the SACP leaders are completely taken in by the ‘democratic’ claims of these so-called ‘progressives’. The truth is they are not progressive at all. Their aim is new divide-and-rule schemes to dilute the strength of the working class majority, and maintain the central state machine outside its control or influence.
In a major speech in August 1985, one month before he visited the ANC leaders in Lusaka, Anglo American Corporation boss Gavin Relly maintained that SA consisted of:
…a number of different constituencies … whites, coloureds, urban blacks, Zulus, homelands that have achieved a degree of viability and places like Natal where racial integration is already relatively far advanced… If the black attitude was that there could be no discussion unless it was about one-man-one-vote in a unitary state then any [negotiating] forum would not go far… He envisaged a federal system in which everyone had the vote within these different constituencies – some white, some black, and some already integrated – but not directly for the central authority.
How does this position, which reflects the material interest of the ruling class, differ qualitatively, from the position of Botha?
In the same speech Gavin Relly even deliberately deflated the popularity of Mandela. If the government were to initiate real negotiations, he said, “a black leadership would emerge and express itself, perhaps including Bishop Tutu, Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, the Zulu leader, and Mr Mandela – though he wondered whether Mr Mandela would discover a constituency if he was released.”
To ‘divide and rule’, the big capitalists must treat the ANC as merely ‘one force among many’ – rather than as the organisation overwhelmingly supported by working people in the struggle to transform society. In all their manoeuvres their lasting favourite is Gatsha Buthelezi, the ardent defender of capitalism, who once again at the recent Inkatha Congress indicated his support for federalism: “All over the world there are demonstrations that federal solutions provide an alternative to the Westminster model in a unitary state.” He mentioned the “Swiss canton system”. Perhaps soon he will be echoing Botha’s lunatic ideas about township “city-states.”
Clinging to Buthelezi, the big capitalists reconcile themselves as well to his state-supported counter-revolutionary reign of terror in Natal. “You can’t expect us to run away from the one black leader who says exactly what we think”, said ‘progressive’ Gavin Relly recently. “I’ve been told that Buthelezi plays a rough game in Natal. But SA is not for the faint-hearted.”
At the same time, on the BBC broadcast, these reactionary blood-suckers, grown fat on the oppression of black workers, patronisingly refer to the ANC leaders by their first names, and lecture them on the need for equality and harmony! Chris Ball dismisses the fundamental demands of the majority for people’s power and the redistribution of wealth as “emotive terms”, and Tony Bloom tells them that capitalism gives “people something to reach for”!
To preserve their power and wealth, moreover, the capitalist class depends utterly – for all its ‘disclaiming’ of this – on the cement of group privilege and racism which holds the ranks of the whites in support of the capitalist state machine.
When Botha shifted firmly onto his right foot, and declared the June State of Emergency, it was not merely to try to reassert the grip of the state over the black working class, but to try and restore confidence and cohesion among the whites, the only basis for the strength of the state.
As the British left reformist weekly, the New Statesman recently explained (for once, with some insight):
A SA government that showed any inclination to make concessions of power to the Black majority in the country would instantly lose control of the white political machine… If senior police officers collectively came to think that ‘liberal’ Afrikaners were ‘going soft’ on the Black issue, there would almost certainly be a coup.
The emergence of the AWB and, more immediately important, the growth in support for the Conservative Party, are signs of the drift to the ultra-right which is the inevitable response of the majority of the whites, in the first instance, to the insecurity imposed on them by the unfolding SA revolution.
The emergence of white reaction, outside and inside the state machine, is an additional provocation to the black majority – and to that degree unwelcome to the big capitalists. ‘White minority rule’, for so long the best guarantee of their profits, is increasingly an albatross around their necks. But, because it provides the basis of the only state machine they have got, they cannot dispense with it.
What the ‘progressive’ capitalists will reconcile themselves to, as a defence against the revolution, was recently summed up by the Financial Mail:
Just which would be a worst-case scenario – a dictatorship of the Left or one of the Right – is open to conjecture. Few, however, who have any insight into the ideological drift of the ANC Freedom Charter and its talk of nationalisation have any doubts on that score. Anything would be preferable to seeing SA’s economy decimated by such crude attempts at ‘wealth redistribution’ implicit in the doctrine of the Charter.
And if Gavin Relly today reconciles himself to the counter-revolutionary terror of Inkatha, what horrors of white or black vigilanteism will the ‘progressive’ capitalists not be prepared to countenance in the future, in defence of their system?
We must look behind appearances – look behind the claims that liberals make about themselves – to grasp the underlying truth. In the social crisis that is unfolding it is the anti-democratic character of all sections of the capitalists that is the fundamental reality. It is the illusion that any section of the capitalist class can play a democratic role that lies at the root of all the false hopes entertained that there can be a ‘negotiated’ settlement of the democratic question.
Such an illusion – fed equally by Comrade Maharaj’s invitation to Ball and Bloom to join the democratic camp, and by the African Communist’s seemingly radical ‘exposure’ of the intentions of the big monopolists in seeking a “bourgeois-democratic transformation” – disarms our movement of the understanding of what is needed to achieve democracy.
Majority rule will be achieved only through a revolution led by the working class – armed with a conscious programme for dismantling the capitalist state machine and establishing in its place a democratic workers’ state, organised from bottom to top around the features that Lenin identified in the Russian soviets of 1917.
This will provide the basis for implementing the Freedom Charter, including immediately nationalising, under workers’ control and management, the big monopolies – banks, mines, factories and farms – and organising the economy around democratic planning to serve needs and not profit.
‘Big business and the state are two sides of the same bloody coin’. Standing together, they will fall together – that is the overwhelming demand and aspiration of workers and youth, in respect of Ball, Bloom and company.
Together with the struggle of workers in other countries, this will open the road to socialism.
In fact the question as to what role the liberal capitalists would play in a democratic revolution was already settled in the Russian revolution of 1917.
In the Russian workers’ movement before 1917 it was the Mensheviks, who argued – in the name of ‘socialism’ and ‘Marxism’ – that, because the tasks in the impending revolution were ‘bourgeois democratic’, the liberal capitalists could be allies of the working class in that struggle.
The Mensheviks attributed to the liberal capitalists a progressive role. That view was resolutely opposed by Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolsheviks – who would eventually lead the working class in taking power in October 1917.
“The social relations of Russia have ripened only for a bourgeois revolution” said Axelrod, a Menshevik leader, at the Unification Congress of the Russian worker’s party in 1906. “While this general political lawlessness persists, we must not even so much as mention the direct political fight of the proletariat against other classes for political power… It is fighting for the conditions of bourgeois development. Objective historical conditions doom our proletariat to an inevitable collaboration with the bourgeoisie in the struggle against our common enemy.
Lenin always saw the need for the working class to identify, expose, and make use of, any splits among the rulers of society. But he entertained no illusions as to what their fundamental significance was. Thus in 1905 he explained that:
We must be perfectly certain in our minds as to what real social forces are opposed to ‘tsarism’ (which is a real force perfectly intelligible to all) and are capable of gaining a ‘decisive victory’ over it… The big bourgeoisie, the landlords, the factory owners, and ‘society’ … cannot be such a force. We see that they do not even want a decisive victory. We know that owing to their class position they are incapable of waging a decisive struggle against tsarism; they are too heavily fettered by private property, by capital and land to enter into a decisive struggle. They stand in too great need of tsarism, with its bureaucratic, police and military forces for use against the proletariat and peasantry, to want it to be destroyed.
The position advanced by Lenin and Trotsky against the liberal capitalists was fully justified by the events of the 1917 revolution.
In February 1917 the Tsar’s regime was overthrown. This was in no way due to the liberal capitalists, but as the result of the movement of the working class. In fact, in the months preceding the overthrow, the allegedly ‘progressive’ capitalists were pleading unsuccessfully with the Tsar to bring them into a government to forestall the revolution. Miliukov, one of their leaders, said:
We are treading on a volcano… The tension has reached its extreme limit… A carelessly dropped match will be enough to start a terrible conflagration… Whatever the government – whether good or bad – a strong government is needed now more than ever before.
The key factor in the collapse of the Tsar’s regime in February was the desertion of his troops – oppressed peasants-in-uniform – who spontaneously took the side of the working class movement. Workers and soldiers together established the soviets – the embryos of a new state. Power was there for the taking in their hands – if they went ahead to dismantle the remnants of the old state machine.
But at that point the power was in the hands of the Mensheviks and other leaders with similar illusions in the liberal capitalists. As Trotsky later explained:
It had not been seized by them accidentally by way of a Blanquist coup; no, it was openly delivered to them by the victorious masses of the people. Those masses not only did not trust or support the bourgeoisie, but they did not even distinguish them from the nobility and the bureaucracy. They put their weapons at the disposal only of the soviets.
But what did the Menshevik – so called ‘socialist’ leaders do with this power?
…having so easily arrived at the head of the soviets, [they] were worrying about only one question: Will the bourgeoisie, politically isolated, hated by the masses and hostile through and through to the revolution, consent to accept the power from our hands? Its consent must be won at any cost. And since obviously a bourgeoisie cannot renounce its bourgeois programme, we, the ‘socialists’, will have to renounce ours: we will have to keep still about the monarchy, the war, the land, if only the bourgeoisie will accept the gift of power. In carrying out this operation, the ‘socialists’ as though to ridicule themselves, continued to designate the bourgeoisie no otherwise than as their class enemy.
On this basis, the Mensheviks supported the formation of a capitalist ‘Provisional Government’ – which included the same Miliukov who not many months before had been demanding of the Tsar “strong government” against the revolution!
Despite this class-collaboration by the Menshevik leaders, conditions were overwhelmingly favourable for the working class to carry the revolution to its conclusion – provided it was politically armed to do so. This was what Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolsheviks did. Explaining that the bourgeois Provisional Government would be incapable of carrying out a single democratic task, Lenin and Trotsky mobilised the working class to prepare to dismantle the remnants of the capitalist state, and take power into its own hands.
“All power to the Soviets!” was the slogan which Lenin raised at this time. This was what was achieved in the October insurrection – around slogans which spelled out the fundamental mass demands, “Bread, Peace, and Land.”
Had the working class not taken power, the paralysed Provisional Government would not have survived anyway. Looming instead were the forces of capitalist counter-revolution – which would have imposed a vicious military dictatorship.
In SA our movement faces a state machine more formidable by far than the Tsar’s dictatorship.
The Tsar’s armed forces were recruited from the oppressed and poverty-stricken peasantry. Between them and the revolutionary working class there existed no fundamental barrier. The SA state machine rests on privileged whites who have been taught for generations by their racist leaders to fear and hate the black majority.
In the face of economic crisis, and under the massive pressures on it from below, white society is already in the early stages of disintegration and decay. This will intensify as whites lose confidence in the ability of the ruling class to find a way out of its predicament.
But the SA military-police dictatorship will not collapse ‘spontaneously’, as did the Tsar’s, under the pressure of a working class movement still following a leadership with illusions in the liberal capitalists.
To defeat the state, the fundamental question is not whether or not liberal capitalists can be ‘weaned away’ from Botha – but whether the rank-and-file of the state machine can be weaned away from supporting the regime and the bosses alike.
The ultra-right demagogues who will play on the fears and anxieties of the whites as the revolution unfolds can, in reality, offer them neither security nor a guarantee of continued privilege.
The only real guarantee, for white working people as well as black, of a decent future for themselves and their children lies in establishing workers’ democracy, and abolishing capitalism.
The rank-and-file of the whites have an instinctive mistrust of the big capitalists. They can be won away from conscious support for reaction not by concessions to the capitalists or white privilege, but only by a conscious movement of the black working class. This will need to have developed not only the mass power, confidence and determination, but also the clarity of purpose, to offer to the ranks of the whites this real alternative – of workers’ democracy with no special privilege for anyone, and of a socialist future.
Disastrously, in the period which followed the 1917 revolution, the position of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks on the liberal capitalists was abandoned and buried by the rulers of the Soviet Union and by the Communist Parties around the world which depended on them.
This was the consequence of the usurping of power from the working class by a privileged bureaucratic caste in the 1920s – for reasons explained previously by Inqaba.
This Stalinist bureaucracy continued to rest on the basis of a nationalised and planned economy – and, for a whole period, took that economy forward. But, with its privilege over the masses dependent on the suppression of workers’ democracy, it has been terrified of a democratic workers’ revolution anywhere in the world.
Hence it has resurrected – through the Communist Parties – the idea of a “progressive” role for one or other section of the capitalist class.
It pursues this without even an elementary regard for consistency. In some countries it supports alliances with “national” capitalists allegedly struggling against the imperialist monopolies. In SA it seeks to ally the workers with the liberal monopoly capitalists – themselves part and parcel of imperialist finance capital!
Whatever the situation, CP leaders always make a case for alliance with some section of the class enemy – and try to hold the workers back from a struggle for state power and socialist transformation. Even in the most advanced industrialised countries they argue for postponement of the struggle for socialism, in favour of an allegedly ‘broad’ alliance with capitalists.
In defeated revolution after revolution in the course of this century, it is written in the blood of the workers’ movement that reliance on so-called “progressive” capitalists and the Menshevik “stages” theory is an obstacle in the way of the working class. Rather than even securing a victory for a ‘first’ democratic revolution – struggles fought on this programme have ended in victory for counter-revolution.
When, in the BBC broadcast, Comrade Maharaj on behalf of the ANC leadership invites the liberal capitalists to take their place on the ‘democratic’ side of a future negotiating table, it is the same incorrect conceptions of Menshevism and Stalinism which he is voicing.
Similarly, when Comrade Mbeki retreats, in the broadcast, from the promise of the Freedom Charter to nationalise the monopolies – even while conceding this is formally ANC policy – he does so in pursuit of an alliance with the liberal monopoly capitalists.
Even under the present repressive dictatorship, working people overwhelmingly tell opinion pollsters that they reject capitalism. Recently the managing director of Checkers’ supermarket chain conceded that, in a survey, not one of his thousands of black employees supported free enterprise. Yet, in the BBC broadcast, the ANC spokesmen speak only vaguely of “restructuring” the economy, the need for a “redistribution” of wealth, and “a bigger state intervention” in the economy. Even this is put over in almost apologetic tones.
Under pressure from Tony Bloom, Comrade Mbeki says, even regarding state intervention: “It may very well be that the general opinion that emerges – as a result of … open political discussion in SA which you can’t have today … that the majority of people will say no, that’s the wrong way” – and praises monopolists Ball, Bloom and Chapman as “outstanding business people” who “will play a very important role in a future economy”.
Renouncing our programme will not turn capitalists into friends of the working class. They want the Freedom Charter renounced, so as to confuse and disarm the working class.
Many active workers and youth look to the South African Communist Party to advance, within the ANC, the standpoint of the working class majority. They require from the SACP leadership the same clarity in guiding the struggle for working class power as was provided by Lenin in Russia in 1917.
What is the present position of the SACP on the tasks which face the working class in the SA revolution? In London recently, Comrade Joe Slovo, recently-elected Chairman of the Party, ANC NEC member, and a leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, made an important policy speech on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Party.
Workers and youth will be encouraged by his references to ending “the political domination of the old ruling class” and of constructing “a new state apparatus” which would facilitate the “continuing drive towards a socialist future”.
Surely Comrade Slovo must mean the need to dismantle the capitalist state and establish in its place a democratic workers’ state? These steps, together with nationalisation of the monopolies under democratic workers’ control and management, and economic planning, are the essential preconditions for a “continuing drive towards a socialist future”.
But, examined closely, what Comrade Slovo says is riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. He says:
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 SA based on the will of the majority.
Here we have unity with the capitalists again, smuggled in under the cloak of the phrase “all classes”.
How is the Freedom Charter, which promises nationalisation of the monopolies, to be a platform for uniting with the capitalists?
Comrade Slovo goes on:
Implicit in such a democratic victory will be the immediate need to begin directing the economy in the interests of the people as a whole. This must obviously involve immediate state measures on the land question and against the giant monopoly complexes which dominate mining, banking and industry.
What does Comrade Slovo mean by “state measures” against the monopolies? Does this mean nationalisation, without compensation except in case of proven need, under democratic workers’ control and management? If so, what is to be lost by spelling it out?
Or does it merely mean – in Comrade Mbeki’s words to Tony Bloom – that “from our point of view a bigger state intervention would be needed”? Does it misinterpret the Freedom Charter – as did Comrade Tambo to the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee – as “not even wanting to purport to destroy capitalism”.
Marx vs. SACP
“There are people who advocate ‘workers’ control’ over production as the main objective of working class organisation… The problem with people advocating ‘socialism now’ is that they expect those Blacks who cannot read or write to run socialist industries and mines… The result would be economic crisis.”Nyawuza in African Communist, 4th Quarter, 1985
“The emancipation of the working classes must be achieved by the working classes themselves. We cannot therefore co-operate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic persons from the upper and lower middle classes.”Marx and Engels, Letter to Bebel, 17-18 September, 1879
“State measures” have been taken “against” monopolies in capitalist countries as different as the US and Britain on the one hand, and Zambia and Zimbabwe on the other. In the US – and even in SA – there is all manner of “anti-monopoly” legislation. But, without full nationalisation of the monopolies, their grip over the lives of working people is in no way ended, nor can the capitalist profit system be abolished.
Comrade Slovo continues:
For some while after apartheid falls there will undoubtedly be a mixed economy, implying a role for levels of non-monopoly private enterprise represented not only by the small racially oppressed black business sector but also by managers and business people of good-will who have or are prepared to shed racism.
“A mixed economy, implying a role for levels of non-monopoly private enterprise…” Does this then mean that the monopolies have been nationalised? But then, why use the term “mixed economy”? This term is the currency of reformist labour movement leaders in the advanced capitalist countries to describe their notion of an economy where the state participates to some extent in the economy, but where capitalist monopolies continue their domination.
The term is used precisely to distinguish this form of allegedly ‘controlled’ capitalism from an economy where the commanding heights of production, finance and (especially foreign) trade are nationalised, and the grip of capitalism thus broken.
That Comrade Slovo is using the term “mixed economy” in its reformist sense is reinforced by his reference to “a role” in such an economy, for “managers and business people of good will who have or are prepared to shed racism.”
In a state-owned, democratically controlled, managed, and planned economy under a democratic workers’ state it may be necessary to hire, under workers’ control, former capitalist managers and administrators, to put their skills to service until they can be replaced. Moreover, in such an economy, in transition to socialism, there will be much scope also for “non-monopoly private enterprise”, i.e. small business, freed from the grip of the monopolies, but subject to state controls. There would be no need to nationalise corner shops, or even small manufacturing, etc., firms.
If this is what Comrade Slovo has in mind, would it not be better to spell it out with absolute clarity? But isn’t it obvious in fact that the “business people of good-will” whom Comrade Slovo refers to are the very monopoly capitalists, like Ball, Bloom and Chapman, whom Comrades Mbeki and Maharaj, in the BBC broadcast, promised “a very important role”? Why else do all these comrades of the ANC and SACP leadership refuse to spell out that the monopolies will be nationalised?
Clarity is vital, not only in defining the economic tasks of our movement, but in defining the political tasks.
Comrade Slovo continues:
If the political domination of the old ruling class is ended and the new state apparatus is constructed within the framework envisaged by the Freedom Charter, the existence of a mixed economy “controlled” in the words of the Charter “to assist the well-being of the people”, will facilitate rather than hinder the continuing drive towards a socialist future; a drive which, within a truly democratic framework, could well be settled in debate rather than on the streets.
The only way of ending the “political domination” of the ruling class in SA is by dismantling the existing state and constructing a “new state apparatus” based on the armed power of the mass of the black people. Within that genuinely democratic state, the power of the working class would be decisive.
But such a state would not rule over a “mixed economy”. With such a state, the ending of the economic power of the capitalist class, exercised through the domination of the monopolies, would be a foregone conclusion. With this achieved, and only then, an uninterrupted drive towards socialism would become possible.
But, if this is what Comrade Slovo has in mind in terms of a “new state apparatus” why not spell out precisely what this means – a state based on the armed people, the election and right of recall of all state officials, paid at no more than the wage of a competent worker, as Lenin spelled out in 1917?
Between achieving this, and the continued domination of the present capitalist state machine, there is no middle road. And such a state – a democratic workers’ state – is the precondition not only for a continuing drive towards socialism, but also for achieving national liberation and majority rule.
“In practice” – Comrade Slovo says – ”the question as to which road SA will begin to take on the morning after the liberation flag is raised over Union Buildings will be decided by the actual correlation of class forces which have come to power.”
Comrade Slovo implies there is some choice in how we are to get to liberation. That is simply not the case. There is only one “actual correlation of class forces” which will ensure the conquest of power by our movement. The victorious flag of liberation will be raised by our movement when, and only when, the working class spearheads a mass armed insurrection which defeats and dismantles the state machine which is the means of political rule of the whole capitalist class.
Our movement can direct all its energies to preparing for this only if it understands clearly that the whole capitalist class is its enemy. The job of the leadership is to explain this – and bring an end to the confusion their speeches and conduct towards the capitalists presently create.
In the face of the formidable state machine, the SA revolution will develop over an extended period. It will pass through massive revolutionary upsurges, and periods of ebb, reaction and even temporary despair, before the working masses build the necessary organised strength and consciousness to carry through the insurrection.
In taking forward this struggle for democracy, workers’ rule and socialism, the building of organs of mass democratic power – when and where possible – will play a vital role. They will need to become generalised, in the major industrial centres, and in every area.
They will need to be organically rooted in the factories, mines, docks, farms, etc. – the centres of production which are the fundamental fortresses of workers’ power. They will need to become linked together, locally, regionally, and eventually nationally.
This will develop together with the mass arming of the people, in self-defence and in preparation for the conquest of power.
Working in the trade unions and the youth organisations, activists are laying foundations on which these democratic organs can rise to new heights in the future – and through which a future mass ANC on a socialist programme will also arise.
© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2020).
 South African Labour Bulletin, II, No. 6
 Mission to SA, pp.142-4
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 13 May 1985
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 6 December 1985, our emphasis – Editor
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 Quoted in Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution
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