Mobilise a Mass ANC to Overthrow the Government!

Originally published in Inqaba ya Basebenzi No.28 (January 1990) under the pen name Basil Hendrickse

by Weizmann Hamilton

The character of the social regime, and consequently the character of every revolution, is determined by the character of the class that holds the power in its hands_ The power can pass from the hands of one class into the hands of another only through a revolutionary overthrow and not by any means through an organic ‘growing over’.

Leon Trotsky on the Spanish Revolution (1931)

As we go to press, the release of Nelson Mandela is imminent. Following the release of other ANC leaders, this is but the most dramatic of the changes which government policy has undergone since P.W. Botha was unceremoniously put out to graze. At least on the surface it seems the whole political situation in SA has changed.

In contrast to the wild kragdadigheid of Groot Krokodil Botha, we now have the calmly calculated and deliberate implementation of government reform policy by de Klerk. In place of Botha’s clumsy bullying and finger-waving we have the image of sweet reasonableness of “Mr Nice Guy”.

These developments might have seemed unthinkable six months ago. For three years, under the State of Emergency, the regime had made the subduing of the black working class the main content of their policy. Now the Emergency has been partially relaxed, and the government is involved in discussions with the ANC – the same “terrorists” they have blamed for the “unrest” in the townships. Yesterday’s heresies are today’s truths; yesterday’s demons, today’s saints.

This change in style, presentation and implementation of government policy is the outward expression of an important shift in ruling class strategy. Under de Klerk the question of negotiations with the ANC now occupies centre stage in politics.

But does this really mean that our movement does not need to overthrow the government after all? In fact it would be quite wrong, however remarkable the events now unfolding, to fall into the delusion that anything fundamental has altered in the underlying conflict between the races and classes in South Africa.


For decades the ruling class has been politically divided over the question of how to deal with the rising strength of the black working class – between policies of reform and racist repression. In recent years there have been combinations of reform and repression. Neither policy has succeeded in getting the black working class to tamely submit to the system of exploitation, i.e., to defeat them.

The insurrectionary movement of 1984-86, although based mainly on the youth, and eventually contained by the government, had a profound effect on all the classes. It brought the ruling class face to face with the dire threat before their system in the form of a mass revolution by the black working class. It revealed conclusively that the experiment of the “tricameral constitution” had failed, and faced the ruling class with the need to consider much more radical measures to try to contain the black working class and avert revolution.

The ferocity of the state’s reaction under the Emergency was an indication of the seriousness with which they regarded the situation. But, as Inqaba had predicted, the Emergency itself solved nothing. It clamped the lid down on the boiling revolt, but could not put out the fire of discontent underneath. It could not reverse the objective processes that capitalism and apartheid had set into motion.

1984-86 was the overture to the SA revolution. In that sense it was a decisive watershed in history.

Underneath the lid of the Emergency, a partial recovery of the revolutionary movement took place. As the earthquake in the cities subsided temporarily, the after-shocks of 1984-86 shook the rural areas. Social convulsions in Bophuthatswana, Venda, Ciskei, KwaNdebele, and Botshabelo brought fresh forces into the struggle, loosening one of the most important pillars in the stability of the apartheid order – the conservatism and submissiveness of the rural masses.

During 1987, only a year after the imposition of the Emergency, SA witnessed the biggest wave of industrial struggles ever, including the single largest industrial strike – that of the mineworkers.

The miners’ strike, the first since 1946, was defeated. But this was not due to any lack of willingness to do battle on the part of the workers. It was the failure of the leadership, who dispersed the strength of the miners by sending them to the homelands, and failed to organise any effective solidarity action through Cosatu and SAYCO when the attention of the whole working class, and indeed the whole of society was focussed on this particular battle. In fact more than a million workers in other sectors of industry were coming out on strike at the same time waiting for a call from the leaders to combine their actions – a call that never came.

Despite this setback, despite the destruction of its headquarters during the 1987 rail strike, Cosatu doubled its membership by 1989. The Emergency failed to break the black working class: rather, it emerged stronger than ever. This undefeated strength was shown in the magnificent political general strike of June 6-8, 1988.

In 1989, resistance burst to the surface again in campaigns of mass defiance: against KP councils, against the Labour Act, against segregation in the workplaces and society, against apartheid elections.

No matter how much “democratic” wailing the liberal capitalists did over the curtailment of democratic freedoms, the whole ruling class was unanimous when the Emergency was imposed. They thought it totally necessary to halt what was clearly the gravest threat capitalism had faced – that of a workers revolution. But the longer the Emergency remained in force, the more its impotence became apparent. It failed to keep the lid on the black working class. It ensured the thorough discrediting and collapse of Botha’s reform programme. A sense of paralysis gripped the government, preparing the conditions for Botha’s removal from office.

White Domination Unsustainable

In the past, it has been possible for capitalism to maintain the blacks in slavery by cementing together the different classes in white society on the one hand and by keeping the blacks divided on the other. Throughout the history of capitalism in SA, the central aim of all government policy has been to maintain this machinery for the exploitation of the black working class. Divide-and-rule is the historical weapon of capitalism in SA.

Since 1948 this has meant the attempt, through the policy of apartheid, to reinforce the exclusion of Africans from political power by restricting their right to residence in the cities, and developing the reserves into independent “national states” where the Africans were to go and exercise their “democratic” rights.

But the dialectic of history is having a sweet revenge on the ruling class. Initially very successful in maintaining the cheap labour system on which the economy has developed, apartheid, by its very “success” in that respect, has now seriously undermined the basis of capitalist rule.

The homelands, always reservoirs of cheap labour, have failed in their purpose – the political containment of the African working class. Influx control has had to be abolished as the African majority pour relentlessly into the cities looking for a livelihood.

Together with industrialisation, this has led to the creation of a huge, urbanised black proletariat, uniting across tribal lines – the very development which the whole structure of South African society was designed to prevent.

An enormous change in the racial balance of forces has taken place, not only within SA but in the Southern African sub-continent.

It is no more than fifteen years ago that the apartheid regime in SA was buttressed by white minority regimes along its borders in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), supplemented by SA’s own occupation of Namibia. Today SA remains as the only white minority government in a region of 100 million people.

Within SA itself, by the year 2000, the population is expected to reach between 47 and 50 million of which the whites will constitute no more than 5-6 million. Between 1986 and 1989 alone, the urban African population increased by 25%! From a long-term historical point of view, white domination is finished.

The law that consciousness lags behind conditions applies to every class in society. The long-term implications of these objective factors were not a new discovery. But it required the revolutionary action of the working class to hammer these points home before the reformist wing of the ruling class could gain the upper hand to pursue its policies – at least for the time being.

De Klerk’s Strategy

Coming from the right-wing of the Nationalist Party, de Klerk is now the pace setter for the reformist wing of big capital! The irony of this must leave a bitter taste in Botha’s mouth as he wanders about in the Wilderness. De Klerk’s strategy is to lay a new basis for the division of the black proletariat, to try to defeat the revolution.

The ruling class recognises that in the long run it would be impossible to maintain the monopoly of government in white hands. Yet there can be no question of them giving the government to the blacks.

Historically, the blacks have been excluded from political power, have been denied the right to vote, because of the risk that this would lead to the overthrow of capitalism itself.

That danger has now been magnified several times over. Whilst the black proletariat created by capitalism is acting as the central force of attraction around which the whole black ‘nation’ is uniting, the white government and its policies is the source of the divisions splitting white society apart as never before.

While, more than ever, there can be no question of the ruling class handing the government to the blacks, it has become impossible to maintain their complete exclusion from it.

Thus the strategy of the ruling class depends on keeping state power in capitalist hands as the ultimate weapon against the working class while using the form of government in a more flexible way to try to diffuse the previously established unity of the black working class.

To keep one’s bearings during rapidly changing events, it is critical to keep attention on the central question: which class holds state power. There is no question of the capitalist class giving up the state power. Only their revolutionary overthrow can achieve this.

The final option available to the ruling class – an option they are holding in reserve – is to use military power to the full to try to crush the working class. In SA this would mean unleashing civil war.

Although the bourgeoisie will not shrink from civil war if they considered this necessary to crush the revolution, they will go down that road only if no other alternative exists. A civil war would be an extremely risky business out of which, apart from the long-term domestic and international economic and political repercussions, the ruling class are not confident of emerging as the victors against a black working class that would have no alternative but to arm itself.

Already vigilantism, so brutally in evidence again in the railway workers’ strike, has forced black workers and youth to begin to arm. It is from this nightmare that the ruling class has recoiled for the time being by pursuing a more radical strategy of reform.

International Factors

In pursuing the path of reform, the ruling class takes comfort from the present international economic and political conjuncture.

The toenadering between the Soviet Union and the USA is playing an important role in international political relations. It has had a material effect on policies of political parties and governments the world over.

With mass uprisings throughout Eastern Europe, the revolt of the nationalities in the Soviet Union, and simmering discontent among the Soviet masses, the Russian bureaucracy under Gorbachev is trying to disengage from potential points of conflict internationally – to head-off revolution at home.

It has moved from its previous policy of peaceful co-existence with imperialism, to virtual capitulation. The Soviet bureaucracy has never supported workers’ revolution. Now it has abandoned even a formal adherence to “revolution”, in favour of “negotiated settlements” compromising with capitalism.

Gorbachev promotes this policy in the name of “world peace.” But it will not lead to peace. In fact it cannot prevent the future of instability, wars, revolution and counter-revolution that both Stalinism and capitalism holds in store for humanity.

The capitalists present the crisis in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union as proof that socialism cannot work. In reality it is a crisis of Stalinism – of bureaucratic rule. But sections of the bureaucracies themselves (including Gorbachev, who sings praises to capitalism) are muddying the waters by preaching the desirability of capitalist measures to solve their crisis – when the solution lies in the removal of bureaucratic rule by the working class.

It is true that while Stalinist regimes are subject to social convulsion and political upheaval, capitalism, at least in the advanced capitalist countries, is enjoying a temporary flush of prosperity. The boom in the capitalist economies started in 1982 and is now the longest single cycle of growth in the post war period.

But for the most part this boom has had a very feeble basis, with growth rates bearing no comparison to those of 1950-75. It is hard to predict how much longer this boom will last, but it is inevitable that it will exhaust itself. The wild fluctuations on the world stock exchanges are an indication of the fragility of the system. The excitement about a new golden age for capitalism is misplaced.

This apparent success of capitalism coinciding with the failure of systems based on revolution and so-called “socialism” is the material basis for the confidence of the capitalist class in the future of their system and the nature of relations between the world powers at present.

Both within SA and internationally the leadership of the working class is failing to explain this, thus adding to the confusion in the minds of workers and youth especially over the events in Eastern Europe. Events there represent the collapse of Stalinism not socialism. Illusions in capitalism among the masses of these countries represent a reactionary outer shell, within which a struggle for democratic control by the working masses against Stalinist bureaucratic rule is taking place.

In the absence of a mass revolutionary party of Marxism at the head of the struggle, consciousness is inevitably confused, and counter-revolutionary dangers may multiply.

The whole problem could be solved by the overthrow of the bureaucracies, and their replacement by workers’ democracy, as genuine Marxists have always pointed out. This would lay the basis for the democratic control of the government and the economy by the working class and the proper and harmonious use of resources and the labour power of the workers within the individual countries and between them. On this basis it would possible to create a level of prosperity far outstripping capitalism.

But this whole conjuncture, giving an apparent boost to the system of capitalism, combined with Gorbachev’s willingness to collaborate with imperialism in seeking “negotiated solutions” of “regional problems”, forms an important factor in the calculations of the SA ruling class.

De Klerk’s Mission

All this has convinced the strategists of the ruling class in SA to experiment with accommodating at least a layer of the blacks into the system of capitalism. They hope by this means to break up the cohesion and the unity that has developed around the movement of the black working class up to now.

This of course, is nothing new. It has always been the purpose of reform. The difference this time is that de Klerk aims to draw at least elements of the ANC itself into government. He has to try to reconcile the contradiction between the incessant demands of the blacks for the right to vote for a government of their choice, and the maintenance of capitalism. He recognises this is impossible unless black leaders, in whom the masses have confidence, can persuade their followers to accept something less than majority rule.

The leadership of the ANC, unfortunately, has not understood the significance of de Klerk’s policy. They present negotiations with de Klerk as a step towards majority rule when in fact the negotiations are designed to prevent majority rule.

Even well-informed bourgeois commentators are remarking upon this:

Government theoreticians have floated a number of complicated models, but what they all boil down to is that each race group is equally weighted in the legislature, regardless of its size, so that no single group can dominate. In addition, all key decisions have to be reached by consensus between all the groups, which gives the white minority a veto.

Black nationalists object to this on two grounds. First, it would require continued race classification. Second, the veto power would enable the whites to prevent any radical re-structuring of the socio-economic system and so entrench the privilege they have built-up…

However, Mandela is said to have accepted that the transition will not come in a single step but several. This suggests the ANC/MDM may settle for less than they want as an initial phase, then use the political power gained to campaign for more – so moving step-by-step towards the goal of majority rule.

Allister Sparks, Observer, London, 14 January 1990

Even if by giving up one after the other of the black working class’s demands, a temporary agreement could be struck, it would lead not to a step-by-step democratic advance, but to further outbreak of bloody conflict.

As soon as the working class recognises that de Klerk’s schemes are a scheme to defraud them of their democratic rights, they would return to the path of revolution. The present “negotiations” policy of the ANC leadership will not help the revolution, but place new difficulties and obstacles in its path.

Even if the price the government has to pay for ANC participation is to formally concede ‘the vote’ to blacks, the constitution would be contrived in such a way as to exclude the possibility of majority rule. The essential structure of class privilege and, therefore, race privilege also would remain intact.

That, broadly speaking, is de Klerk’s strategy. But only a foolish strategist places all his eggs in one basket. In reserve there is the state power to be used mercilessly again when necessary, directly or indirectly, as in the railway workers’ strike.

Even in embarking on the strategy of negotiations with the ANC, De Klerk has to move with great caution for fear that a movement of the working class will be encouraged.

This is why the release of ANC leaders has been so carefully staged. De Klerk has wanted to test the response of the people to this, and the response of the leaders to the expectations of the people. The release of Mandela will again provide a critical test for the strategy of the government.

Unfortunately the whole Congress leadership is playing directly into de Klerk’s hands by ruling-out any mobilisation and mass action, for example doing nothing to support the SATS strike, which could upset the reform plans. But the government, for its part, shows no corresponding goodwill!

Simultaneously with “negotiations”, the regime is stepping up its efforts to divide the working class in order to repress it. The traditional weapon for the division of the blacks has been tribalism.

The rural revolt has exposed the tribal and homeland rulers as agents of the white government in the eyes of the rural masses. Nothing the white government does can restore the authority of these rural dictators. This is the significance of the movement of opposition to incorporation into the homelands, and against independence that has swept through these rural areas over the past few years.

Yet the homelands continue to occupy a central place in the strategy of the government to maintain tribal divisions amongst the Africans. This is one question over which every section of the ruling class, from “liberal” to conservative are unanimous. Whatever their faults, the bourgeoisie says, “the homelands are a reality”.

For all these reasons the whole strategy of the regime depends crucially on the preparedness of the Congress leadership to co-operate. The regime hopes to restore the authority of the tribal and homeland leaders by leaning on the authority particularly of the leaders of the ANC.

This is why it is such a tragic mistake for the ANC leaders to boost the credibility of Holomisa, Mabuza, Buthelezi, etc.


The centrepiece in de Klerk’s strategy is negotiations. Using this in the way the Venus flytrap flower uses its nectar, he hopes to trap the leaders and destroy our movement. Like nectar, negotiations may have a seductive smell. But our leaders will participate in these negotiations at their peril and that of the movement.

We are not saying negotiations should be rejected in principle. Negotiations are a matter of tactics. The most important consideration in tactics is to avoid deceiving the masses. On the contrary tactics ought to raise the understanding of the masses of the need to take revolutionary action.

By entering into negotiations with de Klerk, the ANC leaders will unavoidably mislead millions into thinking that freedom can come “from above” – and that there is no need to overthrow the state.

The government has no intention of granting genuine democracy. “Don’t expect me”, De Klerk told a Western diplomat recently “to negotiate myself out of power”.[1] If the regime were prepared to negotiate the practical handover to majority rule (the only genuine democracy), then it would be foolish not to participate. But this is clearly not the case. Therefore these negotiations must be rejected.

Cuito Canavale

In support of the argument that we should negotiate, some Congress leaders have compared the position with the battle of Cuito Canavale in southern Angola. It is argued that SA was militarily defeated in that battle and consequently was compelled to negotiate withdrawal not only from Angola, but from Namibia.

The comparison is misguided. Firstly, SA was not defeated in that battle. They could have continued and possibly won that battle – but only at the cost of a high number of white casualties and the long-term escalation of the war, a cost they considered too high for the strategic interests of the state.

For this reason, they, retreated, turning to a modified regional strategy: a negotiated agreement with the Angolan government and the Cubans allowing for the withdrawal from Namibia, but without losing control. There was no question of giving up any vital interest.

Reality has more than one side. While withdrawing from direct political control in Namibia, SA’s long-term domination of Namibia has in effect now been sanctified by international agreements, and its ability to dominate the whole of Southern Africa extended by the weakening of SA’s international isolation.

If there is an analogy between Cuito Canavale and the internal situation in SA today, it lies in this: the regime has no intention of giving up any vital interest within SA as a result of negotiations.

Lancaster House

Equally mistaken would be to believe there is any comparison between the Lancaster House negotiations (which led to independence in Zimbabwe) and the present situation within SA.

Smith participated in those negotiations because the white minority government had begun to lose the war. As his intelligence chief, Ken Flower, admitted afterwards, had the war continued to a conclusion the guerrillas would have taken control of the capital. This would have led to the overthrow of capitalism itself.

Had Smith refused to negotiate in time, a SA invasion of Zimbabwe would have been the only alternative to a military victory for the guerrilla armies. But SA rejected that option because of the enormous risks and costs involved in a military occupation, including the radicalisation of the masses throughout Southern Africa.

On the other hand the power of SA imperialism was a prime factor in persuading Mugabe and the other guerrilla leaders to promise to leave capitalism in Zimbabwe intact. This enabled the whites and the capitalists to salvage on the negotiating table much of what they had begun to lose on the battlefield.

This is manifestly not the position in SA. If the SA state were to be defeated in a revolution, the result would be winner takes all.

The “settlement” in Zimbabwe was possible only because the working class remained passive, and allowed the petty-bourgeois nationalists heading ZANU and ZAPU to raise themselves to power by agreement with the capitalists and imperialists. Now the workers are faced with having to wage bitter struggles against an increasingly repressive regime in Zimbabwe, which is clawing back all the reforms and enriching the black elite in co-operation with the white capitalists.

In SA, the black working class is making the revolution by its own struggle, and the question is whether this revolution will be led to victory by the ANC, or paralysed by misguided “negotiations”, and so prepared for setbacks and even bloody defeat.

The State of the Battle

As Trotsky pointed out in discussing the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, “It is a basic rule of tactics: if you want to get stronger, do not begin with an exaggeration of your forces.” Just as mistaken, we would add, is to underestimate the strength of the enemy. In other words it is necessary to make as accurate an analysis as possible of the balance of forces, and the state of the battle.

As already explained, the Emergency – despite 50,000 arrests, the banning of organisations and loss of thousands of lives – did not inflict a decisive defeat on the working class. So far as the movement of the masses is concerned the revolution which began in 1984-86 is now ready to march forward again.

At the same time, the revolution is still in its early stages. It would be an exaggeration to say the regime is fully in the grip of a revolutionary crisis.

The sure-footed confidence of de Klerk is not without significance. It is based on the fact that even during the State of Emergency the regime did not use more than a fraction of the fire power at its disposal. In the white population this regime still has enormous social reserves.

To give the negotiations strategy credibility, the regime’s armed forces have had to stand back from the front line. Its claws have been withdrawn and a smile put on the face of the tiger. The winding up of the Joint Management Committees, the lessening of the military training period and the reduction in the defence budget do not alter the power of the SADF. De Klerk is widening the smile of the tiger… while it waits.

Yet the Rockman affair shows that the state is vulnerable to disintegration where it relies on black forces. Moreover there are already unprecedented splits opening up within white society. By mobilising our full strength, the black working class can develop the power to defeat this state.

However, so long as the leaders hold back and divert the masses from this task, the military-police apparatus, based on the whites, will retain its cohesion as a formidable foundation for bosses’ rule.

A new upsurge has already begun. Although not yet as fiery, it is qualitatively more advanced than in 1984-86. While that was initiated and sustained almost entirely by the working class youth, today it is the industrial workers spearheading the movement.

Despite the confidence exhibited by de Klerk, fear of the proletarian revolution lies at the heart of government strategy. De Klerk’s actions are more than an episodic tactical manoeuvre. The capitalist class is undertaking a serious defensive readjustment of their system.

But they are not going to risk their fate by resting simply on the support of the Congress leadership. The essential basis of their rule remains the military-police apparatus of the state. Whatever they are prepared to “negotiate”, state power is not negotiable.

On this fact the attempt to reconcile the races and the classes in SA will founder.

There may be many attempts at negotiations, collapse of negotiations, re-establishment of negotiations, collapse again. There may be “agreement” partly reached, or reached and then broken. Ultimately this cannot prevent the polarisation in society continuing.

The Conservatives have been set back. But they are by no means a spent force. No serious analysis of political developments can exclude ferocious right-wing reaction in the future. As the political and economic crisis deepens, the whites too will seek desperately for a way out of the impasse. Unless a decisive democratic socialist alternative, in place of the dog-eat-dog competition of capitalism, is offered to them by the black working class, they will continue to provide a reliable social basis for racist reaction in the hope of securing their future.

There is the future possibility of more reactionary governments, and even military government.

The black proletariat will not submit patiently to unrelieved suffering. It has rallied behind the ANC banner for the purpose of liberating itself. It will have to find or create in the ANC a revolutionary leadership to carry through this task. Otherwise the danger will be created of the political break-up of the proletariat, leading to chaos, bloody infighting and the collapse of the country into racial civil war.

All the factors which sparked-off the revolution, far from receding, continue to accumulate. The misery and deprivation which capitalism imposes on the working class continues unrelieved. New explosions are absolutely inevitable.

The Tasks of the Leadership

Therefore enormous responsibilities rest on the shoulders of the leadership of the ANC. SA has the possibility of one of the greatest revolutionary advances in human history.

Unfortunately the actions of the leadership thus far should fill the working class with alarm. There is not one instance of an all-out nation-wide struggle against the regime or the bosses in which the Congress leaders have even tried to mobilise the full forces at their disposal.

Instead of an uncompromising struggle against Buthelezi involving mobilising the workers and youth around a social programme for housing, jobs, etc., the leaders have attempted to secure peace in Natal through negotiations with Buthelezi. This policy of “peace” has brought nothing but war. Thousands have died unnecessarily.

There can be no greater danger for the movement than to fail to combat tribalism. Tribalism is the historical weapon of apartheid and capitalism for the division of the blacks. The civil war in Natal is a grim warning of the price our movement will pay for incorrect policies. Unfortunately the leadership does not appear to understand this.

By embracing Holomisa, the leadership is anointing tribalism. Over seventeen painful years, beginning in the trade unions, the black working class has united itself and the majority of blacks under one banner – thereby breaking down the tribal and racial barriers which were the basis of our weakness and the source of the regime’s strength. This advance must never be allowed to be thrown back.


Tribalism will by no means be the only consequence of the adoption of “negotiations” as the strategy of the Congress leadership. The endorsement by Cosatu of “negotiations” with de Klerk has produced paralysis in an organisation built by the workers for struggle.

Afraid that the government would be discouraged from participation in negotiations if the movement was mobilised in support of the railway workers, the Cosatu leaders have not lifted a finger in real solidarity with the Sarhwu workers. This is the price our movement is paying in order not to disturb the “negotiations process”.

It is left to a bourgeois journalist to comment on the irony of a government that claims to be committed to negotiations with the ANC but will not negotiate with its own employees.

The continuation of this policy which converts negotiations into handcuffs on the wrists of our organisations, will encourage even more savage aggression from the bosses and the state than has been shown against the railway workers so far.

Cosatu, like the ANC, has a tremendous potential to unify the whole working class – if a serious programme of action was put forward. However if militant phrases are endlessly substituted for action – if the real policy remains one of inaction – then what presently is a symbol of unity can be turned into disappointment, cynicism and division on the part of the working class.

The black working class has a powerful progressive instinct of non-racialism – for unity of working class people against the system of exploitation. This is a colossal conquest of consciousness. But if in practice, non-racialism is turned by the leadership into an excuse for class-compromise – if it is turned against the interest of the working class as is the case now – then the ground may be prepared for new splits in the direction of black nationalism as an apparently more “revolutionary” alternative.


The re-emergence of the PAC (PAM) would be insignificant were it not for the dangers created by the “negotiations” policy of the Congress leadership and their consequent unwillingness to mobilise mass action.

Shrewdly, the PAC leaders make opposition to these negotiations their main point of propaganda. It is not accidental that they use left-wing and “socialist” demagogy to reach the ear of the black working class. They are black nationalist petty-bourgeois trying to make their way in politics by manipulating the working class.

If they achieve a large following, they would play an absolutely treacherous role, contributing as in 1950s and early 1960s, to the break-up of the movement. The way to avoid the PAC danger is to unify the black working in Congress by means of a serious programme of action.

But that means breaking with the present policy of negotiations with de Klerk and adopting instead the revolutionary policy of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the ANC.

The Period Ahead

The heroic insurrection in Romania shows that once the working class moves as a whole, no state power, however mighty, can stop them.

The Congress leaders have an opportunity now to mobilise an unstoppable movement against the regime. But this requires clarity of policy, programme and perspectives.

Power can be conquered only by the working class struggling to defeat and overthrow the state. This requires the mobilisation of the whole working class around a programme for housing, jobs, a decent health and education system, none of which are possible under capitalism. Together with this mobilisation we must arm the movement and make an appeal to the white workers to come over to the side of the revolution.

We say:

  • De Klerk rejects majority rule – no negotiations with De Klerk!
  • For one-person-one-vote in an undivided South Africa!
  • No retreat from the Freedom Charter!
  • Build a mass ANC to overthrow the government!
  • Forward to workers’ power, democracy and socialism!

© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2020).

[1] Observer, London, 4 June 1989