This discussion document was adopted unanimously at WASP’s National Bosberaad on 14 February 2015. Comrades came to call the change in tactics outlined in the below document ‘the Bolshevik Turn’. It was published for the first time in August 2020.
Discussion Document for the Workers & Socialist Party by the DSM Executive Committee
19 January 2015
The Workers & Socialist Party is two years old. In its short life it has scored some spectacular achievements. Below we list just some.
- The founding of WASP was the extension of the 2012 mineworkers struggle onto the political plane. Alongside the DSM, representatives of six mineworkers’ strike committees founded WASP in December 2012. Dozens of mineworkers’ strike committee leaders were the first recruits to WASP and played a leading role in the early months of WASP’s existence. This resulted in the affiliation of the National Strike Committee in early March 2013 which at its height represented 150,000 mineworkers.
- Launching and registering WASP was a bold act in itself. It had an unquestioned impact on the objective situation. Marikana accelerated the debate taking place within the working class about political representation but WASP sharpened the debate and set-down a clear sign-post for the key task faced by the working class in this period: the creation of a mass workers party on a socialist programme. In doing so, WASP chimed with the conclusions drawn by the advanced layer of the working class.
- The firmly working class character of the 21 March 2013 launch demonstrated the healthy class basis WASP was being founded upon. The majority of those attending were Tshwane municipality workers whom WASP had been supporting in their struggle against retrenchments. Delegations of mineworkers attended from all key mining areas, including the North West, Limpopo, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga. Representatives of the leadership of the National Transport Movement (NTM) trade union attended and spoke from the platform.
- WASP has given birth to a youth wing – the Socialist Youth Movement – which has grown rapidly on the campuses, leading student strikes and winning representation on SRCs in Tshwane.
- The affiliation of the NTM was an important statement of political and ideological solidarity with the ideas of working class political independence and socialism.
- The leading role of WASP in the street traders’ protests in Johannesburg against their forcible eviction from the CBD in ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ in late 2013. At its height, 4,000 street traders marched through the streets of the city. The respect and political identification with WASP was reflected in the donation of the African Traders Organisation to WASP’s general election campaign.
- The decision of Moses Mayekiso, a working class leader in the liberation struggle and founding general secretary of NUMSA, to join WASP along with the group around him leading the building of a new country-wide civic.
- WASP has steadily built its influence within NUMSA. This has been on a principled basis, analysing NUMSA’s political trajectory and explaining at each stage our views on the best way forward. WASP attended NUMSA’s December 2013 Special National Congress (SNC) and nearly swayed the political position of the union. Though bureaucratically blocked, there was overwhelming support amongst delegates for the position WASP put forward in the commission on the 2014 elections. WASP argued that the plenary should be asked to vote on adopting the Congress discussion document’s criteria for assessing political parties as voting guidelines for NUMSA members. In blocking this decision being taken to plenary, the chair of the session justified it on the grounds that “it would be the same as calling for a WASP vote”. Exactly! Again, the chiming of WASP with the conclusions drawn by the advanced layer of the working class was demonstrated. Since the SNC, WASP has continued to build its authority in NUMSA’s United Front (UF), winning a small but important layer of shop stewards into the ranks of the party.
- The building of a semi-mass base in Fetakgomo, Limpopo, including leading community protests of several thousand in Ga-Nchabeleng around service delivery, and a base amongst the mineworkers of Bokoni Platinum has demonstrated WASP’s ability to appeal to the rural population.
- But what has marked WASP out as serious party beyond all else, was our audacity to stand in the May 2014 general election, notwithstanding the final vote. Our candidate lists were a small reflection of the flower of the working class that WASP has united under its banner. They included mineworkers, a street trader, a NUMSA shop steward, the general secretary of a small industrial union, the deputy-general secretary of the NTM, a regional secretary of an emergency workers union, township community activists, students, crowned with Moses Mayekiso as the presidential candidate.
These achievements flowed from the DSM’s political perspectives and the political perspectives of our international, the Committee for a Workers International (CWI). Crucial was our correct estimation of the consequences of the Marikana massacre and its impact upon the consciousness of the working class. Marikana was a change from quantity to quality; the accumulation of the working class’s frustrations since 1994 became a conscious rejection of the ANC and the existing political situation by a decisive layer. Launching WASP was the tactical turn in our work, as a response to Marikana, which permitted the achievements listed above.
But two years on from the creation of WASP, the situation has changed significantly. The DSM believes that this necessitates a new tactical turn in order to maximise our ability, alongside those we presently work with in WASP, to push forward the creation of a mass workers party with a socialist programme.
The World Situation Following The Collapse Of The USSR – The CWI’s Perspectives
With the collapse of the USSR in 1991 the world situation changed dramatically. The imperialist powers declared that they had ‘won’ the cold war. They asserted that the collapse of the USSR was proof that there was no alternative to capitalism – it was “the end of history”. In the West the leadership of the workers movements abandoned even the pretence that they stood for working class revolution and socialism. The trade unions, the social-democratic parties (e.g. the Labour Party in Britain, PSOE in Spain), and the Stalinist ‘Communist’ parties (e.g. in Italy) moved rapidly to the right and the working class left in droves. In the neo-colonial world, the leaders of the cross-class liberation movements also capitulated to this capitalist triumphalism and the nationalist elites gained the ascendancy against the working class and poor masses.
This is the international background against which the capitulation of the ANC must be understood. The negotiation process, culminating in the 1994 election, took place at the height of the ideological onslaught of the capitalist class globally against the ideas of socialism. The aspiring bourgeois of the ANC encountered a favourable global situation to betray the socialist aspirations of the South African working class.
Trotsky had predicted the restoration of capitalism in the USSR as far back as the 1930s. He recognised that if the working class in Russia did not carry through a second revolution to restore workers democracy and remove the dictatorial bureaucracy that a disastrous return to capitalism would be the USSR’s eventual fate. Standing in the tradition of Trotsky, the CWI, whilst shocked by the speed of capitalist restoration, understood and was prepared for what took place. We were able to face up to the changed world situation.
Many on the ‘left’ remain completely disorientated by these events and many of their errors can be traced back to this period. Many drew wrong conclusions and muddled-up the genuine ideas of Marxism and the genuine principles of revolutionary organisation with those that betrayed them in the counter-revolution led by Joseph Stalin. By throwing out the genuine Marxist baby with the filthy Stalinist bathwater many hard won lessons of the class struggle over the past two centuries – generalised in the ideas of Marxism – were unlearned.
But what was not fully anticipated was that these events would lead to a severe throwing back of working class consciousness. Whilst this effect was less pronounced amongst the South African working class, counteracted to an extent by the revolutionary developments within the country during the 1980s and early 1990s, it has nonetheless left its imprint. This has been particularly the case amongst the ‘leaders’ of the working class. Those that have not become the worst type of corrupt thieves are politically and ideologically lost at sea. The new generation of ‘born-frees’ have come of age in a period where the post-1994 degeneration of the mass organisations has deprived them of a political education.
The strategy of the CWI is to build a mass revolutionary international – a global revolutionary party – to lead the working class in the revolutionary struggle for a socialist society.
Up until the early 1990s, in most, but not all countries that the CWI had sections, the tactic we pursued in support of that strategy was for our revolutionary forces to operate as organised tendencies inside the mass organisations of the working class, including the mass political parties with a working class base. In South Africa that meant work within the ANC as the Marxist Workers Tendency (MWT) from the 1970s until 1996. This was not because we had any illusions that the leaders of these parties had any intention of leading the struggle for socialism but because of the mass working class followings such parties had; we positioned our forces at the best location to influence the most politicised sections of the working class.
But the changed situation required a new tactic. From the mid-1990s the CWI’s affiliates began leaving the now degenerated former mass political organisations and raised the demand for the building of new mass workers parties. We now raise this in most countries as a central demand. Not as a point of principle, but flowing from our assessment – our perspective – that this is the likely first post on the road the working class must travel to draw full conclusions about the ideas, programme, strategy and tactics necessary to change society.
Such parties could bring together the advanced layer of the working class initially – and the mass eventually with the correct programme and approach – to debate and test out the best ideas. They would be schools to politically reorient the working class and organisationally re-establish their class independence. The CWI has intervened in every genuine step toward the creation of such broad parties wherever they have taken place and where appropriate attempted to act as a midwife to a process that the historical situation will relentlessly push forward.
But we always posed this as just one side of a dual task. It remained crucial to continue building revolutionary parties. This flowed from our understanding of the type of party the working class needs in order to overthrow capitalism and create a socialist society. The centralised grip of the capitalist class on society – including their state, police, army, ownership of industry etc. – can only be met by a similarly centralised and disciplined force. History has shown that only a mass revolutionary party based on the organised mass of the working class and led by a disciplined cadre clear on the tasks required to change society can lead the overthrow of capitalism. The absence of such parties in the revolutionary movements of the Middle East and other parts of the world today demonstrates the necessity for such a party. In that sense, the creation of broad mass workers parties is no more than vital preparatory work to assist the creation of mass revolutionary parties. Accordingly, CWI sections have worked tirelessly to build the forces of the international. But we have done this whilst intervening in every step toward the creation of broader workers parties.
We have never posed the development of broad workers parties and revolutionary parties in a schematic way akin to the stages approach of the SACP. For example in ‘theories’ such as the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which says first a period of capitalism, and then, eventually, a move to socialism. We do not say that in every case the working class must first go through a period of time in a mass workers party before proceeding to the creation of a revolutionary party. We have pursued the creation of both simultaneously over the past twenty-five years. Only the unfolding of the class struggle will determine the speed of developments and the relationship between mass and revolutionary parties. Our current posing of the tasks faced by the working class in this period – the idea of the dual task – allows for maximum flexibility in organisational forms.
We are now implementing the dual task in a new period of world capitalist crisis that opened up with the onset of the world economic crisis in 2008. But the dual task remains the best way to characterise our work, tailored to assist working class consciousness catch-up with the tasks that are posed in this period of global revolution and counter-revolution.
Our Understanding for the Launch of WASP
That was our understanding and the justification for launching WASP whilst simultaneously striving to build the DSM. In South Africa the complete impasse of capitalism has meant the living standards of the working class and poor have remained scarred by poverty and want. In the greatest condemnation of capitalism, inequality has reached higher proportions today than when the apartheid regime enforced racial segregation and held-back the economic development of the black population. Only a break with capitalism offers any chance for the majority to enjoy a decent standard of life, and for that, a mass revolutionary party will be necessary.
But the working class has no leadership worthy of it. Despite record levels of strikes and mass protests the working class is not united and fights isolated battles. It has no mass political organisation expressing its class interests. A mass workers party could begin the task of uniting what we have called the three theatres of workplace, community and education struggles around a common political programme. This is already a conclusion being drawn amongst the working class, not least of all the mineworkers and metalworkers. Such a development would lay the basis for the development of a mass revolutionary party at a certain stage by accelerating the political understanding of the working class.
After 16 years of raising the demand for a new workers party, largely as a propaganda point, the unfolding of the class struggle in South Africa and our conscious orientation toward the mineworkers, positioned us to be able to play midwife to a party – what became WASP – that could take a concrete step forward for the creation of a workers party.
We were able to act based upon our position among the mineworkers as the 2012 strike wave developed (the DSM was active in Rustenburg from 2009); the massacre’s sharp posing of the political character of the mineworkers struggle; our swift response to Marikana and recruitment of many of the strike committee leaders and the access this gave us to mass meetings where we could put forward the demand for a workers party which corresponded to the conclusions being drawn by the mineworkers.
The proximity of the general elections was an important factor spurring us on. The possibility of a mass working class and socialist challenge was clearly posed. Whilst we always explained the limitations of bourgeois democracy and that the working class could only rely on its own struggles to transform society, the elections offered a platform to extend the idea of a new workers party beyond the mineworkers to other sections of the working class. Later, the emergence of the EFF and developments within NUMSA confirmed this assessment.
When WASP was launched we were alone on the left in putting forward the demand for a new workers party and a socialist challenge in the elections. In seizing the opportunity to take a step forward we earned the condemnation of the middle class left in the early days of WASP’s creation, their egos bruised that they were not “consulted”. This was later replaced with silence and an attempt to pretend WASP did not exist as our achievements mounted.
Our understanding of what WASP’s political character should be was based on our understanding of the period and the level of working class consciousness.
WASP was to be a workers party. Not a ‘left’ party or some other vague label. It was not a left re-groupment project and the inability of the middle class left to understand that has led to tensions between us and them since WASP was launched.
WASP was to be proudly socialist. Though differences in the understanding of precisely what that meant would not be a barrier to membership. Clarification in democratic debate would be part of the education of the working class that the tactic was meant to assist. Initially, a minimal five-point programme was adopted of (1) nationalisation, (2) job creation, (3) improved service delivery, (4) free education, and (5) public, accessible and free healthcare.
WASP was to be a party of struggle – to play a role in uniting on the political plane the struggles of workers, communities and the youth.
Agreement with this would be sufficient basis to join WASP.
Winning a following for these basic ideas would represent a significant step forward. DSM did not argue for WASP to be an explicitly Marxist or Trotskyist party, reflecting our understanding that WASP should be as broad as possible within the limits of the three political characteristics listed above. Even so, in our role as WASP leaders we have always been honest that it is our belief that only on the basis of genuine Marxism and Trotskyism that the struggle for socialism will be victorious.
From the outset, it was in the structures of WASP that the clearest differences with a revolutionary party, such as the DSM, would lie. In contrast to the democratic centralism of the DSM, WASP was conceived of as being federal – a broad church within the limits of the three political characteristics described above. Not only individuals, but organisations could join and retain their own structures. The Executive of WASP would be broad and inclusive granting representation to all affiliates.
It was those differences in the structures of WASP that meant we saw it as our duty to maintain the DSM based on our understanding of the dual task of the period. Not to have done so would have meant liquidating the revolutionary party.
From the beginning the DSM has argued that WASP must be seen as a tactic. The revolutionary party is the only permanent feature of the political landscape and even then, its precise form is not fixed. That was why we called on workers to join both WASP and the DSM. We explained the possible perspectives for WASP openly and honestly to all those who entered our ranks – WASP might be taken out of the DSM’s political control; something new might come along into which WASP dissolves itself; or, WASP may become the future mass workers party.
The Development of the WASP Tactic 2012-2014
In the course of its two year existence under the political leadership of the DSM, how we have posed WASP’s role has undergone shifts in emphasis reflecting our approach to it as a catalyst to a mass workers party.
From its creation at the end of 2012, through the March 2013 launch to mid-2013 we posed WASP’s role in the following way:
We need a party that can unite our struggles and champion our interests as workers. We need a party based on our struggles, rooted in workplaces and working class communities, with a mass membership. We believe WASP can be such a party…WASP will be a party of struggle, of unity and socialism.Manifesto & Programme of Action (January 2013)
This reflected that WASP was the only organisation putting forward the need for a working class party based on socialism and the struggles of the working class. Whilst such a situation existed WASP was the banner to gather around.
However, we took account of the emergence of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) from mid-2013 and its attraction to a layer of the youth in particular. But we were also alive to the EFF’s limitations. The EFF was not based on the working class or firm enough in its commitment to socialism and its democratic credentials were questionable. But we recognised that we were not the only left alternative on offer any longer and said:
…millions of working class people – workers, the unemployed, youth and students – have intensified their search for a political and ideological alternative to the ANC. The births respectively of the WASP and the EFF have, by different routes and with significantly different features, come about in response to this situation.
The working class is still at an early stage in the process of clarifying key ideological, political and organisational questions. Many know very clearly what they are against but are far less precise on what they are for… We believe that since both WASP and EFF are seen as answers to this question by significant sections of the working class, the two organisations should seek to collaborate in a way that both harnesses the combative strength of a united working class AND facilitates this process of clarification.Open Letter to the EFF (September 2013)
We proposed that such collaboration should take the form of an electoral block in the rapidly approaching elections – a form of united front. This proposal would have allowed us to reach out to genuine EFF members to have those debates that the WASP tactic was intended to encourage. But we were not willing to surrender the bridgehead we had established for a new workers party by liquidating WASP into the EFF – which the EFF leadership demanded – given the limitations of the EFF that we had identified. To do so would have been a step back for the creation of a workers party. Even so, our approach to the EFF won us a small but important sympathetic following in their ranks.
It was toward the end of 2013 that the NUMSA leadership announced its intention to convene a Special National Congress (SNC) to gain a mandate from their members to withdraw support from the ANC in 2014 in response to Marikana and the escalating crisis in Cosatu. This began widespread speculation about the possibility of NUMSA launching a workers party. Again, we recognised the significance of these developments and called on delegates at the SNC to:
…go a step further than merely withdrawing support for the ANC and to support the formation of a mass workers party on a socialist programme calling for the nationalisation of the mines, the banks, the commercial farms, the factories and other big business on the basis of democratic workers’ control and management.Open Letter to NUMSA (December 2013)
We were not worried that we were calling on NUMSA to create a direct competitor to WASP because WASP was not understood as an end in itself. The creation of a mass workers party would be catapulted forward if the biggest trade union in the country took up the task.
The priority was now to act as a lever on NUMSA whilst remaining resolute in our commitment to contest the 2014 elections – an important platform to popularise the idea of a workers party in its own right – as long as there was uncertainty that NUMSA would act. As time wore on and the possibility of NUMSA organising an electoral challenge waned, we still offered a bridge to NUMSA, inviting them to “take their rightful place in the leadership of WASP”. We said:
We believe that the founding of WASP has played a role in accelerating the process toward the political independence of the working class and sharpened the lines of debate. But this process has not ended with the founding of WASP. On the contrary, NUMSA’s stand has taken the process onto a higher plane. We are also open to WASP becoming a founding component of any new initiative for a mass workers party on a socialist programme in the future.
Reflecting our understanding of WASP’s role we are taking an inclusive approach to the drawing up of election lists for the 2014 elections and those candidates we hope to send into the National Assembly. WASP’s federal structure offers NUMSA the opportunity to send its own candidates into the National Assembly under the WASP umbrella.After Numsa’s Congress: seize the historic opportunity of the 2014 elections (January 2014)
Post-election we have continued to argue for the creation of a mass workers party with a socialist programme within NUMSA’s United Front (UF) which many NUMSA members see as preparatory work for such a development. We have fought to bring clarity to NUMSA members and those around the UF that this is the key task faced by the working class, the foundation upon which the class can address all the other issues the UF wishes to tackle.
At every stage we have successfully argued for WASP to adjust to the political situation whilst remaining clear about its role as a catalyst for the creation of a mass workers party. But at a certain point quantity becomes quality. The DSM believes that sufficient changes in the political situation have accumulated necessitating a change in our tactics if not our political argument.
Changed Political Situation Necessitates Change in Tactics
The emergence of the EFF and its dramatic entry into parliament and NUMSA’s positioning of itself as left political pole in opposition to the Tripartite Alliance are major new features of the political landscape. When we launched WASP we were alone on the left in calling for a mass political alternative. Now the EFF and NUMSA – mass forces of different characters – are on the scene. The emergence of AMCU in the mines as a mass force with a leadership politically hostile to WASP is another important feature. The AMCU leadership’s hostility is based on DSM’s known support for the self-initiative of the mineworkers in the strike committees, which the AMCU leadership see as a threat to their position. Our perspective for 2015 and beyond is one of sharpening class contradictions and escalating crisis for South African capitalism, but not of a character that will fundamentally change this landscape in the immediate future. These new behemoths will dominate for a period.
The potential to establish WASP as a country-wide party with hundreds, possibly thousands of consolidated members, is as ripe as ever. But we have to recognise what is possible in the present situation. It is ruled out that we can compete with the EFF and NUMSA for a mass audience through the press. That does not mean that we give up on serious press work. The unexpected spotlight on Liv Shange in June 2014, whilst a mistake the ANC is unlikely to repeat, shows what is possible. It is also highly unlikely that WASP can become a significant electoral force whilst the EFF has not exhausted the hopes that have been placed in it and whilst the organised working class waits for NUMSA to act, even assuming we had the resources to attempt it. There is of course the potential for small scale electoral successes and we have to carefully assess the best approach to take to the 2016 local elections, especially if NUMSA has not launched a party by then. Further, we remain largely cut-off from the mines. We have held on to a handful of mineworker members and the DSM’s role is still remembered sympathetically but it will be difficult and slow work to rebuild whilst AMCU holds sway, though again we must make efforts to strengthen our position.
But there is still a space to be occupied. Neither the EFF nor the current stage of the NUMSA process satisfies what the working class objectively requires or what the advanced layer is already looking for.
With the new crowded left field, the immediate battle is an ideological one. There are several more-or-less clearly defined political currents that have taken root in the new political landscape. The mistakes of each have the potential to mis-lead the working class and introduce confusion. Broadly speaking we must combat:
- EFF, wing 1 – the soft nationalism of the Charterist ex-ANC Youth League leadership now peppered with a self-serving distortion of Marxism. (The ANC’s response to the rise of the EFF has been to “reclaim” the Freedom Charter further adding to the confusion.)
- EFF, wing 2 – the anti-Marxist black nationalism of the September National Imbizo and other Pan-Africanist ideas.
- NUMSA, wing 1 – the mis-educated ex-SACP/Stalinist leadership around Jim, which despite a decisive break with the SACP are still clearly influenced by their incorrect theoretical approach e.g. the National Democratic Revolution.
- NUMSA, wing 2 – the petty bourgeois left coalescing around the UF based on a mix of anti-party post-modernism and revisionism of Marxism, the role of the working class and the centrality of the class struggle.
Added to this mix is the anti-political position of the AMCU leadership, which while entirely self-serving and without even the pretence of a theoretical basis, introduces elements of a vague undefined syndicalism that needs to be politically answered.
Drawing the Full Conclusions
To intervene in this situation in the most effective way possible, WASP cannot be a broad church. It will not be possible to wade through the confusion, give ideological clarity and wrest the best people onto the correct ideas if a founding principle of our own organisation is that we are an ideological ‘broad church’. What is needed is a party with a clear ideological character, but that is not WASP in its current form, at least that is not the way that WASP is presently conceived.
But the ‘broad church’ conception of WASP is not fully reflected in the reality. Because of the DSM’s political dominance in WASP, the distinction between WASP and the DSM has not been clear to most. The political positions of WASP, the lead WASP has given in different struggles, the strategy and tactics advanced, the basis of Marxism for political education etc. is based entirely on DSM’s ideas. The key document of WASP – Only Socialism Means Freedom, used as the 2014 election manifesto – is a transitional programme for the South African revolution fully in line with the DSM’s political positions. Ultimately, the support given to WASP by its members and affiliates is based on agreement with the DSM’s programme.
But whilst WASP has a revolutionary programme, it is not organised as a revolutionary party on the principles of democratic centralism. The DSM believes that given the way that the political landscape has changed and the immediate tasks such changes pose, it is vital to bring WASP’s organisational structure into alignment with its revolutionary programme. The loose federalism and minimal ideological foundations of WASP are no longer fit for purpose. We need to reorganise WASP as a revolutionary party on the principles of democratic centralism if it is to be effective in this period.
Democratic centralism will allow WASP to be the most effective tool possible to intervene in the present situation. We will produce more detailed material exploring the history of democratic centralism and what it means in practice but for now it is important to emphasise the broad points of democratic centralism as an organising principle – we have not chosen that phrase by accident. The philosophy of Marxism underpins our understanding of building a revolutionary party as much as it does our understanding of the class struggle. No specific organisational form – a constitution, the organisation of a full-time apparatus, the boundaries of structures such as branches and regions, the titles given to leading members etc. – can be regarded as permanent and unchanging.
Democratic centralism is infused with the understanding of its flexibility and is best understood as a “mobile balance” between democratic discussion and centralised action. The weight of the balance is determined by the objective conditions the party is operating in and the demands of the class struggle. But in general it means, on the one hand, full democratic discussion throughout the party, crucial to facilitating the highest degree of ideological unity as ideas are debated and examined. But after full discussion it is necessary for the whole party to move into action in a united manner regardless of what positions individual members took in the preceding debates. This is the centralism which makes a revolutionary party an effective instrument to intervene in the class struggle. A revolutionary party is not a debating club.
Of course, these working class principles will be very familiar to comrades in the trade unions. Democratic centralism also underpins workplace organisation. This is especially the case is strikes. Scabs are often dealt with in such harsh manner precisely because they violate the principle of centralised and united action after debate and the adoption of a majority decision. As with Marxism in general, democratic centralism in no more than a generalisation of the experiences of the working class. But whereas trade unions and other workplace organisations only extend this most effective method of organisation to workers in a single workplace or industry, the democratic centralism of a revolutionary party aims to extend that discipline to the entire working class. This is vital if the working class is to move as one in a united revolutionary movement capable of defeating the capitalist class and the present control they have over every aspect of society.
But for democratic centralism to reach its full potential – indeed for it to have any meaning at all – it must be based on a politically educated and trained membership. This is the first task that a reorganised WASP will face – the development of revolutionary cadre. Beyond the urgent political education that we must initiate this will also mean a tighter attitude to membership criteria, including branch attendance, public party activity and subs payment. In this period it is better to have 250 politically developed and committed members, than a bigger but looser periphery as is the case with WASP in its present form. This does not mean abandoning WASP’s present broader membership or stepping away from mass work. Rather we want to put such work on firmer foundations by having an intensive focus on the development of a cadre in the immediate period all the better to intervene in the class struggle and the battle of ideas that is raging.
As part of WASP’s re-founding as a revolutionary party, we also believe that WASP, in its new form, should affiliate to the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), the socialist international to which the DSM is presently affiliated. The CWI has already given enormous support to WASP in fundraising campaigns, assisting WASP to stand in the general election. Internationalism is central to all those serious about the socialist revolution. WASP would not be a genuine revolutionary party without a serious attitude towards the building of a world party of socialist revolution. We believe there will be massive enthusiasm for such a step and that the discussions around it will raise the political level of WASP members and further distinguish us on the left.
A revolutionary party will itself be assembled through a process, not just of linear recruitment (i.e. one individual after another), but through mergers and splits too. Those forces around WASP in its present form – whether from a trade union, civic or left background – are excellent raw material out of which to create a revolutionary party – in effect the nucleus of a future mass revolutionary party. Indeed, working together over the past two years under the WASP umbrella has facilitated the possibility of a merger by building the trust between WASP’s different components.
If the forces in WASP agree to go ahead with the creation of such a party, the DSM would no longer maintain itself as a separate organisation. The one side of our dual task – the building of a revolutionary party – would have taken a quantitative step forward by uniting with the forces in WASP on a clear revolutionary basis. The other side of the dual task would be met by the orientation of a reorganised WASP to the working class and their struggles, but to NUMSA in particular, and those genuine forces around the EFF too, to try and steer developments in the direction of a mass workers party.
This document first and foremost makes the political case for transforming WASP. We wish to begin a discussion within WASP on the basis of the political points we have raised here. We have only outlined the organisational implications in their broadest form. Out of the discussions that we will have within WASP, we propose outlining detailed proposals for the process that we should follow to transform WASP and all the specific organisational tasks that will flow from that in future written material.
We had to warn from the start that WASP in its original incarnation was not necessarily a permanent feature of the political landscape. Nor does a period of work as a more tightly organised revolutionary party preclude resurrecting a broad political organisation of the current WASP character, even in very near future, whilst of course maintaining the revolutionary party we hope to develop in the next period. For example, if the NUMSA leadership fails to go through with the creation of a mass party, the hopes of a wide section of the working class will be dashed and they will look for a new road out of their misery. But even if NUMSA’s party does come into existence, its character is far from certain. There will inevitably be a struggle over the programme, tactics and orientation of the party. Its success is not guaranteed.
Whatever the course of events it will be beholden on us to adapt our tactics to meet the changing situation. But with a tight focus on cadre development in the next period we will take such steps from a greatly strengthened position. It falls to the forces attracted around the WASP banner to examine the new situation we are working in and draw the full conclusions from the experiences of the past two years in order to prepare the cadre and the party that will lead the socialist revolution.
This discussion document was adopted unanimously at WASP’s National Bosberaad on 14 February 2015. Comrades came to call the change in tactics adopted ‘the Bolshevik Turn’.