Part 1 was originally published in Inqaba ya Basebenzi No. 14 (June-August 1984) under the pen name Basil Hendrickse.

by Weizmann Hamilton

Part 1

The signing of the Nkomati Accord has set the workers’ movement and the oppressed masses throughout Southern Africa a stern test.

For the South African regime it appears a resounding diplomatic success, the greatest by a Nationalist Prime Minister in more than 30 years. It follows upon the victory scored by P.W. Botha and the ‘verligtes’ over the ‘verkramptes’ (now the Conservative Party) in the inner-party battle over the constitutional proposals and in the referendum. To the white population it has been presented as a reaffirmation of the NP’s loyalty to the cause of defending white domination and capitalism in Southern Africa.

By the capitalists internationally, P.W. Botha has been hailed as a “wise statesman” and the Accord described as a “strengthening of the laager”, i.e. as strengthening the hold of capitalism in the sub-continent. The Accord is said to prepare the way for peace in the region.

For the workers’ movement, the Accord represents a sudden and important turning point. Every revolution, every struggle, has such turning points which challenge all prevailing conceptions about the revolution, its nature and tasks, and the methods by which power will be conquered by the oppressed and exploited working class.

The Nkomati Accord requires a thorough re-examination of perspectives, programme, strategy and tactics. The test of leadership consists in the ability to recognise such turning-points and to draw from them the necessary conclusions.

For twenty years the strategy of the ANC and CP leadership has been to rely on a guerrilla struggle against the SA regime, and either to neglect the mass movement completely, or subordinate it to guerrilla aims. The reliance of this strategy on the facilities provided by Mozambique cannot be denied.

The African Communist, (No.98, 3rd quarter, 1984) has recently stated, “of all the valuable acts of international aid our movement has received from many countries, the facilities accorded to us by Mozambique in the past have been among the most important.”

The withdrawal of these facilities by Frelimo in consequence of the Nkomati Accord has dealt a crippling blow to the strategy of guerrillaism – to the strategy of ‘liberation from outside’. This is self-evident to workers in struggle in South Africa, and no brave words can cover up this fact.

The idea that the path to power lay through the road of guerrillaism was always an illusion. Now the impotence of this strategy has been mercilessly exposed.

This imposes on the leadership the responsibility of openly and honestly re-examining all the implications.

The SACP argues, in the same article in the African Communist, that the policies pursued by the Mozambique government are a matter for their own judgment alone – and that non-South Africans should equally not make judgments on what is best for South Africa.

This is totally incorrect.

The pivotal role of Mozambique in the guerrilla strategy, first of ZANU, and then of the ANC, has been played at a terrible price – of cross-border raids by Smith’s army and the SADF, of economic sabotage, and of SA-backed MRM terrorism.

Mozambican workers and peasants have been prepared to make these huge sacrifices to assist in the liberation of the Zimbabwean and South African masses from oppression and exploitation – seeing that this would remove the greatest obstacle to their own development and to the solution of the problems facing the whole region.

The difficulties that Mozambique has faced forcing it to abandon that role are thus a matter of vital concern not only for Mozambicans, but for all the oppressed in Southern Africa. In the debate about the solutions to these problems all the workers in Southern Africa are duty-bound participate.

This reflects the reality that monopoly capitalism in SA, binding together and dominating the region, has made it impossible to work out an effective way forward in any country in isolation.

As Marxism explains, the solutions to the problems of the workers lie in action guided, not by mere wishes or desires, but by an understanding of perspectives – of the laws and tendencies that govern social developments.

Without correct perspectives, the workers’ movement can be led along many false trails, and up many blind alleys, with the consequences inflicted on the working masses themselves.

The foundation of perspectives lies in the laws of production, of the economy.

In the modern world, bound into a whole by capitalism, these laws of social development work themselves out internationally. For no country, therefore, can the perspectives be worked out in isolation. They depend on an understanding of processes on a regional, continental, and world scale – and the implementation of that understanding in the working out of programme, strategy, and tactics. This is particularly clear in Southern Africa.

This is why it is so mistaken to try, as does the African Communist, to create a separation, on a national basis, of who can make political judgments on what.

In reality, on the basis of a revolution, and a perspective confined within the national framework of Mozambique, the Mozambique government has been unable to indefinitely evade the pressures of SA imperialism.

To see why, it is necessary to begin with the Mozambican revolution itself, its achievements, and also its limits within the framework of the Southern African and world situation.

Mozambican Revolution

In 1974-75, when Frelimo and the MPLA came to power, the formal independence that had been won in other African countries had already clearly failed to fulfil the expectations of the masses.

This was because, almost without exception, the attempt by new ruling elites to develop the economies, modernise these countries, improve living standards and raise the cultural level of society was carried out on the basis of capitalism.

With the world economy already dominated by the major imperialist powers and multinational monopolies, the attempt of these backward countries to industrialise encountered insurmountable barriers. Imperialist exploitation of ex-colonial countries was stepped up.

What followed was a wholesale assault on democratic rights as the new ruling elites tried to persuade the people to accept the impositions of the capitalist system, i.e. poverty and starvation. Resistance was met with force, the demand for democratic rights answered with one-party states, and the hungry stomachs of the starving filled with bullets.

Mozambique (and Angola) broke not only with colonialism, but with capitalism – and offered fresh hope to working people in Africa.

How and why was this done?

Mozambique had suffered nearly 500 years of the most rapacious colonial plunder. A feeble colonial power, Portugal was outstripped by its imperialist rivals.

The other imperialist powers could change their methods of colonial domination in the face of the mass upheavals in the colonial countries, substituting indirect economic domination for direct political rule. Portugal, too weak to follow suit, clung to direct rule through military repression.

On its own, the guerrilla war carried forward by Frelimo would have taken considerably longer to dislodge this rotten regime. But the revolutionary upheavals in Portugal in 1974 which overthrew the old decrepit dictatorship reverberated throughout the furthest reaches of the creaky colonial empire.

The colonial state machine in Mozambique collapsed.

Portuguese soldiers deserted their posts, surrendered to the guerrillas and, in some cases, actually joined them. By 1975, the settler population who staffed and ran the police, army judiciary and civil service, i.e. the state machine, were reduced from one-quarter of a million to a mere 20,000. The numbers of crop farmers sunk from 7,000 to insignificance.

Thus almost the entire social reserves of capitalism and colonialism had disappeared.

Without this social base, although South Africa could have intervened militarily, it had no prospect of rescuing Mozambique for capitalism, and therefore held back.

The Frelimo guerrilla army thus took state power by occupying a vacuum. The revolutionary overthrow of capitalism was not the programme on which they had fought the war. However, the collapse of capitalism left them no option, were production to continue, but to take over the factories, farms, etc., and place them under state control and management.

Thus an essentially nationalised and planned economy was established – but not by a conscious movement of the working class. A form of workers’ state was brought into being – but neither production nor society were under the democratic control of the working class. Power resided in the leadership of the guerrilla army, creating the new state machine around this armed core – with mass popular support, but not subjected to the checks of workers’ democracy.

“Socialism in One Country”

On this basis it was inevitable that the vision and policies of the new rulers would become increasingly limited and constrained, by the very state machine they had created, to the limits of Mozambique itself. As Frelimo began to reconstruct and reorganise production, the prevailing hopes and illusions were vested in a ‘transition to socialism’ within the confines of Mozambique.

But such a transition is impossible in any single country – especially a country with such slender resources. Moreover, consolidation of a new state on this basis, without workers’ democratic control, leads inevitably to increasing bureaucracy.

It is vital for the workers movement to recognise these realities if it is to find a way out of the present impasse. That will be the only guarantee of solving the problems of Mozambican working people, as well as those of other countries.

Even if capitalism were overthrown by a conscious movement of the working class in an industrialised country, the transition to a fully socialist society cannot be achieved within that country alone.

A socialist society is a society in transition to communism – namely to a society of abundance in which the idea of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is fulfilled; a society in which classes, and hence class conflict, have disappeared, and in which the state, an organ for the rule of one class over another, has withered away.

Thus the condition for the transition to socialism and communism is on the one hand the development of production beyond the capacity of capitalism, and, on the other, the democratic control and management of production and society by the working class – to guarantee the progressive attainment of equality and to ensure the dismantling of bureaucracy and privilege.

To harness the forces of modern industry, to unlock the potential of science and technology, to liberate and develop the capabilities in every human being – the basis of advance to socialism – workers control and management will be necessary on an international scale.

Workers’ internationalism, the programme of Marxism from its beginnings, is founded not on international brotherly love, not in sentimental concerns with the plight of workers suffering all over the world, but on the material foundations established by capitalism itself.

Capitalism created a world market and has bound together the economies of all countries in one indissoluble whole. But their productive potential is being strangled by the limitations imposed by private ownership – which today means monopoly ownership – and the national state.

Without the victory of the workers’ revolution in the advanced countries of world economic power, a country under democratic workers’ rule can begin, but cannot complete, the transition to socialism.

This was why Lenin and Trotsky – leaders of the Russian workers’ revolution in 1917, which overthrew capitalism and established democratic workers’ rule – explained the need for the spreading of the world socialist revolution as the only guarantee for its successful continuation in the Soviet Union itself, and as the only basis on which socialist society could be built.

The false idea that socialism could be attained “in one country” – in the Soviet Union alone – was first proclaimed by Stalin in 1924. Revolutionary opportunities for the European working class had been missed. The revolution had not spread, but remained isolated in backward Russia. In these circumstances the result was that a bureaucratic clique usurped power from the working class in a political counter-revolution.

Economic under-development submerges the toilers in illiteracy and preoccupies them with a desperate struggle for survival day to day. It deprives them of the possibility of taking into their own hands the general management of the economy and the state. Thus the educated layer of society develops for itself a monopoly of these functions. At the same time generalised poverty and a low level of production makes it impossible to satisfy the pressing needs of everybody, and impels the ruling elite towards establishing authoritarian control over the masses.

The theory of “socialism in one country” stemmed from the loss of faith by the emerging bureaucratic caste in the Soviet Union in the prospects for international workers’ revolution, and reflected the national narrow-mindedness of a ruling elite resting on the Russian national state. Eventually, over time, it led to conscious betrayals by the Stalinist bureaucracy of opportunities for spreading the social revolution in Europe and elsewhere.

In Russia – one fifth of the globe – because the economy was nationalised and planned, and despite the absence of workers’ democracy, the bureaucratic rulers were able, for a whole period, to insulate it from the capitalist world market and develop it rapidly. They presided over the elimination of poverty, the eradication of disease, rising standards of living, health, and education. Russia became, on this basis, the second industrial power in the world.

At the same time the bureaucracy consolidated its own wealth, power, and privilege. “Socialism in one country” meant, in reality, no genuine socialism at all.

The delay of the revolution in the West, and the desperate conditions to which monopoly capitalism condemned the millions in the colonial world led, in a series of ‘Third World’ countries after the Second World War, to revolutions establishing regimes modelling themselves on that of Stalinist Russia.

Decrepit capitalist regimes collapsed under mass pressures, and imperialism was powerless to prevent this. But power was inherited, not by the conscious movement of the working class, but from the start by the middle class and the educated – leaders of guerrilla armies or army officers. Their power came from, and rested on, the barrels of the guns they commanded.

On the basis of nationalisation and planning, such countries, e.g. China, Cuba, Vietnam, Syria, etc., underwent development. China’s population, for example, was elevated in the space of a generation from the level of pack animals to citizens of a modern society.

In each of these countries aid from the Soviet Union – financially, and in technical skills – played an important role in this, partly insulating backward but developing economies from the pressures of the capitalist world market.

These were the models that the Frelimo government hoped to emulate in Mozambique.

Frelimo’s Development Strategy

Frelimo inherited an economy left ravaged and backward by Portuguese colonialism and monopoly capitalism.

At independence, only 7% of Mozambicans were literate. In a population of 8-10 million, only 672,000 attended primary school. At the local university, the total enrolment of 3,800 included only 40 black Mozambicans.

Only 3% of families had latrines.

The domination of the capitalist world market was most powerfully expressed in the degree of dependence of the Mozambican economy on SA – it was little more than a small screw in the SA economic machine.

The overwhelming majority of Mozambican industrial workers were employed in SA – as migrant workers. Under an agreement between SA and Portugal, 60% of the wages of these 138,000 workers was paid directly to the Mozambique government, in the form of gold priced at R29 an ounce. The government could then resell this gold at the world market price – allowing, with the soaring free market gold price in the early 1970s, a substantial surplus.

The 18 million tonnes of traffic which passed through Maputo port in 1973 was very largely SA goods, carried also on the Mozambique railways. This was another substantial source of government revenue and foreign exchange.

Thus a major portion of government revenue and of foreign exchange (vital for the purchase of goods for development) was at the mercy of decisions in the hands of the SA ruling class.

Perhaps the most cruel example of helpless dependence on SA was the arrangements for the supply of electricity to SA from Cahora Bassa, Mozambique’s most prestigious project. It is the largest hydro-electric scheme in Africa and potentially the sixth largest in the world.

Yet after nearly ten years of independence, Mozambique owns only 15% of the shares, the rest being in the hands of a company of the former colonial master, Portugal. Worse than this, the transfer of ownership depends on SA increasing its use of the scheme – otherwise the Mozambique government will not have the money to repay the loans from its construction.

Worst of all, perhaps, 98% of the power is consumed in SA, and Mozambique has to repurchase its own power from SA or engage in building costly new access systems.

With the idealism and dedication particularly of the lower ranks of the Frelimo bureaucracy to improve the conditions of the workers and peasants, Frelimo tried desperately to overcome this terrible legacy.

A free health service was introduced and in this field official statistics point to solid achievements. By 1979, up to 95% of the population had been vaccinated against measles, smallpox, tetanus and tuberculosis. Infant mortality had been reduced from 150 per 1,000 to 80 per 1,000. 47% of families now own a latrine.

In education the 93% illiteracy rate has dropped to 73%. Several hundred thousand adults attend literacy classes. Primary school enrolment has increased to 1,330,000.

The catch of fish has increased threefold. There is now greater production of clothes, radios, biscuits, salt, matches and soap than in colonial times.


But in attempting to go further than this, the Frelimo government has been frustrated by fundamental economic realities.

The key to progress in any country today is the development of industry. Even with nationalisation and planning, this faces particular concrete difficulties in an underdeveloped country, with a backward peasant agriculture.

To develop industry requires on the one hand the means with which to purchase machinery and other capital goods, and on the other hand the means to feed a working population separated from the land.

The first requirement demands foreign exchange or foreign aid with which to buy the products of advanced industrial countries – for which minerals or an agricultural surplus is needed for export.

The second requirement demands also the development of an agricultural surplus – in the form of food for the towns.

For peasants, the incentive to produce such a surplus can come only from the ability of the towns to provide in exchange cheap needed goods (such as clothes or fertilisers) and cheap credit, and to distribute this adequately. This, in turn, demands the development of industry and transport.

A similar dilemma was faced by the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union after 1917. This was one of the most immediate and concrete manifestations of the need to spread the revolution – for the working class in Europe to take control of the advanced industry which could be the basis too for maintaining the allegiance of the Russian peasantry to the revolution.

The core of the policy of Lenin and Trotsky’s government was to promote the international revolution. At the same time they explained that within Russia the question was one of pursuing policies which minimised the contradictions between town and countryside – neither squeezing the peasantry too hard to serve the needs of the working class, nor squeezing the workers too hard to produce cheaper goods for the peasantry.

Once it became clear that the European revolution would be delayed, Trotsky was the first to advance the idea of a five-year plan to try to lift industry to a level from which a progressive solution of this problem could take place.

For this purpose he put forward a policy of voluntary collectivisation of agriculture.

This coincided with the victory of the Stalinist bureaucracy over the remnants of workers’ democracy. The bureaucracy rejected Trotsky’s policy and veered towards encouraging the unrestrained self-enrichment of the rich peasants, by exploiting the poor. Then, a few years later, the bureaucracy lurched to the opposite extreme and carried out the forced collectivisation of agriculture at the cost of millions of lives.

This provided the basis for the development of the Soviet Union as a modern industrial power. Despite the needless methods, the policy was governed by the law that, in agriculture as well as industry, large-scale production is more efficient. The contrary myth, of a solution through small-scale peasant agriculture, peddled today by the World Bank, bourgeois economists, and their hangers-on, is simply another attempt to divert the attention of the ‘Third World’ masses from the need for social revolution.

In today’s world conditions, Mozambique’s post-independence dilemma has been more acute than that faced by workers and peasants in the Soviet Union after 1917.

The departure of the Portuguese settlers meant the collapse not only of large-scale agriculture but of the rural trading economy. Moreover, with independence, there was a massive drift of peasants to the towns in search of jobs and means of subsistence – which has been aggravated in the recent period by the longest and most devastating drought in living memory, and by huge floods.

Both food and cash-crop production slumped dramatically, and in most sectors, despite big efforts, have still not recovered their levels of 1973.

This does not however prove, as the imperialists are trying to argue, the ‘deficiencies of socialism’ – but shows the huge external constraints placed on the Mozambican planned economy by the workings of the world market.

Even with the advantages of nationalisation and planning, it is today impossible for weak and backward economies of the underdeveloped world to repeat the advances made in the past by the Soviet Union on the basis of its own resources.

Mozambique’s independence was achieved at the time of the first worldwide recession of capitalism of the post-Second World War period. The unprecedented 25 years of uninterrupted boom, the biggest in capitalism’s history and indeed in the history of humanity, had run out of steam. It ushered in a new period of contraction of the world market, of ever deeper downturns interrupted only by short, weak upturns.

Mass unemployment, inflation, and attacks on the living standards of the workers were placed on the agenda in all capitalist countries.

In the sense that the 1973-74 world recession triggered-off the Portuguese revolution, the Mozambican and Angolan revolutions were parts and products of the same crisis.

Even throughout the boom, ‘Third World’ countries had been super-exploited by the imperialist monopolies through the terms of trade. Because of the backwardness of ‘Third World’ production, more labour was needed to produce the same amount of goods than was the case in the advanced capitalist countries. Yet the prices of their agricultural and mineral exports fell consistently in relation to the prices of the industrial goods they imported.

This has intensified in the new capitalist crisis: prices of manufactures have soared, while those of primary products stagnate or decline.

These conditions, coupled with the decline of the volume of cash-crop production for export, crippled the Mozambican economy of the means to import sufficient capital and consumer goods to develop industry and improve the living standards of workers and peasants.

SA capitalism began to tighten the noose further, first reducing the numbers of Mozambicans working on the SA mines – to only 41,000 in 1977. This increased unemployment in Mozambique and reduced foreign exchange earnings. In April 1978 SA cancelled the part-payment of wages in gold. This alone, it has been calculated, cost an equivalent of US$2.6 thousand million up to 1983.

In addition, SA started to run down its use of Mozambique’s rail and port facilities. From 18 million tonnes in 1973, Maputo harbour handled only 10 million tonnes in 1977-79, and only 6-7 million in 1983. In ten years estimated SA use fell by 84%, a loss to the economy the equivalent of US$248 million.

Mozambique also suffered the economic costs of imposing sanctions on Rhodesia.

By 1980 the deficit of the current account – of payments for imports etc. over earnings from exports etc. – was US$300 million.

The consequences, inevitably, have been severe shortages – of food and other consumer goods, of spare parts, let alone of capital goods for the development of industry.

Shortages create a struggle over resources, in which the initially more powerful win out. As Trotsky pointed out in relation to the rise of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, when bread queues form, there will have to be officials to distribute the bread and policemen to keep the queue in order. It is easy to see who will help themselves first – and most.

The increasing contradictions and crisis of the planned economy have also produced splits and differing tendencies in the bureaucracy – particularly with regard to agricultural policy.

The urgent compulsion to provide food for the cities has led to the concentration of resources into large-scale agricultural production, particularly the state farms, and into their mechanisation.

By 1980, for example, 85% of rice production at the GAIL agro-industrial complex in Gaza province was mechanised.

An opposing tendency in the bureaucracy argues that this is at the expense of neglecting the peasants, increasing vulnerability to spare part shortages, and reducing job opportunities.

This view is echoed by Eduardo da Silva in a recent issue of Work in Progress (No .32):

Statist and technicist notions were reflected in state economic policy. In the organisation of production, the bulk of resources tended to be concentrated in over-mechanised, poorly planned and managed state farms… Gaza was experiencing high levels of unemployment, and large numbers of workers were laid off in order to further mechanise the production process. New equipment had a very short life, while the foreign exchange shortage and failure to secure spare parts soon reduced much of the complex combine harvesters and other machinery to rusting wrecks.

This experience illustrates the emerging planning process. Targets were set in the agriculture ministry with scant reference either to the undertaking itself and without consulting or involving workers in the planning process.

Co-operatives and family agriculture continued to be starved of resources and at the same time an increasing ‘commandism’ emerged in relations between state officials and peasants. Most basic decisions about production, marketing and revenue distribution were taken out of the hands of members of co-operatives and assumed by officials. In the subsequent demobilisation, a number of co-operatives collapsed and the general impetus for collective forms of production began to wane.

But while this correctly identifies serious problems, there is no solution to them in abandoning large-scale production and mechanisation and turning to the primitive methods of peasant agriculture.

It is completely utopian to think that a road to socialism, or for that matter a means of overcoming bureaucracy, lies in reliance on communal production at the most primitive levels of technique, and on the ‘democracy of traditional African society’.

Without conscious democratic control of society by the working class, bureaucracy is inevitable on the basis of primitive technique and shortages – and its consolidation as a privileged elite is all the more inevitable with every success it achieves in developing production.

Moreover peasant production, on individual plots or in co-operatives, cannot be spurred on by will alone nor by ‘commandism’, but fundamentally by the material incentives which can be provided, and which the externally-constrained Mozambican economy is incapable of providing on its own.

Marx explained that, under capitalism, there was no solution to the problems of the workers either along the road of free trade or protectionism, but only through the social revolution. Equally it can be said that in the conditions of Mozambique there are no solutions to the contradictions between town and country either through peasant agriculture or mechanised agriculture – but only through spreading the revolution.

The case of Mozambique provides further conclusive proof of the impossibility of “socialism in one country”.

SADCC: No Way Out

Trying to break from this stranglehold, one path taken by the Frelimo leadership has been enthusiastic support for SADCC.

SADCC was established to try to break the dependence of the Southern African countries on South Africa. Praiseworthy as this initiative was, it cannot achieve these aims.

The SADCC countries have hoped that, by pooling their resources, they could face South Africa with an economic united front made up of a market of 60 million people.

But to turn this potential into an effective counterweight to South African economic power would require truly massive amounts of investment – in agriculture, industry, transport, etc. – and a huge expansion of trade amongst the SADCC countries themselves.

In 1982 South Africa’s gross production was R79,415 million – with only 6% of Africa’s population. This was 80% of the entire production of the Southern African region. SA’s GDP per head of population is 14 times that of Zimbabwe, second most industrialised country in Africa.

SA produces 42% of Africa’s motor vehicles, 50% of its electricity, 74% of its railway trucks, and 94% of its books and newspapers. 73% of the rail network in Southern Africa is in South Africa.

The link with SA is for each of these countries the source of their backwardness, but also the lifeline of their economies. South Africa is the main trading partner of most of them. In every case SA’s manufactures are vital to keep the wheels of their production turning – and, because of proximity, can usually be provided more cheaply than those from the advanced industrial countries. Total SA trade with Southern African countries – though figures are not officially published – is of the order of R1,000 million a year.

The dependence extends to basic foodstuffs. In 1980, for example, Zambia imported 250,000 tons of SA maize, Mozambique 150,000 tons of maize and 50,000 tons of wheat, and Zimbabwe 100,000 tons of maize.

Many of the weakest SADCC members are bound even more closely with SA because of their dependence on its jobs for employment of their workers. In 1980, R198 million was remitted by migrant workers in SA to Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. These countries cannot afford to provide alternative jobs, nor the loss of revenue which would result from withdrawal of their workers.

The SADCC countries are without the means to finance the investment to overcome their dependence. Nor, with the crisis of the industrialised countries, can they expect to get the necessary aid.

Despite a series of well-publicised SADCC conferences with “pledges” from aid donors, what has been forthcoming has not amounted to much. In general what has been pledged is not new funds, but funds converted from existing projects in individual member countries. Even then the donors have not been very generous! Britain, for example, has promised Mozambique the same money three times over without paying up!

SADCC has made some progress in transport infrastructure (the responsibility allocated to Mozambique); but donors have not yet even responded to the list of industrial projects SADCC has drawn-up.

The aims of the SADCC members to expand trade among themselves are frustrated by the barriers of private ownership and the competing ‘national interests’ of the member-states. The overthrow of capitalism and landlordism in Angola and Mozambique has made little difference to this, since their rulers are bound by the limits of “socialism in one country”.

Though SADCC projects are agreed collectively, their implementation is left up to the individual members. The philosophy is progress through decentralisation. Where thorough regional planning, and utilisation of resources would be the logical way forward, SADCC’s reasoning is ‘the progress of one is the progress of all’. On the basis of capitalism this can equally mean progress at each other’s expense.

Zimbabwe’s interest in SADCC, for example, is that it is a potential market for its industries. Therefore the hopes of Zimbabwean capitalism are tied to domination of the SADCC market. It resents competition from other members in this field. A trade war simmers between Botswana and Zimbabwe over the former’s cheaper clothing production. Zimbabwe has not been willing to purchase Mozambique’s electricity, because of wishing to expand output from the Hwange power station, even though that is more expensive. Botswana has decided to take over control from Zimbabwe Railways of the rail-line which runs through it to SA – even though during the Smith era they left it in the hands of the Rhodesians!


A study sympathetic to SADCC states:

SADCC is a strategy that rejects … the creation of a free trade zone along the lines of the EEC. While wishing to increase their mutual interdependence, the states are aware that their economies are still too delicate to allow unfettered trade, which would only be achieved over an extended period. Even then it will be necessary for the relative costs of each project to be assessed. Consider, for example, the possible trade between Mozambique and Tanzania. In a free trade zone, surrounded by quotas and tariff barriers, it might be possible to exchange Tanzanian textiles for Mozambican cement. But both countries would have to assess the relative advantage of such a transaction against the possibility that it might be cheaper to import each product from Europe or Japan.

The Struggle for Southern Africa, M.Plaut, E. Unterhalter, D. Ward

This exposes the inability of the aspirant bourgeois and bureaucracies ruling the SADCC countries to look beyond their narrow national self-interest. When even the EEC moves further away from, rather than closer to, being a free trade zone as the result of sharpening capitalist competition in time of crisis, still less will the weaker national economies of SADCC move together.

This is not because they are ‘delicate’ – which is a reason for integration – but because only regimes of workers’ democracy can genuinely integrate their economies internationally through collective planning.

Expansion of regional trade is further hampered by the fact that many member countries are trying to export the same products, and by the fact that they are unwilling to receive payment in each other’s weak currencies. (At the same time each has a chronic shortage of ‘hard’ currencies of the imperialist countries with which to settle payments.)

Angola, for example, has a big and increasing surplus of oil production, which could be exported to other SADCC members. But, how the Angolan bureaucracy is viewing this is reflected in a report in the Zimbabwe Herald: “Angola itself has to consider its own needs of foreign exchange’ and the ability of SADCC members to supply that need.” [1]

The potential for conflict over methods of payment hangs like a sword of potential division over SADCC – and could in the future result in severe disruption of trade.

All the evidence goes to show that, as a result of all these constraints, South African trade and economic domination has increased rather than decreased since SADCC’s formation. Since 1980, for example, South Africa has replaced Britain as Zambia’s main trading partner.

The unavoidable dependence of the SADCC countries on South Africa (and the comfortable privilege of the rulers of the member-states) is symbolised in the fact that, at the SADCC meeting in Lusaka early this year, the delegates dined on Cape seafood and wine, and were driven around the capital in Mercedes Benz limousines imported from South Africa!

Hemmed in by their economic backwardness, dominated by the gigantic SA economy, driven relentlessly by the logic of ‘national interest’, neither the ‘free enterprise’ system of most of SADCC’s members, nor the ‘socialism in one country’ of Mozambique and Angola can provide a way forward for the peoples of the SADCC countries.

In this sense the signing of the Nkomati Accord is an expression of the failure of SADCC to move towards the utopian objectives which it set itself. Indeed it opens the door to the spectre of further South African penetration of the SADCC market.

In parallel with seeking a way out through SADCC, the Frelimo government put forward plans for accelerated domestic growth based on assistance from major Stalinist countries.

No ‘Cuban Solution’

The “Prospective Indicative Plan” launched in 1980 by Machel planned for a 14.7% annual growth rate over a period of ten years, achieved by means of an accumulation rate of 30% a year to be financed mainly by external assistance expected to be provided by the Soviet Union and other Eastern countries at an average rate of interest of 6%, about half the prevailing capitalist market rate.

The PIP promised, within ten years, abundant food, adequate housing and clothing, an end to unemployment and illiteracy, “developed agriculture”, and a gigantic development of heavy and light industry.

Within the framework of Mozambique alone, this was a totally utopian economic projection, as Inqaba pointed out at the time (No. 4, October 1981). Moreover it ignored the crisis developing in the major Stalinist countries, which totally precludes assistance on this scale.

The Frelimo bureaucracy looked to the model, particularly, of Cuba, which, with Russian assistance since its revolution of 1959, had emerged from conditions of similar backwardness and developed to a point where disease and starvation had been eradicated, and standards of living, health and education raised to heights unattainable in an underdeveloped country on a capitalist basis.

But the Cuban revolution occurred in an epoch different from that of today.

Neither in Cuba, nor anywhere else in the world, did the Russian bureaucracy or its ‘Communist’ Party allies organise the working class at the head of a struggle to overthrow capitalism. The foreign policy of the Soviet bureaucracy, rooted in fear of loss of their own privilege in consequence of a workers’ revolution anywhere in the world, has been objectively counter-revolutionary.

Nevertheless, at that time, the bureaucracy had the means, to serve its own interests, to come to the aid of the Cuban revolution once Castro’s 26th of July movement had ended capitalism and landlordism. For the Russian bureaucracy, this served to raise its prestige internationally in the eyes of the oppressed and to give credibility to their dictatorship in the eyes of the Russian working class.

The assistance provided has been crucial to Cuba’s ability to withstand the blockade imposed by US imperialism shortly after the revolution (and still in force today) and to partially overcome the barriers of backwardness and underdevelopment which strangle ‘Third World’ countries.

Since the revolution, 85% of Cuba’s trade has been with Stalinist countries under fixed-price and contractual agreements. The Soviet Union has been the purchaser of the overwhelming volume of Cuba’s main export, sugar, at preferential prices far higher than those on the world market.

Early this year the Soviet Union was buying Cuban sugar at about 55 cents a pound – when the world price had dropped to 7 cents a pound.

Total aid to Cuba is estimated at the equivalent of US$9 million a day.

But, in the period since 1959, the Soviet economy itself has become increasingly engulfed in crisis. The very successes achieved by the nationalisation and planning of the economy (despite its bureaucratic rule) have prepared the way for this crisis. It underlines how, even in a country on the scale of Russia, the transition to socialism cannot be carried through in one country.

On the one hand the development of a modern industrialised economy in the Soviet Union has increased the means and the temptation for the bureaucracy to enrich themselves and bolster their privilege. On the other hand these sophisticated economies can no longer be effectively managed by bureaucratic means. Without workers’ democracy, deciding and checking on the planning of production, bungling, corruption, inefficiency and wastage inevitably multiply.

The same problems afflict the other Stalinist countries of Eastern Europe, and, increasingly, China as well.

In an attempt to overcome the crisis of bureaucracy, these countries have been forced to turn back to the capitalist world market – and with that, are importing problems of inflation, indebtedness, etc.

Because the bureaucracy in each country seeks to consolidate its own ‘national’ position, COMECON is unable to provide the means of harmonious integration and planning – in some ways the COMECON countries are less integrated than the capitalist EEC.

The consequence is further steps in the degeneration of the “internationalism” of the Russian bureaucracy.

‘Socialist Aid’ Falls Short

Explaining how ‘socialist aid’ fell short of Frelimo’s expectations, causing the abandonment of the “Prospective Indicative Plan”, Eduardo da Silva writes in Work in Progress, No.32:

Socialist countries inability to provide the required investment funds was largely the result of increased military, diplomatic, ideological and political pressure put on them by imperialist countries. Moreover, given the situation in Afghanistan, Poland, the Middle East, South East Asia and Central America, Southern Africa ranked low in the order of priorities of the USSR and other socialist countries.

But these are convenient rationalisations, which conceal the underlying, cause in the crisis of the Soviet economy. From the Russian bureaucracy itself come franker statements. In an interview with The Guardian, 28 April 1983, Professor Viktor Volsky, Director of the Latin American Institute in Moscow, cynically declared: “We have never abandoned a friendly country, but it has cost us a lot to send oil to Cuba – two tankers a day for twenty years. We wouldn’t like to have to repeat that on a larger scale.”

The late Russian leader Andropov clearly spelled out the consequences for ‘Third World’ countries looking to the Soviet Union for assistance. His message was ‘you must help yourselves’:

We see the difficulties of their revolutionary development. It is one thing to proclaim socialism as one’s goal. It is quite another to build it. We render help to the extent of our possibilities but in the main their economic development, just as the entire social progress of these countries, can be, of course [!], only the work of their peoples. [!!]

Guardian, 17 June 1983

Terrified of new demands from countries breaking with capitalism and landlordism on the model of Cuba, the Russian bureaucracy (and the Cuban also) has sent signals to the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua advising them not to deliver the death-blow to capitalism.

This advice, and a lack of clear perspectives of their own, encouraged the Sandinista leadership to seek compromise with US imperialism as a means of defence – a policy which will in no way placate the imperialist wolves in Washington.

US imperialism and the capitalists in Nicaragua are engaged in a campaign of deliberate economic and military sabotage, threatening the revolution. The Sandinista guerrilla army smashed the capitalist state machine and took power. But unless they complete the job and nationalise the 60% of industry, and 90% of the land, still in private hands, a counter-revolution to restore the unchallenged rule of capitalism cannot be ruled out in the next period.

The Chinese bureaucracy pursues a similar policy in its search for allies in the under-developed world. The overthrow of capitalism is no part of their conception. In fact they are against it. On his visit to Zimbabwe, the Chinese Premier warned that it would be a mistake for Zimbabwe to attempt to move too rapidly towards socialism – in other words supporting the ZANU government’s compromise with capitalism which has left the Zimbabwean masses still haunted by the problems of land hunger, joblessness and starvation.

Out of the same narrow self-interest, the COMECON bureaucracies have not only failed to deliver assistance to Mozambique on anything approaching the scale expected, but have rejected Mozambique’s application for membership of COMECON three times!

On any account, this is an open rejection of internationalism. But the justification advanced by the bureaucracy makes it more scandalous still – that Mozambique was too under-developed to qualify for membership! For the undernourished, apparently, the solution is starvation!

In the same vein, Ricardo Alarcon, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, has stated that Central America should not break with capitalism because it has not yet achieved the “historical and economic development” necessary for true socialism.[2] (Cuba, apparently, had achieved this level 25 years ago!)

Indeed, no more than in any other region, can the peoples of Central America achieve socialism on their own. But Lenin, as leader of the democratic workers’ government of the Soviet Union, explained that it was possible for the most backward countries to leap from the stage of tribalism to that of communism – provided that the working class took power from the capitalists in the most advanced countries and opened the way to a world federation of socialist states.

But, terrified of their loss of privilege and power, the “internationalism’’ of the Stalinist bureaucracies is increasingly contained, not simply within the borders of their own countries, but within the walls of their holiday villas and special shops.

The very same self-interest which resulted in aid for Cuba in 1960 (which continues now only because they are already committed, and ending it would be a blow to their prestige) dictates the withholding of such aid from Mozambique and other countries today.

Against this background it is incredible to find that the African Communist (3rd quarter, 1984), in response to the Nkomati Accord, draws the lesson that the future depends “perhaps above all, on strengthening the links between the forces of national liberation and national independence and the mighty bloc of the socialist countries with the Soviet Union as its heartland.”!

Such advice deflects the attention of the workers from their own capabilities to focus it on a mirage.

It can only retard the consciousness of workers throughout Southern Africa and obscure from them the central lesson of Nkomati: that the workers can rely only on their own strength to overthrow the capitalist system and achieve the liberation of all the oppressed.

In reality there is no way out of the problems of the masses on the basis of a “Cuban solution” in Mozambique, nor in any other part of Southern Africa. Only a movement led by a conscious and united Southern African working class can end apartheid and capitalism in South Africa and open the way to laying the foundations for socialism throughout the region.

Mozambique’s Problems Pile-Up

Starved of Eastern assistance, but faced with a worsening imbalance between the earnings of exports and the costs of imports, the Frelimo government has, on the one hand, resorted to curbs on consumption, and, on the other – plunged into the quicksand of indebtedness to the imperialist banks.

The problem with the quicksand of debt is that the more you wriggle, the deeper you sink. At the end of 1980, Mozambique’s external debt was US$445 million. By the end of 1983 it was estimated to be four times this. In February this year Mozambique was forced, for the first time – and it will not be the last – to make a formal request for the rescheduling of US$242 million which had fallen due.

At the same time production for consumption has had to be subordinated to production for export. Thus although the catch of fish has trebled, the bulk of it is sold abroad to earn foreign exchange. For the masses smaller quantities of worse quality fish have to be imported.

Shortages of all products are chronic, from basic consumer essentials to spare parts. An illicit ‘parallel’ market has developed. The communications infrastructure is crippled, the ports and factories are permanently under-utilised.

As peasants came flooding into the cities in search of refuge from drought, starvation and death, the Frelimo leadership has imposed forms of ‘pass laws’ and, from 1983, has actually been forcibly deporting ‘unproductive’ people back to the countryside. In addition the Frelimo leadership has begun to admonish the population for ‘expecting everything free’. A 1984 state plan proposes the introduction of charges for medical services, prescriptions and basic education, and a sharp rise in basic taxes.

Exploiting a situation it had helped to make worse, the SA regime from 1981 stepped up its support for the Mozambique Resistance Movement’s programme of counter-revolutionary sabotage, terror, and destabilisation.

The SA ruling class sensed the vulnerability of Mozambique, and was determined also that the advantages of the planned economy should not be allowed to assert themselves on their doorstep and serve as a pole of attraction to their mortal enemy, the SA working class.

While not going so far as to drive for a complete counter-revolution, which would have faced them with the problems of propping up a puppet regime against revolutionary mass pressures, the SA ruling class was prepared to put in the resources which would drive the Mozambican regime to its knees, and expose not only its economic impotence but also its military weakness.

To compound the problems for the Frelimo government, the terrible conditions in the countryside rendered many peasants susceptible to the bribery, blackmail and terrorist coercion of the MNR. Besides the collapse of the rural economy, the poorer peasants had been alienated by bureaucratic bungling and favouritism towards the better-off peasants.

Areas which had previously served as bases for Frelimo during the liberation war now submitted to counter-revolution.

As a harassed Frelimo cadre explained to a visiting journalist,

I asked a peasant why he didn’t report the activities of the MNR in his area before the road was blown-up. The peasant told me, “The road doesn’t bring anything. When it brings something I will worry if it is blown-up.”

Quoted, African Business, June 1983

Exploiting this situation, the MNR has been able to wreak havoc in the countryside. Thousands of Mozambicans have been killed, mutilated or raped, their farms destroyed, their crops burnt and their implements smashed.

840 schools have been destroyed, 16 health centres, 24 maternity centres, 174 health posts and 140 villages with a total population of 110,000.

Carrying-out the war against the MNR, and contending with its effects, has been the single most expensive burden on the Mozambican economy, its cost estimated as the equivalent of US$3.8 thousand million. In 1982-83 alone the cost was equivalent to US$333 million, or two year’s exports.

By the beginning of 1984 the heart of the economy was beating weakly. It is estimated by the government that over 40,000 may have starved to death in the last six months of 1983. Western diplomats put the figure at nearer 100,000. At the beginning of this year thousands of people, reduced to eating leaves, were crossing the border into Zimbabwe – to seek refuge, not from political persecution, but from the persecution of starvation.

With catastrophe threatening on all sides, desperate measures were required. The balance of forces swung the way of those within the Frelimo bureaucracy who favoured negotiations with South Africa.


The African Communist, (3rd quarter, 1984), begins its editorial on the Nkomati Accord with the following words:

Once again we are reminded that the future cannot be foretold. Who could have studied the political developments of Southern Africa only one year ago, and foretold the events of the past months.

This is an astonishing statement!

It is true that no leadership of any revolution has ever been able to foretell the precise manner in which events are going to unfold. Only a sangoma would lay claim to the ability to foresee the future exactly.

At the same time any leadership worthy of its name has the responsibility to analyse the likely direction of events, the possibilities inherent in the existing situation, on the basis of the generalised experience of the past – in order precisely to prepare the movement for twists, turns, and ‘surprises’.

The ability to anticipate political events on the basis of the fundamental processes that are at work is not only necessary but possible. A leadership using the scientific method of Marxism is able to work out a perspective of how, broadly, events are likely to unfold, and is thereby provided with the advantage, in the words of Trotsky, of “foresight over astonishment”.

No doubt, it was not possible to foresee every dot and comma of the terms of the Nkomati Accord. But that the Frelimo leadership would be forced, one way or another, to bow to the escalating pressures from South Africa could and should have been foreseen by the ANC and CP leadership and openly discussed in the movement – with all its implications.

While Inqaba does not claim to have anticipated the Accord itself, we do not greet it with astonishment. All the ingredients which combined to produce it were there long before the actual signing ceremony.

Inqaba has consistently explained the incorrectness of a guerrilla strategy, including its unworkability as a means of arming and carrying forward the SA revolution – and has pointed out the consequences of this strategy for the masses throughout Southern Africa.

In Inqaba No. 7, August 1982, we stated that:

The crushing defeat of the PLO and the savage slaughter of Lebanese civilians should stand as a tragic monument to the consequences of trying to fight a guerrilla war under conditions where no basis exists for its success. For the masses of Southern Africa, the military programme of the ANC leadership holds out the deadly danger of turning the region into a new and bloodier Middle East.

In an editorial after the Maseru outrage, we added:

The response of the state to guerrilla activities will be not only more and more repression in SA, but more and more frequent murderous reprisals, against neighbouring countries.

Clearly these countries cannot serve as secure launching bases for an escalating guerrilla war in SA.

Inqaba No. 9, February-April 1983. Our emphasis.

In an article in Inqaba No. 4, October 1981, we analysed the problems faced by the Mozambique revolution and the impossibility of achieving a transition to socialism in one country. SADCC, we stated, “is a serious but unfortunately doomed effort to free Southern Africa from the grip of monopoly capitalism.” “Nor is there a way out,” we added,

…through COMECON and aid from the Stalinist states of Russia, Eastern Europe and China. Though much new investment in Mozambican industry is from these areas, there are limits set on it by the growing stagnation of the Eastern European economies and the Soviet Union. [Our emphasis.]

We continued:

Meanwhile the SA ruling class, its back to the wall at home and abroad, stands inevitably in conflict with the planned economy of Mozambique. Seeking to trap the Mozambican bureaucracy in its clutches, it will at the same time take every opportunity of exploiting the weaknesses of the Mozambican economy…

Leaning on the support of the workers and peasantry, the Frelimo bureaucracy will defend the basis of nationalised production and economic planning on which its own interests rest.

Yet the inch-by-inch development possible within the framework of Mozambique alone will not be overcome short of the triumph of the Southern African workers’ revolution, centred on South Africa itself.

For the people of Mozambique, for the rank-and-file of Frelimo, that is the way out of economic isolation, poverty, bureaucratic deformation and the unending expenditure of precious resources on military defence against SA capitalist aggression. The way forward is to link up with the working class of South Africa in the struggle to carry through to completion the Southern African revolution.

Inevitably, however, the limited perspective and narrow national self-interest of the Mozambican bureaucracy prevent it from aiding this development and linking its future to the workers’ revolution in South Africa. Indeed, the more it consolidates its power and develops its privileges as a ruling elite, the more consciously it will become a barrier to a united struggle of the Southern African working class.

Nevertheless it must be admitted that Inqaba did not predict the agreement between Machel and Botha. This failure on our part was only because we did not carry our conclusions to their logical outcome, i.e. that the advantages of a planned economy would be unable to assert themselves even within the limits that we had anticipated. This is because we under-estimated the speed with which the crisis of bureaucracy in the Stalinist bloc would express itself in their cynical abandonment of revolutionary Mozambique to its own meagre resources.

Even in a more limited sense, the ANC and CP leadership could have been prepared for the developments. Frelimo first sought an agreement with SA during 1983, though SA was not as yet willing to accept it. By the time of Machel’s visit to Europe in October 1983, an article by Ken Pottinger in Lisbon appeared in the Rand Daily Mail, anticipating the lines of the Accord.

The fact that, reprehensibly, Frelimo chose not to divulge its intentions to the ANC leadership is no excuse. The old legal maxim that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” has a parallel in politics. History is not forgiving of a leadership which disregards the laws governing social development.

We call on the ANC and CP leadership to initiate a full and democratic discussion throughout the movement on the lessons and implications of the Nkomati Accord, so that the necessary conclusions can be drawn for our future programme and strategy. To promote this discussion is the responsibility of every activist in the movement.

Part 2

Part 2 was originally published in Inqaba ya Basebenzi No. 15 (September-December 1984) with Weizmann Hamilton using the pen name Basil Hendrickse.

by Weizmann Hamilton and Paul Storey

In the text of the Nkomati Accord, signed by President Machel and the SA Prime Minister Botha on 16 March, there is not a word about economic cooperation between South Africa and Mozambique, or material assistance to the latter. Yet, to gain respite from its crushing economic problems was plainly as important a motive on the part of Frelimo as to end South Africa’s support for the MNR.

We shall return below to look at the likely economic consequences of the Accord. On paper, however, it is no more than a ‘non-aggression pact’.

In effect, Mozambique undertook to close its territory to ANC guerrillas, whether as a base or as a route into South Africa, to reduce the ANC’s presence to a diplomatic mission alone, and not to allow its territory to be used for “acts of propaganda” inciting “terrorism” or “civil war”.

South Africa made, in effect, reciprocal promises in regard to the MNR rebels.

The consequences for the ANC were immediate – with activists forced to leave Mozambique and the government going to the lengths of well-publicised police raids on ANC homes and offices in Maputo.

As ANC fighters tried to make their way through to South Africa, persecution by the Swaziland regime reached new depths in arrests, shootings and expulsions.

Both the Lesotho and Botswana governments retreated further than ever under SA intimidation, in closing-off access to the ANC.

On the other hand, however, the effect of the Accord on the counter-revolutionary MNR in Mozambique was not immediately apparent. In fact, brutal mass murders, attacks on convoys, and sabotage of electrical installations have mounted.

Whether or not South Africa continued after 16 March to supply the MNR (by sea, air drops, and via Malawi), it is clear that the rebels have massive stocks of arms, equipment and money with which to carry on their ‘war’.

These reserves were probably built-up immediately prior to the Nkomati Accord. (The scale on which the SA regime has supplied its agents of counter-revolution in Southern Africa is shown in reports that supplies to UNITA in Angola are running at 40 tons of material a day.)

To maintain pressure on the Machel regime in the hope of forcing a compromise and admission to a coalition government, the MNR has concentrated forces in the Maputo province surrounding the capital.

Military and Economic

The military and economic problems facing Frelimo interlink. Provinces such as Inhambane, Tete, Manica and Gaza are threatened – or again threatened – by famine. Relief work is crucially affected by the virtual collapse of the transport system, through shortages of lorries and spare parts as well as MNR sabotage.

The governor of Tete province stated recently that, among the problems facing the province were the shortage both of transport and fuel and of consumer goods needed to attract peasants in the north of the province, unaffected by drought, to sell their agricultural surpluses.

There is plenty of maize and other agricultural produce in the northern districts, but since we are unable to supply certain basic goods, such as salt, the peasants cross the border [to Malalwi or Zambia] and exchange their produce for what they need. We are the losers in this process.

AIM, 24-26 October 1984

Among the shortages faced by the peasants are basic tools such as hoes, as well as seeds, rice, sugar, beans, soap, pumps and various spare parts.

This crisis situation, military and economic, led to statements by Frelimo officials that South Africa had not kept its side of the Nkomati bargain and that the future of the Accord was thereby thrown in doubt. In particular, South Africa was failing to bring the MNR dog to heel.

What in fact is the policy of SA imperialism towards the Machel government?

South Africa has made efforts to broker a compromise between Frelimo and the MNR, with Pik Botha shuttling between the rival delegations sent to Pretoria.

A joint ‘declaration’ was issued in early October, expressing an intention to “work for” a ceasefire, and acknowledging Samora Machel as President of Mozambique. But further negotiations soon collapsed for lack of any underlying basis of real agreement.

It became clear that the rebels’ demands for privileged positions in the army and civil service and for ministerial portfolios – including for former agents of the Portuguese PIDE (secret police) – were unacceptable to Frelimo.

Assuming South African imperialism were able to topple the Machel government and install an MNR-dominated regime, does it wish to go so far at this stage? The course of events suggests not.

Reacting bitterly to the SA government’s refusal to back-up its demands for a coalition government, an MNR spokesman said that Pik Botha “has always demonstrated himself to be an unconditional ally of the Marxist-Leninist regime” and did not merit confidence! (International Herald Tribune, 3 November 1984.) In general puppets can expect no gratitude from their masters, and puppet masters none from their puppets.

In reality South African imperialism has a longer term strategy in mind – closely coordinated, in fact, with the United States.

American foreign policy towards Southern Africa undoubtedly hinges on the defence of the South African state as the main bastion of capitalism in the region. This has remained true through successive US administrations, despite pious pronouncements against apartheid.

Nevertheless US policy is more sophisticated than the cowboy image of Reagan suggests.

At the same time as the US is preparing military intervention against revolution in Central America, there is an understanding, both in Washington and in Pretoria, that the social basis for bourgeois regimes has been practically eliminated in Mozambique and Angola.

Had South Africa invaded Mozambique in 1974 or 1975, and installed puppets in power, it would have faced an endless nightmare of trying to sustain a regime without a social basis, under mounting guerrilla attack, and with the proven inability of capitalism to develop the country.

Napoleon himself discovered – after he had successfully invaded Spain and put his brother on the throne – that, whatever else you can do with bayonets, “you cannot sit on them”.

The South African generals – tin-pot Napoleons – boast of their ‘expertise’ in ‘blitzkrieg warfare’. But military strength and conquest is only one side of the matter. To hold down a whole people by direct military occupation would be a different matter entirely – all the more so when the oppressors are hard-pressed even to hold down their ‘own’ population.

This was the main consideration staying an imperialist military intervention in Mozambique after the collapse of Portuguese rule.

So what alternative do the imperialists have in mind as a strategy for counter-revolution? Crucially this must depend on establishing within Mozambique an adequate social basis for bourgeois rule.

The passage of time and the accumulation of economic problems have disappointed the hopes of the masses in Machel’s ‘socialism’.

The dependence of the Frelimo government on foreign aid has become increasingly pronounced.

It was when the prospect of adequate support from the industrialised Stalinist states was finally cut off, that Machel made a decisive turn toward greater dependence on Western aid.

The Nkomati agreement was preceded by a ‘toenadering’ with US imperialism, and months of negotiations with the Western powers, with visits by Mozambican officials, including Machel, to Portugal and other parts of Europe.

The Portuguese social democracy played an important role in lubricating the process towards Nkomati.

In general, the right-wing ‘socialist’ leaders in Western Europe act in foreign affairs as a soft soap for imperialism, getting into the crevices that the outright capitalist politicians find hard to reach. This is especially the case in regard to relations with the under-developed countries – a role pioneered in the past by the Scandinavian social democracy.

Strings Attached

For Mozambique, like every other dependent country, economic ‘assistance’ comes with strings attached.

The United States has made it clear that it is not prepared to aid the development of state farms, cooperatives; or even poor peasant agriculture in Mozambique. Its aid is to be used to develop private farming by larger peasants, with the aim of recreating an economic and social basis for capitalism within Mozambique.

In September, Mozambique was obliged to join the International Monetary Fund.

At the end of that month, Frelimo gave 53 amnesties to people previously arrested as CIA spies – including some who gave information leading to the Matola raid by South Africa! In October it was announced that Mozambique should “prepare itself for the integration of former rebels into society.”[3]

In fact, the Portuguese and South African governments have demanded that Portuguese ‘retornados’ – the bourgeois who ran away from Mozambique as a result of the revolution – should be allowed to come back and reclaim their abandoned and nationalised properties.[4]

Meanwhile, lest the ‘cooling’ of SA government backing for the MNR – or its apparent ‘support’ for the government of Machel – should be interpreted as weakness, South Africa retains a reported 18,000 MNR troops in training camps on its soil.[5] This is for the purpose of future military blackmail or intervention, as and when that might be necessary.

Taken together, these facts suggest that the preferred strategy of imperialism is to sustain and develop a range of mainly economic pressures upon Mozambique, and to extend a social and economic foothold within that country, with the aim of preparing a ‘creeping’ capitalist counter-revolution.

However, the character of Mozambique as a deformed workers’ state – a state resting essentially on a system of nationalised property, but without democratic workers control – would not be immediately altered by this.

The mere fact of imperialist ‘cooperation’ with the Frelimo government does not mean that the social conquests of the revolution have yet been reversed, or that the Mozambican regime has suddenly become ‘bourgeois’.

In fact, capitalist powers are able to ‘co-exist’ with deformed workers’ states – and in fact cooperate fairly easily with the weaker ones – provided they do not act as a yeast for the spread of revolution.

The American banker, David Rockefeller, for example, after a visit to Southern Africa not long ago, stated that he did not regard ‘Marxist’ regimes like Mozambique and Angola as a threat to US interests. This showed his perception of the essentially nationalist and conservative self-interest of the Frelimo and MPLA bureaucracies – a feature typical of Stalinist regimes.

Moreover, there are certain advantages for SA imperialism in the continuation of a weak and dependent ‘socialist’ regime in Mozambique – whose continuing problems serve to sour the vision of ‘socialism’ throughout the region, while it is constantly bribed and threatened.

On the other hand, even if it were possible to replace the Frelimo government with the viciously reactionary and pro-capitalist MNR, that would merely lead to a renewed development of revolutionary guerrilla war and a further fomenting of revolution, this time in town as well as countryside.

But, if the imperialists are hoping for a gradual restoration of capitalism through pushing their economic tentacles more deeply into Mozambique, they are likely to be disappointed.

Likewise, if Machel dreams of overcoming Mozambique’s problems and finding a way to healthy economic development by means of capitalist aid and investment, he is – as a Zimbabwean worker aptly put it – “betting on a dead horse”.

It is true that, in the short term, the consequences of the Nkomati Accord may be some easing of Mozambique’s critical foreign exchange shortage, some recovery of the transport network, and so on. To a country in so desperate a predicament this will be like a crust to one who has no bread. But it is a very long way from even half a loaf.

Capitalism Incapable

It will soon become apparent that capitalism is fundamentally incapable now of developing Mozambique. Even during the post-war upswing of world capitalism, most of the ‘Third World’ countries stagnated and the living standards of the mass of their people actually fell.

Even with the forced labour regime under the Portuguese, Mozambique and Angola had virtually no investment, despite the fact that towards the end of the colonial period South Africa enjoyed a virtual economic open door there.

Now all the capitalist countries are gripped, to a greater or lesser extent, by crisis. Economic crisis is now eating at the vitals of South African capitalism too.

While the SA economy towers over Mozambique and over the whole of Southern Africa like a giant, nevertheless in world terms it is a weak and struggling third-rate industrial power.

It retains many features of a ‘Third World’ economy, depending on exporting, in the main, minerals and agricultural produce.

Its further industrial development is stifled because it cannot make its manufactured products competitive with the major industrial countries in export markets, or even defend the domestic market against cheaper imports from overseas.

This is because, on the one hand, its domestic market is inevitably limited by dependence on the apartheid cheap labour system – and cannot provide the advantages of large-scale production in cutting costs. On the other hand, the whole world market is stagnating in the grip of the giant multinational monopolies which are now unable to develop productive forces and trade, and instead are competing more intensively for each other’s markets.

Less and less are capitalists in SA able to invest productively the surplus extracted from the labour of the working class.

In a period when SA capitalism must more and more measure up to the test of the world market if it is to survive, the lack of investment means that the productivity of industry is more and more lagging behind its competitors.

1983 saw the SA economy go into its steepest decline since the Second World War, with production falling by 3%.

The revival of the economy in the last part of 1983 and the first part of 1984 depended on a temporary surge in the gold price, and proved even more short-lived than we had anticipated (see Inqaba No. 12).

Now the country is in the grip of recession once more, while the new economic downturn setting in in the USA is likely to further depress the entire world economy.

As the experience of 1974-75, 1979-80 and now 1983-84 has shown, even if the gold price rises steeply in the next period, this will not alleviate the underlying economic contradictions.

The earnings from gold cushion the SA capitalists from the worst effects of world recession – but, because of the lack of profitable opportunities for investment, they no longer offer a basis for rapid industrial development as was the case in the past.

It is becoming characteristic of SA that gold price rises are associated with stock market ‘booms’, astronomical bank profits, bubbles of speculation in property, ‘consumer credit booms’ – co-existing with declining real productive investment and stagnating industry.

A high gold price tends now, in other words, to contribute to an excess of ‘liquidity’ in the economy – money sloshing around looking for an outlet. The quantities of finance capital unable to find an outlet in productive investment have fuelled the economy’s persistently high inflation rate.

Looking for investment avenues, the biggest SA monopolies have long been channelling vast sums towards investments (some productive and some speculative) in Latin America, Europe and even the USA. The Anglo-American Corporation, for example, has operations in 45 countries.

Under the pressure of these economic problems, the government has in recent years relaxed exchange controls to allow more funds to flow out of the country and seek more profitable avenues of investment abroad.

Low investment and stagnating productivity cause an underlying tendency for the real value of the currency to decline against its competitors. A high gold price and even ‘excess liquidity’ itself may temporarily prop up the rand’s exchange rate. But then the outflow of capital, as we have seen recently, leads to a dramatic fall of the rand on foreign exchange markets.

From an exchange rate of US$1.30 to the rand in 1981, the rand has recently fallen to below 60 US cents. Even against the weak sterling, the rand has slipped as low as R2.35 to the £.

The decline of the rand, making imports more expensive, further fuels inflation – and without having a corresponding effect in boosting exports because of the crisis of world trade. At the same time the government, while proclaiming the virtues of ‘monetarist’ restrictions on spending, in fact allows its own spending and credit in general to rise well beyond what the (capitalist) productive base of the economy can afford.

There is the pressure on it, on the one hand, of spending to enforce apartheid and the cheap labour system (military and police, the bureaucracy, etc.). And, on the other hand, there is the pressure exerted on it by its white supporters and, increasingly, by the black working class too for spending on housing, education, transport, etc.

While this spending – in its amount and in its character – is totally inadequate to meet the basic needs of the majority – it is at the same time more than SA capitalism can afford. This, equally, is a constant spur to inflation.

Seeking for a ‘solution’, the government tries to squeeze more and more revenue in taxes from those who can least afford it – the black workers, the aged, the homeless and the unemployed.

In a world dominated by monopolies and gripped by capitalist crisis, SA capitalism has come up against the suffocating limits of the market; the limits of the market retard investment; stagnating investment undermines productivity so that even the cheapest labour cannot prop it up; inflation is fuelled by ‘excess liquidity’, ‘unproductive spending’, and government deficits and debts; the value of the currency falls; imports become more expensive and the whole vicious spiral threatens to repeat itself on higher and higher levels.

The solution will lie only in public ownership of the means of production under workers’ control and management, with production on the basis of a democratic plan. In other words, the solution lies in the struggle of the working class to end apartheid and capitalism, and establish its own democratic socialist rule.

In the present condition of chronic disease – which, we must stress, is only in its early stages – the propagandists of capitalism have the nerve to sneer at the ‘failures’ of planned economy and of so-called ‘socialism’ in backward Mozambique.

Hard-pressed to expand or even sustain its existing industrial base in the major urban centres, SA capitalism has already shown itself incapable of developing the backward areas of South Africa itself – let alone of taking on the task of developing the Southern African region.

The decades-long exodus of population from countryside to town – clearly an irreversible development – is the product precisely of the ruin of small-scale rural production.

This has been speeded up in SA by the historic conquest of the African population, their forced removal from most of the land, and their confinement to overcrowded and barren ‘reserves’. Nevertheless rapid urbanisation is a phenomenon of the entire underdeveloped world today.

Essentially it shows the impossibility, in this epoch of capitalism, of making a living with the cow, the plough and the hoe. More and more plainly, the Bantustans become mere ‘dumping grounds’ for ‘surplus population’ forcibly driven out of the urban areas, to be ruled by monstrous black police-puppet regimes.

‘Separate development’ – the claim of the Pretoria regime that it would ‘develop’ viable economies in the Bantustans – has been shown-up as the hopeless failure which not only Marxists, but even liberals, predicted that it would be.

God of Profit

The capitalists bow before only one god, the god of profit. Unless there is profit enough to be made, no capitalist will invest. Oppenheimer and the rest of the capitalist class are adamant that investment decisions cannot be made in the first instance on political grounds, but on economic ones, i.e., on the basis of whether they would make a profit.

Since the end of the 1970s, in fact, the SA government has been obliged to alter its ‘economic decentralisation’ policy to an attempt to create ‘balanced growth points’ mainly in or nearer to important urban centres. The East London and Bloemfontein areas are examples.

To maintain the fiction that Africans can exercise political rights in the ‘homelands’, workers are obliged to commute or ‘migrate’ daily from townships situated within the Bantustans to neighbouring ‘white’ industrial areas.

All the major studies of projected population growth and movements over the next 25 years show a massive increase of urbanisation, especially to the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging (PWV) area.

In reality, the regime’s present industrial decentralisation policy is almost entirely a defensive one – designed no longer to reverse the tide of urbanisation (an idea which went out with Blaar Coetzee) but slow it down and divert it as far as possible from the PWV area.[6]

The same forces which prevent capitalism developing the rural areas of South Africa to overcome the poverty of the masses will prevent such a development equally through the rest of Southern Africa. The region will remain characterised by islands of development amidst a sea of poverty – so long as capitalism has us all in its grip.

Benjamin Pogrund writes in the Rand Daily Mail:[7]

…the Government has made the awful discovery that Mozambique’s economic problems are so horrendous that it is beyond the capacity of South Africa to do much to be of help, especially when South Africa is itself in the midst of drought, inflation and recession.

It doesn’t seem the West, either, is able or willing to give what Mozambique – or for that matter, Angola and others in the region – need so much.

Meanwhile, of course, the thaw in relations with Mozambique provides opportunities for SA capitalists to make a fast buck.

This is not only from prawns and fishing again in Mozambican waters! African Business[8], describes what has been taking place.

South African-based commodity traders and manufacturers became substantial beneficiaries of the international relief operations launched in Mozambique last year, when they began to supply food and other emergency goods to aid organisations.

The benefits began accruing to the South African economy well before the signing of the Nkomati Accord in March this year. As the more ambitious investment plans for Mozambique’s tourist, transport and agro-industrial sectors were unfurled by giants like Tiny Rowland’s Lonrho, Sol Kerzner and Rennies, trade was quietly growing in South African manufactured foods, drugs, tools and a range of other basic commodities.

SA companies also benefitted from the MNR’s sabotage of Mozambique’s road and rail links.

In December 1983, the EEC contracted Cliff Products, a South African commodity trader, and the air-freight company Saffrair, to supply their multimillion-dollar relief operation in the one-time South African holiday playground of Vilankulo on the northern Inhambane coast. Here, since the previous August, tens of thousands of starving Mozambicans had sought refuge from drought and insurgent attacks in the interior.

In December alone, the EEC made a grant of over $500,000 for ‘locally purchased relief supplies’. Disruption of the transport network made Johannesburg the only feasible ‘local’ source, and airlifts became the only possible means of transport. The operation is now entering its eighth month. Airlifts are extremely costly and can absorb over 50% of a relief project’s budget.


It cannot be ruled out that some significant investment projects by South African and international monopolies may be carried out in Mozambique in the next period. However, it is necessary to view these announced ‘plans’ with great caution. The bourgeoisie is normally extremely wary to make investments in workers’ states, however bureaucratically deformed, because of the danger that once such regimes recover strength they may easily turn to nationalise or re-nationalise the enterprises in private hands.

Under an agreement signed in July with the US Overseas Investment Corporation, Mozambique has undertaken to abide by “certain conditions relating to nationalisation, expropriation and dividend remittances” in respect of American investment.[9]

Nevertheless, if the imperialist monopolies have a business interest in investing in Mozambique, despite the character of the regime, it is because the avenues for profitable investment anywhere in the underdeveloped world are so hard to come by.

This investment is likely to remain extremely limited. The same pressures of the world market which have strangled Mozambique in the past, will tend also to stifle capitalist enterprises.

The Mozambican government is offering to rent 8,000 hectares of state land to South African farmers in an area planned for irrigation. This may be intended to improve food supplies to the capital, Maputo – recently reported to be down to less than three days’ stocks – and to help ease the country’s foreign exchange shortage.

In the Limpopo River valley, state farms are now being broken up into individual peasant holdings. But a regeneration of peasant agriculture by means of the capitalist market seems ruled-out.

In every underdeveloped country, peasant agriculture is in crisis. Manufactured goods, particularly imports, rise constantly in price while the prices of minerals and agricultural commodities stagnate on the world market. The power of the monopolies ensures the super-exploitation of the ‘Third World’ countries through the terms of trade.

This has its effects on the price structure within each economy also. In Zambia, for example, a peasant now has to produce more than three times as much maize to buy the same shirt or plough as in the 1960s. In Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), a given quantity of tea produced can now only buy one-third the amount of imports that it could buy in the mid-1950s.

And so the pattern is reproduced around the world. Prices of agricultural raw materials have been in decline since the end of the Second World War.

Even in the United States itself, farmers have fallen into crippling debt. In Denmark, half the farms are threatened with bankruptcy over the next 3-4 years.

In South Africa, agriculture is now indebted to the tune of R10 billion, and bankrupt small farmers (whites) are rapidly giving way on the land to the monopoly corporations.

In this situation, what can be the prospect for viable peasant farming anywhere in the colonial world?

In Mozambique, capitalists are likely to be interested only in a few profitable projects, particularly where they can parasite upon international aid and state-provided facilities. The mass of the population will remain largely outside the benefits of any such development.

The Mozambican government’s plans for rapid industrialisation will prove as unattainable with the post-Nkomati ‘assistance’ of the West as they were previously when the country depended upon assistance from the Soviet bloc alone.

While the crippling foreign currency shortage may be temporarily eased, chronic crisis in this area is likely to reassert itself the more Mozambique succeeds in importing its needs and becomes dependent upon them.

Increased South African use of Mozambique’s port and rail facilities will not provide a permanent solution. The reduced use of these by SA over the last ten years was not entirely the result of deliberate boycott by Pretoria. Within that ten-year decline there was a very sharp fall between 1979 and 1983, a period coinciding with and reflecting the recession in South Africa.

In response to the contraction in the world market, the capitalists have seen to it that their own interests are secured first. An undeclared trade war has therefore erupted between the major industrial countries in order to protect their own markets. South Africa itself has been a victim of this, having been ordered to cut steel exports to the USA. South African steel exports were among the most important sources of tariff income for Mozambique.

One tangible economic concession South Africa has made is to agree to purchase electricity from Mozambique at a higher tariff and in greater quantities than before. A part of South Africa’s purchases will be used to resupply electricity to Maputo – and this need not be paid for by Mozambique in foreign currency.

Even if the problem of sabotage of the power lines is overcome, it will leave Mozambique critically dependent on South Africa for revenue earned from its own Cahora Bassa scheme, and even for supplying its capital with power.

South Africa, however, would depend on Cahora Bassa for only 8% of its electricity needs and could switch to alternatives at relatively little cost whenever it proves politically expedient to do so.

On the other hand, however, Mozambique needs South Africa to buy almost 70% of Cahora Bassa’s generating capacity.

South Africa’s consumption of electricity has been growing at a markedly slower rate than its increase in production. A serious slump in the next period could result in cut-backs in electricity consumption – and in the termination or reduction of purchases from Mozambique.

Mozambique’s hopes of increased recruitment of migrant labour by SA will also leave it even more a hostage to Pretoria.

The mines have been cutting back on labour, cutting costs in order to boost profits. Profits will be the main consideration on which any decision to increase recruitment will be based.

So far, SA has ‘legalised’ the presence of 150,000 unregistered Mozambican workers on South African farms. But that is merely a recognition of an already existing state of affairs.

With no major expansion plans in the SA mining industry, any massively increased recruitment of labour from Mozambique would only take place at the expense of the jobs of other migrant workers from neighbouring countries or even South Africa itself.

There are signs already that the SA government and employers hope to use Mozambican workers as strike-breakers by employing them during the course of major struggles, especially on the mines.

Mozambican workers have been demoralised by the horrific conditions and starvation in the areas they come from, as well as disappointed by the failure of the ‘socialism’ of the Machel government to transform their lives.

This makes it all the more important for unions such as the NUM in South Africa to make a conscious drive to organise Mozambican workers, to raise their consciousness, and to knit them together with other Southern African workers into a united labour movement.

Meanwhile the SA regime and ruling class is able to use the migrant labour system to divide the workers and to play the different member-states of SADCC off against each other.

For all these reasons, it is extremely doubtful whether the economic hopes Frelimo has invested in the Nkomati Accord will pay the dividends they expect. In fact the Nkomati Accord increases their dependence on South Africa when this dependence has been the major source of their problems. This is like the alcoholic who tries to overcome his addiction by increasing his consumption.


Though, as we have argued, capitalism will be unable to develop Mozambique, the question still arises whether Frelimo’s turn to South Africa and to the West, and the increased implantation of capitalist investment and capitalist relations within the Mozambican economy, will lead to the restoration of a bourgeois regime – to the gradual transformation of the ruling bureaucracy either into a conscious agency of capitalism or into a ‘new bourgeoisie’.

Marxists were confronted with a similar question in the 1920s and 1930s, in relation to the Soviet Union.

There, unlike in Mozambique, the revolution had taken the form of a classical proletarian revolution, in which the working class itself took power, demolished the feudal-bureaucratic and bourgeois apparatus of the old state, and created a democratic workers’ state, organised through elected soviets.

But, after the terrible depredations of the civil war, in which the vanguard of the proletariat was decimated defending the gains of the revolution against imperialist invaders, power was gradually usurped by a state bureaucracy, headed by Stalin. Eventually nothing remained of workers’ democracy, and all power became concentrated in the hands of the bureaucracy, with the dictator Stalin as its personification.

The last years of Lenin’s life coincided with the dying stage of genuine soviet rule. The struggle mounted by Lenin and Trotsky against bureaucratism proved incapable of arresting this decline.

After Lenin’s death in 1924, the bureaucratic counter-revolution went into full swing. Trotsky was driven into exile and finally murdered. Tens of thousands of ‘Old Bolsheviks’ and supporters of the Bolshevik Left Opposition, many of them tenacious fighters to the last for the original ideals of the October Revolution, were purged, imprisoned, and executed.

Lenin’s ‘New Economic Policy’ – an unavoidable concession to market forces, which had been intended as a temporary measure to revive peasant agriculture and provide a basis for state industry – was turned by the Stalinist bureaucracy into a caricature. Abandoning all hope of the international spread of the revolution, they manoeuvred in a blind and empirical fashion to defend at all costs and by any and all measures, the basis of their own power.

Striking blows at the proletariat, they encouraged the rich peasants (kulaks) to enrich themselves and cultivate a luxuriant growth of capitalist relations on the land.

But when the rise of the kulaks gave the latter confidence and ambition for power, threatening ultimately to restore capitalist rule in Russia, the Stalinist bureaucracy made a 180-degree turn.

It embarked on a policy of slaughter of the kulaks, the forced collectivisation of agriculture (at the cost of millions of lives), and rapid industrialisation by means of the state.

Trotsky, in his writings in exile, took up the question whether an “imperceptible, ‘gradual’ bourgeois counter-revolution” was conceivable. “Until now,” he pointed out, “… feudal as well as bourgeois counter-revolutions have never taken place ‘organically’ but they have invariably required the intervention of military surgery.” (The Class Nature of the Soviet State, 1933.) The ideas of reformism are as inapplicable to counter-revolution as they are to the process of revolution. Only a forcible restoration of capitalism would be possible.

Although the attacks on the working class by the Stalinist apparatus, and its blind zig-zagging from one mistaken policy to the opposite, placed the gains of the October Revolution in constant jeopardy, the Bureaucracy itself still ruled in the final analysis by the defence of the system of nationalised property created by the revolution.

A political counter-revolution had undoubtedly taken place – but had this amounted to a social counter-revolution too? Had the basic class nature of the state been changed?

Forms of Property

Fundamentally, wrote Trotksy, the

…anatomy of society is determined by its economic relations. So long as the forms of property that have been created by the October Revolution are not overthrown, the proletariat remains the ruling class.

The bourgeoisie remains the ruling class in a capitalist country even when political power has been usurped by a bonapartist dictatorship. This is because private ownership continues as the basic form of property on which the economy and state rest.

In the Soviet Union, although the working class had lost political power, it nevertheless remained the ruling class in the final analysis. The Stalinist dictatorship was – and is – a proletarian bonapartist regime, resting on state ownership of production as the basic form of property.

The political counter-revolution in the Soviet Union destroyed workers’ democracy (the actual, direct rule of the working class), and Stalin’s ‘left turn’ did nothing to restore it.

Without workers’ democracy there could be no move in the direction of genuine socialism, the ending of inequality and the dissolving of the state into society. On the contrary, as a result of the ‘left turn’ the bureaucratic dictatorship was immensely strengthened and hardened. Nevertheless, it had the effect of eliminating once again any social basis for bourgeois restoration in the Soviet Union.

So long as the state retained ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, and so long as the state apparatus itself rested upon nationalised property and not upon a class of private property owners, the state remained a (deformed) workers’ state.

This peculiar form of regime could only arise because of the backwardness of Russia and the isolation of the revolution. It could only consolidate itself because of the delay of the socialist revolution in the industrialised West – and because capitalism on a world scale was diseased and was no longer capable of developing backward countries at the pace which, potentially, state ownership of the means of production and economic planning could achieve.

In a country embracing one-fifth of the world, the advantages of state ownership and planning were conclusively demonstrated in the industrialisation of the Soviet Union under Stalinist rule.

In the case of the Soviet Union, the danger of a forcible bourgeois counter-revolution – through foreign military intervention – was only finally eliminated after the Red Army had defeated Hitler’s invasion and the Soviet Union emerged after the Second World War as a super-power.

In all the deformed workers’ states which have arisen since the War – where capitalism has been overthrown but without the working class itself taking power – the new bureaucratic regimes have, in one way or another, repeated zig-zags to ‘left’ and to ‘right’ in the course of consolidating their power and attempting to overcome economic obstacles, but without the restoration of capitalism itself.

In China, today, for example, the bureaucracy has turned to promoting forms of ‘private enterprise’, especially on the land. Recently, the first ‘yuan millionaire’ was a cause for celebration in Peking. Nevertheless, there is no question of the restitution of bourgeois power in China. The bureaucracy continues to rest fundamentally on state ownership.

At a certain point, when an emerging Chinese ‘bourgeois’ class enters into conflict with the social basis of the regime, there would be a new sharp turn involving savage attacks to repress it once again.

However, there are important differences which have to be considered in the case of Mozambique: particularly the extreme weakness of the economy, the strength of South African imperialism on its border, and the weakened social base of the Frelimo bureaucracy. Unlike the Russian revolution, the proletariat played virtually no part in the Mozambican revolution and is now atomised, demoralised and confused. It is not in a position, at present, to mount any serious defence against the counter-revolutionary consequences of the Nkomati Accord.

There would thus be more scope for the ‘imperceptible’, ‘gradual’, bourgeois restoration which Trotsky ruled out in the case of the Soviet Union.

The restoration of capitalism as the ruling system in Mozambique cannot be theoretically ruled-out in future. But it is not the most likely perspective.

The main factors are the inability of capitalism to develop Mozambique and the fear of the South African ruling class to go so far as to use its military power to install its own puppets in Maputo.

Certainly we are at the beginning of a new period of turbulence and instability within Mozambique. Machel’s turn to the West, and its consequences in economic policy, have already involved splits within the ruling Politburo and the demotion or removal of dissenting voices.

The next period is likely to see the regime racked by much deeper splits, and possibly even by bloody purges.

The root of the division within the bureaucracy is, on the one hand, the failure of the illusions in ‘socialism in one country’, and, on the other hand, the impossibility of the country achieving an all-round economic development and any genuine national independence on the basis of capitalism.

With every direction for the bureaucracy now a blind alley, it must begin to lose cohesion. This would become much more evident if the threat to the whole regime from the MNR faded.

One section pursuing its own self-interest in the narrowest terms, will probably try to ‘make the best’ of its new friendship with South Africa and the West. There will be increased opportunities for corruption and personal self-enrichment, through acting as bureaucratic ‘comprador’ agents of the monopolies now penetrating into Mozambique.

But, on the other hand, other sections of the bureaucracy, particularly those more closely in touch with the proletariat and the poor peasants, will be driven to mount a resistance against this trend, and will try and defend the system of state ownership and economic planning as the fundamental source of their power and privilege.

They would have to lean on and even, at times, seek to mobilise the proletariat and peasantry in struggle, while trying to confine it within the narrow national limitations of Stalinism and the bureaucratic system itself.

Most likely, as the ‘supreme arbiter’ over the regime, Machel’s policy will be one of blind zig-zags – leaning now on one section against the other, and then vice-versa.

In the final analysis, however, the bureaucracy as a whole is likely to be compelled to defend its position by defending state ownership of most of the means of production in Mozambique.

It is necessary for Marxists in Mozambique to distinguish themselves clearly from all wings of the ruling bureaucracy. Our policy there, as everywhere else, is based on the independent organisation and movement of the working class to fight against capitalist restoration and carry forward the revolution.

However this regime presents itself publicly, it has nothing in common with genuine Marxism.

Nothing could more plainly illustrate that than the approach which Frelimo took to the negotiations with South Africa and the manner in which the whole question of the Nkomati Accord was presented.

Machel went to Nkomati like the man who (in Lenin’s words) goes to a funeral singing wedding songs.

He dressed up in a brand new Marshal’s uniform, (specially flown out from England) and rode in a Rolls Royce to the sound of trumpets.

Here was a general who chose to mark a defeat by celebrating a victory. He told diplomats during the negotiations that these were “the result of the political and military victory of the Mozambican people”![10]

Even if this were believed by the masses – which it isn’t – what possible advantage could such a deception bring to the workers, youth and the peasants struggling for the transformation of society throughout Southern Africa?

Even worse than Machel’s conduct at Nkomati, however, is the fact that all the decisions leading up to the Accord were taken in secret. It came as a shock, and shows the chasm that has opened between the bureaucracy and the masses, as well as Frelimo’s lack of confidence in them.

This is further shown by the propaganda campaign mounted within Mozambique by Frelimo, involving numerous public meetings where a compulsory ‘Solemn Act of Homage’ was made to President Machel. The Frelimo Central Committee and the Peoples’ Assembly endorsed the Accord after the fact, and an enforced nationwide ‘political study’ of Machel’s speeches on the issue took place.

Just how unaccustomed the regime is to any democratic criticism was illustrated by Machel’s enraged outburst against a black South African journalist at a press conference some time after Nkomati, where the slightest criticism of his conduct was even implied.


At the same time, of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that Mozambique can cut itself off from South Africa or the pressures of the world economy. Even a genuine government of workers’ democracy could have found itself in a very similar position of crisis in Mozambique. But, instead of distorting the true state of affairs, the workers and the population as a whole should have been told the truth no matter how unpalatable, and a debate initiated about the way forward.

When the young workers’ state of Russia was threatened with invasion and the possible defeat of the revolution by German imperialism, the Bolshevik government had no choice but to go into talks at Brest-Litovsk and there negotiate from a position of weakness.

In order to buy time for the Bolshevik government in Russia, the revolutionaries had to concede space – agreeing to give up large amounts of territory and pay heavy indemnities for the Tsar’s war with Germany which they had always opposed.

But they told the workers the truth, explaining why the negotiations had been forced upon the government, why it was necessary to gain some respite for the Russian workers’ state and allow time for the German revolution itself to mature.

There was a full and democratic debate in the Central Committee, throughout the Party, and outside the Party as well about the position which should be adopted, and even Lenin, with all his authority, did not get his position accepted initially – and never automatically.

When the negotiators, led by Trotsky, disembarked from the train at Brest-Litovsk, they distributed leaflets among the German soldiers, explaining the position of the Bolshevik government, describing the German government as the “robber capitalist government” that it was, and calling upon the German working class to come to the aid of the first workers’ government in history by overthrowing their capitalist oppressors.

The whole policy of the Bolsheviks – in contrast with Stalinism, and in contrast with the policy of Machel – was based on raising the consciousness of the proletariat, imbuing it with an understanding of its capacity to change society, linking the struggle of the workers together internationally, and involving the workers consciously in every step, whether advance or retreat.

In contrast with this, Machel goes to the lengths of promising the South African ruling class that he will help to maintain labour discipline among the Mozambican migrant workers!

The absolute gulf between the Frelimo bureaucracy and genuine proletarian internationalism was already shown after the Lancaster House agreement, and the independence elections in Zimbabwe, when Machel declared Thatcher to be “the best Prime Minister” of Britain.

Now, in the Nkomati Accord, Machel has put his signature to statements which strike a blow at the very basis of the struggle by the black majority in South Africa for national liberation and democracy.

The preamble to the Accord solemnly declares that the governments of Mozambique and South Africa both accept “the right of peoples to self-determination and independence and the principle of equal rights of all peoples…” Yet it is precisely the inability of Mozambique to exercise genuine self-determination and independence from the stranglehold of South Africa which drove it into the Accord!

It is one thing to hand over your wallet when a robber holds you up at gun-point. It is another thing entirely to present him with a signed testimonial as to his character and honesty! Yet this is what Machel has done.

And, on top of that, the South African government is recognised as upholding the principle of “equal rights of all peoples”! This amounts to conceding separate development and the Bantustan scheme as a fulfilment of democratic ‘principle’. What else can it possibly mean?

In contrast with the approach of the Machel regime, a genuine revolutionary workers’ government – while it might also have been forced to make concessions to the power of South Africa – would have taken a fundamentally different approach. A revolutionary approach would have involved an explanation to the masses both in Mozambique, South Africa and throughout Southern Africa as to why some ‘non-aggression’ and economic treaty with the SA regime could not be avoided.

It would have made an open and honest appraisal, not only of the strengths, but also of the weaknesses of the South African imperialist enemy.

It would have pointed to the rising struggle of the South African black working class, to the coming revolution in SA, to the way in which the social base of capitalism is progressively being undermined, to the struggles of the proletariat throughout Southern Africa and internationally, and affirmed that the progress of the Mozambican Revolution would lie not through this Accord but through the victory of the socialist revolution in South Africa itself.

For every concession wrung from it in favour of South Africa, a revolutionary government in Mozambique would have doubled and redoubled assistance to the organisations and movement of the black proletariat inside South Africa.

In place of narrow, national, bureaucratic self-interest, it would have been guided fundamentally by the interests of the Mozambican and international proletariat.

For this, a regime of genuine workers’ democracy would have been necessary in Mozambique – with a clear understanding of the forces that had driven South African imperialism to the conference table.

The signing of the Nkomati Accord with Mozambique marks, of course, a major new turn in the foreign policy of the apartheid regime.

South Africa’s foreign policy has evolved under the pressure of three interconnected forces: the mounting pressure of the class struggle at home; the successive advances of the revolution in Africa; and the increasing need of SA industry to find a market in Africa for its exports.

It was in the early 1970s that the Vorster regime made a clear turn from SA’s former isolationism towards a search for ‘detente’ with black governments of Africa. This was for economic and political reasons.

If the South African government could become ‘acceptable’ in black Africa, its diplomatic and trade relations with Europe and other countries overseas could also be lubricated. Moreover, by these means the Vorster regime hoped to weaken the ANC in international forums.

Nevertheless, the central pillar of its policy remained the ‘Unholy Alliance’ of colonial or white minority regimes in the Portuguese colonies, Rhodesia and South Africa itself.


The collapse of Portuguese rule in Angola and Mozambique had tremendous repercussions on SA policy. As already explained, intervention in Mozambique was ruled-out. In Angola, where full-scale intervention was attempted, SA suffered a sharp setback when it had to withdraw with its tail between its legs.

This period was also the aftermath of US defeat and withdrawal from Vietnam. Together with Vorster, the US strategist Kissinger carried-out a reappraisal of policy towards Rhodesia.

It was decided that the Smith government could not be sustained in the long-run. Its defeat, they feared, could lead to the overthrow of capitalism in this strategically important country – if the guerrilla war there was fought to a final conclusion. Thus Smith was shaken by the scruff of the neck and told to give concessions. This resulted, by 1978, in a coalition government, nominally led by Muzorewa.

But the forces for revolution in Africa cannot be laid to rest by mere manoeuvre. The revolutionary war intensified, and the imperialists ultimately conceded at least the Lancaster House constitution.

From this, again, they hoped to produce an election result leading to a coalition, which they could manipulate through Muzorewa. But again the plan came unstuck, and the election resulted in a sweeping victory for ZANU and (in Matabeleland) ZAPU.

If the leadership of the Zimbabwean national liberation movement had had a Marxist policy, and if they had mobilised and armed the workers and peasants to carry through the revolution, capitalism would have been overthrown in Zimbabwe in 1980, and the South African imperialists would have faced a very serious dilemma.

Had they invaded Zimbabwe, they would probably have been able to take, at least for a time, the main urban areas. But having invaded a revolution, and having to suppress a mobilised and armed population, their ‘victory’ would rapidly have been turned into a further source of weakness and prepared the way for a big defeat. The consequences of this for revolution in South Africa would in turn have been profound.

Even as events turned out, however, the maintenance of capitalism by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe amounted to small comfort for South Africa. ZANU’s election victory gave an enormous boost to the confidence and combativity of the South African proletariat.

South Africa’s international isolation seemed greater than ever. The formation of SADCC, though itself no solution to the problems of Southern Africa, has raised the spectre of future difficulties in the way of expanding South Africa’s export trade.

Although the Zimbabwean government from the outset refused bases to the ANC, the SA regime felt more encircled and vulnerable than ever before. While SWAPO could not win the guerrilla war in Namibia, neither could it be defeated by South Africa, and so this too has turned into an unending drain on the occupying power.

From Vorster’s failed ‘detente’ strategy there evolved the ‘total strategy’ of Botha/Malan.

Military aggression against neighbouring states became a pronounced feature of SA’s foreign policy, and although some large-scale interventions (for example into southern Angola) have been made, the attacks have deliberately stopped short of attempting directly to remove and replace the governments of the ‘front line states’.

The use of guerrilla forces such as UNITA and the MNR, as well as SA-trained bandits in Zimbabwe, for example, has been an ‘innovation’ of SA policy in this period.

Together with this there has been the increased systematic use of the economic ‘carrot and stick’, to force the neighbouring governments into more and more open dependence upon and compliance with SA capitalism.

Foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy. The foreign policy aspects of ‘total strategy’ are part and parcel of the measures being worked-out by the regime to deal with the mounting challenge of the black proletariat within South Africa.

Botha’s plan for a ‘constellation of Southern African states’ (first mooted in 1979) has the aim of reducing the ‘independence’ of the states of Southern Africa to the level of Bantustans – while legitimising the SA Bantustans as ‘independent’ equals with them.

White-rule over the whole of South Africa has long been recognised by the ruling class as too narrow a basis for the political defence of capitalism. But equally they recognise that to concede genuine democratic rights to SA’s black people would merely open the floodgates of the socialist revolution.

The concentration of the massive industrial working class in SA, combined with the rising demand of the black majority for democratic rights, threatens to explode not only the regime’s schemes of political divide-and-rule, but the foundations of capitalist rule itself.

As one of the bourgeoisie’s academic advisors, Professor Lombard, put it: “If an unqualified one-man-one vote election was held today in the Republic a non-white leader with a communistic programme would probably attain an overall majority based on a pledge to confiscate and redistribute property of the privileged classes.”[11] This is precisely why capitalism cannot live with democracy in SA.

Thus the Bantustan scheme and the further break-up of South Africa along ‘federal’ or ‘confederal’ lines forms a basic element of the policy of all sections of the bourgeoisie. But to establish any viability for this, even in the short-term, they must carry it beyond the borders of South Africa and impose it upon the region as a whole.

Military attacks on Lesotho, Mozambique, etc., have not had the purpose merely to eliminate ANC guerrilla operations from those territories. Their essential purpose has been to weaken and subdue all the neighbouring governments with the aim of forcing them eventually into the ‘constellation’.

South Africa’s attitude to SADCC is also governed by these aims. As Cornelis Human, chairman of Federale Volksbeleggings, put it: “the concept of a constellation of southern African states [has] a better chance of success if the SADCC could be brought into the fold.”[12] Hence the attempts of the regime and the capitalists to penetrate into SADCC and take it over have a combined economic and political aim – an aim which has been significantly advanced by the Nkomati Accord and its aftermath.

This also explains why the SA regime is so determined to force the governments, for example of Lesotho and Botswana, into an Nkomati-type agreement also. Not surprisingly, even these right-wing governments resist the spider’s invitation.

“We are no threat to you!” they cry. “We have closed our territory to the ANC. There is no need in our case for a non-aggression pact. Why do you insist on humiliating us by requiring us to sign away even the pretence of independence?”

Yet nothing less than this can satisfy the SA imperialist strategy.

While it will not be automatic that these or other Southern African governments will enter into Nkomati-type treaties with SA in the next period, it is quite possible that they ultimately will. Probably Zimbabwe, because of its relatively greater strength, will be able to hold out longest. But it too is in the grip of SA economic domination and it will find its position in the region constantly weakened by South Africa’s power.

Paradoxically, if Zimbabwe was a stronger rival to capitalist South Africa, the two countries would now be on the brink of war.


But the important thing to understand is that the Nkomati Accord is the result as much of the weakness of the SA regime as of its strength.

To have any chance of carrying through his programme of constitutional ‘reform’ and further schemes of divide-and-rule directed against the black majority within SA, Botha’s regime could not rely solely on a policy of aggression towards its neighbours. It, too, needs a period of so-called ‘peace’ in foreign affairs.

On the one hand, aggressive ‘destabilisation’ of SA’s neighbours raises such a stink that it makes ‘compromise’ with collaborators at home more difficult. On the other hand, the ruling class calculates that the cooperation of Machel, whose standing in the eyes of the SA masses is still high, elevates compromise within SA to a level of respectability.

In addition the Nkomati Accord has enabled the Western imperialist powers, at least for a short period, to enter into more open friendship with South Africa – and the opportunity was in fact quickly seized by the Thatcher government and others to bring Botha over for a ‘lap of honour’ round some European capitals.

But all these schemes and manoeuvres will be exploded by the force of the revolutionary struggle now mounting within South Africa.

And, as they are exploded internally, they will be exploded externally also under the pressure of movements of mass resistance, against capitalism and against SA domination, which will develop in all the Southern African countries.

The Nkomati Accord marks not the beginning of a period of ‘peace and stability’ in Southern Africa, but, on the contrary, the beginning of a new phase of enormous instability and upheaval in which the struggles of the working people throughout the region will be more consciously linked together.

We are in the early stages of an unparalleled world crisis of capitalism, and of unparalleled economic, social and political crisis in South Africa and Southern Africa as a whole.

Any gains made by the SA regime as a result of the Nkomati Accord will prove short-lived. Undoubtedly Botha hoped to demoralise the SA black masses by forcing Machel to the conference table. But instead, the result has been the opposite. It has only hardened the conviction (at this stage among the active layer of the proletariat) that “We are our own liberators” and that no external forces can take the place of the mass struggle.

The magnificent mass resistance movement now spreading all over South Africa is a brilliant answer to the Nkomati Accord!

Nevertheless the SA regime will have to try to proceed with its Nkomati strategy until that itself reaches its limits and breaks down.

In the crisis which will grip South Africa and the whole region in the years ahead, it is entirely likely – even inevitable – that SA imperialism will resort to major new aggressions and even war against one or more of its neighbours.

But that again would only mark a new and more intense crisis for the regime – for the SA state has its main enemy not abroad but at home, in the black working class of South Africa. Resort to new policies of war in Southern Africa could open the way, at some point, for the South African revolution itself.

For anyone prepared to think the situation through, the Nkomati Accord should have made it clear that the oppressed workers and people of South Africa cannot rely on the regimes of the Southern African countries for real support.

What is necessary is to join forces consciously with the working class, with the youth and with the poor peasants of these countries – whenever necessary against their own governments – to fight together in solidarity for our common liberation.

Unfortunately the ANC and CP leadership have not drawn these conclusions. Because of their reliance in exile, over more than twenty years, upon diplomatic and material support from African governments for their strategy of guerrilla warfare – and not upon the movement of the workers in these countries – the response of the leadership to the Nkomati Accord has been disappointing.

The statement of the ANC leadership shortly after the signing of the Accord certainly implied a criticism of Machel’s action. But very soon this was overtaken by the “Final Communique” from the front line states’ summit meeting at Arusha, Tanzania, on 29 April, in which the ANC and SWAPO participated.

This document, to which the ANC President lent his authority, amounts to a simple whitewash of the Nkomati Accord.

It declares that the liberation struggle in South Africa “receives, and will continue to receive, the full support” (!) of all the governments present, including, e.g., Mozambique and Botswana!

Specifically, “the Liberation Movements reaffirmed their understanding of steps which are taken” by the Front Line States for their own “freedom” and “security”. This could only mean the Nkomati Accord – which was allowed to pass without criticism.

Still more important, however, is the question whether the ANC/CP leadership have realised the need to abandon the failed guerrilla strategy of the past twenty years and go over genuinely to a policy based on the revolutionary movement of the working class.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

In the African Communist (No. 98) the CP has conceded that the restriction or withdrawal of facilities by countries of Southern Africa has “adversely affected” the freedom of the guerrillas to operate. “But of themselves, they do not demand of us any new policies”!

What is implied (but not clearly spelled out) is that guerrilla actions of Umkhonto we Sizwe should in future be combined with the actions of the mass movement within South Africa.

That is certainly the idea recently put forward by the leadership of the ANC: “The dependence of the regime on repression, intimidation and terror is clear demonstration that the way forward to victory lies in a systematic combination of mass action and organised revolutionary violence within the framework of a growing people’s war.”[13]

This idea contains a fundamental confusion, which, if it not cleared-up, will lead to disasters in the future.

Firstly, it should be openly acknowledged that no basis exists or has existed in South Africa for a genuine guerrilla war. A guerrilla or ‘people’s’ war means fundamentally a peasant war, such as we have seen, for example, in Vietnam or in Mozambique and Angola.

In industrialised South Africa, the peasantry has been all but completely eliminated and the objective conditions do not exist for a guerrilla war.

It should be pointed-out, in any event, that a policy of peasant-based guerrilla warfare would be correct, even in a very backward country, only as an auxiliary to the movement of the urban proletariat. Only the proletariat, even in the most underdeveloped country, can ensure the carrying through of the revolution on healthy lines.

The consequence of the absence of leadership by the working class is shown in the way the revolution has stalled in Zimbabwe. In South Africa, on the other hand, the revolution can only develop as a proletarian revolution or it will be defeated altogether.

In a country such as South Africa, the notion of ‘guerrilla warfare’ can only lead in practice to actions such as those carried out by Umkhonto in the past – bombings and sporadic armed attacks in similar style to the IRA in Northern Ireland and Britain.

Taking place in urban areas, these do not advance the movement of the proletariat, but on the contrary retard it. They are intended as a substitute for the revolutionary force of the mass struggle. This can only weaken the understanding of the working class that it is their task to organise and arm themselves for the transformation of society.

As explained in material in Inqaba in the past, the unintended result is also to strengthen the state apparatus into an even stronger force for use against the working class.

It also consolidates the forces of reaction in the middle class and the working class itself. In the case of South Africa, this means playing into the hands of ultra-right white racist reaction against the black working class.

That reaction, if it takes on mass proportions, would create conditions for a disastrous racial civil war, capable of destroying millions of lives and laying in ruins the productive forces of South Africa.

On the other hand, organised armed actions by the masses themselves, headed by the organised working class, have an entirely different and revolutionary significance.

But a policy of armed struggle by the mass movement can only become effective once the movement is sufficiently strongly organised and clearly led – and once the forces of the state and of reaction have been politically split and weakened so that armed action can be sustained without immediately leading to massive defeats.

That point is approaching in South Africa, but it has not yet been reached.

Nevertheless, support should clearly be given to the insurrectionary action, including armed action, for example of the youth in the townships, whenever it is possible to create barricades and temporarily defend demonstrations, etc., from attacks by the police.

This marks a step in the development of the capacity of the movement to arm itself, first for defensive purposes and then to pass over eventually to the offensive, arms in hand.

Terrible Complications

But to ‘combine’ an unarmed mass movement with the actions of separately organised guerrilla bands would give us the worst of all possible worlds. It would lead to terrible complications for the organised movement of the workers and the youth, and expose this movement to unnecessarily savage attacks and defeats.

Instead of clinging to confused and mistaken ideas of the past, the ANC and CP leadership should be prepared to draw the conclusions which are made so clear by the Nkomati Accord – and to turn away from the ideas of guerrillaism altogether.

The accumulated military material and expertise, as well as the heroism of the young MK cadres burning for a fight, should be turned to a conscious policy of preparing the way for the future organised arming of the proletariat in South Africa for revolution.

That would have entirely different consequences than continuing with the policy of spectacular explosions and individual combat actions within SA (something which the Nkomati Accord has rendered more ‘difficult’ but will certainly not totally prevent).

At its forthcoming “consultative conference” in exile, the ANC leadership has the opportunity to make a fundamental correction and realignment of its policy – and to gain the full support of the fighters in the camps for such a turn.

Unfortunately, the ANC and CP leadership remains determined to silence the voice of Marxism within the ranks, and it is unlikely that these policies will gain a hearing at the conference.

Nevertheless, the movement will not be able to escape the realities of the struggle in Southern Africa so brutally brought to light at Nkomati.

This is already beginning to be shown within South Africa where the most advanced sections of the workers and the youth are rejecting the old arguments of a ‘two-stage’ revolution which the ANC and especially CP leaders continue to put forward.

Among the pro-Congress rank-and-file within SA itself there is now an increasing recognition of the need to overthrow capitalism in order to carry through and secure national liberation and democracy. The ‘two-stage’ illusion of a democratic South Africa on a capitalist basis is more and more being seen as undermining the unity and revolutionary force of the movement of the working people.

This will become the predominant understanding of wide layers of workers and youth who move to build the ANC in South Africa as a fighting mass organisation to transform society.

In the period ahead, difficult strategic and tactical problems of the revolution in South Africa – including the problem of arming the revolution – will have to be confronted. There will be many opportunities for the ideas of Marxism to gain mass support while false and confused ideas are cast aside within the movement.

And in time to come it will also be seen that the Nkomati Accord itself – for all its adverse effects – will have only helped to prepare the revolutionary movement throughout Southern Africa for its eventual victory.

Then the way will be open for all the peoples of Southern Africa, under democratic workers’ rule, to unite their countries voluntarily in a Socialist Federation and begin to overcome the legacy of problems left by imperialism, racism and capitalism.

Unite for the Southern African Socialist Revolution!

Originally published as the editorial of Inqaba ya Basebenzi No. 14 (June-August 1984).

Imperialism has hailed the ‘Nkomati Accord’ as charting a path towards peace, cooperation and development in Southern Africa. In reality it will bring none of these.

Dominated by SA imperialism, working people throughout Southern Africa face a future of smaller pay packets, less jobs, worse housing, growing landlessness, and more repression.

This will intensify their struggle against their oppressors and exploiters.

But what the Nkomati Accord underlines is that victory in this struggle cannot be completed within the boundaries of any single country.

Ten years ago, the Mozambican workers and peasants won a revolutionary victory against colonialism and ended the rule of capitalism and landlordism within Mozambique itself. Yet this has not freed them from the stranglehold of South African military and economic power.

How much less chance of self-determination have the peoples of Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, or even an independent Namibia – all far more dependent on SA – while capitalism still exists in SA!

Even the masses in Zimbabwe, second most industrialised country in Africa per head of population, struggle under the shadow of SA’s might.

Through its drive to exploit the many and enrich the few, capitalism has bound together the fate of all the peoples of the region.

This is a reflection of conditions on a world scale. More than ever in its history, capitalism has today integrated together all ‘national’ economies into a single world market and division of labour.

Over a hundred years ago Karl Marx explained how the drive for more efficient production, on an ever larger scale, requiring larger markets, would outgrow capitalism’s system of private ownership and national states.

The productive forces created by capitalism would be choked by the capitalist system itself. Society would face terrible crises, conflicts and stagnation.

To solve this contradiction, he explained, would require a worldwide social revolution, taking place country by country.

Under capitalism, larger-scale production has meant the domination of the world economy by the big imperialist powers and their multi-national banks and monopolies, stretching out to oppress and exploit across the world – enslaving every weaker ‘national’ economy.

But the contradiction has remained. Today the US, largest ‘national market’, home of the biggest banks and monopolies, strongest imperialist power, no longer provides a decent living for increasing numbers of its citizens.

The present temporary boom of the US economy cannot cure the underlying problem. Because new productive investment is increasingly unprofitable for the bosses, more and more US workers are driven out of jobs and the poor are forced to line-up for food on charity.

The crisis of the industrial economies is the most telling sign of the incurable sickness of world capitalism, which is condemning millions in the ‘Third World’ to a future of starvation, and millions in its heartlands to a future without work.

No ‘national’ economy can inoculate itself against this sickness. Just as Southern Africa cannot escape the sway of SA capitalism, so too SA capitalism itself is dominated by the laws of the world capitalist economy.

In every capitalist country, only the movement of the working class can provide a way forward, by taking power into its own hands, ending capitalism, and using the power of modern industry to serve human need.

The upheavals throughout the Third World, the huge battles being fought by the working class in major Latin American countries, the swelling movement of the SA workers – and now the stirrings of the big battalions of the proletariat in major capitalist countries – these are all signs of the coming world revolution.

In the course of these struggles, the lesson is being driven home to workers everywhere that their problems are interlinked, and that there will be no final and lasting cure for them within the boundaries of any single country.

Not only will it be necessary for the working class to take control of the big banks and monopolies, but to dismantle the divisive barriers of the system of national states.

To unleash the productive possibilities of modern science and technology, to abolish poverty and starvation, to create enough work and enough leisure for all, planning will be necessary on an international scale. Socialism cannot be achieved in one country.

Under the democratic rule of the working class, this coming together will take place voluntarily, with full recognition of the right of peoples to self-determination.

This was the position explained by the Bolsheviks when they led the Russian working class to power in the October 1917 Revolution.

But, disastrously, the Russian Revolution remained isolated and, as a result, power was usurped from the working class by a bureaucratic clique led by Stalin – who proclaimed that it was possible to achieve “socialism in one country”.

The crisis developing in Russia and Eastern Europe today is proving the falsity of those claims and vindicating the internationalist policies of Lenin and Trotsky – with consequences reflected even by the Nkomati Accord.

For a whole period, despite bureaucratic rule, nationalisation and planning allowed the development of the Soviet economy – until a once backward country became the second mightiest industrial power on the planet.

Now, despite a huge home market, large-scale production in Russia runs up against the barriers of bureaucratic rule, on the one hand, and the national state on the other. Growth rates have fallen to near stagnation, while wastage and corruption multiply.

It is this internal crisis which means – as explained in this issue of Inqaba – that the Russian bureaucracy refuses the assistance necessary for the Mozambican revolution to withstand the pressures of SA imperialism.

The way forward in the Soviet Union and other countries under Stalinist rule lies in a political revolution which overthrows the parasitic bureaucracy and restores democratic power to the workers – a revolution foreshadowed in the 1980 movement of the Polish workers.

Thus in every sector of the world the future lies in the hands of the organised movement of the working class, which must prepare itself consciously for power, and arm itself with an internationalist understanding.

A revolution in any important country of the capitalist or Stalinist world would set in motion the workers’ revolution worldwide.

In Southern Africa workers can prepare by building links with their fellow-workers, regionally and internationally.

The steps taken by trade unions to strengthen their international links, including, e.g., the initiative of the NUM to form a federation of Southern African mineworkers’ unions point the way forward in the trade union field.

Also politically, activists in the ANC need to join hands with struggling workers, in Southern Africa and elsewhere, to build mass organisations led by the working class on a programme for democracy and socialism.

The movement of the working class will open the way to defeating apartheid and capitalism in South Africa, and liberating the entire region from SA imperialism.

A democratic socialist South Africa would be a beacon of light to the whole of Africa, and indeed to working people worldwide.

With their right of self-determination guaranteed, the peoples of Southern Africa would see the huge advantages in linking voluntarily in a Federation of Socialist States of Southern Africa.

Linked with workers internationally, the Southern African working class can establish the real conditions for regional peace, cooperation and development, by participating in the building of world socialism.

[1] 9 August 1984

[2] Financial Times, 13 January 1984

[3] Star, 29 October 1984

[4] AIM, 25 October 1984

[5] New Statesman, 19 October 1984

[6] See South African Review, 1, 1983.

[7] 7 September 1984

[8] September, 1984

[9] Financial Gazette, 10 August 1984

[10] Rand Daily Mail, 16 March 1984

[11] Speech to FAK, 16 July 1980.

[12] Rand Daily Mail, 25 September 1984

[13] Quoted in Herald, 6 September 1984