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South Africa at the Crossroads

Draft theses on the present situation

By a group of South African Trotskyists in solidarity with the LTT

Written: March 1991.
First Published: May 1991.
Source: Published by the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Sean Robertson for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

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This document was written in March 1991. Since then, the perspectives contained in it have in all important respects been confirmed.

The ANC leadership has largely failed to carry out the decisions of the Consultative Conference. As a result, the offensive of the Inkatha attacks has continued without effective response by the ANC-SACP alliance. The recent attack by 1,000 armed Inkatha thugs on a squatter township, following hard on the heels of the threat by Inkatha that it was prepared to deploy 100,000 armed troops in order to crush its opposition in the townships, amply demonstrate the pathetically weak position that the ANC has been placed in at the hands of its own leadership.

In the meanwhile, De Klerk can smile smugly at the ease with which the plans of the ruling class have fallen into place.

The ANC timidly backed down even on the extended May 9 deadline it set. Having long ago compromised on the pre-conditions of the Harare Declaration, it has now even further narrowed the scope of its immediate political demands on the regime. By virtually begging the regime to stop the violence and abdicating responsibility for organising armed defence units, it has yet again given De Klerk the opportunity simply to exercise a crackdown on all political activity. All the ANC leadership can say in response is that De Klerk has taken up the ANC’s pleas in too harsh a manner. Now the apartheid courts have handed Winnie Mandela a six year sentence.

While De Klerk and his allies grow more confident, within the masses of South Africa the mood of political anger, frustration and despair grows.

COSATU’s recently launched three month campaign of action for a constituent assembly provides a great opportunity for worker militants in its ranks to turn the political tide. They should grasp the moment, at last put their revolutionary stamp on the unfolding events by militantly raising all the political and economic demands of the working class. This document offers a guide to such action.

Similarly, the run in period to the ANC Congress in June provides an important political opportunity for its militant worker and youth supporters. On the basis of the perspectives in this document, they too should vigorously struggle to take things onto a higher plane and ensure that the political rifts in the ANC deepen. They must now grasp the truth that unless the masses seize the initiative and break out of the negotiations framework, a monstrous betrayal is all that can be expected.

For the workers in COSATU and the proletarian militants in the ANC, consistent revolutionary struggle can only mean a political and organisational break with the ANC-SACP alliance and the establishment of an alternative revolutionary Marxist vanguard party.

Without it there will be neither socialist revolution nor socialism.

This document is directed at securing these noble aims.

May 1991

South Africa at the Crossroads

The years 1989 and 1990 have seen dramatic changes in the world situation, changes which have profoundly impacted on the South African revolution and which pose new tasks for the proletarian vanguard. The February 2 speech to the white parliament by President F. W. De Klerk opened up a new chapter in the South African revolution. Given the profound significance of these changes, a political balance sheet is imperative for revolutionary Marxists. To this end we submit the following draft theses.


1. The collapse of Stalinism and the concomitant departure of the Soviet bureaucracy from its pivotal place on the world stage presents the revolutionary proletarian vanguard in South Africa and the world with new opportunities and new dangers. The situation is riven with contradictions which must be favourably exploited by Trotskyists or terrible defeats await us.

2. The crisis of revolutionary leadership has entered a new stage. The utter bankruptcy of Stalinism, the most reactionary and corrosive force within the world proletariat for sixty years, has been exposed in the most striking fashion. Hundreds of thousands of militants within the ranks of Stalinist parties worldwide have been profoundly traumatised. All the old ‘Marxist-Leninist’ theory, policies and formulae – which had nothing to do with Marxism or Leninism – have exploded in the faces of those who have been loyal adherents of Stalinism. The majority have either chosen to abandon political struggle, or have adopted a new more comfortable home in social democracy. For the minority who retain their pro-working class and anti-capitalist convictions – and in this sense have retained an important measure of integrity – there is a period of deep soul-searching. ‘How could we have been so criminally wrong for so long?’, is the question that haunts these misguided militants.

3. Only Trotskyism can make consistent sense of the experience of these elements and provide clear political answers for them. At the same time – as a result of the political destruction wrought by Stalinism and the damaging influence of centrists and revisionists who have perverted the Trotskyist programme with their criminal policies within the ranks of Trotskyism itself – the forces of genuine Trotskyism are weak. The opportunities and dangers force us to proceed with special urgency and seriousness with the greatest task of all – the reconstruction of the Fourth International, i.e. the world party of socialist revolution. We must fight with renewed energy to constitute a consistent, principled and programmatically clear international revolutionary Marxist pole of attraction, a nucleus of the world party of socialist revolution. Given the continuing strategic significance of the South African revolution for the world revolution, South African Trotskyists carry a special responsibility in contributing to this task of tasks.

4. But the collapse of Stalinism has also shifted the world balance of forces in favour of imperialism:

* It has secured a major prize in the capitalist reunification of Germany. The supplanting of Stalinist regimes with capitalist restorationist governments in most of the deformed workers states of Eastern Europe has strengthened the hand of imperialism as it has gone onto a tremendous ideological offensive against ‘socialism’. Capitalist restoration in East Germany and the threat of further restoration represents a major setback for the world proletariat.

* Stalinism, with its reactionary policy of ‘socialism in one country’, has led the Soviet Union into a blind alley, betraying the social gains of the deformed workers’ states of Eastern Europe, and threatening them in the degenerated workers’ state. The former Soviet superpower, racked by an unprecedented social crisis at home, has been all but sidelined as a leading player in the arena of world politics. Gorbachev has not only opened the door to rapid capitalist restoration in the deformed workers’ states in Eastern Europe but also, as the chief sponsor of new thinking on an scale – the settlement of all regional conflicts by peaceful means – has given imperialism, in particular the United States, free scope to dictate the terms of the new ‘post Cold War’ world situation.

* The United States has not been slow to seize the opportunity of playing the role of world policeman and chief architect of the ‘new world order’. Furthermore, in the face of the utter bankruptcy of Stalinist ‘socialism in one country’ it can assume this role in an especially insidious manner by hypocritically posing as the champion of freedom and democracy.

5. The change in the balance of forces has exerted tremendous pressure on petty bourgeois nationalist organisations and bourgeois nationalist regimes throughout the world. On every continent there is a rapid ditching of even the pro-socialist rhetoric of former times. The capitulation of the Soviet bureaucracy as a counterweight to imperialism in the world arena and Stalinism’s loss of ‘moral authority’ resulting from the collapse of the bureaucratic regimes in Eastern Europe and the crisis of the Soviet bureaucracy, have given the ‘non-aligned’ and pro-Stalinist capitalist regimes an excuse to drop the last of their pretensions of being anti-imperialist. With their capitalist economies in ruins, and in the face of the worsening and even barbaric conditions endured by the oppressed masses, they now willingly comply with the imperialists’ wishes and abandon their so-called socialist policies. The overwhelming pressure of imperialism and the evident bankruptcy of Stalinism has forced the adoption of a ‘new realist’, i.e. a nakedly pro-capitalist, approach on the part of these forces.

6. For the proletariat and poor peasants of these countries only the Trotskyist programme offers a way out. Only the world socialist revolution, based on a rejection and thoroughgoing critique of the Stalinist policy of socialism-in-one-country and ‘peaceful coexistence’ with capitalism, and aimed at the smashing of the system of imperialist capitalism, can put an end to the poverty and universal misery in all these countries. For Southern Africa, this means a struggle led by the working class, leaning on the support of the poor peasants, against imperialism and all its local puppets and allies, for the realisation of the slogan of a federation of Southern African socialist states. In this struggle, the mighty black working class of South Africa has a central role to play.

7. The new situation has produced the most dramatic results especially in those parts of the world that have experienced protracted periods of political instability and even revolutionary crises, such as Southern Africa, Central America and the Middle East. Imperialism wants these ‘trouble spots’, where the masses have refused to be cowed into submission, to be finally subdued. In some instances, such as Southern Africa, it now feels confident that the relation of forces is sufficiently in its favour to proceed by means of a greater emphasis on diplomacy and negotiations rather than naked oppression and terror. In other cases, it continues to resort to the method of the big stick.

8. Nowhere is the lie of the recent peace talk of both Stalinism and imperialism more transparent than in the case of the terrible war against Iraq. The treachery of Stalinism (headed by the Nobel peace prize winner Gorbachev) and the bloody destructiveness of imperialism reached new depths. The United Nations, more directly than ever before, is an instrument of imperialism, and in particular of American imperialism. And the Soviet bureaucracy shamelessly backed the imperialist-inspired resolutions of this ‘new’ United Nations.

9. Stalinism’s new brand of ‘peaceful coexistence’ is even more reactionary than before. Previously, in keeping with the narrow interests of the Stalinist bureaucratic caste, seeking to maintain a relative balance of forces, it could act as a brake on the naked ambitions of imperialism.

Facing a mortal crisis at home, seriously dependent on political and material support from imperialism for its survival, the Gorbachev regime gave full backing to the United States to go to war against Iraq, thereby abandoning the last trappings of an ‘anti-imperialist policy’. To the endless list of the crimes of Stalinism is now added the blessing Gorbachev has given for imperialism to attack and vanquish the semi-colony of Iraq. The blood of the Iraqi masses is on the hands of Gorbachev.

10. The implications of the scope that has been given to imperialism in the recent period are serious for the proletariat and the oppressed masses of the world. Victory for imperialism in the Gulf has boosted its confidence even more, giving great force to the idea of a ‘new world order’.

11. But, despite the significant recent coups of imperialism, the dialectic is also working profoundly against it:

* The world capitalist economy – already in a state of collapse in many of the semi-colonial countries throughout the world, already racked by debt (America is by far the biggest debtor nation in the world) and serious speculation of a bank collapse – is threatened with new shocks as the advanced capitalist countries slide into recession and threaten each other with aggressive protectionist policies.

* Furthermore, as imperialism attempts to snuff out the major ‘trouble spots’, fresh political crises have broken out throughout the world. Most of Africa and the Indian sub-continent seethes with fresh struggles and political crises, the proletariat of Latin America reveals that it still has more militancy in reserve. With the Gulf War the whole of the Middle East is in turmoil as the oppressed masses react to the imperialist attacks on Iraq. In the imperialist heartlands, the combined impact of the Gulf War and deep economic crisis has triggered off political instability and ferment.

12. So the aims of imperialism, whose realisation has on the one hand been brought nearer by the political bankruptcy, cowardice and bureaucratic self-interest of Stalinism, on the other hand have by no means been secured. New contradictions loom, fresh outbursts of militant class and national struggles are being provoked by imperialism’s greater assertiveness. As a long term perspective, the desired ‘new world order’ will never be realised. Whether imperialism secures major victories in the short and medium term depends entirely on whether Trotskyism can make significant gains in the coming period.

13. In South Africa the conditions exist for us to strike a tremendous blow for Trotskyism. We have to fight for a breakthrough. This is within the grasp of the black working class. The problem is the existing petty bourgeois nationalist and Stalinist leadership which strains to keep the working class and the proletarian youth in check, undermining their confidence, feeding their constitutionalist illusions, confusing and disorientating them with their pacifist, class collaborationist policy.

14. By remaining true to revolutionary Marxism and taking the world situation as our point of departure, we must draw the political conclusions for the South African revolution:

* We must reach out to Trotskyists throughout the world to develop a world programme of action to meet the challenges of the new situation. It is vital that we struggle vigorously for a democratic-centralist international Trotskyist tendency as the nucleus of a reconstructed Fourth International.

* We must struggle to link up with workers and oppressed masses of the world in a single struggle to smash the imperialist-capitalist system. We decry the ANC and the SACP who supported the United Nations resolutions that ‘legitimated’ the wholesale slaughter and destruction unleashed against Iraq. We reaffirm that the struggle to smash apartheid is a struggle against imperialism. The South African working class must give full unconditional support to the Kurdish, Iraqi and Palestinian masses and the masses throughout the rest of the Middle East to defeat imperialism and all its agents.

* The world capitalist system is bankrupt. There can be no apartheid-free democratic capitalism in South Africa. Both the ‘new realists’ who preach a ‘retreat from socialism’ in the face of the collapse of Stalinism and the ANC and SACP’s ‘mixed economy’ policy represent capitulation to the international bourgeoisie. The Stalinists are yet again betraying socialism and the world socialist revolution. Our struggle to smash apartheid can only be part of an international struggle to smash capitalism.

* There must be no retreat from socialism. This means rejecting Stalinism’s ‘socialism in one country’. We must go forward to socialism and struggle for a federation of Southern African socialist states.

* In South Africa we must seize the opportunity opened up by the mortal crisis of Stalinism and win the best militants to Trotskyism. We must go onto the political offensive against the SACP. We must struggle to clear the Stalinist wreckage out of the way and provide a revolutionary internationalist way forward for the South African working class.

* We must give no space to imperialism to effect its ‘new world order’. The negotiations process in South Africa is an integral part of imperialism’s new ambitions. The South African working class, like the working class throughout the world must rely on its own struggle and power to secure its interests. A negotiated settlement with imperialism can never win the demands of the black workers and oppressed masses of South Africa. Our central task, our chief proletarian internationalist duty, is to fight for our national share of the world socialist revolution.


The political aims of the bourgeoisie

1. The South African bourgeoisie has entrusted De Klerk with the task of ushering in the ‘new world order’ in South Africa. After almost two decades of protracted social crisis and the South African bourgeoisie looking for a political solution, the collapse of Stalinism and the rising fortunes of imperialism on the world stage gave De Klerk the impetus to take the new bold steps announced on the February 2 1990.

2. P.W. Botha’s ascendancy as a South African Bonaparte in the late 1970s clearly indicated that the apartheid-capitalist ruling class needed to effect a new political basis for its rule. But the desire for a new form of rule did not mean it could be realised. The perception that it could not rule in the old way did not mean that the ruling class had the means for ushering in a new order. Indeed, the insurrectionary masses of 1984-86 threw the plans of the Bonapartist regime and the hopes of the bourgeoisie into complete disarray.

3. Because the ANC-SACP leadership was incapable of taking the insurrectionary developments to a point of completion, a situation of political stalemate arose. And, notch by notch, the apartheid-capitalist regime regained ground and effected a political turnaround. At a certain point the idea of a negotiated settlement was seriously floated. The petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC, having taken fright at the revolutionary mood of the masses, having allowed the bourgeoisie to regain the initiative, began to respond positively to the idea of negotiations. Undoubtedly, they were also spurred on by the capitulationist ideas of the new Stalinist ‘visionary’, Mikhail Gorbachev.

4. From about midway through 1986 then, two interwoven processes began to evolve in South Africa: firstly, the apartheid bourgeoisie conducted a systematic and successful offensive on the black masses and their organisations both in the townships and in the workplaces; and secondly, the ANC-SACP leadership, wooed especially by white liberals of IDASA and the PFP / Democratic Party, but generally in line with the Botha regime’s idea of a negotiated settlement, began to pursue a course of compromise and conciliation, under the guise of ‘splitting the ruling bloc’ and ‘winning the middle ground’.

5. The temporary defeat of the masses, and the keenness for compromise on the side of the ANC-SACP leadership, were important elements in the realisation of the bourgeoisie’s aims. But it was the change in the balance of forces in the world in favour of imperialism, and the related capitulation of the Soviet bureaucracy and the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, that gave De Klerk, the erstwhile hawk and arch-reactionary, the confidence to move with such audacity.

6. De Klerk’s agenda has been quite clear: he hopes to stabilise bourgeois rule after almost two decades of revolutionary ferment. In this period, the bourgeoisie had increasingly recognised that the only chance of arriving at both a suitable political settlement as well as an improvement in the performance of the capitalist economy was by incorporating the ANC into the bargain.

7. But at the same time De Klerk has to proceed in such a way that he does not provoke a mass-based fascist backlash to his plans. This has by no means been an easy task. For the most likely recruits to fascism are ready prey to the idea that they are being ditched by the De Klerk regime; for, in truth, the white petty bourgeoisie and working class, have not only outlived their political usefulness but are also a serious economic burden.

8. Bourgeois rule relies on the suppression of the class independence of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie can achieve this by different means. It is reluctant to rely solely on repression to maintain political stability, though it often has the resort of fascism at its disposal. More often it combines its methods, relying on non-proletarian classes or class strata and even backward sections of the working class itself, to soften class antagonisms or keep them in check and thereby undermine the class consciousness of workers. Up until the late 1970s, the white petty bourgeoisie and working class served this kind of purpose for the apartheid bourgeoisie. Today De Klerk’s main purpose is to secure allies from the black petty bourgeoisie and even from the working class to act as new and more effective political shock absorbers.

9. One of the most delicate tasks for the De Klerk regime has thus been to free itself from its longstanding political dependence on this white petty bourgeoisie and the white working class and to seek out new allies from within the black majority. Exclusive white rule has provoked nothing but incessant political ferment.

10. Furthermore, its experiments with reactionary black allies, such as the sell-outs in the Tricameral Parliament and the black community councils, and the bantustan leaders who manned a system of terror and corruption, have failed miserably. These wretched collaborators only stirred the wrath of the oppressed black masses and proved incapable of providing the kind of political security required by the bourgeoisie.

11. The De. Klerk regime cannot simply dump its white constituency. To do so would be to provoke a mighty reaction on the part of these privileged layers and drive them into the ready arms of the far right Conservative Party (CP) or even the fascist Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging (AWB). Part of De Klerk’s agenda is thus to allay the fears of the white petty bourgeoisie and working class. At a parliamentary level, the demise of the Democratic Party is an indication that there is no longer any need for the existence of a ‘liberal’ bourgeois party. The National Party (NP) under De Klerk has amply allayed the fears of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements who once supported the DP.

12. The real parliamentary political battle is between the NP and the CP, as voting patterns clearly indicate. According to opinion polls, from November 1989 to February 1990 the DP lost 25% of its support. In the same period the NP made a gain of 5.2%, with its national share being 46.3%; while the CP gained 3.4% with a national share of 31%.

13. In the testing year since then the NP has been on the ascendancy. The CP and the right wing generally have not made dramatic gains. However, given the instability of the situation, the present trends are by no means decisive.

14. The NP has by no means fully persuaded the white petty bourgeoisie and working class to go along with it on the path of ‘post apartheid’ rule. These white layers have yet to be fully convinced that the end of apartheid and the political incorporation of the black petty bourgeoisie into bourgeois rule will not seriously undermine their previous position of economic privilege nor precipitate political anarchy. This has been at the heart of De Klerk’s insistence on the protection of ‘minority rights’.

15. The De Klerk regime thus requires a moderate ANC capable of calming the fears of those who have been used to white privilege; and an ANC that does not threaten the cardinal principles of bourgeois rule – law and order and private property.

16. But there are serious economic limits to this political aim. The bourgeoisie is already so crisis-stricken that it has nothing in reserve to maintain the standards and privileges hitherto enjoyed by these white class strata.

17. De Klerk’s mission has been to do this on the terms most favourable to the bourgeoisie; i.e. a politically tamed ANC, purged of all the trappings of radicalism, with a mass base that is subdued and politically harmless. It has sought to teach the ANC the basic rules of the game, especially respect for bourgeois property and the importance of ‘law and order’.

De Klerk’s successes against the ANC

18. Since 2 February 1990 the political programme of the De Klerk regime has been successfully implemented.

19. It has wrested major concessions from the ANC, securing all its central aims and getting agreement from the ANC to keep its mass following in check and not to challenge any of the main props of bourgeois rule:

* The De Klerk regime has forced the ANC leadership to abandon its fanciful notion that negotiations would merely involve the ‘transfer of power’ to the ANC as representative of the black majority.

* In all the talks so far, the De Klerk regime has been fully accepted by the ANC as a major actor and determining force in the entire negotiations process.

* The De Klerk regime, assisted tremendously by the collapse of Stalinism, has forced the ANC to completely abandon its nationalisation rhetoric as contained in the Freedom Charter.

* It has forced the ANC to accept the idea of an all-party congress, and thereby to accept the legitimacy of all political forces, from the reactionary Inkatha to even the far right Conservative Party. As if to mock the ANC’s claim to be the sole representative of the black majority, other reactionary forces, notably Inkatha, have been granted legitimacy.

* In the course of the state-assisted Inkatha violence in the Transvaal, the ANC has not only failed to respond decisively to the challenge but has insisted that the existing bourgeois state apparatus is the only force capable of bringing the violence to an end.

* The state’s response to the violence is instructive. Besides the considerable evidence of direct complicity, it has sought to exploit the savagery to the hilt. In both the Transvaal and Natal, political militants and supporters of the ANC have been clear targets of assassination and violent attack. The De Klerk regime has thereby realised three aims: firstly, it has divided, disorganised and demoralised the masses in the townships; secondly, it has succeeded in weakening the ANC’s political authority; thirdly, it has increased the political leverage of Buthelezi and Inkatha.

* Furthermore, after a year of South African ‘glasnost’, not only is the Internal Security Act still firmly in place, but the repressive hand of the De Klerk regime is still actively at work, with thousands of militants still in detention or on trial. The point has been clearly made: revolutionaries opposed to the sell-out negotiations will bear the full brunt of the repressive apparatus. Moreover, as the case of Mac Maharaj underlines, the ANC leadership is not even prepared to defend its own officials accused by the De Klerk regime of breaking the law, let alone the dozens of militants who have been jailed.

* The ANC has accepted the continued existence of the SADF and SAP, calling for the disbanding only of special or secret agencies of the repressive arm of the bourgeois state. It has already held discussion with senior military personnel in the De Klerk regime on the integration of Umkhonto we Sizwe into the present apartheid army.

20. Consequently we can see that, from beginning to end over the past year, in the negotiations process it is the Pretoria regime that has held the political initiative.

21. For the South African bourgeoisie, De Klerk has proved himself to be a capable manager of their affairs. Not only has he won major political and diplomatic breakthroughs at the expense of the ANC but he has also kept in check the threat from the right.

22. Furthermore, De KIerk has also won the full political backing of the leading imperialist powers. And, against the protests of the ANC, not only have they rescheduled the R19 billion debt, but they have also indicated that they are more than ready to lift economic sanctions.

The insolubility of the South African bourgeoisie’s crisis

23. However, despite these economic coups, there are severe objective limits to the economic assistance that imperialism can give to the South African bourgeoisie. Politically, the leading imperialist powers operate as a club against the oppressed and exploited masses of the world. But despite these common political objectives, they are bitter economic competitors. With the leading imperialist capitalist powers already in deep economic crisis, faced with a growing trade war, and with the bloody military war in the Persian Gulf having precipitated further economic difficulties, the South African economy is in for even tougher times within the world capitalist market.

24. During two decades of severe social crisis. In this period the apartheid-capitalist economy has seriously declined. Inflation stays in double figures. Government debt in 1990 stood at R81 billion, 32 times more than in 1960. Given the prospect of severe economic recession in the imperialist centres, given South Africa’s relatively poor and worsening position in the world economy, given the continued grim state of the South African economy – the South African bourgeoisie has very little economic room to manoeuvre to realise its ambitions.

25. This does not mean that it cannot make political gains. But given the severe limits of its scope to manoeuvre and the mounting class contradictions, these can only be of a temporary character. Whatever political successes it may secure, these can only delay further political explosions and not eliminate them.

26. Insofar as apartheid was the necessary political-cum-economic form of capitalist development and the only means whereby the South African bourgeoisie could remain internationally competitive, no amount of change in the legal position of black people will rid the country of its deeply ingrained apartheid features. De Klerk’s scrapping of apartheid legislation will have little or no effect on the real position of the black working class and the proletarianised masses of the bantustans.

27. Furthermore, if the South African bourgeoisie hopes to regain some of its former economic glory of high profits and significant growth, and if, in the process, it hopes to secure the allegiance of a significant section of the black petty-bourgeoisie then, even more than before, the black working class will have to bear the political and economic brunt. In the living experience of the mass of black workers and the impoverished masses of the bantustans, apartheid will not disappear with an end to apartheid legislation. Indeed, for them the new dispensation is likely to mean even greater economic ruin and political powerlessness.

28. Political confusion, disorientation or even demoralisation caused by the rotten policies of the ANC and SACP can only be temporary. Nothing can erase the deeply ingrained experiences gained by the black working class over the past two decades. Fresh sparks will lead to new fires and, sooner or later, the working class will take up an open class war against the bourgeoisie and its handmaidens in the ANC and the SACP. By their class deeds they will prove the Marxist truth that for as long as capitalism exists, there can be no peace or stability in South Africa. They will show that they have fully learnt the bitter lesson that Marxism has long pointed out: the only road to lasting peace and stability is the road to the socialist revolution.


1. In accordance with its class character and in response to the surge in the political fortunes of the international bourgeoisie and the related confidence of the South African ruling class, the petty bourgeois nationalist ANC has moved sharply rightward since being unbanned. The scene has been rapidly set for a complete sell-out.

2. Despite the euphoria and high expectations of the masses, despite the readiness on the part of workers and youth to express their political feelings in militant action, despite the burgeoning popularity of the ANC, the leadership has moved closer and closer to the bourgeoisie, depending on it, fearing not going forward with it, encouraging the masses to trust it and passively to accept whatever is negotiated from above.

3. Since 1987, the working class has increasingly become ideologically dominated by the petty bourgeoisie ANC. This has been assisted by the efforts of the SACP and their control of the leadership of COSATU. In the present period, the ANC is the chief vehicle for the entrenchment of bourgeois constitutionalist illusions.

4. This situation is quite unlike the period 1984-86, when the ANC was forced to respond to the militant action of the proletarian masses in the black townships of South Africa. Today the class consciousness of the black proletariat has been overwhelmed by the petty bourgeois ANC.

5. Step by step, from episode to episode, in all sites of struggle, the ANC has drawn in the reins, acting as the chief demobilising factor over an enthusiastic mass base of support. The black masses are called on to restrain themselves, not to embark on direct mass action against apartheid oppression but to rely on projects in line with an imminent ‘post-apartheid’ society.

6. While the working class and the proletarian youth are held back from active mass struggle, the black petty bourgeoisie in South Africa has responded enthusiastically to De Klerk’s political initiatives and the unbanning of the ANC. Under the full weight of international bourgeois public opinion; they grab excitedly at the prospect of peaceful change. They are more than ready to follow the saint-like Mandela and accept the new look De Klerk as a ‘man of integrity’. They cannot bear the thought of further violent political clashes, let alone revolutionary upheaval.

7. They eagerly anticipate a South Africa without apartheid, a South Africa in which there will be no racist restrictions on their self-advancement. They look forward to better salaries and job prospects, to positions in a new ‘post-apartheid’ civil service. They believe that great new business prospects await them. They look forward to escaping from the township ghettoes into ‘non-racial’ suburbs. They welcome the prospect of escape from apartheid ghetto education into ‘deracialised’, ‘white’ schools. They look forward to a better life of newly gained self-esteem, where class and not skin colour determines things.

8. As the militant working class and youth are kept awkwardly in check, ANC policy and structures are dominated by these petty bourgeois and bourgeois elements who sense that their aspirations might be secured by means of a negotiated settlement. Many who had previously led an apolitical existence have now turned their attention to the ANC.

9. The most active political elements play a dominant role in the ANC. These include: the exile leadership which has long lived in a petty bourgeois exile milieu, powerfully influenced by Social Democratic and Stalinist traitors of the working class; the emergent bureaucratic Stalinist leadership of COSATU; the black traders and professionals in the townships; Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA) elements and homeland leaders like Holomisa; the black capitalists of National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC).

10. The political domination of these black petty bourgeois and bourgeois elements is reflected in the political policy and methods promoted and practised by the ANC. In turn, the ANC’s political outlook is governed by the fact that the leadership has cosied up to the bourgeoisie in all respects.

11. Even on the question of the return of its own exile members, especially the thousands of guerrillas in the camps of Southern Africa, the ANC seems more than keen to allay the fears of the bourgeoisie. The idea of an unconditional return of all exiles has been scrapped in favour of De Klerk’s idea of indemnity only for those that agree to restrictions on political activity. The exiles will thus return, not as heroes to participate fully in political life, but as half-criminals on parole. Furthermore, within the ANC leadership there is talk now of confining the guerrillas to base, up to the point of completing the negotiated settlement.

12. The ANC leadership is especially afraid of a mass revolt amongst the guerrillas. All indications suggest that political discontent in the camps is widespread, with social and economic conditions being appalling, while the ANC leadership maintains an oppressive, authoritarian regime.

There are accusations that the leadership have led lives of relative luxury, while the guerrillas have endured many years of extreme suffering in the camps. There are reports that the ANC leadership has regularly resorted to detention, torture, long term internment and even killing of a large number of militants who were critical of the leadership’s political policies, conduct and the general situation in the camps. Senior members of the ANC and SACP, such as Joe Slovo and Chris Hani, are accused of playing a contemptible role in the treatment of these guerrillas. There are also reports that the guerrillas are extremely unhappy about the fact that they have not been allowed to participate in democratic discussion about the political policies and direction of the ANC, nor were they even regularly consulted by the leadership.

13. At home the ANC’s unbanning brought forth not a mountain but a mouse. Given its tremendous popularity, give the militancy of the ANC’s constituency demonstrated during the 1984-86 period, given the surge of expectations brought about by De KIerk’s announcements, after a year of legality one could rightly have expected a mass ANC bristling with militant branches nationwide. Instead, in a country with a black population of 30 million people, the ANC can now only boast a membership of 200,000. Recent polls suggest that if there were a general election tomorrow, only 57% of South Africa’s population would vote for the ANC. According to one study conducted in the rural and urban areas of the Eastern Cape (traditionally an ANC stronghold), eight months after the ANC had been unbanned, only 57% of the population surveyed knew what the ANC was.

14. The official reasons given for the ANC’s poor showing are spurious. The leadership speaks about the extreme difficulties of coming out of the political shadows and learning to operate legally. They claim inexperience, all kinds of technical problems, getting the ‘balance’ between negotiations and mass action wrong, etc.

15. The reason why the ANC has not drawn the masses into its ranks has everything to do with the politics of its leadership. At base it fears the masses. Rather than fully unleashing the keyed up political enthusiasm of the masses and allowing them to come to full political life, the main aim over the past year has been to put curbs on them. The petty bourgeois ANC leadership’s fear of the black proletarian masses has been brought to a climax by its ever closer ties with the bourgeoisie.

16. The methods of the leadership correspond to its class politics. Rather than building branches through drawing the masses into struggle, the ANC proceeded in a bureaucratic, top-down manner. Rather than acting as an inspirer of the masses and building up the confidence of the masses in their own collective strength, the ANC leadership has produced growing confusion, disillusionment, frustration and anger. It relies on opportunist manoeuvres, on the actions of individual personalities (ex-Robben Islanders / exile leaders), on empty posturing and wooing false opportunist ‘leaders’, rather than the collective effort of the masses.

17. In innumerable instances, when the masses were under attack from reactionary forces like Inkatha, calling for arms and demanding that the ANC give a lead in defending the masses, the response of the ANC leadership was no more than a timid protest against the De Klerk regime (which had given every encouragement to the reactionaries and in secret had materially supported them) for failing to end the violence. In Natal, the ANC National Executive played a leading role in the signing of an ignominious ‘accord’ with Inkatha, even over the heads of the local ANC and COSATU leadership.

18. Falling over its feet to demonstrate its readiness to please De Klerk and the bourgeois ruling class he serves, and despite a powerful current of opposition amongst militant workers and youth, the ANC called off the armed struggle. For the whole of 1990 it acceded to De Klerk’s insistence on an ‘orderly’ pursuit of the negotiations process. In April 1990, without consulting its mass constituency, the ANC agreed in the Groote Schuur Minute to ‘a resolution of the climate of violence and intimidation from whatever quarter, as well as a commitment to stability . . .’ In accordance with this commitment, the ANC opposed a policy of mass mobilisation and struggle around the full range of the aspirations and interests of the masses. In August the ANC went further and dropped the by now dormant ‘armed struggle’ altogether. For the whole period, the watchwords have been: discipline, peace, and conciliation. Where militant action has been adopted, the ANC leadership has rushed in to control it, and to prevent it from gathering momentum.

19. Also, under especially heavy fire from the bourgeoisie, the ANC has even dispensed with the economic clauses of the Freedom Charter. A year ago, on the question of nationalisation, Mandela still sounded like a radical when he said: ‘The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industry is the policy of the ANC, and a change or modification of our views is inconceivable’. Now, following the supposed living proof of ‘the failure of socialism’, the inconceivable has happened and even the radical rhetoric of the petty bourgeoisie sounds fantastic. Now the ANC is trying desperately to rid itself of a radical image, with Thabo Mbeki recently having the cynical audacity to say the ANC’s policy was never one of nationalisation.

20. What is worse is that workers have not been consulted on these policy changes. Indeed in March 1990, NAFCOC, the organisation of South Africa’s black bourgeoisie, was specifically requested by the ANC to do a study and prepare a report on the question of nationalisation.

21. Furthermore, a series of working committees, indabas and conferences have been organised, comprising the ANC and leading ideologues of the bourgeoisie to jointly discuss a post-apartheid South Africa. The guiding idea behind these developments is encapsulated in the words of the ANC’s Walter Sisulu, addressing South African businessmen in March 1990, ‘Together we can forge a vibrant prosperous South Africa’. In keeping with this approach the ANC-SACP leadership’s central preoccupation is with how to ensure capitalist economic growth and ‘investor confidence’.

22. The spirit of revolutionary youth in South Africa has been largely dampened by the politics of the ANC. The youth have been among the most courageous fighters against Inkatha. But they have been terribly disappointed, and even angered, by the pacifism of the ANC leadership and its obvious readiness to sign friendly deals with Inkatha. Mandela’s meeting with Buthelezi in late January must have provoked tremendous disgust on the part of the Young Lions. Not only did Mandela (and the ANC NEC) accept a meeting entirely on the terms of Buthelezi, but Mandela responded as if he was meeting with a long lost bosom buddy.

23. Despite continued militant rhetoric, the leadership of the ANC Youth League is now also promoting the pacifist, conciliationist politics of the ANC. In October the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) held a three day conference with the white liberal Afrikaner youth organisation Jeugkrag, apparently finding much agreement and issuing a joint statement. Despite agreeing to disagree on the question of a federal or a unitary state, on the ‘redistribution of wealth’ and sanctions, both organisations committed themselves to a joint working committee and joint campaigns. At the ANC Youth League launch later in the month, the authority of the ANC leadership, in the form of a message from Tambo, was used to persuade the youth to accept into its ranks ‘all South African youth . . . including those who previous belonged to apartheid structures’.

24. Proletarian students have a long record of militancy. As a result of the crisis of apartheid, especially in education, since 1976, black township schools have been centres of revolutionary ferment. Today the ANC leadership has spearheaded a systematic campaign to demobilise students. Already in late 1989,it was calling for ‘discipline’ and the recently released ANC political prisoners made a point of directing boycotting students to return to school and to concentrate on their studies. In February 1990, soon after his release, Mandela was adding his political authority to these reactionary calls, telling pupils to ‘go back to school and learn’.

25. Despite the ANC’s disapproval, in the first half of 1990, unrest in black schools, colleges and universities continued unabated. Teachers throughout South Africa went on strike. Tens of thousands of pupils were on boycott; in Soweto, principals were ‘suspended’ by pupils protesting against the textbook shortage; and colleges and universities were centres of sustained militant protest. Even while these battles raged, the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) leadership was more interested in the question of school results, than on conducting a consistent battle to smash apartheid education and win the democratic demands of all oppressed pupils, students and teachers.

26. Now, in mid-1991, the recently re-established COSAS; that played such a vital role in the early stage of the 1984-86 period, has echoed the calls of the ANC. The leadership has obviously been briefed by the ANC. Using poor matriculation results as a reason, COSAS is no longer calling for black pupils to rise up against apartheid education, but to concentrate on their studies and performing well in their examinations. Here too the emphasis is against destroying apartheid education and the whole society that gave birth to it.

27. Instead, the emphasis is on not rocking the boat, and on acquiring technical and educational skills, so that as good, qualified citizens they can effect the peaceful, gradualist legal reform of society within the framework of a new parliamentary and constitutionalist dispensation.

28. The logic of the ANC leadership’s position is quite clear. It is prepared to thoroughly compromise even its own bourgeois democratic programme, the Freedom Charter, to secure a negotiated settlement with the bourgeoisie. Not only has the leading economic demand of the Freedom Charter been crassly ditched but all the signs suggest that the demand for one person one vote in a unitary state will also be ignominiously be negotiated away. On numerous occasions, Mandela and other ANC leaders have indicated that the policy of ‘reconciliation’ includes the possibility of giving guarantees for whites who feared black domination.

In soberly examining political developments over the past year, revolutionary socialists can only conclude one thing: no effort must be spared to ensure that the revolutionary proletarian elements within the ANC-SACP-COSATU fold are separated from the reformist petty bourgeois conciliationist elements.


1. The Consultative Conference marked a dramatic turn in relations between the ANC leadership and its support base. Political fault lines appeared which, in the months following, became sharper. But the emerging differences must still be turned into deep political class divisions, if the South African struggle is to be taken forward.

2. The problem at the moment, as was clearly expressed at the Consultative Conference, is that even the angry rank and file accept the reformist framework of the leadership. The emphasis is not on ensuring that the oppressed black masses are brought to full political life in order to bring closer the struggle for the seizure of power. Powerful illusions in the possibility of effecting radical reforms by constitutionalist means still exist.

3. No doubt, in some quarters, there is a sense that the negotiations path might be a dead-end and a confused and nervous half-recognition that the ANC has been lured into a trap set by the imperialist bourgeoisie. In the months since the conference this sense has deepened.

4. But the pathetic response of the ANC to the De Klerk regime’s action against ‘Operation Vula’ and the related resignation of Mac Maharaj from the NEC on the eve of the Consultative Conference have given impetus to the feelings of unease and discontent. It was this anger, frustration and sense of uncertainty that was articulated at the conference in the threat that negotiations might be called off unless the De Klerk regime accedes to key demands by April 1991.

5. But thus far, these correct political instincts have not been given organised political expression within the ANC milieu.

6. At the Consultative Conference the ANC leadership was subjected to trenchant criticism on a full range of questions.

* The delegates questioned the decision to suspend the armed struggle, many insisting that if it had been put to the vote the Pretoria Minute would undoubtedly have been rejected.

* They condemned the abject failure of the leadership to respond decisively to the violence unleashed by Inkatha in the townships of the Transvaal.

* The leadership was put in the dock for failing to mobilise the masses in the urban areas, let alone the rural areas. They said that this was because the leadership was guilty of proceeding in an undemocratic, bureaucratic manner and, over many months, had repeatedly failed to draw in or consult their potential mass constituency. Many pointed to the ANC’s small membership (estimated at 200,000) after ten months of legality.

* They roundly rejected the leadership’s idea of softening the demand for sanctions.

7. However, the perspective of the militant opposition to the leadership was, and still remains, confused. At base, there is still a commitment to the negotiations strategy and loyalty to the ANC. The perspective is not one of revolution but of radical reform through negotiations, even if by means of exercising mass pressure. Furthermore, the two-stage perspective is still generally accepted, and in the climate of reformism previous recognition of the inextricable link between apartheid and capitalism has been submerged.

8. Despite the weight given to the question of the violence in Natal and the Transvaal at the Consultative Conference, Inkatha and Buthelezi were not singled out in the documents voted as enemies who had to be crushed.

9. Furthermore, the resolutions reflected no criticism of the mixed economy policy of the ANC nor of its abandonment of the nationalisation clause in the Freedom Charter.

10. Besides calling for the need to build ‘local alliance structures’ (including COSATU no doubt), there was no specific reference to the working class or the trade unions and their interests in the resolutions. The new emphasis on mass struggle, if taken seriously, flies in the face of the Stalinist leaders (ably assisted by their new syndicalist allies), who have told workers not to ‘damage’ the economy any further by strike action.

11. A major source of the terrible confusion is of course the SACP, which has continued to play the role of providing ‘theoretical’ credibility and political rationalisation for the sell-out course taken by the ANC. Even before the Consultative Conference, the SACP leadership was gearing itself for criticism from below. Slovo, wily old Stalinist that he is, put forward the view that the main aim of the conference was to emerge with a ‘balance’ between negotiations and mass struggle – much like his ‘new realist’ idea of the mixed economy as a ‘balance between the market and planning’. He even admitted that in the course of negotiations thus far, ‘the people’ have ‘in part’ been ignored.

12. At the conference, there was no shortage of mea culpas, admissions of mistakes and concessions to the militancy of the rank and file. But the fact remains that all the conference resolutions were adopted unanimously. By the end of the conference, the cracks in the ANC were relatively successfully papered over. Most delegates probably felt that the ‘balance’, which the politically unbalanced Slovo had referred to, had been achieved.

13. But the contradictions have proved to be deep-seated. Subsequent actions on the part of the ANC leadership have produced new sources of discontent, adding to old accumulated grievances.

14. No more than a couple of weeks after the Conference, fresh anger was prompted. The significance of Mandela’s defence of ‘confidential talks’ was revealed. His announcement on behalf of the ANC Executive of their acceptance of the idea of an All Party Conference, came like a bolt from the blue. The Conference had certainly not given the NEC a mandate to adopt this new tactical turn.

15. The ANC executive’s acceptance of the De Klerk regime’s All Party Conference idea, which includes the likes of Inkatha and the Conservative Party, is another major political concession to the De Klerk regime and the South African bourgeoisie. It indicates that the petty bourgeois nationalist leadership is prepared to cynically weather more anger from the militant rank and file, and determined to press on with a rotten sell-out completely over their heads. In so doing they clearly want to play their part in securing a ‘new world order’ for imperialism.

17. The programme of action adopted at the Consultative Conference, despite its reformist framework, insofar as it is centred on mass action (including the building of defence units aided by Umkhonto we Sizwe) and expresses the militancy of the rank and file, can facilitate a new set of dynamics which could throw the negotiations process into chaos and force a real political rupture within the ANC.

18. The challenge is for Trotskyists to solidify their contact with the discontented militants within the ANC. The main task is to give programmatic shape to the discontent, and deepen the rift with the class collaborationist leadership.


1. The crisis of Stalinism has had a peculiar effect on the South African Communist Party. SACP militants have not escaped the trauma experienced by their counterparts worldwide.

2. The depth of the SACP’s bankruptcy has never been more glaringly evident. Try as it may, its leadership has no answers to the charge of complicity in all the crimes of Stalinism. Despite the desperate efforts of that political eel, Joe Slovo, no amount of cover-up, self-confession or born-again cries of repentance can satisfy the serious militants within the ranks of the SACP.

3. Here we have an organisation that, over a number of decades, like its counterparts worldwide and following its political masters in the Kremlin, systematically perverted revolutionary Marxism. Indeed, more than many other Stalinist parties in the capitalist countries, the SACP has been a consistently loyal supporter of both the ‘general line’ and every reactionary twist and turn of the Stalinist bureaucracies of the Soviet Union and almost all of the Eastern European deformed workers’ states.

4. But not only was the SACP a leading defender of all the innumerable crimes of Stalinism worldwide, but, indeed it committed innumerable Stalinist crimes on South African soil. For decade after decade it misguided the finest proletarian militants, feeding them on this perversion of Marxism. The impact of this political cancer has taken a savage toll, especially in a country like South Africa, that has been so ripe for revolution.

5. Despite being able to draw on the resources of the workers states of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, despite powerful political, economic and material ties with bourgeois nationalist regimes throughout the world, despite having a tremendously powerful international apparatus, despite having crushed revolutionary opposition, Stalinism has collapsed primarily from its own inner decay. The result has been an attempt on the part of the leadership of the SACP to free itself from any connection with this rotten political organism.

6. The implosion of Stalinism, with it having for so long pretended to be a defender of socialism, rather than the caricature that was ‘socialism in one country’, has resulted in the name of socialism being hideously besmirched. Furthermore, today Stalinism has not only capitulated to imperialist capitalism but has also allowed imperialism to appear as the champion of freedom and democracy.

7. Today the SACP leadership cannot account for the suddenness and comprehensiveness of the collapse. It is plain for all to see that the SACP foresaw nothing, understood nothing and today has no answers for the South African working class. It has no claim to being a Marxist or a Leninist party. At the risk of being grossly ahistorical, we assert: a Leninist party would not only have had an explanation for what happened but a Leninist party would long ago have fought against what was happening; a Leninist party would have anticipated the crisis of the Soviet Union and Eastern European states and have provided the political basis for resolving it; a Leninist party would have long ago admitted that it had made serious mistakes and would have corrected these in time; a Leninist party would today have a political programme for the international working class to go forward. The SACP has failed miserably on every one of these criteria. But, of course, for almost seventy years, the SACP / CPSA has not been a Leninist party.

8. The SACP served and supported the Stalinist bureaucracies in the workers states as much as it was given assistance.

9. Right up to now this party has consistently followed the rotten line of the chiefs of Stalinism, the Moscow bureaucracy. It was politically part of the suppression of the working class political revolutions in East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968) and Poland (1981). It also denounced the then genuine trade union movement of .the workers of Poland, Solidarnosc, which was militantly fighting for the overthrow of the oppressive and corrupt Stalinist bureaucracy, as a counter-revolutionary, CIA-led organization.

10. In its 1989 program, ‘The Path to Power’, there is not a hint of the kind of crisis and collapse that was soon to come in the Soviet Union and the states of Eastern Europe. And who better than the SACP leadership knew of the misery of the masses and oppressive bureaucratic regime of their closest allies. It says absolutely nothing about Tiananmen Square even though the events, that graphically exposed the crimes of the Chinese Stalinists, occurred only two months before the adoption of their new political programme. Now the SACP, after slavishly hailing Gorbachev as a new great leader of the world communist movement and agreeing with his new counter-revolutionary policies, does not know who to back, as the Kremlin bureaucracy is seriously fractured and the crisis in the Soviet Union reaches new depths.

11. Furthermore, in keeping with the betrayal of the Iraqi masses by the Kremlin bureaucracy, the SACP adopted a completely anti-Marxist, pacifist and pro-imperialist approach to the war in the Persian Gulf. It supported United Nations sanctions against Iraq and called for ‘the implementation of all UN resolutions’.

12. Now more than ever, only the most contemptible opportunists can claim that the United Nations is anything but a ‘thieves’ kitchen’, (as Lenin called its predecessor, the League of Nations).

13. If it is conceivable, the SACP today is even more remote from the proletarian internationalism of Lenin. It has moved even further to the right of its formerly held notion of ‘the world revolutionary process’, which itself was entirely governed by the idea of peaceful coexistence with imperialism. In reaction to the collapse of Stalinism, it now argues: ‘We have said in South Africa the shortest route to socialism is through a democratic revolution. Surely the same is true about the world revolutionary process? It is only through the spread of democracy that a real world socialist system, rooted among the people, can emerge to defeat imperialism.’ (Umsebenzi, February 1991). Consequently, we are even further from the truly Leninist and internationalist idea of a world socialist revolution.

14. The Stalinist bureaucracies, within the confines of their policy of peaceful co-existence with imperialism, provided lavish and consistent political and material support to the ANC and the SACP. Almost all of this has evaporated overnight Witnessing the crisis in the Soviet Union and the collapse in Eastern Europe, no Stalinist hack can now boldly chant, ‘Viva the Soviet Connection’!

15. For these once monolithic and all-powerful bureaucracies are either deeply split and racked with crisis (as in the case of the Soviet Union) or have been summarily displaced from power and experienced dramatic collapse in size and political influence.

16. In South Africa the SACP has wrought untold political damage. It launched a vicious slander campaign against the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU). In the 1970s, following the logic of its unscientific and petty-bourgeois characterisation of the South African regime as fascist, it ruled out the possibility of building independent fighting trade unions of black workers in South Africa!

17. In the late 1970s it led a witch-hunt against the Marxist Workers Tendency, which resulted in their activists being suspended and, finally, expelled from the ANC and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). This party also consistently undermined the trade union unity talks, despite the urgency of constituting a single South African trade union federation and the popularity of the idea amongst the great majority of South Africa’s organised black workers. Its cynical attempts at reviving SACTU inside the country during the unity talks period was a divisive and openly reactionary act against the interests of the black working class.

18. Its ‘theory’ of guerrilla warfare misled some of the country’s finest fighters into a political dead-end. As Chris Hani, MK and SACP leader has recently confessed, the ‘strategy’ had nothing to do with the armed seizure of power by the masses. Instead, as had become increasingly evident, its aim was simply one of exerting pressure on the ruling class to come to the negotiations table. The disasters of this reformist and adventurist petty bourgeois ‘strategy’, first conceived in the 1960s, by the end of the 1980s could no longer be hidden by our Stalinists as their new 1989 programme, ‘The Path to Power’, revealed.

19. Guerrillaism, with its logic of separation from the proletariat and the masses, led the SACP to be blind to the gathering storm that eventually erupted in the form of the 1973-4 black workers’ strikes and the 1976 students’ uprising. Even these tremendously significant events failed to move this ‘infallible’ Stalinist organisation. Its ‘business as usual’ attitude, led many of the young militants of the Soweto generation to flee the country to join the ‘people’s army’, and dozens to suicidal combat against the SADF.

20. However, it is not only the regime that has its hands dripping with the blood of our heroic brothers and sisters, but also the SACP itself. Many of these heroes reacted to the political bankruptcy and crass complacency of the MK, ANC and SACP leadership and the bureaucratic regime it headed. Thus they fought for democracy in both the ANC and MK in the camps in Southern Africa. They wanted their leadership to be accountable to the membership as a whole; they wanted to end corruption so rife within the leadership; above all, and somewhat misguidedly, they called for a serious prosecution of the ‘armed struggle’.

21. Today the Quatro and Pango camps reek heavily of the blood of our self-sacrificing brothers and sisters – of the flower of the 1976 generation and the Young Lions of the 1980s – tortured and killed at the hands of their Stalinist jailers-cum-leaders.

22. When the Comintern adopted the counter-revolutionary popular front strategy in the 1930s, the SACP nodded willingly and implemented it in South Africa in the form of the two-stage theory of revolution and the ‘theory’ of colonialism of a special type. Thus too was rationalised the SACP’s subordination to the petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC.

23. Ever since then, this party has not only failed to criticise the reformism and opportunism of the ANC, in its approach to the solving of the democratic tasks of our revolution, but has time and again re-affirmed the ‘vanguard’ role of this same petty-bourgeois-reformist ANC in the struggle against apartheid.

24. Immediately in the wake of the 1984-86 uprising, with the reformist negotiation plans of the ANC-SACP alliance being threatened by the eagerness with which workers and youth had adopted socialism, the SACP launched a vicious campaign against socialism and socialists within the mass movement.

25. It bureaucratically forced the adoption of the Freedom Charter onto COSATU. Its opportunism led to the unashamed and reactionary split caused in the Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (CCAWUSA), one of the most militant unions at the time. Then came the COSATU special congress of 1987, in which the SACP, in league with the ANC and SACTU, once again launched a witch-hunt and slander campaign against socialists.

26. But at the same time it was not enough for the Stalinists to strangle COSATU, they had to do so the same to the youth. Thus the unprincipled factionalist purges, accompanied by physical violence against genuine young proletarian fighters in youth and students’ organisations throughout the country. As could be expected, the result was the complete ineffectiveness of these organisations as fighting instruments of the Young Lions against the apartheid state.

27. Even now the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) stands paralysed as a result of the Stalinists. Once more the Stalinists have resorted to all sorts of destructive bureaucratic methods in order to kick out democratically elected worker-leaders and socialists in their attempt to entrench themselves in the union. Havoc has been caused in the Eastern and Western Cape regions of FAWU. But for the Stalinists this serious paralysis of a militant workers’ organization does not matter, as long as they hold the reigns. The Campaign for Democracy in FAWU, called for by the victims of Stalinism in the unions, should be fully supported by all genuine proletarian fighters.

28. In all the major struggles of the downtrodden masses of South Africa in 1990 and up the present moment, it has gone along completely with the reactionary ANC line of curbing the independent activity of the masses and urging them to remain calm and ‘disciplined’.

29. Especially since the formally adopted alliance between the SACP and COSATU, the mighty trade union federation has failed to play the political role it is capable of. Indeed the union movement has suffered serious setbacks. With the bosses maintaining the offensive, firing tens of thousands of workers, including 50,000 miners in 1990, the National Unemployed Workers Co-ordinating Committee (NUWCC) has been summarily dissolved by COSATU because of its ineffectiveness.

30. Throughout the union movement, the chill and deadly grip of the Stalinists can be felt.

31. In the townships too, it has wielded its reactionary influence; not least of all in its full backing of the ANC in politically, organisationally and militarily disarming the masses in the face of attacks from the state, Inkatha and various other counter-revolutionary forces.

32. Under a new set of world and national circumstances, the SACP is still playing its old role of trying to tie the working class to the politics of the petty bourgeoisie. Ever since its unbanning the SACP has had no independent line of intervening in the class struggle; as usual it has simply proceeded as the ‘left’ flank of the ANC in its capitulation to the De Klerk regime.

33. Today it continues with its efforts to ‘render profound’ the reformist plans of the ANC. To allay the well-founded uneasiness and suspicions of militant workers and youth, its new programme goes out of its way to ‘explain’ why, for ‘Marxist-Leninists’, the idea of insurrection and seizure of power does not exclude the idea of a negotiated settlement.

34. It has paved the way to counter-revolution by dressing up the idea of negotiations as a necessary ‘Marxist-Leninist’ step.

35. Up to this moment it still preaches the virtues of the popular front against apartheid, decrying as usual all those ‘who would like to narrow it.’ Yet again is has indicated its intolerance of those who propose a fighting workers united front against the racist capitalist regime and its allies.

36. Its idea of an ‘interim government’, ‘an all party conference’ and ‘a constituent assembly’ are imbued with petty bourgeois illusions and are thoroughly opportunist in character.

37. The articles in Umsebenzi of February 1991, setting out the SACP’s views, are full of radical rhetoric and bluster but empty of revolutionary content. It loudly proclaims: ‘The Interim Government must have real power. An Interim Government installed while the present army, police and administration exist unfettered and unchanged, will be an empty shell, not a government.’

38. But this bold, seemingly principled statement, is followed by the reactionary idea of ‘. . . an Interim Government (being) . . . linked to the beginnings of a new people’s army and people’s police force’. Now we know the schemes that the ANC and MK leadership have for integrating its forces into the SAP, SADF and the bantustan security forces. This is the people’s army and police being referred to.

39. Furthermore, the SACP acknowledge that ‘ . . . the question of . . . the security forces in particular are a big problem’, and says, ‘of course, an interim government might have the legal authority to command obedience, but it may very well have difficulty in enforcing it’ (ibid.). Exactly, ‘comrade Marxist-Leninists’.

40. But the solution for the SACP is to ensure that the National Party is included in the interim government, because it will ‘make it easier to secure enforcement’, even though this will also mean that the interim government becomes ‘a site of struggle’.

41. But even this is no problem because, as far as the SACP is concerned, ‘this is an area where we may have to consider some form of international monitoring force’. So the imperialist ‘thieves’ kitchen’ has a role to play in securing our ‘freedom and democracy’ as well.

42. The final paragraph of the relevant section in Umsebenzi on the Interim Government and the ‘problem’ of the security forces, ends with the following sentence: ‘but that still leaves the problem of how we ensure that the force functions loyally and effectively.’ Well put, too! The problem is thus left unanswered by the SACP; nor can it be answered within the reformist conciliationist framework of the ANC-SACP alliance.

43. As we have stated, the SACP has long provided the petty bourgeois nationalist ANC with the ‘theoretical’ justification for confining the struggle within bourgeois democratic boundaries. At points of intense class struggle, such as the insurrectionary period of 1984-86, the SACP leadership was compelled to mouth its rejection of the idea of distinct stages in the struggle and talked about ‘uninterrupted’ revolution. Today the revolutionary rhetoric is nowhere to be heard. Now we no longer here cries for socialism; it appears ‘Long live the mixed economy!’, is more appropriate. In the recent words of a SACP ‘theoretician’: ‘Though national democracy is not our final goal, it is nevertheless a goal which has its own validity, not simply a stepping stone to something else.’ (Malinga)

44. The same Communist ‘theoretician’ preaches the virtues not only of American ‘anti-trust laws’ but also that of Japanese investment and Japanese ‘industrial democracy’. A few weeks before the collapse of the GATT talks, this ‘Marxist-Leninist’ was extolling the virtues of full South African participation and the prospect of deriving tremendous trade advantages. Such is the logic of a Stalinism that has capitulated to imperialism.

45. Joe Slovo has led the charge in the abandonment of the demand for the nationalisation of all monopoly industry, the mines and the banks. Cowering before a determined bourgeoisie, panicking in the face of a triumphalist imperialism, traumatised by the collapse of Stalinism, ‘nationalisation’ is dismissed as a term only producing confusion.

46. But none of the above means that we can ignore the continued popularity of the SACP amongst workers and youth. In the absence of a bold and single-minded alternative, the best proletarian fighters, workers and youth, will continue to look to ‘the Party’ for guidance and direction. This means further confusion and disorientation.

47. The SACP has now been unbanned for over a year. It has held massive launching rallies in Cape Town, Umtata, Soweto and recently Port Elizabeth – the latter being one of the largest political rallies ever held in South Africa. This party swelled its ranks with militant workers and youth during the insurrectionary period of 1984-86. Since its unbanning, despite the world crisis of Stalinism, its popularity amongst workers and proletarian youth continues.

48. However, as should be clear, this has nothing to do with the SACP being a revolutionary Marxist party. The militant black workers and youth mistakenly turn to the SACP as the party of socialism. Through their own daily experiences and bitter struggles against apartheid-capitalism they have come to the correct conclusion that only socialism is the answer to their political, economic and social problems.

49. They have therefore rallied behind a party: that posed as fighting for socialism; that still carries the label ‘communist’; that was linked to the Soviet Union and other ‘socialist states’; that was banned in South Africa; that continues to speak in a radical-sounding language; that spearheaded the campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Pretoria regime. Especially in the heady days of 1984-86, it was not inexplicable that some of the best worker and youth fighters moved beyond the ANC to what they considered to be their ‘red home’.

50. However, as the ANC struggles to free itself from the influence of the mighty black working class, more and more difficult becomes the traditional role of the SACP. This, combined with the fate of its counterparts worldwide, means that the SACP is presently caught in a mortal historical crisis.

51. Its attempts to shed its old Stalinist skin express this. It pretends to have adopted a new liberal face, and now preaches a quaint form of social democracy. International trends strongly indicate the political fate of the SACP. Despite its present popularity, given mounting internal contradictions and under the hammer blows of the class struggle, it will be torn apart.

52. For Trotskyists, there is no thus shortage of opportunities for making gains at the expense of the SACP; for thoroughly exposing the SACP for what it is and has been. In the coming period, through consistent propaganda and correct tactics, the best proletarian fighters within and under influence of the SACP must be won to the revolutionary Marxism of today, to the banner of a rebuilt Fourth International.


1. Over a year after February 2 1990, the black masses are on the defensive. The expectation that township organisations would flourish in the wake of the unbannings and other features of De Klerk’s glasnost has not been realised. Furthermore, the mighty South African trade union movement is in a state of severe crisis. At the very moment when one would expect the black working class to surge forward with renewed confidence and swell the unions bringing to bear its political and organisational experience in the townships, things developed in quite a different manner.

2. 1990 began with great, renewed political expectation on the part of the black working class as a result of De Klerk’s reform from above.

3. But the ANC and the SACP have done everything in their power to pour cold water on this enthusiasm of the masses. Their approach is essentially to get on with the business of political bartering with the De Klerk regime, so that they can gain one form of political power or another as soon as possible. The black masses, with their burning hunger for democracy and freedom from apartheid oppression and exploitation and their tendency to want to express themselves in the form of direct mass action, are so much of a nuisance to a leadership hellbent on reformist politicking and securing a deal with the bourgeoisie.

4. Not only have they gone to great lengths to discourage independent mass action on the part of the workers and youth but their whole perspective is one of peaceful constitutional change in which supposed leaders are the active protagonists and the masses are passive onlookers. While the leaders negotiate, the masses are expected to wait. Where mass action is proposed it is only as a means to maintain credibility and is heavily circumscribed to ensure that things do not ‘get out of hand’. What has been avoided like the plague is the channelling of localised struggles around particular questions into a raging torrent of national protest in which the masses give full vent to all their demands and call for the immediate convening of a constituent assembly that can take decisive steps to realise these demands.

5. In fact, about the living apartheid reality that the masses wish to be rid of, the ANC and the SACP leadership are completely cynical. There is talk of a number of years passing before we can expect the basic demands of the oppressed masses, related to wages, jobs, housing, health, education, land and all the other extant expressions of apartheid, to be even partially met. And according to their economic policy, everything is dependent on capitalism flourishing in this period. Contrary to the bitter experience of the workers and poor peasants in every capitalist country throughout the world, the South African masses are being asked to accept that further capitalist development will lead to a real change in their living conditions and standards.

6. In the months after February 2 1990 there was a marked rise in strike activity compared to 1989. It was significant that new layers of the working class came to the fore in militant strike action. State employees (municipal workers, hospital workers, railway workers and teachers), workers from poorly organised sectors (farm workers, domestic workers) and bantustan workers in their hundreds of thousands resorted to militant action. Shopworkers sustained a tremendous strike battle; and paper, print, wood and allied workers followed suit. By the first week of July 1990 there were over 50,000 workers out on strike throughout South Africa. In the first half of 1990 three times more days were ‘lost’ through strikes than in the same period in 1989.

7. It was also significant that, in many more cases than before, workers were driven to action around expressly political demands. There were numerous strikes against racism at workplaces, against apartheid practices – by laundry workers against the handling of SADF uniforms, for reincorporation of the bantustan into South Africa. In some cases even prison wardens and policemen broke rank and resorted to uncustomary militant action. De Klerk’s glasnost gave confidence to workers to raise the full range of their political and economic demands.

8. But this sustained political militancy and growing class consciousness was in spite of the debilitating efforts of the Stalinist dominated leadership of COSATU and the numbing influence of the ANC. The mighty South African trade union movement, despite not having been completely crushed by the apartheid bourgeoisie and despite having its expectation roused by De Klerk’s reform from below, especially since July 1990, has been effectively hamstrung by the reformism of its leadership.

9. Furthermore, the South African working class also had to contend with a bourgeoisie racked by economic crisis and in no mood for economic concessions to the working class. The capitalist bosses have been merciless on the working class. As is usual they point to the double figure inflation and argue that it is produced by unreasonable wage demands. Resisting wage increases, laying off tens of thousands of workers, continuing with its policy of privatisation and deregulation, the South African trade union movement has been driven onto the defensive by the bourgeoisie.

10. When the bosses’ attempts to maintain their profits have seen 50 000 miners pushed out of their jobs, and tens of thousands more in other sectors in 1990 alone, the mighty COSATU appears to be helpless to organise any serious defence for those simply discarded by a decaying capitalism. Rearguard ‘arrangements’ with the bosses by the NUM ‘reducing the number (!) of retrenchments’ and allowing for a three month period of ‘unpaid (!) leave’, have been all that the besieged working class has been offered; and these have been hailed as great breakthroughs by the union leadership.

11. The Stalinist dominated trade union leadership has acted in accordance with a scarcely disguised pact with the capitalist bourgeoisie. Now the idea of a ‘social contract’ between the workers, the bosses and the state is being actively championed by the ANC-SACP-COSATU leadership. Furthermore, this leadership has presented workers with the crude argument that insofar as a ‘transfer of power’ to the people is imminent, they must be careful not to damage the economy by irresponsible action and making unrealistic demands.

12. Not a single one of COSATU’s vitally important campaigns, (including the Living Wage campaign, the Workers Charter campaign, the Unemployed Workers campaign) has been seriously and consistently taken up and waged by COSATU or even any of its affiliates. Outside of a few days of action, where workers have been called on to demonstrate, they have remained largely paper campaigns. All their tremendous potential for recruitment to the unions and drawing millions of workers into active political struggle at a vitally important time, has been squandered. Instead there has been a levelling out and even a tapering off of union membership.

13. The anti-Labour Relations Act campaign, heralded as a mighty victory for the working class by the trade union leadership, has been nothing but a model of the new class collaborationist policy. Over the last three years the opportunist leadership in the unions have promoted the idea of an alliance between the workers and the ‘enlightened’ bosses in SACCOLA against the intransigent state. Now it claims that this rotten policy has brought victory.

Rather than the ‘campaign’ being an opportunity to mobilise millions of workers behind the demand for a workers government, it has simply served the cause of the reformist ‘negotiationists’. The ANC-SACP-COSATU now point to it as the best example of the kind of tripartite deal that satisfies all leading parties – the workers, the bosses and the state.

14. The central reason for the disastrous turn of events has been the fact that a Stalinist-dominated clique has effectively seized control over COSATU. Vital struggles have been sabotaged and sections of workers betrayed by their leadership in order to put on a good face for the bourgeoisie and De Klerk in the negotiations.

15. The most glaring example of the role and purpose of this bureaucratic layer was the Mercedes Benz strike in the Eastern Cape, in which workers who had occupied the factory for three weeks were dealt a crushing blow by the bosses. The latter not only had the fullest co-operation of key ANC and SACP officials but, at the end of the strike these officials agreed to a deal which included a commitment on the part of workers at the factory to ‘industrial peace’.

16. In July 1990, the mighty metal workers of South Africa – organised largely in NUMSA, the political pace-setters of the new black trade unions in the 1980s in South Africa and the leading socialist union – were squaring up for a tremendous battle with the bosses over wages. But on the eve of what would undoubtedly have been the biggest wage strike in South African history, the leadership of NUMSA backed down. The reasons given were sad testimony to how far the union had been taken over by a new Stalinist leadership. These ‘leaders’ argued that the metal workers would have been isolated and that a strike would have precipitated further township violence, especially in the Transvaal.

17. This defeatist perspective is the offspring of the marriage between the Stalinists and the syndicalists in the COSATU unions. Today the depth of the treachery is clear. If, for example, COSATU and NUMSA had responded decisively to Inkatha’s challenge in the townships of the East Rand in July 1990, then what has become a raging fire of state-aided violence and reaction against the masses could have been immediately snuffed out. The organised power of the mighty black working class could have been used to the greatest political effect. Instead, an ignominious retreat was beaten, with the ANC leaders bleating about the regime’s responsibility for ending the violence and the masses left disorganised and unarmed to bear the brunt of Inkatha’s onslaught. Hence the divisive plans of De Klerk and Gatsha Buthelezi were given the fullest scope to flourish.

18. Numerous other episodes indicate the ‘new political thinking’ of the trade union leadership: in May 1990 the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), in keeping with a new found sense of ‘responsibility’, called on its workers not to support a stayaway in protest against the Labour Relations Act and the demand that public sector employees be given the same status as workers in other sectors.

19. The Stalinist clique has been at the centre of all kinds of bureaucratic manoeuvres to stamp out any challenge from the left. Slander and lies have been used against militant union officials and shop stewards in FAWU, who have dared to challenge the methods and policy of the Stalinist clique. These crude, divisive and cynical measures, once completely alien to the tradition of democracy in the black union movement, have seriously impaired the work of FAWU and resulted in the disappointment and even demoralisation of an important section of its membership.

20. What the South African struggle needs most of all at this moment is a combative union movement through which workers can regain their confidence as a class and feel their collective strength in direct action. But, despite the talk of ending apartheid, the organised section of the black working class (which is the only force capable of smashing apartheid completely) is again and again coming up against obstacles laid in its path by its own leadership.

21. The struggle in the townships has followed a similar pattern to developments on the factory floor and in the unions.

22. Despite the black masses in the townships sensing that freedom was at hand and being roused to renewed action around their both their political and immediate economic demands in the first half of 1990, they have been seriously disorientated by the ANC’s policy and approach.

23. After De Klerk made his February 2 speech, ferment spread throughout the townships of South Africa. According to official statistics, in the month of February of 1990 alone, there were 1127 unrest incidents in South Africa, compared with 260 in February 1987, 394 in February 1988 and 202 in February 1989.

24. Simmering localised battles that had been sparked off in the third quarter of 1989, already were qualitatively intensifIed. A militant countrywide campaign against town councillors – the local agents of apartheid – was launched. The call went out to crush these opportunists, who had betrayed the demand for one person one vote by agreeing to accept blood money to operate the fraudulent political scheme of their paymasters. Thousands of lives have been lost in the fIght against these stooges. By April, dozens of these puppets had resigned, now claiming allegiance to ‘the people’; with many having to flee the township at the hands of angry residents.

25. Hundreds of thousands of urban township and small town residents and squatters, marched, protested and demonstrated, participated in rent strikes, carried out consumer boycotts – raising all their political and economic demands: against the town councillors and management committees; for a single, unitary, democratic system of municipal government; against high rent and electricity charges; against the ‘stable conditions’ under which countless people are forced to live; against the anti-Squatter Act; for decent housing; for basic service such as electricity, water and sewerage.

26. In all the bantustans, hundreds of thousands gave voice to their hatred of these prison houses. Here too the full range of demands was militantly raised: for the reincorporation of the bantustans into a single, united, democratic South Africa; for the resignation of bantustan governments; for democratic, non-racial, unitary town councils; for democratically elected residents to replace the hated headmen; for land; for work; for an end to migrant labour, for piped water; for health facilities; and so on.

27. Never before had the struggle against the bantustan system attained such a sweep and reached such intensity. Marches, demonstrations, general strikes, attacks on government collaborators, attacks on government property and on factories and shops – left the hated bantustan governments and their apartheid masters quaking in their boots.

28. Of course the rulers hit back. The apartheid state responded with customary arrogance and violent repression to the political upsurge of the masses: electricity and water supplies have been cut off by local authorities: the state of emergency extended; in numerous instances police fired on protesters killing hundreds; thousands were arrested or detained. The response of the bantustan authorities was similar: states of emergency were declared; protesters were shot; thousands arrested and detained.

29. State repression was complemented by reactionary violence against the masses throughout South Africa, especially in Natal and the Transvaal.

30. By February 1991, since 1986, over 10,000 lives had been lost as a result of the attacks spearheaded by Buthelezi’s Inkatha. Natal had become South Africa’s killing fields, with Inkatha taking the opportunity to launch an all-out attack against COSATU, the UDF and their supporters.

31. With the nationwide upsurge in 1990, fearing a membership challenge from the ANC, Inkatha was determined to maintain the political initiative and ensure its recognition as a leading political force at the negotiation table. It announced that it was becoming a national political party and launched a massive offensive, stepping up activities in Natal and unleashing a fresh campaign of terror in the townships of the Transvaal.

32. So while the masses have demonstrated their readiness to do open class battle, while the state and its allies wreak havoc in the townships, the ANC-SACP leadership clings to its politics of reformism. In the workplaces, townships and bantustans of South Africa, the ANC-SACP leadership has channelled the struggle for liberation into a political dead-end. Enough has happened to amply demonstrate that the ‘new realist’ politics of the leadership of the popular, traditional organisations of the masses, will lead to a wholesale betrayal if an alternative leadership does not emerge.

33. In examining the developments of the past year, we must realise that the tradition of revolutionary mass struggle in South Africa is being threatened with destruction.

34. Partnership with the bourgeoisie and its state; this is the new slogan of the petty-bourgeois nationalist and Stalinist leadership. Instead of building organs of struggle and thereby preparing organs of dual power, the ANC-SACP leadership is falling over its feet to constitute organs of class collaboration and conciliation.

35. In the townships, instead of providing leadership to the upsurge of spontaneous struggles in the months after De Klerk’s speech, it repeatedly raised the new watchwords of ‘discipline’, ‘order’ and ‘peace’. Instead of giving political shape to these struggles and ensuring the building of organisation, it proceeded to keep the enthusiasm of the masses in check.

36. We now hear worker leaders such as Moses Mayekiso calling for township organisations to shed their militancy. According to these budding bureaucrats, the time for mass protest and demonstrations is over. What is required is ‘affirmative action’ and ‘developmental’ politics.

37. What has been proposed and acted upon is the idea of the full co-operation between township organisations and the existing local government structures. Active support is being sought from capitalists to provide finances for these new reformist schemes. From the Moses Mayekiso of insurrectionary area and street committees in 1984-86, to the Moses Mayekiso of today’s reformist, parliamentary politics, it seems like light years rather than half a decade.

38. In the case of the violence unleashed by Inkatha and actively supported by the De Klerk regime, the ANC-SACP leadership have exposed the depth of their political bankruptcy. Humming and hawing, to-ing and fro-ing, blundering and blustering, it has produced nothing but confusion, disappointment, disorganisation and demoralisation on the part of the masses, including its supporters.

39. From militant calls to isolate Inkatha made by COSATU and SAYCO, to proposals of a joint alliance with Inkatha; from denouncing the butchery and terrorism of Inkatha, to praising the progressive political role played by Buthelezi and Inkatha; from the highly successful 3 million strong stayaway and week-long nationwide protest organised by ANC-COSATU-UDF in June 1990, to the embarrassing climb-down meeting between Mandela and Buthelezi; from signing joint peace pacts with Inkatha, to making belated rhetorical calls, under pressure from the masses, for the formation of defence units; from excluding apartheid collaborators, especially Inkatha, as being on the side of the masses to inviting Inkatha, to calling on them to participate in the campaign for a constituent assembly – such is the vacillatory and reactionary character of the politics of petty bourgeois nationalism and Stalinism.

40. In the case of the bantustans, the ANC has chased after supposedly ‘progressive’ bantustan leaders. The very elements who were party to the sustained brutal repression of the masses for many years are regarded as having undergone some kind of political conversion. Holomisa is regarded as ‘a man of the people’ and an ally of the ANC. Inkatha has been thanked by Mandela for its role in championing the unbanning of the ANC and the release of political prisoners.

41. In May 1990, the ANC were boasting that all bantustan leaders, except for Mangope of Bophuthatswa and Buthelezi of Kwazulu, were on the side of the ANC rather than the De Klerk regime. This was soon after De Klerk had had a meeting with the leaders of the five ‘non-independent’ bantustans. It was claimed that the majority of bantustan leaders were dissatisfied with the meeting. Ramodike of Lebowa was even reported to have said that he was waiting for his ANC membership card to be issued. Mabuza of Kangwane also indicated sympathies for the ANC.

42. Ten months later, after the combined efforts of De Klerk and Buthelezi have exposed the ANC leadership as indecisive, vacillatory windbags, the policy of chasing after rotten long-discredited and hated leaders of the bantustans has itself been discredited.

43. Major Holomisa of the Transkei is nothing but a political opportunist. Coming to power on the basis of a coup, he has all the characteristics of a military man who has sprung into the political limelight with him possessing all kinds of delusions about his role. And the ANC has fed these delusions, treating him as a genuine leader of the masses. Anyone who has witnessed the role of the repressive state apparatus in the Transkei knows the depth of Holomisa’s complicity in all its crimes against the masses. It has been the major instrument of the reign of terror typical of all bantustan regimes. Furthermore, since he has come to power, the Transkei has been run as a military regime, which like its predecessor has not hesitated to put down strikes and protests. And now the ANC dresses up this political thug, who, obviously oblivious of the contempt that the masses have for the corrupt and brutal bureaucrats who staffed the bantustan administration, has said: ‘Seasoned administrators from the homelands will be called upon to play a decisive role and make an impartial contribution towards the running of a new South Africa . . . The homeland governments have played a crucial role by letting their residents acquire immense and unfathomable experience and knowledge of running state affairs and administering public property.’ The fact that the ANC can promote such a figure expresses how remote they are from championing the interests of the masses who have suffered the worst kind of oppression at the hand of these ‘seasoned’, ‘experienced’, ‘knowledgeable’ ‘administrators’ and ‘homeland governments’ .

44. Furthermore, in line with this approach, and contrary to the demand for democratically elected residents to represent the masses in the bantustans, the ANC continues to promote the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA), with its undemocratic and arch-conservative perspectives. These ‘traditional leaders’ have been leading proponents of the idea of ‘discipline’ and ‘restraint’ for the masses.

45. All South Africa militants must grasp what is happening. The petty bourgeoisie, under heavy pressure from the bourgeoisie is actively working to undermine the class confidence of the proletariat and to deliver it, muzzled and bound, to the bourgeoisie. This is not because the petty bourgeoisie are naturally treacherous. But this is the inexorable logic of negotiation politics. In the absence of an independently mobilised working class, where the bourgeoisie has maintained the political initiative, this is inevitable.

46. Political conclusions must be sharply drawn. We must resist the subordination of the independent interests of the black working class to the short-sighted policies and reactionary illusions of the political line of the black petty-bourgeoisie. We must fight the political treachery of the Stalinist and petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership of the SACP and ANC.

47. In the heat of the ensuing battles, an alternative revolutionary leadership must emerge. The way must be paved now for the emergence of a Trotskyist party capable of leading the working class out of the impasse of negotiations and on to the seizure of power.


1. Today the struggle in South Africa is at a crossroads. While the masses are desperately seeking a way forward from the misery that is apartheid-capitalism, while their expectations have been raised, while time after time they demonstrate their readiness to sacrifice everything for victory over the ruling class – their present political leaders obstruct them and are proceeding to conduct a cruel act of betrayal.

2. A way out must be found that is based on the activity and initiative of the masses themselves. What is urgently required is a programme of action that gives clear political and organisational expression to their aspirations and interests.

3. Such a programme must be drawn up by the Trotskyist vanguard in South Africa on the basis of closely following developments within the class struggle. No other force is qualified for such a task. Guided by the method of the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International adopted in 1938, but on the basis of a concrete analysis of the particular class dynamics of the South African revolution, revolutionary Marxist co-thinkers must proceed immediately to draft such a guiding document.

4. Such a programme must set out: the key slogans of the period; what sequence they should follow; how they must be combined and fought for within the ranks of the mass proletarian organisations. The aim must be to indicate what the working class must fight for, how it must fight, who the allies of the proletariat are and against which enemies it must do battle.


Our general political perspectives

1. We submit the following perspectives as a step towards drafting such a programme of action.

* We are guided by the perspective of permanent revolution.

* The relative weighting, combination and sequence of our demands are determined by the national peculiarities of South Africa.

* The existence of decades of apartheid oppression and the absence for the black masses of basic democratic rights means that the question of democracy is of central importance.

* At the same time, especially given the social and political weight of the proletariat, that it constitutes an overwhelming majority in South Africa and that it has been steeled and organised through the richest political experiences, at no stage must the class demands of the proletariat be subordinated. Indeed they too have an immediate and central place in our political programme.

* We believe that it would be absolutely wrong to mechanically separate the democratic demands of the black masses and the class demands of the proletariat. From the start they must be combined in a transitional programme that, if consciously and consistently fought for, will lead to the conquest of state power by the working class, the establishment of its class dictatorship and the opening of the way to socialism.

* Living apartheid-capitalist reality in South Africa demands that we neither divide our revolution into two stages nor ‘simply’ struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism.

* To do the former, is to follow the .bankrupt and treacherous policy of the ANC, so ardently rationalised by the Stalinist SACP, in the name of ‘Marxism-Leninism’.

* To do the latter is to fall into a sectarian trap and prevent the proletarian vanguard, let alone the masses as a whole, from being won to the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism.

A programme of action: the significance of the constitutionalist illusions and the reactionary violence

2. The immediate political context is characterised chiefly by two things: the constitutionalist illusions of the masses and the reactionary violence in the townships. These two key features give particular shape to the programme of action that must be taken into the working class. In other words, whereas our programme is based on a scientific Marxist analysis of the present situation, the way in which we struggle for it within the black working class and the masses must take the two above factors fully into account. They provide the particular context within which we must fight.

3. The scale of the constitutionalist illusions of the masses springs from a number of different sources.

* In the first place, the fact that the black masses have been denied any democratic rights for so many bitter years under apartheid-capitalism has powerfully served to engender such illusions.

* Coming after a period of serious political set-backs, since the insurrectionary days of 1984-86, these have been further fed, both by De Klerk’s reform from above and the ANC-SACP’s commitment to negotiations.

* The black masses are thus deeply affected by the petty bourgeois notion that freedom is at hand and that apartheid will soon be ended by peaceful negotiation with De Klerk.

* Furthermore, the reformist, conciliationist policy of the ANC-SACP has played a particular destructive role, all but erasing from memory the experience of the insurrectionary events of 1984-86 and systematically suppressing the class consciousness of the proletariat.

* The overwhelming majority of farm workers and proletarianised masses of the bantustans have not experienced an active political life; having even been largely excluded from the insurrectionary events of 1984-86.

* Thus, only a small vanguard of workers and proletarian youth have begun to see through the powerful constitutionalist illusions that the ANC-SACP has helped to engender. Of course we must struggle to further develop this vanguard, both politically and numerically. Only a vanguard party of the working class can lead the masses to victory. But our strategic task is to win the masses.

* Insofar as the masses have these constitutionalist illusions, we will go along with what is progressive about them. In the first place, we therefore recognise that the situation is opportune for raising all the democratic and anti-apartheid demands of the masses.

* At the same time the notion that these demands can and will be won through negotiations must be consistently fought. Every opportunity must be used to expose the fact that negotiations are a trap and that, unless the masses begin to struggle against them, a monumental sell-out awaits them.

4. The reactionary violence unleashed by Inkatha and actively supported by the De Klerk regime serves a particular function for the political programme of the bourgeoisie as a whole.

* The reactionary anti-democratic aims of Buthelezi and Inkatha are clear. Two developments pointed to their intentions: in May 1990, Buthelezi announced that Inkatha was now a national organisation; in early June 1990, the Inkatha Youth Brigade called on the ANC to stop supporting the ‘victimisation’ of Inkatha supporters ‘to prevent inter-organisational violence erupting in Soweto’. These were warnings signs of the terror to come.

* Unlike the vacillatory ANC, and as a thoroughgoing reactionary agent of the bourgeoisie, Buthelezi has been politically consistent and followed words with deeds. At Inkatha’s national launch, the Chief Minister said: ‘. . . no power on earth will stop us being a powerful force at the negotiating table’. Drawing strength from the five year long terror campaign in Natal, Inkatha was determined to assert itself as a national force. Buthelezi gave material substance to his threats by launching a carefully orchestrated campaign of violence in the townships of the Transvaal.

* As a product of the bantustan policy, Buthelezi has always been backed politically by the apartheid state. De Klerk, in his February 2 speech, made it quite clear that his place in the negotiations was especially secure. Insofar as the bare words of assurance of the apartheid master were not in themselves sufficient – and Buthelezi knows full well the depth of the hatred that militant workers and youth have for him and Inkatha – the violence in the Transvaal and Natal has been unleashed as a second insurance policy.

* As a result, the ANC leadership has been placed completely on the defensive. The masses have been left all the more confused, disorganised and intimidated. These results and reactions have confirmed for both De Klerk and Buthelezi the practical wisdom of the violence. Their mutual political aims have been secured.

* Despite the formal public denials on the part of De Klerk and his ministers, the violence unleashed by Inkatha has and will continue to receive state backing.

* The aims of the ruling class are equally clear – the masses, especially those who constitute the popular base of the ANC-SACP alliance, have to be tamed. The carefully orchestrated and systematic campaign seeks to disorganise and demoralise the masses in the townships of the Transvaal. It is therefore no accident that the main targets for this state-aided terror are the very townships where some of the most militant political and union battles were waged throughout the 1980s.

5. The masses desperately require a programme of action that can give political and organisational expression to their demand for democracy and an end to apartheid. The call for a constituent assembly is thus a key demand in this situation. But if the constituent assembly is to be convened by the masses themselves (and this is the only way to guarantee that it will be a genuinely democratic constituent assembly), and if elections to it are to be free and fair, then the state-aided reactionary violence must be beaten back. The enemies of democracy must be unmasked; faith in the existing De Klerk regime, with its police and army, must be dispelled. Our programme of action must serve all these aims.

The struggle for the constituent assembly and the struggle for power

6. Taking the immediate political situation properly into account, the call for a revolutionary democratic constituent assembly must be the central democratic slogan of the present period.

7. In opposition to the reformists and opportunists, we must take up the slogan for the constituent assembly as Bolsheviks, i.e. as the most consistent democrats while being armed with the perspective of permanent revolution. Our struggle for the constituent assembly is aimed at shortening the road to the proletarian dictatorship.

8. We take fully into account the existing consciousness of the masses, including their illusions in parliamentary constitutionalist solutions. But our militant tactical line, informed by the method of the Transitional Programme, must ensure that in the process of struggle these illusions are shed, and the question of class power is sharply posed for the millions in the townships, in the factories, on the mines, on the farms and in the bantustans.

9. And this is only possible if at the moment we centre our demands around the winning of 100% democracy and the complete ending of every vestige of the apartheid reality so hated by the masses. The idea of the black masses for the first time taking full democratic control over their lives and ending all oppression is thus central to the further development of the class consciousness of the proletariat.

10. We must fight against the fraudulent anti-Marxist approach of the ANC-SACP to the question of the state. We know that the petty bourgeoisie is prone to substituting its own desires for reality, and no more so than on the question of the state. It believes it can simply inherit state power through securing the largest share of governmental power. For as long as the bourgeoisie owns and controls the means of production, the state in South Africa will be a capitalist state. But under capitalism, the state has to protect both the economic and political interests of the ruling bourgeoisie. Even with the ANC securing a leading place in a new government, the established props of bourgeois rule will remain. The bourgeoisie will remain the ruling class; the army and the police will continue to act in its service. The ANC itself will only be a new governmental instrument of the ruling bourgeoisie.

11. Until and unless the bourgeois state machinery is smashed up by alternative emergent organs of state power, i.e. workers soviets, and serious inroads are made into bourgeois property relations, the bourgeoisie will continue to be in the driving seat and dictate events in accordance with its basic class interests. This means that the foundations of apartheid will remain intact; the masses would not have won the freedom and democracy they have so long fought and died for.

12. Drawing on the lessons of history, which have so clearly vindicated the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and other revolutionary Marxists, we therefore warn the South African workers against illusions in negotiations, parliamentarism and peaceful reform. Real change will only come about through the masses, having built organs of dual power in the townships and workplaces, arms in hand, wresting power from the ruling class.

13. We are confident that in the course of the struggle, which will have to be conducted against all the forces opposed to democracy, including their own present leadership, on the basis of their living experience and consistent political intervention and patient explanation (in the form of propaganda, agitation and organisation) on the part of the Bolshevik vanguard, the illusions of the masses will be shed. The masses will learn the scientific truths of Marxism, i.e. the correctness of the Trotskyist programme, in the school of revolutionary practice.


De KIerk and the bourgeoisie: the question of the state

1. The bourgeoisie longs for stable political conditions so that it can get on with its central concern of amassing profits.

2. But it is well aware of the explosive situation that exists in South Africa Whereas the international balance of forces is strongly in its favour at present, it realises that time is once more running out. The black masses, despite being pummelled and intimidated from all sides, remain restless and continue to pose a political threat to bourgeois rule. Furthermore, the bourgeoisie’s economic position remains extremely unstable. It has therefore had to proceed on the basis of a multi-pronged strategy.

3. De Klerk is the leading political representative of the South African bourgeoisie. The temporary and extremely superficial rifts, that surfaced in the bourgeois camp in 1984-86, have been completely sealed. Furthermore, De Klerk has been given increased political backing from the major imperialist powers.

4. De Klerk’s general aim has been to force the leadership of the ANC-SACP alliance into accepting political terms that do not threaten the bourgeoisie’s fundamental interests. The ruling class has thus gone onto a mighty offensive against the key political and economic clauses of the ANC’s Freedom Charter. And its efforts have met with obvious success.

5. At the same time, the De Klerk regime has sought to draw the ANC-SACP leadership solidly into a coalition with itself. But for progress to be made with this, it could not accept an ANC that was directly responsive and answerable to its mass proletarian base. The risks represented by this unstable political factor have had to be minimised. It has thus successfully sought from the ANC-SACP leadership a commitment to keeping its militant support base in check and obedient to the ‘rules of the game’.

6. But it also has sought to tame the ANC’s mass base and the black masses in general by more direct means – in the form of: putting down militant mass mobilisation; the continued arrest and detention of more militant and revolutionary elements (e.g. those involved in ‘Operation Vula’); and, of course, through covertly assisting the reactionary violence spearheaded by Inkatha.

7. The violence has served the bourgeoisie’s political programme in many ways: firstly, it has strengthened the hand of a reliable ally, i.e. Buthelezi and Inkatha; secondly, it has weakened the position of the ANC, not least of all because it has greatly intensified the discontent within the ANC; thirdly, the De Klerk regime’s firm hold on the political initiative continues, not least of all with the ANC insisting that only De Klerk has the power to stop the violence; and last, as a combination of the above factors, the confusion, disorganisation and sense of despair of the masses have grown.

8. Contrary to the ANC and the SACP leadership, we do not believe that the South African ruling class is prepared to surrender power to the masses. We understand that political power is class power; and developments over the past year amply confirm this truth.

9. Insofar as the ANC and SACP leadership is entirely committed to maintaining the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie has nothing to fear in a negotiated settlement with them. De Klerk accepts that the ANC has to be part of a new government. But, as chief executive functionary of the capitalist ruling class, he has made doubly sure of one thing, above all others: that a negotiated settlement does not give rise to a breakdown of bourgeois law and order, with the enthusiasm and political instincts of the proletarian masses precipitating a new revolutionary situation.

10. The bourgeoisie thus fears that the masses will take things into their own hands and, as the means for securing the democracy they have hungered for, that they will uncompromisingly demand the immediate convening of a democratic constituent assembly. It has strenuously resisted both the idea of one-person-one-vote in a unitary state, as well as a constituent assembly as a sovereign body that determines the political affairs of South Africa.

11. Historically the masses have been deprived of democracy essentially because the ruling capitalist class required a divided, oppressed and disenfranchised black population in order to maximise capitalist profitability. It avoided any form of democracy for black people because it feared that its rule would be seriously undermined and there would be no political stability if the black working class and the oppressed as a whole had the vote.

12. The capitalist bourgeoisie and its successive governments have thus consistently opposed one-person-one-vote in a unitary South Africa. De Klerk, for all his reforms, has refused to accept this basic democratic demand. Different schemes have been mooted by the bourgeoisie and its agents, in order to get around the demand for one¬person-one-vote in a unitary state: from the federalist concept of the Buthelezi Commission with its KwaNatal lndaba, to the NP’s two-tier solution. The words of the Deputy Minister of Constitutional Affairs, in June 1990, sum up the concerns of the bourgeoisie: ‘The biggest challenge facing the Government is to make the principle of the protection of minority rights acceptable and marketable, in the face of the suspicion that this concept is advanced merely as a ruse to continue the disparities and injustices of apartheid’.

13. The same goes for the constituent assembly demand. The situation is far too explosive to risk even a re-run of Namibia in 1989. Whether the bourgeoisie will be forced to take such a risk cannot be determined in advance. What we can say is that if such a step is taken the political process will be no less fraudulent than the one in Namibia. We know for certain that even in this unlikely eventuality, the ruling class and its supporters will strenuously oppose and frustrate efforts to secure free and fair elections.

14. Already actual developments in the townships over the past months have amply demonstrated that the ruling bourgeoisie will resort to every trick and manoeuvre possible to prevent the masses from realising their democratic aspirations.

The violence in the townships

15. The De Klerk regime and its longstanding allies (Buthelezi, other bantustan leaders, the town councillors, the Labour Party, vigilante groups, etc.) have acted in concert and will continue to do so to disorganise the masses and destroy their political confidence.

16. The workers and youth of Natal have borne the brunt of over five years of bitter and bloody terror at the hand of Gatsha Buthelezi and his Inkatha. Up to 10,000 lives have been lost in Natal and the Transvaal since Inkatha went onto the offensive in the wake of the insurrectionary events of 1984-86.

17. Behind the scenes, through its various covert agencies, the De Klerk regime is giving full assistance to the terror campaign. As the violence has continued, the same regime has adopted a posture of neutrality, while clearly giving the Inkatha bands full scope to operate.

18. If De Klerk regarded the violence as contrary to the political interests of the bourgeoisie, he would from the start have used the full might and resources of the apartheid state, as were fully deployed in the period 1984-86 and, of course, in every other threatening period of violent political unrest.

19. The violence is directly aimed at prevent a genuine democratic dispensation arising in South Africa. The reactionary violence on the part of such longstanding allies of the apartheid regime, such as Buthelezi and his Inkatha, is aimed at forcing the ANC to accept a rotten compromise on the question of the constituent assembly. As such, the De Klerk regime has everything to gain by encouraging Buthelezi and Inkatha. Any stick will do to cow the militant supporters of the ANC-SACP, to demobilise, disorganise and demoralise them, to further lure the frantic black petty bourgeoisie into a reactionary coalition and to finally secure a sell-out deal.


The trajectory of the ANC-SACP

1. Of course the petty-bourgeois nationalists and the Stalinists also mouth the call for a constituent assembly. However, not only do they empty it of any revolutionary significance, but they will not and cannot even consistently fight for it to be genuinely democratic.

2. Despite their dependency on a mass base, they have grown closer and closer to the bourgeoisie. At this point they, like the bourgeoisie, live in mortal fear of the proletariat.

3. They too recognise that South Africa is not Namibia; that the black masses, especially the working class, will not remain political passive and be as readily duped as was the case there; that the situation is a hundred times more explosive. Furthermore, they recognise that the bourgeoisie is in no mood for concessions; indeed since February 2 1990 it has dictated the political terms.

4. The political trajectory of the ANC-SACP is thus quite clear. Drawn into a de facto coalition with the bourgeoisie, fearing civil war and the unleashing of the independent power of the black working class more than anything, the petty bourgeois nationalist leadership of the ANC, backed up to the hilt by a crisis-stricken Stalinist SACP, will look for a compromise. As has been the case thus far, it will make further concessions, ultimately accommodating the bourgeoisie’s position that one-person-one-vote, in a unitary South Africa is politically unacceptable. Thus it will further betray even its own programme, the Freedom Charter.

5. With the idea that De Klerk is a ‘man of integrity’, the ANC leadership has gone out to some lengths to allay the healthy and correct suspicions of the masses. It will undoubtedly, in the name of ‘necessary compromise’, accept the De Klerk regime’s ‘principle’ that minority rights will have to be guaranteed and itself seek to ‘market’ it to the masses.

6. Furthermore, the ANC-SACP’s idea of a ‘neutral’ interim government is an attempt to avoid the inexorable conclusion that only the masses can convene a genuinely democratic constituent assembly on the basis of free and fair elections.

7. In order to unmask them before the masses, we must demand no more dithering on the part of the ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance. In every mass organisation, wherever the ANC and SACP wield significant influence, the demand for a genuinely democratic constituent assembly, convened by the masses themselves, must be raised.

The ANC’s position on the violence

8. The approach of the ANC to the question of violence in the townships and the nature of state power under capitalism has neatly fitted the schemes of the bourgeoisie. Not only has it abandoned the ‘armed struggle’ but it has placed faith in the existing SAP and SADF to deal effectively with the violence in the townships. While the masses are unarmed, and the ANC willingly agrees to it, the bourgeoisie continues to wield the full might of the apartheid stare, also with the express blessing of the ANC.

9. The ANC’s response to the violence is doubly criminal. It has called on De Klerk to use these same armed organs of repression to end the violence. To believe that the apartheid state itself is not behind the violence is an expression of the crassest petty bourgeois illusions. But since July 1990, the reactionary violence has continued virtually without break, with hundreds of lives having been lost and in the face of this onslaught the masses have been rendered helpless.

10. And this helplessness and despair is chiefly a product of the criminal resistance of the ANC leadership to actively championing the self-defence of the masses. This is supposedly in keeping with the agreements made with De Klerk about the ending of the ‘armed struggle’ and the commitment to preventing violence from all quarters. But the spirit and letter of negotiations implies that the existing bourgeois state continues to have the right to exercise violence on all those whom it regards as constituting a threat to law and order.

11. How the stomachs of workers and youth have turned as they realise that the negotiations, that their leadership has led them into, have produced an agreement that prevents them from defending themselves; while, on the other hand, the perpetrators of bourgeois state violence are given full scope to continue with their ‘traditional’ role of violently suppressing whoever it chooses.

12. To add insult to injury, the ANC has demanded that De Klerk introduce a law prohibiting the bearing of arms and weapons. So far, by the proclamation of De Klerk in 1990, only Inkatha has been allowed to carry ‘traditional’ weapons; and, of course, virtually every white family has a licensed pistol or two. Instead of calling on the masses to arm themselves in defence of these sustained bloody attacks, the ANC has called on the existing bourgeois state bodies of armed men to prevent anyone from bearing arms.

13. In the meanwhile this repressive state machinery, with it horrific history of terror and butchery, is both covertly and overtly actively assisting the Inkatha bands in their bloody disorganising deeds.

14. So while workers and youth have been told to throw their weapons into the sea; while the ANC calls upon the De Klerk regime to use all its repressive powers to prevent the masses from bearing arms; while the ANC has done nothing to defend the masses; and while the masses are being slaughtered by an Inkatha actively supported by the De Klerk regime – the ANC, yet again, voluntarily hands over the initiative to the real master of the negotiations ceremony, the De Klerk regime.

15. The words of the Transitional Programme have never rung truer: ‘The reformists systematically implant in the minds of the workers the notion that the sacredness of democracy is best guaranteed when the bourgeoisie is armed to the teeth and the workers are unarmed.’

The ANC and the state

16. For Marxists, in the final analysis, state power is the power of the bodies of armed men; and in modern society this means the police and the army.

17. Since February 2 1990, the ANC’s position on the question of the SADF and the SAP has been instructive. At an IDASA-organised conference in May 1990, attended by ANC representatives, SADF officers and officers of the armies of the bantustans, the orientation was made clear. The ANC favours the creation of a new army which will be the result of the integration of MK, the SADF and the bantustan armies.

18. This means that ANC guerrillas are going to be integrated into the killing machine of the apartheid system – the same army that supported and fought alongside UNITA and terrorised the masses of Angola; that slaughtered countless SWAPO guerrillas; that since 1976 has used its guns against the unarmed masses of the townships of South Africa, killing thousands.

19. MK is going to be part of the same security forces that detained and tortured up to 75,000 detainees over the last 30 years of apartheid rule. MK will thus simply add more colour to an army made up largely of the most reactionary and racist sections of privileged white society.

20. In the four months from February to June 1990 alone, police action caused the deaths of 139 people in the townships, with 1,429 people being injured. In July the ANC attended an ‘historic’ meeting with the South African Police (SAP), organised by the Five Freedoms Forum, with Terror Lekota sharing a platform with Brigadier Mellet. The ANC’s Southern Natal convenor summed up the new role of the ANC when he said: ‘The masses of the people on the ground have no confidence in the SAP, but if people on our side were seen to be part of the steps taken, that confidence could be created.’ So the ANC leadership aims to facilitate the building up of the masses’ confidence in the SAP, which has been such a brutal and bloody oppressor.

21. Chris Hani, commander-in-chief of MK, has repeatedly explained the ‘virtues’ of a new integrated army. Even more, recently he has gone on to say that MK was never in a position to challenge the SADF, let alone seize state power. How the blood of South Africa’s Young Lions must boil.

22. How nauseating it must be for the guerrillas who wasted so much of their lives in the camps of Southern Africa. Not only has the ANC exposed its rotten reactionary ‘new’ policy but also that its ‘old’ policy, ably ‘theorized’ by the SACP, was based on bluff. MK was never a means for the armed seizure of power by the oppressed massed. Instead it was merely another means of exerting pressure on the bourgeoisie to agree to talking with the ANC, and resolving South Africa’s problems through negotiation. Now that this aim has been secured, MK has outlived its usefulness.

23. The proletarian youth have been the worst victims of the terrible, duplicitous policy. It is they who have had to languish for year after year in the guerilla camps in Southern Africa. It is they who risked and often sacrificed their lives in the name of a political policy that was not only doomed to failure but had nothing to do with what it pretended to be.

24. Today, in the terrorised townships of the Transvaal, the criminal trajectory of the ANC-SACP’s policies stand exposed.

25. Most important of all, the ANC has exposed its bankruptcy on the question of democracy and the guarantee of free and fair elections to a constituent assembly. At the conference in May 1990, mentioned above, a ranking officer of MK, Edwin Mabitse said that officers from MK, the SADF and bantustan armies should jointly command security forces during multi-party elections. This no doubt is the kind of arrangement that the ANC has in mind for a ‘neutral’ interim government that convenes a Constituent Assembly.


Our call for a democratic Constituent Assembly

1. Only complete fools or downright reactionaries can believe that a democratic constituent assembly can be convened by a coalition consisting of the De Klerk regime, the ANC and other parties. For as long as the existing apartheid state remains in power, for as long as its armed organs of repression remain intact, there will be no democratic constituent assembly.

2. The slogan of a revolutionary democratic constituent assembly is central to the period we are in. On this there can be no compromise or concessions. We sharply counterpose this slogan to the political perspective of the ANC and the SACP.

3. The struggle for 100% democracy is presently the vital means for bringing the working class and indeed the oppressed masses as a whole to full and active political life. Now is the time for the black masses to say what they want and through militant mass action to struggle for everything that they want.

4. We say that the only way for the masses to really express what they want is through a constituent assembly of genuine representatives of the masses, representatives who can really express the interests of the masses, are answerable to the masses and thus subject to immediate recall.

5. Only if the constituent assembly arises as a result of genuinely free and fair elections can we be satisfied that the struggle for democracy has taken a step forward.

6. From the start, in keeping with the programme of action as a whole, we must consistently raise the question of who can convene a democratic constituent assembly.

7. The whole logic of the situation, our consistent political intervention and the practical experience of the masses, will lead to the inevitable conclusion – only the armed masses themselves can convene such a constituent assembly, and only they can guarantee that elections to it will be genuinely free and fair.

The Constituent Assembly, the violence and committees of action

8. A crucial question is how the campaign for a democratic constituent assembly can best be conducted.

9. We are not living in ordinary times. It is vital that the masses throughout the length and breadth of South Africa are brought to active political life in the coming period. If they do not, then a tragic setback awaits them; disappointment will turn to disillusionment and mass political apathy. Already, as a result of the ANC-SACP’s entire political line, the rot has begun to set in. The violence in the townships has caused tremendous havoc. A mood of anger is combined with feelings of despair and helplessness. Things have come to such a desperate pass that unless the masses themselves effect a turnaround the rotten sell-out deal will be completely sown up.

10. What is required are flexible organisations that represent the oppressed masses wherever they are and that can militantly give voice to all their demands. We thus call for the establishment of committees of action.

11. It is in these committees that we must fight for our programme of action to be adopted. They must also be the central organisational means both of tearing away the constitutionalist illusions of the masses and of organising effective defence against the reactionary violence.

12. Every mass organisation – ANC, PAC, SACP, COSATU, NACTU, AZAPO – must be called upon to initiate the formation of action committees to give organised active and militant expression to all the demands of the masses. The committees should be open to all who are prepared to militantly fight for a programme of action and campaign for a democratic constituent assembly.

13. For the programme of action and the campaign to have a genuine national character, a definite turn must be made to the millions of farm workers and the proletarian masses in the bantustans, who over the past two decades, while suffering the worst forms of oppression, have not been party to active political struggle.

14. Special attention must be paid to ensuring that urban and rural women workers and the proletarianised women of the bantustans are in the forefront of the struggle and in leading positions in the committees of action.

15. Ways must be found to reach all the hitherto inactive layers of the South African proletariat. Local committees of action are the best form for drawing these sections of the working class into active struggle.

16. The struggles of local committees of action must be channelled into a single national campaign for a democratic constituent assembly, which seeks to give expression to and generalise all the demands of the masses. Only the nationally co-ordinated efforts of the committees of action can fight for and convoke a democratic constituent assembly.

17. What is required is not a Patriotic Front whose role will be the sell-out of the interests of the black masses in favour of a rotten compromise deal with the bourgeoisie, but a fighting proletarian united front, whose basic units are committees of action.

18. The process of bringing the masses to active political life is of course inseparable from ensuring the most democratic conditions for such political activity.

19. With the De Klerk regime strongly opposed to militant mass action; with it rejecting or violently suppressing democratic demands such as the right to assembly, to freedom of movement, to political expression, etc.; with it still resorting to wide scale detention and other forms of repression; with the reactionary violence continuing unabated – only the masses themselves can win such democratic conditions.

20. The anti-democratic forces of terror must be beaten back by the masses themselves. The right to organise, demonstrate, march, strike, picket, etc. must be guaranteed by the masses themselves. We must win this democracy now – in our townships, in our workplaces, on our farms, in the bantustans.

21. Armed defence units, organically linked with commit¬tees of action, must be established by the masses through¬out South Africa. The means must be found to integrate MK guerrillas into the committees of action and defence units, so that they not only bring to bear their criminally wasted training and experience in the fighting organs of the masses themselves but also, so that they can really constitute a vital part of the fighting proletariat.

22. We must demand the unconditional return of the tens of thousands of MK guerrillas. These political militants, having been trapped for so long in the camps, more than most, should have the right to fully participate in the political life of South Africa at this moment. Furthermore, we support the call for an investigation into the conditions in the guerrilla camps, in particular the position of those who were detained and tortured, so that the perpetrators of these criminal misdeeds can be brought to popular justice. This question must be fully taken up in the in the committees of action.

23. Those who have illusions that the ANC or the SACP will deliver freedom must demand everything of them through the committees of action. We have fought too long and hard to accept only the half-freedom (i.e. no freedom at all) which the politics of negotiations, class compromise and conciliation – as we have clearly witnessed over the past year – has been and will be able to deliver.

24. If the organisations that claim to represent the masses continue to frustrate mass action and prevent the masses from giving clear political expression to their demands, then through the committees of action we will consistently encourage the masses to go beyond these organisations and fight vigorously against them in their efforts to curb the independent initiatives of the masses.

25. Absolutely no trust must be placed in De Klerk to deliver freedom to the masses, the masses must rely on their own initiative to win freedom. Nor can we trust the ANC-SACP to win democracy and freedom.

26. Only the masses, through their collective action and militant struggle can clear away the many obstacles to genuinely free and fair elections to a democratic constituent assembly.

27. We repeat, the calls for committees of action and for a democratic constituent assembly on the basis of genuinely free and fair elections must be raised in every township forum, at every workplace, in every organisation, amongst every layer and section of the working class and the oppressed masses throughout South Africa.

28. In the heat of battle, in carrying out our programme of action, while fighting for a militant campaign for a democratic constituent assembly and committees of action, we must ensure that a genuine proletarian leadership emerges. The best, most advanced fighters must be welded together in a solid democratic centralist Trotskyist party.

29. We look forward to discussions and contributions from South African revolutionaries and revolutionary allies worldwide on our ideas for a programme of action.

30. In this document, we have not dealt with all the demands and slogans we think should be taken up by the proletariat and the masses in order to smash apartheid-capitalism (for example, relating to: workers government, wages and prices, business secrets, unemployment, housing, education, health, the land question, the national question, etc.). We hope to develop these in the course of serious discussions and close collaboration with revolutionary Marxists worldwide, especially those in South Africa.


1. Trotskyists must penetrate the ANC-SACP milieu on the basis of a programme of action along the lines developed above. In the course of fighting for such a programme of action and with a view to dispelling the illusions in peaceful reform, a mighty political offensive must be conducted against the ANC-SACP leadership.

2. In fighting to bring the masses to active political life, through a vigorous struggle to implement our programme of action, and through a consistent fight against the bankrupt ANC-SACP leadership, the way will be prepared for an inevitable split in these organisations. The fault lines that have already emerged are expressions of the class divisions within the ANC and the SACP. These are inevitable, given the popularity and mass base of these organisations.

3. But the spontaneous, half-conscious dissatisfaction of rank-and-file militants must be given political coherence and organised expression. Only the forces of Trotskyism have the political principles and programme to offer a way out for the genuinely revolutionary proletarian elements within the ANC and the SACP. Immediate political and organisational conclusions must be drawn; an alternative revolutionary organisation of the working class must be established.

4. At the same time as penetrating the proletarian base of the ANC-SACP alliance in its township structures – and this does not exclude the tactic of entry – we must concentrate forces inside the unions, especially in COSATU. All efforts must go into freeing the unions from the deadly political influence of the ANC-SACP.

5. In the present context, there are innumerable opportunities for taking up this fight and exposing the rotten role of these organisations, not only on the basis of propaganda but, even better, of living experience. The implementation of our programme of action will inevitably lead to the kind of political differentiation required to take the struggle forward. Its ultimate result will be the separation of those who are prepared to go all the way with the bourgeoisie and thereby betray the proletariat, from those who grasp the necessity for completely breaking with the bourgeoisie, preparing for the seizure of power by the working class and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie.

6. Trotskyists must not shrink from practical blocs with the centrists inside and outside the ANC and the SACP (e.g. in the MWT, in WOSA, in AZAPO, etc.); indeed, to facilitate our political aims, they must initiate such practical agreements, so as both to expand the arena for fighting for our programme of action and to facilitate militant mass action and independent mobilisation of all sections of the black working class, as well as to win recruits to Trotskyism. But such blocs must never imply the smoothing over of political differences; on the contrary, while proving ourselves to be the most energetic and fearless militants of the fighting proletariat, the anti-Marxist programme and politics of the centrists must be mercilessly exposed before audiences of advanced workers and youth.

7. The immediate task is thus to constitute a nucleus of a genuine Bolshevik party in South Africa. This nucleus must immediately clarify and publish its principled and programmatic perspectives with the aim of winning the best elements in the unions and in the township organisations to it. To this end there must be a vigorous struggle to produce a propaganda organ of the nucleus of the vanguard party, for the widest possible circulation within militant circles of the black workers and the proletarian youth.

8. Where there is such a burning need for political clarity, with the existence of a clear and farsighted Trotskyist nucleus, we are confident that the technical and material means will be found to regularly produce such a vital publication.


1. Today, as in 1938 with the Founding of the Fourth International, the decisive political factor is the international crisis of revolutionary leadership.

2. The political discrediting of Stalinism in the eyes of millions of workers worldwide opens new scope for Trotskyism to resolve this crisis.

3. On the other hand, capitalist restoration in some countries of Eastern Europe and the dangers of restoration elsewhere (especially the Soviet union) represent major gains for imperialism and political defeat for the world proletariat.

4. Furthermore, the world bourgeoisie has seized on the opportunity to discredit the cause of socialism and present itself as defender of democracy and freedom. In this context, there has been a sharp international move to the right. The besieged forces of Stalinism, petty bourgeois nationalism, influential sections of the intelligentsia and all manner of middle social strata, sharply feel the pressure of the bourgeoisie; and, in turn, exert tremendous reactionary pressure throughout the world working class movement.

5. The new world situation is thus characterised by tremendous political and ideological confusion.

6. Given the bankruptcy of the world capitalist system and the obvious failure of this ‘alternative’ to socialism to satisfy the most basic needs of the masses throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America; and given the obvious bankruptcy of the theory and practice of socialism in one country (i.e. Stalinism), only the Trotskyist programme can lay claim to offering a way forward for the masses worldwide. All else has been tried and tested and found tragically wanting.

7. In South Africa we must fully understand that powerful international forces are thus at play: the coalition involving the petty-bourgeois nationalist ANC and the Stalinist SACP, on the one hand, and the imperialist-backed bourgeois regime of De Klerk, is a national expression of the international relation of forces.

8. In taking on this coalition we are thus taking on the world bourgeoisie and its system.

9. But whereas the prospects of defeat loom large, at the same time the forces of revolutionary Marxism, i.e. Trotskyism, have been provided with a great political opportunity.

10. Before the void left by the ideological excrescence of Stalinism is filled with fresh excrescence of one political form or another, we must struggle to fill it with the politics and programme of revolutionary Marxism, i.e. Trotskyism.

11. But the forces of genuine Trotskyism, under pressure from imperialism and Stalinism over the decades since World War Two, and through related degeneration within the ranks of the Fourth International itself, are still weak.

12. What is required is the fusion of all those that have drawn the bitter lessons of the degeneration of the Fourth International worldwide and have solid principled and programmatic agreement, in a single democratic centralist international Trotskyist tendency. This is the first step to the reconstruction of the Fourth International.

13. The reconstruction of the Fourth International only real means for advancing the struggle of the world proletariat. Without the guidance of a principled, experienced democratic centralist international Trotskyist organisation, national revolutionary organisations are doomed to political inconsistency and eventual degeneration.

14. The South African working class will not make a single step forward, if it does not place at the centre of its own struggle in South Africa the struggle for a reconstructed Fourth International.

15. The creation of the LTT is a modest but vitally important step towards the reconstruction of the Fourth International. We call on all revolutionaries in South Africa (and, indeed worldwide) to study its documents, to enter into discussion with it and to join it in a struggle for the reconstruction of the world party of socialist revolution.

16. Furthermore, we call on all South Africans who agree with the Theses on the Present Situation to reach out to us with a view to serious political discussion and collaboration in keeping with its aims.

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