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International Socialism, Summer 1991


Simon Phillips

The South African Communist Party
and the South African working class


From International Socialism Journal 2 : 51, Summer 1991, pp. 105–129.
Transcription by Camilla Royle & Einde O‛Callaghan.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Everywhere the old Communist Parties are in crisis. Almost all are suffering from lack of purpose and low morale, many have changed their name, and some are terminally sick. There is one exception: the South African Communist Party (SACP). Why is the SACP bigger and more influential now than it has ever been before? What are the implications of its success? [1]

The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was founded in 1921. Initially its potential for black recruitment was undermined by its support for both the white miners’ revolt (1922) and a coalition dominated by the National Party (1924). However, under the leadership of Sidney Bunting the party made a ‘turn to the masses’, involving participation in the ICU (Industrial and Commercial Workers Union) and the ANC (African National Congress) and attempts to build African trade unions. As a result, by 1928 the party’s African membership had increased to 1,600 (out of a total of 1,750). [2]

However, at their 1929 conference the party adopted the slogan: for an independent native South African republic as a stage towards a ‘workers’ and peasants’ republic ...’ The slogan had been conceived in Moscow, and was a product of Stalin’s ‘third period’; its keyword was ‘stage’. For the first time, South African workers were being called upon to postpone the socialist revolution in the interest of the more limited nationalist goal of ‘capitalist democracy’. [3] The precise formulations have changed, but the idea of a two stage revolution has dominated the politics of the CPSA/SACP ever since.

As a result of the twists and turns of the Stalinist leadership by the beginning of World War Two membership was down to 280. [4] During the war the party’s fortunes revived. It attracted support from a layer of petty bourgeois whites and a number of African trade unionists, including J.B. Marks, leader of the African miners and subsequently party chairman, and the present chairman, Dan Tloome. However, after the war, the CPSA suffered from the defeat of the African miners’ strike (1946), and then from the Suppression of Communism Act (1950). It was ill prepared for the latter, and the Central Committee dissolved the whole organisation rather than go underground. At this stage it had about 2,000 members, of whom over three quarters were Africans. [5]

Gradually the party re-emerged, producing its first public statement in 1960 as the SACP. During the 1950s party members had helped build a number of organisations – including the ANC and South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) – linked together in the Congress Alliance. [6] The new approach was underpinned by a new theory, ‘Colonialism of a Special Type’:

On one level, that of ‘White South Africa’, there are all the features of an advanced capitalist state in its final stage of imperialism ...

But on another level, that of ‘Non-White South Africa’, there all the features of a colony. The indigenous population is subjected to extreme national oppression, poverty and exploitation, lack of democratic rights. Non-white South Africa is the colony of White South Africa itself. [7]

This theory detached racial oppression from its roots in capitalist exploitation. This having been achieved, the SACP then proceeded to argue that the ‘anti-colonial’ element of the struggle should take precedence. [8] Whilst they regarded socialism as the ‘strategic goal’, the immediate aim was a ‘national democratic revolution’; thus the concept of ‘stages’ was retained. According to Joe Slovo, now the party general secretary, the ‘national democratic revolution’ expressed ‘the broad objective interests not only of the working class but also of the black petit-bourgeoisie and a significant strata of the emergent black bourgeoisie’. These ‘broad objective interests’ were held to be reflected in the politics and leadership of the ANC, which was officially described as the ‘head of the revolutionary alliance’. [9]

The leadership of the ANC always came from the African petty bourgeoisie, and this continues to be true in the modern era. Mandela and Oliver Tambo were both lawyers, and their leadership of the ANC, which has effectively spanned nearly 40 years, has never been seriously threatened. [10] The achievement of the ANC’s main political proposals – one person one vote in a unitary state – would undoubtedly be a major advance for all black South Africans, but nothing more radical than parliamentary democracy was envisaged. Indeed, Mandela commented that the British parliament was ‘the most democratic institution in the world’. [11] On the economy, the ANC’s main policy statement, the Freedom Charter, demanded that ‘the people shall share all the country’s wealth’. Specifying what this meant, Mandela made it clear that if nationalisation did take place it would be ‘in an economy based on private enterprise’. He added: ‘The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society.’ [12]

Since at least 1949 the ANC has accepted that its goals could not be achieved without mobilising the masses. Where possible, however, the mobilisations have emphasised the pre-eminence of the existing leadership and the multi-class character of the struggle. When Mandela turned to armed action it was to retain the leadership of a movement that was spontaneously moving in that direction. Where the power of the workers has been utilised the prime concern has been to maintain control from above, with community stay aways preferred to workplace based strike action.

Nationalism and class consciousness

An important consequence of the SACP’s politics is that in the struggle for national liberation the working class must be prepared to compromise with the ANC’s petty bourgeois leadership. [13] How has it been possible for such a party to secure a substantial base of support within a militant working class movement?

Firstly, it is necessary to appreciate the apparent radicalism of the SACP’s politics. In 1984, in a period of increasing struggle, the SACP produced anew constitution, in which the main content of the ‘national democratic revolution’ was described as: ‘the destruction of the economic and political power of the racist ruling class, and the establishment of one united state of people’s power in which the working class will be the dominant force and which will move uninterruptedly towards social emancipation and the total abolition of exploitation of man by man.’ [14]

In 1988, by which time the mass movement had subsided, Slovo added: ‘the prospect of proceeding at once to socialist solutions is inevitable only in the abstract sense’. Concretely, he argued, there would be a period when the economic interests of the black ‘emergent’ and petty bourgeoisie would not be threatened, and a mixed economy would exist. [15] Nevertheless, a radical interpretation of ‘national liberation’ was retained, and Slovo clearly understood the importance of this, particularly as a means of attracting workers:

... liberation, which, if it deals only with a rearrangement of the voting system and leaves undisturbed the race monopoly of 99% of our wealth is no liberation at all ... It is precisely our Party’s emphasis on the economic content of our National Democratic Revolution which has contributed so much towards the spread of revolutionary nationalism. And it is for the same reason that the Party has ... gained so much popularity among workers and youth. [16]

Such statements no longer reflect SACP policy, but at the time they helped the party to connect with the widespread demand for ‘socialism’ being raised within the trade union movement. [17] National liberation was presented as something akin to ‘socialism’, and as the quickest route to the real thing.

Whilst black workers’ struggles have mainly concerned economic issues, they have also involved questions of racial oppression, and, in reality, the two have been closely connected. However, in practices SACP has tended to separate the issues, and, through its involvement in the ANC, to focus on the latter. Has this benefited them?

In 1960, the year that the ANC and the Pan-African Congress (PAC) were banned, the difference between the two organisations in terms of popular support was not great. Today the ANC is hegemonic. In a poll carried out among black people in South Africa between April and June 1990, 84 percent ‘felt close’ to organisations associated with the ANC but only 10 percent ‘felt close’ to the PAC. [18] In the intervening 30 years the SACP has made a major difference to the ANC.

The party’s ‘Marxist’ politics (whatever their weakness) provided the ANC with a degree of sophistication which the PAC lacked. This was particularly important in the 1960s and early 1970s when both organisations were in the doldrums. Furthermore, the SACP’s international links proved invaluable. Funding for the liberal movements came, in the main, from the ‘communist’ governments of Eastern Europe, and they generally gave preference to the ANC. In addition, solidarity and diplomatic support were secured partly because of the party’s links with Western labour movements. International initiatives campaigned for by the ANC, particularly sanctions, put pressure on the apartheid regime; they also boosted the ANC’s support inside the country.

The SACP benefited from its part in the development of the ANC, but more particularly from its association with the organisation’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). When Mandela formed MK in 1961 it was with SACP support, and party members have always played a leading role. For instance, Slovo held the position of MK Chief of Staff. When he resigned in 1987 to become party chairman, he was replaced by another SACP politburo member, Chris Hani. MK members, including those in the SACP, have experienced a good deal of hardship and suffering. However, from a military point of view, MK has been extremely ineffective. Negotiations have not been brought about as a result of the military conflict. In January 1990 Alfred Nzo, ANC Secretary-General, said: ‘We must admit that we do not have the capacity within our country to intensify the armed struggle in any meaningful way’.

MK’s importance has been political rather than military. In the townships it helped create an image of militancy, from which the SACP, in particular, was able to benefit. Thus the combination of the party’s rhetoric and its involvement in the armed struggle created an impression of toughness which enabled it to relate to radicalised workers and youth. Unlike in Eastern Europe, the name ‘Communist’ has been a bonus. One further factor has assisted the party: abuse and slander from most of the media and white politicians in South Africa. Slovo once quipped that, ‘Botha and Botha have done for me what Saatchi and Saatchi have done for Mrs Thatcher’. [19]

SACP and the unions

The emphasis on armed struggle also created problems for the SACP. When straggles developed inside the country in the 1970s the party was incapable of providing a lead, and the new movements tended to fall under the influence of other tendencies. The Soweto students, for example, were led by people who identified with Black Consciousness (BC). [20] The party also experienced major difficulties with the new independent trade union movement.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s party members were active in SACU which was then able to conduct open trade union organisation, However, once the armed struggle had begun, although SACTU continued to operate, it acted as a ‘signpost to MK’. Many of its militants and officials left the country to join the new organisation. In 1961, 59,952 workers belonged to 63 SACTU unions, but by 1969 only 13 unions with 16,040 members were known to exist among African workers. [21]

From 1973 there was a revival of class struggle and a growth of trade unions. By 1980 two new federations had been formed, neither of which was influenced by the politics of the ANC/SACP. The stronger of the two, although not always the larger, was the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU). FOSATU, which was based on industrial unions with powerful shop steward committees, emphasised democracy and workers’ control, and aimed to apply these principles not only to the unions but to society in general. In 1982 FOSATU’s general secretary, Joe Foster, made a major speech which was widely regarded as a challenge to the SACP. He argued that popular movements (such as the ANC), because they focused attention on the apartheid regime, tended to hide the role of capital. He concluded that workers needed their own movement capable of taking a ‘clear political direction’. [22]

In retrospect Foster’s speech marked a highpoint in the development of a distinct ‘workerist’ current. SACP members fulminated about the way he had intentionally ignored the party, but they were too weak in the unions to launch an immediate counter-attack. [23] SACP/SACTU supporters who were active in the working class tended to reject industrial unions in favour of community based general unions, which, they argued, were better equipped to take up township issues. However, the general unions were more unstable and lacked the ‘muscle’ of the industrial unions. In 1985 there was a strong possibility that FOSATU and the BC influenced Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) would launch a new superfederation on the basis of ‘one industry one union’, thus leaving the general unions and SACP isolated.

At this point the SACP leadership stepped in. They argued in favour of industrial unions and urged SACTU sympathisers to join the new federation and to work from within. In the event, with one exception, CUSA affiliates decided not to join the new superfederation. The exception was the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the single largest union. NUM’s general secretary, Cyril Ramaphosa, joined the ANC at about this time, and with his backing the ‘charterists’ (supporters of the Freedom Charter) were able to win control of the new federation; a victory symbolised in the name of the new organisation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions. [24]

The ‘charterists’ went from strength to strength. In 1986 Ramaphosa, together with COSATU general secretary Jay Naidoo and his deputy, Sydney Mafumadi, met with Tambo in Lusaka. Without a mandate, from the COSATU executive they supported a statement which said that, ‘lasting solutions can only emerge from the national liberation movement, headed by the ANC.’ In 1987 COSATU adopted the Freedom Charter and in 1990 it agreed to a ‘strategic alliance’ with the ANC and SACP. [25]

At first the ‘workerists’ believed they could use their base in the industrial unions to reverse the defeat. Unfortunately they had not understood the underlying reason for the ‘charterists” victory. In the upsurge of 1984–86 there were many bloody battles in the townships where the class compromise politics of the ‘charterists’ often coincided with the experience of community organisations, which included prominent petty-bourgeois leaders alongside ordinary workers and unemployed youths. Many workers turned to their unions and demanded that the power of organised workers be used to support community struggles over housing, education and township repression. Political questions were being raised and political answers were required. The ‘charterists’ had a solution: that workers should back the United Democratic Front and support its calls for action against the apartheid state. The ‘workerists’ failed because they could not provide a political alternative.

Foster’s call for a workers’ political organisation led nowhere; neither did proposals from Moses Mayekiso, then secretary of the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU) in the Transvaal, for a workers’ charter, which could act as programme for a future mass workers’ party? Foster and Mayekiso lacked the confidence to proceed with new organisations which would have brought them into conflict with the populist allegiances of many of their members; they feared a new mass party would split the unions.

Nevertheless, a response would have been possible, but only if the problem had been approached differently. Lenin had argued for proletarian methods of struggle – particularly, the mass strike – in support of democratic demands. The demand for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners had widespread appeal, and strike action called by the unions would have been generally welcomed. In this way workers could have retained the initiative, boosted their confidence to fight over economic and political issues, developed their own independent organisations, and strengthened the argument for workers’ power. There was also a need for a new workers’ party capable of challenging the ideas of the populists. The development of an embryonic workers’ party was certainly a possibility. Unfortunately, Foster and Mayekiso lacked the politics for such an initiative, and the most class-conscious workers – those who had rejected ‘stageism’ and ‘populism’ and hence the SACP – were left without a political voice. [27]

The failure of the ‘workerists’ to develop a political alternative was the chief reason for the success of the ‘populists’, but it was not the whole story. Mayekiso eventually joined the SACP and agreed to participate in its leadership, and the importance of these decisions should not be underestimated. He had been well known as a critic of the SACP, but he was also widely respected among workers, particularly the more militant workers. He had been the leader of the Alexandra uprising in 1986, his court case had given him an international reputation, and he was the general secretary of the Metalworkers. [27]

A draft workers’ charter was published in the 1989 fourth quarter edition of African Communist, the journal of the SACP. Mayekiso had argued for an alternative to the Freedom Charter, but the new proposal was for its elaboration; he had argued against stages, whereas th charter supported the idea. It argued for workers’ participation rather than workers’ control of industry; for ‘democratic socialism’ rather than workers’ power. However, the draft charter did make a definite, albeit limited, commitment to nationalisation, and a definite commitment to support the right to strike (not present in the Freedom Charter), albeit with possible restrictions. Although the draft charter was not the workers’ charter that Mayekiso had argued for in 1985, it must have seemed like a real advance on the Freedom Charter. And, in any case, the old ideas were no longer on offer.

In a slick operation, the SACP borrowed the form of Mayekiso’s position whilst rejecting the content. Having promoted the charter they then launched the Party. The SACP’s main argument was that workers should support them because they were a workers’ party, pledged to protect the interests of workers within the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance. The new SACP Internal Leadership Group included important workers’ leaders like Mayekiso, Mafumadi and Chris Dlamini (formerly president of FOSATU, now vice-president of COSATU) well as respected old-time trade unionists. [28] Moreover, the existence of the alliance meant that workers, even if they could not control the ANC, could at least prevent it from selling out. And if, so the argument went, one was still a little worried, the best thing was to join and help transform the party.

This approach assisted the recruitment of workers who did not accept the full politics of the SACP, but it always contained a number of problems. Firstly the ANC was the ‘leader of the alliance’, and the ANC, whatever the SACP’s claims to the contrary, was dominated by the petty bourgeoisie. The ANC might consult COSATU, but ultimately its line would prevail. Secondly, the SACP and COSATU had endorsed the Freedom Charter, so the three shared similar politics. The SACP was willing to debate changes to its programme, but SACP Central Committee member, Jeremy Cronin, made it clear that the idea of ‘stages’ was central and unalterable. [29] Finally, although the Party promised a conference in mid-1991, in the interim national and regional leaderships would be appointed, not elected. The existing Central Committee further protected its position by reaffirming its ban on factions.

Thus any union officials, who believed that an ordinary worker would be able to influence a settlement by joining the SACP, were deluding themselves. But delusions have a social function. If there was something about the politics of the SACP, which union leaders in particular would find attractive, then this would help to explain the current rise of the party. The question of the relationship between union leaders and their members is an important one, but before I turn to it, it is worth considering another important document, published at the beginning of 1990.

Has socialism failed?

At the end of 1989 the SACP declared: ‘World socialism accounts for more than one-third of the world’s population, in dozens of countries advancing along a path that reveals the intellectual and moral potential of humanity’. They added: ‘A new way of life is taking shape in which there are neither oppressors nor the oppressed, neither exploiters nor exploited, in which power belongs to the people’. [30] Only a month later, in January 1990, Slovo introduced his discussion document, Has Socialism Failed?, with the words:

Socialism is undoubtedly in the throes of a crisis greater than at any time since 1917. The last half of 1989 saw the dramatic collapse of the Communist Party governments of Eastern Europe. Their downfall was brought about through massive upsurges which had the support not only of the majority of the working class but also a large slice of the membership of ruling parties themselves. These were popular revolts against unpopular regimes; if socialists are unable to come to terms with this reality, the future of socialism is indeed bleak. [31]

The shift in line was dramatic and reflected the scale of the turmoil in Eastern Europe, nevertheless Slovo never addressed the issue of when and why things went wrong (and consequently avoided consideration of, for instance, ‘Socialism in One Country’). The central idea in his document was that the ‘essential content of Stalinism’ should be defined as ‘socialism without democracy’. Thus for Slovo it was possible to conceive of socialism without democracy. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, however, conceived of socialism as the dictatorship of the proletariat, based on a much higher level of democracy than that attained by the bourgeoisie. If Slovo believed (and he did) that socialism existed under Stalin it was because he equated socialism with state control; that is with nationalisation, rather than with workers’ control of the means of production.

Since it was possible for nationalisation to be introduced piecemeal, it was possible for ‘socialism’ to be introduced gradually. This takes us to the real significance of Has Socialism Failed? – its explicitly reformist conclusion. ‘If there is real democracy in the post-apartheid state’, said Slovo, ‘the way will be open for a peaceful progression towards our party’s ultimate objective – a socialist South Africa.’ [32] Slovo’s argument was for reform, not revolution; for a labour party, not Lenin. The journey he proposed – from Stalinism to social democracy – is one which has been attempted before, most notably one of the bigger European Communist Parties, the Italian (PCI). Its turn to ‘Eurocommunism’ was primarily aimed at reassuring the local ruling classes that their interests would not be betrayed to Moscow. [33] The international context is different in the South African case, but nevertheless the SACP has been concerned to destroy the Russian bogey, which was developed, over many years, by right-wing politicians, and could have been used to prevent a settlement. More importantly, perhaps, the SACP have been anxious to reassure business and middle class opinion (black and white) that they will behave like a ‘normal’ constitutional party.

‘Eurocommunism’, with its promise of a more tolerant internal regime, also enabled the Western CPs to attract ‘new forces’, including an array of leftist intellectuals [34] (many moving rightwards after the upsurge of the late 1960s and early 1970s). Similarly, the SACP’s turn included talk of inner-party democracy, and this made it more attractive, not only to certain intellectuals, but also to many workers. Consequently, although Has Socialism Failed? marked a move to the right, paradoxically it helped the SACP to hegemonise the left, and recruit individuals like Mayekiso.

Thus SACP leadership was able to benefit from the combination of two separate processes developing simultaneously. These were the collapse of ‘communism’ in Eastern Europe and the possibilities of reform that were opening up in South Africa. Without the former, and the consequent demise of unreconstructed Stalinism, they would have had problems attracting ex-workerists. Without the latter they would have had difficulty persuading their established cadre of the need to ditch old methods and policies.

The SACP and union bureaucracy

‘Eurocommunism’ failed to revive the European parties, but the impact of the SACP’s turn to social democracy may result in a different outcome. If it does, one aspect of the current shift could prove particularly important: the attempt to allay the fears of union leaders about political interference in ‘their’ organisations. In his document Slovo repeated the claim, first made in the Party’s ‘Workers’ Charter’ that:

Trade unions and their federation shall be completely independent, answerable only to the decisions of their members or affiliates democratically arrived at. No political party, state organ or enterprise whether public, private or mixed, shall directly or indirectly interfere with such independence. [35]

This approach assumed the demarcation of two distinct domains: the political and the trade union. It also contained an offer: if you, the trade union leaders, support the Party in the political domain, we, the Party, will use our influence to protect you within the trade unions. These elements were brought together in an important resolution agreed by the executive of NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers, formerly MAWU). They prohibited ‘party political blocs within the union’, but at the same time gave backing to the ANC/SACP/COS ATU alliance. [36] The effect of the resolution was to advance the SACP whilst making it more difficult to organise rank and file opposition to the leadership.

The desire to get rid of capitalism may be present within trade union struggle, but trade unions are not designed to achieve that goal. They exist to improve the terms by which workers are exploited, not to put an end to exploitation. Compromise is a necessary component of trade unionism. The sectional and partial character of trade union action also gives rise to a particular kind of leadership. Its prime concerns become those of negotiating new agreements and developing union organisation. Struggle may be necessary, but if it is not strictly controlled it can undermine the organisation or throw up new leaders. Over time a distinct bureaucracy begins to emerge, with interests different from those of ordinary workers. [37]

This process is undoubtedly underway in South Africa, Organisers no longer have to work in the factory, are provided with financial assistance to buy cars, have greater access to education and foreign travel, and do not lose pay through strikes and lay-offs. In the old MAWU (probably the most democratic of the unions), all organisers were paid about the same amount as an ordinary metalworker, but, in the course of amalgamating with other unions to form NUMSA, this principle was conceded. In 1990, local organisers received about R1,200 per month (which was higher than factory pay of around R900–1,000 per month) and national administrative secretaries were paid over R3,000 per month.

The desire of the bureaucracy to control any action has led to the initiative being removed from the lower levels of the unions. For instance, die 1987 miners’ strike was called off by Ramaphosa (without consulting the rank and file) just two days after a national meeting of miners’ delegates had voted to continue the action. In the same year, NUM agreed to biennial rather than annual congresses, and NUMSA has since copied this decision. NUMSA has also created a new tier in structure, and whereas the local shop stewards committees used to co-ordinate action, the new regional executives, which are more remote, now have to be informed before strike action is taken.

The syndicalism which characterised FOSATU could only be passing phase. After a certain point, and for two reasons, the bureaucracy discovered a need for political organisation. It had to protect itself against the state – reduce anti-union legislation, prevent the detention of union leaders, create new spheres of influence – and therefore identified with the fight against apartheid. It also had to protect itself from its members, or at least those of them who were demanding the kind of change that might endanger the union’s existence. The bureaucracy had an interest in change, but of the gradual kind, generally associated with reformism.

In Britain the bureaucracy helped to create its own ‘made-to-measure’ Labour Party. In South Africa the SACP has learned to present itself as an ‘off-the-peg’ organisation ready to fit the needs of the bureaucracy. The class struggle, particularly in the course of the 1980s, created powerful unions and influential union leaders, and in about 1985 the SACP decided to work with these leaders rather than against them. Both the bureaucracy and the SACP (and the ANC, for that matter) need the power of workers in order to advance their positions, but they need that power to be controlled. There has been understandable confusion about the difference between the ANC and the SACP, but because the ANC is an avowedly multi-class organisation and the SACP presents itself as particularly concerned with the defence of union organisation, the latter has tended to secure the allegiance of the bureaucracy.

Towards a settlement

The SACP’s success has been based on its ability to present to workers the smiling face of socialism in order to persuade them to march with it, under the banner of nationalism, in the direction of a reformed capitalism. The SACP is a contradictory formation. On one hand, it clings to the coat tails of the ANC, which clings to the coat tails of capitalism; on the other it has built a base among workers opposed to capitalism. In order to assess how this contradiction is likely to be resolved – that is, in order to assess the extent to which the SACP will be able to protect working class interests – it is necessary to understand the current political situation.

In August 1989, when F.W. De Klerk replaced P.W. Botha, it reflected a growing awareness that major changes were necessary if South African capitalism was to avoid continuing decline and, quite possibly, revolution. The main demand inside the country, echoed outside (even by Thatcher), was for the release of Mandela as a precursor to negotiations. The process would undoubtedly be difficult. It would entail the National Party (acting on behalf of big business) turning its back on the white workers and white petty bourgeoisie who provided its electoral support and staffed its security forces. There was the possibility of white reaction combined with continuing black resistance. But there was really no alternative. Repression had failed, so negotiations had to be tried. The collapse of Stalinism and the advance of ‘the market’ in Eastern Europe meant that this course was easier to contemplate than it might otherwise have been.

At the same time the ANC were coming under increasing pressure. As a result of changes in superpower relations Moscow wanted a settlement, as did some African states. In any case, as we have seen, the military struggle was ineffective. The ANC’s strategy was increasingly dependent upon the internal struggle and on the international reaction to that struggle, neither of which it fully controlled. Negotiations would involve a compromise with white power, and the ANC might not be be able sell a settlement, but, given Mandela’s politics, there was no real alternative for him either.

If the only interests that mattered were those of big capital and the black ‘emergent’ and petty bourgeoisie, then a settlement would not be too difficult, despite the formal differences between De Klerk and Mandela. The Zimbabwe settlement, for instance, provided for a black government, protection of private property, and some funds to help a few blacks buy land. But South Africa is not Zimbabwe. The white population is much bigger and more rooted, and the chances of a white backlash are much greater, particularly because the whites have not been beaten militarily. However, the biggest problem is the potential black working class opposition. After all, it was the black working class, not the ANC, whose struggle had forced De Klerk to negotiate.

Some workers and their unions were demanding socialism; that would certainly not be possible. Indeed, if a settlement were to occur it would not include an end to the massive income differentials and terrible poverty, it would not concede the call for Iswe Lethu (the land is ours), and even the proposal for ‘one person one vote in a unitary state’ might require some amendment. The settlement would not be based on the Freedom Charter and important elements of the old state would remain intact. Indeed, it would be wrong to characterise such a settlement as a revolution (whether ‘national democratic’ or otherwise); it would certainly involve important democratic reforms and probably the election of a black president, but historic compromise might be a more apt description.

The major obstacle to any settlement would be that of bridging the gap between the expectations of a powerful black working class and the realities of a compromise with white power. The SACP would have an important part to play in lowering these expectations. With its radical image it could help to deliver the acquiescence (if not support) if numerous activists influential within the working class. In the period since Mandela’s release, in February 1990, there have been a number of events which can help us to assess whether the SACP is willing and able to fill this role.

Mood of militancy

Immediately after Mandela’s release there was a massive wave of struggle in the homelands. In Ciskei, President-for-life Lennox Sebe was overthrown following widespread protests, many of them demanding an end to homeland rule. In Gazankulu, Hudson Ntsanwe went into hiding following marches and stay aways, the burning down of his home and business, and opposition from members of the homeland parliament. In Venda, magistrates and policemen joined civil servants, electricity workers and tea plantation employees in taking strike action over a range of demands including better pay, an end to corruption and reincorporation into South Africa; eventually there was a coup. In Bophuthatswana, one demonstration included 80,000 people and Lucas Mangope only managed to maintain himself in power by means of brutal repression. The homelands which remained relatively quiet were the four whose leaders had indicated some support for the ANC – Transkei, Lebowa, Kangwane and QwaQwa – and KwaZulu, where the tempo and character of conflict has been different. [38]

The new mood also affected the major urban areas, and it made a dramatic impact on the industrial situation. According to Work in Progress:

‘It feels like 1987’ was one strike-watchers comment. The analogy is not inappropriate. After two relatively quiet years, strike levels are now comparable with those of 1987. [39]

In March and April, stoppages were particularly widespread in the public sector with health workers, teachers, railway workers and even prison warders and police to the fore. Some of the unions reported white workers wanting to join. In May, there was a major strike wave in the Port Elizabeth area. [40] In June and July there were important national disputes in the retail and catering sector, a large number of strikes involving NUMSA, and others involving chemical workers, postal workers and NUM.

Between. March and the end of July there was a high level of confidence and unrivalled militancy. There was a perfect opportunity for the ANC/SACP/COSATU to galvanise the mood and call for unified action to, for instance, destroy the homeland system, secure a minimum wage and a reduced working week, and end racial discrimination at work. Such action could also have strengthened the hand of the ANC in negotiations with De Klerk. The stay-away in protest against violence in Natal, on 2 July, provided a glimpse of what was possible. Even though the issue did not arise out of most workers’ direct experience of struggle, some 3 million workers backed the action. Unfortunately, it was not followed up and as a result workers did not gain any real feeling of success and advance.

On the homeland question, the ANC’s main concern was not that of destroying a key apartheid institution, but of securing allies. [41] Reducing length of the working week was a major issue in the metal industry, where a 45-hour week was still the norm; but when NUMSA members on the Witwatersrand went on strike, they were opposed by the union executive (closely identified with the SACP), who argued they should wait for national action. Similarly, NUM (the first major union to back the Freedom Charter) avoided a fight over goldminers’ pay, despite rates of only R350 (about £70) per month; and they failed to make a national issue of racism, despite deaths and detentions in Welkom. [42]

There is no evidence of the leadership attempting to develop the militancy, only of them trying to defuse it. In March, Mandela urged Soweto teachers to halt their strike action against overcrowded classes and poor pay. In May, following a request from De Klerk, he intervened to settle a strike at Soweto’s Baragwanath hospital (the largest in the southern hemisphere), and this had the effect of damping down the strike action which was beginning to spread to other hospitals.

Despite the SACP’s description of itself as an independent workers’ party, there is no evidence of it criticising the ANC’s approach to the mood of militancy. Indeed, although it has begun to distribute Umzebenzi and, to a lesser extent, African Communist, I do not know of any agjtational material it has produced for workers. The SACP had an excellent opportunity to develop itself as a genuine workers’ party but refused to do so.


At the end of July, state security services broke into an ANC computer and discovered plans for stepping up the armed struggle if, and only if, negotiations collapsed. Publicity surrounding the incident gave the impression of a conspiracy (a ‘red plot’), unknown to Mandela, which was also a breach of the Groote Schuur Minute (by which the government and the ANC agreed a ‘common commitment towards the resolution of the existing climate of violence and intimidation’). De Klerk and the security services turned the issue into a stick with which to beat those MK elements sceptical about negotiations. A few days later, Mandela called off the armed struggle.

Although there was no rebellion, there were complaints about Mandela’s behaviour. First, he suspended the armed struggle without De Klerk having agreed to the preconditions set by the ANC and backed by COSATU (the so-called Harare declaration). For instance, there was no agreement to remove defence forces from the townships, no agreement to scrap the Suppression of Communism Act, and large numbers of political prisoners were still detained. Secondly, the decision was taken without reference to the ANC’s national executive and without any debate in the mass movements. Despite Slovo’s new-found concern for democracy, he did not oppose Mandela’s imposition of this important decision.

Within a few days of the suspension there was a rapid increase in the level of township violence. Over 500 people were killed between 10 and 24 August, the bloodiest fortnight in South African history, and the violence continued into 1991. [43] Mandela and Slovo had repeated calls for non-violence when they suspended the armed struggle and there was no evidence of their supporters initiating the disturbances. However, their attempts to tone down the conflict and ‘create a climate conducive to peaceful negotiations’, may have given encouragement to their old enemies in Inkatha and the defence forces. According to the Financial Times:

Inkatha, undeniably, started it. Four weeks ago, busloads of Inkatha-supporting Zulus were bussed to the Transvaal township of Sebokeng, where they attacked non-Zulu hostel dwellers. This operation, and numerous attacks launched from Zulu-dominated hostels on the East Rand and Soweto last week, make it difficult to resist the conclusion that Inkatha was aiming for a show of force ahead of talks due to begin soon on a new constitution ...

Police openly sided with Inkatha in incident after incident, disarming the ANC and leaving Inkatha holding spears and knobkerries, axes and shotguns ... The Government may want a strong Inkatha to balance the influence of the ANC. [44]

It is unlikely that either Inkatha, or those elements in the security forces supporting them, were acting as direct agents of De Klerk. However, they did play a valuable role in undermining the confidence of the masses and weakening Mandela’s hand at the negotiations. For a time De Klerk did little, if anything, to stop the bloodshed. He could, for instance, have brought pressure to bear on Inkatha and on the rogue elements within the state. Instead, he managed to deflect attention away from himself by proposing that Inkatha and the ANC get together and discuss the problem.

Unfortunately, Mandela’s inclination has been to do just that. When released from jail he proposed a joint rally with Buthelezi, and the idea was only dropped after opposition from his own supporters in Natal who had first-hand experience of Inkatha’s death squads. In September Mandela told the press that the fact that he and Buthelezi ‘differ on political questions does not affect our personal relationship’. [45] Eventually, although Walter Sisulu, the ANC Chairman, had said there would be no meeting between the two leaders, a meeting was held in January 1991. Yet the bloodshed continued.

Tragically, at the end of August 1990, a marvellous opportunity to undermine Inkatha had been missed when the NUMSA executive called off their union’s planned national strike, which had been backed by 80 percent of the members in a ballot. Inflation was running at about 30 percent, the postal workers had won a 40 percent increase, but NUMSA, probably the best organised union in South Africa, settled for only 19 percent. The action, which would have involved the union’s 115,000 metal workers plus the members of other unions, would have united workers across ethnic divisions and exposed Inkatha’s failure to fight for the interests of black workers. Unfortunately, the union accepted the advice of SACP members not to strike, because of ‘the violence in the country’!

Mandela could have responded to the violence by supporting armed defence, but, despite pressure from below, he avoided doing so. As in December, a residents’ leader in Thokoza, a township east of Johannesburg which had experienced much bloodshed, was quoted as saying: ‘Why doesn’t Mandela give us arms to defend ourselves?’ [46] Rather than initiate action himself, Mandela called on the state to take tougher measures. De Klerk took advantage of this appeal to introduce ‘Operation Ironfist’, which included strengthening police powers and imposing a curfew in a number of areas, including Soweto. The result was a further increase in the demoralisation of Mandela’s supporters.

The second half of the year was very different to the earlier period. Confidence plummeted, and along with it the level of industrial militancy. [47] The effect was to undermine Mandela’s position in the negotiations. He did not want this, but it was a product of his concern not to rouse the masses, lest this raise expectations and make a settlement more difficult to deliver. That a petty-bourgeois leader, such as Mandela, should vacillate in a moment of crisis, should be no surprise. It is precisely at such moments that a genuine, revolutionary, workers party would act decisively and prevent demoralisation from deepening. By November, the SACP was giving verbal support to the idea of armed self-defence, but it did not act decisively. The violence was not only a test of Mandela’s leadership it was also a test of the SACP. Both had failed.

The future

Towards the end of 1990, with the ANC in disarray, the notion developed within National Party circles, that perhaps it was not necessary to do a deal with the ANC; that perhaps the combination of reforms and a deal with Buthelezi (whose support in the Transvaal had grown as a result of the violence) would be sufficient to win Western approval and an end to sanctions. [48] By the beginning of 1991, this idea had been dropped. The situation was transformed by the experience of the ANC’s consultative conference held in late December.

The leadership was shaken by the anger of the majority of delegates at the conference. Tambo, the ANC president, came to the conference as a returning hero, but having argued that sanctions should be lifted he left with a tarnished reputation. In order to assuage the rank-and-file, the leadership moved that sanctions should be maintained, that self-defence structures should be built, and that only a constituent assembly, democratically elected on a non-racial basis, had the right to determine a new constitution. They also fixed a deadline of 30 April by which time De Klerk must fulfil the conditions for formal negotiations to commence (including the release of political prisoners and the granting of permission for all exiles to return). Despite the militancy of the conference, no alternative to Mandela emerged, and in his summing-up he made it clear that he would engage in secret discussions with the government if he felt it appropriate. Nevertheless, many NEC members left the conference resigned to the fact that they were unlikely to be re-elected at the full congress, planned for July. [49]

The conference seems to have demonstrated to De Klerk that the desired stability could only be achieved with Mandela’s support. In January, in what appeared to be a pre-planned move, De Klerk immediately welcomed the ANC’s proposal for an all-party conference (APC) as the first step in negotiations. The ANC initially suggested that the APC could be extended into a constituent assembly, but that idea was rapidly dropped, because it appeared to threaten the nature and status of a constituent assembly. [50] Following the consultative conference, the demand for a constituent assembly (which was also backed by COSATU, the PAC and many other organisations) became sufficiently entrenched for it to create an obstacle for any settlement which De Klerk and Mandela might propose.

The consultative conference agreed to mass action in support of the demand for a constituent assembly, but the stay-away and rallies held on 1 February, to coincide with the opening of parliament, were not particularly successful, and De Klerk stole the limelight with his speech proposing further reforms. He appeared to believe that since apartheid laws were doomed he might as well gain the benefit of removing them himself. The approach was not only aimed at securing an end to sanctions, but also at reducing grievances in the townships, and it was coupled with increased spending on housing, education and health. [51] At the time of writing (end of March 1991), leading negotiators, including Slovo were making positive noises about the prospects for a negotiated settlement. What would such a settlement look like?

De Klerk has proposed the following conditions: ‘a professional defence force, a bill of rights and a free market system’. The first two would not create too much difficulty for the ANC, although there might be haggling over details. In March, a meeting between MK leaders and former South African generals reached a high level of agreement about a future defence force (which would include a minority of MK combatants) [52]; and the ANC is keen on a bill of rights, which they have always seen as a way of ‘allaying the fears of whites’. But what about the economy?

At the beginning of October the ANC released a draft document on economic policy. It expressed understandable ‘concern’ about ‘a number of features of the currently existing private sector, which remains profoundly marked by its origins in apartheid society’. These ‘features’ included: ‘Only about 2 percent of the total assets of the the private sector are owned by black people, while over 90 percent of top managerial positions remain in the hands of whites ... over 80 percent of the shares traded on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are controlled by f0ur large conglomerates.’ [53] There were, however, no definite proposals about how to deal with these problems. In the first months after his release, Mandela did promote a solution: nationalisation of banks, mining houses and ‘monopoly industries’ were said to be essential. However, by the beginning of July his tune had changed. He told the US Congress that the ANC held ‘no ideological position that dictates it must adopt a policy of nationalisation’. He went even further in his attempts to reassure the ‘monopolists’ when he added: ‘We are sensitive to the fact that as investors in a post-apartheid South Africa you will need to be confident about your capital and a general climate of peace and stability. [54] Slovo agreed: ‘A strong lead from the state is necessary to create conditions where both the people and private capital can flourish’. [55]

In September 1990, Mandela said that a post-apartheid government would consist of various political parties, even if the ANC won a majority. This was ‘so that a new government would be representative of all political opinion in order for all people to be confident’ that they would be adequately represented’. Such a government would clearly involve National Party (NP) members, because two days later De echoed Mandela’s words with talk of a ‘government of national unity’.

Given the SACP’s majority on the ANC and COSATU executives, it is unlikely that Mandela would propose a ‘government of national unity’ without being assured of Slovo’s support. At any rate, the SACP has not opposed the idea. It might find an alliance with the Nationalist Party distasteful, but it could probably convince itself that it would not be unprincipled. The SACP would not necessarily appear as enthusiastic supporters of a deal; indeed critical backing could be more effective. ‘Its not what we wanted’, they might say, ‘but it reflects the balance of forces’ and, they would add, ‘the alternative is more bloodshed, and look at the problems we’ve had with the armed struggle, and it’s better to carry on the struggle by peaceful means, through elections’.

Because the SACP give priority to national interests rather than class interests, they could easily end up supporting a government which would include the main representatives of South African capitalism. This would not be the end of the story. This financial year, there is likely to be a decline in the size of the South African economy (a substantial reduction in per capita income). Concessions would soon be demanded from a working class still suffering from the long-term effects of apartheid, yet still powerful. Renewed conflict is inevitable and could not be long postponed. The SACP, because it desires the development of a South African economy, is likely to look for compromise. It will, thereby, continue to undermine the working class. Once the working class is weakened, it is quite possible that South Africa’s rulers will decide to dispense with the services of the Communists, as happened, without mercy, in Iraq and Indonesia.

This is speculation. What we know, however, is that Jeremy Cronin has argued that the ANC, not the SACP, is the ‘machinery’ for elections; and he followed through the logic of this position by suggesting that the Party might eventually merge with the ANC. This is hardly the argument of someone attempting to develop the SACP as party concerned with the special interests of workers! For the present, says Cronin, the Party should see itself as a ‘fairly mass party’ (his phrase). Presumably, if it were too small it would not be effective in winning support for ‘a strong progressive revolutionary ANC rooted in the working class’. If, on the other hand, it were a genuine mass party, it might appear as a threat to the ANC, and the leadership might have difficulty in maintaining control. [56]

A settlement involving the leadership of the ANC now seems probable, but this will not be achieved without opposition from below, reflecting the interests of workers in opposition to capital. Zach de Beer, leader of the liberal Democratic Party, has speculated that the ANC will split. ‘Township kids are not equipped to understand the need for restraint,’ he says. ‘The leadership will compromise reasonably, and a substantial group won’t accept that and will split.’ [57]

Certainly there is open criticism of the ANC from township activists, particularly among the youth. They are furious that instead of confronting Inkatha the ANC has called for calm and reliance on the Enty forces. They question whether all the humiliating compromises with De Klerk have been worthwhile. Combined with a still volatile industrial situation, this boiling anger emphasises that there is no simple route to a settlement, even if De Klerk and Mandela are agreed on one. There will be sharp struggles and flashpoints throughout the process and the outcome is by no means certain to go exactly as the National Party and ANC leaders want.


The struggle against exploitation and oppression has produced a powerful working class in South Africa; amongst a large number of workers the prospect of a settlement is producing a questioning of the dominant ‘populist’ current within the working class; socialists can now organise openly and legally for the first time since 1950. The development of a political organisation from the left, which can begin to challenge the SACP, is now possible.

Events appear to be vindicating, very largely, two important aspects Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. [58] First, that only the proletariat would have the determination and the power to bring down the old order. As we have seen, the main force bringing about an end to apartheid has been the working class, and, contrary to the SACP’s expectation, guerrilla action has been of marginal significance.

Secondly, a democratic revolution, if such did occur, could not lead to a stable, anti-imperialist class compromise, and the matter would have to be resolved either in the interests of the working class or in the interests of capitalism (leading to further attacks on democracy). It now seems likely that the latter will triumph although not without a struggle, and that the contradiction will be resolved, for the present, short of revolution. A ‘post-apartheid’ government will not be one which represents the interests of workers and the black petty and ‘emergent’ bourgeoisie against monopoly capital, as Slovo predicted; it will represent the interests of monopoly capital and the black petty and ‘emergent’ bourgeoisie against the workers. Such a solution was the declared aim of the SACP; it is, however, the logic of its politics.

However, Trotsky’s theory comprised both a prediction (of what would happen) and an aim (what was desirable), and he did not always make a clear distinction between these two elements. Furthermore, until 1917 he did not appreciate the importance of a revolutionary party, which was crucial to the establishment and maintenance of workers’ power, without which permanent revolution was impossible. As Tony Cliff has demonstrated, in the absence of such a party a section of the petty bourgeoisie (particularly part of the intelligentsia can scramble to the head of the workers’ struggle. Such a leadership would deflect the revolutionary movement away from genuine socialism – either toward deflected permanent revolution in its ‘pure’ form (the state capitalism of China and Cuba) or in its ‘bastard’ form (e.g. Nehru’s India, Nkrumah’s Ghana). [59]

In South Africa the working class has been the engine of change, but not the engine driver; it has been the leading force, but not the leader. The SACP has played, and is playing, a key part in the deflection of the revolution by drawing the working class behind the petty bourgeois leadership of the ANC. The long years of apartheid repression have meant that for those in South Africa who seek radical social change the SACP’s claim to represent the interests of the working class only now being tested. It has been built on an illusion, and, over time the illusion will be dispelled. The SACP is based upon contradictory interests and increasingly this will become apparent.

For the present, there is an urgent need to gather together those socialists who have seen through the rhetoric of the SACP, and begin to build a socialist alternative. Such an alternative will only triumph if it is based on a clear understanding of the impact and nature of Stalinism; of the strengths and limitations of the theory of permanent revolution; and the need for a political organisation capable of fighting, around limited objectives, alongside other social forces, but based solely upon the interests of the working class, and with the ultimate aim of socialist revolution.

* * *


I am grateful to those comrades who made comments on earlier drafts of this article, and to those South Africans who responded to my requests for information.

1. It was reported that 50,000 people attended the Party’s launching rally in Soweto, and an even larger number attended a Party rally in Port Elizabeth. According to New Nation (Johannesburg), 17 August 1990, 10,000 people had applied to join the party within two weeks of its launch. The SACP say that 70 percent of their membership are Africans, 16 percent are white, 10 percent are Indians and 4 percent are ‘coloureds’; 75 percent of the internal members are workers, but 75 percent of the exiled members are ‘professionals, intelligentsia and students’. According to Africa Confidential (London), 28 of the ANC’s 37 strong National Executive are SACP members; according to the Weekly Mail (Johannesburg) the figure is 19. See Frontfile (London) 4:11, August 1990, pp. 4, 6.

2. J. Simons and R. Simons, Class and Colour in South Africa, 1850–1950 (London 1983), p. 406.

3. Ibid., p. 439.

4. B. Hirson, Yours for the Union (London 1989), p. 80.

5. Simons, op. cit., p. 538; T. Karis and G. Carter (eds.), From Protest to Challenge, Vol. 2 (Stanford 1973), pp. 107, 408.

6. The others were the Indian Congress, the Congress of Democrats and the Coloured Peoples Organisation.

7. South African Communists Speak, 1915–1980 (London 1981), p. 300. A ‘study guide’ published in the ‘voice of the SACP’, Umsebenzi 6:2, 1990, recommends the version of CST to be found tn the SACP’s The Path to Power (1989)

8. J. Slovo, South African – no middle road, in B. Davidson et al. (eds.), Southern Africa: the New Politics of Revolution (Harmondsworth 1976), p. 134.

9. J. Slovo, The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution (London 1988), p. 8.

10. Chief Albert Luthuli was ANC President-General from 1952 until his death in 1967, but he was not shown the Freedom Charter before it was published, and nor was he consulted about the commencement of aimed struggle; T. Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945 (Johannesburg 1983), p. 71, p. 233. The PAC was formed in 1958, after its members had been excluded from a Transvaal ANC conference; Lodge, ibid., p. 82.

11. F. Meer, Higher than Hope (Harmondsworth 1988), p. 252.

12. Ibid., p. 249. On the Freedom Charter see Lodge, op. cit., pp. 70–74; and Alex Callinicos, South Africa Between Reform and Revolution (London 1988), pp. 64–65.

13. See Slovo (1988). Slovo’s position might be contrasted with that of Lenin; see, for example, Second Congress of the Communist International: Minutes of the Proceedings, Vol.–1 (London 1977), pp. 177–183; also Leon Trotsky, The [Third] International after Lenin (New York 1970), p. 221.

14. Slovo (1988), p. 3; original emphasis.

15. Indeed. the SACP (the ‘workers’ party’) have never shown any inclination to challenge Mandela’s leadership of the ANC. For quote, see ibid., p. 10.

16. Ibid., original emphasis.

17. Financial Times, 4 July 1990; Guardian, 4 August 1986; African Communist, 121 (1990), p. 92; New Nation, 29 June 1990.

18. Frontfile, 4:11, Extra, p. 3.

19. Independent, 4 November 1988.

20. Tsietsi Mashinini, the foremost leader of the Soweto school students, once told the present writer that he was not aware of an SACP presence in Soweto in June 1976. Sadly, Mashinini died in Guinea during 1990.

21. R. Fine with D. Davis, Beyond Apartheid: Labour and Liberation in South Africa (London 1990), p. 239.

22. D. McShane, M. Plant and D. Ward, Power! Black Workers, Their Unions and the Struggl for Freedom in South Africa (Nottingham 1984), pp. 142–156. See also Callinicos, op. cit., pp. 88–104. Foster insisted on an independent working-class movement even in ‘socialist’ countries such as Poland.

23. African Communist 103, 1985, p. 97.

24. In 1985-86, the SACP also concluded that it was necessary to raise its profile, which had become unduly submerged inside the ANC; South African Bulletin (Johannesburg) 15:3 September 1990, p. 7. Africa Confidential 31:15, 1990, p. 7.

25. Callinicos, op. cit., p. 172. Following an agreement with COSATU, SACTU dissolved itself in 1990.

26. Socialist Worker Review 80, pp. 18–20. (Anchor missing in printed edition, so we have placed it where it seems appropriate. – Note by ETOL)

27. Interview with Moses Mayekiso in New Nation, 3 August 1990. SACTU attempted to block support for Moses during his trial in 1988–9, and at time Moses spoke out against them; thus his claim to have been an SACP member for a long time should not be taken too seriously. For Draft Workers Charter see African Communist 119, 1989, p. 108. A Workers Charter is likely to be agreed by a joint conference of COSATU and the other trade union federation, NACTU; New Nation, 1 March 1991.

28. Frontfile 4:11, Extra, pp. 1–2. The two senior trade unionists who have not ‘come out’ as SACP members are Jay Naidoo and Cyril Ramaphosa. The latter was said to be ‘unhappy’ with the Party; Africa Confidential 31:15, p. 6.

29. [There is no note 29 in the printed version. – Note by ETOL]

30. The Path to Power, p. 7.

31. J. Slovo, Has Socialism Failed? (London 1990), p. 1. For interesting critiques of Has Socialism Failed? see P. Jordan in Work in Progress (Johannesburg 1990); B. Hirson in Searchlight South Africa (London) 5 (1990); A. Habib, and M. Andrews in South African Labour Bulletin 15:3 (1990).

32. Slovo (1990), p. 27.

33. Chris Harman, The Fire Last Time: 1968 and After (London 1988), p. 342.

34. Ibid.

35. Slovo (1990), p. 26.

36. South African Labour Bulletin 15:3, p. 30.

37. See Tony Cliff and Donny Gluckstein, Marxism and Trade Union Struggle: The General Strike of 1926 (London 1986), pp. 26–27; also Alex Callinicos, The and-file movement today, in International Socialism 2:17 (1982), pp. 1–38.

38. New Nation, 2 March 1990; Weekly Mail, 2 March 1990; Weekly Mail, 9 March 1990.

39. Work in Progress 68, p. 39. In 1987 there were a record number of strike days. In the seven weeks after May Day 1990 only five of the 46 actions were legal, reflecting a high level of spontaneous action. See Work in Progress 67 (1990), p. 39.

40. South African Labour Bulletin 14:8 (1990) pp. 9–14; Weekly Mail, 6 July 1990.

41. Guardian, 27 June 1990; Vukani Basebenzi (Cape Town) 1, p. 1; New Nation, 18 June 1990; New Nation, 17 August 1990.

42. Weekly Mail, 30 March 1990; South African Labour Bulletin 15:1, 1990, p. 35.

43. Weekly Mail, 20 December 1990; New Nation, 25 January 1990.

44. Financial Times, 20 August 1990.

45. Independent, 4 September 1990.

46. Guardian, 12 December 1990.

47. New Nation, 21 December 1990.

48. Financial Times, 13 December 1990; Observer, 22 December 1990.

49. Weekly Mail, 20 December 1990; New Nation, 21 December 1990.

50. New Nation, 11 January 1991; Guardian, 9 January 1991.

51. [There is no note 51 in the printed version. – Note by ETOL]

52. Weekly Mail, 2 March 1990.

53. New Nation, 5 October 1990.

54. Financial Times, 4 July 1990; Financial Times, 5 July 1990.

55. J. Slovo, Growth strategy needs public and private input, in Financial Times, 1 August 1990.

56. South African Labour Bulletin 15:3, pp. 6, 8.

57. Independent on Sunday, 21 April 1991.

58. Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects (New York 1969), p. 30. For the crassness of some SACP writing on Trotsky see Dialgo, What is Trotskyism, in African Communist 115, 1988, 72; this writer has produced an article on Trotsky without having read his major work on permanent revolution.

59. Tony Cliff, Permanent Revolution, in International Socialism (old series) 61, (1973), pp. 18–29.

Last updated 12 June 2019