ANC 1985

The Nature of the South African Ruling Class

This document is one of a series of National Preparatory Committee Documents from the ANC National Consultative Conference at Kabwe, Zambia, in June 1985;
Transcribed: for by Dr. Pallo Jordan.

Our movement’s political statements and documents abound with broad generalities that refer to the ‘white group’, ‘white minority’, ‘racist minority’, etc. Though we do not by any means question the validity of these terms to characterise the very visible line-up of forces within South Africa, it has to be admitted that they are not of much assistance in clarifying exactly who the ruling class in South Africa are.

From the outset we wish to state that the term ‘class’, as it will be employed in this paper, denotes ‘ ... Large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, their relation (in most cases fixed and formulate by law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the divisions of the share of social wealth they dispose and the mode of acquiring it’.[1]

The document, Strategy and Tactics of the ANC, adopted at the Morogoro Conference, speaks of ‘... the small group which owns South Africa’s wealth’. The document does not spell out how this ‘ small group’ exercises ownership. For various historical reasons it is very rare for an ANC document to actually give a definition of the South African social formation as capitalist. Consequently, we employ a plethora of terms that do not assist in clarifying the nature of South African society, its ruling class, that ruling class’s relationship to the state, the government and the white community at large.

The South African social formation is beyond dispute capitalist. This implies certain property relation. a specific mode of producing the social wealth and appropriating it, and definite pattern of distributing the surplus. Thus, in such a social formation, when we refer to ... the small group which owns (the) wealth’, we are referring to those who own and control the decisive sectors of productive property — the mines. the banks and large insurance companies, the factories, large commercial farms and retail firms.

In this respect, the capitalist economy in South Africa does not difficult in its essential, from capitalism in say Britain, France or Japan. It is governed by the same laws of motion and is characterised by the same basic contradictions, that between wage labour and capital. This does not, however, mean that it is identical to capitalism in other countries. Capitalism, as it exists in South Africa, has a number of specific features, setting it apart from others. To better grasp these specific features we must briefly trace their historical origins.

The Origins of South African Capitalism

The capitalist mode of production came to our country as a result of colonial domination and imperialism. At the dawn of capitalist development, it was merchants from Europe who battered down the gates to South Africa, bringing our country into the orbit of a developing world capitalist system. Capitalism, however, could not take root until the 1850s when British settler farmers presided at its birth in the Cape. Encouraged and assisted by a colonial administration that had seized large tracts of African-owned land, the white farmers turned these into profitable wool-producing farms to serve the textile mills of Britain.

Throughout this period, the state played a central role. During the days of the Dutch East India Company, the colonial state and the mercantile company were one and the same body. After 1806, under the British, though the state was autonomous. it was a veritable engine of private accumulation. It was the instrument employed to dispossess the KhoiKhoi and other African traditional peasants of their land and regiment them into a propertyless proletariat.

The opening of the mines (diamond -1870: gold -1885) was the critical watershed in the development of the South African economy. Because mining required a large labour force, it generalised the wage labour system of exploitation, drawing in large numbers of Africans. The economy, until then centred on the rural areas, now became firmly based in the emerging urban areas. drawing to them increasing numbers off the land. The pre-capitalist mode of production either had to adapt to these development or be doomed to extinction.

It was within the mining industry that the new capitalist class began to crystallise. The process begins in the 1870s. In 1872 the white ‘diggers’ democracy’ on the diamond fields was able to force the colonial government to restrict prospecting and mining rights to whites only. These laws had the effect of declaring all indigenous blacks ineligible for any form of control or ownership over the nascent industrial economy. Any white fortune seeker, no matter what part of the world he came from, could aspire to own and share in the mineral wealth of South Africa; but not an indigenous black. The emergent capitalist class was thus defined as white, and this fact was underwritten by law.

In both diamond and gold mining, the small independent mine owner was soon pushed to the wall. Mining, by the end of the 1880s, had come under the domination of a handful of powerful companies, controlled by British finance capital, in alliance with the small pro-British element in the settler bourgeoisie. Through the establishment of the Chamber of Mines in 1889, the mining companies eliminated the recruitment of African labour. A monopoly labour recruiting organisation (Wenela/Theba) was set up to enforce a ‘maximum average’ wage for African labour, which all mining companies were obliged to observe. These were directly linked with other monopolistic practices that became entrenched within two decades of the opening of the mines.

The lucrative profits from mining were repatriated to Europe at the expense of local capital accumulation. South Africa thus became tied to Britain as a supplier of raw materials — minerals and foodstuffs — and like any other colonial country, faced the prospect of dependency. Though the mining revolution created the preconditions for the economic unification of the country, during the late 19th century South Africa was still politically divided among four white states — the two Boer republics and the British colonies of the Cape and Natal. Though they all had features in common, as white settler states, the four differed in a number of respects.

In the Cape the white colonialists had seized most of the land from the indigenous people, but a small enclave, north-east of the Kei, remained in African hands. Colonial policy sought to create a modern peasantry and an agricultural proletariat from among the blacks, both for economic and political reasons. Hence the policy of ‘Cape liberalism’, with its colour blind franchise coupled with the Masters and Servants Act. The ‘princes of commerce’, closely associated with the wealthy commercial farmers, dominated the Cape’s agrarian capitalism until 1870, when the massive inflow of foreign capital to develop the mines began.

Natal had evolved in a different manner. The settler farmers of Natal had seized the best agricultural land through military control over its African population and had reduced the former owners to virtual serfdom. Under the supervision of Shepstone, the colony was segregated along racial lines. The white population of 20,000 was allocated ten million acres; the African population, numbering 300,000 was allocated two million acres, broken up into a number of tiny ‘native’ reserves.

While the powerful Zulu kingdom to its north retained its independence, the colony of Natal could not solve its labour needs. Hence, from 1860 the sugar planters imported indentured labourers from India to make up the shortfall. The destruction and incorporation of the Zulu kingdom after 1880 rendered such importations unnecessary.

The Transvaal and the Orange Free State had been established as Boer republics through military conquest. During the 1870s the two most powerful African kingdoms in the region were finally defeated with British assistance. The Boer republics were agrarian settler societies dominated by the owners of large farms, dependent on the labour power of tenants. In both the Boer republics there was no pretence of creating a common society. By law, whites were the dominant group, constituting a distinct political community; blacks were a conquered subject people, excluded from the body politic.

In Natal the law paid lip service to the notion of a common society, but in practice the white settlers treated all blacks as their colonial subjects.

In those portions of the Boer republics and Natal under the control of white farmers landlord/tenant relations predominated on the land. The landed interests were politically dominant until the threat posed by British imperialism forced changes upon them. All three (Transvaal, OFS and Natal) were pre-capitalist modes of production, though increasingly influenced by and interacting with the capitalist mode of production. The opening of the mines made it clear that they would have to adapt to its dominance.

Three separate local ruling classes dominated the settler states until the mining revolution made economic unification imperative. None of the three possessed the power to enforce its will on the others, and their distinctive regional bases of power made voluntary union virtually impossible. The emergent capitalist class, based in mining, however had the support of British imperialism. This was the means that was finally used to bring about political unification.

Through the Anglo-Boer War, the peace of Vereeniging, and Milner’s policies, British imperialism foisted unity on the divided white rulers of South Africa. Britain then helped bind the wounds of the Boer republican leaders by co-opting them into a wider South African ruling class. But the war had also defined the future relationship of Britain and South Africa: economically, South Africa would be a satellite of British imperialism, an outlet for the export of capital and a source of raw materials; politically, the local ruling class would be allowed autonomy and could even be granted sovereignty. By the terms of Vereeniging, Milnerian policy and finally the terms of Union, this ruling class was to be exclusively white. Thus the ‘small group which owns South Africa’s wealth’ is drawn from one racial community, the whites.

Colonialism of a Special Type and the White State

Historically, capitalist state forms have evolved along a number of paths. For purposes of convenience, historians have narrowed these down to two basic ones: the revolutionary and the non-revolutionary.

The first path, the revolutionary, entailed the steady growth of capitalist productive relations within the confines of feudalism. Finally, the tensions produced by this process erupted in a political revolution that then brought the political institutions into conformity with the economic realities. Both the English Revolution (1640) and the French Revolution (1789), the classic examples of this path, involved the dismantling of the feudal state and its replacement by a new state, designed by the revolutionary alliance that had seized power. In France, where the revolution was more profound, this revolutionary alliance included the urban bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, the peasantry and elements of the urban working people. By their independent action, the peasants dispossessed the feudal landlords and redistributed their land amongst themselves. This destroyed the power of the feudal landed gentry and formed the basis tor the later emergence of an agrarian capitalist class on the land.

The second path, sometimes referred to as ‘the revolution from above’ (cf Engels, Selected Works, p 647), was pioneered by Bismarck as Chancellor of Prussia. Unlike their English and French counterparts, the German urban bourgeoisie was unwilling to assume the leadership of, or participate in, a revolutionary alliance. Fearful of an upheaval, whose outcome it could not predict, the German bourgeoisie opted for a counter-revolutionary pact with the feudal landlords, the preservation of the feudal state and its gradual adaptation to the needs of capitalist development through reforms initiated from above.

On the land the feudal landlords retained their property and slowly transformed their former tenants into wage-earning workers.

One could add to these a third variant, deriving from the history of the United States. For lack of a better term, I shall characterise this as the settler-revolutionary path. In the United States, the white settler commercial farmers of the north, in alliance with the slave-owners of the south, rose against British domination (1776) and established an independent white settler republic. Owing to the peculiarities of this alliance, the new state accommodated itself to a capitalist and pre- capitalist mode of production. After almost a century of uneasy co- existence, the capitalist mode of production (in the north) was compelled to impose a revolution from without and from above on the slave-owning south in the shape of the Civil War ( 1860-65) and abolish slavery. The United States thus became economically unified though a thorough-going bourgeois-democratic reformation was delayed tor another 100 years because of the stubborn resistance of the whites in the former slave state.

How then do we sum up the emergence of a unified ruling class in South Africa? What features does the state it gave birth to in 1910 possess?

Unlike its counterparts in Europe, the capitalist class in our country came into being as a consequence of colonialism and imperialism. From its birth it stood on the shoulders of European achievements. Capital from Europe financed the opening of the mines; and it was the colonial state that stepped in to provide the resources to build infrastructure — railways, roads, harbours, posts and telegraphs.

A second distinction is that the capitalist class relied on imperialism to bring about the political unification of the country. Having ridden to power on the cannon of the colonial state, the South African capitalist class, from its earliest days, has stood in a dependent relationship with imperialism.

Lastly, as a class that came into being within a colonial setting, the South African capitalist class sought to make itself racially exclusive through various legal means. In spite of this and in the teeth of ruthless efforts to stifle their development, capitalist and small property-owning fractions from amongst the nationally oppressed have managed to survive. But law still places a ceiling on the level to which a black capitalist may aspire to rise. The recent easing of the provisions of the Group Areas Act as they affect the location of business premises is the first significant measure relieving the limits placed upon black capital through the law.

The capitalist state that came into being after 1910, as a result, bears the features of a non-revolutionary path, but combines these with unique features derived from South African history. The central function of the colonial state was, and remains, the creation and administration of what is essentially a system of labour coercion, directed against the blacks. The ruling class, unified through war and Union, took over this state holus-bolus, periodically adapting and refashioning it to render it more efficient. The South Africa Act, the Statutes of Westminster (1931) and the inauguration of the republic ( 1961) all the measures granting greater independence to the South African state — had a purely negative impact on the status of the black majority. The unified white ruling class found common ground in the policies of white domination.

The Act of Union marks the political watershed in the history of our country. Through its colour bar clauses it entrenched our status as a colonised and conquered people, drawing a sharp line of demarcation through the South African population. All whites. including the subordinate classes among them, were defined as members of an exclusive community, possessing certain prerogatives at the expense of the blacks. It is this institutional subordination of the blacks that stands at the core of colonialism of a special type. An entire framework of laws and racial practices gives this colonialism of a special type palpable form. It is the primary means of capitalist domination in our country. The national question, expressing the contradiction between the black colonised and the white colonial state, is the dominant contradiction in South Africa.

Unity and Disunity in the Ruling Class

In all societies that are divided into classes, political power typically flows from ownership and control of the means of production. This political power finds expression through the state, which is a class instrument combining two functions, those of coercion and those of persuasion (mobilising consent). Its chief task is to ensure the continuity of the power of the ruling class, arbitrate the differences and conflicts within this class, and regulate the conflict between the ruling class and the subordinate classes.

It is crucially important that we distinguish political office from political power. Political office refers to control of ministries conferred on a party on the basis of the results of a general election. Thus it is conceivable in a capitalist country, as happens in France, Britain, Sweden, etc, that a party of the working class may win the elections and assume political office — that is, it is given control over the ministries — without that in any way altering the fact that political power remains in the hands of the capitalist class. What happens in such instances is that a party of the working class is allowed to administer the capitalist state, introduce ameliorative reforms, even impose certain controls on the activities of the capitalists just as long as it does not tamper with the central sphere of capitalist political power. Forming the government, therefore, is not the same thing as acquiring political power. As already stated, political power is expressed through the state.

It is the nature of property-owning classes that their members compete with each other and consequently. coalesce into conflicting interest groups that collide and quarrel with each other over the division of the spoils, as it were. Thus it has been said: ‘... The separate individuals form a class only insofar as they have to carry on a common battle against another class; otherwise they are on hostile terms with each other as competitors’.[2] Historically the South African ruling class has been similarly divided. The oldest and longest-standing cleavage is that between mining capital, with its historic links to imperialism, and agrarian capital, with its close links to the settler-Boer interests, on the opposing side.

Because of the ethnic divisions within the white community, a history of conflict between locally based economic interests and those represented by the imperialist states, this cleavage often expresses itself in boer versus Brit terms. Thus a few years after 1910, the two sides to this argument coalesced around the two major white political parties: Mining around Botha and Smut’s South Africa Party; Agriculture around Hertzog’s National Party. There have, of course, been shifts and realignments between these two major fractions of capital; yesterday’s ally becomes tomorrow’s enemy, and vice versa.

During the first two decades of this century, mining capital was indisputably the dominant fraction within the ruling class. Its principal opponent, agricultural capital, was able to win the support of a small fraction representing secondary industry. Because mining capital was so closely linked to imperialist finance capital, the thrust of the policies it advocated resulted in more or less extractive exploitation of the mineral wealth, with little of the profit ploughed back to develop other sectors. Agricultural capital and secondary industry, on the other hand, wanted to develop a national market, and if possible redefine South Africa’s role vis-a-vis the British economy. They therefore sought to milk the profits earned in mining, restrict foreign imports and thus allow local industry a chance to develop. These objectives were pursued by the first National Party government, the National Labour Pact of 1924, which founded Escom. Iscor and Foskor.

By the mid-1930s, secondary industry had realigned itself with Smuts’ new party, the United Party. The National Party, founded by Hertzog, had itself undergone transformation. After a split in 1935, it had come under the control of a rising Afrikaner capitalist fraction who, having accumulated capital in agriculture, were ready to break into industry and mining through their finance houses.

Whatever the differences dividing the fractions of the ruling class, they pale into insignificance as against the fundamental cleavage between ruling class and oppressed.

Intra-ruling class conflict always takes place against this larger backdrop, which tempers both its intensity and its depth. Locally based capitalist interests, as represented first by Hertzog, later by other political parties and groupings, managed to assert themselves in opposition to the imperialist financiers by a judicious oscillation between confrontation and compromise. This remains the tack adopted by the South African ruling class in its conflict with imperialism.

This instability and fluidity of the alignments within the ruling class reflects both their shifting material interests and also their differing responses to pressure from below, from the liberation movement and the trade unions. Thus, for example, at the height of the Defiance Campaign a number of white politicians formerly linked with the liberal wing of the United Party, made a declaration calling for dialogue across the racial barriers. A year later these came together to found the Liberal Party. In response to the mass struggles of the 1950’s, the United Party underwent further splits, resulting in the formation of the Progressive Party (later the Progressive Federal Party) in 1959. Again in the 1970s, sections of the capitalist class began to complain about the slow pace of change bringing about the present day tensions and splits within the ruling class.

But, because no ruling class except in the most pressing circumstances, ever explicitly articulates its material interests, these differences are always posed in the ideological terms that either cloud or conceal the real issues. By the end of the 1970s the demarcation between mining and agricultural capital had become all but academic as the large mining houses acquired interests in plantations, dairy and meat production; while banks and insurance companies built on the capital of farmers grew into conglomerates with interests in mining, industry, construction etc.

The ruling class does not rule on its own, since it is a minority within the white minority. In order to secure its position, it has had to come to terms with other class forces; make deals and reach compromises with class forces and fractions whose interests temporarily intersect with its own. From such alliances has emerged what we can refer to as a bloc led by the ruling class, which wields power. The matrix that holds this bloc together is the ideology of white supremacy which projects the particular interest of the ruling capitalist class, as the general interest of all whites.

During the 1920s, by dint of their sectional struggles. the white working class were co-opted into the power-block as an essential social support for capitalist domination.

An important component of the South African ruling class’s power base has always been its alliance with imperialism. As noted above, the ruling class owes its origins to imperialism. The support it receives from this quarter assumes many forms, the most important being the transfer of capital and modern technology. On more than one occasion within living memory, bank loans from imperialist countries have bailed out the South African regime.

Though this relationship with imperialism is basically supportive, it is nonetheless fraught with conflicts and contradictions. The primary interest of the imperialist investors is to secure a handsome profit against their initial investment. Thus far, the system of national oppression has served them well in this respect. However, the imperialists have dealings with and interests in countries beyond South Africa. They are, therefore, less committed to the particular confrontation of forces the South African ruling class has to take into account in the formulation of its policies. The priorities of the imperialists are the capitalist system, and they couldn’t care much about which race runs it locally on their behalf. Hence an Edward Kennedy and his condemnation of Botha’s criminal policies. The more far-sighted imperialist politicians are motivated not by their desire to see black freedom, but rather by fear that Botha’s policies (and by extension, Reagan’s constructive engagement) threaten to discredit the capitalist system itself.

Similar fears have begun to affect sections of the South African capitalist class itself, as evidenced by the efforts of the Urban Foundation, various companies and even individual capitalists to convince blacks about the virtues of capitalism. Differing assessments of the relative dangers posed by continued kragdadigheid’ on the one hand, and ‘ reform’ on the other, have themselves produced tensions which have led to a new alignment within the ruling class. It is to these developments that we now turn.

Monopoly Capital and the ‘New Dispensation’

In June 1983 the Financial Mail reported: ‘At the end of 1982 the top 100 industrial companies in South Africa had total assets of R41 billion. Of these, the combined assets of the first 20 were worth R25 billion or 61% of the total. Of this R25 billion, 39% was accounted for by companies associated with Old Mutual; 28% by Anglo associated companies, 10% by Sanlam associated companies, and 8% by state firms. The remainder, 10%, represented independent companies in a manner of speaking. For every one of the top 20 industrial companies were connected, by numerous interlocking directorships, not only to each other but with the largest mining house, the two largest life insurance institutions and four of the five major banking groups.’ (24.6.83)

Later, during the same year, The Star carried a story on the concentration of capital in the South African economy: ‘The private sector of the South African economy is virtually owned by three huge conglomerates — Sanlam, Old Mutual and Anglo American.’ ( 11.8.83). This pattern of control is confirmed in another article, again carried in The Star, during March 1984: ‘Only three mammoth companies now control most of the several hundred companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, according to disclosures on the degree of economic power slipping into fewer and fewer hands.’ (22.3.84)

Similar trends were also noted in the agricultural sector, according to a report in the Financial Mail ‘There is a high degree of economic concentration .. . in the production sector, 2.7% of all enterprises control 50% of total turnover; 6.3% employ 54% of the workforce; and 6% have 85% of all fixed assets.’ (5.8.83)

The reality of the South African economy is that these large corporations do not merely play the dominant role in it, but they have spread their tentacles throughout it, are gobbling each other up to an extent that the very notion of ‘free enterprise’ is being reduced to a joke. This assessment is reinforced by a report that appeared in the Sunday Express regarding the takeover in July last year of South African Breweries (SAB) by the Anglo American Corporation: ‘Mr Gordon Waddell has vastly extended his reach over South African industry by adding the chairmanship of SA Breweries to his existing position as executive chairman of Johannesburg Consolidated Investments (JCI) and his directorship of Anglo American. Mr Waddell’s appointment as successor to Dr Frans Cronje at SAB was announced on Friday. In addition to its beers, SAB’s reach extends to Solly Kramer’s and Mr K, Appletiser, Coca Cola, Fanta, Tab, Schweppes, wines and spirits, OK Bazaars, Edgars Stores, Jet, Sales House, Lubners, Geen and Richards, Furniture City, ABC Shoes, Cuthberts, Moda Belle, Scotts, Uniewinkels, Early Bird TV, Multi-Serv and Pronta Print, Southern Sun Hotels, Anglo-Dutch and David Ryne Office Furniture, Alpino Grafton Everest, and Parker Knoll Furniture, and upholstery, and footwear by Braker, Crocket and Jones, and Hush Puppies. Group turnover exceeded R4.8 billion this year and its profits reached a record level of R205 million, up 30% on the previous year ...’ (22.7.84)

With the ‘closer interlocking between mining, finance and even farming capital as a result of monopoly trends’, the lines separating the various aggregations of capital have become blurred. Is farming capital that distinct from industrial capital when, as the Financial Mail reported in May 1981: ‘...1980 saw two industrial giants, Barlow Rand and Anglo American, take firm hold of more than 75 % of the (sugar) industry ... CG Smith Investments, controlled by then unlisted CG Smith and Co (65 % owned by Barlows) sold Anglo its 50% share in S & T Investments for approximately R97.6 million. This Smith and Tongaat company held the valuable and controlling interest of 53.5% of the issued share capital of Huletts Corporation. The deal gave Anglo joint control of Huletts with Tongaat’ . (22.5.81)

Another example is Tiger Oats and National Milling Company which is associated with the Old Mutual conglomerate. Tiger Oats controls 15 companies that mill maize and produce animal foods; 12 wheat milling and baking companies; 4 companies handling rice milling and distribution; I company producing broiler chickens; I company engaged in fishing; 2 companies producing beer and malt; plus 6 companies engaged in the production of vegetable oils, peanut butter and oleo-chemicals .

It has been compellingly argued by a number of analysts that the trends we have noted probably account for the growing affinity between the formerly opposed Afrikaner and English fractions of the bourgeoisie. One consequence of this is the desire on the part of the Afrikaans monopolists is to cut loose from their erstwhile allies in the urban and rural white petty bourgeoisie. The tensions this has caused within the formerly united Afrikaner political establishment have been exacerbated by the increasingly effective challenge by the whole system of racial domination, posed by the liberation movement. The emergence and rapid growth of an assertive mass working class movement during the last decade brought about the near collapse of the regime’s labour repressive apparatus, forcing it to devise new means to keep abreast of events. Uncertainty has replaced the certitude of the past in the regime’s actions as it toys with a number of options. But the rapidly changing situation, in which it can no longer dictate the pace of events, has already forced it to take actions that only a few years ago were unthinkable. It is in an effort to regain some equilibrium that Botha has elaborated the counter insurgency strategy called ‘the new dispensation’.

In our view, the ‘new dispensation’ consists of two elements. The first is an attempt by Botha to bring about a realignment of forces within the ruling class by forging a working alliance amongst the leading monopolies. The two Carlton Conferences and the Good Hope Conference had this as their theme. Such co-operation, it is intended, will extend beyond the boardrooms and will entail direct contacts with government and increasing consultations through government/business think-tanks and other bodies.

The second, is to redefine the existing power bloc by co-opting elements of the black petty bourgeoisie as junior partners. For this purpose the Botha regime has dropped the rhetoric of ‘separate development’ in preference for the ‘defence of the system of free enterprise’. These changes in the regime’s external appearance have, of course, not changed anything of its substance. Political repression proceeds apace; the forced mass deportations are pursued with renewed vigour; the denationalisation of the African majority, through the Bantustans, has been speeded up.

Nonetheless, sections of the black population could well feel that they have acquired wider opportunities, both to pursue their careers and to accumulate some wealth.

This is a policy motivated not so much by a recognition of pressing economic imperatives, as by the need to put in place policies that promise to salvage the essentials of the old system which stands in imminent danger of being swept away by a revolution from below. In order to free itself from the constraints that the white community could impose on its capacity to react swiftly and flexibly to an extremely fluid situation, the regime has increased the powers of the executive and commensurately curtailed the powers of the white parliament. The top military brass have been brought directly into the most senior decision-making bodies in a move reminiscent of Bonapartism/Gaullism.

Because of mounting mass pressure and the armed struggle, the regime has been forced to seek a way out. The search for an effective counter- revolutionary strategy has, however, undermined the cohesion of the Afrikaner political establishment and that faction of the ruling class it represents. The unity of the political power bloc the National Party put together composed of white petty bourgeoisie of town and country, the white labour aristocracy, and led by the bourgeoisie — has been shattered, perhaps irremediably. This disunity in the ranks of the enemy must be exploited to the full, and where possible, the divisions widened. The most effective means of achieving this is by escalating the liberation struggle on all fronts.

The document Strategy and Tactics of the ANC states: ‘The main content of the present stage of the South African revolution is the national liberation of the largest and most oppressed group — the African people’. This strategic objective determines both the programme of the liberation movement and the nature of the revolutionary alliance we have to build. In neither the revolutionary programme nor the alliance for national liberation can there be any ambiguity about the primary role of the African majority. This is equally applicable to the organs of self- determination and people’s power that will assume the reins of power in the post-revolutionary society. Our objectives pose the need to uproot the structures of colonial domination, destroy the white minority colonial state and establish in its stead a democratic state based on the principle of majority rule.

This type of democratic state we envisage is spelt out in the ten clauses of the Freedom Charter. Though we place equal weight on the separate clauses, the first five, setting out the most pressing political, economic and social reforms a democratic state will have to embark on, can be said to be its core.

The enactment of these measures will place political power in the hands of the black masses and transform South Africa from a country belonging to and exploited by a small class of white capitalists and their imperialist allies, into a country belonging to all who live in it. black and white.

Though the Freedom Charter is not a programme for socialism, it must, nevertheless, be distinguished from a conventional bourgeois-democratic programme. In its third and fourth clauses, the Charter projects the seizure of economic assets presently owned either by South African capitalist firms or trans-national corporations. Such measures will strip the present ruling class of the actual substance of its power, by seizing hold of the commanding heights of the economy. People’s power, as conceived within our movement, will therefore entail a democratic revolution of a new type, in which the interests of the working people, of town and countryside, will be pre-eminent. At the same time the democratic state will secure the interests of the small property-owner, the petty commodity producer, the artisans, traders and professional strata.

The rights of religious people and atheists will be constitutionally protected as will be the rights and humane cultural traditions of minorities. The attainment of these goals will be the greatest contribution the people of South Africa can make to the peace, security and future prosperity of our region and the continent as a whole.


1. Lenin, V.I. A Great Beginning, Collected Works, Volume 29 (Moscow), page 421.

2. Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, (Moscow), page 82.