Joe Slovo of the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress died in 1995 in the aftermath of the nonracial democratic elections that brought the ANC to power in 1994. Slovo is stil revered inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Volume 12, No. 37, 24 October 2013
In this Issue:
Irvin Jim and the empty tin of opportunist workerism: Response to Jim's "lecture" about Slovo
Selective application of revolutionary phrases is counter-revolutionary: Response to Irvin Jim's "lecture"
Irvin Jim and the empty tin of opportunist workerism: Response to Jim's "lecture" about Slovo
By Tebogo Phadu
One would have expected that an SACP member who occupies a leading position in one of our organisations within the mass movement would use the opportunity given to him to clarify to the working class audience, the Party programme 'The South African Road to Socialism' (SARS) and the Medium Term Vision (MTV) that underpins its strategy on the need to build working class hegemony and power in all key sites of struggle. What did he do? He did the opposite.
In his "memorial lecture" on Joe Slovo, inseparably former SACP General Secretary and one of the outstanding leaders of the ANC, we have Irvin Jim renouncing the SACP and the ANC - all in the names of Slovo who he misappropriates and "revolutionary" communism as he crowns himself "a practising communist". In the process of following his "lecture", we find that Jim not only completely distorts Slovo and tries to trim one of his classic pieces about the role of the working class in the National Democratic Revolution, but attempts to trim this work to suit his opportunism - an opportunist distortion of Slovo's heritage we expose in this response.
The allegation that Jim makes in his "lecture" is that our revolution has been sold out by the ANC and SACP, and that current challenges facing Cosatu have to do with that sell-out.
Jim felt "humbled" to give Joe Slovo Memorial Lecture. He should, because his "lecture" was about the legacy of one of the outstanding communists in the struggle for national liberation and socialism - Comrade Joe Slovo, inseparably one of the outstanding leaders of the SACP and the ANC (Jim's bogus surgery to separate Slovo from the SACP and ANC will thus not succeed).
Jim spoke in his "lecture" as one of the leaders of a major trade union in Cosatu and, we should perhaps add, as one of the Party members. But be that as it may, we are still not sure he was "lecturing" in these capacities, because right in the beginning he protest:
'As I reflect on the history of our liberation movement, as led by the ANC and look at today's momentary challenges facing the working class, I want to make my own honest reflection... (my emphasis)'.
The latter is not an honest reflection, but rather an attempt to suppress particularly the SACP perspectives and the Party programme for transformation on the current situation facing the working class.
The choice of his topic centred on Slovo's pamphlet 'The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution'. So it was to be expected that a leader of such a calibre will draw on this classic and brilliant work of Slovo to connect to the present day questions facing the working class, especially the role of the trade union movement in which he is a leader and the Party. He would have proceeded to share with his working class audience, the importance of taking forward Cosatu congress resolutions and 2015 Plan as well as SACP programme - SARS. He would have clarified the respective roles of these formations within the Alliance led by the ANC as we take forward our struggle into a more radical second phase of our transition since 1994.
In short, our leader was expected to understand and apply a strictly objective appraisal of the class forces and their alignment, the political tasks and responsibilities facing us in the unfolding period.
This is befitting since we are talking about a comrade who should be understanding the theory and practice of our revolution 360o. It is an expectation for any disciplined and principled leading cadre. But as it transpired, Jim's "lecture" has been utterly disappointing.
Ok, there is only one thing everyone can agree with Jim. That is, political power must be buttressed by economic power, and both must be in the hands of the people, the majority of whom are the working class. This is not Jim's discovery in Slovo. On the contrary, it is the essence of our national democratic revolution.
As one of our chief representatives Slovo was clearly articulating the content of our national democratic revolution as developed and elaborated by the organisations he belonged to - the SACP and the ANC. Similar to the right-wing tendencies that have made it part of their new agenda to appropriate our heroes and heroines from our movement and accuse it of betraying their contribution and legacy in our struggle, Jim stands to fail with his bogus surgery to separate and divorce Slovo from the SACP and the ANC. The fact is, the SACP and the ANC are and remain Slovo's organisations through which he dedicated his life in a collective context of the struggles for the national democratic revolution and socialism.
The recent Mangaung conference of the ANC, almost one year ago, actually put even stronger emphasis on the above perspective of our revolutionary alliance. The conference commits us to radically shape a second phase our transition along these lines, by securing economic power in its interrelationship to political power. But Jim seems to say 'no, that is not what is happening in practice'.
As a result he devotes two-thirds of his lecture talking about a betrayal of the revolution by the ANC and the SACP, a point which is so agreeable to the bourgeoisie, because throughout he obscures the present programmes of the SACP, the ANC and Cosatu.
Distortions of Joe Slovo legacy, distorting our revolution
Jim should know that Slovo's pamphlet captures the very essence of the SACP's strategic approach to the national democratic revolution and the struggle for socialism. Throughout this "lecture" he keeps on referring to a Socialist Democratic Republic and less or at least nothing about the national democratic revolution. This on its own is not an omission from his part. It is based on a syndicalist, ultra-left notion guided by some anarchism that basically claims that our national democratic revolution is essentially about 'bourgeois-democratic' revolution dominated by the nationalists (what he refers to as "our nationalists in the ANC").
And since his topic is Comrade Joe Slovo, a Communist Revolutionary working in the Terrain of National Oppression, Jim was obliged to quote or cite Slovo on the role of various classes and strata ('within the people's camp') in the national democratic revolution.
But the way Jim, the "practicing communist", if his self-praising is to be believed, did this, is utter distortion. This distortion serves to prove his point of renouncing the current roles of 'both organisations' - the ANC and the SACP.
Listen to what Jim says:
"I have prefixed this input with Slovo's almost prophetic warning when, writing in 1988 about the role of the revolutionary working class during the phase of the National Democratic Revolution he said:"
"It is obvious that the black capitalist class favours capitalism and that it will do its best to influence the post-apartheid society in this direction.
It is obvious that the black middle and upper classes who take part in a broad liberation alliance will jostle for hegemony and attempt to represent their interests as the interests of all Africans.
It is obvious that (like their counterparts in every part of the world) the black middle and upper strata, who find themselves on the side of the people's struggle, are often inconsistent and vacillating. They are usually the enemy's softest targets for achieving a reformist, rather than a revolutionary, outcome."
From the above, our "practising revolutionary communist" concluded: "We are now witness to this ugly reality'! Later in his "lecture", the same quote is repeated with another baseless allegation of Slovo's prophesy becoming the truth: the black middle and upper strata are now dominating the post-1994 trajectory, first GEAR and now NDP, he argued.
But this quotation by Jim can only present a partial picture and failure to reflect what Slovo actually said on this matter. Were it not of the selective quoting perhaps Jim would have identified in Slovo writings, a different conclusion Slovo arrived at. Here is what Jim left out in his selective quoting of Slovo:
"But it is equally obvious that if the working class and its vanguard and mass organisations were to get locked up with themselves, the greatest harm would be done to the cause of both national liberation and social emancipation. By rejecting class alliances and going it alone, the working class would in fact be surrendering the leadership of the national struggle to the upper and middle strata. This would become the shortest route towards a sell-out reformist solution and a purely capitalist post-apartheid South Africa under the hegemony of a bourgeois-dominated black national movement. Along this path, 'class purity' will surely lead to class suicide and 'socialist'- sounding slogans will actually hold back the achievement of socialism."
The above directly concludes, or is preceded by, the paragraphs that Jim selectively quotes. First of all, to leave out this proposition of Slovo which sums up the whole of his revolutionary teaching on the role and place of various classes within the 'people's camp' in the revolution and arrive at misguided conclusions that the SACP and the ANC are sell-out organisations, is an insult and complete renunciation of the theory and practice of our revolution.
Jim cannot but know that Comrade Slovo and the SACP have repeatedly spoke about the importance of working class leadership and hegemony in the struggle for national liberation and socialism. Jim cannot but know that the concept of working class hegemony and leadership is at the heart of the SACP MTV and SARS, and indeed Cosatu's 2015 Plan.
Perhaps Jim should have made use of the opportunity given to him to present an objective assessment of progress on taking forward Cosatu's 2015 Plan which was adopted in the early 2000s. His failure to do this, absolutely blinded him from paying attention to objective and subjective conditions. Instead he remained trapped in subjective and factionalist ideas which are wrong in the extreme.
More so, Jim poses a vague or general question about 'the theory of communism versus practice'. In the concrete South African context this question is best posed as 'what is the theory of struggle for national liberation and socialism'? Using abstract generalities he then charges that we - participants in the revolution - have not implemented the Freedom Charter, and that as a 'way-forward' we must immediately implement the Freedom Charter.
But now, look at this, Jim recognises Slovo as "credited with having authored the 'Sunset Clauses' which inevitably brokered the deadlock which had been preventing real movement forward in the negotiations for a democratic South Africa". On the contrary, Jim does not bother to develop a theory between the "credited" role of Slovo in relation to the said "sunset clauses" on the one hand and the implementation of the Freedom Charter on the other.
Jim simplistically tries to divorce Slovo from the SACP and the ANC and accuses both organisations of betraying the Freedom Charter. Actually, Jim is so blind to see that his argument, followed without deviation, accuses Slovo, altogether with the SACP and the ANC, as a sell-out, because, instead of enforcing the implementation of the Freedom Charter, Slovo authored "sunset clauses". This is of course nonsense.
Slovo understood, as the SACP and the ANC continue to do, that the revolution does not take place in a vacuum. Slovo developed a clear grasp of the configuration and the balance of forces. Instead of a voluntary ideological disarmament that characterises the content and essence of Jim's "lecture", Slovo, and indeed the SACP and the ANC, focused on securing what could be secured on an immediate basis, not as a detour or a cul-de-sac to the revolution, but as a new basis of advancing further with the revolution. Jim should read the ANC Strategy and Tactics in order to appreciate this point.
Just one point about our "revolutionary practicing communist". Jim seems to suggest that the Freedom Charter is a socialist, if not, a communist document, in that he reduces the charter to his communism. To the extent that he reads Slovo's seminal paper that he selectively quotes, Jim would have learned, from Slovo, that:
"The Freedom Charter and our Party Programme do not, however, project socialism as the immediate consequence of a people's victory".
Slovo clearly understood that the Freedom Charter, as he states, "has evolved to express the common immediate aspirations of all the classes of the oppressed people". As Slovo states, again in the same pamphlet that is victimised by Jim's selective quoting, that the Freedom Charter "is not, in itself, a programme for socialism, even though it provides a basis for uninterrupted advance to a socialist future".
The 'failure to implement Freedom Charter' in the last 19 years is the conclusion of a "revolutionary practicing communist". This conclusion is informed by his one-sided interpretation of actual developments in the last 19 years. This one-sided interpretation of the South Africa reality blinded the comrade not to see the class contested nature of the transition - the many advances and achievements of our revolution, the efforts to change policies that did not work, at least in the last 15-years or so - and the responses of our class enemies to that struggle.
In other words our "revolutionary practising communist" fails to see the struggle to implement the Freedom Charter in action. Jim only sees resistance to that struggle, and, unfortunately, he is so blinded by both ideological and political factionalism which has possibly produced his organisational factionalism, to see that the greatest resistance comes from outside, from our class opponents. This one-sided interpretation left him seeing nothing but an 'empty tin' in actual struggles of the last 19 years.
Perhaps by Freedom Charter, Comrade Jim refers to 'immediate nationalisation of commanding heights'. But even here, we are yet to see how Jim's perspective is different from that of the Party, COSATU and the 'red-berets'. But it should be clear that an attempt to pose himself as more revolutionary than the rest of us, may indeed be motivated by subjective feelings and factionalist posture.
Jim, whose Marxist textualist approach can be recognised in some of his writings, has again gotten it wrong. How can he distort the theory of our revolution as well articulated by Slovo and other documents of the Party? There could be many explanations and the ideological roots that are worth exploring, some of which are apparent in Jim's "lecture".
One of these ideological features that can immediately be seen is his opportunism.
Opportunism in the working class movement
The deliberate distortions of Slovo's writings presents itself in the "lecture" as an act of opportunism. The first point is this: by selectively quoting Slovo to present a sense that the revolution has been betrayed, Jim chose to opportunistically transform Slovo into "revolutionary" communist, akin to ultra-leftism, who (if he was still with us) would have supposedly joined a factional battle against the ANC and the SACP leadership.
The second point, we find throughout the "lecture" Jim presenting himself as "revolutionary" communist - a point that tends to mean that they are not just communist, but "practising" "revolutionary" communists. This "revolutionary" communism distinguishes itself from the SACP.
Listen to this:
'We find every day, that there is a very big difference between the theory of Communism and its practice in South Africa.... But we practicing revolutionary communists are not surprised at how things have turned out in South Africa since our 1994 democratic breakthrough'.
"We practising revolutionary communists" who, in order to bolster their claims, deliberately distort Slovo's writings and our revolution.
As Charles Setsubi noted at the funeral of the late comrade Tshepo Wadikapeso (October 2013), this "revolutionary" communism is actually a masquerade to the transformation of trade union organisations into some form of a political party of the working class - historically known within the working class movement as syndicalism. This syndicalist political form - which is laughingly branded Marxist-Leninist by its advocates - has been one of the principal forms of workerism in South Africa.
About 27 years ago, it was Comrade Jeremy Cronin who, writing in Isizwe, journal of the UDF (although he could not pen his name for various reasons),exposed workerism as it expresses itself in South Africa. He advanced that workerism, involving among others an advocacy of confining the struggle to the workplace, generally acquires different forms in South Africa, with syndicalism being one of these forms.
From a syndicalist perspective, it is through the workplace and (to be more precise) through trade union organisation that working class struggle for socialist South Africa can be pursued. This is what Jim advocates when he baselessly accuse the SACP and ANC for having sold out and when he asserts: "Cosatu now remains the only organisation capable of independently articulating the interests and demands of the poor and the working class". But it should also be noted that this form of syndicalism has, on its own, a variety of theories and sub-theories.
Historically, workerist-syndicalism has been a feature of the South Africa trade union movement tradition and indeed, in many movements around the world. But it was really in the 1980s that it came to acquire importance when it sought to disconnect the struggle of the workers at the workplace from the struggle at the community level. In other words it sought to question the struggle of the working class as being integral part of the struggle for national liberation. To ideologically secure this position, workerist-syndicalism advocated for the "independence" of trade union movement, a position that looks very innocent when taken at face value. But in theory and practice syndicalists counterpose this notion of "independence" to the liberation alliance - to the SACP and the ANC.
In fact it should be noted that Slovo's pamphlet that Jim selectively quotes and distorts was actually the response of the Party to the important debates within the trade union movement at that time, about the attitude of the working class (and consequently of trade unions) to the struggle for national democratic revolution and the relation of this revolution to the struggle for socialism in the concrete conditions of the South African reality.
Although Jim's "lecture" is muddle-headed, we can find traces of workerist syndicalism masquerading as "revolutionary" communism, as if communism is not revolutionary.
Jim's lecture is incredibly ridiculous. Listen to this:
'After GEAR was adopted in 1996, the SACP welcomed it. It took time for COSATU to win over the SACP in the fight against GEAR...'
This inept statement is far from the truth (and we have heard this before in the ultra-left circles without a shred of evidence). Note that "winning over the SACP" is an attempt to project that the Party had a different view of GEAR before Cosatu's. That is nonsense, and we shall return to it in another intervention.
The attempt of workerist-syndicalism was to see the SACP or Cosatu splitting from the alliance or rather adopt an oppositionist stance against the ANC; they failed on both grounds. This is being resuscitated, this time with some additional tendency that seeks to incite a split from Cosatu.
As Lenin once observed, right-wing and left-wing opportunisms "complimented each other'.
We have shown how Jim's "lecture" revealed his failure to understand the ABC of our national democratic revolution and the struggle for socialism as plainly demonstrated by his failure to understand Slovo. His apparent acceptance of the NDR and the Freedom Charter does not save him from errors. He has exposed himself of being an "empty tin" of a workerist type.
Tebogo Phadu is an SACP and ANC member
Selective application of revolutionary phrases is counter-revolutionary: Response to Irvin Jim's "lecture"
By Phatse Justice Piitso
In the cause of the forward march of the struggles of our people into our socialist future no amount of the siren songs of the enemy of our revolution will stop our revolutionary alliance. The workers of our country must occupy our forefront trenches of our revolution and ensure that the ANC gets an overwhelming mandate in the forthcoming national general elections.
I refer myself to the political input delivered by Cde Irvin Jim during the occasion of the memorial lecture, dedicated to our most illustrious revolutionary leader of our national liberation movement and the late general secretary of our vanguard party Cde Joe Slovo, at Queenstown Local of Cosatu in the Eastern Cape over the weekend.
History has proven that in the midst of a revolutionary situation, the enemy has the propensity to distort our revolutionary theory to defeat our very same revolutionary struggles. Our late stalwart and the revolutionary leader of our party Cde Lawrance Phokanoka would always say that a revolution is the highest form of class struggles. He would always warn us of a revolution at the peril of being led by the unled.
I am duty bound in this instance to borrow again the wisdom of the leader of the world working class movement Vladimir Lenin, that selective application of revolutionary phrases is counter revolutionary, that we must fight it so that in the future we will not say of us the bitter truth that a revolutionary phrase about a revolutionary war ruined the revolution.
It is the political responsibility of the leadership of our revolutionary alliance to transmit the correct theoretical application about our national democratic revolution to the masses of our people. Without revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary movement.
A trade union movement is a great school for the working class. It is by its character and origin a mass democratic organisation which its immediate political task is to awaken the class conscience of the workers. It is a school of baptism that make the workers to acquire the first experience of their organized struggles at the shop floor level.
The reason why it will always be counter revolutionary to agitate the working class into its traditions of struggles, of singing its songs and slogans, and making repeated calls for the establishment of a socialist republic without a proper theoretical grasp of both the subjective and objective factors of our concrete material conditions.
In the current phase of our transition for the radical transformation of our socio economic terrain, the working class is still the most vital component of our national liberation struggles headed by the ANC. The reason why the working class must comprehend the nature and the mass character of the ANC as a national liberation movement.
A trade union cannot assume political leadership of the working class. The Communist party is the political vanguard of the working class. It does not just represent the working class in the economic struggles but equally in its relations to all classes of society.
The late general secretary of the SACP Cde Moses Mabhida would always state that:
"Our party relationship with the ANC is based on mutual trust, reciprocity, comradeship in the battle and common struggles for national liberation. Our unity of aims and methods of struggles are rare instance of positive alignment between the forces of class and liberation."
Our revered revolutionary leader, the late President of our liberation movement Cde Oliver Tambo would always express the following profound theoretical formulation about our revolutionary alliance:
"The relationship between the ANC and SACP is not an accident of history, nor is it a natural and inevitable development. Our alliance is the living organism that has grown out of the common struggles. We have built it out of our separate and common experiences.
Our revolutionary alliance has been fertilized by blood of countless heroes and heroines, many of them unnamed and unsung. It has been reinforced by a common determination to destroy the enemy and by our shared belief in the certainty of our victory.
Today the ANC and the SACP have a common objectives in the eradication of the oppressive and exploitative system that prevails in our country, the seizure of power, and the exercise of our right to self-determination by all people of South Africa.
We share the strategic perspectives of the task that lies ahead."
It is precisely from this point of view that we repeat ourselves that repeated calls of the slogan for the establishment of a socialist republic without correct analysis of the class balance of forces is the highest forms of infantile disorder.
Repeated calls of slogans for the establishment of a socialist republic without the proper theoretical grasp of both the objective and subjective factors of our concrete material circumstances has a propensity to a counter revolution.
I have however come to appreciate the complexities of our Marxist Leninist scientific revolutionary theory. We have come to realise that if not properly assimilated it has the danger to cause constipation.
There is growing dangerous phenomenon in our country that to be more revolutionary, you must throw insults at the leadership of our revolutionary alliance and undermine the very heart of our fundamental principle of democratic centralism and inner party discipline.
Our revolutionary movement has on many occasions, cleansed itself from the bile of the bladder of the enemy of our revolution in the cause of the struggles of our people against imperialism and colonialism. We will defeat it today and tomorrow.
Even if it can take its trumpet high and sing and dance our own songs and slogans, and wearing our revolutionary paraphernalia, we will defeat it. Our revolutionary scientific theory has always exposed us to the work of the enemy of our revolution.
Our theory has taught us that the enemy of our revolution does not necessarily die, instead of dying, it will always change its form and character, and it will always change its colour like a moving chameleon. Our role is to defend our fortress, our movement is the fortress of our people and our people are the fortress of our revolutionary alliance.
History will tell why Cde Irvin Jim has chosen to vulgarize this most profound contribution by our late leader of our party for selfish and opportunistic interest. We have always repeated that selective use of revolutionary phrasing is an expression of ultra-leftism and therefore counter revolutionary.
I am convinced that the bones of our revered revolutionary leader Cde Slovo, would have reverberated from the grave upon hearing such a web of distortions about one of his finest theoretical interventions, he ever contributed in the cause of the struggles of our people against national oppression and exploitation.
The thesis by our leader Cde Slovo, on the South African working class and our national democratic revolution presents a deeper theoretical glimpse on the theory and the character of the South African revolution. It defines the interrelationship between the national and class struggles in our specific South African conditions of a colonialism of a special type.
The crisis of capitalism is making the working class to resolve the socio economic contradictions which are not of their own making. The reason why imperialism and neo colonial forces will manipulate the very same character of the trade union movement as a seedbed for counter revolution.
International monopoly capital is determined to undermine the rich history of the struggles of the working class movement across the world and more particularly in the former colonies and semi colonies. Southern Africa is the only remaining region in the whole world where former liberation movements who led common struggles of our people in the former colonies and semi colonies are still in power.
Our big five, MPLA in Angola, Swapo in Namibia, ZANU PF in Zimbabwe, Frelimo in Mozambique and the ANC in South Africa are still in the forefront of our struggles to improve the socio economic conditions of our people.
Our liberation movement is still consistent with the traditions and discipline of our struggle to liberate our people from the bondage of our historical past.
The very same logic that counter revolution will leave no stone unturned to agitate the trade union movement in our region to undermine the unity and cohesion of our national liberation movement. Instead of investing to improve the living conditions of our people the enemy will rather use billions of dollars to erode the influence of our liberation movement in the region.
The manifesto of the Communist party states that Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working class parties. They have no interest separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletariat movement.
The communist are distinguished from other working class parties by this only:
In the national struggles of the proletariat of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independent of nationality.
In the various stages of development which the struggles of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.
The leader of the Russian revolution and our world working class movement Cde Vladimir Lenin would say the following about the inseparable nature of the democratic revolution and socialist revolution:
"During the struggles for the achievements of the aims of the democratic revolution, the proletariat has learned to organize itself, to discover its class interest and educate itself about the very process of the struggle.
All this is part of our undeniable historical process. Our party has been and continues to be an important participant in this historical process.
Our socialist revolution is not a single act, it is one battle on one front, but a whole epoch of class conflicts, a long series of battles on all fronts, i.e. on all question of economics and politics, battles that can only end on the expropriation of the bourgeoisie.
It would be a radical mistake to think that the struggle for democracy was capable of diverting the proletariat from the socialist revolution or of hiding, overshadowing it, etc. On the contrary, in the same way as there can be no victorious socialism that does not practice full democracy, the proletariat cannot prepare for its victory over the bourgeoisie without an all-round, consistent and revolutionary struggles for democracy.
The position the bourgeoisie holds as a class in capitalist society inevitably leads to its inconsistency in a democratic revolution. The very position the proletariat holds as a class compels it to be consistently democratic.
The bourgeoisie looks backward in fear of democratic progress which threatens to strengthen the proletariat. The proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains, but with the aid of democratism it has the whole world to win.
The proletariat will always strive to load the democratic revolution not to allow the leadership of the revolution to be assumed by the bourgeoisie but, on the contrary, to take most energetic part in it, to fight most resolutely for consistent proletariat democratism, for the revolution to be carried to its conclusion."
In his collected works left wing communism and infantile disorder Vladimir Lenin continues to say the following:
"And first of all the question arises: how is the discipline of the revolutionary party of the proletariat maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced?
Firstly, by the class consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its perseverance, self-sacrifice and heroism.
Secondly, by its ability to link itself, to keep in close touch with, and to a certain extent, if you like, to merge itself with the broadest masses of the toilers- primarily with the proletarian, but also with the non-proletarian toiling masses.
Thirdly, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard and of its political strategy and tactics, provided that the broadest masses have been convinced by their own experiences that they are correct.
Without these conditions, discipline in a revolutionary party that is really capable of being a party of the advanced class, whose mission it is to over- throw the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved.
Without these conditions, all attempts to establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end in phrase mongering and grimacing. On the other hand, these conditions cannot arise all at once.
They are created only by prolonged effort and hard won experience. Their creation is facilitated by correct revolutionary theory, which, in its turn, is not a dogma but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement."
Therefore it is correct to say again that repeated calls for the slogan for the establishment of a socialist republic without the proper theoretical grasp of both the subjective and objective factors of our concrete material circumstances is tantamount to counter revolution.
Contrary to the vulgar of theoretical distortions and manipulations by Cde Irvin Jim to attack the leadership of our national liberation movement in general and the general secretary of our Communist Party Cde Blade Nzimande in particular, in his most profound and rich theoretical thesis on the working class and our national democratic revolution, Cde Slovo says the following in his opening statement:
"Increased tempo of struggle in our country in the last few years has stimulated a great deal of theoretical debate and political discussion among those in the very front line of the upsurge. Workers in the factories, youth in the townships, mass and underground activists, radical intellectuals, cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe, militants at all levels are seeking answers to the pressing strategic, tactical and organisational questions of the day. Increasing numbers of our people understand the essence of Lenin's political maxim: Without revolutionary theory, there can be no real revolutionary movement.
These discussions and debates keep coming back, in one way or another, to certain fundamentals: class struggle and national struggle, the question of stages of struggle, inter-class alliances, and the role of our working class in the liberation front. Many of these debates are between people who share common starting points; a belief that national domination is linked to capitalism and an acceptance of the goal of a socialist South Africa. But there is not always clarity on the most effective tactical road towards this goal.
A tendency, loosely described as 'workerism', denies that the main content of the immediate conflict is national liberation which it regards as a diversion from the class struggle. Even if it admits the relevance of national domination in the exploitative processes, 'workerism' insists on a perspective of an immediate struggle for socialism.
A transitional stage of struggle, involving inter-class alliances, is alleged to lead to an abandonment of socialist perspectives and to a surrender of working class leadership. The economic struggles between workers and bosses at the point of production (which inevitably spill over into the broader political arena) is claimed to be the 'class struggle'. This is sometimes coupled with a view that the trade union movement is the main political representative of the working class.
A more sophisticated version of the left-workerist position has recently surfaced among union-linked academics. This version concedes the need for inter-class alliances but puts forward a view of working class political organisation more appropriate to a trade union than a revolutionary political vanguard.
At the other end of this debate there are views which tend to erect a Chinese wall between the struggle for national liberation and social emancipation. Our struggle is seen as 'bourgeois-democratic' in character so that the immediate agenda should not go beyond the objective of a kind of 'de-raced' capitalism.
According to this view there will be time enough after apartheid is destroyed to then turn our attention to the struggle for socialism. Hence there should be little talk of our ultimate socialist objectives. The working class should not insist on the inclusion of radical social measures as part of the immediate agenda because that would risk frightening away potential allies against apartheid."
On the question of class struggle and national struggle contrary to the distortions of Cde Irvin Jim, Cde Slovo says the following on his thesis:
"The South African Communist Party, in its 1984 constitution, declares that its aim is to lead the working class towards the strategic goal of establishing a socialist republic 'and the more immediate aim of winning the objectives of the national democratic revolution which is inseparably linked to it'. The constitution describes the main content of the national democratic revolution as '...the national liberation of the African people in particular, and the black people in general, 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'.
The national democratic revolution - the present stage of struggle in our country is a revolution of the whole oppressed people. This does not mean that the oppressed 'people' can be regarded as a single or homogeneous entity. The main revolutionary camp in the immediate struggle is made up of different classes and strata (overwhelmingly black) which suffer varying forms and degrees of national oppression and economic exploitation. The camp of those who benefit from, and support, national domination is also divided into classes.
Some 'learned theorists' are continuously warning workers against talk of a 'revolution of the whole oppressed people', accusing those who use such formulations of being 'populists' rather than revolutionaries. Let us hear Lenin on this question since he was also in the habit of using the same words to describe the upsurge in Russia:
'Yes, the people's revolution. Social Democracy ... demands that this word shall not be used to cover up failure to understand class antagonisms within the people ... However, it does not divide the "people" into "classes" so that the advanced class becomes locked up within itself ... the advanced class ... should fight with all the greater energy and enthusiasm for the cause of the whole people, at the head of the whole people' (Selected Works, Volume 1, p.503).
Of course, the long-term interests of the diverse classes and strata of the revolutionary camp do not necessarily coincide. They do not have the same consistency and commitment even to the immediate objectives of the democratic revolution. It is obviously from within the ranks of the black middle and upper strata that the enemy will look for sources of collaboration. We will return to this question.
But, in general, it remains true that our National Democratic Revolution expresses the broad objective interests not only of the working class but also of most of the other classes within the nationally-dominated majority, including the black petit- bourgeoisie and significant strata of the emergent black bourgeoisie. This reality provides the foundation for a struggle which aims to mobilise to its side all the oppressed classes and strata as participants in the national liberation alliance.
We believe that the working class is both an indispensable part and the leading force of such a liberation alliance. But its relations with other classes and strata cannot be conditional on the acceptance by them of socialist aims. The historic programme which has evolved to express the common immediate aspirations of all the classes of the oppressed people is the Freedom Charter. This document is not, in itself, a programme for socialism, even though (as we argue later) it can provide a basis for uninterrupted advance to a socialist future."
On the question of the Black Middle Strata and the Emerging Black Bourgeoisie contrary to the distortions by Cde Irvin Jim, Cde Slovo says the following:
"We have said that the national democratic revolution expresses the broad objective interests of the working class and most of the other classes which make up the nationally-dominated minority. We will return to the special position of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie in the Bantustans and in the townships, whose very existence depends upon collaboration with race domination.
Our approach to the multi-class content of the present phase of our struggle has received a great deal of attention from some of our 'left' critics. But because they have distorted our approach by knocking down skittles which they themselves have put up, we need to devote a few words to the obvious.
It is obvious that the black capitalist class favours capitalism and that it will do its best to influence the post-apartheid society in this direction.
It is obvious that the black middle and upper classes who take part in a broad liberation alliance will jostle for hegemony and attempt to represent their interests as the interests of all Africans.
It is obvious that (like their counterparts in every part of the world) the black middle and upper strata, who find themselves on the side of the people's struggle, are often inconsistent and vacillating. They are usually the enemy's softest targets for achieving a reformist, rather than a revolutionary, outcome.
All this is pretty obvious. But it is equally obvious that if the working class and its vanguard and mass organisations were to get locked up with themselves, the greatest harm would be done to the cause of both national liberation and social emancipation. By rejecting class alliances and going it alone, the working class would in fact be surrendering the leadership of the national struggle to the upper and middle strata. This would become the shortest route towards a sell-out reformist solution and a purely capitalist post-apartheid South Africa under the hegemony of a bourgeois-dominated black national movement. Along this path, 'class purity' will surely lead to class suicide and 'socialist'- sounding slogans will actually hold back the achievement of socialism.
The black middle and upper strata constitute a relatively significant political force, particularly in community struggles. Whether we like it or not they will participate and, often, take a leading part in such struggles. They are usually among the most vocal articulators of demands and (as we have experienced with black consciousness) they are sometimes the pioneers of new variants of purely nationalist ideology.
The question, therefore, is not whether they are participants in the struggle. The real question is whether the working class, by refusing to establish a common trench, helps push them right into the enemy's lap. On the other hand, by engaging with them on common minimum platforms, the working class is able to forge a stronger opposition and also to neutralise some of the negative potential of the middle class."
On the question of the different Stages of Struggle contrary to the distortions by Cde Irvin Jim, Cde Slovo says the following:
"The concept of stages in struggle is not an unusual one for any political activist. Those engaged in revolutionary practice, whether in a trade union or in a political party, do not require a seminar to be convinced that struggle goes through stages. Even the most localised struggles, for example the struggle for an annual wage increase in a particular industry or factory, or a struggle against high rents in a particular township, go through stages. The same applies to the overall struggle.
Our belief that the immediate content of our struggle is the national liberation of our whole people and that this process cannot ultimately be completed without social emancipation at once poses a perspective of stages in our revolution. This perspective has generated a great deal of criticism from 'leftist' circles.
We do indeed see the current stage of struggle the national democratic phase as the most direct route of advance, in our particular conditions, to a second stage, socialist development. Looking even further ahead, it is valid to describe socialism itself as a major transitional stage on the road to communism.
There is, however, both a distinction and a continuity between the national democratic and socialist revolutions; they can neither be completely telescoped nor completely compartmentalised. The vulgar Marxists are unable to understand this. They claim that our immediate emphasis on the objectives of the national democratic revolution implies that we are unnecessarily postponing or even abandoning the socialist revolution, as if the two revolutions have no connection with one another. They have a mechanical approach to the stages of our revolution, treating them simply as water-tight compartments.
It should, however, be conceded that our own formulations have sometimes been imprecise, and have invited the charge that we treat stages as compartments, as 'things-in-themselves'.
It is necessary at once to state a rather obvious proposition, namely, that it is implied in the very concept of stages that they can never be considered in isolation; they are steps in development. A stage which has no relation to a destination in itself not final and constituting a stage for yet another destination is a linguistic and logical absurdity. The concept 'stage' implies that it is at one and the same time a point of arrival and a point of departure.
The real question is how to reach a stage without blocking the route onwards to the next destination. This depends (mainly) on revolutionary practice. On balance we can justly claim that our own revolutionary practice has not departed from the 'continuity' concept of stages.
We reiterate that when we talk of stages we are talking simultaneously about distinct phases and a continuous journey. At the same time revolutionary practice demands that within each distinct stage there should be a selective concentration on those objectives which are most pertinent to its completion. This is no way detracts from the need to plant, within its womb, the seeds which will ensure a continuity towards the next stage."
On the question of Working Class Leadership contrary to the distortions to Cde Irvin Jim, Cde Slovo says the following:
"If the working class emerges as the dominant social force in a truly democratic post-apartheid state, the possibility is clearly opened up of a peaceful progression towards socialism. Those 'revolutionaries' who may throw up their hands in horror at the suggestion that conditions might open up the possibility of a peaceful transition towards socialism should take note of Lenin's words:
'To become a power the class-conscious workers must win the majority to their side. As long as no violence is used against the people there is no other road to power. We are not Blanquists, we do not stand for the seizure of power by a minority' (Selected Works, Vol.2, p.36).
To eventually win the majority of our people for a socialist South Africa, we must spread socialist awareness and socialist consciousness now, mainly among the workers but also among the rural poor and the middle strata. We must also ensure that the working class emerges as the politically-dominant social class in the post-apartheid state. This can only be achieved if the working class wins a place now as the leading social force in the inter-class liberation alliance.
But, it is not only to ensure a post-apartheid advance towards socialism that the role of the working class is crucial. The immediate objectives of real national liberation as envisaged by the ANC and SACP and whose goals are embodied in the Freedom Charter cannot be effectively fulfilled without the organised strength and leadership of the working class. We emphasise again that if the working class isolates itself from the alliance the result would be to dilute the content of the national democratic revolution, to hand over its direction to the other class forces and, in the long term, to hold back socialist advance.
The working class cannot play the key role by merely leading itself and sloganizing about its historic mission. It must win popular acceptance on the ground as the most effective champion of the democratic aspirations of all the racially-oppressed groupings. It must work with, and provide leadership to, our youth, women, intellectuals, small traders, peasants, the rural poor and - yes - even the racially-dominated black bourgeoisie, all of whom are a necessary part of the broad front of our liberation struggle.
It is, however, sometimes alleged that an alliance will tie the hands of the working class and erode its independence. Such an outcome is certainly not inevitable.
The Vietnamese leader, Le Duan, described an alliance as a 'unity of opposites'. The classes and strata which come together in a front of struggle usually have different long-term interests and, often, even contradictory expectations from the immediate phase. The search for agreement usually leads to a minimum platform which excludes some of the positions of the participating classes or strata. It follows that an alliance can only be created if these diverse forces are prepared to enter into a compromise. And it can only survive and flourish if it is governed by a democratic relationship between the groupings which have come together.
But when a front is created the working class does not just melt into it. It does not abandon its independent class objectives or independent class organisation. On the contrary, the strengthening of workers' independent mass and vanguard structures is even more imperative in periods demanding organised relations with other class forces. This brings us directly to the organisational instruments of working class leadership."
On the question of the Instruments of Working Class Leadership contrary to the distortions by Cde Irvin Jim, Cde Slovo says the following:
"In general, workers must be active wherever people come together in struggle, whether at national, regional or local levels. The whole mass democratic movement the UDF, youth organisations, women's organisations, civics, street committees, students, church-goers, etc., must feel the influence of workers' militancy and dedication. The majority of most of these categories are, in any case, workers who should ensure, through democratic participation, that their interests are not swamped by the other social groupings.
The independent role of the working class and the way it relates to other classes of our society, at once raises important questions connected with the character and role of three key worker-related sectors of our struggle the national movement, the trade union movement and the political party of the working class. It also raises questions about the way in which these sectors relate to one another. Let us say a few words about each of these sectors.
Trade Unions and the Working Class
A trade union is the prime mass organisation of the working class. To fulfil its purpose, it must be as broad as possible and fight to maintain its legal status. It must attempt, in the first place, to unite, on an industrial basis, all workers (at whatever level of political consciousness) who understand the elementary need to come together and defend and advance their economic conditions. It cannot demand more as a condition of membership. But because the state and its political and repressive apparatus is an instrument of the dominant economic classes, it is impossible for trade unions in any part of the world to keep out of the broader political conflict.
Especially in our country, where racist domination and capitalist exploitation are two sides of the same coin, it is even more clear that a trade union cannot stand aside from the liberation struggle. Indeed, the trade union movement is the most important mass contingent of the working class. Its organised involvement in struggle, both as an independent force and as part of the broad liberation alliance, undoubtedly reinforces the dominant role of the workers as a class. In addition, trade unions' and workers' experience of struggle in unions provide the most fertile field in which to school masses of workers in socialist understanding and political consciousness.
The very fact that the workers' economic struggle cannot be separated from the struggle against national domination has helped to blur the border-line between trade unionism and the political leadership of the working class as a whole. It is, however, vital to maintain the distinction between trade union politics and overall revolutionary leadership. A trade union cannot carry out this dual role; if it attempted to do so it would have to change its basic character and risk committing suicide as a mass legal force. In addition, the very nature and purpose of trade unionism disqualifies it from carrying out the tasks of a revolutionary vanguard.
The syndicalist notion that trade unions should act as political parties is so discredited that it has few, if any, open adherents. But, from time to time, the notion is introduced through the back door in the shape of policies which would, in practice, allocate such a role to the trade union movement.
An example of one such tendency is the premature attempt to formally incorporate the objective of socialism into trade unions and the federation to which they belong. Such a move would narrow the mass character of the trade union movement by demanding an unreal level of political consciousness from its members or affiliates as a condition for joining. It would also, incidentally, give the enemy the very excuse it needs to deal with one of its most formidable foes.
The ANC and the Working Class
The main core of the whole democratic struggle illegal and legal is the ANC which stands at the head of the liberation alliance. As head of this alliance and prime representative of all the oppressed, it welcomes within its ranks all from whatever class they come who support and are ready to fight for the aims of the Freedom Charter. It is a revolutionary nationalist organisation with popular roots. It is not, however, 'populist'. The ANC's Strategy and Tactics recognises that there are different classes among the people with different long-term aspirations.
The overwhelming majority of the people are working class. This explains why the ANC's composition and policies show a strong bias towards the working class. It also considers it proper and necessary for socialist ideology to be discussed and understood in its ranks. But, despite the fact that the ANC has an understandable bias towards the working class it does not, and clearly should not, adopt a socialist platform which the so - called Marxist Workers' Tendency (expelled from the ANC) would like it to do. If it adopted such a platform it would destroy its character as the prime representative of all the classes among the oppressed black majority.
At the same time, for reasons already outlined, its revolutionary nationalism does, of necessity, contain a social content which reflects our specific national liberation aspirations a content which will ultimately facilitate the socialist transformation but is not premised on it. Worker participation in the ANC is one of the important ways in which our working class plays its role in the democratic revolution. But, above all, the tripartite alliance, moulded in the revolutionary underground, between the ANC, the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), and our SACP, represents a framework which expresses the political interests of our working class in the broad front of struggle.
The SACP and the Working Class
Workers' political leadership must represent the working class not just in economic struggles against the bosses but, more so, in its relation to all classes of society and to the state as an organised force. We stress again that a trade union cannot carry out this role. Only a political vanguard of the working class can do so.
A vanguard party, representing the historic aspirations of the working class, cannot (like a trade union) have a mass character. It must attract the most advanced representatives of the working class; mainly professional revolutionaries with an understanding of Marxist theory and practice, an unconditional dedication to the worker's cause, and a readiness, if need be, to sacrifice their very lives in the cause of freedom and socialism. Our SACP is such a Party.
We have made a unique contribution to the ideological and organisational strengthening of the national movement. Today our Party is described as one of the two main pillars of the liberation alliance led by the ANC. As an independent Party, we have devoted our main energies to strengthen workers' organisations, to spread socialist awareness and to provide working class political leadership."
In the cause of the forward march of the struggles of our people into our socialist future no amount of the siren songs of the enemy of our revolution will stop our revolutionary alliance. The workers of our country must occupy our forefront trenches and ensure that the ANC gets an overwhelming mandate in the forthcoming national general elections.
Piitso is former Ambassador to the republic of Cuba and the former provincial secretary of the SACP, writing in personal capacity.