Breaking new ground on the vexing questions confronting our revolution

Breaking new ground on the most vexing questions confronting our revolution- A political discussion paper prepared by the Numsa for the Cosatu September National Congress.

Context and background

Lenin commenting on the socialist revolution and the struggle for democracy made the following observation:

“The socialist revolution is not a single act, not a single battle on the single front but a whole epoch of intensified class conflict, a long series of battles on all fronts”, He further warns “it would be a fundamental mistake to suppose that the struggle for democracy can divert the proletariat from the socialist revolution, or obscure, or overshadow it, on the contrary, just as socialism cannot be victorious unless it introduces complete democracy, so the proletariat will be unable to prepare for victory over the bourgeoisie unless it wages a many sided, consistent and revolutionary struggle for democracy”.

Mzala commenting on the Comintern resolution, on the relationship between National and Class struggle, he had this to say:

“Close study of the Comintern’s resolution reveals that the support of socialist for national liberation was made conditional in the sense that national liberation was seen as being a stage towards a workers and peasant republic, it stressed thereby the class content of the national liberation struggle. True national liberation was seen as being impossible without social liberation and a nationalism which ignores the class basis of national oppression as false”

The CC of NUMSA which met recently had to grapple with the same question which confronted Lenin and Mzala; this was prompted by the discussion documents which were released by the three alliance components. The purpose of this discussion document is to take comrades to a journey back to basics on the following questions:

· What has been a historical understanding of the nature and character of the National Democratic revolution and its relation to Socialism?

· How have we characterized the nature of the South African State?

· Who is the principal enemy of the South African Revolution?

· What has been the historical role of each alliance partner?

This paper is intended to shapern our theoretical tools of analysis on these questions. Understanding the past makes its possible for any serious revolutionary to contextuliase the present and therefore charting the future. We do that by rummaging over old archives, digging deep to the old historical documents that have guided this force that has stood the test of time. In the spirit of the CC, we attempt to pose questions that are aimed at breaking new ground on these vexing questions confronting our revolution. This is what we believe is the missing link in the current debates on the National Democratic Revolution and struggle for socialism.

The nature and character of the NDR and its relation to Socialism

A proper starting point in understanding the nature and character of the National Democratic Revolution is to start to appreciate the relationship of the primary to the dominant contradiction. In South Africa like many other class divided societies, the primary contradiction (Class contradiction) is the mother of all contradictions, it propels societies forward, but in South Africa this primary contradiction due to the level of productive forces, and the path of accumulation that capital took concealed itself to the dominant contradiction (national contradiction) a contradiction between black majority and white minority.

The relationship of the two is captured correctly by what is normally referred as theory of colonialism of a special type. The theory of colonialism of a special type argues that “On one level, that of white South Africa, there are all features of an advanced capitalist state in its final stage of Industrial monopolies and the merging of industrial and finance capital…But on another level that of non white South African’s, there are all features of a colony. The indigenous population is subjected to extreme national oppression, poverty and exploitation, lack of all democratic rights and political domination…”

Mzala also captures the relationship of the two when he argues “the development of the capitalist relations had led to British Imperialism carrying out the economic exploitation of the country with the participation of the white bourgeoisie of South Africa (English and Afrikaner).This did not alter the general colonial character of the economy of South Africa, since British capital continued to occupy the principal economic position in the country and since the South African bourgeoisie were equally interested in the merciless exploitation of the black population”.

The National Liberation Movement as led by the African National Congress saw as its strategic mission to unite black people in general and Africans in particular in their diversity around a strategic objective of building a non-racial, non sexist and democratic society. We mention the concept of unity in diversity to drive to a point that, the dominant contradiction unites various class forces, within the oppressed majority to struggle for national democracy, whose content and its direction is determined by the balance of class forces within the oppressed majority.

The 1984 South African Communist Party Constitution even goes further to say “the South African Communist Party 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 inseparable to it”. The question that arises, to what extent is this analysis a key feature of the current political discourse.

Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution saw this long ago when he said “It would be a fundamental mistake to suppose that that the struggle for democracy can divert the proletariat from the socialist revolution, or obscure, or overshadow it, on the contrary, just as socialism cannot be victorious unless it introduces complete democracy, so the proletariat will be unable to prepare for victory over the bourgeoisie unless it wages a many sided, consistent and revolutionary struggle for democracy”.

The 1969 ANC Morogoro Strategy and tactics document characterizes the current phase of our struggle in this manner:

“The main content of the present stage of South Africa’s revolution is the national liberation of the largest and most oppressed group: the African people. This strategic aim must govern every aspect of the conduct of our struggle, whether it should be the formulation of policy or the creation of the structures itself. Amongst other things it demands, in the first place a maximal mobilization of the African people as a dispossessed and racially oppressed nation.”

The Morogoro Strategy document further says “the national character of the Struggle must therefore dominate our approach. But it is a national struggle taking place in a different context from those that which characterized the earliest struggles against colonialism. But none of this, among other things detracts from the basically national context of our liberation”.

Francis Meli articulating the relation of the primary to the dominant when he says “from this we can understand that thinking about solutions to any of the problems in South Africa cannot take place without taking into consideration the national character of the liberation struggle. Even to those who are of the opinion that it is socialism which offers a better solution to South Africa’s problems, the main issue remains the liberation of black people without African people being liberated nationally, socialism cannot be attained in South Africa”.

From all the above historical documents a point is made that the National Democratic Revolution is about liberating black people in general and Africans in particular from social and economic bondages thrown by the legacy of colonialism. In Marxist terms this means that the National Democratic Revolution is a revolutionary process resolving the dominant contradiction and lays the basis for the resolution of the primary contradiction (class contradiction between capital and labour) not in a mechanical stagist approach but in a dialectical uninterrupted approach. What these means is that in concrete terms, the National grievance is not addressed separately from the class question. It becomes the basis upon which you lay the foundation for a class struggle. How do we then explain the rupture on this question as suggested in the discussion papers. Is it on the basis that the movement has emphasized the National as a dominant feature of the transition without any possibility of deepening the class question?

The distinction between a bourgeoisie democratic revolution and the NDR is that, the bourgeoisie democratic revolution is a revolution that is aimed at extricating capitalism from feudalism and is led by capitalist, whilst the NDR is a revolution that has thoroughgoing orientation that is anti-colonial and anti-imperialist orientation which if the working class in alliance with other class forces takes leadership may lead it to socialism. The thoroughgoing nature of the NDR is not given, it has to be fought for, and this requires boldness, foresightedness and visionary leadership that has patience and has an ability of building maximum unity of the revolutionary forces. To what extent in the current is the working a leader of this struggle and therefore at the helm of leading other classes and strata in society?

The motive forces of the national democratic revolution are defined by the nature of the struggle that South African people are engaged with. The ANC Stellenbosch Strategy and tactics document says:

“The S&T document defines in clear terms the character of the NDR in relation to apartheid socio-political relations that democracy is meant to eliminate. This character plays itself out in both class and national terms, in the intersection between national and class exploitation”

The motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution

Slovo reflecting on the nature and character of the NDR and the forces that have to be mobilized for its success had this to say:

“But in general, it remains true that our 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 emerging black bourgeoisie. This reality provides the foundation for a struggle which aims to mobilize to its side all the oppressed classes and strata as participants in the national liberation alliance”

Slovo further contend that “National domination is maintained by a ruling class whose state apparatus protects the economic interests and social privilege of all classes among the white minority. It denies the aspirations of the African people towards a single nationhood, and in its place attempts to perpetuate tribalism and ethnicity. These and a host of related practices are the visible daily manifestations of national domination. These practices affect the status and life of every black in every class”

In national terms the motive forces are defined to constitute the following national groups:

And blacks in general, meaning coloureds and Indians

In class terms they mean the following class forces:

· Working class and the poor as primary motive forces

· Black middle class and emerging black bourgeoisie, and the issue of black bourgeoisie remains an area of serious contestation within the national liberation movement, and we include it here to accommodate those who hold that it has a place in the motive forces. This is an area that we must discuss and resolve towards the Cosatu Congress. We pose the following questions to spark a debate to resolve this matter:

· Is it not our understanding that those who stand to benefit from National liberation are the oppressed and sections of the intelligentsia and other sections of the black middle strata, but the primary leader and motive force of the NDR is the working class?

The working class and the poor are given the title of being primary motive forces to illustrate a point that they are the most forces who can be reliable in resolving the primary contradiction (class) contradiction between capital and labour. In them lie the ability and the power to take the National Democratic revolution to its logical conclusion. The task of the working class is to continue to sharpen the contradiction between working class and capital and begin to elevate the primary contradiction to a level of a dominant contradiction, by so doing they begin to define not only the nature of national democracy but its essence, to be proletarian democracy.

For whom and in whose interest is the national democratic revolution fought for? Put it in another way, who is the primary enemy of the National Democratic Revolution, is it the democratic state or white monopoly capital? What is the nature of the South African ruling class? Below we attempt to unpack briefly the nature of the South African ruling class. Our contention is that the enemy of the South African revolution remains white monopoly capital. The sections of the black middle are also beneficiaries in the resolution of the National Question. They cannot expected to have the same consistency and rthym as the working class.

The nature of the South African Ruling class and the South African State

The 1994 democratic breakthrough ushered an era which culminated to a new ruling bloc of revolutionary national and social forces from the oppressed majority ascending to corridors of political power. This revolutionary breakthrough was contradictory in that whilst this bloc assumed political power, economic power was and is still in the hands of white monopoly capital. We will deal with this historical legacy in much more greater detail as we proceed to explain the nature of white monopoly capital.

The unity of English and Afrikaner capital and the co-option of white working class culminated to a situation we normally referred to a colonialism of a special type. The concept of colonialism of a special type is a characterization of South Africa’s social and class formation. In Morogoro we said “on the one level, that of white South Africa there are all features of an advanced capitalist state in its final stage industrial monopolies and the merging of industrial and financial capital”. The white monopoly in South Africa has been concentrated in agro-capital, finance and industrial mining capital to serve the accumulation interests of Minerals Energy Complex.

In the past twelve years we have made advances in transforming the superstructure of the South African Society, but at the level of social relations we have not made significant gains, this has to do with the fact that our revolution did not take insurrectionary path, and as such it has left the same classes to lay hold to economic power. It is argued differently elsewhere that the objective conditions as they existed post-1994 could have laid the basis to dismantle white monopoly capital. This is the key feature of what the SACP discussion document defines as “class project.”

From the above it should follow that the revolution, because it has not tempered with the property and social relations between labour and capital, the ruling class in South Africa remains to be white monopoly capital and has co-opted some sections of emerging black capital. Marxism-Leninism tells us that the state is an instrument of class oppression and as such a highest concentration of social relations.

The alliance document on State and property relation says “An outstanding feature of colonialism and Apartheid in our country was the direct relationship between this socio-political system and the ability and practice of capital to engage, not only in shouldering an oppressive system, but also in maximizing the super-exploitation of the oppressed majority”.

This document further says “It was also a response to the fact that a symbiotic relationship between the white minority Apartheid state and capital had been cemented. Who, and during which period, the dog was and who the tail, in this relationship, is a matter which the economic historians will have to sort out. This document further says “This symbiotic relationship contained the requirement that particular forms of interaction between the Apartheid state and capital should exist. These included “permitting” the illegal flight of capital. It made it possible for capital to accept the notion and imposition of the practice of “prescribed assets”.

It allowed for the elaboration and institution of “profit guarantee” schemes to capital such as continue to characterize the liquid fuels industry. It created the possibility and necessity for the state to “turn a blind eye” to the process of tax evasion and avoidance, by running down the capacity of the Inland Revenue services to carry out their functions effectively.

Towards the end of the life of the Apartheid regime, during the 1980’s, efforts were made formally and openly to institutionalize the partnership between the state and capital, both to enhance the legitimacy of the Apartheid state and to present the interests of capital as being conterminous with “the national interest”.

Given the fact that the ruling class in South Africa is still white monopoly capital, what is it that we as the National Liberation Movement we must do to change property relations in society and to dismantle the stranglehold of white monopoly capital? From the Cosatu Political Discussion Paper other than reference to the second decade as decade of the working class, does it concretely say what struggles must we wage to defeat white monopoly capital and in what form and with whom? This is another area that cannot be left to chance in the preparations for the Cosatu Congress.

5. Questions for strategic consideration

We have attempted to do the following here;