Understanding the differences – ANC, Cosatu, SACP

If you are confused by the recent public disagreements between the alliance partners over their understanding of the national democratic revolution (NDR) then read Tengo Tengela and Woody Aroun’s summary.

The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) as seen by the various parties of the Tripartite Alliance




The NDR is about thoroughgoing radical transformation of social and property relations.

The following documents are said to give the most expression to this project:- The ANC’s 1969 Morogoro strategic perspective- The Freedom Charter’s economic vision – The RDP which offers a radical programme for changing social and economic relations

The paper further contrasts the radical project that has been espoused by the above documents with what it calls “The 1996 class project”

Characteristics of the “1996 Class Project”* The growth of the power and influence of capital and the weakening of the mechanisms of discipline by both state and capital which are as a result of globalization and neo-liberalism * Around this time South African capital became transnational investing in speculating markets * The emergence of the tiny but influential black bourgeoisie which is tied to white monopoly capital and the democratic state * The culmination of this project was the imposition of GEAR from above (state) * And this class project was aimed at steering the NDR project away from its radical orientation

The Road to South African freedom, the ANC’s 1969 Morogoro strategy and tactics document, and the ANC’s 1979 Green Book articulate the shared perspectives of the radical NDR.

The above documents articulated a radical transformative NDR which was seen as the shortest route or an uninterrupted advance to socialism.

However a rift within the Party opened up within the leadership of the Party and between groupings within the ANC.

This 1960s and ’70s conundrum led to an emergence of a project which culminated in the 1996 class project of the ANC.

1996 Class ProjectThis Class Project was premised on a belief that a resolution of the South African problem had to take a capitalist path of development with capitalist-driven growth.

This centre-left class project has been dominant within the ANC-led state. The class composition of ANC structures is reflective of these class forces.

The SACP document characterises this project as the following:- It is a modernising and not a conservative project – It is anchored around a powerful political-technical-managerial centre within the state, centered around the Presidency with close ties to the dti and Treasury – This class project has spearheaded a self-styled developmental state that can be characterized as technocratic-vanguardist – This modernizing centre-left project has benefited a stratum of parasitic and compradorist emerging black capitalists that are using the state as a site of accumulation.

The document further calls for a NDR, driven by the working class and the poor, around which revolutionary forces in South Africa must rally.

The ANC sees the NDR as a process of liberating black people in general and Africans in particular from the yoke of apartheid colonialism.

The NDR is meant to resolve the national grievance (liberation of black people) and at the same time improve the material conditions of the previously marginalized.

The ANC approach to property relations is best articulated in the Alliance discussion document “The state, property relations and social transformation”.

The ANC after the fist decade of freedom, together with its alliance partner, has come to the conclusion that a legal framework has been created to advance the interests of workers, youth women etc. However with regard to the economy less has improved.

The ANC argues that there is consensus that the primary motive forces of the NDR are the working class and the poor. It agrees that differences within the alliance arise on the place and the role of the black capitalist class.

It further says that the Strategy and Tactics document calls for vigilance with regard to the danger of elements within the black capitalist class relying on state patronage and corruption to advance their interests.

The historical role of the ANC is not to build socialism and it has never pronounced on this in any of its official conferences. In another discussion document “Challenges of leadership” the ANC argues the following:- The NDR does not seek to eliminate the core class antagonism of class society between the working class and capital. Its task is to resolve the national grievance. – It further notes that the core motive forces of the NDR are the working class and the poor.- It does acknowledge that “these core motive forces do reflect a level of alienation that should be cause for concern”.- The document further calls on the ANC to define its ideological relationship with the working class and it further suggests that the ANC should define in more positive terms the kind of society that it seeks to build and the kind of economy that it seeks to create.- The ANC must clearly define the organizational and structural relationship that it seeks to build with organized workers. – The ANC structure should reflect the gender, class, national content of the NDR and balance cadreship in government and outside of the government terrain.- The ANC should conduct its mass and ideological work and define itself to ensure that the working class, professionals, and the middle strata, and significant sections of the capitalist class find common cause under its wing. – The defining character of such coalescence should be a left agenda to build a caring society, in line with the best and most progressive traditions of social democracy.- The ANC should be the driver of a potent social contract.