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Bua Komanisi Volume 2 - Issue 4 - November 2002


What is ultra-leftism, what is right-wing opportunism?: The twin dangers facing the National Democratic Revolution Response of the SACP Political Bureau to the Moleketi/Jele document


Jabu Moleketi and Josiah Jele have attached their names to a 28-page document entitled "Two strategies of the national liberation movement in the struggle for the victory of the national democratic revolution";. The ";two strategies"; in the title refer to the two strategic forces organised historically within our Alliance - ";revolutionary democracy"; (as represented by the ANC) and ";revolutionary socialism"; (as represented, at least until recently according to the authors) by the SACP, the ";Party of Kotane";. The main contention of the article is that in recent years a ";faction"; has taken control of the SACP. This faction, exploiting the ";weak development of scientific socialism in our country";, ";has succeeded to project itself as the true representative of revolutionary socialism in our country."; (p.28)

We will deal with the substance of the argument in due course. But before we get there we should note that the Moleketi and Jele piece is, in fact, the latest in a series of sectarian interventions, designed to disrupt the ongoing and constructive process of intra-organisational and inter-alliance bilateral and tripartite meetings and summits, and to deflect debate from substantive policy issues into witch-hunts. Over several years there has been a systematic attempt by a handful of individuals from within our movement to destabilise our ANC/SACP/COSATU Alliance. Where there are difficulties, these individuals rush in, diving in the box, faking fouls, and generally doing their best to deepen the contradictions and to inflame emotions. Even when intra-alliance processes move more effectively and constructively, the same small group of comrades attempt to unsettle the process.

In the week of the COSATU-led anti-privatisation protest actions in August 2001, with Alliance relations going through a difficult phase, one leading ANC comrade publicly declared the Alliance ";dead";. He was censured by the ANC. Literally in the midst of the important Ekhuruleni Alliance Summit (April 2002), at which very important progress was made towards forging a unifying Alliance perspective on a progressive growth and development strategy, the very same comrade (who was a delegate to the Summit) spoke at a separate public meeting, and used the opportunity to launch a scathing and scurrilous attack on COSATU and its leadership.

We believe that the overwhelming majority of Alliance leaders and ordinary members are extremely unhappy with this continuous brinkmanship, these ongoing provocations. The Politbureau of the SACP therefore calls on all SACP members, and all comrades in allied formations not to respond in kind to these deliberate provocations. Let us stand firm in the face of attempts to deepen divisions within the Alliance. Let us expose sectarianism, while dealing rationally and soberly with substantive issues, including political differences. This is how the SACP PB intends to approach this latest intervention.

Like its predecessors, the Moleketi and Jele intervention pours sarcasm and scorn on to the widest range of forces within and outside of our movement. Ominous noises are made about ";counter-revolutionary conspiracies";, and ";the enemy clothed in red";, without ever being very clear who precisely is being fingered. It is a case of ukujikijela imbokodo kubantu abaningi uthi ayishaye emshayayo. It is the strategy of throwing a rock into a crowd regardless of whom you might hit, and of thinking you have struck a very clever blow against an opponent because at least someone was hit.

In this particular intervention, only two individuals, who are not members of the Alliance, Patrick Bond and Dennis Brutus, are actually mentioned by name. However, to anyone who knows anything about our movement, and despite the deliberate vagueness, it will be clear that, in this case, the prime (but certainly not the only) target is the elected leadership of the SACP and the strategic perspectives currently articulated by the SACP. Which is why the article concludes threateningly:

";Everything we have said throughout this pamphlet demonstrates that the urgent challenge facing revolutionary socialism [i.e. the SACP] is to act decisively against the ultra-left tendency. This faction has succeeded to project itself as the true representative of revolutionary socialism in our country."; (p.28)

Moleketi and Jele are not referring to a ";faction"; that is aspiring to take over the leadership of ";revolutionary socialism"; (the SACP). It is a ";faction"; that has succeeded in this objective.

";Revolutionary socialism owes it to itself, the national liberation movement, the proletariat and the working people, to fight against and defeat the vulgar democrats and the `left-wing communists'. The party of revolutionary socialism, the SACP owes it to itself, the national liberation movement, the proletariat and the working people, in our country and the rest of Africa, to reassert its identity as the Party of Kotane. It will be the Party of Kotane or it will be nothing."; (p.28)

Could this be an incitement to ";regime change"; within the SACP, and for a complete strategic re-orientation of the Party? It comes just three-and-a-half months after the SACP has democratically elected its leadership and re-affirmed its strategic perspectives at the largest and most representative Congress in its 81-year history!

In their introductory note to a lengthy quotation from Lenin&';s ";Disruption of Unity under Cover of Outcries for Unity"; (1914), Moleketi and Jele tell us:

";Trotsky continued with his factional activities, refusing to accept the decisions taken by the majority at Party conferences and congresses. To justify his efforts to divide the united movement, he claimed that he was fighting for the unity of a movement he falsely claimed was divided."; (Two Strategies, p.3)

In fact, this is a precise description of the main thrust of this entire pamphlet!

Of course, Moleketi and Jele are entitled to believe that the SACP Congress has not elected the best possible comrades. They are entitled to argue for a strategic re-orientation in the Party&';s programmatic vision. However, in disagreeing with decisions taken by the majority at several SACP congresses, they are seeking to sow division on the basis of their personal disagreements, while accusing everyone else of being factionalist!


Part One - Factionalism

The ";Two Strategies"; document is factionalist in every imaginable way. It is factionalist in its core objective (incitement to ";regime change"; in the SACP). But it is also factionalist in its tone and language; it is factionalist in the manner in which it has been introduced into our movement and into the wider public domain; it is factionalist in its content and arguments; and, finally, it is factionalist in its timing.

Factionalist tone and language

We welcome robust debate and a degree of passionate engagement with the important challenges of our national democratic revolution. But there is a world of difference between robust, comradely debate and this article. It accuses comrades within the movement of ";telling lies";, of ";deceitful schemes";, of not having an ";iota of revolutionary morality";, of ";clandestine manoeuvres";, of being ";wolves dressed in sheep&';s skin";, and of not being ";averse to such actions as the physical destruction of public buildings and other public property, looting, violence against the working people";, etc. It speaks of a ";left sectarian faction which has placed itself inside the democratic movement, to act as the decisive army of counter-revolution.";In its language and tone, this is not an intervention that is trying to build unity through honest debate. It is not trying to foster a culture of listening to and of learning from each other. It is sowing hatred and a sense of siege and conspiracy. Unfortunately this is not the first time that we have seen interventions of this kind in the last few years. As a movement we are confronting complex challenges - among them the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Zimbabwean situation, and the deep-seated problems of unemployment and poverty. We must resist seeking to deal with these challenges by suppressing internal debate and promoting a factionalist climate of permanent threat and siege.

Factionalist origins and distribution

The document&';s central allegation is, as we have seen, that there is an ";ultra-left"; that has carved out a sectarian presence within our movement, and particularly within the leadership of the SACP. Yet this document has its own strange and eminently factionalist relationship to the official structures of our movement. We are living in a democratic society and any two individuals are entitled to publish their independent views. We are living in a class divided democracy, and individuals who happen to have the personal resources to have laid-out, bound and printed hundreds if not thousands of copies of a 28-page pamphlet, are, we suppose, entitled to do so. But the responsibilities of comrades to their movement go a little further than this.

There are numerous forums and publications within our movement. Moleketi and Jele have chosen to bypass all of them. This document, which is not the view of any formal structure of our movement, which was not published as a contribution in any discussion forum of the ANC or alliance, was, nonetheless distributed by the hundreds, in a targeted way to the structures of the ANC and the head-offices of the SACP and COSATU. A leading official in the ANC&';s communications department was personally involved in distributing it to key newspapers. Moleketi and Jele are not just attacking the SACP in a highly sectarian way, they and others are abusing the resources of the ANC as a faction.

What is particularly concerning about all of this is that there is a dynamic and robust ANC and intra-alliance process that has been under-way since the last quarter of 2001 and through 2002. All of our formations have been discussing, at length, and formally, the very issues raised by Moleketi and Jele. There have been a series of ANC and SACP bilaterals, for instance, in which these issues were discussed, and in which both parties expressed a sense of progress. Moleketi was himself a participant in some of these. There was the important and constructive Ekhuruleni Alliance Summit in April this year. There were intense debates and discussions in preparation for the SACP 11th Congress in July, and for the ANC National Policy Conference in October. Moleketi and Jele are deliberately attempting to flout and undermine all of this. If this is not factionalist, then what is?

Factionalist content - guilt by associationThe entire document is riddled with factionalist accusations, most of them too preposterous to merit an item-by-item response. However, it is important to underline the main sleight of hand, the method by which Moleketi and Jele advance most of their arguments.

The document uses the tactic of tarring everyone with whom the authors disagree with the same clumsy brush, of ";guilt by association"; in the notorious way that the old apartheid prosecutors would sentence dozens of people who happened to be in a march or protest action for ";murder"; on the basis of ";common purpose";. Thus, in the ";Two Strategies"; document, because some irresponsible striking municipal workers (who were censured by their own union) happened stupidly to trash city streets, this becomes evidence that the entire ";left"; is ";not averse ...to trashing public places"; (p.12)

The SACP and COSATU occasionally get positive appraisals in the commercial media for our stand on HIV/AIDS, or our critique of the outrageous ";conspiracy"; allegations levelled against cdes Ramaphosa, Sexwale and Phosa in 2001. These occasional positive appraisals are held up, by Moleketi and Jele, as ";evidence"; that we are working hand-in-glove with the ";class enemy";. But for every positive appraisal of the SACP or COSATU in the commercial media, you will find fifty more praising government for its ";tough stand against the left and the unions";, for its ";sound macro-economic policies";, and for its ";commitment to privatisation";. Indeed, MEC Moleketi often receives very favourable coverage in the financial media - but we, for our part, are not going to simply counter-punch. We will treat the arguments, perspectives and programmes of comrades and allied structures on their own merits, and we will not seek to demonise them on the basis of ";association"; or ";favourable bourgeois media coverage";.

Everyone knows that there are various socialist lefts in South Africa. By far the best organised, the largest and most rooted socialist party in our country is the SACP.

The whole SACP (and not some alternative within it) is, strategically, programmatically, constitutionally, and in a thousand daily and personal ways, in alliance with the ANC, affirms the leading role of the ANC in the national democratic revolution, and acknowledges that the national democratic revolution is the key strategic task of the present. Everyone knows this. Everyone also knows that there are other socialist lefts in our country, of varying coherence, capacity and lucidity. Some are within the ANC, some are non-ANC, and some are anti-ANC. Moleketi and Jele gaily fudge positions of one socialist left with the positions of others. Everyone knows that at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the SACP, COSATU and the ANC combined forces to lead a single march. Everyone knows that anti-ANC socialist left forces succeeded in mounting an alternative march. Moleketi and Jele happily associate the SACP and COSATU with the latter.

Factionalist in timing

Finally, the document is factionalist in the most shallow of all ways. It was rushed into print, and hurriedly distributed to structures and the media, by-passing all formal channels, in the very week in which ANC Regional General Councils nationally were finalising their nominations for the ANC&';s December National Conference!

Are the lengthy quotes from Lenin, the ";lessons"; in scientific socialism, and the evocation of Moses Kotane assembled for such an unworthy motive?

We believe that the great majority of comrades within our broad movement, whatever their differing views on other matters, are thoroughly sick of this style of intervention, this stirring up of crises and threats, this reckless labelling of comrades, this creation of a permanent state of emergency within our movement.


Part Two - Socialism and the NDR

So how should we respond to this intervention?

Since all of the allegations levelled against the SACP have been responded to over and over in the last few years, we are not very convinced that any useful purpose would be served, once more, in repeating ourselves. Comrades who wish to check on just how false the various allegations made by Moleketi and Jele are can easily do this for themselves by referring to the ";Political Programme of the SACP"; from the 11th Congress, and to numerous African Communist and Umsebenzi articles, CC discussion papers, Congress resolutions, and formal SACP press statements. The SACP has not rejected NEPAD; the SACP continues to think that the struggle against national oppression and its legacy is the main content of the present phase; the SACP is not trying to turn the ANC into a socialist organisation; the SACP does not advocate macro-economic populism, or rampant inflation; the SACP does not think that we can simply disengage from the realities of capitalism, etc. etc. We have said these things a hundred times. Is there anything useful that could possibly emerge from a substantive engagement with the Moleketi and Jele paper?

Actually, we think that there is.

Their intervention, with all of its distortions, sleights of hand and chronic sectarianism serves one very useful purpose. Unintentionally, by setting up their argument by taking us back to the Party of Kotane and the writings of Lenin, they have opened up a very important debate. Indeed, they unwittingly expose themselves and their own agenda. All the sound and fury, all the allegations about others ";betraying"; the memory of Kotane and the traditions of our revolutionary alliance, are so many distractions designed to obscure a simple fact. It is Moleketi and Jele who are attempting a radical departure from long established Alliance traditions. They are attempting to invent a ";third strategy"; - a capitalist strategy - an entirely new trajectory for our national liberation movement. But it is a strategy that dares not utter its own name out clearly, in broad daylight.

The role of the SACP in the midst of the NDR

As we have seen, the Moleketi and Jele pamphlet makes many nasty implicit references to the SACP&';s current leadership and programmatic perspectives, but it seldom quotes anything directly. On page 14 of the pamphlet, however, there is, finally, a brief engagement with direct references to current SACP perspectives.

Their argument goes like this:


";The ultra-left tendency [i.e. the current leadership of the SACP]...believes that `socialism is, in the first instance, an economy in which social ownership is the preponderant form of economic ownership&';";.

[Some insist that we are being ";over-sensitive"; and that Moleketi and Jele are not referring to the SACP leadership when they refer to ";ultra-leftism";, but the sentence above gives the game away. The quotation within this sentence, defining socialism, is taken directly from the Draft Political Programme of the SACP, and was adopted by the 11th Congress in July 2002. The same definition of socialism was also adopted by the 10th SACP Congress in 1998.]

";It [the `ultra-left tendency&';] does not accept that `socialism is, in the first instance, the transformation of the proletariat into the ruling class.&';";


";Because of this, it does not conduct a struggle for the formation of the proletariat into a class for the overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, for conquest of political power by the proletariat from the bourgeoisie, as Marx and Engels put it. Rather, it focuses on `building socialism now&';, understood as relating to the question of property relations. It therefore busies itself not with the matter of the socialist revolution, but with various projects such as `rolling back the capitalist market&';, `transforming the market&'; and `socialising the ownership function&';.";

[Again, we have a series of very direct references to the SACP&';s formal, Congress-adopted, programmatic positions - ";build socialism now";, ";roll back the capitalist market";, ";transform the market";, ";socialise the ownership function";.]


";It views the democratic state as the principal instrument that it must use to ensure the success of these projects. Accordingly, it seeks to present these projects, intended to `build socialism now&';, as an integral part of the national democratic revolution.";


";The ultra-left tendency is therefore seeking to transform the continuing national struggle into a struggle for socialism.";

Of course we are! We are doing this programmatically, out in the open, and not by way of conspiracy, by plotting to overthrow the state, or by sectarian manoeuvre.

Let us take one simple example - we think that the dogmatic application of the capitalist market ";user pay"; principle is a disaster for a society confronting our huge challenges of under-development. For this reason, we have engaged with our ANC-led movement, openly advocating, for instance, the importance of rolling back the capitalist market when it comes to the provision of basic amounts of water and electricity to the poor. The great majority of ANC comrades agree, and the ANC has been leading the implementation of this programme. For us, as socialists, this is a socialist-oriented reform that introduces potentially anti-systemic elements into the currently dominant capitalist system. For non-socialists in our movement, these progressive measures may be seen simply as redressing historical inequalities, without any other longer term or systemic implications. That&';s fine. We are not working with non-Party comrades only on condition that they accept our socialist perspectives. We are not sectarian, but nor are we ashamed of our socialism.

We fully accept the strategic perspectives of the ANC as resolved upon at its National Conferences, and we think that we can make out a valid case for socialist-orientation within the context of these strategic perspectives. As the NDR unfolds, the SACP will continue to advance socialist-oriented positions, and we will continue to critique capitalism and underline the impossibility of consolidating the NDR itself within the strait-jacket of a dominant capitalism. As loyal members of a multi-class alliance, we seek to engage our movement on the importance of a socialist orientation in order to advance, deepen and defend the NDR itself. We may fail to persuade a majority of comrades, or we may succeed or partially succeed on this or that issue. While retaining our own independent policies and perspectives, we will continue to respect the view of the majority within our alliance, and the integrity and unity of our alliance and its different components. But if the Party of Kotane was not seeking to transform the continuing national struggle into a struggle for socialism, then what on earth would it be doing? It is a charge to which we proudly plead guilty.

The most basic thesis of Marxism

Let&';s dig a little deeper into this strange argument advanced by Moleketi and Jele.

The problems begin in Step One of their argument. When the SACP programmes of 1998 and 2002 argue that ";socialism is, in the first instance, an economy in which social ownership is the preponderant form of economic ownership";, Moleketi and Jele choose to interpret the phrase ";in the first instance"; to be referring to a time sequence! In fact, of course, we are evoking the most basic principle of Marxism. We are arguing that socialism (like capitalism, feudalism and slavery) is defined primarily (i.e. in the first instance) by the predominant form of economic ownership. We are obviously not saying: in the first instance build a socialist economy, then, in the second instance, build workers&'; state power!

So why do Moleketi and Jele misread this elementary piece of Marxism? Essentially, they want to disqualify, as ";sectarian";, any socialist engagement with social and economic policies in the present phase of the NDR. The SACP shouldn&';t ";busy itself"; with social and economic questions, we should not advance any transitional perspectives in the NDR. We should occupy ourselves, instead, with dreaming about some distant workers'seizure of power. Put bluntly, this argument amounts to saying that the NDR must be left to the bourgeoisie, that this is a phase of ";capitalist consolidation";. Once that is ";complete";, the SACP is free to advocate for the seizure of power by the working class.

This is ludicrous in all kinds of ways. If, indeed, we were planning to overthrow (even in some distant future) the present democratic and immensely progressive state then THAT would be an ultra-left conspiracy!

The argument is also ludicrous in its attempt to mechanically (and chronologically) separate the socio-economic tasks from the political tasks of a socialist (or for that matter national democratic) programme. How do you build workers&'; power without addressing massive unemployment, or skills development? We are told that ";we never attack the bourgeoisie, but only the ANC-led government";, which is blatantly not true if you bear in mind our most successful campaign of recent years, the financial sector campaign directed against the private banks. Even our campaigns against privatisation policies are directed, essentially, against the bourgeoisie (both established and emergent) and their predatory attempts to plunder public resources. Our struggle against privatisation is a defence of the national democratic state and its popular resources, and not an attack on it.

The Party of Kotane and the NDR

Since Moleketi and Jele spend a great deal of time preaching to us about the Party of Kotane, let us consider how, in the early 1960s, the SACP envisaged engaging with the national democratic phase of our struggle. What guidance does it give to us now? The most comprehensive statement of this is to be found in the SACP&';s 1962 programme, The Road to South African Freedom.

The programme includes a relatively extensive section, entitled ";Immediate Proposals of the Communist Party";. This section deals with the vision of the Party for the immediate (we emphasise immediate) NDR phase. Apart from calling for a unitary state within a non-racial, democratic dispensation and all the other familiar and important democratic political demands, the SACP in 1962 also has explicit, socialist-oriented economic proposals. Amongst other things:

";In order to ensure South Africa&';s independence, the Party will press for the strengthening of the state sector of the economy, particularly in the fields of heavy industry, machine tool building and fuel production. It will seek to place control of the vital sectors of the economy in the hands of the national democratic state and to correct historic injustice, by demanding the nationalisation of the mining industry, banking and monopoly industrial establishments, thus also laying the foundations for the advance to socialism."; (The Road to South African Freedom, in South African Communists Speak, p.316-7, our emphasis).

Quite clearly, the Party of Kotane had every intention of ";busying"; itself with socio-economic questions in the immediate phase of the NDR. It sees these ";immediate"; proposals as being both ways of ensuring effective national sovereignty and correcting ";historic injustice";, on the one hand (i.e. of addressing the national question), and as laying the basis for the advance to socialism, on the other.

Interestingly, the Party of Kotane was not neglectful of the need to work, where appropriate, with private capital. It even had a unique socialist approach to public-private partnerships (PPPs):

";the state should protect the interests of private business where these are not incompatible with the public interest. It should offer assistance, by way of state loans, to non-monopolist producers, in return for a state share in their undertakings, thus paving the way for a gradual and peaceful transition to socialism."; (ibid. p317, our emphasis).

We might, in 2002, wish to debate the feasibility of some of the ";immediate"; measures the SACP was advocating for the NDR in 1962. The global balance of forces has changed. Lessons have been learnt from the successes and failures of the former Soviet bloc. These are among the many important practical questions that certainly need to be addressed. Here, however, we are concerned with a broader question of principle and general strategy: is it ultra-left sectarianism for the SACP to advance socialist-oriented economic and social policies in the midst of the NDR? As we have already seen, Moleketi and Jele charge the present SACP and its leadership with ultra-leftism. The defining feature of this ";deviation"; is that ";The ultra-left tendency is ... seeking to transform the continuing national struggle into a struggle for socialism."; If we accept this as a defining feature of our ultra-leftism then there is only one conclusion we can reach. The Party of Kotane in 1962 was even more ultra-leftist than ourselves!

But Kotane is not the only authority cited by Moleketi and Jele who, on their terms, turns out to be ";ultra-leftist";.

Distorting Lenin

Moleketi and Jele provide us with extensive quotations from Lenin. However, in a procedure that is characteristic of this style of intervention, they quote one-sidedly. Thoroughly dialectical arguments (and Lenin was nothing if not dialectical) are stripped of their dynamic contradictions. This is especially apparent in their consistent misreading of Lenin&';s approach to national liberation struggles.

";They [the ANC and the SACP of Kotane] also agreed that the forces united around these objectives would constitute a `broad family&';, made up of various ideological streams. The SACP accepted that though some among these might be ideologically opposed to socialism, it would nevertheless work with them honestly as true combatants for our national emancipation."; (p.9)

As far as we are concerned that was true in 1962, and it remains true in 2002. But what, precisely, does ";working together"; mean, especially in a post-1994 reality? Does it mean that communists, in the name of ";unity";, step aside and allow the stabilisation and consolidation of capitalism first, before any advance towards socialism can be contemplated? This is what Moleketi and Jele try to distort Marxism-Leninism into saying:

";After all, from the very beginning, Marxism-Leninism had understood that the tendency of every national movement is towards the formation of national states, under which the requirements of modern capitalism are best satisfied. Even as it understood through scientific analysis the relationship between national liberation and the consolidation of capitalism, it nevertheless took the clear position that, in its own interest, the independent proletarian party had to support the national liberation struggles."; (p.9)

Moleketi and Jele are trying to evoke the authority of Marxism-Leninism to advance the theory that the proletarian party should ";in its own interest"; support the national liberation struggle even though it is, in essence, a struggle for the ";consolidation of capitalism";!

Needless to say, you have to distort Marxism-Leninism on a grand scale to arrive at this claim.

In the first place, Lenin did not argue that the independent proletarian party ";had"; to support every national liberation movement even if it meant the consolidation of capitalism. Support for a national liberation movement was conditional, as the quote that Moleketi and Jele themselves provide (from the Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920) clearly indicates:

";Communists should and will support bourgeois liberation movements in the colonies only when they are genuinely revolutionary, and when their exponents do not hinder our work of educating and organising in a revolutionary spirit the peasantry and the masses of the exploited."; (quoted by Moleketi and Jele, p.9)

In other words, as far as the Communist International in 1920 was concerned, Communist parties should co-operate with national liberation movements only insofar as these latter did not hinder the right of the Party to be, what Moleketi and Jele would now call, ";ultra-leftist";.

Lenin, in his ";Report of the Commission on the National and the Colonial Questions"; to the same Second Congress of the Communist International, has a very dialectical understanding of the emergent bourgeoisie in the colonies. It is a dialectical view that Moleketi and Jele quietly ignore. On the one hand, the emergent bourgeoisie in the colonies was capable of joining a common anti-imperialist and (where this applied) anti-feudal movement. But it was also (Lenin adds"perhaps even in most cases";) liable to act in cahoots with imperialism against all revolutionary movements and classes.

";There has been a certain rapprochement between the bourgeoisie of the exploiting countries and that of the colonies, so that very often - perhaps even in most cases - the bourgeoisie of the oppressed countries, while it does support the national movement, is in full accord with the imperialist bourgeoisie, i.e., joins forces with it against all revolutionary movements and revolutionary classes."; (Lenin, ";Report of the Commission on the National and Colonial Questions";, Selected Works, p.597)

The origins and content of the concept of a ";national democratic revolution";

Moleketi and Jele base their entire argument, as the title of their pamphlet emphasises, on the concept of the ";national democratic revolution"; (the NDR). But they have obscured what is, precisely, central about this concept - namely, that it is a national liberation struggle that is programmatically oriented against capitalist consolidation. Interestingly, we can trace the origins of the concept to the Second Congress of the Communist International (1920) to which we have just been referring.

In his Report from the relevant commission of this Congress, Lenin argues that, after considerable debate, it had been resolved to refer to progressive national liberation movements that should be supported as ";national-revolutionary movements";, in order to distinguish them from national movements in general, and ";reformist"; national movements in particular.

";if we speak of the bourgeois-democratic movement [in general], we shall be obliterating all distinctions between the reformist and the revolutionary movements. Yet that distinction has been very clearly revealed of late in the backward and colonial countries, since the imperialist bourgeoisie is doing everything in its power to implant a reformist movement among the oppressed nations too...the Communists in these countries must combat the reformist bourgeoisie..."; (ibid. p.597-8)

Here we see the origins of the concept of a ";national democratic revolution";, evoked explicitly to contrast it with national movements in general, and specifically those that are dominated by the ";reformist bourgeoisie"; from among the historically colonised. Later, Lenin (summarising the resolutions of the Congress) adds further features to the revolutionary (as opposed to reformist) national liberation perspective:

";The question was posed as follows: are we to consider as correct the assertion that the capitalist stage of economic development is inevitable for backward nations now on the road to emancipation...? We replied in the negative...Not only should we create independent contingents of fighters and party organisations in the colonies and the backward countries, not only at once launch propaganda for the organisation of peasants&'; Soviets and strive to adapt them to the pre-capitalist conditions, but the Communist International should advance the proposition... that backward countries can go over to the Soviet system and, through certain stages of development, to communism, without having to pass through the capitalist stage."; (ibid. p.599, our emphasis)

Contrary to the drift of Moleketi and Jele&';s claims, Lenin and the Communist International did not accept that the trajectory of a national movement in the colonies had to end in the ";consolidation of capitalism";. (But then, perhaps, Lenin and the Communist International were also ";ultra-left";?)

It is here, in 1920, that we see the emergent development of the concept of an NDR. In the hey-day of Moses Kotane&';s leadership of the SACP, the NDR was used as a category to describe the strategic trajectory and programme of a national liberation movement that was ";revolutionary";, that was pursuing a ";non-capitalist"; path, as opposed to a national struggle that was merely ";reformist";, capitalist-oriented.

In the decades of the 1950s through to the 80s the concept of an NDR was consolidated and developed in the light of actual experience in a rapidly de-colonising world. This is what the Theory and Tactics of the International Communist Movement (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1985), a standard text-book of the period, has to say about formerly colonised societies:

";Two groups of newly-free countries can be singled out today according to their socio-economic and political structures - countries of capitalist development and countries of socialist orientation."; (p.439)

This text (which is representative of dozens like it) establishes a fundamental contrast between the NDR (which attempts to implement radical democratic changes, and which, at the very least, is ";non-capitalist"; in character) and the capitalist development path, which is ";reformist";. The NDR is a transitional phase in which the ";objective and subjective prerequisites for socialist revolution have not formed as yet";, but in which it is clearly recognised that a capitalist development path is completely ";unable to tackle the economic and social problems";. In countries pursuing an NDR path:

";A top-priority task is to overcome their economic dependence on foreign and local monopolies and to hand over the key branches of the economy to the state sector. These countries also have to solve the agrarian problem in a democratic way for the benefit of peasants..."; (pp.440-1)

In the context of a ";non-capitalist"; path it is the role of Communist parties and other progressive formations to be (if we are to apply Moleketi and Jele&';s reasoning) ";ultra-left";, that is to engage with the NDR and actively seek to give it a ";socialist orientation";.

Of course, there are many practical questions that need to be asked in 2002 about the programmatic perspectives developed in Moscow in 1920 and taken forward in 1985. Were they valid in their time? Are they still valid now?

There is also the interesting question about how well the South African case fitted (and fits) the general features described within this tradition. Lenin, the Comintern, and the 1985 Marxist-Leninist textbook, when they evoke a ";national revolutionary"; or ";national democratic"; stage, are all referring essentially to societies in which there is very little capitalist development, and in which the peasantry is the overwhelmingly preponderant class. South Africa undoubtedly suffered under a particularly noxious and historically extended version of colonial rule (colonialism of a special type), and building a broad national liberation movement has been, absolutely, the correct strategic response. However, many of the arguments advanced in these ";classic"; and ";orthodox"; texts for an intermediate (";non-capitalist";) stage in the colonial world before making an advance to socialism, given minimal development and the social preponderance of the peasantry, have not applied to South Africa for many decades.

There are many practical issues and important debates of this kind, which we need to explore thoughtfully, soberly and rationally. To think constructively and critically about this legacy is not a heresy. However, it is Moleketi and Jele who have taken us back to Lenin, the Comintern and the traditions that developed in the decades of the Kotane leadership of the SACP. They have selectively snipped out ";authoritative"; quotations from these sources, they are now rolling about on the turf, pointing at us and crying foul, all the while peeping over their shoulders to see what impact they are having.

Once again, a careful, slow-motion re-play of the action proves the very opposite of what they claim. The sources quoted by Moleketi and Jele do not remotely bear out their own argument. The NDR was never envisaged as a stage of capitalist consolidation, on the contrary. Nor was the NDR ever envisaged as a period in which communists, in the name of ";unity";, were expected to be passive observers. Any remotely careful re-play of our traditions shows that communists are clearly exhorted to actively advance ";socialist-oriented"; policies and perspectives in the NDR itself.

The ";Movement of Tambo"; and the NDRUsing the short-hand of a single name, Moleketi and Jele have evoked the traditions of the ";Party of Kotane";, a Party that was under the collective leadership, they correctly note, not just of Kotane, but of JB Marks, Yusuf Dadoo, Dora Tamana, Joe Slovo, and many others. This Party, so they argue, has until recently embodied ";one strategy"; of the NDR. But what of the other strategy, ";revolutionary democracy";, that is embodied by the ANC?

How, in the decades of the 1950s through to the 80s, did the ANC and its core leadership envisage the NDR? Did the ANC conceptualise the NDR as a process aimed inevitably and strategically at ";consolidating capitalism";?

There is considerable documentation to demonstrate that this is simply not the case. In the first place there is the Freedom Charter (1955), which no National Conference of the ANC has ever repudiated. The Freedom Charter is not a socialist document, but you would be very hard-pressed indeed to argue that it was merely aimed at ";consolidating a de-racialised capitalism"; in South Africa.

The Freedom Charter is the guiding vision of a radical, people&';s (not working class) democracy that is not socialist, as such, but which is certainly not pro-capitalist either. Its programmatic vision has often and appropriately (if a little vaguely) been described as a ";non-capitalist"; path.

Morogoro 1969

The land-mark 1969 Morogoro Conference of the ANC, and its key ";Strategy and Tactics"; document, offer us further proof that, rather than some ";ultra-left"; faction, it is Moleketi and Jele who are distorting both the SACP and ANC strategic orientations of recent decades.

The Morogoro Conference, noting changed external realities in the post-World War 2 situation, argued that our struggle was taking place in ";a new kind of world - a world which is no longer monopolised by the imperialist world system; a world in which the existence of the powerful socialist system and a significant sector of newly liberated areas has altered the balance of forces; a world in which the horizons liberated from foreign oppression extend beyond mere formal political control and encompass the element which makes such control meaningful - economic emancipation.";

It was not just the external reality that had important positive features. The relatively developed capitalist character of South Africa, already a factor by the mid-20th century, with the resulting preponderant numerical weight of the working class within our society, was a major asset. Our struggle, Morogoro asserted in 1969, ";is also happening in a new kind of South Africa; a South Africa in which there is a large and well-developed working class...and in which the independent expressions of the working people - their political organs and trade unions - are very much part of the liberation front.";

The programme of the South African liberation movement was, therefore, qualitatively different from an earlier phase of liberation struggle. This is how the 1969 Strategy and Tactics document makes the point:

";Thus, our nationalism must not be confused with chauvinism or narrow nationalism of a previous epoch. It must not be confused with the classical drive by an elitist group among the oppressed people to gain ascendancy so that they can replace the oppressor in the exploitation of the masses ...In our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy."; (our emphasis)

We have emphasised the penultimate sentence above because it underlines the important point that Morogoro was asserting that a radical NDR was not just more possible (because of three core, favourable, post-1945 realities), but it was essential for the achievement of any meaningful national liberation (regardless of how favourable conditions might or might not be). We underline this point, because it is obvious that at least one of the favourable factors (a ";powerful socialist system"; within the world system) no longer applies.

The ";Green Book";

In all of these ANC documents there is (advisedly and probably correctly) a certain vagueness in presenting any precise thoughts about the relationship between the ANC&';s radical democratic perspectives and socialism. What exactly is Morogoro alluding to when it speaks of ";economic emancipation";, or the ";return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole";? Is it referring to a de-racialised capitalism? That seems entirely unlikely, but, if you were really desperate to make the case for consolidating capitalism in our country, you might try to stretch the point.

Fortunately, in recent years an extremely useful insight into how the leading cadre of the ANC (including both communists and non-communists) actually looked at this question in the late 1970s has become publicly available (on the official ANC website, www.anc.org.za). This is the celebrated (but for many years confidential) ";Green Book";, the ";Report of the Politico-Military Strategy Commission to the ANC National Executive Committee";, August 1979.

According to the Report, the Commission was headed by ANC President, cde OR Tambo, and it consisted of cdes Thabo Mbeki, Joe Slovo, Moses Mabhida, Joe Gqabi and Joe Modise. There is one passage that is of absolutely crucial importance to the whole discussion in which we are presently involved:

";We debated the more long-term aims of our national democratic revolution, and the extent to which the ANC, as a national movement, should tie itself to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and publicly commit itself to the socialist option. The issue was posed as follows:

";In the light of the need to attract the broadest range of social forces amongst the oppressed to the national democratic liberation, a direct or indirect commitment at this stage to a continuing revolution which would lead to a socialist order may unduly narrow this line-up of social forces. It was also argued that the ANC is not a party, and its direct or open commitment to socialist ideology may undermine its basic character as a broad national movement.

";It should be emphasised that no member of the Commission had any doubts about the ultimate need to continue our revolution towards a socialist order; the issue was posed only in relation to the tactical considerations of the present stage of our struggle.

";The Commission finally resolved its thinking on the question ...We all agreed that the way in which we publicly expand on [this question] ...requires a degree of tactical caution. At the same time it is necessary:

for our movement itself to entertain no ambiguities about the aims of people's power and the role of the primary social forces, both inside and outside our movement, which will underwrite these aims, and

to gain increasing mass understanding for the idea that, in contrast to many old-style nationalist movements in Africa, we believe that there can be no true national liberation without social emancipation.

";The seizure of power by the people must be understood not only by us but also by the masses as the beginning of the process in which the instruments of state will be used to progressively destroy the heritage of all forms of national and social inequality. To postpone advocacy of this perspective until the first stage of democratic power has been achieved is to risk dominance within our revolution by purely nationalist forces which may see themselves as replacing the white exploiters at the time of the people's victory."; (our emphases)

This quotation speaks for itself.

In 1979 the entire Politico-Military Strategy Commission to the ANC NEC agreed, unanimously, that the NDR was (had to be) a ";continuing revolution which would lead to a socialist order";. However, for tactical (not strategic, and still less for principled theoretical) reasons it was unwise for the ANC (but not the SACP by implication) to openly advocate for an uninterrupted transition to socialism. Indeed, if not the ANC, then some organised formation of the Alliance would have to openly advocate for such a transition, because ";to postpone advocacy of this perspective until the first stage of the democratic power has been achieved is to risk dominance within our revolution by purely nationalist forces";.

In short, if we are to accept Moleketi and Jele&';s definition of ";ultra-leftism";, then we would have to conclude that Lenin and the Communist International were ultra-leftist in 1920; the SACP of Moses Kotane was ultra-leftist throughout, and especially in 1962; the Congress Movement was ultra-leftist when it gathered at Kliptown in 1955; the ANC was very ultra-leftist at Morogoro in 1969; and the Politico-Military Strategy Commission to the ANC National Executive Committee, consisting of cdes OR Tambo, Thabo Mbeki, Joe Slovo, Moses Mabhida, Joe Gqabi and Joe Modise, was unanimously ultra-leftist in August 1979, but chose, tactically, to remain publicly discreet about it.

There is, of course, another and more likely explanation. When all of this important traffic begins to pass you by on the far left, perhaps it is you, comrades Moleketi and Jele, who are travelling very conservatively, and so far to the right that you are virtually off the high-way of our Alliance&';s long-standing revolutionary traditions.

Faking fouls

The two comrades draw an extremely unflattering comparison between today&';s SACP and the Party of Kotane. But we will resist the temptation to simply reply in kind. We are not going to level wild allegations against Moleketi and Jele. We are not even going to call for their red-carding, as much as their sectarian behaviour cries out for serious organisational attention. We have followed them back to earlier decades and to well-established traditions, we have done slow-motion replays to show just how distorted are their claims. But we are not going to do what they do - i.e. suggest that our strategic perspectives from earlier periods are above debate and should not, under any circumstance, be subject to renewal if realities change, or understanding develops.

In fact, this is precisely the discussion that we need to undertake within our movement. Moleketi and Jele clearly believe, but cannot quite say, that we should completely revise our approach to the NDR, and see it as strategically oriented to the consolidation of a de-racialised capitalism. They should declare this honestly out in the open. They should argue the case in broad daylight, and without feeling the desperate need to fake Marxism-Leninism, or the traditions of Kotane, or the earlier decades of our alliance.

Above all, they should not recklessly flout organisational discipline. They should not discredit the intellectual traditions of our movement with such low-grade and personalised polemic. They should not play recklessly with organisational unity and systematically undermine the careful alliance building work we have been conducting over many decades. They should not manufacture crises within our movement, like a pair of melodramatic football strikers who spend the whole afternoon diving in the box. They should cease trying to manufacture penalties against comrades and argue, instead, on its own merits, their perspective of a ";third strategy";, the strategy of a capitalist-orientation for the national democratic revolution. If this is what they believe, then this is the perspective they should present to the ANC&';s National Conference in December. Let this perspective be debated in a comradely fashion.


Part Three - What is ultra-leftism...and what (a forgotten question) is reformist opportunism?

As we have seen, comrades Moleketi and Jele use the label ";ultra-leftism";, applying it with carefree abandon in all directions. They never pause to provide us with a serious analysis or substantive definition of this tendency.

So what is ultra-leftism?
The defining feature of ultra-leftism is its excessive exaggeration of subjective factors. The subjective feelings of militancy of a small group of revolutionaries; or the deep anger and impatience felt by large masses of workers and poor; or the attractiveness of an immediate advance to socialism - important, understandable and, in many cases, even admirable subjective feelings of this kind are assumed to mean that the desirable is also, more or less, immediately possible. This is why Lenin, appropriately, referred to this tendency as ";infantile";. He writes, for instance, of the ultra-left tendency in Germany in 1920:

";It is obvious that the `Lefts&'; in Germany have mistaken their desire, their politico-ideological attitude, for objective reality. That is a most dangerous mistake for revolutionaries to make."; (Lenin, ";Left-wing"; communism - an infantile disorder, Selected Works, p.541)

Engels expressed a similar view on an ultra-left current in France in 1874:

";What childish innocence it is to present one&';s own impatience as a theoretically convincing argument!"; (cited by Lenin, ibid. p.548)

The excessive subjectivism of the ultra-left also expresses itself in the ways in which it tends to explain away reverses or difficulties. These, too, are excessively subjectivised - leaders are ";sell-outs"; and ";traitors";, the masses are ";misled";, or suffering from a ";false consciousness";. These accusations may, or may not have some relevance, but ultra-leftism tends to default to them all too hastily.

The flip-side of this excessive subjectivism is that ultra-leftism tends to underrate or even ignore the objective factors within a given situation. The real and potential impediments to a rapid advance are discounted. The strength of opposition forces and the dangers of counter-revolution are neglected. The objective weaknesses of progressive classes and strata are themselves also characteristically ignored.

The conflation of what is desirable with what is possible results in adventurism, a tendency to reckless voluntarism, the advocacy of reckless leaps forward, based on sheer will-power, that can result in serious defeat and disaster.

As a consequence of all of this, ultra-leftism tends not to understand the revolution as process. Everything is immediate, all-or-nothing, victory or sell-out. This, in turn, results in many of the zig-zags that are so often a feature of ultra-leftism, bouts of excessive optimism, followed by depression and the predictable accusations of betrayal and sell-out. Lenin writes of this tendency as one that ";easily goes to revolutionary extremes, but (it is) incapable of perseverance, organisation, discipline and steadfastness."; (p.520)

Because of its exaggeration of the immediate, ultra-leftism tends, also, to greatly exaggerate tactics over strategies. Tactics start to become strategies, and even principles. For instance, ultra-leftism often rejects compromises on principle.

Participation in parliamentary democracy is sometimes rejected, in general, and the tactics of a general strike or an insurrectionary seizure of power are simply counter-posed to any other approach, and turned into timeless strategies if not principles.

The ultra-left approach is also often characterised by what Lenin neatly described as the ";tactics of sheer negation";. We see signs of this in our own current reality (anti-globalisation, anti-NEPAD, anti-ANC government).

All of these characteristics of ultra-leftism result in a general inability to appreciate or participate in the often long-haul of organisational building and the concomitant need to work patiently, resolve secondary contradictions, and manage the complexity of mass movements, alliances and broad fronts. As a result, the organisational practices of ultra-leftism are typically characterised by factionalism and the propensity to endless splitting and fragmentation (which is why, incidentally, Moleketi and Jele&';s attempt to present the ultra-left as a vast South African conspiracy with global tentacles is not only factually incorrect, but simply bizarre). Other related features of ultra-leftism&';s approach to organisation is a propensity to boycott institutions or campaigns, regardless of circumstances; or to enter into a parasitic relationship with established organisations, institutions and campaigns, using the tactics of entryism.

These are the characteristic tendencies of the ultra-left tendency. We have tried to show that these features are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing. In real life, of course, ultra-leftism will manifest in many varieties, and with varying degrees of ";purity";.

In South Africa, ultra-leftism has manifested itself in many variations and over many decades, but all of the endemic characteristics of this tendency noted above have certainly been present. The following are the most recurrent specific characteristics of ultra-leftism in our situation:

The inability to understand the national question as an objective reality that is a core feature of South Africa&';s capitalist development path, structurally linked to our deep-seated legacy of systemic under-development. Instead, ultra-leftism in South Africa tends to conceptualise the national question, and progressive nationalism, as ";false consciousness";, or inherently ";petty bourgeois"; - once more subjectivising what is, in the first instance, a profoundly objective reality.

As a consequence, ultra-leftism has tended to oppose the entire NDR strategy, rejecting it as the pursuit of a ";capitalist road";, or as a ";detour";, an ";unnecessary delay"; in the struggle for socialism;

Organisationally, ultra-leftism has, generally, defined itself outside of and in opposition to the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance. A great deal of energy has been devoted to breaking our alliance, to ";weaning"; workers away from the ";nationalist"; ANC, the ";Stalinist"; SACP, or from the present ";reactionary"; leadership of COSATU. But, as with ultra-leftism elsewhere, there have also been various entryist attempts into all three of the alliance components. In the case of the ANC and SACP, organised factions are not permitted, ultra-leftism is against our principles, and the democratic centralist principles in our two organisations have resulted either in expulsions (very few in practice) or in voluntary withdrawal or marginalisation. COSATU is a progressive trade union federation, not a political party or movement, and adherence to a particular political party and its programmatic perspectives is not (and should not) be a condition of membership of the federation&';s affiliates. There are IFP, NNP and DP supporting workers who are members of COSATU affiliates. Workers and union activists of an ultra-left persuasion, provided they do not subvert the discipline of their unions, have a perfectly legitimate place within COSATU, and care must be taken that we do not treat them in a sectarian manner, or label them as the ";enemy";. In COSATU and its affiliates there is a contest for political hegemony, and since its formation in 1985, a pro-ANC, pro-alliance political perspective has been overwhelmingly dominant, but never unchallenged.

Of course, organised ultra-left factions and groupings are one thing, but there is also the reality of influence. As in any revolutionary movement, none of our Alliance formations is immune to the influence of ultra-leftism on the one hand, or (as we shall soon see) to reformist opportunism on the other. Labelling and witch-hunting are the least effective ways of countering such influences. Understanding and constantly enriching our strategic perspectives, both through collective debate and discussion and through practical work, are the principal means for countering the dangers of ultra-leftism and reformist opportunism.

Reformist opportunism

We have seen how a spectre is haunting Moleketi and Jele...but they have misnamed this spectre ";ultra-leftism";. They see ultra-leftism everywhere, like Cold War ideologues finding reds under beds. In launching their attack on ";ultra-leftism"; they have tried to model themselves on Lenin, and in particular on his classic text, ";Left-Wing"; Communism - an Infantile Disorder.

But even when he was focusing his polemical attention on ultra-leftism, Lenin (unlike Moleketi and Jele) never forgot that the principal internal danger to a revolutionary movement came not from the ultra-left, but from reformist opportunism:

";First and foremost, the struggle against opportunism, which in 1914 definitely developed into social-chauvinism and definitely sided with the bourgeoisie, against the proletariat. Naturally, this was Bolshevism&';s principal enemy within the working-class movement. It still remains the principal enemy on an international scale. The Bolsheviks have been devoting the greatest attention to this enemy."; (ibid., p.520).

This is what Lenin says before going on to deal with ultra-leftism. Not only does he prioritise reformist opportunism, even when his main topic is ultra-leftism, but he also affirms that the spread and impact of ultra-leftism is often directly linked to the spread and impact of opportunism within the revolutionary movement.

";[ultra-leftism] was not infrequently a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working-class movement. The two monstrosities complemented each other."; (ibid., p.521)

So what are the main features of reformist opportunism?

Whereas ultra-leftism grossly over-rates the subjective dimension, opportunism greatly over-rates the stability, impermeability, and the ";unchallengeable"; character of objective factors. Indeed, Moleketi and Jele come very close to promoting just such reformist opportunism - an ";unchallengeable"; version of the current global balance of forces:

";Capital is stronger than it has ever been, globally. It is in search of and hopes for a challenger who will have the temerity to launch a general offensive against it. In crushing such a challenger, as it would, it would not only send the message that the age of revolutions is over, but would also get the matter fixed firmly in the minds of the international proletariat that capital, exclusively, has the right to determine the destiny of the world."; (Moleketi and Jele, p.15)

Of course, Moleketi and Jele are not wrong to argue that a ";general offensive"; against global capitalism could be adventurist, but in the absence of offering any other line of march against capitalism, it is hard not to be left with the impression that capitulationism is the order of the day. This impression is reinforced by other passages in their pamphlet, for instance:

";Logically, accumulated capital in the world economy cannot be anywhere other than with the bourgeoisie, even in our country."; (our emphases, Moleketi and Jele, p.21)

If accumulated capital resources are privatised, commercialised, concessioned-out; if the public and parastatal sector is plundered by an emerging bourgeoisie; if worker pension and provident funds are invested purely in terms of the logic of the capitalist market and profit maximisation - then accumulated capital will not be found anywhere other than with the bourgeoisie. But there is nothing necessary, still less logical about this.

In our view, passages like this illustrate the impact of reformist opportunism of the thinking of some within our movement. In particular, they resonate with the first and principal feature of reformist opportunism, its over-rating of the ";unchallengeable"; character of the dominant objective realities.

This is not to say reformist opportunism does not seek to change things. But, and this is its second defining feature, it sees change as reforms that do not challenge the core structural and systemic features of capitalism. Let us be clear, there is nothing wrong with reforms, but for a revolutionary movement, reforms must have a transformational character, they must introduce anti-systemic possibilities, momentum towards, capacity for, and elements of far-reaching structural change. In our situation, however, reformist opportunism sees change as being about ";regulating"; capitalism; modernising our economy; catching up with ";international best practice";; and correcting for ";market failure";.

And this results in reformist opportunism sharing with ultra-leftism the tendency to turn tactical choices imposed by particular realities into strategies and even into timeless principles. The strategic objectives of one&';s struggle (a national democratic revolution, for instance) tend to be forgotten or endlessly postponed. Ultra-leftism elevates what might be, in a particular situation, a correct tactical choice (no compromise) into a strategy and even a principle (never compromise). Opportunism does exactly the same thing, but in reverse (always compromise). As Lenin puts it:

";Na?ve and quite inexperienced people imagine that the permissibility of compromise in general is sufficient to obliterate any distinction between opportunism, against which we are waging, and must wage, an unremitting struggle, and revolutionary Marxism, or communism."; (Lenin, ibid., p.549)

And so, just as the ultra-left tends to dwell greatly on Lenin&';s writings on insurrection and the seizure of power in 1917, reformist opportunism dwells on the period of the New Economic Policy (NEP), when the Soviets, emerging out of the devastation of civil war, were forced onto the retreat. There is certainly much that can be learned from different periods of the Russian Revolution, but neither offensive nor defensive tactics and strategies should be turned into principles.

While ultra-leftism tends not to understand process, reformist opportunism does not understand the DIALECTICAL nature of process. Thus the history and trajectory of contemporary capitalism tend to be understood as a relatively smooth, evolutionary flow, rather than a crisis-ridden, thoroughly dialectical reality in which progress and barbarism, development and underdeveloped are systemically linked, each the structural condition for the other. In our situation, the absence of dialectics can result in the unworkable dream of ";deracialising"; our society by modernising, applying ";international best practice";, aligning with ";global standards";, becoming more competitive, achieving good investment ratings, and, in short, by ";normalising"; South Africa to the detriment of fundamental transformation.

While the posture of ultra-leftism is often one of ";sheer negation";, as Lenin puts it, (anti-globalisation, anti-NEPAD, etc.); the posture of reformist opportunism tends to be one of bland optimism. The ";revolution"; is forever being declared ";on track";, as if, precisely, there were some straight-line ";track";.

However, since objective reality (not least a reality dominated by capitalism) is not evolutionary but thoroughly dialectical, uneven and crisis-ridden, reformist opportunism frequently finds itself confronted with ";discrepancies";. And so, like ultra-leftism, opportunism tends to have recourse to the subjective in order to ";explain"; obstructions and crises. Ultra-leftism invokes the subjective ";betrayal"; of ";sell-outs";, reformist opportunism invokes plots and conspiracies; our continent&';s systemic underdevelopment by decades of capitalist progress tends to be attributed largely to attitudinal prejudices (Afro-pessimism); the deep-seated structural legacy of racialised poverty is mythologised (the ";demon"; of racism); and the motives of journalists and statisticians are queried when bland optimism is not confirmed. We should emphasise that we are not denying the possibility of plots, nor the manipulable character of statistics, nor the fallibility of the media, nor the existence of colonial prejudices about our continent, nor the persistent and abhorrent reality of racism in our society - but over-reliance on these subjectivist explanations underlines reformist opportunism&';s inability to scientifically analyse the contradictory objective character of our global and national realities.

The two tactics of reformism in regard to the NDR

We have said that ultra-leftism is principally outside of and not within our ANC-led Alliance. The same must be said of reformism. On the party political terrain, there are currently two main embodiments of reformism in the current South African reality, the DA and the NNP (with the IFP being a hybrid reality). And these two main embodiments of reformism are currently organised around the two tactics of reformism.

The first tactic of reformism, organised around the DA, is to secure the strategic objective of reformism (change without transformation) by maintaining an aggressive, all-out oppositionist stance to our revolutionary movement. The tactic is to build sufficient electoral strength to be able to ";check and balance"; from the outside any far-reaching transformational agenda led by our Alliance.

The second tactic of reformism is currently organised (on the political party terrain) around an NNP desperately in the midst of trying to re-invent itself. The second tactic is to secure the self-same strategic objective of all reformism (change without transformation) but through co-operation in governance with the ANC. In particular, and NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk has been quite open about this, the objective is to strengthen the ";centre"; within the ANC, and to marginalize the influence of the ";left";.

Notwithstanding this openly declared objective, the SACP supports the co-operation agreement between the ANC and the NNP (and the similar agreement with the IFP), because it has:

Helped to rupture the unity of the major political embodiments of the reformist strategy;
Changed the political alignment of forces within many local governments, allowing the ANC to at least share in power where it had been excluded;
Created a climate in which the NLM might be more acceptable to constituencies organised, or formally organised, by opposition forces; and, above all
Presents further bridgeheads for advancing change that is transformational.
Needless to say, this means that, notwithstanding cooperation agreements, we shall still need to struggle intelligently and strategically against reformism in its various guises.

The danger of reformism&';s influence upon the NDR

The principal organised locations of reformism in our country are outside of our Alliance. But this does not mean that reformism cannot influence our movement, and we have tried to flag some of the many ways in which this might manifest itself in an opportunism within.

One of the features of our own internal opportunist tendency is that it deprives us of the ability to adequately conceptualise and therefore strategise around our engagement with external reformist entities. These internal opportunist tendencies tend, once more, to subjectivise their explanation for our co-operation with the NNP or IFP. The ";special character"; of the ";Afrikaner" is evoked in the case of the NNP, or ";our shared history and blackness"; is evoked in the case of the IFP, opportunistically brushing over many objective realities.

It is in the context of all of this that the intervention by Moleketi and Jele is especially misguided and dangerous. Rather than effectively meeting the threat of ultra-leftism, if left unchallenged their intervention is liable to greatly promote the cause of ultra-leftism.

At the very time when the ANC (correctly) is pursuing a cooperative relationship with the former party of apartheid, Moleketi and Jele have chosen to launch a vicious offensive against the SACP and COSATU without once mentioning the dangers of reformism. How van Schalkwyk must be enjoying the spectacle! How confusing it must all be to our own mass and activist base! Do Moleketi and Jele not think that this opens up absolutely fertile ground for the real (not the imaginary) ultra-left to influence and mislead our own mass constituency?

The SACP calls upon all Party members, all comrades within our Alliance, not to be provoked by the Moleketi and Jele intervention. We call on comrades not to descend into retaliatory labelling and defensive factionalism. We call on comrades to analyse our contemporary reality thoughtfully and scientifically. We call on comrades to unite behind the broad strategic perspectives elaborated over many decades, and taken forward in the ANC&';s National General Council of 1999, the Alliance Ekhuruleni Summit of April 2002, the SACP 11th Congress in July 2002, and in the draft resolutions and Strategy and Tactics document from the ANC&;s National Policy Conference of October 2002. We call on comrades to guard against the twin dangers of ultra-leftism and reformist opportunism.

Above all, the SACP calls on all comrades to unite in action to advance, deepen and defend our national democratic revolution.