Flag and Symbol
Media & Artwork
Conferences, Congresses and Anniversaries
Leadership Structures
African Communist PDF Archive
African Communist Digital Archive
Bua Komanisi
Eastern Cape Bulletin
Umsebenzi Online
Umsebenzi Online Articles
Voice of the Proletariat - Northern Cape Publication
Feedback Form
Google Groups

Subscribe to

Umsebenzi Online

Alternatively visit this group.

Subscribe to

Communist University

Alternatively visit this group.

Contact us
Tel:  +27 11 3393621
Fax: +27 11 3394244
+27 11 3396880


PO Box 1027,
Johannesburg 2000,
South Africa

The latest Umsebenzi Click here to view the Latest Umsebenzi. [PDF]

The latest Umsebenzi Online

Why the assassin must not be granted parole
Read more

The latest African Communist Click here to view the Latest African Communist. [PDF]

Volume 2 - Issue 3 - June 2002


Socialism is the Future, Build it Now: Strategy and Tactics of the SACP in the National Democratic Revolution

"We cannot regard the mass revolutionary struggle for socialism and the consistent revolutionary programme on the nationalities question as two different things. We must combine the first with the second. One must not think of socialist revolution as a single battle on the single front: imperialism against socialism. This revolution will be a whole era of sharp class struggles and social upheavals of every kind, a whole series of battles on very different fronts because of the most varied economic and political transformations? Prominent among these democratic transformations, which form part of the concept of social revolution, are bound to be also the transformations of national relations. The revolutionary proletariat will not fulfil its task unless it now upholds a consistent programme on this question too? The proletarian revolution will be an era of a whole series of battles? on all economic and political questions, including national questions. It is the resolution of the sum of conflicts stemming from all these unresolved issues that will produce a social revolution? Not to counterpose this (proletarian) struggle to particular democratic demands, but to provide, in the sphere of each democratic issue, an equally revolutionary formulation of our tasks, one linked with the general revolutionary struggle for socialism ? this is the only truly social democratic way to pose the question" (Lenin, 1915 ? emphases in original).

1 The Theoretical Foundations of our Strategy and Tactics

1.1 Our approach and basis for elaborating a strategy and tactics for the SACP in the NDR rest on a number of key considerations:

  • The core of our strategy and tactics in the national democratic revolution, though extensively discussed and evaluated in 1995, requires an ongoing evaluation and perhaps more explicit articulation than has been done over the past decade.

  • The political and strategic value of our 1995 Congress was that it focused on strategic questions, thus leading to an important review of our Party?s thinking on the interconnection between the struggle for national democratic transformation and socialist theory, organisation and practice. Although the SACP had long abandoned (if, indeed, it ever fully accepted) a mechanical "two stage" approach, elements of stageism persisted in our theory and practice. It was in this context that we adopted in 1995 the programmatic slogan - "socialism is the future, build it now".

  • This shift was informed by several factors, both external and internal to our country:

1.2 The most important of these factors was the collapse of the Soviet bloc of socialist countries at the beginning of the decade of the 1990s.

1.2.1 Through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, in the analysis of both the SACP and ANC, the existence of this socialist bloc created an important global counter-balance to the dominant imperialist bloc. This counter-balance, we argued, established conditions in which progressive national liberation movements in the South, having achieved power, had much greater prospects for advancing radical national democratic revolutions, which were characterised as "non-capitalist", or as having a "socialist orientation".

1.2.2 Both the ANC and SACP argued that a radical NDR of this kind was not only more possible (given a counter-balancing socialist bloc as a global reality), but absolutely essential to overcoming the legacy of colonialism of a special type within our country. In theory, then, the less favourable global balance of forces that prevailed after 1990 should not have impacted on the persisting necessity for a radical NDR with a "non-capitalist" or "socialist orientation" ? even if the prospects for successfully advancing such a programme had diminished.

1.2.3 However, in the course of the 1990s, there was a danger of re-defining what was necessary in the light of what was possible, and worse still, of doing this without effective and collective strategic assessment and analysis. The programmatic slogan "socialism is the future, build it now", was, in part, an attempt to insist on the continued central relevance of socialism to the NDR and the resolution of the legacy of CST, even if the advancing of a radical NDR had become considerably more difficult, post-1990

1.3 A second important factor that led to the SACP adopting the strategic slogan "socialism is the future, build it now" in 1995 was our analysis of the successes and failures of the Soviet socialist system itself. This was an analysis which we debated within our party, and which was (and is) also a collective endeavour which we have shared with a wide range of other Communist, worker and progressive international parties and formations in a great number of bilateral and multi-lateral forums.

1.3.1 Our analysis includes the growing conviction that part of the reason for the collapse of the Soviet bloc was an inadequate grasp of the profound inter-connections between a socialist transition and a globally dominant capitalism. After 1917, through a combination of deliberate imperialist isolation and ongoing destabilisation and strategic choices made in the Stalin years ("socialism in one country"), the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union was increasingly envisaged as a project more or less cut-off, more or less insulated from the globally dominant capitalist system. After 1945, the strategic choice of building "socialism in one country" was extended (although not without many internal contradictions, including serious Sino-Soviet differences) to attempting to build "socialism in one bloc". In the Stalin period, the Marxist perspective of socialism emerging dialectically on the terrain of a dominant capitalism ("within the womb" of capitalism) was abandoned. It was asserted that socialism could only be built after a proletarian "seizure of power" and under the auspices of a "dictatorship of the proletariat".

1.3.2 There were, it should be noted, a number of theoretical inconsistencies that developed within this position. (For instance, in the light of revolutionary experiences in the South in the course of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the hybrid concepts of a "non-capitalist" path, and "socialist-orientation" were developed. These envisaged progressive liberation movements in the South building capacity for socialism, momentum toward socialism and elements of socialism, in situations where the working class was still not the majority class force, and in which political power was held, not by a "dictatorship of the proletariat", but by a multi-class, radical national democratic bloc of forces.)

1.4 This critical reflection within the SACP on socialist construction and on the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet bloc, coincided with significant practical and programmatic efforts in countries like Cuba and the Peoples Republic of China to defend their socialist gains, and to renew their socialist analysis in the context of the more unfavourable global situation after 1990.

1.4.1 In these, and other cases, the defence of socialism, and the renewal and re-invigoration of socialist strategy, involved an active and strategic engagement with global capitalism, but NOT, as was to happen in Yeltsin?s Russia, a surrender to global capitalism.

1.4.2 In Cuba the defence and renewal of socialism, it was realised, had to be conducted, at least to a certain extent, from "within the womb" (or rather on the terrain of) a globally dominant capitalist system, and not in an isolated bloc.

1.4.3 In the PRC this strategic perspective had already been partially adopted as early as 1978. These living experiences further reinforced the SACP?s conviction that the socialist future was one that had to be defended and built in the (capitalist-dominated) present.

1.5 The 1994 democratic breakthrough in our own country and the new governing challenges confronted by our movement, also compelled the SACP to pay much greater attention to the actual socialist practice and real socio-economic gains achieved by Communist Parties (and other progressive forces) following electoral successes in countries that remained dominated by capitalism.

1.5.1 We have been studying and actively interacting with examples as diverse as communist- or progressive-controlled municipalities in France and Brazil, regions once controlled by the former Communist Party in Italy, the co-operative movement in Cyprus, and the examples of the Communist-controlled states of Kerala and West Bengal in India.

1.5.2 These and many other inspiring cases of major socio-economic transformations are, we believe, examples of the active construction of momentum towards, capacity for, and even elements of socialism on the terrain of societies still dominated by capitalism. These examples reinforced our conviction of the correctness of our "build it now" programmatic perspective.

1.6 The decade-and-a-half preceding 1990 had witnessed not just the growing stagnation and collapse of most of the Soviet socialist formations, but also the rolling back of many of the major progressive social-democratic gains achieved in some of the advanced capitalist countries.

1.6.1 Following two-and-a-half decades of post-war reconstruction and development after 1945, national capitalist corporations in Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, etc. were increasingly globally mobile and less dependent upon, and therefore less inclined to submit to, the discipline of national social accords. Under the impact of "Reagonomics" and "Thatcherism" (as neo-liberal policies were then called), following centre-right electoral victories in many of these countries, social democracy was itself increasingly rolled back.

1.6.2 These trends have produced contradictory outcomes within social democracy, the other major socialist legacy tracing its origins back to Marxism in the 19th century. On the one hand, the narrow electoral opportunism identified by Lenin and others as a key feature of social democracy has been accentuated in some cases, with the illusory pursuit of a "third way", and the abandonment of any reference to socialism ("social values" and "equity" ? not equality- have become the new vogue concepts in some of these circles).

1.6.3 However, the attempts to roll back social welfare gains, the disastrous privatisation of social utilities, the de-industrialisation of major parts of the developed capitalist world, deepening unemployment, casualisation, labour market flexibility and transnationalisation of production have also resulted in a wide-range of progressive campaigns and organisational mobilisation originating in formations linked, or formerly linked to social democratic traditions. These have included many joint campaigns involving workers in the South and North (often employed by the same transnationals).

1.6.4 COSATU is now a leading affiliate of the ICFTU and the ANC is a recent, but active and prestigious member of the Socialist International. The ICFTU and SI were, of course, during the Cold War period, the leading international organs of the international social democratic movement, actively opposed to communism and communist parties. In the context of the new global realities, the SACP has welcomed the participation of our two alliance partners in these international bodies. A critical but open-minded analysis of the successes, limitations and failures of social democracy is also of great importance in seeking to renew the socialist project.

1.7 But our programmatic slogan was also a response to the new challenges, and the considerably more favourable terrain that prevailed within our country after the 1994 democratic breakthrough.

1.7.1Whilst our 1995 9th Congress assisted us greatly in focusing on strategic perspectives, this was done outside of an elaboration of a detailed programme based on the challenges facing the SACP in the post 1994 era. At the1998 10th Congress we elaborated a somewhat more detailed programme, however the practical challenges confronting the SACP and SACP cadres require much greater attention to programmatic elaboration.

1.7.2 Whilst our slogan "Socialism is the future, build it now" does not call for an immediate transition to socialism, it underlines the fact that the 1994 democratic breakthrough provided a situation where momentum towards, capacity for, and even elements of socialism could be struggled for in the present.

1.7.3 The strategy of the Party can be summarised as being to advance, deepen and defend the National Democratic Revolution as a foundation and the most direct route to building socialism. These two dimensions of our strategy, the national democratic and the socialist, are not contradictory but mutually reinforcing and complementary.

1.7.4 The NDR seeks to address the national, class and gender contradictions that have developed under a colonial, racist, patriarchal, capitalist system. In the prosecution of the NDR, the Party believes that it will become obvious that these contradictions cannot be resolved without progressively building socialism.

1.7.5 However the profound linkage between the NDR and socialism does not mean that the SACP regards the NDR as merely a stepping-stone to socialism. The achievement of some of the key objectives of the NDR will in themselves be of major benefit to the overwhelming majority of our people, including the working class.

1.7.6The concept of a "national democratic revolution" emerged and was elaborated, internationally, within the Marxist-Leninist tradition. The concept was used to characterise the strategic and programmatic tasks confronting progressive and revolutionary forces in colonial, semi-colonial, and neo-colonially oppressed societies in which an immediate transition to socialism was not possible, but, in which, at the same time, a capitalist road to development was neither possible, nor capable of resolving the contradictions of underdevelopment and national oppression. This is the origin and character of the concept of an "NDR" in third world anti-colonial revolutions, and while all concepts should be open to reformulation and re-assessment, we believe that this classical sense of an NDR remains absolutely valid within South Africa today.

1.7.7The core principles and fundamental aspirations of our NDR are still admirably expressed in the Freedom Charter. The 1955 Freedom Charter was among the first principled strategic statements of our broad national liberation movement to make a direct connection between racial oppression in our society and actually-existing-capitalism, in both its imperialist and domestic (monopoly capital) dimensions. Recent characterisations of the Freedom Charter as being "neither capitalist nor socialist", while strictly not incorrect, can easily skim over the deeply anti-capitalist character of the Charter.

1.7.8 In essence, much as the Freedom Charter is not a socialist programme, as such, its explicitly anti-capitalist character remains a fundamental, indeed the crucial, link between the NDR and a transition to socialism.

1.7.9 In the view of the SACP, the advancing, deepening and defence of the NDR must progressively assume an anti-capitalist character. It is also for this reason that the working class and the broader urban and rural poor remain the main motive forces of the revolution. The working class, and the allied mass of urban and rural poor, are the social forces most capable and with the most revolutionary capacity to take the NDR to its logical conclusion

1.7.10The programmatic slogan "Socialism is the future, build it now" best captures the challenges, strategy and tactics of the SACP in the current period. It also captures the necessity of building momentum towards, capacity for, and elements of socialism in the current period. It avoids both the mechanical stageist approach, as well as a premature, ultra-left call for a great leap forward into socialism in the immediate period. It is precisely in this relationship between the NDR and socialism that the SACP needs to sharpen its tactical armoury

1.7.11 It flows from all of the above that the SACP fully supports the broad strategy and tactics of the ANC in pursuing the NDR. However, our own strategy and tactics rest primarily, though not exclusively, on articulating the relationship between the NDR and socialism. In our view, the question of advocating and struggling for socialism cannot be postponed until after the attainment of the objectives of the NDR because the national, class and gender contradictions cannot be substantially resolved outside of a transition to socialism. The question of a socialist strategy is a contemporary question, to be struggled for on the very terrain of the NDR. There is, therefore, a deep interrelationship and a great deal of overlap between the strategy and tactics of the ANC and SACP, but, at the same time, there are inevitable distinctions and differences.

Question - Is the above characterisation of the theoretical foundations of our strategy and tactics correct? Is the characterisation of the Freedom Charter as anti-capitalist and the origins and anti-capitalist character of the NDR correct? Are these conceptions still valid in the current period? How should we be further elaborating and concretely enriching the theory and content of our programmatic slogan "Socialism is the future build it now"?


2 The Gender Content In The NDR And The Struggle For Socialism

2.1 Our theoretical framework characterising the NDR as a struggle that seeks to address the national, class and gender contradictions in their interrelationship provides a very powerful foundation for the theorisation of the gender struggle in our revolution. However, not much theoretical elaboration has been undertaken to understand gender struggles and the gender question in this theoretical framework. As a Party we have gone a long way in theorising the national and class questions without similar attention being paid to gender

2.2 .It seems as if we are faced with a perpetual problem of how to properly tackle the gender question both theoretically and practically in the Party and in our struggles. For instance, one critical dimension of this theorisation is the articulation of the gender content of the national and class struggles, as well as the national and class content of the gender struggles. We all know that the there can be no true national liberation and class emancipation without the full emancipation of women and the radical transformation of gender relations to attain equality between women and men

2.3 A perennial dilemma seems to be whether we should treat the gender question as a focus on its own, but without marginalising it, or integrating it into all our theoretical and practical work, without at the same time submerging it. Or perhaps the challenge is to do both? We need to focus on these questions much more systematically in both our programme and strategy and tactics

2.4 A potentially powerful theoretical construct, surfaced during our strategy conferences, through which we can deepen our theorisation of the gender question in the NDR and in the struggle for socialism, is that of "unpaid labour of women". In our 10th Congress "Strategy and Tactics" document we likewise linked the gender question to the challenge of paying much greater attention to the "social reproduction of the conditions for sustainable production". We noted that Marxism-Leninism had, correctly, given pre-eminent attention to production, but that this focus had often led to an under-estimation of the importance of reproduction. We need to further elaborate on these questions as they relate to women?s oppression, patriarchy and gender inequalities in society. For instance, the reproduction of the working class under apartheid capitalism rested largely, though not exclusively, on the unpaid labour of women. This legacy has continued in our society, and it is sustained and rationalised through the perpetuation of patriarchy.

2.5 A further theoretical challenge is that of elaborating the gender content of our programmatic slogan "Socialism is the future, build it now". This means that building momentum towards, capacity for and elements of socialism must firmly include the struggle for gender equality. These challenges must capture both the complexity and specificity of the gender question. This is critical, as it has happened before that major advances have been made in transforming class and national relations without making much impact on the gender question.

2.6 On a more practical and programmatic level, we need to engender our programmes and campaigns by making sure that we incorporate the following, four, cross-cutting and interrelated issues in tackling gender relations:

  • Consistent struggles for women empowerment both inside our Party and in society in general. For example, in our waging of the highly successful financial sector campaign we have not adequately surfaced the question of the discrimination against women and the complex set of practices and regulations in the financial sector that reinforce patriarchy and gender inequalities. Similarly, the HIVAIDS campaign needs to be anchored considerably in the struggle to transform a web of legal, cultural and social norms and practices that reinforce existing unequal gender relations
  • Consciously linking our struggles for meeting basic needs with the question of relieving the burden of household (and unpaid) labour performed by women. For instance, in the rural areas (though the urban situation is not that different) sustainable livelihoods depend to a large extent on unpaid labour women ? looking after the unemployed, children, the sick, the elderly, fetching wood and water. Without this unpaid labour of women there would be a total collapse of the already minimal livelihoods eked out in the countryside, particularly in the former bantustans.
  • Deliberately spreading gender awareness and consciousness, ideologically and concretely through all our programmes and campaigns, with a particular focus on transforming men?s consciousness and practices in regard to gender
  • Focused political education and ideological development of both men and women, both separately and in an integrated way, throughout all our cadre development work

2.7 Some of the programmatic content of "Socialism is the future, build it now" includes struggles for free basic services (water, electricity, and sanitation); access to affordable financial services; access to land for survivalist and production purposes; building of co-operatives; free and compulsory education for the first 10 years of school; building a strong and democratic public service; building and harnessing existing social capital; strengthening the strategic interventionist capacity of the state in the economy; an industrial strategy; and the struggle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It is critical that all these programmes be engendered in order to ensure that the four crosscutting issues identified above are given a firm foundation.

2.8 In our own elaboration of a programme, strategy and tactics the gender question must not just be assumed but should be an integral consideration in those strategic and tactical considerations


3 A Continuing Historical Challenge ? Affirming The Legitimate Independent Role And Profile Of The SACP, While Building The Unity Of Our Alliance Under The Leadership Of The ANC

3.1 A proper understanding and elaboration of the strategic and tactical choices and challenges facing the SACP also needs to be located in the history of the SACP itself. It is the history of eight decades of struggle by an organisation that is both an independent formation and a long-standing partner within a well-established alliance.

3.2 In the late 1920s, a few years after its 1921 launch, the Communist Party of South Africa committed itself to the strategy of a national democratic struggle which was to be led, not by the Party, but by the ANC. Indeed, in many respects, the Communist Party itself first mapped out the fundamental strategic features of the Alliance.

Our consistent approach to the Alliance is that much as its character has been shaped, and continues to be shaped, by its constituent components, it essentially originated as part of the SACP programme, strategy and tactics. Its original conceptualisation and first concrete step in the formation of the Alliance is to be found in the 1928 CPSA resolution, the Native Republic Thesis.

3.3 It is well worth citing excerpts from the Native Republic Thesis to illustrate the foundations of the Alliance:

"The Party must orientate itself chiefly upon the native toiling masses while continuing to work actively among the white workers. The Party leadership must be developed in the same sense. This can only be achieved by bringing the native membership without delay into much more active leadership of the Party both locally and centrally? (T)he Communist Party of South Africa must combine the fight against all anti-native laws with the general political slogan in the fight against British domination, the slogan of an independent native South African republic as a stage towards a workers? and peasants? republic, with full equal rights for all races, black, coloured and white? The Party should pay particular attention to the embryonic national organisations among the natives, such as the African National Congress. The Party, while retaining its full independence, should participate in these organisations, should seek to broaden and extend their activity. Our aim should be to transform the African National Congress into a fighting nationalist revolutionary organisation against the white bourgeoisie and the British imperialists, based upon the trade unions, peasant organisations, etc., developing systematically the leadership of the workers and the Communist Party in this organisations we have already asserted above, this fundamental strategic perspective continues to be the bed-rock of the SACP?s approach to the struggle for socialism in South African conditions."

3.4 With regard to the building of a non-racial trade union movement, based on experience of its work in organising workers during the first seven years of its existence, the Party had this to say in the same Thesis:

"Only by a correct understanding of the importance of the national question in South Africa will the Communist Party be able to combat effectively the efforts of the bourgeoisie to divide the white and black workers by playing on race chauvinism? In its propaganda among the native masses the Communist Party of South Africa must emphasise the class differences between the white capitalists and the white workers? The Communist Party of South Africa must continue to struggle for unity between black and white workers and not confine itself merely to the advocacy of ?co-operation? between the blacks and whites in general. The Communist Party must introduce a correct class content into the idea of co-operation between the blacks and whites. In the field of trade union work the Party must consider that its main task consists in the organisation of the native workers into trade unions as well as propaganda and work for the setting up of a South African trade union centre embracing black and white workers. The principle that the Party?s main orientation must be on the native population applies equally to the sphere of trade union work"

3.5 Inevitably, of course, this strategic approach has posed challenges in regard to affirming the legitimate independent role and profile of the Communist Party, while building the unity of our alliance under the leadership of the ANC. Over many decades an extremely rich experience has been developed, filled with numerous creative approaches and lessons. This history of sustained independence and of sustained alliance politics is, in many ways, one of the outstanding contributions of the SACP (and its revolutionary alliance) to modern revolutionary theory and practice. But each period of struggle has posed fresh challenges for our strategy of simultaneously affirming and building Communist Party independence and alliance unity.

3.6 The relative strength and rootedness of the CPSA and ANC in our shared mass constituency varied greatly in the early decades. In the first half of the 1930s, the CPSA suffered serious decline as a result of factionalism and dogmatism. The Party was re-built, in part, thanks to the endeavours of communist cadres who were also rooted in the ANC. There were other periods, particularly in the 1940s, when the CPSA?s profile, levels of activism and popularity were, possibly, considerably greater than those of the ANC.

3.7 The 1950 banning of the CPSA, and the deepening mass-line and radicalisation of the ANC through the 1950s, created conditions in which communist cadres and the SACP (re-launched as such in the deep underground in 1953, but only announced publicly almost a decade later) had a very minimal independent communist profile. The energies of the Party and its cadres were overwhelmingly focused on building allied formations within the Congress Alliance. Through their dedication they earned the respect of the liberation movement and of other progressive forces.

3.8 The banning of the ANC (1960), the launching of the armed struggle (1961), the serious strategic set-backs suffered by our entire movement in the early 1960s, and the re-building of structures in exile, in prison, and in the underground, posed challenges in which the SACP and its cadres often excelled. The exemplary role of SACP members in these harsh conditions had a great deal to do with the increasingly hegemonic role of Marxism-Leninism within our broader liberation movement. This hegemony was particularly notable through the 1970s and into the 1980s. The period also coincided with the rapid advance and a series of victories by radical national liberation movements, often inspired by Marxism-Leninism ? Cuba, Vietnam, southern Africa. In the first years of exile, apart from the generous solidarity of some independent African states, the ANC found itself more or less isolated internationally, with the important exception of unwavering and generous support and solidarity from the Soviet Union and soviet-aligned countries. This, too, created conditions in which the prestige of, and sympathy for, communism within our liberation movement extended well beyond actual SACP members. Ironically, this period in which the SACP?s ideological influence within the NLM was at its highest, was also the period in which there was a minimal independent SACP profile. Independent SACP organisation was also very limited. This was probably partly the result of a sense that, with the leading cadre of the ANC so substantially influenced by a Marxist-Leninist approach, a robust independence of the SACP would be both unnecessary and, perhaps, counter-productive. Also influencing this choice were the trying conditions of the post-mid-60s setback. Rebuilding organisation in a scattered exile, in prison and in the underground, put a premium on unity and discipline. However, through the 1970s and 80s there were many intra-Party debates, and different views, about the optimal degree of independent Party profile and organisation.

3.9 In the mid-1980s, the advancing struggles at home, and in particular the emergence of a mass-based, socialist-aligned trade union movement (COSATU), saw the SACP central committee resolving to greatly extend an independent SACP underground presence, and also to re-double efforts to impact ideologically on the mass and worker movements through a heightened independent profile, including ideological profile.

3.10 The unbanning of our formations in 1990, the opening up of formal negotiations, and the 1994 democratic breakthrough (and, of course, international developments ? not least the collapse of the Soviet bloc) have all introduced new complexities to the challenge of affirming the legitimate and necessary independent role and profile of the SACP, while building the unity of our alliance under the leadership of the ANC. We will deal with many of these challenges in subsequent sections. However, it is important to note two basic points ? the optimal degree of SACP independence and profile is not a static reality; and SACP independence in the context of fostering the unity of our ANC-led movement has been the subject of ongoing SACP debate down the decades.

3.11 There is, indeed, no contradiction between an independent SACP with direct links with its own working class constituency and the ANC as the leader of the NDR. But the reality is that throughout the 1990s into the present and future, new tactical challenges on this front are posed for the SACP.

Question - How have we handled these challenges in the current period? What kinds of challenges are posed by the current period as the SACP seeks to independently rebuild its direct links with its working class constituency?


4 The Balance Of Forces In The National Democratic Revolution

4.1 The elaboration of tactics must always depart from a consistent and correct analysis and understanding of the balance of forces at each phase or stage of the revolution.

4.2 This derives from the very nature of tactics. Tactics involve specific methods of struggle at particular moments in the implementation of one?s strategy. Tactics are also aimed at overcoming specific obstacles on the way, and guide the party to correctly adjust to the ebbs and flows in the struggle. A party?s tactics must always be grounded on a specific and historical analysis of concrete situations. Tactics should always derive from a comprehensive survey of the political phase in order to begin to anticipate new conditions and adjust accordingly in the overall advancement of one?s strategic objectives

4.3 For the SACP, the balance of forces at any stage should be analysed from the standpoint of the main contradictions of the NDR ? national, class and gender, in their interrelationship. The change in the balance of forces should be measured against the background of the extent to which national relations are transformed in favour of the previously oppressed black majority, and Africans in particular; the constant reconfiguration of class relations in favour of the working class and the landless rural masses and the transformation of gender relations progressively towards the emancipation of women.

4.4 Our approach to the analysis of the balance of forces must critically rest on the addressing of these contradictions in their interrelationship, and not as isolated factors. Much as the national question (racial inequality and racism being its main but not the only feature) remains the dominant contradiction, and the gender contradiction being the most pervasive and resilient, the class contradiction remains the fundamental contradiction of the NDR.

4.5 This reality underlines the reality that an analysis of the balance of forces must fundamentally be an analysis of the balance of class forces. Much as the balance of forces between the democratic bloc of forces and other forces, as well as the gender power relations cannot be mechanically reduced to the balance of class forces, but the national and gender balance of forces cannot be decisively tilted until and unless the balance of class forces is reconfigured.

4.6 The one expression of this reality is that whilst the liberation movement has attained elements of political power, and indeed has gone a long way in consolidating and deepening this political power, economic power still remains with the same class forces as in the old apartheid order. Therefore a decisive shift in the balance of forces would involve an intensified struggle and progressive consolidation of economic power by the democratic bloc of forces in the NDR. Progressive consolidation of economic power should also be expressed through the progressive abolition of patriarchal relations of domination within both the productive and the reproductive sites of the economy.

4.7 A mobilised working class, consciously waging a class struggle in the context of an ongoing national democratic strategy, is the engine for further tilting the balance of forces in favour of the overwhelming majority of our people. The waging of a class struggle is not only relevant in relation to the struggle for socialism, but is fundamental in the very consolidation and deepening of the NDR. It is not an ultra-left tactic, and must at all times seek to unite the widest range of democratic forces behind the working class. In any case, it is not as if there is no class struggle underway in our country. The capitalist class is waging an incessant class offensive against the working class on all fronts: ideologically, in the work-place (through restructuring, outsourcing, casualisation, and retrenchments) and in the wider economy (e.g. the current investment strike).

4.8 There is general agreement, as expressed in the 2002 Ekurhuleni Declaration of the Alliance, that the global balance of forces is not in favour of an accelerated deepening of the national democratic revolution. The overwhelming dominance of global capital and imperialism poses a very serious threat to the attainment of the objectives of the NDR.

4.9 However, the overall dominance of private capital globally is not without its challenge and contradictions. The capitalist and neoliberal triumphalism of the early 1990s has been dented by the reality of the crisis of neo-liberalism through its failure to address the inequalities between developed and developing nations as well as the failure of its policies to address poverty. In addition, the growth of mass based anti-capitalist formations and social movement demonstrations of all kinds provide a further challenge to untrammeled capitalist global domination. The challenge for progressive forces is to deepen these contradictions and to build more coherent strategic unity among the diverse forces protesting the consequence of global inequity.

4.10 The domestic balance of forces has, since the 1994 democratic breakthrough and the 1999 national elections, grown increasingly favourable to the democratic bloc of forces in our country; albeit within a dominant capitalist reality.

Question - To what extent can we use the favourable balance of forces domestically to create space to pursue a progressive developmental agenda in our country? For the SACP to what extent does this favourable domestic balance of forces also extend to a favourable balance of class forces? To what extent can we use this favourable domestic balance to extend the frontiers and momentum of building elements of socialism and deepening the anti-capitalist character of the NDR in line with our programmatic slogan?

To what extent are the rapidly widening opportunities of upward mobility for black professionals and the aspirant black sections of the bourgeoisie changing the nature of the relationship between the class and the national questions in the current period, as well as the class content of the national question and the national content of the class question? What impact are these changes having on the content and direction of the struggles of the various class forces constituting the democratic bloc of forces in the NDR? To what extent are these developments posing new questions and challenges for the ANC, the Alliance and the character of the NDR as a whole?

This necessitates a critical question as to whether in the light of these changed circumstances, is the manner, structure and functioning of the alliance appropriate for the period?


5 The Class And Ideological Currents Within The National Liberation Movement And The Alliance

5.1 The elaboration of an effective strategy and tactics for the SACP depends critically on an effective and honest analysis of the ideological and class terrain on which we are operating. A core feature of this terrain is our alliance and broad NLM itself. In practice, every single day, SACP activists are preoccupied with this reality, and yet this critical area of our strategy and tactics tends to remain at the level of the "informal", that of which we speak, among ourselves, but which should remain, formally, "unspoken". This is not an adequate way in which to proceed. We should honestly and analytically surface the different ideological and class currents within our NLM in a much more open, but in a non-factionalist and relatively non-polemical, way.

5.2 Unity does not mean the absence of difference and diversity.

There are strong traditions within our movement to foster unity and presenting a unified public face, and certainly the SACP should do everything to constantly be a factor for such unity within our NLM and its huge mass base. However, the artificial or spin-doctored presentation of a monolithic "unity" might be the very way in which we frustrate any possibility of forging a real, not bureaucratic or sentimental, unity. When a spin-doctored "unity" ends up being impossible to sustain, and differences impossible to deny, it can easily lead to real factionalism. If unity can only be monolithic, then it becomes impossible to respect, to learn from and to constructively debate legitimate differences. Competing perspectives are individualised, or labeled as conspiracies, or sell-outs. To clearly and maturely understand legitimate differences, and to analyse the organic origins of these differences, is, precisely, the only sound basis on which to forge and sustain real unity.

The diverse currents that underpin our NLM

5.3 The ANC-led NLM is, by strategic choice and design, a broad-based, multi-class, radical, national democratic movement. The ANC, its alliance partners, and the broad movement have emerged out of decades of struggle, and (this is our great strength) we have been (and continue to be) influenced by a range of radical, progressive ideologies ? both indigenous and borrowed. We can trace our legacy from diverse resources and traditions. To mention some of the most prominent, without being exhaustive:

  • Pre-colonial communal traditions (that have come to us, diversely, as stokvels, lekgotlas, and general notions of ubuntu and restorative justice) and, of course, the heroic, early anti-colonial and anti-slavery resistance wars (whose immensely positive legacy is still distantly present in our songs and a general sense of resistant capacity);
  • the mass defiance traditions of the Indian Congress movement, pioneered in South Africa, elaborated and extended in India itself, and returning to our own struggle in the late 1940s and onwards;
  • traditions of humans rights and Bills of Rights appropriated and adopted from progressive liberal and religious traditions, including the enlightened mission schools and colleges that played a critical role in the formation of several generations of ANC leadership;
  • more populist and charismatic traditions from, amongst other realities, syncretic church movements;
  • socialist traditions, and especially, but not exclusively, the Marxist-Leninist tradition associated with the international communist movement;
  • Afro-American, pan-africanist, and black consciousness philosophies and practices, etc.

5.4 We have forged our own recognisable, ANC-led movement culture out of these, and other influences. These various currents have been adapted, fused and transformed to meet the needs of our own struggle.

5.5 At different times each of these traditions have received varying emphases and interpretations, and they have enjoyed, within the fusion of ANC culture, greater or lesser influence.

5.6 Different traditions have tended to hold more or less appeal for different classes, strata and generations within our broad movement (the populist, charismatic traditions have often enjoyed most influence amongst newly urbanised, newly proletarianised "urban-outsiders"; the Afro-American, pan-africanist, BC traditions have tended to be most influential among certain strata of the black intelligentsia, etc.) ? but there is nothing absolutely fixed or predetermined about this.

Managing unity and diversity

5.7 The ANC (like the SACP) is not a federation of factions or tendencies, it is a single movement.

5.8 But what this means is that, at the end of democratic processes, the ANC (like the SACP) adopts policy positions, programmes of action, etc. and all members are bound by these decisions. It does not mean that the decisions are not the result of debate, or that diversity and difference have simply evaporated. More importantly, decisions taken by the ANC (or SACP) while they may sometimes represent one view (a majority perspective) at the expense of other views, very often represent a management of differences. Maturely admitting to and understanding underlying differences is often essential to properly managing and fostering unity. To illustrate this point it might be useful to refer to the Freedom Charter again.

5.9 What is the ideological orientation of the Freedom Charter, is it socialist or not?

5.9.1 A common response in the recent period has been to assert that the FC is "neither socialist nor capitalist". In one sense this is not wrong. But it is, really, a formulation that avoids surfacing what is, in fact, a managed unity-in-difference.

5.9.2 The Freedom Charter was (in 1955) and remains, amongst other things, a critique of actually existing capitalism ? both (implicitly) in its global (imperialist) dimension; and (explicitly) in its internal, South African apartheid dimension. As such, in 1955, it represented a deepening left radicalisation of the ANC. It was a radicalisation that was resisted in some quarters ? see the 1959 PAC break-away.

5.9.3 The 1955 radicalisation of the ANC is also now being retrospectively challenged by some within the ANC. This retrospective challenges is not sufficiently countered by the vague formulation "the FC is neither capitalist nor socialist".

5.9.4 But, being an anti-actually-existing-capitalist manifesto, the FC permitted (and permits) the co-existence of at least two different ideological currents.

  • One legitimate (although, in the programmatic perspective of the SACP, a theoretically flawed) reading of the FC is that it is a critique of a particular racialised form of capitalism, dominated by white-controlled monopoly capital, that evolved in South Africa, and not a critique of capitalism as such.
  • In another reading, the FC?s critique of South African "apartheid" capitalism is grounded in a generalised anti-capitalist critique, and a theoretical perspective that the strategic objectives of the NDR cannot be achieved within the framework of capitalism. The FC is intentionally open-ended on this question.

5.10 The intention was, correctly, to permit an organisational and practical unity of these different ideological currents. We should acknowledge and understand this, rather than seek to impose one or another of the two alternative interpretations as the "authentic" reading. This is not to say that both approaches are "equally correct", but it is to say that in 1955 (and still today) the differences between the two positions were not the most important revolutionary question confronting progressive forces in our country. Yet in the current period these differences might as well be amongst the most important revolutionary questions facing the NLM and the struggle for deepening the NDR.

The three dominant currents within our NLM over the last decade

5.11 In order to ground an effective strategy and tactics for the SACP it is necessary to go further than just noting a diversity of ideological currents and traditions within our broad NLM (and indeed within the SACP). We need to ask the question: What, over the last ten years, have been the dominant ideological currents within the ANC-led alliance?

5.12 At the risk of being schematic we suggest that there have been three major currents. It must be emphasised that these are not factions, but strands of thinking found within the movement. They have emerged out of older traditions and legacies. These three currents are certainly not water-tight compartments, they continuously cross-fertilise and influence each other, and they characteristically (and usually correctly) present themselves in hybrid forms. Nor do they neatly begin and end at the organisational borders of the three component parts of the Tripartite Alliance. These currents are:

  • An Africanist current;
  • A modernising, progressive, pragmatic current; and
  • A socialist current.

5.13 However fluid and hybridised they may be, these currents are real enough and they manifest themselves whenever the ANC and its broader NLM have to adopt a position on any of the major challenges of the day.

5.14 The unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe is a good case in point. These three currents within our NLM agree on most things about the Zimbabwean crisis, but there are, nonetheless, quite distinct points of emphasis.

  • The Africanist current has tended to be the most sympathetic to Zanu PF and President Mugabe. While Zanu PF and its president might have "made mistakes", these are fundamentally "understandable" in the wider scheme of things, and it is "our duty" to defend Zanu PF in the light of a "common history" and, above all, in the light of an "imperialist strategy" to isolate and defeat all of the progressive liberation movements in southern Africa. The MDC is essentially an "imperialist tool". A stalled land reform lies at the heart of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, and the British and obdurate white Zimbabwean farmers are principally to blame.
  • The more pragmatic current within our movement has identified the Zimbabwean government?s "populist macro-economics" as at the root of the present crisis. Well-intentioned but unsustainable social spending in the 1980s ("of the kind recommended by COSATU in SA") has left Zimbabwe debt-ridden and vulnerable to IMF coercion. This "pragmatic" current is also critical of some of the bureaucratic and undemocratic governance behaviour of SANU PF, amongst other things, because it will "further discourage investors" and "negatively impact" on Zimbabwe?s investment ratings.
  • The more socialist current within our movement has tended to place principal blame on "externally enforced SAPs" for the economic crisis, and "bureaucratisation and the embourgeoisement" of the upper echelons of ZANU PF for the internal stagnation, and for the failure to press ahead with effective and sustainable land reform. This current is more critical of both the MDC and ZANU PF.

5.15 All of these perspectives co-exist within our movement, and the differences among them are often of emphasis. Many of the factors highlighted by one position would be recognised by another position, although with a somewhat different emphasis perhaps. For instance, both the "pragmatic" and socialist perspectives might wish to see a relatively robust South African critique of the anti-democratic behaviour of the SANU PF government. However, for the former, this critique would probably be especially to signal to international investors and to our own capitalist class that "we will not behave like that here". Whereas for the socialist current, a greater emphasis on "democracy" in Zimbabwe would be linked to the way in which anti-democratic behaviour is used to suppress progressive popular forces (trade unions, urban professionals, progressive civil society and social movements).

5.16 To repeat our main point ? it is important not exaggerate nor to ignore the three major currents present within our movement. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that there are real debates and differences of the kind sketched out above. The co-existence of these somewhat differing perspectives has not prevented the development of an effective and unifying ANC and alliance position on Zimbabwe and on a variety of other issues.

5.17 We need to surface these differences, listen to and learn from each other in discussion and debate, and continually evaluate the relevance of different emphases in the light of practice itself.

Strengths and weaknesses within each of these currents

5.18 Obviously, it might be easier to think about and deal with differences over Zimbabwe than with issues even closer to home. But it is still necessary to do so. This requires that we advance several more theses in regard to what we have identified as the three main ideological currents within our NLM over the past decade. In particular: Each of the three currents has strengths and potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Strengths and weaknesses of the Africanist current

5.19 This current responds to what remains the principal, defining contradiction of our society (the persisting legacy of racial oppression of the majority). It is a current that is also potentially attuned to the aggressive character of imperialism. It is also a current that has most consistently foregrounded the importance of a major effort to place the struggle against the marginalisation of our continent onto the international agenda.

5.20 However, if it becomes detached from a consistent working class ideological grounding, and from a systematic Marxist scientific analysis of domestic, regional and global realities, this current can easily degenerate into a voluntaristic subjectivism ? with some of the following characteristics:

  • A tendency to greatly exaggerate the possibilities of a continental renewal ? or to associate such a renewal with relatively superficial events (hosting major international sporting events, etc.). This is often linked with a failure to adequately analyse the deeply entrenched, structured character of global capitalism, and its systemic reproduction of Africa?s peripheralisation and under-development;
  • When the shortfall between exaggerated and/or short-term expectations of African renewal, or of South African growth and development and actual reality becomes apparent, this current within our movement has a tendency to move into denial (see for instance attitudes from these quarters in regard to HIV/AIDS or the levels of unemployment in our society), or into subjectivist explanations ? allegations of "conspiracies" (whether from the "left" or "right"), or an overly psychologised explanation for persisting injustices (white racism, or global Afro-pessimism). Likewise, of course, white racism persists in South Africa, and of course, Afro-pessimism, rooted in centuries of colonial oppression and plunder, exists in many parts of the developed world ? but these subjective attitudes are not sufficient to explain the reality of systemic global development-and-underdevelopment, or the persisting poverty and marginalisation of the majority of South Africans.
  • The current has, most recently, been espoused and adapted by some sections of an emerging/aspiring black capitalist strata. This results in a further weakness emerging within this current. There is a tendency to confuse the subjective interests and advancement of a new black elite with the totality of transformation. Systematic class analysis is replaced with merely "deracialising" capitalism as the principal transformation objective.

Strengths and weaknesses of the pragmatic current

5.21 The progressive, "modernising", more pragmatic current has come strongly to the fore in our movement, especially (as we might expect) given the huge technical and professional challenges presented by the ANC?s having become the ruling party in 1994. b. The great strength of this current is, precisely, its attention to technical and managerial detail and its focus on acquiring skills.

5.22 In the mid-1990s this "pragmatic" current, greatly abetted by powerful forces within our country and externally, has played a leading role in advancing (supposedly "neutral") "technocratic" solutions to our transitional challenges ? endless strictures about "international best practice", and the need to "align ourselves" with "global trends". At least until a year or two ago, "globalisation" was presented in a uni-dimensional way, as a more or less entirely benign "development and extension" of the "forces of production".

5.23 Many of the policy and practical choices favoured by this current are now increasingly less-assured, both because the triumphalist assumptions of neo-liberalism in the early 1990s are now more challenged internationally, and, above all, because of practical experience over some eight years here in South Africa.

5.24 The fundamental weakness of this current is that, without a systematic analysis of global capitalism and its principal features and main trajectories, and without, therefore a strategic approach that addresses itself to fundamental structural transformation of our society, pragmatism on its own is quite incapable of overcoming the historical legacy of CST. After eight years of governance this is more and more evident.

The strengths and weaknesses of the socialist current

5.25 The socialist current within our movement is not identical to the SACP as an organisation, for two main reasons. On the one hand, there are significant socialist forces partially outside of the SACP (not least within COSATU itself). On the other hand, the SACP is an indigenous and rooted reality, the other two currents (the "Africanist" and "pragmatic") exist legitimately within the SACP, although their relative weight of influence is different within the SACP when compared with the ANC.

5.26 However, notwithstanding these qualifications, it is important to note that the SACP is overwhelmingly the leading, the most coherent and the most rooted socialist political force within our society. To talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the socialist current within the NLM is, therefore, to address oneself principally, but not mechanically, to the SACP.

5.27 It is a measure of the rootedness, the historical legacy, the strategic capacity, and theoretical dynamism, and the practical commitment of thousands of Communist cadres that the SACP is, today, larger than it has ever been in its more than 80 years of existence. The SACP has survived the challenging 1990s as a united and relatively dynamic force. The Party has significant influence within our movement, within many key institutions and, indeed, within our broader society.

5.28 However, it would be true to say that, while the SACP?s influence is now greater within the progressive trade union movement than at any other time in the last several decades, the Party?s influence within the ANC is not as hegemonic as it was in the two-and-a-half decades between 1960 and the mid-1980s.

5.29 This earlier hegemony occurred in the context of a seemingly powerful alternative global power bloc (based around the existence of the Soviet Union); major national liberation advances in the South influenced by Marxism-Leninism (Cuba, Vietnam, Southern Africa, etc.).

5.30 The SACP is now, manifestly, operating in a different terrain. We should not be surprised or unduly demoralised if, with the external conditions favouring our hegemony having changed so dramatically, there has been a considerable subjective impact within our movement. This has manifest itself in several ways

  • significant proportion of the former Party leadership drifted away from Party membership in the first half of the 1990s;
  • in the same period, there was considerable fluidity within the Party?s internal ideological orientation;
  • moves, from certain quarters within our movement, particularly over the last three years, to marginalise the Party, or to greatly diminish the Party?s influence.

5.31 In elaborating a strategy and tactics in the light of new complexities and challenges, it is important that we avoid two extremes that are present in the SACP at this point in time. The one extreme is that of asserting the independence of the Party by seeking to distinguish every action we take from the ANC, and seeking to prove at all times that we are different from the ANC, irrespective of the issues at hand. There is no contradiction between an independent SACP and building a strong ANC and its capacity in leading the struggle for the deepening and advancing the NDR. In many respects an independent SACP is an indispensable, rather than a compromised, component of the national liberation movement. This approach or current within the Party leads to a mechanical inward focus on building the SACP structures ? an important part of Party building ? to the exclusion of understanding the role of the SACP in building the ANC, thus running the danger of isolating the Party from the national liberation movement.

5.32 The other extreme is that of seeking to suppress the Party?s independence on the grounds that this constitutes a threat to the ANC?s leadership over the national democratic revolution. This current, consciously or unconsciously, sees a contradiction between an independent SACP with its own programmes and the ANC as the leader of the Alliance. This extreme approach would also pay lip-service to the independence and programmes of the Party, while in practice all time is devoted to other "deployments" with minimal participation in the inner life of the Party, on the grounds that ANC, government or trade union work mechanically equals Party work as well. This position essentially undermines the SACP and seeks to turn it into nothing more than the ANC?s "socialist" desk or to subject all else to other deployments. Its objective outcome, regardless of subjective intentions, is essentially liquidationist ? the marginalisation or slow (internal) bleeding of the SACP to death. We must defeat liquidationism within our ranks. In some other cases this approach would raise strategic and tactical issues in order to seek to force the party to "tail" behind all what the ANC or government is doing or saying, in line with the so-called "long-standing traditions of the Party of Moses Kotane".

5.33 It would be wrong to raise or approach the question of strategy and tactics from either of these approaches. In fact some of the major weaknesses in the Party today derive from these extremely problematic approaches.

Currents within COSATU

5.34 In relation to COSATU, the dominant current in COSATU is congress-aligned, whilst simultaneously maintaining a strong independence, with a socialist orientation. A smaller current found in COSATU, which does not necessarily share a common ideological cement, is an ultra-left tendency, which is critical of the Alliance and would like to see COSATU either being an independent federation with no political leanings, or a reconstituted entity, and the basis of a workers? party. These ultra-left currents have always been present within COSATU but have never been the dominant political orientation of the federation.

5.35 Another small current found within COSATU is what can be referred to as a "conveyor belt" current, which argues that since COSATU is in an ANC-led Alliance and the ANC is government, unions should principally take the lead on most matters from the ANC, irrespective of the issues at hand and the likely impact on the working class. This current tends to manifest itself mostly on the question of the relationship between the ANC government and public sector COSATU affiliates, and during disputes between government and public sector workers. It is a very weak current without much visible public expression, but it does manifest itself now and again. It is a current heavily hamstrung by grassroots working class militancy deriving from the current accumulation regime that is not in favour of the working class.

5.36 We need to continue to foster both the Congress orientation and the independent character of COSATU as an indispensable component of the independence and leading role of the working class

The shifting dynamics within our NLM over the last decade

5.37 The shifting dynamics within the national liberation movement over the last ten years are a reflection of a number of developments, underpinned by, but also in turn shaping the different currents within our broad movement. Some of these developments include the following:

  • As noted above our democratic breakthrough took place in the wake of the collapse of the alternative bloc of socialist countries, thus impacting on the possibilities of pursuing a radical NDR
  • We are also seeking to deepen the NDR on a terrain of capitalism, in the context where economic power still remains with the same bloc of classes as under apartheid, despite the NLM deepening its hold over political power
  • The social impact on the movement as a result of its ascendancy to political power.
  • Whilst this has been one of the most important achievements of our revolution, but the emergent state is subject to a variety of economic pressures, domestically and globally, which have led to intensified competing class interests over that state, both inside and outside the movement. Both the Africanist and technocratic currents express a particular form of engaging and relating to these various class interests in a manner that has sought, perhaps, too much accommodation with the capitalist classes. These accomodationist tendencies are expressed, for instance, in some of government economic policies, particularly since 1996
  • The emergence over the last few years of an accumulation regime that is premised on the working class being the principal class that has to make sacrifices in order to grow our economy. This is neither desirable nor inevitable. For instance both the Africanist and pragmatic currents, particularly the latter, have argued that because of globalisation and the restructuring of the workplace, the current job losses underway are "inevitable", and that the trade union movement should, amongst other things, seek "alternative" ways of organising, including the new workers (usually casualised and retrenched). But these realities rooted in an accumulation path that sacrifices the working class are not inevitable facts of life.
  • The ascendancy of the ANC into power has also created a situation where the ANC is the leader of the Alliance and the NDR, whilst, as government, it has also become an employer of large sections of the working class, many of these workers being members of unions belonging to the Alliance. Again there has been an absence of an analysis of the strategic and tactical implications of this reality. Instead we have seen attempts to run away from this reality by resorting to short cuts of labeling unions as not understanding the role of the trade union movement in the current period. We need to ensure constructive alliance debate, and we need to avoid easy labeling.
  • Arising out of the changing class and political dynamics there has been a developing reluctance for open and collective analyses of the conjuncture, and a tendency to castigate working class mobilisation, labeling it as "infantile" or "ultra-left". This results in a failure to confront the impact of capitalist accumulation on the working class. In addition, attempts to seek democratic debate and practices within the Alliance, and to enhance effective internal consultations within the alliance and the movement as a whole, have sometimes been dismissed as seeking "co-determination" and not allowing "government to govern."
  • Another reality over the last ten years has been the gradual, but not inevitable, demobilisation of wide sections of our movement, reflected, in part, in the progressive weakening of structures on the ground.

5.3.8 The above developments also capture the broader challenge of a shifting class, national and gender terrain of the NDR and the strategic and tactical imperatives of ensuring the expression of legitimate but different class aspirations whilst at the same time seeking to maintain the unity of our NLM. This is one of the key challenges facing our movement in the present.


6 What Then Are The Strategic And Tactical Tasks Confronting The SACP On The Terrain Of Our Alliance Itself?

6.1 The SACP has the historic responsibility and possibility of actively engaging with its alliance partners and with the mass base of the alliance. We must do so honestly, openly and with a deep commitment to unity. It would be a serious error for the Party to isolate itself within a socialist cocoon.

6.2 Perhaps the most fundamental strategic and tactical task facing the SACP (and indeed the entire NLM) is to always seek to build the ANC, forge the unity of the NLM based on a concrete programme of action to tackle the contemporary challenges. It must be a unity premised on strengthening the main motive forces of the revolution, and a unity forged on the basis of democratic governance within the alliance, maximum consultation and internal debate. It is a unity that must be based on consistent and collective debates within the alliance and always seeking a common analysis and understanding of the balance of forces. It is a unity that must be forged on the understanding that there is no single corner of our movement that has all the wisdom to carry forward our revolution. Rather, it must be based on the understanding that deepening and consolidating our revolution will be the product of the collective wisdom and mobilisation of all our people and their organisations. In addition we must foster within our NLM and alliance an understanding and practice of allowing the social and political expression of legitimate sectoral interests whilst at the same time seeking to promote unity within our ranks.

6.3 As the SACP we also need to ensure that in our movement we avoid a bureaucratic closing of ranks and an imposed "top-down" unity, based on a mechanical and sentimental approach to the functioning of the Alliance, abstracted from the shifting class and ideological realities of the present period. It is very important to learn from our past, but it would be completely a-historical and defeatist if we try to "rigidify" and "freeze" the role of Alliance partners in some distant past, in a manner that is not premised on the understanding of the unfolding and changing terrain of class, national and gender relations in our revolution.

6.4 In regard to what we have described as an "Africanist" current, the SACP must engage with the immensely positive elements of this perspective. The dominant contradiction of our society remains the legacy of racial oppression, impacting upon blacks in general, and African people in particular. The task of the SACP, in engaging with this reality, is to deepen and develop a consistent class analysis of the challenges we confront in regard to the national question. The Party must also actively engage with and help to develop a scientific and programmatic approach to the deep-seated challenges of our continent?s continued marginalisation, and under-development. The Party must actively engage with the spontaneous anti-imperialism that subsists strongly within our NLM, however, we must, at all times seek to translate this anti-imperialism into a strategic, thoughtful and tactically intelligent anti-imperialism, avoiding the dangers of demagogic and adventurist anti-imperialism that abound in many Third World situations.

6.5 In regard to the "pragmatic" (the practical) challenges confronting thousands of NLM cadres in government and other structures, the SACP must greatly enhance its capacity to understand, analyse and help provide policy perspectives. Any attempt from the side of the SACP to simply advance or oppose policies and programmes dogmatically, or with populist rhetoric, will not help to win a consistent socialist hegemony. Such tendencies merely encourage bureaucratic resistance or dismissal.

6.6 To fulfil these challenges, the SACP needs to constantly, and without apology, build its own independent structures, capacity, programmes and analyses. We must reiterate the importance of a formation, within our NLM, that is programmatically based on a commitment to socialism, and that is ideologically committed to approaching all challenges from a consistent working class perspective.

6.7 But, at the same time, the SACP must understand itself to be no less "nationalist", gender conscious and no less "practical" than any other current within our NLM. Indeed, scientific socialism alone has the potential to:

  • inform a consistent and far-reaching progressive "nationalism"; and
  • develop strategies, tactics, policies and programmes that are really practical ? in the sense that they will actually achieve the tasks of the NDR.

6.8 With regards to the relationship between the SACP and COSATU, the role of the Party in the trade union movement, in particular COSATU is of extreme importance. This is based on the understanding that whilst the trade union movement does not constitute the totality of the working class, it is the leading detachment of the working class, by virtue of its organisational muscle, revolutionary traditions and capacity to wage economic and political struggles

6.9 Our work in the trade union movement should be based on exemplary behaviour and leadership as well as through persuasion and patient political education. The role of the Party in relation to the trade union movement should not be that of "policeman" (in the literal and gender sense of the word!), required now and again to restrain legitimate struggles by workers to defend and advance their gains and interests.

6.10 At the same time we should always seek to ensure that organised workers act in a manner that does not represent a retreat into narrow trade union concerns. We must help to broaden their struggles to encompass the interests of the working class as a whole. Critically for the Party is that we should not be threatened by the energy, militancy, struggles and independence of the trade union movement, but instead we should seek to lead these struggles and harness the energy of organised workers towards the advancement of broader working class struggles in the NDR and beyond.


7 Southern Africa, The African Continent And The Struggle Against Imperialist Globalisation

7.1 Our approach to current capitalist global realities is still rooted in our analysis as elaborated in the 1995 Strategic Perspectives Document. These observations, later elaborated in some detail at our 10th Congress, the 1999 and 2000 Strategy conferences, and our 11th Congress update of our programme, remain valid.

7.2 The essence of our argument is that current globalisation is essentially a particular phase in the development of imperialism.

7.3 One key feature of imperialism today is that it is characterised by the simultaneous integration and marginalisation of developing countries, thus marginalising the most vulnerable, the women and the poor. Aligning one?s society with the strictures of neo-liberalism with a view to being "integrated" is not a guarantee that there will be benefits that will flow out of this. Instead the tendency is that the more developing countries are "integrated" into the accumulation regime of the developed North, the more they are marginalised. Therefore to simply adapt our policies to prevailing neo-liberal ideology is not going to lead to developmental outcomes, as is illustrated by the massive failure of structural adjustment programmes

7.4 The underdevelopment of the South is not an accident, nor is it the result of "neglect" or "oversight", it is the systemic outcome of over a century of accelerated, captalist-driven global accumulation. Underdevelopment is the very condition of the growth and consolidation of imperialism. To be sure we have to engage with the reality of a capitalist-dominated world, opting out is not a sustainable strategy. But this does not mean that we should therefore embark on ideological expediency and opportunism, by seeking to characterise current imperialist globalisation as a neutral phenomenon in which, if we join, we gain, and in which, if we seek to forge space to pursue relatively independent developmental policies beneficial to our people, we will we lose.

7.5 Sub-Saharan Africa and the Southern African region are amongst the most marginalised regions in the world. This is also worsened by the paucity, dispersal and marginalisation of progressive forces, and the bureaucratisation of even some of the more promising revolutionary liberation movements of earlier decades.. In Southern Africa there is a process of fragmentation, deepening bureaucratisation and growing social distance among many (not all) of the formally radical liberation movements. There are often tensions between the former liberation movements and their working class and urban and rural poor base.

7.6 The main strategic and tactical line of march for progressive forces globally is to develop a minimum platform of solidarity and action around the common problems and challenges presented by imperialist globalisation. Such a minimum programme should include the struggle for defending the public sector and fostering the struggle for global common public goods, the struggle for the provision of basic services by the state, and the concomitant rolling back of the market especially in the provision of basic services. Focus should also be on worker solidarity against capitalist-driven restructuring of the work-place and of the labour market, restructuring that everywhere results in increased unemployment and the shedding of jobs. A gender focus in all of the above is also essential. Such struggles around a minimum platform can act as an important basis for rebuilding the confidence and strength of communist and socialist forces around concrete and realisable objectives. A progressive left minimum platform should also take up the struggles for democracy, human and social rights, national self-determination and for the strengthening of representative, multi-lateral formations, as opposed to the tendency for non-representative multi-lateral forums and even for US unilateralism to dominate global policies that effect all of the world?s population.

7.7 A common minimum platform of this nature would also ensure that organised struggles of the working class are directly connected, and give direction, to the growing anti-capitalist movements, which at the moment are rather fragmented and lack a common political focus, despite their potential to grow into a powerful anti-imperialist movement.

7.8 On the continent, SA has played an important role in conceptualising and mobilising support for NEPAD. In the South, SA has been the catalyst for many important initiatives aimed at democratising the multi-lateral institutions and developing a fairer trade dispensation. We also urgently need to find a way of engaging with both the content and processes of NEPAD both within and outside the Alliance

7.9 Within the context of the left minimum platform, in Southern Africa and the African continent as a whole, we need to forge links with progressive political and mass movements with the potential for deepening an anti-imperialist perspective and with a commitment to progressive developmental programmes and the struggle against poverty. We should focus the next four years on laying solid foundations towards the rebuilding of these contacts around a set of common perspectives and realisable goals.

7.10 One of the most important tasks facing communist and socialist forces globally is that of rebuilding alliances at the level of the nation-state with a range of progressive social and mass formations, to confront the power of multinational corporations, poverty, unemployment, women?s oppression and marginalisation, etc.

7.11 The nation-state remains a critical locus of power, and an important potential progressive site that needs to be contested. This is especially the case for the working class. While neo-liberalism calls for the "freeing" up of financial and other markets, labour remains thoroughly restricted, and, with the exception of the highly skilled, trapped into national and sub-national zones of poverty and marginalisation without the "freedom" of movement granted to capital. This impoverished, aggrieved and pulverised working class within nation-states, particularly in developing countries, still provides the basis for rebuilding the socialist, communist and progressive movements, as a foundation for building an international progressive movement.

7.12 We also need to intensify opportunities created by the information and communications technology to build durable communication and solidarity networks

Question - Is the idea of an international left and action-oriented platform a feasible one? If it is, what key elements should form the main content of this platform? Which progressive forces in Southern African and the continent should we be seeking to forge relations with, and on the basis of what platform and objectives?


Our Path to Socialism

8.1 Our path to socialism constitutes the most critical component of our strategy and tactics. The defining role of the South African Communist Party is to mobilise, educate, inspire and lead the working class and millions of our people behind a vision and a struggle for a socialist South Africa. We need to rebuild the confidence of the working class in the desirability and feasibility of socialism

8.2 As pointed out above the deepening of the national democratic revolution, based on the Freedom Charter, and ensuring its progressively anti-capitalist character, still remains the most direct route to socialism for us. It also calls on us to ensure that we consistently approach the national and gender questions in a revolutionary manner from a consistent class perspective. The NDR is a fiercely contested terrain whose progressive orientation and outcomes are not a given, but whose success is largely premised on building the capacity of the working class to stamp its firm authority to lead this revolution to its logical (socialist) conclusion.

8.3 Socialism is in the first instance an economy in which social ownership is, both in strategic capacity and in actual GDP terms, the preponderant form of economic ownership. The socially owned sector will include a diversity of ownership forms ? including state (both national, regional and local) ownership; parastatals, social capital (e.g. worker-owned and controlled funds) and various forms of co-operative ownership. A socialist economy is, itself, a transitional, mixed economy, and from the perspective of the Communist Party, it is a terrain on which, using the preponderance of social ownership, there are the real possibilities of greatly enhancing the democratisation of society, of overcoming the systemic exploitation built into capitalist accumulation, and of progressively abolishing patriarchy and t progressively empowering women. The long-term objective of the SACP is to move through a socialist transition to a communist society involving the abolition of all forms of capitalist exploitation both within our country, and, indeed, on a global scale.

8.4 In political terms a socialist society is one in which the working class and its allies have constituted themselves into a ruling bloc, with massive popular support as the bedrock for weathering the inevitable attempts to punish or destabilise such an advance. It will be this working class-led ruling bloc, in a democratic dispensation, that will determine the manner in which social surplus is distributed in favour of the overwhelming majority of the people, with a particular focus on overcoming class, national and patriarchal oppression.

8.5 The development of a theory and programme for a transition to socialism could not and should not involve a blue-print. The manner in which each society will proceed in the struggle for socialism will be determined by its own conditions, and the path to be followed will be shaped by these

8.6 In our South African conditions the democratic breakthrough of 1994 provides us with the space to embark on massive socialist education and propaganda amongst the working class and the overwhelming majority of our people who stand to benefit from a socialist economy.

8.7 The existence of a large, organised and militant working class ? one of the largest on the African continent ? that is relatively well organised and deeply steeped in the traditions of struggle is a huge asset that the Party needs to constantly to engage with and mobilise behind a socialist programme. The largest trade union component, COSATU officially stands for socialism, an asset upon which we must advance. Our task is that of building the political consciousness and political confidence of the working class, not in abstract terms, but by taking up concrete struggles on issues affecting the daily lives of working people and the poor.

8.8 The legacy of colonialism and apartheid capitalism has created fertile ground for socialist consciousness, ideas and propaganda. The fact that capitalism is currently deepening, rather than overcoming, the many national, class and gender aspects of the apartheid legacy, particularly for the mass of the working and people of our country is an additional reason why there is a deep-seated and relatively spontaneous sympathy for socialism.. The scale of unemployment, retrenchments, the increasing feminisation of poverty and casualisation, despite major labour reform gains, is impoverishing and informalising the working class, particularly its African majority.

8.9 Linked to the fertile ground for extensive socialist education and propaganda is the need to extend, broaden and deepen the independent programme of the SACP to reach, and be owned by, the widest possible sections of the working class and the landless rural masses. For instance our current campaign for the transformation of the financial sector should be explicitly linked to the capitalist character of the financial sector and the need to create an alternative socialised financial services sector, capable of responding to the needs of the working people and the poor. Our programme should also aim at harnessing the already existing ?socialist? experiences of stokvels and burial societies to link this to the broader consciousness of building a socialised financial sector8.10 All our campaigns ? transformation of the financial sector, building a strong and accountable public sector, building co-operatives, a developmental industrial policy, provision of a free basic services ? must be consciously linked to a critique of, and education about the evils of capitalism and gender oppression, the rolling back of the capitalist market, the decommodification of the provision of basic needs and to building elements of socialism in the current period.

8.11 Underpinning these campaigns must be a renewed focus on the production and distribution of party literature within the ranks of the working class and mass of the people of our country. All our structures need to understand that without effective distribution of party literature our vision and struggle for socialism is severely compromised. The coming few years should focus on developing more creative mechanisms for distributing our literature as an indispensable component of building socialist consciousness and building the political confidence of the working class.

Question - In what specific ways should we be seeking to build capacity and momentum for socialism in the current period? How should we be strengthening the SACP and the working class to build this capacity?


The Character and Role of the SACP

9.1 The precise character and role of the SACP needs to be based on the elaboration of the strategic and tactical challenges confronting communists in South Africa. Since the unbanning of the SACP in 1990 there have been debates about the kind of Party we should be building. On the one hand, these debates have, correctly, been influenced by the Marxist-Leninist classics on party-building Whilst we should obviously be informed by the classics and while we should also learn from our own past experience, the nature of the party we seek to build must be especially grounded in the current realities, our programme, and the challenges facing the Party. The exact character of any communist party should always be contingent on these considerations.

9.2 There is also a tendency to equate or describe the type of Party we seek to build preponderantly on the basis of its size, i.e. a large party is supposedly a "mass" party and a small party is supposedly a "vanguard" party. This is not adequate, a vanguard role and the actual size of a Party are, for instance, not mechanically and inversely related. Some of the key considerations we need to take into account include building the capacity of the SACP to effectively unite and lead the working class, as well as deepening the presence and influence of the Party in key sectors of power and influence in society; as well as the type of relationship it needs to build with a variety of other class forces in society. Above all, we need to relate SACP party-building to our long-standing strategic orientation of struggling for socialism in and through a national democratic revolution led, not by the SACP, but by the ANC. We are building an independent SACP, but in the context of a long-standing strategic alliance.

9.3 A critical area of influence is that of the transformation of gender relations, which means that the Party itself needs to deliberately build the necessary capacity and consciousness to tackle this question

9.4 Guided by the need to extend the influence of the Party we need to identify for ourselves some of the critical spheres of power and influence where we need to build or strengthen effective Party presence. Party presence or influence should obviously be a combination of strategies and tactics, ranging from direct recruitment of cadres, including women cadres, to maintaining tactical alliances with particular class forces or organisations without necessarily bringing some of these into the structures of the Party.

9.5 Obviously, the SACP?s profile should in the first instance reflect the class (or classes) we seek to lead. In this instance we need to carefully evaluate our presence and influence within the trade union movement. To this end we need targeted recruitment into COSATU and its affiliates based on our assessment of our strength and presence within each of the COSATU affiliates. Secondly, we need to extend our recruitment into affiliates of other federations, in NACTU and FEDUSA, particularly the former. Such a presence will also go a long way towards our goal for a single union federation in our country. In this task we need to place the issue of recruiting more women cadres from the trade union movement high on the agenda.

9.6 In order to unite the working class as a whole we need targeted recruitment into the informal and super-exploited sections of the working class, including street vendors, spaza shop owners, farmworkers, and domestic workers, including the unemployed. The informalised sector is increasingly made up of women, which requires a strategy that combines organising around both immediate economic issues as well as empowerment of women. It is critical that over the next four years particular attention be focused on these sections of the working class, as part of our overall responsibility to unite the working class as a whole.

9.7 Whilst our emphasis should continue to be on African workers, we should systematically begin to increase our recruitment amongst coloured, Indian and white workers.

9.8 The profile of the SACP should also reflect the gender demographics of our country. The SACP needs targeted recruitment amongst women, in particular from the ranks of the African working class. This will require that our programmes and activities must always centrally include taking up issues that affect this section of South African society, and our own internal practices should reflect this. Even more critically, we must engender the internal practices and traditions of the Party. The building of a vanguard Party, based on democratic centralism must ensure that it is not only men who constitute the "vanguard", practicing "male" instead of truly "democratic" centralism. These "vanguard" and "democratic centralist" practices have, in the past, often marginalised and excluded women.

9.9 Other critical sites of power and influence in society include the broad mass movement and sectoral organisations. We need to carefully assess our presence in these and ensure that we embark on targeted recruitment. For instance we need to translate the gains we have made through our financial sector campaign into organisational presence in formations like stokvels, burial societies and other sites where our people are engaged in socio-economic struggles for sustainable livelihoods.

9.10 Further attention needs to be given to our relationship to various other class forces in society, like the traditional leaders, black professionals, small business persons and the emerging black sections of the bourgeoisie. Our financial sector campaign, again strikes a chord with these various other class forces, but we have not tactically elaborated on how we structure this relationship in a manner that increases the influence of the party as part of building working class hegemony in society. A number of our provinces have also struck a working relationship with traditional leaders, but without a proper strategic discussion around this question.

Question - For instance how are we to reconcile the gender nature of traditional leadership with our transformation of gender relations and emancipation of women? In addition how are we to manage the tension between the institution of traditional leadership with our commitment to mass based democracy and the building of people?s power?

9.11 It is clear from the above that we do need to deliberately grow the Party if we are to strengthen our presence and influence in key sites of power. But in doing this we need to grow in a targeted manner as well as ensure that we intensify the overall ideological development of our membership and leadership at all levels. For instance, the single biggest percentage growth of the party membership since 1998 has been between October 2000 and end of 2001. This is clearly related to the impact of our Red October Campaign around the financial sector. Of course, the lesson from this is that it is primarily through campaigns that we are able to attract more people into the Party and increase our general support. But the question arises as to whether we have been managing this growth systematically and ensuring that we are growing in the desired sectors rather than just achieving a simple quantitative growth.

9.12 At the heart of many of the party-building and other organisational challenges that confront us is our unique and long-standing alliance with the ANC. In the post-1994 situation new organisational and party-building challenges have emerged:

  • The SACP is very proud that thousands of communists serve in many leading positions in government, in legislatures, in local councils, and in parastatals. This is after all our government, and we need to ensure that communists participate to strengthen government as a critical task in the deepening and consolidation of the NDR.
  • The relationship of the SACP to governance continues, however, to be a complex issue that poses a number of critical questions. Elected communist cadres in executive and legislature structures are, without exception, all elected as ANC members. The SACP has deliberately and consistently thrown its full weight behind the ANC electoral platform and campaigns. It is important, however, to ensure that elected communists act in a manner that is not contrary to Party principles and general policies, and that these influence government perspectives, without party members acting in an entryist or manipulative manner.

Question - How are we to ensure accountability of communists deployed in governance to the broad policies and other positions of the SACP, whilst at the same time expecting communists to respect the mandate of those government structures in which they are deployed? Is it enough to say that communists should simply implement government mandates irrespective of SACP positions? A related question is whether it is feasible or desirable for the SACP to seek, in one way or the other, a distinct SACP role in governance structures, particularly in the legislatures within the framework of an ANC mandate?

9.13 A broader question however is that of how to reconcile deployment of communists and the role they play in any other structures, and firm accountability to the SACP. Communists over the years have managed to build a strong party and still work in other structures, precisely because of strong accountability to the structures of the Party.

Question - How do we strengthen this accountability without sliding into either entryism on the one hand, or irrelevancy on the other?

9.14 In fact one major problem facing the Party in the current period is the uneven accountability of its leaders and members to Party structures. We believe that there are at least two important ways in which we should seek to meet this challenge:

  • In the first place, the Party must, to the best of its ability, greatly enhance its own policy-development and evaluation capacity, especially in areas of strategic importance to the SACP and its core constituency. The sense of general accountability to the Party by those deployed outside of the Party is sometimes weakened by the inability of the Party to provide helpful strategic orientation..
  • However, the Party will only consolidate and deepen this capacity if, at the same time, all Party members, irrespective of their other deployments (but especially those in senior government positions) fully participate in the inner life of the Party, including in the implementation of its programmes.

Question - Is this adequate? What is the real source of uneven accountability? How do we overcome it in a comprehensive manner? A further important question is to what extent are we consciously strengthening and supporting women communist cadres deployed in various spheres? Do women communists need any special support and empowerment in the light of the pervasive nature of patriarchy in all societal structures?

9.15 The question, however, remains: are we appropriately structured and do we have the necessary critical (quality) mass of cadreship, including women cadreship, to attain our objectives at this point in time? In what areas should we be seeking to strengthen the Party structures and influence? Are our structures in line with the tasks of the Party, or are we simply replicating ANC type structures, which might not be appropriate for a communist party in our conditions.

Question - Another set of related questions is whether work-place branches should be similar to residential branches? Should we not consider smaller work-place branches in order to ensure that wherever communists are working and no matter how few, they should be able to form a party branch, also in order to increase our influence as well as gain from the insights of communists deployed in various kinds of workplaces?

9.16 Finally, one of the most challenging questions facing the SACP is that of ensuring financial sustainability., Financial sustainability is essential for the implementation of our strategic objectives and programmes, and for improving our capacity for tactical flexibility. We need to use the next four years to attain financial sustainability from our own independent sources as well as to drastically improve capacity of party structures at all levels to raise funds.

Question - What strategies do we need to put in place in order to realise financial sustainability, in particular to structure ourselves properly as to understand that financial sustainability is a fundamentally a political task?


8. Co-operative Development as Part of Building a People?s Economy

The 1999 Strategy Conference of the SACP, the 2000 ANC NGC, the 2000 Congress of COSATU and the Ekurhuleni Alliance Summit took resolutions to build co-operatives as part of the transformation of our economy within the context of infra-structural development and industrial policy. This is important convergence and prioritisation of the development of co-operatives.

In addition, there is a growing awareness in many South African communities and prominent mass-based organisations, of the idea and practice of co-operatives, particularly with regard to their contribution to national development and socialisation norms implied in their functioning (e.g. equity, common ownership, democratic control, etc.)

According to a Baseline Study done by the National Co-operative Association of South Africa (NCASA) for the year 2001, a total of 60 000 women and men are currently members of co-operative enterprises. This study estimated that more than 200 000 persons are employed by co-operatives, including the developed agricultural co-operatives.

Economically, the co-operative movement is still insignificant. For example, according to a recent survey of 654 co-operatives in South Africa, their aggregate turnover was R1,3-billion and about R84-million if the developed agricultural sector is excluded.

Previous attempts from within the democratic and worker movements to create co-operatives have had important, but limited success. Lessons learnt from this experience are important in helping to develop and navigate appropriate strategies into the future.

There has long been a tradition of co-operatives within the dominant classes, particularly Afrikaner capital with its strong roots in agricultural capitalism. This sector still dominates significant segments of production and markets within the South African economy, and largely excludes the black working class and rural masses.

The Potential of Co-operatives

Co-operatives are enterprises operating like (and in competition with) other forms of enterprise within the framework of a system of commodity production. But they are also collective enterprises with particular features and characteristics that distinguish them from individually owned or conventional capitalist enterprises. Co-operatives have a powerful progressive and transformative potential.

From an SACP perspective, the starting point is poverty eradication, utilisation of poverty alleviation funds and the building of people?s power. This is potentially enhanced by the very powerful definition of a co-operative. A co-operative is defined as an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily join together to meet their economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through the formation of a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

The second point for the SACP is the practical realm. Co-operatives can offer a number of practical benefits particularly for various social strata (often the peasantry, but also others engaged in petty commodity production or trade) over other forms of enterprise. The fact that co-operatives are a collective form of organisation potentially injects a collective consciousness and enhancing popular participation in thoroughgoing revolutionary transformation. The dual characteristics of ownership and democratic control in co-operatives are particularly important in differentiating co-operatives from other kinds of enterprises, such as private sector or government controlled firms. Co-operatives, therefore, are a mobilisational basis for a firmer identification of a range of social strata with the working class and with socialism.

Co-operatives also contribute to combine resources, however limited, so that these become operationally effective and are managed efficiently. Co-operative returns accrue to members and they remain under their joint control and are used primarily for community reinvestment. Co-operatives also establish formal legal status, for a specific type of collective ownership, thereby protecting common assets and facilitating operation in the formal market on a collective basis (an important aspect of the rolling back of the capitalist market towards the socialization and transformation of the market).

Co-operatives provide opportunities to transform underemployment into productive self-employment. Cooperatives can also be a base for defending the public sector. The building of co-operatives could ensure that the restructuring of state assets contributes to the retention of several basic public goods and services remain broadly in public hands and on a more socially efficient basis.

Consumers organised in cooperatives would be in a strategic position to utilise their collective muscle but they would require a particular set of relationships with other public utilities and government in particular to ensure these public goods and services are supplied.

Importantly, co-operatives are neither extensions of the state, but are controlled and driven by the people themselves, nor are they private entities in a capitalist sense aimed at making profits for its own sake.

Co-operative values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity and universally recognised seven co-operative principles provide a basis for the germination of a new socialist morality based on social need and common interests.

For the South African context and the struggle for socialism co-operatives are especially appropriate. Building a co-operative movement is therefore an important dimension in our objective of advancing a people-centred and people-driven transformation process as part of building momentum for, capacity for, and elements of socialism. Our key challenge is to see the building of a co-operative movement not as a sideshow in the unfolding National Democratic Revolution but as an integral component of economic transformation and poverty eradication. Therefore the building of a co-operative movement should be seen as a key component of a state-led, people-driven and co-ordinated industrial strategy aimed at mobilising state, parastatal, private and social capital.

The Contradictory Character of Co-operatives

However, we should not see a co-operative movement as a panacea to our structural economic problems, particularly in a context dominated by commodity production and global and national economic restructuring that is having negative effects on job creation and retention. Nor should we assume that all forms of cooperative in all situations are inherently progressive. Since co-operatives are enterprises operating like (and in competition with) other forms of enterprise within the framework of a system of commodity production, they are subject to contradictory pressures and can assume a number of forms and characteristics. Different class forces with different agenda can form co-operatives.

In fact, there are examples of cooperatives that are not progressive, such as those that seek to control agricultural produce prices on behalf of producers. Hence the importance of working class leadership and that of the SACP.

Neo-liberal Economic Adjustment

With the fall of the USSR and the dominance of neo-liberalism there has been a significant ideological shift in the co-operative movement internationally.

The neo-liberal offensive emphasises a minimalist state policy on co-operatives which merely provides a simple legislative framework. Policy incentives, protective measures and other training support from the government are decried. Instead, the neo-liberal position argues, greater emphasis should be placed on support for apex (co-ordinating) organisations to play a role in policy-making, training and strategy development or full-blown conversion of co-operatives into companies. Most donor programmes are focusing on promoting this approach.

The above are complemented by an argument for a new kind of management in co-operatives in order to end "worker control" and "self management".

In other words, it is only through embracing this new kind of co-operative management paradigm, it is argued, that co-operatives can deal with the global market and the necessary challenges of economic adjustment.

From the standpoint of the basic principles of co-operatives, the neo-liberal appropriation of co-operatives into the global capitalist market, with minimal state support and typical managerial prerogatives, opens the way for degeneration and for co-operatives to be treated as profit-maximising businesses or as some wrongly believe "small businesses".

Constraints Facing the Building of Co-operatives

Lack of knowledge and skills about cooperatives as a potentially viable economic form of enterprise, and the dominance of private sector and profit-driven models of economic activity are key problems.

An Inappropriate Legal and Policy Framework

One of the major impediments to co-operative development is the lack of an appropriate legal and policy framework. Current legislation on cooperatives was enacted by the apartheid regime to promote marketing cooperatives among white commercial farmers. However, there is draft legislation and policy being developed which has the potential to contribute to co-operative development in line with the perspective advanced herein.

Problems with Access to Finance

Small enterprises in developed countries are often initially at least partly funded by the state or through the mobilisation of savings. Our people in general lack the ability to contribute significant "own finance" when starting enterprises. As a result, many of those that are able to overcome the significant hurdles in securing access to loan finance are "over geared" i.e. saddled with huge debt repayable at high rates of interest.

Many of our people do not own assets that can be put up as security to access loans. Linked to this is the continued practice of "red lining".

Access to finance is compounded by structural characteristics of the financial sector as analysed in the previous Bua Komanisi and elaborated in the SACP-led campaign to transform and diversify the financial sector.

Implications for Cooperatives

The way in which the debate on the broader issue of SMME finance in general evolves will have significance for cooperatives as it will for all other forms of small enterprise. A question we need to ask is what in addition should we be focusing on with regard to cooperatives ?

Different types of cooperatives will, of course, have different requirements with regard to finance, and indeed the promotion of cooperatives in the finance sector itself could make a significant contribution. Through organising collectively cooperatives should be able to raise more resources as own capital than enterprises based either on individual ownership or small private companies would be able to raise. The collective responsibility for repayment, albeit within the context of limited liability, should also be recognised as enhancing the credit worthiness of cooperatives vis a vis other forms of enterprise. Given an appropriate legal and policy framework, this should in principle be able to be translated into a real comparative advantage for cooperatives.

One of the challenges which Lenin identified in promoting cooperatives in the period of "New Economic Policy" in the Soviet Union ? an objective to which he attached major significance ? was to ensure that:

"Cooperation was politically so organised that it will not only generally and always enjoy certain privileges, but that these privileges should be of a purely material nature (a favourable bank-rate etc). The cooperatives must be granted state loans that are greater, if only by a little than the loans we grant to private enterprises, even to heavy industry etc."(On Cooperation, 1923 in Lenin, "Alliance of the Working Class and the Peasantry" selection by Progress Publishers, Moscow 1976, p421).

Translating this to our own circumstances, we might identify one of the key challenges as: what sort of special advantages and benefits should we be seeking for cooperatives in relation to other forms of enterprise, including other black owned SMMEs ?

We should also, secondly, look to governmental institutions, including Khula etc, to underscore this with a preference that is both based on recognition of such economic realities and informed by a political commitment. There should, therefore, be scope to ensure that cooperatives enjoy "certain privileges" of a material nature that would include both a favourable bank rate and greater access to loans.

Key Strategic Considerations and Challenges in Building a Co-operative Movement

The overall strategic objective in building a co-operative movement is to effectively strengthen, mobilise the resources and effectively co-ordinate existing co-operatives and other co-operative activities, as well as identify new initiatives with the aim of accelerating the development potential of these entities thus placing the building of co-operatives and the eradication of poverty at the centre of our development agenda.

The Mobilisation of our People and the Building of People?s Power

An important challenge and key component in building any effective co-operative movement is to mobilise our people and the building of people?s power. In particular this requires the mobilisation of the working class, in particular organised workers, around this objective and the need for them to take control and strategically use their own resources that they control for the benefit of their members and the people as a whole. No co-operative movement can survive unless it is rooted amongst the people themselves.

A key dimension in popular mobilisation is particularly the mobilisation of women. The struggle to build a co-operative movement is central in the transformation of gender relations, as improved services and conditions tend to free women from crushing unpaid labour and conditions of patriarchal oppression.

The Role of the State in Building a Co-Operative Movement

The first and most crucial role of the state is that of passing and implementation of a relevant legislative and policy framework to create the appropriate climate for the building, growth and sustainability of a co-operative movement.

The state has a critical role to play in ensuring that co-operatives are integrated as a critical component and partner in its economic and other development initiatives. What this means is that in all its activities the state should factor the building and sustenance of co-operatives as a key consideration. Part of this for example is to ensure that in its guidelines and criteria for the awarding of tenders, the building of co-operatives should be given the necessary recognition and preference. So far the tender guidelines, important as these are, only emphasise small business narrow black economic empowerment with no specific inclusion of co-operatives.

Another role for the state would be to set aside funding to ensure the building of this co-operative movement, through a combination of direct start-up assistance as well as directing some of the poverty alleviation funds towards the building of co-operatives. Co-operatives can play an important role in ensuring that funds allocated for local development and poverty alleviation are effectively spent and have a quicker multiplier effect in terms of impact. The state and the co-operative movement need to work together to build research and other back-up services.

The above roles are also applicable to local and provincial governments. Refer to discussion below on local economic development.

Mobilisation of Finance

The central question in building a co-operative movement is that of access to finance and credit through the options discussed above and the building of co-operative banks.

Another dimension of financing that will require consideration is that of mobilising and co-ordinating finance that is already in the hands of stokvels, burial societies, savings? clubs, etc. in a manner that serve the interests of its members rather than those of commercial banks and other financial institutions.

Building a Co-operative Movement: the Role of the SACP

Our commitment to building a co-operative movement is not sectarian. Our people as a whole, in their various localities and organisational formations should own this process.

While the co-operative movement in South Africa is in its infancy, there can be no "middle road" on the ideological orientation of this movement. The SACP must assert co-operatives as one of several programmatic thrusts to advance the NDR and lay the basis for a socialist transition.

Building a Party-Movement Relationship with NCASA

The SACP needs to clarify its relationship with the National Co-operative Association of South Africa (NCASA). This is an apex body that was developed since 1996 and has brought in sectoral co-ops in the financial services, medical co-ops, home industry co-ops and agricultural business. The major issue is the ideological orientation of NCASA. Should NCASA be the backbone for capitalist co-operatives or should it foster a mass based socialist co-operative movement that builds relationships of solidarity and co-operation between co-operatives and within society and ultimately constructs, together with the state, a co-operative sector? What should the role of the SACP in building NCASA?

What should be the relationship between the SACP and NCASA? A relationship can be forged which ensures that NCASA and the SACP develop joint programmes to mobilise and build the co-op movement, attempt to engage each other on strategic and tactical questions and debate ideological questions. While this approach will have Communists emerging and working in NCASA, this would not undermine the organisational autonomy and independence of the co-operative movement.

Flowing from this is the need, both in theory and practice, to advance working class leadership of NCASA - a leadership committed to the socialist orientation of NCASA. Practically speaking this means the SACP has to champion "worker owner models" as the key platform for co-operatives in South Africa but more importantly, there is a need to organise the working class (both employed and unemployed, rural and urban) into the co-operative movement. This means working closely with trade unions, working class communities and rural villages as priorities of mass mobilisation to educate, organise and build the co-operative movement.

9. Local Economic Development

The basis for our approach to local economic development is laid by our 9th and 10th Congress slogans of Socialism is the Future, Build it Now! and Build People`s Power - Build Socialism Now! For the SACP, local economic development is central in consolidating, advancing and deepening the National Democratic Revolution. Local economic development must be guided by the strategic objectives of our NDR which visualises the reconstruction and development of South Africa through people-driven and people-centred delivery and transformation. The main contradiction which transformative local economic development must address is the yawning political, economic and social disparities based on race, class and gender inequalities which were created and consolidated by apartheid rule.

The Local State and People?s Power

It is this in the local sphere that we can build people?s power and build a new relationship between the local state and communities, thereby transforming the relationship between local government and the mass of the people on the ground. Neo-liberalism constantly seeks to limit discussion and development of economic policy options to elitist policy designs by explicitly marginalising the working class and the mass of the people from effective participation. Therefore neo-liberalism would seek to narrow our conception of local economic development to a local state which is passive and merely regulates.

The building of a developmental state includes the local state as an important lever and site of power which is critical for economic growth and development of our country based on popular power.

Key features of a developmental state relevant to local economic development are the need for a developmental state to be people-driven and centred through the most thorough democratisation and transformation of power in society.

This requires an understanding of the nature of power and where it is located throughout society. Our conception of people?s power has transcended the statist and monolithic notion of people?s power being vested in the supreme controlling power of the state. We have evolved a notion of pluralistic and dispersed people?s power that has to be built via the instrumentality of various organs of people?s power in each and every front. In this conceptualisation, people?s power is therefore concerned with the people?s control of their lives in all respects.

In other words, state power is, undoubtedly, important, but on its own it can prove to be inadequate, or even part of the reason for a subsequent loss of transformational momentum. Bureaucratic state power in the absence of (or disconnected from) mobilised mass power can prove to be weak power. It is vulnerable to external forces and it becomes the target of (rather than being reinforced by) popular mobilisation. Mass struggle and mobilisation is the key to unblock blockages to transformation and tilting the balance of forces in society. And thus the relevance of Organs of People`s Power and what we have referred to in the recent past as mass mobilisation for socio-economic transformation.

The challenge is to maintain and nurture a healthy expression of the unfolding struggle to attain the goals of the NDR through a developmental state and vibrant popular participation at the local level.

Over the next four to eight years, the SACP needs to prioritise the local state and local economic development.

Local Economic Development and Broader Socio-Economic Development

The overarching task of the local state is the meeting of basic needs, infrastructure development and job creation.

Local economic development must be premised on a broader socio-economic transformation perspective based on the mobilisation, in the first place, of domestic capital resources (including public, parastatal, social and private domestic capital) around a coherent industrial strategy.. The key challenge facing South Africa`s transition is the development of a coherent economic policy to drive a developmental path aimed at job creation and the eradication of poverty.

Therefore local economic development is central in building a people?s economy which seeks to challenge the logic of the capitalist market whilst simultaneously building elements of and momentum towards socialism. A people`s economy places the eradication of poverty at the centre of economic restructuring; strengthening the role of the state in directing major economic resources towards meeting the basic needs of our people; challenging the dominance of the capitalist market in the allocation of resources; and much more importantly harnessing the energies of the people towards economic transformation.

For the SACP, this active popular involvement in local economic development must be centred around the following strategic tasks: -

  • enhancing the role of the local state in local economic development through the use its budget, the Integrated Development Plans, legislative and administrative power, procurement power
  • popular mobilisation to set priorities and goals for local economic development and poverty eradication
  • ensuring that local government and other public institutions at a local level act in a transparent, efficient and accountable way
  • organised popular pressure, to overcome neo-liberal or bureaucratic or private sector resistance to transformation
  • the building of popular, vibrant, strong and functional Ward as the main organ around which other Organs of People`s Power are built and a central organ in local economic development
  • Popular participation in local government budgeting, governance, service provision and local economic development
  • Implementation of the ANC manifesto, in particular the provision of free basic services to all and the consolidation of the public sector at a local government level. In essence, the provision of free municipal services is not possible without the local state being in charge of service provision. 
  • Integrating the task of building co-operatives in the work of local government
  • Mobilising local government to play a role in the transformation and diversification of the financial sector specifically and mobilisation of private capital in general through, for example, utilising its budgets and bank accounts to direct and discipline private finance capital towards development finance; awarding tenders to co-operatives; imposing conditions on banks; etc.

The above work implies the building of strong, functional, vibrant and dynamic local structures of the SACP, ANC, COSATU, SANCO, organs of people?s power, etc. Only such structures will be able to undertake the above as a practical implementation of the political task to advance and deepen the NDR.


DISTRICT COUNCILS 06/07 JULYContact: Mazibuko Kanyiso Jara

Department of Media, Information and Publicity - South African Communist Party

Tel ? 011 339 3621;
Fax ? 011 339 4244
Cell ? 083 651 0271

P.O. Box 1027,
Johannesburg, 2000

Email ? sacp1@wn.apc.org
Website : www.sacp.org.za