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Issue 142 - Third Quarter 1995

CONTENTS

EDITORIAL NOTES

The RDP needs class struggle
The IFP under strain

THE ALLIANCE

The need for an effective ANC-led political centre

CORRUPTION

Corruption blocks development - by General Olusegun Obasanjo
Handling corruption in Cuba

THE NURSES' STRIKE

Organising Nurses - by Gwede Mantashe

INTERNATIONAL

SA in solidarity with Cuba - President Nelson Mandela's address at the Southern African Cuba Solidarity Conference
Imperialism's complicity in the East Timor atrocity - by Noam Chomsky
Critical tasks in Mozambique - Marcelino dos Santos

OBITUARIES

Harry Gwala - Man of Steel - by Charles Nqakula
Jack Simons - teacher, student of life, communist - by Charles Nqakula

BOOK REVIEWS

"The Dictatorship of the Proletariat: Marxism's Theory of Socialist Democracy" - reviewed by Dale McKinley
"The Revolution Deferred: The Painful Birth of Post-Apartheid South Africa" - reviewed by Dale McKinley

EDITORIAL NOTES

The RDP needs class struggle

In the past weeks there have been major strikes by nurses and municipal workers. It is no accident that these high-profile strikes have been occurring in the public sector. The public sector that we have inherited is in deep crisis, it is under-resourced, there are massive irrationalities in wage and salary scales, with a vast variety of different grades.

The SACP rejects the view that the nurses and municipal workers have been striking primarily because they have been "manipulated by third force elements". This allegation, which is sometimes heard from within our own alliance ranks, sounds suspiciously like the old apartheid regime's explanation for worker action - everything was explained by invoking "a handful of communist agitators".

This kind of approach is deeply insulting to nurses and municipal workers. In the case of municipal workers, they are a relatively well organised sector, and the major union, SAMWU, is within our own tripartite alliance. In the case of nurses, as the article by Gwede Mantashe in this issue notes, there are indeed serious organisational weaknesses. But it would be a grave error simply to invoke these weaknesses, without noting the appalling conditions, the bad pay, and the sense of desperation that nurses feel.

Certainly, we must avoid a working class romanticism. Not all worker strikes or other actions are necessarily justified, or even progressive. There is, for instance, something of a tradition of white working class industrial action in our country, which has been based purely on defending racial privileges. There is nothing romantic about that. Even in the course of an entirely legitimate strike, some tactics (like the trashing of a city centre) are ill-advised - they simply allow anti-worker forces to draw attention away from the real issues.

Comradely alarm

But, that said, we must be clear. The municipal worker and nurses' strikes brought real transformation energies out on to the streets. Although in the case of the nurses there were odd political aberrations (like an occasional poster calling on De Klerk to save them), these were anomalies. The great majority of municipal workers and nurses marched with ANC posters and portraits of President Mandela. These were not "subversive" strikes. The strikers were, in the words of Minister of Labour, comrade Tito Mboweni, "sounding a comradely alarm".

The GNU has committed itself to major transformation of the public sector, to real improvements in remuneration and conditions for nurses, and to decisive changes to the irrational grading systems that prevail in the public sector. It is essential that these objectives are pursued energetically.

But we need, also, to go much further. The comradely alarm that has been sounded needs to be looked at in a broader context. Our strategic opponents are, to some extent, succeeding with a strategy (now on a much broader canvas) that they tried back in the 1980s. At the height of the mass struggles of that period, the apartheid regime lost its grip over the townships. Throughout the country, urban and rural townships became liberated zones and elementary organs of popular power began to emerge. In the face of this challenge, the regime retreated out of the townships, but did its best to seal them off with states of emergency and general containment. The strategy was to prevent revolutionary energies spilling over into the main centres of economic, administrative and coercive power.

Having sealed off the townships, the next step from the apartheid regime side was to inject into the townships third force elements, Askaris, hit squads, pseudo-PAC structures, anything to advance a "black on black" low intensity conflict. The objective was to turn our energies inwards into defence and crisis management.

Are we not in danger of being trapped in the same tactic? The ANC in government finds itself in charge of a large ghetto - the public sector. Like any ghetto, it is overpopulated, under-resourced and in disrepair. The ANC in government is being made to manage this public sector crisis, as if it were simply a crisis internal to the public sector. Our energies are turned inwards, while beyond the ghetto major centres of power and privilege escape unscathed and unblamed.

Power and privilege

Yet the crisis in the public health sector, for instance, is not unrelated to the powers and privileges in the private health sector. The private health sector is completely parasitic on the public sector - for the training of doctors and nurses for instance. Part of the costs in the public health sector are the result of the monopoly control exerted by private pharmaceutical companies. But it is a private sector that is standing aloof from the crisis, while nurses' frustrations are directed against the ANC Minister of Health.

Examples of the same thing can be multiplied. The greatest strike in our country at present is not the nurses' or the municipal workers' strikes, but the investment strike by the banks and building societies. In Botshabelo last year, the National Housing Accord won apparent support from the private sector investors and developers for an ambitious low cost housing programme, in which the government would raise large amounts of money to safeguard the private sector against the risk of losses.

Since then, the banks have simply reneged on their agreement. Fifteen months after last year's April election, only 9000 houses had been built. The private banks have argued that conflicting signals from the ANC about housing policy is the reason. While there have been some unacceptable confusions from our side, it is clear that this is merely an excuse from the private sector.

In noting this bankers' strike, which never appears on the TV news or on the front page of newspapers, we are not whining about being let down. Certainly the SACP does not expect the private sector to willingly devote itself to the social needs of the majority. We are not whining, we are drawing the obvious conclusion: an ongoing class struggle is absolutely essential for the implementation of the RDP.

The challenges facing the ANC-led alliance, in and out of government, are not to suppress transformation energies amongst our people. Nor is the challenge simply to manage these energies with the limited resources of government budgets. We need to lead these energies, outwards, out of the confinement of the ghetto, into broader questions of overall transformation and redistribution.

The IFP under strain

There have been many frustrating problems in the past 18 months of democratic transition. We have inherited an unwieldy and crisis-ridden civil service. Implementation of our programmes has sometimes been slow. With the multiplication of provincial government structures, we find ourselves in a constitutional dispensation that our country probably cannot afford. Nobody claimed that change would be easy, and there have indeed been frustrations.

But one outstanding success has been at the level of nation-building and the consolidation of democratic institutions. South Africa has the capacity to become a Bosnia, we were a Bosnia. Between 1991 and April 1994, between four and five thousand people were dying in political violence each year. The levels of political violence are dramatically down. Indeed they are more or less zero in all provinces with the sad exception of KwaZulu Natal.

When it comes to the forging of a common national consciousness, it is not always easy to point to precise statistics. But it is evident that an overwhelming majority of South Africans accept the new dispensation, whatever their gripes or unfulfilled expectations might be. Even the majority of white South Africans, who did not vote ANC in April 1994, and who are unlikely to vote ANC in the forseeable future, feel a tangible pride in being part of a new South Africa and in having Mandela as "their" president. The majority of our security forces, and the majority of our people see themselves integrally within the post-apartheid constitutional framework.

There is, however, one major political force in our country that is an exception. This is the IFP, which belatedly came into the electoral process, on the very eve of the elections. The IFP operates partially as a constitutional entity, but it is clear that its attitudes, culture and key parts of its base and leadership are, at best, highly ambivalent about operating within the constitution.

Recent revelations about the complicity of senior IFP leaders in third force violence, no suprise to objective observers, are one case in point. Buthelezi himself continuously plays a game of brinkmanship.

But all is not well in the IFP. In the past, some leftists have argued that the "bourgeois" parliamentary system necessarily co-opts and mutes progressive forces. In a way, the IFP's ambivalent participation in elected institutions has created internal problems for a party of the right. At the top, the party has a very authoritarian character, with Buthelezi's domineering personality as a major factor. At the base, in its KwaZulu Natal rural heartland, the party's structures rely heavily on tribal chief, war-lord and patronage networks.

The new democratic realities, and the IFP's ambiguous presence within them, have created many internal disruptions within the party. Buthelezi likes the idea of being a national cabinet minister, but this interferes with his provincial ambitions, and his deeply suspicious personality, which brooks no challengers in his own backyard. He often spends more time in KwaZulu Natal than as a national minister, undermining his national aspirations and his provincial leadership alike.

The realities of a national parliament and senate also provoke contradictions and deep strains within the IFP. IFP MPs have to participate actively in a range of debates and standing committees. The authoritarian, one-man leadership of the IFP constrains the ability of its MPs to function effectively. They are always looking over their shoulders. The same reality is reproduced at a provincial level. All of this has provoked major strains and irritations within the party.

The increased presence of the SANDF and SAPS in KwaZulu Natal, and the determination of the national security and justice ministries to pursue those guilty of political violence, is beginning slowly to bear fruit. Murderers, for the first time, are starting to be arrested and prosecuted. This, too, is starting to undermine the morale of the previously untouchable war-lord networks so crucial to the IFP's control of rural KwaZulu Natal.

But it is, perhaps, the IFP's absolute and manifest incapacity to govern effectively in KwaZulu Natal that has most undermined its reputation and deepened its internal crisis. The province is the one province in South Africa where political violence continues, in which the new institutional structures are in chronic disorder, and in which the ruling party alienates even its most natural allies in the legislature. As recently as 1986 liberals like Ken Owen were describing Inkatha as "impeccably liberal". Business circles in Natal, and even nationally, deluded themselves that the IFP was a "champion of the free market", and therefore an important counterweight to the ANC. But the "free market" itself is shunning an IFP controlled KwaZulu Natal.

The IFP is under strain. But this does not mean that we can be complacent. The internal contradictions within the party are, precisely, likely to increase the brinkmanship, paranoia and general recklessness of some of its leaders. If the national elections unmasked Buthelezi's pretensions to be an equal member of a national "troika" (Mandela-De Klerk-Buthelezi), local-level democratisation poses an even greater threat to the party. Democratic local government strikes at the war-lord and patronage base of the IFP. This is one of the major reasons why political violence flared up in the second half of this year. Indeed, the rising violence has successfully postponed local government elections in KwaZulu Natal for the moment.

The Government of National Unity must deal firmly with all forms of unconstitutionality and political violence, including its primary source at present - the IFP. Those business circles (there are still a few) who see financial support for the IFP as an "insurance", must wake up to the reality that they are nurturing instability, violence and uncertainty. They might not like socialism, but not even capitalism can be built in a war zone.

In our own ranks we must move away from easy illusions about some quick, knock-out blow that will finally deal with the IFP once and for all. Illusions in this direction encourage strategies that do not work, and which simply feed the grievance style mobilisation that the IFP has made its own. Developing a more comprehensive and consistent strategy means both marginalising the war lords in the IFP, but also encouraging those forces within the IFP that are most willing to find a place, as an opposition party of course, within an evolving democratic dispensation.

A TRIPARTITE ALLIANCE DOCUMENT

The need for an effective ANC-led political centre

On 20th July 1995 the executives of the ANC/SACP/COSATU Tripartite Alliance met to assess, amongst other things, the performance of the alliance over the first year of democratic government. A number of discussion papers flowed out of this July meeting, and these were presented to the subsequent Alliance Executives' Summit on 1st October 1995. The strategic perspectives of the following paper, as amended, were endorsed at this October meeting.
1. Introduction

1.1 The overwhelming consensus of the Tripartite Alliance executives meeting of 20th July 1995 was that the principal challenge in our present situation is to ensure effective, ANC-led, political co-ordination of our overall transformation process.

1.2 In many ways the battle-lines of our struggle have shifted on to the terrain of the RDP. In particular, the challenges are:

  • safeguarding the fundamental vision of the RDP, that is, its developmental growth-path; and
  • ensuring effective implementation of the RDP.

1.3 Our generally good policy visions and clear popular mandate are being eroded and dissipated by our own tendencies to become excessively departmental, provincial, and/or sectoral in our efforts.

1.4 Likewise, comrades in positions of authority at all levels, often feel isolated from an ANC-led political centre. Too often, they push ahead with policies and implementation that is informed by non-ANC specialists. And when their activities come under fire from our opponents, they find themselves out on a limb, without the mass base support of our movement.

1.5 Our own fragmentation, which leads to weak implementation, opens the space for our strategic opponents. The ANC's "failure to deliver on the RDP" is fast becoming their key line of attack. Since the April 1994 election, no major forces in our country, or externally, have dared to openly attack the RDP. Instead, they seek to undermine it by posing as its most consistent and reliable proponents. They wish to introduce a fundamentally different "RDP", in which "growth" is delinked from developmental objectives, and in which growth is supposedly to be obtained by, in effect, reintroducing the NP's old Normative Economic Model.

2. The development state - lessons from other societies

2.1 These difficulties and challenges confronting the ANC-led movement occur in a specific context. Our political tasks are not just routine governance. We are faced with a huge effort to structurally transform our society - to place it on a sustainable growth path, overcoming the massive structural crisis we have inherited.

2.2 All the experience of the 20th century underlines that, without a co-ordinated effort, societies like our own have little prospect of breaking out of underdevelopment and marginalisation. Such a break requires a purposeful transformation that achieves a sustained cycle of growth and development.

2.3 In the course of the 20th century, there have been a number of relatively successful reconstruction and development processes (although many have since foundered, or failed, or, having achieved certain objectives, have lost momentum). But all of the diverse examples emphasise one critical point: that relatively successful development requires a coherent, planned approach that harnesses resources around a purposive strategy to break out of colonial underdevelopment, structural depression, or war-time ruin.

2.4 This requires some kind of political centre that is capable of managing (in one way or another) divisive sectoral, factional, regional, and ethnic interests, as well as international pressures.

2.5 While a political centre requires technical competence, it is essentially a political function, and cannot be reduced merely to a planning unit, for instance.

One characteristic form of political centre has been:

3. The authoritarian state as political centre

3.1 In the socialist command economies, as in the Asian "Newly Industrialised Countries" (NICs), the political centre has typically been a strong authoritarian state. Many of their subsequent structural problems (in both cases) relate to this reality. But the central, co-ordinating, driving role of the authoritarian state, in these cases, has been a major factor for transformation.

3.2 Many post-colonial societies, attempting to pursue a national democratic transformation programme, have also tended to evolve politically in this direction. One-partyism, a strong leader, suppression of autonomous formations, intolerance of difference, etc. have all been justified in the name of driving and defending the NDR process.

4. A South African way

4.1 In SA we have, correctly, rejected the authoritarian state route.

4.2 We have done this for both:

  • principled reasons - we are deeply committed to thorough-going democratisation, and
  • (secondarily) for practical reasons. There are two considerations here:
    • the democratic empowerment of the broad mass of our people will, in the long run, be our principal asset for ongoing transformation; and
    • the global and domestic balance of forces, and the manner of our achieving governmental power, all make a "progressive" authoritarianism (if there is such a thing) impossible - we cannot simply marginalise our strategic opponents. We need to engage them, draw them in, as much as possible, to our agenda, through democratic means. They will (and are), of course, seeking to do precisely the same to us.

5. Our own national democratic political bloc

5.1 In our situation, we need to rely on a political bloc of organised forces in and out of government, essentially drawn from and representing the broad majority that has been historically oppressed. This national democratic political bloc is:

l centred around the ANC - which straddles government, parliament, and the ANC as a broad liberation movement.

l includes the tripartite alliance - but extends well beyond into a range of MDM formations.

5.2 It is not, therefore, a question of reinventing the wheel, but of ensuring that, in the new conditions, this political bloc is able to assert (reassert) its leadership over the process of change. This requires that many of the formations within this bloc are rebuilt, and that all are strengthened organisationally and in terms of strategic unity. It also means that they all need to adapt to the new developmental challenges.

6. To summarise thus far:

6.1. A successful RDP, including effective nation building and ongoing democratic transformation, require a co-ordinated and purposeful effort.

6.2 A combination of principled and practical realities means that the ANC's leadership has to be (already is) exercised primarily through hegemonic means (influence, electoral and other popular support, persuasion, taking the moral and political high ground, political and technical superiority of vision, clarity and decisiveness); and not primarily through repression, naked coercion and/or go-it-alone approaches. We are attempting to implement an RDP, not behind a Wall, or within an alternative bloc, or in some liberated zone. We are operating on the terrain of SA as we have inherited it, with a particular balance of forces. We are also operating within a particular global context that is not spontaneously sympathetic to our objectives.

6.3 Put another way, our leadership needs to be exercised through engaging with the widest range of forces (domestic and international), many of which are hostile to our objectives. Our purpose in engaging them is, nevertheless, to draw them, as much as possible, on to the terrain of our agenda.

6.4 This has many implications for both the style of politics that we practise, as well as for the kinds of institutions that become important.

6.4.1 "Partnerships", "consultation", "consensus-building", "mediation" and "conciliation", "golden triangle and multi-partite meetings", "accords" - these are all organically part and parcel of this kind of political practice, and of the kind of terrain on which we are operating.

6.4.2 In turn, a great variety of institutions already are part of this politics - parliamentary processes (standing committees, hearings, theme committees), NEDLAC, GNU, GPUs, LDFs, Housing Forums, Electricity Forums, University Transformation Forums, etc., etc. Some of these institutions (like the GNU) are, more or less transitional compromises, but many others will be much more enduring. Most of these institutions are not merely tactical arrangements, their proliferation throughout our society underlines their deep-seated structural underpinnings.

6.5 However, the effective combination of 6.1 (the imperative of purposiveness) and 6.2 (the imperative of multi-lateral engagements) requires that there be an ANC-led political centre capable precisely of CO-ORDINATING and DRIVING a political, social and economic transformation programme through a wide network of forums and institutions. Otherwise, the imperatives of 6.2 will absolutely overwhelm the decisive need for 6.1.

7. The ANC - a political movement

7.1 In approaching the above challenges, the internal life and character of the ANC-led movement need to equip it (and its tens of thousands of cadres) to play this broader hegemonic role. In fact, the history, structures and culture of the ANC and its allied formations are an immense strength in this regard.

7.2 The ANC is not a narrow parliamentary party (like the NP, for instance). In the case of the NP (like many narrow electoral parties), a parliamentary caucus appoints the party leader and makes all key decisions. The Federal Congress is a marginal, US-style jamboree, rather than a serious policy-making structure. The ANC's broad movement character, its stress on the political primacy of constitutional structures and of Conference, its constant working in the midst of a Tripartite alliance, and a broader MDM movement, all of these are great strengths, not least for the terrain on which we are operating.

7.3 These strengths were well illustrated by the capacity of the ANC to marshal a range of parties (many of them the direct creations of the old NP-regime) in the Kempton Park negotiations. This was in stark contrast with the NP's failure to stamp its own strategic options on to the process. The ANC's inner culture equipped it to play such a role (despite the problematic multilateral character of the negotiations - insisted upon by the NP and not us). By contrast, the NP's narrow, inner caucus politics (which worked relatively well in the context of an authoritarian state) simply alienated its own potential allies.

7.4 These ANC strengths need to be carried over into our notion of an ANC-led political centre in the current situation.

8. Practically, what kind of political centre?

8.1 Once more, it is less a question of reinventing the wheel, still less of undermining existing ANC and allied constitutional structures.

8.2 Given the hegemonic (rather than authoritarian) style of politics we are practising, the political centre will not be a "war centre" committee, with narrow top-down powers. Much of the structuring will be networks of mutual influence and reinforcement. We are talking about a political centre that is genuinely organic to a broad national democratic movement. But this does not mean that we can simply be spontaneous and unplanned about it.

8.3 It is also critical that we do not invent a whole series of extra meetings for an already overstretched leadership. What is critical is making our existing ANC and alliance constitutional structures:

  • work more effectively in terms of strategic priorities;
  • work to rigorous programmes of action; and
  • network effectively so that different levels and functions reinforce a common strategic purpose.
9. The ANC

9.1 It is essential, in the first place, that we pay particular attention to the ANC-based inter-linkages between key sites - ANC and the presidency, ANC and the deputy presidency, ANC and the cabinet, ANC and parliament, ANC and provinces, ANC and the alliance, ANC and the broader MDM.

9.2 Certain ANC constitutional structures emerge as crucial. In particular, this applies to the NWC. This is the ANC organ that meets very regularly (weekly) and that spans (potentially) the presidency, deputy presidency, cabinet, parliament, ANC officials, ANC as movement, and the broader alliance and MDM.

  • How do we improve the capacity of the NWC - given that most of its members are desperately overstretched?

And, above all

  • How do we ensure that all of us (in and out of the NWC) are able to help it, even compel it, to function as a key political centre that is able to drive the RDP? How do we shift the agenda of the NWC away from week-to-week crisis management, towards strategic oversight of RDP implementation?

Clearly, the NWC cannot be strengthened if it is not itself empowered by the strengthening of a great number of other structures.

9.3 In the first place, this requires upgrading the capacity of an overstretched SGO - which needs to process strategic issues for, and receive weekly political guidance from the NWC.

9.4 Then, there are additional critical areas that require major reinforcement:

  • The capacity of the ANC, as movement, to reinforce the Presidency needs urgent attention. To what extent, for instance, are we, as an ANC, able to supply the Presidency with frequent strategic briefings and guidance, which draw on all the resources of government, but which do not simply rely on technocratic information (often generated by the old-guard bureaucracy)?
9.5 We need, also, to help strengthen:
  • the ANC officials and the initiative to convene regular meetings of the ANC chair and provincial chairs.
  • the ANC cabinet caucus, and its linkages to the broader ANC, and movement;
  • the ANC parliamentary caucus; and the ANC across legislatures (national assembly and provinces);
  • the ANC NEC subcommittees and the NEC itself.
10. The Tripartite Alliance

10.1 In the context of a national democratic political bloc of forces, the tripartite alliance is central. The unity of the alliance needs to be deepened, based on a common strategic programme (essentially the RDP), and a mutual respect for the specific roles, constituencies and autonomy of the three partners.

10.2 The national tripartite secretariats meet fortnightly, and these meetings have been partly responsible for initiating the present process (which emerged from the Tripartite Executive Summit of July 20 1995). The national secretariats need to feed more dynamically into the weekly meetings of the NWC, and into the constitutional structures of the three partners.

10.3 There are many other joint alliance initiatives, which include:

  • a monthly Alliance Media Forum (which is elaborating a joint programme of action);
  • the alliance media project, the Centre for Democratic Communication; and
  • joint SACP/COSATU affiliate political education schools, etc. etc.

10.4 The alliance has also been driving the RDP Council process.

11. Policy formation and governmental implementation

11.1 One of the major weaknesses in our movement these past 18 months has been a tendency for ANC ministers to move ahead with major transformation programmes without having run these effectively through ANC, and alliance constitutional structures. The reasons for this are often understandable, there are huge pressures on ministers to deliver. However, the results are usually the opposite, there is very often delay and confusion and not the expediting of effective policy formation and implementation.

11.2 ANC ministers have a responsibility to take issues of a strategic and transformational character to relevant constitutional structures - in particular to the NWC and relevant NEC subcommittees (which now span all major areas of governance). We are not, of course, talking about routine ministerial management issues. We are not talking about hamstringing cabinet ministers, on the contrary.

11.3 Proper processing of key transformational and strategic policy questions enables the ANC to get reports of what is in the pipe-line to its constitutional structures and to its broader alliance. This will also encourage broader input. In this way, ministers are protected from being forced out on a limb, or being thrown to the wolves by the commercial media.

11.4 There are also many other ways of ensuring dynamic contact around policy formation and co-ordination of implementation.

l Already there are some positive experiences with, for instance, a Housing Policy Unit, and an ANC-led Health Forum (which has tended to directly precede Min-MEC meetings). The Forum brings together the ANC Minister, ANC MECs, ANC extra-governmental structures, the alliance, and relevant ANC-aligned MDM and NGO formations.

- What are the prospects of replicating this arrangement in other sectors?

- What possibilities are there for grouping such forums into slightly broader meetings, for instance an Environment Forum (so that we do not get too departmentalised)?

11.5 In similar vein, and partly in answer to the last question, the first meeting of an RDP National Forum has been convened. This was convened by the ANC and includes the RDP Department in the President's Office, the Tripartite alliance, ANC provincial RDP co-ordinators, ANC RDP MECs (or their ANC provincial equivalents), and Provincial RDP ANC-aligned DGs. Future meetings are planned.

12. The Broad Mass Democratic Movement

12.1 Critical to hegemonic leadership and to a people-driven RDP is a mobilised and organised MDM. Many of our MDM sectors are weak. The ANC-led alliance needs to see the rebuilding of key MDM formations as a necessity for the ANC, and for effective governance itself.

12.2 Honest and constructive examination of all key MDM formations, including the Leagues is necessary. The ANC, and Alliance need to develop targeted programmes of action, including assistance with resources and cadres, to strengthen and rebuild key formations.

12.3 At least one annual MDM Congress needs to be convened by the ANC, at which a range of forces, including progressive sporting and religious formations, can collectively assess our performance in government, share perspectives, and develop common programmes of action, etc.

13. Communicating a mass line

13.1 Another critical dimension to cementing the unity of a national democratic political bloc lies in the ability to effectively communicate a mass line. Effective reorganisation of our own formations and of broader MDM, CBO and progressive NGO organisations AND their broad unification around a common mass line is the way in which we can unleash the creativity of millions of ordinary people.

13.2 There are at least five dimensions to this:

  • harnessing governmental communications facilities more effectively and purposively;
  • using Parliament (parliamentary questions, etc.) more effectively to propagate our perspectives;
  • improving our own dynamic interaction with, and transformation struggles within, the main-line commercial media and the SABC;
  • fostering, facilitating and being a leading force within the emerging community media sector (including the critically important Community Radio network);
  • putting more resources into and greatly improving our own organisational media.
14. Provincial and lower levels

14.1 It will not be helpful if we practise a non-authoritarian, hegemonic political leadership at a national level, but fail to do this provincially.

14.2 At the provincial and also lower levels we need to replicate, with appropriate adjustments, all of the above principles. In particular:

  • we need assert the strategic political primacy of ANC PWCs and PECs; and
  • we need to ensure that the Tripartite alliance is meeting regularly and effectively at all levels.
15. Consultation versus implementation?

15.1 A developmental approach of the kind that we have adopted sees no fundamental contradiction between consultation and effective implementation. Indeed, the former is a precondition for the latter. But this does not mean that implementation is not often a critical problem, not least in our current situation. A number of basic points of principle need to be noted:

15.2 Consultation does not mean an endless cycle of discussion, without any implementation. It does not mean that we have to wait for unanimity before proceeding. In many sectors, a small minority with a vested stake in maintaining the status quo (taxi owners, perhaps, or monopoly industries) will seek to hold up democratic transformation. At the end of the day, there are often class or sectoral interests which are not going to be resolved in discussion. While all interested parties need to be engaged in consultation, transformation must be driven through by our elected democratic government and broader movement.

15.3 Partly related to 15.2, there is often a tendency for us to wait for the "perfect national" plan to emerge before we begin implementation. The pursuit of the "perfect" can drive out the good. This does not mean that we should implement programmes in incoherent or unplanned ways. But it does mean greater emphasis on getting implementation going and building into the project cycle evaluation and correction. The best programmes will not emerge from endless debate, but from actual experience that is constantly evaluated, corrected, and applied.

15.4 A key blockage in our present ability to implement is at the level of the public service. There are enormous problems in this area, and yet it is critical to effective implementation. Priority must be given to a clear transformation strategy in this area, and to actual implementation of this strategy. This also means seeking to influence politically, not in narrow party political ways, the outlook and commitment of the civil service to the reconstruction and development priorities of our country.

15.5 The problems with the existing public service are exacerbated by the multiplication of administrations that we have under the present provincial dispensation. In many respects, we are constitutionally bound to a system that is more expensive than we can afford. We need to do everything to ensure that we do not accumulate an even larger and more unwieldy civil service.

15.6 In deepening an ANC-led political centre as outlined in this paper, we must ensure that we do not fall into an habitual error. Political leadership structures without the next essential layer of implementation structures will not work. Strengthening the ANC NWC or SGO, for instance, does not just mean more, strategically purposive meetings for the leading officials in our organisations. It means, critically, ensuring that there is also effective administrative and organisational infrastructure.

15.7 When we speak of a political centre, we are really speaking of political leadership in a broader sense. The capacity of a constitutional structure like the ANC's NWC to play a decisive strategic role as a political centre depends on the effective, well-managed functioning of all levels and sectors of the broad ANC-led national democratic political bloc.

CORRUPTION

Corruption blocks development

General Olusegun Obasanjo is presently serving a 15-year prison term, having been jailed by the Nigerian Abacha military dictatorship. Reports that he had been sentenced in secret evoked an international outcry. Obasanjo was the first ever African military ruler to abandon power voluntarily when he stepped down in 1979, handing over power to a civilian, democratically elected government. General Obasanjo has visited South Africa frequently, and the following are extensive extracts from a paper he delivered, shortly before his imprisonment, while in South Africa in his capacity as an Advisory Council member of the anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International.

By coincidence, this week's Newsweek carries as its cover story the theme of today's Round Table discussion: Corruption. Or "How bribes, pay-offs and crooked officials are blocking economic growth". And the same issue of Newsweek writes favourably on the efforts of Transparency International as a response to the phenomenon.

As Newsweek notes, "the last two decades have seen astonishing global economic growth. Without determined action, the worm of corruption may yet poison that apple". For some of us, our countries have failed to share at all in that "astonishing growth", due almost entirely to the cupidity of our leaders.

My own country, Nigeria, is a lamentable example of such cupidity, and of the dangers and effects of corruption. A precise model of everything that must be avoided in our countries - even while some of us, at least, are crying out for remedial action at home.

Horrific though the picture Newsweek paints may be, it really only begins to tell the story. Corruption may be defined simply as the misuse of public power for private profit, and it is now a world-wide phenomenon. Some think that one side-effect of international sanctions against SA has been to shield the country, at least in part, from the impact of international "grand corruption". However, from all we now know, that is an illusion. The impression we have gained from all our discussions here is that corruption was part and parcel of the system of apartheid. It was unbridled in such areas as oil purchases and the arms trade, and it was rampant in local government, with untold millions of rand having disappeared without trace in the administration of the homelands. Whatever the past, the gateways are now open wide, and it would be folly for any of us to think that the practitioners of grand corruption are oblivious to the opportunities which SA must now seem to present. Corruption is colour-blind. Only serious and concerted and sustained efforts can keep the danger at bay.

But what is "grand corruption"? In a word, it is not "petty corruption": the five rand which a customs officer may demand, or the "drink" that an immigration official may ask for. Rather, it is the huge kickbacks that officials are offered, or which they may demand - generally of salesmen from the North and usually in developing countries - in exchange for favourable decisions which often have incalculable bearing on their country's future development. Without doubt, these enormous kickbacks, and they can be truly enormous, are such as to strike at the heart of the development process itself.

A recent study of the problem by George Moody-Stuart, a recently retired senior executive in an international corporation, suggests that when it comes to bribes, the arithmetic is simple, although the amounts will vary from country to country:

  • 5 percent of $200,000 will be of interest to a senior official below the top rank;
  • 5 percent of $2 million is the top official's area;
  • 5 percent of $20 million is real money for a minister and key staff;
  • 5 percent of $200 million justifies the serious attention of the head of state.

He adds that "five percent used to be typical, but recently figures like 10 to 15 percent are often heard." And the end result? A recent report from Swiss banking sources estimates that the amount being held in Swiss banks on behalf of African leaders alone is in excess of US$20 billion.

Corruption damages development

Corruption damages social and economic development in a variety of ways. The implementation of a process of sustainable development is contingent upon the presence of several features. First, it demands prudent, rational and far-sighted decision-making. Second, it requires the best use being made of available resources. Third, it needs a principled leadership which enjoys the understanding and support of the people.

Corruption strikes at all three elements. First, decisions are taken that are irrational, short-sighted and motivated by greed, not need. Second, resources are squandered as projects are approved not on the basis of suitability, but on the returns which they may yield to decision-makers. Third, a corrupt administration quickly loses the confidence of its people, who are then gripped by cynicism and rendered immune to exhortations by the leadership. The recurring question becomes one of "What's in it for me?", rather than "What is best for the country and its people?"

The end result is an impoverishment of the already underdeveloped. The developing world is literally littered with white elephant projects, projects which were begun and abandoned, or completed but which never functioned. And each, more often than not, is the result of grand corruption. Bridges collapse in South Korea, as one did recently, killing 30 people, and all because officials seem to have been bribed to pass sub-standard materials. Whole communities die, as they have in my own country, when corruptly purchased expired drugs prove useless in countering subsequent epidemics.

Yet these are among the few instances where there are obvious victims. More often than not, things are less clear. If a member of my family is arrested unjustly and his or her human rights are abused, I can shout to the skies and the world will know. You simply cannot remove a member of my family without his or her disappearance being noticed. By contrast, corruption is more insidious. It takes place silently and in secret, usually between only two people, each of whom has a vested interest in maintaining secrecy. There is no obvious victim to complain. But, in fact, whole communities, in some instances whole nations, are impoverished by this process.

How it works

So how is it done? The methods we know of are many and varied. At the most crude level, huge sums of money may move between Swiss bank accounts, as the corruptor and the corruptee exploit one of the most obvious vehicles of corruption. In other cases a "donation" of a large amount to a particular "charity" may be suggested. This all looks good on the books of the international company, as it appears to help endow, let us say, a new hospital. But the charity will be a phantom. Then there are the donations to "party funds". Of course, there is a legitimate place for political donations, when these are made openly and transparently, and are in support of accountable democracy, rather than the calculated buying of influence with one or other party. Sadly, in many developing countries, political donations are just another avenue for elites to milk the system at the expense of the poor.

More insidious is the way in which scholarships to foreign universities are used. They can either be a direct bribe, a direct quid pro quo. Or, still more insidiously, the child of an official is offered a scholarship apparently with no strings attached. Later the official finds him or herself with the choice of complying with the company's illegal demands, or having his or her child return home abruptly with their education incomplete. Of course, this is all done subtly, there is no direct threat. The local company representative will merely say, with great sorrow, that the company will no longer be able to sustain its scholarship programme if it misses out on a particular large order. Some of this we know, but we also know that there are many methods that we as yet do not know about.

Precisely what is done is also not necessarily known in detail to the companies benefiting from the corruption. Although, to be truthful, many would sooner not know! The most usual method is for them to appoint a local agent. When a deal is up for grabs, he will be given a commission if he can land the contract. These commissions are out of line with the services the agent actually provides, and includes a substantial amount that will enable him to bribe the necessary officials. Of course, he does not report back precisely on what he has done with the money, and the company would sooner not know.

What do the public officials do in return? This, too, can vary. They can leak bids of other companies. They can distort the assessments of the various bids. They can have a comfortable arrangement whereby a company puts in a low bid, secure in the knowledge that after the contracts are signed, the specifications will be changed and the whole question of remuneration and price renegotiated. We can all point to examples where this sort of conduct has led to the cost of major projects escalating through the roof.

How is it possible?

What makes this possible? First, there is the situation in the North, in the industrialised countries where the source of much of this grand corruption lies. This is because grand corruption is the handmaiden of big money, and especially where hard foreign exchange is concerned. Not only is the foreign exchange convertible, but it is most readily hidden from any local investigation. I am not here blaming the North. We do that all too often, and usually as a way of blaming someone else for problems which are largely of our own making. There are individuals on both sides of the North-South divide who initiate and encourage corrupt practices in international business transactions.

But the end result is a contradiction. On the one hand, there are excellent "good governance" programmes being run by the developmental agencies of countries in the North, but their good work is undermined when export trade departments are prepared to live with such bribery. How can we say this? Simply because bribes paid abroad are allowed as tax deductions and most countries in the North refuse to treat bribing of foreign officials as a criminal act. Some European countries are known to allow tax deductions for bribes, according to a sliding scale - depending on where the company is doing business, a set percentage of any deal can be claimed in this way without any need to produce receipts or any other form of evidence of actual payment!

As a footnote, one of us recently asked a Scandinavian businessman what his company does when bribes are, in fact, not necessary in a particular deal. The answer? "We claim it anyway," he said, "and then move the savings into a Swiss bank account in our personal names."

Senior company executives generally defend themselves in one of three ways: by saying that corruption in the third world is simply a "fact fo life"; or by suggesting that bribes are no more than a contribution to the economy of a developing country by bringing income levels of senior people up to reasonable levels; or by claiming, not infrequently in the face of proof to the contrary, that their companies have adequate internal procedures to ensure that their employees and agents do not breach the laws of the countries where they are doing business. I challenge each and every one of these assertions.

I am not suggesting that governments in the North are necessarily happy with the present situation. Some are certainly not. Many are actively supporting what we are trying to do, and would like to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. They are trapped in a Catch-22 situation. Corruption levels are rising inexorably and unsustainably, and yet if a country moves unilaterally - as the US has done with its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - it runs the very real risk of giving a competitive edge to companies in other countries. As one British industrialist put it: "The issue, quite siply, is jobs...we wouldn't dream of following the US legislation."

Part of the culture?

Another factor in the North is a widespread myth that corruption in some way is a "part of the culture" of the South, that we "do things differently there". Personally, I shudder at how elements of African culture are taken out of context and distorted as a way of rationalising otherwise despicable behaviour. In the African concept of appreciation and hospitality, the gift is usually a token. It is not demanded. The value is in the spirit, rather than the material worth. It is done in the open and never in secret.

Quite bluntly, it is simply a self-serving justification of reprehensible conduct for businessmen of the North, such as Tiny Rowland, to claim that only by lavishly entertaining African leaders and educating their children can anyone do business on this continent. I believe I am well placed to speak with some degree of authority on this matter. I am, after all, a Chief in my own right. I am also a former African head of state. Yet I am perfectly prepared to travel modestly - both in the air and when on the ground. And I have always been prepared to deal with proposals on their merits - and only on their merits. But I do not believe that I am an exception.

It is further said that in the South there are high social expectations in society placed on leaders. That society has a way of corrupting the public office holder because of the excessive demands and expectations that are placed on the individual. It is said that because of the Africans' concept of the "big chief" (and to leaders in similar positions elsewhere in the world), the public office holder is expected to have an infinite supply of resources to dish out to all and sundry, if only to assist his kith and kin escape the bonds of poverty. Such an argument is, I believe, merely an escape route taken by corrupt officials and corrupt company agents alike.

I should add as a footnote that corruption in international business transactions is by no means a phenomenon which is confined to North-South transactions. It is endemic, too, in North-North trade. It is just that in this latter context there is usually an infrastructure which severely limits the room for the corrupt to manoeuvre, and in which the likelihood of detection is greatly increased.

What went wrong?

How, I often ask myself, did the South - and especially Africa - get into such a predicament? These practices are not the exclusive preserve of the African leader. The average African is not by nature more corrupt than the European or anyone else. But others have institutions, laws, conventions and practices which effectively discourage and punish corrupters and corruptees. Effective sanctions - moral, social, political and legal - are an essential part of the antidote against corruption. In this, South Africa has an edge over the rest of the continent, but no room for complacency. Part of the antidote is eternal vigilance.

The corrupt practices I have referred to seem to have found a particular breeding ground in Africa for a number of reasons. Firstly, at independence many of our leaders inherited a colonial state built and previously made to function merely on the philosophy of praetorianism. Its relation to the society was extractive, cavalier and alienated.

What was required at independence was for our leaders to radicalise these institutions by democratising access to them, popularising them through openness and transparency, and returning the locus of power to the people. Our leaders did not do this. They almost all went on with business as usual. With the enormity of state power at their disposal, and with little or nothing in the way of restraining structures to counter them, or bring them back to the paths of sanity, they erred, derailed and became corrupt and undemocratic.

Against a background such as this, you can imagine how intensely interested I am in much of what is being done to avoid these pitfalls in the new South Africa.

But to return to my thesis, the state became, in most cases, the context for primitive accumulation, and political parties became private armies organised to fight electoral warfare in the quest to conquer the state and political power. Civil society, which could have checked the state, was weak, rudimentary and largely ineffective. The international community, which could have intervened, was embroiled in the prosecution of the Cold War. As a consequence, violations of human rights, pillaging of state resources, and all forms of undemocratic government practices and actions could be rationalised within the rubric either of stopping or advancing socialism.

There are commendable provisions in your new South African Constitution for openness and transparency, which require implementation and actualisation by government agencies, and support and monitoring by active, dynamic, responsible and constructive but critical indepedent civil society organisations.

It is my firm conviction that whatever happens here in SA will dictate the future development of our entire continent. In the expectation that you will succeed in your endeavours as you build the new, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, transparent and accountable SA, I can see your positive influence for good flowing north to the Mediterranean, and so can see a much more optimistic future for Africa as a whole. The alternative is one which we simply cannot contemplate and which we must not allow to happen.

Handling corruption in Cuba

In April 1986, some years before Gorbachev's perestroika process, Cuba launched a rectification programme. In many ways, this represented a return to some of the themes developed in the 1960s by Che Guevara, and a critique of the Soviet style top-down and narrow, material-incentive approach to economic development. The Soviet approach had become increasingly entrenched in Cuba in the 1970s, to the detriment of the more people-driven and moral-based traditions of Cuban socialism. Without the 1986 rectification programme, Cuba's capacity to survive the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989-91 (some 85 percent of its international market was lost overnight), would certainly have been less. The following are extracts from Cuba, Talking about the Revolution, conversations with Juan Antonio Blanco by Medea Benjamin, Ocean Press, 1994.
Medea Benjamin: How did the rectification process address the long-standing controversy of material versus moral incentives?

Juan Antonio Blanco: As part of this process we began to rectify the essence of the economic mechanisms we had been using. We realised that we could not develop an alternative society based on solidarity and feelings of love for your neighbour while using capitalist economic incentives, which foster a dog-eat-dog mentality. So we recaptured the use of moral incentives, which had been set aside for nearly 15 years. We did not discard material incentives, we understood that material incentives were also important to motivate people. But little by little we began to recover the idea that the revolution was not only a matter of a more just distribution of wealth, but also a spiritual project to release people's creativity and give them a greater degree of participation in society.

MB: One of the issues that came up in this rectification campaign was the issue of corruption. Throughout the revolution's history there has been a flourishing black market where people sell goods stolen from state enterprises or hoard scarce goods and resell them. Rectification not only highlighted these problems of corruption among private citizens but also corruption among high government officials.

JAB: Yes. Once we began the rectification process, we realised that there were top and middle-level figures - ministers and others - who had become corrupt during this period when we were copying the Eastern institutions. So a number of government officials were charged and tried for corruption.

When we faced this reality of corruption, we also had to look into another, more disagreeable reality, and that is that people are not born corrupt, they get corrupted. They were revolutionaries before but had gone through a process of corruption, because our own institutions had allowed them to go through that process. We were shocked by this. We realised that our system failed to prevent this level of corruption because it did not provide for sufficient popular control.

This really hit home in 1989, when we discovered that a number of important officials of the Army and the Ministry of the Interior were involved in drug smuggling. One of them, General Ochoa, was a hero of the revolution. Of course, he lost that position when we learned that he was connected with drug dealers. To a certain degree, this was precisely the reverse of what happened with Oliver North in the United States, when it was learned that he had all these dealings with the Contras and drug dealers. Oliver North became a celebrity; Ochoa faced a firing squad.

THE NURSES' STRIKE

Organising Nurses

Gwede Mantashe, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and SACP Political Bureau member, draws organisational lessons from the recent nurses' strike.

The recent nurses' strike has highlighted the question of organising nurses. While the grievances of the nurses were generally legitimate, as COSATU, the ANC NEC and the SACP asserted, the manner in which they attempted to take up these grievances often reflected serious weaknesses. In speaking with nurses I often heard comments like "we don't need an organisation, we need money". This kind of confusion sometimes took a political turn, there were even some placards that read "De Klerk save us", or "Vote NP", as if over 40 years of NP misrule and racism had nothing to do with the appalling crisis in our public health system.

In this climate of confusion, every manner of opportunist jumped on to the platform. The DP's leader Tony Leon, whose present election manifesto is all about law and order ("COPS, COPS, COPS, Vote DP"), had the hypocrisy to visit Baragwanath Hospital in the midst of the anarchy. He came out claiming that it was the first time that he understood how little nurses earned.

The PAC, in some regions, momentarily hijacked the nurses' strike, and opportunistically drove a wedge between the nurses and other sectors of the community - patients, non-professional health-workers, and progressive administrators. The Nurses Forums, in some regions, wrote letters to government on PAC letterheads. For its part, the NP has been rejoicing in the crisis that is the direct product of its decades of misrule. It is trying to blame the ANC for failing to correct the chaos in a mere 18 months.

However, despite all of this, it would be a grave error on the part of the ANC-led Government of National Unity to resort narrowly to law and order measures against the nurses. This would simply play further into the hands of opportunists. We need to understand that a nurse who goes through a three year basic training course, and a four year course including midwifery and community health, earns a gross salary of about R3000, while a secretary in the public sector, with one year's training, earns R4000 and more. Unlike the private sector, in the public sector there are inexplicable gaps between professionals and bureaucrats.

For me this is the background for developing an organisational approach for nurses. Organisation is the solution, and COSATU should now take the lead.

COSATU and the nurses

COSATU failed to take the opportunity that was presented earlier by the formation of the Concerned Nurses, and of the Transitional Nurses Organisation of SA. This failure to respond to these initiatives was due to an emphasis on one-industry one-union at the expense of one-federation one-country. I make this observation because nurses were always told to go into NEHAWU. Some of us within COSATU argued that the approach used in respect of teachers (where we recognised the professional union, SADTU) was correct, and should have been applied to nurses. We argued that it was necessary for COSATU to consciously address the desire of nurses to be organised as professionals, and the need to link professionals to our federation. This double approach (recognising the relative autonomy of professionals, but linking them to a working class dominated federation) would bring about the necessary balance between working class leadership and the intellectual and skill input necessary for any working class formation.

I believe that this approach was correct then, and it is correct today. The structure of industrial unions can be discussed within the federation after we have allowed those unions outside of the federation to affiliate to COSATU. The price we are paying for this lack of innovation is the chaos we see in the health sector.

As we all know, nature does not allow a vacuum to exist. If progressive forces are not close enough to the nurses, anti-democratic forces, opposed to transformation, can hijack their struggles. As a federation, COSATU has a responsibility to help nurses organise themselves. This should start by assisting in areas where help is urgent. We need to assist in the Eastern Cape and break the logjam. We need to change the approach from that of anarchy to that of collective bargaining. If need be, we should offer to second people to assist setting up organisational structures, with COSATU paying the wages. This assistance should be given unconditionally, without demanding affiliation to COSATU. The key consideration should be helping nurses to get organised, and helping them to understand that their collective power is more important than short-term demands. Affiliation to COSATU, or otherwise, should be a decision taken by the organisation after it has been set up.

In engaging the nurses, we should strive to find a link between the ground already covered by DENOSA and the emerging Nurses Forum. There may be no obvious link, but the organisational work of DENOSA may have had an awakening effect. This will need consolidation. There should be no hang-up about the name of the organisation. This should be an issue for a launching congress.

I want to emphasise that it should not be COSATU starting an organisation for nurses, but COSATU assisting nurses forming their own organisation. We have the necessary experience within the federation. Affiliates should be approached to second staff for this project.

Nurses and transformation

Our overall approach in organising nurses must be informed by the need for transformation of the state machinery. In this case the need for transformation of the public health sector is glaring. Professionals in this sector need an aggressive and intensive programme to help open up discussion around transformation. In the process, nurses will come to understand their broader role in society.

The above remarks are an attempt to come up with a practical approach, rather than a theoretical approach to a very complex problem. If the framework outlined here can be used by both the national and regional structures of COSATU, we can make a very important contribution to organisation and transformation of the health sector. Hopefully, this input will provoke a wider debate.

INTERNATIONAL

SA in solidarity with Cuba

President Nelson Mandela's address at the opening of the Southern African Cuba Solidarity Conference in Johannesburg in October

We have come together as Southern Africans to acknowledge a history of struggle and the legends of internationalists who contributed to our victory. In this sense, this first-ever Southern Africa-Cuba Solidarity Conference constitutes an expression of the region's fulfilment: that at last we can meet not merely as victims of colonialism, apartheid and underdevelopment seeking the solidarity of others.

Rather, we meet as free peoples, to acknowledge that our freedom and sovereignty as nations are incomplete if others are subjected to privations. Our efforts to build a better life are the poorer if others are denied the environment to puruse their aspirations.

It is both opportune and natural that among the first beneficiaries of our humble act of solidarity should be the people of Cuba. As Southern Africans, we are deeply indebted to the Cuban people for the selfless contribution they made to the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle in our region.

I am sure that this Conference will convey our sense of friendship, admiration, respect and concern to the people of Cuba. They are going through an exceptionally difficult period. We extend our hand of friendship to them, just as they were with us through the terrible years of war that ravaged the southern region of our continent.

I would like, therefore, to salute the South African solidarity groups that have worked hard to convene this path-breaking Conference. There are now several Cuba Friendship Associations throughout our country, from Pietersburg to Cape Town, from Gauteng to Durban and Port Elizabeth. These groups have emerged from the soil of a genuine popular sense of solidarity with Cuba.

Through these activities, you are confirming that international relations are not merely about inter-state engagement. They are, first and foremost, relations among peoples. As such, a robust civil society is critical in the formulation of foreign policy.

I have heard, with a sense of real emotion and pride, of how poorly paid mineworkers have collected money for Cuba. I have read that they have donated their own overalls and boots, and bought mine-lamps and safety gear for their Cuban brothers. These workers on South African mines come from several countries in our region.

We therefore greet with pride the delegations that have come from all over Southern Africa to attend this Conference. Your presence in our country, for such an occasion, honours us. It underlines the common debt we feel towards Cuab.

Comrades and friends, Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonisers. They have shared the same trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment and apartheid. Hundreds of Cubans have given their lives, literally, in a struggle that was, first and foremost, not theirs but ours. As Southern Africans we salute them. We vow never to forget this unparalleled example of selfless internationalism.

We wish also to record our indebtedness to Cuban hospitality. In particular, tens of thousands of young Southern Africans have been trained, and some are still training, in Cuban schools and universities. Today, in many different fields - in the health sector, in government and in the army - there are many young professionals, contributing to the development of our country, who owe their skills to the generous training provided to them by Cuba.

The bonds acknowledged through this campaign were, therefore, forged in struggle, in sacrifice and in the many concrete benefits that we enjoy as a region today. Our solidarity acknowledges the past as much as it expresses a morality in international relations: underpinned by equality, sovereignty and the right of peoples to choose their destiny.

We have noted with appreciation that, in the past months, a number of very large and established South African corporations have joined European and other companies to become actively involved in trade and major industrial joint ventures in Cuba. There are many areas, as well, in which South Africans will gain, from our relations with Cuba. We welcome all this, precisely because of the mutual benefits that it will bring.

Many countries, including some very powerful countries, have called upon us to condemn the suppression of human rights in Cuba. We have reminded them that they have very short memories. That when we were fighting apartheid, against racial oppression, the same countries were supporting the apartheid regime.

The majority of South Africans reject an approach to foreign relations premised on nostalgia for the Cold war. They reject the notion that Cuba should be starved to ideological submission. As government, we are firm in our view that it is in the interest of South Africa to have diplomatic relations and multilateral ties of co-operation with Cuba.

Friends and comrades, let me assure you that the African National Congress, and the great majority of South Africans, will never forget those who stood by us in the darkest years of our struggle against apartheid. Along with the majority of humanity, we are determined to be active participants in the noble effort for a just world order.

I wish this Conference every success. I am sure that you will translate your deliberations into practical work in the coming months and years.

Imperialism's complicity in the East Timor atrocity

Renowned US scholar, Noam Chomsky traces the background to the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and the ongoing complicity of imperialism in this violent annexation. This article first appeared in the Indian newspaper New Age.

The relevant background begins at the end of World War II, when the United States assumed, out of self-interest, "responsibility for the welfare of the world capitalist system". These are not my words, I am quoting the respected diplomatic historian Gerald Haines, who was also the senior historian at the CIA. The responsibility for the welfare of the rich and the privileged was taken very seriously. US business and political leaders carried out sophisticated global planning in which Indonesia had, in fact, a key role. The main task was to reconstruct the rich societies, crucially those that were called "natural leaders" or the "great workshops", namely Germany and Japan, which had just demonstrated their prowess and therefore had to be rebuilt, but now safely under US control.

In that general context, South East Asia took on major importance, in particular Indonesia, which was the richest prize. Indonesia was called "Japan's empire towards the South". Those words are George Kennan's. He is one of the leading architects of the post-war world, the Head of the State Department Policy Planning staff.

So Japan's empire towards the South had to be reconstructed. In other words, the US undertook to reconstruct Japan's colonial empire, to which, incidentally, the US had no serious objection prior to the war, except that the US was not being given privileged entry into it.

Every part of the world was assigned a specific role by the planners. Africa for example was to be "exploited" as Kennan put it. Africa was to be exploited for the reconstruction of Europe, and the US took over the Western hemisphere for itself, unceremoniously kicking out France and Britain.

As for South East Asia, it was, as the then group of planners put it, to fulfill its main function in providing resources and raw materials for Western Europe and Japan, to help in their reconstruction, and for the US as well. Timor, incidentally, was mentioned in the early planning. Former US President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt held at one point that Timor did deserve independence (it was under Portuguese colonial control), but he thought that the Timorese should not be too impatient about it. He suggested that they wait about a thousand years, expressing the usual contempt for the "lower orders".

"A political victory for the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia)", Kennan said in a secret discussion, "would be an infection that could sweep over all South Asia", meaning - others might make the same effort to win a political victory. Specialists on Indonesia in the US considered the expectation of a political victory not unrealistic. One specialist, Harold Crouch, writes that "the PKI had won widespread support, not as a revolutionary party, but as an organisation defending the interests of the poor within the existing system." So you can see with what problems they were posed.

In mid-1958 the Dulles brothers - one of them was Secretary of State, the other the head of the CIA - in a private conversation, were deploring what they called the "communist ability to get control of mass movements, something which we have no capacity to duplicate." "Unlike us, they can appeal directly to the masses", President Eisenhower complained.

Then John Foster Dulles explained the reason for this unfair advantage that "they" had. He said: "the poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich. That's the great problem of history, and somehow we find it hard to sell our values, namely that the rich should plunder the poor." That's a kind of public relations problem that no one has yet quite figured out how to overcome. And because we cannot overcome it, we are forced to resort to our comparative advantage in violence and terror.

By the early 1960s, US experts were urging their contacts in the Indonesian military "to strike and sweep their house clean". That is Gary Park of the Rand Corporation Airforce Research Tank. The Indonesian regime understood the message perfectly, and it proceeded to cleanse its society with the 1965-6 massacres, that took perhaps half a million lives, and wiped out the PKI.

The country was quickly turned into what was called "a paradise for investors". US investment shot up with other associates, and the threat of political victory by a party representing the poor was put off for a long, long time. The Indonesian generals had eliminated the threat of democracy by a staggering mass slaughter, and destroyed the political party that had gained popularity by defending the interests of the poor. The generals had, by then, compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world, while offering enormous riches to Western investors.

There were, of course, more particular reasons for the West to lend its hand to the new atrocities, as the Indonesians invaded East Timor. There was, indeed, great concern at that time about the fate of the Portuguese empire. Coverage of East Timor was quite high in the US. If you think of what East Timor is to the US, it is a bit surprising, but coverage was quite high in 1974 and 1975, in the context of the concern over Portugal and the fate of its empire.

It is well remembered that it was not only East Timor that was subjected to a devastating Western-backed assault. The exact same thing was true of Angola and Mozambique, starting at the same time.

There were also some strategic interests in East Timor. Some of them had to do with the deep water passage for nuclear submarines. My own suspicion is that when the record is released - if it ever is, and I would not count on that - we may well find that one major factor was the one that was, indeed, emphasised by Australian ambassador to Jakarta (capital of Indonesia), Richard Woolcott. In a famous (and later leaked) cable in August 1975, just before the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, Woolcott advised that Australia go along with the impending invasion. The reason he gave was that Australia could make a better deal on the oil reserves in the Timor Gap with Indonesia than with Portugal or and independent East Timor.

And what is good for the energy companies is always in the national interest. That is true, virtually by definition. Australia's recognition of the Indonesian annexation of East Timor occurred more or less simultaneously, it seems, with the beginnings of negotiations on the oil reserves.

The actual Indonesian-Australian treaty on oil was finally signed in 1989, and it went to effect immediately after the infamous Dili massacre. It was in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, as it happens, that the Indonesian and Australian joint authority began signing exploration contracts with major oil companies. These were contracts designed to rob the oil of what the treaty calles "the Indonesian province of East Timor". One of the deep ironies of this plundering of oil wealth is that the Indonesian regime has argued that East Timor does not deserve the inalienable right of self-determination because it is "not viable economically".

This horror story can be brought to an end if the rest of the world shows even a fraction of the integrity and courage shown by ordinary Indonesians, who are protesting at what their government is doing in East Timor, under conditions that are vastly more onerous than any of us face or can imagine. And I do not even speak of the incredible courage of the Timorese, which shames all of us, perhaps Australians in particular, because of the debt of blood which remains from World War II, (the Timorese assisted Australian soldiers fighting the Japanese, and helped to prevent a Japanese invasion of Australia).

We are, I think, at an important turning point in this case. With enough energy and commitment to change Western policies, which we should be doing, there is good reason to believe that one of the world's major atrocity stories can be brought to an end. The people of East Timor must enjoy their inalienable right of self-determination...and in less than a thousand years.

The critical tasks - a popular programme and rebuilding our party political structures

Marcelino dos Santos was a founder member of Frelimo, and one time Secretary of the party and Minister of Planning in the Mozambican government. He is, at present, a Frelimo Central Committee member. Comrade dos Santos was in Johannesburg at the beginning of October, as leader of the Mozambican delegation to the Southern Africa-Cuba Solidarity Conference. African Communist spoke with comrade dos Santos.
What are the immediate priorities in Mozambique?

MdS: In Mozambique today our priorities are more or less the same as those in South Africa - housing, education, health. We have the same priorities, only in Mozambique we have fewer means.

In the years after the revolution in Mozambique we made major gains. We nationalised housing and we were able to provide houses in a city like Maputo at very low rents. In education we managed to introduce free education from the village primary school level, through to secondary boarding schools at the district and provincial levels. Even university in Maputo was free, including board and lodging. We had a completely free health system, and an extensive rural clinics network.

So we had it, and now we have lost it, completely. At independence we nationalised everything, now everything is privatised.

So what, concretely, is the way forward?

MdS: It is more or less impossible for us to nationalise. If you cannot do this, what are the other ways to get money to promote education, health and housing? There is only one way that I can see: impose taxes on capital.

But it is clear that if you do it without looking carefully at the economic situation, two things will happen. One: the business people will run away; and two: they will get support from Western countries and, naturally, the IMF and World Bank to undermine you.

Internally, in each of our countries, we need to analyse different business interests. Are there not some who (out of self interest, naturally) are willing to build up the productive capacities of our economies (and pay taxes)? This needs to happen in Mozambique, in South Africa, in our region. There is a big potential regional market, and this surely can attract some serious private investors.

From this I draw a number of other lessons. The only way to advance in our region is if we are together. We have an important base from which to move, this is SADC.

But is there agreement on perspectives within SADC?

MdS: It is true that there are countries in SADC which are not clear about priorities, and for this reason we need to encourage talks between progressive formations in our region. If a country like South Africa takes a lead in these matters, then Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe will surely agree in general, and the rest of SADC will come in. If we act together, it will be difficult for Western countries to undermine our social and economic reconstruction programmes.

What kind of programmes do you have in mind?

MdS: Perhaps the most critical task of all is for the government's and progressive movements of our countries to pursue popular policies. If you pursue other policies, you isolate yourself from the one potential strength we have - mass support.

But to carry through a popular policy requires strengthening not just our governmental structures, but our party political structures, and the structures of our mass movements (trade unions, women, youth). In Frelimo we were not satisfied with our party political organisational strength. Although the mandate of the Frelimo top structures was only due to expire in 1997, we recently held special elections to ensure that we did not neglect the party side of our work. We now have a new Frelimo Political Committee (the equivalent of the ANC's National Working Committee, or the SACP's Political Bureau). Comrade Manuel Toma is our new secretary general, and Frelimo as a party is starting to impact, once more, on Frelimo in government.

We are also now trying to develop groups of scientists and other specialists around the secretary general's office and the other Frelimo party secretariats (foreign relations, mobilisation, information and propaganda, administration and finances). We don't want our secretariat going around the country and talking on the basis of "more-or-less". Their understanding must be accurate and scientific.

A last word?

MdS: Well, all of the above underlines the possibilities and necessities of more party-to-party interactions within our region.

OBITUARIES

Harry Gwala - Man of Steel

Harry Gwala, SACP and ANC stalwart, died after a long illness on 20th June 1995. The following is a tribute by Charles Nqakula, General Secretary SACP

"The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare them..." So begins the last paragraph of the Communist Manifesto. Whenever I read those lines, I think of our comrade, Harry Themba Gwala.

Harry Gwala spoke his mind, always. In doing this he was prepared to ruffle feathers, to criticise anyone, no matter how important, in our movement. That was Harry Gwala.

He was born in New Hanover in the Natal Midlands in 1920. His father was a Lutheran lay preacher. I suspect the orator in Harry Gwala was nurtured in those earliest years, listening to his father. I don't know whether Gwala senior was a good speaker. The son was outstanding.

Our political culture, born in mass struggle, has produced a fine crop of public speakers. But, for me, Harry Gwala was among the best of all. He has his imitators, but few if any equals. Even in his last years, with his arms disabled, his neck encased in a brace, when Gwala stood up in a meeting, instant silence would descend. The gathering might be a behind-closed-doors ANC national executive committee meeting, or it might be tens of thousands at a mass rally. Maybe you were going to agree, maybe disagree with Gwala, but you knew you were going to hear fireworks.

Those of us who heard him will never forget his brief speech at the FNB night vigil at Chris Hani's funeral. It was passionate, controlled anger at its most incisive.

But Harry Gwala was not just an orator, he was also an outstanding teacher. This, indeed, was his first profession. He graduated with a teacher's diploma from Adams College and taught at Slangspruit, where one of his students was the young Moses Mabhida, who later went on to become SACP general secretary in exile.

In 1942, Gwala joined the CPSA (as the Communist Party in South Africa was then known). Two years later he joined the ANC. Gwala's political commitments led him to shift careers. He left formal teaching and became a full-time trade union organiser. But he never stopped being a teacher.

Generations of South Africans benefitted from his political teaching skills. George Mashamba, now an ANC MP and SACP central committee member, was one of those who learnt from Gwala on Robben Island. "We had political study groups on the Island, but we suffered from a lack of political literature," Mashamba remembers. "All we had was conservative educational material and official government publications."

"Comrade Harry disagreed with our complaints. He said if you read Das Kapital you will realise that Marx used exactly those kinds of official sources. Marxists must be able to build their theories from any source."

Harry Gwala had his full share of suffering. Listed, then banned, he was deprived of a livelihood in the 1950s. He was severely tortured in the 1970s by the Security Police, his comrade Joseph Mdluli being killed under interrogation at the same time. Gwala served two long sentences on Robben Island, the second was a life sentence. While a prisoner, his wife Elda died, and he was not allowed to attend the funeral. In prison, during his second sentence, he contracted a terrible, debilitating motor neuron disease, which progressively paralysed his arms, and led to his release in 1988.

But it was out of the frying pan into the fire. Gwala was released into the midst of a civil war. His home-town, Pietermaritzburg, was becoming the epicentre of a bloody conflict that was to rage through the Midlands.

"Every weekend", I remember him saying in 1992, "we are burying comrades. You people in Johannesburg head offices and at the World Trade Centre don't understand what is really happening down there on the ground."

It was this direct, on-the-ground experience, as much as anything, that led to Gwala's deep scepticism about the negotiated transition process that began in 1990.

Last week I led the SACP delegation that received Irish Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams. It happened to be the day on which comrade Harry died. We asked Gerry Adams if there was scepticism within their movement towards potential negotiations with the British. From our side we mentioned the example of our comrade Harry.

We made two basic points. Our first point was that, right or wrong, the sceptics are, invariably, amongst the most dedicated of one's comrades. They are speaking for tens of thousands of ordinary citizens.

And our second point to Adams was, therefore, those views must not be suppressed or marginalised. It is very important that debates within a liberation movement that is involved in negotiations are opened up. Ordinary members must be empowered, and when they are empowered the negotiators themselves are strengthened.

I like to believe that the SACP, in this respect, made a very important contribution to the negotiated transition in our country. If we did make such a contribution, it was only because we had comrades of the calibre of Joe Slovo and Harry Gwala who, as communists and loyal ANC members, were prepared to go toe-to-toe against each other in public debate. Neither of them settled into backroom manoeuvres against the other.

At the beginning of 1994, and with great reluctance, the SACP Central Committee suspended comrade Harry's membership of the Party for six months. There had been serious allegations of sectarian behaviour in the Midlands region, and we had failed to secure comrade Gwala's co-operation in trying to get to the bottom of the allegations.

Some of the white liberal controlled media presented the suspension as a battle between "doves" and "hawks", "reformers" and "stalinists" in the SACP. It was nothing of the sort. Our move was not related in the least to comrade Harry's political views.

A life-time Communist, comrade Harry was deeply hurt by the suspension. But he was also a very proud individual, and so we were pleased, and relieved, when he began to co-operate with us in the latter part of last year. In December the suspension was lifted, although he did not stand for re-election to the CC in April this year.

He, like us, had become convinced that, in the war-zone conditions of the Midlands, he had been manipulated by certain individuals with dubious motives. The truth of all of this will, sooner or later, emerge more fully.

For our part, we are proud that Gwala died a Communist. Hamba kahle, comrade Harry - teacher, tribune of the people, man of steel.

Jack Simons - teacher, student of life, communist

South African Communist Party veteran Jack Simons died on the 22nd July 1995 at his home in Cape Town. SACP General Secretary, Charles Nqakula delivered the following address at the memorial service.

"White South Africans of the last century resented the tribesman's way of life. They complained that he had too much land, leisure and sex. Instead of working for an employer, as was his proper destiny, be battened in ease on the labour of his wives. African women, said the colonists, were hardly better off than slaves. Tribal marriage and self-sufficiency were blamed for a scarcity of wage workers that impeded the growth of the colonial economy and disappointed hopes of a quick prosperity."

So begins Jack Simons' book, African Women: their legal status in South Africa.

For those of us who had the honour of knowing him, this opening passage vividly brings back his personality. The passage is so typical of Jack Simons. Here in a few sentences are the abiding interests of his life - history, politics, the oppression of women, economic exploitation, and the national question. But the passage also illustrates all the qualities of comrade Jack's personality - intellectual clarity, motivated by a political passion and moral outrage, but always blended with a deep sense of humour, and irony.

It was this combination of skills that made Jack Simons such an outstanding teacher. And it was, indeed, as a teacher that most of us got to know him, and to love him.

Teacher

Comrade Jack was not just a teacher by profession, he was a teacher by vocation, in his whole personality. The proof of this is that, wherever he was, and often in the most unlikely situations, he found himself becoming a teacher.

He had an illustrious academic career. At the University of Cape Town, in the Comparative African Government and Law Department he pioneered a whole series of inter-disciplinary studies. Long before it became the trend to "africanise" academic studies in SA, comrade Jack was doing this. And he inspired many young students in this pioneering work - among them Albie Sachs and Raymond Suttner.

He was also a visiting professor at Manchester University, and professor at the University of Zambia, Lusaka.

But comrade Jack's teaching skills were not confined to universities. While in exile in Lusaka, he was asked, by President Kenneth Kaunda, to run seminars for his cabinet.

In the 1980s, comrade Jack, already in his 70s, became a political commissar in MK camps in Angola. A whole mythology, rooted in the memories of hundreds of MK recruits, has since grown up around his teaching in our camps.

Comrade Jack despised dogmatism and parrot learning. In his lectures (they were often more participatory discussions), he used to take a certain delight puncturing parrot learning.

"What is the difference between strategy and tactics?" he would ask. Someone would put up a hand and then recite a long quotation from Lenin.

"That's very interesting", comrade Jack would say, "but what does all of that actually mean?"

There would be silence from our ranks.

Comrade Jack would then, seemingly, shift the discussion to an entirely different matter.

"You see the river down there? You see the mountain ridge beyond? How would you, just three of you, move a mortar down the valley, over the river, and up the mountain?"

A lively discussion would follow. Someone would propose tyre tubes for the river, someone else a raft. Someone would get a donkey, another a bicycle for getting the mortar up the slope.

After 30 minutes of animated discussion, comrade Jack would intervene. "Comrades, you have just illustrated the difference between strategy and tactics. You have all had the same strategic objective: to move the mortar. But you have all proposed different tactical approaches for realising the same strategic goal. Tomorrow, we'll study dialectics."

Comrade Jack's style of teaching was to make each of us realise that we had, from our own experience, knowledge. He helped us to organise our own knowledge. He was a teacher who truly empowered those whom he taught, he didn't drown us with his own ideas.

A student of life

In 1987, The African Communist ran a short editorial on the occasion of comrade Jack's 80th birthday. The title of the editorial was "80 Years Young".

That captures something else about comrade Jack, his enduring youthfulness. One of the things that kept him young was his passion for life, and for studying it.

And this is also what made him such a good teacher. He always considered himself a student among students.

As a student of life Jack Simons always grabbed every opportunity to learn from a new situation, from a different society, from a new generation. Wherever he was, he liked to learn the local languages, to be able to communicate with ordinary people.

He liked to describe himself as a "plaasjapie from Riversdale".

And, indeed, he was rooted and down-to-earth. But he was never narrow, or regionalist. He was one of the most radically anti-chauvinistic, the most radically internationalist individuals.

A communist

A teacher, a student of life, comrade Jack for the greater part of his 87 years, was also, without apology, a communist. If he was an outstanding academic, it was not despite, but because of his communism. If he was a wonderful teacher, and a lifelong student of life, again it was not despite, but because of his communism.

He was elected an Executive member of the CPSA's Central Committee in 1938, and was serving in that position in 1950 when the CPSA was banned. Like all South African communists of his generation, comrade Jack suffered persecution, detention, and, in his case, a long exile.

In the 1990s it has become fashionable, in some quarters, to speak of communism as if it were stalinism, to speak of communism as if it were dogmatic, anti-humanistic, and undemocratic.

The communism that Jack Simons espoused, that he elaborated, and that he lived, has nothing to do with bureaucratic repression. It has nothing to do with dogma, and everything to do with humanism and democracy.

On behalf of the South African Communist Party, Jack Simons's Communist Party, I would like to convey the party's condolences to comrade Ray. Also to comrade Jack's children, Mary, Tanya, Johan, and their families.

I began with a quotation from comrade Jack's book on African Women. I would like to end with another quote, referring once more to the white colonial authorities of the 19th century:

"Like all benevolent despots, the patriarchal rulers identified the common goal with their own ambitions and appetites, deprecated the capacity of their subjects for self-rule, and considered that cases of hardship arising out of an abuse of authority were a small price to be paid, by others, for the perpetuation of their miniature empires. The victims had reason to think otherwise."

Rulers come and go. Who is to say that we do not harbour our own would-be "benevolent despots" with their own "miniature empires", those who might be tempted to "identify the common goal with their own ambitions and appetites."

In the spirit of comrade Jack Simons, the SACP pledges itself to be the voice and conscience of those, the victims, past, present and future, who, too often have "reason to think otherwise".

 


BOOK REVIEW

Reclaiming the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

By way of a book review, Dale McKinley argues the case for bringing back the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Title: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat: Marxism's Theory of Socialist Democracy

Author: John Ehrenberg

Publisher: Routledge, London.

In a forthright letter to the African Communist (3rd quarter, 1994), a comrade from the Tshiawelo branch pleaded for the SACP to take up a long overdue discussion of the dictatorship of the proletariat (DOP). He then added his own opinion on the matter: "The dictatorship of the proletariat is a government of the working class. You will lose friends when you take this direction, but you will end up being a friend of workers and the poor." John Ehrenberg would heartily agree.

While the DOP has historically provoked numerous written and oral debates amongst socialists, it would seem that even to mention the phrase these days is taboo. In the "new" age of so-called "democratisation" and the self-deprecating apologetics for the failures of "actually existing socialism", discussion of the DOP has clearly become unfashionable. This relatively unknown and overlooked book is a refreshingly open and serious challenge to those who would confine the DOP to the dustbin of history.

Ehrenberg opens his sally by succinctly identifying the basic reason for engaging in such an unfashionable debate - to rescue the democratic meaning and content of a socialist theory and practice, as contained in the concept of the DOP. This rescue operation is aimed at those who would attack (and gut) Marxism in general, and the DOP in particular, on the same grounds as those for which it has enjoyed universal appeal - namely, the commitment to the overthrow of capitalism in the name of political and social democracy.

Calling much of the contemporary left "weakened and disoriented", Ehrenberg argues that the "revolutionary and democratic" core of the DOP "has become an embarrassment to the very groupings whose claims still lead them to Marx, Engels and Lenin for ritualistic theoretical support". As a result, many now try to save Marx, Engels and Lenin from themselves, by denying any antagonism between their works and "conventional individualistic rights-based understandings of democracy". Others seek to portray their works as possessing an inherent antipathy towards "liberalism" and thus democracy. It is fortunate that, as against these two distortions, Ehrenberg seeks to take Marx, Engels and Lenin "at their word", and tries to uncover what they meant when they called the DOP a democracy.

To help sustain such a project, Ehrenberg insists that, as socialists, we should realise that "communism's problems stem from insufficient fidelity to its roots rather than from too much orthodoxy". In order to reclaim these roots of classical Marxism, Ehrenberg argues that we must see the DOP as representing "their understanding of democracy".

In an attempt to locate the theory of the DOP in the earliest writings of Marx and Engels, Ehrenberg traces the development of their critique of Hegel's limited theory of the state, which led them to a vision of a "radical democracy whose power rested on its commitment to democratise both society and the state". This, in turn, led Marx and Engels to their sustained critique of liberal rights-based bourgeois democracy, whose main foundation they identified as the "freedom" of the right to the pursuit of self-interest on the basis of private property and which gives rise to the false separation between the political and the social spheres. Following from this recognition, Marx and Engels argued that the proletariat, because of its materially "empty" relationship to bourgeois democracy (i.e. it was propertyless), constituted the only social force capable of fundamentally transforming society.

By conducting this historical analysis of the writings of Marx and Engels, Ehrenberg reminds us that the essence of the DOP is the recognition of the material (and thus class) basis of any democracy. As Ehrenberg points out, we cannot even begin to fight for socialism unless we recognise that democracy is a class weapon, rather than a "principled" and declassed set of political and social "rights" that can be applied to everyone, regardless of their material identity.

Just as the bourgeoisie requires its "democracy" to preserve private property and class privilege, so too does the working class demand an "unprecedently powerful and radical" class democracy of its own to institute social transformation. In other words, the DOP is just as much a demand of ongoing class struggle (which we all know has not disappeared), as democracy itself - the two are inseparable. While this recognition might not sit very well with many "socialists" who would interpret the DOP as outmoded and anti-democratic, this probably has more to do with their "understandable but misleading tendency to equate it with the historical evolution of the Soviet Union", rather than with any attempted serious analysis of Marxist theory and its application to contemporary society.

In tracing the development of the DOP, Ehrenberg provides another important reminder to socialists: Marxist democratic theory "reserves a central role to a powerful and transformative political apparatus whose mission is to lead the attack on private property and the social relations which accompany it". Or put another way, the DOP is part of the workers' version of what all political power has hitherto been - "the organised power of one class for oppressing another" (the Communist Manifesto).

Today's self-styled "democrats" might shudder at this, but then again such "democrats" would evidently have us believe that somehow "popular democracy" (i.e. that of the workers, peasants and unemployed, who make up the vast majority of humankind) can be achieved without the exercise of popular coercion. Despite denials to the contrary, it is just as clear today as it was during Marx's time, that all states are, in varying guises, class instruments. So when socialists talk about "democratising" society and the state is it outmoded and anti-democratic to say that such democratisation should be conceived of as struggling for the DOP? Surely any realistic appraisal of the contemporary conditions we find ourselves in as socialists, should not focus on the fickle forms that purport to represent "democracy", but rather the content and character of that "democracy" (i.e. its social composition and material foundation)?

In order to provide a deepened practical dimension to the debate around the DOP, Ehrenberg devotes a substantial portion of the book to discussing the struggles for revolutionary change in Russia (later the USSR), from the late 1800s until Lenin's death in 1924. What emerges from this discussion is the complex and difficult task (led by Lenin) of merging the theory of the DOP with the harsh objective realities that faced the revolution.

In so doing, Lenin recognised that it was the "revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" which offered the only way in which both productive forces could be unleashed and a measure of democracy instituted. In other words, the arguments for a "dictatorship" did not rest on the assumption that it would bring about socialism or immediately be able to institute socialist measures. But rather, that it was the only feasible strategy and path towards deepening democracy. It was clear to Lenin that the establishment of worker and peasant soviets could lead to a general "coalition of the proletariat and the peasantry" whose "winning victory in a bourgeois revolution, happens to be nothing else than the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry".

Much like the short-lived example of the Paris Commune, whose democratic character (working wages for elected representatives, recallable representatives, direct accountability) was directly linked to the fact that it was, in essence, a dictatorship, the democratic content and character of the DOP in Russia would lie in its material rootedness (the mass of workers and peasants). And, just like the Commune, Lenin's theoretical and practical struggles for the DOP represented the absolute necessity of fusing political and social revolution as well as democracy and dictatorship.

Once the Bolsheviks had seized political power, the practical application of the complementary characteristics of the DOP (democracy and dictatorship) became crucial to both defending that political power, and attempting to lay the foundation for economic emancipation. As Ehrenberg clearly states, the possibilities of a transition to communism would depend "as much on the popular character of the workers state as on its coerciveness". If the bourgeois state had been a weapon in the hands of a propertied minority, the democratic character of the proletarian state would initially change the character and direction of its coercive activity. This must be so because the capture of political power by the proletariat does not do away with continuing class struggle - the whole raison d'etre of a worker-controlled state (the DOP) is to act as a transitional institution to suppress the bourgeoisie, so as to create the conditions for "freedom".

Unlike far too many of today's "democrats", Lenin understood that the entrenched social and economic relations of capitalism could not be changed without "oppressing" the resistance of the exploiters. Ehrenberg points out that Lenin's response, to the charge that the "democratic" and "dictatorial" aspects of socialist struggle were mutually exclusive, was to argue for the necessity of defining democracy in terms of the relations between exploiter and exploited rather than as a pure, non-class political formation which reflects the "numerical relation between majority and minority".

Instead of the "democrats'" view that "classes settle things with each other and with the rest of society on the basis of majority rule", a serious socialist knows that these things are settled on the basis of economic and political power. The struggle for the DOP acts as a platform for an assault on capitalist relations and for the ongoing battle for a hegemonic alliance between the proletariat and numerous non-proletarian strata of working people against capital. Indeed, the DOP represents a more inclusive struggle for transformation than any of the "democratic" alternatives could ever hope to be. As Lenin described it, the DOP is a "persistent struggle - bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military, economic, educational, and administrative - against the forces and traditions of the old society."

One of the strengths of Ehrenberg's book lies in his ability to combine an extensive analysis of classic Marxist theory and practice, while situating the DOP squarely within the nexus of contemporary socialist struggles over organisational and ideological direction. If we, as socialists and socialist organisations see our efforts as an attempt to fight with, represent, and provide leadership to the working class, then Ehrenberg is telling us that we cannot do so without wholeheartedly embracing the struggle for the DOP.

Instead of acceding to the increasingly accepted (and distorted) view amongst many socialists that the DOP is an outmoded concept that necessarily leads to anti-democratic practice, Ehrenberg challenges us to reclaim its centrality to the democratic and revolutionary struggles in which we engage.

We need to face up to some harsh realities. "Human emancipation" cannot come about spontaneously, so the question is what can direct human action towards this general goal? To answer that question we must recognise the particular social character of the capitalist "market" and the relations it spawns ("nature's blindness is brought into human affairs as a governing force"). To fight against this state of affairs certainly requires the practicable grounding of people's struggles in concrete material realities, and this in turn requires that such struggles are organised around the very identity necessitated by capitalist relations of production themselves - the selling of labour.

It is not, as some would claim, that as socialists we want to falsely create a class identity to suit our own ideological and organisational purposes. But rather it is a conscious understanding and realisation that such a class already exists. It is a matter of taking theoretical and practical steps to facilitate that class struggle for emancipation, for hopefully eventually freeing all from the limitations of that very class "identity".

The DOP is central to any such project, and Ehrenberg's book provides compelling analyses and arguments for reclaiming it. He leaves us this to ponder: "The theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the central and defining mark of Marxist political theory, which is incoherent and irrational without it. It summarises its theory of the state, concentrates its understanding of democracy, and expresses its theory of social revolution and of communism. Without it Marxism is just another radical criticism of capitalism."

 

 

Making sense of the transition

Title: The Revolution Deferred: The Painful Birth of Post-Apartheid South Africa

Author: Martin Murray

Publisher: Verso, London, 1994

Since 1990 there has been a wide range of articles and books covering an equally wide range of topics on the "new" South Africa. Unfortunately, much of this literature has either come from liberal academics seeking to cash in on the South Africa trend, or it has focused on very narrow areas of interest.

What has not been on offer is an attempt to provide an historically informed and comprehensive overview of the liberation movement and the transition process since 1990. Martin Murray's book is a tentative first step.

Describing the transition as an "unstable equilibrium of compromise", in which much has happened but "not much has changed", Murray poses a series of critical questions that inform his attempt to understand "the possibilities for fundamental transformation of the political and economic structures of South Africa".

Underlying this attempt is the necessary recognition of the major contradiction between the ensuing April 1994 "political revolution" and the reality of enforced power sharing to which it was linked. This, in turn, leads Murray to highlight the centrally important strategies of the two main protagonists in this transition - the ANC-led alliance and large scale capital.

For large scale capital, the aim was to "define South Africa's inequalities as a welfare problem that could be addressed through the redistribution of social surplus rather than as a problem linked with the logic of capitalist production itself". On the other hand, the ANC-led alliance saw the securing of a new constitution and franchise as a way of establishing a "political platform to launch a much wider assault on the centres of entrenched political power and social wealth".

Murray then places these contending strategies in the context of a post-apartheid political process which has led to a blurring of ideological distinctiveness and produced a pragmatic commonality between the ANC and its erstwhile opponents. Murray argues that this has produced a gradual but distinctive softening of the ANC's anti-capitalist stance through, for example, the effective abandonment of stated ANC policies such as inward industrialisation and nationalisation. The resulting commonality has found its home, he argues, in the "radical sounding slogan, 'from resistance to reconstruction'", which has "provided the controlling metaphor for moderating voices seeking a modus vivendi with the established white oligarchy".

Moving from this broad critical appraisal of the political processes that have informed the new dispensation, Murray embarks on an extensive discussion of several components central to understanding the terrain of the post-apartheid political economy.

In an impressive display of scholarly research, Murray attempts to describe the myriad of historical and more contemporary realities that lie behind the contradictory character of the "new" South Africa. Detailing both the specifics of apartheid's legacy, and the various responses of the liberation movement and its mass base, the book offers up a rich menu of issues to contemplate: the ongoing structural economic crisis; the distorted inheritance of apartheid planning; the policies of destabilisation and engineered political violence; and the rich history and struggles of trade unions and civics.

The discussion of these issues provides us with a panorama of historical and transitional complexities associated with the birth of post-apartheid South Africa. In this regard, Murray's book goes a considerable step beyond what has previously been on offer. (Although there are some inexplicable historical lapses, as when he describes the IFP's pre-election Johannesburg "march", orchestrated to buttress the reactionary political agenda of that organisation, as a gathering of "40,000 royalist supporters of King Zwelithini".)

Generally, however, Murray provides a helpful account of events. But it is the character of Murray's corresponding political analysis that fails to fulfil its initial promise. Despite a series of good descriptive accounts, Murray leaves many of the issues hanging. He gives us the general background to the various problems and how the transition affected them, but stops there.

For instance, there is little political analysis of developing ANC strategic thinking before 1990. He tends to explain the pre-1990 ANC simply from a post-1990 perspective, and therefore fails to explain the complexities of the transition, and the complexities of the ANC itself. He presents us with a descriptive account of ideological debates, but these are handled in a containerised way, "the ANC position", "the PAC position", even "the WOSA position". This absolutely leaves out the dynamic internal debates that went on, and still go on, within the ANC-led alliance itself.

His conclusions are that "brokered compromises and concessions" led to an undermining of the "radical aspirations that had previously defined the popular movement". This may, or may not be right, but Murray fails to clinch his argument, offering instead a descriptive perusal of arguments for and against such a view. - DM

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