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

Subscribe to

Umsebenzi Online

Alternatively visit this group.

Subscribe to

Communist University

Alternatively visit this group.

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


PO Box 1027,
Johannesburg 2000,
South Africa

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

The latest Umsebenzi Online

Why the assassin must not be granted parole
Read more

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

Bua Komanisi Volume 6 - Issue 2, June 2007



Draft Programme of the SACP 2007

PDF Version



Chapter One

  • Why Socialism

Chapter Two

  • Colonialism of A Special Type

Chapter Three

  • The NDR – The South African Road To Socialism

Chapter Four

  • SACP and Socialism

Chapter Five

  • SACP and State Power

Chapter Six

  • SACP and Economy

Chapter Seven

  • SACP and Workplace

Chapter Eight

  • SACP and Our Communities


This Draft Programme of the SACP will be presented to the SACP’s 12th National Congress in July 2007 for discussion, amendments and adoption.

Central to the entire strategic thrust of the Draft Programme is the SACP’s Medium Term Vision document and its call to build working class hegemony in every site of power – in the state, in the work-place and in the economy at large, in our communities, in the battle of ideas and moral values, and in the struggle for a better, a socialist world.

The Draft Programme is intended to provide a broad Marxist-Leninist framework for the revolutionary work of the SACP over the next five years. It is also intended to serve as an ideological weapon and political education resource for SACP structures and for our broader alliance.

The Draft Programme is divided into the following sections:

  • Why Socialism? This section analyses the world we live in. It argues that global capitalism is beginning to approach absolute limits that are physical, biological, human and economic. The current global capitalist accumulation path is destroying our environment, exhausting non-renewable resources, wiping out the livelihoods of the 3 billion remaining Third World peasant farmers, and restructuring the working class leaving billions more unemployed and under-employed. Global capitalism is unable to correct the destructive path upon which it has launched the whole of humanity. A different, a socialist world, based on meeting social needs, not private profits, is imperative. Socialism is a requirement for the survival of human civilisation itself. However, the fact that global capitalism is enmeshed in crisis is no guarantee that a better world will emerge. That requires worldwide struggle, led by the working class, and drawing on the widest range of progressive forces. The section concludes with a broad outline of the SACP’s strategic revolutionary tasks on the international terrain. It outlines, in particular, the SACP’s responsibilities in Africa and specifically Southern Africa.
  • Colonialism of a Special Type. The struggle for socialism against imperialist barbarism is an international struggle. But there is no single road to socialism. The working class and progressive forces in each country must develop their own strategic approach, their own national road to socialism. To understand our own challenges, the Draft Programme revisits the crucial concept of Colonialism of a Special Type (CST), which was first developed programmatically by the SACP in our historic 1962 programme, “The Road to South African Freedom”. This important contribution to the Marxist analysis of South Africa is more relevant than ever. The particular character that the capitalist revolution assumed in South Africa was the result of three key factors:
    • A relatively extensive European settler occupation of the territory;
    • The survival of indigenous African people and their societies as an oppressed but overwhelming majority; and
    • The decisive factor – the imperialist implantation of a highly developed “mature” capitalist system into this colonial setting.

The capitalist revolution was completed in South Africa by the early 20th century. It located South Africa within the world capitalist system as a semi-peripheral centre of production. But it also involved an internal colonial dimension which has seen a century and more of South African capitalist development and simultaneous under-development of the majority. While the political state form of CST (white minority rule) has been abolished, the dependent-development path of our society, and the reproduction of underdevelopment persists.

  • The National Democratic Revolution – the South African Road to Socialism. The role of imperialism in shaping modern SA over more than a century has often been neglected in the recent period. This neglect makes it impossible to develop a clear understanding of the NDR. The NDR is not a “stage” in which capitalism has still to be “completed”. It is not the suspension of working class struggle. It is a struggle to place social needs above private profits in the concrete reality of SA today. This section then summarises the key “national” and “democratic” features of the NDR. The NDR is a strategic approach to advancing the class struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie in the material conditions of SA and the world in which we live. The NDR is the strategic means for maximising the size and coherence of a popular camp and for isolating and out-maneuvering our principal strategic opponent – monopoly capital and the imperialist forces that underpin it.
  • The SACP and Socialism – this section defines what we mean by “socialism”. Socialism is not a ready-made blueprint that can be wheeled out fully formed. It is a transitional economy in which capitalism is still present, but in which the socialised sector is hegemonic. A socialised sector will include democratic state-owned entities, but also other forms of public property, and a vibrant cooperative sector. Socialism will progressively roll back the capitalist market, decommodifying basic human needs. A socialism of the 21st century will also place a premium on ensuring sustainable livelihoods and communities for its people and the sustainable use of natural resources. Socialism is not some “second” stage after the completion of the NDR. As far as the SACP is concerned, advancing, deepening and defending the NDR will require an increasingly decisive advance towards socialism. Which is why we say: “Socialism is the future, build it now!”
  • The SACP and State Power – the central question of any revolution, including the South African NDR, is the question of state power. The NDR requires a strong but democratic state capable of welding together a multi-class national democratic movement buttressed by popular and working class power. For the NDR to succeed, the working class will have to assume a hegemonic role in society and in the state. Since 1994 our efforts to build an effective ND state have been weakened by the impact of neo-liberal ideas on our movement and by the reduction of our developmental agenda to top-down “delivery” without substantive transformation of the present capitalist accumulation path. Although white minority rule has been abolished, the anatomy of the present state still has many features of the two-faced CST state – with some parts of the state clearly designed to facilitate capitalist growth, while those parts of the state responsible for “delivery” to the majority are under-resourced and overwhelmed. The SACP supports current moves to construct an active developmental state that drives infrastructural development and leads a coherent and sustainable industrial policy programme. Since 1994 the SACP has been a “party of governance” – but not a governing party as such. Tens of thousands of communists have taken up the challenges and responsibilities of governance. The lessons that we have learnt from this experience as the SACP need to be constantly assessed in terms of our programmatic objectives. In the first several democratic elections since 1994 the SACP has chosen to campaign on the basis of single ANC electoral lists. However, the modalities of the SACP’s participation in elections are not a matter of timeless principle. As an independent party, the SACP has every right to contest elections in its own right – should it so choose. Whether the Party does so and how it does it are entirely subject to conjunctural realities and to engagement with our strategic allies. There are, however, three fundamental principles that will continue to guide us:
    • The SACP is a vanguard party of socialism, and not a narrowly electoralist formation;
    • Our approach to elections will be guided in this phase of the struggle by our overall strategic commitment to advancing, deepening and defending the national democratic revolution - the South African road to socialism; and
    • Our strategic objective in regard to state power is to secure not party political but working class hegemony over the state.
  • The SACP and the South African Economy – the capitalist accumulation path in SA continues to be dominated by CST features. The economy is excessively export-oriented, with this excessive orientation dominated by primary product exports. This particular dependent-development path is reproduced by the domination of the commanding heights of our economy by the mineral-energy-finance monopoly capitalist sector. It is a domination that further skews our economy in terms of logistics and spatial policy and natural resource policy – water and energy – and in terms of the underdevelopment of the manufacturing and small and medium-sized capital sectors. Our CST accumulation path is also excessively import-dependent for capital and luxury goods. This accumulation path continues to reproduce skewed skills, and the predatory role of South African capital in our wider region persists. A national democratic developmental state buttressed by a mass movement hegemonised by the working class is the critical factor required to break out of this dependent-development path. Key measures required include socialising the monopoly sector, a strategic industrial policy, skills training, local economic development, sustainable livelihoods, and a balanced developmental path for our wider region.
  • The SACP and the South African Workplace – despite post-1994 changes, CST patterns persist in the workplace. At the senior managerial level the contractualisation of management has placed greater power in the hands of the short-term, profit-maximising capitalist class and shareholders. Contractualisation also encourages managerial short-termism and personal accumulation. For the working class, casualisation has been used to roll back the gains that workers have won in terms of labour legislation and general rights. The restructuring of the workplace by the capitalist class has divided the working class into three major strata – the formal, the casualised, and the marginalised. The SACP working closely with the trade union movement seeks to unite the working class across these divides. We seek to build SACP work-place units to help workers to wage struggles beyond wages and immediate working conditions and to challenge the monopoly of management and capital over investment and other strategic decisions.
  • The SACP and our Communities – increasingly through the 20th century the focal point of CST underdevelopment was located in urban, peri-urban and rural black townships. Not by accident, these townships were the core mass revolutionary bases of our anti-apartheid struggle. It was here that a range of organs of popular power began to emerge in the midst of that struggle. In this section we provide a Marxist analysis of the so-called “second” economy and of the ways in which patriarchy was an integral component of CST capitalist relations of production. In the post-1994 reality of SA, our township communities remain the focal point of the underdevelopment crisis. The devastation wreaked by apartheid capitalism and the present global capitalist accumulation path on our communities produces many chronic challenges, including what we call “lumpen-patriarchy” – war-lordism, shack-lordism, male youth gangs, and violence against women and children. But our communities are also the site of daily collective courage, productive, creative and solidaristic activity. People’s power in our communities reinforcing (and reinforced by) democratic government are key factors in the struggle to advance the NDR – the South African road to socialism. The chapter also looks at the South African countryside – noting its division into two enclaves, the one dominated by white commercial farming and agro-business, the other the former Bantustans which remain “dumping” grounds for those who have been more or less entirely marginalised. The chapter advances a strategic programmatic perspective of a single agricultural transformation process that overcomes these dualities and ensures sustainable livelihoods and food security for all.

The main objective of our 12th SACP Congress will be to develop a 5-year programme of action which concretely gives direction on how we advance the objectives of our Medium Term Vision of building working class hegemony in all key sites of power.

Chapter 1

Why Socialism?

Karl Marx: “the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself…and capitalist production continually overcomes its immanent barriers only by means which again place these barriers in its way on a more formidable scale.” Capital, vol.III

Never before in history has the need for a different, a humane world based on the socialist value of putting social needs before private profits been more desperately required.  For thousands of years people have worked collectively to build homes and communities, to gather food, herd animals, to harvest crops, to manufacture, to paint, to dance and to sing.

Today, as never before, the collective achievements of human civilisation are threatened with potential extinction.

Of course, the past thousands of years of human history have themselves not been idyllic. The history of human societies has been one of collective endeavour, but also of many variants of brutal patriarchal, colonial, racial, class and other oppressions. If the history of all hitherto existing societies has been one of progressive if uneven scientific and technical advance, it has also been a history of class struggle. It is a struggle that, in short, everywhere pits the direct producers against those who seek to maximize their own narrow class accumulation interests, regardless of the needs of society at large.

Today, a single world economy is dominated by a tiny minority of exceedingly powerful transnational corporations, buttressed by imperialist state power. After several centuries of breath-taking expansion and worldwide accumulation, the global capitalist system, as we know it, is now approaching a series of systemic, perhaps conclusive, limitations. These limitations include physical, biological, human, social and economic dimensions.

Profit driven production is spewing its waste into our atmosphere. Global temperatures are rising, threatening large parts of the world, including most of Africa, with unprecedented floods, droughts, famines and epidemics. Avaricious logging is destroying millions of acres of virgin forest - the green lungs that replenish the air we breathe. Fish stocks are dangerously diminished as real estate developers clog up estuary spawning grounds with golf estates and tourist resorts, and global corporates recklessly vacuum up every last natural protein resource from the sea-floor.  How do we halt these depredations?

For a century, a non-renewable natural resource –oil - has fuelled headlong capitalist expansion. Some time in our present decade, oil production will peak, demand will rapidly outstrip supply.  The major oil corporations and their political backers are already scrambling to grab control of remaining reserves with greater ruthlessness than ever. Oil wars and chronic social instability have flared across the globe, from Central Asia and the Arabian Peninsula to the bulge of Africa, and everywhere there is the whiff of oil. Regional gendarme states in strategic localities, like Zionist Israel, are supported by imperialist circles.

With oil prices spiking, many of the arteries of modern capitalist society are threatened. The futures of middle class car based mobility, sprawling cities with freeways, containerised, long-distance international trade, together with international tourism, and large-scale agro-industry with its oil-based pesticide and fertilizer dependency all have an uncertain future.

Collectively, as human civilisation imprisoned within the present global capitalist accumulation path, we are now on a road to potential extinction. The present capitalist accumulation path is recklessly unsustainable. But the powerful global capitalist forces that dominate this reality are incapable of recognising the crisis, still less are they able to take the decisive measures that are required to provide sustainable resolutions.

The struggle for a different world, for sustainable societies based not on profit but on social need, is about natural resources, it is about bio-diversity, the plants and animals with which we share our planet. But it is also a struggle for human civilisation itself against the barbarism of profit maximisation.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of farming and food production. At the beginning of our 21st century, the World Trade Organisation, dominated by imperialist forces, declared war on nearly half of humanity – that is, on the remaining three billion Third World peasant farmers and their families.  The dominant forces in the WTO plan to eliminate small-scale, largely survivalist farming through fast-tracking global agricultural liberalisation in the coming decades.

The processes under-way in our own country-side with the liberalisation of agriculture and the agro-industrial sector, import-parity pricing, monopolisation of the food production chain and of seed stock, mass farm-worker retrenchments, forced removals off farms, the closure of many productive farms or their conversion into game farms, all side-by-side with an extremely weak and directionless “land reform” programme – these local realities reflect a neo-liberal capture of our approach to land, food-security and the “transformation” of agriculture and the agro-industrial sector.

The global agenda to transform all farming into capitalist production integrated into a single global accumulation path is advanced in the name of greater productivity and modernisation. We are told that this is how Europe modernised in the 18th and 19th centuries. We are told that a capitalist agrarian revolution will greatly improve productivity and bring down food prices for all.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that in Europe the capitalist agrarian revolution took over one and a half centuries, not a matter of decades in the way in which the capitalist agro-conglomerates are now proceeding in the Third World. What is more, many of the millions of European peasant farmers who were made surplus by the capitalist revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries were absorbed in labour-intensive factories of an earlier period of capitalism. Millions more “surplus” impoverished Europeans, thrown off the land in previous centuries, migrated as economic refugees to the Americas, to Australasia, some came to South Africa.

But now, under the strictures of global competitiveness, the factories of the Third World, are themselves largely capital intensive. They are unable to employ the existing mass of unemployed, let alone absorb billions more newly uprooted peasant farmers. What about the prospects of mass migration from the South to the North? Everywhere, the walls are going up, fences are being reinforced, the border between a wealthy United States and its poorer Mexican neighbour is militarised, the Mediterranean serves as a defensive moat before a European castle. For the billions of poor of the South, the imperialist North is a gated community. The wealthy enclaves of the imperialist world are branded like benches in the apartheid-era – “Whites Only”.

Capitalist modernisation has no sustainable answers to the new agrarian question. In fact, a capitalist agrarian revolution on a world-scale has genocidal implications.

Related to all of this, some time in the past decade, for the first time in human history, the urban population of the earth outnumbered the rural. As market pressures, droughts, famines and social instability have pressed down on rural areas, the world has urbanised much faster than was being predicted in the bravest calculations just a few decades ago. The present urban population (over 3,5 billion) is larger than the total population of the world in 1960.  This huge wave of accelerated urbanisation has been unlike any preceding it, not just in scale, but in its very character. It is urbanisation largely without industrialisation.

Fully one-third of this now urbanised half of humanity is eking out an existence in the great sprawling slums of the towns, cities and megacities of the South.  They have different names in different places – the bustees of Kolkata, the kampungs of Jakarta, the shammasas of Khartoum, the bidonvilles of Abidjan, the baladis of Cairo, the favelas of Brazil, the villas miseria of Buenos Aires, the imijondolo of eThekwini. They have different names, but everywhere it is the same basic reality – millions upon millions of rural people and villagers uprooted from their land by a global capitalist accumulation process, cramming into cities, there to join their earlier urbanised brothers and sisters, many of them retrenched workers, or evicted households, or unemployed teachers and health-care workers “down-sized” and structurally adjusted into poverty.

These are the uprooted victims of an era that has invented the Internet and unraveled the secrets of DNA, but which has taken away from more than a billion people their ability to earn a basic livelihood, offering little in return. In a previous century, Marx referred to these de-classed strata of the urban poor as a “lumpenproletariat”.  Many of the features of these strata noted by Marx remain valid. Their relative marginalisation from mainstream production, their fragmentation and their precarious situation make them available to all manner of mobilisations, sometimes by reactionary, fundamentalist or xenophobic forces. But the sheer size and enduring presence of these strata today mean it is no longer possible to think of these one billion people as simply flotsam and jetsam tossed up by a temporary transition to capitalism.

Besides, the boundaries between the urban and rural poor and the active proletariat are blurred. The working class and the poor are connected by a thousand household and community ties. The wage of a single proletarian in the South or of a migrant worker from the South in the North typically supports numerous extended family members some still back in rural areas. Conversely, the daily needs of much of the proletariat are increasingly supplied by a web of semi-formal activities. As waged employment becomes precarious throughout the South, with casualisation and retrenchments, and in conditions where formal social security is minimal, working class households adopt numerous survivalist strategies, engaging in a myriad of petty entrepreneurial and cooperative activities – spaza shops, minibuses, backyard repairs, cooperative savings clubs, home-based gardening, or clinging on to a small family plot in a rural area. These are not just South African realities, they are to be found in differing ways throughout much of the world.

If socialism is to be an answer to the barbarism of capitalist profit maximisation, then it will have to be a socialism that embraces the aspirations, survival skills and community know-how of the hundreds of millions of urban and rural poor of our era. It cannot just be a socialism of modernization, of catch-up, of a South mimicking the West, of uncritically emulating capitalism, of simply being capitalism without capitalists. Capitalist forces of production have themselves become unsustainable. If we are to save the world, then we have to roll back capitalist relations of production, whose profit maximising logic drives us incessantly deeper into crises and contradictions. “Modernisation” for its own sake, “growth” de-linked from development all have to be replaced by another logic in which we put social needs before profits, in which household and community sustainability and local economic development form important parts of an overall social and economic programme.

The past three decades of intensified imperialist-driven globalisation have, above all, seen a massive world-wide restructuring of the working class, driven in part by the increasing dominance of the service “sector” and the relative decline of the industrial manufacturing sector – not just in the North but even in the South. This is partly related to the increasingly capital-intensive nature of manufacturing production – even in China, manufacturing employment has shown a lack of dynamic expansion. Employment in Chinese manufacturing appears to have peaked in the mid-1990s and it began to decline at the end of the 1990s. At its peak, the Chinese manufacturing employment proportions were far below those of Britain’s peak in the 19th century. Notwithstanding surging growth, between 1995 and 2002, China lost 15 million manufacturing jobs.

The growing service “sector” within the global economy is not one thing. It is, in particular, sharply divided into a tiny, highly-mobile, ICT networked and profitable pole, and a massive pole of under-resourced public sector workers, and alongside of them private sector small, low profit, fragmented, often localised, personal service providers who are, nonetheless, critical to the well-being of the great majority of the world’s population. Global capitalism, more than ever, is objectively unable to provide relatively secure and decent work to the great majority of the world’s population. These changes in the dominant forces of production and the resultant restructuring of the working class in the global economy have objectively weakened the historical organisational base of the working class.

These objective realities within the unfolding accumulation global capitalist accumulation path have provided the context within which dominant global capital has unleashed an offensive against the working class and its formations, including in the advanced capitalist countries. This intensified class assault on workers has been one of the key responses of world capital to the crisis of over-accumulation that became apparent from around 1973. The anti-worker offensive was further emboldened by the collapse of the former Soviet bloc in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The last several decades of globalisation are often presented as being driven by the revolution in information and computer technologies, and this is certainly true. But it is also a globalisation process driven by an internal crisis, what Marxism describes as over-accumulation linked to a “realisation crisis” in the historic centres of capitalism in the North.  With rapid technological advances, and new generation factories opening up in new localities, the massive capital invested in productive plant in the developed capitalist economies found itself becoming (from a narrowly capitalist perspective) “redundant” before profits had been realised from the fixed investment.

The leading centres of global capitalism, particularly in the United States, have responded aggressively and diversely to this crisis of realisation. One response has been for a massive extension of foot-loose, financial capital relative to fixed, productive capital. This “hot” money, now amounting to trillions of dollars, moves speculatively around the globe daily, creating financial bubbles and subsequent stock exchange and monetary crashes. Some scholars have noted the recurrence of these “financial expansion” cycles in the history of the world capitalist system over several centuries. They are, they argue, a “sign of autumn”, a “season” when a leading centre in world capitalism reaps the fruits of its leadership and at the same time begins to lose its position at the commanding heights. This happened with Genoa in the 16th century, with Dutch-led financial expansion in the 18th century, with Britain’s financial expansion in the late 19th century and early 20th century. And it now appears to be happening with the United States.

In response to their systemic crisis, the leading centres of capital accumulation have also sought to roll back the welfare state at home, cutting back on social spending, shutting down productive plant and retrenching workers, tearing up various post-1945 national social accords in the process. But, as Marx noted, each capitalist attempt to remove a barrier to its own expanded reproduction, creates new barriers and often on a more extensive scale. The slashing of social spending, including health and education spending, in the United States, has reinforced its non-competitive status. In fact, according to some economists, the only sector in which the US is now globally competitive is in the arms industry. The US is, by far, the most indebted country in the world, running an unprecedented and growing trade deficit. By 2007 China had a massive $1 trillion dollar surplus in foreign currencies most of it in US dollars. The world is propping up US consumerism. None of this has any sustainable logic to it, not even a capitalist logic. What holds things in place is sheer force and the fear in developing countries that a slowing down in US consumption will hurt their own national growth, or that the devaluation of a grossly over-valued US dollar will damage their own huge dollar surplus holdings.

All of this underlines the fact that the systemic crisis embedded in the heartlands of capital does not mean that these centres are now weak.  They constantly seek to externalise their own crises, turning them into the crises of humanity. Workers in general, and the Third World are turned into the shock-absorbers for capital’s own problems.

For instance the 1973 crisis, occasioned in part by the sudden tripling of oil prices by OPEC, saw European banks awash with petro-dollars that they were unable to invest productively in the developed capitalist economies. This was the basis for a wave of multi-billion dollar loans foisted onto the South for lavish infrastructural programmes. This attempt to overcome the crisis of excessive unproductive capital in the North, simply laid the basis for the next round of crisis. It was soon apparent that the loans to the South were unpayable, the growth and development they were supposed to have triggered was generally dismal. Large banks in Europe were threatened with collapse.

In the face of this impending crisis, the Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF and World Bank), originally established to help post-War capitalist recovery in Europe, were dusted-off and given a new mission – to squeeze the South, to recover the debt, and to save the capitalist banking system. Brutal structural adjustment programmes were imposed on the countries of the South, and later also on East European societies, with the promise that they would stimulate growth. Many of the infrastructural projects – telecommunications, dams, ports - for which the loans had been taken out were then subsequently privatised to US and European multinationals. The peoples of the Third World paid for the lavish infrastructure with interest, European banks were saved, and multinationals then derived profits from privatised infrastructure for which they paid fire-sale bargain prices! Despite the duplicity and suffering involved, by the mid-1990s, structural adjustment “success” stories were still being trumpeted from Argentina to Zimbabwe.

This was the global imperialist-dominated context within which the South African democratic breakthrough was finally achieved in 1994. Our breakthrough put an end to centuries of colonialism and decades of indigenous white-minority rule in our country. But our new democracy was inevitably constrained by the world into which it was born. Even more problematically, significant sections of our own democratic leadership in the first decade of freedom also came to believe that there were no serious alternatives to the hegemonic neo-liberal mantra of liberalisation, privatisation, public sector downsizing and labour market flexibility.

The SACP, guided by our Marxism, has always upheld the need for a sober, scientific appreciation of the international and local balance of forces. In the late-1990s, the SACP had few illusions about the tough world in which we were seeking to advance a national democratic revolution. It was not an “ultra-left” SACP, but others in our national liberation movement who were sometimes guilty of a wild-eyed voluntarism. They promised that belt-tightening neo-liberal policies would stimulate 6% growth and produce a million new jobs by 2001. They even envisaged an imminent, post-Cold War African Renaissance, confusing legitimate aspiration for actual possibilities in a continent ravaged by imperialism and the parasitic compradorism of neo-colonial elites. 

By the turn of the century, things were beginning to shift both globally and within South Africa. The 1990s triumphalism of the neo-liberals was increasingly challenged. The failures of structural adjustment programmes and global popular resistance to the policies of the IMF, World Bank, and of the dominant forces within the World Trade Organisation led to massive social movement protests. Progressive states in the South, including South Africa, began to align strategically in an attempt to transform the global multilateral institutions. Electorates in many parts of the Third World, not least in Latin America, rejected governments that had implemented neo-liberal policies. In the developed capitalist economies, working class and progressive forces continued to resist the attempts to undermine hard-won worker and social rights.

In ruling circles within the United States itself, neo-conservative forces, sensed correctly that the neo-liberal package was in part an adaptation to a gradual shift of economic dynamism from the presently hegemonic but increasingly unproductive and uncompetitive US, to other centres, notably East Asia, and specifically China. These neo-conservatives were in favour of a more protectionist, more unilateralist, a more aggressively imperial agenda. The world was no longer one large market-place of benign globalisation, they argued. Instead, according to these neo-conservatives, it was a threatening world of mutually excluding and hostile “civilisations”. These views promoted disastrous military adventures that once more underlined the wisdom of Marx’s observation that every attempt by capitalism to remove barriers to its own expanded reproduction simply create new contradictions and crises, often on a larger scale.

Others within the ruling circles of imperialism have sought to amend neo-liberalism without challenging its fundamentals, and without analysing the underlying systemic limitations of world capitalism. There was talk of a “post-Washington consensus consensus”, allowing for a more active state intervention in the economy to “correct for market failures”, to address “constraints”, and to lower the cost of doing business for business. These latter currents have had an influence within our country, helping at least to puncture some of the more dogmatic certainties of the post-1994 decade.


The world capitalist system is faced with and simultaneously it is provoking a series of interlinked crises that threaten natural, biological and social sustainability. Will these crises prove terminal for capitalism? Or for human civilisation? Will a socialist world begin to emerge from these crises? Nothing is guaranteed. The crises can be surpassed, but only with concerted social mobilisation of the great majority of humanity.

The only hope for a sustainable world lies in a radical transition to socialism in which an increasing part of human activity including production comes under social control, in which we finally create the objective conditions for placing social needs before private profits.

In the course of the 20th century great hopes were stirred around the world, including here in SA, by the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. In the course of World War II, the inspiring role that the communist movement played in the defeat of Nazism, fascism and Japanese militarism greatly added to the prestige of the world communist movement. After 1945, socialism extended to a broad bloc of countries led by communist and worker parties. This socialist bloc inspired and provided invaluable assistance to radical national liberation movements in the South. The strategies and tactics of many progressive movements in the South were premised on the existence of this seemingly powerful counterweight to imperialism within a two bloc world system.

The collapse in the late 1980s and early 1990s of the socialist bloc should not detract from the many important gains and progressive advances achieved. Nor does the collapse in any way detract from the imperative of an ongoing socialist struggle. The collapse certainly did not mean that capitalism and its imperialist system had suddenly become “better” – on the contrary imperialism became even more arrogant, more unilateral in its actions and more genocidal in the implications of its ongoing accumulation path.

But, at the same time, it is imperative that progressive forces, not least communist parties, conduct an honest and self-critical review of the factors that led to the collapse of what we used to call “actually existing socialism”. Many of these factors were external to the socialist bloc, especially unrelenting destabilisation and the crippling Cold War arms race that the imperialist powers imposed on the socialist bloc. But there were also many grievous systemic errors and subjective mistakes – dogmatism, intolerance of plurality, and above all the curtailment of a vibrant worker democracy with the bureaucratisation of the party and state. Millions of communists were among the victims of Stalin’s purges.

As the SACP we are determined neither to throw away the communist achievements of the 20th century, nor to become denialist about the grave errors and crimes committed in the name of “communism”.


Through much of the 20th century communist parties sought to build international solidarity and coordinate strategies through the Communist International (formed in 1919) and later through somewhat less formal international conferences of Commmunist and Workers’ Parties, and similar multi-lateral and bi-lateral communist initiatives.

Many important achievements were registered, but there were also negative tendencies – the danger of subordinating the strategic and tactical imperatives of local struggles to the conjunctural requirements of the “centre”; dogmatism and sectarianism in national parties often provoked by attempts to assert a particular factional perspective as the anointed “Comintern approved” line; or, contrariwise, clumsy interference from the centre in national dynamics. Later, many serious divisions opened up in the world communist movement, the most serious being the Sino-Soviet “split” in the 1960s.

Today, there is a wide diversity of communist, workers’ and left political formations in the world and the SACP works to forge fraternal links with them, to share perspectives, and to co-ordinate struggles around key themes, among them – for world peace against imperialist militarism; in solidarity with the Cuban revolution against the US blockade; in solidarity with the Palestinian people against Zionist aggression in the Middle-East and for an end to Israel’s apartheid occupation; in solidarity with the people of West Sahara and for an end to Moroccan occupation of their territory.

In deepening international communist solidarity it is no longer possible to repeat old assumptions and patterns of behaviour. In some countries there is more than one significant communist party, in others, former communist parties have coalesced into broader formations, in still others, they have all but disappeared.

In southern African, radical national liberation movements formally adopted “Marxism-Leninism” in the 1970s. Without exception, they have all moved away from this formal position – which is not to say that the influence of Marxism has entirely disappeared, or that the SACP should abandon ongoing efforts at engagement. Conversely, international communist and left formations from around the world are not only interested in meeting with the SACP in South Africa, they are all keen to engage with the ANC. This is something that the SACP greatly welcomes.

In short, in our internationalist work, the SACP neither claims a South African monopoly, nor do we engage externally as if there were necessarily “unique” counterparts elsewhere. We respect the sovereignty of countries and their governments, and we respect the integrity of all fraternal parties and formations.

The SACP has a very rich experience of working with (and within) both a broad national liberation movement and a progressive trade union movement. But in the course of our anti-apartheid struggle we have worked over many decades with a wide range of progressive formations – religious formations, social movements, community based organisations, NGOs, and, of course, one the world’s most successful global solidarity struggles – the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

This experience is of great value to the challenges of re-building international solidarity in the present. There is a wide array of broadly progressive forces in the world many focused on the critical challenges of our epoch – environmental sustainability, peace, human rights, women’s rights, the Third World debt, the democratisation of international multilateral institutions, etc.  There are also many diverse localised struggles including the cultural and land struggles of oppressed nationalities. Wherever possible, the SACP should support these struggles and learn from them. We should seek, as best as possible, to make conscious and practical linkages between these many different fronts of struggle and the overall objective of rescuing human civilisation and the natural world from the depredations of imperialism.


The SACP has a particular interest in (and responsibility for) the continent in which we are located, and particularly our region, southern Africa. Africa continues to be the most brutally oppressed region of the world. Having been ravaged by colonialism and slavery in previous centuries, Africa continues to suffer the most oppressive immiseration within the present imperialist accumulation process. Africa, the poorest continent in the world, exports more capital by way of debt repayments and profit repatriation to the North than it receives in aid or investment! Millions of Africans have been rendered landless, and millions are without employment. In many African countries life-expectancy rates are amongst the lowest in the world, while infantile mortality is amongst the highest.

Of course, there is a considerable diversity within our continent, and there have been some important democratic and social gains – but in many African societies, with hollowed out economies, and impoverished populations – development is non-existent, and politics is reduced all too often to the comprador parasitism of competing neo-colonial elites, which often provokes political instability and even violence.

The SACP believes that, fundamentally, the present strategic task within our own country – to advance, deepen and defend our national democratic revolution – is also the key strategic task throughout our region and continent. The African revolution of the 21st century has to be a national democratic revolution. This means consolidating democratic national sovereignty and nation building (including the infrastructure that is the objective underpinning for any national consolidation). It means deepening democracy so that the urban and rural working people of our continent have the conditions in which they are able to act as the key motive force of emancipation. And it means a revolutionary struggle to transform the skewed dependent-development patterns that constantly reproduce African underdevelopment.

Which is to say, the African revolution will have to be an anti-imperialist revolution directed against the predatory agenda of the global capitalist corporations buttressed by imperial state power and global multi-lateral institutions dominated by these powers. The anti-imperialist struggle includes the struggle to remove all foreign military bases in our continent, to expose and eliminate the deliberate destabilisation of democratic state, the manipulation of debt and of “aid”, and the fostering of all manner of corrupt comprador and parasitic neo-colonial elites.

There is no single, “exportable”, “made-in-South Africa” formula for each and every African country’s ongoing national democratic struggle. Progressive forces elsewhere in Africa have their own rich experience of struggle, including the challenges of post-independence, from which we can learn. The key catalyser for progressive national democratic struggle in different African societies will vary according to local circumstances. It may be the state and ruling party, it may be opposition parties, it may be the trade union movement, or other social movement forces. Respecting each country’s sovereignty and the integrity of different formations, the SACP is committed to forging ties of friendship and solidarity with all progressive formations in our region and continent.

Since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, South Africa has played an important but uneven role in our continent. In particular, our government has been active in major peace and democratisation efforts in a number of African countries and regions. It has also been active in the struggle for African socio-economic reconstruction – although these efforts have often been compromised by being located outside of a deeper understanding of the role of imperialism on the continent.

Our 1994 democratic breakthrough and our government’s regional and continental initiatives have also opened up many new investment possibilities for South African private capital. While South African investment in the continent can, potentially, play a progressive role, there is a grave danger that South African capital will simply constitute itself as a sub-imperial power, perpetuating the largely predatory role it played pre-1994. All these considerations underline the importance of SACP and progressive linkages to the continent, and the role of popular mobilisation rather than relying solely on inter-state-driven reconstruction efforts

Given the diversity of national realities, advancing the African revolution requires that, as South Africans, we ensure that we work closely as the ANC-led alliance, together with our democratic state, so that our work is cohesive and that we maximise the respective advantages of our different formations in the interests of advancing, deepening and defending the African national democratic revolution.


The key motive force of the struggle for the African revolution, and for a different socialist world remains the working class. No matter how many millions are retrenched, or casualised, or made redundant, millions upon millions of workers are still daily on assembly lines, at the furnaces, down the mines, in the mills and sweat-shops, at the tills and stacking shelves, in the power stations, or punching in data , driving trucks, buses, trains. Others work on farms, in hospital wards, in school class-rooms, or repairing roads.

We must not romanticise the working class. It, too, is often battered down by oppression, exhausted by the crime-infested communities within which it has to live, dazzled by the allure of the commodity market, or mobilised demagogically by narrow sectarian forces.

Above all, the international working class is fragmented and stratified, perhaps more than ever before. Apart from the traditional industrial working class, there is a burgeoning “service sector” with, at the one end, highly skilled and globally mobile workers largely in the knowledge service sectors. Relatively small in number, this stratum of the international working class is crucial in that it occupies strategic positions in the cutting edge of the modern capitalist forces of production. While they are generally well paid, their aspirations and the global social knowledge networks in which they work increasingly underline the irrationality of the world of global corporate private profit taking and short-termism within which they are constrained.

On the other end of the service sector are millions of under-resourced and poorly paid public sector workers (teachers, health-care workers, municipal workers, security workers) and alongside them a mass of even more poorly paid, often casualised private sector service workers, many of them in small micro-businesses, or own-account workers.

The great revolutionary struggles of the 20th century – whether in Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam or South Africa – were never “pure” working class struggles. In every case a proletarian cadre, schooled in Marxism-Leninism, played the critical vanguard role. But equally, in every case this cadre was able to forge close organic links with the great mass of peasant and (especially in the South African case) urban and peri-urban poor. The relative (but never absolute) marginalisation from the global capitalist system of the Third World peasantry and urban poor is both a source of impoverishment AND a potential revolutionary asset.

In all of the major revolutionary struggles of the 20th century, the marginalised countryside of relatively independent peasant farmers and the marginalised communities of the urban poor constituted the core revolutionary bases of struggle. It was here that revolutionary forces operated, recruited, replenished, mobilised and drew strength from the cultural traditions of collectivity and struggle. And it was here, in the course of struggle, that, organs of popular power emerged as people threw off the shackles of oppression and made themselves “ungovernable” by the old order.

Today, in the struggle against the barbarism of global imperialism, more than ever, the task is to build the unity of the international working class and the unity of workers with the great mass of the urban and rural poor.

The working class alone has the capacity to lead the battle to transform the world and itself in struggle. Despite everything, it is steeled in a thousand daily struggles for survival and against the unceasing attempts to roll back whatever rights it may have won in bitter struggle.

Above all, life teaches workers, like no other social force, that an injury to one is an injury to all; that solidarity is the only true weapon.

Which is why, as the SACP we say:



Chapter 2

Colonialism of a Special Type

An internationalist struggle is required to build a socialist world, a world based on human needs and not private profits for a tiny minority. But there is no single road to socialism. We have to struggle for these shared human goals in different places, from different histories and national circumstances, each with its own advantages and challenges. To understand the South African road to socialism, it is crucial to understand the history that shaped and distorted our country through its incorporation into the world capitalist system. And we have to understand the powerful legacy of popular struggles that have been constantly waged against oppression and exploitation in our country.

In the 16th century, the place we now know as South Africa, was weakly linked for the first time into an emerging world capitalist system through a handful of anchorage and watering stops along our coast-line. These were occasional stop-overs for European merchant fleets sailing to and from an East Indies, rich in spices and other precious cargoes.

This was the era of an earlier, a mercantile-dominated capitalism. It was a system based on long-distance trade in which profits were made less through the direct expropriation of surplus from the production process itself, and more through buying cheap in one location and selling dear in another. This earlier phase of capitalism was the major source of primary accumulation of finance capital that was soon to fuel the take-off in Europe of capitalism in its more developed, industrial form.

By the mid-17th century, the first permanent colonial settlement on our shores was established by the mercantile capitalist Dutch East Indies Company. The colony at the Cape imported significant numbers of slaves from the East Indies, from Angola, from Madagascar, and elsewhere. Slaves were pressed into work on farms, in homes, and in local artisanal work. Many were originally owned by the Dutch East India Company itself, others by farmers and trades-people where they were subjected to the inhumane domination of the patriarchal house-hold head. The slaves at the Cape were from diverse societies and cultures, their identities were stripped from them, families were broken up, partners separated, children taken from mothers. But slaves always resisted, forging new collective identities and cultures, of which “kitchen-Dutch”, today’s Afrikaans, was one achievement. An unbroken three and half centuries’ tradition of Islam was another. Slave resistance and the periodic outbreak of slave revolts were a constant feature of the Cape.

In this period, and through to the second half of the 19th century, the hinterland of South Africa held little interest for the hegemonic Dutch and then British powers. For these major imperial powers of the day, southern Africa was little more than a back-water on the way to somewhere else.

However, over several centuries there was to be relatively extensive European settlement into the interior of our country. This colonial settlement occurred on a scale that was eventually to be relatively large in comparison to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, but it was similar to European settlement in other temperate zones of the world, in North America, the cone of South America, or Australasia. European colonial settlement occurred in these other localities at much the same time and under the impetus of similar social and economic factors. First it was the network of European mercantile trading routes that circled the globe. And then, on an expanding scale, the advancing capitalist agrarian revolution back in Europe uprooted millions of peasant farmers, who were shipped out as destitute “surplus” people to the so-called New World.

But, compared to Canada, the United States, Argentina, or Australia, for instance, there was to be one extremely significant and enduring difference in South Africa. Despite wars of conquest and dispossession, by the end of the 19th century indigenous Africans still constituted the overwhelming majority of the population. In South Africa, as in the Americas and in Australasia, indigenous hunter-gatherer and herding societies (in our case the San and Khoi) despite brave resistance against great odds, suffered almost complete cultural and, in the case of the former, virtual physical extinction.

However, Bantu-speaking agricultural societies in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa proved to be more cohesive. For the better part of a century, armed colonial advances on the so-called “eastern frontier”, for instance, were fiercely resisted and often beaten back. Settler occupation, supported by an imperial army, could only advance on this “eastern frontier” at an average rate of a mere one kilometer a year for over a century – such was the capacity for resistance.

Despite massive land and livestock dispossession, despite murderous incursions, and despite their own ethnic divisions, a majority of African indigenous people carried into 20th century South Africa their own languages and cultures, and an unbroken and collective tradition of anti-colonial struggle. This was to be the core popular mass base for a future African National Congress when it sought from 1912 to unite and re-build resistance in the new conditions of a changing society.

To the traditions of slave resistance, and African anti-colonial struggle, a third mass-based struggle tradition was later to be added at the beginning of the 20th century. The development of capitalist agriculture in Natal relied on the extensive importation of hundreds of thousands of indentured labourers from the Indian sub-continent. Today South Africa is home to the largest diaspora community of people of Indian origin. It was here in SA and amongst this community that Mahatma Gandhi pioneered the strategy of mass defiance campaigning. It was this tradition of defiance and of mass boycotts of all kinds that was rekindled in the late 1940s in SA by the Transvaal and Natal Indian Congresses, led by communists. 

And all of these traditions of collective struggle, of patriotic capacity to resist centuries of oppression, were taken up again, transformed and transmitted into the present through decades of anti-apartheid struggle in the last century. They remain a major resource for the national democratic revolutionary challenges of the 21st century.

The South African road to socialism is an internationalist road…but it is also profoundly rooted in the patriotic soil of popular struggle.

The imperialist-driven capitalist revolution in SA

The establishment of colonial port-enclaves, relatively extensive colonial settlement, and an unvanquished flame of collective resistance…all of this was the immediate pre-history of modern South Africa.

The decisive turning point came in the last quarter of the 19th century with the mining revolution in the hinterland. It was a revolution that coincided with and was integral to what Lenin described as capitalism’s “highest stage” -  the stage of imperialism dominated by finance capital and massive productive investments (in contrast to mercantile trade in goods that were still produced within earlier forms of production).

The introduction of highly advanced capitalist forces and relations of production in the hinterland of our country constituted an externally imposed capitalist revolution that shaped and was shaped, in its turn, by the social reality of SA in the second half of the 19th century.

The mining revolution imposed on South Africa an extremely advanced form of capitalism “out of the box”. It was advanced in its capital-intensity (including deep-level mining technology), its long-distance modern logistics rail and port infrastructure, its modern joint-stock company institutional form, and its dominance by global finance capital.

As with all major revolutions, the capitalist revolution in South Africa was not just about introducing new technology and forces of production, it also involved a major social and political revolution. The Anglo-Boer War, in particular, was directly linked to the commitment of huge investments in industrial mining in a hinterland not directly controlled by the hegemonic British colonial power. It was a war waged by British imperialist forces against independent, semi-feudal Boer republics. The war was part and parcel of the South African capitalist revolution. Its strategic objective was to forge a single politico-juridical state entity, i.e. one of the “super-structural” requirements for the expanded reproduction of capitalism in South Africa.  The achievement of this politico-juridical dimension of the South Africa capitalist revolution was signaled by the 1910 Union of South Africa. For the first time South Africa became, so to speak, South Africa, a single nation-state.

Core and periphery – the external dimension

From the late 19th century, the emerging South Africa ceased to be a largely marginal zone within the capitalist global economy. It was now actively linked as a centre of capitalist production into the circuits of global accumulation…but still as a semi-peripheral zone, dominated by the economic interests of British imperial capital. This new capitalist state was, then, launched onto a path of rapid capitalist development. But, imposed from without as it was, and dominated by foreign financial capital, it was essentially a dependent development path.

The key systemic features of this dependent development path still persist within our economy today. South Africa’s dependent development path, subordinated to the hegemonic domination of the core economies of the imperialist centre, is not unique. Dependent-development is, precisely, what makes the whole of the Third World “third”. But the core/periphery (initially Britain/SA) external dimension was complemented in South Africa by a very significant second, an “internal” colonial, core/periphery type relationship.

Core and periphery – the internal dimension

The capitalist revolution in South Africa was associated, on the one hand, with the most advanced forms of capitalist development of the period. On the other hand, the deep-level mining that lay at the heart of this revolution, also required enormous numbers of unskilled workers. This mass of workers was drawn from the “native reserves” to which the great majority of South Africa’s population was now confined. A constant supply of hundreds of thousands of such workers required the coercive squeezing (through military pacification, restrictions on land access, poll tax, hut tax, etc.) of the areas under African occupation AND the simultaneous conservation of these areas. A key part of this “conservation” was the preservation of the “traditional” power relations of African societies in a subordinated and perverted manner. As one scholar has put it, colonialism in SA sought to preserve “not the force of tradition, but the traditions of force”, seeking to accentuate whatever authoritarian, quasi-feudal “traditions” it could find in African societies.

These conserved and perverted “traditions of force” were essentially patriarchal in kind. Peasant households were controlled and administered by what was often a colonially hand-picked “traditional” leadership that constituted a subordinate state apparatus within the white minority state. Chiefs who sought to resist were often deposed or banished. It should be noted, however, tradition had its own relative autonomy, and there were always traditional leaders who continued in varying degrees to resist colonial and racial oppression. Patriotic traditional leaders were among the founders of the ANC and this tradition of resistance was perpetuated through the anti-apartheid struggle, finding its organised expression in the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa).

Nevertheless, colonial and apartheid rule in South Africa always sought to subvert traditional patriarchal power to its own purposes. The mining houses also perpetuated this patriarchal-type domination over the black work-force at the point of production itself, through a system of “tribal” segregation in compounds, and subordinate supervisory adjuncts in the shape of “indunas” and “boss-boys”.

In short, the “conservation” of “native reserves” and colonially-perverted “traditions” was designed to ensure indirect rule, and these were part and parcel of the new capitalist relations of production. The simultaneous coercive squeezing and conservation promoted the conditions for the “cheap” (cheap for monopoly mining capital) reproduction of labour for the mines. The capitalist revolution in South Africa was based on an articulation between two modes of production. The one dominated by advanced monopoly capitalism, the other “tribal”, patriarchal-based agriculture – in which the main “crop” was not cotton, or tobacco, or cocoa, but male migrant labour. These were not “two economies” but rather one economy, one South African capitalist economic growth path…but based on a systemic duality that had both an external dimension (European metropole/African colony) and, increasingly, a dominant internal dimension (monopoly capital/labour reserves).

This combination of factors has laid the basis for South Africa’s capitalist growth path over more than a century and a quarter. Naturally, many things have changed through the course of the 20th and into the 21st century, but the underlying systemic and structural features of CST capitalism persist into the present. In the most general terms these systemic features include: an excessive reliance on primary product exports (minerals and agricultural products) and an equally imbalanced reliance on imports of capital goods and manufactured consumer goods; a relatively weak national market dominated by a small middle class; the dominance of the mineral-energy-finance complex to the relative disadvantage of other sectors (eg. manufacturing); and a dual labour market, characterised by a small band of skilled (and now semi-skilled) workers and a mass of marginalised workers (previously largely migrant, now largely casualised, under-employed, “a-typical” workers).

All forms of colonialism and neo-colonialism are characterised by duality – essentially the subordination of a peripheral zone to the imperatives of an external metropolitan centre and its accumulation path. This form of “external” duality, as noted above, has also been a defining feature of modern South Africa. But much more than in most other variants of colonialism, in South Africa systemic duality has also been a pronounced “internal” feature.

This internal duality is, of course, precisely what defined the politico-juridical state form of South Africa’s colonialism of a special type. The white minority rule that characterised most of 20th century South Africa saw the consolidation of a white colonial ruling bloc occupying the same territory as the majority colonially oppressed. It was a state form in which whites were enfranchised citizens, while the black oppressed majority was disenfranchised, and many of them regarded as black “tribal subjects”.

In the last few decades, pro-capitalist ideologues have claimed that capitalism in SA was always “anti-racist”, that the “free market” was antithetical to apartheid. In fact, all of the key features of CST were pioneered, or lobbied for, by monopoly capital in South Africa (and particularly the mining houses) – including pass laws, compounds, and labour reserves. In the last decades of white minority rule the apartheid state was financed, armed and generally buttressed by monopoly capital. White minority rule created the conditions in which the capitalist revolution in South Africa was consolidated and its expanded reproduction was guaranteed for the greater part of the 20th century. Far from capitalism and apartheid being inherently antagonistic, South African capitalism was built on the bedrock of national oppression. And it proved (from the perspective of monopoly capital) to be an extremely successful bedrock for many decades. For example, between 1963 and 1973, at the very height of apartheid oppression, the capitalist economy grew on average between 6-7%. It was precisely in this period of heightened repression and booming profits that most of today’s major capitalist corporations in SA, the ones that still dominate our economy, consolidated their power within our society.

White minority rule, the state form associated with CST, has been formally abolished by the democratic breakthrough of 1994.  But CST was not just a constitutional dispensation with white citizens endowed with rights, on the one hand, and black non-citizens on the other. It was also marked by other forms of stark duality – administrative, economic, social and spatial. These latter forms of duality, including persisting dualities within the anatomy of our new democratic state itself, remain deeply embedded and are continuously reproduced in our present reality.

And this is what is at stake.

Will our historic 1994 democratic breakthrough merely usher in some symbolic changes, a new political elite, and partial de-racialisation in the board-rooms of the very same corporations that prospered so well during the apartheid period? Will our 1994 democratic breakthrough deliver a still-born revolution? Will we have superficial changes that are little more than diversions, fronts behind which race, class and gendered oppression is reproduced for the great majority? Will we be blocked in a state of neo-colonialism of a special type?

Or will we succeed in using our 1994 democratic breakthrough as a bridgehead to consolidate a Freedom Charter society in which South Africa belongs to all who live in it? A society in which the wealth is shared, the power of monopolies is broken, and, as the Freedom Charter plainly says, the land is transferred to those who work it in order to banish starvation and land hunger?

These are the stakes. Many outcomes are possible. One thing is certain, the intensified class struggle that is apparent across the length and breadth of our society will be the decisive factor determining the outcome.

Which is why the SACP says:




Chapter 3


Collective analysis of the reality that has shaped South Africa is an integral part of our overall struggle. It is not just an academic exercise. 

But in recent years, there has been a tendency to be vague about this history, about imperialism’s role in shaping and distorting modern SA.  Little serious attention has been paid to the dependent-development accumulation path into which we have been locked for more than a century now. Capitalist wealth accumulation and the deepening, abject under-development it reproduces for the majority are presented as if they were two unrelated universes. The one is viewed as a dynamic and generally admirable “first” economy; the other as an unfortunate “second” economy that just happens to be “lagging behind”. This mechanical, undialectical approach continuously disconnects cause from effect, everything is presented in dichotomies.

When structural problems are acknowledged – “distance from major markets”, a “skills deficit”, or an over-reliance on capital goods imports – these tend to be treated as more or less random facts unrelated to any systemic historical process. They are seen as “constraints”. But constraints for whom? And for what? The manner in which, for instance, an “ageing logistics infrastructure” is spoken of, gives the game away. It is a “constraint” for the “market”, it increases the cost of doing business for business. Too often insufficient attention is paid to the non-existent infrastructure in deep rural areas, or in working class townships.

Without understanding the deep-rooted capitalist accumulation path legacy we are up against, it is impossible to provide a clear programmatic understanding of the national democratic revolution. The contemporary relevance of each of the three interlinked dimensions – the “national”, the “democratic”, and, above all, the “revolutionary” – becomes vague.

This general vagueness about our history is not accidental. Vagueness has helped to clear the way for an emergent bourgeois endeavour to assert a new ideological hegemony over our national liberation movement. In this endeavour, the “NDR” is presented implicitly, and often explicitly, as the “bourgeois” “stage” of the revolution. The capitalist revolution, we are told, must first be “completed”.  BUT THE CAPITALIST REVOLUTION IN SOUTH AFRICA HAS LONG BEEN MADE! The commanding heights of our economy have long been occupied by a monopoly-dominated, and increasingly trans-nationalised South African capitalist class. The great majority of South Africans have long been proletarianised, that is, alienated from independent means of production and with nothing to sell but their labour power.

The NDR is not a “stage” in which capitalism has to be “completed” (or merely “managed according to its own internal logic”). The NDR is a struggle to overcome deep-seated and persisting racialised inequality and poverty in our society. It is a struggle to overcome the vicious impact of patriarchy, not just in some generalised way, but a patriarchy that was sharpened and integrated into capitalist relations of production over a century of CST-based accumulation. It is a class struggle for the wealth of our country to be shared, as the Freedom Charter declares. It is a struggle to place social needs above private profits.

To be all of this, the NDR has to be a revolutionary struggle to transform the underlying, systemic features of our society that continue to reproduce race, gendered and class oppression. Which is to say: The NDR in our present conjuncture has, in essence, to be a struggle to transform the dependent-development accumulation path of our economy, and the chronic underdevelopment that this accumulation path still daily reproduces.

The SACP has consistently believed that it is possible and necessary to advance and develop a national democratic revolutionary strategy of this kind that unites, in action, a range of classes and social strata. We have also always believed that within our South African reality, unless the working class builds its hegemony in every site of power, and unless socialist ideas, values, organisation and activism boldy assert themselves, the NDR will lose its way and stagnate.

Why a NATIONAL revolution?

Understanding more clearly the key strategic tasks of the NDR helps us to understand why we speak of a NATIONAL democratic revolution. The “national” in the NDR has three key dimensions.

In the first place, the NDR is a struggle for NATIONAL SELF-DETERMINATION. It is a struggle to consolidate national popular sovereignty for our country, to ensure that, as much as possible, South Africans are able to determine democratically their own developmental path, free of external manipulation or domination. 

It is here that the dependent development path into which we have been locked for over a century presents the major challenge. Our excessive primary product export dependence, our excessive import dependence for capital goods, our vulnerability to commodity price fluctuations and to looming oil shortages, the danger of allowing the pursuit of “global competitiveness” to always trump national development, the negligent way in which we have allowed foreign multi-nationals to buy up and to monopolise strategically critical sectors that were once state-owned, like iron and steel production – all of these undermine our national sovereignty.

This is not to say that we should close South Africa off from the rest of the world. That is neither possible nor desirable. But we have to overcome our dependent-development growth path. This requires not just a national effort, but also the consolidation of a vibrant, democratic and developmentally-oriented southern African regional community both at the inter-state and at the popular level. It requires building strategic South-South alliances. It requires striking up ties of solidarity with progressive forces around the world. Internationalism and the struggle for progressive national self-determination are not opposites, they are integrally linked.

The “national” in the national democratic revolution refers also to the task of NATION BUILDING. Nation building is, in the first instance, the important task of consolidating a single, collective South Africanness, building unity in plurality. This aspect of nation building is not merely symbolic, it is a necessary task in the struggle to mobilise our forces for the ongoing NDR. But nation building must also critically address the material infrastructure that can help to build this sense of unity, and whose current highly divisive patterns still often undermine it. Our national revolution has to be a revolution that addresses, for instance, the skewed nature of our infrastructure and the CST patterns of development and under-development that are evident in the spatial inequities of our towns and cities, and in the divide between developed urban and devastated rural areas. Above all, this kind of infrastructural transformation is not just about technocratic “delivery”, if it is to really be nation-building then it must actively involve the collective mobilised energies of millions of ordinary South Africans.

The third dimension of the “national” in the NDR is REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM. We have noted that one of the great assets of our revolution is an unbroken legacy of popular struggle stretching back over several centuries. This legacy has been constantly drawn upon, replenished and transformed in struggle. It continues to provide a source of collective identity, of popular capacity and empowerment for a majority of South Africa’s workers and poor. It is this reality that accounts for the enduring popularity of the ANC, whatever the challenges it might be facing. This is not to say that any of us can simply take this popularity for granted. It is a popularity that has to be constantly won in leading the struggle, in empowering popular forces to be their own emancipators, and in grasping the class and gender content of the national struggle.

The SACP’s strategic alliance with revolutionary nationalism is very much part of our Leninism. It was Lenin who first comprehensively analysed the revolutionary character of the nationalism of colonially oppressed peoples, and the imperative of the workers socialist struggle to support and draw strength from this Third World revolutionary nationalism.

It is important to emphasise this point in the present because the revolutionary nationalist traditions of our struggle are under threat from various directions. In some left quarters there is a tendency to see all nationalism as inherently reactionary. In other quarters, even from within our movement, there are tendencies, often of a “modernising” and technocratic kind, to view the dominant African nationalist traditions of our struggle as simply “populist”, or as “backward” vestiges from our past. In these quarters, the national dimension of the NDR tends to be reduced to a prickly “national question”, a problem of grievances, ethnicity and tribalism that require sensitive “management”. For the SACP, following Lenin in this regard, the “N” in the NDR is not just a national “question”, it is a national answer. It is a positive revolutionary legacy.

Of course, the meaning of African nationalism in our context is contested by many class and other social forces.  The struggle for working class and popular hegemony of African nationalism is a struggle against elite abuse of nationalism for narrow self-promotion, a tendency that invariably reduces African nationalism to an exclusivist ideology, to vacuous and sentimental notions about the uniqueness of one group of people as opposed to others. Revolutionary nationalism in SA must be contested for, broadened so that it remains the shared legacy of all South Africans, and drawn upon in the struggle for a socialism that is both patriotic and internationalist.

Why a DEMOCRATIC revolution?

Democracy is both the goal of, and a critical means for waging the NDR. In the objective reality of our country and world, the South African NDR will have to be thoroughly democratic, or it will not succeed at all. 

Historically, in the 18th and 19th centuries, many (but not all) bourgeois national revolutions in Europe saw considerable democratic advances for a wide array of popular classes, and not just for the principal beneficiary, the emergent bourgeoisie. These democratic advances had little if anything to do with the “inherently democratic” nature of capitalism, and everything to do with the class struggle that was required to dislodge feudal ruling classes and the state apparatuses that upheld their domination. Broad movements were mobilised around the banner of basic democratic rights for all, general equality, freedom of worship, and for the franchise. The democratic rights and institutions that emerged in earlier centuries out of these national popular struggles were always curtailed and constantly threatened by the exploitative nature of the newly dominant capitalist relations of production.

Nevertheless, the achievements of these earlier bourgeois national democratic revolutions marked important historical progress, and the demands they advanced for equality, for the vote, for self-determination, served as inspiration to the anti-colonial national democratic revolutions of the 20th century (which were often directed at the very nation-states – like Britain or France, etc. – that had emerged from the earlier bourgeois democratic revolutions and were now bourgeois democracies at home, but colonial powers abroad). 

The Freedom Charter, correctly, conceptualises democracy across three mutually reinforcing dimensions:

  • Democracy as representative democracy, with the right of all adult citizens to vote for and to stand in elections to the legislatures of the country;
  • Democracy as equality of rights for all citizens, regardless of “race, colour or sex”; and
  • Democracy as a struggle of collective self-emancipation, as an active and participatory process facilitated by what the Freedom Charter describes as “democratic organs of self-government”.

The SACP believes that each of these dimensions is critical, and that a one-sided emphasis on one or the other carries grave dangers. A one-sided emphasis on democracy as regular multi-party elections, as important as these certainly are, can turn democracy into a formulaic and episodic reality dominated by professional elites. It can also transform progressive political movements and parties into narrow electoralist machines.

A one-sided emphasis on democracy as a rights-based system ends up with a liberal “equal opportunities” perspective in which the constitutional right of everyone to, for instance, “trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions” (to quote from the Freedom Charter), is elevated above and at the expense of the need to radically transform the systemic features of our society. Which is why, in the Freedom Charter, this particular sentence on the right of everyone to “trade where they choose” etc. is subordinated to (but not eliminated by) the preceding sections in the relevant Freedom Charter clause: “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people. The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole. All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people”. It is only after affirming all of this, that the Freedom Charter then correctly upholds, contextualises AND subordinates the individual right to trade, etc.

In the course of the 1980s and early 1990s, the struggle against apartheid-colonialism saw the semi-spontaneous development of localised organs of popular power – street committees, self-defence units, mechanisms for popular justice, popular education endeavours inside the very class-rooms of Bantu Education schools, and worker committees on the shop-floor. These moves in the direction of popular power marked the beginnings of implementing the Freedom Charter’s vision of “democratic organs of self-government”. These traditions have been carried forward into the post-1994 period with a range of institutions intended to advance popular participation in governance. They include community policing forums, school governing bodies, and ward committees. The degree to which any of these have lived up to the possibilities of being active institutions for the consolidation of people’s power needs to be assessed. Nonetheless, they represent an understanding that democratic governance is not something which can be consigned to government alone. These and other potential sites of localised popular power have to be contested and transformed through active working class and popular struggles.

But here, too, we must guard against a one-sided elevation of localised (or sectorally based) organs of people’s power to the detriment of the other important dimensions of a flourishing democracy. Such one-sidedness can lead to a neglect of the struggle to transform the content and character of the central commanding heights of state power. It can also lead to a syndicalist or populist rejection of representative democracy, or even of a respect for a progressive law-based constitutionality rooted in social solidarity. The 20th century is littered with examples of communist, broad left, or national liberation movement rejections of electoral politics, or constitutional rights on the mistaken grounds that these are inherently “bourgeois” (or “imperialist”). Tragically, but frequently, it has been genuine communist, progressive and working class forces that have ended up becoming the major purged victims of democracy curtailed in the name of fighting “liberal rights”, or “foreign ideas”.

For the SACP, representative democracy, the respect for progressive solidarity-based rights, and the consolidation of organs of popular power are ALL critically important dimensions of the national democratic and, indeed, vibrant socialist democracy we strive to build.


Our ND struggle is revolutionary because it requires a major transformational process to achieve its strategic objectives. In earlier decades the ANC always correctly insisted that ours was not a “civil rights” struggle. While civil rights are critically important, our strategic national democratic objective was never understood to be a struggle simply for the “inclusion” of the black majority, by providing them rights within what were then the existing structures of power. It was never a case of struggling to make apartheid structures “more representative”. We understood very clearly that the structures of power (whether racial, class, or patriarchal) had themselves to be thoroughly transformed.

However, since 1994, and particularly (but not only) in the decisive area of economic power, there have been strong tendencies to slide backwards into exactly that kind of rights-based, “representative”, inclusion.  Thus, “transformation” of the apartheid economy (or more accurately of a capitalist economy shaped by CST) is too often reduced to “de-racialising” board-rooms, share-holdings and senior management structures through the promotion of “representative” blacks or women, without addressing the underlying systemic features of an economy that those very board-rooms, share-holdings and management structures daily promote and reproduce.

It is precisely this notion of “deracialisation” without class content that underpins much of the present elitist “black economic empowerment” model. An agenda of “deracialisation” without a systemic understanding of CST, or of class power, or of patriarchy, also means that there are no national democratic strategic guidelines provided to those who are promoted to board-rooms and senior management positions.

This is NOT to say that nothing short of communism, that is, nothing short of abolishing capitalism will enable us to at least begin to make major inroads into overcoming the dependent-development and chronic underdevelopment of our society. There is, indeed, both the possibility and the imperative of building a broad multi-class movement around a concrete, national democratic programme of transformation.

At the centre of this multi-class movement needs to be the working class. But it is a working class that must exert its hegemony through, in the first place, forging national democratic ties with the great mass of urban and rural poor, and impoverished black middle strata. But a working class hegemony over the NDR must be more ambitious than even this. Emerging strata of capital, and even established white capital must be actively mobilised into the transformational agenda. This will not happen spontaneously, and it will seldom happen willingly. Which is why an NDR agenda, including the agenda of mobilising private capital resources, has to be driven by active working class struggle.

The mobilisation of private capital into an NDR struggle should be based on clear objectives and concrete tasks, which should include a priority on job-creating investment, skills training, appropriate and sustainable development of the forces of production, the elimination of compradorist, parasitic and other corrupt tendencies, and an active contribution to a strategic industrial policy that overcomes CST sectoral and spatial imbalances. Quite how various capitalist strata, black and white, (or, rather, the immense resources controlled by them) get to be mobilised into such an agenda will vary according to circumstance. It will range from enforcing effective strategic discipline on movement members involved in business, through increasing worker democracy on the shop-floor, state-led strategic planning, and state-provided incentives and infrastructure, effective state and also popular regulation, public private participation arrangements, to straightforward compulsion and even expropriation. The tasks outlined above should constitute the strategic core and the basis for a developmentally oriented and strategically driven professional cadre in the state, in boards of parastatals, and in sections of the private sector

Two things are certain.  Firstly, we will never achieve broad national democratic mobilisation, including of capitalist resources, if, as the liberation movement, we are unclear ourselves as to what the “R” in the NDR is all about. Secondly, working class hegemony within the state, the economy, our communities and, of course, within our organisations, is the critical factor for developing a purposeful, strategically clear, and practically effective NDR.

Since the late 1920s, the Communist Party in South Africa has identified the national democratic revolution as the South African road to socialism. The rich struggle history that this strategic perspective has promoted over many decades speaks for itself.  The wisdom of this strategic perspective is even more relevant in our post-1994 South African and global reality.

The NDR is not a “stage” that must first be traversed prior to a second socialist “stage”. The NDR is not a detour, or a delay, it is the most direct route to socialism in the South African reality. The NDR is also not the “postponement” of the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the working class. How could it be? That class struggle is a daily reality embedded in the very nature of capitalism itself. The NDR is a strategic approach to advancing that class struggle in the material conditions of SA and the world in which we live. The prosecution of an NDR is the strategic means for maximising the size and coherence of a popular camp and for isolating and out-manoeuvring our principle strategic opponent – monopoly capital and the imperialist forces that underpin it. The success of an NDR is, however, not guaranteed by theory and declaration .Working class and popular struggles, guided by clear strategies and tactics, and effective organisation, are the determing reality.

Chapter 4


Socialism is a transitional social system between capitalism (and other systems based on class exploitation and oppression) and a fully classless, communist society. A socialist society has a mixed economy, but one in which the socialised component of the economy is dominant and hegemonic. The socialised economy is that part of the economy premised on meeting social needs and not private profits.

Socialising the economy includes the direct empowerment of workers on the shop floor, by progressively increasing their control over:

  • the powers of possession – expanding workers’ real ability to impact on work-place decisions, on the organisation and management of the production process, product development, safety and working conditions, etc.; and
  • the powers of ownership – expanding workers’ power over decisions around the allocation of social surplus, including investment policies, budgetary priorities, etc.

Socialising the economy will also involve expanding a wide range of social ownership forms, including:

  • A predominant and varied public sector, particularly in key strategic areas, with enterprises owned and managed by the central state, by provincial and municipal authorities. These public sector enterprises need to be subjected to various forms of democratic oversight and control, including the scrutiny of trade unions, work-place forums, parliamentary oversight, consumer councils and the media;
  • A significant and growing co-operative sector, including small service and consumer goods providers networked through co-operative and publicly run marketing and purchasing cooperatives.
  • The active use of social capital to achieve developmental objectives – for instance, worker-controlled pension and provident funds.

The struggle for socialism also involves:

  • Rolling back the capitalist market – particularly through a struggle to “de-commodify” basic needs – water, energy, health-care, education, the environment, public transport, housing, social security, culture and information, and work itself. These are fundamental social rights. They should not be commodities whose availability, and whose price is determined by a profit maximising capitalist market.
  • Transforming the market – socialism is not necessarily about abolishing markets, but rather about rolling back the accumulated class power of capitalists in the market. Transforming the power relations on markets includes:
    • Increasing the power of the working class on the labour market – eliminating unemployment, strengthening the power of trade unions, skills training, an effective social security net, and a massive land reform initiative;
    • The effective use of state subsidies, tendering and procurement policies, regulatory controls, and the use, on the market, of public sector corporations to transform and democratise markets;
    • The establishment of effective consumer negotiating forums and watch-dog bodies, buttressed by the organized (consumer) power of the working class.

Ninety years ago, when the first pioneering efforts at constructing socialist societies began, it was possible to think that socialism, like capitalism, would be constructed on the basis of unlimited natural resources and endless growth. In what were described as societies of “actually existing socialism” in the 20th century, there were often strong deviations into an economism of “catch-up” and accelerated “modernisation”, often at a great price to working people, to democracy, and to the environment.

A socialism of the 21st century will need to think and act differently. Already the Cuban revolution, faced with the sudden crisis of the collapse of the Soviet bloc and with the abrupt loss of the majority of its oil supplies in the context of an ongoing US economic blockade, has pioneered a wide range of measures that focus on shortening logistics lines, moving to small farming plots, using organic fertilisers and pesticides, and combining the most modern scientific and technological interventions with non-motorised transport, like bicycles and even ox-drawn ploughs. These should not be seen only as emergency measures in a particular situation. Nor should they be seen as a step back into the past, they are, in many respects, a step forward into the only sustainable future. A socialism of the 21st century will place a premium on ensuring food security for its people, on sustainable livelihoods, sustainable households and communities and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Clearly, empowering workers on the shop-floor, rolling back the capitalist market by decommodifying basic needs, advancing a wide array of socially owned and regulated entities, and placing a premium on sustainability - none of these measures requires waiting for the NDR to be first “completed”.

Indeed, all of these measures are critical to the effective advance, consolidation and defence of the NDR. Which is why the SACP says:

Socialism is the future – Build it Now!

Chapter 5


The central question of any revolution, including the South African national democratic revolution, is the question of state power.

The NDR requires a strong state. Its strength needs to lie not in its capacity to exert bureaucratic power, but in its strategic coherence, its skill and catalysing capacity and, above all, in its ability to help weld together a multi-class national democratic movement buttressed by mobilised popular and working class power. Without these realities in a world dominated by powerful transnational corporations, no country can hope to embark on a developmental path.

Since the democratic breakthrough of 1994 we have endeavoured to build a national democratic state. This endeavour has been challenged by a range of objective factors, by the contestation of other class forces, and by subjective errors and confusions.

The South African democratic breakthrough occurred at a time in which neo-liberal triumphalism was at its high point globally. Inevitably, neo-liberal ideas impacted upon the new state and its programmes. In particular, and at first, the active role of the state in the mainstream economy was seen to be largely confined to creating a macro-economic climate favourable to investors and capitalist-driven growth. There were also moves to “right-size” the public sector, with a particularly damaging impact that is still being felt on key developmental professions, including teachers and health-care workers.

These neo-liberal tendencies were always partially mitigated by attempts to simultaneously fashion a “caring” state focused on redistribution of resources by way of “delivery”. Indeed, the years since the democratic breakthrough have seen a very significant expansion of social grants, and millions of low cost houses, water, electricity and telephone connections.

However, the 1994 electoral platform of the ANC-led alliance, the Reconstruction and Development Programme, had envisaged a close, integral connection between growth and development – growth had to be developmental. In practice, the new state increasingly separated these critical pillars of the RDP, into a capitalist-led growth programme (GEAR) that would then, subsequently, provide the resources (primarily fiscal resources) to deliver, top-down, “development”. And development tended then to be conceptualised as a series of government “delivery” targets. This separation of growth and development, and the assumption that development was wholly dependent on capitalist development, has also been reinforced by the tendency to imagine that we have “two economies” in SA, rather than a persisting CST-type accumulation path that constantly reproduces under-development.

These assumptions have further impacted upon the anatomy of the new state. In the CST period, the state was always bifurcated, in one way or another, into a mainstream state and into “native affairs” on the other. Clearly racist divisions of this kind have been abolished, but it is not difficult to see in many cases the vestiges of these kinds of divisions. There are state departments and state-owned enterprises that are relatively well-resourced and efficient whose principal mandate is to service the “first economy”, i.e. the dominant sectors of the capitalist economy. On the other hand, there are state departments that are typically under-resourced and overwhelmed by mass “delivery” tasks – essentially to an impoverished black majority (Health, Social Development, Housing, Education, Safety and Security, Home Affairs, etc.), while for the bourgeoisie and professional strata private sector providers deal with many of these functions. In other cases, the bifurcation happens within Ministries themselves – Agriculture and Land Affairs – with the former department dealing with “mainstream” agriculture, and an under-resourced Land Affairs battling to get a stalled land reform programme moving to scale. 

The tendency to separate growth (i.e. capitalist growth) from development has meant that the first decade since 1994 has been characterised by some significant “delivery” achievements, but it has tended to be delivery without transformation. And this has meant that well-meaning delivery is often seeking to ameliorate an expanding crisis of underdevelopment as capitalist growth retrenches, casualises and generally marginalises millions more South Africans.

In the collective analysis of the SACP, these dominant assumptions about the state and about delivery went hand in hand with tendencies to demobilise the ANC as an active movement on the ground capable of leading popular struggle to reinforce the state. Development was seen largely as a technocratic delivery function, and not as a struggle for self-emancipation by millions of ordinary South Africans. This also resulted in a tendency to build a privileged axis within the state and ruling party between leading state managers and emerging bourgeois strata with close links to the new government.

From around 2001 dominant policy in government began to shift towards a much greater emphasis on building state capacity, and towards supporting the idea of a developmental state playing an active role in the economy – particularly in driving infrastructural development and an industrial policy. Through the 1990s the SACP had consistently called for this kind of state-led strategic focus, and we had consistently opposed and mobilised against an agenda of wide-ranging privatisation. The shifts noted above, however uneven, were therefore welcomed by the SACP.

However, these shifts did not necessarily mark a decisive break with a paradigm that envisaged a dichotomy between capitalist-driven growth on the one hand, and a more or less separate and technocratic development programme, dependent on capitalist growth on the other. It is possible for two quite different strategies to be lurking behind the agreement on the need for an active developmental state:

  • Are we trying to improve, through state intervention, the performance of the present neo-colonial capitalist accumulation path – by removing “constraints”, improving infrastructure, and generally lowering the cost to doing business for business?
  • Or are we trying to fundamentally transform this accumulation path through the ongoing advance, deepening and defence of the national democratic revolution?

Only working class hegemony and activism on the ground and in the state will ensure that the developmental state fulfils its developmental role. But how do we take forward this struggle?

Since the democratic breakthrough of 1994 the SACP has a been a “party of governance” – but not a governing party as such.  Tens of thousands of South African communists have taken up the challenges of governance, as cabinet ministers, members of legislatures, provincial executives, mayors and councillors, as officials and workers throughout the public service, including the armed forces and in the safety and security institutions. The SACP expects all of its members to conduct themselves as exemplary communists in these many deployments in the state apparatus, whether as ministers, senior civil servants or public sector workers.

In the first three rounds of national democratic elections in South Africa (in 1994, 1999 and 2004), and in local government elections, the SACP chose to campaign on the basis of single ANC electoral lists. The SACP was always active in seeking to shape the ANC election manifestos, and the SACP always endeavoured to assert an independent profile in the course of these electoral campaigns. However, priority was given to securing overwhelming ANC election victories.

In the course of these elections, thousands of SACP members, endorsed by ANC-led branch-up nominations processes, have been elected into the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces, provincial legislatures and municipal councils. Again, the SACP expects all of its members who are ANC public representatives to be exemplary communists, respecting the integrity, unity and discipline of our leading alliance partner, the ANC, without losing their own communist identity, principles and morality.

The extent to which these objectives are working satisfactorily in practice needs to be subject to ongoing SACP assessment and review. The modalities of the SACP’s participation in elections are not a matter of timeless principle. As an independent political party, the SACP has every right to contest elections in its own right - should it so choose. Whether the Party does this and how it does it are entirely subject to conjunctural realities and indeed to engagement with our strategic allies. There are, however, three fundamental principles that will continue to guide us in this matter:

  • The SACP is not, and will never become, a narrowly electoralist formation;
  • Our approach to elections will be guided in this phase of the struggle by our overall strategic commitment to advancing, deepening and defending the national democratic revolution – the South African road to socialism; and
  • Our strategic objective in regard to state power is to secure not party political but working class hegemony over the state.



Chapter 6


The South African capitalist-dominated economy preserves all of the systemic features of its formation and consolidation within a colonial and special colonial framework.

In the first place, it is an economy that still relies heavily on primary product exports – particularly from mining and agriculture. Although mining’s share of export earnings has declined over the decades, in 2007 it still constituted some 30% of those earnings. This excessive reliance on primary product exports still locks us into a dependent-developmental growth path, and it has skewed our economy in many ways.

In the first place, it means that our economic growth and development is exceedingly vulnerable to global fluctuations, a reality over which we have little control.

The manner in which the excessive reliance on primary product exports has skewed our economy is also starkly illustrated in the politics of water. More than half of our country’s raw water is used by largely white-dominated commercial agriculture - some researchers suggest that half of this water is wasted because of inappropriate crop choice and poor irrigation techniques. Another quarter of all our water is used by mining and industry.

The politics of energy has similar features. For instance, the aluminium smelters in Richard Bay, Maputo (Mozambique) and that planned as the anchor project for Coega are, in effect, designed to export South African coal transformed into electricity. These private multinationals are provided long-term electricity contracts (typically 25 years) on exceedingly favourable terms. They pay, on average, four times less than a lower-income household for electricity and each smelter uses enough electricity to power a medium-sized South African city, while creating less than a thousand jobs. We have been locking ourselves into these long-term electricity supply arrangements, basically exporting electricity cheaply (in the shape of aluminium) while our own domestic electricity generation capacity is under severe strain.

South Africa’s over-reliance on mineral resources has also impacted in other ways on our approach to energy. The abundant availability of cheap coal has been used to drive an industrialisation process that is extremely energy intensive. South Africa’s reliance of coal-based electricity has made us amongst the worst in the world in terms of carbon emissions per capita and energy intensity. According to an International Energy Agency report, if the Kyoto Protocol is to be fully adopted, South Africa is “the most vulnerable fossil fuel exporting country in the world”. Our high energy intensity could become a “competitive disadvantage”.

The excessive reliance on extractive mining has also created many spatial and logistics distortions which are detrimental to long-term, balanced growth and development. Mining extracts non-renewable resources, and over many decades there have been vast infrastructural water, energy, logistics investments, and large-scale human settlement in localities -in some of which there are no easy alternative economic activities once the resource is depleted. Parts of South Africa are now characterised by stranded towns, and whole regions in crisis.

Still today, our major, high-value logistics routes run between mineral extracting enclaves (typically in the interior) and ports (most of them the former colonial ports). The iron ore of Sishen to Saldanha, the Mpumalanga coal fields to Richards Bay, and the Gauteng hinterland to Durban. Meanwhile, logistics connections to our neighbouring countries are typically poor and inefficient, while within our own country rural branch rail-lines decay and the sub-national road network is hugely under-capitalised. Millions of our people are officially designated as “stranded” in terms of mobility.

As we have seen, the mining revolution imposed capitalism on South Africa at its highest, monopoly stage. There was little organic, endogenous emergence of capitalism. This has meant that from the very beginning the commanding heights of South African capitalism were dominated by monopoly capital – in the form of overlapping mining and financial interests in particular. South Africa’s economy is one of the most concentrated (monopolised) in the world. Small mining operations are virtually non-existent, and beneficiation of mineral products undeveloped. But it is not just in the mining sector, in general throughout our economy small and medium capital is exceedingly weak. A handful of financial institutions dominate the finance sector and, as the SACP has highlighted in an ongoing financial sector campaign, they are poorly attuned to servicing the great majority of South Africans, including small and medium capital.

South Africa’s capitalist economy is dominated by the minerals, energy and finance complex. These conglomerate forces continue to exert enormous power over strategic policy – in terms of energy pricing, water policy, and macro-economic strategy. (And, it should also be added, the big banks and mining houses – typically operating in overlapping consortia – are extremely active players in seeking to shape the ANC and even directly influence the nature of our movement’s leadership).

The flip-side of South Africa’s CST primary product export over-reliance, is an over-reliance on imports particularly for capital (machinery) and other manufactured goods. During the apartheid era, and indeed since 1994, there has been an ongoing perverse cycle in which as primary commodity global prices rise the South African capitalist economy grows on the back of rising exports, this growth then sucks in capital and luxury goods imports and our balance of payments situation worsens…despite favourable prices for our exports!

Our current major state-led infrastructural development programme is tending to have the same perverse impact on our balance of payments. As construction sites boom across South Africa, so there is a major importation of capital goods related to this construction. The infrastructure programme is also adversely impacted upon by multi-national corporations operating and producing within SA but charging us import parity prices for key inputs like cement and steel. In the latter case, for instance, the Indian multinational, Mittal Steel, is selling us steel produced from South African iron ore manufactured in former ISCOR plants that were established through public money in the previous era and then hurriedly privatised in the final years of apartheid. This is the “greater integration into the global economy” that is so often boasted about!

The present attempt to drive growth through a state-led infrastructural development programme is further constrained by another persisting CST feature of our economy – a huge skills imbalance. Formalised racial stratification has disappeared in the labour market, but the legacy of focusing on advanced technical and artisanal skills for a tiny segment of the working class is dramatically highlighted by the fact that in 2005 the average age of an artisan in South Africa was 54 years.

These CST structural features of our economy have contributed to the deepening of inequality and unemployment (currently stabilised but at crisis levels) approaching 40%. In particular, the dominance of the mineral-energy-finance complex in our economy has meant that the manufacturing sector has tended to be weak. The GEAR-based drive to greater liberalisation and integration into the global economy, without any clear industrial policy strategy, has cruelly exposed this weakness. The manufacturing sector’s profitability slumped by 30% after 1990, while the skills intensive (and less labour absorbing) service sector took over as the fastest growing part of the economy. 

The consequences of these systemic realities, endemic within our capitalist accumulation path, continue to reproduce other problematic outcomes, including deepening class inequality. In 2007, productivity growth was running at around 2,5%, while profit growth was averaging 20% a year (based on the results of JSE-listed companies) or 15% a year (based on Statistics SA’s operating surplus data). But labour’s share of GDP has been falling. In 1996, labour’s share was 55%. By 2006 it had fallen to 48%.

Another key systemic feature of our CST-based economy is the predatory role of South African capitalism in our region. Bourgeois economists speak of South Africa’s “distance from markets” as if this were a pre-determined geographical fact. It is, of course, the product of a colonial history, and, indeed, of the underdevelopment of our own national market, and of the persisting neo-colonial underdevelopment of our region by global and South African capital working hand in glove with neo-colonial elites. The Southern African region with a population of over 100 million and abundant and mutually complementary resources is potentially a thriving common market, but this potential has been throttled by centuries of colonialism, decades of apartheid destabilisation, and now by post-independence neo-colonial distortions. For the major part of the 20th century, South African capital treated our neighbouring countries largely as migrant labour reserves and as zones of mineral and energy extraction.

Still today, South African and multi-national capital extract hydro-energy from Mozambique or water from Lesotho, for instance, with little evidence of effective development in return. Unbalanced development of this kind is of no benefit to the majority of Mozambican and Lesotho citizens, or indeed to the majority of South Africans. A sustainable growth and development path for South Africa has to be closely linked to balanced and mutually beneficial development throughout our region – otherwise we will continue to suffer from “distance from markets”

All of the other major systemic features of our CST capitalist accumulation path remain deeply entrenched within our economy. These include the systemic duality in the so-called “first” and “second” economy divide, which we deal with elsewhere in this programme.

One of the primary means through which we have sought to transform our economy has been through the concept and practice of ‘deracialisation’ and gender equality. Deracialisation and gender equality are absolutely necessary at all levels of society if we are to overcome our inherited CST realities.

However, in practice deracialisation has translated more into narrow and elitist black economic empowerment, because such deracialisation discourse has been devoid of class content. Deracialisation without a simultaneous thorough (structural) transformation of the economic form of CST has not only been narrow but has essentially produced an already co-opted, highly parasitic and compradorial black elite, subject to the hegemony of the white capitalist class. Even affirmative action, necessary as it is, has mainly benefited the black managerial elite and hardly making any difference to the economic hardships and exploitation of the working class.

Gender equality in the economy has also been co-opted by the narrow BEE strategy, thus translating into promotion of women into positions of power (a necessary objective), without a simultaneous concerted strategy to confront partriarchy in society, the mobilization of working class women and an all-rounded gender transformation strategy premised on the class realities of the overwhelming majority of women in society. Gender equity has as a result translated to nothing much beyond promotion of an elite group of women into senior positions.

What can be done?

This brief overview of the main features of our persisting capitalist accumulation path underlines the importance of a strategic national democratic approach to economic policy and active transformation – piecemeal reforms, ad hoc sectoral initiatives, disconnected projects may ameliorate some crises, but they often squander resources in the long run and deepen the crisis.

These systemic CST features of our economic accumulation path also underline the inadequacy of a “social democratic”, essentially, redistributive approach to overcoming the crisis of underdevelopment. Redistribution out of the same untransformed accumulation path, however well-meaning, is a cruel delusion. The dependent-development CST accumulation path into which our economy remains locked has to be radically transformed.

Amongst other things this means:

  • Ensuring a more balanced growth and development strategy through rolling back the domination of the mineral-energy-finance monopoly capitalist complex. The strategic importance of overcoming this private monopoly domination, which lies at the heart of many distortions in our economy and society, underlines the wisdom of the Freedom Charter’s call to ensure that the wealth of our country is shared, and particularly that “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole”. In the spirit of the Freedom Charter, the SACP supports a multi-pronged strategy that ensures that we increasingly socialise these commanding heights of our economy through a wide range of interventions;
  • Developing an effective, state-led industrial policy that focuses, in particular, on ensuring that the labour-intensive manufacturing sector is built into a much more vibrant and dynamic sector of the economy. This industrial policy should link actively with and support our major infrastructure development;
  • Well-resourced and strategically directed education and training to overcome the massive skills distortions in our society;
  • A much more strategic and sustainable approach to natural resources. The depletion of natural resources and the damage to our environment need to be actively factored into our growth and developmental statistics. Energy, water, fishery and agricultural land-use policies need to be sustainable and developmental. Short-term, export-led competitiveness led by monopoly capital cannot be allowed to trump development and sustainability.
  • This also means that our spatial development and transport and logistics policies must pay strategic attention to the vulnerability (to oil price spikes in particular) of long-distance hauls. A much greater emphasis on local economic development is imperative, not least in regard to national food security.
  • The SACP’s campaigns around building sustainable livelihoods, households, and communities have especial relevance in a global and national setting in which the formal, capitalist economy is now never likely to provide for anything approaching full employment. Expanded public works programmes, a broad network of cooperatives supported by government and especially local government, and a developmental social security net are also all important components of ensuring sustainability for the majority of our people.
  • The balanced development and effective industrial policy integration of our entire Southern African region is also critical.

None of these measures can be achieved without an active democratic developmental state buttressed by a mobilised national democratic movement in which the working class increasingly plays a hegemonic role.



Chapter 7


For the SACP, building working class power in the workplace is a key dimension of building working class hegemony in the whole of society, in order to realise the objectives of our medium term vision. This underlines the importance of building strong SACP workplace units in every South African workplace to drive a vision of a transformed workplace, with and for the workers and the poor.

The South African workplace still retains many of the colonial features of the apartheid workplace, despite some very significant changes and post-1994 labour market transformation legislative measures

The racialised, gendered and hierarchical features of the apartheid workplace still remain very strong in the post 1994 workplace. The only noticeable changes in some workplaces are at the highest level of top executives, where a few black executives have been drawn into these positions mainly through affirmative action programmes. Advancement of black managers has been much faster in the public than in the private sector.

Even with these changes, the racialised occupational stratification within management still persists in many ways. The more technical professions are still largely occupied by whites, whilst blacks have moved into more support services (human resources management, marketing, etc). Middle management still remains predominantly male and white. Even where there have been changes in the ownership structures of many companies, including those that are regarded as BEE-compliant, there is no evidence that such changes in ownership are having any significant impact on the gender and racial composition of management. Nor where such changes happen is this having any impact in the improvement of the conditions of the working class.

Instead, in many instances, black shareholders themselves fully support the increased exploitation of the working class, in order to realise higher profits, so that these new black shareholders are able to pay their loans for BEE deals quicker.

‘Contractualisation’ of the managerial classes

A new feature of South Africa’s (and the global) labour market since the 1990s is that of the increasing ‘contractualisation’ of top and senior management levels, not only in state enterprises but in the private sector as well. There has been a general shift in contracts of employment for senior executives from permanent employment to five-year contracts or shorter. The new black entrants themselves, despite affirmative action, are subject to this new dispensation.

Indeed contractualisation has its own advantages for owners and shareholders, in that this is used to increase the performance of these enterprises. But this pressure is largely borne by the working class, as they are the ones who have to subsidise the highest possible earnings for senior executives within the period of the contract. Another reason for this is that the fixed contract becomes a period for intensified accumulation through huge bonuses and incentives. This is also achieved directly at the expense of the wages and conditions of service of the working class, with workers suffering casualisation, retrenchments and outsourcing.

One of the outcomes of the ‘contractualisation’ of senior management is that power in the workplace remains with male-dominated white middle management, which is just about the only workplace strata that still enjoys relatively permanent, tenured jobs, given their technical know-how and responsibility for daily operations. This layer often represents the most reactionary layer of South Africa’s workplace, spearheading resistance to transformation and any developmental agenda, whether in the public or private sector.

The other outcome of this managerial ‘contractualisation’ (albeit very different from that of the working class) is that in these days of BEE opportunities, they are often used as step-ladders to break into the bigger accumulation stakes of the mainstream capitalist economy.

The casualisation of the working class

For the working class, especially since the early 1990s, South Africa’s workplace, in line with global trends, has been significantly restructured, with increasing levels of casualisation. This casualisation has often impacted particularly on young workers and women workers.

In South Africa we are also witnessing a major influx of workers from throughout our region, especially into the service and informal sectors. These are basically economic refugees fleeing starvation brought about by the impact of structural adjustment programmes in the region and especially the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe. This is another dimension of the increasing casualisation and stratification of the working class, with the emergence of even more superexploited strata of the working class, increasingly made up of workers from the region, many of whom are being employed illegally and who are, therefore, particularly vulnerable to capitalist exploitation. This influx of economic refugees poses the challenge of xenophobia, and our task is to combat this by ensuring the organisation of all workers in South Africa’s workplace into the trade union movement, irrespective of their country of origin, as part of building intra-class working class solidarity.

There is no evidence that managerial unilateralism in the running of enterprises has been significantly diminished; instead the intense restructuring of the working class is one manifestation of the increased unilateral managerial power in the workplace. Whilst labour market transformation since 1994 has gone a long way in securing workers’ rights to collective bargaining, worker power and activism in this regard is still largely restricted to negotiations over wages and basic conditions of service, with minimal challenges to decisions on the overall running of enterprises and to their investment decisions. The public sector is a partial exception to this.

One key feature in the restructuring of South Africa’s workplace has been outsourcing. For workers outsourcing has essentially meant doing the same job but with increased hours, in different workplaces and with different (downsized) conditions of service, like the loss of a provident fund, of medical aid, and other benefits.

Related to outsourcing is the increasing entrenchment of labour-broking, which poses one of the most serious threats to the many gains won by South Africa’s working class since 1994. Outsourcing and labour broking, amongst other things, are a direct outcome of an economy based on promoting ‘competitiveness’ and ‘lowering the cost of doing business’. The outsourcing of workers is not only happening in the private sector, but in government departments and state-owned enterprises. Although working class struggles have ensured that most of our state-owned enterprises have not been privatised, camouflaged privatisation is still happening through outsourcing and labour-brokering practices. The high cost of living facing workers and the poor is a direct result of this restructuring of the workplace in order to promote competitiveness and ‘lowering the cost of doing business’.

At the heart of this kind of restructuring of the working class is fundamentally a deliberate strategy by capital to extricate itself from ‘funding’ the reproduction of the working class, shifting the burden directly onto the working class and working families and communities, and on to the state.

The restructuring of the working class has led to its stratification and sometimes fractionalizing broadly into the formal, ‘permanent’ strata, the informalised, and marginalised. This poses serious challenges for the broader unity of the working class and its capacity as the motive force of the national democratic revolution, and specifically for the trade union movement. This has weakened sections of the trade union movement, sometimes characterised by fragmented struggles on the shop-floor, especially given the increasing trend of workers located in one workplace but employed by different outsourcing companies.

South Africa’s organised workers, in particular, have not adequately prioritised matters related to the use and investment of significant resources in the hands of the workers, including control over worker retirement funds. Whilst control over these funds tends to rest at levels higher than the workplace of individual enterprises, there is no workplace activism around these matters, except in so far as they relate to conditions of service.

Matters relating to mergers, selling, liquidation or investments by enterprises are still generally broadly outside the purview of the daily struggles waged by workers in the workplace. These are matters that are still largely the sole responsibility of boards and top management. Yet it is through these decisions that we have experienced a significant restructuring of South Africa’s workplace and the working class itself, including retrenchments, mechanisation and casualisation. A key component of building working class power in the workplace is to build the power of the trade union movement to wage struggles broader than just those that have historically and traditionally been taken up in collective bargaining struggles (wages and conditions of service). This also means building trade union capacity to effectively take up these issues.

Another major feature of South Africa’s workplace (especially in key sectors of the economy) is that the black working class is not being trained and moving into skilled positions. The key manifestation of this is that the artisan skills are still almost entirely monopolized by an ageing white male working class, whose average age is estimated at about 54. Affirmative action is essentially an elitist process that benefits those in managerial levels, with deteriorating conditions for the working class.

The wage gap during the first decade of our freedom has also widened between the highest paid and the lowest paid workers in most of the enterprises. This has also been fuelled by the increasing corporatisation of, and outsourcing in, the public service and state owned enterprises.

The highest price of all the restructuring outlined above has been paid by the black working class: retrenched, outsourced and casualised.

The neo-liberal free market, disguised as ‘competitiveness’ and ‘lowering the cost of doing business’ has increasingly eroded whatever job security the working class might still have had. Working class job security in the work-place has become like a ‘currency’, a means through which the rich trade amongst itself for its enrichment, and this is the foundation of the current growth South Africa is experiencing over the last 6 or 7 years, which some even within our own ranks are boasting about.

One of the implications of all the above is that any industrial strategy must centrally involve a developmental human resources strategy both in the public and private sector. The primary orientation and purpose of such a strategy must be to protect the jobs of the most vulnerable workers and to (re)skill South Africa’s working class with the objective of re-shaping South Africa’s workplaces for developmental purposes.

All the above calls for systematic attention by the SACP to building the trade union movement in particular, and to using our campaigns to contribute to the organisation of marginalised and informalised workers. The trade union unity in action that we have witnessed in recent years, including unions that are outside the umbrella of COSATU as well as the 2007 public service workers’ strike, lay an important foundation for building working class power in the workplace.

To do the above we need a bold state, underpinned by united working class activism and power that unapologetically takes its rightful leadership responsibility to drive the developmental transformation for both the public and private workplaces!

We need a strong SACP whose primary presence must be in strong workplace units, in order to effectively act as a vanguard of the working class.



Chapter 8


Increasingly through the 20th century the focal point of CST underdevelopment was located in urban, peri-urban and rural black townships. Not by accident, these townships were also the core mass revolutionary bases of our anti-apartheid struggle. It was here that a range of organs of popular power, building in part on the resource base of a myriad of localised productive activities (a so-called “second” economy) began to emerge in the midst of that struggle. But frustrating the self-emancipatory struggle of our communities there have always been various conservative and reactionary patriarchal realities that white minority rule deliberately cultivated and used as forms of indirect rule. Indeed, patriarchy has always been an integral component of CST capitalist relations of production.


In Chapter 2 we have seen how a central feature of the earlier period of CST was the articulation between a dominant, advanced capitalist mining sector, and migrant-labour exporting reserves. Social control, administration and production within these reserve areas were essentially based on patriarchal power relations. These patriarchal power relations were embedded in the “conserved” traditional leadership structures of “chiefs”, “headmen” (and even, in the case of the mine compounds, with “tribal boss-boys”), etc. They were also embedded in the household production unit, and in the household division of labour. These “conserved” power relations were, from a colonial perspective, forms of indirect rule.

It is this combination of realities that helps us to understand, from a Marxist perspective, the absolutely central role of patriarchal power relations in the very foundations of CST. Patriarchy is not an “add on” in CST, a mere “legacy of tradition”. It is the centrality of patriarchy within the entire system of CST that clarifies why a majority of African women carried the burden of triple oppression.

By the middle of the 20th century, the capitalist sector had diversified with the significant development of a manufacturing sector. This manufacturing sector tended to require a more settled, semi-skilled working class, and it also favoured a more urbanised working class that would constitute a mass market for many of its products. At the same time, the capacity of over-crowded and eroded reserves to reproduce a mass of migrant labourers was increasingly under strain.


In many respects, the advent of apartheid policies (introduced in the decades after the National Party’s electoral victory in 1948) can be understood as an attempt to perpetuate a CST capitalist accumulation path in a changing economic and social reality within South Africa. Apartheid, as is well known, was associated with an intensification of the long-existing racial separation through a wave of forced removals, the destruction of mixed urban communities, and the intensification of “influx control”, pass laws, and other measures. But the apartheid regime also undertook the mass roll-out of state “deliverables” – a mass housing programme (building soulless matchbox houses in remote township), third-class mass commuting public transport, mass education (in the shape of “Bantu” education) including school construction for the purposes of ensuring basic literacy and numeracy for a new generation of semi-skilled operatives, and even (pitiful and racially lower) old-age pensions for Africans.

These social measures were, of course, not driven by any humane concern for the black majority, they were part and parcel of seeking to modernise, stabilise, re-inforce and intensify CST capitalist accumulation in a changing reality.

The apartheid phase of CST is characterised by the perpetuation and modernisation of socio-economic duality. While the labour reserve system was sustained (as Bantustans, and through an intensification of a range of oppressive measures inherited from the earlier period), another form of duality started to emerge as the predominant race/class/gendered articulation between an advanced capitalist sector and an under-developed socio-economic reality.


Increasingly, we now have a new under-developed pole based on a myriad of urban, peri-urban and rural townships. These townships were also the prime location for a series of petty, largely service activities (street vending, taverns, minibuses, spaza shops, burial societies, stokvels, hair salons, home based care, sporting clubs, not to mention basic things like cooking, shopping, child-minding and care for the sick and aged– i.e. what has recently been misleadingly called the “second economy”).

Many of these so-called “second economy” activities originate in response to the woeful inadequacies of the apartheid state’s “social delivery” roll-out – for example, the apartheid state’s “public transport” infrastructure development and operational subsidisation became increasingly inadequate and the informal/quasi-legal minibus sector emerged in the 1980s and through the 1990s to become the major public transport mode of the working class and poor.

These “second economy” activities basically involve the production of use-values for the working class and poor, while reproducing “cheap” labour” for the mainstream (“first” economy) by carrying many burdens that, in a different (eg. more social democratic) capitalist system would be borne by tax-payers and the public sector.

In many (not all) of these “second economy” activities women are preponderant. Women’s role in these activities is often premised on a household gendered division of labour held in place by patriarchal domination.


Our countryside provides a stark insight into the enclave character of our economy and the racialised duality in South African society. Apart from the distinct urban/rural duality in our economy, South Africa’s countryside is itself divided into two very distinct enclaves shaped over more than a century of proletarianisation of the black rural masses and the massive land dispossession of the majority by both the colonial and apartheid regimes. The one enclave is that of the former Bantustans, and the other is that dominated by agri-business and small and medium sized farms, owned in the main by white farmers.

The ‘white’ countryside

The South African agricultural economy is dominated by large agri-business companies that span the entire production process and marketing. This economy, however, underwent massive changes after the 1973 global economic crisis. It embarked on large-scale mechanisation and increasing export orientation resulting in, amongst other things, massive retrenchments and the eviction of black farm workers. However, the process of evictions had already started in the earlier decades of the 1950s and 60s, as the apartheid regime reconfigured the racial landscape of South Africa in line with what later became the “Group Areas”.

Liberalisation and export orientation of commercial agriculture has deepened rather than lessened post 1994, thus ensuring the growing dominance of agribusiness and very minimal opportunities for the emergence of new, particularly small and co-operative, farming. Government’s economic policies have strengthened rather than transformed this accumulation regime since 1994. For example, according to South African Standard Industry Database, as cited in the Human Development Report, 2003, the real profit rate of agriculture, forestry and fishing rose from 100 in 1995 to 143 in 2002. This increased this industry’s share of total profits from 67,8% in 1995 to 72,7% in 2002. Labour productivity in this industry rose from 123,6 in 1996 to 151,9 with an average annual growth rate of 3,26 in 2002.

Despite this performance in agriculture, forestry and fishery, black, mainly African, farmworkers have suffered greatly and have borne most of the brunt of the continuing accumulation regime in agriculture. They still represent what is, perhaps, the most exploited section of South Africa’s working class. For instance, this industry’s share of total employment declined from 10,7% in 1996 to 9,9% in 2002. The wage share by this industry has further declined from 32,2% in 1995 to 27,3% in 2002.

On most commercial farms farm-workers live with their families. Not only are these workers being paid starvation wages, but they are, in many instances together with their families, daily subjected to all forms of abuse including violence. Some of these abuses include the following:

  • Long working hours that are not compensated
  • Impounding of their livestock by farmers. The fines imposed on impounded livestock are typically deducted from their wages, as part of the many deductions made by farmers from the new statutory wage, thus continuing to pay the workers the same old slave wages
  • Less than human living conditions
  • No access to basic services like water, electricity and sanitation
  • Widespread violence as a routine form of discipline and including murders. This is complicated by an untransformed justice system that often does not take up cases that are reported to them against white farmers

Since 1994, our government has made a number of interventions in this ‘white’ countryside, mainly around land reform and agricultural reform. Positive as some of these measures have been, they have failed to even remotely transform the countryside as consolidated under CST. The flagship of government’s intervention has been land restitution and redistribution. This has, however, only managed to transfer some meagre 3% of land into the hands of the majority of our people. The Agri BEE Charter has hardly made any impact and it is in the same mould as the rest of the current, elite model of BEE.

The vast majority of the rural population in South Africa is located in the former Bantustans. In most of this territory our people are subjected to the rule, authority and patronage networks of the system of traditional leadership. There are very minimal accumulation processes of any significance taking place here. However, this does not mean there is no accumulation at all, and the very minimal accumulation taking place needs to be looked at closely as a possible springboard to create sustainable rural livelihoods in the former Bantustans. The former Bantustans still occupy a structural location as dumping grounds for those who cannot find employment or eke out a living on the fringes of the urban economy.

Research on the former Bantustans show extreme levels of poverty in these areas. For instance, some research indicates that 80% of income in rural areas comes from wages, mostly remittances from the urban areas. Pensions are the second most important source of income, contributing between 10% and 20%. The third is income from some sort of agricultural activity, also estimated at about 10% and 25% in some areas.

The integrated rural development programme has been one of the most significant interventions by government. However, there is very little extensive evaluation done on the impact of this programme on rural poverty, and the picture seems to be very uneven. These kinds of interventions will never succeed unless they are based on a fundamental transformation of the accumulation regime in the South African countryside - both in the major agricultural sectors and the former Bantustans?

Some of the key political challenges

The SACP’s own campaigns, especially the land and agrarian transformation campaign, provide a key platform to achieve our key strategic objectives in the transformation of our countryside, including the following key goals:

  • The need for an overarching rural development strategy to bridge the divide between the ‘white’ countryside and the former Bantustans, grounded in accelerating land and agrarian transformation
  • The basis of such an industrial strategy for the countryside should be accelerated access to productive land for household based subsistence in both, and cutting across, the dualistic rural economic enclaves.
  • Crucial in all this is the mobilisation of the social motive forces for transformation, principally farm-workers, the poor and agricultural co-operatives and other forms of small-scale farming. On our side we will ensure that we mobilise our communities – building people’s land committees to drive land and agrarian transformation, Driving the implementation of the resolutions of the Land Summit


The apartheid CST state-form has been abolished, but a CST-type capitalist accumulation path continues to characterise much of our social and economic reality. One of its major manifestations is the persistence, and active reproduction of economic “duality” – the so-called “first” and “second economies”.

This so-called “second economy” is now largely located in a myriad of working class urban, peri-urban and rural townships. Its principal function from a capitalist perspective lies in the cheap (for the dominant capitalist mode) reproduction of labour power.

However, more than ever, much of this “second economy” and the communities and households associated with it are under immense strain. Factors placing strain include extremely high levels of unemployment (a 40% national average, but more than 70 and 80% in some localities), underemployment, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, house-hold indebtedness, and the continuing collapse of rural economies.

These factors, taken together with others, including:

  • growing (if uneven) feminisation of the labour force in the “main-stream” economy
  • male retrenchments and high levels of male unemployment;
  • increasing mobility, including significant levels of rural to urban migration of young single and well-educated African women (many presumably in lower middle class, professional and service sector work);
  • large numbers of female-headed (and now even increasing numbers of child-headed) households;
  • stark generational divides, including cultural divides and the increasing commodification of much youth culture;
  • and the re-structuring of African households – some transforming into nuclear family structures, others retaining extended forms including the still pervasive “two households” reality – one urban, one rural;
  • and a massive and burgeoning housing backlog

- have also put strain on “traditional” patriarchal power relations within African working class households and communities.


While these challenges to “traditional” patriarchal power CAN have emancipatory consequences, in the pressure-cooker of acute under-development they are also producing many serious dysfunctional outcomes, including, what we might call “lumpen-patriarchy”. We mean by this various perverse attempts to re-affirm male power and retrograde versions of male identity in the face of crisis and male insecurity, including:

  • extraordinarily high-levels of rape and sexual assault against women, not excluding the very old and the very young;
  • other forms of anti-women and anti-child violence and abuse, including high levels of domestic violence; and
  • various retrograde assertions of “male rights” and the evocation of “tradition” to justify the patriarchal abuse of positions of political and/or managerial authority.

There are also other versions of this “lumpen-patriarchy”, including the war-lordism that is endemic in much of the taxi industry; shack-lordism in many informal settlements; reactionary vigilantism in some parts of the country; male youth gangsterism sometimes with links into the prison system. While none of these is simply reducible to perverted forms of patriarchy, they are all strongly marked by patriarchal power relations and assumptions.

Still another version of lumpen-patriarchy, with links to all of the above, is the phenomenon of “big man” “messiah” politics - the politician as patriarchal “protector” and “bestower” of general “favours” upon loyal favourites. Latter day apartheid, and especially but not only Bantustan and tricameral, politics was rife with this kind of reality. But our new democracy, and our own movement, are not immune.

The many deeply perverse realities we are witnessing in our post-apartheid situation are intimately linked into the persisting realities of a CST-based capitalist accumulation path, the duality it reproduces, and the insupportable pressures that are now placed on working class communities.

To say this is not, of course, to excuse lumpen-patriarchal criminality for one minute – but it does help us to avoid a predictable tendencies: self-denigration (a typical danger in societies that have suffered racial and/or patriarchal humiliation) - “there must be something wrong with us.”


Over the past decade, the problem of “under-development” has been acknowledged, as has the reality of a polarised economy (“two economies”). The state has endeavoured to prioritise poverty and unemployment and significant budgetary allocations have been made.

However, these well-intentioned endeavours have tended to be based on a paradigm of technocratic top-down, state-delivered redistributive allocations sustained by a growing (capitalist) economy. The paradigm tends to ignore the CST character of our current capitalist growth path, and the systemic effects that this growth path has – including the intensified and expanded reproduction of the very underdevelopment we are trying to resolve!

As a result, interventions into the “second economy” run the risk of modernising and improving duality (at best) without actually transforming the systemic CST features of our society. So far, many of these interventions have been premised on the assumption that social and economic activity in poor communities can be understood as “small” and “micro-enterprises”, and that our developmental responsibilities consist in promoting these “enterprises” into the “first economy” through a variety of incubations, re-capitalisations, seed-monies, business-plans, and the like.

While occasionally these interventions have succeeded in promoting some SMMEs, overall there is failure. There is seldom any sustainable salvation for most of these activities through a one-off ladder of one kind and then abandonment to the labour-exploiting, profit-maximizing, monopoly-dominated rigours of the dominant capitalist market. “Willing-buyer” small farmers, land-restituted communities, scattered co-operatives, recapitalised taxis given some kind of “starter-pack”, or “scrapping allowance” and then abandoned to the market are unlikely to be sustainable, and the same patterns of underdevelopment are simply reproduced.


In the face of frustration and failure, from government and from broader society there is often a turn to moral issues. This is certainly not wrong. But, various moral projects have tended to suffer from acute ambiguities.

  • At times there are ringing condemnations of “a culture of consumerism and wealth accumulation”. The SACP has welcomed these critiques, but too often they tend to be largely moralising in kind. They are disconnected from any analysis or appreciation of the actual economic policies and realities that are giving rise to these phenomena;
  • There have also been more institutionalised attempts, including the Moral Regeneration Movement, and a religious-dominated initiative to draw up a Moral Charter and a range of public voices calling for such things as a “return to family values”. Both the MRM (which has so far lacked any coherent impact) and these wider moral discourses suffer from major but often disguised contradictions. They tend to bring together progressive tendencies AND thoroughly reactionary tendencies. In the latter case, “moral regeneration” is understood to mean the re-affirmation of conservative patriarchal values – of bringing back corporal punishment in schools, or reinstating other authoritarian “traditional” practices, or calling for a narrow law-and-order resolution to crime. Given the real challenges that communities are facing in terms of the break-down of solidarity and respect, these conservative moral voices are liable to find support in working class communities.

The SACP, the working class and progressive forces must take up these moral issues clearly and consistently, always linking them to a progressive, transformational agenda in which the values of solidarity are foremost.

This progressive, transformational agenda must campaign to liberate community life and the activities that take place within our communities from the grip of patriarchal domination, especially, but not only, in its most perverted forms. This struggle is intimately linked to the struggle against the “indirect” rule that the current capitalist accumulation path imposes either through neglect or intent upon our communities. It is a struggle to affirm socially necessary work and activities over the domination of profit-maximising, labour-exploiting enterprise.

What does this mean practically?

It means many things.

It means, in the first place, affirming the service work undertaken in our communities (much of it by women) as being not just reproductive work (for the dominant capitalist economy), but productive work for the working class – i.e. it involves the production of socially necessary “use values” for the working class.

It means approaching the entire so-called “second economy” in a completely different way. Land reform and restitution that simply lift households and communities into a ruthless, monopoly dominated market will deepen poverty and underdevelopment, not transform it.

The same applies to endless SMME promotion endeavours. Re-capitalising the minibus industry without transforming public transport by increasing public sector and community control and regulation, will simply increase stratification in the sector. This will have a detrimental impact upon the majority of small-owners, drivers and other workers, while deepening the subordination of the sector to the banks and multi-national minibus manufacturers and their local dealerships.


Critical to the transformation of the “second economy” is local democracy, municipal power working hand-in-hand with mobilised communities. To transform the minibus sector, municipalities must re-claim public space – roads, parking, ranks – and regulate on a continuous daily basis public transport operations.

Breaking with a capitalist logic also helps us to understand the potentially transformative nature of the struggle to build sustainable communities and sustainable households. Sustainability can be built through all of the above, through an effective and comprehensive social security system, through well-supported and networked cooperatives, and many other initiatives. The strategic objective of building sustainable communities and households is to break the dependence of working class communities on the dominant capitalist mode – for consumer goods, for wages, for services. Clearly, a complete de-linking from the dominant capitalist system is unlikely in any short-term scenario – however, degrees of relative delinking help to build progressive working class power and hegemony within households and communities.

All of these programmatic actions must also go hand in hand with the struggle to completely transform the spatial inequities of our society. Housing and built-environment policies must focus increasingly on building communities, not rows of houses, on appropriate densification, on the location of poorer communities much closer to amenities and places of work, and the deliberate construction of mixed-income communities. While the improved living conditions for some upper strata among black workers in the formal must be welcomed, we cannot be satisfied simply with the migration of some into former whites-only suburbs. The spatial patterns (like the boardrooms) of the past cannot just be “de-racialised” – they must be thoroughly transformed. Mobility and accessibility for working class communities in general, and especially for rural communities must be addressed with much greater vigour.


It is in our communities, in particular, that the Freedom Charter vision of “democratic organs of self-government” has special relevance. We must actively engage and progressively transform the range of participatory institutions that have emerged within our new democracy – among them, community policing forums, school governing bodies, and ward committees.