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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 6, No. 19, 17 October 2007

In this Issue:


Red Alert

The Revolution is on trial (4): Defend the values and traditions of our national liberation movement

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

In our address to the National Conference of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), we, amongst other things, reminded ourselves of some of the basic principles and strategic objectives of the national democratic revolution (NDR). We reminded ourselves that our revolution was never about replacing a white elite with a black elite, but that its goal remains the fundamental transformation of society, including thorough reconfiguration of class relations of colonialism of a special type, for the benefit of the overwhelming majority of our people.

At this conference we asked what we regard as one of the most fundamental questions facing our revolution; that is, is it inevitable that when former liberation movements ascend to (state) power in developing countries, especially on the African continent, they are bound to start degenerating into clubs of ruling and petty bourgeois elites, alienating their erstwhile allies, and the revolution beginning to devour its own children?

Indeed our answer to this question is in the negative. It is not inevitable that progressive democratic revolutions and national liberation struggles are bound to degenerate after ascendancy to state power. Similarly, it is not a given that radical and progressive revolutions will stay their course, without being co-opted into one or other form of the imperialist agendas. This basically means that at the heart of all national democratic revolutions are class struggles, whose balance of forces determines the direction of such revolutions.

We have over the last two months been making interventions through the theme, 'Our revolution is on trial', precisely because we believe that our revolution is facing very serious challenges at this point in time, and that we should confront these frankly and openly without undue defensiveness. It is also a clarion call to deepen our analyses of the current strengths and weaknesses of our revolutionary formations, as well as the potential and actual threats posed by both the domestic and global environments. However, it is not just analysis that is needed, important as this maybe, but a conscious effort by organized motive forces of such revolutions, with the working class in the lead, to wage class struggles in favour of the workers, the peasants and generally the poor.

Indeed we are pursuing the NDR under 'circumstances that are not of our own choosing'. But to say this must not be used as a pretext to succumb to the current capitalist reality, and deliberately pursue a conservative path, and be expected that all we have to do is to try and 'manage' this capitalist reality, whilst hoping to be favourably incorporated into the contemporary imperialist, global division of labour. Ours is not a revolution of entrenching the capitalist 'rationality' of the bourgeoisie and the middle classes, but it is a revolution with and for the workers and the poor. At the same time of course it would be wrong not to fully apprise ourselves of the objective constraints posed by the current global balance of forces.

Sometimes when these questions are asked they are cynically or defensively dismissed as an expression of 'Afro-pessimism', 'colonial mentality' or some kind of 'ultra-leftism'. Whilst we should not dismiss the dangers of these attitudes and approaches, and how they may also be embraced by sections of our own people and (formerly oppressed) elites, they should be separated from the need for a thorough, honest and frank analyses of the challenges and terrains upon which we seek to deepen the NDR and the threats posed especially by the current global, imperialist conjuncture.

Defeat the lurking danger of the triumph of money over the will of the people

We are pursuing our NDR on a capitalist terrain and therefore we need to be vigilant and decisively accelerate a transformatory agenda through a radical NDR, which should include rolling back the capitalist market by placing the interests of the workers and poor at the head of such an agenda. This should be the concrete meaning of a working class bias of our movement and government in the contemporary period.

In many of the past editions of this publication we have identified as the principal contradiction facing our revolution as that of a revolution with (some significant) political power but without economic power. The economic power in South African society still rests with the (white and often reactionary) colonial bourgeoisie, albeit now joined by a tiny, highly dependent and parasitic, black section. Political power without economic power always makes the revolution vulnerable to the political interests of the economically powerful bloc of class forces. It therefore always remains an 'unsafe' revolution, liable to be co-opted, if not entirely defeated, by the economically powerful and dominant class forces in society.

The above reality has led to a situation where, contrary to the subjective will of sections of our movement, these black sections of the bourgeoisie are not acting in a patriotic manner, but in a highly compradorial fashion - completely dependent on the power and patronage of the established white, colonial bourgeoisie. One only has to look at the extremely exploitative practices of the so-called 'BEE compliant' companies that have secured tenders in, amongst others, the Gautrain and 2010 construction projects. These are manifested through the current class struggles between the workers and employers in many of these companies.

In fact our own struggles as the SACP, together with the struggles daily waged by COSATU-affiliated and other unions organizing in these 'BEE compliant' successful tenderers, clearly reveals the inner secret of current narrow BEE; that through its indebtedness (and parasitic dependence on white monopoly capital) the black sections of the bourgeoisie are fuelling, rather than lessening, the super-exploitation of the black working class. The pressure on black sections of the bourgeoisie to repay their debts and immediately begin to accumulate significant wealth is one of the key determinant factors in the super-exploitation, casualisation and retrenchment of the black working class. In other words the logic of narrow BEE is the same as the logic of white monopoly capital; that it is by no means patriotic, but acts as a new platform for the continued (if not accelerated) reproduction of the political economy of colonialism of a special type in post-1994 South Africa. Put differently, narrow BEE has become one of the new platforms for intensified exploitation of the black working class by the colonial bourgeoisie, in the name of empowering black people!

One current manifestation of the super-exploitation of the black working class is, for instance, the deepening crisis of the social reproduction of this class. The current struggles on access to higher education are, for instance, a classic symptom of the extent to which the burden of the reproduction of the working class is increasingly being shifted from the rich to the workers and the poor.

It is the political economy of the continued dominance of white (and imperialist) monopoly capital that continues to shape the accumulation trajectory in post 1994 South Africa. And it is this trajectory - a colonialism of a special type trajectory - that our state policies should be aiming to radically change and transform, if we are to build a developmental state.

One of the outcomes of the political economy of post 1994 South Africa as outlined above is the growing tendency towards turning our movement into a site for patronage, parasitic capitalism and new accumulation interests, thus objectively, despite our subjective intentions, turning the mass of our people into voting fodder for economic elites, at the expense of their own economic interests.

A central thrust in dealing with these threats to the revolution is a focused mass mobilization of the workers and the poor around some of their immediate needs and their longer term interests. Over the past 8 years the SACP has sought to use its annual Red October Campaign to mobilize the structures of our party and the alliance around some of the key issues facing the majority of our people, such as transformation of the financial sector, land and agrarian transformation, social security for all, affordable, safe and accessible public transport, and basic services for all.

The mobilization of our people is central in our overall task of ensuring the triumph of the will of the people over the power of money. A precondition for the success of the people's will over the power of money is to precisely expose all those tendencies aimed at empowering elites over the interests of the overwhelming majority of our people.

The revolution is on trial; mobilize the mass of our people to defend the values and traditions of our national liberation movement! It is only when the mass of the workers and the poor are at the head of the national democratic revolution that the power of money will be defeated. Building a dynamic, campaigning ANC and its alliance is one of the central tasks facing the forthcoming 52nd Conference of the ANC in December.