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Fourth Quarter 2002

Published quarterly as a forum for Marxist-Leninist thought by the South African Communist Party


Editorial 1:The Alliance more necessary than ever

Editorial 2: Whats really behind the "ultra-left" debate?

The key challenge facing the movement in the NDR: unity in the ANC and unity of the Alliance. By Phillip Dexter, SACP National Treasurer.

Black Shadows and Red Herrings: A Rejoinder to the Moleketi-Jele Pamphlet.
By Oupa Bodibe (COSATU Secretariat Co-ordinator), Patrick Craven (Editor of the Shopsteward) and Vukani Mde (COSATU Spokesperson) in their personal capacities.

We are Communists and Proud. By Nhlanhla Buthelezi, an SACP KZN Provincial Executive Committee member.

Right-wing opportunism masquerading as revolutionary democracy and revolutionary socialism: a response to Moleketi and Jele. By David Masondo, SACP member based in the Limpopo Province and member of the NEC of the ANC Youth League.

The Political Balance of Forces: A COSATU perspective. Extract from a COSATU CEC Political Discussion Paper released on 1 December 2002

The role of progressive unions in a stable democracy. Extract from a COSATU CEC Political Discussion Paper released on 1 December 2002

The Mining Charter. By Gwede Mantashe, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and member of the SACP Political Bureau.

HIV/AIDS and Land: Case Studies from Kenya, Lesotho and South Africa. By. Dr. Scott Drimie, senior research specialist at the HSRC

Threat to Humanity - Bush's New Military Doctrine. By Sam Webb, National Chairman, Communist Party of the USA

The revolutionary essence of Fela Kuti's music. By Oke Ogunde, of the Workers' Alternative in Nigeria


Editorial Comment 1

The Alliance more necessary than ever

It is no secret that the second half of 2002 has marked another period of turbulence within our ANC-led tripartite alliance. This is especially disappointing because 2002 began on a very positive note, with a series of bilateral meetings between the ANC, SACP and COSATU national leaderships. The leadership structures of all three components of the alliance pronounced that these interactions were constructive and were making progress. No-one pretended that there were not persisting policy differences, but everyone agreed that the differences were not fundamental, and that they could (and should) be managed intelligently.

These interactions paved the way for the largest and most extensive alliance summit held in recent times, the Ekurhuleni Summit in April this year. The outcome was extremely positive, it was welcomed by all three alliance partners, and by the fourth participant, SANCO. In particular, the Ekurhuleni Summit called for a national Growth and Development Summit to set a clear strategic path capable of mobilising the widest range of forces behind a shared agenda to overcome systemic underdevelopment within our country. It was agreed that for the G & D Summit to succeed, it would need to be driven by a united ANC-led alliance.

The year also began with the ANC, at its January 8th anniversary celebrations, declaring 2002 to be The Year of the Volunteer. The ANC set out a clear programme of action for popular mobilisation, and this was warmly welcomed by the SACP and COSATU. There is a general agreement that, outside of very successful election campaigning, the alliance has not mobilised in action in recent years. The Year of the Volunteer programme, led by the ANC but mobilising the widest range of forces, presented an ideal means for building alliance unity on the ground.

Yet things somehow have come unstuck. Why?

Before we attempt to answer this question, it is important to underline just why the unity of the Alliance remains critically important. We would like to underline this point in both a general way and in several specific and topical ways.

Carrying forward the national democratic REVOLUTION remains the dominant strategic challenge

Anyone who ever imagined that overcoming the deeply entrenched legacy of three-and-a-half centuries of colonialism would be the work of a few years was dreaming. This oppressive past has so rooted itself, has set in motion its own momentum to such an extent, that eight years beyond our democratic breakthrough many of the key features of apartheids accumulation path persist. Between October 1995 and October 2000, according to the government agency Statistics South Africa, the average African household became 19% poorer (in terms of income), while the average white household became 15% richer! Despite our own collective best efforts, in some key respects apartheid accumulation patterns persist in the midst of our post-apartheid society.

We should not become demoralised by sobering statistics like these. In other respects (housing, electricity, water, health-care, education), we are beginning to make tangible, if sometimes uneven, head-way.

However, the statistics are reminding us that the national question cannot be resolved without carrying through a genuine national democratic REVOLUTION. The systemic patterns of accumulation, of enclave development and mass under-development, of extreme inequality, of dependence upon the imperialist centres, cannot simply be "de-racialised". Power in its existing forms cannot simply be transferred to, or shared with a new, more representative elite. Power, in all its dimensions race, class, gender, rural/urban, national/global - has to be progressively transformed, root and branch, if we are to advance, deepen and defend our democratic breakthrough.

A sustained revolutionary effort like this requires overwhelming mass support, it requires maximum unity of revolutionary forces, it requires the determined use of state power reinforced by popular mobilisation, it requires revolutionary leadership. The ANC must lead its Alliance, and it must lead our society. The ANC has an outstanding historical track-record of leading and uniting a broad movement, including the broad international anti-apartheid solidarity movement, through the twists and turns of many decades of struggle. The ANC accomplished this leadership role, not by bullying nor by bureaucratic suppression of debate and difference, not by name-calling, irritation and sarcasm.

All ANC cadres, whether they are also SACP or COSATU members or not, must work tirelessly to uphold, foster and take forward these ANC traditions, and this ANC leadership role. There may be comrades in the SACP or COSATU who think the ANC should no longer lead. They are profoundly wrong. There may be comrades who think the ANC should lead by whipping alliance partners into line. They are deluded.

In the first place, the Alliance remains absolutely relevant for this general reason. The strategy of a national democratic revolution is the correct programmatic response to the challenges all progressive forces face within our country.

However, in the current fluid international and domestic reality, there are also persuasive specific topical reasons for arguing that

The Alliance is more relevant than ever

Let us advance three (there are many more) striking contemporary reasons why alliance unity is so critical in these present times:

  1. The decade of "benign" globalisation is over in many respects, our 1994 democratic breakthrough was a direct product of the global shake-up that followed the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War. The dominant global ideology of the 1990s held that the world was becoming a more prosperous and peaceful place, and that the recipe for success was for "developing" countries to align their economic policies and their political systems with the West. Naturally, our own democratic transition was often interpreted through this ideological lens. It is probable that we were even afforded some breathing space as a result of prevailing global views in the mid-1990s.

    But generalised prosperity and peace have not been forthcoming for large parts of the globe. More dramatically, as the article by Sam Webb (national chairperson of the Communist Party of the USA) in this issue underlines, the dominant global ideology is being actively re-written by the Bush administration and its right-wing think-tanks. "Benign" globalisation is being replaced by an unabashed unilateral, militarised, interventionist globalisation. Of course, the underlying realities of an imperialist-dominated world accumulation process have not changed fundamentally over many decades but the justifying ideologies and the posture of the leading imperialist power are changing dramatically, before our eyes.

    "Negotiated transitions" are no longer the flavour of the period, externally imposed "regime change" becomes a declared objective, and without even a blush. In Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Venezuela, in Zimbabwe, and, learning from his masters, Sharon takes up the theme for Palestine.

    With these prevailing views increasingly dominant globally, it is imperative that within our country, our Alliance forces maintain unity, vigilance and determination. External forces are not going to stand idly by while we carry forward our NDR. They are certainly not going to be passive observers while we hurl recriminations at each other.
  2. The capitalists are laughing at us - in early December, economist Mike Schussler addressed a meeting of the Swiss-South African Chamber of Commerce. Schussler proudly informed his audience that "South African labour costs had fallen in real terms by 6 percent in the last 10 years - something it had taken the flexible Dutch labour market 35 years to achieve." He went on to say that if one analysed GDP, the share that went to labour had fallen below the share that went to profits for the first time in 21 years. "Im not sure how politically sustainable that is, Schussler said to general laughter." (Business Report, December 5, 2002)

    They are laughing at us!

    Not only is the average White household getting richer while the average African household becomes poorer by some 19%, but capitalists are making bigger profits than ever before, while workers work harder for less. The historically empowered are consolidating their power. To crack this nut, to silence this laughter, we need a united, determined, revolutionary Alliance, more than ever.
  3. We cannot take the terrain of popular mobilisation for granted - one of the most profound observations in the ANCs Umrabulo, Special 51st National Conference Edition (August 2002) reads as follows:

    "Our failure as the movement to engage civil society effectively has resulted in attempts by various forces (including the right and the ultra-left) to appropriate civil society often with an agenda to build an opposition to the movement. Furthermore, failure in the Alliance to properly conceptualise and act on our resolution to build a broad movement for transformation has meant that COSATU and the SACP have to fight battles within a range of these civil society forums to hold at bay anti-ANC and anti-statist sentiments. More often than not, the ANC is either absent or excluded to engage with such forces on its programmes and the tactical choices we made as we implement the programme of national democratic transformation." (p.23, para.66)

    These observations are absolutely spot on.

    It was our Congress movement that pioneered and sustained the mass-line and participatory democracy over many decades. We know from Eastern Europe in the late 1980s what can happen when social movements and governments, supposedly committed to popular power, part company. We can see similar rifts in Zimbabwe, and to some extent in Venezuela. Reactionary forces will always exploit such rifts. We cannot open up space for defeat in our own society by neglecting popular mobilisation, by being remote from popular concerns, or irritable and dismissive about demands, however impractical we may consider them to be. We must be with and among the people, we must provide leadership, not sarcasm and labels.

    We need, collectively, to ask ourselves why the ANC-led Year of the Volunteer lost momentum after a promising beginning. We need to ask why the SACPs successful financial sector campaign was virtually neglected by formal ANC structures. And why was COSATUs Western Cape campaign for commuter safety on trains not more widely espoused? We also need to ask whether annual general strikes against privatisation are the most appropriate means for taking forward what (in the SACPs view at least) are nonetheless perfectly legitimate concerns. This years two-day anti-privatisation actions may well have mobilised fewer workers than last years action. But that should hardly be a matter for rejoicing by any Alliance partner. After all, COSATU still managed to mobilise marches that far surpassed anything that any other component of the Alliance has managed to pull off, either separately or collectively, in recent years.

    Alliance unity is imperative, more than ever before. Our disunity creates space for all manner of demagogic and confused forces to assume leadership over popular concerns.

Let us build principled alliance unity, rooted in our shared commitment to a national democratic revolutionary transformation, and based in shared programmes of mobilisation and implementation.


Editorial Comment 2

Question: Whats really behind the "ultra-left" debate?

Answer: The case for a socialist-orientation to the NDR can no longer be ignored!

In this issue of the African Communist we carry a number of responses to a widely circulated 28-page document entitled "Two strategies of the national liberation movement in the struggle for the victory of the national democratic revolution" by Jabu Moleketi and Josiah Jele. The document in question was printed in thousands of copies and ANC structures appear to have been used to distribute it country-wide, including to the commercial media. However, the document is not the official perspective of any formal structure of the ANC, nor was it published in any of the publications of the ANC or its alliance.

The document appears to have been timed to coincide with the electoral nominations process in provinces for the ANCs forthcoming 51st National Conference. Normally, the SACP would have ignored what is blatantly a sectarian intervention. However, the resources thrown into the production and distribution of the document, its timing, and the fact that it repeated and elaborated upon recent accusations about a sinister "ultra-left" within our movement made by some leading ANC officials, prompted the SACP to treat the intervention with some seriousness and concern. Our concern was heightened by the fact that the central target of the Moleketi and Jele intervention is the present SACP leadership and the strategic programmatic perspectives of the SACP, as elaborated in our three most recent congresses of 1995, 1999 and July 2002.

As a result of these concerns, the SACP Political Bureau discussed the document and its implications at its meeting in November. The PB then issued a formal, collective response, "What is ultra-leftism, what is right-wing opportunism? The twin dangers facing the national democratic revolution" (Bua Komanisi, November 2002, available at www.sacp.org.za/bua/issue4).

The responses published in this issue of the African Communist pursue the debate, taking up various aspects. They all share one basic and common conviction: the Moleketi and Jele document is, in essence, an attempt to radically re-define the strategic character and content of the national democratic revolution itself.

Moleketi and Jele seek to portray the NDR as the consolidation and development of capitalism. In asserting this, they are departing from a long international (Communist) tradition (from which the very concept of an "NDR" has come). They are also departing from a long ANC tradition, going back to at least 1955 and the Freedom Charter, in which the NDR is conceived as being, if not socialist as such, then at the very least non-capitalist, and, in all probability, marked by a strong anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, socialist-orientation.

Now, it could be argued on practical grounds that, in 2002, a "non-capitalist" path, not to mention a "socialist-oriented non-capitalist" path, is simply unrealistic or "irresponsible". We would not agree with this view, but it would, at least, be an honest and arguable perspective. It would even be a view with which one could engage in order to pursue alliance unity. But this is not the line of argument pursued by Moleketi and Jele. Instead, they quote extensively but one-sidedly from Marx, Lenin, the Communist International, and they refer continuously to the great South African communist leaders of the past, notably Moses Kotane. Against all the odds, they roll out this history in order to "prove" that the national democratic revolution is really a "capitalist" revolution, labelling anyone who disagrees as "ultra-leftist". Instead of laying the basis for an intelligent and rational comradely discussion about what is feasible in our current circumstances, this mode of intervention is calculated to stir up deep disunity within the ANC and its alliance.

We want to suggest, however, that the Moleketi and Jele intervention and the resources thrown into it should be taken as a back-handed compliment to the SACP and all socialist-inclined comrades within our movement.

From "socialism has a past, but no substantial future" to

The unbanning of the ANC and SACP in February 1990 coincided with the crisis and collapse of the Soviet bloc. From the 1920s, leading personalities within the ANC, including non-communists, had been influenced and inspired by the Soviet Union. In the 1950s and increasingly through to the 1980s, the ANCs strategic calculations, its conceptual tools, and its political education programmes were strongly influenced by the existence within the world system of a seemingly powerful Soviet bloc.

Naturally, the collapse of the Soviet bloc had a profound impact on the SACP and on the ANC itself. Many comrades, many of them leading SACP members in the 1980s, more or less quietly abandoned the SACP in 1990. Many felt that "socialism had no future", and that the SACP was, therefore, largely "irrelevant". These same circles, influenced in part perhaps by the views of Mikhail Gorbachev, believed strongly that the "new" post-Cold War situation offered major possibilities, a new system of global beliefs, shared human values, that surpassed the conflicts of the past. This was the illusion of benign globalisation, of modernisation and of technical, economic and political convergence. For some years, the word "imperialism" went out of fashion.

Those of this persuasion tended to treat the SACP with a mixture of nostalgia and condescension. We had an honourable past, but we would soon peter out into a marginalised irrelevancy. In the first half of the 1990s (in the midst of negotiations, low intensity conflict violence - including the assassination of our general secretary - and the early period of governance) the SACP spent a good deal of time on historical introspection. We revisited Marx and Engels, we debated Lenins legacy. We asked what had gone wrong? Had socialism failed? We considered a wide variety of other Communist and socialist traditions. We engaged widely with fraternal parties and comrades from Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia and North America. We took the task of criticism, self-criticism and socialist renewal very seriously. Our endeavours were appreciated and debated in many places, including, interestingly, in Cuba, China and Russia.

But those of our comrades here within our own movement, who felt that socialism was now more or less irrelevant, ignored all of this. Many of them went straight from an orthodox Marxism-Leninism to belief in benign globalisation with hardly a blink. After all, "there was no future in socialism".

"socialism has a past and a future, but no valid present"

All of which makes the intervention of Moleketi and Jele in the year 2002 AD a sociological curiosity. Suddenly, a decade later, they are hastily dusting off their forgotten copies of Marx and Lenin, they are quoting from the Communist International and they are remembering Moses Kotane.

They now realise that the legacy they treated with benign neglect has not gone away, it has to be contested! The SACP, which was meant to have shrivelled into little more than a museum of the revolution, has a membership that is larger than it has ever been in its 81-year history. The SACP leads mass campaigns, and its influence within the trade union movement and the ANC is very considerable. None of this was meant to happen!

And so we have a fall-back to Plan B. Maybe socialism has a past, and maybe, yes, it does have some kind of distant future. But it has no business to be active in the present. "Socialism is the future, build it THEN". For Moleketi and Jele the defining feature of our "ultra-leftism" is precisely that we believe that socialism has a relevance to the present struggles to advance, deepen and defend the NDR itself. This is our heresy.

They believe that the SACP should have a largely insubstantial presence. This is what they are calling for when they complain that the Party should be a "vanguard" organisation and not a "mass" organisation. By "vanguard" they mean a tiny formation that spends its time gazing into a telescope, whose practice is largely confined to political education, inculcating "discipline", "patience" and the "long view" amongst the working class. Marxism becomes an opiate, socialism is some distant utopia whose vision makes suffering in the present more bearable.

The fall-back to Plan B is also the result of objective realities

However, Moleketi and Jeles sudden re-discovery of our socialist legacy is not just prompted by the steady growth and influence of the SACP. The Gorbachevian dream of a "benign globalisation", of what Lenin once described contemptuously as the utopia of a "peaceful capitalism", lies in ruins. "Imperialism" is not a piece of ultra-left rhetoric, but a strategic role that President George Bushs ideologues proudly proclaim without any blushing. The inability of a more competitive, more liberalised, more modern, more investor friendly South African capitalism to overcome racialised poverty, inequality and mass unemployment is no longer possible to deny.

For all of these reasons, the SACP is, indeed, a vanguard party in the substantial (and not anorexic) sense of that word. The SACP seeks to be a vanguard of the working class, a party of influence and activism within the wider context of our national liberation alliance. We do not aspire to challenge the ANC for size, we do not seek to displace the leadership role of the ANC. We are convinced that we are carrying forward the traditions of Marx, Lenin and Kotane in the present reality. Like Marx, Lenin and Kotane we are absolutely convinced that socialist activism, socialist policies, socialist-oriented programmes are relevant to any democratic revolution, not least our own.

Socialism has a history, it is the future, and it has to be built progressively in the present.


The key challenge facing the movement in the NDR: unity in the ANC and unity of the Alliance

By Philip Dexter, SACP National Treasurer

During recent months it has become increasingly fashionable in the Alliance to label comrades, particularly with the tag "ultra-left". The origins of all this lie, arguably, not in the outcomes of the 11th Congress of the SACP, although the failure of certain key government figures to be re-elected to the CC has fuelled these attacks. It is arguable that this tendency springs from a sequence of events that go back to the unbanning of the ANC and the SACP in 1990, and to debates precipitated by the collapse of really existing socialism.

These debates have resurfaced, in very stark terms, in more recent times. Whatever the infantile nature of these attacks and the name-calling that goes along with them, the key issues at stake for activists in the movement are:

  • What is the character of the NDR?
  • Is it possible to advance to socialism through the NDR?
  • If it is theoretically possible, is this the right time to struggle for socialism?
  • If it is, what is the best strategy and programme to achieve this objective and what are the roles of the ANC, SACP and COSATU respectively in this regard?

Before considering these issues, it is worth reminding ourselves what ultra-leftism is, since comrades labelling in this way do not seem to want to explain the term. This will enable a more considered judgement to be made as to whether any of the positions of the ANC, SACP or COSATU or its leaders are ultra-left. In a response to the Moleketi-Jele contribution, the Politburo of the Party correctly pointed out that ultra-leftism is characterised by "an excessive exaggeration of subjective factors the subjective militancy of a (usually) small group of revolutionaries, orthe deep anger and impatience felt by large masses of workers and the poor, or the attractiveness of an immediate advance to socialism". In short it is the elevation of a desired outcome in the revolution to a position of being something that is regarded as practically possible. The elevation of the subjective over the objective usually leads to "adventurism and /or voluntarism" and a failure to regard the "revolution as a process", seeing instead as a moment, usually elevating tactics to the level of strategy.

The PB also pointed out that ultra-leftism is only one tendency in the movement. There is also reformist opportunism that "overrates the stability, impermeability and the unchallengeable character of objective factors." Reformist opportunism seeks to portray tactical retreats, necessary compromises or objective obstacles as permanent, unchallengeable and thus makes any talk of an advance to socialism, at any point, as simply unrealisable. It may dress up its arguments in revolutionary sounding language, quoting from Marx, Lenin, and other revolutionaries, but it does so selectively to make a case for arguing that only compromise with capital and reform are possible.

If these tendencies are on the ascendant in the movement, then the key issue is whether the mainstream of the revolution, the masses of our people, will be misled by either of these tendencies, or whether they can remain united and mobilised towards the objective of the consolidation of the NDR.

The timing of the debate

Why these definitions are important is because it is clear that if one considers these issues soberly, there has always been an ultra-left in the movement, there has always been reformist opportunism, just as there are other tendencies. What has made the ANC-led Alliance strong historically has been the ability of the leadership of the movement to keep unity in the movement, among the leadership itself and among the masses.

The key issue that confronts us today is whether we can continue to do this. Unity should not mean unity at all costs. But the issue is whether there are principled issues on which the leadership differs and whether there are divisions among the masses. From the outcomes of the ANC National Policy Conference, outcomes supported by the ANC, SACP, COSATU and SANCO, it is clear there are no strategic differences in the vision of the leadership and no divisions among the masses. The masses continue to support the ANC at each opportunity, whether at the ballot box or when called upon to do so by the organisation.

Wherein lies the problem then? Why is it that at a time when the leadership of the ANC in the NDR is not disputed, when the programme of the movement is agreed upon, and when there is no challenge to the leadership of the organisations of the tripartite Alliance, there is such labelling and attacks?

In truth, it is time that we spoke openly about the fact that these divisions are being sown by individuals at various levels of the organisation, but most worrying of all, at a leadership level. Despite our resolutions at the ANC National General Council in Port Elizabeth in 2000, despite our attempts and successes at the Alliance level to foster unity, there are comrades who persist in perpetuating certain untruths with the objective of mobilising support against certain individuals, against positions of the SACP and COSATU, in particular, and for a style of politics in which debate within the ANC becomes meaningless, and democratic decisions taken by the organisation are rendered equally meaningless.

The consequences of this type of politics

We need not be melodramatic, but the consequences of this type of politics for the movement are disastrous. In the name of orthodoxy, the unorthodox will ascend in the movement, killing off a proud tradition and a powerful synthesis of Marxist and revolutionary theory, democratic practice and popular participation. The character of the movement as we know it will be destroyed.

The silence of comrades in the face of this politics, where tried and tested leaders of the movement are vilified, their characters assassinated and their contributions diminished in significance is also worrying. More importantly, organisations are now treated with contempt. Procedures are manipulated to suit particular outcomes. Positions are ignored when it suits certain interests. We need to assess whether the silence of certain comrades springs from agreement and consent, or from an unwillingness to speak through fear of guilt by association. The membership of the organs of the movement need to call the leadership to order. Such behaviour, of the kind we are seeing, is self-interested and cannot build anything. It can only lead to further division and to a moribund organisation. It is the politics of elites, and it alienates the masses by making political processes irrelevant.

Way forward

The mainstream of the ANC, SACP and COSATU has never been guilty of ultra-leftism or of reformist opportunism. Why then do we elevate these imagined threats to any level of significance? It is clear that in the debate about strategy and tactics, policy choices and options, there are broadly speaking four schools of thought in the movement. The first holds that the NDR is not anti-capitalist and therefore any talk of building socialism is anathema. The second is of the view that socialism is possible, but it is a long way off. It will take years before the possibility of socialism is even on the agenda. The third holds that the question of when socialism is possible is neither here nor there. In this view socialism needs to be built from the bottom up in terms of the strength of working class organisations and in terms of counter measures to the logic and dictate of the market. This position, a position of working simultaneously with and against capitalism, is convinced that in doing so, it will ready the working class and the poor to advance to socialism, whenever the time is right to do so. The fourth holds that socialism is on the cards right here and now.

Clearly, the first and fourth views are minority perspectives that do not have much influence upon the line of march in the NDR. But the debate between proponents of the second and third views is critical. It is these two views that have traditionally dominated the movement.

In the post-Soviet, unipolar world, it is clear that there have been shifts in thinking that are not spoken about openly in the movement. These debates on the desirability of socialism, the possibility of advancing to socialism, the roles of the ANC, the SACP and COSATU in these possible futures, and the timing of strategic and tactical choices, lie at the heart of the key debates in the movement. Instead of resorting to name calling, to fabricating threats, to sowing confusion among the people and our activists, the leadership of the movement has a duty to debate these issues more widely and for a strategic unity to be forged around the character of the NDR AND the advance to socialism. Failure to do this will mean that history will judge us harshly, particularly as leadership.

There can be no doubt that differences will continue on these issues as they have on many other issues. If we do not ensure that there is a place for difference in the movement, particularly where it is a difference that adheres to unity in action, the future of the movement will be a bleak one. Let us rise to the challenge of ensuring that we maintain unity in the ANC and unity of the tri-partite Alliance. This is the collective inheritance we share as a people. It is the only hope for a better life for all. Whoever squanders this, impoverishes the nation.


Black Shadows and Red Herrings: A Rejoinder to the Moleketi-Jele Pamphlet

By Oupa Bodibe (COSATU Secretariat Co-ordinator), Patrick Craven (Editor of the Shopsteward) and Vukani Mde (COSATU Spokesperson) in their personal capacities. They are all SACP members.

An original, abbreviated version of this article appeared in the Mail & Guardian (November 1) under the title The Politics of Paranoia.

The debate on the ultra-left is essentially about how we should manage the current phase of the NDR, how we should navigate the internal and external balance of power. In this regard, the prophetic warning by Fanon is worth repeating:

"Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover, its mission, fulfil it, or betray it." (The Wretched of the Earth.)

The current generation of South African revolutionaries is faced with complex political, organisational and socio-economic challenges. We are pursuing the NDR in the context of the ANC-led liberation movement having ascended to elements of power and in the context of a very hostile but ever-changing global environment. Faced with this objective reality, the challenge is how we execute our mission to consolidate, deepen and advance the NDR, while simultaneously laying the basis for socialism.

A new strand of thinking in the movement, as shall be argued later, believes that in the current environment there is no alternative but to pursue a limited vision of the NDR. The Moleketi-Jele intervention is an attempt, albeit in a clumsy fashion, to rationalise the strategic shift that the liberation movement should pursue in the current environment. However, you will need to scratch the surface really hard to understand the kernel of their argument.

There is nothing wrong if comrades genuinely believe that we have to make a strategic shift in our approach. But this needs to be stated openly, so that it can be discussed and agreed upon. In this regard, the "ultra-left" charge that is being carelessly bandied about obfuscates rather than clarifies the matter. The essence of the Moleketi-Jele pamphlet is that there is an "ultra-left plot" to unseat, or at least undermine, a popularly elected government. This ultra-left is somehow in cahoots with the right wing. Revolutionary democrats (meaning the ANC) and "revolutionary socialists" (the good parts of COSATU and the SACP) are called upon to unite against the supposed threat of this enemy in our midst.

Methodology and Style

The biggest difficulty in trying to frame a response to this document is that nowhere in its 28 pages are the people or organisations (that comrades Moleketi and Jele are warning against) actually identified. Given the enormity of what this group is alleged to be involved in the authors say it is "the decisive army of counter-revolution charged with the strategic task to destroy the democratic movement" we would have expected that they would, at least, have been able to find some quotes from statements, articles or speeches by these ultra-left people. In the end there is but one solitary statement by an identified advocate of the "ultra-left" views under discussion. That "honour" falls to Patrick Bond, whose views on NEPAD are presented as proof of the "ultra-left" agenda.

All the rest of the authors venom is directed at shadows unidentified, mysterious forces who are so powerful and dangerous that they threaten to derail and roll back the liberation struggle, yet apparently they have produced no manifesto or policy declaration, and operate in such obscurity that no one, including comrades Moleketi and Jele, knows who they are. Surely if the authors seriously want to expose these people they should be able to reveal their identity and quote from their policy positions.

In fact, the pamphlet stirs hysteria and paranoia and sets the movement on a witch-hunt to find and defeat the ultra-left. The tone and language makes it impossible to have a rational debate and the authors use blackmail to solicit support. You are either with us or you are with them! This does not make for a rational discussion on what choices should be made to steer the revolution, it is attempting, instead, a bureaucratic closing of ranks.

In any event, if you differ with the perspective advanced by Moleketi and Jele you may, without a fair trial, find yourself in the ultra-left. Moleketi and Jele set up bogeymen and caricature the positions of COSATU and the SACP to support their ultra-left charge. It is as if they do not want to be bothered with facts in their rush to crush the ultra-left.

The positions that are being paraded as evidence of the ultra-left within the SACP and COSATU are in fact mainstream policy positions of the two organisations. For example, it is alleged that the ultra-left has a penchant "to organise its most destructive mass actions at the precise moments when the world progressive forces engage the dominant world groups to achieve forward movements, in the interest of the people" (p.12). What could this be referring to other than COSATUs anti-privatisation strikes?

The ANC "NEC Briefing Notes" of November 2001 made similar allegations against COSATU. In similar vein the pamphlet claims that the ultra-left has "sought to draw the organised workers into political strikes, to fight against the efforts of the democratic state to carry alleged wholesale privatisation of state property. No other socialist party adheres to the slogan "socialism is the future build it now" other than the SACP!

The pamphlets anti-ultra-left crusade resonates with PW Bothas total onslaught strategy and McCarthys anti-communism. It is simply a modern manifestation of the rooi-gevaar. For example, the apartheid regime believed that the ANC was used by the Communists as a launching pad for world communism. In similar vein Moleketi and Jele claim that the ultra-left seeks "to transform South Africa into base to prosecute an anti-capitalist struggle globally", (p.1).

The methodology of the analysis is irredeemably flawed. The authors seem to have three basic strategies: McCarthyism, liberal usage of red herrings, and what can only be described as a religious fundamentalist approach to Marxism-Leninism. In favour of these strategies, the authors forego a sober analysis that could lead to constructive debate.

Decoding the Moleketi-Jele Paper

Throughout the document issues are confused rather than clarified by inserting long quotations from Marx, Engels and Lenin, that are so selective and ripped out of their historical context that they are totally irrelevant to the point the authors are trying to make. It would require too many pages to contextualise the classical quotations (mis-)used by Moleketi-Jele.

Suffice to say that most of the quotes refer to quite different debates on different issues to those they are trying to deal with. Marxism is being treated quite shabbily, not as a living body of knowledge and as a tool of analysis, but as a bible of eternal truths to be pulled out of a hat and quoted extensively on any day, useful to silence the modern heretic.

There is one passage from Lenin that has to be discussed because it takes us to the heart of what this debate is really about. This is Lenins defence of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, under which the Soviet government permitted elements of capitalism to re-enter the socialist economy of the USSR. Moleketi and Jele clearly see this as a model for the ANC government of South Africa today. They are using Lenin, of all people, to support the argument that there is nothing wrong with capitalism, or conservative management of the capitalist economy. In essence the comrades are arguing for the market as the best economic system available to solve the problems of South Africa. For that is what the document is an argument for private enterprise and the market economy.

The proletariat is counselled, no warned, by Moleketi-Jele that:

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

This passage, imbued with a depressing fatalism, aims to terrify workers into submission THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE period.

It would have been far better for the authors to openly admit this at the outset and declare that they are opening a debate on the merits of capitalism as opposed to socialism. Or that the only route open to manage a capitalist economy is via conservative macroeconomic policies or trickle-down economics. Then we could have very real and necessary debate within our movement.

Why confuse everybody, by wrapping up their argument in pseudo-Marxist mumbo jumbo about revolutionary democracy, irrelevant passages from Marx and Lenin and wild conspiracy theories? Why not simply say: "we believe capitalism is the best policy for the ANC government to adopt", and stop claiming that anyone who disagrees with that or advocates socialist policies is by definition ultra-left?

Clearly the authors lack the courage of their capitalist convictions. The reason is not hard to find. They know full well that within the ANCs membership and constituency there will be very little support for their ideas and so they have to pretend that their pro-capitalist policies are actually defending and extending the national democratic revolution and fighting for the national liberation of the African people. Even worse, they drag in Marxism-Leninism to support their view that the NDR should consolidate capitalism.

This is where their misrepresentation of Lenins position of the NEP is central. An overall reading of Lenins writings reveals quite clearly that the reintroduction of elements of capitalism was a compromise forced on the Soviet government by devastation caused by years of war, revolution, civil war and famine. The economy had been wrecked and they had no alternative but to seek ways to rebuild the countrys ruined infrastructure. Lenin likens this to the kind of compromise you have to make when you are held at gunpoint and forced to hand over your money. He saw it as a temporary expedient that would buy time and create the conditions for the continuation of the building of socialism. He insisted that the state should remain in overall control of the economy and warned against the dangers of a new capitalist class (the NEP men) emerging, which might try to reintroduce capitalism.

Comrades Moleketi and Jele conveniently forget that Lenin was writing about a Soviet economy in which socialism had been established and that he was discussing the best strategies for taking it forward. South Africa in 2002 is not a socialist economy, and, as they keep reminding us, the ANC is not a socialist organisation. The authors put forward capitalism and the market not as an enforced compromise to buy time, but the best way forward for South Africa now and in the future.

The revision of both ANC history and the concept of the NDR takes us back full circle to the ANC of 1912 a movement led by professionals advocating accommodation with the colonial state, a movement which was not challenging the structure of colonial oppression and exploitation and which was avowedly anti-communist. This is, in essence, what the authors seek to turn the ANC into an organisation of the petty bourgeoisie and emergent black capital. Were this to happen there would be nothing revolutionary about the NDR.

The historical perspective of the movement, at least since the 1950s, has been a realisation that national democracy would be meaningless if the structure of colonial accumulation remains intact. In this regard, while not openly advocating socialism the movement sought to challenge and transform the apartheid economy to deal with the legacy of the past. To socialists aligned with and active in the NDR this is nothing more than laying the basis for socialism. The relationship between the NDR and socialism is best articulated in the ANCs 1979 "Green Book".

In Moleketi and Jeles hands Marxism-Leninism is an instrument to pacify the working class and compel them into subjugation under the pretext of advancing the NDR and fighting narrow sectionalism. Socialism itself becomes an opium of the working class bear the brunt of capitalist exploitation for there is no alternative because in some distant future the world will belong to you. This is capitulation politics par excellence! This is what Fanon warns against in the chapter on the "Pitfalls of National Consciousness" in his seminal work, The Wretched of the Earth.

Significantly, for Jele and Moleketi, the Party of Kotane is juxtaposed to the current SACP. Unintentionally, they reveal their contempt for the SACP by hankering for the past and by contrasting the Party of Kotane to the Party of Hani and Nzimande. For instance, on page 9, Moleketi and Jele argue that the "the ultra left sectarian faction represents the very opposite of what Kotane and others fought for." But this difference is not fully explained.

Of course this is a perversion of what Kotane stood for. Kotane was a pioneer to Africanise the SACP, so that it became relevant to the African working class and the broader liberation struggle. The Party of Hani and Nzimande is taking forward the pioneering work of Kotane to locate the SACP at the coal-face of workers struggle in the current period. This is an affront to Jele and Moleketi who believe that the Partys contribution in the NDR should be no more than fighting the ultra-left.

Economic Debates within the Alliance

There is, of course, a debate within the alliance on how we transform the economy and manage it in the interest of our people. At the core of this debate is how we take forward the RDP in the current context. With the introduction of GEAR there was a change in approach towards trickle-down economics usually justified on the grounds that the state was shackled with debt, hence a deficit-reduction strategy accompanied by tight monetary policy, trade liberalisation, financial liberalisation, and sale of assets in certain respects. As such, the essence of the debate is not, per se, about capitalism versus socialism but how we transform the apartheid economy in a manner in which we address poverty, unemployment and underemployment. This must, of course, introduce elements of socialism by undermining the power of unfettered markets.

In this regard, a developmental interventionist state must play a dominant role in directing investment to those areas where the people need it most. This is no ultra-left view, and is in fact in line with policy positions articulated in the RDP. That does not mean that socialists are opposed to any compromises with capitalism. But when compromises have to be made it is vital to see them as temporary diversions and not alternative solutions to the problems, as Comrade Moleketi and Jele argue.

That is the real question we ought to be debating, not abstract theorising, but what policies in practice are the best for taking forward the NDR and liberating our people from poverty, disease and unemployment. The comrades themselves identify four key areas of disagreement.

  • Restructuring of state assets
  • Mobility of capital across borders
  • Opening the domestic market to international commodities and services
  • Development and mobility of labour as a factor of production, to keep pace with the development of the means and methods of production.

On all these issues the authors support policies which promote market forces and private capital as the main motors of change. COSATU disagrees, and sees the state having a central role to play.

In regard to the first issue, the federation has always supported the restructuring of state assets, to make them more efficient and improve their service delivery, but it is opposed to simply selling them off to the highest bidder. To the government, however, 'restructuring' has become a euphemism for privatisation. Even on that, COSATU is not inflexible. As President Mbeki keeps pointing out, the federation did not oppose the selling off of the Aventura holiday resorts and Sun Air, which are not providers of essential services. But the federation draws the line at the privatisation in eleven areas that provide essential services. These are water, sewage and refuse disposal, basic housing, health, education, telecommunications, safety and security, welfare provision, transport, electricity, and basic cultural amenities.

On the second (capital mobility) and third (opening up domestic markets) issues, it would be suicidal for trade unions to try to stop incoming investment or an expansion of international trade, and COSATU has not done so. But it would be no less suicidal to disregard the potentially damaging effects of opening up markets in a world where the playing field is not level but biased in favour of the big multi-national companies and financial institutions. That is why COSATU has supported continuing government controls over capital and tariffs, to protect local industries and save jobs. Volatility in the exchange rate is, in part, attributable to the absence of capital controls, for the logic of market flexibility is capital out-flow from developing economies.

In regard to the fourth issue, the mobility of labour, COSATU has serious reservations about adopting this as a policy. 'Mobility' has come to mean, in reality, casualisation, piece jobs and low-quality employment, with poverty wages and no benefits. The government has to intervene pro-actively to protect jobs and not leave the market to solve the crisis of mass unemployment.

These are the practical, realistic policies which the left, the trade union movement, most of civil society and the majority of the ANC membership, support. Yet Moleketi/Jele identify the very same policies as 'ultra-left'. Does this mean that all those who support all or at least some of these views are the ultra-left?

Moleketi and Jele's counter arguments are that the state cannot generate the required resources we need for its social programmes and has no alternative but to "attract as much private capital into our country as possible", in part by bringing in "strategic equity partners". But while everyone would welcome private investment, we cannot abdicate control over the economy to the people who bring in this investment. That investment will be useless if it is simply used to generate quick profits and is then taken out of the country again. Investment has to be directed by the government to those areas of greatest need.

They deny that "any large-scale privatisation has taken place or is planned". But the reality is that large areas of telecommunications, electricity generation, the ports, water and sanitation and public transport are being sold off and many services in local government, the roads network, prisons and the health service have been outsourced to private companies.

They argue that these measures have brought in revenue and improved services. While it is obviously true that privatisation generates money for the government, the big problem is that it is a one-off exercise (sometimes compared to selling off the family silver). Once sold, the state's assets are permanently reduced. That might be justified if the benefits were clear. But experience in South Africa and internationally shows that in most cases, privatisation actually leads to poorer service, higher tariffs and fewer jobs.

Moleketi/Jele give great weight to the 'ultra-left's' supposed policy on Nepad. They caricature a posture of root-and-branch opposition to any plan for the regeneration of Africa. But no one has adopted such a position. The genuine left has never opposed Nepad's stated principles. Of course COSATU and every socialist wants to see an end to wars, poverty, disease, corruption, racism and dictatorship in Africa. They will support anything that takes us in that direction.

There are, however, genuine worries that, as presently conceived, Nepad may do none of these things. Just like the ANC's domestic policies, Nepad relies too heavily on the private sector and market forces. In an unequal world economy, unfettered market forces lead to domination by the multi-nationals and financial institutions and thus a continuation of the economic imperialism that is the main reason for Africa's problems in the first place.

Our experience with privatisation give lie to the argument that only the private sector has the human and capital resources needed for development. South African Airways has had to be re-nationalised, the management contract governing the post office had to be cancelled, the market has no enthusiasm for the Second National Operator (SNO), and Telkom has haemorrhaged jobs over the last three years.

Space does not allow a response to all the points in the document, but its publication will have served a useful purpose if it stirs up a debate that ultimately demolishes the absurd myth that there is a strong 'ultra-left' force, allied to the right wing and bourgeois media to destroy the national democratic revolution.


The McCarthyism of Moleketi/Jele could, ironically, have the effect of stirring up the same anti-communist hysteria associated with the apartheid psyche. Already we see the left being treated as one unvaried, dangerous monolith, its entire world of ideas as un-nuanced, counter-revolutionary propaganda. We are treading dangerous ground indeed.

We are in desperate need of an intervention that focuses the movement on the real debate. What economic policies, in South Africa and in the continent, will take forward the struggle for national liberation and will begin to overcome the massive problems that still afflict us. Launching a witch-hunt against the "ultra-left" is, in fact, an attempt to avoid facing up to the necessity for such a debate.


We are Communists and Proud

By Nhlanhla Buthelezi, an SACP KZN Provincial Executive Committee member

There is no blueprint for the implementation of socialism. The Bolshevik Revolution happened at a particular time under particular conditions. The same can be said of the other great revolutions of the past century, the Cuban, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions. It is necessary to constantly review and assess ones assumptions. Some who once rejected the Chinese revolution are today recognising its success. Some who religiously believed in the bureaucratic methods used in the Soviet Union after Lenin, now realise there were fundamental errors. Some who believed that there was nothing good in cde Leon Trotsky have reviewed their assumptions. Some who thought Stalin was all wrong, and Trotsky entirely right, are also thinking again. Some who taught us a mechanical understanding of the "two-stage" theory have recognised the danger of balkanising our national democratic revolution from a struggle for socialism.

This process of openness and review is natural and entirely positive. However, one of the fundamental problems at present in our revolutionary Alliance is intolerance of views of those outside the centre of power, no matter how committed they may be to our national democratic revolution. Socialists and communists who have identified some weaknesses in governments macro-economic policy (Gear) did not label the ANC but referred to the policy as neo-liberal (which is true). In countering these concerns, instead of explaining Gears achievements, there are labels and subjective attacks.

Under the leadership of the ANC, the majority of South Africans have succeeded in destroying the apartheid regime. In the course of our struggle we have developed strong traditions of consultation and participation. The Harare Declaration, which outlined our broad strategic approach to negotiations, was widely canvassed, not just within the ANC, but across our mass democratic formations. The negotiations process itself was subjected to ongoing popular consultation. The decision of not taking the IFP to court after it had rigged the elections in 1994 was consulted with and endorsed by the MDM. The RDP was adopted through the mass participation.

In all of these cases, there was great tolerance, organisational involvement and democracy. Now, however, our MDM formations tend only to be consulted during election campaigns.

In their intervention, "Two Strategies of the National Liberation Movement for the Victory of the National Democratic Revolution" cdes Jabu Moleketi and Josiah Jele perpetuate this trend towards intolerance.

The rich history of our national democratic revolution cannot be attributed to one component of the alliance only. Our shared history goes back to the first decades of the past century, to 1912, 1915, and 1921.

Cdes Moleketi and Jele want to attribute the ultra-left tendency to the SACP and to key comrades who have been central to building a visible party. In particular, they seek to argue that our slogan, Socialism is the Future, Build it Now!, is an ultra-left deviation that departs from the former traditions of the SACP. It is easy enough to show that Moleketi and Jele are fundamentally wrong in this view. For instance, In April 1977, a key Plenary Session of the SACP central committee adopted a political report ("The way forward from Soweto"). The report states, amongst other things:

"In alliance with the working class and poor peasants in the countryside, the black proletariat is the most uncompromising enemy of race and class oppression and the most powerful force of national liberation. The working class gains nothing but misery from the Bantustans which are used as an excuse to deprive it of all rights and hound it in the cities built by its labour."

It has nothing to gain from the kind of liberation which gives a few blacks the opportunity to share in the peoples exploitation. For the black working class, the biggest and most exploited section of the oppressed majority, there is only one way out - the complete defeat of racist supremacy and the creation of a peoples government which will put South Africa on the road to socialism

It continues: "the indivisible link which exists between class and national oppression in our country explains the need for a strong Communist Party and well-organised trade union movement as part of the liberation alliance headed by the ANC... We share, too, the belief that there can be no true liberation in South Africa without the destruction of the political and economic power of our ruling class and without peoples control of the basic means of production The two fundamental streams of revolutionary consciousness - national and class - have made an important impact upon one another and have enriched the indigenous application of the universal truths of revolutionary ideology... We continue to assert the absolute right of our Party to exist as an independent organisation and to continue to exercise its public role as the advance vanguard of the working class." (See South African Communists Speak, pp. 429-30)

The classics would say that there is no Chinese wall between the national democratic revolution and the struggle for socialism. I am sure that comrades know this, however, it seems that the perks of power are beginning to contaminate theory. The SACP is active in the NDR because we believe it will take us towards socialism. We are doing that Now! Who-ever calls this ultra-leftism has changed into an ultra-bourgeoisie. As Dialego once argued: "It is sometimes said that Marxists do not believe ... in human nature, but this is only true in the sense that we reject any conception of a static or unchanging human nature, for we know that peoples ideas, behaviour and institutions are constantly changing - that human nature can be found in many different forms". (Dialego, Philosophy and class struggle, p. 32).

The national democratic revolution cannot be dislocated from the nature and character of the leading formation in the NDR, the ANC. Members of the ANC embrace many different currents - democrats, communists, socialists and an emerging bourgeoisie. We have all long agreed that there is no single class ideology that can claim ownership of the ANC. However, we have also long agreed within the ANC that the interests of the working class must be placed at the centre of the NDR. Over many decades, and this has never been a secret, there have been significant forces within the Alliance seeking to transform the continuing national struggle into a struggle for socialism. To pretend otherwise, as Moleketi and Jele do, amounts to calling for an anti-communist, anti-socialist struggle; dampening the spirit of the working class as a motive force in the NDR; and undermining the relationship between the NDR and socialist struggles.

Moleketi and Jele have launched an attack on key formations and on socialists within our alliance at a time when, precisely, the ANC is actively pursuing co-operation with parties to the right. In the Western Cape and at a national level, there are now close co-operation agreements in place between the ANC and the New National Party. In KwaZulu Natal there are ongoing meetings between the ANC and the Minority Front to decide about the future of the Ethekwini Unicity Council. At the national level there is co-operation between the ANC and the IFP, despite problems in KZN. Surely, now more than ever, we need the closest Alliance unity, if we are to ensure that we are able to drive our shared national democratic strategic vision, notwithstanding our correct tactical co-operation with centre-right and right-wing formations. With all the new developments going on, there is a need for the Alliance to discuss issues of the NDR and governance.

It must be remembered that both Cosatu and the SACP are key formations in any ANC-led electoral effort.

The SACP remains the Party of cde Moses Kotane, and it remains the Party of cde Chris Hani (it is interesting that Moleketi and Jele never mention Chris Hani). We are not going to agree with their attempt to slow down the growth of the SACP for another century. The fact that we are in alliance with the ANC does not mean that we should not raise our views on the immediate tasks of the NDR. We are Red and Proud! In his work, "Socialist revolution and the struggle for democracy" (1916) Lenin writes:

"The domination of finance capital, however, does not in the least nullify the significance of political democracy as a freer, wider and clearer form of class oppression and class struggle. Therefore, all arguments about the impracticability, in the economic sense, of one of the demands of political democracy under capitalism are reduced to a theoretically incorrect definition of the general and basic relationships of capitalism and of political democracy as a whole. The demand for the immediate liberation of colonies that is put forward by all revolutionary social democrats is also impracticable under capitalism without a series of revolutions. But from this it does not mean that social democracy should reject the immediate and most determined struggle for all demands... This demand must be formulated and put through in a revolutionary and not a reformist manner, going beyond the bounds of bourgeois legality, breaking them down, going beyond speeches in parliament and verbal protests and drawing the masses into decisive action, extending and intensifying the struggle for every fundamental democratic demand up to a proletarian onslaught on the bourgeoisie."

Believing and arguing for the same thing in our conditions is not ultra-leftism. Capitalism is an ideology which should be fought using another ideology, and that ideology is socialism.


Right-wing opportunism masquerading as revolutionary democracy and revolutionary socialism: a response to Moleketi and Jele

David Masondo, An SACP member based in the Limpopo Province and member of the NEC of the ANC Youth League

In the recent past there have been a number of articles, statements and papers within the liberation movement and in the media attacking the ultra-left. Labelling has been the dominant tactic, but, unfortunately, the label is seldom clearly defined. The intervention by Moleketi and Jele ("Two Strategies of the National Liberation Movement in the Struggle for the Victory of the National Democratic Revolution") is no exception to this trend.

When Lenin was dealing with mistaken tendencies in the working class movement, he pointed to two main tendencies. The first one is left-wing opportunism or ultra-leftism, a tendency that elevates tactical choices to principles and strategic objectives. This tendency is rigid in changing tactics in the ebb and flow of the struggle. Left-wing opportunism tends to be opposed to compromises in principle.

The second tendency that Lenin dealt with is right wing opportunism. This tendency deals with strategic and principled issues as if they were tactical choices. In our case, we see this kind of opportunism deviating from the historical conception of the NDR and what it stands for.

Comrade George Mashamba (1989) has captured these two tendencies well when he argues that the ultra-left downplays the significance of quantitative changes and regards any reform as an impediment to qualitative change. It only fights for qualitative changes. In our case it would tend to ignore the necessity of integrating the national question and other popular struggles in the class struggle. On the other hand, the right-wing tendency rejects qualitative changes in favour of quantitative reforms. Mashamba concludes that both tendencies are reactionary for "ignoring and denying the relevance of quantitative change as the basis for qualitative change, those who advocate only qualitative change simply succeed in pulling the rug from under their own feet".

Moleketi and Jele nowhere bother to define ultra-leftism. Instead, they use it as a simple label, applying it to everyone who is critical of specific policy choices such as GEAR. In that way they shift the focus from looking at key issues facing the movement in the current conjecture. At the heart of Alliance differences is what constitutes tactical and strategic choices, more especially at the economic level in the current phase of the NDR.

Moleketi and Jele accuse COSATU and the SACP of not focusing their attacks on capital. In doing this they mechanically draw a distinction between state power and capital. The state is an instrument of class rule and it shapes, to a significant extent, the relationship between labour and capital. Moleketi and Jele are implying that certain government policy choices should not be contested, the working class should only deal with capital. They conveniently forget that some of these policy positions, such as GEAR, benefit capital. Perhaps they should realise that this might be why, as they argue, seemingly without the slightest self-reflection: " the principal attack is not coming from the right including the conservative sections of the national liberation movement".

National Democratic Revolution and the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution

Of course it is wrong to call for the breaking up of the Alliance in the current period, but it is equally wrong to distort the revolutionary theoretical approach of our liberation movement to the relationship between class and national and gender struggles. Moleketi and Jele argue that those who raise the class question within the NDR are ultra-left because they seek to "abandon the national democratic struggle in favour of class struggle". This is a mechanical approach and a departure from the well-established understanding that the national struggle is part of the class struggle. Class struggle has been around even before the formation of nations.

This conceptual confusion arises out their interchangeable usage of the concepts of "democratic revolution" and "national democratic revolution", thus equating the latter simply to a bourgeois democratic revolution. The NDR and a bourgeois democratic revolution are not the same thing. Yes, both are democratic revolutions, but the NDR is a democratic revolution under the leadership of the working class.

The bourgeois democratic revolution was led by the bourgeoisie against feudalism. It brought into being nation states based on a nationalism, which was used by the bourgeoisie to conceal the class divisions within each nation. The concept of an NDR in our South African situation is not similar to a bourgeois democratic revolution, not only because we are not dealing with feudal relations, but also because our NDR is linked to national oppression and capitalism in the era of imperialism as conceptualised by Lenin. Put differently, the transitional problematic in South Africa is not the destruction of a feudal apparatus, instead we are dealing with the bourgeoisie in the new phase of imperialism or monopoly capitalism. The concept of the NDR should be understood within the context of the growth and internationalisation of capitalist relations, which give rise to imperialism and colonialism. Because national oppression is linked and beneficial to the international capitalist system, the struggle for national liberation is also anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist in a sense that it has to challenge the conditions for global capital accumulation. To label those who argue that the NDR is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist "ultra-left" is tantamount to saying that the whole NDR strategy is "ultra-left". In essence both ultra-left opportunism and right opportunism see the NDR as a bourgeois democratic revolution! The former condemn it on these grounds, the latter (covertly) celebrate it on these grounds.

Of course the NDR can degenerate into a bourgeois democratic revolution, and this is what Moleketi and Jele want, a degenerate NDR. Lenin argued that "the petty bourgeoisie had put forward not only the demand for the self-determination of nations but all the points of our democratic minimum programme long before as far back as the seventeenth and eighteen centuries. They are still putting them all forward in a utopian manner because they fail to see class struggle and its increased intensity under democracy because they believe in peaceful capitalism" (Lenin,1967).

Moleketi and Jele complain that it (ultra-left) presents a perspective suggesting that, under its leadership South Africa can and should be transformed into a base to prosecute an anti-capitalist struggle globally. The NDR is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist! Moleketi and Jele blame communists for struggling against capitalism in the context of the NDR in the era of the new phase of imperialism popularly known as globalisation.

According to Moleketi and Jele anyone who sees the ANC as a possible vehicle for socialism is ultra-left. However, the ANCs approach to socialism or capitalism is a contingent issue, that is to say, it depends on the balance of forces within the ANC and, also, on the objective situation. For instance, the ANCs 1979 Green Book (the Report of the Politico-Military Strategy Commission to the ANC NEC) argued for a perspective in which the NDR would culminate in a socialist revolution. Nor would it be the first time that a liberation movement has taken this route. The national revolutionary movement formed under the leadership of Fidel Castro was a united front that included the Communist Party. This patriotic movement overthrew Batista and installed a first Provisional government - revolutionary democratic power (in the real and not degenerate sense evoked by Moleketi and Jele). They nationalised big American industries. In 1961 the three major revolutionary groups, namely, the 26 July Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate and the Communist Party merged into a United Party of the Socialist Revolution. Of course, there is no teleological route to socialism in the Third World. In other words, it is not guaranteed that the NDR will culminate in socialism. It can degenerate into bourgeois revolutions, this has happened in Indonesia, Sudan and in several Arab states, often with the whole-sale massacre of communist and other left forces. The Chinese scenario is also possible, here the nationalist Kuomintang capitulated to imperialism, and the Communist Party took over the mantle of the national patriotic struggle against Japanese imperialist occupation, a struggle that then transformed into a socialist struggle. Any of these scenarios is at least theoretically possible in South Africa.

Politics and economics of the NDR

Capitalist crises typically lead to overproduction. Capitalists may seek to resolve their crisis by enlarging markets, or through 'wasteful' consumption such as on wars, or on luxurious consumer goods, or through encouraging government spending. The state is not merely a technical, macro-manager, a class-neutral reality in this context. As part of the response to the structural crisis within South African capitalism in the mid-1980s, the apartheid (capitalist-dominated) state borrowed from workers' pensions (a deferred wage) to finance its consumption, not least its total strategy warfare consumption. The states debt, in fact a public debt weighing down upon us all, and how to deal with it, are also not simply technical, class-neutral matters. There are various tactical choices, each with its own strategic implications. To deal with the debt, the state may increase taxation, for instance. This taxation, depending on the class that is dominant in the state, may assist in the reconfiguration of capital, taking part of the surplus value from one sector of capital to another, or even, through redistributive measures to the working class and poor. One of the favoured options, from the point of view of capital, to dealing with the debt, is privatisation.

Part of the justification for privatisation in South Africa currently is to deal with the so-called national debt and this is where the Party and COSATU differ with Moleketi and Jele. While we acknowledge that payment or non-payment of the national debt does not abolish capitalism, different options may reconfigure capitalism in more progressive and transformative ways. Moleketi and Jele present our position as one which is careless about an accumulating debt, they then present themselves as the "sensible" ones, dealing responsibly with the debt. But this completely avoids the real debates that need to take place. It is not a question of neglecting the debt, but of how to manage it, and in favour of which sectors of capital, and in favour, if possible, of which broader strata of our population. Tactical options in the current phase of the NDR in regard to the so-called national debt should be discussed within the ANC and Alliance. In other words dealing with the national debt should be in the realm of tactics. For instance, it is tactically unwise to seek to repay the debt largely through privatisation and commercialisation. These are state assets that should be used to implement radical reforms in favour of the working class. It is also tactically incorrect to raise interest rates which artificially increase the national debt, and promote speculative capital that derives profit from interest rather than from production. The SACP and COSATU have not been calling for populist spending without regard to accumulation, hence the call for a revolutionary, national democratic, state-led industrial strategy.

In seeking to validate their economic choices, Moleketi and Jele invoke Lenins New Economic Policy (NEP) to justify their neo-liberal economic model GEAR. But they are comparing two totally different things. While they insist that the ANC is not a socialist organisation (forgetting that this is a contingent question), they happily equate the present ANC-led government with the Bolsheviks Soviet state. In 1921, when the NEP was introduced, the Soviet Union was in a stage of post-capitalist construction. Moleketi and Jele fail to distinguish between reforms in the capitalist and post-capitalist periods. NEP was introduced as a breathing space, in the midst of civil war devastation and dislocation. NEP allowed the restoration of small-scale capitalism, but major industries, banking and a monopoly on foreign trade remained firmly in the hands of the proletarian state. Lenin was aware of the dangers of even this limited opening up to small-scale capitalism, hence the need to have close state control. NEP was a momentary retreat in order to build socialism, it was not designed to make capitalism "more competitive". Moreover, the Bolsheviks did not wait for 8 years of proletarian rule, in April 1922 Lenin announced that the retreat had ended and called for an offensive against capitalist elements.

Moleketi and Jele have an equally superficial approach to Zimbabwe. They warn us not to follow "Zimbabwean" economic policies because they will have "disastrous consequences". Indeed, they argue that the "ultra-left" in South Africa is "advocating" "Zimbabwean-style" social spending without regard to longer term consequences. Their analysis of Zimbabwe is not located within the broader crisis of global capitalism. Initial post-independence borrowing and social spending was encouraged in Zimbabwe (and in many other Third World societies in the late 1970s and early 1980s) by the advanced capitalist countries and the major banks. Prevailing capitalist "Third World development" theory was, in fact, dominated by a Keynesian model at the time. This model was, in turn, a response to their own over-production crisis. However, the model failed, and resulted in a major debt crisis, and there was a shift towards imposed neo-liberal structural adjustment programmes. Moleketi and Jeles argument amounts to rejecting a Keynesian developmental model (as if that were what we were advocating) in favour of a neo-liberal option. Of course, this neo-liberal model was also pursued in Zimbabwe, partly through external coercion, and we should not forget that in the mid-1990s Zimbabwe was being praised as a model by the IMF. Both approaches have contributed to the current socio-economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Moleketi and Jele fail to locate the Zimbabwean crisis within the general crisis of capitalism, and this makes it impossible for them to explain with any coherence why Zimbabwe pursued two different models in different decades.

International balance of forces and the NDR

Moleketi and Jele suggest that the international working class set-back, marked by the collapse of the Soviet bloc, makes it is impossible to fight capitalism abroad and domestically because "capital is stronger than it has ever been". This is capitulation. While we should avoid voluntarism and while we should certainly take into account the hostile international balance of forces, the internal balance of forces is determinant and it is the decisive basis for social change. This is not to deny the interplay between the external and internal situation in a revolutionary process, but internal factors are usually determinant. If all revolutions were to be determined by the international balance of forces, there would be no revolution anywhere in the world, starting with the French Revolution of 1789, or the October 1917 Revolution, or the various third world revolutions of the previous century. There was no socialist camp when the Russian revolution took place. There was, of course, a socialist camp when the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions took place, and they were certainly conditioned by external factors, but they were not overwhelmed by them. If they had allowed themselves to be determined by the international balance forces, the Vietnamese and Cubans would never have fought in the first place. But because they shifted the internal balance of forces, they were able to succeed. By contrast, many revolutions have been defeated because the revolutionary forces were weak internally.

What is at stake in the NDR?

The key question confronting our liberation movement in the present is not a choice between revolutionary democrats and revolutionary socialists, on the one hand, versus ultra-leftists on the other. The key question is whether we choose a "bourgeois democratic" path or an NDR, as envisaged in the Freedom Charter. Do we choose the Moleketi and Jele path of "modernisation" spurred by private investment that improves our international competitiveness and builds a black bourgeoisie? Or do we choose a non-capitalist developmental path in which the revolutionary national democratic state based on the Freedom Charter drives and guides the development of productive forces and determines the distribution of ownership and control of the means of production?

Moleketi and Jele are unable to contest these perspectives rationally and soberly. Instead they resort to labels and misrepresentation. Revolutionary democrats, which is, presumably, how they would style themselves, should join with socialists in implementing a non-capitalist path of development based on the Freedom Charter, instead of advancing the entirely utopian dream of "modernizing" and making South African capitalism more "competitive" in the era of monopoly capitalism.


  • Mashamba, G. 1989. A Conceptual critique of the People Education Discourse. University of Witwatersrand: Education Policy Unit.
  • Moleketi, J and Jele, J 2002. Two Strategies of the National Liberation Movement in the Struggle for the Victory of the National Democratic Revolution.
  • Lenin, V.I. 1962. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Progress Publishers, Moscow.
  • Lenin, V.I. 1967. On Socialist Economic Organisation. Progress publishers, Moscow.
  • South African Communists Speak 1915-1980. 1981.Inkululeko Publishers, London.

The Political Balance of Forces: A COSATU perspective

Extract from a COSATU CEC Political Discussion Paper released on 1 December 2002

This part reviews developments among the opposition parties, the state itself, the Alliance and the democratic movement as a whole. These shifts must inform COSATUs overall engagement strategy, which is analysed in the final section.

Overall, the analysis reflects complex challenges facing COSATU and the liberation movement as whole. It reflects briefly on the state of the opposition parties following a detailed analysis (above) of the power of capital. It discusses the state of the alliance and points out that the key challenge we face is the inability of the alliance leadership to take forward agreed to processes and to prioritise the alliance. It then summarises the key priorities for COSATU between now and the 8th National Congress.

Opposition parties

The opposition parties do not currently wield any real influence, although the NNP may gain a greater say in policy through its coalition with the ANC. Clearly, its role in the coalition is contested within the ANC itself.

The DA, the NNP and the ultra-right

The DA, the main opposition party, remains the party of capital. Its platform is therefore entirely incapable of achieving majority support.

Since the DA has no prospect of winning a majority, it is unable to maintain a base of support from big business. It relies instead on disaffected middle-class white and Indian and Coloured groupings, which regrettably includes huge parts of the working class. As the 7th National Congress paper points out, the DP and now the DA has effectively replaced the NNP as the chief representative and spokesperson of the most backward elements in our society. It has played on the fears of these groupings whilst mouthing pro-capital solutions to the problems faced by our country.

This situation underlies the shift of power from the DA to the NNP in the middle of 2002. For many whites and much of business, the NNPs alliance with the ANC makes it a more useful instrument for influencing government policy.

For COSATU, a critical question has become whether the ANC will feel that, in light of the NNPs increased power, it must make additional concessions. These concessions could take the form of policy changes and the offer of more positions in government. The risk is that they would strengthen the conservatives in government. The proposed creation of a joint policy forum amplifies the danger of this. Still, COSATU must support any effort, including co-operation between the ANC and the NNP, that undermines the more reactionary forces in the opposition like the DA.

The weakness of the NNP and the DP has to some extent opened the door to terrorist, Afrikaner national groups. These groups have no political perspective, making their actions unpredictable. They have proven their ability to maintain low-level sabotage, based on a combination of support by some white farmers and military skills. Still, given their political isolation even amongst the majority of the white population, it seems inconceivable that they will be able to undertake the ambitious and wholly unrealistic programmes that they adopt.

Black opposition parties

The predominantly black parties the IFP, the PAC, the UDM, the ACDP and some even smaller parties have no clear programme except to gain power. As a result, they have been unable to mobilise broad support.

In recent months, we have seen an attempt by the factions of the PAC, AZAPO, SOPA and the UDM to form a coalition. In the absence of a clear programme beyond opposition to the ANC, however, this process also seems unlikely to succeed.

Issues for COSATU

Virtually all the political parties hope to use COSATU to gain access to workers votes. They opportunistically (and embarrassingly) declare support for some of our demands, although they still oppose our overall strategy for social and economic transformation.

COSATU should relate to opposition parties on the basis that we are prepared to discuss the issues with anyone. Still, there is no prospect of working consistently with any of the opposition political parties, because our ultimate goals and strategies are fundamentally divergent.

The State

We here define the state as the elected leadership the "government" - plus the states officials and other resources: the departments at local, provincial and national level; autonomous institutions like the judiciary and regulatory bodies; and the security forces.

The transition to democracy was supposed to place all these resources at the service of development. The question thus becomes why the state has not been able to address unemployment and poverty more vigorously.

For COSATU, more specifically, the challenge is to explain why the state has adopted highly contradictory policies, which diverge substantially from the ANCs platforms as expressed by the RDP and election manifestos. As discussed above, on the one hand the state established a number of strongly redistributive programmes. On the other, particularly after the adoption of the GEAR in 1996, it increasingly looked to free markets and competition to grow the economy, and cut back on its own spending and economic power.

Government and COSATUs views on the balance of power

Government representatives argue that they face tight limits on their actions because of two factors. First, domestic and, even more, international capital demands that government restrain spending, avoid inflation, open the economy to international competition and financial flows, and generally secure property rights. If government ignores these demands, they say, the result will be massive capital flight, which will wreck the economy. Second, inherited state structures have proven hard to redirect. They were established to serve the rich and powerful; making them responsive to poor communities requires fundamental redesign.

In short, in this view government can only pursue pro-poor policies within the narrow constraints set by the realities of power and its own limited capacity. Within those constraints, government leaders argue that it has used its power as far as possible:

  • To improve government services for the poor, and
  • To support increased exports as the economy was opened to international competition. In this view, some job losses and plant closures were unavoidable, but the worst is over. South Africa now has a more competitive economy that will in the next few years start to create jobs and thus enhance equality.

COSATU agrees with government that capital has great power. Certainly capital will oppose any effort to restructure the economy and improve social protection for the poor. But COSATU also argues that, nonetheless, more developmental measures are possible gradually to increase the economic power and well-being of the majority. After all, many other developing countries have done far more to restructure the economy and improve social protection, essentially adopting a left social-democratic approach.

COSATU argues that this approach is viable only if there is

  • Mass mobilisation of the Alliances constituencies organised workers, the unemployed and rural poor, black professionals and black capital - to counter the power of the historic centres of capital, and
  • A clear strategic perspective and a well-thought-out process for engaging with capital.

Critically, achieving this strategy requires that the state itself be transformed to make it more responsive to the needs of the poor. Historically, government departments and agencies were designed to listen to the rich and powerful in shaping policy. Unless the policy process is changed to ensure inputs from the majority, that bias will persist.

So far, various institutions and processes - the establishment of democracy, the installation of black officials in government, especially in senior management, Alliance processes and NEDLAC - have helped reform policy around the social services. But economic policy still remains largely insulated from influence by the ANCs mass constituencies. Key steps to overcome this situation include strengthening the role of the Alliance in setting basic strategies, and empowering the organisations of workers and the poor in policy debates and monitoring.

In short, differences between COSATU and government over economic policy can also be understood in terms of a divergent understanding of the balance of power. Government representatives tend to argue that it has only very limited scope for increasing expenditure and restructuring the economy. In contrast, COSATU argues that mobilisation of the working class and its allies can provide the basis for a stronger transformatory strategy.

The post-colonial state in Africa

This section briefly outlines the experience of the post-colonial state in Africa. Obviously, South Africa is very different from other countries. Still, a review of the experience of the rest of Africa, although very condensed, may suggest useful insights about the imperatives for transformation.

All African states inherited structures designed to serve the colonial power and, in some cases, white settlers. All of the new ruling parties that took power at independence recognised this shortcoming. In response, they all worked to restructure state services in order to meet the needs of the majority. Yet virtually none of the independence parties had a policy to restructure the economy systematically to reduce dependence on a few exports and ensure more equitable ownership.

In these circumstances, foreign domination of African economies continued, limiting the growth of domestic private capital. African entrepreneurs remained marginalised, often just fronting for foreign capital. They largely relied on the state to provide an opening. This situation fuelled corruption, which effectively acted as a form of primitive accumulation for the African bourgeoisie. It also led to pressure to use state power to support local capital, usually through government procurement policies and the requirement that foreign firms take on local partners.

In these circumstances, individuals increasingly used their position in the state bureaucracy not just in parastatals - to cement their power rather than serve the public. They gained not only a high income (legally or through corruption), but also control of social capital. This emergent class has been termed a bureaucratic bourgeoisie. As a result of these developments, most African states increasingly lost the capacity and the will to serve the majority of their people.

The failure to restructure the economy had another negative effect: the continued dependence on a few raw-materials exports. When the prices of these exports fell (for instance, with cocoa in Ghana and sisal in Tanzania in the 1960s, and copper in Zambia and Zaire in the 70s), African states faced a dramatic fall in revenues, and many went far into debt.

Faced with economic crises in the 1980s and 90s, the bureaucratic bourgeoisie protected its position as far as possible, while cutting services to the majority. Generally, it blamed foreign multilateral agencies for its failure to protect the poor. In fact, given the demobilisation of the population in most countries, these governments had very little basis for resisting IMF and World Bank demands to cut budgets and free up markets. Local capital and the state itself increasingly allied itself with foreign interests, while developmental efforts withered for lack of funds.

The Alliance

This section analyses the debates in the Alliance, which has seen continued tensions in the past year. We include a separate section analysing the claim that COSATU has become part of an "ultra left" that aims to overthrow the democratic state.

Developments in the Alliance

COSATU expected the Ekurhuleni Declaration in March to provide a basis for settling policy disagreements, in the context of preparations for the Growth and Development Summit. The expected processes did not take place, however, and some ANC leaders mounted vicious attacks on COSATU and the SACP in the run up to and following the general strike in October.

The Ekurhuleni Summit reaffirmed key progressive positions. Above all, it agreed that the Alliance would drive processes leading to the Growth and Development Summit, in order to resolve policy differences before negotiating as a block with capital. It established a set of common priorities, with job creation and ending poverty at the top of the list.

But these progressive gains are in the danger of being lost, in large part because of the Alliance leadership does not have the capacity to drive joint processes. No collaborative policy development has taken place on the economy. The only preparations for the Growth and Development Summit are being undertaken at NEDLAC.

More broadly, we are back to the old mode of operation. As of December 2002, no Alliance Secretariat had been convened for close to four months. Hardly any real interaction takes place amongst the Alliance leadership, although this was identified as the key requirement in the bilateral discussions in the run-up to the Ekurhuleni Summit

So why do we seem to move from one crisis to the next?

The ANC is a broad church, like COSATU and SANCO. Its ranks and leadership have always included both worker leaders and people who ideologically do not support working-class leadership of the struggle. Still, at least from the end of the 1940s, the working class imposed its hegemony. The Freedom Charter, the 1969 Strategy and Tactics, and the RDP are milestones that demonstrate its leadership of the NDR.

From the late 1980s, however, local and foreign capital showed renewed interest in contesting working-class dominance in the movement. This situation arose as the ANC became the main political power in South Africa. At the same time, internationally the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a growing centralisation of power in the U.S. In this context, starting in the late 1980s, big South African business, Western governments and multilateral organisations began to lobby the ANC leadership consistently.

The effects of these developments emerged in the changing role of the SACP. Throughout the period of illegality, the SACP and its activists were highly regarded. It was the first to be banned, in 1950. By the time the ANC was outlawed in 1960, it had already accumulated ten years of experience in underground work. It had developed connections outside the country, which it put at the service of the ANC.

Throughout the exile days, the SACP provided key direction to the ANC. Just associating with the SACP, and even more being a member, brought immediate respect and honour in the democratic movement. SACP cadre were amongst the most respected ANC leaders and M.K. operatives. Joe Slovo, Moses Mabhida, Moses Kotane, Chris Hani the list of leading theorists and activists in both the ANC and SACP can be continued.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the SACPs role became increasingly contested. A number of theoreticians abandoned it, while remaining in the forefront of the ANC. A number became the most able spokespeople for the argument that socialism was never a goal of the ANC or the NDR. Yet they will not make a similar declaration about capitalism. This position contradicts the 1969 Strategy and Tactics, which explicitly argued that there is no contradiction between the struggle for socialism and the NDR, but did not say the same thing about capitalism. The Freedom Charter, whilst not a socialist declaration, nonetheless emphasised a strong role for the state and the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy.

The assassination of Chris Hani in 1993 and the death of Joe Slovo a few years later also weakened its leadership role, and indeed that of the working class as a whole. In Chris Hani, the SACP lost a charismatic and extremely popular leader and theoretician. Joe Slovo was a towering intellectual, who enjoyed immense respect across the Alliance. Both had a combined track record that could hardly be equalled in M.K.

The SACP is rebuilding itself as a mass party and continue to define its role in the transition. It is deeply rooted amongst organised workers. It has a young put political cadre that has a deep loyalty to its ideal. It has built a profile for itself and has championed the plight of the working class and poor. It is not just a reliable ally of the workers but leads them from the front.

However, there can be no doubt that these developments have shaken working class hegemony in the NDR. The adoption of the GEAR in 1996 clearly signalled a shift to the right on economic policy. Contrary to recent statements by some ANC leaders, the fact is that following the adoption of the GEAR, government economic policy derived largely, although not entirely, from free-market principles. The analysis of government policy on capital above clearly demonstrates this situation. In particular, government repeatedly emphasises the (incorrect) belief that "competition" is critical for efficiency and competition requires a market economy.

Recent trends in class formation have fundamentally affected the contestation for hegemony in the ANC. In most cases, a persons material conditions, associates at home and at work, and economic interests will, in the long run, determine their class perspective. You see problems in light of your own material conditions and the people with whom you socialise. (Can there be any doubt that the food price crisis would have been recognised earlier if more men had done the shopping?)

We need to analyse the impact on the Alliance, and the ANC in particular, of the changing nature of classes, both in terms of the formation of a black bourgeoisie and the relationship between the political and economic ruling groups.

On the one hand, there has been a movement of MDM leaders both former unionists and others into business. This has had an impact on representation on the ANC NEC. No current union leaders or activists now serve on the NEC; but there are a host of businesspeople. On the other, a number of political leaders, from local councillors to NEC and Cabinet Ministers, now have at least some personal and family links to business. Few still live in the townships, send their children to historically black schools or take taxis to work.

Moreover, the ANC leadership faces continuous lobbying by big capital and the associated ideological forces including much of the bureaucracy, consultants, the media and academia. Structural linkages between the state and big business include the big business working group and the Presidents advisory committee on investment, as well as less formal but very high-level interactions between big business and government, like the meetings between Ministers and the Chamber of Mines over the Mining Charter.

Certainly we cannot pretend that pressure from capital, complemented by shifts in the objective class character of former MDM activists, has nothing to do with the recent hostility displayed to organised workers and COSATU in particular.

Within the forces hostile to COSATU, and in fact to the Alliance itself, is a small but very vocal block that is trying to win the day by changing the culture of the ANC itself. It essentially seeks to revive some of the negative tendencies that emerged, more or less unavoidably, in the movement when in exile and therefore forced to operate conspiratorially and in military style. These tendencies include:

  • Reverting to power rather than relying on reasoned debate. The group tries to order anyone who disagrees simply to shut up.
  • Intolerance any dissent is seen as disloyal or even counter-revolutionary. The group is quick to question the good faith of anyone who disagrees.
  • Paranoia - any attempt to raise a different perspective is seen as part of a conspiracy to overthrow the current leadership.
  • Personal abuse vitriolic attacks and the deliberate spreading of malicious rumours have become commonplace, as has the use of race. Not even Nelson Mandela has escaped. This approach often makes reasoned debate impossible.
  • Distorting opponents position the group typically tries to discredit opponents by publishing a ridiculous and untrue version of their arguments.

There can be no question that the majority of ANC leaders find these tactics distasteful. Nonetheless, the influence of this grouping is on the rise. Its divisive tendencies will do more to weaken the democratic movement than any amount of disagreement over economic policies.

At the same time, it is clear that the majority of ANC NEC members want the Alliance to succeed and are trying constructively to solve the problems we face. They want the Alliance to handle internal differences better. Typically, they have little influence on the normal operations of the Alliance, but come to the fore in larger and more representative meetings, including the NGC, the Ekurhuleni Summit and the Policy Conference. They have effectively resisted various efforts, including the publication of the Briefing Notes in 2001, to lead the Alliance into a dead end.

At a bilateral on September 16, 2002, ANC leaders proposed that we have an intensive process to discuss our policy differences. We agreed that such an arrangement must confront head on the differences that have existed for some years now. We agreed that in the main our disagreements centre around economic policy. The aim of our engagement would be to ensure a common way forward, or at least to manage our disagreements more constructively.

Practically, however, we have faced serious difficulties around the co-ordination of the Alliance leadership. In large part this results from a lack of capacity and the failure to prioritise Alliance processes. This problem came to the fore with the failure to carry out the Ekurhuleni Declaration. To achieve our aim of an in-depth policy engagement, we need to overcome these weaknesses and ensure that all the parties in the Alliance find the time for real discussions.

In these circumstances, COSATU faces three related challenges.

  1. To swell the ranks of the ANC with workers who are consciously working to solve problems within the Alliance and who can ensure the ANC remains rooted in the masses of our people. This does not mean that the ANC should become a narrow political party of the working class. It should remain a broad-based liberation movement that is home to the progressive political traditions of our people.
  2. To think more strategically about how to rebuild the hegemony of a working-class perspective in the democratic movement. The Alliance must not become simply a machinery to mobilise voters at five-year intervals, but rather ensure that government consistently develops and carries out economic strategies in the interests of workers and the poor as a whole.
  3. To avoid pushing the ANC leadership into the hands of the reactionary forces and capital. We need to ensure that democratic debates provide real space for reflection within the ANC. We need to avoid tactical errors, including the use of inappropriate language and derogatory songs, which strengthen the hand of the authoritarian block that seeks to destroy the Alliance.

In this context, the ANCs 51st National Conference will be historic. We must define our approach more clearly. We must start by answering the question of what workers should seek to achieve at the conference.

We need to think more carefully about how we can overcome the policy disagreements within the Alliance. What kind of process, forum, timetable and capacity makes sense? How can we better respond to the authoritarian clique in the ANC?

Is COSATU ultra-left?

Since 2001, the authoritarian clique in the ANC has repeatedly tried to identify COSATU with the ultra left. It claims that COSATU now works with other international groupings and even right-wing movements to unseat the democratically elected ANC government. COSATU developed a response to these allegations, which has been published in the Shopsteward Magazine, timed to coincide with our 17th anniversary on December 1, 2002. To show how absurd these allegations are we here summarise the main points of the paper, first clarifying what defines the "ultra left," and then pointing to the problem of misdirecting attention from the real threats to labour.

In its crudest form, "ultra-left" can be used as an insult, to categorise anyone who is to the left of whoever is using the term. It can also used for any group with a political inclination toward socialism which of course COSATU shares. Obviously, these definitions of "ultra-left" will not take us further, since they only confuse and label in order to end fruitful debates.

In our view, it is above all their strategies and tactics that identify the real ultra-left. First, the ultra left are unwilling to look for any solutions within the current system. That makes it hard to build coalitions for change, and they often remain trapped in small groups. Second, the ultra left ignore the real balance of forces and the scope for radical change in South Africa.

To understand the concept of "ultra-left" more fully, we need to go to back to basics and look into the history of the phenomenon. The classic work on this subject is Lenins 1920 Left-wing communism, an infantile disorder, which responded to the views of some leading international communists at that time. These communists rejected work with non-revolutionary organisations that would make partial advances, and refused to countenance any "compromise" in the course of revolutionary struggle.

Lenin condemned those "revolutionaries" who want to set up separate, "pure, revolutionary" trade unions, separate from the existing worker organisations. He argued that real revolutionaries have to work where the workers are not, where they would like them to be.

From this standpoint, COSATU cannot conceivably be accused of ultra-leftism. It is the countrys largest trade union movement, organising all workers irrespective of their political affiliation. COSATU engages with capital every day, and in the process of negotiations is inevitably forced to accept some compromises. We will not accept compromises that undermine our principles, but we often have to reach agreements that fall short of our initial demands.

As a trade union movement, COSATU is a broad church just like the ANC, a home to all workers just as the ANC is the home to all those who hate apartheid and want to build a united, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. That means our ranks contain and indeed have always contained some genuine ultra-leftists but they do not predominate, or we could not function as a union federation.

Historically, the ultra left in the labour movement has always been a small minority. It was defeated during the unity talks leading to the formation of COSATU. The adoption of our five guiding principles at Ipelegeng in June 1985 signalled the triumph of the Congress tradition. This does not mean there is no political contestation within affiliates of COSATU. But every affiliate has repeatedly reaffirmed the hegemony and political principles of the Congress movement. This was further consolidated in our launching congress in 1985, and indeed in every national congress since then. It was most recently reaffirmed in our national political school and our Central Committee in November 2001.

COSATU remains part of the Alliance because we believe that it offers our people a unique instrument to effect fundamental change in our society. We recognise that the ANC brings together most progressive and working people in South Africa. We criticise some government policies, not because we fundamentally oppose the ANC-led government, but because we need to give our constituency a voice and defend the interests of the working class and the poor.

After all, at the end of the day, it is mainly workers and their relatives who elected the ANC into power. We want our government to succeed and not fail. In contrast, the ultra-left groupings oppose the Alliance and want to defeat the ANC government politically. They see the NDR as a whole as a detour in the struggle for socialism they demand socialism now, as if it could be established in a once-off event. They campaign for the creation of a new "workers party" to contest the elections and defeat the ANC. These differences run so deep that they rule out a close working relationship between COSATU and these groupings.

Still, as COSATU, we insist that all our policies must be geared toward meeting the economic interests of the working class and the poor, while helping to lay the foundations for socialism. Building socialism is, in this view, not a once-off event. It is a process of empowering the majority of our people in particular by ensuring more equality and collectivity in ownership on the basis of an increasingly democratic social and political system. That is why we support participatory democracy; the co-operative movement and stronger public ownership; strong unions, worker rights, education and skills development; land reform and other measures to broaden the base of capital itself; and a culture of collectivity and solidarity.

Having said all this, we must stress that workers only strategic enemy remains capital. The primary contradiction in class terms is not between the working class and the small, inconsequential ultra left. The primary contradiction is between the working class and business.

In short, while an ultra left exists, it does not pose a threat to our people or our movement. Our main enemies are poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and inequality - not the ultra left. We must not allow a witch hunt after a supposed "ultra-left grouping" in the Alliance to prevent and undermine democratic and constructive contestation about policy. We must not permit the discourse in the democratic movement to shift to a concern with the ineffective ultra-left, distracting us from the real challenges that face our people and our movement.

Civil society

In recent years, COSATU has increasingly sought to build coalitions around specific issues with civil society organisations. We need to review these efforts. Civil society is highly diverse both socially and politically. In South Africa, because of the history of struggle, most mass-based civil society institutions have a history of political engagement. To use a different terminology, the resistance to apartheid means we enjoy relatively strong social movements in a number of sectors. Still, COSATU remains by far the largest and best organised structure in civil society. That obviously gives us considerable influence, but also mean we can alienate smaller groups if we do not recognise their needs.

COSATU has engaged with civil society most strongly around the jobs and poverty, anti-privatisation, Basic Income Grant, HIV/AIDS, peoples budget and food price campaigns. The WSSD process initiated a particularly well-structured relationship, which we hope to build on.

COSATU has worked most closely with:

1. The churches, especially the SACC and the Catholic Bishops Conference, which have a long history of political awareness and activism for the poor. Some church leaders even discussed the issues of privatisation in their sermons.

2. The student movement, through COSAS and SASCO; the broader youth movement is divided because of the role of the president of the ANC Youth League.

3. Sangoco, which is supposed to represent NGOs. While Sangoco has much strength, its weak mandating procedures make co-ordination difficult. Thus, it has frequently reversed its decisions around the Peoples Budget and WSSD processes.

4. Womens structures, mostly through the gender co-ordinator.

5. SANCO. We may, however, need to review our strategies in light of SANCOs action around the October strike.

6. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) around AIDS issues.

Despite our efforts, the WSSD process demonstrated that the Alliance is rapidly losing hegemony within civil society, especially amongst NGOs and community-based groups. Ultimately, this situation results from the failure of the Alliance to give leadership where government policies have caused real problems for communities, as with the electricity cut offs in Soweto, the plight of the landless, and evictions in townships around Cape Town.

We cannot work closely with the ultra-left groups because we differ on basic principles. Still, as they have requested, we should meet with them and explain our position. At the same time, COSATU should consider developing broader and more structured relationships with the rest of civil society, especially the churches, youth, student groups, TAC, womens groups and many of the civil society formations in SANGOCO. A number of options could be considered in this regard: We could, for instance, establish a forum with them that could meet on a regular basis. This type of more structured interaction could be complemented by broader issues based coalitions, where appropriate.

At the same time, we should discuss how we can respond to the fear by some in the ANC, in particular the authoritarian clique, that COSATU is seeking to position itself to play a political role at the expense of the ANC. In this view, we seek a relationship with the rest of civil society in order to create a new workers party. Yet the ANC itself has simply failed to engage or provide leadership to civil society. Leadership cannot be decreed or imposed it must be earned on the ground by providing practical solutions to the problems facing our people and providing effective, practical and consistent leadership to these organs of peoples power.


The role of progressive unions in a stable democracy

Extract from a COSATU CEC Political Discussion Paper released on 1 December 2002

Over the last few years there has been an on-going debate within the democratic movement on the role of progressive trade unions. This debate initially emerged in the context of the 1999 public service workers strike. The attacks on COSATUs political views mean we must revisit this discussion, which centres largely on the use of power, especially strikes, to back up policy demands.

At the heart of the debate lie two differing views on how revolutionary trade unions should conduct themselves in South Africa after apartheid. At one end of the spectrum is a belief that unions should concentrate on defending workers on the shop floor and not play an overt political and social role. For its part, COSATU has opted for active engagement with the political and social process to deepen democracy and defend workers, both in the workplace and beyond it.

Historically, COSATU has always believed that it could not restrict its struggles to the workplace, because workers are members of the community before they are workers. COSATU adopted this stance, which was the basis for our active part in the liberation struggle, based on extensive work by the ANC and the SACP in the trade union movement. It is one of the principles that was established in the unity talks at the Ipelegeng Centre in June 1985, which laid the basis for the formation of COSATU on December 1 that year. Adoption of this principle led to the walk out of workerist, Africanist and Black Consciousness trade unions.

Today, COSATUs engagement with policy processes ensures and deepens participatory democracy, in line with the tenets of the NDR and the Constitution. For this reason, it is important that social dialogue in NEDLAC is strengthened and supported. At the same time, the Alliance needs to play an active role in shaping policy and periodically mobilise and discuss with civil society on challenges confronting our nation. COSATU is also active in the governance process and has established a parliamentary office and policy unit to that effect.

Those who are uncomfortable with COSATUs activist policy role allege that we have a hidden agenda to unseat the ANC government by forming an alternative political movement, on the lines of the MDC. This fear is in part informed by the experience of former union leaders contesting political power across Southern Africa - for example Chafukwa Chihana in Malawi, Frederick Chiluba in Zambia, Ben Ulenga in Namibia and Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe.

More rationally, there is a fear that if COSATU continues to mobilise workers against government policy, workers will ultimately become alienated from the government. Alternatively, COSATU may find it difficult to mobilise workers to vote for the ANC. Although the fear cannot be dismissed lightly, it however misunderstands COSATUs role, which in essence seeks to counter balance the power and influence of capital.

The main debates on this issue relate to the difficulty of defining priorities for policy engagement, managing relationships with an avowedly pro-poor government in a capitalist society and establishing an appropriate balance between policy and shop floor engagements. We here consider each in turn.

Defining priorities for engagement on policy

The role of unions, everyone agrees, is to defend workers. Historically, they arose to protect workers interests on the shop floor. But this proved inadequate and unsustainable in the absence of national policies to benefit the working class. Particularly in developing countries, if government does not ensure labour rights, social protection and employment growth, any victories in the workplace will be short-lived.

Still, the international labour movement has long (and notoriously) been split about how far unions should go in engaging on policy issues.

Some union leaders argue that labour should not engage strongly in broad political action but should limit policy engagements to protecting labour rights, minimum standards, occupational health and safety issues such as gumboots, overalls and safety helmets, wages and similar workplace issues.

This position has been pushed hardest by the U.S. unions, who have a tradition of strong shop-floor militancy without an equally radical social vision, at least since the right-wing purges of the late 1940s. It also seems to have been endorsed by President Mbeki in his speech to the 2002 FEDUSA Congress.

In contrast, more progressive unions argue that protecting the working class requires a commitment to left-wing policies in order to give the broader working class a voice. This comes from a realisation that good workplace deal is not sustainable in the face of hostile political, economic and social environment. It follows that union federations must have substantial policy capacity, and lead campaigns around broad policy demands. This approach generally leads to explicit support for labour, socialist or social-democratic parties.

Another character of the revolutionary trade union movement is an engagement with international development and processes. This is based on the understanding that international balance of power has direct impact on domestic balance of power. For that reason, the trade union movement plays an active international role to contribute towards changing the international balance of power.

The difference between these approaches emerged in labours work around the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The initial position paper of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) focused on the role of workers in enforcing environmental policies in the workplace.

In contrast, Public Service International, COSATU and other national federations argued for an emphasis on pro-poor policies in general, such as opposition to privatisation. We wanted to extend our demands to reflect the interests of the working class as a whole, rather than emphasising narrower workplace issues.

A similar division is evident between FEDUSA and COSATU. For historical reasons, FEDUSA and its affiliates are reluctant to engage in policy issues. As a result, compared to COSATU, they have not established a strong internal capacity for policy engagement.

The decision on whether unions should take on broad policy issues is defined not only by ideology, but also by the need to respond to the objective realities facing their members. In industrialised countries, where labour rights are more entrenched and poverty is relatively limited, unions can survive for some time with a fairly narrow focus (although they are increasingly threatened by global undercutting).

In developing countries, that approach has never been viable. It would subject organised workers to the continuous threat of undercutting as a result of mass poverty and joblessness.

Certainly South African unions cannot afford to limit their engagement to workplace policies. As COSATUs Organisational Review Report points out, that would mean unemployment continuing to rise, and organised workers position becoming untenable. The only way for unions to survive is to fight for improved social protection for all households, and for economic restructuring to raise incomes and employment in the longer run

So what happens when the Left is in power?

A further set of challenges arises when a left-wing party is in power. The central question becomes how organised labour can promote workers interests without undermining the ability of the state to resist pressure from capital.

Even left-wing governments cannot ignore the power of capital. Big business is always relatively well organised and vocal, because it has more resources. It relies largely on lobbying, including through foreign governments and the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation.

But it also invariably threatens "strike" action in the form of capital flight and a refusal to invest or produce - evidenced in our case by the ever-present menace of a stock market crash and a run on the rand.

Because of these realities, virtually all social-democratic parties adopt more radical positions when out of power than when in government. This typically causes considerable disappointment amongst supporters.

Labour, especially in developing countries, is almost invariably the strongest voice outside of government, speaking for the poor as a whole. Its power derives from its relatively stable social and economic basis. As Marx points out, workers lead the struggle of the poor not because they are most oppressed but because they can organise most effectively. Thus, in South Africa, COSATU is by far the strongest component of civil society.

The question becomes when and how progressive unions should use power strikes and other direct action to influence government policy. Some argue that if unions argue that if engage too much in direct action, they risk alienating their supporters within the state, pushing them into the hands of capital; and they could cause an unmanageable capital strike. But if unions do not use power at all, members will be disempowered and demoralised, and government will have nothing with which to counter the power of capital. In these circumstances, no matter how strong labours arguments, government will generally ignore them.

In South Africa, some government leaders seem to oppose any direct action by labour (or anyone else in civil society, for that matter), arguing that this will only cause a capital strike, destroying the economy and any hope of improving the lives of the poor. They say an elected government must be free to make policy on behalf of its constituency. In this view, mass action, even when supported by that constituency, only undermines the democratic system.

For its part, COSATU argues that:

  • It must maintain and demonstrate its members power in order to counter the influence of big business.
  • Mass action actually strengthens democracy, because it gives the majority a voice and power to interact directly with government decisions. If we demobilise the majority between elections, government will necessarily fall prey to pressure from capital.
  • We need to evaluate whether we have successfully combined policy engagements and the use of power. In particular, we need a more in-depth assessment of the impact of our mass action on the balance of forces

Managing mass action and engagement

We cannot afford to give up on mass action just because some people dont like it. It has become obvious that over time, only mass action leads to concessions from government and capital.

Still, we need to consistently review our strategies to ensure that mass action does not unnecessarily disrupt our long-term relationship with government and the ANC. We should be careful not to act as if one major engagement will soon achieve a once-off shift in policy that will solve all our disputes with government. w have sometimes failed to celebrate our partial victories, which can cause workers not to see the point of continuing to struggle and sacrifice. We must at all times celebrate our victories and take our partial victories forward.

Just as we do in shop-floor negotiations, we must look to gain small concessions bit by bit, rather than expecting an overall solution. It follows that we have to define our victories better, and improve our dispute-settlement processes. We will do more to guide compromises on policy issues by defining our bottom line and urge the Alliance to draft a protocol that justifies and protects mass action

Policy engagement and building the organisation

The Organisational Review Report argues that especially since 1994, COSATU has generally under-resourced its activities on economic restructuring and workplace policies and organisation.

COSATU and its affiliates are therefore jointly evaluating the impact of policy actions, especially general strikes, on the organisational strength of affiliates and COSATU regions and locals. We must in future design mass action so that the relationship between building and strengthening organisation and the campaigns is far clearer.


The Mining Charter

By Gwede Mantashe, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and member of the SACP Political Bureau. This paper was delivered to the Annual Conference of the Black Management Forum, October 2002.

The Broad-Based Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the Mining Industry proves once more that strong leadership is decisive for change, transformation and steering the ship through any stormy weather. When the Mineral and Petroleum Development Bill was brought before parliament every analyst in South Africa predicted that the results would be disastrous. The owners were adamant that the Bill would drive away investors. The labour movement pushed strongly for the need to normalise mining.

As we were going through this debate, the National Union of Mineworkers identified two key challenges facing our industry:

  • The need to move away from apartheid-capitalism to national capitalism. As Marxists we saw this process as necessary and urgent; and
  • The need to deal with the reality of global competition. We looked at two major mining regions, North America and Asia / Pacific, with particular reference to Australia. We saw these regions as challenging our global leadership as a mining economy. This challenge was rooted in the edge they have in the area of skills, and thus productivity.

It is this analysis that informed our approach to the process. We support the process because we are convinced that it is the correct path to walk. We also argued for a continuous approach, because short-cuts are not sustainable for development.

The Charter and Black Economic Empowerment

The Charter itself is an Empowerment Charter. It is, therefore, a positive contribution, not only to the debate, but to the practical implementation of the concept. The first thing this Charter does is to demystify the stereotype that black input lowers standards. The human and financial resources of all South Africas people are identified as the key success factors for our economy. These key success factors in the long-term will give South Africa a global competitive edge.

Deracialisation of our economy is seen as a positive intervention. An integrated approach to deracialisation is adopted in the Mining Charter, integrating ownership and operational exposure. Black economic empowerment, employment equity and skills developments are integrated in this Charter. It is for this reason that it covers:

  • Redressing the results of past and present discrimination based on race, gender or other disability of historically disadvantaged persons;
  • Transforming the industry by providing for measures that initiate and facilitate ownership participation; participation in or control of management; development of management, scientific, engineering or other skills of historically-disadvantaged South Africans; involvement in procurement processes; and the socio-economic development of "lost communities", major labour-sending areas and "ghost towns".

What we cannot answer is whether black entrepreneurs will understand and seize the opportunities presented by the Charter. What our union will resist at all cost will be the presentation of these intentions as Christmas gifts. We would like to see the all-round, transformational commitment of the beneficiaries in all the processes.

The Charter has dedicated a large section to human resource development and employment equity. Our argument as a union is that operational exposure is as important as ownership in the empowerment process. We analysed the power wielded by chief executive officers and other executives in running mining companies. We linked this power to ownership. We came to the conclusion that all of them are operators, and operational exposure is dialectically linked to the skills profile of our people. Hence the emphasis on skilling.

Our union was equally excited by the fact that the industry accepted that mining is lagging behind in the area of employment equity. Setting clear targets to strive for was encouraging:

  • 40% participation of historically disadvantaged South Africans in management within 5years.
  • Overseas placement and/or training programmes.
  • 10% women participation in the mining industry within 5 years.

There is concrete commitment to pay serious attention to the need for family accommodation, upgrading of hostels, conversion of hostels into family units and promotion of home ownership. This is going to be a major project. Entrepreneurs must position themselves for these opportunities. We must remember that the Charter is specifically promoting sourcing of services from historically disadvantaged providers. It is equally exciting that the Charter is paying particular attention to improvement of nutrition. Basically the Charter commits all of us to address the apartheid legacy of single sex hostels. Our union understands the limitations. We have accepted that our major contribution will be in the area of pushing for operational exposure and conditions under which our members live.

Deracialisation of the mainstream economy is more the broader transformation programme that must be driven by the liberation movement. Hence the question of ownership will have to be monitored in a structured way. The most organised benefit most in any society. Historically disadvantaged South Africans will have to be organised to take advantage of the space created to take ownership. The various categories of ownership are aimed at ensuring that there is flexibility in accommodating capacity of the various groups. Historically disadvantaged-controlled companies will be 50% plus 1 vote owned and management control will be in the hands of HD South Africans. Strategic partnership is where historically disadvantaged South Africans own 25% plus 1 vote with management agreement. Space has also been created for collective investment.

If one links all these interventions with the commitment that the industry must be 26% owned by historically disadvantaged South Africans within 10 years, one begins to see serious commitment to empowerment. The industry has committed itself to raising up to R100 billion to be accessed by the historically disadvantaged. This addresses the problem of accessing finances.


Having looked into the details of the Charter one comes to the conclusion that black economic empowerment will be accelerated. Our people, on the other hand, will have to show commitment to these deals. The Harmony gold mine deal is a reflection of greed to get rich quick. Mining is a difficult industry and is very sensitive to speculative transactions.

Our view is that 26% ownership will give the historically disadvantaged the much-needed critical mass to grow. The industry must be commended for the courage it has shown throughout this process. We must all understand that change is painful and causes uncertainty. If we display confidence and commitment the market will react positively.


HIV/AIDS and Land: Case Studies from Kenya, Lesotho and South Africa

By. Dr. Scott Drimie, who is a senior research specialist based at the Integrated Rural & Regional Development Research Programme in the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria. He can be contacted at sedrimie@hsrc.ac.za The three country studies and a range of papers presented at a workshop on this issue can be accessed at http://www.sarpn.org.za.


HIV/AIDS is the major development issue facing Sub-Saharan Africa. The impact of the epidemic will increasingly devastate peoples lives, particularly in the poorer areas of the continent. Louwenson and Whiteside have summarised the implications of HIV/AIDS for poverty reduction in a background paper prepared for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):

"The devastation caused by HIV/AIDS is unique because it is depriving families, communities and entire nations of their young and most productive people. The epidemic is deepening poverty, reversing human development achievements, worsening gender inequalities, eroding the ability of governments to maintain essential services, reducing labour productivity and supply, and putting a brake on economic growth. The worsening conditions in turn make people and households even more at risk of, or vulnerable to, the epidemic, and sabotages global and national efforts to improve access to treatment and care" (2001: 4).

Although intensifying responses to the epidemic have focused on prevention and care, these have tended to ignore the broader picture of the implications for development and poverty reduction (Collins & Rau, 2000). Part of the problem with factoring in the impact of HIV/AIDS on land and in particular on land policies, is the lack of empirical data pertaining to the issue. In response, the Southern African Regional Office of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) commissioned a three-country study into the impact of HIV/AIDS on land issues. This empirical research, conducted in Kenya, Lesotho and South Africa, was co-ordinated by the Human Sciences Research Council.

This research has confirmed that as a direct result of very high infection rates in the Southern and East African region, HIV/AIDS will seriously impact on a range of land issues and livelihood strategies. HIV/AIDS not only affects the productivity of the infected, but also diverts the labour of the household and extended family away from other productive and reproductive activities as others take care of the sick. Savings are consumed and assets are sold to pay for medical expenses. The utilisation of agricultural land declines as inputs become unaffordable, household labour supply is reduced, and dissipating wealth makes hiring labour difficult. Sooner or later, households fall below the social and economic threshold of vulnerability leaving the survivors, mainly the young and elderly, with limited resources to quickly regain a sustainable livelihood.

These impacts have implications for different forms of land use, various types of land tenure and land reform projects, the functioning of land administration systems, the land rights of women and orphans, as well of the poor generally, and inheritance practices and norms. The findings therefore reveal a range of issues that have a direct relevance for institutions involved in land, whether they are land reform, agrarian development, or rural development. This paper is intended to facilitate further engagement and should be interrogated and debated to help formulate effective ways of integrating HIV/AIDS into how land is conceptualised in the fight against poverty.

A conceptual framework: The impact of HIV/AIDS on land issues

It is important to look at the phases of HIV/AIDS: asymptomatic; early illness; chronic illness; critical illness; death and, lastly, survivors. Each phase of the disease is associated with a different impact, which has different implications for land issues. It is important to emphasise the final category on this continuum - the category of survivors. HIV/AIDS has a massive impact on those left living, as there are many more affected than infected people. The diagram depicted below is a useful tool for the further conceptualisation of how HIV/AIDS impacts on different households. It shows the value of use of micro credit at various stages of illness to reduce vulnerability of households. That is, households with a stronger economic safety net and a wider range of options (including land) to draw upon during the crisis are less vulnerable at each stage of the continuum of HIV/AIDS illness than their poorer counterparts.

The effect of HIV/AIDS on households/livelihood strategies

Source: Donahue et al, 2000

The dotted line represents the rate of degradation experienced by a household with a stronger economic safety net and a wider range of options, including rights to land, to draw upon during the crisis. The other line represents the rate of economic degradation experienced by a household with a weaker safety net. The different rates of degradation appear to pivot on the presence or absence of physical assets, business income and access to credit, savings or land. From this it is important to recognise that the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural households is not equal: the poorer ones, especially those with small land holdings are much less able to cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS than wealthier households who can hire casual labour and are better able to absorb shocks.

To further understand the role of land for households and livelihood strategies affected by HIV/AIDS, it is useful to disentangle the term 'land issues'. This is broadly understood to include three main dimensions, namely land use, land rights and land administration. For the purposes of the paper, these inter-linked issues were conceptualised through the lens of the household:

  1. In terms of land use, HIV/AIDS-affected households generally have less access to labour, less capital to invest in agriculture, and are less productive due to limited financial and human resources. A range of livelihood strategies, often involving land, has been directly affected as the epidemic compounds issues surrounding poverty. This has resulted in a number of changes to these strategies with a variety of consequences for rural economies as households fight for survival in the context of HIV/AIDS.
  2. The focus on land rights considers the extent of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the terms and conditions in which households and individuals hold, use and transact land. This has particular resonance with women and children's rights, which, in the context of rural power relations that are themselves falling under increasing pressure from the epidemic, are especially vulnerable to being usurped. As one would expect, the complex relationship between the epidemic and land rights is made more complex through the effects of other processes, such as increasing land pressure, commercialisation of agriculture, increased investment, and intensifying competition for residential sites.
  3. The dimension of land administration has two aspects. The one is the extent to which land administration systems including community-level institutions such as traditional authorities, and various levels of government cope with the additional pressures on households' land rights issues imposed by the AIDS epidemic. The other is the direct impact of HIV/AIDS on the capacity of land administration systems, as the epidemic affects people involved in the institutions that are involved in the administration of land.

Findings from the studies

One should not generalise from specific cases as unique local manifestations exist around the impact of the epidemic on households and communities in terms of access and rights to land. However, case studies are extremely important as they reveal the issues facing individuals living in the face of HIV/AIDS. A major problem for counteracting the developmental impact of the epidemic is the lack of hard data on real changes (Loewenson & Whiteside, 2001: 5).

Impacts on land use

Despite evident diversification out of agriculture, rural production remains an important component of many rural livelihoods throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. African rural dwellers deeply value the pursuit of farmingfood self-provisioning is gaining in importance against a backdrop of food inflation and proliferating cash needs (Bryceson, 2000, cited in Cousins, 2001). Participation in "small-plot agriculture" is highly gendered, with women taking major responsibility for it as one aspect of a multiple livelihood strategy. Access to land-based natural resources remains a vital component of rural livelihoods particularly as a safety net. It is therefore particularly important to conceptualise the impact of HIV/AIDS on the use of resources, particularly that of land. Ill health, and time spent in caring for the sick, reduces time spent in land utilisation, leading to less labour intensive uses and under utilisation of resources, such as leaving the land fallow, and reduced productivity.

For example, the Lesotho study conducted in Ha Poli in the Katse Catchment and Matsatsaneng in Botha Bothe, two distinct areas under customary land management institutions, revealed that illness had impacted on agricultural yields substantially. This change was attributed to the effect of morbidity on farming activities to the extent that some activities had to be postponed or abandoned due to illness. The problem of labour shortage was also aggravated by the length of the mourning period during which affected households were forbidden to work on their fields. Affected households reported declined productivity in their home gardens since they contracted HIV/AIDS, which has had a direct effect on household food security.

The Kenyan study, conducted in the Madiany Division in the Bondo District and Othaya Division in Nyeri District, where land was held largely under a patriarchal system with households having a strong sense of individual household rights, revealed a significant reduction in the cultivated land, arising from the death of breadwinners and adults who were active in agricultural production. Despite an abundance of land shortages of labour and other agricultural inputs has left households, traditionally dependent on the land, vulnerable and unable to continue production.

The South African study, conducted in KwaZulu-Natal, and specifically in Dondotha, KwaDumisa, KwaNyuswa and Muden, confirmed the findings from Kenya and Lesotho in that one of the earliest and most direct consequences of HIV/AIDS impacting on a rural household is that it has less labour available to work the land. This arises because individuals suffering from AIDS-related illnesses are less capable of performing agricultural tasks, and because caregivers of infected individuals have less time available for chores in general. A third factor leading to under-utilisation of land is that as households become ever more impoverished by expenses associated with medical care, funerals, and debt repayment.

It is important to note that under-utilisation is more common than non-utilisation in KwaZulu-Natal. Many fields were often sown but only partially so. Inadequate weeding meant that less was produced even in relation to the smaller amount of land that was used. Where production might have been sufficient to meet household needs before the onset of HIV/AIDS and left a surplus for cash sales, now the level of production fell below what was necessary for the households needs.

Land use strategies

In response to HIV/AIDS, affected households and infected individuals have adopted a number of strategies to ensure that assets such as land remain in their custody as well as to foster food security. If a family lacks the labour to make use of its own land, and also lacks cash and other resources to hire skills and labour, it may result in different users of the land through rental or leasing, through sharecropping or other contractual arrangements, or through lending the land to others. Although these strategies may offset the threat of HIV/AIDS, some changes in uses and users may result in a household losing land either through selling it formally or informally, through abandonment, or through others forcibly taking it away.

In Lesotho affected households and infected individuals adopted a number of strategies such as sharecropping, livestock sales and mafias or livestock lending livestock to relatives or other households, to ensure that assets such as land remain in their custody. Another strategy in Lesotho has been the sale of livestock, which has deprived some households of their cattle for draught power. This change is considered as one of the major inhibiting factors to effective management of fields since other community members are used to helping people who have at least one form of resource even if this was a single livestock unit. However, other incidences were reported where infected households utilised sharecropping to gain access to draught power after they had sold their livestock to cover medical expenses. In general affected households were increasingly using sharecropping as a means of working on their fields and also as a strategy to avoid revocations due to fallow. Sharecropping assured them of continued access to agricultural land as well as part of the harvest despite being too sick to cultivate their own land.

Based on the KwaZulu-Natal case studies, an AIDS-affected household had four main options when faced with the prospect of under-utilising its land:

  1. Hiring of casual workers was the most common response of households unable to continue the full utilisation of their land due to inadequate labour resources.
  2. Renting out the land was not a common strategy despite its obvious benefits. This was because rental markets were not well developed in most tribal areas of KwaZulu-Natal, and in some they were positively forbidden. Those households from the survey who did opt for renting out their land felt the need to be vigilant lest the lessee or someone else usurp control of the land altogether.
  3. Enter into a sharecropping arrangement. The vulnerability caused by HIV/AIDS has, however, placed many of these households in a weak position when negotiating the terms of the sharecropping contracts. The fear of losing the land to those now utilising it was a major concern expressed by households considering sharecropping.
  4. Selling the land was considered an extreme measure, and few of the households in the study contemplated selling, much less actually did so. Selling land was considered extreme as it both precluded future benefits from the land and because it meant forfeiting an important element of the family's patrimony. The one exception was KwaNyuswa, a densely populated peri-urban area outside Durban, in which some of the poorest households did indeed sell their plots on an informal land market.

The effectiveness of many of these strategies is predicated by clear rights to land, which can contribute positively to households affected by the epidemic, as it can underpin livelihoods and economic development by removing uncertainty and by encouraging families to utilise the asset. However, the epidemic has, in many instances impacted negatively on land rights.

The impact on land rights

People without clear rights to land came increasingly under pressure from the epidemic, with the issues of gender and age affecting the ability to enjoy the benefits of the asset. For example, HIV/AIDS may affect the ability of widows, orphans and youth to access and use land, transact or inherit it, to exclude others from land, or to ensure that their rights were enforced.


In Lesotho, womens land rights, though clearly stipulated by the law, were not always protected in reality. Practices varied depending on the manner in which land rights were interpreted and tended to vary with circumstances pertaining to the level of understanding about HIV/AIDS, as well the fairness and compassion of the local authority overseeing land rights. The situation of widows was often worsened by the communitys perceptions of factors contributing to HIV/AIDS and the stigma attached to the disease, many of which placed the entire blame on women. Some widows reported that they had been allowed to retain their late husbands agricultural land and that they were empowered to make decisions to engage in arrangements such as sharecropping or hiring people to work their land when necessary.

According to the Kenyan study, HIV/AIDS has clearly impacted on inheritance rights particularly those of widows and orphans. In some of the cases, women were completely dispossessed of their inheritance to land and to property after their husbands death. The prevailing practice was that inheritance was patriarchal with the result that in several cases land had been inherited or was being held in trust by male relatives. It was reported that when a married man died of AIDS or became infected, the woman was often accused of having infected her husband. Widows in cases where the deceased has died of HIV/AIDS were often condemned as the ones who have infected their husbands and were subsequently under massive pressure to leave their marital homes.

The central issue in respect of HIV/AIDS and land rights from the KwaZulu-Natal case studies was also inheritance, especially in the context where a woman's husband dies or when children lost their parents. Traditional, cultural norms in KwaZulu-Natal were such that women were generally not seen as having land rights independent of their husbands, thus upon a husband's death, there is a presumption that the woman remains in possession of the land at the sufferance of the husband's extended family. The position in respect of orphans was similar. However, in many areas of KwaZulu-Natal, this cultural norm was not as strong as it once was, and it was increasingly common for women to resist pressure to either relinquish their land or marry back into the husband's family, if that pressure existed at all.


Orphan headed households, defined as children under 16 years of age, were the most affected through dispossession by guardians in the Kenya study. Most informants were aware of the practice of dispossessing orphans of their land and property under the pretext that they are custodians or guardians (in most cases men). A further complication was the legal right of orphans to property and their special vulnerability. The orphans rights to land have been infringed on in several cases where land "grabbing" has taken place.

The Lesotho study revealed that agricultural land was a highly valued asset that parents perceived as an ultimate security for their children. Many stipulated that it was not to be sold if they were to die. Therefore the right for land to be a heritable asset was deemed essential as a basis for a livelihood security for future generations and orphans. In both study areas, traditional authorities claimed that AIDS orphans were under the protection of their extended families on their fathers side. This claim also asserted that the orphans uncles used the land to raise them until they were of age when they could inherit it. This position was, however, challenged by women who argued that this was exaggerated since there were cases where orphans were cheated out of their heritage.

Youth-headed households

An important issue that arose from the case material, particularly that from KwaNyuswa in KwaZulu-Natal, was the vulnerability of youth-headed households, which often consisted of family members, aged between 17 and 15, not qualified to hold land under the communal system. Such households seemed to be particularly vulnerable to losing their land as many were holding land on default inheritance, so that the land was still formally unallocated after the death of the last holder. This uncertain status combined with the kind of poverty exacerbated by HIV/AIDS creates tenure vulnerability, and seems to encourage attempts at land grabbing. Unlike widows, whose households can continue to exist according to established practice, younger people who inherit prematurely seemingly tend not to become established households, and may remain for long periods without formal standing.

The impact on land administration

It is essential to look at the impact of HIV/AIDS on land administration systems and other institutions charged with issues around rural development such as health services, welfare and land. HIV/AIDS has implications for their sustainability, effectiveness and ability to cope with increased demands.

HIV/AIDS increasingly impacts on and changes the environment of institutions. For example, in the case of government departments or civil society institutions, people and clientele, as well as ways of working with people, will change; and there is likely to be a significant effect on morale. The internal capacity of organisations will also be affected as more staff become infected and affected. Most notably, as infection rates increase, so too will absenteeism and staff productivity decrease. This will be coupled with increasing financial costs to the institution in retraining staff to replace those who fall ill and die, severance and hiring, loss of time, drain on medical aid funds, increased death benefits and pension payouts. Staff turnover will also increase as staff get sick and need to be replaced, and competition for skilled staff will increase as the pool of skilled and experienced individuals is reduced.

Some of these issues were in evidence in the Kenyan study. Given the lack of disclosure in Kenya around cause of death, the report could not directly attribute HIV/AIDS to changes in the personnel of the Ministry of Lands and Settlement. It was, however, asserted that the impact was considerable as interviews with Ministry officials revealed that there had been an increase in deaths in the last three years. This culture of silence, bred by the stigmatisation attached to HIV/AIDS, has also affected other sectors. The Ministry of Education in Nyanza indicated a death toll among teachers of 925 persons in two years. Deaths of teachers were more noticeable due to the higher numbers and the immediate effect in the classrooms. At the community level, informal discussions, particularly in Bondo, illustrated that key informants were concerned about the consequences of deaths among extension and land officials. Some of them identified the stalling or delay of the land adjudication process and the loss of institutional memory: the latter referred particularly to chiefs and sub-chiefs who often have detailed and specific information on land ownership in the areas.

The main respect in which land administration was directly perceived in KwaZulu-Natal was in terms of measures taken by households to protect their land rights. In an overwhelming number of the cases where widows' or orphans' inheritance of land rights was directly threatened, it was the intervention of the headman or, more rarely, the chief that extinguished that threat. This was true even in Muden, which is not technically a customary area but which nonetheless has been effectively absorbed into the adjacent tribal administration. What is not clear from the case studies is exactly on what grounds the traditional authorities decided to come to the assistance of those whose rights were under threat. It appears that in some cases that the manner in which the headman intervened was based on compassion for struggling households. While this compassion is not to be dismissed, neither can it be considered reliable.

Another situation in which the role of the traditional authority was in evidence was in facilitating land renting. A handful of households who, because of AIDS-related illnesses were no longer capable of using their own land fully, sought to overcome the insecurity associated with land renting by engaging the assistance of the headman as a witness. This was in lieu of other administrative arrangements for facilitating land renting, but it appeared to be nonetheless efficacious, and to the obvious benefit of the households. The fact that land renting is not more common reflects the fact that in many KwaZulu-Natal customary areas, the traditional authority forbids land renting. However, another concern is that, even in an area where the headman is sometimes willing to oblige in facilitating a rental arrangement, his intervention depends in large measure on the land holder's relationship to him.

Rights to land in Lesotho were underpinned by the Lesotho Land Act of 1979 which stated that land which lies fallow for more than for two years in succession automatically reverts back to the allocating authority. This provision, which is encouraged in the land policy review report of 2001, is an attempt to enhance agricultural productivity through ensuring that all cropland is used by allottees. Though meant to ensure equity, this provision did not anticipate the deprivation of agricultural land due to continued illness which would render land fallow for an extended period.


It is clear that rights to land, particularly for agricultural production, remain important for HIV/AIDS affected households. Land use has, however, been impacted on through the loss of labour and other assets, which makes it difficult to mobilise rights to production. A number of land-related strategies have been strengthened in attempts to survive the impact of the epidemic. Sharecropping in both the Lesotho and South African case studies were notable, as were land use conversions and sales, the leasing of land in Kenya, and the need to leave land fallow in all three countries. It is important to recognise that households have not remained passive in the face of HIV/AIDS, and other impacts, but generated strategies intended to overcome these difficulties, which have been intensified by the epidemic.

It is thus important for policy makers and land practitioners to recognize the importance of these land rights, particularly for those left behind after HIV/AIDS-related deaths. There should be an attempt to facilitate wider land use options for both agricultural and non-farm activities, to be relevant to particularly vulnerable people such as widows, orphans and youth households. Such options could include developing land rental markets on communal areas, increase access to water for gardening purposes, increase the capacity of households through inputs such as seed, credit, and extension to engage in income generating activities. It is also important that policy makers take better recognition of diverse household types that result from HIV/AIDS impacts and reflect the heterogeneity of diverse household types that result from the epidemic.

Cases in all three countries indicate that traditional land management institutions are central in the adjudication between overlapping claims to land rights. They have, however, played mixed roles in these diverse case studies. In a few cases in KwaZulu-Natal, traditional authorities ultimately ensured that land rights were upheld and acted to protect households left in a vulnerable situation, accentuated in a context of increased land grabbing and the breakdown of trust. These actions were, however, in the framework of a patriarchal system that often upheld gender inequalities. What is clear is that womens and orphans rights are often dependent on the compassion of the traditional authority, a particularly sensitive issue in the context of the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. These groups are particularly vulnerable to losing their land rights as households are impacted by the epidemic, an issue that must be acknowledged in policy processes. This could be done through supporting the rights of vulnerable people to

ensure the needs of weaker individuals and households are addressed in land administration through interventions such as strengthening land registration systems in communal areas and to ensure representation of weaker individuals and households in land administration systems.


  • Bosire, E; Kiai, W & Mwangi, W (2002) The impact of HIV/AIDS on the land issue in Kenya, unpublished draft report for the FAO.
  • Bryceson, D and Banks, L (2000) End of an era: Africas development policy parallax, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 5-25.
  • Collins, J & Rau, W (2000) AIDS in the context of development, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) Programme on Social Policy and Development, Paper No. 4, December.
  • Cousins, B (2001) "Not rural development, but agrarian reform": beyond the neo-liberal agenda, unpublished paper presented at the Department of Land Affairs Land Tenure Conference, Durban, November.
  • Donahue, J; Kabbucho, K & Osinde, S (2000) HIV/AIDS Responding to a silent economic crisis among microfinance clients, unpublished report, MicroSave Africa
  • Loewenson, R & Whiteside, A (2001) HIV/AIDS: implications for poverty reduction, paper prepared for the UNDP for the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, 25-27 June 2001.
  • Mphale, M; Rwambali, E & Makoae, M (2002) HIV/AIDS and its impacts on land tenure and livelihoods in Lesotho, unpublished draft report for the FAO.

Threat to Humanity - Bush's New Military Doctrine

By Sam Webb, National Chairman, Communist Party of the USA

In October, the Bush administration announced a new strategic-military policy, titled, "The National Security Strategy of the United States," which, to put it bluntly, is a promissory note for unending and calamitous war.

What are some of the main features of this new doctrine?

  • Perhaps most ominous, nuclear weapons are now weapons of first, rather than last, resort. Their use is envisioned in a range of military theatres. In the warped thinking of the Bush administration, "limited nuclear war" is no longer an oxymoron, but rather, a preferred policy.
  • Pre-emptive strikes are a legitimate and even favored method of warfare against states that supposedly pose a threat to the US.
  • The US reserves the right to police and punish, and annihilate with overwhelming force nations and peoples that it deems 'enemies of civilization'.
  • Preventing the emergence of a rival state power - be it friend or foe - is an essential requirement.
  • Transforming the US military and further increasing its already unprecedented advantage over its closest competitor for the full length of the 21st century is a top priority. This includes the ability to engage in more than two conflicts simultaneously.
  • A unilateral, go-it-alone posture is preferred over multilateralism. The idea is that assembling a coalition of like-minded governments too often constrains or slows down the projection of US power.
  • International law, treaties and obligations that limit the US's ability to act in a decisive manner, wherever and whenever, are to be ignored.
  • Far less weight is attached to diplomacy and stability in international relations. In fact, instability is seen as something that may well offer opportunities to project US military power to distant corners of the globe.

At first glance it might seem that the new Bush policy is a response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. But on closer inspection, a different picture emerges.

Actually, the strategic perspectives of this policy appeared in earlier position papers. As far back as the early 1990s, and as recently as two years ago, documents were being discussed in the top circles of our nation's ruling class that bear a remarkable resemblance to the new policy.

The earlier versions, however, never became government policy. One, written during the latter days of the first Bush administration and leaked to the New York Times, was greeted by a storm of criticism, while the more recent versions never attracted much attention beyond a small group of right wing
ideologues, including many of the current operatives in the Bush administration.

But the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, changed everything. They gave the administration a pretext and a legitimizing discourse to employ a much more aggressive, militarist, and ultimately exceedingly dangerous strategy to bring about a qualitative and permanent change in the world balance of forces, wherein US imperialism and its transnational corporations absolutely dominate the world for the near and long term.

Previous US governments, to be sure, were not lambs in the international arena. The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the relentless bombing of Yugoslavia in the mid-nineties are the bookends on five decades of covert and overt intervention against states and peoples.

And yet to see only the similarities between the policies of present and past governments misses the point, which is that the new Bush administration doctrine constitutes a qualitative break from the underpinnings of US foreign policy going back to the Cold War.

Or, to put it differently, the new policy represents not a subtle adjustment, but rather, a radical change of doctrine. It elevates the danger of aggression, militarism, and war to an entirely new level. With the not-so-neutral goal of 'regime change', it endangers the lives and livelihoods of millions. It will, almost inevitably, exacerbate the terrorist danger in our country and elsewhere. And in an era when weapons of mass destruction proliferate it makes doomsday a real possibility.

It will also immeasurably sharpen the right wing offensive against the working class, racially and nationally oppressed people, women, and other social forces in our country. If the September 11 terrorist attack was simply a pretext, what then were the changes in the objective situation worldwide that convinced the Bush White House to pursue such a reckless policy? Without being exhaustive, three developments come to mind.

First, the disintegration of the Soviet Union a decade ago removed the one state rival able to confront and contest the aggressive actions of US imperialism. It is no accident that the initial thinking regarding this new military-strategic policy coincided with the collapse of Soviet socialism.

Second, US imperialism's overwhelming military strength vis-a-vis both friends and foes confers an enormous - really historically unprecedented - advantage to shape and reshape the world in the interests of US transnational corporations. Never, according to scholars of international
affairs, has a state possessed such an advantage.

Finally, the new level of capitalist globalization, the slowdown of the global economy and the accompanying intensified competition among rival capitalisms in already over-subscribed global markets pushed the US ruling class, and particularly its most reactionary sector, to pursue a more
aggressive policy. In a word, it aims to utilize its superiority on the military and political level to achieve a vastly stronger position on the economic level.

But as important as these changes in the global picture are, they do not by themselves explain how this new policy gained the upper hand. Of decisive importance was the ascendancy of the most right-wing sections of transnational capital and their representatives in American political life. Had the extreme right not grabbed the main levers of power over the past decade, culminating with the theft of the presidency in the 2000 elections, it is unlikely that our government would embrace such an adventurist and dangerous foreign policy.

In other words, this policy change is as much if not more - a product of a political struggle within and between classes and social forces in our country, as it is the outcome of capitalist globalization/imperialism and the changed balance of forces resulting from the collapse of the Soviet
Union a decade ago.

Immediately after September 11, few voices challenged this policy. But a year does make a difference. Dissident and increasingly insistent voices - from respected Congress people to political observers, to growing numbers of ordinary Americans - are taking issue with the Bush administration's global ambitions.

Jay Bookman, deputy editorial page editor of the Atlanta Constitution, recently wrote, "In essence, it [Bush's policy] lays out a plan for U.S. military and economic domination of every region of the globe, unfettered by internal treaty or concern. And to make that plan a reality, it envisions a stark expansion of our global military presence."

In a similar vein, G. John Ikenberry, writing in Foreign Affairs, said "America's nascent neoimperial strategy threatens to rend the fabric of the international community and political partnerships. It is an
approach that is fraught with peril and will likely fail. It is not only politically unsustainable but diplomatically harmful. And if history is a guide, it will trigger antagonism and resistance that will leave America in a more hostile and divided world."

And isn't this already evident? The rush to invade Iraq with deadly force has met with resistance among the American people not to mention people in both near and distant lands who are not only suspicious of the administration's Iraq policy, but also of the overall direction of Bush's
military-strategic plans.

People are realizing that the war danger won't exhaust itself - it won't run out of steam on its own. And leaders of the labour and people's movements are recognizing that they can't be silent about an invasion of Iraq and Bush's new war doctrine without sacrificing the lives and livelihoods of their own constituencies.

Thus, it is becoming clearer that the struggle against the growing war danger is the dominant and defining political reality in our own country for the foreseeable future. This struggle will shape and condition every other struggle and issue.

The meaning of the war danger increasingly strikes a nerve among a cross section of people, as aggression abroad combines at home with rising racial and gender inequality, a spreading economic crisis, and gross restrictions on democratic and union rights, including the use of Taft-Hartley in an
attempt to crush the West Coast longshore union.

The stakes are high, the lines are more clearly drawn, and above all, the struggle is winnable.

In recent months a broadly based and loosely-knit movement has begun to emerge against Bush's militarist policies policies that, not unimportantly, have an exceedingly narrow objective social base and can be reversed with struggle.

While many commentators have noted the capitulation of the Democratic Party leadership, more salient is the emergence of a significant bloc in Congress that opposes the war drive and the rapidly growing anti-war and worker-to-worker solidarity sentiment and initiative within the labour movement. Increasingly, labour leaders and official bodies have issued statements opposing Bush's invasion of Iraq.

When combined with the new level of peace activity in the streets and growing multi-racial unity, it bodes well for the formation of a vast labour-led multi-class front against the reactionary policies of the Bush administration and his reactionary corporate backers.

In the course of this struggle, an alternative vision of our nation's role in the world community has to find its way into the national dialogue. In this regard, a special responsibility falls on left and progressive forces.

Such a vision should include the non-use of force in international relations, the worldwide destruction of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the enhancement of the role of the United Nations and its General Assembly, equitable relations between developed and developing countries, repudiation of NAFTA, FTAA and other similar trade treaties, respect for sovereignty rights of big and small states alike, the just and immediate settlements of unresolved conflicts in the world, beginning with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and a readiness on the part of our nation to be an equal and contributing member of the world community with no special rights or privileges.

Of course, the vision of communists and socialists of a just and peaceful world is informed by our socialist ideal. Nearly a hundred years ago Rosa Luxemburg said that the choice facing humanity was "either socialism or barbarism." At that time, weapons of mass destruction did not exist. But now they do. Thus Rosa's warning takes on a new urgency, and the struggle for socialism acquires a new necessity.

Once it was the possibility of a better life for humankind that animated the socialist vision. And it still does. But at a moment as dangerous as this one, our socialist vision also offers the best safeguard against war and the destruction of our fragile planet.


The revolutionary essence of Fela Kuti's music

By Oke Ogunde, of the Workers' Alternative in Nigeria

(originally written for the first anniversary of Fela Kutis death, 2 August 1998)

Fela Kuti's musical life spanned a period of almost four decades, from the 1960s through to the 1990s. When he first started in the 1960s, his brand of music was 'Highlife', which he performed with other artists in the many night-clubs of Lagos. However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he spent time in the United States where he came into contact with the Black Panthers and the ideas of Malcolm X and other like-minded activists. By the time he came back to Nigeria his musical orientation had started to have a Pan-Africanist content.

But the political activism of his parents also had an important impact on his own later political outlook. His father, the late Rev. Ransome-Kuti, was the acclaimed first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, while his mother was a renowned women's rights activist, who once led the protest of Egba women against excessive taxation by the British colonialists.

 Pan Africanism

In line with his Pan-Africanist identity, Fela changed his surname, Ransome-Kuti (a hybrid of a slave name and an African name) to Anikulapo-Kuti, which is completely African. "Anikulapo" literally means "he that has pocketed death". Felas changing political outlook soon developed a plebeian audience for his music. He later adopted broken English (pidgin) as the language of his lyrics. Pidgin is the lingua franca of most of the working masses and plebeian youth in Nigeria. The pidgin lyrics made his communication and criticism of the "powers-that-be" very clear to this audience.

Initially he sang songs that were generally not political, in his native Yoruba tongue and in English (albums like "water e no get enemy" and "A Lu Jon Jon ki Jon"). But he soon started to sing anti-establishment songs, which very quickly brought him into collision with both imperialism and their local agents in power at home.

He became an avowed enemy of the ruling military junta of General Obasanjo (over two decades back when he was a military dictator) and their collaborators, like MKO Abiola. Notwithstanding threats and intimidation, he continued his criticisms of the military dictatorship and its imperialist friends - like the owners of multinationals companies, Shell, ITT, Mobil, etc.

The ruthless invasion, in 1977, of his 'plebeian-cultured' home estate, the "Kalakuta republic", in Ojuelegba, Lagos, by 'unknown soldiers', who maimed and raped its inhabitants, and looted and burnt the place down, is an indication of how much hatred the junta had for Fela, and how much they saw him as a threat.

The album "Unknown Soldier", released later, tells in an emotion-laden narration what took place during that brutal invasion of his estate by obvious agents of the Obasanjo-led junta. A government 'judicial' panel of enquiry later declared the invaders as "unknown soldiers", confiscated his estate (Kalakuta), arrested the occupants (including Fela) and drove away over 2000 citizens living in the vicinity.

To think that the bitter experience of the Kalakuta republic would cow Fela into submission was a big mistake. He continued his criticism of the military order. The album "Zombie" was an attempt to explain the 'command psyche' of the military. It was a message to low-ranking military men to think about the dogmatic zombie-like order of "obeying before complaining". But more importantly, it was to emphasise the fact that such a philosophy was being introduced into civil society by the then ruling junta. And he wanted to stress that, unlike low-ranking soldiers, civil society, including himself, would definitely complain without obeying.

 Criticism continues

Similarly, he did not stop his exposure of the looting that was going on between the military rulers and their collaborators in the civilian wing of the Nigerian ruling class. An example of such is the narration in the album 'ITT' - the acronym for the multi-national International Telegraph and Telecommunications company, but translated by Fela into "International Thief Thief". In this masterpiece, Fela was able to bring out clearly how millions of dollars (in the form of exaggerated contract fees) were being siphoned out of Nigeria by the ITT. Under the local chairmanship of MKO Abiola, with the active connivance of the Obasanjos and Yar'aduas of this world. The title track on the album "ITT" remains a song that will continue to have a clear revolutionary resonance for the present day Nigerian political and economic crisis.

 The album "Army Arrangement", released in 1985, revealed the mismanagement of the economy by the past regimes in Nigeria, both military and civilian. It exposed their methods of thievery. It showed that nothing good could come out of the civilian government of the time, which he claimed correctly was based on the "same old politicians (in the UPN, NPN, PRP&GNPP) who ruled (ruined) and spoiled Nigeria before." The album was a revelation of the inherent class links between the military generals and the civilian wing (the so-called 'political class') of the ruling capitalist class.

"Suffer Head" must go

"Suffer Head" is another masterpiece of the 1980s. Released at a time when the living conditions of the poor masses were worsening. Fela Kuti was able to put across graphically the terrible living conditions of the working masses. Describing, among others, how "ten people sleep inside one small room" in the slums; how the transportation system was so bad that "my people are packed inside buses like sardines"; how water, food and light (electricity) were either lacking or grossly inadequate.

He furthered criticised the essence of the United Nations' cynical programmes of "food-house-health etc., for all by the year 2000". He tagged them programmes of deceit. In conclusion, Fela made a revolutionary appeal that "suffer head must go! And J'eba head must come" (eba is a popular meal in Nigeria).

 Albums like "Overtake Don Overtake Overtake" (ODOO) and "Big Blind Country" (BBC) were attempts to expose how the various military take-overs in Africa were fundamentally the same in their methods of dictatorship. However, in ODOO he was able to expose the international collaboration and treachery involved in the killing of the young radical military leader of Burkina Faso, Captain Thomas Sankara.

In "Perambulator", also of the early 1980s, he explained among others, how the situation never changes - "we go dey perambulate am for the same place, same, same place", he said. He portrays the life of the typical civil service clericalworker. Where, after acquiring his 'colonial form' of education, he started work, was in service for 35 years. After which he remained without property (at best he owns one old bicycle and a presentation long-service watch) and "if he no tire, dem go tire am, dem go dash am one gold wrist watch, 35 years of service all im property one old bicycle".

Among other revolutionarily intoxicating masterpieces of Fela is his "Authority Stealing" where he elaborated on the methods of stealing by the ruling elite. Equally worth mentioning is the grand success of the album "Beast of No Nation". Here he revealed the hypocritical nature of the United Nations and "how disunited is the United Nation". He concluded that "human rights na my property-animal cannot dash me human rights".

Fela's Shortcomings

"Lady" is a controversial album released in the mid-1970s. Here Fela criticised the orientation of a new generation of women, "ladies". He campaigned for the retaining of the past 'virtues' of African women, including their subordination to men-folk.

This perspective is symptomatic of Felas shortcomings. He showed a deep understanding of suffering, but he couldn't offer a solution to the crisis facing society in general. This was why he took refuge in mysticism, as he believed that only the intervention of the gods could bring about change.

While criticising foreign religions like Christianity and Islam, in some of his albums, and while shedding "white deceits", he did so for another confusion - African religion. He proclaimed himself the Chief Priest at his African Shrine, and here he worshipped past Pan-Africanists like Kwame Nkrumah, and also his late mother.

Another confusion in Fela's thinking was his extreme pan-Africanist view on modern medicine. For example, in 'Perambulator' he was very critical of taking modern ("white man's") medicine, e.g. in the cure of Jedi-Jedi (piles); he instead advocated traditional (herbal) options. While he was right to have made a case for traditional medicine, it was unscientific of him to have called for the complete abandonment of modern medicine, simply because, according to him, it was not African. Right up to his death he never believed that AIDS was real, he always said that it was the disease of the "white man".

However, in spite of Fela's limitations, we should appreciate the deep chord he has struck among the working masses, particularly the youth. The multitude of working masses and youth who turned up at his burial ceremony is a clear expression of his wide appeal. Importantly, he is not seen as the champion of one ethnic section of the country against another. It is the task of conscious workers and youth to understand both the progressive aspects of Fela's works and his limitations.