The decay of the revolutionary leadership in post-Apartheid South Africa
I would like to thank the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for the opportunity to address this gathering. I would like to take the opportunity to extend to you, and to all the comrades, friends and fellow workers here, the most sincere, heartfelt and revolutionary greeting of the members of the Marxist Workers School of South Africa and, indeed, greetings from the proletariat of South Africa.
The policies of imperialism and our reactionary ruling capitalist classes have always been to divide people, to divide the working class, to set local workers against immigrant workers, to set full-time workers against part-time workers … and, of course, they set workers in the imperialist countries against workers in the so-called ‘third-world’ countries.
Our position is clear: the objective interest of the South African working class and the interest of the British working class are identical. We have a common enemy; we are united in a common struggle against capitalism and imperialism. And therefore we say: together, the working class in South Africa and Britain, and, indeed, all over the world, will struggle for a better world; a world in which there is no exploitation and oppression, a world in which hunger and ignorance are a thing of the past, a world in which those who produce the wealth in society, namely the working class, shall govern and benefit.
Together we shall struggle and together we shall be victorious in this struggle. It is for this reason that we are here to forge a bond of friendship and solidarity between the South African and British working classes; a lasting bond born out of the revolutionary struggle against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
South Africa during and after Apartheid
Comrades, many working-class organisations, revolutionary parties and comrades and friends who joined us internationally in our struggle against Apartheid had very high expectations of the African National Congress. Millions of people knew the political programme of our national-liberation struggle – the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter laid the basis for a free and democratic South Africa, in which black and white, coloureds and Indians would live as equals. The Freedom Charter demanded that the land should be given back to the people, and that the mines and the banks should be nationalised.
Clearly, neither the land issue has been solved nor have the mines and the banks been nationalised.
Instead, the international community are given conflicting information about the economic progress of South Africa, while at the same time being fed with rather sensational information about the president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, and the president of the ANC Youth organisation, Julius Malema. Reported issues around Aids and crime have also tarnished the image of South Africa internationally.
To understand the present situation, we need to step back and recall our historical struggle against Apartheid, and we need to look at how the economic and social situation has changed under the ANC government.
During the anti-Apartheid struggle, the main contradiction was between the racist apartheid system and the black people of South Africa, namely Africans, Indians and coloureds. Therefore, the anti-Apartheid struggle was led by the national-liberation movement the African National Congress in alliance with the South African Communist Party and Sactu, the South African Congress of Trade Unions.
This alliance, under the leadership of the ANC, fought the apartheid system politically, through armed struggle, and by organising an international movement to isolate and boycott the apartheid system.
This heroic struggle of our people, fought over many decades and with untold sacrifices, cumulated in the 1990 release of all political prisoners, some of whom, like our leaders Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, had been incarcerated for 27 years. The apartheid regime had to legalise all banned political organisations like the ANC, SACP, PAC, AZAPO and others. Within four years of this change, the apartheid system collapsed and a democratically-elected ANC government was ushered in.
This new government took over the old state machinery, with all its structures, complete with the old civil servants who had served the apartheid system. In addition, the new dispensation was based on a bourgeois constitution, which had been negotiated between the rising ANC and the then ruling National Party in 1992/3.
Since 1994, therefore, South Africa has been a bourgeois democracy, in which the property rights of the ruling capitalist class are enshrined in the constitution and upheld through the laws of the country, as enforced by the police and the judiciary. It is precisely for this reason that, since 1994, the main contradiction in South Africa has been between the ruling capitalist class and the working class.
Yet all political parties in South Africa deny this fundamental fact.
From revolutionaries to reformists
During the years of Apartheid, the capitalist class that owned the means of production in South Africa ruled through the racist and fascist apartheid state; it ruled through brute force. Open and direct oppression, torture and killings, arbitrary arrests and mass intimidation of the entire black population was the order of the day in order to exploit cheap black labour, not only for the enrichment of the white capitalist class but for the social and financial benefit of the entire white population.
After 1994, when Apartheid was defeated by the national-liberation struggle, the main contradiction in South Africa became the contradiction between the ruling capitalist class and the working class. The ruling capitalist class started to rule through bourgeois democracy, the same kind of rule that Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto described as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
Hand in hand with this transition, the African National Congress, our former liberation movement, has step by step over the years been ideologically transformed into a social-democratic party.
Opportunism has become a material force within the leadership. Indeed, the entire leadership of the African National Congress and the revisionist South African Communist Party has been socially corrupted. It has been bought into the middle class to such an extent that these leaders cannot see their own future and their own interest as being separate from the future and interest of the white bourgeoisie and of the of the emerging black middle class.
To this extent, neither the leadership of the ANC nor that of the SACP are any longer able to represent the objective interest of the rank-and-file members of their organisations. Nor do they represent the basic aspirations of their memberships any more.
The social base of both organisations is made up of ordinary working-class people and their families, who increasingly revolt against the opportunistic leadership. This finds its expression in the increasingly violent infighting at congresses and meetings, and in the emergence of factionalism within these organisations.
All political parties in South Africa deny the fact that the main contradiction in our country today is between labour and capital. It is for this reason that social democracy is flourishing.
The working class is told by its leaders that we all sit in the same boat – together with capital – and that we must all behave ‘patriotically’ to ‘strengthen South Africa together’. Meanwhile, the capitalists are retrenching and shedding millions of jobs. Unemployment has reached 46 percent, and poverty and hunger are spreading like wildfire. Yet the working class is told that the only answer is to hold out for better times and be more patriotic.
As the class contradictions between labour and capital sharpen, millions of workers are expressing their anger and frustration through militant strikes and protest. With falling numbers of workers registering to vote, and falling numbers of those registered bothering to turn out, more than forty percent of the voting-age population are now expressing their disillusionment by staying away from the polls.
All political parties, including the ANC and the SACP, in various ways and with various levels of intensity, are engaged in what Karl Marx described as perfecting the existing capitalist state.
The working class is told that the present stage of the revolution is the national-democratic revolution. In reality, this line is nothing but a call for open class collaboration with the ruling capitalist class, and therefore all policies and programmes, all campaigns that have been developed in South Africa over the past 17 years, are nothing but attempts to perfect the machinery of the capitalist state and increase the efficiency of the capitalist system of exploitation.
Of course, this is sold to the working class and the population at large as: ‘making South Africa internationally competitive’!
Key goals of the Freedom Charter
During Apartheid, 87 percent of the land was allocated to whites. This systematic and barbaric land robbery was the hallmark of colonialism and Apartheid in South Africa. But instead of carrying out a land reform to give land to the landless masses as the Freedom Charter demands, the government passes legislation to regulate the relationship between the white landlords and commercial farms and the farm workers.
South Africa has a race- and class-based education system: government schools for the working class, Model C schools for the middle class, and private schools for the bourgeoisie. Instead of scrapping the race- and class-based education system, which was developed under De Klerk, the last Apartheid President, the new government introduces one education reform after another in order to ‘improve’ the three-tier education system and make it more ‘efficient’.
In the industrial and economical sphere, the Freedom Charter states that the mines and banks should be nationalised. But here too, the government has instead passed legislation to increase the shareholding of black capitalists within the mining industry. And instead of nationalising the banks, the government negotiates with the monopoly capitalists to increase credit to black middle-class people.
In other words: reformism is the order of the day. Despite all the revolutionary rhetoric, which is sometimes voiced at Sunday speeches, reformism has become a material force within the political circles of the ruling ANC-SACP alliance.
Problems for reformists
However, the bourgeois system in South Africa faces one fundamental problem: it does not have the financial or economic potential, nor a coherent political national will, to bribe significant sections of the black working class into collaboration.
During the Apartheid years, the ruling class successfully created an all-white labour aristocracy, which has survived to the present day and is still nourished by the system. The system has failed, however, and indeed it never had any intentions, to create a black labour aristocracy.
Reformism therefore is a material force within state structures; it is the ideology of the middle class, including the emerging black middle class.
But reformism has failed to use its bribed black middle-class placemen to dominate the hearts and minds of the militant working class in South Africa, whose consciousness is being determined by the prevailing conditions of poverty, exploitation and alienation. In other words: the revolutionary spirit of the South African working class has not been broken!
This revolutionary class is struggling daily against capitalist exploitation; this class wants freedom from wage slavery; this class sees socialism as the fulfilment of its aspirations!
Over the years, so-called ‘neo-liberal’ policies have been introduced, such as the privatisation of state assets throughout our country in adherence to IMF and World Bank demands.
As a result, a few people have become filthy rich, and the profits of corporations and international monopoly capitalists have increased significantly. Alongside these gains for the exploiters come the usual burdens on the working classes: unemployment has skyrocketed, and poverty and desperation amongst urban workers and the landless rural masses have reached unprecedented levels.
The social situation of the working class and the landless masses has deteriorated to such an extent that the government has been forced to introduce social benefits in an attempt to take the edge off the people’s anger and desperation. Twelve million people in South Africa have become recipients of these benefits, without which there would be outbreaks of hunger and starvation in South Africa, although it is one of the richest countries on earth. Such are the realities of the so-called ‘free-market economy’!
South African revolutionaries and Marxist Leninists founded the Marxist Workers School of South Africa in order to educate workers about the historical responsibility of the working class, as the most revolutionary class in our society, to organise itself and take up the struggle for a socialist future. We have realised that wage slavery, poverty, crime, ignorance and underdevelopment can only be overcome when the working class has established a socialist system under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The unfolding class struggle of the South African working class is a struggle against the ruling capitalist class in South Africa. And it is at the same time part and parcel of the struggle of the international proletariat, of which we are a part.
Our struggle is part of the struggle of the international working class and oppressed people against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
It is for this reason that we support the land redistribution in Zimbabwe and the struggle of the Zimbabwean people under the leadership of ZANU-PF to defend its national sovereignty against British imperialism.
It is for this reason that we call for the victory of the national-liberation struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan
It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist national-liberation struggle of the Green revolution against the internal counter-revolution and the barbaric bombardment and re-colonisation of Libya by Nato.
It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist Syrian Baath party and the coalition government in Syria, which includes the Syrian Communist Party, in its struggle against internal counter-revolution, destabilisation by reactionary Arab regimes and imperialist aggression.
It is for this reason that we support the Palestinian national-liberation struggle for a united and democratic Palestine, in which muslims, jews and christians can live side by side in peace, free and liberated from the reactionary and racist ideology of Zionism
It is for this reason that we support all socialist countries like the Peoples Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Each of these socialist countries is at a different stage of development, but nevertheless they are all upholding socialism and developing their countries under extremely difficult conditions of world imperialist domination. Each of these countries is living proof that the working class can be the master of its own destiny.
We fully support the socialist countries in the defence of their hard-won victories and in the defence of their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
It is for this reason that we build international relations with revolutionary working-class organisations and parties: parties that are based on Marxism Leninism; parties which understand that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement; parties which have consciously broken all ties with opportunism, revisionism, social democracy and Trotskyism.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is one such party that tirelessly exposes these petty-bourgeois trends within the working-class leadership; that supports the anti-imperialist struggles of the oppressed people, and that fights for the establishment of a truly revolutionary proletarian party of the British working class.
We would once more like to thank the leadership of the CPGB-ML for the invitation and the opportunity to address this meeting.
Long live the solidarity between the British and South African working classes!
Long live proletarian internationalism!
Workers and oppressed people of the world unite against imperialism!