Sunday, May 26, 2013

SASCO's Ideological Character

SASCO’s Ideological Character & Approach:
A Need for proclamation on Revolutionary theory

Nyiko Floyd Shivambu

December 2003 first draft. Official documents for the 2004 National Congress.


It does not warrant rocket science to notice and know that the South African Students’ Congress has been at the forefront of students’ struggles in the country. This character of SASCO can be traced back to as far as 1924, when the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) was conceived, mainly to be co-ordinator of SRC’s with profound ability to exert progressive outlook to student organisation. It is instructive to note that NUSAS is the primary origin of SASCO.

If one follows the history of SASCO properly, there will inevitably be a realization that the breakaway of the black faction in 1969 was to be re-incorporated back to NUSAS, when SASCO was configured in 1991. When the Steve Biko led faction broke away in 1969, notably for ideological reasons, to form the South African Students Organisation (SASO), NUSAS remained intact in terms of safeguarding the progressive outlook, despite high level of cynicism from SASO. SASO evolved and assumed different shapes until it was incorporated back to and/or merged with NUSAS in 1991 to form SASCO.

As will be discussed below, NUSAS was not reactionary, despite the fact that it mobilised in white institutions. The discussion around NUSAS will be but a reflection on its ideological inclination. This document is not aimed at discussing the NUSAS, SASO, and formation of SASCO as a hollow occurrence. This document is destined at discussing the role and importance of ideology in the South African student movement, SASCO in particular. The ideological discussion will reflect profoundly on the African National Congress’ ideological flirtations during crucial moments and times of the liberation struggle and how presumed inclination exposes a progressive movement to right wing ideological manipulations.

For coherence, the document will dissect the organisational culture and ideological inclination of four organisations in the broader National Liberation Movement, i.e. NUSAS, SASO, ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP). As will be seen, the dissection of these four organisations will excellently explain ideological oscillation and/or steadfastness of SASCO presently and the need for an organisation to define and pronounce itself on its revolutionary theory. The document will subsequently and conveniently conclude by making recommendations on what ought to be SASCO’s view and approach to ideology as tool of analysis at the face of quantitative and qualitative expansion of globalisation and neo-liberalisation. The debate on SASCO’s ideology is as old as the organisation, and its revision is just as relevant and convenient as South Africa celebrates and/or mourns 10 Years of democracy. SASCO ought to seek and find ideological guidance, as the country enters in the second decade of bourgeois democracy.

National Union of South African Students (NUSAS)

In 1924, NUSAS started off squeakily in terms of the non-racial principle adopted at its formation. Nonetheless, it’s very important to note that NUSAS became a non-racial student organisation, even before the formal modelling of apartheid. It was only after the admission of Fort Hare and Non-White section of the University College of Natal in the 1940s that NUSAS became a non-racial organisation. NUSAS started to be vocal and denounce apartheid and its legalisations. This in turn drew fierce anger from the regime of that period.

In the 1960s, there were direct confrontations between government and the NUSAS leadership, which at some instances resulted in detention, banning, deportation and withdrawal of passports for the NUSAS office-bearers
[1].NUSAS denounced apartheid at its conception, and its leadership endured the pain and suffering of most of our South African freedom fighters, despite their racial backgrounds. NUSAS leadership, despite minimal racialised spats has always been denunciative of the ruthlessness of apartheid and its class exploitation.

In 1976, amidst partisan exchange of diatribes between SASO and NUSAS (mostly from SASO to NUSAS), the latter accelerated its momentum in denouncing the apartheid regime. When the United Democratic Front was formed in 1983, NUSAS was one of the organisations to be allied to the UDF. Most importantly this alliance meant that the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) was in alliance with NUSAS as it regarded itself as the student wing of the UDF. Student and youth struggles were a critical feature of the UDF period. NUSAS, COSAS and AZASO (subsequently SANSCO) had formed a non-racial student alliance from early in the 1980's, and formed the student wing of the UDF
[2]. This period was a very important for the build up processes to reconfiguration of a single progressive student organisation in the country. During that period, the debate of whether the South African struggle was a class or national or national-cum-class struggle was not as robust. Progressive forces were just aligning on the basis of what they were fighting against, not what they were fighting for. Of course, there was a mention of a democratic, non-sexist and non-racial South Africa as an expected outcome, but the ideological content and character of this South Africa was not defined.

In April 1986, NUSAS arranged a meeting with the banned African National Congress (ANC) in Harare, Zimbabwe to discuss among other things the active participation of the ANC in finding a solution for South Africa’s problems. NUSAS also called for the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela. NUSAS with this radical stance it took endured itself to the brutality and harassment of the South African security branch.

Whilst most mass organisations build their membership by organising directly around the interests of their members, the historical challenge for NUSAS was to organise white students to take a stand that appeared contrary to their interests: to recognise that the white minority privileges they enjoyed as a result of apartheid were unjust and unjustifiable, and to ally themselves with the forces for democracy in South Africa. For NUSAS, winning this ideological battle on the campuses was a pre-requisite for survival.

NUSAS was not reactionary. A NUSAS publication of the time explained reflected on the ideological nature of the apartheid education system, “Our universities are designed to prepare us for specific roles in the apartheid system. We are taught various skills in such a way that they will be useful to the privileged minority in South Africa, yet be inaccessible to the vast majority. A changed South Africa will need professionals whose skills are oriented towards serving the interests of the community as a whole
[3]." Doyens in SASCO will promptly realise that there is a very a thin or no line between this stance and a call of institutions of Higher Learning to be transformed from “ivory towers” to people’s centres of development.

In practice, NUSAS worked with representative student structures in faculty councils, and with progressive academics, to challenge the content of education in the universities across every discipline; and challenged students to use their skills in support of the transformation of society. NUSAS highlighted that a democratic South Africa needed architects and town-planners who understood the housing crisis in South Africa; doctors trained in preventive health care rather than plastic surgery; and teachers who can teach the history of resistance to colonialism and apartheid, not how Jan Van Riebeeck brought civilization to the Cape
[4]. This call demonstrates that despite fighting racial oppression, NUSAS was acknowledging class contradictions and ideological hegemony and domination of capitalism in South African Higher education curriculum, which remain as such. This call is still relevant and suitably, SASCO ought to project its voice in the call for peoples’ centres of development.

This reflection on NUSAS is meant to illustrate the progressive and perhaps revolutionary character of the organisation amidst repression of apartheid state. And it further reflects on the misconceptions of an exclusively racial struggle in the South African society, during and after apartheid. NUSAS was an organisation of what was called radical liberals, yet whether the brand liberal was an ideological brand is an issue which was and is debatable within NUSAS circles and the student movement.
South African Students Organisation (SASO)
Quite clearly, SASO was a breakaway faction from NUSAS, led by Steve Biko, and mainly because of perceived and/or de facto marginalisation of blacks (as ideologically defined by Black Consciousness) within NUSAS. SASO was mobilising against apartheid, refusing to recognize NUSAS as a struggle ally against apartheid. Instead, SASO was harbouring the view that NUSAS is being sponsored by apartheid government. It’s not untrue that SASO was centred around and overemphasised on race as a critical determinant of social consciousness. Steve Biko, SASO’s first President, would rave that “What we want is not black visibility but real black participation'. Whether debatable or not, black consciousness was rather an under-analysis of what exactly determines man’s consciousness. Karl Marx argued in the Preface of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, that “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness
[5]”. Sympathizers and supporters of Marx’s analysis of scientific socialism will realise that this discovery is fundamental to Marxism, not as dogma, but guide to action. Steve Biko and thus SASO’s analysis was rather advocating the view that it is or it was the racial background and racial consciousness of men that determined their general consciousness not as presaged by Marx.

The late Sam Nolutshungu, a Political analyst correctly and/or incorrectly paraphrased that “SASO is not a political party, has no well defined ideology, programme of action or code of internal discipline”. SASO was essentially a student political organisation within the stream of Black Power in South Africa, the 'African nationalist thought' that 'emphasised racially exclusive strategies for the overthrow of white domination'. Unlike the Africanists, SASO did not exclude Indians and Coloureds but defined them as part of the oppressed and also 'black'

SASO saw naked white power and privilege, the unity of whites in defence of white supremacy, and black impoverishment, fear and resignation. They therefore concluded that 'race' was the primary line of cleavage and to white power they counterpoised black solidarity. Class divisions were not seen as important and there was little recognition of gender issues
[7]. This bluntly means that SASO was not a Marxist/Leninist organisation in both approach and analysis, nor inclined to Marxism/Leninism. It must however be mentioned that there’s nothing conclusively wrong and/or right with being Marxist or not Marxist. It is however informative to note that the observation made by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto was that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”. Conversely, SASO and/or black consciousness ideologues viewed the South African struggle as purely a racial struggle. Later on, the document will demonstrate why and how it is dangerous to view the South African struggle as a racial struggle, during colonial-cum-apartheid rule and post.

Analysing the ideas of Steve Biko, Comrade Buti Manamela was even much more frank: “Steve Biko suffered from a narrow nationalism syndrome. A syndrome that refused to believe that the black man was oppressed equally because of his cheap labour power and that this was also a class struggle. Biko the valuable man was also a man trapped in the misleading of backwardness, which he confused with culture. He continuously referred to white SA as the Coca-Cola and Hamburger generation and denied the fact that this was post-primitive SA, and that Imperialism is knocking on SA’s door. This was to be fatal
[8]”. But equally, as Comrade Buti adds, “failure to see that the historical struggle in South Africa was a class struggle and that it had manifested itself in the form of racial oppression and prejudice could not have assisted the Black Consciousness Movement in its lonely fight against the system”. This was the struggle of SASO.

Whilst SASO’s approach was not materialist, it’s very important to acknowledge that SASO reflected the identification of black students with the cause of national liberation. Yet unlike previous and later black student organisations it was not the student wing of any political organisation but was independent. SASO was characterised by informal modes of working; much was left to individual initiative, action and spontaneity was encouraged and considerable latitude was allowed for expression. The element of spontaneity shaped SASO's relation to the apartheid state. It refused to consider the state as omnipotent and was thus unwilling to accommodate to the 'system', and was defiant towards everything associated with the state. This stamped on SASO an almost uncompromising militancy
[9]. The militancy of SASO was relevant and revolutionary, and that’s one area where SASCO is underprovided.

SASO was the strongest of organisations in terms of community service and work. One of the strongest pillars inherited by SASCO from SASO was strong ties with the broader community in terms of service and work in communities. It’s obvious that the phrase “we are members of community before we are students” was more applicable to SASO than to SASCO today. An acknowledgement ought to be made that community work is one area where SASCO ought to quadruple its efforts so as to embody the progressive ideals of the organisation’s lineage.

In terms of ideological oscillation and organisational character, SASO set a trend for the line of organisations that came after it. Whether SASCO is part of those organisations remains debatable, since SASCO is harbouring some of the elements of SASO, but with other issues that were brought about by evolution. There’s even a talk of a broad church, so you really can’t conclude. Let’s engage.

African National Congress (ANC)

When the ANC was unbanned in 1990, it had no economic policy, a peculiar situation for an eighty years old liberation organisation despite the efforts internationally on the left to train a cadre of ANC exile economists. However this does not mean that the ANC as a mass organisation had no ideological inclination, explicit or implicit.
Whilst the leadership of South African Native National Congress, forerunner of ANC had pronounced and defined itself and the ANC as fighting for equal rights, and mobilising across class lines, with no expressed class biasness, it ought to be equally noted that ANC rightfully evolved to be a Party of the mass and it remains one. As we discuss, you’ll realise that when the ANC was the mass, a particular line of thinking was dominant and when oligarchic style of leadership took full control, a certain line of thinking was equally dominant. It must be noted that whilst the former is true, the latter was not always the case.

In 1955, the Congress of the People adopted the Freedom Charter that unequivocally stated that the people shall govern. The Charter was even more explicit to state that economic power would be shifted to the people as a whole. That is why one wonders, quite conveniently whether the few black elites and emerging capitalists are the “people as a whole”. The most important about this historic gathering (Congress of the People) is that the oppressed mass was in control. If one reads an article by Comrade Joe Slovo on how the Freedom Charter was conceived and the processes that culminated in the adoption of the Freedom Charter, you’ll begin to comprehend how the mass of the ANC thought and continues to think. The ANC is a mass Organisation and it is an organisation of the Mass. Freedom Charter or the organisation of the Mass made some ideological pronunciations in 1955: “The People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth; The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people

In 1969, the Political report of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, presented by Comrade Oliver Tambo in Tanzania, in what became to be known as Morogoro Conference, stated, “Today most of the wealth of South Africa is flowing into the coffers of a few in the country and others in foreign lands. In addition the white minority as a group have over the years enjoyed a complete monopoly of economic rights, privileges and opportunities
[11]”. It further stated, “An ANC government shall restore the wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans to the people as a whole. The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole[12]”. Sometimes it is very important to underline phrases such as the people as a whole, and in this instance it’s very important, and hopefully delegates in Morogoro Conference acted similarly.

The Morogoro Political Report further acknowledged that; “The bulk of the land in our country is in the hands of land barons, absentee landlords, big companies and State capitalist enterprises
[13]”. In Tanzania, Morogoro Conference, there was however an undertaking that “The land must be taken away from exclusively European control and from these groupings and divided among the small farmers, peasants and landless of all races who do not exploit the labour of others.” Land was to be distributed to those who will not exploit the labour of others for profits. In South Africa today, the most exploitative of exploiters are found on the very same land that was supposed to be redistributed to small farmers, peasants and landless of all races. What happened?

The conclusion of the Political report on the land question was as thus: “Farmers will be prevented from holding land in excess of a given area, fixed in accordance with the concrete situation in each locality. Lands held in communal ownership shall be increased so that they can afford a decent livelihood to the people and their ownership shall be guaranteed. Land obtained from land barons and the monopolies shall be distributed to the landless and land-poor
[14]”. Where is the land? Let’s reflect.

In 1985, Comrade Pallo Jordan wrote a document for as part of the preparation of the ANC National Consultative Conference at Kabwe, Zambia, June 1985. Cde Pallo noted that the Strategy and Tactics of the ANC, adopted at the Morogoro Conference, speaks of ‘... the small group which owns South Africa’s wealth’. Cde Pallo exclaimed that “the document does not spell out how this ‘small group’ exercises ownership”. He (Cde Pallo) however acknowledged that “for various historical reasons it is very rare for an ANC document to actually give a definition of the South African social formation as capitalist”. He (Cde Pallo) acknowledged that within the ANC, “we employ a plethora of terms that do not assist in clarifying the nature of South African society, its ruling class, that ruling class’s relationship to the state, the government and the white community at large

An important acknowledgment made by that document was that “the South African social formation is beyond dispute capitalist”. After a comprehensive and didactic dissection of South African capitalism, Comrade Pallo confessed that the type of democratic state we envisage is spelt out in the ten clauses of the Freedom Charter. Plainly Comrade Pallo stated that “though we place equal weight on the separate clauses, the first five, setting out the most pressing political, economic and social reforms a democratic state will have to embark on, can be said to be its core”. The clauses he was referring to are the ones reflected upon above, and amongst other things they pronounce that: “The People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth; The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people
Though the Freedom Charter was not a conclusive programme for socialism, it must, nevertheless, be distinguished from a conventional bourgeois-democratic programme. In its third and fourth clauses, the Charter projects the seizure of economic assets owned either by South African capitalist firms or trans-national corporations. Such measures will strip the ruling class of the actual substance of its power, by seizing hold of the commanding heights of the economy. People’s power, as conceived within the movement, will therefore entail a democratic revolution of a new type, in which the interests of the working class, of town and countryside, will be pre-eminent.

In 1990, upon release from prison, on
e great and highly celebrated state President of the country and icon of the world stood in a balcony in Cape Town, in his first public address in 27 years. It was February 1990 when Nelson Mandela said, “nationalization of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is ANC policy, and any change was inconceivable. This was repeated after his release”. In a subsequent interview with the British Press, he rephrased but meant what he said initially; ''The nationalisation of the mines, financial institutions and monopoly industries is the fundamental policy of the ANC and it is inconceivable that we will ever change this policy...”

In 1994, the election Manifesto of the ANC stated “An ANC government will introduce one education system that provides ten years of free and compulsory education for all children

Ideological evolution or hijack?
On May Day 1994, Comrade Nelson Mandela told Sunday Times that, “In our economic policies … there is not a single reference to things like nationalisation, and this is not accidental. There is not a single slogan that will connect us with and Marxist ideology
[18]”. These words had exposed Mandela for the first time to the fickle and fierce dynamics ANC economic and ideological stance would be subjected to. It’s not fallacious that Cde Mandela was not truly reflecting precisely what the ANC’s both implicit and explicit strategic goals and objectives were, ever since the adoption of the Freedom Charter.

However, it is very true that the sudden ideological shift and/or inclination of the ANC in terms of economic policies came as a result of ambiguity of ideology in the ANC leadership during the “struggle”. The Mass of the ANC had pronounced in 1955 on what should be the adopted route of the ANC upon usurpation of political power, “The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole”. What would have been the stance of the ANC Mass on redistribution, had they been given a chance to speak as a collective in 1996?

In 1996, the ANC leadership announced the misnamed Growth, Employment and Redistribution programme (GEAR), which basically meant adopting strict monetarist economic policies, with President Nelson Mandela proclaiming that “GEAR is non-negotiable”. Whilst opposition to GEAR from the civil society and Trade unions was not insignificant, the government never reneged from its implementation of the monetarist strategies as pronounced by GEAR. In fact, the ANC resolved in its 50th national Congress in Mafikeng to create a black bourgeoisie and speed up affirmative action
[19]. This resolution (in particular the former part of it) is observably one of the most reactionary resolutions to be ever adopted by a Party that embodies National Democratic Revolution, not as rhetoric, but as guide to action.

Somehow, GEAR was a realisation of the view expressed in 1987 by Anglo American’s Clem Sunter: “Negotiation works. Rhetoric is dropped, reality prevails and in the end the companies concerned go on producing the minerals, goods and services
[20]”. GEAR acquired an overt class character, and was unabashedly geared to service the respective prerogatives of national and international capital and the aspirations of the emerging black bourgeoisie, at the expense of the impoverished majority’s hopes for a less immoral social and economic order. The adoption of GEAR was a momentous ideological shift (or transmogrification, excuse language) for the ANC, which has a strong working class and poor constituency, and avowed sometimes self-proclaimed socialist leaders. This shift was somehow a betrayal of the ANC’s ideological ambivalence.

It is very true that upon the unbanning of political parties in South Africa, the leadership of the ANC underwent a variety of workshops and sessions on economic policies; and right wing economic policy proposals flooded the ANC from mostly business and financial institutions, nationally and internationally. The first was Nedcor/Old Mutual’s Prospects for a Successful Transition, and it was followed by the insurance’s conglomerate Sanlam’s Platform for Investment scenario and the social-democratic Mont Fleur Scenarios. The South African Chamber of Business (SACOB) proposed document called Economic Options for South Africa. The World Bank proposed with a Reducing Poverty strategy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposed Key Issues in the South African Economy, apartheid regime proposed a Normative Economic Model (NEM), and the South African Foundation (SAF is a federation of South African businesses) made profound reflections and proposals in that regard

All of these documents, typical of macroeconomic reform strategies and neo-liberal policies, were full of melodramatic language, laden with populist flippancies and cartoon-like metaphors. GEAR rhetoric is not peculiar to traditional seductive terms used by neo-liberal developmental theorists. Perhaps the strength of GEAR, typical of development programmes, came with the power of its rhetoric to seduce, to charm, to please, to fascinate, to set dreaming, but also to abuse, to turn away from the truth, and to deceive
[22]. The promise to eradicate poverty is so charming that although the history of neo-liberal development in weaker states is littered with failures, the belief in development survives.

Whether the ANC was charmed by these documents does not warrant rocket science to notice. GEAR, like these right wing documents is full of melodrama. One can easily detect from the name given to this overtly neo-liberal policy; it speaks of Growth, Employment and Redistribution, whilst its outcomes are the exact opposite of real growth, employment and redistribution. In fact, Sanlam’s Platform for Investment boosted quite early of “the close working relationship between the ANC, World Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the consultative Business Movement, and other organisations which are painstakingly pointing out the longer run and costs of many redistributive strategies

The question we should be asking as the student and youth movement is what happened? Was the ideological shift in the ANC reflective of the ANC mass’ aspirations? Was the adoption of GEAR ANC’s evolution of ideological inclination or was it a hijack? Perhaps the South African economy couldn’t have stabilised had the ANC adopted a growth through redistribution strategy vis-à-vis redistribution through growth as propounded by GEAR.

The problem with GEAR is that South Africa’s unequal legacy cannot be reversed solely by market reforms because those disenfranchised by apartheid will be unable to obtain the resources necessary to exploit market opportunities, except few elites, as has been the case in South Africa. It’s only the few black bourgeois, mostly from ANC leadership ranks who climb the ladder at the expense of masses. It’s about deracialising and transplacing the economy as opposed to transforming it. Earlier this document cautioned against perceiving our struggle as a racial struggle vis-à-vis class struggle. The triumph of a racial struggle is realised only when a certain clique of a racial group begin to enjoy the benefits as traditionally enjoyed by members of other racial groups, under false consciousness of clinching and seizing opportunities of democracy. The triumph of the racial struggle is realised when the Cyril Ramphosas, Saki Mocozomas, Patrick Motsepes, Tokyo Sexwales and recently Smuts Ngonyamas ascend the capital and corporate ladder to own means of production. And the triumph of class struggle is realised when the working class take over political and economic power to redistribute equally. What happened?

In 2001, engaging the ANC’s ostensible National Democratic Revolution (NDR), Comrade Xolile Nqata argues in Umrabulo Number 10 that, “in this complex transitional period, it is the "patriotic bourgeoisie" and emerging black petty bourgeoisie who are privileged and fortunate. Fortunate because they have earned a place to be counted as one of the motive forces for the deepening of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) - a conclusion that still needs explaining. Maybe the next appropriate question to ask is what has the "patriotic bourgeoisie" and emerging black bourgeoisie done which is of benefit to the NDR? What makes them different to other capitalists?
[24]”. It can’t be overstated, yet it’s reality that the main motive behind capitalism is to maximise profits, at the expense of workers. This explains why workers in a Gold Mine owned by Patrice Matsepe are not sufficiently salaried, yet his wealth is currently counted in billions and he’s called patriotic. Society is characterised by stiff racial, gender and class contradictions, and these need to be deconstructed.

In 2004, Comrade David Masondo exclaimed; “Instead of using the Freedom Charter as a step forward towards socialism, the post-Apartheid democracy is just incorporating the emerging bourgeoisie into the power structures of capitalism. The Freedom Charter is being replaced by the BEE charters which are nothing else, but an attempt by the white monopoly capital and emerging black bourgeoisie to build a non-racial capitalism. BEE has become a diversion from the Freedom Charter and creates an illusion that capitalism can be broad-based. It can’t, it can only affirm few people

The ANC has never made formal pronunciations on ideology, yet the character and approach of this organisation of the Mass was more often than not, ideological. Equally, the stances of ANC leadership on political economy have been ideological. There’s nothing neutral, we must not be misled. Comrade Kgalema Mothlante, ANC Secretary General echoes the words of Moses Kotane, that the ANC is a bird, with two wings. This example is not only illusionary, but it is profoundly misleading since it creates an impression that capitalism can co-exist with socialism or LEFT Wing and RIGHT Wing policies can co-exist. This is not so, unless one of the sides is taken for a ride. ANC is nowhere near socialism and/or LEFT, and such delusions must be dispelled.

Whilst the Freedom Charter and acknowledgments of the Morogoro Conference were ideological and inclined to the LEFT, the current ANC is not even flirting with any of those. The promotion of NEPAD, as will be seen below, by ANC is an embodiment of capitalism and embracing of global markets amidst hostility of Washington and Breton Woods Institutions.

South African Communist Party (SACP)

In 1999, Comrade Blade Nzimande was not incorrect when he mentioned that “the achievements of a deepening National Democratic Revolution cannot be sustained whilst the bulk of the wealth of the country is in private hands and South Africa essentially remains a capitalist society. The attainment of fuller freedom and liberation can only be realised under a socialist South Africa. This is simply because, in our conception, liberation and freedom cannot be restricted to formal political institutional freedoms, but must, principally, be extended to the economy and economic relations. No people can ever truly be free whilst the bulk of the wealth of the country remains in private hands. Capitalism, by its very nature, is undemocratic, and it is neither characterised by freedom nor liberation
[26]." Logic would warrant one to rather conclude that if South Africa is a capitalist country, the people are not truly free, and the country is undemocratic, neither characterised by freedom nor liberation.

The question we should be asking is what happened? Was it pragmatism? Was it ideological hijack or evolution? What happened with the Communist Party?

Let’s do it as usual and start from the beginning. Comrades perhaps we must remind ourselves of what the National Democratic Revolution means and where it started. The first time the expression NDR was used in the Marxist tradition was at the Second Congress of the Communist International. There, national-democratic “or” national revolutionary replaced the expression “bourgeois-democratic” referring to the liberation movements in colonial countries. The reason for this was to emphasise the fact that the bourgeois forces in the colonial countries were becoming more and more linked up with imperialism and increasingly afraid of the potentially dangerous consequences of a revolutionary movement of the masses against imperialism.

The bourgeoisie in the colonial countries was more afraid of the revolutionary potential of the masses and was therefore no longer prepared to lead a genuine anti-imperialist movement. This is how Lenin explained it at the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920: "A certain understanding has emerged between the bourgeoisie of the exploiting countries and that of the colonies, so that very often, even perhaps in most cases, the bourgeoisie of the oppressed countries, although they also support national movements, nevertheless fight against all revolutionary movements and revolutionary classes with a certain degree of understanding with the imperialist bourgeoisie, that is to say together with it

The debate on NDR is whether redistribution of state wealth and resources should be given to and led by the bourgeoisie upon liberation or should the working class lead the revolution. Giving power to the working class to redistribute and as thus allow equal access meant that the National Democratic Revolution would have been genuinely realised. However, leaving private property and capital intact and giving economic power to the bourgeoisie meant that NDR has degenerated to National Bourgeois Revolution. Surely it doesn’t warrant rocket science to realise that South Africa’s revolution is no longer National Democratic Revolution, but National Bourgeois Revolution. Let’s ask whether the leadership of the ANC is working class. Comrade Smuts Ngonyama even goes to the extent of defending being a bourgeois.

The original conception of NDR was later changed, when Stalin came to power in the USSR. The Communist International was forced to adopt the Menshevik two-stage theory. In South Africa in 1928, the Young Communist League was forced to adopt this theory in the form of the Native Republic Thesis which talked of the need to fight for "an independent native South African republic as a stage towards the a workers' and peasants' republic
[28]". This was really a Menshevik position which assumed that a Native Republic could be achieved by means other than the workers and peasants taking power. In effect what was being implied is that before that a separate stage was needed in which the black middle-class elements would be in power. That was precisely the policy of the Mensheviks regarding the Provisional Government and the complete opposite of Lenin's position.

The Communist Party of South Africa at the beginning did not accept the idea. Comrade S.P. Bunting, and the rest of the party's delegation that went to Congress of the Communist International where this discussion took place, were extremely critical of the Communist International (CI) position, and argued that the democratic, national and agrarian tasks of the South African revolution had to be achieved by means of the class struggle. Bunting was later summarily expelled from the party together with many others who for one reason or another fell out with the Stalinised leadership of the Communist International
[29]. One of those expelled was for instance Comrade Thibedi, one of the first Africans to be elected to the party's Central Committee, one-time editor of the party's publication Umsebenzi and energetic trade union organiser. Bunting also explained how at that time the ANC was a moribund organisation and that in fact "the Communist Party itself is the actual or potential leader of the native national movement[30]." The Native Republic Thesis in fact implied ceding the leadership of the national liberation movement to the middle-class leaders of the ANC, while the Communist Party would play an auxiliary role. And this, which was in direct contradiction with Leninism, was exactly what happened.

The South African Communist Party had indeed moved away from the two-stage theory, and this development is one which all genuine Marxists/Leninist welcomed, since this was not merely an obscure theoretical question, but one which is crucial to understand the nature and character of the South African revolution. However, what was a positive step forward in the party's thinking at the 1995 Congress of the SACP has been transformed into an important step backwards. Let's look at the explanation given in the Party documents for the 11th National Congress to the reasons for the adoption of the slogan "socialism is the future, build it now". On the one hand it is said that in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the existence of the Soviet bloc "created an important counter-balance to the dominant imperialist bloc" which "established conditions in which progressive national liberation movements in the South, having achieved power, had much greater prospects for advancing radical national democratic revolutions, which were characterised as "non-capitalist", or as having "socialist orientation". After the fall of the Soviet bloc, the document continues, a "radical NDR" was still needed to overcome the legacy of colonialism.

This is two-stage theory at its fullest. First we need "a non-capitalist radical NDR", one with a "socialist orientation" and then later on we can talk of socialism as such. The Party documents for the 11th National Congress gave no class analysis of this "stage". Are we talking here about the expropriation of the means of production and the abolition of capitalism? Are we talking about maintaining the capitalist mode of production? What classes are leading this "radical NDR"? Presumably since this was, we are told, at the time the analysis of both the ANC and the SACP, we have to assume that this "revolution" was to be led by the middle-class elements from the leadership of the ANC. This is clearly a two-stage approach, and the slogan "socialism is the future, build it now" is supposed to reinforce this conception. This is a case of one step forward, two steps back.

The SACP talks at same length about the ANC's Freedom Charter and of its anti-capitalist content. As was mentioned, the Freedom Charter is not a socialist programme. It is a programme of wide-ranging democratic and national reforms. Some of them even go a long way in challenging the capitalist system, particularly when it says, "the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole." This clearly cannot be achieved under capitalism, and many of the other demands contained in the Charter also go beyond the limits of today's South African capitalism, for instance: "the land shall be shared amongst those who work it", "there shall be work and security", "there shall be houses, security and comfort", "the doors of learning and culture shall be opened", and so on. As long as capitalism is intact and private property remains, all these will never be realised
[31]. SASCO must begin to realize that under capitalism, free education is a far-flung aspiration.

The reality is that the 11th National Congress of the SACP profoundly vacillated in terms of ideological steadfastness. There was lot of rhetoric and sloganeering thrown in an attempt to explain the South African revolution, yet the SACP remained loyal to the ANC-led tripartite alliance. ANC has avowed socialists within its ranks, but it’s currently a bourgeois organisation in character and approach. As a working class party, the SACP is comfortable with class collaborationist tendency of the ANC. We’ll remember that the 11th National Congress of the SACP took place at the height of labelling and branding with the tripartite alliance. Anyone who’d boldly pronounce that socialism in now would definitely be an ultra-leftist.

The 11th national Congress of the Party went even far to endorse and provide no clear stance on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. The SACP acknowledged a variety of issues about and around Nepad, but failed to unconditionally condemn this ostensible recovery programme for Africa. The 11th National Congress encouraged SACP to support and strengthen the strong points of Nepad, while striving to overcome shortcomings and weaknesses of the programme. There is virtually nothing right about Nepad, since it’s based on flawed analysis of the problems faced by Africa today.

On a very convenient point of digression, this document must reflect that the New Partnership for Africa’s Development has ambitions and hopes to liberate Africa from underdevelopment and starvation. However, Nepad is confirming the myth that capitalism is natural. Nepad correctly acknowledges the fact that the global market forces are hostile, but strongly holds that integration to the global market is unavoidable.

Look, the main elements of the hostile global order include the fact that African economies are integrated into the global economy as exporters of primary commodities and importers of manufactured products, leading to terms of trade losses. NEPAD calls for closer cooperation with the West. The relationship between Africa and Western countries has always been one between coloniser and colonised, exploiter and exploited, rider and a horse. While the exact terms of this predatory relationship have evolved over time, it is foolhardy of anyone to ask for partnership with people who still benefit from Africa’s wealth at the expense of African people and resources. Comrades we must begin to realize that imperialism is the problem; and a partnership with it cannot be a solution.

NEPAD wants "market-oriented policies", that is, more capitalism, more profit-driven policies, more competition, more privatisation. NEPAD looses sight of the fact that it is exactly the doctrine and practice of putting profits before people which led to slavery, colonialism, apartheid, neo-liberalism and neo-colonialism. In the past the main element of the hostile global order have been the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation as well as an unsound package of macro-economic policies imposed through structural adjustment conditionality by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), currently institutionalised within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as rules, agreements and procedures. NEPAD seeks to have partnership with these international financial institutions (IFIs), and that trend is per se a shortcoming on a routine to attain genuine development. Is Nepad old wine in new bottles? These are some of the questions we must provide answers to.
Whilst Nepad has employed the very melodramatic language of neo-liberal development, we must not hide from the view that its programme of action is tantamount to structural adjustment programmes imposed on Africa by IFIs in the past. These are issues we have to look into. There is absolutely nothing right about Nepad, and we that must be debated in the student movement. Still on Nepad, there is a trend in most of contemporary SASCO document to call for SASCO members to support and pledge solidarity with NEPAD. The support requested is just as hollow and inconsiderate of the market tendencies and assumptions that filled NEPAD. Nepad’s only role will be to delay the genuine revolution, since it create false impressions that poverty in Africa can be eradicated when Africa is given equal opportunities in the global markets. Retain capitalism and the African masses will remain in abject poverty.
The point about the SACP’s ideological character is that most of SASCO cadres rely on the SACP for full guidance, sometimes misguidance on ideology and/or Marxist/Leninist approach and spirit. What is NDR to the Party is NDR to SASCO and what is reactionary to the SACP is reactionary to SASCO. The reflections on SACP was about exposing the ideological currents sweeping through the Party and sometimes COSATU currently, so as to galvanise, stimulate and spur SASCO to engage autonomously and independently on ideology, whilst aiming to give ideological guidance to the broader National Liberation Movement, tripartite alliance included.

The South African working class is combative and its organisation, such as COSATU, has great social power. There is no lack of militancy. Being against capitalism is not considered a dead letter in SA today, it’s quite the contrary. The key obstacle that holds back the working class in South Africa is still the question of nationalism. The SACP and COSATU leadership keeps the working class chained to its class enemies (class collaboration) in the name of ‘national liberation’. Genuine Marxists ought to be for new October Revolutions, for a unambiqous proletariat revolution. Mobilising the working class in the struggle for power requires the construction of a revolutionary workers party. The Leninist conception of a workers party is that it must be not merely a party that intervenes in fighting the oppression of the working class under capitalism. To be a Bolshevik Party, it must be a party that fights all manifestations of oppression that exists in capitalist society that defends the oppressed against all manner of state oppression. This is the shape that must be assumed by the revolutionary vanguard movement in South Africa.

South African Student Congress (SASCO)

The debate on SASCO’s ideology has been ongoing, and quite overtly, SASCO must pronounce on ideology, not because it’s fashionable to do so, but because of historical necessity. Quite honestly, SASCO must consolidate its genuine and honest mandate to fight not only for access to education, free education, change of curriculum, transformation of Higher Education and democratisation of Higher education, but as well as fight for Socialism and/or a socialist South Africa. SASCO must form part and/or be at the centre of the vanguard movement in the struggle for socialism in South Africa and this document will explain why.
Historical necessity

SASCO is a revolutionary student movement. Lenin, who was the central leader of the Russian Revolution and who made invaluable contributions on the question of revolutionary leadership, once said: "There can be no revolutionary action without revolutionary theory." This is true, and SASCO must realise that the organisation’s revolutionary character and approach can’t remain hollow and annulled. Without revolutionary theory you have to reinvent strategies and ideas every time you go into action and are bound to make the same mistakes over again. For how long have we been fighting persistent and unfading struggles of financial exclusions in our campuses, from UNIVEN to UCT? Beyond financial aid, free education and curriculum content, SASCO’s goal and role must be directed at the ultimate overthrow of the strongest and most vicious ruling class in the history of the world.

The formation of SASCO in 1991 was a great step forward of recruiting what Lenin would call the “revolutionary intelligentsia” of the broader South African struggle. Whilst social conditions and social relations to the mode of production or capital are sufficient in South African society today for a genuine proletariat revolution, there’s undeniably lack of clear consciousness on the nature and character of struggle to be waged. Working class consciousness is profoundly over-clouded and foreclosed by Party allegiances and hollow nationalism. The working class of South Africa must ultimately realise its tremendous capacity to alter productive relations in society and it’s the duty of the revolutionary intelligentsia and revolutionary organisations such as SASCO to ensure that the South African proletariat realises its potential and capacity.

Consciousness is very critical for a proletariat revolution. Marx made emphasis of studying transitions to socialism, indicating that it’s always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. The ideological consciousness in the South African context is so wrongly entrenched to an extent that masses believe that the current transfer of economy and capital from white monopoly to few blacks, is indeed transformation. The fact that a preponderant sector of organised labour is aligned to the state (government or ANC) makes it almost impossible to transit to socialism as soon as possible. So the revolution in South Africa is somehow precluded only by labour blind allegiances to the ANC. These allegiances will wither away with time, and it’s the role of the revolutionary intelligentsia to ensure that such happens. So it becomes a revolutionary and priority task for SASCO to instil clear working class consciousness within the South African proletariat.

To accomplish a socialist revolution in any country is the historical mission of the modern working class/proletariat. But the history of all countries has shown that the working class, exclusively by its own effort and day-to-day experiences, is not able spontaneously to develop a consciousness any higher than trade union consciousness, the need to unite in unions for economic struggle against the employers and the government. The trade union consciousness is bourgeois consciousness. Unionism in and of itself does not challenge the capitalist mode of production but only seeks to better the immediate conditions and wages of the workers in struggles with individual employers.

The founders of Marxism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and their followers like Plekhanov, Lenin and Trotsky, in fact most of the Bolshevik leadership, all came from the educated classes. As such they were the bearers of scientific socialism into the workers movement because they were educated and were able to study history and study economics and put together the understanding of historical materialism. These revolutionaries were the instruments for bringing the theories of scientific socialism.

As long as the working class is not mobilised by a party based on revolutionary theory, its consciousness remains determined by bourgeois ideology and culture, leading it to see capitalist society as fixed and not open to fundamental change by workers revolution. This ‘false consciousness’ as Marx called it, is what we see in South Africa today. Furthermore, the working class is stratified and fragmented, ranging from very advanced; knowledgeable workers and the most backward layers, blinded by racism, ethnic hatreds, and general social priggishness. For the working class to move from an existence as a class in itself—that is to say, simply defined objectively by its relationship to the means of production—to a class for itself—one that is fully conscious of its historic task to overthrow the capitalist order—requires a revolutionary leadership. By saying that SASCO must socialist, we mean and exactly mean that SASCO must provide this revolutionary leadership to the South African working class. SASCO’s historic task must be to alter the trade union consciousness into clear working class consciousness whilst continuing with reformist struggles in campuses. The struggle for better education in terms of access, governance and success can’t be the end and means of our struggle.

SASCO and Ideology

In the 2001 National Political School, SASCO acknowledged that the struggle in South Africa is a class struggle. But the nature of the class struggle was described as that which compels the intelligentsia at the cutting edge of knowledge production (noting that all knowledge has class content) and social production to play a role either consciously or unconsciously
[32]. Which class does SASCO sympathise with? This is very simple: SASCO is working class biased and therefore sympathises with the working class. Then what is the only means of liberating the working class in society? Scientifically and correctly, the working class can only be liberated through a proletariat revolution and the transition to communism through socialism. If SASCO is genuinely committed to the workers struggle, there’s no reason why there can’t be a pronunciation on the organisation fighting for socialism. SASCO must be Unequivocally Socialist.

Whilst the formation of SASCO was great, the adoption of African leadership, working class leadership, democracy, non-sexism and non-racialism was even much greater. There was evidently a realisation of the Marxist analysis in determining the principles of working class and African leadership. “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness
[33]”. A document by Comrade Mxolisi Mlatha presented at the 2001 SASCO National Political School mentions that “SASCO identifies imperialism and its attendant challenges as the main cause of the conditions of the working class[34]”. In essence and according to Leninist analysis and approach, SASCO identifies the highest stage of capitalism as the main cause of conditions of the working class. Despite the fact that the document never says what SASCO should do with imperialist oppression and exploitation, there is conspicuously a commitment to fight this trend.

We have lots of organisations that purport to be fighting imperialism, yet not stating as to what should be the alternative to imperialism. The trend is fighting against something, but not fighting for something, so it’s kinda confusing. In Marxist tradition, Imperialism, globalisation and capitalism can be used interchangeably despite the fact that the former two are at an international scale. The trends of all these are the same. They are all about maximisation of profits, enrichment of few elites, superexploitaion of labour and resources, individualism, liberalisation and concomitant capitalist tendencies and forms.

We must begin to ask some of these questions. Should SASCO remain a broad church? Comrade Jabu Mathabe (Deputy President 2004) outlined and correctly explained on why SASCO must be LEFT, and this serves as a consolidation of and further substantiations of what ought to be the guide to action. SASCO must be unequivocally Marxist/Leninist organisation. It is instructive to mention that by saying that SASCO is Marxist/Leninist, we are not saying that SASCO must stop recruiting from the diverse and broad populations of our students’ community. SASCO must continue to recruit wherever in campuses, but the fundamental aim should be to coscietise all members on Marxist/Leninist ideology as tools of analysis and guide to action of the organisation. That must be a mandatory guiding principle for all branches of SASCO. Beyond concietising through debates, SASCO must play active roles of mobilising workers in campus and in communities.

The danger and grave mistake we are making as SASCO is to recruit members to the organisation, teach them organisational culture and discipline, yet leave them inclined to capitalist thinking and capitalism at its scariest realities, in the name of the undefined broad churchism. What SASCO is saying is that everyone can be a member, but we don’t mind the ideological guidance, aspiration and inspiration of SASCO members. Because of our educational systems, capitalist hegemony in our curriculum, and the ‘seize the opportunities of democracy’ syndrome, young people are largely galvanised to be owners of means of production. There are so many aspirant capitalists in our campuses, and that’s where SASCO recruits. Their consciousness is filled with capitalist ideas and approaches, and inevitably, these will fill our leadership ranks, not only at branch levels, but at provincial and national level. Perhaps we already have such leaders. The reality is that SASCO will ultimately conform to market trends and capitalistic thinking, and then join the band of government bureaucrats who always sing praises to the liberation and freedom of black people in the country, forgetting that the masses of our people are wallowing in shameful poverty and economically excluded. These will begin to advocate the insinuations of the so called broad based black economic empowerment, believing as Masondo has mentioned that Capitalism can be broad based.

A correlation between SASCO and the ANC can be drawn. As indicated above, the ANC was generally viewed and perceived as LEFT, with the adoption of the Freedom Charter, pronunciations of the Morogoro Conference, pronunciations of Nelson Mandela upon release from prison and countless other scenarios. In fact, these scenarios are sufficient to proclaim that the ANC was LEFT. However, within a very short period, the ANC was ideologically hijacked to embrace market orientated policies, inconsiderate of the plight of masses of our people. It was a short walk to capitalist orthodoxy. The argument presented is that if the ANC had tacitly acknowledged that the struggle is a class struggle and solution must be class struggle, the hijacking of ANC’s tacit ideological inclination wouldn’t have been as easy as it was.

In few years, we will not be shocked to hear that SASCO has investments and is hosting a business consortium, because that’s what SASCO is currently accommodative of, i.e. aspirant capitalists trained of Keynesian models and economic rationalities in lectures.

There is a need to overemphasise on the choosing of working class leadership as one of the fundamental principles of SASCO. The aim and reason of choosing working class was observably ideological and systematically Marxist. Definitely, the choosing of working class leadership was not around the conception of social position and/or actual profession of a member of SASCO. Loosely translated, working class leadership would be a leader who is a worker, and students are not. The analysis was broadly and scientifically Marxist and aimed at picking consciousness over social position. Anyone can debate that students are not working class, and be very correct and that’s why the concept working class in a student organisation was more ideological than corporal.

Historically, the working class, unlike the petty bourgeoisie (small business people, small land holders, intellectuals isolated from the masses), develops a collective consciousness and that is precisely why Marxists base themselves on the working class. It is the only class that can develop such a consciousness, precisely because of its position in production. Of course, without organisation, as Marx explains, the working class is only raw material for exploitation. That is why the bourgeois constantly attacks the trade unions and labour organisations, hoping to reduce the proletariat to an atomised state. But the whole experience of the class struggle invariably compels the workers to get organised. By contrast, the individualism of the petty bourgeoisie is the result of its role as a class of small producers, small business people, professionals and the like, who are indeed isolated from each other and compete against each other. Even before going into business, as students, they compete against each other in exams. While the working class must certainly draw broad layers of the petty-bourgeoisie behind it by linking their troubles with the fight against capitalism, the petty-bourgeoisie simply cannot play an independent role in the struggle for socialism.

The Strategic Perspective on Transformation (SPOT) of SASCO clearly states, “Consistent with one of the fundamental principles of the organisation that of working class leadership, our programs continue to emphasise the notion of the working class leading the transformation discourse, as the motive force of the revolutionary forces both in process and content. This is also what informs SASCO’s engagement in the student worker alliance
[35]”. But what is SASCO doing to ensure that the principle that conforms with SASCO’s fundamental principle of working class leadership is conformed with. Is the transformation discourse in South Africa working class led? If not, what role is SASCO playing?

SPOT mentions that “It is in this respect that our views, aims and objectives not be couched in terminology clothed with rhetoric to the extent of obscuring the content
[36].” That serves to clarify that the pronunciations of SPOT on the South African transformation discourse are not rhetorical, but programmes that ought to be followed and understood by members of the organisation. This seeks to further clarify that SASCO is not only biased, but part of the struggle for a socialist South Africa.

Furthermore, there is an acknowledgment in SPOT that as SASCO we inter alia note that the present structure of our national economy is a direct result of colonial and neo colonial domination, with the majority of the people still not living a decent life as a result. Whilst it is mixed in its set up, it is acutely skewed towards the dominance of capitalist’s relations of production and ownership. Within the movement there are ongoing debates bothering on both strategic and tactical approaches of dealing with this reality. This is critical and as SASCO we cannot disengage in this regard because this would ultimately define or redefine the progression of the NDR, as it expresses the ongoing class battle within our society. The objective limitations in the economic transformation battle are charecterised by the dominance of the neo liberal orthodoxy of market driven economy

SPOT acknowledges the SACP, when it correctly argues that we must, “assume full responsibility as the ANC led alliance, for our victory, and therefore for governing. We cannot allow the limitations of the transitional period … to become excuses for delays and hesitation on our side”. This insightful document further clarifies that “It remains our view and a correct one that access to political power without transforming the nature and exercise of that power will make a difference only for our own elite, leaving the masses and their organizations in the periphery. It is therefore our duty like all other components of the MDM without exclusion to ensure that political power is vested in our hands temporarily or permanently, what ever is relatively the case, it is exercised in the interests of the people

The pronunciations of SPOT are clearly inclined to a genuine transformation of power, economic and political to the working class, and why isn’t it that SASCO is coming out of the closet and confess that we are fighting for Socialism, because these pronunciations are just that.

Contemporary SASCO Struggles are ideological

The major, persistent, consistent, and oftenly indomitable struggles waged by SASCO in campuses are mostly class struggles, with the exception of very few (Turfloops’ Freshers Ball strike). Financial exclusions, academic exclusions, democratisation, access and success, conducive learning environment and curriculum content are but some of the ideological struggles SASCO is waging in campuses. But are there solutions to all these problems in Council Chambers and SENATE Rooms or Faculty Boards. Surely the struggle might be broader than that. Why is it that the struggles for financial aid are widespread across the country and always making students from working class and poor backgrounds immediate casualties? Why is it that year after year we fight the same struggles, i.e. financial exclusions, access and success from University of Venda to University of Cape Town? There surely is a problem somewhere beyond our Council Chambers.

SASCO has made a handful of appeals to government on the problems faced by the students’ community, and we know that the demands we are making are comparatively luxurious, when assessing the conditions of the South African working class and the poor in squatter camps, townships and rural areas. More often than not, government’s response is that these are some of the issues they can’t control. It’s the nature of capitalism and currently the directives of the World Trade Organisation and IMF are that the state must spend less on social services, including health and education.

Now, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) under the auspices of the WTO is venturing into the actual privatisation of education and other social services so as to benefit business. The resolution of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) Students Working Group concerning the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) was as thus: “IUSY regards the WTO and especially its treaty GATS mainly as a reflection of business interests and not as an organisation committed to public demands, which tries - among other things - to accelerate the process of privatisation of education. Therefore we demand that the WTO, it’s permanent negotiators and foremost its members to: Fully exempt education from any multilateral trade negotiations and treaties, which lead to the privatisation of education
Because WTO and other capitalist organisations are left to flounder and specialise in superexploitaion and trampling of state borders, privatisation of education is not a distant reality, in fact it’s inevitable. This is despite the fact that The GATS is … first and foremost an instrument for the benefit of business, as acknowledged by the European Commission website on services, towards GATS 2000

So the struggle is far beyond Council Chambers and SENATE Rooms and SASCO must acknowledge that.

What is Socialism and Communism

Due to the media and the educational system, many people have a different understanding of the words "socialism" and "communism" than the founders of Marxism intended. It's easy to understand this confusion: many modern day so-called "socialist" parties are nothing of the sort, and most people associate "communism" with the Stalin's totalitarian USSR. But for scientific socialists (the original term for Marxists), these words have precise meanings, and describe definite social forms. For Marxists, socialism is a transitional phase between the exploitative capitalist system of private property of the means of production, and the classless society of communism, where there is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word, no compulsion to work, no national borders, etc.

Under capitalism, society is governed by a handful of rich elites who exploit the working class in order to extract profits. They are not concerned with what or how they produce commodities, as long as these bring them a profit. They have developed the state - bodies of armed men; the laws, courts, prisons, military, police - in order to preserve their privileged position. Under communism, the whole of society will be the "owners" of the means of production, and will produce in the interests of all people in harmony with the environment. But between these two phases of human social development lies the transitional period of socialism.

Despite the illusions of the anarchists that we can somehow magically abolish the state and capitalism overnight, what is required is a transitional period in order to usher in a new era of peace, freedom and plenty. The material basis for communism is to be able to provide enough to go around for everyone. While we have already developed the technology and the know-how to make this possible very quickly, we still cannot jump from the poverty and want of capitalism to full-fledged communism overnight. For Marxists, this transitional phase is called socialism. As Marx explained in the "Critique of the Gotha Program": "Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."

The first step in this process is the seizure of political power by the working class majority of society; known in Marx's day as the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as opposed to the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" we currently live under. Once in political power, the working class can then move to assert its control over the economy. Once the working class democratically runs the economy in the interests of all, instead of in the interests of a handful of capitalists, then very quickly we will be able to provide the basic necessities and then much more to everyone. We will be able to abolish unemployment, provide free, quality healthcare, education, housing, and more to everyone. The creative and productive potential of humanity will be unleashed.

As Engels explained, this socialist "state", which would truly democratically represent the vast majority of society, would already be withering away in the proper sense of the word. The capitalist state represents a tiny minority of society, which is why they resort to such brutal measures to keep the majority under their boot. But once the state is run in the interests of the majority, then the need for police, a military, etc. will rapidly disappear along with the inequality and oppression of the capitalist system. Gradually, the coercion and compulsion of the capitalist system will disappear, replaced by the democratic administration of things in the interests of everyone.

From Lenin's "State and Revolution": "Only in communist society, when the resistance of the capitalists have disappeared, when there are no classes (i.e., when there is no distinction between the members of society as regards their relation to the social means of production), only then 'the state... ceases to exist', and 'it becomes possible to speak of freedom'. Only then will a truly complete democracy become possible and be realized, a democracy without any exceptions whatever. And only then will democracy begin to wither away, owing to the simple fact that, freed from capitalist slavery, from the untold horrors, savagery, absurdities, and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copy-book maxims. They will become accustomed to observing them without force, without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state.

"The expression 'the state withers away' is very well-chosen, for it indicates both the gradual and the spontaneous nature of the process. Only habit can, and undoubtedly will, have such an effect; for we see around us on millions of occasions how readily people become accustomed to observing the necessary rules of social intercourse when there is no exploitation, when there is nothing that arouses indignation, evokes protest and revolt, and creates the need for suppression.

"And so in capitalist society we have a democracy that is curtailed, wretched, false, a democracy only for the rich, for the minority. The dictatorship of the proletariat, the period of transition to communism, will for the first time create democracy for the people, for the majority, along with the necessary suppression of the exploiters, of the minority. Communism alone is capable of providing really complete democracy, and the more complete it is, the sooner it will become unnecessary and wither away of its own accord.

"In other words, under capitalism we have the state in the proper sense of the word, that is, a special machine for the suppression of one class by another, and, what is more, of the majority by the minority. Naturally, to be successful, such an undertaking as the systematic suppression of the exploited majority by the exploiting minority calls for the utmost ferocity and savagery in the matter of suppressing, it calls for seas of blood, through which mankind is actually wading its way in slavery, serfdom and wage labor.

"Furthermore, during the transition from capitalism to communism suppression is still necessary, but it is now the suppression of the exploiting minority by the exploited majority. A special apparatus, a special machine for suppression, the 'state', is still necessary, but this is now a transitional state. It is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word; for the suppression of the minority of exploiters by the majority of the wage slaves of yesterday is comparatively so easy, simple and natural a task that it will entail far less bloodshed than the suppression of the risings of slaves, serfs or wage-laborers, and it will cost mankind far less. And it is compatible with the extension of democracy to such an overwhelming majority of the population that the need for a special machine of suppression will begin to disappear. Naturally, the exploiters are unable to suppress the people without a highly complex machine for performing this task, but the people can suppress the exploiters even with a very simple 'machine', almost without a 'machine', without a special apparatus, by the simple organization of the armed people (such as the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, we would remark, running ahead).

"Lastly, only communism makes the state absolutely unnecessary, for there is nobody to be suppressed - 'nobody' in the sense of a class, of a systematic struggle against a definite section of the population. We are not utopians, and do not in the least deny the possibility and inevitability of excesses on the part of individual persons, or the need to stop such excesses. In the first place, however, no special machine, no special apparatus of suppression, is needed for this: this will be done by the armed people themselves, as simply and as readily as any crowd of civilized people, even in modern society, interferes to put a stop to a scuffle or to prevent a woman from being assaulted. And, secondly, we know that the fundamental social cause of excesses, which consist in the violation of the rules of social intercourse, is the exploitation of the people, their want and their poverty. With the removal of this chief cause, excesses will inevitably begin to 'wither away'. We do not know how quickly and in what succession, but we do know they will wither away. With their withering away the state will also wither away.

"Without building utopias, Marx defined more fully what can be defined now regarding this future, namely, the differences between the lower [socialism] and higher [communism] phases (levels, stages) of communist society." So when asked if we are socialists or communists, we can say that we are both. We are fighting for communism, but the first stage toward that is democratic socialism. But above all, we are Marxists - the ideas of Marxism are the "guide to action" that helps us get our bearings in order to fight the capitalist system and hasten the building of socialism.


It’s rather a known phrase that “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness." You speak of historical materialism, you mention economic emancipation of labour, and you speak of the continued struggle between the appropriating and the ruling class. The South African Communist Party speaks of the National Democratic Revolution. Patrick Bond speaks of deglobalisation and decommodification. Trevor Ngwane speaks of a Mass Workers Party. President Thabo Mbeki speaks of African Renaissance. David Masondo speaks of bourgeoisie democracy. Kgalema Montlhate speaks of a two winged bird. Young Communist League speaks of Socialism in our lifetime. There’s a mention of broad based capitalism, masquerading as Black Economic Empowerment. And Floyd Shivambu speaks of a revolutionary theory guiding a revolutionary movement. Pause

Recommended Readings and sites to visit

· All referenced materials for this article and further
· Chapter 5 of Lenin's masterpiece "The State and Revolution":

[1] See[2] NUSAS AND THE UDF, By Kate Philip (NUSAS President 1983/84) and Brendan Barry (NUSAS President 1985/86). See
[3] Ibid[4] Ibid.[5] Marx, Karl (1983). “Preface” to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” in SW, Vol 1 (1859)[6] Badat, Saleem, The South African Students Organisation and the Legacy of Steve Biko in Black student politics : higher education and apartheid from SASO to SANSCO, 1968-1990. HSRC, 1999.[7] Ibid.[8] Address by the National Secretary of the Young Communist League, Buti Manamela to the students at Wits on the Occasion of the Memorial of Steve Biko, 16 September 2004[9] Badat[10] Freedom Charter:
[11] Morogoro Conference, Intensify the Revolution, Morogoro, Tanzania, April 25 - May 1 1969. see
[12] Ibid.[13] Ibid.[14] Ibid.[15] Pallo Jordan, The Nature of South African ruling class, see
[16] Freedom Charter. See
[17] 1994 Election Manifesto of the ANC. See
[18] article published in Sunday Times of 01 May 1994[19] African National Congress Resolution on the National Question, Mafikeng, 1997[20] From Sunter’s 1987 book, The World & South Africa, cited in Bond (1996b:4)[21] Chapter 5 (The evolution of ANC economic policy, a short walk to orthodoxy) in South Africa: Limits to Change: The Political Transformation, UCT Press, 1998[22] Rist, G. The History of Development: From Western Origin To Global Faith, Zed Books,, London, 1997, page 1.[23] cited in Bond (1996b:4)[24] Xolile Nqata, A response to Social emancipation and national liberation, Umrabulo issue No. 10 1st Quarter 2001. Accessible on
[25] David Masondo, Youth and Democracy, unpublished.[26] Blade Nzimande, The Role of the SACP in the Alliance: Our vision of socialism, see
[27] Lenin, V.I., Preliminary Draft Thesis on the Nation and Colonial Questions, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966[28] Jordi Martorell, SACP Congress, Return to the ideas of Lenin, July 17, 2002. see
[29] Ibid.[30] Quoted in Fifty Fighting Years, p. 64, A Lerumo[31] Also presaged by op cit, Martorell[32] Mxolisi Mlatha, What is Strategic Perspective on Transformation (SPOT), SASCO National Political School, Northern Cape 2001[33] Marx, Karl (1983). “Preface” to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” in SW, Vol 1 (1859)[34] Mxolisi Mlatha, What is Strategic Perspective on Transformation (SPOT), SASCO National Political School, Northern Cape 2001[35] SPOT Document[36] Ibid.[37] SPOT[38] SASCO Strategic Perspective on Transformation[39] see the Students Working Group section of the International Union of Socialist Youth,
[40] Ibid.[41] The explanation is rreprinted verbatim (for didactic reasons)

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