A WORLD TO WIN    #20   (1995)


The Azanian Masses must Seize Power from Below
Changing of the Guard in South Africa

By Tobey Rossano

With grand fanfare imitating the hallowed institution in the West, open elections were held in South Africa in April 1994, allowing the black majority to vote for the first time ever. What the press called the "most profound and promising transformation to democracy in modern times" was actually the consolidation of South Africa's colonial state - the bastion of imperialist-backed white settler power. An organized transfer of the presidency and parliament to the African National Congress (ANC) was completed, in a joint administration with the old white ruling National Party.

"Free at Last"?? The very idea of voting in a black president - the longtime political prisoner Nelson Mandela - to serve as head of a "government of national unity" in the land of apartheid shows what this transition was all about. It was about stabilising a political crisis that had reached a point of no return by bringing forward blacks into some top political posts as well as incorporating a section of the black national movement into South African colonial rule in almost every sphere of society.

Orchestrated and financed to a great extent by the imperialists, especially the U.S., this historic settlement of a longstanding political deadlock in their troubled empire was an attempt by both the Western powers and a section of the white settler colonial class to reorganize the old state within parametres that safeguard the main pillars and interests of their colonial setup.

It was repeated waves of the struggle of the masses of Azania (the term blacks commonly use instead of the colonial name, South Africa) shaking the apartheid system to its core that forced the South African rulers and imperialists to search for a solution to a situation that was no longer politically tenable. Neither the increased repression and escalating number of black deaths that accompanied the long process of negotiations begun in 1990, nor the scrapping of some of the apartheid laws, was able to check the mass struggle.

In this article we refer to black people, or Azanians, as the majority population (86%), which includes 30 million Africans, 3.5 million "coloureds", as they are sometimes called, and 1 million of Indian origin. (There are today some 5.5 million white settlers of European origin.)

The ANC has never fought for genuine liberation of the people, but once given the chance, it wholeheartedly devoted itself to bourgeois imperialist politics and a massive political sell-out of the people. "We must forget the past; we are one people with one common destiny", Mandela's election speeches exhorted. Preaching harmony and national reconciliation, the ANC's message in effect liquidated the colonial problem, the Azanian nation, and the difference between oppressed and oppressor.

The ANC provided a valuable opportunity for the ruling class as a whole to preserve and even reinforce the political and economic system underlying apartheid, while dispensing with some of the open barbaric features of white-only rule, based purely on racial exclusion. The ANC and the national and petit bourgeois classes they are connected to represented by far their best prospects for helping to organize the passage to electoral democracy and the appearance of black-shared power. After steering as much of the anti-apartheid movement as possible into parliamentary debate, this new black elite will help try to squash the volatile mass resistance altogether, in part through building up black middle strata and even a tiny black comprador class which have a stake in the system and which could help disorient and rein in the masses in the future. It was and still is a great gamble, but one the South African rulers could not afford to pass up.

Sections of the political struggle of the people were in fact consciously diverted from the sweeping nothing-to-lose, "we want all and now" spirit that has characterized it in past decades. The Azanian masses' struggle had never been aimed at getting the vote inside a white-dominated oppressor setup, but by the depth of its rage and breadth of its path, this struggle over and over targeted and cornered the entire racist, exploitative system and especially its settler colonial enforcers; it was the expression of the vehement and deep-seated resistance of the people against their oppression, against a whole way of life. And it nearly always outstripped the narrow, reform-minded and non-violent visions of the established national liberation movements, the ANC in particular.

Increasingly the petit bourgeois and national bourgeois leadership of these movements, like the ANC and the PAC (Pan African Congress), their ear constantly more tuned to the tentative bidding of the white ruling class than to the magnitude and power of the mass struggle, tried to shift this struggle into what became known as the "negotiations" process. This was a euphemism for imperialist-sponsored elections and a multi-party system, a Constituent Assembly, a U.S.-style Constitution, etc. At the same time, they tried to use the people's struggle as a means of pressure they could turn on and off to negotiate the terms on which this sell-out would occur. To a large extent the struggle continued to go way beyond these bounds, making the country "unsafe", as some saw it. The black opposition movements were given a short four-year period to forge the future social base for a black-in-appearance victory, which by its very nature would compromise from the outset on the crucial question of who holds real political power.

But a second process was also at work: sharp contradictions inside the white ruling class and its social base pushed this compromise process ahead. Some saw the need for it and others were given a good political shove (along with $ millions in advice) by the managers of the New World Order, whose clear hand can be traced in this imperialist-underwritten and negotiated solution. Others within the regime's reactionary white social base stubbornly refused to slacken in the least the reins of government or give up any of the ensemble of privileges that have carved a separate, comfortable world, literally "apart" for most white people.

These political forces rebelled, formed new alliances, including with reactionary black nationalists like the Inkatha Freedom Party, threatened race war, carried out repeated massacres with impunity, actively fomenting violence against the masses in the townships and countryside to destabilize and derail the election process. But most often this was inseparable from the vicious stepped-up highly partisan violence of the state itself during this period through its police and security forces: between 13,000 and 15,000 Azanians were killed in the process of cementing this bloody pact to hold elections and bring about what the regime and the imperialists like to call a "non-violent" transition.

This was therefore no celebration of brotherly love and newfound understanding, but an intensely fought out contest amongst the bourgeois classes from amongst the oppressed and oppressors, with the common aim of stifling the mass struggle and forging a renovated state, through the complex dynamics that this process required. Building the mixed race election coalition was a major feat for these incongruous new partners of the state, and pulling it off required bundles of lies and promises, hefty bribes and future "investments", threats and full use of their armed state.

Far from exorcizing the ideological demons of racial superiority which have dominated the rationale for apartheid and earlier forms of colonial rule, the "national unity" charade curbs the most overt racism, while retaining the right for every group to be what they are. Enshrined in this was an explicit "protection" of the white minority and its right to property - to ownership of the land, industry, finance and agriculture.

On the individual level, no good white citizens were going to have to give up their private pools and barbecues, the master and servant relationship was not going to be challenged, the right to a basically separate, privileged world was not about to crumble.

Thus a sort of truce was brokered and bandaged together through the election process by means of deals and corruption, the sell-out by most black opposition leaders, and most of all the continued bloodshed of the people. Although this partnership succeeded in stemming a major uprising by the Azanian masses and to some extent suppressing white right-wing destabilization schemes, the mass struggle continued to hammer away at the regime and oppressive conditions, as if to say that phony bourgeois democracy was neither the issue nor the goal.

Mass fury against the countless continued killings by the state erupted sporadically and vehemently into struggle throughout this period, often as an extension of the many funeral marches and protests. For instance, after the police and Inkatha murdered some 49 people in Boipatong in June 1992, angry youths drove de Klerk out of the township when he came to calm things down. At a rally that same month, people interrupted Mandela's speech, demanding weapons.

Struggles over land and against the puppet black homeland administrators broke out in many places as people carried out occupations and in some cases regrouped to rebuild their old villages and farm their old land again after having been forcibly removed to the homelands. There were also massive stayaways, and struggle against squatter camp evictions. Reports estimate that nearly 250 black policemen were killed and some 3,000 of their houses burned down by militant youth.

Amongst the 19 choices on the ballot, the ANC won 65% of the vote, taking 7 out of the new 9 provinces, which was enough to present a solid majority in the new constitutional bodies without achieving overwhelming power to completely rewrite the constitution. By vote-casting time, this was no longer a danger. Chief Buthelezi of the Natal-based Inkatha Freedom Party succeeded in stuffing the ballot boxes, it seems, to achieve a 10% vote and the representation in parliament he had been assured by pre-election haggling. The National Party (which formally instituted apartheid in 1948 and has run the state for the last 46 years), ran a scare campaign in Cape Town that the ANC would take jobs away and swung much of the sizeable "coloured" vote there, while retaining a prescribed and considerable number of key posts in the new national cabinet, including the second vice-presidency.

Total score: ruling class and imperialists 1, the people of Azania O; political power is now "shared" by various political forces and shades of leaders in a slightly-darkened ruling class, but the oppressed still have none.

Furthermore, the beast is still in place. With some of its most atrocious features pruned back, South African colonial rule looks like a different creature to some, but to the masses of Azanians (and class-conscious proletarians the world over) it is as hideous and nasty as ever. Most importantly the system's roots are still intact - the extremely exploitative and oppressive social relations upon which the apartheid political apparatus was built have not been changed by elections and may even be strengthened to choke the majority of Azanians more. If anything, the polarization between social classes in South Africa is likely to widen. European settler businessmen and foreign powers openly pointed to one of the major purposes of the elections as they announced "we have made South Africa safe for foreign investment".

Still, a majority of eligible Azanians stepped out to vote, and for many reasons. This is not surprising, as it was the first time they had ever had the right to vote. In a sense their vote was tantamount to voting for the end of apartheid. Their struggle had forced the settler regime to make a major political concession by holding open elections and the masses recognized this and went to the polls in large numbers. It had been declared by these politicians so many times that they would be "free" if they voted, many people believed this.

As AWTW subscribers from Azania have written in their letters, it was carefully promoted among the black masses as a great privilege to vote and that there was "dignity" in voting. Some who were more cut off from media and the cities thought blacks would be rich now and the white people poor. In addition some people were afraid not to vote, as authorities marked the identity papers of those who went to the polls. The ANC's victory was organized and certain, so it was no surprize that most Azanians would vote for the black winner.

Another important factor is the material basis in Azania for people to look for and fight for ways to relieve the extreme national and semi-feudal oppression they face. The complete denial of not only political participation in society, but also the most basic human rights ranging from access to public facilities to the freedom of movement in one's own country were a strong motivation for voting. The ANC also promised that other aspects of their lives would change, including the most important of the masses' democratic demands - the birthright to their land.

It is also true that a significant minority did not go vote and wanted little to do with this exercize of getting the people to approve the next leader of an oppressive system. Whilst the primarily middle-class blacks interviewed on TV gushed about new-found freedom, the poor masses and township youth took a more realistic attitude: "I'll give them 3 months before I start protesting again," one young woman said to reporters. A revolutionary wrote AWTW: "...I think it was good that such kinds of elections take place because the struggle here in Azania was twisted to focus on a demand for votes, it was no longer a struggle for power. Now the misleaders are in parliament, the masses who voted them in have high expectations, i.e., land, the reduction of taxes, houses, free education and free medical care. Most of all, the people expect that the minorities should be moved from the privileged positions, the farmers should be expelled from the big plots of land which they occupy, the military and police should not harass and imprison them anymore because it is an ANC government. (When they find out) this is not going to happen it is going to throw them back into struggle."

This particular election was close to the imperialists' hearts, an important example for defusing conflicts in places they intend to stabilize within the New World Order, from Palestine to Haiti, to Northern Ireland, among others. If, after all, the angry revolutionary mood in a place of such extreme social tensions as South Africa could be sedated and shifted into passive support for a new "multi-racial" government presiding over the same system, this would indeed be a big success, even if temporary.

The Western powers heaped piles of praise on Mandela and de Klerk for "miraculously" bringing about the "peace programme" of "shared" black and white power which the imperialists have been advocating for quite some time and preparing them for. However, the basic problem for these masters of illusion and peddlers of democracy who postured as though they had really achieved miracles for humanity by letting South Africans vote for them, is that while they may have purchased some valuable time to keep the revolutionary situation there from exploding, in the end, they do peddle illusions, and fundamentally have very little to offer to the masses of oppressed Azanians except more of the same old exploitation, oppression and deeply-imbedded white supremacy.

I. Disassembling the Political Structures of Apartheid and Holding Elections within a Colonial Framework

How was this possible? There were two essential and interpenetrating reasons that the ruling class and imperialists were able to proceed with the formal discarding of apartheid's overt political structures. First of all, amongst the oppressed black majority there existed a class basis and organized political forces upon which to build the movement for electoral democracy and the participation of blacks in the state. Secondly, within the context of the unending political instability and the need of the settler colonialists and Western powers to end it, important shifts in the international situation as a whole facilitated an imperialist-sponsored "peaceful" renovation of the old state.

The apartheid rulers had never recovered from the major upsurge of 1984-85 and every tactic they tried only triggered more unrest. The political situation had become hazardous, if not ungovernable.

The settler regime had already begun to get rid of some of its formal apartheid laws, like the 1953 Separate Amenities Act which segregated beaches, pools, libraries and nearly all "public" facilities (to which white local authorities in the rural areas reacted by raising fees so blacks couldn't afford access to them), and the Group Areas Act, which had sealed off white neighbourhoods unto themselves. It had also ended the vile system of classification by race. Even the hated bantustans had already started to collapse.

When in February 1990 de Klerk released Nelson Mandela and some other long-time political prisoners, it became clear that secret negotiations had already been well underway. The ban was lifted against black political organizations, and the struggle of the masses took off again, heightening the fears of the colonial state about the future, while some investors left because of the violence. This dynamic of the class struggle interpenetrating with the workings of the system itself became another example of Marx's well-known expression, "tools speaking through men": the extremely backward social relations in South Africa and outmoded political structures strained against the productive forces. Something had to give way. Clearly, in this type of crisis, the ruling class had every interest in deciding a strategy that gave them the upper hand to steer the process of announced "change" from the outset.

The Class Basis for a

Bourgeois Democratic Reform Movement amongst the Oppressed

Once the imperative had basically been decided by the ruling class, it became possible for them to use the internal factors for what they called a "democratic solution" to their advantage.

The most important factor was the existence of both a small but relevant black petite bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie and the position of a section of them in the leadership of the national liberation movements and of numerous political groups, trade unions and a wide-range of community-type organizations.

While they have escaped the worst suffering and misery of apartheid, these classes were still formally and practically excluded from the political system and most spheres of white and European-style life because of race. At the same time, the intense national oppression that apartheid gives rise to throws many amongst these strata, especially the petite bourgeoisie, into direct contact with the people and their poverty, their daily struggle and the brutality they face. The road of bourgeois democratic reforms appears to many amongst these class forces to provide a shortcut to power and it does in fact offer a chance to some to climb the social ladder.

Although relatively modest, an urban petite bourgeoisie has developed in South Africa, a "white collar" section of the black masses, from civil servants to a few university professors and computer programmers to lawyers, doctors, small business owners, teachers, journalists and talk show hosts and so on.

Some of the professionals are better off and, along with a small number of corporation executives or board members, constitute a real but fragile basis for a black comprador bourgeoisie in the new state. The American black bourgeois magazine Ebony interviewed some of them in a special issue on South Africa celebrating an end to "direct colonialism in Africa". Their credo is essentially, "We've made it, we don't expect handouts", while hoping that Mandela will simply open the doors long closed to them, that the wealth can be spread out a little more evenly, and that monopoly will not be concentrated in just a few hands. Their motto is "open the power" (to them) in their professional and personal lives. Their programme is to build up the black middle class through "black economic empowerment", developing small businesses, acquiring capital and bank loans up until now unobtainable, breaking up the conglomerates through anti-trust legislation and patronising those foreign investors that have "progressive" policies towards upwardly mobile blacks.

The white settler class and imperialists were seeking to use the aspirations of these strata amongst the oppressed for its gestures of reforms and partial social justice, and especially sought to lure in those leading the national liberation movements against their own political rule. On that depended these forces' ability to channel the masses into this same paralysing process, fueling illusions that change could come about in some way other than through the revolutionary struggle of the people that for so long has dizzied and destabilized the whole oppressive system and was aimed at one common enemy - the white colonial ruling minority.

As is usually the case, an important section of these mainly urban-based bourgeois and petit bourgeois classes from the oppressed nations are intellectuals, and different lines among a section of them had been contending for decades to lead a wide range of reformist and nationalist activity, as the struggle of the masses continually pushed against the system. What was new was that this formally outlawed activity not only became approved, but was encouraged and aligned with the state's reform programme.

The enemy's real coup, then, was its strategy of uniting all these Azanian opposition forces into one "healing" and all-consuming political current that promoted negotiations and compromize with the oppressors to their followers, which tended to minimize these groups' historical and political differences. In the framework of the imperialists' and colonial rulers' plans, this effectively meant most of them were sucked in to march behind the ANC-led banner of elections - not necessarily organizationally, but politically; this also explains in part the overwhelming vote for the ANC as opposed to other black candidates.

Despite all their racist talk to the contrary, it was also useful for the colonial rulers' reform scheme that these black petit bourgeois and bourgeois forces were able to provide sufficient educated people to carry out the necessary discussions for negotiations, as well as the actual political handiwork of crafting the new programme, uniting and consulting with various representatives in business and the ruling class about the way forward.

What is the actual content of this imperialist reform solution? Rather than "winning multi-racial democracy" with "majority black rule" it is a road that calls for adjustments in the enemy's political rule over the majority, in which a few reforms are handed down from above, from the ruling class itself, while the masses' energy is roped into helping sustain the system as it is. While always presented as an easier and faster road to change, it is actually a long and torturous path to a total sell-out of the masses' fundamental interests and even of their ability to win significant bourgeois demands.

This has nothing in common with the proletariat's solution for New Democracy, in which the masses are mobilized to use revolutionary violence to change society, uprooting the colonial and semi-feudal system from the bottom up; this road from below is in fact historically the shortest way to bring about both important bourgeois demands, especially the right to land, and it is also the only way to prepare for moving on to socialist revolution and totally remaking society in the interests of the labouring masses.


In a sense, a primary tenet of the ANC strategy - not to overthrow the class in power - always consisted of forming an alliance of liberal and "democratic" forces which the ANC would lead to eventually force the National Party to hold a vote. This perfectly suited the imperialists' own menu for the New World Order following the disappearance of their Soviet rivals. It was just what they ordered for dinner - and got - from the ANC. In fact as they went into the new government, the South African ruling class as a whole fully embraced an even more conciliatory version of the ANC's programme, a fitting arrangement for the "national unity" coalition.

The ANC came into existence about the same time that the land was carved up into destitute bantustans on just a fraction of the territory, from which the majority black population was to serve as cheap labour pools some three and a half decades before apartheid was formally instituted. Always mainly based among urban intellectuals, it represented and organized the protest of the educated black elite against the injustices of the new Anglo-Boer republic forged after the war between the British and Dutch settlers. In fact the early ANC often sent delegations to Britain to plead on behalf of the natives.

Although the ANC adopted much of the rhetoric of national liberation, in particular after its affiliation with the revisionist Communist Party of South Africa in 1921 (which first opposed and then only passively carried out the 1928 Comintern demand for an independent native republic), it has always been a conservative force in the liberation movement and has always had as a central part of its platform the sharing of power with white settlers, but from a position of Soviet-backed strength. It consistently has upheld that the problem is not imperialist domination but lack of bourgeois democracy and majority rule.

The ANC's campaigns of mass defence actions and civil disobedience were accompanied by sporadic armed actions as a means of pressuring the regime. Never has it had a revolutionary programme nor strategy of mobilizing the masses to bring down the colonial class ruling South Africa and to uproot the system it thrived on. Repeatedly it alienated the most revolutionary elements because of its essential liquidation of the national question, which added momentum to its reformism. Its Freedom Charter, for example, drowns the national liberation struggle in concepts copied from the U.S. Constitution, like "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white..." and champions the "peaceful road to socialism" (also espoused by the reorganized SACP). This prompted Azanian revolutionary nationalists to split off and form the PAC, to turn to more radical opposition against the system.

Although the ANC has always enjoyed Western backing, especially from social democratic governments in Europe pretending to censure the apartheid regime, it mainly relied on the social-imperialists of the Soviet Union for political, military and financial support. From 1960 to 1980 the Soviet Union paid a lot of attention to keeping the ANC afloat by organizing a massive international public relations campaign to legitimize the ANC and SACP and throwing lots of resources into international conferences, speaking tours and press.

The collapse of Soviet-style revisionism and the general disintegration of the East bloc pushed ANC and SACP leaders reluctantly at first and then running headlong into the waiting, baiting arms of the Western imperialists. The West, and especially the U.S. - with its vast swamp of experience employing either direct destabilization strategies through the CIA and other secret services manipulating and "working with" moderate political forces, including from within, or more subtle intervention in order to displace and isolate more radical movements - had always kept its options open on the ANC.

The ANC had never refused Western aid, but the Soviets had assisted in seeing this was mostly channeled through anti-apartheid movements, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and smaller imperialist aid funds rather than straight from the bank accounts of the biggest reactionaries the ANC ranks opposed. But once SACP theoreticians leading the ANC had written their repudiation of first Stalin, and then Gorbachev, the way was cleared for the US imperialists to fully buy up political shares in the Mandela-de Klerk sweepstakes they had in fact initiated.

The U.S. sent in millions of dollars in special funds along with advisors and NGO "specialists" to teach "negotiation" and "outreach" to liberation groups and to patch up the National Party's suspect image, while prodding the more hard-core revanchist Boers in the ruling circles to climb on board the great trek to multi-racial elections. They kindled a sudden love affair with bourgeois democracy amongst some of the most nakedly vicious colonial tyrants anywhere, and de Klerk & Co. led the negotiations band, at the same time trying to unite their own social base, while Mandela & "comrades" led their social forces to garner support for and give this process life.

To get this strategy underway amongst the liberation movements, alliances were formed to create a broad front against the National Party and other political forces, with the ANC at its centre. Compared to its weak and passive role in especially the 1976 Soweto rebellion, but also to some extent in the mid-1980s upsurge, the ANC was built up by the imperialists' and colonialists' negotiations strategy. This led to its unbanning and to its official role as the leading "legitimate" opposition force to pull together this social base for a more coherent reform movement (but did not stop them from also being the target of harsh repression by the state in this pre-elections period).

After Mandela's release in 1990 and the call for negotiations and a constituent assembly (composed of all races), the ANC ran a minefield of mass protests against the apartheid regime and intolerable conditions, and almost without exception called on the people to calm down or stop their strikes and boycotts. (According to a joke about the ANC's notorious tailing of the masses, after the struggle of the people had made the townships ungovernable, the ANC raised the slogan "Make the townships ungovernable!").

The ANC cadre worked diligently alongside the de Klerk regime to pull forward as many of the national liberation organizations into the negotiations process as would be pulled - from influential rivals like the PAC, to less willing groups like Azapo (Azanian People's Organization), and its Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) affiliates, to smaller forces. This was far from a straight-line process, however, because the rank and file of these groups objected to or fought against the sell-out and in many local areas went about forming their own organizations, or offshoots of the main ones.

The PAC became badly split, its central command at first trying to expel its regional and local leaders for balking at compromize with the white state the PAC had always opposed. In the spring of 1993, the PAC carried out a number of armed political actions, and the regime lashed out rabidly at the whole organization in return, raiding and arresting many of its leaders with the (successful) objective of drawing the leadership more tightly into negotiations.

Even though the ANC had never carried out much more than isolated armed actions aimed at pressuring the white regime, its final suspension of the "armed struggle" in August 1992 proved to be a key turning point. This was true both in terms of which masses it would attract for the capitulationist reform road it was leading and in satisfying the settler regime and imperialists. AZAPLA (Azanian People's Liberation Army), the military wing of the PAC, followed suit in January 1994, suspending the armed struggle for a period of ten years and vowing instead to wage a "war against capitalism".

Since the ANC was anointed as pointman for mobilizing the black opposition movement, its mass base grew (the first time really since its mass disobedience actions of the 1950s), but also split into many pieces because its line had become openly collaborationist with the white regime and had led to organizing the widest possible participation in this sell-out of the people. While many people were drawn in because they wanted to see black people win something, others were sickened by this road and rebelled, forming local ANCs that put out their own calls for action, or looking for other groups to join, and so forth.

In sum, the ANC all along had a strategy of forcing some concessions from the white settlers and bringing about change through reforming the same colonial system it wanted to oppose. And through a number of intensifying contradictions, especially the growing political crisis and rotting structure of the old apartheid state converging with major changes in the world situation, the ANC option became the most useful to the South African ruling class and the imperialists. Mainly, however, it was the class nature of the movement's leadership that made this "coming to terms" possible.

The International Stakes of Stability in South Africa

Just as the fall of the East induced the ANC to grow fat on more pro-Western diets, this turn in the international situation also facilitated U.S. ability to bring about a resolution of the longstanding impasse in South Africa in its own interests.

As we have seen, the imperialists seized and made full use of this opportunity, both grooming and supporting forces within the ANC and preparing a section of the South African ruling class to comply with and even guide this transition from raw colonial dictatorship to a more nuanced dictatorship of mixed colonial and new black comprador rule.

(To grant Mandela and his tiny comprador class the title of "semi-" or "neo" within this thoroughly colonial state apparatus would be to go beyond the political transformations they will be able to enact. In fact, it could be said that this type of adjustment of the state apparatus could only take the form of refurbishing colonial rule; at this point, with the armed white settler comprador class still at the core of the state, there is little chance this could become a fully black neo-colonial state with the imperialists turning over the reins of power to a black bourgeoisie.)

The U.S. followed its haughty announcement of a "New World Order" after the collapse of their Soviet rivals' empire - which was just a symptom of the severe crisis within the whole imperialist system of which the Soviet Union was a major pillar - with lots of pontificating about peace and cooperation.

Cloaking the reorganization of their empire with humanitarian missions and the imposing of "democracy" in dictatorships they have close ties to has become a more frequent habit of the imperialists lately. Actually it is in the oldest of traditions. When it was useful, they have always distanced themselves from the brutal, murdering puppet leaders and apparatuses they have created, funded and trained throughout the Third World, appearing on the scene as the new "democratic" saviours with the right to openly call the shots themselves. But the tightening up of the "New World Order" under their command today increasingly requires this form of imperialist intervention. And whether it is their own US-flag waving marines, the armed zionist dogs in Israel, the murderous British army in Northern Ireland, or the cruel South African military machine, every "peace" process has the armed might of the state close at hand. These readjustments are not in contradiction with their ruthless shows of force like in Iraq.

In today's context of deepening global crisis, the imperialists are obligated to clean up, reorganize and politically restructure many of the colonial and semi- or neo-colonial arrangements that were a result of the overall sweep of vast former colonial territories by the U.S. in the redivision after World War 2, and the subsequent upsurge of national liberation movements in the 1960s. Some of these state structures are in such shambles that they no longer correspond to the needs of the U.S. empire, that is, to its expansion in areas of key economic or strategic interests, and its overall ability to control and quash the struggle of the masses. This includes areas of influence and control by their social-imperialist rivals of the Soviet Union, which they have long coveted and clashed over. In oil-rich Angola the imperialists fostered long years of bloody war, while they made a passing - and failing - stab at stabilising Somalia, using the famine crisis they were responsible for. In the Middle East they have imposed a bloody peace on the region in the face of an intifada that wouldn't stop, and were able to do so because they could force the comprador leadership of the PLO and its class base to carry it out for them, though the success of this postage stamp-sized political solution is far from assured.

South Africa's instability too was worrisome, openly so, for the U.S. rulers who see developing the region with South Africa as the economic generator, and of course, returning to a safe climate for profits overall. The South African economy has been in a slump for many years, with some capital flight and little growth, due both to the global imperialist crisis and to the political situation and extreme social tension there. But South Africa has always had great strategic importance for the West, both regionally and due to its geographic location and its key shipping lanes for oil, strategic raw materials and minerals for U.S. war production, as well as its steel production, its sophisticated Western-financed military communications and tracking systems, and its modern military port facilities, which are at NATO's disposal.

The imperialists invested heavily on all fronts in the organization of a negotiated settlement in South Africa, where a political solution obviously had to be found if imperialism was going to continue to efficiently function there. And if they could succeed in a place where a revolutionary crisis has existed for some time, it would be a useful model in other afflicted areas, of which there is no shortage in their empire. One U.S. official was quoted as asking, "is there a way to "capture the essence of what is happening in South Africa ... to bottle it and inject this elixir into the disruptions and disputes which burden U.S. foreign policy in other locations?"

There is also another aspect to this: the ANC, through its decades of promotion as a national liberation movement, is connected to nearly every left opposition movement in the world, and most especially in the oppressed nations. By trying to bury the political struggle in South Africa in Western-style bourgeois democratic demagoguery, the imperialists undoubtedly count on the ANC teaching their friends that such capitulation to the New World Order is now "okay".

Spilling the Masses' Blood to Impose a Consensus of All-race Elections

How did they pull it off? Much of the drama was purposely focused on the contrasting "duo", Mandela and de Klerk, the willing stage managers of this production, both of whom were promoted to Nobel peace prize winners and great statesmen even before the curtain went down. However, besides the boardroom and poolside wheeling and dealing from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg, this deadly political battle of the ruling class to impose a consensus for a "peaceful transition" was carried out by stoking reactionary violence against Azanians with the black townships and bantustans as the grim and bloodstained theatre.

Despite the talks going on between the reasonable tie-clad negotiators, much of this violence was stepped-up repression by the reactionary state against township dwellers and bantustan residents. One doctor revealed to the press that of 200 postmortems he had carried out, he was sure 90% had been murdered by the police.

The struggle of the masses continued to pound away in various spheres against this repression and the whole political order. After the leader of the ANC's armed wing was assassinated by white reactionaries linked to the police in April 1993, there was a mass outpouring of anger at the state. Although the ANC tried to organize and utilize such protests, they always spilled way beyond these limits. In Johannesburg youth burned cars and shops and clashed with police outside the 100,000-strong funeral ceremonies, burning down buildings owned by the mining companies. In Cape Town, during a large march to the police station, journalists, photographers and police were reportedly fired on. In the rural areas, the collapse of one "independent homeland" after the other, to the fury of tribal administrators the regime had built up, brought new clashes and struggle.

All throughout negotiations, there was continual bickering between the government negotiators and the ANC over who was to blame for all the killings, how to maintain law and order, and over the ANC's demand for the reactionary state to stop the violence between various political forces, as though the state were a neutral force.

So, in September 1992, when an ANC march went into Bisho in the Ciskei ("homeland") to "peacefully occupy" the town as a protest against military puppet leader Oupa Gqozo, Ciskei soldiers opened fire, killing 28 and wounding some 200. The government's hand in the attack became a further point of struggle in the "talks", since the regime was clearly making use of dual tactics of physically attacking the ANC's supporters while supposedly negotiating the terms for helping to stop the violence.

There were also significant sections of the white ruling class that strongly opposed holding elections and coming to an agreement with the ANC. Not surprisingly they were heavily represented in the armed apparatus of the reactionary state itself, which was rife with secret clubs, arms deals, death squads inside South Africa, and sabotage units carrying out assassinations of Azanian activists abroad. There were also not-so-secret armed fundamentalist "brotherhoods", white republic (Volkstaat) associations, neo-Nazis, as well as a sizeable informal military sector that ran destabilization campaigns in neighbouring countries, assisting forces like Renamo in Mozambique and Unita in Angola.

Derailing the elections process through their links to the police and army was clearly the goal of these groups. They carried out shooting sprees of black masses in the cities, and in the countryside, roadside ambushes. They believed that short of being able to carry out a civil war to preserve their privileges under apartheid, a climate of total fear and chaos had to be created so the government's plan would fail and a more military solution would win out. De Klerk was widely booed and threatened whenever he (rarely) ventured to the rural white farm areas that tended to support this range of extremist white groups. These groups hooked up with the military and police have often been inappropriately referred to as the "third force", "inappropriately", because most often they had full license to act and were part of the same programme that the reactionary state's security forces were already carrying out against the masses.

However, politically some of these white reactionary forces formed an alliance with the conservative Inkatha Freedom Party in opposition to the negotiations and elections and even began to become members. They openly collaborated to both instigate and carry out repeated slaughters, in part by whipping up minor divisions among black people in the already extremely tense townships.

The state's own policy of undermining the ANC and building up Inkatha through fomenting what they would call "black on black violence", targeting and dividing Xhosas and Zulus as the two largest ethnic groups, had already been in full operation since the big upsurges of struggle in the mid-'80s. This was leaked by a former intelligence officer, who accused the government of trying to break up the ANC and who had himself been part of an over $35 million scheme to thwart the pro-Soviet liberation movement, Swapo, in 1989 before the elections in Namibia.

The white regime has had a willing ally in Chief Buthelezi, the puppet leader and police chief of Kwazulu, the apartheid-designated "Zulu" homeland. Far from matching the original Zulu-based region in Natal, Kwazulu was a patchwork of little pieces of the worst land scattered around prosperous white plantations and farms. Buthelezi has cultivated nationalist support through the medium of the Inkatha "cultural" organization, to build his own reactionary power base, but always in close service to the apartheid regime. They rewarded him amply and channeled large sums of government money to Inkatha through several different slush funds; covert funds alone to help sponsor activities against the ANC and other organizations ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars until it was exposed in July 1991.

As early as 1987 the police had stopped applying the ban on traditional weapons (Zulus had been prohibited from carrying any kind of stick or instrument for nearly 100 years unless they could prove they were hunting or fishing.) In 1990, after Inkatha turned from a cultural movement into a political party, the government quietly legalized their weapons. Mainly rural-based Zulus were riled up against the ANC which had made some inroads into Natal, and they were told the ANC was going to take their king's land away if Mandela won, etc, etc. In fact Inkatha supporters are a small minority of the 38% Zulus among the black population, a sizeable number of whom support the ANC.

The collaboration between the extreme right, the police and Inkatha took on several forms. Forays were made into townships, where white-driven vans and khaki-dressed whites "guarded" loads of Inkatha members as they launched an attack. Police allowed Inkatha free rein to kill, and would mainly chase non-Inkatha masses, raid their houses for weapons in the name of stopping violence, and then allow the impis to return again for another massacre after they had seized weapons. Or, after murderous clashes in townships where people had been hacked or stabbed, the police would make a show of rounding up Inkatha's weapons, and shortly afterwards hand them back.

A new spiral of violence against the masses was fueled to set people against each other in the name of ethnic differences and so-called "political" territory. Suddenly the news featured black masses at each others' throats, supposedly on behalf of their organization, or their "candidate", and later just as "tribal rivalry". And magically arms were appearing everywhere (although they had never been available to the masses during the past 200 years of conflict with the oppressor and its police).

The white supremacist rulers have always tried to separate Azanians into little phony nations and stir up nationalism, mainly in order to create a small class of puppet national loyalist administrators in the service of age-old divide and rule. Yet this has never been very successful given the commonness of the oppressed masses' conditions under apartheid in general and the fluid mixture of peoples and languages; in fact, between the Xhosa and Zulu languages, for example, there is enough similarity for people to understand each other, and it is common in the Rand region, where much of the violence occurred, for people to speak 3 or 4 different languages.

This destabilization-and-more repression strategy aimed to confuse and divide the masses, to get across that blacks are unrulable and certainly not fit to rule themselves. It also aimed to narrow down hopes to establishing law and order, to an end to the killing, encouraging the backward to call for a strong-handed state. This had its political effects too in the form of diverting the mass struggle towards elections as the only alternative. As a leaflet put out by revolutionary Azanian youth said, "...These dastardly genocidal acts against the African people are intended to make us weary and frustrated, to paralyse our political consciousness, to obscure the objectives of our struggle, to destroy armed struggle and to make us cry hysterically for an "empty peace" that serves the insatiable appetite of the imperialists. It is a means to boost the sell-out process of negotiations and to accord with the economic imperative and the imperialists and their agents..." And there has also been class struggle against this and against the whole regime and system at the same time.

Self-defence units (SDUs) were formed in many townships against Inkatha violence. The ANC even sponsored them for awhile, and called for the training of some youth. When these youth proved too "undisciplined" to listen to ANC orders not to fight, the SDUs turned into a political albatross for the ANC. And today, readers write that in one area some SDUs have still refused to hand in their arms, and vow to use them against the new government if necessary.

Inciting this violence nearly backfired too, producing so much more instability that brokering a peace through the elections almost failed. But it was accompanied with a lot of political bargaining, bribes and concessions. Just to get the cooperation of Buthelezi, who threatened to boycott the elections in the face of the ANC's strength, the ruling class promized him seats in parliament and a ministry post and tossed various "gifts" his way, including an enormous piece of land. They were also able to win over the head of the right-wing Freedom Front, General Constand Viljoen, to run in the elections, who campaigned for a separate white state. Mandela congratulated this butcher of the Azanian people during his election speech as a "worthy South African".

The imposing of a consensus therefore relied on both reactionary violence against the Azanian masses and negotiations tactics. If former President de Klerk was leading the talks, his class friends also benefitted from and refused to curb the murderous actions of the state's security forces (except to fire some exposed generals who had come under scrutiny by the many investigative commissions of the violence). In short, the rulers were able to put together a reactionary stability and enough of a coalition to hold the vote, but this is as fragile as it is temporary.

The crisis-ridden state is proud that they avoided a war of "independence", but the birth of even this restructured "multi-racial" colonial state meant the burials of thousands of Azanians. In other words, what they accomplished was a war in which the casualties were on one side and what they avoided was a civil war in which the masses too had their chance to fight against them in an organized way.

II. What will the new "people's" government do for the people?

A quick look at the social and economic situation that the Mandela-led government is inheriting gives an idea why even the best-intentioned reform programme would be unable to right the wrongs of imperialist and colonial domination of the Azanian people. (However, statistics in South Africa are only indicators, as they themselves reflect the colonizers' tendency to present a far rosier picture and to conceal the huge gaps between black and white people by combining the figures together, by not including the former artificial independent homelands, and by consolidating different employment categories within sectors.) According to World Bank figures, South Africa, the white oppressor colony, is the 24th richest country in the world. Azania, the indigenous oppressed nation, figures 124th.

In a population that is overwhelmingly black, unemployment stands at over 50% and is rising, reportedly reaching as high as 70% in the eastern regions. The 34 million Azanian majority (total black population) is mostly concentrated in vast poor urban and rural townships, or in the impoverished rural "bantustan" zones, which were the only place blacks were "legally" able to live since the official confiscation by the white minority regime of more than 4/5 of the land 80 years ago. Somewhere between 11 and 15 million Azanians live in the rural areas, and 85% of the people are considered to be living below the poverty line in the former homeland areas. 12 million people don't have access to clean drinking water and 21 million don't have adequate sanitation (toilets and refuse removal). The segregated schools (based on the well-known apartheid policy of separate and inferior "Bantu education" whose Christian-fundamentalist rationale that "Africans don't need to acquire European civilization in order to perform simple labour, as God ordained") are poorly equipped, understaffed, without electricity or are even non-existent in black areas. The government spending ratio is 8 to 1 on white and black education and the illiteracy rate today still hovers somewhere near 50%. In the business world, blacks occupy less than 2% of corporate management positions, while only 1% of the economic activity of the formal sector is attributable to black businesses.

Azania fits squarely amongst the oppressed nations dominated by imperialism. However, the particular features of settler colonization in South Africa by a minority of whites of European origin (primarily Dutch and British) have accelerated certain aspects of economic development on the basis of the most backward, oppressive and exploitative social relations. During the period of more than 200 years of fierce wars of resistance over the land, some of the indigenous pastoral and peasant societies were gradually being broken apart through the colonialists' spread of disease, cattle theft and killing, early colonial laws and the imposition of taxes, as well as through the outright extermination of certain peoples in order to occupy more land and draw Africans into the colonial economy. On the land white settlers had seized, both slavery and various feudal forms of tenant farming existed, as small merchant trading and agriculture for the colonial market (with limited export to Europe) developed into nascent capitalism. However in the late 1800s diamonds and then gold were discovered, and the process of capturing black labour, badly needed to exploit the precious stones and minerals, was speeded up by more systematic dispossession of the land and forcing of blacks into the labour force (along with indentured labour brought over from India to work the sugar cane plantations in Natal). Capitalist growth took a leap, as did European interests and direct capital investment in South Africa. Imperialist Britain launched a bloody war (Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902) to settle their claim to this untapped wealth. After this war a European settler-based reactionary state was consolidated which organized and enforced this exploitation of the mines and the development of white-owned agriculture mainly in order to "feed" the growing work force (and only secondarily for export).

During the 20th century, imperialist-financed capitalist development of sectors of the economy key to imperialist capital accumulation or strategically was facilitated in every way by a subsidized top-heavy white reactionary state. A capitalist class arose among the white settlers permitting the white minority to have a standard of living comparable to Europe, or the U.S. Although the Azanian people (the superexploitation of whom permitted this rapid development) have mainly been excluded from the results of it, still white South Africa's economic growth has far outstripped most of the rest of Africa, with the result that it is overall "richer" than most of Africa.

Sixty percent of all U.S. investment in the continent, for example, has gone to South Africa. Through imperialist distortion of most African neo/semi-colonial, semi-feudal economies, the effects of the global economic crisis, as well as treacherous imperialist aid policies, such as IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programmes, the economic situation and lives of the people have deteriorated since formal political independence was won or granted in the 1960s. Between 1960 and 1990, average per capita income has dropped by $200 in Africa, from $850 to $645.

"Reconstructing and Developing" South Africa

Mandela's election promises centred around the widely-touted social reforms to attack poverty and provide basic services to the victims of apartheid over the coming five years until the next national elections. These plans include creating 2.5 million jobs in public works, such as electrifying 1 million households, building 1 million low-cost houses and allocating some state funds to provide 10 years of compulsory free education along with some type of free medical care for young children.

Because this programme clearly only scratches the surface of the very deep problems and inequalities in society, and because the new government wants only to "raise black people's standards without lowering anyone else's", it has exposed just whose interests the national unity government is fundamentally committed to serving. In addition, the entire debate about the "welfare" of the people became focused on the feasibility of these relatively modest reforms (which the white opposition called "pie in the sky") and where to get the billions of rands to finance them, without cutting budgets that affect the current status quo, or taking any white people's jobs away (more than 1/3 of whom are employed by the central state!), etc, etc.

Then there is the "political education" that accompanies the reforms at no extra charge: that the masses should be patient and not expect too much too soon. One side of this double-edged sword has featured smiling township dwellers on television swearing they are happy even though they are poor because now they are free, and that really all they wanted was their dignity restored. On the other side long-winded entreaties for understanding that the ANC shouldn't be expected to undo overnight (in 5 years) what the terrible apartheid regime has created over several decades.

It is true that getting rid of the extreme racial and class inequalities in a society defined by and based on them is a protracted process no matter what class has taken the reins of power. A New Democratic Revolution led by the proletariat, however, would take immediate steps to expropriate all major landholders that have kept the masses landless, and would take over and reorient the means of production dominated by white settler and foreign capital as well as cut its ties to the imperialist economy. This would pave the way for building a self-sufficient national economy, for carrying out planned economic development in the interests of the labouring classes, and breaking from the vise-grip of imperialism completely.

The ANC-led government's difficulty in finding the billions of rand necessary for a few improvements in some of the masses' lives without ruffling any feathers is based on a different outlook and programme that will end up not only remaining dependent on imperialism, but tightening these bonds even more. In real life, one motto has drowned out all the "freedom" slogans: "Make South Africa safe for investors". It is not that some of their planners would not like to make good on their election promises and even go further to eradicate social problems, but they are not prepared nor able to go up against the powers that be and the current economic order to achieve that.

The ANC's "Reconstruction and Development Programme" (RDP) is a platform of basic reforms of apartheid society that was circulated to "community leaders", "people's forums" and business and ruling class circles to establish a consensus over the future road well before the elections took place. One economist from the South Africa Rand Merchant Bank said he could even start to identify with it. No wonder. A look at the 150-page policy framework reveals its conciliatory, "don't rock the boat" nature. If the outward appeal is to reform and "deracialize" the profoundly unequal and stifling institutions throughout society, the programme in no way challenges the basic precepts and foundation of capitalist and semi-feudal exploitation upon which these institutions are built; in fact it enshrines them.

In page after page of critical acknowledgement of the past and doublespeak lamenting the disproportionate effects of apartheid on black people in every area, from housing to schools to access to land and bank loans, the twin goals of this programme are clear enough. The programme outlines the "five-year plan" for beginning to make certain changes to allow the new government to demarcate itself from the old regime. Secondly, it aims to persuade black bourgeois and radical petit bourgeois that the impossible - that is, substantial development of the black population held down for so long - can be achieved through partial reforms, and they should rally to them. It promises to "eliminate the poverty, low wages and extreme inequalities in wages and wealth generated by the apartheid system, meet basic needs and thus ensure that every South African has a decent living standard and economic security".

Even the rich, imperialist countries have not been able to offer this to the exploited and oppressed masses inside their borders!

As for the explosive land issue, the RDP policy is hazy because, it seems, the national unity team was unable to arrive at any major concessions in this area that touches the very spinal cord of the whole colonial ownership system. A not immediate plan to turn over some 30% of the land includes vague assurances of restoring some land rights to blacks who were dispossessed or forcibly removed if they can produce deeds, although the date from which to proceed is a big point of controversy. There is also discussion of selling trust land leased by the state and the churches, and bringing onto the market some undesirable land held by whites or by the army that has been under-utilized, abandoned or exhausted, as well as land procured in questionable transactions from the apartheid regime or mortgaged to state and parastatal bodies.

White commercial agriculture (about 70,000 farmers) contributes only about 5% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the debate over the feasibility of allowing black small-scale production to resume is centred around restructuring to "spread the ownership base" and opening up access to the national market and the distribution system completely dominated by white farmers and large corporations. The RDP promises to improve rural infrastructure and in the future to elaborate a rural development programme in general.

Regarding the economy, the RDP points out that the means of production, distribution and finance are in the hands of a tiny minority, whose policies of monopolization... predatory pricing and interlocking directorships... and the overwhelming proportion of white and corporate ownership of the land, "create racial and social tension". This could easily qualify for the understatement of the century. The ANC's well-known Freedom Charter used to advocate nationalising these gigantic capitalist concerns, but now the RDP proposes to offset this monopolization (four enormous corporate groups control more than 80% of the stocks on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange) by breaking up the big conglomerates through forceful anti-trust laws and making them more "transparent" and accountable, while promoting policies that stimulate more competitiveness and encourage the growth of small black business. In essence, and to the degree it is carried out, this means setting up some regulatory mechanisms to oversee the hiring, wage and training policies of the industrial and financial giants, expanding rights such as unionization, as well as policies that will give some black entrepreneurs greater access to borrowing and credit. It also demands the return of privately-owned mineral rights to the "democratic government".

It has been suggested by Western journalists that the only real difference between the "centre-left" programme of the ANC and the "centre-right" programme of de Klerk's Nationalist Party, both of which focus on investor confidence and secondarily, aid to small businesses, is the ANC's penchant for developing public works.

The national unity government promises that South Africa's developed industrial infrastructure and new stable political climate will attract greater foreign investment and generate sustainable growth through developing more manufacturing for exports, including the processing and refining of minerals and other raw materials (now mainly sold directly as precious stones and metals and accounting for 75% of export earnings). Manufacturing, however, because of both the economic crisis and its tendency to become more capital-intensive, has cut back labour by some 15% in recent years, rather than generating new jobs.

As in other cases where IMF and World Bank strategies are applied, the post-election government is increasingly being pressured to consider privatization of some of the remaining huge state corporations centred around utilities, public transport, key natural resources and the all-important area of arms production.

In fact these parastatals, as they are called, have served as a vehicle to help finance, centralize and redistribute subsidies to both "local" and imperialist enterprizes through import controls, tax incentives and low-cost inputs (based on the profits and low-cost services made available by apartheid's superexploitation). The state also provided an inter-linking technological base for industry through its direct investment in manufacturing and to some extent, agriculture, which has always been extended extremely favourable credit.

Two of the largest state corporations, ISCOR, the state iron and steel company and SASOL, the oil from coal company, were privatized in recent years in anticipation of ANC nationalization schemes. Now, ESCOM, the huge electricity utility, has visions of electrifying countries like Zambia and the Congo and attracting foreign investment and high-energy consuming industries on the basis of South Africa's low-cost electricity, to make South Africa an "Electricity Valley", something like California's Silicon Valley.

ARMSCOR, the arms manufacturing part of which has already been privatized (and which has the dubious distinction of having been the biggest arms exporter to the French-backed former Rwandan government), has always defied sanctions to build up a robust weapons industry and a bustling international arms trade, mainly with Oman and Dubai, but also the Far East and South America. ARMSCOR is anticipating replacing the old weapons supplied by the Soviet bloc in the whole southern Africa region. A debate has gripped the ANC-led government about expanding this profitable industry, or cutting defence, which was always seen as a likely source for social spending.

If the ANC has been "persuaded" to become "market-friendly" at the expense of their pledges to the people, the big white multi-national conglomerates, for their part, say they are delighted with the "peaceful transition" and, in recompense for guarding their basically unchallenged dominion are talking of reforms "way past due". The leading giant, Anglo-American Corporation, originally was an outgrowth of one of the most powerful mining finance houses in South Africa, but grew into an empire of interlocking companies, partnerships and interests which have investments in several continents through multiple affiliates and subsidiaries.

This Group, which employs some 300,000 people and alone controls somewhere between 25% and 40% of Johannesburg's stock market capitalization, promises affirmative action and some shareholding for blacks, some senior black management posts and allowing some of their supply services to be subcontracted to black businesses (cleaning their corporate carpets, for example). They recently made a lot of press noise about letting one of their affiliate's black insurance subsidiaries become black-controlled and 51% black-owned, although this has widely been qualified as a drop in the bucket.

These are the type of dominant international interests in which imperialist capital has mixed with South African capital to squeeze the lifeblood and flesh of the Azanian people for over a hundred years. They have operated in a murderous partnership with the white colonial state which has managed and facilitated the financial and infrastructural terms of this plunder, as well as overall playing the decisive role of Chief Enforcer and Executioner in the systematized brutality and subjugation of the Azanian people.

New Matchbox Houses and a Tighter Imperialist Noose

The main plank of the proposed RDP development scheme is that the "new" South Africa should be more closely tied to the "world economy" - the imperialist system. The very pivotal deception that this will make it possible for everyone to benefit more or less equally goes right to the heart of the black petite bourgeoisie's and bourgeoisie's illusions, vacillation and readiness to pursue what looks like quick and easy progress, at least for them. Their battle to end racial exclusion and domination by colonialist and imperialist interests of their nation as a whole becomes channeled narrowly into lobbying for more reforms, for greater access to the "white man's table", and so on.

They have seen repeatedly that the opposite is true - that only the struggle of the people has brought the regime to its knees and they know that removing the colour bar in certain areas will not remove the "right" of the capitalist class to mainly exploit the people of colour for the purpose of profit-making, now glorified as "development". Even so, these more privileged strata among the Azanian people hope that a "pro-people" black government will somehow forge an independent road.

The ANC document, in other words, is trying to address directly the people's hatred and literally centuries of resistance against the social relations shaped by capitalism and semi-feudalism and protected by minority rule, while providing the political framework for the biggest deceit of all: you don't have to overthrow the system that is the cause of this situation and the class it serves, you just have to develop it to fulfill "everyone's" needs, which requires making peace with those who sit on top of that system.

As the RDP makes clear, the new ANC-led government must deliver on some of their promises of opportunities to develop the interests of the black middle classes, or this whole transition to "black" rule will be a transparent joke. As South African mining magnate Harry Oppenheimer, long-time former head of Anglo-American Corporation, said: "It's dangerous to be ruled by people without a material stake in the country...".

At the same time, the goal of developing these buffer strata of black bourgeois and petit bourgeois so they are willing to help stabilize the country overall will also collide with the reality that white corporate interests control the means of production and finance. (This is not to say these big companies won't sponsor some black training programmes, and even allow minimal black stockholding in their companies, or promote some individuals to management.)

In the pre-election period the ANC had already gotten into hot water with black business leaders who complained that it was catering far too much to white business concerns, instead of theirs. They protested that they are bloodied and battlescarred from being considered sell-outs by the liberation movements, and from fighting through general restrictions and lack of access to capital from the white business class, but they have survived.

Since the election, some examples have highlighted this dilemma: areas like Soweto, where black people have always had to carry food home after work in Johannesburg because there were hardly any grocery stores in the township, now are suddenly the land of golden opportunity. However, instead of the small black entrepreneurs (who were never allowed access to suppliers to buy in bulk, among other obstacles) getting a chance to "exploit the emerging black market", the country's largest supermarket chain, Sanlam (a white-owned conglomerate), has beat them out and they are furious.

The bigtime players in financial circles also talk about aiding small businesses to stimulate the economy and of drawing the huge informal sector into the formal sector (the "Kombi" taxis, for example, and parallel services for blacks developed over the years, some into successful businesses). Yet the problem of astronomical unemployment will not be solved by the main remedy being put forward, which is "affirmative action", gradually reducing discrimination, within the dominant formal sector itself, which can only provide a few hundred thousand jobs a year. Presently 20% of GDP is estimated to come from this informal sector, which relieves unemployment pressures on the state considerably.

In a sense, those who scorn the RDP as "pie in the sky" are more truthful than all of the ANC's oblique and militant rhetoric about rectifying injustice and delivering decent living standards for all. Of course drawing South Africa more closely into the imperialist web may well bring about some further capitalist development overall, but this and any material advancement offered to the black middle strata will be at the expense of intensifying the exploitation of the basic masses. It is also true that the new government can and probably will trim its top-heavy central budget to make minor improvements in the social infrastructure that is almost totally lacking for the black majority. But the idea that social welfare will be a chief and lasting priority for investment and long-term development goes against the laws of capital accumulation themselves, and this has never been the pattern in imperialist "development" of the Third World, nor its poison-lined imperialist aid packages.

In fact, the opposite is the rule. IMF and World Bank plans, which have worked their way right to the heart of current policy debate in South Africa, have consistently meant increasing misery for the overwhelming majority of the masses in the oppressed nations. In South Africa too, greater social polarization will result from these plans. The urban and rural poor may well become even more impoverished, be worked harder and forced to compete for the worst jobs. Some masses may get electricity, and some may even benefit from new "low cost" housing like the famous Soweto "matchboxes", but the idea that these black masses will have access to white standards of living or anything remotely close to that is a pipedream. More criminally for the misleaders preaching empty, phony liberation, it is a gigantic lie to the masses of Azanians.

Tightening the imperialist noose and reshaping some areas of the economy to respond to the crisis overall will also by no means automatically clean up the many remnants of feudalism that exist in various spheres of semi-colonial society and are a source of high profitability. Capitalist (and semi-feudal) exploitation in South Africa has always depended on these backward relations, both tending to modernize some aspects of them, such as introducing wage labour and machinery, but also preserving important features such as coercion, servitude, bonded labour, and subsistence survival allowing the reproduction of labourers.

In the countryside there is no minimum wage for agricultural labour, for instance, and much of it is performed by women and children earning pittance revenues. The vast capitalist operations in white commercial agriculture transform but also rely on the very backward and oppressive social relations which smack of feudalism. On some of the white-owned maize farms in the Transvaal, as just one example, it is not uncommon for migrant labourers to be rounded up in trucks for a six-month period called a "work contract" several hundred kilometres from home so they can't easily escape; they are then discharged back in their "homelands" at the end with a few bags of mealie meal as pay.

The whole system of overcrowded "homelands" has always functioned to maintain a large pool of reserve labour (enforced by influx control to prevent families from following migrant workers into urban areas) and to keep people landless so that they cannot escape from low-paid slave-like labour and return to small production. The homelands have been organized to enable people barely to subsist (the white regime's statisticians call it the "African subsistence economy") as an important part of being able to pay workers below the value of their labour throughout the South African economy - in other words the superexploitation of the Azanian masses.1

Or, take the example of the feudal "master and servant" relationship, which permeates the entire South African white colonial social structure (and not just the elite) from the "house slaves" of the Afrikaner farms, to the domestics of the posh and not-so-posh all-white suburbs. Some estimates count black domestics as 20% of the work force. These are the mostly live-in housecleaners and nannies who are forced to work all year around, live in cell-like rooms on the property of the white owners or in overcrowded hostels, and earn barely enough to send money home to help raise their families they never are allowed to see. While a common revisionist and economist view considers these women as just one type of wage worker whose conditions need to be improved through trade union pressure, this widespread "tradition" actually conceals multiple aspects of semi-feudalism, where wages barely mask master and servant social relations, including a strong superstructural and coercive component: one woman described how she had to eat scraps from the white dinner table, use her own knife, fork, and cup, and couldn't sit on any of the white people's furniture; another was fired for watching Mandela on television and still others were killed after sneaking out to vote in the recent elections. (On the rural farms, some white farmers simply used their feudal authority to take their workers' identity cards away so they couldn't vote.)

For the new government to successfully attract foreign investment means nothing but demanding greater productivity through greater exploitation of the workers, who already are paid higher than in many oppressed nations the multinationals operate in, especially in Asia and Latin America. But also it means following the requirements of "developing" what is good for the accumulation of international capital, not what the people of Azania or any other oppressed nation need. This remains a fundamental paradox of the basically nationalist view that a third, independent or pro-people road of development linked to "integrating fully into the world economy" is possible, which Mandela and the ANC ruling circles are spilling so much ink over in order to raise false hopes about reconstruction and development and to get people to support their sell-out to imperialism and the white settler class.

This "humanitarian" or reformist model of development also doesn't take into account that the imperialist system itself is undergoing a major economic crisis on a global level and the important consequences of this on the South Africa economy. While high world gold prices tended to offset this crisis in South Africa until the late 1970s, following on the heels of rapid growth with fantastically high profit rates of the 1960s, especially in manufacturing, since then South Africa's growth has steadily declined. From 1990 to 1993, the growth rate was negative, climbing to 1.5% only in 1994.

The South African capitalist class and foreign investors have never recovered from the period of destabilizing struggle of the masses starting with the Soweto rebellion in 1976. In the mid-1980s another major upsurge sent many foreign investors in search of more stable political conditions. In fact, even South African capital has left to some extent to invest in European companies, primarily in the UK and Germany, South Africa's main trading partners. While many investors stayed to weather the storms, and bypassed international sanctions in various ways, the political climate became a significant enough problem to put into jeopardy the whole future of the colonial state as it had been nurtured and bankrolled by the Western powers.

The other side of the coin of offering up the Azanian masses for more intensive exploitation to the God of Foreign Capital is the continued need for extra-economic control, that is, various forms of coercion and repression, which have always been the foundation of apartheid rule and a crucial element of superexploitation. Although a few generals have been retired from the police and army, many of the same commanders who ordered the massacres of the Azanian people, organized the assassinations of black political figures and fomented bloodletting between sections of the masses will take over and reorganize the South Africa Police and South Africa Defence Forces to be even more efficient at suppressing the masses. At present they are backed up by 80,000 reservists - all white.

The RDP goes from deceit and crime to shameful collaboration with apartheid in the field of security, with its claim of creating "peacekeeping" forces that will serve the people. The plan is to build stronger defence forces and to "integrate" some 10,000 former homeland cops, 10,000 troops from the ANC armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, and a few hundred from the PAC's APLA into the 65,000 members of the already existing repressive apparatus of the former apartheid state. How long until these former liberation movement soldiers will be convinced to shoot down rebellious youth in the townships, as Arafat's police do in the Gaza Strip?

In a similar vein, Mandela appointed his mate de Klerk to handle intelligence by heading up the reorganization of the country's secret services, also predominantly white and infamous for their hit squads and special anti-subversion units that targeted Mandela's own ANC, among others.

All crimes of a political nature committed by both blacks and whites before December 1992 are to be pardoned, and those since '92 will be decided by the new government. This announcement was met with prison riots that spread throughout the system demanding a pardon of all black "crimes", since in the land of apartheid a huge number of blacks are imprisoned on civil charges like papers violations or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which could be considered highly political. Mandela tried to defuse this movement in the prisons by knocking 6 months off the prisoners' sentences, which only provoked more struggle.

A strong defence force is of course linked to making South Africa a regional and to some extent a continental gendarme, given its overall strategic location for imperialism. There are also plans to build it as the regional economic powerhouse for Africa. Frontline states are tentatively heading into new trade deals with the South African state after years of politically sanctioning it. One of the first consequences will be the ANC's new anti-immigrant policy, in which some 2 million workers from Mozambique, Malawi, Zaïre and other neighbouring countries will be turned away at the borders.

The ensemble of changes proposed for reconstructing and developing South Africa are designed to strengthen and modernize the bondage of the Azanian people. By reorganizing the economic spheres slightly in order to attract more foreign investment these reforms would make the current system more efficient for exploitation by imperialism with the parallel result of making many of the Azanian masses even more destitute. This is accompanied by the need to organize more effective social control, both by allowing some skilled blacks into the halls of state and into the corporate elevators wearing ties instead of cleaning uniforms, and by tightening up a somewhat blacker and more "representative" state repressive machine. In short, the reforms amount to reproducing the same basic social relations with a new twist, a small opening to the black bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie.

The managers of an ailing world order who have thrown their weight behind the ANC face an underlying dilemma: how can they maintain a profitable rate of exploitation in a situation of basically insolvable global crisis and keep the political situation stable? Why do they think that their further clamping down and squeezing of the masses is not going to bring greater rebellion? Even new black officers in the state and a small black class with a "material interest" in the way society is governed can only be of short-term and limited help.

The rulers may have bought themselves some much-needed time to try to defuse mass anger, but they have also created new problems. For if illusions are fresh in a place like Azania which has never even been promised serious reforms before, still the masses of people will doubtless respond eloquently once they experience this equality and justice through an eyedropper by forcefully escalating their struggle once again.

III. Without Political Power, All is Illusion

The particular value of elections lies in their ability to portray the political system as one that depends and even thrives on the participation of all of its members, although they are given only the chance to choose between different options and candidates pre-selected for them by the ruling class. In fact, elections have the effect of reducing the mass of people, classes of people, to their entities as single individuals, so that each individual is confronted by a "personal" decision, as though he or she is exercising individually the right to influence political events in a small way. In a word, they render the masses politically passive while spreading the illusion that by making this voting choice, they share a portion of political power in society and actually have a stake in defending that.

Nothing is farther from the truth. Elections do not reflect the wielding of political power by voters, but rather the posing of the stamp of approval on the rule of the bourgeois class which they have no control over as single individuals; in fact this act amounts to consenting that the political system and status quo is not to be challenged, much less fundamentally changed. Elections are never the way essential, or even important, decisions are made about the running of society and the organization of production. They are but one tool in the toolkit of bourgeois democracy for the bourgeoisie to wield and reinforce its class dictatorship over the proletariat and oppressed classes.

In South Africa, the elections served these same purposes, and in an even more exaggerated way. By reducing the wrenching, deep problems of the black majority to a formal obstacle of being denied the "right to vote", the elections have truly performed a miracle in deception to many. By spreading the idea that people aren't free just because they haven't stood "equally" in a polling box in one of the most savage colonial situations anywhere is to make a mockery of the profound inequality and murderous grip that this system has on the masses.

Deceiving the people is the point, the special contribution of bourgeois democracy. In the oppressed nations especially, it aims to cover over to the best of its ability (sometimes a difficult act) the raw social relations and class antagonisms in society, with the goal of perpetuating the domination of the ruling apparatus, even a repainted, "multi-racial" one. Bourgeois democracy tries to mask the form that this class dictatorship assumes: by organizing constituent assemblies, elections and rewriting constitutions it aims to divert attention away from the cruel reality that this class stays in power not by a majority vote, but by mainly relying on its armed forces, along with its courts, prisons and so forth.

In South Africa this takes a particular form: because of the white supremacist society, promising "multi-racial" (or "non-racial", as some go so far as to pretend) democracy, makes it appear that racial composition is the most important element of the political superstructure. Thus when all races are allowed to vote this helps to conceal the fact that the most concentrated expression of state power is its armed force, which represents one class or another, and cannot represent the whole people, no matter what race, separate from their belonging to social classes.

In addition to the all-important role cast for the expanded privileged strata amongst Azanians, to cool out the masses and redirect their struggle into even more piecemeal democratic reforms, these forces will also be called upon to develop further ideological grounds for them and to fill in the part of the political superstructure that has been restricted in the past on the basis of racial discrimination, including in the field of sports, culture and the media, education, etc. This is of course an important aspect of keeping the masses from making revolution.

The panacea of "development" the national unity government is promoting through reliance on foreign capital is easier to sell if it has the people's consent at the ballot box. Furthermore the ANC was fully involved in drawing up and refining these policies, justifying them as what is needed for "multi-racial democracy", as bad as they taste to some of them who were reared on anti-imperialist diets. This rhetoric and the new books on the shelves will add grist to the mill that the imperialists have been running for decades in relation to the Third World.

According to this fable, the lack of development in oppressed nations like Azania is due somehow to a lack of democracy and too many backward, neanderthal-thinking, whip-cracking Boers who just haven't moved into the twentieth century. (However, the imperialists apply the same adjectives to the black puppets in their African neo-colonies, who may enjoy a less privileged position than the European settlers in South Africa, but are fully hooked into the same imperialist dependency relations.)

Imperialism's spokesmen are not prone to admitting their system has strangled and distorted these oppressed nations' economies to serve its own needs and interests, nor to conceding that their "independent" neo-colonial states in most places consist of little more than a loyal reactionary ruling class, a national flag, an army, uniforms, airport and military facilities, all of which it has moulded and financed.

The fact is that the Third World enjoys very little in the way of bourgeois democracy because this does not correspond to the form of political rule needed to carry out imperialist domination of the oppressed nations. These countries are not poor because they are undemocratic, they are undemocratic because they are poor and chained to a whole system of serving imperialism's requirements.

This has been ultra-clear in South Africa: it was the reason that the vicious terror of apartheid was adopted and protected by the Western powers (organized for them by the Nationalist Party). Up until recently it has represented the most efficient form of political rule to plunder precious minerals and other raw materials, to ensure a cheap reservoir of labour for the productive base of the economy they needed to develop to fully utilize South Africa as a profitable site of capitalist accumulation, to build up the infrastructure and a bureaucratic state to manage and facilitate these arrangements, and to stabilize and subsidize the white minority social basis that anchored apartheid.

The flip side of modernizing their army today is to spread the idea to the Azanian masses (particularly the middle and upper classes who especially want to believe it) that somehow this democracy they see in the West can be extended to them too. Revolutionaries in Azania must turn this bald untruth on its head and broadly expose it. Even in the UK, for example, which is theoretically a free and democratic environment that dispenses with some of the extra-economic controls and where semi-feudalism no longer exists, blacks of Jamaican or Pakistani origin and other oppressed minorities are treated to "first world" racism, high joblessness or the worst, low-paying jobs, poor education and public services, etc, etc. And the oppressed within the oppressed nations themselves will always suffer qualitatively more as long as these nations are dominated by imperialism.

Individuals are first and foremost members of social classes and even their "wills" are a product of their social conditions and class position. So no matter how "democratic" their intentions might be, South Africa's new black rulers, too, will have to follow and serve the logic of the class interests and system they have chosen to work within and protect.

The point is not that the new joint South African ruling class cannot grant some aspects of bourgeois democracy to some sections of the people - it can and will, like more unions and legal defence bodies, some types of political organizations, a multi-party electoral system, removal of the color bar for some people previously denied entrance to various spheres, and so on. Voting has long existed in many of imperialism's neocolonies, from Senegal to India to Mexico, without the development of much formal democracy for the masses. The point is that the oppressed nations like Azania, trapped within the confines and dictates of a settler colonial state - now aided by a small black comprador class in formation - sit on fundamentally different social relations than the rich countries.

In the rich countries, the reason the states are able to put some distance between open repression and the people is bound up with the plunder and exploitation these countries have carried out worldwide. Bourgeois democracy, then, is a luxury that the imperialist rulers have been able to offer to some sections of the people at home as a means of stabilizing their rule in their headquarters, and they use it as a means of distancing these masses from the plight of the world's people, whose pillage they indirectly benefit from; in addition this has an ideological impact, making them believe this is the natural order of things. This bourgeoisification of sections of the masses in the oppressor countries is, however, very partial and is reserved for people who are not already at the bottom of society. The imperialists are of course exploiting and oppressing these masses every day in their own countries, but this is relative in comparison to the looting and misery it brings down on the masses in the oppressed nations.

There is, however, one way in which the rich countries with their bourgeois democracy and the oppressed nations with little or none, are absolutely equal. In neither type of country do the oppressed classes and proletariat, along with rebels from other strata, have the right to challenge the bourgeoisie on the fundamental question of political power. For all the pretence of being a great equalizer and enacting the will of the people, bourgeois democracy is most emphatically in every sphere the form of political rule that corresponds to the dictatorship of one class, the bourgeoisie, allied with other reactionary classes where appropriate. Rearranging this political relationship, or entering into a contest over which class will hold this power altogether is not part of these bourgeois democratic rights and never will be.

Going after Revolutionaries

Another important reason for bringing democracy onto the agenda in South Africa is the notorious concept of a political opening. It should be clear from the past several years of demobilizing the mass struggle and trying to channel the political energy of the masses into a polling booth that this is a major function of such an opening, which tends to allow political activity in a period preceding elections and following a period where this has been formally outlawed.

A particular aspect of this is to invite the revolutionary elements to show themselves more openly, not so that the political debate is more varied and interesting, but first of all, to capture its leaders within the confines of the movement for democracy. Secondly, it is to isolate politically those who don't go along with this programme and, after identifying them, to smash them and their organizations. This is not paranoia, it is a well-known function of "democratic openings" in the oppressed nations and is based on lots of bitter experience in the history of the international communist movement, which there is no reason to repeat in Azania.

Unfortunately many of the former revolutionary nationalist forces in Azania became swept up in the negotiations trap, just as the ruling circles intended. It seems that the leadership of the Pan Africanist Congress especially met this fate, drowning politically in a quest for legitimacy and recognition in the elections race. One PAC leader said in an interview around the time of the elections, "the liberation movement was aware of what was happening to it, but never thought things would go that far". He goes on to say that they thought they could have more influence at the grassroots level, and weren't prepared for the million-dollar public opinion machines that went into operation at election time.

However, the problem here is not equal television time and election funds. The problem is why these revolutionary forces abandoned their stated aim (and basis of attracting the masses) of bringing down the colonial oppressor state and system. The PAC leadership's surrender alone was powerful ammunition to the enemy, as if to show that even some of the more radical of the left opposition movement could be bought off with the mere dangling of some parliamentary seats instead of the whole African table, as the revolutionary nationalists used to put it. And it is essential for those who want to pursue this African nationalist path that promises to re-take the land and end oppression to sum up deeply why this line and programme led into the deadly embrace of negotiations, compromise and sharing the state with the enemy.

However, such moments which bring things to a head also have the advantage of clearing the air and bringing fresh forces towards revolution in the form of dividing one into two. In the face of the PAC leadership's default, several local areas and groups of rebels refused to go along with negotiated settlements and allow the struggle of the people to be sold down the drain and are actively debating the road ahead.

The relatively widespread suctioning of the Azanian liberation movements and organizations into the negotiations process has caused some confusion and demoralization among the ranks of the revolutionary black nationalists and the masses they influence. Other forces stood firm in exposing the negotiations trap and worked to educate the masses that a totally different solution was needed. There is also some serious struggle going on and clarity emerging, since the whole elections crossroads forced people to grapple with major ideological and political questions about how to truly make revolution in Azania. And more of this is exactly what is called for. Now that the familiar semi-legal anti-apartheid movement is no longer the framework for the struggle of those rebels who genuinely want to put an end to this system, there is no better time to sum up the past lines of the liberation movements and make a thorough and radical break with the reformist road.

As Lenin said, a correct Marxist line can't be forged without struggle against incorrect lines. Revolutionaries need this kind of struggle - Maoist two-line struggle - to reach a higher resolution of the political problems holding back the Azanian revolutionary movement. The aim of such struggle is not to destroy or topple individuals who have honestly fought against the system but have wrong lines. Its aim is to destroy wrong lines among the revolutionaries' own ranks and to unite around a correct line that can lead to breakthroughs.

All ideologies are ideologies of one class or another. In the oppressed nations the national bourgeoisie naturally wants the independence of its nation but will always vacillate between revolution and counter revolution; even when sections of it decide to fight their enemy, they will fight in line with their own class outlook and interests, not those of the proletariat and masses of oppressed. Often a significant section of intellectuals who take up struggle against the system tend to adopt one form of nationalism or another. In South Africa some intellectuals have opposed forces like the ANC's wholesale capitulation to the colonial state and imperialists with a militant "African ideology". The idea that there is an independent "national" ideology created by and particular to black people corresponds to this bourgeois outlook, and it consciously resists the class stand and ideology of the proletariat even while usually borrowing ideas from Marx, Lenin or Mao.

Although progressive, and often even revolutionary-minded, this nationalist ideology is highly prone to being twisted and coopted by the big bourgeoisie and thus defeated easily by the enemy. The struggle of these forces is just, but it is not all-the-way revolutionary, and therefore its justness is only relative, in that it does not and cannot lead the most deep-seated aspirations of all the oppressed masses for total emancipation.

In Azania revolutionary nationalists have correctly refused to follow the profoundly unrevolutionary line and programme of the revisionist South African Communist Party, which has falsely posed as a representative of Marxist-Leninist ideology for a long time in South Africa. But genuine revolutionaries have as their task, as Lenin said, to distinguish real goods from counterfeit ones. And as these impostors step up to the colonial throne, Mao's call to "Seize the time, seize the hour" is right on the mark, to pick up the authentic weapons of MLM to analyze the way forward and compare the strategies and programmes of the different classes in South Africa. As the "Call to Azanians to Link up with the RIM" of several years ago stated (written during the mass upsurge of 1984-85), revolutionaries "must seek to replace the partial truths gained so far with the revolutionary science, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism".

MLM is the only ideology that can truly liberate Azania because it is the only ideology that can liberate the entire world Azania is a part of. MLM is based on the most revolutionary class in the world, the international proletariat, whose interests are to eliminate oppression and exploitation in all their forms in every country along with every manner of thinking that holds back the development of society, whether it is white supremacy, male chauvinism or any other type of backward ideas. It seems Mao has never been proven wrong when he maintained that, "In the epoch of imperialism, in no country can any other class lead genuine revolution to victory". And since the period of national liberation struggles in the oppressed nations, there is no shortage of other class forces, petit bourgeois and national bourgeois, trying shortcuts and failing, however well-intentioned they are at the outset.

Some scholars and others are objecting to the déjà vu of April 1994, as they put it, referring to the total betrayal of the Zimbabwean peasant masses who fought a war of national liberation led by revolutionary nationalists but got greater enslavement to imperialism and local vested interests rather than the agrarian revolution they were promised. They should object, but it is infinitely more useful to the revolutionary masses to sum up and repudiate the line that led in that direction. Remaining on the sidelines as left-wing critics of the ANC will not do; those serious about revolution must step forward and be serious about developing a correct line which can win.

In this light, another experiment worth understanding is the failure of Thomas Sankara's reform-minded "democratic revolution" from above in Burkina Faso, in which left-wing officers in the neocolonial army tried to seize power "for the people". Failing to rely on the peasant masses to wage a revolutionary (people's) war and to transform the countryside and society from the bottom up meant that despite some changes, the old state and social system were basically left intact. (See AWTW 10, 1988).

Azanian revolutionaries can and must get to the bottom of this problem and solve it on behalf of and in the interests of the whole international proletariat they are part of. The fresh air and possibilities to advance in the turning point of the class struggle today can provide the basis to bring forward new and better leaders, if they firmly take up the science of MLM. By deeply summing up lessons of the past and enabling the struggle today to become part of a revolutionary road that is led by a revolutionary party, then the heroism and sacrifice of the past decades of struggle will truly be able to serve the cause of Azanian emancipation.

New Democratic Revolution

The elections in South Africa, perhaps historic for the bourgeoisie because they temporarily avoided a civil war, at least have the merit for the proletariat and oppressed masses of illustrating clearly once again to those who dare to look that this is not how political power is transferred from one class to another. Elections do not represent even one step towards liberation, as many of the unenthusiastic but disoriented intermediate political forces are saying. They do mark the passing of some of the objectionable features and laws of apartheid which no one from among the people's friends and allies will mourn, but this should not be confused with the granting of any real political power to the oppressed majority.

Elections represent the changing of the old guard among the ruling class, the reorganization and tightening up of political rule over and against the masses of people, in correspondence with the times and the requirements of a colonial state and imperialist system in deep crisis.

Political power must be seized by force of arms in the velds, mountains and townships of South Africa, not by the passive act of checking a colour photo on a voting ballot. When Mao Tsetung said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, he was stating a universal truth in class-divided society: that the oppressors rule through violence and that reversing relations of the classes can only be achieved by force. This is a reality the international bourgeoisie acts on every day to maintain and expand its influence and empire - against the masses in the oppressed nations, against the masses inside the imperialist countries, to keep in line its comprador and puppet leaders scattered throughout the globe, and in the rivalry and jockeying amongst the imperialist states themselves.

In the course of developing the path of revolutionary war in China, Mao raised the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the theory of war to a qualitatively higher level. By forging and applying the strategy of protracted people's war, he showed how the people of the oppressed and relatively weaker nations can boldly be aroused to rise up to defeat powerful enemies - both imperialism and its reactionary local armed props.

Although conditions vary widely in the oppressed nations and it will be necessary to use MLM to apply people's war in Azania accordingly, it is not possible to win victory - to seize political power - without the principles of people's war. The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement document Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! emphasizes Mao's teaching that, "people, not weapons, are decisive in waging war", and that "the proletariat must forge military strategy and tactics which can bring into play its particular advantages, by unleashing and relying upon the initiative and enthusiasm of the revolutionary masses".

The overarching and key feature of people's war is that it must be led by the proletariat through its MLM party. Mao captured it like this: "If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party. Without a revolutionary party, without a party built on the Marxist-Leninist [and we add Maoist - AWTW] revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses of the people in defeating imperialism and its running dogs."

In leading the masses in China, Mao developed the strategy and path for making revolution in the oppressed nations, or New Democracy, profoundly changing history. As an alliance of progressive class forces led by the proletariat with common interests against foreign imperialism and the local reactionary classes closely linked to it, New Democracy has nothing in common with rattling a skeleton of bourgeois democracy at the masses in order to prolong the life of outmoded colonial states as the imperialists and their allies are doing today.

As applied to the conditions and class configuration in China, Mao explained,

"The new democratic revolution is part of the world proletarian socialist revolution, for it resolutely opposes imperialism, i.e. international capitalism. Politically it strives for the joint dictatorship of the revolutionary classes over the imperialists, traitors and reactionaries, and opposes the transformation of Chinese society into a society under bourgeois dictatorship. Economically, it aims at the nationalization of all the big enterprizes and capital of the imperialists, traitors and reactionaries, and the distribution among the peasants of the land held by the landlords, while preserving private [native] capitalist enterprise in general and not eliminating the rich peasant economy. Thus the new democratic revolution clears the way for [native] capitalism on the one hand and creates the prerequisites for socialism on the other. (It) is a stage of transition between the abolition of the colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal society and the establishment of a socialist society...". ("The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party," Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. 2)

In other words, the goals of the new democratic revolution are two-fold: to clear away semi-feudal exploitation and oppression and to sever ties with imperialism. This revolution has both social liberation and national liberation aspects. It is democratic because it is not yet socialist, but is a preparatory stage for entering into socialism and is carried out through a broad united front led by the proletariat, with the worker-peasant alliance at the core. While it destroys semi-feudalism, it opens the door to the development of native (in this case, Azanian) capitalism too, although it opens the door even wider to socialism. Because the proletariat and its MLM party leads the new democratic revolution, it will not allow and does not need full development of capitalism which would lead to bourgeois dictatorship and to being trapped again in the imperialist net.

In a country like colonial South Africa, in which capitalism has thoroughly penetrated and dominated the economy, including the commercial agriculture sector, important aspects of semi-feudalism still persist in the countryside in relations between the white landowning class and the oppressed and landless Azanian majority, as well as the transposition of this through the creation of obligatory African "homelands", where only misery-level subsistence production is possible (and for a minority at that).

These aspects of precapitalist forms of exploitation and the social relations and ideas that accompany them - such as white supremacy blended with feudal authority over the lives and deaths of the rural black toiling masses in a myriad of ways in the "white" rural areas, and, in the "black" areas, the way the old tribal-based administrative structures so useful to the white regime controlled the masses in the "homelands" and held the "purse strings to state money" as well as the power to allocate plots of land there2 - cannot be wiped out without passing through this first, new democratic stage of the revolution, in which the poor and landless peasants and poor rural masses in general of the oppressed nation are allowed to themselves become small private producers through carrying out agrarian revolution.

This is the only way to uproot feudalism, and on the basis of leveling land ownership more advanced forms of production relations such as collectivization can be introduced.

Discussing the material basis for the New Democratic Revolution going over to socialist revolution, the Proletarian Party of Purba Bangla's (PBSP) study (AWTW 7, 1986) of people's war in today's situation explains, "By completely eliminating imperialism and comprador-bureaucrat capitalism and nationalising all their wealth and capital, a long stride towards socialist transformation of a major part of the country's capital and industry takes place, because in such countries the imperialists and bureaucrat capitalists own the majority."

As Mao pointed out, New Democracy is not a strategy to develop capitalism in the oppressed nations, but a necessary stage to pave the way for further, socialist transformation in the second stage of the revolution.

One-stage "Shortcuts"

It has been common among Azanian liberation groups (again in part thanks to the SACP's revisionist version of two-stage revolution, which could neither lead to national liberation nor socialism) to develop one-stage theories that plan to skip to the "struggle for socialism". This has several variations, from those who announce they are shortening the path to liberation and dispensing with allowing capitalism to develop, which they say is after all the source of the problem, to those who pose as very "left" in appearance and "combine" the national struggle into the class struggle and thus jettison the national liberation phase.

Although for the most part this is not consciously the result of embracing a Trotskyist tendency to eliminate the great differences between the oppressed and oppressor nations, it does lean in that direction because it ignores or downplays the actual class forces and class relations within the oppressed nation, which are, again, very different than those in the developed capitalist countries and can't be understood, much less transformed in a revolutionary way, by treating them as though they are the same. Fundamentally, this approach dodges the colonial problem and therefore cannot solve it. Furthermore, it leads to "workerist" views that reduce all social problems to the narrow domain of the fight between the capitalist boss and the industrial worker and translates into economist and reformist political programmes that aim only to improve these conditions of the sale of labour in the workplace, with lots of rhetoric about national discrimination.

This is linked to a long habit of mainly urban-based petit bourgeois classes, from which the radical intelligentsia in society always emerges, to see only the urban environment and class conflicts, and usually with quite a limited vision at that. In Azania too, as some African scholars and political forces have pointed out, there has been this same tendency to base political programmes for ending colonial domination and for socialism on only a partial analysis of the class forces, neglecting especially those in the rural areas.

This one-stage reduction of revolution to what is called "democratic socialism" based on single-minded preoccupation with the conditions of the urban working class is a deadly scheme for sidestepping the colonial and semi-feudal question and thus robbing the proletariat and its allies of their only chance to unite all who can be united against imperialism and its local props to carry out a revolutionary war and seize political power: in other words, to win.

The disciples of one-stage theories then not only drop national liberation from their agenda, but also the "socialist" revolution itself, because it becomes impossible. It is hardly a surprize that nowhere in the history of the class struggle of the entire planet has such a line, intentionally put forward by Trotskyists (or armed revisionists), ever led to even a serious attempt at revolution. But it has served to derail the mass struggle and sow confusion among honest revolutionary-minded forces.

Practically speaking, this line leads to steering the better-off urban workers in more socialized production straight into narrow trade-union battles. Instead of being able to give far-sighted proletarian (communist) leadership to all the powerful eruptions of struggle of youth and other strata of society against all the abuse of colonial rule and national oppression as it comes down on them everyday, and instead of marshalling these eruptions as a source of strength for the proletariat's revolutionary strategy to defeat imperialism and local reactionary classes, such short-sighted "socialists" wind up in the dust many kilometres behind (and thus completely unable to lead) the mass struggle.

It is a short step from there to abandoning any pretence of overthrowing the state and making revolution, and preferring to settle for being a permanent reformist legal opposition force and - why not - playing around with the terms of this by entering into and pulling out of negotiations, running candidates for elections and generally sinking into bourgeois politics altogether, even if with a noisy and radical leftist twist, which is always the currency in the Third World countries where a revolutionary situation more or less permanently exists, with ebbs and flows.

Land as a Central Demand

The cry for land in Azania comes from deep within the heart of the oppressed people, but it is entirely rooted in the material underpinnings of colonial society. Settler colonialist rule harnessed to imperialism is based on the takeover of the land as a whole - the nation of Azania itself - not just the pastures and croplands stolen for white agricultural production. The land question in Azania concentrates a faultline of the whole ensemble of colonial relations between oppressor and oppressed: from the monopolization of the land through force by dispossessing and excluding the Azanian people to prevent them from being individual (and collective) producers in order to corral a huge labour force, to influx controls regulating the movement of labour in and out of restricted "white" areas, to the wholesale pillaging of the land's natural resources. The control of land, in other words, along with the control of the other means of production, is decisive in the enslavement and exploitation of the Azanian nation and the labour of its people.

The particular logic of this form of settler colonization - holding captive an entire subjugated nation - has an important consequence for the class struggle of the proletariat and oppressed masses against their enemies. Namely, that uprooting the colonial system and solving the national question will not be possible without solving the land question that is completely bound up with it.

The land question is not simply a feature of the democratic struggle against feudalism, but it is closely linked with the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle of the Azanian people. A deeper understanding of this question depends on investigation by Azanian Maoists of the specific forms of semi-feudalism in the countryside and how they interpenetrate with colonial relations.3

The purpose of a proletarian-led agrarian revolution among the landless rural masses with the worker-peasant alliance as its cornerstone is exactly to smash the old ownership system, to uproot both the colonial and semi-feudal backward superstructure and base and to carry out the policy of "land to the tiller". Land is distributed by the individual and not by the family, itself handing a powerful blow to old patriarchal property relations. This will be an important factor in Azania, where the system of migrant labour has frequently broken up marriages and left women landless, as heads of family.

The key question is how is the land obtained. The bourgeoisie in every country carries out land reform and distributes some land - from above, and on their own terms. But agrarian revolution can only be carried out in a revolutionary way and land cannot be granted as partial or charitable reforms. The proletariat arouses the peasants and oppressed masses to rise up from below through protracted people's war to seize the land as part of taking political power and protecting it.

Overwhelmingly the situation in South Africa today is characterized by one in which black labour is coerced, within the overall colonial and semi-feudal framework of society even while production relations are heavily capitalist. The very social organization of colonization, which incorporates precapitalist modes and forms of oppression forces black labour to compete to be superexploited. These conditions constantly give rise to the sentiment for land amongst the oppressed masses in general. This will objectively continue to occur even though this situation - in which imperialism and settler capitalism have brought about an advanced degree of landlessness, enforced the prevention of peasant production, and provoked the forced urbanization and struggle for survival that has resulted in South Africa, like much of the Third World - has the misleading appearance of creating one huge mass of urban dwellers, detached and cut off from the land and small-scale private ownership and production. In fact the situation is one in which a large proletariat and even larger semi-proletariat are both objectively and subjectively attached to the land.

The fact that liberating land and labour is the most basic economic means of empowering a subjugated nation to break the hold of foreign capital on the lifelines of the economy objectively pushes the land question constantly to the fore. This is connected to the necessity and ability of the new democratic society to break away from imperialism by building a solid new independent national economy based on the destruction of the old social relations. Although a sizeable minority of South Africa's population - the reactionary exploiting class and its social base, in the main - are well-fed and healthy, the Azanian majority is not, and the proletarian-led revolutionary state must make feeding them and solving basic health and water problems, for example, its immediate priorities. In fact, as the Communist Party of Peru has recently demonstrated (and the Communist Party of China under Mao's leadership before them), it is necessary and possible to lead the revolutionary masses to carry out this aspect of the agrarian revolution in the liberated areas before the nationwide seizure of power is achieved.

The Maoist manual on socialist political economy (commonly referred to as the Shanghai Textbook4) drives home the point that agricultural production is a "precondition for the survival of human beings" and for "the independent existence and further development of the other branches of the national economy".

Instead of mainly producing for export as Mandela & ANC Ltd. propose today, a self-reliant national economy would initially reorient industry to produce for the basic needs of the masses and to serve a more diversified and planned agriculture to feed both the rural poor and huge poor urban or semi-urban townships.

For example, just who in Azania needs diamonds and gold? Or, put more controversially, when the God of Foreign Exchange is slain, why would the oppressed classes and proletariat want to mine any more gold than is necessary for basic dental health? In other words, the revolution will have to go much further than just nationalising some industries which are parasitical or useless to the labouring masses, either by shutting them down or completely reorienting them in the service of a proletarian-led national economy.


The key to carrying out a new democratic revolution is the independent role of the proletariat and its ability, through its Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Party, to lead. The Maoist Party, as the 1984 Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement states, "must arm the proletariat and the revolutionary masses not only with an understanding of the immediate task of carrying through the new democratic revolution and the role and conflicting interests of different class forces, friend and foe alike, but also of the need to prepare the transition to the socialist revolution and of the ultimate goal of worldwide communism."

To develop a revolutionary line and programme will require the thoroughgoing and scientific application of the revolutionary principles of MLM to the ensemble of particular conditions of Azania today, including its class composition, the form imperialist domination takes and South Africa's geopolitical position. Many questions must be delved into deeply - not academically - but with the urgency of rallying the best and most serious revolutionary forces around a basic line and programme with a view to forming an MLM party that can begin to lead the process of new democratic revolution, and make preparations to launch protracted people's war.5

Even within the country itself there are great differences and particularities between regions and between town and countryside, for example, which the Azanian Maoists must come to understand well. The complexity of the countryside especially must not be shied away from, but rather approached by the Maoist method of taking one-third first, carrying out investigation and answering decisive questions, which will enable revolutionaries to make initial conclusions, and then later go back to refine and deepen their first basic analysis.

This is not separate from preparing for new democratic revolution and people's war. As the Declaration insists, the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party must be built in conjunction with carrying out revolutionary work among the masses, implementing a revolutionary mass line and addressing and resolving the pressing political questions which will help the revolutionary movement to advance, as well as carrying out continuing active ideological struggle to strengthen its ranks against bourgeois and petit bourgeois influences. But neither is this a race to build a mass party: a party based on MLM organizational principles will necessarily be relatively small at first. It must also take organizational steps to build itself in such a way that the enemy cannot uproot it. That is to say, the MLM party in Azania, where repression is openly and covertly a full-time preoccupation of the crisis-ridden reactionary state, must be organized carefully, secretly and very seriously with the goal of not just starting, but developing and winning a protracted people's war and carrying through revolution to the end.

If the mass revolutionary struggle has temporarily ebbed due in no small part to the intoxicating effect of the elections, the new state is scrambling to prove it was worth electing, for they know well this period of waiting and watching will not last long. The South African rulers have a big problem - what they are proposing to give up or develop will not deeply change the Azanian masses' lives and it will take time even to build up the new black buffer class to tell them to keep the faith. As one reader wrote AWTW, "there is lots of dissatisfaction and heavy criticisms are laid on the ANC. The youth are very active and fast to realize the capitulation of the new government". They also pointed out that things are not always as they seem. Whilst "the regime used the uncritical masses to overthrow the reactionary bantustan leaders in order to rally support for the elections, the masses in Bophuthatswana saw no problem when repossessing what they believed to be historically theirs. That was their understanding of freedom."

The masses will inevitably be thrown back into struggle against the renovated state presiding over the same murderous system. They have plenty of experience from which to understand that in reality the bourgeois state is the exact opposite of what Mandela claimed - a servant of the people - and that instead it is basically "a machine for keeping down the oppressed, exploited class", as Engels aptly defined it. The sooner they can do away with it, the better. But the bigger question is, will the revolutionaries be preparing this time to lead them to do it?