27 October 2007

Thabo Mbeki Power Outage

President Thabo Mbeki has his own, revised, idea of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). In his “President’s letter” this week he refers to its goals and objectives, which he then immediately conflates with the original Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) of 1994. This document has also been revised in his memory. The President wants us to think that the RDP has been satisfied if, by statistical measure, today can somehow be shown to be a little better than yesterday. The ever-greater gap between the ruling billionaires and the poor, and the consequent continuing domination of rich over poor in South Africa, has washed itself out of his conscience, along with the real NDR and RDP.

The RDP actually said: “Development is not about the delivery of goods to a passive citizenry”

The President then goes on the attack, with this: “The entirely false argument that sought to portray GEAR as an ANC betrayal of the working people has resurfaced in the recent past under the label of a so-called ‘1996 class project’. The shameless fabrications advanced under this label have sought to discredit our movement in the eyes of the masses of our people, to prepare for its political defeat.”

This is a reference to the SACP, although the President is too ashamed to say so directly. In the days of Marx and Engels, and up to the time of Lenin’s death, political argument was openly directed at named individuals and organisations. From the time of Stalin it has often been conducted in cowardly and dangerous code, such as the President is here using to float the outrageous, demagogic suggestion that the SACP is plotting the movement’s defeat.

The President is undoubtedly manoeuvreing in preparation for an attack on the SACP at the ANC National Conference in December. So let us pick up the Polokwane debate from where we left off.

In South Africa, a class alliance of workers, peasants and petty bourgeois (this is “the movement”) is still striving to construct a popular power that can stand up against the monopoly bourgeoisie. This big bourgeoisie keeps a stranglehold on South African wealth and resources, as it has done since the end of the Anglo-Boer War more than a century ago, and it is determined to frustrate the coming ascendancy of the popular masses, correctly called socialism.

Our popular class alliance is a mass phenomenon, or it is nothing. If it has no reality at the level of “the street”, then it does not exist. Yet it needed to take an institutional form. The first form that it took was the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) of the 1920s. This vast movement collapsed when it expelled the communists from its ranks. From that time (c.1928) onwards, the main institutional vehicle for anti-monopoly class alliance in South Africa has been the African National Congress.

A class alliance of workers, peasants and petty bourgeois has necessarily to be led by the working class. This is because the other component classes no longer have any possibility of creating viable class organisations of their own. The last substantial peasant power to raise its flag in South Africa was the “Mountain” of the Pondoland rebellion (its name echoing that of the peasant party of the French revolution), nearly half a century ago, documented by Thabo Mbeki’s father, Govan Mbeki (Pictured above. See also the documents linked below).

The petty-bourgeoisie, which is an urban peasantry, has never had a satisfactory party of its own in South Africa. Even its attempts at rudimentary self-protection (e.g. NAFCOC, FABCOS) are periodically devastated by downward raids from big-money interests.

The working class is now the only available leader of our class alliance and it is well suited to the task, because of its organising ability and experience, and because of the well-developed theoretical basis upon which it is able to draw. The leadership role of the working class is a living fact in South Africa, and the class alliance has an institutional existence as the ANC. It is not correct to say that the alliance is led by the ANC. This is obscurantism. An alliance cannot lead itself. It has no existence separate from its component parts.

Since the ANC is already an alliance, the concept of a further superstructural, institutional layer, now called the ”Tripartite Alliance”, is redundant. It brings no extra meaning, but only serves as a vehicle for even more obscurantism. On top this shaky superstructure, the building of a third layer is now proposed, namely the so-called “Alliance Pact”.

Greed could tempt us into thinking that as the working class we have, in the “Tripartite Alliance”, three voices where in the ANC itself we only had one (even if it was the leading one). But instead of giving the working class two extra institutional votes (as autonomous COSATU and as autonomous SACP), the “Tripartite Alliance” concept has in practice diluted the working-class role, by raising up the ANC to the status of a power in itself, and after that, by giving it possession of the executive, or government, within our de facto South African bourgeois state.

If the ANC has become a power in itself, as opposed to simply being the institutional expression of a real popular class alliance at street level, then who owns it? The ANC has become available for ownership by the historic enemy of the masses, the monopoly bourgeoisie. Proximity between the institutional ANC and the monopoly bourgeoisie within state circles has accelerated this process.

The big bourgeoisie may well encourage the idea of an “Alliance Pact”, because it leaves the door open for them to enter the alliance as the “sponsors” of the ANC. The new, corporatist ANC “Strategy and Tactics” document is well designed to facilitate exactly this kind of coup d’etat.

From his own standpoint of attempting the “load-shedding” of the popular power, in favour of the technocratic ANC that he has tried to shape for service to the big bourgeoisie, Thabo Mbeki has correctly identified the SACP as his main stumbling block. The attack on the SACP will continue and intensify during the coming months. It will come from all quarters, and not only from the President’s office.

Click on these links:

Chiefs in the Saddle, C8, The Peasants' Revolt, Govan Mbeki, 1964 (5747 words)

Resistance and Rebellion, C9, The Peasants' Revolt, Govan Mbeki, 1964 (8638 words)


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