22 January 2010

What is a Strategic Political Centre? - Ramatlhodi

What constitutes the strategic Political Centre?

Ngoako Ramatlhodi, Viewpoint, ANC Today, 22 January 2010

We do not need to know that we exist in order to exist. However, we need to exist first before we can know that we exist. In other words, the objective reality is out there whether we are aware of it or not. This objective world shapes the subjective reality that it authors in the first instance. On the other hand, the subjective reality is capable of influencing, and indeed does in fact influence the objective reality, albeit within the limitations imposed by objective reality.

In political terms, the objective reality of South Africa is that of a country ruled under conditions of colonialism of a special type, otherwise known as apartheid. Colonialism of a special type occurs when the ruler and the ruled occupy the same territory, as opposed to classical colonialism where a colony is administered by a designated authority on behalf of a foreign power. Before 1910 South Africa was a classical colony of Great Britain. Britain created colonialism of a special type when political power was transferred to the white minority settlers, to the exclusion of the black majority.

The most glaring characteristic feature of this colonial rule is the total exclusion of blacks in general and, the African majority in particular, from political power. Accordingly, the strategic objective of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) is the liberation of black people in general and Africans in particular, regardless of their class affiliations. As a national group standing to gain most from a victorious NDR, blacks constitute the principal motive force for the national democratic revolution. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the defeat of colonialism and apartheid rule.

The African majority, conscious of the most brutal repression against themselves formed the African National Congress (ANC) as a movement which would spearhead the struggle against that oppression. The Indians and Coloureds, suffering similar but not the same degree of oppression, organised themselves into the Indian Congress and Coloured People's Congress respectively. Progressive whites, mainly members of the then banned Communist Party, organised themselves into the Congress of Democrats. All these Congresses formed the Congress Movement which adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955, under the recognised and accepted leadership of the ANC, thus giving organisational form to the African leadership of the NDR.

The principal task of the ANC at its formation was the unification of the African tribes in the first instance and the unification of black people in general, and to form them into a formidable national liberation movement. This is true today as it was true in 1912. Pixy I ka Seme one of the founding fathers of the ANC says that much when he calls for the end to animosities that exist between AmaZulu, AbeSotho, AmaShangane and any other nation. He says this as he mobilises for the Native National Congress. It is important to restate this history so as not to falter on platforms of false debates.

In both theoretical and revolutionary practice South African revolutionaries have historically settled the debate of the leadership of the NDR in favour of the ANC. These generations of revolutionaries have premised their conclusions on a thorough analysis of both the subjective and objective factors. The correctness of the strategy and tactics based on this analysis has repeatedly been confirmed by the advances made and continues to be made by the NDR. In terms of national liberation from colonialism, Africans constitute the principal motive force. This debate, as illustrated is settled for all times. This is the national leg of the NDR.

I now propose to pay specific attention to the working class struggles as part of the national struggle for liberation. As the most developed capitalist economy on the continent, South Africa has the largest working class in Africa. In political terms, this class qualifies to be characterised as a class in itself. In other words, it exists as a class distinct from other classes by virtue of the fact that it depends on the sale of its labour for existence. This class has interest in its own liberation from class exploitation. Under the leadership of the South African Communist Party (SACP) it is leading the struggle for socialism as route towards a classless society which is communism. In prosecuting the class struggle, and understanding the strategic objectives of that struggle, it becomes a class for itself. In other words, as a class for itself the working class is leading the struggle for socialism.

Why then, does the working class become part of the national liberation? Put differently, what is it that compels the working class to participate in national liberation struggles given its separate and distinct interests from other classes fighting for national liberation? The answer to this question is most definitely the key to answering the question, as to why the ANC is not only the leader of the revolutionary alliance but also the Strategic Political Centre of Power.

In South Africa, the objective reality is that the overwhelming majority of the working class are blacks. Seeing that these blacks are not only oppressed as a class but also a nation, they have a fundamental and real interest in the defeat of colonialism. This constitutes a unity of interest in one people, as black members of the working class do not cease to be black merely because they are workers. Similarly, they do not cease to be workers because they are black. They therefore, have same interests in defeating apartheid as they have in ending capitalism. As a result, they feel comfortable in the ANC as they feel comfortable in the SACP. On the other hand, non-communists blacks would not necessary feel at home in the SACP.

At this stage it is important to point out the fact that, not all workers believe in socialism. However, history has shown that the majority of black workers are prepared to die for the national liberation. In this case national liberation takes precedent over the socialist revolution. This should not surprise any one, as we are not born with political consciousness. This consciousness is introduced into individuals through a process of political education and actual participation in the struggle itself.

It is simpler to explain national oppression to the majority who can relate to it through raw experience. Still it is easier to form workers into a trade unions rather than recruiting them into the vanguard Party of the working class. For the Party to discharge its historic role of leading a socialist revolution it must be composed of the most politically advanced elements of society.

Secondly, the working class needs to mobilise other class forces in the struggle against the capitalist. Failure to do so could lead to the similar fate suffered by the French Revolution where a victorious working class revolution failed to mobilise the peasants in a common struggle against feudalism. Feudal Lords took advantage of this strategic blunder and mobilised the peasants against the revolution they would have gained from, objectively speaking. The basic lesson from the French Revolution is that in prosecuting the struggle, the working class must give the leadership and act in unity with other forces that have interest in change, even if the change sought by those other forces falls short of the objectives of a socialist revolution.

Proceeding from this premise, it should not be too difficult to understand why the ANC, as broad church is the only organisation capable of accommodating all these motive forces in the prosecution of the NDR. What makes this possible is the fact that all of them stand to gain materially from the victory of the NDR regardless of the fact that they conscious of that fact or not. The working class's participation in the national liberation struggle provides it with the opportunity to be part of the forces that ended apartheid whilst it continues, simultaneously to prosecute the struggle for socialism. As members of the black majority, black workers gain national liberation together with other black people. National liberation is actually the strategic objective of the NDR.

We are discussing the ANC as a leader and strategic political centre of the NDR a decade and half since the transfer of formal political power to the black majority. Colonialism of a special type therefore does not exist in the same old form as the days before the 1994 break through. The real challenge, therefore, is to carefully study and to understand the actual substantive material changes that have occurred in our society. In this regard the objective should be to determine whether the NDR has achieved its strategic objective, namely, the liberation of black people in general and Africans in particular.

It is here argued that the change that has occurred has hardly altered the fundamentally unequal relations between the white nation and the black nation. All social and economic indicators point to the growth of disparities in favour of the white nation who are now happy to have surrendered political management of the country to black people whilst holding on to all other leavers power. In this regard, we can look at the ownership of land, the ownership of factories and the banks, the schools and universities that produce the best results in the country. These are just few illustrations of the fact that the strategic objectives of the NDR are far from being achieved. So we have not yet arrived, if we distil content from form.

Given the objective reality just described, one is bound to argue for the continued relevance of the NDR. The motive forces of this revolution cannot afford to change roles at this stage, because that would be suicidal. In this regard, the principal task of the Revolutionary Political Centre is to continue nation building by uniting all forces for change around principled and continuous transformatory project. For this to happen, the ANC must at all times work for maximum unity within its own ranks as it mobilises the masses of our people to continue the struggle for deeper democracy and true emancipation. At the same time the ANC must consciously and determinedly work for the maximum unity of the Revolutionary Alliance.

All components recognising the importance of mobilising and strengthening other components all these components must accept the objective contradiction that must be resolved by a victorious NDR. A full and proper understanding of this will enable all components to understand the reason why the strategic political leadership falls squarely on the shoulders of the ANC.

SANCO emerged as an alternative to apartheid administration. As popular struggles overthrew apartheid councils, the people created they own popular organs of administration. We characterised these as organs of people's power. There was need for a national body to coordinate these community-based organisations. So SANCO was born and became the fourth member of the revolutionary Alliance. The relevance of SANCO is sustained by the fact that local struggles are necessary to deepen democracy and ensure that democratically elected councils provide for the basic needs of the respective communities. In other words SANCO represents the social conscience of the community in the Alliance.

The leadership of the NDR is defined and born out of the objective reality of a colonialism of a special type. It is not born out of bright ideas. So, it cannot be claimed, it must be subjected to realities of the situation it seeks to change. In this case, a multi class organisation the ANC must be strengthened as a leader of the NDR.

As proven time and again, the Revolutionary Alliance as composed of the ANC, SACP, COSATU and SANCO is the broad platform which enables all revolutionaries to participate fully. This alliance is the most formidable weapon in the hands of all our people. Accordingly, the second revolutionary task of the ANC is to defend the alliance and to ensure that each component is strong and matured enough to bring its own strength to the table.

In particular, the ANC must do all it can to support the party's programmes especially political education. The NDR needs a strong and matured communist party to assist the process of delivering the revolution to its logical conclusion. Without such a party the NDR is likely to lose its very soul. Similarly, without a strong COSATU and SANCO the NDR is likely to loose its social consciousness.

Perhaps the most daunting task lies with the SACP in that it is expected to provide political clarity on many issues confronting our revolution in daily struggles ad the vanguard party of the working class. What makes its task even more daunting is the fact that it has to earn its leadership of the revolution by subjecting itself to the objective reality that bestows the mantle of the strategic political centre to a multi class ANC.

·        Ngoako Ramatlhodi is an ANC NEC member


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