28 April 2011

National-Scale Democracy

National Democratic Revolution, Part 3

Worker-Peasant Monument, Moscow

National-Scale Democracy

We have founded this study of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) on the practical necessity, as well as the historical fact, of class alliance, and most pointedly on Lenin’s report to the 2CCI on 26 July 1920, on the National and Colonial Question.

A class alliance, or in other words a popular front or a unity-in-action, was always necessary for the defeat of colonialism. Such class alliances were successfully put together in many countries, including South Africa, as the tactical road to strategic political independence.

Such an alliance is what is broadly known as a National Liberation Movement. What the movement is supposed to do is called the National Democratic Revolution. As much as it was nationalist, the anti-colonial liberation movement was equally international in character. The Worker-Peasant Alliance (hammer and sickle) is not just a Russian thing. It is universal.

The NDR’s international dimension is solidarity with the National Liberation struggles of others, in the common fight against Imperialism.

Expansion of democracy

The National Democratic Revolution’s national dimension was the enlargement of democracy. This the Imperialists invariably opposed with divide-and-rule schemes of provincial federation, regionalism, “Balkanisation” et cetera. Hence the continuing struggle against Provincialism, and the on-going defence of Provincialism by the reactionary remnants in our country, South Africa, today.

We now need to look specifically at the expansion of democracy to the national level. Why? Because for revolutionary purposes the entire working class, and the entirety of the allied classes, must unite all of their potential support, in numerical, and in territorial terms. This is a practical necessity, if the liberation forces are to defeat the well-concentrated class enemy which is the monopoly and Imperialist-allied bourgeoisie.

The battle to spread democracy to the farthest corners of the country, and to the whole population in terms of class, race and gender, is also the battle against regional and ethnic chauvinism. This effort aims to create a centralised parliamentary democracy, or democratic republic, even if, as Lenin pointed out in the report to the 2CCI, such a democratic republic can only be bourgeois in nature, at first.

The structure of parliamentary democracy (i.e. the democratic republic) is the organising scheme within which the polity at the national scale is conceived and arranged. It is not sufficient in itself. It is a shell that must be populated with organised elements, elements which must also be extended to the national scale, just as much as the parliamentary franchise is.

Among these organised elements are:

  • The mass movement of national liberation
  • The vanguard party of the working class
  • The national (industrial) trade unions and their national centre
  • Class-conscious national media of communication
  • Many mass organisations at the national level, including Womens’ and Youth organisations.

Communists can be found organising, educating and mobilising, as is their duty according to the SACP Constitution, in all of these areas, and this has been the case throughout the 90 years of the Party’s life. The texts that are collected together in the linked document below clearly demonstrate that the communists, even before the formation of the Party, were concerned with the extension of organisation to all parts of the population.

Early years of the Communist Party of South Africa and the ANC

The main linked document, which is itself a compilation, shows that one predominately-white precursor of the Party was acutely aware that its own aspirations could not be fulfilled unless the Black Proletariat was mobilised to take the lead in the struggle. This was the International Socialist League. It, like Lenin, had opposed the Imperialist war that broke out in 1914. It was later to become a component part of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) on its formation in 1921. “No Labour Movement without the Black Proletariat,” it said.

After its 1921 formation, the Party quickly became predominantly black in membership, and the black cadres soon exercised a leading role in mass organisations, of which the biggest, in the 1920s, was the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU), formed in 1919. [Note: The (white) Labour Party had been formed in 1908, and the African National Congress in 1912.]

The expulsion of communists from the ICU, and in particular of J.A. (Jimmy) La Guma, ICU General Secretary; E.J. Khaile, ICU Financial Secretary and John Gomas, Cape Provincial Secretary, was a set-back for the working class and as it turned out, it was fatal for the ICU. This episode is recorded in the first linked document, below.

In 1927 Josia Gumede was elected ANC President and travelled to meet the top leadership of the Soviet Union. That year was the tenth anniversary of the Russian revolution. He travelled with Jimmy La Guma, a member of the party, secretary of an ANC branch in Cape Town and recently expelled leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). La Guma was expelled by the ICU together with E.J Khaile for being communists. In that very same year Khaile was elected Secretary-General of the ANC at its national conference in 1927.

The CPSA and the ANC drew closer together, though not without problems. But the alliance was endorsed by the Sixth Comintern Congress in the famous “Black Republic Thesis” resolution, which said among others:

“The Party should pay particular attention to the embryonic national organisations among the natives, such as the African National Congress. The Party, while retaining its full independence, should participate in these organisations, should seek to broaden and extend their activity…

“In the field of trade union work the Party must consider that its main task consists in the organisation of the native workers into trade unions as well as propaganda and work for the setting up of a South African trade union centre embracing black and white workers.

“The Communist Party cannot confine itself to the general slogan of Let there be no whites and no blacks'. The Communist Party must understand the revolutionary importance of the national and agrarian questions.

“A correct formulation of this task and intensive propagation of the chief slogan of a native republic will result not in the alienation of the white workers from the Communist Party, not in segregation of the natives, but, on the contrary, in the building up of a solid united front of all toilers against capitalism and imperialism.”

In the first of the linked documents, the Comintern resolution is followed by the famous Cradock Letter written by Moses Kotane in 1934, five years before he became General Secretary of the Party. It called for the “Africanisation or Afrikanisation” of the CPSA, something that had clearly not yet fully taken place in 1934, which was also five years after the adoption of the “Black Republic Thesis”.

The next linked document is the chapter on “Socialism and Nationalism” from Jack Simons and his wife Ray Alexander’s 1969 book, “Class and Colour”. It contains a wealth of detail about the period from the latter part of the inter-Imperialist war (The Great War) of 1914 to 1918 and it mentions many of the active personalities in the years before and after the formation of the CPSA (i.e. roughly from 1917 to 1930).

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

12 April 2011

Gramsci and "The Southern Question"

National Democratic Revolution, Part 2b

The Southern Question

It is a mistake to treat Antonio Gramsci’s contribution to political thought as substantially separated in time, or in content, from that of Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik revolutionary internationalists who were Gramsci’s contemporaries. Gramsci was in Moscow in 1922 and 1923 and met and married his wife there. As a representative of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), he was familiar with the workings of the Comintern.

Lenin died in 1924. Gramsci was imprisoned by the Italian fascists in November, 1926, and was not released until just before his death, eleven years later, in 1937.

The unfinished 1926 document “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” is the last that Gramsci wrote before his incarceration. To understand its relevance to the National Democratic Revolution, one can begin with the beginning of its third paragraph, where Gramsci says:

“The Northern bourgeoisie has subjugated the South of Italy and the Islands, and reduced them to exploitable colonies…”

Northern Italy, where there are many great cities (including Turin, home of the giant Fiat company) was by the first quarter of the twentieth century “developed” in much the same way as France, Germany and England were. But south of Rome, and on the large Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily, the people lived very differently. In many ways the situation resembled the “Colonialism of a Special Type” that was maturing in South Africa in the same period. Colonised and colonisers were present in the same territory.

The Italian Southerners were even subjected to racial contempt, such that, as Gramsci records: “It is well known what kind of ideology has been disseminated in myriad ways among the masses in the North, by the propagandists of the bourgeoisie: the South is the ball and chain which prevents the social development of Italy from progressing more rapidly; the Southerners are biologically inferior beings, semi-barbarians or total barbarians, by natural destiny…” and so on.

As a communist, Gramsci naturally advocated “the political alliance between Northern workers and Southern peasants, to oust the bourgeoisie from State power.” He follows this bare formulation with many fascinating incidences and details about the class structure and class dynamics of Italy at the time and during the preceding three decades, which had included the First World War and the subsequent rise of Mussolini’s fascists. Gramsci accompanies these narratives with an exceptional sensitivity towards the role of intellectuals, whom he comes close to treating as a distinct class.

Gramsci writes: “Intellectuals develop slowly, far more slowly than any other social group, by their very nature and historical function. They represent the entire cultural tradition of a people, seeking to resume and synthesize all of its history. This can be said especially of the old type of intellectual: the intellectual born on the peasant terrain. To think it possible that such intellectuals, en masse, can break with the entire past and situate themselves totally upon the terrain of a new ideology, is absurd. It is absurd for the mass of intellectuals, and perhaps it is also absurd for very many intellectuals taken individually as well - notwithstanding all the honourable efforts which they make and want to make.”

Yet Gramsci regards this intellectual break as crucial, saying: “This is gigantic and difficult, but precisely worthy of every sacrifice on the part of those intellectuals - from North and South - who have understood that only two social forces are essentially national and bearers of the future: the proletariat and the peasants.”

This introduction has included a lot of quotations, so as to assist readers to navigate through this text in between the many unfamiliar names that are there.

The simple lesson is the same as that of Lenin and the Comintern: Class Alliance will solve the National Question. The Democratic Revolution is a prerequisite for the building of socialism. This is the nature of the National Democratic Revolution.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

11 April 2011

Congress of the Peoples of the East

National Democratic Revolution, Part 2a

First international anti-Imperialist congress, 1920

The 2CCI was followed within two months by the famous “Congress of the Peoples of the East”, in Baku, convened by the Communist International in what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan [Picture: delegates to the Congress of the Peoples of the East]. Its manifesto (click the link below) makes very clear the strategic confrontation that existed following the end of hostilities, and the effective and menacing British Imperial victory, as they saw it.

This was the first international congress of oppressed nations against colonialism. It effectively launched the anti-colonial struggle on a new basis that bore major fruit less than thirty years later in the 1940s, with the independence of India and the victory of the communist revolutionaries in China.

In 1920, the First World War (the Inter-Imperialist World War) had only recently come to an end. The congress said:

“Peoples of the East! Six years ago there broke out in Europe a colossal, monstrous slaughter…

“It was fought for the partition of the world, and chiefly for the partition of Asia, of the East. It was fought to decide who was to rule over the countries of Asia and whose slaves the peoples of the East should be. It was fought to decide whether the British or the German capitalists should skin the peasants and workers of Turkey, Persia and Egypt.”

The conference manifesto goes on to detail the threat that the victorious British posed towards the Peoples of the East in their many countries, large and small. We know by now that this manifesto was not mistaken. It concludes:

“Long live the unity of all the peasants and workers of the East and of the West, the unity of all the toilers, all the oppressed and exploited. Long live the battle headquarters of this united movement — the Communist International! May the holy war of the peoples of the East and of the toilers of the whole world against imperialist Britain burn with unquenchable fire!”

The Soviet Union is no more, yet the profound change in the entire world that is the consequence of the anti-colonial movement for independence and sovereignty of nations is still with us, in the form of nearly 200 independent nations, most of which did not exist, as such, at the time of the 2CCI and the Congress of the Peoples of the East in 1920, and most of which are by now national-democratic republics.

For one example of how quickly the anti-colonial movement took hold, and how close to our home this movement quickly came, the Red Trade Union International (Profintern) of the Comintern, founded one year after the 2CCI, in 1921, had by 1930 organised (in Berlin) an International Conference of Negro Workers that included Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya as well as Moses Kotane, W. Thibedi and Albert Nzula of South Africa.

We should also not forget to mention the founding of the Communist Party of South Africa under the auspices of the Comintern in 1921 in this connection, because the admittance of the CPSA was conditional upon its acceptance of the Comintern’s agreed policies, which included the NDR. Therefore the CPSA’s support of class alliance for national liberation and national democracy was not something that was added on later, but was fully present at the birth of the CPSA.

Another example of the swift, strong effect of the Russian Revolution and the Comintern on South Africa is the Black Republic Thesis of 1928 and all that went with it. We will come to it in the next part of this NDR Generic Course. The important thing to note here is that the CPSA’s basic commitment to the NDR had already existed for years prior to the Black Republic Thesis.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

8 April 2011

Genesis of the NDR

National Democratic Revolution, Part 2

Genesis of the NDR

The Hammer and Sickle emblem of the communists, invented in 1917, is a symbol of class alliance between two distinct classes: proletarian workers, and peasants.

Peasants often work hard and they are often poor, but they are not the same as the working proletariat of the towns. Nor are they the same as the rural proletariat. So the hammer and the sickle are not two equal things. They represent two different things, allied.

Practical class politics is always a matter of alliance, and in different circumstances, different alliances are called for. Communists commonly regard an alliance between workers and peasants as normal. Proletarian parties have likewise, in the past, often attempted class alliances with parts of the petty-bourgeoisie or national bourgeoisie against feudalism or against colonialism.

Alliances are normal and necessary, in order to isolate and thereby to defeat an adversary, and equally, to avoid being isolated and defeated by the adversary. Therefore, the question of the appropriate alliances in the anti-colonial and anti-Imperialist struggle was bound to arise.

The origin of the specific type of class alliance that is nowadays referred to by the term National Democratic Revolution can be precisely located in the Second Congress of the Communist International (2CCI), in the discussion on the National & Colonial Question, reported by V. I. Lenin on 26 July 1920 (click on the link below).

The founding Congress of the Communist International (“Comintern”) took place in March, 1919, a little more than a year after the October 1917 Russian Revolution, of which it was an integral consequence.

The first “International Working Men’s Association”, of which Karl Marx had been a founder member in 1864, had been disbanded in 1871 after the fall of the Paris Commune. The Second International fell apart in 1914, when most of the Social-Democratic workers’ parties backed the bourgeois masters of war in the conflict between the Imperialist powers.

The communists, led by Lenin, had held out against that betrayal. After the revolutionary victory in Russia they lost very little time before constructing a new International. The Third, Communist International was naturally and explicitly anti-Imperial and anti-colonial.

In his report to the 2CCI on the National & Colonial Question, Lenin says: “We have discussed whether it would be right or wrong, in principle and in theory, to state that the Communist International and the Communist parties must support the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. As a result of our discussion, we have arrived at the unanimous decision to speak of the national-revolutionary movement rather than of the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement. It is beyond doubt that any national movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement, since the overwhelming mass of the population in the backward countries consist of peasants who represent bourgeois-capitalist relationships… However, the objections have been raised that, if we speak of the bourgeois-democratic movement, we shall be obliterating all distinctions between the reformist and the revolutionary movements. Yet that distinction has been very clearly revealed of late in the backward and colonial countries…”

In this report we find, for the first time, all the makings of the NDR, including the name, even if the words are not quite in their present-day order. Lenin calls it “national-revolutionary”, but he makes it very clear that he is talking of a democratic class alliance with anti-colonial, anti-Imperialist elements of the national bourgeoisie in colonial countries.

The 2CCI was followed within two months by the famous “Congress of the Peoples of the East”, in Baku, in the southern part of what was soon to become the Soviet Union. This was the first international anti-colonial conference and it had huge consequences. We will deal with the Congress of the Peoples of the East in the next instalment, as an optional contribution to the discussion of the birth of the NDR as a concept, which had been laid down in Lenin’s report.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

6 April 2011

Permanent Revolution

National Democratic Revolution, Part 1c

Permanent Revolution

Karl Marx’s March 1850 Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League begins by describing the working proletariat as the “only decisively revolutionary class”, and ends with a battle-cry for the workers: “The Permanent Revolution!”

In the Address, Marx is advocating all possible means of achieving revolutionary change which, if not theoretically irreversible, would not in practice be reversed.

“The workers' party must go into battle with the maximum degree of organization, unity and independence, so that it is not exploited and taken in tow by the bourgeoisie,” said Marx, rehearsing the events of the previous two years when the bourgeois allies of the working class had treacherously sold the workers out as soon as they could secure favourable terms for themselves from the reactionary feudal powers.

Marx then very frankly reviews the competing self-interests of the contending classes and fractions of the bourgeoisie.

“There is no doubt that during the further course of the revolution in Germany, the petty-bourgeois democrats will for the moment acquire a predominant influence. The question is, therefore, what is to be the attitude of the proletariat, and in particular of the League towards them,” declared Marx.

“As in the past, so in the coming struggle also, the petty bourgeoisie, to a man, will hesitate as long as possible and remain fearful, irresolute and inactive; but when victory is certain it will claim it for itself and will call upon the workers to behave in an orderly fashion, to return to work and to prevent so-called excesses, and it will exclude the proletariat from the fruits of victory,” warned Marx.

The working class must “be independently organized and centralized in clubs,” and “it is the task of the genuinely revolutionary party… to carry through the strictest centralization.” Reading this section, it is clear that Marx was convinced that the building of the democratic republic and the building of the nation had to be one and the same set of actions.

The working-class tactics in alliance with the bourgeois democrats should be to “force the democrats to make inroads into as many areas of the existing social order as possible,” and constantly to “drive the proposals of the democrats to their logical extreme”.

The workers must always look ahead to the next act of the revolutionary drama. They will “contribute most to their final victory by informing themselves of their own class interests, by taking up their independent political position as soon as possible, and by not allowing themselves to be misled by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeoisie into doubting for one minute the necessity of an independently organized party of the proletariat.”

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

5 April 2011

Origin of the National Republic

National Democratic Revolution, Part 1b

Barricade, Rue Soufflot, Paris, February 1848, painting, Horace Vernet

Origin of the National Republic

The Great French Revolution that started in 1789 did not immediately produce a lasting democratic republic in France. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Empire, launched with a coup d’etat on 9 November 1799 had attacked feudal monarchs all over Europe. But it was followed during the next three decades by the restoration of weak versions of the French monarchy, culminating in the “July Monarchy” of Louis Philippe. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels anticipated a coming revolutionary upsurge and published the Communist Manifesto at the beginning of the revolutionary year of 1848.

The Manifesto’s first major section is called “Bourgeois and Proletarians” and it says among other things that: “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other - bourgeoisie and proletariat.”

Karl Marx arrested in Brussels, March 1848, drawing, N Khukov

Yet it was Marx in particular, in two great books and one short Address (see the links below), who described, better then anyone else, the much less simple, more complex, permutations of class conflict at the time. For example, in the following cut from “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (please download your file via the link below) it is clear that the proletariat suffered an almost immediate disaster, because it had no allies. The proletariat was isolated and attacked by all the other classes together, and massacred, in June of 1848 in Paris.

This is the situation that the proletariat must always avoid, and it is one reason why the working class must always have allies. Here is the cut from Marx’s outline of events, given in the “18th Brumaire”:

“a. May 4 to June 25, 1848. Struggle of all classes against the proletariat. Defeat of the proletariat in the June days.
“b. June 25 to December 10, 1848. Dictatorship of the pure bourgeois republicans. Drafting of the constitution. Proclamation of a state of siege in Paris. The bourgeois dictatorship set aside on December 10 by the election of Bonaparte as President.”

In the “18th Brumaire”, not only do the contenders of the Great French Revolution, the Aristocracy, the Peasantry (sometimes called the Montagne), the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat reappear. Also described are the clear contradictions within the bourgeois class. Plus the classless, manipulative Bonaparte, who played the four main classes off against each other for more than two decades until he lost the plot.  And notably the “lumpen-proletariat” of idle adventurers who were Bonaparte’s willing, and paid (with “whisky and sausages”) accomplices.

Berlin, March 1848, painting

In his March 1850 Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League (linked below) Marx spoke in particular of Germany, which had also caught the revolutionary enthusiasm, again in terms of a precise and dynamic comprehension of the patterns and permutations of class contradiction, and of who must ally with whom at any particular moment.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were deeply, personally and very effectively involved in these events as individuals and as organisers, and in Engels’ case as a military combatant.

These events shaped the new form of democratic republic that was consolidated in France after the eventual fall of Louis Bonaparte in 1871, and after the brief life of the Paris Commune.

Barricade, Paris, June 1848, photograph

That newly-formed kind of “democratic bourgeois republic” still remains the standard form of nation-state in the world, and it is the same kind that our republic has become, here in South Africa.

This historic understanding, as well as the unsurpassed clarity with which Marx in particular describes the nature of practical multi-class struggle, can serve to prepare us for a progressively more specific, historical examination of the theory and practice of National Democratic Revolution (NDR) through the 20th Century, in Africa, and in South Africa up to the present time.

The NDR is nothing if it is not about class alliance, and about democracy on the national scale.

Marx’s “The Class Struggles in France” (please download the extract lined below) is also a study in class alliance, and complements the “18th Brumaire”. It is a detailed account of the revolutionary events in France from 1848 onwards, including the rise of Louis Bonaparte. Marx was frequently in Paris during this period.

What The Class Struggles in France does for us here, early in our course on the National Democratic Revolution, is to demonstrate the realities and permutations of class conflict. It shows once again how the working class must have allies, and it shows how treacherous, brutal and ruthless the bourgeoisie can be. It also shows how lightning-fast revolutionary events can be. The period covered by chapter 1 is only four months, from February to June, and yet almost everything that can happen in a revolution, happened in that time. The question of the republic arises, and the necessity of supporting it. The revolutionary national democracy is crucial.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

4 April 2011

Critique of the Gotha Programme

National Democratic Revolution, Part 1a

Critique of the Gotha Programme

Why does the Critique of the Gotha Programme come in here? What does it have to do with the NDR?

Because: The Gotha Programme was a Unity Programme. It was supposed to be the basis upon which the separate factions of the German Social Democrats were going to unite and go forward together.

The National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance must also be a “united front” or unity-in-action. The one that Marx criticised here was founded on a false basis. It needed to be an honest programme.

If you skip over Engels’ foreword, you will find that the actual “Critique” is only eight pages long. It is a short read but it contains a lot; some of it is controversial, even today – for example Marx’s remarks about co-operatives (p. 9).

The person called Lassalle who Marx refers to had been the energetic leader of the politically weaker faction, by this point in time deceased, leaving his followers to be still called the “Lasalleans”.

Our National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance does not require the creation of a monolithic Party. Perhaps this is one reason why we are approaching the centenary of the ANC, without the collapse of the essential class alliance.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

2 April 2011

Roots of the NDR

National Democratic Revolution, Part 1

Roots of the NDR

With any course, one must decide where to begin. In the case of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), the course has to begin with an understanding of class struggle and of class alliances in history.

Such a study could begin as long ago as the fifth century BC in the Athenian Republic led by Pericles, or with the Conflict of the Orders in the Roman Republic at approximately the same time, and it could proceed through the class struggles involving, for example, the Gracchus brothers [Pictured: Gaius Gracchus, Tribune of the People], Julius Caesar and others, that led in 27 BC to the stagnant class truce called the Roman Empire, which then, over four centuries, declined and fell (in its Western half) into a Dark Age. Class struggle is the engine of history. Without it, there is very little movement.

We could alternatively begin in 1512 with Machiavelli, and the class struggles of Renaissance (i.e. “born again”) Italy, where multiple city-states with populations of 100,000 or more were embroiled in internal and external class conflicts.

We could go to Thomas Hobbes, who published his book Leviathan in 1651, describing the politics of the bigger national states of Northern Europe (Like Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands) which had by his time surpassed the politics of Italy as the main theatre of recorded historical process.

These European machinations could be our workbook and our political sandpit, for the main reason that there is a record of them. There is very little virtue, but there is a literature.

French Revolution

But we might as well rather begin, as Frederick Engels does in the first part of his “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” (please download the file via the link below), with the Great French Revolution that started in 1789. From this point on we can meet, in their developed form, the class protagonists who allied and clashed from that time until now, in all possible permutations: alliances holy and unholy, strategic and tactical, marriages of convenience and marriages made in heaven; and we can have, for the most part, the benefit of Marx and Engels as eyewitnesses or near-eyewitnesses.

These classes were the feudal aristocrats; the peasants; the bourgeoisie; and the proletariat.

Using this work of Engels’ as a starting point has the additional benefit of introducing the rudiments of political philosophy, and leading our thoughts towards the “democratic bourgeois republic”, which is at one and the same time the highest form of political life before socialism, the prerequisite of concerted proletarian action, and a form of the State that has to be transcended.

In other words, our study of the NDR will bring us, as history has already brought us in life, to the kind of crisis that Lenin outlined so sharply in “The State and Revolution,” when majority rule is no longer an adequate substitute for the free development of each as the condition for the free development of all, social self-management, the end of class struggle, the withering away of the state, and the fully classless society called communism.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

1 April 2011

National Democratic Revolution Series, Introduction

National Democratic Revolution, Part 0

National Democratic Revolution, Introduction

The NDR is the product of a class alliance (unity-in-action) against an oppressor class. The clearest original statement of this theoretical principle was made by V I Lenin at the Second Congress of the Communist International (2CCI) in 1920, in his Report of the Commission on the National and Colonial Question. We will return to the 2CCI statement in due course.

In practice, the NDR works to extend democracy to all horizontal corners of, and to all vertical layers within, the national territory and its population. In the cause of national democracy, it also overcomes non-class contradictions such as those of race and gender.

The NDR is always historical, in the sense of being a practical piece of work carried out in changing objective conditions, by individuals acting through the structures that they have consciously created. This series will trace the world history of the NDR from the distant past up to the present, attempting to cover the salient features, if not all the detail.

The living history of the NDR in South Africa is that of the African National Congress, embodying as it does the class alliance that is the functional heart of the NDR.

COSATU, and organised labour in general, are vital components in the necessary process of rendering an objectively-existing class-in-itself into a self-conscious class-for-itself. The working class leads and lends class-consciousness and a sense of purpose to the peasantry and to the petty-bourgeoisie. The working class is indispensable to the NDR.

But labour unions are not sufficient by themselves for the NDR; it also requires a party of generalising professional revolutionaries. That party is the SACP.

The theoretical pattern of the NDR was set in 1920 by the Comintern, and immediately afterwards by the conference of “The Peoples of the East”. Before we come to this we will look at the ancient history of the nation.

Coming up to date we will find, in parts of the ANC, that the NDR is treated as if it is complete or in stasis or that it is an end in itself.

The NDR story is one of the materialisation and triumph of an idea all around the world, but also of a new threat: that the NDR could be treated as a meaningless commonplace, taken for granted, or even worse, expropriated as a political weapon by the very forces that the NDR exists to oppose.

Unlike those in the ANC who want to call closure on revolution and declare a static “National Democratic State”, the communists know that history will insist on moving on, beyond NDR, towards the revolutionary end of class conflict itself, and towards the corresponding withering-away of the State.

The challenge posed by this study of the NDR is therefore to learn how to carry out the National Democratic Revolution to its utmost possible extent, and then to be able to conceive of an even greater degree of freedom: a freedom that is beyond democracy and which is more than the mere crushing of a minority by a majority, which is the essence of democracy.

As Lenin pointed out in “The State and Revolution”, written on the eve of Great October, the withering away of the state has to become a burning issue. Before we get to that point in our studies, we must, in the next post of this new course on the National Democratic Revolution, begin from the beginning.