30 May 2011

The Petty Bourgeoisie and Poujadism

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 7b


The Petty Bourgeoisie and Poujadism

Last in this section on class alliance, which has looked at peasants and traditional leaders as well as bourgeois and proletarians, we now consider the petty-bourgeoisie, a large class in South Africa, and one that includes a high proportion of the very poor in this country. The hawkers and the “survivors” are members of this class, as much as the small shopkeepers and small business people (the so-called “SMMEs”).

The petty bourgeoisie are the urban equivalent of the peasant class. They share with the peasantry the peculiar characteristic of being what Karl Marx called (in the “18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”) a “sack of potatoes”. Such a class has minimal internal linkages. It exists as an aggregate, and not as an organism. In chemical terms, it is a mixtures, and not a compound.

This is in contrast with the working proletariat, which is a socialised, or in other words, interdependent class. For this among other reasons, the working class is a more advanced class, capable of giving leadership to the peasantry and to the petty-bourgeoisie.

In his address at Joe Slovo’s graveside on the 15th anniversary of Slovo’s death, 6 January 2010, the current General Secretary of the SACP Cde Dr Blade Nzimande said, concerning the leadership the working-class party must give:

“We must also recruit amongst small businesses, who continue to be suffocated by monopoly capital in general, the capitalist malls built in the townships that are killing their small businesses, and the `tenderpreneurs` who continue to enrich themselves often through corrupt tenders at the expense of honest small entrepreneurs who do not have political connections in the state. We must strengthen small entrepreneurs and defeat `tenderpreneurs`! We need to support skills development for co-operatives, small and micro enterprises. We need to deepen our struggle for the transformation of our financial sector to benefit the workers and the poor, including co-operatives and small and micro businesses.

“As we have done over the past 16 years and before, we need to engage and seek to influence the terms and conditions under which a new black section of the bourgeoisie emerges and grow. We need to fight for truly broad based empowerment and seek to direct investment into the productive sectors of our economy that is creating jobs. We need to continuously expose and challenge self-enrichment of a few and fight the emergence of a highly dependent compradorial bourgeoisie! In this struggle we must also seek to expose opportunistic use of the language and demands of the working class in order to hide the accumulation agenda of a compradorial bourgeoisie. This is the meaning of Slovo`s life, struggles and observations today!”

The Marxist literature devoted to the petty bourgeoisie in our time is pitifully small. We now go to a recollection of France in the 1950s (but written later) for an account of the phenomenon of “Poujadism”. This was a petty-bourgeois uprising that allied itself, in its beginning and at local level, with the communists, until it degenerated towards near-fascism. See above for a picture of Pierre Poujade (1920-2003), the leader of this movement.

In their relations with the intermediate classes, history shows that the communists must proceed with great care and must not lose focus. But it also shows that these classes are real and can potentially have a self-conscious and beneficial development, if aided by the always better-organised working class. But if petty-bourgeois populism gets out of hand, which it can do, then the distance between it and fascism can be covered in a short time.

Foster’s account is written from a somewhat sectarian point of view. It disparages the efforts of the French communist party, but it does not say that the vanguard party should not give leadership to the petty bourgeoisie. On the contrary, Foster confirms this necessity. All he can manage to say against the communists is that if the Trotskyists had been in charge they would have done better - a hollow claim.

More on the nature and the problems of the petty bourgeoisie can be found in Engels’ (e.g. “The Housing Question”), Rosa Luxemburg’s (e.g. “Reform or Revolution?”), and Lenin’s (e.g. “The Tax in Kind”) writings.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

29 May 2011

Citizen and Subject

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 7a


Citizen and Subject

Dar-es-Salaam-trained Ugandan intellectual Mahmood Mamdani’s 1996 book “Citizen and Subject” brings more facts and insights about peasants and workers to assist with understanding class alliance - the condition for the National Democratic Revolution. The chapter linked below is the book’s summing-up. Note that Mamdani's sense of the word “subject” in this work is different and opposite from the usual communist one. Here it means a subordinate person, as opposed to a free person.

Professor Mamdani [pictured above] has now returned to Uganda to head the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). To read more about this significant move, click here.

While the proletariat seeks allies, so does Imperialism. In this work, Mamdani’s principal insight is to recognise the class alliance typically sought by the Imperialists in neo-colonial Africa countries.

According to Mamdani, the Imperialists prefer to ally with the backward rural feudal elements commonly called “traditional leaders” or “chiefs” in Africa, and against the modernising bourgeoisie and proletariat of the cities and towns.

To a South African this is not surprising and indeed Mamdani regards South Africa as the classic case in this regard, although he quotes many other examples in the book.

This analysis is important because it stands in contrast with a common presumption, namely that the Imperialist monopoly-capitalists tend to work through “compradors”, who are local aspirant bourgeoisie, or bourgeoisie-for-rent, who do the Imperialists’ work for them.

Such compradors do exist, and clearly they exist in South Africa. Yet Mamdani’s scheme reflects the facts and history of Imperialism in Africa better, at least up to now. Imperialism is in general hostile to the national bourgeoisie. The typical neo-colonial war of recent decades, including the Iraq war, is a war of Imperialism against a national bourgeoisie that wants national sovereignty and control over its country’s national resources.

In the light of this analysis it becomes easier to see why it is that the South African proletariat has long been, via the ANC, in alliance with parts of its national bourgeoisie, for national liberation, and against the monopoly-capitalist oppressors with their Imperial-globalist links.

For their part, the Imperialists relied heavily in the past on Bantustan leaders and on the Inkatha Freedom Party, but the ANC was able to form better links with the rural as well as the urban masses, thus achieving a class alliance that could and did dominate the country in terms of mass support.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

27 May 2011

The Peasants’ Revolt

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 7


Peasants’ Revolt

The National Democratic Revolution is based upon a clear understanding of objective, dynamic class politics. It proceeds from a class alliance against the oppressor class, towards the fullest possible democracy.

There is an interrelationship between the underlying (objective) class realities and the subjective (conscious) organisational politics of democracy. In these posts, we have tended either to concentrate upon one side of this dialectical relationship, or the other.

The previous two parts of this series have been about the deliberate organisation and mobilisation of the NDR in the 1940s and 1950s. This part is more about objective class realities, or in other words, about Political Economy. The next part will be about organised politics again, and then the final two parts will be of a more synthetic nature, dealing with both subject and object together.

Looking forward, the last revolutionary confrontation is bound to be between the big bourgeoisie and its gravedigger, the proletariat that it must constantly bring into being. Yet it is far from the case that in the present time all other classes have died out in South Africa. For success, these other, relatively minor classes should be allies of the proletariat in the National Democratic Revolution.

Class alliance is essential for the isolation and defeat of the oppressor, so as to deny the oppressor the comfort of support, and to prevent the oppressor from isolating and defeating the working class. The politics of class alliance were practiced in Karl Marx’s time and before that, in the Great French Revolution. Class alliances were again crucial in the Russian and the Chinese Revolutions, to name but two out of many. The hammer-and-sickle emblem of the SACP, first used during the Russian Revolution of 1917, signifies class alliance between workers and peasants.

In order for a class alliance to be possible, the working class must be class conscious, and so must the other classes. The latter often need to be assisted by the working class and by the intellectual partisans of the working class, the Communist Party. Yet there is rather little in the way of class-conscious literature about South Africa’s large petty-bourgeois class, who are for the most part very poor people, and little of a directly political nature about the agricultural petty-bourgeoisie, who are the peasantry, or about the oppressors of the rural petty-bourgeoisie and peasantry, who are South Africa’s bureaucratised feudal class.

Govan Mbeki

The classic exception to this intellectual famine is communist journalist and Rivonia trialist Govan Mbeki’s [pictured] “Peasants’ Revolt”, published in 1964 (see the link below). Other works such as “Landmarked”, by Cherryl Walker (Jacana, 2008) tell us that the huge misery of rural displacement and impoverishment has still not been ameliorated nor turned in a sufficiently positive direction.

[Pictures: Pondoland Revolt, taken by Eli Weinberg; Govan Mbeki]

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

21 May 2011

The Freedom Charter as part of the NDR

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 6a


The Freedom Charter as part of the NDR

This week we are looking at the Congress of the People campaign that in 1953 followed the Defiance of Unjust Laws campaign, which was in turn a consequence of the banning of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1950; plus the Freedom Charter.

The 1955 Kliptown Congress of the People, where the Freedom Charter was adopted, was followed by a campaign of conscientisation and positive endorsement of the Freedom Charter by individuals and mass organisations. This was interrupted in 1956 by the Treason Trial of most of the Congress Alliance leadership, which was not concluded until 1961, a year after Sharpeville and the banning of the ANC in the year of 1960.

In the previous post on this topic we looked at the “Call to the Congress of the People”, taking it as a typical tactical example of the conscious, deliberate, democratic formation of the collective revolutionary Subject of History through well-designed organisation. Taken all together, we can see the 1950s as a time of focussed, concerted organising towards the NDR – a “process and not an event”, as we used to say.

This leaves us with the Freedom Charter itself. Nowadays it is often quoted as a bible, and without explicit reference to the NDR.

The Freedom Charter does say that “all who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers”. But it does not specifically say that political parties shall be free to organise. Nor does it say that women should organise as women, or as working women.

Hence there are two lessons coming out of the 1950s. One is the practical example of the movement’s work throughout the decade; the other is the rights-based Charter that was produced in the course of all the work.

This sometimes disconnected contrast between action and prescription remains characteristic of South African politics.

Picture: Chief Albert Luthuli, President of the ANC in the 1950s

Please download and read the text via the following link:

20 May 2011

Congress Call

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 6


Congress Call

This post is about the preparations from 1953 onwards for the 1955 Congress of the People (CoP), the Congress of the People as a definite event, and the Freedom Charter that came out of that event, all considered as historic acts and as part of the process of building the South African National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

What could very advantageously be used for this discussion is an electronic copy of the book by Jeremy Cronin and Raymond Suttner, published in 1986, called “30 Years of the Freedom Charter”, or even just a good extract from the book. But unfortunately the book is not available on the Internet. Instead, it has been polished up and re-published as “50 Years of the Freedom Charter”, in hard copy only. If you can get either one of these editions, do use it to prepare for this discussion.

“The Congress of the People and Freedom Charter Campaign”, by Ismail Vadi, Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 1995, is another book that comes up in searches of the Internet.

According to the small samples of Vadi’s book that can be read on line, (i.e. the Introduction, the Preface, and the Foreword by Walter Sisulu) the planning of the CoP began in 1953, and the campaign was only wound down in 1956, the year of the beginning of the Treason Trial, which was a consequence of the CoP. The Treason Trial continued until 1961, by which time all the defendants had been acquitted.

Another document on the Internet is a short History of the Freedom Charter on the “non-partisan” South African History Online web site, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and other liberal philanthropists. “Non-partisan” in the case of SAHO therefore tends to mean that the Communist Party is mentioned as little as possible. Nevertheless, these pages bear out the extended nature of the political intervention that was the total CoP Campaign, a campaign that was a clear extension of the National Democratic Revolution policy of the recently-banned CPSA and of the Comintern before it, since 1920.

The CoP/Freedom Charter campaign was a determined and deliberately visible construction of a national democratic project. It involved huge masses of people. It was a conscious and fully worked-out design, even to the Nehru-style caps in ANC colours that the Volunteers wore. [See the photo above showing the platform at Kliptown, with a Volunteer in attendance]


There is an error in the SAHO text: There were five organisations involved, not four. SACTU, the non-racial South African Congress of Trade Unions, was a late entry to the CoP but it made the cut and it managed to feature in the “wheel of unity” that nowadays still forms part of both COSATU’s and the ANC’s logos. [The second image shows the document that was used to publicise the Freedom Charter after the Congress, including the newly-pasted “SACTU” acronym, and the “ANC” acronym shifted from the rim to the hub of the wheel. The document includes quotes from the Freedom Charter itself.]

This series is about the NDR. This post and the reading are given so as to invite you to consider the whole episode of the CoP campaign from 1953 to 1956 as one of the strongest specific and historical contributions to the NDR.

The document linked below includes the “Call to the Congress of the People”. It was a mobilising flyer and it shows very clearly the large scope and scale of the call to “all Unionwide Organisations”.

The Freedom Charter was much more than a list of demands. It was an integral part of a kind of conscious nation-building which had real revolutionary content and which demonstrated real democracy in action.

Those old comrades laid down an irresistible pattern. It appealed to the heart as well as to the eye and to the mind, and it still surrounds us today, manifested in the continuing Congress Alliance of which the SACP, legal once more, is now an open part. There was never a time when the communists were not part of the National Democratic Revolution. It is ours, as much as it is anybody else’s. It is family.

As it was when Lenin spoke to the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, so it was in 1955. Two things were required. One was a genuine class alliance and unity-in-action against the main oppressor class, the colonialist monopoly capitalists. The other was the deliberate extension of democracy for the creation of a democratic nation. The CoP campaign was exactly in this mould.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

16 May 2011

Defiance Campaign

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 5b


Defiance Campaign

The document linked below, the third in this part of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) series, was written by the famous “Drum” reporter, Henry Nxumalo [pictured above].

In 1950, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was banned, dissolved itself, and gradually began to reconstitute itself as a clandestine party, the SACP. The Communist Party made no further public statements until 1959, when the first issue of the African Communist magazine was published.

But two other things happened: the remaining, legal components of the movement rallied round to protest against the banning and to support the formerly-CPSA comrades, such as Dadoo, Marks, Bopape and Kotane, as reported by Henry Nxumalo a few months later in the Drum magazine.


The movement was solid. The ANC did not wash off the communists. The NDR was already on firm foundations. The Defiance Against Unjust Laws campaign was led by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela among others. Mandela was that campaign’s Volunteer-in-Chief.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

15 May 2011

The Three Doctors’ Pact

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 5a

Naicker, Xuma, Dadoo

The Three Doctors’ Pact

“This Joint Meeting declares its sincerest conviction that for the future progress, goodwill, good race relations, and for the building of a united, greater and free South Africa, full franchise rights must be extended to all sections of the South African people…”

This second document in the seventh part of the CU NDR series is a transcript of the “Three Doctors’ Pact” of March, 1947. It was a historic pact for democracy and national liberation, as the above quotation from it shows. There had been nothing like it before.

The three doctors were Dr A B Xuma, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, and Dr Monty Naicker, leaders of the ANC, the Transvaal Indian Congress, and the Natal Indian Congress respectively [Picture: Dr Xuma signing; Dr Dadoo is seen on the right side of the picture, Dr Monty Naicker on the other side].

This Pact was a precursor of the Women’s Charter of 1954 and of the Freedom Charter of 1955, including the latter’s volunteer campaign prior to the Congress of the People and its succeeding campaign of publication after the signing of the Freedom Charter.

The Pact declares “the urgency of cooperation between the non-European peoples and other democratic forces.” It demanded Equal economic and industrial rights and opportunities and the recognition of African trade unions under the Industrial Conciliation Act.”

In other words, it goes beyond the immediate business of unity of African and Indian organizations, and quite explicitly leads the reader towards the grouping of democratic forces that was to be further developed into the Congress of the People eight years later, and into the product of that assembly: The Freedom Charter.

In all of these cases we can see that mass organisations of specific constituencies were able to combine as part of a process of national social development; and more precisely, towards a National Democratic Revolution.

This Doctors’ Pact made a direct reference to the gains of the anti-fascist war, during which South Africa had been allied with the Soviet Union among others, as follows: “every effort [must] be made to compel the Union Government to implement the United Nations' decisions and to treat the Non-European peoples in South Africa in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

To this end the Pact determined that “a vigorous campaign be immediately launched.”

Reaction was closing in. The quasi-fascist and racist National Party was elected to a majority the all-white Parliament in 1948. The Communist Party of South Africa, later reborn as the clandestine South African Communist Party (SACP), finally legalised again in 1990, was banned in 1950. The consequence of this banning was the Defiance of Unjust Laws campaign when the ANC rallied to the defence of the Party, while the Trade Union Movement grew towards the foundation of SACTU in 1955, just in time to take part in the Congress of the People.

Many other diverse and historic events took place in the decade between the end of the anti-fascist world war in 1945 and the Congress of the People in 1955, but the general movement is clear: towards a National Democratic Revolution, based on the unity in action of the workers’ Party, the united national liberation movement, and the organised mass trade union movement.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

13 May 2011

African Miners' Strike, 1946

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 5


Congress, Pact and Defiance

The National Democratic Revolution is more than a theory. It has a history. In South Africa, the unity of the vanguard party, the mass democratic liberation movement, and workers’ industrial unions, was created by the actions of countless individuals in the course of many historic events.

In terms of South African history we have already noted, among others, the formation of the ANC in 1912, the ICU in 1919, and the SACP in 1921. We have considered the Black Republic Thesis, Moses Kotane’s Cradock Letter, and the sectarian problems of the CPSA in the 1930s. The Party had already begun to solve some of these problems by the time South Africa became part of the war of 1939-1945.

Although we will mostly refer from now on to South African events in the second half of this 12-part series on the NDR, yet it is as well to keep in mind that the National Democratic revolutionary wave was a world-wide historic change. NDRs swept old-style colonialism almost completely off the face of the planet in the decades following the Second World War.

Thanks partly to the Comintern and to Georgi Dimitrov, the World War that began in 1939 was to a great extent a conscious unity-in-action against the fascists. It is true that the Comintern was wound up on 15 May, 1943, but by that time the international anti-fascist alliance was in place.

The war came to an end in August, 1945, and the United Nations came into being on 24 October 1945, with a membership of 51 nations. Sixty-five years later, and as a direct consequence of multiple worldwide National Democratic Revolutions, UN membership is approaching 200 independent nations – nearly four times as many as there were in 1945.

A lot of organising had been done in the relatively more favourable conditions in South Africa during the anti-fascist war. Among the structures that came into existence were the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions, and the African Mine Workers’ Union, one of whose leaders was J B Marks [pictured above].

A lot was in place, yet action was required that would convert the preparations into permanent, historical and revolutionary facts. The historic action that fulfilled this role in the first place was the African Mineworkers’ Strike of September, 1946.

Writing in 1976, M P Naicker described how the African Mineworkers’ Strike changed everything, both within South Africa and also externally:

“The African miners’ strike was one of those historic events that, in a flash of illumination, educate a nation, reveal what has been hidden and destroy lies and illusions. The strike transformed African politics overnight.

“Dr. A. B. Xuma, President-General of the African National Congress, joined a delegation of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) sent to the 1946 session of the United Nations General Assembly when the question of the treatment of Indians in South Africa was raised by the Government of India. He, together with the SAIC representatives - H. A. Naidoo and Sorabjee Rustomjee - and Senator H. M. Basner, a progressive white ‘Native Representative’ in the South African Senate, used the occasion to appraise Member States of the United Nations of the strike of the African miners and other aspects of the struggle for equality in South Africa.

“Dealing with this visit the ANC, at its annual conference from December 14 to 17, 1946, passed the following resolution:

"Congress congratulates the delegates of India, China and the Soviet Union and all other countries who championed the cause of democratic rights for the oppressed non-European majority in South Africa.”

“The brave miners of 1946 gave birth to the ANC Youth League's Programme of Action adopted in 1949; they were the forerunners of the freedom strikers of May 1, 1950, against the Suppression of Communism Act, and the tens of thousands who joined the 26 June nation-wide protest strike that followed the killing of sixteen people during the May Day strike. They gave the impetus for the 1952 Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws when thousands of African, Indian and Coloured people went to jail; they inspired the mood that led to the upsurge in 1960 and to the emergence of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) - the military wing of the African National Congress.”

In the current set we will proceed to the Doctors’ Pact and then to the Defiance Campaign that was mounted following the banning of the CPSA in 1950. In the week after that, we will go to the Freedom Charter campaign of the mid-1950s. In all of this we are seeing the NDR as a revolutionary class alliance that is democratic in both form and content.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

9 May 2011

Reform or Revolution?

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 4b


Reform or Revolution?

Rosa Luxemburg’s “Reform or Revolution?” is a great classic. In the first place it is a thorough polemical rejection of Eduard Bernstein’s 1899 “Evolutionary Socialism”, which book Luxemburg deals with comprehensively, to the point where she concludes:

“It was enough for opportunism to speak out to prove it had nothing to say. In the history of our party that is the only importance of Bernstein’s book.”

This was true. The reformists have never made any advance on Bernstein; but they keep coming.

“Reform or Revolution?” then at once becomes the beginning of an even more crucial polemic which we will summarise. Luxemburg demolished Bernstein but then contradicted Lenin and was in turn corrected by Lenin’s final reply.

In the process of these two successive polemics, the modern communist parties were defined sharply for the first time and irreversibly differentiated from the reformists, and from the reformist mass organisations such as trade unions. Let us look at this in a little more detail.

Lenin published “What is to be Done?” in 1902 in response to the same book of Eduard Bernstein’s as well as the general outbreak of “economism”, also called “opportunism”, or “reformism”, or “syndicalism”, or in South Africa, “workerism”. Lenin went further than Luxemburg, so that Lenin’s “What is to be Done?” is regarded today as the defining blueprint of the communist parties as they are and have been for nearly a century. The communist parties make no compromise with reformism.

The German Social Democrats were the most numerous, well-established and long-standing of the supposedly revolutionary parties before the First World War, and Luxemburg, though originally Polish, was a senior member of that party.

The founding Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic and Labour Party (RSDLP) took place in Minsk in 1898. Lenin was a member, and was the editor of the journal “Iskra”, which he founded in 1900.  In 1903 the Second Congress of the RSDLP took place in Brussels and London. The consequence was the split between the Bolsheviks (majority) and the Mensheviks (minority), whereby the Mensheviks, though really a minority, blackmailed the majority and consequently got away with most of the spoils, including “Iskra”. Hence Lenin’s detailed 1904 report of this Congress is called “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”. It is this document that prompted Rosa Luxemburg to raise objections in the form of her 1904 “Leninism or Marxism?”.

Lenin’s reply (1904) to Rosa Luxemburg was conclusive. It settled all the open questions.

In 1905 a revolution broke out in Russia, which resolved into a bourgeois-democratic advance and the establishment of the “Duma”, or parliament, in Russia. The RSDLP held its Third Congress in that year, and Lenin wrote “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, a full differentiation of the revolutionaries from the reformists. The revolutionaries make class alliances (unity-in-action) for strategic goals. The reformists capitulate, collaborate and subordinate themselves to the ruling class.

In 1914, at the outbreak of war between the main Imperialist powers, it was duly found that the Social-Democrats of the Second International, including the German Social-Democrats led by Karl Kautsky, abandoned their internationalism and sided with their separate bourgeois ruling classes – the ultimate in class collaboration. The RSDLP held out against this collapse, while Rosa Luxemburg founded the anti-war Spartacist League in Germany. In February, 1917 a second bourgeois revolution in Russia overthrew the Tsar and in October the Great October (proletarian) revolution was successfully executed under Lenin’s leadership.

In January 1919, Rosa Luxemburg was murdered in Berlin by the proto-fascist “Freikorps” organisation.

In the same year of 1919 the Communist International (also called Third International, or Comintern) was formed and by 1921 the CPSA (now SACP) had been admitted to it as a recognised Communist Party.

The main linked download, below, is a redacted (shortened) version of “Reform or Revolution?” prepared for discussion purposes. Two more points can usefully be picked out at this stage. The first is the direct statement of the matter at issue in the opening lines of Luxemburg’s Introduction:

‘Can the Social-Democracy be against reforms? Can we contrapose the social revolution, the transformation of the existing order, our final goal, to social reforms? Certainly not… It is in Eduard Bernstein's theory… that we find, for the first time, the opposition of the two factors of the labour movement. His theory tends to counsel us to renounce the social transformation, the final goal of Social-Democracy and, inversely, to make of social reforms, the means of the class struggle, its aim… But since the final goal of socialism constitutes the only decisive factor distinguishing the Social-Democratic movement from bourgeois democracy and from bourgeois radicalism, the only factor transforming the entire labour movement from a vain effort to repair the capitalist order into a class struggle against this order, for the suppression of this order – the question: "Reform or Revolution?" as it is posed by Bernstein, equals for the Social-Democracy the question: "To be or not to be?"’

The second comes within the text where Luxemburg describes the “Sisyphus”- like situation of the small enterprises under monopoly capitalism, so typical of South Africa today, as follows:

“The struggle of the average size enterprise against big Capital… should be rather regarded as a periodic mowing down of the small enterprises, which rapidly grow up again, only to be mowed down once more by large industry.”

Without a working-class struggle against the capitalist order, for the suppression of that order, there can only be “vain efforts to repair” it – for example, trying to make capitalist work “decent”. Meanwhile the small (petty bourgeois) enterprises are periodically “mowed down” and hence can never come right under the monopoly capitalism of “big Capital”. These circumstances give the two classes a strong basis for unity-in-action against big Capital (i.e. National Democratic Revolution) nationally and internationally,

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

8 May 2011

People's Democratic Dictatorship

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 4a


People's Democratic Dictatorship

Ten years after the 1939 publication of Mao’s near-perfect example of the way to lay out the Political Economy of a country (given in the previous instalment and linked again below) the same Mao stood in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on 1 October 1949, to declare the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Also in 1949, Mao wrote of the People’s Democratic Dictatorship in a document linked below (please download it). In it he rehearsed some of the history, for example:

“Imperialist aggression shattered the fond dreams of the Chinese about learning from the West. It was very odd - why were the teachers always committing aggression against their pupil? The Chinese learned a good deal from the West, but they could not make it work and were never able to realize their ideals. Their repeated struggles, including such a country-wide movement as the Revolution of 1911, all ended in failure. Day by day, conditions in the country got worse, and life was made impossible.”

In 2010, Africans can still feel the truth of these words in relation to their own experience.

In 2010, sixty-one years after the revolution, China is still called a People’s Republic, and not a socialist republic. Why is this? How is it constituted?

The Chinese nation is constructed in terms of its political economy. Mao is very clear about this, for example in the following passage:

“Who are the people? At the present stage in China, they are the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. These classes, led by the working class and the Communist Party, unite to form their own state and elect their own government; they enforce their dictatorship over the running dogs of imperialism - the landlord class and bureaucrat-bourgeoisie, as well as the representatives of those classes, the Kuomintang reactionaries and their accomplices - suppress them, allow them only to behave themselves and not to be unruly in word or deed. If they speak or act in an unruly way, they will be promptly stopped and punished. Democracy is practised within the ranks of the people, who enjoy the rights of freedom of speech, assembly, association and so on. The right to vote belongs only to the people, not to the reactionaries. The combination of these two aspects, democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, is the people's democratic dictatorship.”

In 2009, according to information from a Chinese delegation then touring South Africa, the number of people living in the rural areas of China was still 800 million, but the number of people in Chinese cities was by then 500 million, an enormous increase on the three million “modern industrial workers” counted by Mao in 1939.

The South African NDR

As we become more aware of what is happening, it becomes apparent that the National Democratic Revolution should never be seen as a regrettable compromise, or as a temporary or an interim measure, or even as a stage, if a stage means a halt.

The National Democratic Revolution is a positive, revolutionary move forward. It is the only direct move forward that is possible, in our circumstances, that can be accomplished in a conscious, peaceful, deliberate and rational way. This is because the NDR corresponds to the political economy of the country, and because development is class struggle.

The National Democratic Revolutions cannot properly be defined by a set of tick-boxes next to self-justifying stand-alone goods such as “non-racial”, “non-sexist” and “unified”, as much as those things may be desirable in the abstract.

The nature of the NDR and its consequent trajectory can only be properly and fully seen in the light of Political Economy. The NDR should always be defined, and from time to time redefined, in relation to a specific class alliance for unity-in-action.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

6 May 2011

People’s Republic

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National Democratic Revolution, Part 4



In all the countries of the world, there is division into classes.

The form of study or discipline that enumerates, names, describes, and narrates the changing absolute and relative condition of all the classes is correctly called Political Economy, meaning literally, the arrangement of the classes within the overall polity.

In Marxist terms this study has to be an “ascent from the abstract to the concrete”, or in other words it must make possible a view of the whole social phenomenon as a “unity and struggle of opposites” at a particular moment in time.

The social classes are formed as a consequence of various modes of production. The study of the bourgeois mode of production in isolation, and the imagined generalisation of its laws to the entirety of current human experience, and to history, is what is known as (bourgeois) “Economics”. The confinement of political thought within the bounds of bourgeois economics would cripple it and render us incapable of projecting forward in any way, and especially not to socialism.

Hence revolutionaries from time to time, and with varying degrees of precision and detail, are apt to prepare a balance sheet of the Political Economy at that particular moment. This is what Karl Marx did in the “Class Struggles in France 1848-1850, and in “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (1852). These were exemplary calculations, which apart from their practical revolutionary value at the time, served forever after to educate and to re-educate revolutionaries about the facts of class-struggle life.

Mao Zedong’s extraordinary study of the political economy of China in 1939, called “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party”, is another great example of this kind of exercise (please click on the first link below and download it).

This piece of writing is about as concentrated and as directly relevant to South Africa as could be. Here you will find the relationship between Imperialism and the most backward, feudal elements; the role of the national bourgeoisie; the role of the gentry (rich peasant farmers); the concept of “motive force” and many other matters that are crucial in South Africa today.

Note that Mao was not embarrassed to talk of a bourgeois-democratic revolution. This is only one of the differences between the Chinese revolutionaries and their Soviet counterparts of a generation earlier.

The general scheme of rational class alliance aimed towards the construction of a national and democratic republic - what Mao calls the new-democratic revolution, is as follows:

“…in present-day China the bourgeois-democratic revolution is no longer of the old general type, which is now obsolete, but one of a new special type. We call this type the new-democratic revolution and it is developing in all other colonial and semi-colonial countries as well as in China. 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 enterprises and capital of the imperialists, traitors and reactionaries, and the distribution among the peasants of the land held by the landlords, while preserving private capitalist enterprise in general and not eliminating the rich-peasant economy.”

Taken together with the piece Mao wrote ten years later, in the year of the victory of the Chinese Revolution, 1949, it allows us to get a sense of the dynamics of plural class formation, ascent and decline in China, and the consequent practical inevitability of the National Democratic Revolution (coming next).

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading: