Published by Workers Power (Britain) and the Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International (Predecessor organization of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, RCIT), in: South Africa Special: Apartheid: from Resistance to Revolution (Permanent Revolution No. 4), 1986
What role can the South African working class play in the fight against the Apartheid state? By Sue Thomas
The South African revolution will be successful because the black African proletariat decisively enters the struggle for democracy, or it will not be successful at all. In that fight the six million strong black and one million ’coloured’ and Asian workers will find themselves pitted against the overwhelming bulk of the one and a half million white workers. Why?
At the turn of the century most white workers were English immigrants jealously guarding their wages and conditions in craft unions. Gradually, the destruction of the class of small Afrikaner farmers resulted in a growing class of unskilled Afrikaner workers.
Their reactionary stamp was given early on. On the one hand they allowed themselves to be used as scabs to break the strikes of the English immigrants, as in the 1907 miners’ strike, which ended with them establishing a toe hold in the industry. On the other, between 1893 1926, the Afrikaner unions fought to establish (and eventually enforce in law) restrictive controls over the mass of unskilled black labour so as to create a pool of scarce skilled Afrikaner labour and hence secure domination over the black working class.
In 1922 white mineworkers struck in defence of the colour bar. Subsequently in 1929 a system of national collective bargaining was established the Industrial Conciliation Act- which excluded African workers. The penetration of Afrikaner nationalism into the white working class and trade unions in the 1930’s and 1940’s, through the Broederbond, brought semi-skilled workers into an alliance with Afrikaner capital to extend job reservation and protect white privilege. Today, the white trade unionists organised in the Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA) and the South African Confederation of Labour (SOCAL) remain wedded to the protection of privilege and of apartheid, although the latter is more openly reactionary.
While the overwhelming majority of the white workers have always formed a labour aristocracy over the black workers, the intensive and extensive growth of its privileges occurred precisely in South Africa’s imperialist growth phase - the 1960’s. Between 1948 and 1970, real wages for whites doubled. In addition, the racial profile of the occupational structure illustrates the fact that whites, by and large, perform a managerial/supervisory role over black workers in production, or inhabit the state bureaucracy, which is largely geared to the enforcement of apartheid. For example, only 16% of manual production workers today are white. Less than 5% are categorised as unskilled. Nearly 70% of white collar workers are white, while 91% of the managerial/administrative grade are white, compared with 4% of black workers.
The white working class, however, is not homogeneous. Historically, the English speakers dominated white-collar occupations while Afrikaners generally occupied lower blue collar grades. The years after the Second World War, under the perpetual rule of the Afrikaner nationalists, redressed that balance.
The biggest change in the conditions of the white proletariat relative to the black has been since the start of the 1970’s. The end of the legal job bar in many areas has gradually resulted in about 250,000 whites (17% of those in work) being overtaken in the job hierarchy by a small rising stratum of black, white-collar workers.
This partial erosion of the labour aristocratic homogeneity of white workers has, deepened, and will continue to deepen, the reactionary political outlook of many Afrikaners. In the depths of the 1977-78 recession, railway workers threatened a go-slow over the pace of black workers’ advance. In addition, the Diamond Cutters Union went on an eleven week strike against black advancement.
This tendency had deepened in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. In a 1979 by-election in a working class Afrikaner constituency, some 40% voted for the neo-fascist HNP candidate which had only polled 3.2% nationally in the previous General Election. By the 1981 Election, the HNP increased its poll to 200,000 votes (14.1%). In a spring 1985 by-election there was a 22% swing to the Conservative Party. A series of elections in late October 1985 indicated that the Nationalist Party may have finally lost the allegiance of a majority of Afrikaners as the voters moved right.
The post-1976 (Soweto) threat of the black working class, has spilt the Afrikaner nationalist alliance. The developing crisis in South Africa will undoubtedly open fissures within the white working class. Unemployment and pressure on wages will increase. It is possible that, under the impact and leadership of black workers, some white workers may be won over to opposition to apartheid (already, the 59,000 strong, mixed-race Boilermakers’ Union has led a move out of TUCSA, taking its white workers with it). It is even possible that sections of the white working class will be won to a revolutionary party.
But this is by no means a necessary or inevitable development. The likely reaction of the white working class will be to further protect its privileges and maintain its alliance with the ruling class. The bulwark of the reactionary Afrikaner working class, the 26% working in the state sector, will probably desert to fascist parties rather than concede decisive reforms. Many of them are in low grade jobs, many of them owe their jobs to the continuation of the job bar.
Above all, many of their jobs are directly concerned with policing apartheid and would disappear with apartheid. The South African revolution cannot wait for white workers to come over to its side, it must confront them with a sharp choice: “Go under defending your exploiter or join with us in building a society which puts an end to both oppression and exploitation".
THE BLACK WORKING CLASS
The gravedigger of South African capitalism, the black proletariat, has risen to its full height only in the last thirty years, with the growth of manufacturing industry and construction. It is this which has, despite apartheid, contributed to the growing urbanisation and proletarianisation of African workers.
Some 1.2 million African and half a million ’coloureds’ and Asians work in industry or the building trade. About 750,000 thousand work in the mines, nearly half a million of these in the gold mines. Until 1974, about 80% of those were foreign migrant workers. Today, about 58% are ’internal’ South African black migrants from the ’homelands’. There are also about one and a half million black agricultural workers. The black peasantry has been virtually eliminated by a series of forcible land seizures by whites.
This then is where the social power of the African working class resides. It is also a concentrated class. 70% of GDP is produced in the eight metropolitan areas, but 40% is produced in the ’PWV triangle’ around Johannesburg, Pretoria and Vereeninging. The ’homelands’ account for a mere 3% of social wealth.
Large and concentrated, this is the core of the black proletariat which must be mobilised against the apartheid state if it is to be shattered and destroyed. There are still some 2.5 million service sector workers (700,000 domestic servants included). In addition, there are as many as 1 million unemployed or semi employed who are part of the black working class, lacking leverage on production but whose oppression makes them intransigent foes of apartheid and whose weight must be thrown onto the scales to bring down the racist regime.
However, the apartheid state has done its best to prevent the growing homogeneity of the black proletariat, to prevent it from progressing from a ’class-in-itself’ to a ’class-for-itself’. The battery of repressive laws (on residence, job influx) has prevented the black workers from establishing concentrated working class communities. Rather, apartheid has created three types of workers. First, there are some 1.6 million migrant workers (25% women) who are kept on short-term contracts and are often moved from one job to another over the years. In between, they are allowed short return visits to the ’homelands’. This is the lot of most mineworkers and many factory workers.
Secondly, there are about 700,000 black ’commuter’ workers who travel daily from a homeland area to work in a nearby white urban area. Life for these workers often means a 2am start with a four hour journey to work. A long day’s work is followed by a similar return journey, getting home at 8 3Opm. Thirdly, there are over three million permanent resident workers who live in black townships outside the ’homelands’ and on the edge of white urban areas. These are the biggest anomaly within, and greatest threat to, the apartheid system of ’separate development’. But they have become an indispensable stable element in the factory labour force. Finally, to these we must add the million black people who live illegally in shanty towns/squatter settlements on the edge of cities (eg Crossroads settlement, east of Cape Town).
Since 1964 when a total ban was placed on women entering urban areas other than with work passes, many women and their families have come to these settlements both to be with their partners and to seek work. Largely women and youth, constantly harassed, they form a large reservoir of semi-employed and unemployed.
Black women now make up a significant section of the working class. They are 33% of the workforce, a substantial leap from 23% in 1960. African women workers are concentrated in agriculture (19%) and the service sector (50%). Yet they are increasingly entering industry. This is because they are cheaper to employ, the wage-gap still being in the order of 20% between men and women.
One quarter of all black women workers are domestics. Wages are low and conditions are appalling. They are forced to live in separate accommodation, denied all employment protection, expected to work all hours and robbed of the right to their own family life. While they create a comfortable life for their employers and particularly their children, they are not allowed to have their own husbands or children with them.
The erosion of the job bar and of wage differentials has created a more diversified black working class spread across a wider range of occupations. In the years 1960-1980, the number of blue-collar black workers slightly less than doubled, while the number of agricultural workers remained relatively stable. But the number of black workers who moved into professional grades increased by more than 400%, and into lower level white-collar grades by over 1000%. It is from among the former layer, black ’labour aristocrats’ and petit bourgeois, that the candidates for conciliation with the whites are drawn.
Meanwhile, at the bottom, the number of unemployed grows relentlessly. Their numbers increased by 400% in the twenty years to 1980. Since then, the unemployment rate has accelerated, and it will do so again as South Africa fails to achieve the 3.5% of GDP growth each year which it needs just to absorb the new additions to the labour force.
It is the unemployed in the townships, together with the school students, who are the backbone of the rebellion on the streets. They are overwhelmingly young. Some 54% of black Africans are under 19, and two-thirds are under 25. It is this post-Soweto generation of politically aware and confident youth which must be organised and allied to the growing trade union movement to forge a truly unstoppable force.
The first trade union of black workers in South Africa was founded in an auspicious year - 1917. The influence of revolutionary syndicalism in the USA is shown in its title The ’Industrial Workers of Africa’ (adapted form the IWW, the Wobblies). It exerted strong pressure on the South African Native National Congress (SANNC later to be renamed the ANC) to take up workers’ grievances.
The IWA and the SANNC attempted to call a general strike for a minimum rise of one shilling a day for all black miners. It organised a black miners’ strike in July 1918 and participated in the anti-pass campaign of 1919. In 1919, a strike of black mine workers directly challenged the colour bar. All these struggles were brutally smashed by military and police repression but a glorious tradition had been launched.
This tradition was taken up by the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) which was founded in 1919 amongst black and coloured Cape Town dockworkers. Its principal leader was Clements Kadalie. The ICU faced not only the state but also the most disgusting racist scabbing by the white workers’ unions. This was the case even though the ICU had supported the white workers when they struck.
The ICU however rapidly became a huge mass movement, helped by the conservatism of the ANC, which turned more and more to petitioning and protest by respectable blacks. By 1926, it had a membership of over 100,000. But its great weakness lay in its inability to penetrate the compound system and organise the black miners. Its main strength lay amongst the rural and urban workers. During the Rand Rebellion of 1922, the white miners adopted a reactionary demand for the defence of the status quo agreement that kept a ratio of black to white miners in force. Attacks took place on black workers and the ICU found itself supporting the Smuts’ government’s repression of the white miners.
The lack of a firmly anti-racist communist movement amongst the black and white miners was bitterly felt. The 1924 coalition government, that brought the Nationalists into power and initiated a systematic drive to impose what became apartheid, put the ICU to the test. It was a test that Kadalie and the majority of its leadership failed. Communists were expelled from the union for advocating direct action, strikes, pass-burning, tax boycotts etc. The right, around Kadalie, wanted to ’go carefully’. At first, the union continued to grow. In 1928 it had perhaps a quarter of a million members. But its crash and disintegration was as rapid as its rise.
Communists and expelled communists, Trotskyists and other socialists all played an important role in building black unions in the 1930s. A notable example is Max Cordon, a Trotskyist who built unions in the laundry, baking and printing industries and in shops and warehouses. Various loose co-ordinating bodies attempted to unite these unions but had no lasting success.
During the war, the influence of the Communist Party grew substantially. In 1942, the Council for Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU) was founded and by 1945 had 119 affiliated unions with 158,000 members. The mid-forties saw the zenith of these black unions’ strength. Their historic weakness remained their inability to penetrate the brutal compound system and organise the most decisive sector of the black proletariat - the miners. Also, under the leadership of the CP, the unions collaborated in the war effort.
How they were to be repaid was to be seen after 1948. In 1946, the CNETU affiliate, the African Mine Workers’ Union demanded a minimum wage of ten shillings a day. In August, the mines on the Witwatersrand were brought to a standstill by the largest miners’ strike in South African history with some 73,000 miners out on strike. However, the full weight of repression was unleashed against the miners, resulting in twelve dead and 1,200 wounded. The union leaders were arrested and the union smashed. This served a heavy blow to the CNETU. Unemployment and the advent of the Nationalist Government were to finish it off.
When it assumed power in 1948, the Nationalist Party set up a commission - the Botha commission - which drafted proposals on the black workers’ unions by 1951. It obliged these unions to register with the state and subjected them to a series of harsh conditions. They were to have no right to participate in an industrial council, the framework for collective bargaining. They were only to negotiate with the employer via a government appointed ’Native Trade Union officer’. Direct negotiations were possible only on condition that the white workers in the industry or firm did not object and the employer agreed to it. Political activity was strictly prohibited and any federation of the black unions explicitly banned. The right to strike was prohibited and compulsory arbitration enforced. Sympathetic strikes were outlawed and unionisation banned in three critical areas: the mines, on the land and amongst government employees.
Even before these draconian recommendations could be enforced, the unions suffered a series of terrible blows. In 1951, the right-wing white unions decamped from the South African Trades and Labour Council (SATLC) a multi-racial federation, and formed their own all-white South African Federation of Trade Unions. Mixed unions were split or destroyed. Another phase of union organisation and struggle had ended in defeat and repression.
The rump of the old SATLC formed the Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA). In response to the vicious anti-black union laws, they organised parallel unions under the tutelage of the white unions. In March 1955, the unions opposed to this ’polite racism’ united with the remains of the CNETU to form the South African Congress of Trades Unions (SACTU).
From the beginning, SACTU was openly political. Its politics were those of the ANC and especially of the new militant leadership of this body. It joined the Congress Alliance, signed the Freedom Charter and participated in all its campaigns of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Unlike previous federations, it was highly centralised. At a local, factory or mine level it was weak. Consequently, it abandoned the industrial union perspective and opted for building general unions, rallying workers from small and isolated workplaces. The idea was to divide them into industrial unions at a later stage.
In fact, SACTU was able to organise few strikes or industrial disputes and those it did were brutally repressed. Its main activity was in the ANC led campaigns such as the bus boycott of 1957 and the £1 a day campaign for a minimum wage from 1957 to 1963. According to Don Neube the minimum wage campaign was:
"not based on a specific action programme in order to filter and be translated into tangible action on the shop floor. There was no organisational machinery to implement and to monitor the practical aspects of the campaign. Instead it was hoped that the campaign would gather momentum like a messianic movement “ (Black Trade Unions. Johannesburg 1985)
A ’stay-at-home’ stoppage was attempted in 1958 but it failed to become a general strike.
In fact the failure of the ANC and the South African CP leadership to put trade union organisation and workers’ direct action at the centre of their strategy meant that SACTU failed to become a mass organisation of the black proletariat. It was not SACTU’s commitment to politics in general, or to the liberation struggle, that was to blame for this. Rather, it was a direct consequence of the popular front, ’peaceful protest’ politics of the ANC.
SACTU was also drawn into the split within the ranks of black nationalism. In 1959, the AFL/ClO (and therefore CIA) dominated International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) organised, via TUCSA, the founding of the Federation of Free African Trade Unions of South Africa (FOFATUSA). FOFATUSA was heavily influenced by the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), formed to fight ’communist influence’ and related to the new bourgeois African states that were replacing colonialism throughout the rest of the continent.
Though it was anti communist, the PAC, partly in order to outmanoeuvre the ANC, launched a powerful disobedience campaign aimed at the pass system. PAC leader Robert Sohukwe led this campaign. The police reply was the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960. A wave of strikes and rioting led to the government’s State of Emergency, the passage of the Unlawful Organisations Act and the banning of both the ANC and the PAC on April 8th 1960. SACTU itself was not banned. It continued to participate in the protests and struggles of the next three years, suffering severe repression until it collapsed in 1963.
The collapse of SACTU effectively left TUCSA’s parallel black unions as the only option for black workers. Yet the collapse of effective black unionism encouraged the temporarily triumphant apartheid regime to put pressure on TUCSA which, in 1969, declared African unions to be ineligible for membership.
In 1970, the officialdom of the defunct African Affairs section of TUCSA founded the Urban Training Project (UTP). This was to be an important germ of the new black unions of the mid-1970s to 1980s period. It was largely an educational and trade union cadre training body. Strikes and union struggles in the late 1960s and early 1970s were rare events. Allied to it was a co-ordinating body formed in 1973 - the Black Consultative Committee.They helped form a whole series of new unions in 1973 4.
The decisive change in the black unions’ circumstances was to come with the great strike wave of 1973 in the Durban/Pinetown area. This led to the creation of the Metal and Allied Workers’ Union and the National Union of Textile Workers in 1973 and the Chemical Workers’ Industrial Union and the Transport and General Workers’ Union in 1974. The Black Consciousness Movement of those years led to the formation of a general community-based union, the Black Allied Workers’ Union. It made a principle of ’black leadership’ whereas in the other unions white organisers initially played a very significant role.
The significant growth of this new movement of unionised workers faced the racist regime with a dilemma. It was already under pressure from the major employers to relax certain measures of the apartheid labour code. The scarcity of white skilled manpower meant opening certain fields to trained black workers. Employers wanted to regulate relations with them, i.e. to engage in collective bargaining with bureaucratised and incorporated trade unions. They wished to bring an end to the ’chaotic’ strikes of the early and mid-1970s. Under this pressure, the regime established a Commission of Inquiry into Labour Legislation chaired by N.E. Wiehahn.
The Wiehahn Commission recommended that the basic rights of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) be applied to the new unions. This meant freedom of association, the abolition of statutory job reservation, the registration of unions and their participation in statutory machinery for collective bargaining. Registration was clearly aimed at restricting the freedom of manoeuvre of the new unions although, in South African terms, it meant an extension of legality for the new unions.
As a result, the ’new’ or ’independent’ unions combined into two major federations: the Federation of South African Trades Unions (FOSATU) established in 1979, and the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA). A number of unions remained unaffiliated. FOSATU was pledged to the principle of non-racialism. Its membership and its leadership were open to whites. It was committed to industrial unionism and its powerful shop-floor orientation encouraged the creation of networks of shop-stewards. It promoted plant-level, rather than national or industrial, negotiation, establishing itself in the workplace first, before approaching management for recognition.
FOSATU was initially opposed to registration and to participation in the ’industrial councils’ of Wiehahn. Eventually, however, it compromised and allowed unions to seek both, providing this did not mean accepting racial limitation or undue restrictions. Politically FOSATU was very guardedly ’independent’, refusing to join the UDF or subordinate itself to the ANC’s leadership.
CUSA, established in 1980, was much more influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement. It made a principle of black leadership and was, and is, much more community orientated. It was more uninhibited about registration under the Wiehahn legislation. Politically, CUSA showed its neutrality by joining both the UDF and the National Forum Committee in 1983. Internationally, it is linked to the ICTFU which regards it, rightly or wrongly, as something of a bulwark against communism.
CUSA’s most successful affiliate was to be the National Union of Mineworkers - founded in 1982 and recognised by the Chamber of Mines in the following year. The NUM’s creation and dramatic growth represents a historic advance for the South African proletariat. With its growth, and with the recognition and wages struggles of the next years, the ground was laid for the formation of a new federation of non-racial trade unions.
Today, about 880,000 black workers are organised in unions compared to 40,000 in 1973. The NUM has 150,000 alone. This still represents less than 10% of black workers, although many non-members look to and follow the lead of the union activists who form the vanguard of the black working class.
The successes born of struggle and the concessions wrung from employer and state alike have contributed to both a greater stratification within the black proletariat and to a greater sense of confidence and combativity. Since these successes have almost always been on the wages front, they have also helped to foster a certain ’economism’ amongst their leaders, that is, a neglect or postponing of ’political questions’. This has slowed down the development of the political consciousness of the mass of union members.
Two urgent tasks confront the black trade union movement today. The first is the need to complete the building of trade union unity.
The formation of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on December 2nd 1985 marked a great step forward for the black proletariat. The 871 delegates, representing 450,250 paid up members in 34 trade unions, decided to create a federation based on industrial unions. They also seek to organise rural workers, domestic servants, transport workers, and the unemployed – all, as yet, largely unorganised. In addition, COSATU has pledged itself to fight discrimination affecting women, to fight for equal pay for equal work, maternity rights and for a campaign against sexual harassment.
The new federation has also pledged itself to continue the FOSATU/NUM practice of rank and file democracy. Before the fusion, 23 COSATU unions had 12,462 shop stewards representing 363,000 workers (an average of one steward to 29 workers). These unions in addition had 306 paid officials. The NUM, perhaps the most powerful and strategically placed of the unions, has over 150,000 paid up members and a shaft-steward system. This democratic tradition needs to be maintained and extended to the newly organised workers to ensure that the unions’ growth and their recognition by the state and the employers does not lead to the development of a caste of privileged bureaucrats. At the moment, there is no substantial material base to sustain a union bureaucracy, given the low level of wages and subscriptions of the union members. A bureaucracy also needs the support of the bosses to sustain itself and this it most certainly has not yet got.
To rely on anti-bureaucratic organisational measures alone would be to nurture dangerous syndicalist illusions. The only real barrier to bureaucratisation is to build a revolutionary communist leadership in the unions; that is, to turn them to support a strategy for the seizure of power by the working class. The struggle to prevent bureaucracy and resist class collaboration in the new unions points directly to the task of building a revolutionary party of the black working class vanguard.
CUSA and the Azanian Confederation of Trade Unions (AZACTU) remain outside the super-federation. CUSA is an affiliate of the International Congress of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and claims to be ’black oriented and controlled’. It criticises the ’non-racial’ positions of the other unions. It is open about seeking good relations with the employers. AZACTU, the smallest of the federations, is closely tied to AZAPO. It was AZAPO’s Labour Secretary, Rev. Joe Seoka, who condemned the two day stay-away of November 1984.
Whilst AZACTU is affiliated to the National Forum and opposes the UDF, it should not stand aside from involvement in COSATU. If it really wishes to combat popular frontism, together with the influence of the UDF and the ANC, then it must do so within the mass trade union federation or perish as a serious trade union. The goal of an all-black leadership is wrong. A minority of whites, such as Neil Agett, have given their lives to the struggle to build the unions. It is one thing to seek to ensure that the union leadership fully reflects the numerical strength of the black proletariat but quite another to be ’black exclusivist’ either with regard to union membership or leadership.
Also the clinging to community-based unions, as against the project of industrial unions, is to turn ones back on the most effective means of organising the black workers into a force capable of ensuring the common downfall of apartheid and capitalism. General unions can indeed be important for organising un-unionised industries but they should give way to industrial unions as soon as possible.
POLITICS & THE TRADE UNIONS
The second urgent task is to resolve the current debate within and between the various black independent unions over what political role the unions should play in South Africa. The terrible repressive conditions that overhang even today’s legal unions, which make ’normal’ trade union activity impossible, force all unions to confront this problem.
Since 1979 and 1980, with the emergence of FOSATU and CUSA respectively, these unions have been forced to respond politically to the deteriorating political situation.
When, in 1984, Botha introduced the new Constitution, creating fake parliaments for ’Coloured’ and Indian representatives with no enfranchisement for the black African majority, the trade unions joined in the successful boycott campaign.
The most significant political action called by the unions before the formation of COSATU was the two day stay-away (protest strike) in the Transvaal in November 1984. An estimated 800,000 workers took part. The strike was called on the combined issues of educational reform, including the end of sexual harassment in schools, the withdrawal of security forces from the townships, the release of detainees and no increases in rents or fares.
These actions, and their varied success, have served to pose ever more sharply the question of what political organisation of the working class will best unite the disparate struggles. The response to date has been varied. CUSA has taken the attitude of working with both the UDF and the National Forum (black consciousness grouping). The MGWU affiliated to the UDF alone. FOSATU, FCWU and the GWU kept their distance from these nationalist organisations. They objected to subordinating the workers to other classes within the ’multi-class’ framework of the UDF or NF.
FOSATU’s attitude was motivated by both positive and negative arguments. Broadly, its leaders’ expressed desire for class independence and hostility to subordinating workers’ interests to ’broad alliances’ was correct. But there is also an accompanying economism which tends to limit the unions to struggles over wages and conditions.
The working class and its economic organisations, the trade unions, cannot ’keep out of politics’. Their choice is simply whether they will tail other class forces politically or whether they will support an independent working class political party. Some union leaders such as the secretary of the Metal and Allied Workers’ Union in the Transvaal, Moses Mayekiso have in the past called for ’a workers’ freedom charter’ and for the unions to form a “workers’ party”.
The very size and strength of the new federation will draw it into politics. Indeed, the leaders have been much more outspoken since its formation. Elijah Barayi, President of COSATU has called for nationalisation of the mines and major industries and commented: “Ultimately there will be a socialist state in South Africa.” In other interviews however he has said that he: “regarded himself as a moderate, had no particular communistic leanings but was committed to attaining one man one vote in a unitary South Africa.” Politically this position is identical to that of the ANC/UDF.
Other leaders of COSATU, including Jay Naidoo, the General Secretary, and Sydney Mafumadi (Assistant General Secretary) are active supporters of the UDF. The warm welcome that the ANC has given to the new federation contrasts sharply with its attitude in the 1970’s when it regarded the ’independent unions’ as collaborationist and counterposed to them the largely defunct SACTU.
This change indicates that the ANC senses the growing hold of its ’policy of alliances’ and the declining strength of what it calls ’economism’ and ’sectarianism’.
Elijah Barayi has promised a campaign of pass-burning (starting in June 1986) unless Botha scraps the Pass Laws. This is in line with the auxiliary role the ANC sees for the unions. Direct class struggle by the unions is subordinated to civil disobedience tactics, mass rallies, appeals to foreign governments to apply boycotts and disinvestment policies, plus guerrilla attacks on military personnel and economic targets. None of these tactics, singly or all together, can smash the apartheid state. But they are not meant to. They are aimed at forcing the government to the negotiating table.
Yet there is not the slightest guarantee that they will do that. Revolutionary crises do not last for ever. The present economic crisis of the regime is not eternal but is related to the cyclical crisis of the world economy. The masses’ revolutionary energy is not inexhaustible. Enthusiasm can wane if the struggle does not move towards a decisive confrontation with the dictatorship. Demoralisation and demobilisation can set in. The resistance of the unarmed townships to brutal repression and repeated massacres is not limitless. The terrain, as well as the economic and social conditions in South Africa, make sustained guerrilla warfare difficult, if not impossible.
Nor can the trade unions be expected to continue their growth free from repression. Any substantial improvement in the government’s situation will presage new attacks. The unions need to perfect their organisation and take up immediate class interests and democratic struggles. Yet it must always be within the context of preparing decisive action against any government attack. These preparations must centralise the mass uprising of the people into a General Strike. Political subordination of the unions to the UDF/ANC will derail the chances of this strategy succeeding.
A WORKERS’ PARTY
Trade unions are not adequate to carrying out political tasks. Since the trade unions are the only mass workers’ organisations, the revolutionary vanguard should call on them to play a key role in building an independent class party of the proletariat.
In this work it is clear that revolutionaries will have to fight alongside workers and union leaders who, as yet, do not see that such a party must become a revolutionary communist combat party. In this sense, the call for a workers’ party is an algebraic slogan. It is one that starts from the agreed need for a separate and independent party but which assigns the decision on its programme and final structure to the result of democratic internal debate and the free competition of tendencies.
Doubtless a tendency will arise which will seek to direct the workers’ party onto the road of a reformist Labour Party. Stalinism, despite its opposition to a mass independent workers’ party, would, if the unions actually took up its formation, certainly intervene to direct it towards a class collaborationist, popular front strategy.
Therefore, it is not inevitable that a broad, trade union-based and programmatically ’open’ workers’ party would come into existence or last for a prolonged period. But it is equally certain that no propaganda circle can grow by ones and twos into a party large enough to lead the overthrow of apartheid in the current crisis. In the present period, the slogan of the workers’ party enables the fight for a revolutionary programme to be carried out alongside the most politically conscious members of the unionised working class; that is, with its spontaneous vanguard. This way, the formation of a conscious Trotskyist vanguard party can be dramatically forwarded.
In the contest with Stalinists and social-democrats, inside such a workers’ party, revolutionaries would have to fight for the structure and organisation of a Leninist combat party. It is essential that it become a professional organisation, combining legal and illegal methods, for only such an organisation could survive the brutal repression that is ever present in South Africa.
Above all, revolutionaries would have to fight for an action programme which started from the immediate political tasks of the proletariat, smashing apartheid, and show how this must culminate in the seizure of political power by the working class.
A REVOLUTIONARY ACTION PROGRAMME
A revolutionary situation is developing in South Africa. Its economic and social pre-requisites, the crisis of the economy and the reduced situation of South African capitalism, have delivered a tremendous shock to all classes and strata of society.
Lenin’s classic objective conditions which make up a revolutionary situation are all to be observed. It is indeed “impossible for the ruling class to maintain their rule without any change". There is a profound “crisis in the policy of the ruling class” which has led “to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes bursts forth". As we have seen, this situation exactly describes the crisis within the South African bourgeoisie today.
From this point, one passes from the objective to the subjective conditions for a revolutionary situation. The ruling class is unable and the working class unwilling to carry on in the old way. Trotsky noted that “a revolutionary situation develops out of the reciprocal action of objective and subjective factors". The most important of the latter is that of the proletariat which “begins to search for a way out not on the basis of the old society, but along the path of a revolutionary insurrection against the existing order".
The massive struggles of 1985, the strikes of the mineworkers, the successful stay-away of May Day 1986, the revolt of the townships and the huge demonstrations which meet with the most bloody repression, all indicate the depth and seriousness of South Africa’s revolutionary crisis. Section after section of workers, layer after layer of the population,’coloureds’, Asians, the various religious communities, including the Muslims, have all been drawn into what is already a truly great people’s movement. The vanguard role of youth is particularly noticeable. Their courage is without equal. They are breaking from every vestige of enslavement and submission and they are leading their elders to make this break themselves.
Yet, again as Lenin observed, not every revolutionary situation turns into a revolution. For this the spontaneous mass revolutionary consciousness needs to find a directing centre and a clear, coherent strategy for victory. It needs to find a revolutionary party.
As the working class is the only revolutionary class that can consistently fight South African capitalism and its apartheid system to its end, so only a revolutionary communist party with a programme for workers’ power can be adequate to leading the black, ’coloured’ and Asian masses to victory. The only scientific basis for a programme in the imperialist epoch in a country where the masses are suffering a colonial-style dictatorship lies in the theory of permanent revolution.
The South African masses lack the most basic democratic rights which have long been in the possession of workers in the ’advanced’ imperialist countries. They need the most basic human and civil rights: the right to reside where they wish in their own country, citizenship, freedom from arbitrary arrest and deportation, the right to vote in municipal, regional and national elections, the right to marry and live with whom they choose.
In addition, they suffer exclusion from the land of their forebears, massive super-exploitation at work, terrible restrictions on their trade union rights, non-existent social services and woefully inadequate educational provision.
Thus, the struggles of today all start from democratic and immediate demands - but it would be false to draw from this the conclusion that a “bourgeois democratic” revolution awaits South Africa. As we have seen, South Africa is as economically developed as any country which has broken from colonial dependence to become an imperialist power during this century. In the present, and for the foreseeable future, the world capitalist system is wracked with crisis. No prolonged period of capitalist development will improve the conditions of the masses merely if apartheid were abolished. Capitalism must perish with apartheid.
The programme of permanent revolution alone can fuse the struggle against apartheid with a battle to destroy capitalism and create a workers’ state. Fighting for the programme of permanent revolution in South Africa does not, however, mean that Trotskyists counterpose the slogans of proletarian revolution to the democratic demands now being raised by the masses. On the contrary, the programme of permanent revolution is, in Trotsky’s words, “...a combined programme, reflecting the contradictory construction of historic society...". What we reject is the notion that the solution of the democratic tasks necessarily pre-dates the fight for socialist revolution and that only democratic slogans can be advanced in the present stage. We must fight to give the democratic struggle a proletarian direction and content.
The highest points of the struggle to date have been the stay-aways and school boycotts, the boycotts of white businesses, the strikes of the mineworkers and the street fighting with Botha’s armed forces. The imposition of the state of emergency and the subsequent wave of brutal repression posed the need for a higher and more general form of struggle. The formal end to the state of emergency has changed little. If anything the repression has intensified.
The revolution unquestionably starts as a democratic one. The existence of the white dictatorship, denying the most elementary of democratic rights (universal suffrage; one person, one vote) ensures this. Therefore, revolutionary communists must put the demands of democracy in the forefront of their programme. They must demand, alongside the broadest masses, universal, equal and secret suffrage for all men and women above the age of sixteen years. They must demand the total abolition of all discriminatory laws and regulations of apartheid, the smashing of its racist police force, its army, judicial system and state bureaucracy.
The standing army must be replaced by an armed militia of the whole people and in particular of the urban and rural workers. The armed people is the only secure basis for democracy and national independence. But, in advancing this, the toilers will pose another question to themselves - which class shall rule in South Africa? We deny absolutely that the fact that democratic slogans are now in the foreground means that the working class must allow the black bourgeoisie or petit-bourgeoisie to come to power because the revolution is a ’democratic’ one or is in its ’democratic stage’. Nor is sharing power with this class an option, for it inevitably means the subordination of the workers to their exploiters and the preservation of their system of exploitation.
THE AGRARIAN QUESTION
The working class of the townships and the mining areas must form an alliance with the workers in the countryside. They must extend a hand to help them organise a powerful trade union based on an elected delegate committee on each large farm. The reactionary laws impeding the organisation of rural workers must be broken.
A central democratic demand must be the nationalisation of all the large and medium sized farms monopolised by the whites, with no compensation to these land thieves. This demand in itself is not incompatible with the survival of capitalism, meaning only that land ownership should be vested in the state.
Beyond this lie the vital questions; who shall use the lands; how shall agricultural production be organised; who will benefit from it? The proletarian answer is that those who work the large-scale farms should manage them as part of an economic plan in the interests of the masses. This is impossible except as a result of the victory of the working class and the expropriation of the whole exploiting class and the creation of a planned economy. To achieve this goal, the rural workers must fight now for workers’ control over the farms.
The agrarian revolution must of necessity involve the small farmers of the Bantustans, the squatters, the occupiers of ’blackspots’. The working class must fight side by side with them for the seizure of enough good quality land to assure decent living conditions.
The working class’ programme does not involve a general parcelisation of the large farms into tiny peasant holdings or a ’return to the land’ of the urban population. This would be a retrograde step economically for the masses. Only large-scale, scientific, mechanised farming, once it is directed to the welfare of the masses, can meet the demands of a modern developed society. Politically, it would he a retrograde step too, to return millions of city and township dwellers to rural fragmentation and isolation. Private ownership would also, in the situation of intermixed language groups, lead to disputes between them about land ownership.
However, revolutionary socialists cannot be doctrinaire abstainers from living struggles. If the oppressed rural workers and displaced cultivators within the homelands take up the struggle to seize and divide the large farms of the white landowners, it is our duty to lend the maximum support and indeed offer leadership in the onslaught on apartheid. For, once the racist regime was smashed and the urban workers and rural toilers have established their, own state power, a process of creating democratic co-operatives, of state organised mechanisation schemes and scientific farming could overcome the dangers of fragmentation and subsistence farming.
THE NATIONAL QUESTION
The apartheid regime has repeatedly attempted to fragment and divide the majority of black South Africans to hide their minority monopolisation of economic and political power within a constellation of fake ’independent states’ and Bantustans. The South African/Azanian revolution must sweep away these minute puppet states. These cover only 13% of the Republic’s territory yet claim as citizens 55% of the country’s black population. The firmest unity between all the oppressed linguistic groups and communities is vital to overthrow the apartheid state.
The working class is the class objectively most able to achieve this unity. The conditions arising from its position in production and the struggles that arise there dictate the closest unity across linguistic, ’racial’ and national divisions. The proletariat should even welcome into its ranks all white workers who forsake the defence of the racist state and their privileges and are prepared to solidarise unconditionally with their black fellow workers.
An integral part of the proletariat’s democratic demands must be the recognition of the right of self-determination, up to and including separation, for all South African oppressed peoples. The working class should defend this right - but certainly not advocate separation - in order the better to bond all the communities together. In this way, internecine conflict can be minimised or avoided. It is in the interests of the working class to form the largest and strongest state in southern Africa that it can. It can do this only by helping the workers and peasants of Namibia and the surrounding states to, cast off the shackles of imperialism. To this end it should fight for a United Socialist States of Southern Africa.
Any great peoples’ revolution must take up the demands of all the oppressed if it is to triumph. Women have suffered extremes of hardship under apartheid. The right to a united family home, to live where you choose, are basic rights denied to the masses of South Africa. Women were the most courageous opponents in the campaign against the Pass Laws in the 1950s and 1960s. It took eleven years from 1952 to impose them on women.
Women must also fight for the right to work, an end to the farce that says they can survive on subsistence plots of inadequate land. Equal pay, and maternity rights are also immediate demands for women.
Women in the workforce must be drawn into the trade unions to fight alongside the men. In the post-war years, women were especially important in building up the trade unions. Some 10% of the unions in 1983 had women General Secretaries. Women must continue to be organised and to lead the unions. The women’s organisations in townships have been decisive in organising the boycott campaigns. These groups, together with those in the ’squatter’ areas, need to be linked to the unions in a militant unity that can challenge apartheid. Their heroism in the townships must find a place in these most powerful organisations of the class. Women in the Bantustans must also be organised and, through rural councils of action, be linked to agricultural unions.
Women have demonstrated their ability to resist apartheid. This must be fused with the general working class struggle by a mass working class women’s movement which can take the struggle forward to challenge not only apartheid but their own fundamental oppression, rooted deep within the soil of class society.
The victorious revolution in South Africa must denounce all the secret treaties and military agreements with other imperialist powers, publishing the evidence of the plots against the freedom and integrity of the other states of Africa.
It should aid the completion of the liberation struggles of the neighbouring states where imperialist puppets have long oppressed their peoples (eg. IJNITA in Angola or Hastings Banda in Malawi). It would call for a Federation of South African states to fight imperialism and prevent the encirclement and disruption of the revolution by counter-revolutionary forces.
The question arises who, or what body, can fulfil these democratic demands? In our view the dictatorship of the proletariat alone can fulfil and defend the democratic demands. However, repetition of this truth in a situation where the masses have enormous illusions in ’democracy’, that is, bourgeois democracy, is insufficient as a guide to revolutionary action. Our task is to combat their illusions and at the same time “utilise whatever is progressive about these illusions". (Trotsky)
In the present situation, this means we raise to the fore the call for a sovereign Constituent Assembly. From Zimbabwe to Nicaragua, we have seen petit-bourgeois nationalists, Stalinists and social democrats thwart the democratic aspirations of the anti-imperialist masses. Councils of state, bonapartist ’guardians of the revolution’ and other such things have been the instruments for halting anti-imperialist revolutions.
While the masses are not yet organised for, and in their great majority not yet prepared to accept, soviet power, we communists will fight for the consistently democratic slogan of the Constituent Assembly. Within it the programmes of the contending parties can be openly viewed by the masses.
In this way the proletarian vanguard and the revolutionary communist party can, as Marx said, “win the battle for democracy"; for democracy is not a resolution or abolition of class conflict, but an arena in which it can take place. The working class has its own democracy, that of the workers’ councils, which is superior to all forms of bourgeois democracy because it combines the direct election by the toiling masses of their representatives. These are at all times answerable to assemblies of their constituents and recallable and replaceable by them. This is a democracy far superior to that of the freest bourgeois parliament.
Moreover, not only can the workers councils deliberate and legislate, they can execute their own decisions, cutting away the necessity of a huge unelected and unanswerable bureaucracy that thwarts the will of the people and serves the interests of a minority of exploiters.
Yet, as long as the majority of the masses have illusions in a parliamentary assembly, we must go along with such a demand, trying to protect the masses against the deceptions and tricks which accompany all bourgeois democracy. Thus, the product of the revolutionary overthrow of the apartheid state must not be a ’national convention’. This would only bargain with the imperialists and South African racists, or the ex-stooges of apartheid in the homelands. Still less can there be an agreement to allow whites a veto, or concede them a federal republic. A sovereign, revolutionary Constituent Assembly elected by universal suffrage alone is acceptable.
The organisations of the workers and the communities should see to it that its election is fully democratic as to equal electoral districts, distribution of election propaganda, unrestricted campaigning, and the democratic registration of candidates (excluding racists and collaborators). Above all, the election and convocation of the Constituent Assembly should be done under the protection of the armed people and its militia. No prior agreements or limitations on the competence of the Constituent Assembly must be tolerated.
Is there any guarantee that such an assembly will come into existence? No, because the exploiters (black as well as white) will do everything they can to avoid having the people as a whole exert their will in the matter of the nature of the republic and the government that will emerge in South Africa. This fact poses, in its starkest form, the necessity of working class leadership in the South African revolution.
It is now obvious that the winning of democracy alone, in racist South Africa, is a revolutionary task, that is, one of smashing the racists’ state. Negotiations, compromises and national conventions cannot lead to the abolition of apartheid so long as the rifles, the tanks, and the aircraft are in the hands of the white racists. The repeated onslaught of the state forces poses to the organised proletariat the need to throw its weight into the struggle. The South African bourgeoisie, and its British and US backers, are terrified that the tap of exploitation and super-profits will be turned off by the black proletariat. This can only be done by political mass strikes aiming at a republic-wide general strike. Indeed, unless such a strike occurs, then sooner or later the Botha regime will re establish order on the basis of the exhaustion of the struggle in the townships.
The general strike can mobilise the entire working class. Its momentum can and will draw the many workers not yet unionised, the youth and unemployed in the townships, the students and black petit-bourgeoisie into a direct confrontation with the state power of apartheid. All the variety of forms of struggle now being waged by the oppressed in South Africa can be strengthened, co-ordinated and given a revolutionary direction by means of the general strike.
In the course of a general strike, the masses must develop their self-organisation. The stay-away and boycott committees in the townships have drawn in delegates from all sectors of the masses. Strike and factory committees too, must be built and must fuse with the township and countryside based committees so that the strike can be organised and prosecuted by action councils representing all the workers and oppressed.
Such councils cannot and should not be restricted to the workplaces. They must be built in the townships and communities to replace the government stooge councils. They must draw in the key existing organisations of school students and the unemployed. In the countryside, they must also become organs of the agrarian revolution against the white landowners.
Last, but not least, in the process of breaking up the armed forces of apartheid, the opportunity exists to win the black rank and file from their white officers, to create black soldiers’ councils, to elect officers and to mete out punishment to the racists. Factory, mines, township, rural workers’ and soldiers’ councils; these are the necessary organs of struggle and insurrection on the road to democracy.
The general strike cannot allow itself to be crushed by Botha’s police and army. Workers’ mass pickets will have to link up with student and unemployed youth to create a militia - a militia that can offer real defence and resistance and which must set out on the difficult task of arming itself and winning over Botha’s black police and troops.
Appeals should be made to the black ’nationalist’ states, to the guerrilla forces, to the ’workers’ states’ and to the western labour movements for immediate unconditional aid and the fullest supportive action.
The demands around which a general strike may be launched would be immediate and concrete, for example, a particularly brutal massacre, the declaration of a state of emergency, the arrest of prominent nationalist or workers’ leaders. It must be some issue which by its importance electrifies the masses.
The initial immediate and partial demands must strike at the central weapon or attack of the government. Then, as the struggle develops, broader and more strategic goals will come to the fore. It would be schematic and abstract to guess as to whether one or several general strikes will suffice to break and divide the ruling class, to mobilise and arm the masses, to put on the order of the day an insurrectionary struggle, setting as its immediate aim the smashing of the state forces. Yet this is the direction the struggle must take if apartheid and all racial oppression is to be destroyed without trace.
Once having paid in blood for the downfall of the apartheid state, should, indeed can, the working class content itself with a democratic republic in which a black capitalist class replaces the white racists as exploiters? It must not unless it wishes to sacrifice 90% of the real social content of the revolution for the exploited and oppressed people: decent housing, food, education, welfare, all these are possible only on the basis of a commonly owned and democratically planned economy. Therefore, the democratic revolution, the fight for majority rule and the overthrow of the whole apartheid state, poses at every stage the question of working class power.
The task facing revolutionary communists is to start from the position of total solidarity with the masses in struggle, to advance consistent revolutionary democratic slogans, linking them to the class demands of the proletariat.
These must include immediate and partial slogans, both political and economic
* For fundamental improvements in pay and working conditions;
* For an end to wage and job inequality between white and black workers;
* For full trade union rights and recognition; maintain the total independence of the unions from the state;
* For full residence and citizenship rights for workers and their families;
* For decent housing for all workers.
In addition, the working class must take up the cause of the unemployed, of the school students and of women, thus preventing the bosses and the state from being able to mobilise those without a job against the organised proletariat.
Yet such immediate demands are insufficient either to meet the needs of the working class or to point the road to working class power. Transitional demands must be fought for which centre on challenging the bosses’ despotism in the workplace and the economy and the state’s despotism in society.
In the workplace, we must fight for workers’ control of production, of hiring and firing, of the speed and intensity of work, of safety, of the length of the working day.
A reduction in the working week with no loss of pay must be fought for so that the unemployed can be taken on in the factories and mines. Likewise, wage demands need to be formulated with the backing of committees of women and need to include a sliding-scale of wages to protect working class living standards against inflation.
Committees of delegates in each workplace, elected at mass meetings free of management spying and intimidation, can lead these struggles and establish workers’ control. The business secrets of the South African and international monopolists need to be opened up to workers’ inspection. Never will such astronomical exploitation and plunder of the workers have been revealed. This needs to be exposed to the proletariat of the whole world. It will greatly help in winning their aid and assistance for the revolution. In turn, it will aid their own struggle against these companies in semi-colonial and imperialist heartland alike.
The nationalisation of individual enterprises or whole industries is posed to workers in their day to day trade union struggle. Companies and industries that reject the workers’ vital demands for radical improvements in wages, health and safety conditions, housing and so forth, pleading ’inability to afford it’, must be met with the demand to nationalise their company/industry and to open all their records to workers’ inspection. The occupation of factories by workers must be used to enforce this demand. But, least of all in South Africa, is mere state ownership the answer.
State ownership means simply that the capitalist class as a whole owns and takes responsibility for operating production. In South Africa, this state is not only capitalist but also an oppressor, racist state. The reformist notion of state ownership as being equal to democratic or popular ownership has not even a semblance of truth.
To the demand for nationalisation, therefore, workers must add the demand “No Compensation! Not a cent/penny for the racist super-exploiters!” They must not rely on the actions of the state but on their own organised power to install workers’ control in the enterprise and the industry. They must above all realise that only the expropriation of the whole class of big capitalists and the seizure of state power by the working class can preserve and make permanent the workers’ gains.
The call for expropriation arises not only from the immediate struggles of the working class but also from the democratic aspirations of the masses. A fully democratic republic, where the votes of the black majority were decisive, would be a mockery if the factories, the mines, the banks and the land remained in the hands of a tiny white minority.
The masses should demand the nationalisation of the wealth of South Africa. It is impossible to do this and to indemnify the South African and foreign imperialists. On the contrary, the complete expropriation of these parasites opens the road to a socialised and planned economy.
There is no gradual or peaceful road for the South African masses to really control their own country and their own destiny. Any bourgeois or petty bourgeois nationalist government that attempted to take the road of gradual nationalisation with compensation, or even partial expropriations, would be undermined by economic sabotage of all kinds.
The enemies of the revolution would use all the tricks of political destabilisation such as have been used against Angola and Mozambique by the South African racists and by the US imperialists against Nicaragua. Only the working class, by expropriating the imperialists, can put the immense natural and productive wealth of South Africa at the service of her people and of the oppressed and exploited of the whole continent.
A WORKERS’ STATE
The advance of these demands is a measure, an acid test, of the real achievements of the working class. Without the achievement of these demands, any state, any republic, whoever stood at its head and whatever political liberties it conceded, would still be a bourgeois state, a capitalist dictatorship at every level. All talk by nationalist leaders of ’socialism’ would be a deception.
Even when the working class has established its own power in the factories and is able to guard it in the streets with their own militia, the task still remains to seize the state power for the working class. The workers must resolve the dual power situation by destroying for ever the capitalists’ power.
Without doing this the workers’ gains, however extensive, will be temporary. The possibility of counter-revolution will hang suspended over the heads of the working masses. This will be equally true whether the bourgeoisie entrusts its defence to Botha, to Buthelezi, or even if it is forced to hand power to Mandela. The working class must establish its own dictatorship if it is not to see all its gains eroded or destroyed.
To this end, the working class vanguard must fight for its class goals and those of all the oppressed masses. They must stress that to achieve in full measure their objectives the republic must be an urban and rural workers’ republic. That means the elimination of all large scale private property in the means of production, transportation, commerce and the media, and its replacement by a democratically planned economy.
To achieve this, the working class must concentrate full power in the hands of its own organisations, workers’ councils, and must create a workers’ government answerable to a congress of them. This programme must be fought for in the mass organisations first and foremost but the party of the proletarian vanguard must likewise press its cause on the Constituent Assembly.
Whether the Constituent Assembly will come into existence independently of the deceit and trickery of the exploiters and whether it will meet the wishes of the majority of the people cannot be spelled out in advance of the struggle. What is certain is that if it obstructs the worker and peasant masses trying to press beyond the wishes of ’their’ representatives, either because the masses have become more radical or because the legislators have become more conservative or reactionary, then it will have to be swept aside. The working class must allow no democratic demand to become a noose to strangle the revolution whose safety is the supreme law.
What will a workers’ republic mean in South Africa? It will be the first giant step toward the liberation of the whole of Africa from imperialist servitude in which it suffers starvation and untold miseries despite the formal independence of its states. A workers’ Azania/South Africa will press forward two interlinked struggles; against imperialism and against the puppets, the pseudo radical demagogues and military dictators who infest the continent.
It will aid the workers and peasants to throw off their tormentors and apply their skills and training to Africa’s enormous natural wealth. This wealth can then be used in the interests of the people and not of the European and North American exploiters. In carrying forward this fight it will inscribe on its banner:
FOR A WORKERS’ REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA/AZANIA!
FOR A FEDERATION OF WORKERS’ STATES OF SOUTHERN AFRICA!