Joe Slovo on "Has Socialism Failed"

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Apr 11 09:19:13 MDT 1995

Louis Proyect:

I downloaded from the ANC gopher Joe Slovo's landmark address on the
subject "Has Socialism Failed". An excerpt appears beneath. If anybody is
interested in the full text, you can either access the ANC gopher at
"" and find it under 'documents' or e-mail me directly and I'll
send you a copy.

Joe Slovo:


The commandist and bureaucratic approaches which took root during
Stalin's time affected communist parties throughout the world,
including our own. We cannot disclaim our share of the
responsibility for the spread of the personality cult and a
mechanical embrace of Soviet domestic and foreign policies, some of
which discredited the cause of socialism. We kept silent for too
long after the 1956 Khruschev revelations.

It would, of course, be naive to imagine that a movement can, at a
stroke, shed all the mental baggage it has carried from the past.
And our 7th Congress emphasised the need for on-going vigilance. It
noted some isolated reversions to the past, including attempts to
engage in intrigue and factional activity in fraternal
organisations, sectarian attitudes towards some non-party
colleagues, and sloganised dismissals of views which do not
completely accord with ours.

The implications for socialism of the Stalinist distortions have
not yet been evenly understood throughout our ranks. We need to
continue the search for a better balance between advancing party
policy as a collective and the toleration of on-going debate and
even constructive dissent.

We do not pretend that our party's changing postures in the
direction of democratic socialism are the results only of our own
independent evolution. Our shift undoubtedly owes a prime debt to
the process of perestroika and glasnost which was so courageously
unleashed under Gorbachev's inspiration. Closer to home, the
democratic spirit which dominated in the re-emerged trade union
movement from the early 1970's onwards, also made its impact.

But we can legitimately claim that in certain fundamental respects
our indigenous revolutionary practice long ago ceased to be guided
by Stalinist concepts. This is the case particularly in relation to
the way the party performed its role as a working class vanguard,
its relations with fraternal organisations and representatives of
other social forces and, above all, its approach to the question of
democracy in the post-apartheid state and in a future socialist
South Africa.

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