L-I: Chris Hani's legacy: Interview withANC'sThenjiweMtintso

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Thu Aug 12 10:50:54 MDT 1999

I would not claim to understand as well as the comrades there the situation in South
Africa today. Certainly, the accomodations of the ANC/SACP to imperialism are
disheartening and no doubt especially so to those who live there.

I do not fully subscribe to Lou's critique of stagism, but I do agree with it to the
extent that it opposes a cardboard version of mode of production analysis, and
especially its rejection of the total supremacy of later modes of production over
earlier modes.

However, with respect to South Africa, "we" have long analyzed it as an industrialized
capitalist mode of production, even an imperialist power in Africa. It has a big
proletariat. So why isn't socialism on the agenda even with a "stagist" analysis ?
Perhaps a big stumbling block to aiming for a socialist revolution immediately remains
, I believe, the fact that a substantial portion of the proletariat are white racists.
 There remains an unusually sharp division in its proletariat , despite the overthrow
of Apartheid. This lack of unity, along with the collapse of European socialism and
enormous setback to the world socialist resources and power,  is probably important in
the SACP's decision not to press for socialism today.

I would point out that in Nicaragua, the Sandinistas did not have building socialism
as an immediate goal. They were ( are) building a national democratic liberation as a
main first step.  In China, I believe the slogan at one time was taking the road to
socialism bypassing capitalism, a truly non-dogmatic attitude toward stages (though
not devoid of modes of production analysis). Yet, the history of the Chinese
revolution demonstrates that the "stages" of development cannot be entirely ignored.
Today's capitalist enclaves there are a concession to necessity of learning directly
some of the lessons of the capitalist mode.  Marx , Engels and Lenin were not kidding
about the differences between a proletariat and a peasantry, with all  due respect to
the latter.  China is a "Peoples' Republic" not a "Socialist Republic". This
difference is a recognition of modes of production analysis.

As for individual Communist Party members who move to the right, give up, become
opportunists, whatever, it has always been thus. I think Marx and Engels fought it in
The International. Surely, Engels fought it in the German Social Democratic Labor
Party. In the Russian SDLP there were Mensheviks. Then back in Germany, there was
Kautsky the renegade Marxist.  No doubt some thought Lenin's NEP was like the South
African GEAR. In the ex-Soviet Union , many ex-Communists easily converted to

Some of all this is betrayal of principle and dessertion of socialism. Some of it is
strategic maneuver and retreat in order to suvive and fight another day. I bet the
South African CP's conduct today is a mixture of these.

Charles Brown

>>> Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> 08/12/99 09:53AM >>>
>That there have been theoretical weaknesses in the SACP for
>a very long time, and Chris Hani, wonderful and exemplary
>man that he was, did not provide an exception to this any
>more than Joe Slovo did. The 'black republic thesis' that
>was originally formulated by SA communists together with
>Bukharin and others in the Soviet Union in the twenties was
>taken up in a very degenerated form in the SACP as the
>'internal colonialism' thesis or 'colonialism of a special
>type'. Without going into detail here, what was wrong with
>it was it led to a notion of the national democratic
>revolution which was almost purely racial and had very
>little anti-imperialist content.

I see that no matter how compelled we feel to sweep early Soviet history
under the rug, it keeps cropping up. Even Jon Flanders, who took time away
from replacing pistons on a diesel locomotive, mused on the similarities
between nostalgia for Stalin and nostalgia for Hoffa. This after
complaining about how a discussion on Stalin vs Trotsky is the last thing
we need to hear.

Unfortunately, the SACP encapsulates all of the problems of a "stagist"
conception of socialist revolution that originated under Kautsky/Plekhanov
and reared its ugly head after the Popular Front turn.

When I was at ANC hq in Lusaka, Zambia in January 1990 doing some technical
consulting, I got a pretty good idea of the outlook of Communists in the
ANC. At the lower ranks, there was very little question that these were
dedicated revolutionists who deeply believed that an ANC victory in South
Africa would lead almost immediately to a socialist revolution. They also
were very interested in Nicaragua and the Cuban revolution since the
Central American revolution had not yet gone completely down the toilet. It
would in a few months after the FSLN got voted out of office.

When I met with Thabo Mbeki, I had a totally different impression. He drove
a BMW and lived in an elegant house in an upper class neighborhood. Even
though he was reputed to be a CPer, I got the distinct impression that he
was more interested in "modernizing" South Africa than anything else. That
was why my organization interested him. We could be a source of
high-technology expertise.

All of these people, including Mbeki, were operating from the most lofty
principles. They would go to any length to ensure that black South Africans
had the same rights as white South Africans. They were radical democrats.
Furthermore, it was correct for the international left to offer them
solidarity. But what was not on the agenda in South Africa, and never was,
was overthrowing the capitalist system. Jim Hillier, who is the moderator
of the pro-Stalin marxist-leninist list on egroups.com, wrote a long bitter
attack on the SACP on the Marxism-International list. The essence of his
attack is that Joe Slovo and company had abandoned the sound revolutionary
principles of Joseph Stalin. Yet if you examine the history of the South
African Communist Party with scholarly impartiality, you will discover that
the sole goal was to realize the "national revolution". To realize this
goal, it would be necessary to establish links with the progressive

David Welch suggested the other day that such collaboration was not
inconsistent with socialist revolution and pointed to the 5-star flag of
the Chinese CP (where's Henry Liu now that we need him). What this fails to
take into account was that Mao had ZERO use for the Chinese bourgeoisie. If
anything, that whole multi-class schema was a clever ruse. If you read
Maurice Meisner's excellent history of Chinese economics and politics since
Mao, you will discover that Mao was intent on making a socialist revolution
from the very beginning. Mao was NOT a "stagist".

Louis Proyect


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