L-I: Chris Hani's legacy: InterviewwithANC'sThenjiweMtintso

TAHIR WOOD TWOOD at SPAMadfin.uwc.ac.za
Fri Aug 13 02:59:08 MDT 1999

>>> "Charles Brown" <CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us> 08/12
6:50 PM >>>
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


Thanks for this very undogmatic posting on SA. Actually this
country is a mixture of some rather exciting changes,
especially in the cultural sphere - one should not forget
that the statutory deracialisation of the country is a good
- but mixed with a pervasive mediocrity. The most
mindnumbing of the latter is Mbeki's "African Renaissance"
notion, truly an idea without any content! Real nationalist
rubbish. See my further replies below.

Charles: 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.

Tahir: My view is that almost all societies are a mixture of
modes of production, but that this is especially true of
third world countries. This I learned from Mao, whose notion
of stages is far from a cardboard cutout. In fact I think it
is its very subtlety that confuses some marxists who seem to
be unable to grasp the difference between old-style
bourgeois democratic revolution and the Maoist notion, which
was developed from very concrete experience of a thrid world
country, as well as a very creative critique of Soviet
mistakes - after all that country also had a peasant

Charles: 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.

Tahir: Good points, but the "big proletariat" point can be
overstated, for example by those who would claim that there
is no peasantry in SA because the rural masses are simply
part of the reserve army of labour. This superficial
argument ignores the massive split between city and
countryside in SA which is fully consistent with its status
as a third world country. Many of the SA proletariat are
migrant workers who are still rooted in the countryside and
forced into migrancy by the extreme underdevelopment in
these areas. The same goes for the "imperialist power in
Africa" point: I would say that SA is a kind of
sub-metropole, rather like Nigeria, Egypt, etc., countries
which can provide relatively powerful points of imperialist
control over the continent. SA is being positioned by US-led
imperialism as the policeman of Southern and Central  Africa
and its new leaders are embracing this historical task with
enthusiasm. As Fanon said, the nationalist petty bourgeoisie
fulfills its historic destiny as intermediary (paraphrase).

Charles: 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.

Tahir: I don't agree with the "bypassing capitalism" bit, in
fact I don't even know what it would mean in practice (I
suspect it couldn't mean anything in practice). What was
proposed by Mao was a rejection of bourgeois rule and a
controlled form of capitalism with politics in command, i.e.
proletarian hegemony in a form of 'state capitalism', if you
will. I'm glad that you are able to pick up the rather basic
point about the People's Republic. The Maoist position on
China has always been that it was a thrid world country
undergoing revolution. Consider this real problem: What does
it mean to speak of a socialist third world country? We run
into difficulties of language here, which I have been trying
to draw attention to, and which the mechanists among us seem
to be oblivious of. This is the same point that I made
earlier with respect to Cuba. A third world country that
describes itself as socialist can only accurately mean two
things: that it is part of the international socialist camp
(a mainly political point) and that it is attempting to
develop itself in a socialist direction (a mainly economic
point). But at what point does capitalism give way to
socialism in this process? It surely doesn't do it at one
instantaneous point (like the morning after the revolution);
there cannot be discrete stages. Is it true to say that Cuba
is a socialist country in the sense that Marx and Engels
envisaged? I really doubt it. How much production in a
country like this is commodity production? A very large part
I would say. And this has remained true of China since 1949
as well. Go ahead and call these countries socialist if you
like, but be clear about what you mean. Mao was theorising
exactly this very real conceptual problem when he put
forward his notions of a new democracy. People who can only
think in rigid binary oppositions will not be able to
understand this, so they veer between saying that the
Chinese revolution was thoroughly socialist (whatever they
mean by this), or else that Mao wasn't even a marxist at
all! Sometimes the same person says both these things in the
space of a few paragraphs! I wasn't going to quote, but
sometimes one just has to. The following is from 'On New
Democracy' (Selected Works Vol II, Peking:FLP, 1975:344):

"Although such a revolution in a colonial and semi-colonial
country is still fundamentally bourgeois-democratic in its
social character during the first stage or step, and
although its objective mission is to clear the path for the
development of capitalism, it is no longer a revolution of
the old type led by the bourgeoisie with the aim of
establishing a capitalist society and a state under
bourgeois dictatorship. It belongs to a new type of
revolution led by the proletariat with the aim, in the first
stage, of establishing a new-democratic society and a state
under the joint dictatorship of the revolutionary classes.
Thus this revolution actually serves the purpose of clearing
a still wider path for the development of socialism. In the
course of its progress, there may be a number of further
sub-stages, because of changes on the enemy's side and
within the ranks of our allies, but the fundamental
character of the revolution remains unchanged."

Charles: 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 capitalists.

Tahir: And again Mao also made many contributions towards
our understanding of just this phenomenon.

Charles: 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.

Tahir: Quite right. And some of it is just bewilderment, for
reasons that I've already mentioned. I've chosen to reply to
your message, Charles, in particular, because of your
interest in language that I recall from our earlier
discussion. There are real linguistic and philosophical
issues at stake in understanding Mao's particular brand of
dialectics and his approach to combating dogmatism (see
especially his essay 'On Contradiction' in this regard).
Those who think in rigid binary oppositions will never take
to the deceptive simplicity of Mao's writing, where it is
the permeabilitly of concepts that is so crucial.

Thanks for a very open and questioning mail, which raises
conceptual questions without easy answers. SA is a very
instructive case because it has the mixture of
characteristics that we've been discussing and which
requires subtlety of analysis.


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