L-I: Chris Hani's legacy: Interview with ANC's Thenjiwe Mtintso

Workers World / Chicago wwchi at SPAMwwa.com
Wed Aug 11 20:55:52 MDT 1999

-----Original Message-----
From: Macdonald Stainsby <mstainsby at hotmail.com>

>A question for Greg B or Lou Pa. :
>   I will start by saying that I have come to garner a strong respect for
>the WWP, beginning with your excellent work on the anti-war movement. I do
>however have a question on this. ......

I respect your writing a good deal too, MS, so I will try to come up with a
reasonably complete answer.

You apparently believe we are being "soft on the ANC" and should be
criticizing it more sharply.

However, (a) I am not sure you have properly appreciated what we ARE saying
and doing about the situation in South Africa, and (b) I don't know how it
would benefit the world struggle for socialism if we published the sort of
criticisms, or "slams", which you apparently believe we should.

Let's take (b) first.  The following is not meant as a personal attack, I
promise, but is in response to really a whole "culture of slamming" in the
U.S. left, for which you are not even responsible, being in Canada.  But it
is culture of which we in WWP want no part, and to avoid being confused with
which we will make great efforts.  It's easy to sit here in the U.S. and
write articles attacking various South Africans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans,
Palestinians, etc. etc. for having "sold out" and for giving up on the
struggle against imperialism.  Anyone can be an armchair general of the
world revolution.  White U.S. men like myself are trained from birth to
suppose that we know better than anyone in the world how they should manage
their affairs, and even those of us on the left find it all to easy to
pretend that our little offices are the World Headquarters of Revolution and
to issue orders: "Go out and fight imperialism!  What's wrong with you!
Ditch your sellout leaders!" etc. etc.  I do not know how such people would
respond if they were to be asked by a South African, for example, questions
like, "So... how long were YOU in a prison comparable to Robben Island?  How
many of YOU have they found necessary to shoot?  We have hundreds of
thousands of members here - how many do YOU have?  We lead our trade union
confederation.  We overthrew apartheid.  What have YOU done?  If we take the
measures you want, we may have to fight a new civil war.  When can we expect
YOU to be ready to fight a civil war in your country?  For lack of jobs and
development and infrastructure, our children are dying now.  How are YOUR
children living?  What are YOU and YOUR family prepared to suffer?"  These
are not entirely empty or pointless questions.

It's easy to talk about how we would be better leaders of the South African
revolution than they would be, but it's much harder to actually make a
revolution here in the U.S. and show how it should be done by example, or
for that matter to build an anti-imperialist movement of such size that it
gives the oppressed of the world some feeling of hope that U.S. imperialism
can be beaten.  The main problem of South Africa is not the politics of
Mandela or Mbeki or the SACP or anyone else in that country.  The main
problem of South Africa is U.S. imperialism and imperialism in general, in a
period in which the socialist camp which had provided political and material
support for their revolutionary struggle was overthrown from within and has
not been replaced by any comparable force.  If you want to find people on
the left responsible for the current situation in South Africa, point your
fingers at Gorbachev and all the Gorbachevites not only in the USSR but in
the west, in the U.S. as well.

When the U.S. drops bombs on Belgrade and all over Iraq at will, make no
mistake, those bombs are aimed at South African and every other oppressed
country as well.  That's one more reason, if we needed one, why the pro-war
and semi-anti-war "socialists" whom we fought all spring are so full of
shit.  In reality the imperialists are waging a global war.  They are
attempting to demonstrate with every bomb they drop, with every child they
starve, that "this is what will happen to you if you dare to rebel - in
Colombia, in South Africa, in Palestine, in Korea, in the Philippines, in
Indonesia.  ANYWHERE."  And it's not an idle threat.

Now, let's look at the situation in South Africa.  The ANC is not a
monolith.  It is a broad front.  It contains anti-communist forces, forces
which were willing to work with communists but which are not communist
themselves, and communists including the South African Communist Party.  I
think it is quite a mistake to talk about "Mbeki/Mandela" as if they
represented a single orientation.  And there are different currents in the
SACP as well.  There is intense discussion and debate and struggle among and
within these forces going on now about how to proceed (and there are reasons
for their not carrying it on in full view of the imperialists).  I think it
is also a mistake to say that "the militancy of the left in S. Africa was
assassinated with Chris Hani."  Surely you don't believe that Chris Hani was
the only revolutionary Marxist in the SACP??  I will bet there are many
times as many revolutionary anti-capitalist Marxists in South Africa as
there are in the whole United States, let alone in my own party.   And I
have no reason to doubt that they can wage the political struggles they have
to wage without WWP's leadership.

Of course we know what the situation in South Africa it is.  A socialist
overturn has not taken place, so you're quite right to say that it's not the
same as the situation in the People's Republic of China, although both are
oppressed countries faced with the primacy of the capitalist market.  Of
course the policies of economic retrenchment are imposed on them by world
imperialism.  I think the comparison with the Corazon Aquino government in
the Phillipines is not entirely wrong, although there is the important
difference that the Aquino government did not come to power through armed
struggle.  But certainly imperialism WANTS to make the analogy with Aquino
complete.  They want to use the ANC, to threaten it, to co-opt all the
elements in it that can be co-opted, to isolate and oppose the communists
and anyone who remembers its history of struggle, and to either convert it
into a completely reliable servant or to weaken it so it can be undermined
and replaced.  So the question is, what can we do to stop the imperialists
from having their way?  But I think it's a mistake to believe that the most
effective way of stopping them is necessarily to write and post articles
attempting to join in the political struggle within and around the ANC
attacking this leader or that in the same sort of heated style that we might
use if we were South African communists ourselves. How many people in South
Africa will read such articles?  How many people would we convince?  Would
we not, rather, be engaged in empty posturing, NOT mainly for the benefit of
our sisters and brothers in South African, but in order to prove to people
in the West how "revolutionary" we are?

So that gets us back to (a) - what IS WWP really doing to help things in
South Africa?  In this conjunction I would suggest that you re-read the
article that Greg Butterfield posted here.  What does the article say?  Is
it an endorsement of the ANC government's economic policies?  No, it's an
interview with, really an article by, a woman commander in the armed
struggle who is clearly a leader in the revolutionary forces in the SACP and
within the ANC.  And what's the content of the article?  It's an
appreciation of the revolutionary legacy of Chris Hani, communist, chief of
staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe.  I wasn't present at the editorial meeting, and
am not speaking for our editorial staff, but isn't this article relevant to
the whole subject matter of the struggle there?  To the extent that people
in South Africa ARE reading our articles on our web site, what is going to
be more helpful to the left forces over there?  Posting some article
"slamming Mandela"?  Or giving space to a revolutionary South African
comrade to say what she believes is relevant and helpful, recalling the
legacy of Hani?  You believe the struggle died with Chris Hani, MS, but
would you not concede then that it is a progressive thing if someone at this
juncture calls Hani's life and example to mind and encourages young people
in S. Africa, and elsewhere, to live like Chris Hani?  In fact, our comrades
are assisting in the production by the People's Video Network of the video

If people in South Africa or elsewhere want to know whether we in WWP are in
favor of continuing the revolution and overthrowing capitalism, or whether
we have some sort of confidence in the idea that capitalist development is
going to suffice, there's no need for them to remain in doubt.  In 1993 we
published an article by Monica Moorehead, who was our presidential candidate
in 1996 and is one of our Secretariat today, in pamphlet form under the
title, "South Africa: Which road to liberation?".  It has stood up quite
well.  She quotes Mandela encouraging foreign investors and guaranteeing
them against nationalization, and writes,

  "Like so many other groups, this great African revolutionary organization
has been put into the unenviable position of re-evaluating its tactics and
strategies since the political counter-revolution took place in Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union almost three years ago.
  "Mandela and other ANC leaders are hoping for the breakup of the handful
of corporate monopolies in South Africa that dominate close to 90 percent of
the apartheid economy and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. ... The ANC is
hoping that with the breakup of these giants, individual Black-owned
businesses will have a chance of prospering and putting life into the dismal
capitalist economy.  The fact is that even if the monopolies are broken up
organizationally, capitalist property relations will remain intact
regardless, benefiting the white minority.  ..
  "In Marxist terminology, the ANC is attempting to launch a bourgeois
democratica revolution in South Africa.  What does that mean?"  And then
there is a section on the comprador bourgeoisie, and she continues on the
role of the bourgeois state, and so on.  So we have been criticizing this
policy of capitalist economic development for six years now.  It's not a
secret.  Certainly the issue of how we assess the general policy is more
important and more useful than how stridently we criticize one leader or
another or the ANC as an organization.

But, looking at the question in another way, is it not obvious that if we
REALLY want to support the working-class struggle in South Africa, the best
thing we can do is to attack and undermine and weaken its worst enemy, that
is, U.S. imperialism, and build revolutionary struggle here?  This has
always been our orientation.  When we organize here against war and for
Mumia, against racists and for the workers' struggles here, against the
ideological sway of the Republicans and the Democrats and for socialism,
this is not our way of IGNORING the internal struggle in South Africa.  This
is, and I say this in a completely non-rhetorical and materialistic sense,
our way of SUPPORTING our comrades in South Africa.  There are no "domestic
issues" in the U.S.  Anything which strengthens the social control of the
imperialists here, and makes their rule look more complete, more benign,
more unshakeable, more eternal, weakens every communist and every
anti-imperialist everywhere.  And anything which undermines their control,
which confronts them with protests and strikes, which exposes the brutality
and racism of their rule, also strengthens every communist and every
anti-imperialist everywhere.  I'm sure this is not a new revelation to
anyone on these lists, you least of all, MS, but there's no harm in
repeating it.

I hope you won't think any of the language in this is personally directed
against you, MS - it's really not.  Thanks for giving me a chance to


Lou Paulsen
member, Workers World Party, Chicago

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