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

Russell Grinker grinker at SPAMmweb.co.za
Thu Aug 12 14:38:49 MDT 1999

Another contribution on this issue:

I believe that the real problem inhibiting the development of an alternative
left current in the Congress Alliance was the lack of a genuine political
alternative to cohere the substantial number of internal oppositionists to
the leadership line.  Anyone familiar with the Alliance will know that the
harshest and most telling criticism of the consequences of the current line
was (is?) to be found in internal debates.  These however are seldom allowed
to become public.  The problem is that the only alternative  to the current
road was a tactical one as embodied in the armed struggle wing (of which
Chris Hani could
be said to be a typical representative).  In the context of the collapse of
the ANC's Soviet backing (and indeed pressure from Gorbachev to compromise),
and the rapid growth in influence of the negotiation strategy in the late
'eighties,  the more youthful, radical, elements hit a real brick wall.
hated the consequences of compromise but mostly only had tactical
differences with the mainstream leadership.  Debates in the camps in exile
were extremely heated (the full history of this is yet to be written but I
know many people were very bitter) and the leadership embodied in MK leader
Joe Modise often had to force through the new line in the face of fierce
opposition and sometimes downright disbelief.  In fact a number of the more
radical exile elements had their return to the country delayed as long as
possible to neutralise them. The real point is that the armed
struggle/radical wing could offer no real political alternative to the
negotiation and compromise approach of the leadership.  All they could offer
were more acts of armed resistance which looked (were) increasingly out of
place and irrelevant in the new context.  The masses were in any case
exhausted by two states of emergency and the internal resistance had by the
late '80s, been picked off bit by bit and largely neutralised.  Participants
in public activity (marches, protests) by the early '90s soon realised that
to the majority of people they had become a slightly peculiar militant
minority - to be respected but to be taken less and less seriously.
Ordinary people wanted to get on with rebuilding their lives and the new
deal on offer looked promising.

The Hani funeral with the angry youth burning and rioting outside the
stadium while the Alliance "establishment" conducted the ceremony inside,
probably marked the end of the armed resistance era and the real turning
point in mass support for that strategy.  After that the leadership began to
give the nod to the police disarming and even arresting  armed participants
in public events.  The subsequent Tambo funeral (and "O.R." Tambo was in
fact as
much a hero for the "left" as was Hani) already began to show a sharp
decline in public militancy.  The disastrous Bisho massacre was literally
the final massacre of militancy and I believe a deliberate public
demonstration by the state that that strategy would no longer be tolerated.
The message got across very effectively - the leadership (some of whom were
present at Bisho and were shot at) never again led mass action against the
state.  Thy limited themselves henceforth to smoke filled negotiating

The radicals didn't just disappear after that although many certainly became
demoralised and passive while others bought into big business.  I would
argue that the better militants accepted that they were on the losing side
and took the line that it was better for them to try to run the
"transformation" process rather than let the "right" dominate it.  Of course
this meant disaster for this political tendency.  The remnants of the
radical mass base were left leaderless and the mass movement was
(semi-consciously I believe) wound down.  It was amazing how rapidly the
mass based approach of the Alliance had turned into a typical western
election campaign run by advertising agencies (and advised by Clinton's spin
doctors) by the time of the '94 elections.

The role of the SACP in this situation was mainly its use for the Alliance
in theorising the turn away from armed struggle and justifying compromise
(the negotiation process) as the only alternative.  "Objective conditions"
were held to dictate compromise as the only way forward.  The old two-stage
formula was also reshaped into a multi-stage revolution of indeterminate
length as part of this justification.  The Party had both the intellectuals
and the radical exile credentials to achieve this feat.  It also however
faced little
opposition from a radical left (outside the Alliance) which failed to relate
to mass sentiment for national liberation and pushed a home grown form of
imperialist economism (imperialist economism of a special type? - sorry)
which had little appeal for most people.  Other Africanist opposition (PAC,
BC etc) was mostly too discredited or disorganised to achieve anything and
its better elements soon jumped ship to the ANC or the new government


>I think the non-prescriptive stance that you have taken here
>is admirable in many ways, and I also think that you are
>right in saying that there are many ideological currents
>within both the ANC and SACP and many very committed and
>selfless revolutionaries. What I think your post misses,
>however, are the following important points:
>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. The logical implication of
>this was that the black nationalist forces were the
>legitimate LEADERS of the struggle and not the communists;
>ever since the formation of the alliance the communists have
>been the tail behind the dog. This could not be more
>different to the Chinese case which has been mentioned:
>although there were alliances with the Kuomintang and Mao
>was even a member himself at one point, the Chinese party
>was aways clear that its responsibilty was to lead. This was
>because the anit-imperialist nature of the revolution was
>very, very clear. This was not the case in SA. I once asked
>a member of the SACP who addressed a branch meeting of the
>ANC of which I was a member at the time (this would have
>been about 1991): "Is the national democratic revolution of
>which you speak an anti-imperialist one, and if it is why
>should it not have the same outcome as another
>'parliamentary revolution', namely that of Chile and
>Allende?" He tried to persuade me that the NDR was indeed
>anti-imperialist (I must add that there were many liberal
>members of the ANC present who were profoundly embarrassed
>by this discussion). He was wrong and I knew why: there
>would not be a Chile-like outcome precisely because there
>was no anti-imperialist struggle on the agenda. US-led
>imperialism understood this better than he did. Today that
>person I'm referring to is no longer a marxist of any kind,
>which brings me to my second point:
>A communist party which does not have these things
>adequately theorised contributes to the disillusionment of
>the left. It is impossible to overemphasise this point. The
>SACP communists now suffer the humiliation of having Mbeki
>and Mandela waving a finger at them like PW Botha used to do
>to his opponents and scolding them for daring to criticise
>GEAR. The remarkable thing about this is that they were
>SURPRISED! How could they have been surprised and taken
>aback in this way if they had had an understanding of what's
>going on here? The fact that the hopes of the masses are
>still pinned on the SACP to a great extent is a fair
>reflection on the dedicated role that SACP members played in
>the past, many of them giving their lives for liberation.
>But this same fact serves to block the emergence of a left
>opposition in SA. Virtually all the parties ranged against
>the ANC (with one or two miniscule exceptions) are to the
>right of it, and of course the SACP is not in opposition.
>The question is this: will the SACP go into opposition
>before it eventually disintegrates through its own lack of
>focus and demoralisation of its members? There is also the
>worrying view which is often expressed by shrewd
>commentators that some of the more, shall we say, rightwing
>members of the party are really the government's eyes and
>ears in the party. The more you think about it the more
>difficult it is to find this view implausible, isn't it?
>>>> "Workers World / Chicago" <wwchi at wwa.com> 08/12 4:55 AM
>-----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
>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 inm
>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
>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
>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
>"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
>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
>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
>regardless, benefiting the white minority.  ..
>  "In Marxist terminology, the ANC is attempting to launch a
>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
>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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