From the Debate mailing list (on John Saul article)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Jan 18 08:08:23 MST 2001

[Patrick Bond crossposted my critique of John Saul's MR article along with
John Enyang's thoughtful followup--John, btw, is from Kenya--to the Debate
mailing list. Debate is a very fine leftwing journal edited by Patrick and
other South African comrades. This was a response from a Debate mailing
list subscriber.]

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
From:          peter dwyer <P.Dwyer at>
To:            Patrick Bond <pbond at>
Cc:            debate at
Subject:       Re: DEBATE: (Fwd) Debating John Saul's MR article
Date:          Thu, 18 Jan 2001 11:43:33 +0000 (GMT Standard Time)
Reply-to:      peter dwyer <P.Dwyer at>


I am inclined to agree with comrade Proyect-the issue of
reform or revolution has and is being dodged here.  Still,
it is no surpirse to see Saul for all his wonderful work
dodging the issue, in this he has been consistent.

Essentially Sauls' arguments in the early 1990s (SA
Between Barbarism & Structural Reform NLR 188 1991) in
relation to South Africa amounted to a creeping
colonisation of the state by the left utilising notions of
social contracts as a means of instituting 'ever-expanding
working class empowerment'.

Apart from subtle determinism this was a strategy that had
failed miserably in Europe under social democrtas.  What
seems to have shocked Saul so much is that the ANC even
shyed away from this left reformist strategy jumping
further to the right instead.  Maybe he didn't read Dale's
book first!?

However what Louis seems to ignore and needs serious
discussion etc is the need for building bridges to aid the
development of a revolutionary current or a even debate in
South Africa.  What has been useful is that the idea of at
least electoral alternatives to the ANC in the lcoal
elections has taken root.  It is important I thin as
it has always been in teh UK for the left to try and
offer an alternative to the main social democratic
parties, developing he ida that politics lives and
thrives in extra-parliamentary actina nd
organsiastion beyond the pale of the 'offical left'.

Whilst this has been a very encouraging step-forward I
still think that comrades have been side-stepping the
fundamental idea of the need for a revolutionary
transformation of South Africa and elsewhere.

I know some comardes on the list  are averse to such talk
if not hostile nowadays to the idea.  Fine that is their
prerogative and a reflection of the early 1990s I think.  I
genuinely feel things are changing and moving back
towards a favorable climate for the re-emergence of if not
revolutionary politics then radical reformism.  All well
and good but we will still end up with the problem
confronting Saul: are we really trying to seriously suggest
that reformism (in any form) *is a long-term strategy* as
an answer to the problems that confront humanity today?
I for one don't think so.

I think (crudely) the reform or revolution debate is a
discussion that is going to rear its head more and more in
the growing anti-capitalist movement and in fact some who
don't identify with Marxism are already ahead of many of us
in their serious talk of the need for revolution to stop the
ravages of capitalism.  We can run from this discussion but
I don't think we can hide from it.



Louis Proyect
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