[Marxism] SACP and national-democratic tasks

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Feb 14 20:28:15 MST 2007

Me earlier:
>>Of course, South Africa is a great example of what happens
when a socialist revolution is objectively possible but is held back in
the name of "a national-democratic revolution".  You get neither a
national-democratic revolution nor the facilitation of a transition to

Rohan G:
>My reading of the events is that the Joe Slovo deal was not an *in
principle* error to begin with.  The error was to capitulate to the
capitalist order and neoliberalism when implementing the deal.  This
required pretending that national-democratic revoltion and black
liberation can be achived by 'top-down' processes - eg recruiting some
blacks into the borgeoisie - and without 'bottom-up' redistributive
economic measures to actually improve the lives of the black working

I think it's important to recognise the source of what happened.

When I followed SACP material in the 80s they were very into the
perspective of making South Africa ungovernable, thereby preparing the
ground for an actual overthrow of the regime.  Some people might say,
well that was what they said, but they didn't mean it.  I tend to think,
however, that most of the membership and probably a lot of the
leadership of the SACP did mean it.

However, once the South African ruling class wised up and realised that
in order to preserve capitalist social relations they were going to have
to be prepared to see legal apartheid done away with, the SACP abandoned
the earlier strategy and moved very rapidly to an embrace of the market.
Of course, an important factor here was the collapse of the Soviet bloc.
Since they wrongly equated the Soviet bloc with socialism, its collapse
led them very quickly to abandon socialism as any kind of realistic

Compare this to Venezuela where, as the struggle has continued it has
deepened and socialism has now been declared as the objective.  Reverse
process to what happened in South Africa.

Of course, in Venezuela the left-wing of the Chavista movement,
including Chavez himself, are oriented toward mobilising the masses.  In
South Africa, the SACP-ANC, as soon as it sniffed governmental power,
went all-out to demobilise the masses.  This ensured that the SACP-ANC
government would become more and more dependent on the support and
legitimation of the ruling class and more and more hostile to any
independent mobilisation of the masses.

>In some recent discussion about Venezuela, my party, the DSP, has
responded to characterisations of Chavez as social democratic /
reformist with the argument that in this era of globalised
neo-liberalism, it takes a revolutionary leadership to implement
national-democratic measures in a bonefide way like Chavez has.

The characterisation of Chavez as some kind of social democrat is
bizarre.  When did social democrats do what he has been doing?  Even a
radical social democrat like Allende never went anywhere as far as

I think trying to stick a label on Chavez is daft.  There is a
revolutionary process going on in Venezuela, one that is different from
what we are used to, and Chavez is developing that process, not
retarding it.  Indeed, he pretty much kick-started it.  Whether he will
go all the way remains to be seen, but he's certainly leading things at
present.  Again, the absolute opposite of the SACP-ANC.

Btw, I'm planning to come over to the Melbourne conference in October.
I'll look forward to meeting you there.


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