[DEBATE] : Umsebenzi Online: What is the National Democratic Revolution?
hypercube at telkomsa.net
Wed Oct 18 21:52:18 BST 2006
Umsebenzi Online, Volume 5, No. 66, 18 October 2006
In this Issue:
* What is the National Democratic Revolution?
* Statement of the extended Politburo of the SACP on recent Alliance
* SACP statement on the article by Moshoeshoe Monare, The Star,
October 17 2006
What is the National Democratic Revolution?
Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
"But an appraisal of a provisional revolutionary government's significance
would be incomplete and wrong if the class nature of the democratic
revolution were lost sight of. The (Congress) resolution therefore adds that
a revolution will strengthen the rule of the bourgeoisie. This is inevitable
under the present, i.e., capitalist, social and economic system. And the
strengthening of the bourgeoisie's rule over the proletariat that has
secured some measure of political liberty must inevitably lead to a
desperate struggle between them for power, must lead to desperate attempts
on the part of the bourgeoisie 'to take away from the proletariat the gains
of the revolutionary period'. Therefore the proletariat, which is in the van
of the struggle for democracy and heads that struggle, must not for a single
moment forget the new antagonisms inherent in bourgeois democracy, or the
new struggle" (Lenin, 'Two Tactics of Social Democracy', 1905)
We are citing Lenin's arguments above on his views about the transition from
a repressive, authoritarian regime to a more democratic dispensation in
Russia, not because we are equating our democratic government to Russia's
provisional government. We are citing this quotation to illustrate that
questions of this nature do not face communists or liberation struggles for
the first time, but they go back a long way, and have pre-occupied Marxists
for a long time.
One critical issue that has emerged as a significant area of difference
within our Alliance in the debates, since the release of the SACP Central
Committee Discussion Document, is our understanding of the concept of the
national democratic revolution (NDR), the motive forces and 'policy package'
of such revolution in contemporary South African, and the manner in which
the various class forces have positioned themselves in the national
democratic revolution, especially since the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
This edition aims to briefly surface and pose some questions around the
critical issues that need to be explored as this debate unfolds, as part of
a contribution towards deepening our understanding of the challenges of the
NDR in contemporary South Africa. This debate is also important in providing
the context within which to take forward the work of the Central Committee
It might as well be that what is fundamental in Lenin's observation should
be a reminder to the working class that 'transitions' to democracy, welcome
and important as they are in the struggle for socialism, are however
characterized by a combination of both old and new class antagonisms and
this requires vigilance on the part of the working class and its formations.
In our messages to the COSATU Congress, we argued that the main content of
the class struggles underway in society, as manifested in contemporary
debates both inside and outside of our movement, is the direction that our
democratic revolution should take, capitalist or a socialist orientation. We
argued at this congress, as we had always done, that a national democratic
revolution with a capitalist orientation ceases to be an NDR.
Clearly from our last bilateral with the ANC through to President Mbeki's
political overview to the October 2006 ANC National Executive Committee
meeting, divergent views on the NDR have become self-evident. It is indeed
possible that the emergence of the question of the SACP's relation to state
power, including considerations of contesting elections in our own right,
emanates from concerns within our ranks about the content and direction of
the national democratic revolution since the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
The character, content and direction of the NDR are of fundamental
importance to our alliance, since the deepening and consolidating the
national democratic revolution is the glue that holds our Alliance together.
It is therefore of utmost importance that we continue to debate these
For the SACP, especially since the adoption of the Native Republic Thesis of
1928 ('A struggle for a native republic as a stage towards a socialist South
Africa'), we had always understood the national democratic revolution as the
most direct route to socialism. The latter perspective was fully elaborated
in our 1962 programme, 'The Road to South African Freedom'.
The concept of a 'national democratic revolution' emerged from within
Marxism-Leninism in its analysis of the unfolding national liberation
struggles in the 20th century. The NDR has historically been understood as a
revolution led by progressive motive forces (mainly oppressed and exploited)
to defeat repressive and colonial regimes and build people's democracies, as
both an objective in itself, but in circumstances also where, due to
domestic or global balance of forces, such a revolution is unable to
immediately proceed to socialism. This could be because the motive forces
are either not strong or conscious enough to drive the revolution towards
socialism or other objective factors pose a limitation to a transition to
The above was indeed the SACP understanding of the NDR which was
nevertheless shared by many inside the ANC itself. This however did not mean
that the SACP had conceived the NDR merely as a stepping stone or an
'instrument' towards socialism. The SACP has always understood and accepted
that the very immediate objectives of the NDR - the liberation of blacks in
general and Africans in particular, and the building of a non-racial and
non-sexist society - were important objectives in themselves. It is for this
reason that, contrary to the arguments of our left and right detractors, the
Alliance is still important, since the main objectives of the NDR have not
been achieved, despite progress made since the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
At the same time the SACP has consistently and correctly argued that the
national and gender contradictions cannot be fully resolved under the
national democratic revolution, as this can only happen if the revolution
proceeds to socialism. It is for this reason that we have approached the
challenge of consolidating and deepening of the NDR from the perspective of
our strategic slogan 'Socialism is the Future, Built it Now'.
For the ANC, a perspective also shared by the SACP, the national democratic
revolution meant the achievement of a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous
society. In addition the ANC, much as it might not have shared all the
perspectives of the NDR as articulated by the SACP, had always been
understanding of the SACP's perspectives in this regard.
The Alliance shared the perspective that much as the NDR was not a socialist
revolution, but it was not a struggle for capitalism either. This shared
perspective was deepened through the adoption of the Freedom Charter in
1995, which, whilst not a socialist document, envisaged a radical
transformation of society including major restructuring of the capitalist
system itself in favour of the overwhelming majority of our people. This
shared perspective was also strengthened by the ANC's commitment to a
working class bias as captured in the Morogoro Conference as well as what is
contained in the 'Green Book', which our discussion document refers to.
There are now seemingly emerging differences within (and perhaps within each
components of) our Alliance. For instance, the ANC NWC response to our
discussion document argues that the task of the ANC (and by implication the
NDR) is to manage capitalist relations, and further argues that:
"In other words, the NDR is called such, with national and democratic tasks,
because it seeks to deal with the political and socio-economic
manifestations of apartheid colonialism. This includes addressing the issue
of property relations - in a manner, as indicated above, elaborated in (the
Alliance document) 'The State, Property Relations and Social
Transformation'. As this succeeds, new challenges will emerge, and the ANC
would then have to define its place and role in the new milieu.
"While the motive forces strive to change elements of the capitalist system
in the interest of the NDR, they have to manage the capitalist system in
line with the main elements of its own logic"
It can be argued that indeed there is a lot new in some of these arguments
and formulations. In our view, and this is indeed shared by many in the ANC,
the NDR, as also encapsulated in its principal programme - the Freedom
Charter - was never meant to deal just with 'political and socio-economic
manifestations of apartheid colonialism'. The NDR, in our view is a radical
programme to transform the very structural foundations of these apartheid
Neither was the NDR meant to 'manage the capitalist system in line with the
main elements of its own logic'. Firstly it is unclear what this phrase
means, and it is completely new in the vocabulary of our movement. In my
view, such an argument is for an NDR that wholly embraces a capitalist path.
An immediate question that comes to mind is whether such a formulation is
not meant as a post facto justification for the pursuance of capitalist
profitability as the main thrust of our economic policies especially since
the adoption of GEAR in 1996?
In the light of the above there are a number of questions that need to be
posed and answered, some of which include the following:
* Could it be that within our own movement, and certainly in broader
society, there is in essence a contest over whether the NDR has a capitalist
or socialist orientation? The SACP is arguing for a socialist oriented NDR
as the only form that will ensure that indeed our revolution is able to
achieve its objectives. The last twelve years of our democracy has taught us
that pursuing restoration of capitalist profitability has, in class terms,
benefited the bourgeoisie and the middle classes, despite the massive
government resource transfers to the poor.
* Arising from the above, a related question is whether contemporary
struggles are not a reflection of a struggle between pursuance of a
socialist oriented NDR and a struggle to co-opt and transform the NDR into a
full-blown bourgeois democracy with the bourgeoisie (black and white) at the
helm of such a project? But is it possible to even create a sustainable
bourgeois democracy in our country in the light of the massive inequalities
daily reproduced by the capitalist system?
* Another key question that has emerged, especially in the context
of our engagement with the ANC, is whether it is indeed possible anymore to
pursue a socialist oriented NDR in the post Soviet era? Was such an NDR
perhaps only possible during the existence of the Soviet socialist bloc of
countries which acted as a counter to the designs of the imperialist world?
Could this be the reason why some in our movement are today talking about
the aim of the NDR being to 'manage the capitalist system in line with main
elements of its own logic'?
* Posed differently, what should be the strategy and tactics of
pursuing a socialist oriented NDR in a unipolar, imperialist world dominated
by the US?
* Has an NDR ever proceeded to socialism under bourgeois-type multi
party democracies? Has it not been the case in 20th century national
democratic revolutions that such revolutions have only proceeded to
socialism only immediately after the victory over repressive regimes, and
not under conditions of open electoral contests in bourgeois democratic type
dispensations? Is it inevitable that in today's unipolar world national
democratic revolutions can only be co-opted and transformed into bourgeois
democratic dispensations after a democratic breakthrough like ours. For
instance what can we, learn from Allende's Chile of the 1970s and Chavez'
Venezuela of 2006?
In order to answer these and many other related questions, it is important
that we take forward the debates from our Special National Congress in 2005
on class, national and gender struggles in the NDR, in the wake of the 1994
democratic breakthrough. It will especially require deepening our analysis
on the class formation and class struggles since 1994, and the implications
of these for a socialist-oriented NDR.
This debate will also have to be taken further by undertaking a thorough
analysis of national democratic revolutions in the 20th century. Such an
analysis must include analysing those national democratic revolutions that
immediately proceeded to socialism; as well as those which were aborted and
transformed into bourgeois democracies of one form or another. For instance
what is it that enabled the Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese national
democratic revolutions to proceed immediately towards the building of
socialism, whilst those of India, Mozambique, Angola, for instance
degenerated away from socialism?
In addition to our conception of the NDR, we need to begin to outline what
we mean, in concrete terms, by working class leadership of the NDR, and what
should be the real indicators of such a leadership and hegemony in current
Perhaps a matter we need to interrogate further is that of the nature of
class struggles, continuities and discontinuities, in the period prior to
ascendancy to state power, and the period thereafter. A related question
here is that of the nature of such struggles and the attitude of the
liberation movement towards such struggles, in a situation where the NDR is
led by a multi-class liberation movement as opposed to a revolution directly
led by a Communist Party? To what extent had the SACP programmes prior to
1994 anticipated the nature and character of class struggles in the period
after the democratic breakthrough?
Of course our Party has had a lot to say on all the above questions and
others over the last 12 years. We however need to approach these in a much
more systematic way, especially as we approach our 12th Congress next year.
Much as these theoretical debates are necessary, we should however not
endlessly engage in these debates without at the same time building working
class power in all key sites of influence in order to ensure the hegemony of
the working class and winning a socialist oriented NDR on the ground.
We should also consciously seek to engage these issues in the major
platforms of our Alliance. For instance the ANC is in the process of
drafting a new 'Strategy and Tactics' document in preparation for its 2007
National Conference, and we should use this platform to further engage on
these matters. Furthermore the forthcoming ANC National Policy Conference as
well as our own 12th Congress in the same year should be seen as important
platforms to take forward these matters.
We invite our comrades in the Party and in the movement as a whole to also
use this publication to take forward all these debates.
Statement of the extended Politburo of the SACP on recent Alliance
The Politburo (PB) of the SACP met in Johannesburg today on 16 October 2006,
in an extended form, joined by the Provincial Secretaries of the SACP, to
discuss recent developments arising from the last NEC of the ANC. The
Politburo re-affirmed that the speeches given by our General Secretary at
the SADTU and COSATU Congresses, and generally in all his public utterances,
articulate the policy positions and perspectives of the SACP. Nothing that
our General Secretary, including at the said congresses, is by any stretch
of imagination at variance with the programme, policies, constitution and
perspectives of the SACP.
To this end the SACP Politburo regards as very unfortunate and disturbing
the personalised attacks directed at its General Secretary, as emanating
from the October 2006 ANC NEC. The extended Politburo re-affirmed its belief
that much as robust debate is necessary in our intra-alliance engagements,
nevertheless these must not be personalized or seek to question the
integrity of any partner and its leadership. To this end the extended PB was
unanimous in expressing its full confidence in the ability and capacity of
the General Secretary to continue articulating the positions of our Party,
and called upon all alliance partners to observe the protocols of
intra-alliance engagement and relations as contained in many of our alliance
The Politburo especially underlined the necessity of upholding the protocols
of engagement within our Alliance as contained in our two Ekurhuleni
Summits. On managing intra-Alliance relations the Ekurhuleni Summit
Declaration of 7 April 2002 stated, inter alia:
Our organizations, though profoundly interdependent, are separate
organizational formations with their own identities, policy-making
mechanisms and internal organizational arrangements. In this regard, each of
components respects the independence of its allies.
Having examined the causes and the impact of the recent (2000-2002) intense
public discord among some components of the Alliance, the Summit concluded
that this was an unfortunate development which we must not allow to recur
Where there are areas of difference, we are committed to resolving them
through ongoing constructive debate´
The extended PB further endorsed the decisions and statement of the Alliance
Secretariat issued on 11 October 2006, calling upon the recent public spats
to come to an end. In addition the Alliance Secretariat committed itself to
arrange an urgent 10-a-side meeting to address pertinent matters affecting
the movement. The extended PB re-affirmed that at the heart of the many
challenges facing our democracy is the fact that, in class terms, the first
ten years of our democracy has disproportionately benefited the bourgeoisie
and the middle classes, despite the many welcome and significant government
resource transfers to the poor during this period.
The extended PB also expressed its very serious concerns about the role that
the media is playing in intra-organisational and intra-alliance dynamics in
our country. The extended PB noted that given the capitalist character of
South African media, such media is more guided by imperatives of making
money than by a need to objectively inform the public about what is going on
in society. Of even more serious concern is that sections of the media have
become so involved in internal political dynamics of our movement, that some
of the media can now be regarded as acting like factions inside our
movement. Much as this is common across a wide spectrum of media, the
extended PB expressed its most serious concerns about the manner in which
the City Press newspaper and its editor are positioning themselves in
debates and disagreements inside our movement in a factionalist and often
The extended PB also briefly discussed the recently held 85th anniversary
dinner, and congratulated the role of the Gauteng province in this regard.
The extended PB also reaffirmed the decision of the SACP to register as a
political party with the IEC, as purely based on financial considerations,
and not because the SACP has already decided to contest elections in its own
right. We have already also informed our alliance partners on this decision.
The extended PB re-affirmed the SACP´s commitment to the strengthening of
the Alliance and all its components as a necessary weapon in the hands of
our people to deepen and consolidate the national democratic revolution. The
PB remains convinced that our alliance is indispensable during the current
phase of our revolution.
Issued by the Extended Politburo of the SACP
For further information, please contact:
Tel: 011 339 3621
Fax:011 339 4244
Cell: 082 226 1802
Email: malesela at sacp.org.za <mailto:malesela at sacp.org.za>
SACP statement on the article by Moshoeshoe Monare, The Star, October 17
The South African Communist Party is extremely disturbed and in fact
outraged by the article that appeared today, October 17, 2006 in the various
titles of the Independent Group of Newspapers. This article sourced from one
faceless source is a complete fabrication and an outright lie on the
discussions of the extended Politburo meeting that took place yesterday.
Nothing of the sort as mentioned in the article was ever said by anyone in
the meeting of the extended Politburo. Equally, the remarks attributed to
Comrade Ronnie Kasrils are incorrect and Cde Kasrils is disgusted that such
untruths are attributed to him. In fact the meeting of our extended
Politburo was characterised by frank, but comradely debates, and was
unanimous in its defence of the General Secretary. There was not even a
single dissension at the meeting in this regard.
It is this kind of journalism that as the SACP we have raised concerns about
in our statement following the extended Politiburo meeting of Monday,16
October 2006; a journalism characterised by excessive reliance on faceless
sources and actively seeking to sow divisions in our movement even if it
means ignoring facts that are presented. This can only destroy the image of
South African journalism, and it is indeed sad that a Deputy Group Political
Editor can be so gullible in uncritically printing a clearly false story. We
also told Mr Monare as such yesterday that his sources are feeding him lies,
yet he continues to write the story as if we did not say so.
To reiterate the view of the Politburo, we remain concerned that sections of
the media have become so involved in internal political dynamics of our
movement, that some of the media can now be regarded as acting like factions
inside our movement. The South African society deserves objective reporting
and should not accept this emerging Hollywood´ style of reporting to
permeate our newsrooms.
The SACP intends raising these concerns directly and formally with the
Independent Group of Newspapers, so that the necessary steps can be taken to
ensure that it protects its own image and seek to establish a much more
professional and principled relationship with an organisation like the SACP.
Issued by the SACP
Tel: 011 339 3621
Fax: 011 339 4244
Cell: 082 226 1802
Email: malesela at sacp.org.za <mailto:malesela at sacp.org.za>
Web site at: http://amadlandawonye.wikispaces.com/
Blog at: http://domza.net/
Subscribe for free e-mail updates at:
Library of documents at: http://cu.domza.net/
More information about the Debate-list