The article below may be copied and circulated but proper attribution of authorship is required.

South Africa

The articles and the discussion below address the question of the class position of the new ANC/COSATU/Stalinist government in South Africa.

By Felix Kreisel; May 27, 1994

ANC government versus black liberation

Mass bourgeois media throughout the world are hailing the assumption of power in South Africa by the ANC. Most radical and leftist groups are joining in the chorus of Hossannas for "democracy", "black liberation" and "freedom". The South African Communist Party is now in the government. COSATU, the trade union federation representing the bulk of organized black workers in SA, is represented in the government as well. It is quite clear that the black masses in South Africa are swept up in this initial euphoria. But let us look a bit closer at the reality of class relations.

If we pay attention to the reaction of the serious big business press we shall discern an interesting lack of concern at their apparent "defeat" at the hands of the black masses. The London Financial Times in the past few weeks ran a number of articles evaluating the new government. The conclusion of this authoritative voice of international big business may be summed up thus: the new ANC gov't, the South African CP and the trade union leaders are a new tool to keep the masses in check.

Front page headline of "FT" on May 25th announces: "Mandela pledges lower spending and deficit cut". The analysis in this and in the follow-on article "Mandela pleases business" makes clear that the new regime will follow the path of other "national liberation" movements like the PLO or Algerian FLN and become a tool of imperialist domination. While completely accepting the requirements of the profit system of production, these former rebels will seek to make South African capitalism more competitive on the world market. This will inevitably place them in confrontation with the working class and is already turning them into the new police force over the black masses.

Response from a South African radical

GW: However, what is to be done (as a famous man once said)? I voted ANC in the full realisation of your argument because Mandela & Co are far preferable to any of the alternatives! Your argument seems to suggest (I think) that the proletariat should have captured the revolution in order to provide a socialist alternative. Absolutely. Yes indeed. But in the absence of a world revolution (shown to be necessary with the failure of socialism in one country) how can this be?

What would you have done if you had the vote in South Africa? Would you have theorised the ANC's betrayal while watching the National Party win? Or would you have followed the practical option by voting?


I quite agree that the only viable alternative for the South African masses is a world socialist revolution. The goal then is to build a world revolutionary party to lead this revolution. I do not agree with you that in the meantime a socialist may vote for a bourgeois government (like Mandela's ANC). Such a vote indicates political confidence in this gov't. I am a Trotskyist, and a supporter of the International Committee of the Fourth International. The ICFI is building such a revolutionary world party and I would urge you to make contact with one of its offices. In the USA, the address is

Labor Publications,

PO Box 706, Southfield, MI 48037


GW: Firstly, while your argument that voting for the ANC implies political confidence in this party is true; my response remains the same — would you rather sit on the sidelines and see the NP gain a victory or would you prefer to see the lesser of two evils gain the upperhand? Surely you aren't suggesting that it makes no difference which of the bourgeois parties rule South Africa? There is definitely a vast difference between the ANC and the National Party…

Secondly, you mention that a world revolutionary party needs to be built to "lead the revolution". Isn't that partenalistic and condescending, unless the workers themselves are integerly involved in the process of building? And isn't it true that Trotskyist movements are generally known to consist largely of intellectuals? Hence, doesn't this situation result in a paternalistic approach towards workers generally? I'm not putting this point to use as a critic of Trotskyism, but more as a person who desires to join the ranks of Trotskyists, but who still has a few niggling doubts…


Well, here we have a classical position of adaptation to the status quo of bourgeois political domination. The ANC is a bourgeois political party with a left coloration. The left cover is used to trap the masses who vote this party into power.

The bourgeoisie, as my quotes from the Financial Times showed, knows very well that the ANC will rule in the interests of the capitalist system. The South African bourgeoisie could no longer govern with the old tools of apartheid. The overhead expenses of apartheid (police, army, constant strikes) were just too great. The capitalists needed new tools to chain the masses, to get them back to work, and the ANC has been "housebroken" and agrees to maintain the old police, jails, army, judges, etc.

In fact, the government also contains a leading Stalinist, the chairman of the misnamed South African Communist Party, Joe Slovo. This Mr. Slovo in his capacity as the Housing Minister worries that the capitalist system cannot provide the black masses with affordable housing. The "New York Times" on June 5 published an article about the spreading rent strikes throughout the black townships. Slovo is quoted: "This has had a negative effect to the extent to which the private sector is prepared to risk its shareholders' capital in the low-cost housing market …"

The ANC, the Stalinists and the leadership of COSATU are all urging the masses to "tone down their demands", to wait, to disperse, to disarm, to pay the rents, etc.

But the masses have illusions that the ANC government will act in their behalf, provide jobs, education, housing, health and social services, etc.

There is a bloody class struggle brewing. The black masses think that they won a victory, that now their social position must be radically improved. On the other hand, the bourgeois South African state must cut the overhead costs of running the economy, the budget deficits must be trimmed, the workforce must be disciplined, South Africa must fight on the intensifying battlefield of global economic competition.

So what is the role of socialists in this situation?

XX-th century has provided the working class with many object lessons of the bloody disasters resulting from the middle class policies of procrastination, prevarication, confusion, of trying to subordinate the class struggle to the requirements of capitalism. The Popular Fronts in the 1930's opened the door to fascism; the Allende "Socialist" government in Chile led to a bloody purge of the working class.

One fine book to read is Trotsky's The Spanish Revolution. There is one article immediately applicable to your position of "voting for the lesser evil". Trotsky replies to one of his followers, who in 1937 suggested voting for the military budget of the bourgeois Negrin gov't. At that time, Negrin was conducting a war against Franco's Falange and the Fourth International had a policy of also fighting against the fascists.

On page 352-3 Trotsky writes: "To vote for the military budget of the Negrin government signifies to vote him political confidence. … To do it would be a crime. How can we explain our vote to the Anarchist workers? Very simply: We have not the slightest confidence in the capacity of this government to conduct the war and assure victory. We accuse this government of protecting the rich and starving the poor. This government must be smashed. So long as we are not strong enough to replace it, we are fighting under its command. But on every occasion we express openly our nonconfidence in it; it is the only one possibility to mobilize the masses politically against this government and prepare its overthrow. Any other politics would be a betrayal of the revolution".

As we know, the various parties of the Spanish working class, Socialists, Stalinists, Anarchists, the centrist POUM, all gave open or covert POLITICAL support to the bourgeois gov't. The Falange triumphed.

Trotsky's theory of Permanent revolution

This theory is the only one which explains the behaviour of the various national liberation movements today. The International Workers Bulletin, the paper of the Workers League of USA wrote in the May 23rd issue:

"The ANC is following in the footsteps of many other movements which proclaimed their mission that of national liberation by means of "armed struggle". From the Algerian FLN to the Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe, these movements also came to power through negotiated settlements which secured the interests of imperialism while leaving the masses exploited and oppressed. The grim legacy of this imperialist-dominated period of decolonization is an African continent divided by irrational colonial borders, plagued by poverty and famine and torn by war".

And the lesson: "The program which points the way to genuine liberation for the South African masses is the struggle for the United Socialist States of Africa as part of the world socialist revolution. This means a unified revolutionary movement of the working class in South Africa and the entire continent, leading behind it all the oppressed, to overthrow imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation".

Now for your second objection

The history of the workers' movement testifies to the need for revolutionary leadership. Yet you raise an objection to a revolutionary party "imposed" on the workers by the "hair-splitting Trotskyites".

The working class develops in a class society which relegates it to degradation and ignorance. Bourgeois mass media shovel buckets full of medieval prejudices, racism, sexism, religious obscurantism into the heads of the workers. And here comes a Trotskyist movement which keeps telling workers about the lessons of Stalinism, Hitler, China and Spain.

May I suggest that you re-read the "Communist Manifesto". The Communists are part of the working class, yet they are the ADVANCED part, constantly struggling with the backwardness of workers. Lenin insisted in "What Is To Be Done" that socialist thinking comes into the working class from without, from intellectuals (Marx and Engels) who have based their ideology on the highest achievements of bourgeois social science (English economics, French politics, German philosophy), but who have come over to the side of the proletariat as the class of the future.

Just consider the CPSU or the Chinese CP. These multimillion member parties were composed mostly of workers. At their meetings they did not discuss history, they rewrote it under the direction of the great "Helmsmen" Stalin and Mao. Which "workers" party are you going to join? The ANC? It also is composed mostly of workers who are led by the nose by their bourgeois leaders.

The Fourth International is the only party which can point to its history with pride.

Copyright: Iskra Research; By F. Kreisel; Aug. 17, 1994

A couple of weeks ago Mr. Arthur R. McGee reposted an article from the July issue of Political Affairs, the monthly journal of the Communist Party, USA. This article contained a letter from the CP USA to their colleagues in South Africa, congratulating them on victory of the ANC, spreading cheer about this being "a victory for the people" and promoting various reformist illusions about the ANC government.

I append below an excerpted report in the bourgeois press which quite clearly shows the class position of the ANC and of Mandela. In brief, the ANC has become a willing tool of capitalist domination over the working class of South Africa. The Stalinists in South Africa will enforce the austerity program of the World Bank and the IMF and attempt to police the working class on behalf of the world bourgeoisie.

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 15 (Reuter) — South African President Nelson Mandela marks 100 days in office on Thursday with sound ratings from business for a commitment to market-based policies seen as the right prescription for an economy that mixes brilliant potential with awesome problems.

Since the African National Congress (ANC) triumphed in South Africa's first democratic elections in April, the dreaded word nationalisation that once figured in the ANC agenda has barely been mentioned. Mandela has weathered the shock resignation of his first-choice finance minister and is treading gingerly amid labour discontent that could deter needed investment.



But foreign exchange reserves, sapped by prolonged capital outflows ahead of the elections, would cover only a few weeks' imports, far below International Monetary Fund guidelines. Yet, although foreign investors remain cautious, the local business mood has been brighter than in years.

"The evidence of the first 100 days, in terms of economic policy, would appear to be quite positive,'' said Dave Mohr, chief economist for investment house Old Mutual.

The South African Chamber of Business (SACOB), which represents 40,000 enterprises, said:

"Generally there seems to be a fair degree of satisfaction within the business community of the new government's management of the economy.''

It said local financial markets, which suffered a backlash when Finance Minister Derek Keys said in July he would step down in October for personal reasons, apparently still had doubts.

Even so, the Chamber's monthly index of business confidence reached its best level in 612 years at the end of July.

Sentiment, it said, recovered quickly after the resignation, helped by Mandela's appointment of another business leader — former banker Chris Liebenberg — to succeed Keys.

The Keys approach would be maintained, insisted Mandela. The government would adhere to macro-economic stability, fiscal discipline and sustained growth while pursuing its reconstruction plan designed to help apartheid's victims.

Analysts say this approach was illustrated in the June budget, which was disciplined and business-friendly while still providing a kick-start for the ANC-inspired Reconstruction and Development Plan (RDP).



And analysts express concern over labour unrest as black workers demand ``the better life for all'' promised by the ANC.

Deputy central bank governor Jaap Meijer said business appears to have identified the main deterrents to foreign investor interest as doubts over whether fiscal discipline will be maintained, a view that industrial relations are disorderly, and the continued existence of exchange controls.

The industrial unrest and a budget that could curb consumer spending have led several economists to reduce growth forecasts. The consensus projection is now closer to 2.5 percent, compared with 3.0 percent envisaged previously.

This, at a time the World Bank estimates one quarter of the black work force is without jobs and per capita growth in gross domestic product has been shrinking for 14 years.

The projected growth will be the highest in five years and more than double that achieved last year when the economy emerged from its longest recession on record. But it barely matches the rate of population growth.

By F. Kreisel (continued)

In light of the pro-bourgeois stance of the ANC and the South African Communist party we can better evaluate the roles of PNEWS and of Mr. McGee. PNEWS serves as the electronic media for this type of blind reformist fantasy. Tall tales about electoral possibilities, spread of democracy, equal rights under capitalism and step-at-a-time reforms of capitalism can today convince only those middle class radical-liberals, who desperately want to be fooled. But the Stalinists are certainly not naive fools. As Marxists (Trotskyists) characterized them for decades, the Stalinists are agents of the bourgeoisie inside the working class. They have betrayed the proletariat and led it to numerous defeats, and they continue to try and mislead and defeat the workers' struggle.

By Felix Kreisel; August 26, 1994.

Stalinism, South Africa and some middle class cynics.

We have now heard from another contributor about the controversy over the ANC and Stalinism. Firstly, it is necessary to trace the chronology of this discussion:

1) On August 3rd, Mr. Arthur R. McGee posted to this mailing list (without any comment) a Stalinist/liberal lie about the "people's victory in South Africa".

2) For two weeks there was no response or rebuttal of this Stalinist/liberal falsehood.

3) On August 17th a Trotskyist (myself) posted a response quoting bourgeois reports about the true class position of the ANC government and of the South African Communist Party. The SACP is participating in the bourgeois gov't of Nelson Mandela in order to facilitate imperialist rule in South Africa.

4) On August 19th Mr. McGee cynically stated that he posted the original article (without any criticism) "because I thought it was an interesting read". In other words, Mr. McGee may hold a different opinion but he keeps it to himself and chooses to post the Stalinist line.

5) On August 22, Mr Ray Cunningham responded to my article which set the record straight about the class role of Mandela and the SACP. Apparently, Mr. Cunningham agrees with my political evaluation but objects to the "Trots" expressing this class line.

Please read again what he says:


I'm getting quite tired of all this stuff about the ANC being a willing tool of class domination and so on. I knew this. Any socialist with half a brain knew this. Anyone who knows anything about the politics of 'national liberation' knew this. Do I have to keep reading it here, where I would have thought this kind of thing would be taken for granted? Are the Trots so annoyed about the miserable showing of the Workers List types that they have to keep going on about how bad the ANC are? What's next? Shock revelations about how the democrats aren't actually socialists?

A few conclusions must be made:

1) No one in this audience is prepared to argue that the Stalinist/ANC/liberal line (that the ANC gov't is a step forward) is correct. The Trotskyist evaluation of the class role of the ANC and the Stalinists is that they play the role of imperialist stooges, confuse and mislead the masses, set the working class up for a bloody defeat, etc. This position has now been proven by the behavior of the ANC/Stalinist government in office.

2) Some in the audience (e.g. McGee) are prepared to post without comment Stalinist propaganda.

3) Others in the audience (e.g. Cunningham) get upset when a Trotskyist dares to refute Stalinist lies.

One additional comment is in order:

4) Mr. Cunningham's use of the perjorative "Trots" to refer to Trotskyists is directly traceable to the terror and hooliganism of the Stalinists. It is in politics equivalent to the antisemite's use of "Kike" or "Yid" to refer to Jews or to a racist's use of the word "Nigger". Such language is designed to dehumanize the victims (Jews, or Blacks or real Marxists — Trotskyists) and prepare the public for a recreation of the genocidal massacres of Communists by the Stalinist bureaucracy. It seems to me that this literary banditry of Mr. Cunningham must be repudiated and condemned by all readers of this Forum.

Felix Kreisel

The ANC and Stalinism — tools of imperialism

By F. Kreisel; August 30, 1994

Today's article in the London Financial Times, "Southern Africa harnesses SADC as engine of growth" sheds some light on the role of the new ANC/COSATU/Stalinist government of South Africa. A quote from this article deserves reprinting:

"By helping to foment civil wars in Angola and Mozambique and showing little hesitation in launching cross-border military strikes to try to destroy ANC bases in other countries, South Africa garnered a well-deserved reputation as regional bully. It was in response to such activities that South Africa's neighbours formed SADC's precursor, the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC), in 1980.

"Despite its admirable aims, however, SADCC proved unable to meet its objective of reducing its members' trade with South Africa. Not only did nearly all its members actually expand their economic relationships with South Africa over the past decade; few of the organization's initiatives to improve regional infrastructure yielded any fruit.

"Now, however, the situation has changed drastically. Recognizing the wider impact of political change in South Africa, the body renamed itself SADC in 1992, changing its primary focus from opposition to South Africa to economic development. And, with South Africa now a fully integrated member, the organization is optimistic that it will finally be able to succeed in its goals." (Financial Times, Aug. 30, 1994, p. 3).

SADC is composed of countries like Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and some others, which over the previous period had based themselves on the unstable equilibrium between the imperialist and the Stalinist economic systems. Using the slogans of "African socialism", "Third Path of development" and similar schemes of import substitution and self sufficiency, the radical bourgeois leaderships attempted to carve out a viable niche for the development of native, "independent" bourgeoisie. With the collapse of Stalinism all such schemes of independent development suffered a fatal blow.

The native bourgeois leaders like Mugabe of Sir Ketumile Masire are resigned to preside over regimes of servile comprador capitalism, taking direct orders from the IMF, the World Bank, or Washington. These regimes will inevitably become more and more brutal as the economic conditions throughout Africa deteriorate and as each of these petty dictators engages in the competition for scraps from the imperialist table. In order to make their country more competitive on the world labor market, these erstwhile "socialists" will apply ever harsher police measures, anti-union legislation, budget cuts and destruction of the remnants of social programs. To compete for foreign investments or debt deferrals, these petty tyrants will be forced to dismantle the "complex trade and tariff regulations" which were used in the past to protect some native industry.

It's becoming clear that imperialism is using the facade of democracy in South Africa to integrate the region more fully into the world labor market, the world commodities market and the world capital market. The ANC, the Stalinists and the leaders of COSATU are consciously playing the role of the velvet glove on the iron fist of capitalism.

Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution has once again proved its correctness: backward countries can advance to socialism only through the program of world socialist revolution. All schemes of "socialism in one country", even as large as the Soviet Union, are doomed to fail.