About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Finding our feet, without losing our heads

THE present situation poses two basic challenges to our broad national liberation movement. We have to find our feet in a fast changing, slippery present, without losing our longer term perspectives.

If we spend too much time admiring our own footwork, we risk forgetting where we have been trying to go for the past decades. If we simply stare at future goals, we are going to lose our balance right here in the present.

These twin challenges demand creativity from us in regard to a wide range of issues - not least in the development of the programme of our broad national liberation movement, and in the organisational character of our movement. We cannot simply stand still, but we cannot just invent for its own sake. We need to debate, discuss and analyse.

The majority of the articles in this issue of The African Communist are contributions to these critical debates.

Jabu Moleketi and the Tripartite Alliance discussion document on strategic perspectives both address the programmatic questions and their relationship to the organisational character of our movement. Langa Zita's contribution has a similar concern, how do we engage effectively with the present situation as socialists? How are working class interests to be advanced in the complicated transition? Will workers be sold out?

This last question is not a concern that should simply be brushed aside. It was precisely this legitimate concern that led to a recent NUMSA congress resolution alluding to the possibility of an independent (independent of the ANC, that is) workers' party. Without dismissing the underlying concern, Amos Masondo takes issue with the proposed organisational remedy.

The tripartite (ANC/SACP/ COSATU) alliance is not the result of organisational manoeuvres. It is rooted in the social and economic realities of South Africa as Cyril Ramaphosa underlines. Ours is a society in which national oppression of the majority occurs, uniquely for Africa, in a country in which the working class is not just strategically placed, but numerically dominant. No meaningful national liberation process is possible without workers playing a leading role in every respect. No effective liberation is possible, unless working class interests are central.

On the other hand, no liberation is going to occur without mobilising the broadest range of nationally oppressed. The leading role of the working class is not to be won on the margins, or only amongst itself. That leading role has to be carved out within the majority political project itself. And, in South African conditions, that majority political project, as everyone knows and as the NUMSA conference more than once acknowledged, lies within the ANC. It lies within the ANC-led alliance - the tripartite, and the much wider ANC-aligned mass democratic movement.

No-one on the left, as far as we know, is denying the need for autonomous, independent working class organisations. The SACP has been in an alliance with the ANC for over 60 years. Throughout this period, our party has never ceased being anindependent formation in its own right.

But the ongoing organisational character of the ANC-led alliance is, certainly, not something simply to be taken for granted. The alliance should not be promoted merely for old time's sake. The alliance is grounded in the social and economic realities of our country. Whatever conference decisions are taken, something resembling this alliance between a national liberation movement, a working class party, trade unions and other mass democratic formations will exist in South Africa. It is an objective necessity. It is, however, obviously best if the shape and character of that alliance is also the result of conscious decisions.

For that, the exact character of this alliance needs to be constantly assessed and debated. It is to this discussion that this issue of The African Communist is largely devoted.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.