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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

1. The World Revolutionary Process

The revolutionary struggle in South Africa is part of a world revolutionary process whose main tendency is the transition from capitalism to socialism, from societies based on exploitation to a new world free of exploitation and oppression. The present period within the broader epoch is characterised by:

Ø     competition between the two opposing social systems capitalism and socialism for the allegiance of humankind;

Ø     more and more peoples taking the path of social progress;

Ø     the struggle of the newly liberated countries for genuine, independent development;

Ø     the struggle for the final liquidation of the colonial system.

Our period is also one in which the whole of humankind faces problems that endanger the very survival of our shared planet. The threat of nuclear war, the catastrophic problems of the developing countries, such as debt, famine and disease, all affect, directly and indirectly, the highly industrialised and developing countries alike. These problems require the broadest international cooperation for their resolution. While such broad cooperation is absolutely imperative, the only guarantee of a lasting solution to these problems lies with the deepening and consolidation of the main historical tendency of our epoch the transition from capitalism to socialism.

This main tendency of world development does not take place without difficulties. Although imperialism has lost power over fully one third of humanity now in socialist countries, although it has lost its colonial empires and undergone serious crises, it remains a powerful and dangerous enemy of social progress. In its attempt to reverse the main trend of world development and to recapture the historical initiative, imperialism relies on its still vast economic, political, cultural and military resources.

The growing instability and internal crises of modern capitalism do not lead to its automatic collapse. In the present period a number of features have enabled international capital to prolong its existence and delay its end. A major scientific and technological revolution is occurring in both the advanced socialist and capitalist countries. In the capitalist countries, this scientific and technological revolution has greatly accelerated the centralisation and concentration of capital, and spurred on the growth of giant transnational corporations.

In the 1980s transnational corporations accounted for over onethird of all the capitalist world's manufacturing output, more than onehalf of its foreign trade, and for up to 80 per cent of new hardware and technology patents. This high level of centralisation enables imperialism to manipulate material, financial and human resources throughout the nonsocialist world. New centres of capital accumulation have been opened up in Latin America and the Far East.

Pursuing maximum profits, the transnational corporations are able to adapt promptly to changing conditions in the market, shifting their activities from country to country, and from one branch of production to another. In the process they close down hundreds of factories, reduce production and employment possibilities, and ride roughshod over the interests and wellbeing of working people throughout the capitalist world.

The transnational corporations are the shockforce of neocolonialism in the development countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa. Unequal trade and the imposition of a massive debt burden on the developing countries are the principal means for maintaining and deepening neocolonial subjugation. Through the control of commodity and money markets, the imperialists drive down the price of raw materials produced in the developing countries. At the same time the prices of commodities that the developing countries are forced to import are inflated. In 1987 the debt of developing countries are forced to import are inflated. In 1987 the debt of developing countries to the imperialist banks was the equivalent of almost 30 per cent of the gross annual product of the entire nonsocialist world. Already Africa is transferring more capital abroad in debt service and other payments to the imperialists than it is receiving in aid and new loans. The imperialists, through agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, use the resulting economic problems to impose policy directions on these countries that bring ever greater misery and mass starvation to millions of their peoples.

Militarism has always been an inherent feature of imperialism. In attempting to reverse the gains of socialism and national liberation, imperialism has entangled the world in a web of aggressive blocs and military bases. It has created hotbeds of tension at the borders of the socialist countries, and in strategic regions of the world. It supports the most reactionary and terrorist regimes.

The aggressive role of the apartheid regime is southern Africa is not just part of the struggle for survival by the last bastion of white colonial rule in our continent. It is also a component of a global imperialist strategy. The politicomilitary strategy of United States imperialism in regard to regional conflicts aims at defeating national liberation movements and undermining progressive, antiimperialist governments in the developing world. It involves the export of counterrevolution, direct military intervention and the building up of regional military surrogates: either in the form of subimperialist states like Zionist Israel and the South African apartheid regime, or bandit forces like the Contras in Nicaragua, MNR in Mozambique and Unita in Angola. These regional forces act in the general interests of imperialism within their respective regions. There are, however, also internal pressures and tendencies that can lead, on occasion, to secondary contradictions developing between these regional forces and imperialism.

It is the threat of world nuclear war generated by imperialism that the antipopular nature of capitalism today is most convincingly demonstrated. In an attempt to restore their undermined international position, the most aggressive and reactionary circles in the imperialist world continue to whip up international tensions with antiSoviet and anticommunist propaganda. They have also encouraged the massive buildup of arms by the most reactionary regional regimes. With the assistance of imperialism Zionist Israel and the apartheid regime now both possess a nuclear capacity. The fact that two regimes, which are the source of continuing military and economic aggression against their respective regions, possess the nuclear bomb is a real threat to world peace.

In the present historical period the major issue that confronts all of humanity is the struggle against a nuclear war. A nuclear holocaust would obliterate our entire planet. In the light of these changing realities war is no longer inevitable. The consistent, peacepromoting policy of the socialist countries, and the worldwide antiwar movement play a leading role in the struggle to prevent the destruction of human civilisation. Internationally, it is imperative that the struggle against the squandering of enormous resources on weapons of mass destruction is linked to the struggle to overcome the intolerable sufferings of millions upon millions of people in the developing countries. In South Africa the allround intensification of the revolutionary struggle for the isolation and overthrow of the apartheid regime is our main task in contributing to the overall struggle for world peace.

The Three Main Revolutionary Contingents

Of all of the diverse progressive and revolutionary forces confronting imperialism in our time, there are three main revolutionary contingents:

Ø     the world socialist system;

Ø     the national liberation movements and antiimperialist forces in the developing countries;

Ø     the working class movement in the developed capitalist countries.

Alongside these main contingents, a major tendency in the present period has been the emergence of mass democratic movements in the advanced capitalist countries. These movements mobilise millions of people around issues such as peace, the preservation of our environment, and the antiapartheid struggle. While not necessarily being revolutionary in character, these broadbased mass democratic movements share important objectives with the three major world revolutionary contingents. They have contributed to the weakening of imperialism, isolatinq its most reactionary and dangerous circles.

The World Socialist System

World imperialism was dealt its first blow in 1917 by the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. After the end of the Second World War and the defeat of German fascism and Japanese militarism, the worldwide historical process of social liberation was marked by the overthrow of exploiters in several countries in Europe and Asia and then Cuba Socialism has turned into a world system, asserting itself on vast expanses of the earth. Socialist countries today represent a powerful international force. Some of them possess highly developed economies, a considerable scientific base, and a reliable military defence potential World socialism accounts for more than onethird of the world's population, in dozens of countries advancing along a path that reveals the intellectual and moral potential of humanity. A new way of life is taking shape in which there are neither oppressors nor the oppressed, neither exploiters nor the exploited, in which power belongs to the people.

There are three main ways in which the world socialist system contributes to the world revolutionary process. First, the existence of socialist countries, their growing might, and their foreign policies, based on working class internationalism, have brought about gradual changes in the worldwide balance of forces between imperialism and all the forces opposing it. The growing might of the socialist countries restricts imperialism's ability to export counterrevolution. Secondly,the advances of the socialist countries inspire the working people throughout the world to struggle for social and national emancipation, raising the level of their demands and programmes of action. Thirdly, socialist countries provide significant and manysided support to revolutionary movements throughout the world. In short, the growing might of world socialism creates more favourable conditions for the working people of the world to attain peace, democracy and social progress.

Socialism has demonstrated its enormous potential for allround progress. But the worldwide process of transition from capitalism to socialism has not been without negative features. In the Soviet Union itself socialism had to be built in a country with a low level of capitalist development, a predominantly peasant population, and many national communities with different levels of development, including survivals of feudalism and even earlier social systems. The new workers' state had to find its own way, without historical models to follow, and in the face of local counterrevolution and the invasion of armies from the leading imperialist powers.

The classical industrialisation patterns of the advanced capitalist countries, which took between 100 and 200 years, was based largely on resources plundered from colonies. In contrast, the Soviet Union had only its own resources on which to rely, not least the heroism and dedication of its revolutionary working class and Party.

These difficult origins help to explain, but in no way to justify, the emergence of a party and government system of administrative command, leading to bureaucratic control and criminal violations of socialist justice. These were exposed by the 20th and 27th Congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. For a number of decades democratic procedures were neglected in the Soviet Union, and the cult of the personality dominated the leadership, the Party and the whole country. Given the preeminent position of the Soviet Union within the world communist movement, some of these negative tendencies also affected Communist Parties around the world, including our own.

Within the Soviet Union elements of stagnation and other phenomena alien to socialism began to appear. Since the 27th Congress of the CPSU an important process has been initiated for democratisation, restructuring (perestroika) and openness (glasnost), with the aim of ensuring the fuller realisation of the economic, moral and cultural possibilities opened up by socialism. The South African Communist Party strives constantly for the strengthening of ties between all socialist countries and for international Communist unity at all levels. We regard such unity as essential for the progress of world socialism, the defence of peace and the advance of the national liberation struggle everywhere. The proletarian internationalism of the socialist countries has, amongst other things, played an outstanding role in the revolutionary victory of the Vietnamese people over US imperialism, and in defence of the Cuban revolution. In southern Africa, progressive and revolutionary forces have a long and warm experience of the consistent, selfless assistance of the socialist countries. In particular, the contribution of the Cuban internationalist forces, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries to the defeat of apartheid and imperialist plans in Angola has been of decisive importance to our whole region.

The National Liberation Movement and the Antiimperialist Struggle of the Developing Countries

The national liberation movement and the developing countries have played an exceptional part in the worldwide struggle against imperialism. They have contributed greatly to changing the balance of forces in the world in favour of peace and socialism. As recently as the 1950s, almost one third of the world's population was ruled by colonial powers. In the last three decades the national liberation movement has dealt a major blow to colonialism. Today, very little is left of the colonial system in its classical forms. This is an achievement of worldwide historical importance.

A major intergovernmental forum for the newlyindependent and other developing countries is the NonAligned Movement, which has emerged as an important force in world politics. The NonAligned Movement has an antiwar, antiimperialist, anticolonialist and anti racist orientation. It also promotes the struggle for a new just world economic order.

First put forward in 1973 by the NonAligned Movement, the basic principles of a new world economic order to break out of the present grave situation were declared to be:

Ø     the sovereignty and equality of all states;

Ø     the right of every country to choose its own road of development;

Ø     the sovereignty of every state over its own national resources and economy;

Ø     the right to control the activities of the transnational corporations; and economic aid without any political or military strings.

The crippling debt burden of the 1980s has made the demand for a new international economic order ever more relevant.

The governments of the developing countries pursue a variety of different policies. The most progressive among them have a socialist orientation, involving a gradual transition by economically underdeveloped societies to socialism. In these countries the foundations for social ownership of the means of production are being laid. Progressive social and economic changes are being introduced to implement land reform, stamp out illiteracy and involve the broad masses in building a new society.

Efforts of socialistoriented countries to develop encounter fierce opposition from reactionary international circles. Imperialism considers vast regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa as spheres of its special interest. There it acts to trample on the rights and aspirations of the developing nations.

The antiimperialist struggles of the developing countries are closely related to those of liberation movements struggling against the last remnants of the colonial system. In particular, Zionist Israel and apartheid South Africa are springboards to destabilise independent countries throughout their respective regions. The struggles of the Palestinian people under the leadership of the PLO, the Namibian people under the leadership of SWAPO, and of South Africa's majority under the leadership of the ANC, have an importance beyond their immediate context.

The Working Class Movement in the Advanced Capitalist Countries.

The most organised detachments of the working class movement in capitalist countries are concentrated in Western Europe, North America and Japan. There are long traditions of militant class struggle in most of the major capitalist countries. In some there are mass Communist Parties that play an important role in social and political life. The Communist Parties, the progressive wing of the trade union movements, and progressive sections of social democratic organisations lead all democratic elements in these countries in the struggle against monopoly capital.

On the other hand, there have also long been contradictory tendencies within the working class movements of the major imperialist centres. Reformism, class collaboration and even by power chauvinism have often reared their ugly heads. The material base for such negative phenomena has been the relative cushioning of sections of these metropolitan working classes by some of the crumbs from the enormous wealth accumulated by imperialism through super exploitation of colonies and neocolonies.

The working people of the advanced capitalist countries are now experiencing growing unemployment and a rising cost of living. By the mid1980s the number of unemployed in these countries had risen to more than 35 million. The transnational corporations and the regimes representing their interests have used mass unemployment to attack the material, social and democratic gains of the working class, and to undermine their trade unions. In the face of this offensive, the continuation of the class struggle is essential.

At the same time, the strategic orientation of Communist Parties in the advanced capitalist countries is towards broad, democratic, antimonopoly coalitions. The possibilities of working in this direction have been greatly enhanced by the emergence, since the late 1960s, of various mass democratic movements. These mass democratic movements now constitute an important motive force for social development on a world scale. These movements involve people of various political orientations and social status often drawn from the middle strata. They tend to be nonpartisan, mobilising around single issues such as peace, women's rights, the protection of the environment, and the antiracist and antiapartheid struggles. Their basic concerns and popular character inevitably bring them into opposition with monopoly domination and the policies of the most reactionary circles of imperialism.

These tendencies underline the need for, and possibilities of, unity of all progressive forces in the advanced capitalist countries. However, social and global problems can only be fully solved on the basis of the interests of the working class whose objective social position makes it central in this regard.

The South African Communist Party believes it is the task of all revolutionaries to grasp the interconnections between the world's revolutionary contingents, to learn from international experience, to apply this experience creatively according to concrete conditions, and to approach national problems in unity with international ones.

The South African Communist Party is part of the world communist forces. True to the principles of working class internationalism, the Party works for the unity of the workers of the whole world, and especially of the MarxistLeninist parties. We work for the unity of all world antiimperialist and progressive forces in the lifeanddeath struggle for nuclear disarmament and international relations based on mutual respect. This policy coincides with the fundamental interests of the people of our country. It is in harmony with the aim of independence and integrity for our country, and for regional and allAfrican cooperation and unity.

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.