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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

2. The Revolutionary Process in Africa

The South African national liberation struggle is taking place within the context of important developments in southern Africa and the continent as a whole. These developments exert enormous influence on our struggle, as much as South African events have a bearing on the struggles of the peoples of Africa for full democratic and independent development.

The peoples of Africa share a common history which predates the colonial era. Subjected to various forms of colonial plunder by imperialism, their struggles for independence have always been seen as a common fight against a common enemy. This sense of collective responsibility forms the basis for a shared antiimperialist sentiment, the most crucial and urgent of whose tasks is the complete decolonisation of the continent.

Although the social conditions within our country are, in many ways, different from the general situation in most of Africa, the root and essence of the system within South Africa differs little from the classical colonial system to which the rest of the continent was subjected. Our struggle and the destiny of African peoples are deeply interconnected.

The attainment of independence by the majority of African peoples constitutes the greatest political advance of the past three decades on the continent. From colonial subjugation, virtually the whole of Africa is today made up of independent states, with the political instruments to determine their destiny. This achievement is a direct result of the heroic struggles of the African masses: the peasants, workers, intelligentsia and other forces.

While similarities abound, each country and each people have their own characteristics. The level of economic development differs from country to country and region to region. The paths to political power; the correlation of class forces in the national liberation alliances before and after independence; the colonial metropolis with which they have had to contend; and the immediate geopolitical environment in which they are situated all these have a profound influence on the political processes in each country.

Today, Africa is made up of a wide variety of political systems and forms of government. In countries where the compradore bourgeoisie underlings of imperialist forces dominate the machineries of state, economic resources have been laid bare to plunder by transnational corporations, with some fringe benefits to the local ruling groups In such countries, and those in which other sections of the bourgeoisie or aspirant capitalists took the reins of power, a parasitic variant of the capitalist class the bureaucratic bourgeoisie has emerged This group feeds on corruption and is tied to international capital. Politically, these reactionary capitalists rely on force and progressive sounding slogans to suppress the yearnings of the working people for independent development.

In some countries sections of the national bourgeoisie who, though aspiring for growth and prosperity as a class, came into power with the support of the working people: in particular the working class and poor peasantry. This group, relying on this alliance, and moved by genuinely patriotic aims, has taken an active part in struggles against imperialist domination, for independent national development. In these countries, restrictions have been placed on the involvement of transnational corporations. Industrial and land reforms, including a relatively strong state sector, have been introduced. In the field of education, health and in the political system some reforms have been effected to benefit the people and ensure their participation though limited in the political process.

A decisive role in the development of sociopolitical forms in Africa is played by the middle strata, especially professional groups and sections of small businessmen. Numerically strong, and based in the urban centres, they are the social base that has fed the leadership layers of the liberation movements and political parties. It is from these forces that the majority of the officer corps in the state apparatus and bureaucracy originate. These strata have tended to ally themselves either to the various sections of the bourgeoisie or to the working people.

Over the decades since independence, many sociopolitical changes have taken place in the countries of the continent. The struggle between the forces of democracy and social progress on the one hand, and those tied to imperialism on the other, has assumed different forms and has been waged with different degrees of intensity. In a number of countries, these struggles have resulted in political coups of either a progressive or reactionary character. In other instances, the upheavals at the top and among the people result from the complex ethnic (and sometimes religious) relations inherited from the colonial division of Africa. This ethnic diversity has often been deliberately manipulated by the colonial and imperialist powers. At the same time, insufficient attention or incorrect approaches to the national question by the classes and strata in power have also precipitated social strife.

One of the most significant developments in this period has been the growth of the African working class and its increasing impact on social developments. The waged workforce in independent Africa has grown in number to over 34million, 70 per cent of whom are workers in industry and agriculture. The geographic distribution of the working class is uneven, with the majority concentrated in a few relatively industrialised countries. Though small in number, the African working class is crucial to any radical social transformations. But it can only play its revolutionary role to the full if it is conscious of its historic mission and is organised to promote and pursue its immediate and longterm interests under the guidance of MarxismLeninism. Depending on the actual social and political setting in each country, the vanguard revolutionary forces will assume a variety of organisational forms, the highest expression of which is a MarxistLeninist Party

Despite the variety of ideological positions, African countries share the common scourge of the grim consequences of colonial rule: the lopsided economic structure, technical underdevelopment, mass starvation and vulnerability to natural disasters, the debt burden and so on. These real problems reinforce the joint struggles of virtually all independent Africa for an equitable system of international economic relations. It is the totality of all these common social problems and the desire to eradicate them that has cemented the bonds of unity, expressed in the Organisation of African Unity. Regional associations such as the Preferential Treaty Area for Eastern and Southern African States and the Economic Community of West African States also aim at strengthening the countries of Africa in their joint quest for independent development. These organisations have not only reinforced continental and regional cooperation, but also significantly strengthened the voice and standing of Africa in the international arena.

The Transition to Socialism

Ultimately, the only viable choice for Africa s working people is the socialist path of development. This road holds out the possibility of resolvinq the manysided problems afflicting all developing countries,to the benefit of the overwhelming majority of the people.

The main general tasks in the countries of socialist orientation are to: strengthen the state sector; root out domination by foreign capital; create the industrial and technical base for socialism and ensure planned economic development, to introduce progressive land reforms; to widen popular democracy and strengthen the vanguard revolutionary party; and to work for national cultural revival with socialist values.

But these tasks have to be carried out in a situation in which the old masters local and international put up stiff resistance. In particular, the most reactionary circles of imperialism and in our region, the apartheid regime, have mobilised their resources for a vicious campaign against socialism. Reactionary terrorist and subversive interference have slowed down the development towards socialism in many of these countries. These actions have hindered the attempts to overcome such objective difficulties as the backward industrial and technological base and the numerical weakness of the working class.

In some of these countries, subjective mistakes have been made. The main error has been the drive to move ahead of objective conditions both in economic and political policy. For instance, premature attempts to eliminate all private property, including small enterprises, often narrows the social base of the revolution and can do incalculable harm to the quest for socialism. In a few cases, elements have emerged within the state to use their position to reverse the whole process of socialist orientation.

The path of socialist orientation demands unflinching reliance by the revolutionary movement on the working people, and a conscious effort to constantly broaden the social base of the revolution by patiently winning over more and more genuinely patriotic forces to the side of social progress. It depends also, to a large measure on the strength and cohesion of the MarxistLeninist vanguard party and systematic ideological work within the ranks of the party and among all sections of society. In foreign policy, strong, mutuallybeneficial relations with socialist countries and other progressive nations is of fundamental importance.

The South African Communist Party supports the struggle of African patriots to achieve full national liberation, sovereignty and independent national development. The Party fully identifies with the efforts to organise and mobilise the working class and working people to play their deserved role in national and continental renaissance; and to cement the unity of workers, peasants and other progressive and democratic forces in the fight to eliminate the vestiges of colonialism and ongoing imperialist plunder. As part of this process, and in pursuit of the working class objective of a society without exploitation, the Party works for the deepening of the comradely unity and cooperation among MarxistLeninist Parties of Africa.

The Southern African Region

Over the past two decades, southern Africa has undergone changes of epochmaking significance. These developments have had a profound impact on the struggle within South Africa. And they have themselves been influenced by this struggle. Our revolution is unfolding within this immediate environment, a region which is the foremost target of the racist colonial regime's acts of destabilisation.

The evolution of the colonial system of imperialism in southern Africa was such that the economies of the countries of the region were structured to be highly dependent on South Africa in terms of communication and transport, the supply of manufactured goods and, to an extent, even the employment of wage labour. South Africa emerged as a subimperialist centre, a junior partner of imperialism seeking to dominate the region on its own behalf and on behalf of imperialism. Today, South Africa accounts for about 77 per cent of the Gross National Product of countries south of Zaire and Tanzania and approximately 90 per cent of energy consumed. South African capital has been exported to many countries of the region.

The strategy of imperialism consists of ensuring its regional domination of southern Africa. In this regard, imperialism pays particular attention to defending the interests of monopoly capital especially within South Africa as its prime springboard into the region. In pursuit of the objective of regional domination, imperialism employs various tactics aimed at blocking and reversing the struggle of the revolutionary masses, and maintaining the essence of colonial domination within South Africa and the region as a whole.

The achievement of independence by the peoples of Mozambique and Angola in the mid1970s drastically changed the balance of forces in the region. A product of armed and militant popular struggles, these victories profoundly reinforced the struggles of other oppressed peoples of the subcontinent. These revolutions set the stage for development towards socialist construction. Slightly over half a decade later, and after many years of gruelling struggle, the Zimbabwean people also achieved their independence.

The strategy of the apartheid regime hinges on achieving allround dominationeconomic, political and militaryand turning the states of southern Africa into satellites of apartheid colonialism. In pursuit of this objective, economic enticement, persuasion, sabotage, direct military aggression and surrogate bandit movements are used interchangeably and in various combinations to bludgeon southern Africa into submission. The regime's acts of aggression are a product of the support Pretoria receives from imperialism.

But it is a policy that is meeting with major obstacles. Intensified mass and armed struggle within South Africa; the economic consequences of regional destabilisation; the cost of direct aggression in human lives and white morale all these have a powerful weakening effect upon the apartheid regime. In addition, the states of southern Africa, the Frontline States in particular, have collectively taken consistent positions against apartheid. The Southern African Development Coordinating Conference and bilateral relations among these and other governments in the region, constitute a significant drive to reduce dependence on South Africa. The Frontline States themselves have sought to strengthen their defence and security to defeat Pretoria's plans. It is against this background that in 1988 the South African war machine suffered an ignominious defeat in southern Angola. Combined with decades of heroic struggle by the people of Namibia under the leadership of SWAPO, this development has precipitated significant changes in the region, opening up unprecedented possibilities for the decolonisation of Namibia.

Within the centres of international capital, and between elements of international capital and the regime, there have always been differences of approach. To the extent that these contradictions are of benefit to the struggle, they must be used and deepened. But these conflicts should not be overestimated: the essence of the strategy of international capital as a whole remains that of defending and extending its economic and political sway. The SACP stands by the governments and peoples of southern Africa in their efforts to defend their sovereignty and independence. Their sacrifices in support of our struggle shall always be emblazoned in the hearts of our people and our working class in particular with whom many southern African workers share the same workplace. The bonds among the classes and strata in the region lead to a natural alliance among African patriots against colonial domination. The task of isolating, weakening and defeating the Pretoria regime is the noble duty of all antiapartheid forces in South Africa, the region and internationally. This is the ultimate guarantee of a just peace and social progress in our subcontinent.

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.