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"It is certainly not our task to build up the future in advance and to settle all problems for all time, but it is just as certainly our task to criticise the existing world ruthlessly. I mean ruthlessly in the sense that we must not be afraid of our own conclusions and equally unafraid of coming into conflict with the prevailing powers."
Karl Marx, 1844


Our gains, failures and the way forward

Published: Circa 1993

Since the eruption of the violence directed at black communities and their organisations, many resolutions and decisions on the need for self-defence have been taken within the mass movement. Different communities have in various ways tried to build effective self-defence. The sheer intensity of the violence has forced militants to take up arms and defend their factories, communities and lives.

There is agreement across a broad of people within the mass movement that the violence that has been unleashed against the masses and their organisations, demands the formation of self defence units as part of a broader response to the violence.

Although there exists a verbal commitment to build self- defence units the record thus far of actually building these units has not been a good one. While in many areas not much has been done in terms of building self-defence units, problems have emerged in some of the communities which have taken practical steps of defending themselves.

There have been reports of units in the Triangle and certain sections of Khayelitsha which have become a law unto themselves and have embarked on campaigns of terror against the very people they are supposed to defend. We also know of instances where members of these units have been implicated in acts of violence against other comrades in the townships.

Also emerging is that although involved in heroic attempts to defend communities, the actions of the units have not always been guided by clear political perspectives on the issue of the violence. A couple of months ago, in the July edition of Umsebenzi there was a look at the weaknesses of defence units. Among the weaknesses pointed out in the article by Comrade Chris is the tendency to take “political shortcuts” like for example, attacking hostels militarily without taking up the issues of the hostels politically; that is, without being involved in campaigns to win the majority of hostel dwellers.

To many militants, the gap between verbal commitment to build defence units and the actual practical implementation of this task has become all too clear. It is this widening gap between words and deeds that has produced such bitter disappointment, demoralisation and cynicism on the one hand and heroic, though politically and unguided acts, taken in defence of the masses and their organisations, on the other.

It is therefore vital that we find ways of closing the gap that has emerged between the resolutions that we take on the necessity of defence and our practice, before the demoralisation that we are witnessing sinks deep and before the actions of existing units become counter- productive.

The paralysis that exists within our movement on the question of defence has not at all meant that the issue has become less acute. The issue of the need for defence keeps pushing itself to the fore despite the wishes and attempts to avoid it. We need to appreciate the role played by violence in the overall strategy of the ruling class.

We will be deluding ourselves to think that the issue of violence is going to disappear. Although the forms may change, the likelihood of violence intensifying is the only sober prognosis that we can come up with.

The main thrust of the regime’s strategy after February 1990 was to get the leadership of the mass movement to agree to a settlement or deal that would protect capitalism and white privileges. In order to achieve this the ruling class, the government, the bosses, their newspapers and other institutions allied to the capitalist class has embarked on a number of strategies.

Firstly, through a consistent campaign in its newspapers like the Argus, Star, Sunday Times etc the ruling class has put pressure on the ANC leadership in particular, to “control its militant elements”, to be “reasonable” in its demands, to stop mass action and to generally adopt increasingly reformist policies.

Secondly, although the ruling class is hoping to encourage the development of capitalist oriented policies and general reformism in the and in the mass movement in general, it still does not trust the ANC. The ruling class fears that the ANC might be pressurised by the people to take social and economic measures that might harm the interests of the capitalists and the privileged minority. To prepare against this possibility, the ruling class has embarked on a programme of economic restructuring that includes a programme of a cut in social security spending and general re-organisation of production at factory and industry levels.

Also important for blocking the possibility of an ANC in power being pressurised by its and taking measures that are detrimental to minority interests, are the government’s proposals for a new constitution, that entrenches the power of the white minority through vetoes at all stages of the constitution-making process.

What the government and the bosses realise however is that, all the above strategies forcing the ANC to accept constitutional guarantees for white minority privilege; promoting reformist politics amongst the leadership; social and economic restructuring cannot succeed if mass organisations, especially the and COSATU, remain strong and participation is high. For the government, if the mass of the people is still politically active, it will be difficult for them to accept minority guarantees.

For the whole of the ruling class, it is clear that a strong mass movement will make it difficult for the policies of reformism to dominate in the ANC. Both the bosses and the state’s social and economic restructuring will be resisted by a strong mass movement. The realisation of the problem caused by a mass movement, led to a fourth element of the strategy of the ruling class. The fourth element was the smashing of organisations without banning them or leading to their total collapse. The ruling class needs the ANC, but an ANC that is weak and can therefore accept the terms dictated by the government at the negotiating table.

The strategy of smashing organisations has been implemented at (at least) two levels. At the level of the factory, the bosses have gone all out to smash union organisation. Large-scale retrenchments, firing of militants, forcing unions to settle for very low wages, allowing reactionary unions like UWUSA to compete with COSATU, using the Industrial Court to defeat unions, as well as many other strategies. But the most important part of the strategy of breaking the strength of mass organisations has been the use of violence. Although violence had always teen used against mass organisations, since February 2 the violence has had a new intensity and has had different objectives compared with the past. In the past, the aim was to smash mass organisations completely and as a result it was combined with bannings, The aim is to weaken, but not destroy, the mass movement.

If this is the aim of the violence, we must all clear that regardless of the agreements and accords that the regime and its surrogates like Buthelezi and Gqozo sign, the ruling class will not (both in the run-up to the Constituent Assembly and immediately after we come into power) totally abandon its strategy of violence against the working class and its allies.

It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that effective self-defence is built. Any avoidance of the issue of defence is done at our peril. The question that arises is why so little has been done on the matter that is clearly pressing to our movement. The answer to this vital question lies in the fact that despite the broad agreement about the need for defence units, there is a lot of uncertainty and confusion about their role, form of organisation and their tasks. It is important that this confusion is cleared. We also need to overcome some of the problems that have emerged in the last period in relation to the actual building of self-defence units. We must address some of the questions which militants have been asking, such as:

  • who can and should join defence units?
  • what should the structure of the units?
  • what are the political and of the units?
  • how should the units relate to the community and to mass organisation.

But when we answer these questions it is important to look in detail at some of the experiences of forming units. How have the problems that we noted above manifested themselves? What are the hindrances that have been encountered by activists in their attempts to build self-defence.

The Experience Of Building Self-Defence

The call for the building of self-defence units is not a call that has been raised only recently and with the eruption of the kind of violence that we have experienced since 1990. At the height of the 198486 waves of struggle, the need for self-defence was raised in the light of the attacks on activists and their communities by apartheid’s armed forces and vigilantes. In fact, what we began to see in this period was the emergence of small and secret groups of activists, arming themselves sometimes with the assistance of cadres and sometimes on the basis of initiative. These groups and units began to act in defence of their communities.

We also know that with the lull that began to set in from 1986 some of the comrades involved in these groups became involved acts of terror against community members and used their skills in criminal activities. It is some of these problems that the manual on self-defence entitled ‘For The Sake Of Our’ and issued in 1990 tried to deal with. The booklet contains guidelines on how to self-defence units and was an attempt to assist activists and communities in the light of the large scale violence directed at them. The booklet represents the most developed approach on the question of self-defence.

In dealing with the problem of accountability of the units, the booklet makes a number of points as far composition of the unils is concerned. The first point made is that the units must be made up of members of the community, irrespective of political affiliation. The booklet goes on to warn against the dangers of creating the units as of any one particular group. The second point made about the composition of the units is that local organisations should appoint or elect a defence committee. According to the perspective put forward in the manual, self-defence units are not clandestine structures. They are public structures whose members must be elected by mass organisations publicly. This has been by quotes from the National Peace Accord which acknowledges the right of people and communities to defend themselves and the right to form self-defence protection units Thirdly, it is argued that comrades who are appointed to the defence committee (which will lead the township defence force) should be “reliable and decisive”. In the article by Comrade Chris, (Umsebenzi, July 1992) the question of the quality of the activists in the units is taken further. There Comrade Chris argues that:

  • only activists with “a clear record of service to their communities”must be drawn into the units,
  • no criminals must be drawn in, and
  • those with a track-record of militant rhetoric must not be drawn in.

As a response to the calls that defends communities and as a way of combating the tendency to see defence as the task of small groups and units, the perspective (which is developed in the booklet ‘For The Sake Of calls for the formation of a Township Defence Force’ (TDF) of about 2 000 volunteers in the defence of a township of about 20 000. The TDF would be headed by a Township Defence Committee (TDC) consisting of about nine activists each with a special task. According to this perspective, the TDC would be appointed or elected by local community organisations and they are directly accountable to the local community organisation. The TDF is then divided into companies, platoons, and sections. According to the booklet, the committee will be made up of a commander (or commanders), a comrade responsible for communications, and another responsible for communications, and another responsible for intelligence, another for “political instruction”, another for logistics (i.e. for the organisation of weapons and materials), another comrade would be responsible for medical and another for engineering (ie. construction of barricades and defence works).

Also emphasised in the manual is the importance of a mass-approach to the issue of self-defence. What is clear for the writers of ‘For The Sake Of Our’ is that the units, and the sub-units linked to the single unit, cannot adequately defend a township against the kind of large-scale attack that we have seen since July 1990. Reference here is to the large attacks like ones seen at Boipatong, Swanieville and Park, for example. It is obvious that the units must find ways of drawing from the “broad reserves”that are the township residents. The best the units and sub-units can do (i.e. even if there are a number of units with their own sub-units in a township and in such a case a co-ordinating structure of the units must be formed) would be to sound the alarm in time, to have weapons ready for distribution to broader layers of workers and youth, to provide leadership and guidance in the various spheres of defence operations (e.g. barricade work) and thus provide a centre that can co-ordinate the defence of the township.

According to the manual, attempts must always be made by the TDF to be in touch with the rest of the residents and rely on them for effective defence of a township. Such has been the perspective put forward in what we have noted as the most developed approach to the question of defence.

But the process of establishing units has not been as smooth and clear as in the guidelines in For The Sake Of Our In the actual process of setting up units, the perspectives outlined in the booklet have hardly been followed. The general trend has been for the setting-up of defence units as clandestine or secret as well as relatively small groups of militants. Also clear is that where units have been established, these have been ANC-linked, and drawn organisations and activists of the Congress movement. Few units have drawn together members of PAC and ANC.

Instead of seeing a public Township Defence Force, we have witnessed the mushrooming of clandestine units.

Another important development has been the development of marshal1 structures. In the last few years, especially since the unbannings and the relative liberalisation of political activity, marshal1 structures have emerged throughout the country. The main work of the marshal1 has been to control marches and big meetings. In the course of their development, the have attracted many militants who are dedicated and serious about their work of ensuring that activities undertaken by the masses pass off without violence against the people. What has not been clear is the relationship of defence structures.

Also not clear has been the question of at which stage does defensive action become offensive. This is important because the movement’s official position of the suspension of armed actions.

From our experience of struggle, we know that many a time we have encountered situations where unarmed mass action reaches its limits ie. it is repressed by armed force. It would then appear that in situations like that, that “politics must be taken forward by other means”. For example, after the Boipatong and Bisho massacres, militants spontaneously took up armed resistance and targeted symbols and agents of apartheid. What should be the role of units in situations such as this i.e. situations which are offensive, although they are a response against repression?

So what has therefore developed is a divergence between the perspectives and the actual evaluation of defence units. The question, once again, is why has there been a tendency for the perspectives and the actual practice to diverge?

 The Causes Of Divergence 

  1. The Fear of Victimisation

 For many militants active in the factories and townships, the basic problem has been that any unit that is elected or appointed publicly exposes the militants to victimisation. Activists, although appreciating the points in For The Sake Of about the advantages of a public and mass defence structure, also understand that in the current situation that no effective defence can be built without arms. It is the vagueness on the question of the armed component of defence, that has caused militants to be cynical of the plan proposed in The Sake Of Our People who have tried to follow the guidelines in the manual, know full well that there is no way that they can have a discussion on arms in meetings whose participants are known and have been elected in public meetings of different mass organisation.

It is therefore one thing to warn and caution activists against a narrow understanding of defence that only sees firearms as the only weaponry that can be used in defence, but it is another one to duck the question of how the units will be armed with guns. It is on the question of how the units will be armed that The Sake Of Our Lives is weak. Although there is in the manual of how some of the members of the Township Defence Force will have arms, no discussion is entertained on how these members will relate to the rest of the force. What militants who have tried to use the manual have found, is that no discussion is allowed on what is for them the crucial aspect of any defence unit. They have found that most of the work that is discussed in these meetings such as crowd control, drilling, evacuation work, building barricades and fortification work is what structures are supposed to do.

The usual response that the issue of arms is for the underground and for is not satisfactory. Militants know that the underground has virtually disintegrated. They also know of the effects of the accords and agreements, which the leadership has entered into and signed with the regime. These accords such as the Pretoria Minute and the D.F. Malan Accord effectively prevent the ANC from building a strong underground, training people in the use of firearms and from stockpiling weapons -activities which are vital to any defence strategy. As a result of these agreements, it has become extremely difficult for cadres to assist in the establishment of defence units because it is not clear whether the ANC will defend them as political prisoners in the event of them being arrested in the course of defending the masses. Comrades will recall that the cut-off date for indemnity for “political offenses” was in 1990. What will happen to comrades who are arrested for “political offenses” after that date? Will the ANC regard them as political prisoners? It is quite clear that for defence to be effectively taken up by militants, this is a vital question. Militants need to know that the organisations that they are defending will value this defence and defend them politically.

The provisions in the National Peace Accord on self-Protection Units (SPU’s) do not address the fears of the fighters who genuinely want to defend their communities and organisations. People are quite aware that the Accord’s call for SPU’s to liaise with the police is non-sensical. It is well known that no units are going to “liaise”with the SAP; in fact, in a number of cases if not all, units inevitably come up against the SAP.

The Peace Accord, although acknowledging the right of communities to defend themselves, still gives apartheid’s security forces the supreme task of maintaining “law and order”. Also not dealt with in the Peace Accord, is the acquisition of arms by the units. Many community leaders have been refused licences, despite the fact that they have been living under threat and that with some, attempts have been made on their lives.

It is because of the acute awareness of the seriousness of the task of defence units and the instinctive feeling of the weaknesses in the guidelines outlined in For The Sake Of Our Lives, that activists have opted for secret units and not the public Township Defence Force. But it is not only the fear of victimisation that has led to a gap between the recognised need to build self-defence and the actual realisation of this task. The politics which are now dominant within the mass movement have largely contributed to the problem.

  1. Disarming Politics

 The basic question that lies at the heart of this problem is that there is no clarity about the relationship between a militant and consistent programme of defence against the violence on the one hand, and the strategy of negotiations on the other. The way in which negotiations have been conducted is based on the view that the De Klerk regime, although it is afraid of democracy, can be made to “come to its senses” and see that democracy can be beneficial “to all”. The main thrust of the current approach to negotiations is therefore directed at getting agreement at the negotiation table for a transition to majority rule. The entire course of the negotiations from the Pretoria Minute to the DF Malan Accord has been guided by the view that majority rule can be achieved through negotiation.

Even in the period after the deadlock at CODESA, the leadership has refused to draw the correct conclusion that, if we want genuine freedom, we will have to prepare for the overthrow of the De Klerk regime. The implication of such a conclusion will throw up tasks that if pursued properly, can address some of the weaknesses of our defence strategy. We have already spoken about how the disintegration of the underground has led to our inability to address the question of the arming of the units.

There are other consequences of the movement’s departure from a revolutionary and insurrectionary perspective. The way in which the movement has approached the issue of the violence, reflects this departure. Earlier we spoke about how the has entered into agreements which run counter to the building of effective defence. We also pointed out how the Peace Accord has not assisted us in our task of building defence. Again, any militant who has been active in the townships and factories knows that the main tasks of defence units will be to protect the people from the SAP, the SADF and vigilantes who strike under the cover of the SADF. It is clear that by agreeing to such a clause in the Peace Accord, the leadership makes the work of the defence units impossible.

At the centre of the problem is the refusal by the leadership to accept that the only conclusion that can be drawn from what is generally accepted within the mass movement (i.e. that the state is for the campaign of that an end to violence can only be brought about if the power of the present state is broken (something which the past few months have shown cannot be done peacefully).

  1. The confusion about the phases of the revolutionary process and organisations of defence appropriate to each phase

 It is not only the belief in the peaceful road to an apartheid-free South Africa that has crippled the movement in its execution of the task of building effective defence.

The fundamental error committed by the adherents of the Township Defence Force perspective is that they are looking for a form of organisation of defence which in independent of the phases of the development of the revolution. The of organisational forms of defence that they are proposing actually correspond to the insurrectionary phase in the development of a revolution. For example, in order for our movement to be able to arm -not just with sticks and stones the large numbers of militants that the perspective calls for, we must have begun to make serious inroads into the security forces. Such inroads will not only mean that we can begin to tap into the arsenals of the security forces, but it will also mean that elements of the security forces will begin to “turn a blind eye” to such a lmge scale presence of arms in the hands of the people. But then when such a situation begins to prevail on a significant scale we know that we have begun passing over from the preparatory to the insurrectionary phase of the revolution.

It is important that when proposing certain organisational forms, we look closely at the stages of struggle and try to ensure that our organisational proposals are appropriate. There are three phases to the development of a revolution: the preparatory phase, the insurrection, and the consolidation of the victory of the revolution phase. An insurrection is that moment in our struggle when the masses of our people would rise up in arms and undertake a decisive and “final” struggle against the ruling class and all the institutions that defend its rule. The aim of an insurrectionary moment is to defeat the state and install a new power based on organs of people’s power. It is clear that before our struggle can reach such a moment a lot of preparation has to happen and many struggles have to be waged. What is to such a phase? question of what form the organisation of defence units must take small tight units ourselves the question: in, and what form of organisation of defence corresponds prevail, in order for us to be able to say our struggle has passed over into that phase wherein we can launch the decisive struggle for power, a number also clear is that after power has been seized through an uprising (or an insurrection) a struggle will still have to be waged against the ruling class that has been defeated but is not yet dead. Comrades know that for a long time after the victory of Frelimo, a struggle had to be waged against Renamo.

Now, at different phases of the development of the revolution the working class uses different methods and it also builds different of organisations as weapons in its struggle for power. For example, in the phases before it seizes power -that is, before a victorious insurrection -the working class does not have access to large quantities of resources like money, halls, arms and so on. Its methods of struggle and its organisation therefore reflect these limitations. Once it is in power, the working class’s access to the resources that come with being a ruling class and the large degree of freedom it has for organising, gives a different scope and depth to its organisation and methods. So we can see that the different phases of the revolution give rise to, or make possible, different forms of organisation among the working class; they also give rise to and make possible different methods of struggle.

Of course, when the level of struggle of the working class passes over from one phase to the next, the working class does not abandon its old organisations or even some of its old methods; it carries them over, deepens them and extends their scope. In order for us to tackle the that is, the Township Defence Force model, or -we must ask ourselves the question:  What phase of the revolution are we in, and what form of organization of defence correspondences to such a phase?

For insurrectionary conditions to prevail, in order for us to be able to say our struggle has passed over into that phase wherein we can launch the decisive struggle for power, a number of developments have to happen. Firstly, and most importantly, the working class’s preparedness to struggle must reach a very high stage. In other words, not only must the working class want freedom, not only must it engage in struggle, but broad layers of the working class must be prepared to die in the struggle for freedom.


When the mood of the masses develops towards this preparedness to die, the energy that goes with such a mood reflects itself in a profound organisational and political creativity of the masses. The release of this organisational and political energy among the masses will be seen in the unparalleled growth of our old organisations and in the emergence of new ones; it will be seen in the rapid emergence of new layers of activists and leaders; it will be seen in widespread political discussion in taxis, buses, factories, homes, schools -in fact in all places where the oppressed and exploited meet. A broad-based development of this organisational and creative energy among broad layers of the masses constitutes the second most important feature of the insurrectionary phase of our revolution.

The impact of this mood of the masses on organisation and politics is of course just one of the effects of the new -insurrectionary -mood of the masses. We see another effect of change in mood in the growing intensity of on all fronts. Suddenly, civic struggles assume a new intensity; struggles in the schools leap to higher levels; bitter and ferocious struggles are waged in the factories; new, previously conservative layers within the working class enter struggle and gain enormous fighting experience within days; the ruling class is forced to engage the working class on all fronts. The working class becomes imbued with a spirit of compromise. The dramatic and extraordinary rise in the intensity of struggle constitute the thud element of an insurrectionary situation.

The preparedness of the masses to die, the profound organisational and political creativity of the masses the leaps in the intensity of class struggle -all these elements give rise to a fourth, and yet another fundamental element: the disintegration of the unity, perspectives and leadership capacity of the old ruling class(es).

The process of the disintegration of the ruling class will express itself on a number of fronts. This disintegration will be seen in the rapidity and frequency with which the ruling class changes its leadership this can be seen in rapid changes of governments, of government ministers, of presidents, and prime ministers. The source of this violent instability of the ruling class’s leadership is of course the rapidly changing terrain of class struggle resulting from the dramatic rise in the intensity of struggle. The ruling class looks for leaders who can “deal” with the crisis, from the “democratic left” to the extreme right wing fascists. Leaders are tested and thrown aside as they fail to “deal” with the workers’ uprising. The rapid changes of leadership will be reflected in, and will also in turn reflect, an absence of a unified perspective on political development. Some sections of the ruling class will immediately give their support to fascists gangs. Some will argue that it is possible to find leaders among the masses who can still strike a compromise and preserve capitalism. Yet others will be struck with paralysis and vacillate between the two extreme factions. Throughout this process, the ruling class progressively loses its moral authority: in the eyes of the people it loses its right to rule; at the same time it also loses confidence in itself as a class.

But by far the most critical indication of the disintegration of the ruling class is the appearance of splits within the security forces in general, and within the army in particular. We will begin to see the army and other sections of the security forces split along class and racial lines; there will ensue a vicious internal struggle to attempt to suppress those sections of the security forces who want to link up with the people; here and there, armed clashes between sections of the security forces might begin to appear. The critical issue here is that the ruling class for the first time comes face to face with the possibility and reality of losing the monopoly of force that had previously enjoyed.


Another element that generally signifies the disintegration of the ruling class is that certain sections of the bureaucracy especially those at the lower end of the bureaucracy -abandon ship and begin to link up with the people. We might see this process by the dramatic growth of public sector unions -and especially the entry of “white collar” officials into such unions. For us to be able to seriously say that an insurrectionary situation exists, we must therefore demonstrate that these four elements discussed above have, to varying degrees, matured.

Now it is only necessary to spell out what we mean by an insurrectionary situation in order to see that the current phase of struggle through which we are passing is not insurrectionary. It is also equally clear that the current phase can only be regarded as preparatory. The current preparatory phase of the revolutionary process is characterised by a number of features. Firstly, there is the unevenness of the development of the mass organisations and an equally uneven development in the intensity of struggle. The political space which opened up with the events of February 2 has not led to the growth and strengthening of organisation. There has also been no sustained development of new leadership layers and no training and consolidation of already existing ones. Secondly, although there has certainly been an increasing participation of the masses in political life, this participation has been uneven; and it must be recalled that the rising levels of participation only date from the post-Boipatong to objective situation.

Now, to argue that the small, secret unit is the most widespread form of organisation of defence, and also one that best corresponds to the current phase of our revolution, does not mean that it is the only possible form. Side by side with the small and secret units, one can find the development of structures similar to the Township Defence. This can take the form where in one region we find the emergence of defence structures with mass character, while in another the clandestine units remain dominant. All this has to do with the unevenness with which struggle develops.

Earlier on, when we looked at the question of the form of organisation of defence we argued that the revolutionary process goes through a number of different phases. We then went on to show that to each phase of the revolutionary process there correspond certain forms of organisation. We argued that as the struggle passes over from one phase to another the class creates new organisational forms, as well as preserving and extending old ones. The crucial point here is that as the working class passes from one phase of the revolution to another, it does not abandon its old organisational forms -it extends their scope and gives them depth.

It is also true, however, that at earlier phases of the revolution forms of organisation can emerge which generally correspond to later, or higher, phases. For example, forms of organisation which generally correspond to the insurrectionary phase -for instance “organs of people’s power” or “soviets”-can emerge in what we have called the preparatory phase of the revolution. The key reason for this possibility lies in the fact that the struggles of the working class develop unevenly. Different sections of the class experience oppression and exploitation differently depending on a whole range reasons.

Some of the reasons for this uneven experience might be different economic conditions in different regions; the different positions of various layers of the class occupy in the economic and political systems of the country.

On the other hand, the way the various layers or sections of the working class respond to oppression and exploitation can also differ. This might be because of the different histories of struggle of the different layers newly organised workers versus workers who have been organised for a long time), which in turn is related to the various sections’ position in the country’s political and economic system.

Also important to note is that although certain organisational forms correspond to particular phases of the development of the revolutionary process, and as there can be a “mixing” of phases in the development of a revolution, the unfolding process of a revolution can lead to transitional forms of organisation -forms that have elements of different phases. This is true even to the organisations of defence.

The marshals can be seen to stand somewhere between the small, tight and secret units on the one hand, and the mass based Township Defence Force, on the other. The marshal structures, are closer to the units because of their consistent existence and activity as structures. They differ from the units in size and in the fact that they do not engage in armed training and defence of townships. They are different from the TDF in that they do not have as their immediate task the military defence of the township. As a form of organisation the marshals therefore are of a transitional form of organisation between the small unit and the TDF. It forms a bridge that allows the rapid expansion of the small units into and on the other hand the marshal structures form a structure that will absorb the militants as the TDF no longer becomes possible to maintain as a form of organisation.

It follows therefore that when we say our approach to the question of defence must be informed by an insurrectionary perspective we mean that, on the one hand, we must investigate those forms of organisation (and those methods of struggle) which correspond to a given phase of the revolutionary process, and on the other hand, we must be able to identify situations where a form of organisation and method of struggle which generally corresponds to a given phase of struggle arise in the course of another phase of struggle. We must be able to use our analysis of a situation to propose appropriate forms of organisations, while not closing our eyes to real developments in front of us. It is not by combining these two approaches that we will be able to build effective defence.

  1. The refusal by the ANC to lead

 The idea that the units must be made up of activists without regard to political affiliation is basically a sound one. The idea, however, only becomes possible as a practical idea when:

  • the various organisations in the townships are equally involved in the struggle against violence,
  • these organisations have some common understanding -at least to some degree -of the sources of the violence and how it must be combatted and
  • corresponding to what will be effectively a united front in the form of the units, will be a united front in a range of struggles in the communities and in the factories.

In other words, the “united front” approach to the composition of the units canonly work if it is part of a broad-based united in the general struggle against the De Klerk regime and the ruling class. This is the case because in our analysis of the violence we have already shown that the violence against the communities and the factories forms part of a broad counter-revolutionary agenda. It is therefore a mark of inconsistent politics for the leadership to strongly urge the formation of units not based on political allegiance without simultaneously just as strongly pursuing the struggle for a united front of working class organisations.

A broad-based united front of class organisations is however not being pursued or is failing to materialise for a number of reasons. On the one hand the failure of the united front is caused by the fact that the other organisations within the working class, principally the PAC and (for it is clear that just cannot be part of a united front) are not really engaged in militant struggle against violence. In fact, their attitude towards is at best ambiguous. Moreover, not only are these other organisations (PAC, AZAPO, not engaged in militant action, their characterisation of the sources of the violence sometimes differs markedly from that of the ANC Alliance. On the other hand, there is also the problem of a lack of consistency in the ANC Alliance leadership’s struggle for the united front. The struggle for the united front does not inform every approach to struggles by the leadership. In fact, our leadership has been all too hasty in leaving the front that was formed in 1990. What has been clear is that the united front does not form an important component of the strategy of our movement.

But it might be objected that how can our movement pursue the united front when “the other side” does not engage in militant struggle? We need to realise, the tactic of the united front does not only depend on what the leadership of the various parties agree to. Agreements among the leadership are clearly important, but they constitute just one part of the process of forging the united front. Equally important is the fact that the rank and file members of the various organisations must continue to be engaged irrespective of the positions of their leadership. In other words, the united front tactic unifies the working class that basic aim of the united front -with or without the consent of the leadership. But in order to achieve unity even without the consent of the must be a serious, consistent and all-rounded engagement -in front of the masses of the leadership of other organisations. A failure to pursue, and actually be seen to pursue, a serious struggle for a united front will keep the rank and file of the other organisation wedded to their leadership and this will make unity impossible.

What we are then saying is that a “united front approach to the composition of the units can only work if pursued as part of a broader strategy of the united front. Without such an approach the united front approach will be a purely temporary event which might arise in the midst of crisis, like at Boipatong after the massacre in June, 1992.

What is clear from the foregoing analysis is that the units can only emerge -to begin with -as more or less politically homogeneous units. That is, since units must to a certain extent be based on shared perspectives about the nature of the violence, and the tasks that flow from such perspectives, units will generally tend to be made up of activists belonging to the same political organisations. There is therefore nothing wrong in the ANC establishing units -it is the only realistic way in which units can emerge.

But will this perspective – one that argues for ANC units – not “Lebanonise” the conflict in the townships? In other words, will not the formation of “ANC units” not lead to “PAC units” and will not these units fight against each other, thus making the violence worse and impossible to solve?

The concern expressed in this view is of course a valid one, and expresses an important desire for unity within the class. But it is important for militants and the masses generally, to grasp the fact that conflict within the working class cannot be avoided by making calls for artificial unity. The path to avoiding conflict within the working class is through the development of clear political tasks for the unit. In other words, the concerns expressed by militants cannot be addressed structurally, they can only be addressed politically. The key question therefore one of political orientation and not simply one of “composition”.


Once again, the fact that militants on the ground have tended to form units made up of members of the ANC actually reflected a greater sensitivity to objective conditions, and at a deeper level shows an instinctive gravitation towards forms of organisation which correspond to the preparatory phase of our revolution. Although there is an understandable desire for unity reflected in the call for a united front approach for the composition to the units, under current conditions, this approach can be a recipe for doing nothing -for paralysis. The real possibilities for the united front approach to the units will emerge as we show seriousness and consistency in pursuing united front politics in general.

  1. An incorrect understanding of the question of accountability

In the attempts to establish defence units, questions have been raised about the accountability of the units. In The Sake Of Our Lives, as a way of solving the problem it is argued that units be accountable to community and political organisations in a particular locality, and that the leadership layer of the Township Defence Committee (TDC) must be elected or appointed by organisations. We have already pointed out how in practice the perspective put in The Sake Of Our Lives is problematic and has in many situations not been followed. We have shown how in relation to the question of composition and the process of forming units, developments have been at variance with the perspective in the ANC question of the composition of the units, as well as the process of their formation, is closely related to the question of the “accountability” of the units. In order to tackle this question, it is necessary to put this issue into proper perspective. Let us pose the following question: In what way is the ANC “accountable” to the people?

In certain kinds of contexts, when all political parties can contest open elections, it is normally argued that the “accountability” of parties is ensured by a process of periodic elections. But those of us who have examined this kind of accountability” know that one election every five years can hardly be regarded as making an organisation accountable. What tends to happen in such situations is that the parties “polish” themselves up every time elections approach and for the rest of the time they are bureaucratic and arrogant in the way they deal with the people. In other words, elections, even where they are possible, do not always ensure accountability.

But what about situations where like the present, political parties -for example, the ANC, cannot be “tested” through elections? How can the ANC be said to be accountable? Our experience has taught us that the critical test for an organisations like the ANC is to be sought in the amount of support the people give to its calls for action. The fact that the reflects the aspirations of the people on an issue like, for example, violence, can be judged from the support people give to call for a week of action in August 1992. The practical involvement and support people gave to the week of action called by the Alliance demonstrated beyond doubt that the Alliance is accountable to its constituency. We can thus say that elections at least show formal accountability, but not necessarily real accountability. Real accountability is best shown when the masses show active support for an organisation or for a cause.

Let us take another example to illustrate this approach to the understanding of accountability one that is hopefully close to the subject at hand: units. Before the unbanning of organisations, MK operated as tight, secret and small units. At the time it appeared obvious that MK served the people and was in one sense “accountable”. For if we believe that the people cannot be served against their wishes, we have to admit that was “accountable” in the sense that its actions corresponded to the wishes of the people. And how do we know that this was actually the case? Primarily by the fact that MK was provided with active material support (hiding places, food and so on) by the people as well as moral and political support. In this sense we can talk of the real accountability of MK.

The difficult context within which defence units have to be and operate means that we have to move beyond a formal understanding of accountability. It is incorrect and impractical to try to solve the problem of accountability by calling for leaders of units to be elected. The question of accountability can only be resolved as a political question. The units must be educated politically; they must be close to the people through being our most committed activists in building organisations and in the selection of activists for units, care must be taken to select only those who have shown consistent discipline in mass work. What this of course means is that those (already in units) who fail to live up to these qualities must be expelled from the units and isolated politically.

A struggle for real political accountability of the units (and this of course holds for formal, election based, accountability) does not mean that no mistakes will be made by units, and that no problems will arise. Where mistakes have been made, our political leadership must of course criticise – in a comradely manner – the units. On the other hand, the movement and the units cannot be held responsible for every bunch of criminals who declare themselves a unit. It must be said that at times the leadership has shown hyper-sensitivity to so called “public opinion” as expressed by the bourgeois press, and have sometimes expressed themselves ambiguously on the necessity of units.

The supreme judge of whether units act in a way that is accountable will of course be the people. The people do have a way of showing their disapproval. Disapproval can be expressed and will be done verbally in meetings; but more fundamentally the people will withdraw their political, moral and material support. Our political task is to make militants understand and appreciate that there is no higher penalty or “sentence” than for units to lose this political and moral support of the people. The entire work of the units depends on this moral and political support for its success. The impact of this loss of moral and political support will be felt immediately and ruthlessly as the people provide for the units is removed and the units are crushed by the state.

As it is the case, the militants who initiate and staff units are either in the leading bodies of our branches and unions, or have access to these bodies. This makes real accountability possible and the relationship of the units to the mass organisation relatively easy to conduct. People can always bring any problems of units to mass organisations, most organisations can pass resolutions on the political and also military problems of units. This dynamic linkage between units and our organisations will ensure that the pressure of the people will register in the units. The question of accountability of the units can only be resolved in this way.

The Way Forward

We began by arguing that the call for defence, although widespread, has not been followed by consistent deeds especially on the part of the leadership. We also saw how this lack of deeds to match the words was a result of the dominant political perspectives in our movement. This lack of deeds can be traced the belief in the peaceful transfer of power to the majority.

We have taken a few examples to show that the way negotiations are being conducted agreement at all and at any costs; avoiding antagonising De Klerk; lack of sensitivity to the problems of the people in the townships and factories; secret deals and so on) run counter to any serious attempt to organise defence.

Counter to this view, we showed that the De Klerk regime has a counter-revolutionary agenda -and that it is this programme of counter-revolution that lies at the heart of the violence that has been unleashed against our people. We thus argued that because of this incorrect view amongst our leadership, those in the mass movement who have taken up defence seriously have been left without effective political leadership. The kinds of agreements like the National Peace Accord can only have the effect of disarming militants and weakening the capacity of our movement to defend itself.

We went further and argued that because of the inextricable link between the current wave of violence and the anti-democratic agenda of the ruling class, the only serious and realistic approach to the violence can only be based on a revolutionary perspective. We then went on to look at the various phases in the development of the revolution, and we proceeded to tackle the question of the form of organisation of defence, and how the form of organisation is informed by our understanding of the development of the revolution.

We concluded that the small, secret perspective we showed that the of those who propose the Township Defence Force the fact that they fail to distinguish between the various phases in the development of the revolution, and therefore they fail to spell our the implications of each phase for the development of defence.

Although we have concluded that the secret underground unit is the most appropriate form of organisation for defence at this point, we earlier noted that this was not the only form.

After we discovered that the form of organisation of defence appropriate to the current preparatory phase of the revolution was the small, tight and secret units, we noted that it is clear that from a simple consideration of numbers, the units could not adequately defend a large township or factory. We raised the question of how the units will be able to draw in the “broad reserves” of the township workers and youth.

The one possible solution to this question can be arrived at by bringing together the perspectives developed in our discussion of the unevenness of the revolutionary process, together with our actual experience. From the history of our struggle we know that situations have arisen when workers and youth have succeeded in creating “no go areas” for the security forces.

This has generally occurred when the intensity of struggle has been so high as to enable the workers and youth to build new forms of organisation and adopt new methods of struggle. In other words, our history has many examples in which in one part of the country or in one township, insurrectionary (or semi-insurrectionary) conditions have prevailed although the rest of the country was still at lower levels of struggle. In such situations it becomes possible – and is in fact necessary – For the organisation of defence to pass from this small unit form to the Township Defence Force form.

We can see therefore that the general heightening of struggle (even if in one township only) can immediately create in which a higher form of organisation of defence becomes possible and necessary. Under such conditions broad layers of workers and youth join the militia rapidly and the high level of struggle and the fact that “no go areas” have been created means that the state’s monopoly of armed force, its capacity to repress, is (at least partially) neutralised.

We all know, however, that the transition from the preparatory to the insurrectionary phase can happen extremely rapidly -literally overnight -and that in most cases it cannot be easily foreseen. It is therefore necessary to undertake some form of preparation which can make it possible for the small numbered units to mobilise large reserves at short notice. There are two ways of engaging in such preparatory work.

The first way consists in the general and consistent political work that mass organisations undertake around violence. An important condition for the rapid mobilisation of a township is the general level of political consciousness that can be found in that township. Such a level of consciousness will not only manifest itself by levels of participation in political discussions and in marches and other forms of mass action, but it will also be seen by the extent to which large numbers of residents keep basic weapons like axes, and so on for self-protection. In fact, part of the preparatory work for future mobilisation must involve a call for residents to acquire such defensive weapons.

When such high levels of political mobilisation exist in a township it is relatively easy to transform this political mobilisation into military mobilisation. The rapidity with which this transformation can be achieved depends on,

  • the magnitude of the danger and
  • the organisational machinery of the units.

By organisational machinery of the units we mean that the units must work out a system of monitoring and a way of sounding the alarm -alerting the whole township quickly and efficiently. The other way of engaging in the preparatory work is for us to examine the role of certain organisational forms in this regard. The most important of these organisations are the marshals. Marshals do form a network of activists which can be the first to be mobilised in case of attack. In this sense marshals can be seen as a bridge between units and as a transitional form of organisation. Having looked at some of the problems that have emerged in the process of building effective defence and having identified the tendency for militants to opt for ways that are to the guidelines being afforded by the leadership, how can this urgent task of defending the people and their organisations be taken forward?

  1. The political basis of building self-defence

One of the key lessons that emerge out of the brief look at why there has been so little progress in the struggle against the state vigilante violence is that for any effort aimed at defence, a clear and solid political basis is necessary. This is particularly important in our context because it has become clear that what we are facing, is not mindless violence. It is violence with a very clear political aim and equally clear strategies. It follows that the response to the violence is firstly a political question and secondarily a military question. The way the physical defence of the people is organised, and by whom such defence is undertaken, is a political question. As stated earlier the strategy of violence against the people is just one part of an overall counter-revolutionary strategy aimed at preventing the advent of genuine democracy and socialism. The violence is therefore not a product of “senselessness”, a third force which is separate from the De Klerk government or simply undisciplined elements in the security forces. This is the first important point. The second important point is that it follows therefore that the struggle against the violence cannot be separated from the struggle for majority rule and socialism.

Now, the second point is sometimes recognised by many within the mass movement. But not all of us draw out the implications of this position. If we say that the state has embarked on a strategy of counter-revolution, and if we also say that the security forces of this state are centrally involved in the strategy of counter-revolutionary violence, then we will have to conclude that as long as the state and its armed forces remain intact, the violence against our people will not end.

The role and tasks of the defence units therefore needs to reflect this understanding. The way we formulate the role and tasks of the defence units must be informed by the view that the defence of our communities, factories and even schools, must be seen as part of our overall struggle to break the power of the state -and especially its armed forces. In other words, the overall task of the defence units is to defend our people against immediate attacks, as well as to prepare for a popular uprising against the state and its armed forces. We said earlier that the link between the struggle against the violence and the struggle for majority rule is sometimes verbally recognised. But the fact that a vigorous and consistent struggle against the violence This is clearly one of the most of the formation of units has been of circumstances. Firstly, one of the key problems facing the formation of defence units has been the virtual disbanding of the movement’s on both the political and military fronts -implies a serious commitment to a popular uprising or insurrection, is not generally recognised.

The failure to recognise this can be seen in many areas of our struggle against violence. For example, the only political work on the violence has been in and through the Peace Accord. Even if we leave aside the serious problems with the Accord, the fact that this is the only political work on violence shows that the dominant position in our movement is still informed by an attempt to avoid “rocking the boat” of negotiations at all costs. No serious work among the armed forces has taken place; has been neglected; little work has taken place towards contesting the hostels. As we have argued earlier, the main reason why so little work has taken place is a result of the view that power can be transferred peacefully. A consistent and all-round organisation of the struggle against the violence in general, and for the organisation of defence units in particular, must begin by correcting the mistaken idea that a peaceful transfer of power is possible.

It is of course not enough for us to spell out the general perspective in which our struggle against the counter-revolutionary violence must be based. We need to go much further than this. We must be able to show in what way this perspective resolves many problems that confront us in our daily work of attempting to set up defence units.

  1. Who initiates the formation of defence units?

 This is clearly one of the most sensitive and important aspects of the process of forming units. This aspect of the formation units has been made even more difficult by a number of circumstances. Firstly, one of the key problems facing the formation of defence units has been the virtual disbanding of the movement’s underground. For as we noted, it is the political responsibility of the ANC to initiate the formation of units. In a situation where the underground existed it would clearly be its task to initiate the formation of units. The evolution of our struggle over the past period since February 2, and the way the struggle was approached, has thus led to serious obstacles in the way of the formation of units and the pursuing of an energetic struggle to defend our communities. Secondly, another problem in this process of setting up of units is that they cannot be elected publicly – for fear of victimisation by the state.

In this context it is clear that the formation of units must be the product of the self-initiative of activists at a level. It is activists who are active on a daily basis, and therefore understand and appreciate the impact of violence in our organisations it is these activists who must consult with each other and initiate the process of forming units. As leading activists in our branches and unions, these comrades will tend to either be in the leading bodies of our organisations, or at least know and have access to the leading bodies of our branches or unions. Of course, in those areas where comrades have taken the initiative, militants will welcome and assist these initiatives. Where is unable to take up this task, militants must of course take it up. What is however clear is that this process can only place clandestinely.

  1. The composition of the units

 The question of how the activists in the unit must be chosen, and what qualities they must possess, is of course closely linked up to the important question of the “accountability” of the units. These issues cannot be heated separately. Let us begin with the easier question: what qualities are we looking for? It is obvious that we are looking for those militants who are brave in the military sense of the word. But then as not “unit of political work”. members of units must be at the same time the most consistent activists we will be ensuring that units keep abreast with the sentiments and views of the consistently in touch with developments in mass organisations can we begin to ensure run ahead of the masses and attempt to substitute themselves for the masses.

There might of course be situations where members of the units must undertake and this might thus might miss some meetings and activities. In such to which of the brave militants qualify for membership of units, careful consideration is needed. To at a criterion for membership of units we must recall that we have said that the struggle against violence is but one part of the general political struggle for majority rule and against the counter-revolution. This consideration establishes the basic yardstick in choice of members: members in units must be the most consistent activists in all aspects of building our organisations, participating in the political discussion in our organisations, taking a leading role in mass struggles that is, attending and participating in all aspects of the political work of the mass movement.

The basic criterion has a number of implications. To begin with, by emphasising consistent and disciplined work in mass organisations and the broad struggle waged by the people, we will be able to provide an effective barrier to criminal elements who want to use their membership of units for their own purposes. What this means is that part of the regular task of the units is to monitor the level and consistency of participation of members of the units is mass organisations. The unit must ensure an elementary level of accountability of its members to the masses -and this can be and must be done by ensuring that members of the units serve the people in a consistent and disciplined way, and in all spheres of political work.

On the other hand, by insisting that members of units must be at the same time the most consistent activists we will be ensuring that units keep abreast with the sentiment and views of the people at all times. Only by being consistently in touch with developments in mass organisations can we begin to ensure units do not “run ahead” of the masses. There might of course be situations where members of units must undertake “unit work” elsewhere and this might thus miss some of the meetings and activities. In such situation the unit must give a full political report of the proceedings in their areas of work, they must get a report of what decisions were taken, what programme of work was decided upon and so on. We repeat: the most basic way in which units can be made accountable is for their members to take a leading role in all spheres of political life. What follows from this criterion is that before activists can be asked to join units they must be through a process that monitors their seriousness in mass work and in political work in general. When such takes place, we must always bear in mind that some comrades can be solid and consistent workers without being very vocal in meetings and so on. Comrades of this kind are very valuable in this kind of work.

  1. The internal structure of the units

The internal structure suggested in The Sake Of Our Lives, is sound because it emphasises specialisation within the units. To remind comrades, the manual suggests that the Township Defence Committee (TDC), be made up of a commander, a comrade responsible for communications, another responsible for intelligence, another for political education, another for organisation of weapons and materials (logistics), a medical officer another for construction of barricades and defence works.

This gives the unit a membership of least seven comrades. It will be important for some of the specialist comrades on the unit to set units where groups of activists be trained (and actually execute) the specialist work allocated to each of the convening comrades. unit specialists that will most need to establish sub-units are: communications; intelligence; logistics; medical and engineering. It is clear that for these tasks the “unit specialists” will need a broader layer that will be able to direct their execution when a township or factory actually has to be defended. Another important thing for comrades to note when forming units is to understand that the internal structure of the units will be determined by conditions under which they work. The structure suggested in For The Sake Of Our is the ideal. It is not a blueprint. Comrades need to look how they can structure the unit in such a manner that it can conduct effective defence. One way of doing this will be to form sub-units that are based in different sections of a township. These will have to be linked to the central TDC.

  1. The role and tasks of the units and marshals

There are broadly two of tasks that must be taken up by the units. There are firstly, what we can call the political tasks, and secondly, the military tasks. Before we proceed to look at each of these tasks in turn, it is to again emphasise – as we did earlier -that our ability to execute our military defence of the townships and factories depends primarily on the clarity of our political perspectives on the violence and its sources. Furthermore, we must at all times be aware that the struggle against violence is primarily a political struggle, and only secondly a military struggle.

  1. Political tasks

 To begin with, it is important to understand that the political work that must be done around the violence is basically the responsibility of our mass and political organisations. The role of the units with regards to this political work must be approached from two angles. Firstly, we have argued that members of the units must at the same time be the most dedicated and consistent members of our mass organisation. They will therefore tend to be at the forefront of the struggles that are taken up by organisations. But as activists of the units, these comrades have an added responsibility in seeing to it that the political campaign on violence is taken up consistently in the mass organisations. The reason for this “special responsibility” is that, as we mentioned earlier, the ability of the units to mobilise the “broad reserves” of the township workers and youth depends primarily on the level of political consciousness in the townships generally, and on the level of mass participation in the campaigns around violence specifically.

Therefore, although the units will not bear sole or even primary responsibility for political work around the violence, they nevertheless have an important responsibility of always bringing the need for political work on violence to the fore. Secondly, the role of the units with regards to political work derives from the fact that there are certain types of political work on violence which require preparation in secret -and sometimes can only be out in secret. This kind of political work can clearly only be undertaken by the units.

As we have indicated there is that part of political work which is primarily the work of mass and political organisations. Here we are referring to the kind of work that we have already undertaken. One of the basic elements of this work is to undertake a campaign of education and propaganda about the nature of the agenda of De The record of our movement on this task is uneven and sometimes very poor. We saw earlier that a basic reason for this poor record is that the leading bodies of our movement are married to the idea of a peaceful transfer of power.

The key task is to ensure the agenda of the De Klerk regime is understood by wide layers of militants and its consequences begin to be clear. This means that in addition to there being a broad understanding that the violence is part of a strategy of it must be equally clear that only the masses themselves – and not talks – can bring liberation in South Africa. Another key task follows from this. It is that we need to ensure at all times that our approach to the struggles against violence -and indeed all struggles – is based on the participation of the masses, and that the approach places this participation at the centre of this perspective. We therefore need to struggle against the view that mass is there to facilitate negotiations we must struggle for a perspective whose approach is that negotiations must facilitate mass action. This mass approach to the struggle against violence includes marches, consumer boycotts, stayaways, rent boycotts and all the other methods our movement has developed over the years.

We have noted earlier that one of the conditions for an insurrectionary situation is that cracks must begin to emerge in the security forces. These cracks -and the eventual coming over of the security forces (or sections of them), to the side of the people will not happen automatically; it must be organised.

Yet another key political task around violence is therefore the struggle for the security forces. There are two sides to the struggle for the security forces. On the one hand, political work on this issue must focus on engaging elements of the security forces as well as providing these elements with support when they engage in struggle against their security forces. For example, there have been instances in the past when the Greenbeans, or municipal police, have gone on strike or threatened to go on strike, for better conditions. Our political task is to support these elements of the security forces, engage them politically and so win them over to our side. As we already know, there is POPCRU to which elements like these can be drawn.

Another aspect of the struggle for security forces is of course propaganda and agitation this question within our own ranks. In the history of our struggle we have failed to seriously take up the struggle for the security forces and this has had the effect of entrenching a view among militants which does not want to consider work within the security forces seriously. For example, activists -and the masses generally -need to accept the fact that we cannot encourage warders and police to join POPCRU, and then say they cannot come to our locals and to our community meetings.

What we need within our ranks is a change of political attitude on this question. Our struggle for the security forces cannot be successful until we succeed in changing this political attitude. The question of the struggle for the security forces raises another aspect of the political work of the units. In order for our movement to be able to engage in propaganda and agitation among the security forces, we need concrete and up to date information about developments (tensions, struggles, conditions of work etc.) within the security forces.

We need to know when to prepare for a major campaign in support of elements of the security forces who are being victimised in secret trials within the security forces. We need to know the conditions of work of the various sectors within the security forces so as to have valid and up to date information for purposes of agitation and propaganda etc. It is clear that a systematic study of and a methodical gathering of information about the security forces cannot be undertaken in view of the watchful eye and ears of the security forces. In fact, the state has got laws that prohibit this of activity. It follows therefore that one of the key tasks of the units is to study the security forces and to gather this information secretly.

Lastly, another key political task of the unit is to undertake political education within the units themselves, and to ensure that members of the units continue to be disciplined activists within the mass movement.

One of the dangers that face units is that they can become isolated from the broad political movement as some of their work takes up time. Consistent reports must be given about political developments in general, and about developments campaigns, decisions of political meetings etc.) in the area in which the units work in particular. It is clear that without being consistently informed of political developments the units cannot fulfil their function.

  1. The military tasks of the units

The military tasks of the units fall into two categories. There is the preparatory work that will make actual military defence effective and possible. And there is actual military defence. The preparatory work of the units primarily involves the execution of the work of the various specialist departments within the units. When we discussed the internal structure of the units we looked at seven positions within the unit. There was the commander, the communication specialist, the intelligence specialist, the logistics (weapons and material) specialist, the engineering (barricades and fortifications) specialist, the political instructor and the medical specialist. The first element of the preparatory work is that each of the specialist departments must work out a programme of work and present it to the unit for endorsement. Such a programme of work must include the setting up of sub-units working under the command of each of the specialists as well as which tasks will be completed and by when. The unit, and especially the commander, must monitor the implementation of the tasks.

Another element of the preparatory work is to bring together the work of the various departments and on the basis of this work evolve a battle plan for the township. Once this battle plan has been worked out, the various specialist departments must modify their work programmes to ensure that all the elements required by the battle plan are actually in place within the right time frame.

An important part of the preparatory work is of course training in the use of arms. Clearly the first group of trainees must be the unit itself, followed by the sub-units working on the various specialist tasks. Beyond this layer the unit can begin looking at establishing secret combat units whose main task will be armed combat.

An important part of this training process is to tackle the question of distribution of arms in times of conflict weapons. The other category of military work is actually combat itself. The one part of this category of work is of course the programme of training in the use of arms that we dealt with already. The other part is very politically sensitive and we need to think about it carefully. We can call this aspect “picket line work”. As mentioned earlier, situations will develop in the course of struggle where it will be difficult to distinguish between defensive and offensive actions. An example that we gave is the struggle that took place after Boipatong and Bisho massacres where groups of people spontaneously took up arms and started hitting agents and symbols of their oppression.

It would seem that in cases like and Bisho, as well as many similar situations, it is fairly clear that the people’s offensive is a direct result of repression and as such the units must lead, co-ordinate and give logistical and other backing to the military struggle. This seems clear enough. But what about situations where there is no immediate and therefore no widespread and popular participation in military struggle? For example, in the article (July Comrade Chris mentions the fact that “wrong targets have deliberately been selected. attacks have been carried out that are not understood or even denounced by the community”.

He also about how comrades have taken “political short- cuts” and attacked “hostels…instead of addressing the whole question of hostels politically”.

He concludes that “we must avoid at all costs tendencies to elevate military and offensive action over political and defensive operations”. What is clear is that although it is clear that units have to take part in guiding and directing spontaneous armed resistance, it is equally clear that this question is a highly sensitive issue and needs a high level of political clarity and discussions about the relationship of these actions to the levels of consciousness of the masses, to the levels of struggle reached by the masses and to the general political situation.

Another important aspect of the “picket line” work of the units is of course the protection of political meetings, activities and the buildings of the mass oganisations. This is clearly an important task given the fact that the violence is directed at making our use of the and political space that opened up since February 2 impossible.

We need to ensure that people can feel that it is safe to come to meetings and to participate in political activity. This task of the units overlaps with the tasks of the marshal in the context of defence, to which we now turn.

  1. The role and tasks of the marshals

As we said earlier, the marshals have a particular role as far as armed defence is concerned. We argued that they provide the network of activists, who can be rapidly in the context of an impending attack. The marshals therefore constitute the advance guard of the “broad reserves” that must be drawn into battle when and where it becomes necessary. The marshals also provide a milieu from which the members of the units can be recruited. The work that is being done by marshals presently is of course important for defensive purposes as well. The direction of the mass of the people during demonstration, the training marshals receive in first aid, responsibility for security during mass meetings and so on are tasks that will become important in the event of defence. So activists in the units must participate in the structures. Yet it must be clear that the marshal structures are public structures and we need to be clear about the separation of the two structures -the marshals and the units.

"Ideas that enter the mind under fire remain there securely and forever." -Leon Trotsky

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