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Since the collapse of the Mangope dictatorship in Bophutatswana the civil war in Natal has, almost to the exclusion of any other event, occupied the national consciousness. The outcome of the struggle in Natal will have profound consequences for the future of the struggle for democracy and socialism and for the working class in particular. At the end of the 1980s the struggle in Natal gave us the shape of things to come. Then, we saw Inkatha come to maturity as an instrument of counterrevolution in Natal. The attacks on the democratic and socialist movements carried out by Inkatha in the 1980s set the pattern for similar attacks in the 1990s.
Now, we see Inkatha set the pattern for the development of a powerful momentum towards the fragmentation and the break-up of the South African nation, and in particular the South African working class. More than any other party in the negotiations process, Inkatha has been central to the process of capitulation of the liberation movements to the forces of federalism and ethnic separatism.
It therefore a grave error – an error that will take literally decades and generations to correct -to imagine that the crisis in Natal can be resolved on a regional basis. The crisis in Natal is profoundly national in character. The contribution by Blade Nzimande [African Communist, 2nd Quarter 19941 to the discussion on our movement’s approach to the crisis in Natal is long overdue and fills a critical gap in our movement’s approach to the transition in general.
The Regionalisation of the Natal crisis
At COSATU’s Campaign Conference at the end of March (1994) delegates passed a resolution on the crisis in Natal in which they made the important point that the crisis in Natal was a national and not a regional crisis. In his contribution Nzimande also emphasises the point ‘that the liberation movement must guard against the danger of responding to Inkatha the basis of Zulu – ethnic nationalism – i.e. on regional basis. He argues that in response to Buthelezi’s ethnic mobilisation the liberation movement must respond on the national plane and put at the centre of its approach the liberation of the people of South Africa as a whole. Important as these interventions by COSATU and Nzimande are, in themselves they do not constitute a fundamental move beyond a regional approach to the crisis in Natal.
The fundamental limitation of both interventions is that they fail to locate the crisis in Natal in the context of the political significance of the settlement reached at the World Trade Centre. The civil war in Natal represents a bloody and dramatic commentary on the entire political settlement that has emerged out of the negotiations process. What is at stake in Natal is not only the Interim Constitution, but the entire institutions of the transition -the Transitional Executive Council, the Independent Electoral Commission, the National Peace Keeping Force, and others. The most visible act of these institutions, the State of Emergency, now also serves to reveal the extent to which the crisis in Natal casts a dark shadow over the transition as a whole.
For while Nzimande correctly analyses the motive forces behind Inkatha political and tactical approach in the region, and to that extent nationally, his analysis suffers from two limitations. Firstly, he fails to analyse the relationship between Inkatha, its positions and the ruling class. An understanding of this relationship is crucial in assisting our movement to develop an attitude to the institutions of the transition, and to the role that these institutions can play in our movement’s strategy in Natal. A second gap in Nzimande’s analysis of the situation in Natal is in his omission of an analysis of the attitude of the ruling class to the political settlement that has emerged out of the negotiations. An understanding of the ruling class attitude to the settlement is crucial not only for understanding its reaction to the civil war in Natal, but it lies at the basis of all the dynamics of the transition at the political, economic and ideological levels.
To the extent, therefore, that Nzimande fails to locate the politics of Inkatha within the context of the ruling class’ attitude to the national political settlement, and also within the context of the ruling class’s attitude to Inkatha at this conjuncture, to this extent his analysis remains “regional”. I say his analysis remains regional because the overall sense conveyed by his intervention is that what we see in Natal is a peculiar phenomenon that results from the specific features and evolution of Inkatha. I do not say this to deny that the peculiarities of Inkatha are important in understanding the dynamics of the situation in Natal. On the contrary. What I do say and will demonstrate in the following pages is that what is unfolding in Natal is a necessary moment in the unfolding political settlement that began with the unbanning of the liberation movements is now reaching its climax in the triumph of the politics of federalism, separatism and ethnicity – in the subjugation of the working class and its allies to the agenda of capital and its surrogates.
A strategy for our movement in Natal needs to be grounded in a theoretical framework that addresses at least three elements. These are (i) the overall political significance of the settlement that has emerged from the negotiations process, (ii) the response of the ruling class to this settlement and (iii) a critical analysis of how our movement has responded to the civil war in Natal. On the basis of this it will be necessary to chart out strategic perspectives on the counter-revolution and civil war in Natal.
The World Trade Centre settlement and its political significance
The settlement that has emerged out of the negotiations process represents a watershed in the history of our movement. It will determine the fortunes of our movement for decades to come. The settlement is a watershed not only because it will fundamentally change the terrain of struggle, as we have known it for many years, but also because it represents the most serious setback and defeat in the entire history of our movement. A balance sheet of this settlement and how it will affect the fortunes of the movement of the oppressed and exploited remains one of the most pressing tasks that face socialists. Only on the basis of such a balance sheet can the mass movement reorientate itself to fight the battles that lie ahead.
I do not plan to undertake such an overall balance sheet here. What I do need to do, however, is to briefly sketch out the meaning of this defeat and its significance.
In an article published in Mayibuye (October 1991, pp 12-13) the policies of the ANC, NP and DP on what government must look like were contrasted. This is how the article characterised the policies of the National Party:
The article went on to comment: ” The proposals of the National Party have the effect of undermining universal franchise altogether…”
In that same year, 1991, the national conference of the South African Communist Party remarked in its manifesto:
“The present ruling bloc hopes that by conceding basic civil rights it will block the advance of the wider national democratic transformation of our country……
“In maintaining its onslaught against the ANC-led alliance the regime has several options in mind. They are, in descending order of preference from its point of view:
One only has to compare the above outline of the position of the National Party and the ruling bloc with the Interim Constitution to see how resounding and thoroughgoing the victory of the leading party of the ruling class has been. Here and there, the National Party had to settle for a change of detail, but all its core proposal forms the main substance of the Interim Constitution.
Beyond securing the kind of guarantees, the “checks and balances” that the National Party stood for at the beginning of the negotiations process, the ruling class has scored a major ideological victory over the mass movement. A large layer of the leadership of our movement is not only embarrassed to talk about nationalisation but their speeches are increasingly peppered by neo-liberal phrases. Large sections of our movement frequently talk of integration into the world capitalist economy in a way that is indistinguishable from the leadership of the traditional parties of the ruling class.
The ruling class and its victory
One of the paradoxes of the current situation in South Africa is that the ruling class is uncertain of the meaning of its own victory. The most singular expression of the uncertainty of the ruling class about meaning of the victory it has scored at the negotiations is to be found in the large scale capital flight that has been accelerating over the past few months and the continuing investment strike that has gripped the country for close to a decade. The ruling class’s uncertain attitude to its own victory comes from the fact that the victory that is reflected in the agreements made at the World Trade Centre still remain to be implemented, it must be accepted by the working class and other oppressed classes in practice.
Throughout its existence the ruling class in South Africa has ruled through coercion. The single most important motive of the ruling class’s entry into negotiations was and remains to find a settlement in which for the first time in its history it can rule by the consent of the majority. As a result of the deal struck at the world Trade Centre the ruling class has taken a major step toward achieving its goal.
But it has not yet achieved it. The ruling class knows that its rule is not yet hegemonic, that it does not yet rule by consent. It also understands that a whole historical period must pass before it can achieve its aim of ruling by consent. This understanding is itself reflected in the World Trade Centre settlement, the fact that the NP has had to insist on constitutional guarantees – enforced coalitions and others – shows that it knows that capitalism’s survival cannot as yet rely on spontaneous support from the majority of the population. It is only when the mass of the people has reconciled themselves to live under capitalism that the victory of the ruling class would be consummated. It is important to understand that this does not imply that the victory will become a real victory when there are no sections of the masses committed to socialism. What it means is that significant sections of the masses must begin to believe that their problems can be resolved within a capitalist framework.
Between the formal victory of the ruling class, expressed principally by the Interim Constitution, and its real victory, which still lies in the future, lies the shadow of the working class and its allies. The ruling class knows and understands that it is faced with a working class that has a militant history of struggle behind it. It also knows that the working class has the capacity and an understanding of its needs, which can drive it to take up militant struggles against a new government. The working class, it militancy and its political maturity remains the most important element that underlies the uncertainty of the ruling class about the victory it has scored at the World Trade Centre.
There is another, secondary but important element that underlies this uncertain attitude of the ruling class. The ruling class is uncertain about how the ANC in government will respond to pressure from its mass base.
The ANC and its lace in the agenda of the ruling class
From the point of view of the ruling class the principal role of the ANC is to “deliver” the working class settlement, to convince the working class that its future lies with capitalism. The place of the ANC in the agenda of the ruling class is however contradictory. On the one hand the ANC must be able not only to convince its mass base that their aspirations are not realisable, but as a government it must also be prepared to suppress any threat to the capitalist order that might be posed by the working class. On the other hand, for the agenda of the ruling class to be realised the ANC must continue to enjoy the kind of prestige and legitimacy it currently enjoys among the working class and the masses.
Significant layers of the leadership of the ANC have travelled a long way towards absorbing the outlook of the ruling classes and in various ways have begun to “delivery” the masses to the project of the bourgeoisie. Significant layers of our leadership are now more concerned with allaying the fears of the propertied classes and with “managing the expectation” of the working class then they are with the fulfilment of the aspirations of the working class. After more than three years of violence and bloodletting, on the one hand, and of ideological assault on the other, the leading layers of the ANC have taken significant steps towards adopting the political and economic programme of the ruling class. Significant and important sections of the ruling class recognise this.
The recognition that the ANC has gone a long way towards embracing the programme of the bourgeoisie does not, however, make the ruling class less uncertain. It is instructive that after the conclusion of the negotiations at the World Trade Centre capital flight has in fact accelerated. The ruling class has not become less certain about the extent to which its formal victory will translate into a real victory. The fact of the matter is that notwithstanding the commitment of the ANC to the settlement and its implications for the future of capitalism, the ANC has not yet been tested as a party that can safeguard the interests of the ruling class in government. Again we see that there exists a gap between a commitment to defend and respect the settlement on the one hand, and the translations of that commitment into real policy in the face of possible resistance from the working class.
It is this uncertainty of the ruling class, this uncertainty about how the working class will respond when the implications of the settlement translate into real policy, this uncertainty about how the ANC will respond if and when the working class puts it under pressure; it is this uncertainty that lies at the heart of the political events that have been unfolding in Natal over the past few weeks.
An entire range of strategic and tactical injunctions flow from an appreciation of the centrality of understanding this uncertainty. To draw the appropriate strategical and tactical conclusions for our movement on how to approach the struggle in Natal we need to locate the attitude of Inkatha to the settlement within our understanding of attitude of the entire ruling, class to the World Trade Centre settlement. It is obvious that unlike Inkatha the principal party of the ruling class, the NP, has confidence in the settlement and is prepared to stake the future of the ruling class on this settlement. Wherein lies the difference between these traditional parties of the ruling class?
What is significance of this difference?
Inkatha and its attitude to the settlement
The bourgeoisie has exercised its rulership of South Africa through a bloc or alliance of classes. At the core of this ruling bloc under apartheid-capitalism stands monopoly capital and its principal political organisation, the National Party. At the periphery of this ruling bloc stands the white middle classes – both Afrikaner and English, and certain sections of the black middle classes, in particular the bureaucratic petty-bourgeoisie.
A crucial feature of the political settlement reached at the World Trade Centre, of the negotiations process that led up to it, is that it has been opposed by those sections of the old ruling bloc that have been and are located at the periphery of the ruling bloc. All the parties -the Conservative Party, Inkatha, the AWB, and the homeland parties and administrations, that have been opposed to the settlement represent classes that have historically been at the periphery of the ruling bloc. There is a combination of factors that explain why these classes and their parties have responded differently to the settlement.
In addition to the uncertainty about what the possible outcome will be if the working class resists the settlement and the uncertainty about the response of the ANC in government in such a situation, these classes and parties are also uncertain about how the core classes and parties of the ruling bloc, and especially the NP, will response in the event of a mass pressure that threaten the capitalist system as a whole. Their fear is that under such pressure the NP might be forced to retreat in the face of such pressure and the classes and parties at the periphery of the ruling bloc might be sacrificed in order to appease the demand of the insurgent working class.
The collapse of the Mangope dictatorship confirmed all the worst fears of the classes at the periphery of the ruling bloc. Firstly, the working class showed that it is still capable of upsetting the entire settlement. In contradistinction to the approach of the leadership of the ANC, which was even prepared to believe the Mangope administration when it said that it did not know about the raid on ANC offices. While the ANC was negotiating with the administration, the masses took to the streets and settled accounts with Mangope once and for all. Through this act the working class deepened the shadow it cast over whether the formal victory of the ruling class would in fact translate into a real victory.
Secondly, the Bop events confirmed and deepened the uncertainty over how the, ANC- would respond when faced with mass pressure. Monopoly capital and its principal representative, the NP, are clear that the leadership of the ANC did not actively organise the Bop events. The leadership’s commitment to the settlement and its inclination to resolve deadlocks without threatening, “stability and law and order is not in question. But the fact of the matter is that once the masses had taken-to the streets the ANC did not attempt to stop them. Thirdly, the Bop events confirmed another fear of. Inkatha and its kindred parties -that when the heat is on the NP might choose to sacrifice them instead of risking sinking the entire settlement.
Inkatha’s attitude to the settlement, therefore, is a reflection of the uncertainty that is shared by the ruling class as a whole, on the one hand, and it also reflects this uncertainty as it specifically affects the parties and classes which are the periphery of the ruling bloc, on the other.
Monopoly capital, as we have seen, has responded to the uncertainty by relocating capital overseas and by an investment strike. Furthermore, it has responded by an energetic campaign to integrate the leadership of the into its ranks. In a fundamental way, therefore, the ruling class has responded to the uncertainty by attempting to draw the radical black petty- bourgeiosie organised under the banner of the ANC into a new historic bloc. For the old allies of monopoly capital the fact that their mortal enemy is being drawn into a new historic bloc confirms their fears that they might be sacrificed by monopoly capital.
The subordinate classes of the ruling bloc do not have the means of responding like the leading class of the ruling bloc. They do not possess the weapon of the stock market. They have thus used the only weapon at their disposal. They have threatened to sink the entire settlement if their place in the new South Africa. Thus their road has been one of seeking more and more constitutional guarantees.
What Buthelezi needs first and foremostly are guarantees that the interests of the classes he represents will be protected, and that notwithstanding possible changes to the form of state, these should not be of such a manner as to threaten the classes who have served apartheid-capitalism. Moreover, what he wants is that the new form of state would allow the continuity of the role these classes have played in the past.
What is monopoly capital’s attitude to Inkatha’s response to the settlement?
We see that monopoly capital is itself uncertain about the destiny of the settlement, on the one hand, but that it is also prepared to test the settlement at it exist at the moment. What is its attitude to Inkatha’s refusal to test the settlement at it exist?
The key to understanding the attitude of the ruling class to Inkatha’s attitude to the settlement lies in its (i.e. the ruling class) attitude to the ANC. For although the ruling class is generally convinced about the commitment of the ANC leadership to the settlement, the ANC is as yet untested as a party in government. On the other hand, Inkatha has a long history as a party of the ruling class (to the extent that it has formed part of the old ruling bloc) and its policies are much closer to those of the ruling class than those of the ANC. Not only is Inkatha’s policies closer to the interests of the ruling class, but more importantly Inkatha has over many years demonstrated its willingness and capacity to act against the working class, the main constituency of the ANC. Beyond its traditional role as a party of the ruling class, among all the significant parties of the old historic bloc, Inkatha alone has a significant black constituency. As a result of this Inkatha occupies a unique place in the old ruling bloc, and for a long time to come it will remain a jewel within the entire old historic bloc. The ANC will have to travel a long way to displace Inkatha’s place in the ruling bloc.
The uncertainty of the ruling class about how the ANC will behave as a party in government means that the ruling class needs its traditional parties to act as a counterweight to the ANC in government. In other words, while the ruling class has accepted, indeed needs, a victory of the ANC at the polls, from its point of view the ANC cannot be allowed to govern alone. The formula of enforced coalitions in the next five years -the so-called Government of National Unity -provides the context within which the ANC can be allowed (i) to bring its mass and militant constituency into the settlement and therefore legitimise ‘the rule of monopoly capital, while (ii) the danger of the uncertainty that comes as a result of the fact that it has not been tested as a party of the ruling class can be minimised by the traditional parties of the ruling class acting as a couterweight and “stabilising” factors.
This attitude to the ANC on the part of the ruling class and Inkatha’s record means that the ruling class will continue to support Inkatha. This is an important point, because it means that those who want to pursue a strategy of splitting the ruling class from Inkatha must realise the price. The price of breaking the bonds between the ruling class and Inkatha is capitulation to the agenda of the ruling class; in other words, the ANC must be “better” than Inkatha in taking up and executing the agenda of the ruling class.
The fact that the ruling class supports and will continue to support Inkatha does not of course mean that it supports every tactical move that Inkatha makes; neither does it mean that there are and will be no differences between Inkatha and other parties of the ruling class, especially the National Party. These tactical differences are real and are a reflection of the different places that the classes at the centre of the ruling bloc and those at the periphery occupy. It is of course these kinds of differences that can be exploited, although the limitations of such a tactical line must be clearly understood.
How has the ANC responded to the crisis in Natal?
The response of the ANC to the crisis in Natal has been characterised by two central elements. The first is that the ANC has deemphasised, indeed abandoned, an approach that puts the masses, their intervention and action at the centre of its response to the Natal crisis. A related and second element is that the ANC has relied exclusively on the “institutions of the transition”, principally the TEC.
After the collapse of the Mangope dictatorship the situation in KwaZulu and Natal moved onto centre stage. What also moved onto centre stage was the question: can the masses of the Natal region do to Buthelezi what the masses of Bophutatswana did to Mangope? Different blocs of classes posed this question to themselves and answered it in line with their class interests.
The working class and its allies posed this question and answered it clearly and in the affirmative: yes, they said, Buthelezi can and must be Bopped! Not only in Natal, but all over South Africa the lesson of Bop was clear: tyrants can and must be overthrown. It was this boost of confidence and fighting spirit that drove what was probably the biggest march in the history of opposition in Natal.
On the other side of the class divide, the ruling class and its allies also posed the question and answered in the affirmative, and then proceeded to express their extreme displeasure at the direction of events in Natal. The ruling class, in other words, was aware of the fact that there was no guarantee that Buthelezi would be able to withstand insurrectionary pressure and that in all probability his regime will be overthrown. Bophutatswana has shown that even the army, infected with the fever of revolt, can and indeed must crack.
The leadership of the ANC, sandwiched between pressure from the masses and from the ruling class, first swung to the left, lost its nerve, and swung to the right. Spurred on by Inkatha’s occupation of the stadium in Umlazi and the one in KwaMashu, the leadership responded to pressure from below by announcing a week of rolling mass action, and also announcing that the civil servants were going to come out. On the surface it appeared that the scene was set for the escalation of the struggle towards a showdown with the Buthelezi regime. The first event on the calender of mass action was a major success -probably over 150 thousand people marched in Durban. As time moved towards the Friday of the march, no programme of mass action was announced.
As a matter of fact, as the time moved towards the march of Friday the leadership had already changed it initial approach to the crisis. The road of mass intervention and action was seen to be dangerous, and the pressure from the ruling class had won the day. When retreats of this kind are undertaken they are normally justified in terms of the “balance of forces”. Some began to lay emphasis on the differences between Mangope and Buthelezi, in contradistinction to the earlier period, when the similarities were emphasised. Without at all denying that the tactical and indeed, the strategical problem of “bopping” Buthelezi are different from those of “bopping” Mangope, the rationale of the “balance of forces” has appeared too many times in the past to be taken at face value. The “balance of forces” argument is a variation on an old theme – we have seen the argument whenever the ANC has had to capitulate in a standoff with the forces of reaction, and this road of retreat has been travelled many a times by the ANC. The fact of the matter is that the sources of the retreat beaten by the ANC in Natal go much further than the question of a conjunctural balance of forces. It is fundamentally a question of class orientation.
After an historical period lasting about four years -and what an historical period it has been! – the ANC has undergone a transformation from an organisation which determined its strategic orientation on the basis of pressure from the masses to one which determines its strategic orientation on the basis on what will be acceptable to the ruling class – in particular to monopoly capital. The language of the leadership of the ANC is one of “building business confidence, it is a language of appeasing capital. With the turn away from the masses, what was left for the leadership of the ANC was nothing but a utilisation of the institutions of the transition – in particular the TEC. But the institutions of the transitions can only act with the consent of the institutions of the old order! In effect, therefore, the ANC could only turn to the tried and tested institutions of the ruling class – its legal instruments, the State of Emergency, and its physical instruments, the SADF.
It would be an error, however, to imagine that the ANC turned to the institutions of the transition because there was no other road. The fundamental fact is that the turn of the ANC to the institutions of the transition simply mirror or confirms why the ruling class has been able to accept the deal from the negotiations, it reflects the fact that the ANC has travelled far enough for the ruling class to stake its future on the settlement. The leadership of the ANC has crossed the class line. With its response to the crisis in Natal the leadership of the ANC moved further into the bourgeois camp, and it took yet another step away from the methods of class struggle and mass mobilisation. The ANC has chosen to act on the terrain and within the confines of bourgeois politics, and we must now assess its performance on this terrain.
The State of Emergency and the struggle over the election date
The collapse of the Mangope regime raised the stakes in Natal. Buthelezi, of course, is not to be outdone when it comes to raising the stakes. Now, side by side with the demands for constitutional guarantees, the question of the election date leapt onto centre stage. Buthelezi now insisted more than ever that the elections must be postponed to allow for the outcome of mediation and to allow Inkatha time to campaign. But Buthelezi knows that putting up demands is not enough. He thus proceeds to raise the stakes by increasing the body count in Natal – he unleashed a wave of bloodletting in the province.
The ANC responded to this on two levels. Firstly, it announced that the election date is “sacrosanct”, that it is cast in stone. Secondly, the ANC pushed for a State of Emergency to be declared in Natal. Notwithstanding the fact that in declaring the election date to be “sacrosanct” and sending in troops into Natal the ANC leadership is appearing as “hardline” and not prepared to capitulate, the entire approach to the issue has the seeds of capitulation embedded in it. Let us look at the issue of the election date.
The crux of the matter is that ANC avoiding the real issue at stake. The question of an election date is certainly important, but it is fundamentally subordinate to the question of the terms on which the election proceeds or is postponed. There is a grave danger that by elevating the question of the election date and making it the centre of the battle with Inkatha, the more fundamental question of the terms on which the election proceeds or is postponed is pushed into the background and the space is opened for another capitulation to Inkatha and the ruling class.
The ANC’s approach and reliance on the state of Emergency, on the other hand, reveals an even deeper strategic error on the part of the leadership of the ANC. The first error is that by shifting the focus of the struggle in Natal from a battle between the organised mass movement and Inkatha to one between the security forces and Inkatha the ANC has the turned the masses in Natal into mere spectators, as well as passive victims in the struggle. The mass initiative that was beginning to surface in Natal has been killed and the masses have become a passive and not active element in the struggle.
The second strategic error is that the entire approach of the leadership is based on the incorrect understanding of the attitude of the ruling class and its institutions to Inkatha. I have shown that notwithstanding disagreements on what I may call tactical issues the ruling class continues to support Inkatha. 1t is therefore a grave error to imagine that the democratic and socialist forces can use the institutions of the old order to stop Inkatha’s campaign of bloodletting in Natal. In the press announcement on the State of Emergency the State President De Klerk clearly stated that one of the aims of the emergency is to “protect the KwaZulu government”. It is now openly acknowledged that the security forces do not have the will or inclination to stop the Inkatha campaign in Natal. For the ruling class, their concern is more with ensuring that there is no repetition of Bop than it is with stopping Inkatha’s campaign of bloodletting.
A related error is that there exists a view within the ANC that once the election has taken place and the ANC gets into government it will be possible to break the resistance of Inkatha using the access, the ANC ‘will have to the state apparatus’. This kind of reasoning has generated a kind of “ostrich” approach to the situation in Natal, where it is felt that any mass action and struggle might upset the elections and thus delay the dislodging of Inkatha. This approach is incorrect and will not be realised because the institutions on which the ANC in power in Natal will rely to break the power of Inkatha are the same institutions that are failing to enforce the State of Emergency. Other arguments that the ANC will be able to dislodge the support Inkatha has among the chief because the ANC will now be the “paymaster” are equally incorrect. Unlike in the past, the position of the chiefs is guaranteed under the new constitution and the ANC government will not be able to withhold pay in the same way that Inkatha was able to do in its struggle against Zwelithini in the 1970s.
The first and second strategic errors leads to a third. The effect of the two errors is to consolidate the Buthelezi regime by holding in check the only forces that could cause fractures in the social base of the Buthelezi regime – the masses through their struggles. The only way to dislodge Buthelezi is through mass struggles from below. Only such mass struggle can generate the kind of pressures that can crack the KwaZulu civil service and indeed the KZP itself.
Either\Or: Towards a strategy to dislodge the Buthelezi regime
Since the meeting in London between the ANC and Inkatha in 1979 it has been increasingly clear that there can be no coexistence between the democratic and socialist forces on the one hand, and Inkatha on the other. The social class forces that Inkatha represents, the bureaucratic petty-bourgeoisie and the chieftaincy, are mortally opposed to the process of social and political transformation and more crucially, they constitute the natural base for rightwing and fascist forces that the ruling class will need to bloc and reverse the process of socio-economic transformation.
An important consideration that must lie at the bottom of our strategy is that the victory that the ruling class has scored at the negotiation table remains to be implemented. To implement this victory will require a sustained attack on the working class, its organisations and its traditions. The task facing the mass movement, the key imperative of its survival as a movement and for the realisation of the aspirations that have driven our movement over many years. is most certainly not the building of a so called government of national unity and so called reconciliation – the key task is to destroy those forces whose continued survival demands the destruction of the mass movement.
The survival of the ruling class demands the destruction of the mass movement. For Inkatha, which is situated, at the periphery of the ruling bloc, the destruction of the mass movement has an added urgency to it. Inkatha knows that any sustained process of socio-economic and political transformation will destroy its social base as well as its historical interests. Either Inkatha will destroy the mass movement, or the mass movement must destroy Inkatha. There is no middle road.
It is important to appreciate that this is no general injunction that is true for all times. After all, it might be said, the interests of the working class and the ruling class are irreconcilable, and therefore the working class will at some distant future have to destroy the capitalist classes. What is at stake in Natal in the present situation and in the immediate future in the question of the immediate existence of the organisations of the working class and their ability to take forward even the most basic improvement in their conditions of life. The necessity to overthrow the Buthelezi regime does not derive from a general attachment to revolution; it is a necessity arising out of the specific form in which Inkatha reflects the genera1 interests of the ruling class – from the fact that Inkatha needs and demands the immediate destruction of the mass organisations of the working class, including the ANC.
For whereas the social classes at the core of the old ruling bloc need the ANC to play a particular role in the legitimation of capitalism, so that their future survival require the continued existence of the ANC and its legitimacy among the masses -this does not hold for Inkatha. Where the ruling classes the role of the National Party and Inkatha as that of a counterweight to an ANC government, Inkatha sees the mere existence of an ANC government as a grave danger to its future. Inkatha’s immediate as well as long-term historical interests are diametrically opposed to those of the ANC and the entire democratic and socialist movements. Between Inkatha and the ANC there can be no middle road!
What are the elements of a strategy to overthrow the Buthelezi regime?
The masses are the key
Behind the institutions of the transition stand the institutions of the old order. The institutions of the old order cannot be used to destroy Buthelezi; their historical interests are the same. The most important* instrument the masses possess for this unavoidable task is their own spirit of struggle and sacrifice, as well as their organisations.
In his contribution to the debate on strategic perspectives in Natal Nzimande (AC, First Quarter, 1994) has correctly identified a number of internal contradictions that beset Inkatha. Besides the contradictions that characterise the ideological and political approach of Inkatha there are more importantly the contradictions between the various strata that the constitute the social base of Inkatha. Nzimande mentions the tension between the bureaucratic petty-bourgeoisie and the professional petty-bourgeoisie (teachers, nurses, and army officers among others). Secondly he mentions that between the upper echelons of the bureaucratic petty-bourgeoisie and mass of the workers in the bantustan civil service. In addition, there are, even though latent, contradictions between the chiefs and the ordinary working people and peasants in the Natal countryside. Like in all security forces in all parts of the world and indeed in South Africa there is the contradiction between the upper echelons of the security forces and the mass of the soldiers and policemen and women.
On the one hand the contradictions identified here are historical and objective. On the other hand, however, these contradictions are only able to emerge as a result of intense mass struggle. As Nzimande remarks, it is the intensification of the mass-based and semi-insurrectionary struggles of the mid to late 1980s that allowed these internal contradictions to surface and become active instead of passive ones. It is clear that the instrument for transforming these latent contradictions into active contradictions is mass organisation and struggle.
It is in general a serious strategic error – and in Natal it will be fatal – to imagine that the power of social classes and strata, and their interests, can be defeated by diplomacy and appeasement. Diplomacy and appeasement fail to activate the tensions within the social groups or strata. One of the serious errors of the proponents of the politics of “moral high grounds” is that they fail to appreciate exactly this: that although the politics of diplomacy and appeasement may gain the approval of the editors of the bourgeois press or even of individuals within the ruling bloc (for it ‘is invariably to winning these strata that these initiatives are directed), they tend to solidify the bonds that bind together the bloc of classes and strata against which they are directed.
The fact of the matter is that when the leading strata and political leadership of these blocs are appeased the other classes and strata in the bloc interpreter this to mean firstly, that they are under no immediate threat and secondly that their demands have a legitimacy. This is exactly what has happened to Inkatha. The more the negotiators at the World Trade Centre capitulated to the demands of Inkatha, the more Inkatha pressed more demands. Its rejection of further capitulations by the ANC leadership at Skukuza confirms this tendency. This road of appeasement and its inevitable failure is a well-trodden path. German Communism and indeed bourgeois Europe paid dearly or travelling this path in the 1930s.
The central task is to break the bonds that bind the various strata that form the present power base of Inkatha, and only the masses through their struggles can accomplish this task.
But in order for the masses to undertake this task successfully they need not only a leadership that is resolute and is commitment to overthrew Buthelezi, but they also need a revolutionary and militant programme.
A perspective of partial and revolutionary ruptures
Within the mass movement, or at least in some sections of it, there is a general recognition that the process of transformation is not a unilinear and smooth one. Such a transformation process, says Cronin, ” cannot be approached as a slow, incremental winning of partial reforms…. The process of transformation must be one of both reforms and qualitative breaks, significant if (alas) still partial ruptures (AC, 3rd Quarter, 1992). It appears, however, that this perspective of partial ruptures stops when it is confronted with the immanency or inevitability of partial insurrections or uprisings. In Ciskei an insurrectionary situation development over a period spanning two years and it was approached in a reformist manner. This reformism persisted even as the situation exploded.
In Bop it was clear for a long time that the people of the region would rise. Instead of facilitating what was clearly going to happen, the leadership of the movement engaged in a politics that demobilised the mass movement. I emphasise “politics” because what concerns me at this stage is not that the leadership did not undertake a technical organisation of the insurrection, but that they did not only not conduct a politics that built up the mass movement and its fighting capacity, but they also followed a policy of appeasement right up to the period of the uprising. So out of sync with the mood of the masses was the political line pursued in Bop that there was widespread disgruntlement among ANC members in the region.
It goes without saying that no one in their right minds goes out of their way to organise “half an uprising” or “a quarter uprising”. Insurrections, as we all know, are bloody and unpleasant affairs. The working class takes the road of insurrection only when it has no other choice. Insurrection imposes itself on the working class, it does not “choose” insurrection. Insurrection arises, develops as an objective outcome of the correlation of class forces at a given stage of historical development.
But once it becomes clear that the historical situation is moving towards a showdown between the contending classes the role of the leading parties of the working class is to organise the insurrection. Only when the parties of the revolutionary working class organise the uprising are the possibility of casualties or their extent minimised. A spontaneous insurrection is of necessity a very bloody affair; only organisation can lead to saving the lives of many who would otherwise have died.
History, however, develops in a process that is “combined and uneven”; profound changes in most cases do not begin uniformly throughout the nation -they tend to start at the weakest link in the ruling class chain. With this law of movement, we come face to face with the necessity and inevitability of partial uprisings or insurrections. Of course, we can never with absolute certainty knows in advance that the insurrection will be partial, there is here always a measure of indeterminacy. We can certainly estimate the probability of the uprising becoming generalised. From history we learn that even with the conditions being most favourable, like with the possibility of the spread of revolutions in the west following the Russian revolution in 1917, there is no guarantee that that would be the case. But if the historical actors through the ages demanded guarantees before they acted, history would never be made.
The question is thus never one of whether the party of the revolutionary proletariat should or should not organise an insurrection once the road of insurrection is imposed on the working class; the question is always that of what measures should be taken to accelerate the uprising and so minimise the loss of life -this comrades, is the question!
The peculiar character and interests of Inkatha, the agenda of the ruling class and its attitude to Inkatha and to the ANC, the incomplete character of the settlement and the uncertainty that surrounds its destiny, the demands of capital accumulation in an era dominated by neo-liberalism (which invariably demands the destruction of the organisations of the working class) – all this is driving the Natal towards only two choices: either the destruction of the organisations and aspirations of the working class and its allies, or the overthrow of the Buthelezi regime. As democrats, socialists and revolutionaries our task is to facilitate, prepare for and organise an uprising to overthrow the regime of Buthelezi.
A question might well be posed: but how will the ruling class react to a struggle to overthrow Buthelezi? Will the ruling class not bring all it might to bear and thus ensure an inevitable defeat of the working class? After all, the correlation of forces in Natal and in the rest of the country are asymmetric, are out of sync, and thus the possibility of the insurrection spreading and thus spreading the forces of the ruling class thinly are remote to say the least?
It is true that the situation in Natal and in the rest of the country is asymmetric, is out of sync. I have argued, however, that Inkatha is located at the periphery of the old ruling bloc. The black middle classes that have collaborated with monopoly capital have always been the weak link in the ruling class chain. In a situation where a serious challenge is mounted against the hegemony of the ruling class the classes at the periphery of the old ruling bloc will be the first to be sacrificed. The extent to which the ruling class will defend these elements within its bloc will depend first and foremostly on the extent to which the working class launches its offensive with determination and with tactical perspicacity. By this I mean that the working class must raise the stakes and force the core of the ruling bloc to choose between risking the collapse of the system as a whole, and abandoning its junior partner. For a long time, the ruling class kept up the fiction of Bop’s independence. But as soon as the working class raised the stakes the ruling class was quick to realise that the Mangope regime was not worth a penny in hell. All said, to the questions we answer by saying that indeed the ruling class will begin by rallying to the defence of Buthelezi; but as soon the stakes are raised and the social base of Inkatha begins to fray and disintegrate the ruling class will be forced to cut its losses and settle for a dispensation without Inkatha.
A consistent ideological and political approach is crucial
One of the most important prerequisites for successful political struggle is a clear and consistent ideological and political line. A consistent feature of the politics of the ANC leadership over the past four years has been lack of clarity about what the ANC’s approach is to a particular issue, as well as lack of consistency about holding onto that position for any period of time. This lack of consistency has bred a kind of cynicism among the rank and file members. Members and militants simply do not believe that the ANC can hold onto any position that it propagates at any point in time. To take a few example: the issue of the double ballot was “non-negotiable”, then it was conceded; the issue of the Volkstaat was “non-negotiable”, now it has been conceded; the form of state was never going to be negotiated outside of and before the Constituent Assembly, now the form of state has been entrenched in the Interim Constitution and the Assembly must only rubberstamp the decisions of the Multi-Party Forum. The ANC has no bottom lines on anything.
Besides the lack of consistency, the ANC has also tended to adapt to the ideological positions of its adversaries. Instead of counterpoising it ideological lines, tested over many years of struggle, the ANC has tried to fight it enemies on the ideological terrain of its enemies. In Natal an important example of this tendency is found in the ANC’s attempt to be more Zulu that Buthelezi and Zwelithini. Nzimande is has thus drawn the attention of the movement to a dangerous tendency and it is crucial that his call for the movement not to fight the battle on the terrain of Zuluness is taken seriously. This is the first point.
The second point is that the systematic retreats by the movement over the past four years need to come to an end. The single most important condition of victory in any revolution is the absolute belief by the people in the correctness of what they are fighting for, and the belief in the certainty of victory that comes with it. On the other hand, nothing destroys the morale of the revolutionary forces as the vacillation and policy somersaults that have been the hallmark of the politics of the ANC leadership over the past four years. The second point therefore is that a condition of victory in the imminent battles between. Inkatha and the liberation movement in that there must be no more compromise in the face of Buthelezi’s demands! The decision to agree to mediation by arch-imperialists Kissinger and Carrington is simply laying the basis for another retreat by the movement and should be rejected.
Equally important is that the movement must stand firm on the position that elections must go ahead on the 27 April with or without Buthelezi. As I have already indicated, the resolve to go ahead with election must not deflect our attention from the main point at issue – which is the terms on which Buthelezi wants to come into the elections. It is important that our leadership does not trade fundamental political positions, like the issue of the powers of regions and the proposed dominance of Zwelithini over elected institutions in Natal, for Buthelezi’s participation in the elections. To win the election date and loose on the key political issues would be a miserable capitulation masked as a great victory.
The third point is that at all times the Natal crisis must be treated as the national crisis that it really is. Part of strengthening the fighting resolve of the working class and its allies in Natal is to consistently engage in solidarity work and action on Natal. This in one of the crucial ways in which the liberation movement would send signals to the ruling class that its intervention on the side of Buthelezi will cost it dearly; in this way the liberation movement would raise the stakes in the Natal crisis.
A revolutionary agrarian programme is necessary
More than any other place in the country, the peasantry and tenant labour relations have survived longest in Natal. Moreover, in Natal there is a large landless and land hungry rural population. In a province in which a large part of the population lives in the countryside, and in which even those who live in the cities have in many cases maintained strong relations with the countryside a successful uprising is unthinkable without it unleashing and coinciding with a thoroughgoing agrarian revolt. Many movements over the world have met ruin at the stake of rural discontent. The destiny of the different parties during the Russian revolution of 1917 was decided by their attitudes to the agrarian question. The pretensions of the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico to be the bearer of Zapatista traditions was shattered by the agrarian revolt of the Indian peasants of the state of Chiapas. The land and agrarian questions
is not just an “emotional” issue as bourgeois journalists are wont to tell us. The fact of the matter is that land and agrarian relation tend to be a concentrated expression of social relations in the country. In contrast to the visible volatility of the city, the apparent tranquillity of the countryside conceals an explosive revolutionary energy that tends to determine the destiny of many revolutions.
The ANC, however, has an agrarian programme that is virtually incapable of seriously addressing the burning issues facing the countryside. To begin with, the ANC has agreed to constitutional clauses that will make redistribution virtually impossible. Secondly, the approach to the agrarian question in the RDP is vague and is more concerned with being sensitive to the fears of the white commercial farmers than with addressing the landlessness and poverty in the countryside.
Another major problem with the approach of the ANC to the agrarian question is its attitude to the chiefs. In many parts of the country the ANC has listened to chiefs more than it has listened to the peasantry and the working people. At times the ANC has courted chief even when they have been most unpopular with its membership. The fact that in the 1970s and 80s the masses had to fight long battles with the chiefs has been lost on the ANC. Any revolutionary agrarian programme must put the question of empowering the rural masses at the centre, and the tendency to adapt to the interests of the chiefs is contrary to such an approach.
The fundamental and immediate task facing our movement in the imminent struggle against Buthelezi in Natal is to develop a serious and revolutionary agrarian programme. Such a programme must clearly and unambiguously settle the agrarian crisis gripping Natal in the favour of the peasantry and the landless. From the analysis of Inkatha provided by Nzimande it is clear that one of the major elements of the struggle against Inkatha is to displace the political power and hegemony of the chiefs over the rural masses. The contradictory relations between the chiefs, who Nzimande singles out as the source of the bureaucratic petty-bourgeoisie, and the rural masses constitute the major fault-line along which the struggle to overthrow Buthelezi will travel.
Intensify the mass struggles and the elections campaign!
The preparedness of the masses to rise and take the road of revolutionary overthrow of tyranny does not develop overnight. This is particularly important at the present moment given the vacillation and uncertainty that has accompanied ANC policy and actions in the immediate past period. What the masses need first and foremostly is a clear signal that the leadership is serious about struggling against the political thuggery and intransigence of Inkatha. This lack of any clear signals, as well as the tendency to subordinate mass struggle to the twists and turns of electoral politics can only demobilise the masses and inversely give a longer lease of life to the likes of Buthelezi and other unpopular parties.
Notwithstanding the problems with the State of Emergency that I have mentioned earlier, the mass movement needs to test the emergency to its utmost possible limits and intensify the elections campaign in Natal. A campaign must be launched to direct the state of emergency to Inkatha’s stronghold, which are responsible for the violence in the region. The campaign needs to intensify struggle around the demand to confine the KZP to barracks.
On the other hand, the problems with the emergency mean that the masses and their organisations cannot depend on the institutions of the transition to guarantee that the elections campaign would go on. What is needed is mass initiative and organisation. For example, if’ the masses have booked the stadiums for use, then armed marshalls of the democratic movement must occupy the stadium in advance to ensure that they are not occupied. The traditional weapons of the mass movement, stayaways, boycotts and other forms of mass action must be used to open the political space that is being closed by Inkatha.
Over and above all this the mass movement needs to tighten its organisation and coordination. It is an indictment on our leadership that in Natal there has as yet not been established a forum to coordinate the activities of the various detachments of the democratic movement. Without organisation, the working class is nothing.
In the context of the immediate irreconcilability of the interests Inkatha and those of the democratic movement any campaign of mass action would be irresponsible if it did not,
firstly, make a political call for the people to defend themselves through arms and, secondly, take on the practical task of making it possible. for the people to actually defend themselves. A commitment to the political defeat of Buthelezi necessarily implies a commitment to organise his military defeat.
The situation in Natal is explosive. This means that openly insurrectionary conditions can develop rapidly. Our movement is faced with a struggle that will determine the prospects for change for a very long time. We need to face up to the reality of the situation and undertake the tasks that are necessary to avoid a bloody suppression of the organisations of the working class. Only an active policy with the strategic objective of overthrowing, of “Bopping”.
Buthelezi will prevent or at least minimise the loss of lives that is the inevitable result of the politics of Inkatha and the agenda of the ruling class.
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