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The continuing violence in Natal has come to dominate the lives of workers throughout the province on a daily basis. Despite repeated calls from the leadership of the trade unions and mass movement for such violence to end immediately, actions continue in the townships even after uneasy truces have been agreed upon. The SAP, SADF and Inkatha thugs are periodically let loose on the rampage, burning houses, assaulting and killing township residents. On the other hand, policemen are attacked and councillor’s houses continue to get burnt. As the violence in one township subsides, another area erupts only to die down and erupt again in a matter of weeks. The number of lives lost, the effects of constant turmoil and strife for a long period of time have begun to take their toll. Now more than ever all classes in South Africa, for their own reasons, are calling for peace in Natal.
The continuing violence however has revealed that peace cannot be achieved through a mere “wishing” of peace into existence. Neither can strategies and tactics be forced onto the masses. It is becoming increasingly clear that without a clear programme of action, which attempts to address not only the symptoms (violence itself) but the root causes of the conditions in Natal, the province will be torn apart by violence for many years to come. The thousands of casualties in the violence in Natal, and the fact that the smallest spark can ignite the masses to take action, makes it crucial that we approach the issue with a clear head and ideas based on a thorough analysis of the causes and implications of the violence.
The need to map out a line of march becomes all the more important in the context of the regime of February 2. The de Klerk phenomenon has thrown new light on the Natal affair. Whilst it has always been clear that the violence in Natal is not only the result of the specific circumstances of Natal, but of conditions nationally and internationally, the talks of negotiations make a careful assessment of the balance of forces in Natal, and nationally, all the more important. De Klerk and the Nationalist Party have made it clear time and time again, that they are only able to talk of negotiations today because of the “hard work” of the armed forces and the South African Police in the 1985-86 insurrectionary period. They have praised the butchers Magnus Malan and Adriaan Vlok for their roles in stemming the “revolutionary tide”. In this way the close relationship between military and political tactics has been clearly revealed.
The violence in Natal emerged directly out of this period of mass insurrection around the country, and the need for the capitalists and their state to defend their political and economic interests. The rise of the National Security Management System, of indiscriminate police and army raids in the townships, of brutal vigilante attacks around the country were not separate sporadic instances, but were integrally related as a physical attack on the increasingly militant self-organisation of the masses. The process of negotiations, as proceeding under the control of the de Klerk regime, is a different side of this same bloody coin.
Gatsha has time and time again made his intentions clear travelling the world talking all kinds of rubbish about sanctions and free enterprise in South Africa. It would be disastrous not to recognise and analyse Gatsha’s and Inkatha’s political agenda. From the failure of the KwaNatal indaba, through to his repeated calls that de Klerk has cleared the deck for negotiations, Gatsha is trying to ensure that he has a role in a post-apartheid society. Indeed, it has been criminal the way in which Inkatha, despite its claims for standing for non-violence, have been willing to use the issue of the violence to bolster its national political stature. Any addressing of the issue of Inkatha in Natal, cannot avoid directly addressing the issue of the nature of the South African revolution in the present period.
Faced with these circumstances, it has become clear that unless the masses build a programme of action, and identify a strategic line of march which will enable the masses to negotiate the rocky road of the everyday conflicts and violence on the one hand, and advance their struggle for socialism and lasting peace on the other, we will be forced to mark time, responding in an ad hoc manner as the daily the death toll continues to climb.
By now it should be clear that only genuine democrats and socialists can be serious about peace in Natal and in the whole of South Africa. It is equally clear that there can be no serious struggle for peace without an all-round and uncompromising struggle for democracy and socialism in South Africa. The violence in Natal is not just an issue we can solve and then “get on with the main fight against apartheid.”
The issue of violence in Natal is inseparable from the struggle against the present de Klerk government – a government riddled with murderers and thugs.
Vigilantes – extra-legal organisations of armed force against the revolutionary organisations of the working class -have emerged in recent years in u number of countries around the world. From Latin America to South East Asia, these groups have run amok in response to the crisis in world capitalism and the militant struggles of the proletariat and oppressed in those countries. The emergence and heightened activity of vigilantes in South Africa dates from about 1985. These gangs of political thugs spread across the entire country and directed their attention to smashing any forms of militancy on the part of the working class and its allies.
The majority of the leadership of the vigilantes are drawn from the homeland governments and the local state organs in the black townships. The class which forms the core of this movement is the black middle classes in the bantustans and cities. It’s support base is specifically those sections of the black petty bourgeoisie whose
existence is closely bound up with the structures of the apartheid state. By controlling these structures (be they in the townships or the bantustans) they select who gets licenses for shops and businesses and have access to funds and loans from these structures. This section of the middle class is however only a small part of the total
population in South Africa. Through the organisation of vigilantes, they have drawn their “shock troops” from the oppressed and exploited workers and youth.
There are two areas where this section of the middle class has been able to call on support. First, by using the immediate forces tied to the bantustans and local authorities – the bantustan armies, police and municipal police who are largely drawn from the ranks of the unemployed. Secondly, vigilantes have been drawn from migrants in the cities. Their forces have often been bolstered by the ultra-left policies of the leadership of the mass movement. Many activists in the townships have at times tried to engage in “assault tactics” against the state when the class has not been prepared. The tendency to call stayaway after stayaway (especially in 1986-1987), and boycotts with monotonous regularity allowed the state and the reactionary sections of the black middle classes to promote their own counter-revolutionary aims by appealing to dissatisfied elements in the townships.
To identify the class base of the vigilantes is not enough to explain why they emerged in the 1984-1986 insurrectionary period. The key to the answer of this question lies in understanding the changes that were taking place to the form of the South African state.
In the insurrectionary period between 1984 and 1986 the South African state was transformed from bourgeois parliamentary democracy for whites, into a Bonapartist state. A Bonapartist state arises when the capitalist state can no longer resolve the struggles between the working class and the capitalist class in the old ways. It arises when new ways of smashing the working class are needed. In South Africa Bonapartism took the form of concentrating power in the hands of a few individuals in the State Security Council as opposed to the power of the ruling class being exercised through the racist parliament. The National Security Management System was the structure on which Bonapartist rule rested in the insurrectionary period and its immediate aftermath. This was necessary because the representatives of the ruling class in parliament failed to deal with the crisis. The Bonapartist state under the personal leadership of PW Botha violated bourgeois democracy in order to defend it! Because the Bonapartist state is a state born of a crisis, it rests on the use of naked force to crush the working class. The direct entry of the army into politics, i.e. its direct intervention to crush workers and to run the daily affairs of society, is the context that allowed the rise of vigilantes in the insurrectionary period.
The weakness of the black middle class in South Africa, for years denied access to political democracy and with constant limits placed on their ability to accumulate wealth, has ensured that it has not been able to develop competent leadership within itself, to struggle for its own, even though narrow, interests. Severely threatened by the insurrectionary period, the sections of the black middle class which relied most heavily on the structures of apartheid were extremely vulnerable. Scared of any forms of self-organisation of the masses, outside the control of the apartheid state, this section of the black middle class turned to vigilantism when the masses turned against the Botha regime. An attack on the structures of the apartheid state, were a direct attack on these sections of the black middle class, itself.
For the state, the instruments for vigilante organisation were historically given. After all, these sections of the black middle class operate within and through the structures of the apartheid state. The municipal police, homeland armies, and police were there as ready recruiting grounds for the vigilantes. So also were the unemployed and migrants, who in most cases are tied to these structures for want of jobs, on the one hand, and for shelter, either in compounds or hostels directly tied to the apartheid state, or in the form of land or housing.
Inkatha was relaunched in the mid-1970s, independently of the state, with the full support of the ANC in exile, and it fraternised the new trade union movement. It is clear that a discussion of vigilantes in South Africa cannot be enough to explain Inkatha. On the other hand, it is clear that Inkatha showed similarities with other vigilante groups. Our discussion must capture the similarities and differences that Inkatha has with other vigilante groups.
The struggle for peace in Natal, is integrally bound up with the struggle for the right of the masses to build organisations of their own choice, independently of the structures of the state and against capitalism.
It is not enough however just to look at the differences and similarities between Inkatha and other vigilante groups in South Africa to understand the nature of the violence in Natal. The number of deaths has not subsided at all, in fact it has increased, since the ’85-’86 insurrectionary period. In other parts of the country, whilst the number of people killed in political violence continues, it has been in a different way to that of Natal. Apart from in certain isolated cases (e.g. Uitenhage) the form of political violence has usually been focussed directly on the structures of apartheid e.g. policeman and councillors and bantustan leaders. In Natal actions continue against the police, army and the councillors. The dominant form of violence however, has undeniably arisen as a result of conflict between Inkatha (some of whom are councillors) on the one hand, and COSATU and UDF on the other.
To explain these different dynamics, we must develop a clearer understanding of the particular way in which apartheid-capitalism developed in Natal.
For many activists Natal is a “special case”. It is argued that “Natal has its own politics”, which must be handled “sensitively” and which “demands forms of struggle which do not apply anywhere else”. Even those who have argued that the struggle against Inkatha is “part of the broad struggle against oppression and exploitation” have done exactly the opposite in practice. They have failed to map out a line of march which concretely shows the unity of the struggle against Inkatha with the working class movement’s struggle against exploitation and oppression, both in South Africa and internationally. As a result, Inkatha has remained the “business” of the working class in Natal. After all the speeches, resolutions, negotiations and papers, not a single action has been taken nationally, let alone internationally, in solidarity with the working class in Natal.
Through this emphasis on the differences of Natal, many of the leading figures in both the trade union movement and the mass movement generally have promoted the view that the working class in Natal have “Zulu consciousness”. They argue that the working class movement in Natal support the King (Goodwill) and Gatsha. This is despite the fact that UWUSA has failed to grow in the factories; that Inkatha has had to enforce (violently) its acceptance by workers and youth in the communities; that it has had to seek open support from the SADF, SAP and ZP’s in its battles against the workers and youth in the townships.
This position has also led to attempts to “win over” Inkatha to the “people’s camp”. Although it is clear in other parts of South Africa, that vigilante groups cannot be invited to join the “people’s camp”, the argument that Natal was a special case has fed false illusions within the working class – it has disarmed the working class in its
struggle against Inkatha.
Despite regular calls for the rebuilding of mass organisations in Natal, very little has been done to implement resolutions for the building of mass organisations and the defence of the working class. At COSATU’s Second Congress in 1987 it was resolved to “consolidate and extend worker defence to protect the lives and property of thousands of our leaders who today face brutal attack from vigilantes and other anti-democratic forces. Instead of boldly carrying out this resolution, the UDF and COSATU leadership have spent their time trying to win Gatsha and his lieutenants over. They have argued that this will allow the workers and youth to fight their common enemy – apartheid! How could such.an enemy of freedom like Gatsha – who has used bantustan structures to build Inkatha and openly supports and will physically defend the capitalist system -join in the struggle against apartheid and capitalism?
No comrades. This one sided view of Natal, which sees it as a special case from the rest of South Africa has led to the development of right-wing politics within the working class. It can have only one-result -the delivery of the working into the hands of Inkatha and counter revolution.
On the other hand, we must be clear when we say that Natal is a “special case”. Any failure to recognise that the presence of a movement like Inkatha places huge obstacles in the path of building militant working class organisations in Natal, might lead us ‘into a misdirected heroism. Inkatha has now been around for as long as the militant trade union movement. In this time Inkatha has become far stronger than any of the other vigilante groups around the country. To ignore this history, to pretend that it does not exist, would lead us to ultra-left politics like the UDF leaderships politics in the 1985 period. Then, instead of focussing on building strong organisation on the ground around the immediate issues concerning the workers and youth at the time, they engaged in a newspaper war with Gatsha through the commercial press.
To fail to take account of the “special” experience of the working class in Natal, to fail to take into account the obstacles facing the working class in building militant mass organisations, would lead us down another path -that of ultra-leftism. Such a policy would lead to premature, attacks on Inkatha, and probable defeats, demoralising the working class and its militant allies.
The key to understanding why we talk of Natal as a “special” case lies in the specific form that the development of capitalism took in this area. Marxists always begin to analyse any phenomenon or event by uncovering its class base. The particular form that capitalism and apartheid have taken in Natal, and the response of the different
classes can only be understood through a discussion of the unity of town and countryside in the development of capitalism.
Historically, under capitalism, the production and reproduction of labour power has rested in the countryside. In other words, capitalism was built by ensuring that the majority of the population remained in the rural areas. Through subsistence agriculture they could survive at very little cost to the capitalists. In South Africa however, capitalism took a different course. The smashing of subsistence agriculture in the countryside, and of the South African peasantry, has been the tragic and heroic story of South African masses in the 20th century.
This smashing of subsistence agriculture developed unevenly across the country. In Natal, more than anywhere else, the labour tenants dug in their heels. Historically, the development of capitalist agriculture in Natal (the large sugar plantations) did not rely on labour drawn from around Natal. Nor were the inhabitants of Natal large contributors of labour to diamond and gold mines. The sugar barons were forced to rely on indentured workers from India, whilst the mines drew on workers from as far afield as China, Europe and other parts of Africa in its early years. Labour tenancy, where “peasants” were given a piece of land which they could farm, in return for working on the owners’ farm for certain periods, lasted well into the 1960’s in Natal. In response to the rapid mechanisation of South African agriculture, at the close of the 1960’s the state announced that labour tenancy would be abolished by 1970. With this announcement the abolition of labour tenancy hastened the process of rural collapse in Natal.
The Durban proletariat is drawn first and foremost from the countryside. Their partial reproduction rested on their relationship to the countryside. In relation to other parts of South Africa, the migration of workers between town (the large cities and mines) and countryside (capitalist agriculture and the bantustans) is greater in Natal. More than half of “commuter” workers in South Africa are in Natal. Whereas elsewhere in the country, the working class – specifically the migrants -relives the history of its origins a few times, or only once a year – in Natal this history is relived on a weekly or monthly basis. The rural collapse was felt more acutely in the cities of Natal, than in other cities in South Africa. The interchanging of roles between migrants to industry, labour tenants and agricultural workers means that workers themselves carry the crisis in the countryside into the cities. By the 1970’s the stage was set for the major labour struggles that erupted in Durban in 1973. The fact that Durban is today by far the fastest growing city in South Africa, reveals how central our understanding of the unity of town and countryside remains in an understanding of the politics of Natal. It also provides the key the difference between Natal and other areas of South Africa.
The black middle class in Natal was also affected by the growing crisis in the early 1970’s. The rural collapse was also a crisis for the black middle class in the town and countryside. In the countryside the black middle class is made up of the well-off peasant, the rural shopkeeper and the chief. Their leader is the chief. For them the chief not only holds a position of “official” authority, but represents the unity of all the black strata of the middle class in the countryside. For this man, the chief is blessed with three souls. At the same time, he is the well-off farmer, a small shopkeeper, and an “authority” by the grace of tradition, or the grace of de Klerk.
The rural crisis did not leave the chiefs untouched. Like their “subjects” they were thrown off white-owned farms and cast into the wilderness. The tragic evictions of the more than 300 000 people in the early 1970’s has left its scar on the poor farmers, the rural workers, and the chiefs.
The meaning of the Verwoed years for the black middle class is well known. In the cities, the process of “class levelling” was rigidly implemented through apartheid laws. Economic crisis breeds violent instability in the middle class. The possibility of demotion into the ranks of the working class becomes the normal state of affairs for
In the early 1970’s the shopkeeping middle class in the cities and the countryside become Inkatha’s most stable class force. Faced with the rural collapse and policies of class levelling, the black middle class came to rely on the bantustan structures, which in Natal have stretched their power right into the cities. By the granting of loans, and trading licenses Inkatha has been able to maintain its support and hegemony over this strata of the black middle class. Other strata of the middle class in the cities such as teachers, civil servants, the intellectuals and nurses have moved away from Inkatha over time. Recently, this tendency has shown itself by the conflicts between Gatsha and the teachers in Kwazulu schools – many of whom have refused to join Inkatha (except at the barrel of their wages).
It has been argued that underlying the violence in Natal, is the particular way in which the collapse of the rural areas was linked to urban struggles. The inability of the Natal countryside to effectively reproduce labour power placed massive pressures on the black working class, catapulting it into action in, the Durban strikes of 1973. The inability of capitalism in the cities to either employ or in anyway reproduce the masses displaced from the countryside has led to rapid urbanisation under squalid conditions. The particularly stark nature of this contradiction in Natal has clearly revealed the close link between town and countryside and means that any attempt to deal with the violence in a systematic manner must face up to the necessities of building a revolutionary agrarian programme.
Another feature of Natal is the way in which sections of the black petty bourgeoisie have organised themselves to defend and advance their interests. The petty bourgeoisie always has two heads. One which looks towards the bourgeoisie and the other towards the working class. In Natal this has taken the peculiar form of Inkatha. It has been Inkatha which has most systematically fought for the interests of the black petty bourgeoisie in Natal. Drawing its support base from the chiefs, and the rural and urban shopkeeping section of the black middle class, it has been forced to forge an “alliance” with capitalism and apartheid. The relationship of this section of the black petty bourgeoisie to apartheid and capitalism has thrown it into direct conflict with the oppressed and exploited masses in Natal. A large-part of the violence has arisen as a direct result of this conflict. It is clear from our discussion, that any revolutionary
programme which attempts to end the violence and advance the interests of the working class has to take into account the nature of the alliance of this class to the black middle classes in Natal. This must be done in such a way as to attract those elements the middle class whose interests are most immediately tied up with those of the revolutionary proletariat.
It would be a grave mistake for us to treat all sections of the black middle class as if they were the same. Only a tiny section of this class forms a stable support base for Inkatha. We have already seen that other sections of this class, like teachers, are also opposed to Inkatha. These sections are the potential allies of the working class. The task of the working class as the leading force in the struggle is to defend these progressive sections of the black middle class against attacks from Inkatha and the State.
Throughout our discussion we have emphasised that Inkatha is violently opposed to the organisations of the working class and its progressive allies among the black middle class. It has been argued that in times of increased levels of resistance to apartheid and capitalism, Inkatha has been forced to act in a similar way to other vigilante groups around South Africa. The black middle class in Natal is seriously threatened by any attempts of workers and youth to organise their own structures for political expression. The bloody conflicts of the township youth and workers against the Inkatha warlords has come to dominate the form of the relationship between Inkatha and the masses. In Natal, this conflict has been represented by Inkatha on the one hand, and the UDF, ANC and the trade union movement, as expressions of the self-organisation of the working class, on the other.
The twists and turns in the relationship of these organisations to Inkatha has itself been a reflection of changes and shifts in the balance of class forces. If we are to build a concrete programme of action which is able to build peace and defend and advance the interests of the working class and youth, we have to discuss the relationship of these organisations to Inkatha and the potential they have to provide a solution to the ongoing violence in Natal.
It is now well-known that the formation of Inkatha, Gatsha’s entry into bantustan politics and his subsequent political direction up to 1979 was undertaken as a result of consultation with, and with the approval of the ANC. All this was admitted at the ANC Consultative Conference at Kabwe in 1985. There the ANC admitted that Buthelezi “was our fault”. Such self-criticism, though welcome, is not enough.
What is required of the organisations of the mass movement is not a periodical self-criticism – after which we again continue to commit the same old “mistakes”. We have heard a lot from the Congress-supporting leadership about how the militant workers and youth must now “bury their differences with Inkatha and unite to fight the common enemy – apartheid”. This, after admissions that Inkatha and Buthelezi were at “fault”. The middle classes have very short memories. Not only have the middle classes “forgotten” that Buthelezi was a “mistake”, they have also forgotten the hundreds of workers and youth that have died in a reign of terror unleashed by Inkatha. The problem here lies with the very nature of the politics of the African National Congress, and the class this organisation represents.
At the Morogoro Consultative Conference of the ANC at the c1ose of the 1960’s, the ANC asserted that the working class had a special role to play in the liberation struggle. With the outbreak of militant working class struggles in the early 1970s’, the ANC responded by turning towards the representatives of the black middle class in town and countryside. It did not turn towards the working class which was given “special” place at Morogoro. Not only did the ANC not turn towards organising the working class, it continued to build up Gatsha even where he had begun to condemn strikes and move away from the militant working class towards the capitalist class. More than that, the ANC, through its union wing SACTU, engaged in a campaign of vilification against the new organisations of the working class, the trade unions, especially FOSATU.
1976 was both a breakpoint for Inkatha and the ANC. While Inkatha moved to the right, the ANC moved to the left with the influx of youth into the organisation. The tensions that began to emerge between Inkatha and the ANC after 1976 reflected the parting of the roads. Only the class struggle could confirm whether the roads had really parted. KwaMashu 1980 confirmed this.
We have argued that the middle class is a class with two faces. One looks towards the ruling class, one looks towards the working class. The break with the ANC was an indication, therefore that these two tendencies within the middle class could no longer share the same organisation. The middle class basis of the ANC had not been changed by the break with Inkatha. The ANC represented that section of the black middle class that turned towards the masses as the class struggle intensified.
During the insurrectionary period, the same process that drove Inkatha to the right, also dragged the ANC leftwards. Moreover, it put the ANC, inspite of its class basis, at the head of the movement. With the ascendency of the ANC onto the head of the mass movement, Inkatha’s antagonism to the militant working class movement meant antagonism to the ANC.
For Gatsha, the violence in Natal is a direct result of the ANC’s “violent” policy of armed struggle. Gatsha has drawn a direct link between the ANC’s armed struggle and the violence sweeping Natal. That the military units of MK have been directly responsible for attacks and defence in Natal townships has been the case in a minority of instances. It is not the policy of the ANC’s armed struggle that has fuelled this violence. MK’s response to the violence in Natal has been marked not by its bold intervention, but its timid abstention.
The violence in Natal has a much broader social base than simply the units of MK. It has arisen out the acute contradictions thrown out by the development of capitalism in the Natal town and countryside. It is important to understand this point, and the relationship between the armed struggle and violence in the region. The necessity for the working class to defend itself against the attacks of Inkatha and the state, has forced the most advanced elements of the class to arm themselves, That, struggles in the townships have at times involved gangsters who have seized the opportunity to satisfy their own needs, does not in any way mean that the violence has degenerated into conflict involving criminals. The rise of gangsterism is a symptom of the conflict between the working class on the one hand, and apartheid and capitalism and its allies on the other. It is not its cause.
Despite KwaMashu in 1980, Ngoye in 1983, Durban in 1985, and Pietermaritzburg in 1987 the ANC still feels that Gatsha is a “lost sheep” who must now return to the fold! The leaderships call to the masses to throw their weapons into the sea is a recognition of the failure of MK to intervene in the region and defend the attacks on the working class. It is also potentially disastrous for the struggles of the working class and militant youth in the region who need to defend themselves not only against the physical attacks of the state and Inkatha warlords, but also against the gangsters. In a word, the ANC, given its class basis, is incapable of a consistent revolutionary attitude to the question of violence in Natal, and to Inkatha in particular. As before, its approach to the question will be one of consistent vacillation at best, and outright capitulation at worst.
The UDF has not had a very successful history in Natal. This has been of cause of a combination of factors not least of which has been the struggle with Inkatha. The UDF in Natal never reached the heights of the organisation in the. Cape and the Transvaal. From its outset, dominated by the middle class at the leadership level, it has never been able to galvanise the masses into an effective and democratic fighting force. Despite the lack of structured organisation, the UDF received the support of elements of the working class youth in the townships. It is these youths (who increasingly identify with the ANC) who have borne the brunt of the battle against the Inkatha warlords.
The peculiar form of the UDF in Natal, as an organisation of militant youth in the townships who genuinely believe in the UDF, and the middle class leadership on the other hand who have operated in structures often cut off from the militant struggles in Natal and who only paid lip service to the struggles of workers and youth in the townships, have made this organisations intervention in the violence similar to that of both the ANC and the syndicalists. Far from providing the bold and imaginative leadership which the youth were calling out for in their battle against Inkatha, the UDF leadership was in the early years highly critical of Inkatha (making loud noises
against Inkatha), but then they hesitated and eventually abandoned the militant youth in favour of a policy of peace-at-all-costs.
Although the UDF leadership in Natal has taken an inconsistent position on the violence, although it has at time tried to accommodate Gatsha, the UDF must not be collapsed into the ANC. There are important differences between the UDF and the ANC. The fact that the UDF leadership, at least at the local level, also has to bear the brunt of Inkatha’s attacks means that it is still subject to pressure from the masses and youth. No UDF leader at the local level would have dared tell the workers and youth to throw their weapons into the sea! To simply identify the UDF with the ANC would be to fall into Gatsha and de Klerk’s trap, who only see the ANC behind every bush. The militant workers and youth must struggle to make the leadership accountable. Those leaders who refuse to represent the democratic interests of the masses must be removed without delay.
The word “syndicalism” has been applied to revolutionary, but misguided trends, within the working class at the beginning of the 1900’s. This definition does not, strictly speaking, apply to what in South Africa has been called “syndicalism”. The last revolutionary act of syndicalism as a tendency within the working class was when the left syndicalists joined the Comintern under the revolutionary leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. But for purposes of continuity of political identification we will continue to refer to this trend as “syndicalism”.
The most peculiar feature of the syndicalists relationship to Inkatha lies in the abstract i.e. propagandistic commitment to socialism on the nee hand, and syndicalism’s alliance with Inkatha which fights openly for capitalism, and remains dependent on the apartheid state for its existence, on the other.
In the early years of the trade union movement in the 1970’s and indeed right through until the 1980’s the syndicalists continually argued that the trade unions had to steer clear of the UDF as the membership of trade unions was made up workers with different political allegiances. The syndicalists argued that by allying themselves with any one political tendency they may alienate large sections of their mass base. By doing this, the syndicalists limited the extent to which workers could involve themselves in politics.
There were two major trends to the development of syndicalism in Natal. The one represented by the leadership in NUTW (by far the largest affiliate of FOSATU and COSATU in Natal), and the other by the leadership in NUMSA and to an extent T&GWU and CWIU. Syndicalists were united in that they believed that workers in trade unions should address the issue of politics firstly through their trade union structures. For the syndicalists, political issues which affected the entire working class, were to be resolved in a way that was best for the trade union.
It is incorrect to argue that syndicalism (or workerism) simply attempted to limit workers struggles to the shop-floor. The weakness of the UDF in Natal has forced the trade unions to play an increasingly central role in the politics of the region. What is at issue here is the form that this politics has assumed. By determining political policy and strategy around the structures of a trade union the syndicalist unions have been forced into positions which border on trade union chauvinism on the one hand (NUMSA), and political abstentionism (NUTW) on the other.
NUTW based their entire strategy around the size of Inkatha, the fact that a number of its members turned towards Gatsha and KwaZulu structures. They failed to realise that workers entering battle are forced to forge organisations under conditions inherited from the past. The working class however does this not to bolster these organisations, but in search of finding ways to transcend them and build their own organisations. The way in which the working class is able to transcend these organisations depends on the extent of sustained combativity of the class on the one hand, and on the conscious intervention of the revolutionary leadership on the other.
The syndicalist leadership in NUTW, far from intervening energetically to alert the membership to nature and limits of Inkatha, offered a sympathetic hand, so long as they could get on with their job of organising workers into trade unions. In so doing they abstained, and discouraged their membership from taking an active position in the struggles in Natal. In the burning townships of Natal, political “neutrality”, and sitting on the wall, is very dangerous indeed.
The position of NUHSA represented at times an ultra-left variant of syndicalism. For the syndicalists in NUMSA, life began and ended within its structures. The structures of the trade unions were the core of the working class political struggle. What was required to achieve socialism was to bring all other forms of politics under the control of the trade unions. Repeatedly NUMSA has called for organisation in the township as if it never existed. Unlike NUTW it called upon its members to organise democratic street committees in the townships. This was never realised in any systematic way as the syndicalists believed that democratic structures could be built by passing resolutions at trade union congresses. The States of Emergencies, the downturn in the levels of activity of the masses, and the physical presence of Inkatha, combined to made this goal somewhat idealistic.
Far from understanding the implications of their own calls and assisting workers to defend themselves from physical attack by Inkatha and the state however, the syndicalist leadership turned away from the masses-and towards Inkatha. For them, the violence had to end as it interfered with painstaking work of building structures. They were unable to see that the struggle against violence was integrally related to the struggle to build mass democratic organisations. They were not separate issues which could be resolved one at a time. At the base of the syndicalists position is the fact that syndicalism in South Africa is the equivalent of middle class liberal politics within the working class. Like all liberalism, its chief character lies in its respect for authority. It wants to change the lives of the “poor” without fully embracing the strategic and political implications of that “wish”. It is mortally scared of revolution and continually hankers after the illusionary “peaceful road” to socialism. It is a tendency which wants “socialism without tears”.
Despite Gatsha’s attacks on the militant trade unions, the formation of UWUSA and his constant move away from the revolutionary working class, the difficulties of union organisation in Kwazulu, the trade union leadership continued to chase Gatsha, and turn the eyes of the working class towards him. Side by side with this pushing of workers towards Gatsha, went an attack on “vanguardist politics” and on “populism”. Integral to this attack on vanguardist politics went the peddling of the illusion that workers could achieve socialism in South Africa, in the imperialist epoch, by building… trade union structures! We do not hold trade unions in disdain. But we recognise that in order for workers to fulfill their potentially revolutionary role in the imperialist epoch, they require the world-wide experience of the revolutionary working class. We go further and, recognise that such an experience can only be accumulated in a revolutionary vanguard party of the working class.
The central strategy adopted by the leadership of the UDF and COSATU the Natal region to counter the violence, has been that of negotiation with Inkatha. Shocked by the over 2 000 deaths since 1987, the leadership have begun to pursue policies of peace at any cost – of attempting to resolve the issue of violence, not through an analysis and understanding of the various elements of the class struggle – but by treating the symptom, by calling for peace.
The peace talks between the UDF and COSATU on the one hand, and Inkatha on the other, have repeatedly fallen apart. Whereas Gatsha and his lackeys have not been afraid to use the issue of violence to strengthen their role in the national politics of the country (by breaking off the peace talks and constantly seeking political victories through threatening the continuation of violence), the leadership of the UDF and COSATU have done little to ensure that the working class are more able to defend themselves from these attacks. The fact that the workers and the youth have been able to continue to engage in defence has been an indicator of the creative energies unleashed in the process of the self-organisation of the working class, than by the decisive leadership of the mass organisations. How has it been possible however for the peace talks to continue, even in a climate in which the number of deaths in the township continues climb with an almost sinister regularity?
To understand these developments, we need to understand that the peace talks became possible after the effects of the State of Emergency in 1986 began to take their toll signalling the retreat of the working class. The peace talks are thus a result and indication of the fall in the combativity of the working class. They reflected a ruling class offensive that had, among other things seen the passing of the LRAA in September 1988, and the sure ascendency of de Klerk into power.
The history of the peace talks-are now well known. They represent a history of Inkatha ducking and diving and avoiding taking the necessary action to assist in quelling the violence. In fact, Inkatha is used the threat of violence as a means of bolstering its position nationally. After reaching agreements it has then changed its mind adding new demands and conditions on working jointly with UDF/COSATU towards peace. As the negotiations have proceeded they have moved further and further away from the masses. First the crisis committees were involved in negotiations, then the smaller Joint Working Group until finally negotiations have been taking place in the 2-a-side meetings with one representative from COSATU, one from UDF and two from Inkatha.
At a local level, in the townships, the negotiations have followed a slightly different course with the signing of peace accords. This attempt to deal with the violence, whilst important leads to piecemeal and ad hoc solutions which can never begin to remove the root causes of the violence. There has been a lack of integration of these agreements into an overall strategic orientation towards achieving peace in Natal.
Some of these shortcomings have been realised by the leadership in the Joint Working Group. Hence they have seen the necessity to restructure the JWG by including representation from the various townships and to embark upon a campaign of establishing joint UDF/COSATU peace committees in the various townships. The actual role and function of these peace committees is still unclear however, but if they are to be effective within the context of violence in Natal they must provide the core of an organising campaign to organise the masses into democratic structures within the townships. The role of the peace committees must be addressed in the building of a programme of action to deal with the violence in Natal.
Throughout this paper we have argued that the violence in Natal cannot be resolved by simply calling for reconciliation. We have also noticed that many of the plans for peace have been unrealistic and piecemeal.
The position of the joint UDF/COSATU leadership has been a far cry from providing a clear line of march and programme to guide the working class and the youth in the struggle against oppression and exploitation, and deal effectively with the threat that Inkatha poses to this process. Now more than ever before, the masses in Natal need
to build a clear programme of action, which is able to identify the specific tasks in Natal, and link them with the consistent and principled struggle for socialism.
A programmatic position on the Natal violence must capture both Natal’s similarities-and differences with the rest of South Africa. It must take into account the level of development of organisation in Natal and the role that can be played by the working class nationally and internationally in bolstering the initiative and combativity of
the working class in Natal. It must be a concrete programmatic position which consistently defends the rights of the working class. It must also however be informed with an understanding that there can be no lasting peace under capitalism.
It is clear that a programme of action to resolve the violence in Natal cannot be confined to Natal alone and must begin to address issues nationally and internationally. This is unless we think that Natal is cut off from the rest of the world as the “last outpost of British imperialism”, unaffected by the tumultuous events rocking the world.
We fully support the desire of the masses for peace in Natal. We are convinced however that peace in Natal cannot be realised without a concerted effort to build such a peace. In the war torn town and countryside of Natal, the key to resolving the issue of peace lies in the rights of the working class to organise in the ways that they feel are necessary to advance the struggle against all forms of oppression and exploitation. There can be no peace in Natal without the freedom to organise. Without this fundamental right being assured violence is bound to continue to. flare and subside, with regular monotony. Any programme of action for peace in Natal must have this as its starting point. It must begin to chart out a line of march which can most effectively fight for, and defend this basic right of the oppressed and exploited.
The freedom to organise can only be assured by a democratically elected Constituent Assembly. With de Klerk’s talk of negotiation, and Inkatha’s scramble for a place at the table, the masses in Natal must directly confront the burning political issues facing the working class in South Africa. Any campaign for peace must include a programme for a political resolution of the problems in the country otherwise it is bound to flounder on the rocks.
For socialists the process of settling scores with the legacy of apartheid capitalism, of preparing a new South Africa, demands that there be maximum possible participation of the masses in the decision-making. This is only possible at a democratic non-racial Constituent Assembly and not at de Klerk’s bargaining table where he is only offering half a slice of bread for dinner. A Constituent Assembly is the only forum that can draw up a new constitution for South Africa on the basis of direct representation of the elected representatives of the people. This implies a full election, one person one vote throughout South Africa in order to determine who the delegates to the Constituent Assembly will be.
Free and fair elections however cannot take place while apartheid laws are still in existence and the ruling class have control over the media and the armed forces.. The masses cannot rely on de Klerk and the thugs in the SADF and SAP to supervise free and fair elections for a democratic Constituent Assembly – this can only be done under the supervision of the armed South African working class.
In Natal the direct link between de Klerk’s negotiations and Inkatha’s campaign of terror is clear for all to see. Once again, Gatsha is using the violence as a game to put himself at the negotiating table as “one of the people’s leaders”. He has repeatedly threatened that unless Inkatha is accepted by the masses, there can be no meaningful solution to South Africa’s problems. At a time when other bantustan governments are crumbling, Gatsha continues to cling to this oppressive system. This is because, Gatsha, and the sections of the black middle class that Inkatha represents, know that without the power given to them by the homeland system and the system of community councils, they are nothing. The struggle against the Inkatha thugs and the struggle for democracy are inseparable. The struggle for peace in Natal is also a struggle against Gatsha’s community councillors and his KwaZulu system.
We all know that Natal, in town and countryside, is in a permanent state of civil war. “Civil war is a continuation of politics by other means”. Inkatha cannot be defeated by military means alone. This arises naturally from the fact that bur analysis has shown that Inkatha differs significantly from other vigilantes nationally -who in most cases are just gangs of thugs. But we also saw that Inkatha, under conditions of acute class struggle, gets transformed into vigilantes.
It follows that neither Inkatha, nor the South African regime can be defeated by a political programme alone no matter how “profound”. The majority of youths and workers understand that the issue of Inkatha is a matter of life and death. The formation of Defence Committees must be central to any programme of action to deal with the violence. For many years now the leadership of COSATU and UDF have paid lip service to building defence committees, whilst in practice placing very few of the resources at their disposal to ensuring that this becomes a reality.
Defence committees in the townships must:
We have noted throughout the paper the weakness of mass organisation in the Natal townships and attempted to explain why this has been the case. Now more than ever workers and youth have to embark on a vigorous campaign to organise militant and democratic mass organisations. For this reason, the peace committees that are established in the various townships must not be committees which only sit down to try and negotiate an end to conflict with Inkatha. This is important but not enough. The Peace Committees must themselves provide the core of attempts to rebuild mass organisation in the township. By their very nature the Peace Committees cannot be permanent committees. They must provide the catalyst, and the person power, for organising mass democratic structures in the townships.
We have seen that Inkatha is opposed to peace. We have also seen that Inkatha is violently opposed to strong mass based organisations that take up the interests of the oppressed and exploited consistently. For these reasons, the taking up of militant mass struggles in order to build organisations and ensure peace are important. In defence of
workers and youth, boycotts of shops owned by Inkatha members, rent boycotts against Inkatha controlled community councils, stayaways and targeting of big capitalists who have links with Inkatha through strikes and consumer boycotts, must all be discussed as means of advancing the struggle against Inkatha and its boss, the State.
At its Third Congress in 1989, COSATU outlined a programme for rebuilding the mass movement as a centralised and effective fighting force. Yet to date very little has been done to implement this resolution. Revolutionary socialists must fight to ensure that these resolutions are implemented, that street committees are built, that women’s, youth structures are drawn into a Centralised Mass Democratic movement throughout South Africa. In Natal, the Peace Committees must take these resolutions into the townships and find ways to ensure that they are effectively implemented.
Any programmatic approach to the violence must take up the agrarian question in Natal.
We have noted that the uprooting of labour tenancy in Natal together with the rural collapse arising out of it was integrally tied up with the increased penetration of capitalism in the Natal countryside – specifically increased mechanisation. It must also be recalled that one of the most important enterprises in the Natal countryside is the
sugar plantations. It is these bosses that have taken the initiative to bolster UWUSA and to invite it into its industry with the express intention of keeping out militant unions. The collapse of subsistence production in the Natal countryside also means that the key to organisation in the countryside lies with the agricultural workers. The remnants of landless peasants, where they exist, will take their lead from agricultural labourers.
The key to our agrarian programme lies in the cities. The task of the militant working class movement in the cities is to raise its prestige in the countryside in an all-rounded and thorough fashion. Central to our agrarian programme must be the question of extending unionisation into the Natal countryside.
The campaign to unionise workers in the Natal countryside must:
We have seen that under conditions of generalised capitalist crisis and a militant working class response to it, Inkatha was objectively transformed into a vigilante group. We have also seen that the shock troops of the vigilantes came from the unemployed, among other lavers of the working class. The organisation of the unemployed is thus a vital component of a struggle against Inkatha in Natal.
Revolutionary socialists must ensure that:
state and struggle for:
BUILD SRC’S AT SCHOOLS!
We have seen that Gatsha is violently opposed to strong organisations of workers both in factories and in the communities and schools. We also know that whenever workers and youth attempt to build organisations Gatsha and his henchmen do apartheid-capitalism’s dirty work.
A clear strategy for the building of youth, student and civic organisations is thus of paramount-importance. This programme must begin by utilising those organisations of the working class that are strongest. At the present moment these are the trade unions.
We have heard a lot from the COSATU and MDM leaders about the need to build organisations. The workers and youth must say clearly to their Leaders: “Time for talking is over! Now is the time for action! Give a clear programme of action for building youth, SRC’s, civics which utilises the strength of the trade union movement!”
The immediate tasks which arise from this slogan include
matter of urgency it must convene a meeting of youth groups to discuss the way forward. COSATU locals must also take greater responsibility for the organisation of youth, and through workshops assist them in developing the necessary skills to run a mass based organisation.
For revolutionary socialists the leadership of the working class means that the working class must organise all the oppressed people under its leadership. To do this the working class must show all these sections of the people that their problems can only be solved by the working class taking power and building socialism. The working class must show the lower sections of the black middle class that their interests are irreconcilable with those of the big capitalist class. The working class must show these classes and strata of classes that their economic and political oppression is due to the activities of the big capitalists.
But the working class cannot just tell these sections that it is the best representative of their interests. The leading organisations of the working class must show that they are their only salvation by taking up the interests of the black middle class and small hawkers.
Such a programme must take up:
In a period where the capitalist class is engaged in a campaign of union-bashing Inkatha becomes particularly useful to capital. From Haggie Rand in the Transvaal, to the factories in Isithebe, the role of UWUSA has been clear for all to see.
The COSATU-NACTU campaign against union-bashing must put Inkatha and its role in union-bashing at the head of the agenda of the campaign.
This struggle against union bashing must also be against the union bashing of the bosses and must include:
We have looked at Inkatha’s links with capital. These links extend beyond the borders of Natal. Moreover, Inkatha’s links with the capitalist class also extended to links with the political organisations of the capitalist class. Inkatha’s links with the National Party, through the apartheid-capitalist state structures is clear for all to see. Inkatha’s links with these organisations extend beyond the national Party. They also involve links with the Democratic Party and with organisations like IDASA etc. What is important about these organisations, the DP and IDASA, is that they have the best of both worlds. On the one hand they pretend to be part of the people, and on the other hand they fraternise with Inkatha: A programme of exposure and action against the DP and IDASA must be undertaken by all sections of the militant working class movement.
Revolutionary socialists do not run away from organising the nuts of bolts of the physical defence of the rights of the working class. Neither however do they condone the indiscriminate use of violence by the oppressed and exploited. Revolutionary socialists attempt to understand the cause of the violence and work towards the eradication of its source. This they cannot do by calling for an abstract “peace” to be able to continue the struggle against apartheid and capitalism. They are not idealistic in believing that “peace” can ever be fully achieved under capitalism. For revolutionary Marxists, the most effective way of ensuring lasting peace is to wage a consistent and unrelenting battle against apartheid capitalism and for socialism through the only possible road -the revolutionary seizure of power by an armed working class.
We base our whole orientation on the fact that the masses are the fundamental creative and motive force in history. The whole science of revolution consists in our ability to (honestly) judge the mood of the masses. The worst mistake that can be committed by a revolutionary under the conditions of civil war in Natal, is to mistake an advance for a retreat, or a retreat for an advance!
TELL NO LIES, CLAIM NO EASY VICTORIES!
DOWN WITH DISASTOROUS MIDDLE CLASS TACTICS!
AWAY WITH KWAZULU! AWAY WITH THE COMMUNITY COUNCILS!
STRUGGLE FOR A DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY!
INTENSIFY THE STRUGGLE AGAINST APARTHEID CAPITALISM AND IT LACKEYS!
FORWARD TO SOCIALIST REVOLUTION!
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