The South African Communist Party (SACP) had a strong grip on the African National Congress (ANC) on questions of theory, strategy and tactics of the national liberation struggle and controlled the ANC. The SACP produced vast reading material such as the African Communist to exert its influence in the liberation struggle through the ANC. They contributed immensely in the drafting of the Freedom Charter which in turn shaped the political perspectives of the ANC.
As part of the drive to steer ANC in the direction of reformism, the SACP deployed its leadership crop and activists…advanced intellectuals… to serve in the ANC top leadership structures. These include Moses Mabida, Thabo Mbeki, Govan Mbeki, Mac Maharaj (who was the architect and executor of Operation Vulindlela), Jeremy Cronin, Joe Slovo (who was once MK Chief of Staff and formulator of the ‘Two Stage Theory’), amongst others. Chris Hani, also Chief of Staff of MK, like Joe Slovo, was influential across the alliance partners, namely, ANC, SACP and COSATU. These intellectuals together with the literature they produced were crucial in the strategy and policy development process of the ANC.
Joe Slovo contributed to the ANC’s “Two Stage Theory” revolution for which the National Democratic Revolution perspective was premised. This theory and perspective led, logically to the formation of the ‘Mass Democratic Movement’ strategy which accommodated everybody from committed revolutionaries, moderates, reformists, opportunists, reactionaries, puppets and sellouts. One wonders how Slovo thought this shapeless political animal would be transformed into a socialist movement. Slovo argued that it is the inclusiveness of everybody and everything that makes the NDR democratic and national and therefore justifiable. Therefore, by implication, Slovo took ANC and its allies through a reformist path intentionally. It is not for revolutionaries to do anything non-revolutionary, anti-socialist and liberal in orientation and character for the sake of convenience.
Slovo’s breakdown of his “Two Stage Theory” is that in the first stage a national liberation struggle is waged which is aimed at taking over political power from the colonial ‘state’ or Apartheid state as he called it. But unfortunately the first stage took over government power not the ‘state’ power. The main target was the state power not to destroy the colonial structures, a consequence he regretted bitterly in 1994 when he said, ‘… because we have only political power we cannot access the money of this country to run it’. The colonial bureaucracy remained intact as was the relations of production which were left capitalistic and still running as before.
The second stage is one in which a class (social) struggle should be waged with the workers playing a key leading role. Presumably at this stage, the struggle is focused at the destruction of the colonial order or the capitalist state…the very capitalist state SACP and ANC are building, strengthening and protecting today. Both the SACP and ANC build the capitalist state by privatizing state entities and dishing out lucrative tenders to selfish tenderpreneurs not cooperatives. They strengthen it by producing the bourgeoisie and they protect it by punishing workers.
The other dimension to Slovo’s influence came much strongly throughout ANC when he was the Commander of Umkhondo We Sizwe (MK) and a member of the central committee. The other crucial contributions made by Slovo equal to the Two Stage theory and which shaped the South African anti-colonial struggle were two pieces of work, viz, ‘Colonialism of a Special Type’ ( i.e. Settler Colonialism) and the ‘Sunset Clause’ respectively. The two, Colonialism of a Special Type and the Sunset Clause professed that the colonized and exploited workers had to co-exist with the oppressors and exploiters.
The theory of colonialism of special type has as its main function to explain the fact that SA colonizers are ‘live-in’ colonizers. The logic of this analysis led to the conclusion that the ‘anti-colonial’ struggle should not be to drive the colonizers away but to reconcile with them, hence ‘power sharing mechanism’ which produced the 1994 government of national ‘unity’. This colonialism of special type theory that promoted ‘power’ sharing and ‘reconciliation’ flowed from Moscow’s policy shift from supporting armed struggle to advocating negotiated settlement as the preferred solution. It is also premised on the Freedom Charter’s declaration that “ South Africa belongs to all who live in it”.
The Sunset Clause, also written by Joe Slovo, was intended to focus the attention of the masses to the gradual removal of settler colonial racists from power positions not the overthrowal of the entire state machinery. It is therefore not surprising to see ANC fighting mainly for its incorporation into the existing capitalist state whose sole aim is to serve imperialist interests while becoming increasingly contemptuous towards workers, the unemployed and landless masses who voted them into political office.
By Phalane Mahubane