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On South Africa

On South Africa
(Coordinator Comment)

When socialist states collapsed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in 1989, there was no one better placed to understand its significance than Joe Slovo, the most respected theoretician of the South African Communist Party and a leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto we Sizwe. The South African Party was on the verge of playing a major leadership role in the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa. His article, Has Socialism Failed? was read and debated by revolutionaries around the world.

In his introduction Slovo recognizes the seriousness of the problem: "Socialism is undoubtedly in the throes of a crisis greater than at any time since 1917," but he states that the crisis does not call into question the need for revolution and revolutionary theory. In a section called Marxist Theory Under Fire, he defends the fundamental tenets of socialism, including the necessity of class struggle, supremacy of human values, political democracy, rights of the individual and internationalism.

One of the reasons for the failure of socialism in Eastern Europe, according to Slovo, was the failure to develop socialist democracy. In a section entitled Socialism and Democracy, he says that "The thesis of the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' ... was used as the theoretical rationalisation for unbridled authoritarianism" and there was a "steady erosion of people's power both at the level of government and mass social organisations." Elected officials, trade unions, women's and youth organizations were "turned into transmission belts for decisions taken elsewhere and the individual members were little more than cogs of the vast bureaucratic machine."

The conclusions drawn by Joe Slovo apply to all 21st Century revolutionaries as well as to the Communist Party of South Africa which he addresses: "Our party's programme holds firmly to a post-apartheid state which will guarantee all citizens the basic rights and freedoms of organisation, speech, thought, press, movement, residence, conscience and religion; full trade union rights for all workers including the right to strike, and one person one vote in free and democratic elections. These freedoms constitute the very essence of our national liberation and socialist objectives and they clearly imply political pluralism.

"Both for these historical reasons and because experience has shown that an institutionalised one-party state has a strong propensity for authoritarianism, we remain protagonists of multi-party post-apartheid democracy both in the national democratic and socialist phases, is desirable.

"We believe that post-apartheid state power must clearly vest in the elected representatives of the people and not, directly or indirectly, in the administrative command of a party. The relationship which evolves between political parties and state structures must not, in any way, undermine the sovereignty of elected bodies.

"We also believe that if there is real democracy in the post-apartheid state, the way will be open for a peaceful progression towards our ultimate objective - a socialist South Africa."

In other words, Joe Slovo calls for a culture of peace. What he does not explain here is how one can defend the revolutionary movement and later the revolutionary state from violent reaction against it by the capitalist countries. How can they be defended without creating a socialist culture of war? Having led the armed wing of the ANC and then taken part in the building of democracy in post-apartheid South Africa, one would like to have heard more from him about this before his death in 1995.

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game administrator Jun. 13 2019,18:22
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