South Africa: The more things change the more they remain the same - Polokwane and beyond

We publish here an article written by a comrade of the Young Communist League in South Africa. The article, which was first published on the website of SASCO (The South African Students Congress) was a reply to another comment on the same website called "A revolution foresaked or advanced: 2007 Polokwane aftermath" (at the bottom of the page). Although we are not in complete agreement with all the content of the article we think that it is an important contribution to the debate that is going on within the South African worker movement.

Firstly I must say that the paper written by comrade Maneli raises key questions that revolutionaries should be asking themselves in this stage of the Revolution (or lack thereof). Chief among these questions are the following questions:

  1. Did Polokwane really bring change?
  2. Who is the ANC?
  3. Is the SACP the real vanguard of the working class?

Comrade Maneli kicks of his paper with a very sensitive exposition that has a potential to have one labelled a counter-revolutionary by the "real revolutionaries" in our midst.

"These seeds where left to grow in our ranks and the leadership of Jacob Zuma assisted in the process by watering them by deploying them in key strategic areas of governance; they are root causes of the current anarchy destabilized nature of the ANC. In essence the task of removing all that is about working-class exploitation and crass materialism, commoditisation of public enterprise and later entrepreneurism was left untouched. Then BOOM!!!! We have a problem yet again. The emergence of our "pop-star" Jacob Zuma has meant nothing to the progression of the revolution."[1]

Truth must be told that Jacob Zuma was a result of an effort of antagonist classes that had highly contradictory expectations from this man... "Zuma's camp" was a somehow amusing bunch of Leftist, disgrungeld pursuers of tenders and people afraid of going to jail.

The emerging black bourgeoisie that was marginalised by the Mbeki elite, pumped funds for country wide campaigns to have Zuma elected president of the ANC and ultimately president of the republic. Zuma was seen a popular figure after he was humiliated by the Mbeki elite when he was expelled from parliament after reports that he allegedly engaged in corrupt activities with his former financial adviser, Shabir Shaik. He was then a rallying point for all those who were excluded in the ailing tendering system by the Mbeki elite.

Zuma's appeal to rural and township folk, presented him as the victim of state capitalism, therefore the working class under the leadership of COSATU and the SACP supported his quest to assume to the highest office in the republic. They supported him despite of his lack of involvement in the working class struggles and hailed him as the voice of the working class that he had hitherto despised when he was MEC for economic development and tourism in KwaZulu-Natal and also Deputy President of the republic. Rather, he was part of the leadership collective that adopted GEAR and abandoned RDP, but when all hell broke loose, Zuma came out as an angel with a halo who was somehow not in favour of GEAR. The SACP and COSATU had to adopt the "hope and pray strategy" when they supported Zuma. They "hoped and prayed" that he would not despise them once he is elected, like past leaders of the


The ANC views itself as "the disciplined force of the left organised to conduct consistent struggle in pursuit of a caring society in which the well being of the poor receives focused and consistent attention. It seeks to put in place the best elements of a developmental state and social democracy." [2]

The NDR as outlined by the strategy and tactics of the ANC seeks to achieve this developmental state and social democracy. It views the black African working class and the black middle strata as the motive force of the NDR.

The achievement of democracy in 1994 saw the dramatic emergence of the black capitalist group. This group was the direct product of democratic change and direct creation of the NDR. The question that arises is somehow difficult to answer, lest we be labelled anti-NDR. Nonetheless, if the ANC seeks to create an equal and caring society, how does it simultaneously create a black capitalist group that shall exploit the very same working class it views as the motive force of the revolution?

The rise of this black capitalist group is dependent in part on co-operation with elements of established white capital; they are susceptible to co-option into serving its interest and thus developing in comprador bourgeois. Because their advancement is dependent on varierity of interventions and as with all private capital, on opportunities provided by the ANC led state, they constantly use corrupt means to advance their personal interest, and thus developing into a parasitic bureaucratic bourgeois.

The scale of the wealth of the ANC created oligarchs is in direct contrast to the founding principles of the freedom charter and the class position of the majority of its members. 16% of the post-polokwane NEC have been convicted of post-Apartheid crimes. A further 13% have the dark cloud of fraud and corruption scandals hanging over them and 3% of them have had run-ins with the law. In total, 33% of the 88 members of the NEC have been involved in one scandal or another involving fraud, corruption and maladministration .

There are some for whom the post-Apartheid South Africa has become a profitable gold mine, Literaly. Some NEC members are no longer active in parliamentary politics, but their connections to the corridors of power have certainly allowed them a life style and access to wealth unheard of by many South Africans.

Are these the creation of the Mbeki era, as we were made to believe Pre-Polokwane?

There is a well-known saying which says that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Closer examnation of the current ANC NEC reveals many similarities to the previous NEC that was a focus point for public disgust, because of the lavish lives it lead. This NEC is composed of people who have bussines interest as far as reaching as the international arms trade, uranium and platinum mining, the oil and shipping trade, international finance and recently the lucrative stadium developments.

However the reader might say "but the ANC is not the NEC"... well, examnation of the current political climate revelas that contituancies usually have little power compared to the upper levels of power. What happens on the ground is not what is stipulated in the constitution, the contituancy has "handlers" who control and manage it. These "handlers" usually receive rewards from the upper levels of power for delivering their contituancy.


The ANC in this epoch is faced with three options in its quest to survive dying a slow death; it can either act as a party of the present, anelectoral machine blinded by short-term interest, satisfied with current social reality or merely give stewardship to its sustenance. Or it can become a party of the future, using political power and harnessing the organisational and intellectual resources of society to attain the vision of a democratic society. Or it can become both, because the changing and slippery present requires creativity in regard to the above challenges - not least in the development program of the broad liberation movement and the organisational character of the ANC. If the ANC is going to spend a lot of time admiring its own foot work, it risks forgetting where it has been trying to go for the past decades. If it simply stares at future goals, it is going to lose its balance right here in the present.

The ANC must not conduct itself like an electoral party, and it must not be like a shapeless jelly fish with an ideological form that is fashioned hither and thither by the multiple contradictory forces of sea-waves. 


There is no use in mincing matters. No milksop words can hide the ugly fact that the present South Africa is mainly divided into two great antagonist classes - into capitalist, the owners of all the means for the employment of labour, on one side we have the working men, the owners of nothing but their own working power. The produce of the latter has to be divided between both classes and it is this division about which the struggle is constantly going on. Each class tries to get as large a share as possible; and it is the most
curious aspect of this struggle that the working class, while fighting to obtain a share of its own produce, is often accused of robbing the capitalist.

The struggle between two great classes of society necessarily becomes a political struggle. In a political struggle of class against class, organization is the most important weapon, hence the need for a strong vanguard party that does not limit its role to that of a fan club to other organisations. A fan club mobilises supporters for a particular club, but it never benefits from having a great following. Instead it is the club owners and the players that benefit from ticket sales.

After the 1994 democratic break-through, the SACP entered into the struggle against capital with new weapons, by sending men of its own class into parliament. And here, I'm sorry to say, the deployed cadres of the SACP forgot their duty as the advanced guard of the working class. The new weapon has been in their hands for more than 15 years but they scarcely ever unsheathed it. At some point the SACP must wake up and smell the coffee and realise that the MTV has hardly achieved its envisaged goals.

The SACP must not forget that it cannot continue to hold the position it now occupies unless it really marches in the van of the working class. It is not in the nature of the working class to posses the power to send forty of fifty of its members to parliament and yet be satisfied forever to be represented by capitalist.

Nonetheless, the recent public sector strike and the consistent public service delivery protests, are the symptoms that the working class of this country is awakening to the consciousness that it has for sometime been moving on the wrong direction; that the present actions for higher wages and better service delivery, keep it in a vicious cycle out of which there is no issue. It is not the lowness of wages and lack of service delivery that forms the fundamental evil, but the capitalist system itself.


Only a mass Leninist vanguard party that struggles on a democratic-centralist basis is capable of leading the working class to
power. Although this party will start small it must grow to mass size if we want to seize power.The current leaders of the SACP have never been able to, and cannot build such a party due to their character as a petty bourgeoisie and their Stalinist modus operandi . Nor can other organisations like the trade unions, 'social movements' or NGOs replace the need for a vanguard party. However, a genuine Marxist-Leninist vanguard party of the working class will not emerge spontaneously or by proclamation; it needs to be built in the course of the class struggle in the trade unions, in work places and the townships and villages of South Africa.

The vanguard party will emerge and win influence in a vigorous struggle against Stalinism, reformism, opportunism, syndicalism, centrism, anarchism and sectarianism within the working class movement, both nationally and internationally. The vanguard party cannot be a "new" organisation, but should be "new" leadership within the SACP.

Under all circumstances, we are obliged to promote the political independence and unity of the working class and internal democracy within the class organisations.

This vitally includes a struggle for a transitional programme of demands, which must serve as a bridge from the present limited consciousness and organisation of workers, through a series of class battles, to the mass revolutionary conquest of power by the working class.


  • A revolution forsaken or advanced: 2007 Polokwane aftermath. By Sbusiso Maneli
  • ANC Draft Strategy and Tactics