1990s >> 1994 >> no-1076-april-1994

Editorial: The Future for South Africa

The Socialist Party has always strongly supported struggle against class and racial oppression in South Africa. We welcome the trend towards democratization of the political process in that country. It is an important step on the road towards genuine liberation for the great majority.

At the same time, however, we are all too aware of the risk of political complacency, born of euphoria. More than ever, now is the time for questioning, for a frank and honest debate about the future. The cultivation of illusions today will sow the seeds of disillusionment tomorrow. In a country where racism and reaction are still in the wings, the abolition of apartheid notwithstanding, this is a risk fraught with danger.

So there is nothing to be lost by constructive and tolerant criticism, and much to be gained. Mistakes made now could prove difficult, if not impossible, to undo later.

There are still some on the left in South Africa who cling to the illusions of a now discredited Leninist ideology. At the time of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the Socialist Party stood virtually alone in declaring its opposition to the Bolsheviks on genuinely Marxist grounds.

We predicted then that that revolution would usher in, not socialist emancipation, but the brutal dictatorship of a state-run capitalism. Though scorned at the time for sticking to our principles, rather than courting popularity for its own sake, events since have thoroughly vindicated what we said then.

On the other hand, the collapse of the state-capitalist model of economic development has prompted many in the liberation movement to openly embrace the market. But the politics of so-called “economic realism” are similarly doomed to failure.

Attempts to “woo big business”, to make common cause between the interests of capital and those of labour are bound to founder on the reality of class struggle. This should be particularly obvious in a country like South Africa.

The legacy of massive structural inequality cannot begin to be tackled through the market mechanism which works to concentrate wealth in fewer hands, be these black or white. Between the hammer of the state and the anvil of the market, the working class will continue to suffer rampant exploitation and grinding poverty.

It does not have to be like this. There is an alternative which, in fact, has far more in common with the best traditions of African communalism, and which looks beyond the state or the market for the real emancipation of the great majority.

There can be no national solution to the struggles of workers in South Africa because capitalism is itself international. Their struggles are closely linked to the struggles of workers here in Britain and elsewhere; our fate is bound up with theirs.

The Socialist Party therefore urges our fellow workers in South Africa to seriously consider the socialist alternative.

What we seek cannot be brought about by putting our trust in leaders, however enlightened; it must arise from the self-organization of ordinary people, conscious of that alternative, and determined to make it a reality. Together, we can make it a reality. In so doing, we will have nothing to lose but our chains; we have a world to win.

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