Only Revolution Will Transform South Africa

Challenges to apartheid reveal contradictions in imperialist bourgeoisie

(This is the second part of a two-part article. The first part appears in Amiri Baraka’s book, Daggers and Javelins — ed.)

Amiri Baraka

Contributing editor

The upsurge of protest in the U.S. against racist South Africa and its fascist apartheid regime, comes just after the Reagan election victory. It also follows the announcement that Bishop Desmond Tutu would be the recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

In the U.S. this intensification of opposition to South African oppression and to U.S. government collaboration with it, can be traced obviously to the need by the Democratic Party to move against Reagan at once. They are realizing that if they do not characterize Reagan and company, and the Republican Party, as accomplices to modern slavery, they stand a chance of falling behind the Republicans so far as to become the “permanent” tail of the U.S. bourgeoisie with the Republican sector, (or worse) the “permanent” head. Certainly, the South Africa “card” should have been their ploy throughout the entire presidential campaign. Reagan’s marriage to South African white supremacy was and is his weakest point. Just as the U.S. bourgeoisie’s general collaboration with South Africa is the weakest aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

SouthAfricaBut the Mondale sector of the U.S. bourgeoisie downplayed the South Africa issue and tried to stress the deficit, etc., and in general out-Reagan Reagan. It couldn’t work.

Now, burnt for a second time by 666 (Reagan), the “liberal” sector of the bourgeoisie, in desperation has moved to strike at Reagan’s biggest weakness straight ahead.

What is particularly intriguing at this juncture is the wide open emergence of struggle between different sectors of the international imperialist class and collaboration between others and their petty bourgeoisie messengers.

First, there is a hotly intensifying struggle between the largely British, South African corporate sector and the largely Afrikaans government management class. Ostensibly, this is because the Afrikaans are too slow in bending and reshaping their traditional white supremacy apartheid society so that some neo-colonial compromise (including a state model) can be arrived at and stave off full out revolution.

The English speaking bourgeoisie has been openly critical of South African government repression of black trade unions and their leadership. Tony Bloom, chairman of the Premier Group (one of South Africa’s largest companies) said just after the incarceration of trade union officials and student leaders, “I fear that to continue to ignore the African National Congress (ANC) and its leadership is to follow the same route as the whites took in Rhodesia. They relied on the strength and following of people like Muzorewa and Sithole, when the true seat of political power was outside the border.” (Solidarity News Service, November 20, 1984).

Sunday Times and most English language newspapers supported their corporate sector, going so far as to call Minister of Law and Order, Louis LeGrange, “an unguided missile.”

The revolutionary struggle of Black people has led to an open split in South African and U.S. ruling circles.

With this contradiction “suddenly” very open and intense, it is clear that not only is there deep and terminal unrest in South African society, but that the white apartheid rulers have now split into openly opposing factions. (In some aspects a still persisting reflection of the 19th century Boer War). The context of this open eruption of struggle within the whole South African ruling class was a general strike on November 5-6, 1984, in Transvaal and the subsequent firing of over 6,500 workers who participated in the “highly successful stay away” plus the detention of trade union leaders.

Not only did the English-speaking corporate sector protest that the firings were ordered by the South African government, in defiance of their own attempts to reach some understanding with union leaders, one corporate leader was quoted, “The government tells us they have given us the machinery to negotiate with the trade unions — then they stepped in and detained the very people we are negotiating with.” The English corporate sector and their mass media and some of their more liberal professional organizations and think tanks have kept up a more or less steady harassment of the Afrikaans state management leadership.  Challenging their definition of leadership, in general raising as more stable than apartheid, the question of class collaboration with blacks who “reflect the support of the majority.”

The feeler about Nelson Mandela’s release “if he renounced violence” was actually initially put out by the “liberal” South African Institute of Race ‘Relations.  After Ted Kennedy’s important visit to South Africa, this proposal was first leaked, then formally put forward by the Boers as well. (On February 10, it was announced that ANC leader Mandela had rejected the proposal — ed.)

The Tutu (King) card

Bishop Desmond Tutu’s Nobel Prize comes obviously because of this same sharp ideological struggle among the big South African bourgeoisie. It is “John Bull” forcing the Boer sector’s hand, raising an alternative path to South African society; and that formally and openly before the whole world.

In this respect it is much the same as when this same sector of the international imperialist class extended the same prize in 1964 to Martin Luther King.

It was not only an attempt to “cover” a whole more militant sector of the leadership of the Black Liberation Movement (e.g., Malcolm X, etc.), but to coopt King and the black masses as well.

The Tutu card is played by this same international imperialist class for the same reasons. To cover the more militant sector of the movement and to coopt other sectors. But both Tutu’s Nobel and the visit of Ted Kennedy and the Mandela offer are part of the same English-speaking corporate initiative which includes the U.S. Democratic Party leadership.

Both the English corporate sector and the Democratic Party leadership sector of the U.S. bourgeoisie know that the old white supremacy approach to world rule is impossible to sustain, makes too many enemies and gives the U.S.S.R. a big stick to club U.S. foreign policy with.

The other context for these developments in South African apartheid society is the fact that the so-called “new constitutional reforms” have failed. These “reforms,” which were designed to include people of mixed blood “coloreds” and Indians in some kind of token structure and ultimately try to deceive the world that even blacks would be allowed into the “new” constitutional structure by means of a “national council” made up of black urban officials and bantustan lackeys, has now openly begun to come apart, even before it could be fully put into place.

The recent general strike and the widespread disorder that followed resulted in officially some 1,800 people detained in one year, more than any year since 1976, not to mention some 2,500 people arrested in one sweep in the black communities themselves, with the army and police combining to raid black townships.

These raids were caused by a series of uprisings at work places, in schools (including school boycotts), on black community streets, and not only panicked the Boers but intimidated black lackeys and collaborators. (This is why the South African ambassador in his Nightline appearance emphasized that no “progress can be made while ‘bad’ blacks were killing ‘good’ blacks.”)

For instance, the November 20 Solidarity News bulletin reports that ” . . . only four of the 22 black town councils affected by the current uprisings are still functioning.  The new system of black local authorities which was to form the basis of black inclusion within the new constitutional structure, has been virtually wiped out.”

The new constitutional structure was to be one basis for the recovery of South African economy, which like the majority of industrial capitalist countries is going through an economic crisis, essentially because world imperialism is a single international system.  The “new period of growth” which is supposed to follow a return to “normalcy” has not come and will not come with the present deepening political crisis in South Africa. The English corporate sector’s desire for economic stability was undermined by the arrest of the very trade union officials they were in negotiation with to stop the general strike.  The mass workers firings just exacerbated an already untenable situation.

The Tutu Nobel and Kennedy’s visit (particularly to Winnie Mandela) are open challenges to the Boer government management sector by the corporations. The continuous sharpening of the armed struggle by ANC, now openly within the urban centers of the fascist society, are simply another shattering catalyst for the corporations’ actions.

U.S. bourgeoisie/black petty bourgeoisie

Another important development in part of the overall strategy of the English corporate-Kennedy Democratic sector of the international imperialist class, is the spate of demonstrations, sit-ins at South African consulates, etc., throughout the United States.

Of course these actions are positive and welcome, but we should be aware of why they are happening.  Principal participants in these demonstrations in the United States have been the black petty bourgeoisie linked up to the Democratic Party.  Elected officials, civil rights luminaries and their families. There have also been quite a few of their white counterparts involved.

Lists of the next day’s demonstrators are given to the police and then arrests are made, with an understanding that both the civil disobedience and arrests are symbolic.

The obvious tip that there was intense political struggle within the South African bourgeoisie was a statement denouncing apartheid made by a group of conservative Republican congressmen holding a press conference in Washington, D.C.

In certain ways, these demonstrations by elected officials, and media-visible petty bourgeoisie (and bourgeoisie) occurred just after Tutu’s Nobel Prize.  Again, this was the international signal by this sector of the international imperialist class that they mean to see “change” in South Africa. The Boer government management sector, like the Reagan rightists, are interfering with the other sector’s maximum profits, and running headlong towards the kind of social exacerbation and dislocation that cause revolution.

We must support liberation of South Africa and help fight for the preeminence of the working class.

The recent election of Paul Kirk as chairman of the Democratic National Committee is another sign of increased animation by the Kennedy wing of the bourgeoisie, in light of Reagan’s solid election victory.  Kirk has been closely aligned with Ted Kennedy and labor interests. Probably, the 96% majority blacks gave the Democrats which was nevertheless concomitant with their sharp criticism of Mondale’s conservatism and Mondale’s sound defeat even though he tried to out-Reagan Reagan, have probably raised the Kennedy sector’s stock in the Democratic Party. Though the Reagan influence has resulted in black Mayor Richard Hatcher’s defeat for a usually “reserved-for-black” vice-chairmanship.

What is clear is that even as 666 (Reagan) moves even more sharply to the right (check out his new national budget), contradictory forces, whatever their catalyst, are also moving.  The left must also step up our attack not only on Fuhrer Reagan, but on the white supremacy forces that he heads internationally.

We must take the play away from the international imperialists and their black petty bourgeois and bourgeois representatives by raising more militant slogans about the liberation of South Africa, even within the broad united front that is the correct form of resistance and struggle against South African white supremacy.

National liberation struggles are democratic revolutions, and in the main have been led, in the third world, by united fronts, usually with petty bourgeois leadership. But in our struggle to build a working class revolutionary party in the United States, we must be involved with international struggles like struggling against South African apartheid.  But we must put out correct Marxist-Leninist lines and not tail the petty bourgeoisie, whatever their nationality! The liberation of South Africa can only come with revolution. E.g., Bishop Tutu is an outspoken anti-communist. He said, in one interview, “Communism and Apartheid are the same thing.”

So that we must not only support the liberation of South Africa, but make the correct analysis of class forces involved in that struggle, supporting the united front in South Africa against apartheid, and at the same time helping to fight for the preeminence of the working class within that anti-apartheid united front. Not only is this correct proletarian internationalism, but South Africa is a situation that the most revolutionary sector of the working class and oppressed people must seize to further their own revolutionary democratic struggle, without which all talk of socialism is abstract and uninspired by the real struggles of the majority of people in the world.  Our support for revolution and ultimately socialism in South Africa are part and parcel of the worldwide united front against imperialism, just as is our own struggle to build a revolutionary party and make revolution in the U.S.