Socialist Democracy

Statement on the Future Role of the APDUSA adopted at its National Conference April 1995

The national elections of April 1994 signaled the end of the iniquitous system of White baasskap under which generationsof Blacks were forced to suffer the bitter injustices of political rightlessness and racial oppression. Now the racially discriminating laws of the past have been scrapped and all citizens enjoy the same political rights, irrespective of race colour or creed. Yet these newly gained political rights have not been accompanied by any fundamental change in the social fabric which lay at the base of the old system of white baasskap. Safeguarded by the terms of the negotiated political settlement, the economically privileged position of the white property- owning minority remains untouched, while millions upon millions of blacks continue to languish in miserable conditions of poverty, disease, homelessness and socio-economic deprivation.

The new political leadership that now governs the country is drawn both from the ranks of those who formerly enjoyed the fruits of the nation in exclusivity – the white minority, as well as from the black petty bourgeois class which now has a share in the spoils. It is a leadership that looks firmly towards the capitalist system for a solution to its problems and that of the nation. But capitalism is a system that has evolved to entrench control of the means of production of wealth and its distribution in the hands of a minority property owning bourgeois class. It is a system in which production takes place, not according to the needs of all members of society, but for the profit and enrichment of these property owners, at the expense of those in their employ – the exploited masses who produce this wealth with their labour.

Indeed, the constitution, which prescribes the manner in which these political leaders may govern, embodies those principles which express the prerequisites for the viability of capitalism in South Africa. Most important of these is the entrenchment of existing property owning rights whereby a small minority owns 87% of the land together with the farms mines and factories on that land . This, in the face of millions of dispossessed peasants and propertyless workers who are thereby denied access to the land and the wealth of the nation. Alongside this we find the entrenchment of multi-nationalism and the outmoded, undemocratic institutions of chieftainship, tribal law and administration. This not only serves to divide people engaged in a common struggle for justice and equality but also cuts across the democratic rights of the majority. These constitutional principles were negotiated behind the backs of the people by the selfsame political leaders who now sit in power.

These rulers of the nation do not represent the people. They have abdicated control over the production and distribution of wealth for the equal benefit of all citizens, to the property owning bourgeois class whose actions are governed by the motives of profit, narrow self- interest and greed, at the expense of the majority. It is for this reason that the much vaunted Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) will bring no tangible relief to the people. Its lofty promises will remain in the realm of unrealisable ideals.

The RDP depends firstly on rebuilding the economy of the country which the rule of Afrikaner nationalism has left in tatters. Since we are told that it must be a capitalist free market economy, the new government has adopted the policy of attracting capitalist foreign investment to South Africa. This it is doing by offering imperialist businesses juicy opportunities to make huge profits by investing their money here. They are being guaranteed special, low tax rates and a “stable workforce”, which means that the right of workers to struggle for any improvement in their conditions of employment must be kerbed.

They are also offered the opportunity to pay lower wages than they would have to pay elsewhere. On top of this they are being offered the right to take their profits out of the country. Secondly, “rebuilding the economy” also means that the bosses of local industry must be helped to produce goods that are cheap enough to sell on the international market. Again, cheap goods means lower wages for the workers and bigger profits for the bosses.

The government has effectively handed over the responsibility of building houses for the homeless millions to the large building companies, building societies and banks . But these businesses do nothing except for a profit. While they will gladly receive the promised billions of rands for housing from the government, they will not build houses for the millions of unemployed or lowly paid workers who cannot afford the cost of these houses, let alone the profit that is added to the cost by these money grubbers. The RDP depends on these selfsame profit seekers to provide jobs for the millions of unemployed. But while they seek to produce cheap and competitively priced goods, to match their rivals in the world market, they are compelled to purchase and employ the latest production technologies. Everyone knows that with the newest machinery fewer workers are needed to produce more goods, more cheaply. The need to employ fewer workers than before will therefore only add to the problem of unemployment instead of solving it. In a similar manner the RDP depends on an economy based on strong and profitable privately owned businesses to provide money for education and health services for the poverty stricken masses. But these businesses have no interest in looking after the health and educational needs of anyone except those whom they need to employ in their factories, on their farms and mines. The profits that they earn by legal right will be used for their selfish interests alone.

Clearly, the new political order under which we now live does not serve the interests of the labouring masses who are the majority. It serves the interests of imperialist and local bosses of finance, industry, mining and farming. The only ones who will receive any new benefits under this scheme of things are those aspiring middle-class blacks who are prepared to help this ruling class to protect their wealth and privileges. They have deserted the struggle of the people for the sake of a few crumbs from the master’s table.

The millions of workers and peasants have nothing to look forward to but continued suffering under the ravages of oppression and economic exploitation. In the face of this bleak future they find that they have no means to exercise any control over these new political leaders who have been voted into power and government of the nation.

There is now no time to rest on the gains of the past, in the hope that they are enough to solve the problems of the nation. The new social, political and legal institutions which entrench and protect this unjust state of affairs are the immediate obstacles which block the path of progress towards a fundamental solution to the problems of the nation, whereby all members of our society shall be enabled to contribute freely in the creation of wealth and to equally and justly share the fruits of their labour. The removal of these obstacles is the first task confronting the people in their ongoing struggle for liberation. But the struggle to remove these obstacles must go hand in hand with the task of laying the foundations of a new and just society; a society which truly serves the interests of the labouring masses who produce the wealth of the nation with their labour; a society in which people can exercise the democratic right of control over their own destiny in every sense and not just by making a cross on a piece of paper once every five years.

In this struggle we must therefore be governed by the following objectives:

  • The convening of a democratically elected Constituent Assembly, charged with the task of drawing up a new constitution, governed by the interests of the oppressed and exploited working class and peasantry, based on the demand for full, unfettered political rights for all with majority rule in a unitary state, the removal of all artificially created regional political boundaries, the liquidation of all special minority rights and privileges which militate against the interests of the majority. The Constituent Assembly must have full powers to discharge these duties, untrammelled by any directions and constraints designed to serve self-interested minorities.
  • A resolution of the land question in accordance with the needs of those who work and live off the land. This means the destruction of all existing tribal and feudal relations in the rural areas and the nationalisation of the land, without compensation. A new division of the land and its management, which excludes forced collectivisation, the payment of rent and the expropriation of small peasant farmers, must be undertaken by committees that are democratically elected by and answerable to the people.
  • The expropriation of all major industries, banks and institutions of credit and their management by the state and representatives of the workers in the interests of the population as a whole.
  • The revision of labour legislation for the liquidation of all discrimination against the worker.This also means:
    • The right to work, which must be implemented both via the institution of necessary adjustments to the length of the working week to provide employment for all, without a reduction in wages, as well as by the institution of a progressive public works program with the full representation of the unemployed in its management.
    • The fixing of a living minimum wage as well as a sliding scale to compensate for any price increases.
    • The unconditional right to strike which includes the right of occupation of the workplace.
  • The promotion of the self-organisation and united independent struggle of the labouring masses who produce the wealth of the country and carry it on their backs.This means:
    • The promotion of independent and democratic worker committees and unions which arise from the ranks of the workers themselves, whether employed or unemployed.
    • The removal of all forms of bureaucratic control in the trade union movement and the promotion of workers power.
    • The promotion of worker militias as a means of defence in industrial action against armed attacks of the police and army at the instance of the bosses.
    • The rebuilding of organisations of the people such as civics, parent/teacher/student associations and peasant committees.
    • The building of unity through the creation of local unity forums which embrace and coordinate the organisations of the people.
    • The need to build the greatest ideological and organisational unity between the workers in the urban centres and the peasants in the rural areas. While the workers must be made aware of the problems of the landless, the peasantry must learn that it is only under the leadership of the working class that the land question can be solved.
  • The elected representatives of the people, at organisational level or in the local, regional or national political institutions of state, must be fully accountable to those who elect them and they must be fully bound by the demands and aspirations of the working class and its allies, the landless peasantry.

These are the minimum demands of the time which must guide APDUSA in all of its activities. These are the objectives which must be carried across to the people in every possible manner. In this task we must make full use of the gains of the past, which include the democratic right to enter and act in the political institutions of state, not to collaborate in the entrenchment of prevailing injustices, but to expose them with all possible vigour and to raise the fundamental demands of the people, in full recognition of the fact that there can be no progress to liberation without the organisation and unity of those millions who remain oppressed and exploited. It is our task to give flesh and body to that clause in our constitution which states:

The democratic demands and aspirations of the oppressed workers and peasants shall be paramount in the orientation of the APDUSA in both its short term and long term objectives.