Draft thesis on the national and colonial question with respect to Africa (flti) 22. 07. 09

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Draft thesis on the national and colonial question with respect to Africa (FLTI) 22.07.09

  1. Our starting point is the Thesis on the national and colonial question as adopted by the second congress of the III International in 1920, which in essence is still valid today. Thus our basis is ‘Under the pretence of the equality of the human person in general, bourgeois democracy proclaims the formal legal equality of the proprietor and the proletarian, of the exploiter and the exploited, and thus deceives the oppressed classes in the highest degree. The idea of equality, which is itself a reflection of the relations of commodity production, is transformed by the bourgeoisie, under the pretext of the absolute equality of the human person, into a tool in the struggle against the abolition of classes. The true significance of the demand of equality lies only in the demand for the abolition of classes.’ Further, ‘the national and colonial question must be based mainly on the union of the workers and toiling masses of all nations and countries in the common revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the landlords and of the bourgeoisie. For only such a union can secure victory over capitalism, without which the destruction of national oppression and inequality is impossible.

This means that in the first instance that the process of ‘decolonisation’ in Africa, as it was not carried out by the working class in power, maintained slave capitalist relations. This is why the ‘neo-colonial’ regimes were bonapartist regimes and at times fascist dictatorships. As Marx said, the new relations are choked by the old- this is especially true of the ‘decolonisation’ process in the period of imperialist decay. In other words, in the epoch of imperialist decay, it is impossible to install ‘free capitalist’ relations in the colonial world, and what is possible, under capitalism, is only the continuation of slave capitalist relations in another form .

We acknowledge that today our programmatic method involves re-establishing continuity among the Trotskyists around the world, the thread which has been broken by Stalinism and imperialism. We re-affirm that a revolutionary International centre cannot form its programme on Africa without the involvement of the African Trotskyists and the Trotskyists in Africa cannot conquer its programme without a revolutionary international centre.

Trotsky’s writings on the ‘black’ republic in the 1930’s cannot be directly applied today, as conditions have changed, although his method is still valid. In the 1930’s all the countries in Africa were direct colonies. The call for a ‘black’ workers’ republic is not only to dispute/contest slave capitalist relations but to give direction as to which social force (the working class), is the leader of the revolution.

The working class was mature enough in the 1930’s to seize power. Even at the end of the second world imperialist war, this was the case, when Stalinism and imperialism formed a partnership to defeat/contain the national liberation struggles. The slogan for a ‘black’ republic needs to be adjusted to be a ‘black’ workers and poor peasants republics, socialist, to counter the bourgeois black republic that Stalinism proposed as a first stage towards a workers republic, and their methods of popular fronts and guerillaism (applied in Africa and South America). The conditions were ripe in the post 1945 period in Southern Africa and the Middle East for the working class to take power. The imperialist deal with Stalinism was to impose a fascistic regime, creating the artificial state of Israel as well as the National Party regime in South Africa in 1948. This was to contain and defeat the working class revolution in the Middle east and Southern Africa respectively.

In ‘Israel’ and South Africa, the creation of a labour aristocracy was necessary to act as imperialism’s shock troops in the region. Out of this arises our slogan for the Socialist, United states of the Middle east and the Socialist United states of Southern Africa. In the case of Africa, this is part of our perspective for a Soviet Africa. We still maintain that the working class is mature enough to lead the revolution for Socialism.

We stand not only for the defeat of the Israeli and SA army, but also the defeat of the imperialist armies in the Middle East and Africa. Today the Israeli army acts as the bastion of imperialism in the Middle East while the SA army acts as the proxy force of US imperialism (one could say, as one of the military wings of JP Morgan Chase in Africa). The revolution in Africa and the Middle east is thus inseparably linked to the struggle of the working class in the imperialist centres to overthrow their own regimes to set up the dictatorship of the working class.

Our conception is for the setting up of sections in Africa, the Middle east, in Latin America, in Australasia, in the imperialist centres, as part of a single revolutionary International. Our conception of a Soviet Africa thus fundamentally different from the Pan-Africanists, who propose national ‘socialist’ regimes in Africa, separated from the struggle against world imperialism. A strategy that does not fight world imperialism, is one that seeks to become the local bourgeois agent for imperialism, under the rhetoric of African socialism.

  1. The development of capitalism came to Africa relatively later than elsewhere in the world. Capitalism developed in the destructive period of imperialist decay, destroying the developing nations and instituting slave capitalist relations which were much worse than in the pre-capitalist period. The massive destruction wrought on the African masses through the slave trade impacted on the development of Africa. Before the slave trade by the colonial powers in Africa, hunger and starvation was virtually unknown except for naturally occurring droughts and famines. Today in the epoch of imperialist decay, in Africa we have the highest advances of technology side by side with structural mass starvation and hunger. Imperialism in Africa today has grown out of slave relations, basing itself on this super-exploitation and is thus incapable of ending the remnants of slavery in Africa and around the world. The world capitalist imperialist system is thus the main factor which maintains slave capitalist (super-exploitative) relations in Africa. Further, imperialism actively perpetuates various forms of pre-capitalist society, such as tribal and ethnic divisions, as supporting mechanisms of domination. Imperialism in Africa, suppresses the development of an indigenous bourgeoisie and middle classes and has need of only a small section to implement its domination of the masses. This local bourgeoisie has no independent existence from imperialism, acts as its administrator of imperialist private property and acts against the masses’ striving for their democratic demands. The task of fighting for the fulfilment of the democratic programme thus cannot be placed in the hands of the local bourgeoisie or even the petti bourgeoisie. Imperialism is incapable of granting or allowing even any independent national capitalist states. The struggle for real national independence in Africa can only take the form of an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle to end once and for all the world capitalist system; this means that the right of nations to self-determination in Africa, the restoration of the productive forces destroyed by imperialism, the restoration of truly independent nations in Africa, can only be achieved through the leadership of the working class and thus of the working class taking power. This struggle for the working class to take power on national terrain cannot stop at this stage but has to continue, as part of an uninterrupted process, of expanding the revolution beyond national boundaries, beyond Africa, and into the imperialist heartlands.

  1. The 1885 Berlin conference divided up Africa among the most advanced capitalist powers, using the creation of a white bureaucracy and aristocracy to act as a social force of domination. Artificial ‘nations’ such as ‘zulu’, ‘xhosa’ were created by imperialism as a means to divide the working class, thereby facilitating its domination. We do not recognise any single border in Africa as these have been imposed by imperialism; The 1899-1902 Anglo Boer war was described by Lenin (in his work on imperialism- the final stage of capitalism) as one of the signs that imperialism has divided up the entire world among themselves and that the period of definitive decay, war, revolutions and counter-revolutions had started (capitalism could only expand from then on, by inter-imperialist clashes). Lenin spoke in general of a revolutionary bourgeois democratic dictatorship carried out by an independent class policy of the proletariat. In Lenin’s April thesis in 1917, he clarified that the democratic tasks such as peace and land could only be achieved by the working class taking power. Lenin later clarified further, that whoever placed the tasks of completing the democratic tasks in the hands of the middle class or native bourgeoisie (the so called ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’), has gone over to the side of the counter-revolution. The April thesis thus coincided in essence with the view of Trotsky as expressed in his Permanent Revolution, which explained that in this period of imperialist decay, in the colonies, the only way for the democratic tasks to be fulfilled was through the working class taking power. This meant that only the independent organization of the working class could lead the struggle for national independence and agrarian revolution to its conclusion. Trotsky links the struggle to free the colonial slaves with the fight for a Soviet England, that the anti-colonial struggle for a soviet South Africa and that for Soviet England are processes that are dependent on each other, which would open up a period of proletarian mutual co-operation. Generalizing this, the struggle to freedom from colonial and now remnants of slave capitalist relations, is linked to the fight for Soviet USA, Soviet France, Soviet England, Soviet Germany and Soviet Japan. These processes for a Soviet Africa is thus dependent on the struggle for the Soviet federation of the Americas, the European soviet federation, the soviet federation in Australasia.

  2. The rise of Stalinism (then Castrism, Maoism, Titoism) usurping the authority of the October Russian revolution and the workers’ state, before the second world imperialist war, during and after, with its policy of co-existence with imperialism, meant the direct betrayal of all national struggles for liberation. The result of this treacherous policy has directly led to conditions in Africa that is worse today than before capitalism set foot there. Various factors combined to imperialism deciding to keep Africa mainly as a base for exporting unprocessed, raw materials (these included that imperialism and Stalinism drew the lessons from the Russian 1917 revolution and the second imperialist world war, that industrialization increases the prospects of revolution against them; there was also the need to buy off the European, Japanese and North American working class, which forced maintaining high levels of industrialization, at the expense of being subsidized by brutal super-exploitation in Africa- also it is not for nothing that Cuba was maintained by the Russian bureaucracy, primarily as an exporter of sugar; The masses in Africa were still resisting colonization up to the last moments of the 1800’s; imperialism realised that if such a combative mass were greatly industrialised, the existence of imperialism-capitalism itself would be placed in jeopardy; indeed also the life of the Soviet bureaucracy, and later the castrist bureaucracy, would also be placed in danger by the existence of a workers’ state in any part of Africa)

By 1928, the policy of the Executive committee of the Communist International, ECCI, on their discussion on South Africa was for ‘independent native South African republic as a stage towards a workers’ and peasants’ republic, with full equal rights for all races, black, coloured and white’. They conclude that the ‘black peasantry constitutes the basic moving force of the revolution’; further, the ECCI, argued that ‘The Party should pay particular attention to the embryonic national organisations among the natives, such as the African National Congress. The Party, while retaining its full independence, should participate in these organisations… Our aim should be to transform the African National Congress into a fighting nationalist revolutionary organisation against the white bourgeoisie and the British imperialists.’ Thus by 1928 stalinism was placing the leadership of the anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist struggle in the hands of the local petti bourgeoisie and sacrificing working class independence for the building of multi-class national liberation movements. The task of the fight against imperialism was also separated from the international terrain onto national terrain through a national ‘native republic’ led by the local petti-bourgeoisie, as a stage towards a workers and peasants republic. Separation of the struggle for national liberation from the international terrain meant curtailing the fight against imperialism and prepared the way for a local petti bourgeosie to act as the local agent of imperialism.

Trotsky’s response to the Workers Party Thesis on South Africa was to counterpose the permanent revolution to the Stalinist 2-stage revolution: In other words he posed the ‘black’ republic as a form centred on the seizing of the land from the rich white landowners and the expropriation of imperialist assets, as a stage that would grow in an uninterrupted manner to a Soviet South Africa. While there is no longer a peasantry in South Africa, this thesis still argues that trotsky’s conception of the permanent revolution in SA is still relevant: Today the essence of slave capitalist relations still exist a) the land is still in the hands of the rich white capitalist farmers, while the majority of the population is starving; b)slave-like conditions still exist for the majority of black people, such as low wages, living in separate ghettoes, massively high unemployment, widespread homelessness and lack of adequate services, black women suffer the highest unemployment, the lowest wages ; c) imperialism imposed conditions of safeguarding private property (the rule of the imperialist monopolies) as a pre-condition of any negotiated settlement); d) the provinces are largely along the lines of the Bantustans/reserves of cheap labour; e) in the countries surrounding South Africa (and across Africa) there is still a sizeable peasantry. The thesis does not force or promote a separation of nations but guarantees that right to any groups of workers and poor peasants (not the bourgeois or petti bourgeoisie) who feel themselves a nation. The SA revolution cannot be seen as separate from the revolution in the rest of Africa, and even less as being separate from the revolution in the imperialist centres.

After the second world imperialist war, this policy of support for the native petti-bourgeoisie continued and formed the basis of Pan Africanism, which Stalinism actively promoted across Africa. This was the chief ideological basis which Stalinism used to neutralise and sabotage the development of independent working class struggles from the leadership of the struggle for national liberation. Stalinism’s policy took the form of armed parties posing as the left wing of the national liberation movements, on their programme of setting into power an indigenous bourgeoisie, to prevent the national liberation movements from overthrowing or expelling imperialism.

Imperialism’s policy at Yalta and Potsdam led to in 1948 the creation of the ‘apartheid’ government in SA and the state of Israel, which was part of their strategy to contain and smash the rising anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist sentiment in the working class in the Middle east and in Southern Africa.

Castrism, through Che Guevara and later the Cuban army, continued this Stalinist policy in Africa, as a proxy force, in exchange for oil and other support from Moscow. Che Guevara was in the DRC at the time of there being 3 million mineworkers but instead of fighting for another Cuba in Africa, he gave support to the nationalist movements, on the programme of putting into power an indigenous bourgeoisie, and failed to build or promote an independent working class movement. When 40 000 Cuban troops, together with the Angolan army defeated the SA army at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola by March 1988 they failed to advance beyond the Namibian border. This was at a time of the height of the uprising of the working class in South Africa against the state. The Stalinist policy promoted the bourgeois nationalist Swapo to accept a negotiated settlement in Namibia that kept imperialist interests intact.

On an international scale the fake trotskyist left capitulated to Stalinism by supporting the Stalinist and maoist regimes of Zanu-PF, Frelimo, MPLA, Swapo, that were local agencies of imperialist control in Africa.

The unprincipled re-unification of the Fourth International in 1963, around only the defence of Cuba, opened that way for the fake trotskyists, on a world scale, usurping the revolutionary programmatic gains of the Fourth International, to provide a left cover to Castrism, as it betrayed and contained the revolutionary uprisings in Latin America and in Africa. The revolutionary uprisings in the imperialist centres in 1968-74 directly impacted in spurring the masses in Africa, once more to the path of revolution. The revolution in Portugal in 1975, strangled by Stalinism, was also followed by strangling of the revolution in Angola and Mozambique by Stalinism. Side by side with the Stalinist MPLA regime in Angola, the oil enclave was left in the hands of US imperialism, while independent communist groups were slaughtered by Stalinism in Angola.

In Southern Africa, the fake trotskyist left (Marxist Workers Tendency, Socialist Group, Comrades for workers government, Workers International league- SA, International socialists) all capitulated to stalinism by entering or supporting the ANC in the 1994 elections. The IS tendency entered and supported a bourgeois popular front in Zimbabwe, and failed to maintain an independent working class policy and capitulated to the Stalinist national vision of the socialist revolution.

Thus, on a world scale and in Africa, the fake trotskyists played a major role in containing the revolutionary masses and in holding back the masses from overthrowing capitalism-imperialism in Africa.

  1. Trotsky, in his letter of 20 April 1935 to the South African Workers’ Party, described South Africa, after 1910, as being a slave colony of British imperialism. The establishment of Anglo American in the 1920’s reflected the rise to world dominance of US imperialism. JP Morgan Chase, through Anglo American, today controls a massive part of the SA and African economy and maintains what is essentially slave capitalist relations there.

The 1968-74 uprisings in the imperialist centres once more impelled the independent workers movement to rise in South Africa; uprisings increased in depth from the 1973 Durban strikes, general strikes in 1976, student and worker uprisings in 1976 and 1980, the starting of independent worker formations from the start of the 1980’s to the mass uprising from 1985 to 1989, where capitalist imperialist relations were shaken to their foundation and a pre-revolutionary situation existed. Slave capitalist relations were being shaken to their foundation and imperialism was at risk of losing everything.

Under these conditions Stalinism promoted a negotiated settlement between the petti bourgeois nationalists of the ANC and the (bourgeois and petti bourgeois) Afrikaner nationalists of the NP, from as far back as 1985, in order to defeat the revolution. Leading up to 1994, the SACP through Joe Slovo promoted the ‘sunset’ clauses which agreed to keep the state apparatus intact for 5 years after 1994, as part of the negotiated settlement. Imperialism imposed 14 conditions, including the protection of private property (imperialist assets) as a precondition to negotiations. The popular front regime set up in 1994 thus had a bonapartist character, to continue slave capitalist relations in another form. Under the guise of a democratic regime, and a bourgeois black republic, the ANC popular front became the agency for maintaining super-exploitative relations on the working class, not only in South Africa but across all of sub-Saharan Africa. SA troops are stationed across sub-Saharan Africa as a primary means to protect imperialist operations. The attacks on the working class and poor peasants in Africa all follow from the Stalinist policy of placing the leadership of the struggle for democratic demands in the hands of a section of the black petti bourgeoisie. In 1995 the LIT-CI had the conception of support for a revolution led by the ANC popular front. Thus they and other fake trotskyists provided a left cover for capitulation to Stalinism and their policy of containing the masses from overthrowing imperialism.
South Africa became a laboratory for imperialism and they exported this counter-revolutionary regime of the bonapartist popular front to South America , to Bolivia, to Venezuela and now it takes shape in the form of the Obama figurehead. All along the fake trotskyists continued to provide a left cover for the new policy of imperialism, supporting Mandela, Morales, Chavez and now, Obama.

  1. While US imperialism has set up Africom as a means to advance direct military control over the masses in Africa, setbacks such as their military defeat in Somalia and their invasion of Iraq, makes it difficult for them to advance their plans of direct military control, despite having military bases in Botswana and elsewhere in Africa. It is equally difficult for French imperialism to once again maintain direct military control, despite the presence of several military bases across Africa. The direct agent of military control by imperialism is the African Union. The comprador bourgeoisie in Africa are the direct agents of imperialism in Africa, of holding back the right of nations to self-determination, and thus they are direct agents of keeping the African masses in permanent hunger and starvation. The DRC has enough hydroelectricity to power the entire African continent, yet the power station is kept in shambles, a war is waged on the people since 1996 (killing over 4 million people); Angola has soil so fertile, they can produce enough food for all of Africa; yet hunger, starvation, death, disease, unemployment, stalks most of Africa. Zimbabwe used to be able to feed millions across Africa, before their food production was destroyed by imperialism, thanks to their puppet Mugabe, and ably assisted by North Korean troops (1983-1984). The comprador bourgeoisie are the agents of keeping Africa as a primary exporter of minerals, cheap labour and raw materials (gold, diamonds and coltan for manufacturing the highest advances of modern technology like laptops, mp3 etc) for the imperialist centres and for its great maquila in China. This continuation of slave-like relations is the direct result of the Stalinist policy on Africa. The depth of imperialism’s crisis, however forces them to establish the headquarters of Africom in Ghana, as a precursor to more direct military control over the masses in Africa.

  1. To end imperialist domination and the slave-like capitalist relations in Africa, we call for a federation of ‘black’ workers’ and poor peasants, socialist, republics, (‘black’ in that the proportion in the new state will reflect the predominant majority of the population and has nothing in common with the Stalinist policy of ‘black economic empowerment’ which is a means for the black petti bourgeois to be bought off by becoming part of the capitalist system and becoming the new agents to ensure the continuation of slave-like capitalist relations), that has as its centre to seizing of all commercial farms (of the rich, white farmers and the new black middle class), the expropriation of all imperialist assets, including all the mines and banks, and for them to be placed under working class control; (if the entire working class, irrespective of skin colour, is to eat, to have clothes, housing, water, this is the first task- it is in the interest of the entire working class (‘black’, ‘white’, ‘coloured’,’indian’) to unite for the working class to take power, setting up joint armed workers’ and poor peasant councils of delegates to lead this fight); all the land is to be nationalised and model workers’ collectives set up as a means to, over time, persuade poor peasantry, such as are still remaining and want to continue farming on their own, to join such collectives; to any group of workers and poor peasants that feel themselves a nation there must be the guarantee to separate into their own workers’ and poor peasants socialist republic- this means that any new border, if any, that is set up in Africa is on the basis of mutual agreement by the central of workers and poor peasants councils- this is important to undercut and decisively end the fratricidal and inter-ethnic wars that imperialism encourages up to today- this does not mean that we will recognise any artificial tribal or ethnic group deliberately created by imperialism for the purpose of domination, such as in South Africa ; at the same time we call on our working class brothers and sisters in the imperialist centres to organise themselves to seize power to establish Soviet USA, Soviet England, Soviet France, Soviet Germany, Soviet Japan. Thus will open up an uninterrupted process from the Federation of workers’ and poor peasants’ republics of Africa to advance to a Soviet Africa.

  1. The civil war in the United States between the north and south, freed the black masses from one form of slavery, only to be chained to capitalist slavery. American capitalism was already in decay in that they could not even grant the land to the freed slaves that had been promised to them as this would have meant coming into direct competition with the existing white capitalist farms. At the same time the form of capitalist imperialist relations developing in Africa was also on the basis of changing from direct slavery to slave capitalist relations. The numerous struggles of the black workers over the years did not resolve the question of slave capitalist relations: the black workers participated in the 2 world imperialist wars and when they came back they were still subject to lynchings, oppression and super-exploitation; the ‘civil right’ struggles of the 1950’s and 1960’s resulted in some gains, but with the co-option of the middle class leaders, and the policy of Stalinism to place the anti-imperialist struggle in the hands of the black petti bourgeoisie, slave-like relations remained. The rise of a significant black bourgeoisie and petti bourgeoisie did not end the capitalist slave-like conditions of the black workers. Slave-like capitalist relations in the United States exist as part of imperialist capitalist relations within the country. These slave-like capitalist relations are maintained by brute force by the state. This is why Mumia, an innocent ex-black Panther member, can be kept on death row for many years, falsely accused of killing a policeman; is it why Oscar Grant and many like him have been killed by the state; it is why 1 in 3 black males in the USA have been imprisoned at least once in their lives. The election of Obama does not represent the ending or weakening of slave-like capitalist relations for the US black worker- it provides a cover for the maintaining of such exploitative relations. We would not actively promote any divisions in the working class in the US; we would actively campaign for working class unity, but if a situation arises that a section of the black workers wanted to separate and form their own state within the United States we would support this as it would be a fight against imperialism. From our current understanding of the working class struggle in the United States today, the majority, if not all back workers in the United States would not be in favour of separation, but of a united struggle with other sections of the working class against the capitalist-imperialist class. The way to end slave-like relations in the United States is for the working class to unite to fight for a Soviet USA. This fight would assist the fight of the working class in Africa to end slave-like capitalism on the continent. Liberia represents a caricature of a ‘black’ republic as it is ruled by black petti bourgeoisie, who are themselves tied hand and foot to imperialism.

  1. The restorationist bureaucracy are the direct agents of importing slave-like capitalist relations into Cuba. Workers only earn $18 per month and hunger and starvation rise as capitalist relations become entrenched. We call for a political revolution in Cuba against the restorationist castrist bureaucracy; a political revolution in Cuba is directly linked to the US working class breaking with Obama, as this regime is leading the capitalist restoration in Cuba; a Soviet Cuba is interdependent on the fight for a Soviet USA and a Soviet Latin America. (the reformist left are the main agents of supporting Obama, Castro and the ‘Bolivarian’ regimes in Latin America as a means to contain the revolution of the working class- the exposure of the real role of these reformists opens the path once again to Socialist revolution)

  1. Slave-like capitalist relations still exist in Brazil and the Caribbean for the black working class. We would not promote separation or encourage it, especially as imperialism would want to divide the working class on ethnic and colour lines. Within a semi-colony, the separation of a section of workers and poor peasants into their own state would weaken the anti-imperialist fight and any call for such separation would play into the hands of imperialism. The reformist left in Brazil contain the anger of the masses against the slave relations by channelling it into policies of positive affirmation (or Black economic empowerment), which opens the way for a section of the black middle class to become part of the capitalist system. Slave-like capitalist relations exist in the whole of Latin America. To end slave-like capitalist relations means seizing the commercial farms of the rich white farmers; it would mean expropriating all imperialist assets and placing them under working class control; the fight for a federation of workers’ and poor peasants republics of Latin America is directly linked to the fight for Soviet USA and Soviet France. In this way the workers and poor peasants republics of Latin America grows directly, in an uninterrupted fashion to a United Soviet states of all-America.

  1. In each country where slave-like capitalist relations exist, as well as in the imperialist centres it is our immediate task to set up sections of a revolutionary International, rebuilding/refounding on the basis of the 1938 programme of the Fourth International. For this to occur, means a political combat and exposure of the reformist left, who bow down to Castrism, Stalinism, the Bolivarian bourgeoisie, and the Obama mask. This is the task of the FLTI and we call all working class fighters to answer our call.

The differences between the WIVL position and the rest of the FLTI

What is the essential difference between the FLTI draft thesis and the WIVL extended political committee position: the draft FLTI thesis poses the demand for a ‘black’ workers and poor peasants’ socialist republic as a means to get the masses into motion to break from the Popular front and to expose its collaboration with imperialism.

The WIVL position is as follows:

  1. The word ‘black’ is used by the black bourgeois and middle class as a cover for their incorporation into the capitalist system, gaining privileges as part of the elite and their collaboration with the capitalists; the word ‘black’ is used to blur the class lines to cover the betrayal by the bourgeois nationalists and Stalinists of the working class struggle against capitalism-imperialism. The class divisions among the indigenous masses in Africa has become much greatly entrenched today- there is a significant black bourgeoisie in all countries in Africa, as oppose to the time of Trotsky. The same is true of the United States.

  2. The sub-division of the tribes in Africa are not based on colour but are remnants of pre-capitalist forms that are deliberately maintained and perpetuated by imperialism. Thus a call for a right to separate opens the path for imperialism to divide the working class on ethnic and tribal grounds and thereby weaken the struggle against it; it is not a question as in Russia of a chauvinist white Russia oppressing and subjugating other nations but of imperialism using various means including the army from South Africa to protect its interests. Thus it is not a question of the South African ‘nation’ being an oppressor nation in Africa. Thus our propaganda should include the slogan: down with tribal divisions!

  3. The description ‘black’ raises further potential for divisions as is currently happening as some workers feel they are not ‘black’ enough and feel alienated from their class brothers and sisters. Indian workers came to Africa as slaves; so the slogan ‘black’ divides workers from each other as the former Indian slaves, many of them are also living in ghettoes, in shacks, on pavements, etc.

  4. There is also the history of the Stalinist 4 nation thesis in South Africa (white, black, coloured, Indian) that has been used to detrimental effect in dividing the working class; the use of the term ‘black’ would undermine the years of work to counter this slogan and to unite the working class. The slogan ‘black ‘ workers republic would be a death blow to workers’ unity in Africa.

  5. The call, for example, for a ‘black’ workers and peasants republic of Zimbabwe, pushes its struggle onto the national terrain, instead of opening up the struggle on the international terrain.

  6. Our method should be starting from what the current reality in Africa is, from the concrete conditions and then developing a slogan from there, not just using slogans formalistically. It might not always be able to capture the programme in one slogan but in several. WIVL believes that industrialization has already broken down tribal barriers to the unification of the urban and rural working class in South Africa, and that continued direct exposure of the Popular front and call for united mass action around democratic demands, such as land, slave-like wage conditions, is sufficient. Thus our proposed slogans are: for a workers republic of South Africa; for a federation of Workers and poor peasants republics of Africa; for a United Socialist states of Africa.

Comments on draft Thesis 08-09-2009
Dear comrades of WIVL,
We have studied the draft resolution on South Africa you sent us, which we adopted in the ILTF Congress.

We think they are very well expressed not only the resolutions, but also the discussions that were left open in the first Congress of the ILTF about the use of the slogan “black workers and peasants socialist republic” or “workers and peasants socialist republic”, and, as we agreed, we will continue discussion them towards the second Congress of the ILTF.

But the reason of this letter is to give you a consideration. While reading the draft of the resolutions you sent us we stopped in the term that is written in the document to define the exploitation conditions that the working class suffers all across Africa: “slave-capitalist”.

So we committed to study this formulation by WIVL and we reached the conclusion that we agree on its essence, that is to say, with the contempt you give to such definition; since we see that this formulations wants to define that the African proletariat suffers the capitalist barbarian exploitation conditions, i.e., inhuman working rhythms, overexploitation, in real concentration camps, without any single minimum right, under a semi fascist or fascist regime, which has nothing to envy to the conditions imposed to the working class under Hitler Nazi Germany.

We understand that the definition given by WIVL points that the working class in Africa is a victim of the conditions of overexploitation, identical to the ones that suffer the Chinese workers in the restorationist regime, that are producing in maquilas, real jails, in their bare feet, chained to the machine and sleeping in cages; identical to the ones that the working class in Gaza has, who is under the aim of the Zionist machineguns; what else is what the exploited in Zimbabwe live every day, with an unemployment of near 90% and the highest inflation of the whole world, for example.

However, comrades, we believe that in the Marxists definitions we have to be as precise as possible. To define the exploitation conditions as “slave capitalist” we are in danger of confusing, since we know that slavery was a specific production mode, with its specific classes and political organization. Even the current capitalist mode of production is worse than the slavery, since, unlike today, under that regime the oppressed classes had what to eat at least.

Therefore we want to propose you –since we agree on the essence of your definition, we just have a difference on the formulation- that the resolutions should be published as they were presented by you, but with the letters of HRS, CWG and ours which state the reservations on the definition of “slave capitalism”.
A strong hug, LS, AV y Joa, for the SCI of the FLTI.
Comments from CWG

Comrades, we got the latest draft SA these last night and I have forwarded it to the CWG comrades. We have some concerns I would like to raise informally to let you know current CWG thinking.

We assume the purpose of the draft theses are to arrive at a founding document of the FLTI in South Africa and that we must give full consideration to all of its aspects. That is, it is not in the same category as the Congress resolutions that bind us until the next Congress. That is why we have taken our time to stludy and discuss it and havnt come up with amendments yet.
(1) Starting with the least important question first. As you know, CWG does not agree with the use of the concept of 'fascism' in a colonial or semi-colonial context unless this is spelled out precisely and qualified as 'semi-fascism' or some such term. We do not agree that the Zionist regime created by means of a colonial war and occupation in 1948 is "fascist". Therefore we would like to see a further discussion and elaboration of the use of this term in the SA context.
(2) More importantly, CWG has been discussing the concept of 'slave-capitalist' relations since Congress and our members have been reading up about this and drafting notes. Our concern is that there is no real attempt to define this term in the document. The implication is that pre-capitalist social relations have been kept alive by semi-colonial capitalism in SA so that therefore the social relations are based on the articulation of pre-capitalist and capitalist modes of production. Yet the cdes argue that there is virtually no peasantry as the masses are proletarianised and that divisions in the proletariat along race or tribal lines are artificially fomented by capitalism. But instead of any analysis along these lines, or indeed any critique of Trotskyist attempts at class analysis in SA, the term "slave" is used in a more descriptive way, to mean wage workers living in slave-like condition which implies a distributional level of analysis rather than that of relations of production. We think that this is a major theoretical question of class analysis that needs more time to study and discuss.
Further, without a clear historical analysis to justify the use of this term, we find its application to the US today somewhat alarming. We have historically taken the position that the major division in the US working class is largely racist and carries over from slavery, but that the theoretical concept that is applicable to explain this at the distributional level is the reserve army of labor and not a hybrid form of production relations i.e. 'slave-capitalist' relations.
(3) Reading the WIVL position on the use of the term "black" socialist republic, I think that the CWG needs more time to consider this also. As I remember from the discussion at Congress, the use of the term was proposed to expose the ANC Stalinist use of the term "black" to co-opt workers into the popular front and "black majority rule" etc. I think the WIVL comrades put forward very serious arguments as to why this term can backfire and be perceived by workers as divisive, so this we need to study further.
Anyway comrades, these are our concerns, and we need more time to discuss them and write any proposed amendments. We hope that this is acceptable to the comrades.
a hug to everyone
DB and AS (for CWG)
Comments on the draft theses on Africa:

 1.The theses are strong on the history of imperialism in Africa, the betrayals of Stalinism and the capitulations of the fake-Trotskyists. But they are weak in explaining the present situation. For example, the consciousness of the working class in South Africa, not just in relations to the disputed word “black” , but also for example, how much illusions there are still in the ANC and the Stalinists. Is there an emerging vanguard that want to break from the ANC and Stalinism and fight all the way for Socialism (such vanguard does not of course have the full consciousness of revolutionary Trotskyism but rather left centrist conciseness). As well as what are the tactics of WIVL at the present to break the working class from the popular front.  I think that such rising consciousness is expressed in the escalating class struggle in South Africa, and we need better understanding of the developing advances and contradictions in the struggles.

2. I agree with the criticism of D.(CWG) and others on the slave capitalist relations, so I will not repeat them.

3. The theses are wrong about a revolution in Palestine in 1948. There were uprisings by the Palestinian workers in the 1930’s. The uprisings were smashed by fascistic and nationalist Zionist gangs in coordination with the British army. By 1948 when the state of Israel was established, the Palestinians did not recover from the defeats. They were without a leadership and without weapons to fight the Zionists. The Zionists who were armed to the teeth by American imperialism were able to defeat the armless Palestinians. The Zionist army run through the villages and massacred thousands of armless Palestinians. The survivors were “lucky” to become refugees. The Zionists made agreements with the rotten Arab regimes. They made an agreement, for example, with the king of Jordan to divide Jerusalem  and let him have the West Bank (an agreement that they did not keep in the next war of course). Other agreements were made with Egypt and imperialism that curved out the Zionist state of 1948. The point is that in 1948 there was no Palestinian revolution, it is a fabrication that the Zionist advanced to justify their genocide against the Palestinians.

4. The theses do not explain why the regime in South Africa is Bonapartist. Every bourgeois “democracy” have strong elements of bonapartism if by bonapartism we mean repression. I do not want to get in here into a precise definition of Bonapartism. If there are differences about it, I will be happy to go into this. I just want to say for now that one of the defining features of Bonapartism (right and left bonapartism) is its fierce opposition of any attempt of the workers to organize themselves independently from the regime. The oppression under Bonapartism is much stronger than it is under a “normal” bourgeois democracy. Does WIVL says that this was the nature of the regime from the beginning (1994), or this is the regime’s direction now? In my opinion it is too mechanical and simplistic to say that imperialism exported the bonapartism (if that’s the nature of the regime) of the ANC directly into South America by creating similar Bolivarian regimes. And Obama is not a figurehead Bonaparte of all the different bonapartist regimes in the world a(although all the presidents of the US have certain Bonapartist power).He is rather the imperialist boss of all the type of regimes in the semi-colonies (fascist, bonapartist, “democracy”, etc.)

 Revolutionary Greetings,


What is slave capitalism? [by WIVL]


1. The rise of capitalism in Africa coincided with the onset of the epoch of imperialist decay; this meant that whereas in Germany, for example, slave relations were replaced with capitalist relations, in Africa, the remnants of slavery became part of the super-exploitative conditions for the African proletariat; it is out of an attempt to describe these super-exploitative conditions that we had to come up with a precise description of what the relations were and what are the tasks that were concomitant with this;

2. To say that the conditions of super-exploitation that persist from the onset of capitalism in Africa is merely wage slavery, is not precise enough; to describe it only as wage-slavery disarms us from the uncompleted democratic tasks that are a burning part of day to day struggles across Africa;

3. We also need to counter-pose our definition to the stalinist term 'apartheid', which is an Afrikaans word meaning 'separateness'. The SACP and ANC deliberately coined this term to summarise their their vision of bourgeois democratic revolution, namely that its main aim is to fight for the incorporation of the black middle class and bourgeoisie into the capitalist system (because they had been excluded by the National Party). What flows from this is their perspective of black economic empowerment, affirmative action, etc. It is why imperialism funded the United Democratic Front (UDF) whose main slogan was: 'apartheid divides, UDF unites'. This was to channel the resistance of the working class into a capitalist channel and rescue their system that was under threat of revolution in SA in the 1980's.

4. Slavery, like capitalism, is not only an economic description but has to be seen in its socio-economic- political essence. So what aspects of slavery remained and were codified in South Africa?


a) There were restrictions on competition - many occupations were just not open to black workers (skilled jobs on the mines; post office work, except cleaning; many clerical jobs; drivers; artisanal occupations; in general skilled work). This of course meant that there was intensified competition for unskilled work, which drove down wages even more. Thus the black worker was not free to sell his/her labour power in open competition. On farms, many workers were virtual 'possessions' of the white farmer, eking out an existence for generations 'belonging'to the same farmer (not having the right to own even the plot they were living on). When Engels talks about some slaves being better off than the proletariat, he is no doubt talking of the exception, not the rule. We could thus say that in general, the conditions of an unfree black worker would be worse(and in fact were) than that of the  'free' proletariat who had not been so 'enslaved'. Black people were not allowed to trade, nor open up a business, nor own a house. For decades the black 'garden boys' (gardeners) and 'kitchen girls' (domestic workers) were virtual possessions of white people, being handed down from generation to generation (the son taking over from the father, the daughter taking over from the mother). Black people could not get bank loans, etc.

b) on a social level there was no freedom of movement, no freedom to settle in any area; no freedom to attend the school of their choice; no freedom to study in tertiary institutions (only limited access was granted). black people were regarded as 'things' , not as members of society, black people could be killed, especially on the farms, with impunity. Many clubs and societies excluded black people. Black people were not allowed to go to the same beaches, etc etc.

c) on a political level there was no right to vote or participate in any parliamentary process. no right to belong to a union that was covered by legislation. In Zimbabwe, and across Africa, besides super-exploitative conditions persisting, the right to vote was linked to those who owned property.


5. Across Africa, the failure of the working class to take power in any country, meant that none of the bourgeois democratic demands, as listed in point 4 above, could be overcome. In fact imperialism capitalism thrives on their maintenance. Imperialism has drawn the lesson from the Russian revolution and from the 2 world imperialist wars that industrialisation and urbanization creates conditions for revolution.

6. In SA and across Africa, limited political freedoms now exist; thus it would be imprecise to still use the term 'slave-capitalist' to describe such relations as they different to the period before . On the other hand, only the working class taking power can complete the bourgeois democratic demands, thus opening up a period of the permanent revolution, directly going over to socialist tasks. For want of a better term, we describe the remnants of slave capitalist relations as still 'slave-like'. If anyone can come up with a better formulation on any of the above, we are open to that.

7. Further, we do not describe any country in Africa as an ex-colony, or what is described as the 'third world'- these terms hide the current relations of being dominated by imperialism capitalism. This is why we describe these countries as being neo-colonies ( on the surface, politically free to some extent, but economically, politically and socially still in chains).

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