Markin comment (9/18/2010):
The International Communist League (ICL), the international organization of which Workers Vanguard is the flagship publications, in numerous articles and published conference reports has emphasized, correctly I believe, that in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union that the political consciousness of the international working class, although unevenly, has taken big steps backward in its consciousness. The shorthand way to speak of such a condition is that on a day to day basis the bulk of the workers do not connect their defensive struggles with the struggle for socialism.
Seemingly working class history for the past 150 years or so is a blank page although those in the least bit familiar with that history know that it is rich in examples, positive and negative, of working class struggle for our communist future. Although one could see that retrograde situation developing, in some cases graphically as on the American labor scene, well before that demise something snapped in the international labor movement in reaction to the incessant “communism is dead” triumphalism of the international capitalist class and its mouthpieces. Although that situation is slowly changing under the conditions of the current capitalist onslaught, especially in Europe, that sense of the decline of political consciousness is still pervasive.
That brings us to the class consciousness that underlies the article under review in this entry on the situation in South Africa. I mentioned above (as the ICL has in its articles as well) that the decline of political consciousness was not monolithic. South Africa, due to many factors in its national framework not the least the massive struggle against apartheid, may represent the classic contrary case. In the immediate post-Soviet period when everyone, their brothers, their sisters, and their great-aunts was disclaiming anything but hardened and eternal hostility to the word communism, communist organizations, or even lukewarm socialist formations in South Africa they were making an event, a public event, out of the legalization of the Communist Party.
Of course, we know, at least those of us who claim the Trotskyist tradition, that this was the just the legalization of another old time Stalinist, class- collaborationist, two-stage revolution operation but that party represented communism down at the base, communist revolution as the “comrades” understood it. Hey, these guys and gals, these street militants, were waving red flags night and day with the expectation that not only apartheid was over with the African National Congress(ANC) taking over the reins of government but that the meek (militant meek, that is, the others get nothing in this wicked old world) shall finally inherit the earth. It gives me no satisfaction, none whatsoever, nor should it to you that their illusions have been cruelly dashed overt the past sixteen years.
If South Africa represented (and in many ways still does, witness the recent wide-spread strikes AGAINST the ANC-SACP-COSATU government) something like the vanguard of political consciousness in the international labor movement it also represents the classic Stalinist (and not Stalinist alone) stagist theory of revolution in less advanced countries. In short, first the democratic revolution then, in the future, the socialist revolution. Sixteen years on and the “comrades” are still waiting. Thus we have a pretty good idea when that second stage kicks in-never.
And that is my second point. If the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917 proved once and for all that the bourgeoisie of an emerging capitalist country is incapable, for a thousand reasons not the least its myriad intermingled links to the major imperialist powers, of leading (or maybe even tolerating) a democratic revolution then several decades later the emerging (or already existing) bourgeoisies in less advanced capitalist countries are even less likely to so. In South Africa Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution retains its validity. No, not just it validity, more than that it is merely the beginning of political wisdom for those crushed “comrades” down at the base still waiting for the second promised stage. Thus the order of the day is for the black-centered workers movement to break with the ANC as a matter of elementary political hygiene.
Sometimes one can overuse analogies (although that does not prevent anyone from doing so, or it hasn’t in the past, including by this writer) from one period to the next. Obviously there are major differences (not the least the question of political leadership of the working class) between the situation in Russia 1917 and South Africa today but I keep being drawn to the Menshevik’s notion in 1917 (and before and after, as well) that the bourgeoisie should lead the democratic revolution in Russia and the role of peasant and working class socialist organizations was to “support” or “push” them forward. That candidate in 1917 was the Cadet party (Constitutional Democrats); today in South Africa (at least for now) for the Mensheviks of today, the SACP and its hangers-on, it is the ANC. So what, as is pretty well described in the linked article above, we see in South Africa is what Russia might have looked like if the Menshevik “vision” had worked out. No, thank you, then and now. Learn the lessons outlined in Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. Forward!