Ultra-Leftism And Petty-Bourgeoisie (Two Sides Of The Same Coin): A Critical Look At The Eff-Da Axis

By Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi


Graphic: BlackOpinion. 

The recent developments in municipalities where the alliance between the EFF and DA has ensured that the latter remains in power warrants a theoretical exposition. In different corners of the world, Trotskyites are notorious for being troublemakers, saboteurs and splitters. They like to style themselves as more leftist that the Left to cover up and make excuses for the worst cases of collaboration and conspiracy with imperialism and reaction, against the genuine proletarian revolution.

Lenin referred to ‘opportunism’ when he was thinking of reformism or revisionism of the Menshevik tendency to ‘tail’ behind the bourgeoisie. In the same period the Bolsheviks had to combat ‘adventurist’ or ‘anarchistic’ tendencies-what Lenin called ‘revolutionary adventurism” or ‘petty-bourgeois revolutionism’. Mao Tse-tung employs the term ‘opportunism’ to cover both tendencies and distinguishes them as ‘Left’ opportunism (anarchism and syndicalism) and Right opportunism (reformism and revisionism), respectively. There is no doubt that in the course of the revolutionary struggle armed with the great teaching of Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyite ideology with its opportunism and adventurism will be exposed again and again and swept away, as has repeatedly been the case in the past. Marxism-Leninism is indeed viable and invincible in exposing the convergence of the DA-EFF axis.

The current ideological love-feast between bourgeois ideologists and Trotskyism as manifests itself in DA-EFF axis reflects, to some extent, certain important new tendencies in counter-revolutionary trend. The history of Trotskyism in South Africa is a history of splitting and squabbling, whether we think New Unity Movement (NEUM), Marxist-Workerist tendencies (MWT), EFF. They are calling for unity of workers while on other hand they are organising for the rival federation against COSATU. Their aim is to weaken and divide the workers while Capital remains united in exploiting the working class. Leon Trotsky was forever appealing for unity while indulging in factionalism. Anarchy and political thuggery do not entail one’s participation in the revolution.

Present-day bourgeois propagandists are not original. In the 1920s and 1930s, Trotskyites were called “a consistently revolutionary wing of the working-class movement”. The apologists of imperialism have long known that the ultra-revolutionary phraseology of Trotskyism does not constitute the slightest danger to the capitalist system. They have duly assessed the “rational kernel” of the Trotskyite ideas, their anti-communist tendency and desire to cripple the liberation movement.

Trotskyites failed to develop a clear conception of the transition from national democratic to the socialist revolution. Their mystical belief was that workers can somehow or other pole-vault themselves into socialism. Only fairy tale revolutionaries believe that workers can first achieve socialism and then set about establishing the conditions which would make this revolution possible. It is rather like arriving at your destination and then looking around for the transport to get you there. This is ridiculous and childish. It can’t be done.

The socialist revolution in October 1917 was made possible by the democratic revolution in February 1917. The Russian revolution proved to be a practical refutation of Trotsky’s theory, and it is not surprising that no revolution has ever taken place in accordance with the mystifying principles of Trotskyites logic. Trotskyism has a logic which inclines its supporters to factionalism, abstract formulas and pseudo-revolutionary concepts. Trotskyism acquires credibility and clout when democratic movements are weak and ineffectual. Our task remains the building of unity and cohesion of the reconfigured ANC-led alliance.

Lenin taught us to take a strictly scientific approach to complex and many-sided phenomenon as revolution. According to him a revolution cannot be made, that revolutions develop from objectively (i.e., independently of the will of parties and classes) mature crises and turns in history. The arm-chair pseudo-revolutionaries do not understand this formulation because they think that they are more revolutionary than revolution itself. Hence, they easily play in the hands of the capital and fascists. Today we witness that ultra-leftist Trotskyites like EFF and fascist party of white minority privileges (DA) can share a common objective of dislodging the ANC and its allies. This is one of the dangers of ultra-leftism and pseudo-revolutionary illusions.

As described by Lenin, the struggle against the pseudo-revolutionary adventurism of Trotskyites and other Left-wing opportunists during the Brest period was a bitter, humiliating, difficult, but essential and useful lesson. The Communist Party emerged from this struggle stronger organisationally and ideologically and more clearly aware of the aims and problems of revolutionary development. It is well known how hard imperialist reaction is trying to sow mistrust of the strategic and tactical slogans of the Communist parties, and to enflame anti-communist hysteria. The Trotskyites pursue the same goal, although they follow their own path, under cover of ultra-revolutionary phrases. Trotskyism and imperialism are two side of a same coin.

The existence of a variety of ultra-Left trends cutting across the general line of the main revolutionary force of the present day is objectively of use to imperialism. The capitalists need such a trend, for with all its weakness it gives the appearance of a ‘Left’ position outside the tried and tested tripartite revolutionary alliance of ANC, SACP and COSATU. Present-day Trotskyites try to present themselves in their propaganda as consistent followers of Marx. This trick has obviously been calculated to impress those who know little or nothing about the long-drawn-out struggle which Marxists-Leninists have waged and are waging against the Trotskyites, who are the confirmed enemies of the revolutionary cause. Trotskyism ignores the revolutionary capacities of the working class. Attitude to the working class has always been like a watershed, which has made it possible to distinguish between real and false revolutionaries. The true revolutionary raises the proletariat up to class struggle, awakens its revolutionary energy, instils confidence in its forces, and, being himself always in the front ranks, shares with the proletariat the joy of victory and the bitterness of defeat.

Ideological struggle stands on an equal plane as the political, economic and military struggles. It is a front on its own. It has its warriors and its generals, it has its heroes and villains, it succeeds or fail like every battle. To wage an ideological battle is as much of an art as it is a science in revolutionary struggle. The experience of revolutionary struggle shows such a variety of ways to the successful achievement of revolution that it is impossible to decide where and in what sequence new revolutions will take place. The decisive factor will not be the level of economic development alone. The decisive factor remains the presence of objective and subjective conditions necessary for a socialist revolution. These conditions can appear in countries with different levels of development. Only through revolutionary Marxist-Leninist practice can we really puncture dogmatic and pseudo-revolutionary theorising. It follows therefore that the best way of tackling Trotskyism is to strengthen the unity and vigour- and this must mean strengthening the working-class leadership- of the liberation movement.

Trotskyism consists of unprincipled manoeuvres in various petty-bourgeois strata, and speculation on the weaknesses of the petty-bourgeois section of the revolutionary movement. The history of Trotskyism bears witness to the fact that it has continuously sought help among various strata of the petty bourgeoisie. Like a reckless gambler trying to improve his position by changing his stakes, it has flung itself into the most diverse political combinations, relying on the support of one section of the petty bourgeoisie today, another tomorrow, and a third the day after.

The EFF has demonstrated that despite clothed in left-wing rhetoric, it has a right-wing bourgeois orientation. The current developments regarding coalition of political parties in our municipalities have confirmed this reality. The loud-mouthed demagogues in red berets have indeed chosen not to be neutral, not to be on the side of advancing revolutionary social emancipation, but to be on the side of the DA, a party of monopoly capital, the most corrupt, ruthless and inhuman system that continues to reproduce class inequality, unemployment and poverty, a party that advocates for the protection of labour brokers, outsourcing, privatisation, casualisation and making it easy to fire workers from work. A party that support Apartheid Israel. A party that support the American imperialism. This is a programme of monopoly capital. They red-berets are playing directly into the hands of the Imperialism and DA – the party of big capital and white minority privilege.

The founding manifesto and policy documents of the EFF cannot and do not provide a uniquely-working class philosophy and view of the world, such as will enable the working class to realise itself as a class, to fulfil its historic destiny of overthrowing the present capitalist order to create a new working-class based socialist order. A class programme requires a class philosophy and class world outlook; it cannot triumph without one. Their founding manifesto might sound more genuine and profound, but it is more confused and reactionary. The 1969 Strategy and Tactics of the ANC as adopted in Morogoro warns that the revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always a springboard for revolutionary advance. Indeed, what appears to be “militant” and “revolutionary” can often be counter-revolutionary.

This alliance between DA- a party of white minority and EFF- a party led by the most corrupt tenderpreneurs against the ANC-led alliance has nothing to do with the cardinal pillars the EFF claimed to espouse in its founding conference. Conversely, cardinal pillars of the EFF nothing to do with the struggle against apartheid colonialism and imperialism. These pillars include redistribution of land without compensation, abolishing of the practices of labour brokers, nationalisation of mines and so on. This simply exposes the hypocrisy of the EFF in fooling the masses of our people about its orientation. It is a party that opt for class collaboration at the expense of class struggle. Their stand is one which imperialism is prepared to groom treacherous and opportunist leaders to hijack our revolution. Since its inception the EFF portrayed themselves as the most determined and inflexible defenders of revolutionary principles. This is a typical characteristic of such opportunistic trends to cloak their aims with ultra-revolutionary phrases.

There is no doubt that the DA remains firmly rooted in historical constituencies that were declared Whites-only under apartheid. The DA is rooted in those areas that benefited enormously from apartheid, a crime against humanity, despite consolidating support in other national minority communities based on the manufacture of anti-majoritarian fear and despite gaining a smattering of votes elsewhere. The EFF claims that it is representing the aspirations of the poor, yet it has chosen to collaborate and return power back to a party of the rich and white privilege acquired under colonial conquest and apartheid oppression.

Lenin has exposed the reactionary nature of opportunism and left-wing childishness hitherto bedevilling the ranks of the national liberation movement and working-class party. In his, Opportunism, and the Collapse of the Second International, Lenin wrote that social-chauvinism and opportunism are the same in their political essence; class collaboration, repudiation of the proletarian dictatorship, rejection of revolutionary action, obeisance to bourgeois legality, non-confidence in the proletariat, and confidence in the bourgeoisie. The political ideas are identical, and so is the political content of their tactics. Social-chauvinism is the direct continuation and consummation of liberal-labour policies, their sum, their total, their highest achievement.

The guiding of the proletarian revolution to the road of victory demanded of every Revolutionary Movement to be firm in principle, flexible in tactics, neither sinking into the mire of the Right opportunism and capitulationism of the unity of the working class nor making the error of “Left” dogmatism and adventurism. The anarchist stance of rabble-rousers and loud-mouthed demagogues in red overalls and berets cannot in any way be confused with militancy. Anarchism is a product of despair. It is the psychology of the unsettled intellectual or the vagabond, not of the proletarian. We are opposed to ‘Left’ phrase-mongering. The thinking ‘of Leftists’ outstrips a given stage of development of the objective process; some regard their fantasies as truth, while others strain to realise in the present an ideal that can only be realised in the future. They alienate themselves from the current practice of the majority of the people and from the realities of the day, and show themselves adventurist in their actions.

But Lenin pointed out that a man should be judged not by what he says or by how he views himself but by his actions. A philosopher should be judged not by the label he gives himself but by how in practice he solves basic theoretical problems, what kind of people he joins up with and what he has taught and is teaching his disciples and followers. Victory over the bourgeoisie is impossible without a long, stubborn and desperate life-and-death struggle, which calls for tenacity, discipline, and a single, inflexible will.

EFF’s manifesto reflects fairly accurately the organisation’s origins within the ranks of the students and young intelligentsia. Its posture characterises the fiercely workerist rhetoric despite the fundamentally non working-class basis of their membership. Ideology needs to be stated in public and tested in action; it needs to be subjected to constant re-appraisal and to debate and reconsideration in the light of experience. Theory must always be tested in living revolutionary practice, must not be allowed to degenerate into a dogma, but must be developed with the development of revolutionary struggle. Revolutionary theory alone can give the movement and direction. Practice without theory gropes in the dark.

Socialism is not a fashionable slogan, but in fact a complex social phenomenon that petty-bourgeois liberals can never assimilate in dreams during their night sleep, it can be understood only by grappling with its theoretical foundation. At least our people have learnt that a vote for the party of red berets is not a vote for the advancement of the struggle against fascism and white minority domination. Rather, it is a vote to bring back the white minority and their imperialists handlers to power. Our people know that that they will not waist their vote in future with covert, timid, saccharine and hypocritical opportunism.

Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi is SACP Free State PEC Member. He writes in his personal capacity

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  1. The article by the SACP PEC member from Free State has nothing much.

    It speaks about philosophy being first rooted in the masses, thereafter advancing towards the intended goal. But the SACP has all this time before the anc and yet has failed to do what this man is suggesting is the proper way to fight the revolution…mind you, they had all this time without any impediments from other parties, which can only suggest scapegoating of the EFF and shading their own failures.

    He also fails to accept the fact that the foundation of the Sacp is racist, as per their 1922 slogan “Workers of the world unite and fight for a white South Africa” and this can not be pardoned as a merely blip in the historics of this white controlled communist party, communist in form and not in substance.

    He also fails to give and argue the reasons the EFF stated as to why it voted for the DA in the municipalities…all of which points to the failings of their alliance partner in governing and giving our people good service delivery.

    …also, the corruption endemic within the ANC government is omitted, which is what has led to our people growing impatient and tired of the ANC.

    If we were to go into the SACP,we would leave it in pieces. We would go into how upon his death, Mr mandela was revealed as a secret sacp committee member and yet he married WMC and made many compromises which we are fighting against today.

  2. Brilliant article Cde Lehlohonolo. Only this past Sunday I was struggling to take my two nieces, both of whom are students at Wits University, on an exposition of the political nexus linking the DA and the EFF. Your well-written thesis on this issue will certainly make my task much less complex.
    I personally got to understand the true nature of “ultra-leftism” through my observation of the Socialist Workers Party ( the “SWP” ) when I was based in London in late 1980s. They maintained a strong presence on all campuses and proved, very much like the EFF, very divisive and counter-revolutionary. While claiming to be revolutionaries, they were in in fact very hostile to us in the national liberation movement led by the ANC and the Communist Party. They were also opposed to our understanding of the concept of revolutionary internationalism. They were in particular very hostile to the socialist block which was led by the Soviet Union. Thanks to articles like yours Cde Lehlohonolo , we can commence the task of exposing them for what they truly are, namely counter-revolutionaries and agents of imperialism.

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