Forms And Methods Of Struggle For Liberation: A Reply To Sam Ditshego -Part I

By Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi

In his recent opinion piece in the Uncensored Opinion- “BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE QUEST FOR A TRUE HUMANITY AND AMERICAN POLICY TOWARDS AZANIA (SOUTH AFRICA), Sam Ditshego quoted the works of former Africanists and Black Consciousness leaders at length without contextualising their relevance today. Unfortunately, he added that “AZAPO needs to be commended for having rejected participation in the 1994 elections whose results were predetermined. It was a brilliant move even though it came to naught because eventually some members of the organisation’s top echelons were co-opted into the governing party which is the same as endorsing the white power structure because the governing party is essentially under the control of the white elite.”

Perhaps, Ditshego should be forgiven for bringing an outdated debate into the public discourse. But what cannot be tolerated is his failure to grasp the essential elements of the theory and practice of the South African Revolution. It is precisely his failure to appreciate the strategy and tactics and forms and methods of struggle that make him to lag behind. The fact that a person may be right in one situation is merely a matter of accident. By and large, historical advance does not consist of a collection of accidents. Hatred of oppressive institutions is of course the very starting point of political action. But it is not enough to hate. The emotion must, by knowledge and understanding be transformed into an effective tool for putting an end to oppression and all its institutions. There is contrast between the scientific political leader and the ill-equipped pseudo-revolutionary. It is surprising that Ditshego is not even aware that most members of AZAPO are conceding that their miscalculated grandstanding and populism in relation to their participation in the negotiation process was a grave mistake and it has caused them dearly. Its demise is as result of applying defunct tools of analysis in concrete realities. History will tell whether or not AZAPO will recover. The next article will dispel, inter alia; the myth in the last part of the quotation (above).

A failure to grasp the dynamic laws of movement of society has in many cases given rise to defeatism and disillusionment which in turn leads to unnecessary compromise and dragging in the tail of the people’s struggle. On the reverse side of the coin, it leads to adventurism and criminal recklessness as manifested in the break-away by some elements of the ANC to form PAC. The moderate and the adventurists both suffer from the same disease. Their reactions are determined not by the overall scientific analyses of the forces of change in a continuous state of movement but by sudden rushes of blood to the head or butterflies to the stomach.

Ultra-lefts have in the past accused the ANC that it had, merely by talking to the regime, “sold-out” and was already well down the road of collaboration and ultimate capitulation. This was the rhetoric of the impotent, who drew up blueprints for the future without having the benefit of either quality research or of organised mass support. The South African Communist Party’s Programme- Path To Power, adopted at our 7th Congress in Havana in 1989 provides that:

“Our approach to the relationship between military and other forms of political struggle is guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism, the experience of other revolutionary struggles and, above all, our own concrete realities. We, Communists believe that the struggle must always be given forms appropriate to the concrete political situation. It is this situation which determines whether the revolutionary transformation can be achieved by military or non-military struggle or by a blend of both. A decision to include combat activity as part of the political struggle does not, in itself, imply that the military struggle has become primary or that the route to victory will be only through the barrel of a gun.”

The programme further provides that “Armed struggle cannot be counterposed with dialogue, negotiation and justifiable compromise, as if they were mutually exclusive categories. Liberation struggles have rarely ended with the unconditional surrender of the enemy’s military forces. Every such struggle in our continent has had its climax at the negotiating table, occasionally involving compromises judged to be in the interests of revolutionary advance. But whether there is an armed seizure of power or negotiated settlement, what is indisputable to both is the development of the political and military forces of the revolution.”

Incidentally, this is the same position on the question of negotiations that was taken by the African National Congress. For our liberation alliance, it did not matter much whether the end of apartheid was brought about by insurrection or through the peaceful transition, as long as the end result would be the birth of a people’s democracy on South African soil as enshrined in the Freedom Charter. The experience has proven that negotiations are a terrain of struggle which, at the end of the day, depend upon the balance of forces outside the process. It was the dialectical link between the negotiations and our mass struggle that played an absolutely key role.

It is a pity that Ditshego based his argument on organisations like AZAPO and PAC which never had any strategic approach to the revolution in South Africa. Ditshego, like those in AZAPO and PAC failed to fathom that strategy deals with the main forces of the revolution and their reserves. It changes with the transition of the revolution from one stage to another but remains essentially unchanged throughout the entire duration of a given stage. Tactics are a part of strategy, subordinate and subservient to it. Tactics change according to ebb and flow. the strategic plan remained unchanged, tactics changed several times during that period. History usually moves in zigzags, and that Marxists must make allowances for the most complex and whimsical zigzags of history, is indisputable. But this much-chewed and indisputable proposition has no relation whatsoever to the problem of how a Marxist must act when history confronts the contending forces with the necessity of deciding whether to take a direct or a zigzag path.

The attitude of Marxists towards the zigzag course of history is, as a matter of fact, similar to their attitude towards compromise. Every zigzag of history is a compromise, a compromise between the old, which is no longer strong enough completely to reject the new, and the new, which is not yet strong enough completely to overthrow the old. Marxism does not abjure compromises; Marxism deems it necessary to resort to compromises. But this does not preclude the fact that Marxism, as a live and active historical force, energetically resists compromises. He who is unable to master this seeming contradiction does not understand the ABC of Marxism. This was the scientific approach to the strategic seizure of power from the white minority regime.

The most important task of tactics is to determine the ways and means, the forms and methods of fighting which best correspond to the concrete situation of the moment and are more certain to prepare the way for the strategical success. Consequently, the operation and results of tactics must be regarded not in isolation, not from the point of view of their immediate effect, but from the point of view of the aims and the possibilities of strategy.

Marxism, therefore, does not repudiate any form of struggle. Marxism in no ways confines itself to the forms of struggle that are possible and that are practiced at any particular moment. It realises that new forms of struggle, unknown at the given period, must inevitably arise as the given social situation changes. In this respect Marxism learns from the practice of the masses and is far from claiming to teach the masses forms of struggle invented by arm-chair revolutionaries. Dialectical materialism is a powerful weapon of science – a weapon of criticism, a method leading to new and profound discoveries, and a guide to the grand strategy of the planned advance of science in the service of the people.

Much of the confusion and lack of clarity surrounding the leading role of the working class and what this means in terms of working class leadership arises from the way in which we understand the main content of our immediate and long term revolutionary objectives and the interconnections between them. The failure of the various ultra-left groupings to grasp the continuing and inseparable and inter-relationship between class exploitation and national oppression and to understand that the main immediate content is the achievement of the national democratic revolution, which is a revolution of the entire oppressed people, is the source of their confusion and lies at the roots of their divisive activities.

The seizure of power by armed insurrection is the most dangerous as far as the creation of conditions for people’s democracy against the imperialists are concerned, but this is a path that depends and requires our greatest strength. If we are forced to take a zig-zag path, the round-about way, created by conditions absolutely beyond our control, and not because we are feeble and not organising sufficiently for the armed insurrection, then we shall not be inflexible in tactics. For example; the Communist Party can be relied on to be faithful to its principle, to the working class and its revolutionary purpose.

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

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One Comment

  1. I am not surprised coming to think who is engaging…..a confused Chaterist from the unholy alliance……giving Africans a lecture on how to wage their struggle against colonialism…
    Strategy and Planning:
    These two dialectics are influenced in political struggles by the very nature of that struggle and what seems be the relevant result of such a struggle that are envisaged by those who are affected.
    Negotiations among rivals of a particular political struggle is a compromise position of give and take…..
    The African position….
    our struggle in Azania in particular must be understood according to it’s own perspective… Ours was invasion without provocation…dispossession and Colonialism by foreigners from Europe who stole our land through the killing of our kith and kings who paid the supreme price…..
    Maxisim and Leninism and other forms of political strategy and planning cannot determine how our struggle for sovereignty including the whole continent can be waged and as a result we cannot take anything from the East or the West to make it our own. In our case therefore Africanism is the only liberator y creed ….We were never opposed to negotiations but we said negotiations are for equals….Therefore,the key negotiators who sold our souls for some silver coins are found wanting and now are looking for someone to blame…..It was never in the interest of the CHATERISTS to even talk about the land issue since they went into bed with the ENEMY and as result became the black slave masters of our oppression….

    Hands off our AFRICANIST LEADERS….

    Brother SAM DITSHEGO you have started a very good topic here…..well done!!!!! The masses will decide.

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