Armed Struggle and Democracy: The Case of South Africa

By Martin Legassick | Go to book overview

Part II:
What Strategy for the Armed Struggle?
1976–87

History generally, and the history of revolutions in particular, is always richer in content, more varied, more many-sided, more lively and ‘subtle’ than even the best parties and the most class-conscious vanguards of the most advanced classes imagine. This is understandable, because even the best vanguards express the class consciousness, will, passion and imagination of tens of thousands, whereas the revolution is made, at the moment of its climax and the exertion of all human capacities, by the class consciousness, will, passion and imagination of tens of millions, spurred on by a most acute struggle of classes.

V.I. Lenin1

We were clearly not dealing with a defeated enemy and an early revolutionary seizure of power by the liberation movement could not be realistically posed.

Joe Slovo, explaining the negotiated settlement, 19922

Throughout the 1960s, the (guerrilla) struggle of the Vietnamese people against the United States military juggernaut—over half a million US troops at the peak— had formed a central part of the international situation. In 1975 final victory was achieved in Vietnam and the country was reunited.3 Only in 1978–79, however, was there an attempt by the ANC leadership to digest the lessons of Vietnam.

From the late 1960s, however, liberated areas had existed in Mozambique and Angola. The outbreak of a revolutionary crisis in Portugal in 1974, in large part a product of its colonial wars, led to the victories of the liberation struggles in Mozambique and Angola (with an ominous invasion of Angola by South Africa in 1975). As in China and Cuba, the result was the elimination of capitalism.4 On

____________________
1
V.I.Lenin, Left Wing Communism, p. 76.
2
Slovo, “Negotiations: What Room for Compromise,” African Communist, 130, 3rd quarter, 1992.
3
It is interesting how little theoretical attention was paid to the Vietnamese struggle in the 1960s and 1970s. In his review of Pomeroy's collection, Guerrilla Warfare and Marxism, (African Communist, 39, 4th quarter, 1969, pp. 80–81) Slovo refers in passing to writings included by Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap, and he quotes the same passage from Giap in “No Middle Road,” (1976), p. 193. Ben Turok, Strategic Problems, refers also in passing to writings by Le Duan. See also “Off the cuff” [interview with Vo Anh Minh], Sechaba, 3, 12, December 1969 and reference to Le Duan in my review of Armed Insurrection (Sechaba, 5, 11, November 1971).
4
Slovo, “Problems,” Socialist Register, p. 336–37 quotes Dos Santos and Cabral prior to independence as talking of the real possibilities of “taking the way of socialism.” However, the possibilities for the abolition of capitalism were created, as in China, by the flight of Portuguese capitalists, and did not depend on the (weak) “subjective factor” in the personalities of Dos Santos and Cabral, etc. (who had not even instituted communist parties as elements of the liberation fronts.) Hugh Trevor, “The Question of an Uprising of the Whole People” African Communist, 98, 3rd quarter, 1984 refers to a shift in the terminology of the SACP in the 1970s from “national democratic revolution” to “people's revolution.” This is probably related to a conception of the end result being a Mozambique/ Angola type situation rather than a (capitalist) Ghana/Guinea type situation.

-32-

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Armed Struggle and Democracy: The Case of South Africa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface 5
  • Introduction 7
  • Part I - A Strategy of Rural Guerrillaism? 1961–751 11
  • Part II - What Strategy for the Armed Struggle? 1976–87 32
  • Conclusion 60
  • Discussion Papers *
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