A Struggle for Power between Political Entities Rather Than between Ideologies

Cape Times (South Africa), January 25, 2010 | Go to article overview

A Struggle for Power between Political Entities Rather Than between Ideologies


BYLINE: Bennie Bunsee

Is the old battle between so-called nationalists (Africanists) and so-called socialists in the South African Communist Party re-emerging? And will it result in a break as it did with the emergence of the Pan-Africanist Congress?

Such a break would change the entire political landscape in the country.

Thabo Mbeki himself initiated this break. Immediately after his return from exile he said that the two should separate, although there were SACP members in his cabinet and Parliament.

He also said the ANC was not a socialist organisation.

The first such major resentment was when the chief founder of the Pan-Africanist Congress of South Africa (PAC), Robert Sobukwe, though himself a committed socialist, broke away from the ANC, alleging the interference of the SACP in the affairs of the ANC and the abandonment of African nationalism as the main political creed of the organisation.

Later, in exile, the PAC itself would be confronted with a similar battle when a group of Maoist- oriented socialists in the organisation, during the time of the Chinese-Soviet dispute that found its repercussions in political parties all over the world, were ousted from the PAC leadership.

After their expulsion they went on to form the Azanian People's Revolutionary Party (APRP), with a clear-cut socialist programme.

This battle between the two ideologies was to resurface in exile in the mid-1970s when a group calling itself the "African Nationalists" clashed with the SACP.

The group consisted of some very well-known luminaries and veterans of the ANC, such as Tennyson and Ambrose Makiwane, Robert Resha, Alfred Mqoto and internationally renowned poet and writer Raymond Kunene, among others. They were expelled at the SACP-dominated ANC Arusha Conference in Tanzania, with the crucial support of Oliver Tambo. They, like the APRP, did not last long. In exile the SACP had the ANC well under its control.

Mbeki's "Africanist" approach was more muted and blurred. Take away the media's mockery of Julius Malema and his statements smack of an assertion of African nationalism.

This came out most clearly when he objected, with the support of other leading ANC national executive members like Lindiwe Sisulu, to the appointment of non-Africans to the economic cluster.

This is the most recent assertion of a kind of Africanism, although not elaborated.

So is this a real battle between "nationalists" and "socialists" in the alliance? There is little doubt that from the SACP, and its close partner, Cosatu, there is a fierce commitment to working-class hegemony in the transformation process. A leading SACP member also recently condemned "Africanist chauvinism" in the ANC. This is a typically held position by the SACP.

The SACP has admitted that it has no future without the ANC, and therefore continually rides on its back. During the anti-apartheid struggle this was accepted as there was a common enemy. …

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