#11 - South Africa in transition: as the ANC bids for power, will the working class be deprived of its gains?

Jun 1993


It will have taken nearly half a century for the black population of South Africa to get rid of the barbaric state institution known as apartheid.

By now, the laws of segregation which made up the core of apartheid have already been repealed. If everything goes according to the plan agreed between the South African government and the African National Congress, April 27th 1994 should mark the final end of apartheid. On that day the first one-person-one-vote election in the history of South Africa should be held, removing the last remaining legal colour-bar in the country. Eventually, a new constitution should be introduced, which will recognise full equality in law for all South African people, regardless of the colour of their skins, in theory at least.

Today the process of dismantling apartheid is meant to be reaching its conclusion through complex inter-party negotiations. The leading role in these negotiations is played by the ruling white National Party, ironically the very same party which introduced apartheid and enforced it. And there are many reasons to have doubts as to the actual gains that will result for the vast majority of the black poor in South Africa.

But there is one thing over which there can be no doubt. The end of apartheid is the result of nearly five decades of heroic and resolute struggle waged by hundreds of thousands of black South-Africans, the vast majority of whom will remain unknown and for whom there will be no media spotlight. And while the well-dressed negotiators make alliances with each other amid the glitz of the Johannesburg World Trade Centre, the decisive battles against apartheid took place long before their table was set up, in the black townships and industrial heartlands of South Africa, and nowhere else.

What is really at stake today is whether all those who devoted their lives, and often lost them, to this struggle will be deprived of the victory they were fighting for.

From apartheid to the "New South Africa"

It is not difficult to see through the diplomatic gloss and the events surrounding the negotiations. There can be no doubt that the "New South Africa", to use the language agreed between the host of politicians around the negotiating table, will definitely not reflect the aspirations of those who fought for so long for what they believed to be freedom. Not if the main players involved get things rolling their way.

To the vast majority, it will not be as new as it is made to sound. The handful of multinationals which effectively control the South-African economy will retain their grip. The boards of directors will probably no longer be white only. Today's small black bourgeoisie will probably increase in size and the trading floor of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange will cease to be a purely white club, but it will not be any less exclusive. In any case, none of this will result in less exploitation for the black workers in South Africa's mines and factories.

Privileges will no longer be colour-based, maybe. Although even that remains to be seen. One only needs to take a walk around the rich residential suburbs of African countries like Nigeria, Zimbabwe or Senegal, which have been under black rule for many years already, to see that colour privileges are still alive, albeit in a different form.

In any case, social privileges will remain. Though the black poor will no longer be banned by law from living in rich suburbs, they just will not be able to afford it. Just like in the old days of apartheid, unless they belong to the select few, like Nelson Mandela, they will only enter exclusive suburbs of Johannesburg like Houghton as servants, or delivery men. But then, they could be working for rich bosses whose colour is the same as theirs but who will not be any less their class enemies than the old white masters. Having gained from the dismantling of apartheid a little more room for their own enrichment, the contempt of the black middle-class for the black poor will grow, as their fear of being deprived of their social privileges grows.

Likewise for the political institutions, the police, the army, the state machinery. The white minority will, probably, cease to have a monopoly among MPs, police and army officers, senior civil servants, etc.. But this in itself will not change the role of these institutions, as guardians of a social order aimed at protecting the profits of the rich against the revolt of the poor, and in particular against the revolt of the black poor. As the black township dwellers have already learned, being clubbed or shot at by black policemen does not make the club or the bullet any less brutal or deadly.

Even the future of the new South-African "multi-racial democracy" cannot be taken for granted. There is no saying how long it will take before the privileged in the "New South Africa" find the democratic rights of the poor layers of the population too much of a constraint and start curtailing these rights. But the scene is certainly set for that to happen at some point in the future, just as it happened in the past in every single country in Africa, simply because privileges and democracy cannot go together within the poor economies of these countries.

Such is the course of the process as it is unfolding. Yet no organisations, no voices among those involved in the negotiating process, have come out uncompromisingly against such a future. Capitalism and the social privileges attached to it are there to stay in South Africa, certainly as far as these politicians and organisations are concerned. In fact ensuring that they do is precisely the purpose of the extremely lengthy negotiating process of the past years.

Yet this was certainly not what generation after generation of township blacks fought for. But it is what their organisations have always aimed at. The history of the past forty years or so in South Africa was shaped by the struggle of the black proletariat, which was the only class powerful enough to force apartheid back into the dustbin where it belongs. But as can be seen more obviously today, these organisations used the strength of the black proletariat for their own ends.

In the name of the fight against apartheid, they lined up and merged all black social forces behind the nationalist flag. The black poor's interests were no different, they said, from those of the lawyers, small businessmen and professionals who were also at the receiving end of apartheid, and all could speak with the same voice. Except that today, the nationalist organisations, together with the black professionals, lawyers and small businessmen, are making deals with the white politicians. And the black poor are left to their own devices without a voice of their own.

The search of the white bourgeoisie for political stability

Over three years have passed since President De Klerk's famous speech on 2nd February 1990, in which he announced his plans to unban the illegal African National Congress (ANC) and South-African Communist Party (SACP) and to end apartheid. Three years which were dominated by unending and convoluted discussions at top level between the major parties on the one hand, and, on the other hand, by an on-going and bloody confrontation on the ground, in the black townships, and so-called homelands, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands so far. These three years must have seemed interminable to the township poor.

But for De Klerk and the white politicians, it is another matter. They made the choice, long ago now, much before De Klerk's 1990 speech in fact, to dismantle apartheid. There were all sorts of reasons behind this choice. But the main one, by far, was the obvious failure of the apartheid system not only to stem the militancy of the black poor but actually to prevent social crises from taking place, first in the 70s and then again in the 80s, and each time with more explosive power. This led a growing section of the white bourgeoisie itself to push for some form of political change which would aim at integrating the leading organisations in the anti-apartheid movement into their political system.

At the same time, the fact that these social crises were threatening political stability, not only in South Africa but also beyond its borders, led imperialism, particularly American imperialism, to put pressure on the South-African ruling party get its house in order. This move was part of an overall strategy aimed at defusing potential major sources of political instability throughout the world.

But ending apartheid only became a real option for the South African regime after the ANC emerged as a political force which had not only the will to reach a political compromise, but also enough support and physical presence among the black poor to be able to contain their aspirations and to channel their energy towards such a compromise.

Dismantling apartheid, however did not just boil down to granting equal rights for all South Africans. De Klerk's problem was, and remains, to ensure that the instruments of power of the bourgeoisie, in other words the state institutions, would be taken through this transition intact.

There was to be no sign of weakness, on the part of the state machinery, for fear the poor might feel encouraged to raise their demands. Nor could the most right-wing elements among the white politicians be allowed to rock the boat, for fear of splitting the white repressive forces down the middle. Likewise, today, although there has been no decisive unrest aimed at the regime in the townships since the beginning of the negotiations, De Klerk needs to ensure that his nationalist partners in the negotiations, mainly the ANC, can be relied on to keep the militancy of the black poor under tight control if need be. To this end, a working relationship between the parties that will make up the future multi-racial government has to be established at every level of power, from the top negotiating table down to the level of local community policing.

Hence the lengthy negotiation process, the cautious game alternating repressive measures and accomodating gestures, although it must be said that so far most of the concessions have been made by the ANC rather than by the government. All this for the sole purpose of maintaining political stability at all costs.

Apartheid - the imposition of political stability by brute force

The setting up of apartheid was itself aimed at maintaining social stability in the particular context of the aftermath of World War II.

During the war period 225,000 whites workers joined the army and had to be replaced. At the same time industrial production was being stepped up to supply the wartime market. As a result, by the end of the war, black workers were no longer a marginal section of the industrial working class.

In 1946, a strike involving up to 100,000 mostly black miners sent a clear warning signal to the South African bourgeoisie. If industrial production was to be expanded as part of the postwar reconstruction, measures had to be taken in order to prevent any social unrest among the millions of black poor who made up the indispensible pool of cheap labour needed by the capitalists.

Among white workers, there was already a tradition of fear and hostility to what was seen as the competition of black cheap labour. This combined with the resentment of the white poor British imperialism following the wartime hardships, boosted support for the narrow-minded mixture of apparent anti-imperialism and very real racism of the Afrikaner National Party. In the 1948 election, the National Party pushed aside the more traditional political parties and got into office.

The new ruling party, set up a comprehensive legal and administrative system which institutionalised and increased the existing discrimination against so-called non-whites. Four "races" (White, Coloured, Indian and Black) were carefully defined. They were assigned separate compulsory residential areas. In particular, the reservations set aside for the black majority were a model of cynical hypocrisy, being large stretches of unfertile lands, cut off from the main means of communication. They were supposed to be a proof of the government's benevolence towards the black population, by "giving them their traditional land back". When in fact they were only a device to keep the black unemployed away from the cities and to starve black workers into accepting work for any wage they were offered.

Hundreds of thousands were deported out of the white cities. The black working class was split into categories. On the one hand those with permanent status who were sent to live in the specially designed townships located in the industrial districts. On the other hand those with migrant status had to live in hostels while their families remained in the reservations. The existing system of individual passes for non-white workers was reinforced giving the police and the employers total control over black workers. All in all this apartheid system was an unending bureaucratic and repressive nightmare which was designed to make the non-white population totally insecure and therefore docile.

Paradoxically, it was the temporary economic success of apartheid which was to bring about its political failure. The booming development of South-Africa's modern industry, thanks to having one of the cheapest labour forces in the world, eventually forced apartheid to break its own rules. The production requirements of the capitalists proved stronger than the artificial laws introduced by their own state.

By the late 60s, despite the tight residential segregation, enormous black urban concentrations had developed around the main towns where the white population came to be largely outnumbered by mostly black non-white dwellers. Despite the legal discrimination over jobs, black workers now represented 78% of all industrial workers and 90% of all mine workers.

A powerful black working class and urban proletariat was born and it was there to stay. Under the pressure of its rising organisation and militancy, apartheid was soon to prove incapable of maintaining any political stability whatsoever.

The nationalist and communist movements - the early days

In 1912 as the South African Native National Congress. It was a loose grouping coming out of the middle class including many clergymen. This is still reflected today in the ANC's hymn, Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika ("God Save Africa") which is now to become one of the two national anthems of the future "New South Africa".

Significantly the ANC's ancestor had a section comprising of chiefs - representatives of the traditional aristocracy of the African people. Needless to say, this nationalist movement was far from radical and had little sympathy for socialist ideas.

Parallel to the nationalist movement, a trade-union movement and a socialist movement had been formed as early as the late 19th century, as a result of the activity of white immigrants coming from Europe with their own traditions. But, at least until World War I, this movement had no following in the black population nor did it seek to have one.

The first successful African workers' union, the Industrial and Commercial Union was started in 1919 after a dockworkers strike in Cape Town which won a 100% wage increase. This union rose and fell in the 1920's but at its peak claimed to organise 100,000 workers. It was a mixture of a union and a political organisation, whose dynamics and social outlook eclipsed the prayers and delegations of the ANC'c forerunner.

Despite this first spectacular outbreak of the black proletariat on the class struggle front, the development of a black working class was something that the newly-born communist movement failed to recognise for many years. Formed in 1921 in the wave of enthusiasm created by the Russian revolution, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) remained for a long time a mostly white organisation which saw no need for having a particular orientation towards the black proletariat.

The famous 1922 miners' strike was to put the fledgling CPSA to the test, when white miners came out on strike against the threat to their wages posed by cheaper black labour. Although reluctantly, the CPSA chose to support the miners. Banners were seen in demonstrations saying «Workers of the world unite and fight for a white South Africa ». The army was called in, shooting dead 230 miners, arresting thousands more and hanging their leaders. But in the end, the regime used the fears of the white workers for its own ends. Two years later laws were introduced to prevent black workers from gaining skills above a certain level, thereby enforcing the kind of job reservation scheme that many white workers saw as their only hope. This split the working class right down the middle as it was meant to.

It also split the Communist Party, a whole section of which insisted that only the white working class could provide a basis for the communist movement. It was Moscow's intervention in the late 20s that pushed the CPSA onto a new course. By then, however, the USSR was already in the hands of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The CP was instructed to embark on a campaign to woo the leaders of the ANC. One of the most prominent, Josiah Gumede, was invited to Moscow and treated as a friend of the world proletariat. Which was rather an overstatement as Gumede was known for having testified against two socialists put on trial by the South African government in 1919.

Gumede was not won over to communism. But like many nationalist leaders from poor countries at the time, he was impressed by the way in which the Russian revolution had succeeded in getting rid by one fell swoop of the old feudal system and in starting to build a modern economy. After all, once the bureaucracy had effectively deprived the Russian working class of the reality of power, the regime of the USSR fitted quite nicely with the aspirations of a nationalist like Gumede.

He was elected President-General of the ANC in 1927 at the same time as Eddie Khaile, one of the first black South African communists, was elected Secretary-General. From then onwards, despite frequent tensions a relationship developed between the top leadership of the ANC and the Communist Party, which was to become even closer after World War II. This relationship certainly did not make the ANC any less reactionary in its policies nor did it change its middle-class orientation. The traditional African chiefs who had reacted so strongly against the execution of the Russian Czar by the Bolsheviks in the revolutionary days felt just as much at home in the ANC as before.

From isolation to clandestinity

In the period 1933-39 alone state revenue from the mines quadrupled and dividends to shareholders doubled, providing a quarter of a million jobs for Africans in the mining region around Johannesburg. Most of the work was casual, wages were usually below subsistance level and hours were long - in domestic service, catering and dairy work a seven day week was common with 14 hour shifts. By 1939 the mines employed 409,000 black workers, although 40-50% of these were actually recruited from outside South Africa to ensure a more "flexible" workforce.

There were renewed attempts at building black trade unions, both by the communists and the nationalists especially in the mines. But by 1933 only three black unions existed. The main achievements in this field however were the work of expelled members of the CP and Trotskyists. In 1937, a Trotskyist called Max Gordon launched the African Commercial and Distributive Workers Union in opposition to the CP-dominated white distributive workers union which refused to admit blacks. Gordon's union was a kind of teamsters union where the teamsters drove carts or rode bicycles. Part of Gordon's success was due to his tireless attempts at fighting for wage increases through the Wages Board newly set up by the labour ministry in order to ensure that wartime production went ahead smoothly.

During World War II, after a brief spell of opposition against South Africa's participation in the war alongside Britain, both the CP and the ANC supported the war effort. While strikes were effectively outlawed under War Measure 145, the CP and the ANC went preaching industrial peace. The government proved grateful and granted both organisations an unprecedented degree of freedom. To the extent that a prominent CP leader like Bill Andrews was offered access to the state radio. For a short period the ANC-CPSA alliance came close to respectability.

Partly in reaction against this new respectability, and partly against the traditionalist line of the old leadership of the ANC, the young generation of the nationalist movement launched its own organisation in 1944, the ANC Youth League. The original core of the new organisation included people like Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Robert Sobukwe who were all to become prominent figures in the nationalist movement in the following period. It is worth noting in passing that the ANC Youth League often took exception to the involvement of CP militants in the ANC. In particular Mandela and Tambo were among those who argued at one point in favour of expelling all CP members from the ANC.

The new found respectability of the black opposition did not last long. Once the National Party came to power in 1948, it took only two years before the Communist Party was officially banned. Soon after, it was relaunched underground as the SACP. Its black members concentrated their activity inside the ANC which was still legal. However this policy was to carry on after the banning of the ANC itself in 1960. For the Communist Party members, the separating line between the nationalism of the ANC and the "communism" of the SACP became more and more blurred.

In 1954, the government further split the union movement by a new Industrial Conciliation Act which required unions to have separate branches for black and white workers if they were to be recognised - all under white leadership. It was against this repressive background that the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) was set up in 1955 as a joint initiative by the SACP and the ANC. Despite its 35 affiliated unions SACTU remained relatively weak with only 14,200 white and 38,790 black members by 1961.

By that time, the ANC had split. The Pan-African Congress launched by former members of the ANC Youth League led by Robert Sobukwe who opposed the alliance of the ANC with "white" organisations, by which the PAC leaders meant mainly the CP. The two organisations immediately engaged in a fierce competition, which was brutally stopped on 21 March 1960 when 69 protesters were shot by the police at Sharpeville in a demonstration against the pass laws organised by the PAC. Repression was stepped up. A state of emergency was declared and 20,000 people were arrested. Both the ANC and the PAC were banned.

By the early 60s, most of the nationalist leaders, together with those of the CP and SACTU had been arrested. The most prominent were given life sentences and left to rot in the notorious Robben Island. Those who managed to escape went abroad and set up exile organisations in "friendly" countries like Tanzania, Zambia and later on Angola. In exile, the ANC-SACP alliance was undoubtedly strenghtened by the material help provided by the USSR. But their activity within South Africa was confined to a minimum for some years. And even when the masses of the black poor started moving again, nearly a decade later, it took them a long time before they were able to regain a sizeable influence.

The 70's: the black working class re-emerges with a vengeance

Towards the end of the sixties and early seventies, South Africa experienced another industrial boom. South Africa was no longer merely an exporter of raw materials and Outspan oranges.

After nearly 10 years of inactivity, a wave of strikes broke out in 1971. Namibia saw its first ever general strike. Its importance was limited as far as numbers were concerned, but the solidness of the strike made it impossible for the employers to just get the army to shoot the strikers on the spot as usual. They had to compromise. The same year there was a series of strikes in Johannesburg and in the Durban docks, which won the strikers a wage increase. The following year the Durban dockers were out on strike again, soon followed by those of Cape Town. One month later the Wage Board had agreed an increase in their wages of 40%. Up until this period, strikes meant killings, mass arrests, dismissals and deportations. Such a reversal must undoubtedly have boosted workers' confidence.

In January 1973 a strike broke out in the Durban Coronation Brick and Tile Company. 2,000 workers went on the march chanting «Man is dead but his spirit still lives », as it was common for striking workers to call themselves «dead men » who could only gain by taking action. They won a wage increase of around 30%. More importantly, the strikers and their marches got a day-by-day national media coverage. No sooner had the brickworkers resumed work than 6,000 workers closed down several factories belonging to the Frame Textile Group in the Durban area. They also won a wage increase. The strikes then spread like wild fire with demonstrations going from plant to plant and by the end of the year, 100,000 workers had been on strike and won higher wages.

Eventually miners went out on strike too, winning at least the right to be trained up for vacancies that whites could not fill. The strikes on the mines - right across the Rand and to the West, were violent and unorganised. Strict security in the compounds meant that unionisation was still very limited.

Between 1973 and 1976, over 200,000 black workers went on strike. In the aftermath of the 1973 strikes in Natal, African trade unions began to be re-established. This then led to many strikes for union recognition. By mid-1974 22 unions had been launched but with a membership of only 30,000. In a way this was not surprising. Up to then workers had conducted successful actions collectively without any formal organisation. In fact their refusal to negotiate through representatives, their insistance that nothing short of a wage increase was acceptable, their complete solidarity until this was won, had been their strength.

The repression escalated but the strike wave did not end. It dovetailed into the revolt which started in Soweto on the 16th June 1976.

The Soweto uprising

Since the late sixties a strong student movement had developed, inspired by the American students' movement against the Vietnam War and by the American Black Power Movement, with the launching of the black South African Students Organisation (SASO) in 1969.

By 1976, there existed an equivalent to SASO, organising school students. It was particularly strong in Soweto and it was in Soweto that a movement against compulsory Afrikaans medium teaching started to gain impetus that year. A co-ordinating committee of two students from each school was formed. It was this committee which organised the demonstration on the 16th of June which marked the beginning of the revolt.

The demonstration of 15,000 school students from 10 to 20 years old was fired on by police with buckshot and tear gas. Then the cops sent in their dogs to savage the students but the dogs were torn apart by hand and the students replied with huge salvos of stones and bricks. They drove the police back despite the live bullets shot at them and the casualties. All in all probably over a hundred students were shot dead that day. Hundreds more were shot and injured. By mid-morning, the students were setting up barricades in Soweto's streets, burning down administrative offices where they found and stoned to death two white administrators. They smashed and burnt beerhalls and liquor stores and burnt buses belonging to PUTCO, the bus company which had just increased its fares.

The workers knew nothing of these events, but when they returned to Soweto that evening they faced vengeful police battalions who attacked them with batons and teargas. Instead of running for it, they too retaliated with anything they could lay their hands on. The next day there was a "stay at home" by workers while the police descended on Soweto with a vengeance in their armoured cars known as "hippos".

Alexandra, Thembisa, Kagiso, and townships near Pretoria saw battles with police and barricades erected the following day. The schools were officially declared shut by the education minister by the end of the week. A news blackout of the huge spread of the revolt hid it from the eyes of the population. But all over the country workers were stopping work and people demonstrating on the streets, not in fear, but in anger and even jubilation. Many thought the time of liberation had finally arrived. And this was echoed from the far Northern Transvaal to Cape Town.

The revolt held out well into September, with successful national "stay at homes" being held in August and September. But the scale of police terror eventually pushed the revolt underground once more. Thousands upon thousands of youth were arrested. It was the beginning of a period in which there would be hundreds of Parents' committees formed to campaign for information on a generation of "disappeared" youth. Many of course did escape out of South Africa into Botswana and beyond.

The importance of these tumultuous months, however, was enormous. No amount of repression and killings had been able to stop the black population from taking their anger to the streets. Not only had they staged demonstration after demonstration and paralysed the economy time and again, but they had fought back against the police and forced them to give ground. The days of the tame black poor were over. The black urban proletariat had emerged. For a whole generation of black youth submissiveness was no longer an option. They had experienced the strength and sense of dignity of the black poor on the move, they were not likely to forget it.

The Black Consciousness movement

It is difficult to pinpoint a decisive influence in the Soweto uprising. The political groups that were active on the ground were certainly too small and isolated to play an effective leading role in the events. Yet, in the Soweto uprising at least, and to an extent during the wave of strikes of the early 70s, the ANC-SACP alliance was largely eclipsed by a new movement whose representatives, like Steve Biko, came to be seen as symbols of the new found strength acquired by the black population in these events. This was the Black Consciousness movement.

This current had materialised in 1972 through the launching of the Black Peoples' Convention, mostly by students and intellectuals. Together with white student sympathisers, they had provided help to strikers in the early 70s, often acting as union advisors setting up Wages Commissions and advice centres. The BPC had even set up the Black Allied Workers Union although it actually never materialised anywhere near a shopfloor.

As opposed to the traditional nationalism of the ANC, Black Consciousness stated that the emancipation of the black population could only be achieved by the black population itself, without relying in any way on the white man's political institutions, whether in South Africa or abroad. Only self-consciousness and direct action could achieve anything. It was a mixture of radical nationalism and populism whose major failing was to ignore, rather than deny, the division of society into classes with conflicting interests and to rely on spontaneity rather than organisation.

As a result of these failings, the movement did not really move outside of a narrow middle-class and semi-intellectual milieu and though it said a lot about how important it was to be conscious and proud of being black, it never pointed to any way of getting the respect and dignity which was their due, except by proving oneself to oneself or in its more crass forms, arguing for a black capitalism rather than a white one. In that sense Black Consciousness was a direct competitor to the ANC-SACP's brand of nationalism.

True the ANC was not completely unseen during the Soweto uprising and the immediate aftermath. In September, they did help the Soweto student leaders to organise a three-day "stay at home" in the township. And some individuals gained some credit for the ANC by making a public stand, like Winnie Mandela who as a result of intervening vocally against the reactionary black Soweto council was confined to house arrest in Brandfort in the Orange Free State for the next five years. But because the Black Consciousness figureheads were there, on the ground and in the open, at the forefront of the battles against the police, rather than hidden underground or abroad as the ANC was, and because the ANC-SACP, being caught unawares, was slow to react and only tried to intervene when the uprising was already subsiding, they were effectively marginalised.

The ANC regains ground in the refugee camps

The ANC, however, was the only organisation with a solid base in the countries surrounding South Africa. When the Soweto youth escaped they immediately found ANC organisers who offered them shelter and food in refugee camps.

But what to do next was the question they asked themselves. To return to South Africa and trigger another Soweto? Given the repressive tide, this hardly seemed to be an option. To return and organise the masses from the underground? That would have been the only option, had the youth had a social perspective, that of organising the black working class and turning its collective strength into a mighty lever to overturn the rule of the white bourgeoisie. But the youth had no such social perspective. Whereas the ANC, on the other hand, had a different "option" to offer these young enthusiasts.

Since the early 50s, the ANC had set up, mostly with the help of Communist Party activists, what came to be known as Umkhonto we Sizwe , the "Spear of the Nation", or "MK", which was meant to be the armed wing of the nationalist movement. Initially it had been set up as a sabotage organisation, aimed at making the black masses aware of the continuing existence of the nationalist movement despite its isolation. For a long time the activities of MK were limited to almost nothing. It was plagued with amateurism and there were more casualties in its own ranks, due to breaches of security or incompetence in manipulating explosives, than damage done to the South African regime.

Then, when the ANC was banned and refugee camps were set up outside South Africa for ANC supporters, the "armed struggle" became a pretext to create a disciplined apparatus in which members were soldiers, and therefore could be justifiably deprived of any democratic say in their own organisation. The theory was that MK volunteers were training to go back to South Africa and start a guerilla war there. In fact this hardly ever happened. In the 60s the only time the 2000 or so MK volunteers were engaged in fighting was to help Nkomo's ZAPU, one of the main guerilla movements fighting the white-dominated regime of Ian Smith in Zimbabwe.

But the apparent radicalism of the "armed struggle" must have appealed to the Soweto youth refugees, especially in the absence of any alternative policy. In any case many of them joined MK enthusiastically, allowing the ANC-SACP to capitalise on the outcome of the Soweto uprising despite their virtual absence in the uprising itself.

Within South Africa, the ANC-SACP made the best of the political vacuum left by the collapse of the Black Consciousness movement. This was the time they chose to make Nelson Mandela, then imprisoned on Robben Island, into an icon. The 25th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter, the ANC's Programme, due to take place in 1980, was the starting point of campaigning in the name of Mandela while a "Release Mandela" signature campaign was initiated country-wide. Of course these campaigns, often organised around religious events were a far cry from the pride and combattiveness of the Soweto insurgents. But since they coincided with the revival of working class and township militancy, Mandela, if not the ANC itself, soon became a symbol of the rebellion of the black poor.

The 80's: the working class back on the offensive

In the wake of the Soweto uprising the independent unions which had emerged prior to 1976, suffered severe setbacks. However by 1979, the Metal and Allied Workers Union MAWU re-established itself in the Transvaal as well as some of the Natal-based unions. And in April 1979, the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU) was launched around these unions. Other union federations emerged as well in the same period which opposed the multi-racialism of FOSATU.

Among the factors that boosted the unionisation drive was the publication in 1979 of the Wiehahn Commission's report. This commission had been set up by the government to find ways of meeting the growing skills shortage in industry. Among its recommendations was the recognition of independent African unions. This obviously gave a thrust to the development of many black unions including, for the first time on a legal basis, a union for black miners, the NUM.

But workers' militancy was on the increase as well. That same year, even before the publication of the Wiehahn Commission report, workers at Fattis and Monis, a Cape Town food processing plant struck for recognition, reviving the tactic of the consumer boycott. In the end the company caved in and recognised the Food and Canning Workers Union.

Between 1979 and 1983, the signed-up membership of the independent trade unions went up 4 times, from 70,000 to 300,000. Recognition agreements between unions and companies increased from five in 1979 to 406 in 1983. But still only 16% of the black workforce was unionised!

In that period, strikes mushroomed across the country over all sorts of issues, reflecting a new confidence on the part of the workforce. Thus, in the Ford factory in Port Elizabeth, a racist backlash from white workers following a successful strike over the sacking of a black militant, was met with another strike by the black workers this time against racism. When black workers were sacked, the strike spread further and threatened to become such an embarassment that the American Consul in Cape Town put pressure on Ford to re-instate all sacked workers.

Then, in September 1984, the miners union NUM, which was now 90,000 strong, claimed a wage increase of 60%. The employers' offer of 16.3% was too little, too late and 45,000 miners stopped work. 2,000 miners had a stand up confrontation with the police leaving more than 9 of their number dead but managing to burn down managements' offices. The police were doubled, the army brought in and many workers were deported while the army began to occupy the townships as well. At this point a general strike call went out supported by every black union and community organisation. The wave of repession which followed only served to increase the anger of the population and spread the revolt further. In the end, the mining bosses' organisations called on the government to make some concessions and release political prisoners.

Unlike the repression of the 70s, this time the brutal repression of union organisations failed to stop the unionisation drive and to intimidate workers. For instance, when union meetings were effectively banned under emergency provisions in late 1985, many unions of the Johannesburg area resorted to organising what they called emzabalazweni ("places of struggle"): every week, on each commuter line, a carriage and a time was picked to be the union's meeting place for the week.

Riding the wave of militancy throughout the country, union organisation kept increasing in the following years. By 1988, the black unions organised nearly 900,000 members and two years later, in 1990, 42% of all black waged workers were unionised. Between 1986 and 1990, more man-days were lost in strike action than in the previous 75 years as a whole. Such was the extent of the wave of militancy of the 80s.

As to the nationalist ANC-SACP alliance, they seem to have played little role in the initial wave of unionisation. Many union activists among those who had formed the new unions in the early 80s were critical of the nationalist outlook of the ANC and insisted that the working class needed a voice of its own. However, despite this "workerist" stand, as it was then called, these activists did not take the step of setting up a political party for the working class.

This left a political vacuum, with the ANC-SACP providing the only political and organisational framework on offer. By 1985, the nationalists' influence was already visible when COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, was launched. In any case, over the next few years the nationalists gained control of some of the largest COSATU affiliates and of the COSATU leadership itself, sometimes resorting to the crudest bureaucratic manoeuvre to achieve this aim.

Making the townships "ungovernable"

Mass industrial action was not the only aspect of the mobilisation of the black poor throughout the 80s. The extent of this mobilisation was also reflected in the day-to-day life of the townships, which after all, were the homes of most black workers employed in large industries.

Soon demands over rents increases, bus fare increases, housing and schooling were being raised. All sorts of committees sprang up to agitate for these demands. Riots, consumer boycotts and school boycotts, rent strikes, were organised across the country. Government buildings were burned down. Many townships became for a while no-go areas for the police. In the heat of the struggle, the puppet local councils recently empowered by the state to run the townships collapsed completely. After a number of councillors were killed and their houses burnt, candidates for councillor positions became difficult to find. And in any case, the councils ceased to have any authority among the township dwellers. To all intents and purposes, the townships became ungovernable.

In 1979, a handful of Black Consciousness activists in Soweto had launched the Soweto Civic Association as a democratic alternative to the puppet local councils as well as an organising body for local protests. It was soon to be followed by many others, which became known as civics. But this time the ANC-SACP alliance was careful not to make the same mistake they had made before the Soweto uprising. Not having the militants to set up and take control of civics across the country, they made sure to be heard championing the setting up of civics everywhere.

Then, in 1983, the ANC-SACP were instrumental in launching the United Democratic Front as an umbrella organisation aimed at linking up all the civics and local committees that had mushroomed in the country. Significantly enough, at first the civics themselves were hardly represented in the leadership of the UDF. It was only later, once the UDF had become an established organisation, that some civics leaders were included in its leadership. By setting up the civics organisation from above, as it were, the nationalists took over control of the movement as a whole, even though many local civics included a majority of people who were not ANC supporters initially. In fact a large part of the success of the nationalists in increasing enormously their base of support in the 80s was due to their success in appearing as the leadership of a movement which had developed spontaneously.

The nationalists as potential partners in a political compromise

In July 1989, an apparently intentional leak from the ministry of Justice revealed that the then President PW Botha had met Robben Island prisoner Nelson Mandela. As it became known later that year, however, regular direct discussions between Botha's minister of Justice and Nelson Mandela had been held ever since late in 1986.

This meant that the ruling National Party had started discussing with the ANC leadership, sometimes in the Summer of 1986, almost at the same time as it was declaring a state of emergency which paralysed the ANC almost completely - 40,000 people were imprisoned, including most UDF and civics leaders. But then, the coincidence of these two events was not as paradoxical as it may seem. Recognising the prominence of the nationalists among the black population by opening discussions with them was one thing; agreeing to discuss with them when they were in a position of strength was another!

Before these discussions actually started, the ground was prepared by a number of meetings between the leadership of the ANC and representatives of some of the largest South African companies. Probably the most prominent was the 1985 Zambian conference with a delegation of the giant mining multinational Anglo-American. Anglo's then top manager summed up the meeting afterwards saying that the leadership of the ANC «is more interested in a viable and dynamic South African economy than in economic forms inspired by Marxism ». In other words, the capitalists could talk business with the ANC. Indeed, while Botha and Mandela held secret talks, the ANC leadership met representatives of the white bourgeoisie no less than 30 times, usually abroad, including even the president of the Broederbond, that elitist and reactionary Afrikaner free-masonry.

What the ANC and the government discussed between 1986 and 1989 is not known. But undoubtedly the main reason for this long waiting period was to allow the political situation to cool down enough so that the negotiation process would not start under the pressure of events. And indeed, by 1989, after three years under a state of emergency with almost permanent confrontations in the townships, the situation was no longer explosive, even if it was far from quiet. The government was in a stronger position to start discussing. And the ANC was under less pressure from the townships to make a show of radicalism for the sake of not losing support. The situation was therefore ripe for them to be recognised openly as legitimate partners by the National Party.

The first official meeting between Mandela and PW Botha in July 1989 opened the first stage in the negotiating process. This stage was to last more than two years until the formal opening of the negotiations themselves in December 1991, with the launching of CODESA, the Confererence for a Democratic South Africa, which brought 19 organisations to the negotiating table.

Setting the scene for the negotiations

Before the negotiations could start, there were a number of prerequisites that had to be dealt with. The first was the formal repeal of the segregation laws still in existence, although most had been weakened by reforms implemented since the early 80s. This was eventually completed in June 1991, leaving the issue of political rights for the black population as the main item to be resolved at the negotiating table.

A second prerequisite had to do with political prisoners and exiles. One after the other, all the jailed leaders of the ANC and SACP were released including Mandela himself who was freed in February 1990, shortly after De Klerk replaced PW Botha in government. In May, a joint working party was set up to organise the return of exiled activists and examine their claims to indemnity.

Rank-and-file activists were not as lucky as the leading figures however. For all the noise made initially by the ANC-SACP leadership about the freeing of political prisoners and the return of exiles, this demand was soon forgotten. A general amnesty has yet to be declared for all anti-apartheid activists. Hundreds of them are still in jail in 1993, including many who were given sentences for alleged criminal offences and are not even considered political prisoners, and hunger strikes are still common in South African prisons. Not to mention several thousands exiles whose application for indemnity are still held up by some bureaucratic bottleneck. Obviously De Klerk was not so keen to have the townships flooded with "agitators" wo had accounts to settle with the regime. But one may well ask if the nationalist leadership was any keener.

The last, and most important prerequisite, was the unbanning of all anti-apartheid political organisations. As soon as it was announced in February 1990, the ANC and SACP proceeded to re-establish themselves as legal organisations on the ground. The way this was done was a graphic illustration of their political choices.

The ANC's first move was to disband the UDF, which deprived myriads of local organisations, committees and civics of a common national forum. In April 1990, the top leadership of the UDF decided «not to undertake any further political activity ». And to make sure that no-one would stand in the way of this decision, they waited for eleven months before putting it to a national conference.

The ANC then set up local branches. Many activists argued in favour of trying to incorporate the existing local committees into the ANC. The leadership replied that it would be impossible for the ANC to accommodate all the political trends represented in these committees, and that anyway, the role of the ANC was not to initiate or organise struggles in the townships. Instead ANC activists were invited to recruit a few members from each of the local committees in order to keep these committees in check, but the ANC branches were directed not to take part in local struggles.

Each branch was to incorporate a minimum of 1000 members. This meant that besides listening to the official line spelt out from the platform, very little would be discussed, even less decided, at branch meetings. This was put in a nutshell by an ANC regional organiser in the run-up to the ANC's first public conference in July 1991: «What will ANC branches address once all political prisoners have been released and all members have discussed what a constituent assembly and an interim government mean? Many ANC members are tired of marching, chanting slogans and discussing relatively abstract issues such as interim government which they have given up trying to fathom anyway. ANC branches have been left with very little activity to keep them alive ».

But did the leadership want an active, dynamic and militant organisation? Certainly not. As another disheartened ANC activist complained in Mayibuye, the ANC's paper, «Mobilisation by decree is the norm; a leaflet issued from central office is usually the sum total of preparations for any campaign ». This was the kind of organisation that the ANC leadership wanted. It had to be large, of course, and disciplined, but solely concerned with the swift implementation of any instructions which the leaders saw fit to send, depending on their needs at the negotiating table. In any case, the ANC branches were not to be carried away by the fighting spirit of the townships, let alone by their impatience. As ANC secretary-general and CP old-timer Alfred Nzo replied to critics who were demanding that ANC branches should take part in organising more effective mass action, it was up to the local branches to show more imagination by organising for instance... cultural festivals and flower marches to military bases!

Nor were the ANC branches to be dominated by the black poor. At the ANC July 1991 conference, Mandela expressed his concern about the membership being overwhelmingly working-class and got a resolution passed urging to conduct «door-to-door campaigns and home visits, especially in the middle-class of all communities ».

In rural areas, the new ANC branches were simply set up following the pattern of local patronage, with traditional chiefs appointing themselves as branch officials. Likewise in the homelands, the ANC leadership proved willing to make allowances to the local rulers as long as they were prepared to provide their support. In Venda, for instance, the launching meeting of the ANC branches was attended as a guest of honour by the Venda chief-minister, former security policeman Brigadier Ramushwana. As a result Venda civil servants and policemen flooded into the ANC branches...

The unbanning did not change much in the relationship between the ANC and the SACP, although there were a few failed attempts by some non-communist ANC leading figures to launch an offensive against the SACP. As an open organisation this time, claiming tens of thousands of members, the SACP carried on playing a prominent role at every level of the ANC, as well as in COSATU, with a political orientation which was so hard to distinguish from that of the ANC that at the SACP's first public conference, in December 1991, the leadership's report complained about the fact that potential recruits in the ANC did not see the point of joining the SACP.

The threat of the racist far-right

Among the problems that De Klerk is trying to tackle through the negotiating process, are the fears of the white minority. One of the functions of the negotiating process is to allow the white population to get used to the idea of a multi-racial society and to acknowledge the fact that it is not necessarily going to make a tremendous change in their existence.

In this respect, De Klerk has already had some successes. After all he managed to win 68% of the vote in favour of his reforms in a referendum in March 1992. But this does not mean that all white opposition to the end of apartheid is gone.

The main opposition to the current process is not to be found among the many far-right groups. It is, by far, the second largest parliamentary party, the Conservative Party which has proved that being respectably involved in parliamentary politics does not exclude resorting to terrorism. The aftermath of the murder of the Communist Party General Secretary Chris Hani in April this year, revealed a web of connections between some leading members of the Conservative Party and the far-right.

Therefore the fact that the far-right, including its largest organisation, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement of Eugene Terreblanche, has failed to mobilise significant numbers in the streets so far, does not mean that it will not at some point in the future. Only, if this did happen, some of today's respectable Conservative MPs could well replace Terreblanche.

There is no shortage of potential troops for the far-right. To begin with, there are, within the state machinery, tens of thousands of policemen, soldiers, security officers, etc.. whose whole training and outlook have been shaped by the brutal enforcement of apartheid. This layer is already the main recruiting ground for the far-right and many of the white vigilante groups who have been trying to spread terror in the townships over the past years have come out of this milieu. The "committee of generals" set up in April this year by a number of retired army and police figures, led by the former army chief General Viljoen, is clearly posing as a potential leadership for all the Rambo's of the apartheid machinery.

Besides, over the past few years, the South African economy has experienced a drastic slump, due partly to the world recession, partly to the political uncertainties in the country and partly to the austerity measures taken by the government. The result is at least 40% unemployment in the black population. But white workers have also been severely affected, which is a totally new experience for most of them. In certain areas, employers are even cutting wages by replacing white workers with black workers. The situation has become so bad, that at the end of last year, 200,000 white South Africans depended on soup kitchens for their daily food - that is 4% of the white population.

In addition, the one in five white wage earners who are directly employed by the state are likely to start wondering about their futures. The Conservative Party has already begun to play on these fears. And although Mandela has come out very clearly against any sackings on the grounds of colour, his commitment to slim down what he described as an «over-inflated public sector », which he shares with De Klerk, is unlikely to reassure the white state employees.

So far, the far-right as such remains uninfluential, the Conservative Party still plays - more or less - by the rules of the negotiating process and there is no sign of a sizeable section of the white population turning to the far-right out of despair. But the risk of such a development taking place cannot be dismissed.

The nationalists' credentials as would-be statesmen

The current lengthy negotiation process is also meant to allow the various potential partners in the future government of the "New South Africa", in particular the ANC, to put their own house in order in preparation for the exercising of state power.

The ANC, however, are not quite newcomers in the field of state power. Their decades in exile have given them a long experience in some of the functions involved in this exercise.

The ANC exile organisation used to rule over 12,000 exiles. It had its own large estates in Angola, Zambia and Tanzania, complete with schools, hospitals, factories, farms. It had its own army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and its security police, which was nicknamed Mbokodo , which means "the boulder which crushes". It even had prisons, like the notorious Quatro centre in northern Angola, as was revealed by scores of unfortunate ANC members who returned from exile after years in the ANC's own jails.

While the refugee camps, and their infrastructure were undoubtedly a necessity to cater for the large number of people forced out of South Africa by the repression, the training and maintaining of military and police personel was not a necessity, it was a political choice.

The ANC obviously never had any intention of defeating the sophisticated South African army militarily. But it was never even serious about the official purpose of MK - the organisation of military operations in South Africa.

This even caused problems in its own ranks. In 1983, some MK units in the Angolan Malanje region started criticising the excesses of Mbokodo and the comfortable lives of the ANC leadership which contrasted with the poor conditions and inactivity imposed on MK soldiers. A draft document was even circulated asking why the trained MK volunteers were not sent back to South Africa and demanding that an ANC conference should be called to reassess the orientation of the armed struggle (the last such conference had been held as far back as 1969). The ANC leadership replied by sending these units to help the Angolan government troops against the UNITA guerillas. The MK soldiers fought and many died. But when they returned to their bases in December 1984, the discontent turned into a mutiny involving hundreds of volunteers. Within a few weeks the mutiny was suppressed under the personal supervision of Chris Hani. Some volunteers were shot, others were sent to disciplinary camps or to jail, others disappeared. But no effort was made to send MK volunteers to South Africa.

In fact, at its highest point of activity within South Africa, in 1988, MK was involved in 281 operations over a whole year. In other words, the ANC's justification for maintaining MK and the repressive apparatus around it, was fraudulent. They had other purposes in mind. On the one hand, to use MK to sustain, by force, if need be, discipline and cohesion around the leadership of the organisation. On the other hand, to train a layer of people who would not shy away from repressive tasks once the ANC got into power. By maintaining MK and Mbokodo , the ANC leadership were actually laying the foundation for a repressive apparatus that could be used in the future against the black population.

Since the unbanning, the leadership has sent a number of its volunteers to get officer training in military academies, first in Russia and then in India, no doubt in preparation for the future integration of MK into the South African army.

At the time when the townships were plagued with daily confrontations with vigilantes or Inkatha thugs, the military expertise of MK volunteers would have been helpful in organising self-defence militias. But instead, ANC leaders insisted that these matters should be left to the police and that local activists should liaise with the local police to help them in stemming the violence. And in the townships where the local youth did organise their own self-defence squads, Mandela came out very vocally earlier this year urging them to go back to school.

On the other hand, there was at least one occasion since the unbanning when former MK volunteers were called to action by the ANC leadership. This was in April this year, to serve as marshalls in the huge demonstrations triggered by the murder of Chris Hani. Altogether 14,000 marshalls helped to contain the anger and frustration of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Since then, a new programme has been launched to train 3,000 ANC marshalls in crowd control and community policing. No doubt they will end up making a career in the police of the "New South Africa". In the meantime, ANC activists are getting used to the idea, but also to the role of controlling and restraining township demonstrations and... helping the ANC leadership to prove their capacity to perform the repressive tasks of real statesmen.

A proven loyalty to capitalist interests

The ANC leadership of course, already has a long record of good relations with leading South African and foreign capitalists. In 1988 the Business Consultative Movement was set up bringing together COSATU and businessmen from some of the main companies operating in South Africa. The following year, a meeting took place in Geneva between the ANC and leading figures in the South African and international financial sphere. Today, the British Financial Times carries a profile of the ANC General Secretary Cyril Ramaphosa entitled «A tough but charming architect of change »...

Capitalist opinion obviously has no longer any doubts as to the political will of the ANC leadership. Even the SACP's role in the ANC is hardly questioned. After all the ANC and SACP leaders have stated time and again that there was no question of undermining capitalist profit. And Mandela has proved a very committed ambassador of South African capitalist interest by touring the world's capitals looking for investments.

Relationships with the ANC-controlled unions are just as flourishing. Jay Naidoo, the general secretary of COSATU urged members to «ensure that industry is restructured at both a private and public sector level to promote efficiency, eliminate wastage and corruption, so as to become internationally competitive ». Even the national council of NUMSA, the metal workers union, which is still considered the most radical among the major unions in COSATU, has issued a statement in favour of «developing world-class manufacturing ». At a time when companies are cutting jobs left, right and centre in the name of productivity, such statements show the long distance covered since the massive wave of industrial militancy of the early 80s. Under the guidance of the nationalist leadership, union bureaucrats have now emerged with the clear objective of building a competitive capitalist South Africa.

In fact, a whole set of government-sponsored bodies now bring together regularly representatives from the unions, the employers and the government to discuss economic policies. The main ones are the National Economic Forum, the Economic Advisory Council and the National Manpower Commission. Just like in Britain under the Labour governments of the 70s, union leaders are now busy discussing the in's and out's of austerity measures. Except that instead of talking about a "Social Contract", they talk about a "New South Africa".

To all intents and purposes, as far as the economic field is concerned, the South African bourgeoisie can be reassured: if the nationalists can help it, not only no harm will be done to their cherished profits but they can expect the nationalists to help screwing the black working class even more effectively - in the name of rebuilding the economy of black South Africa, no doubt!

Will the black proletariat be deprived of its gains?

As it stands today, in statistical terms, the South African economy can be situated somewhere between that of Argentina and Mexico - clearly in the Third World in any case. But the reality is in fact much bleaker. The raw production figures hide the legacy of apartheid - the decades of minimal investment in public facilities, housing, schools, etc.. To make up for this delay, just to catch up with the very modest level of development of South American countries, would require enormous resources. And where would these resources come from? They will not come from the state since all the parties involved in the negotiating process are committed to reducing state expenditure. Nor will they come from the capitalists' profits, since all the parties involved are equally committed to protect profits.

What is in store therefore, for the vast majority of the black proletariat is at best being stuck with their present standard of living, but more likely, given the present world recession, much worse.

To add insult to injury, the plans worked out so far in the negotiations are that the same white politicians who enforced apartheid for so long will still be in government to enforce the policies of the "New South Africa" together with the ANC and the other partners in the negotiation.

Surely the township poor did not fight for so long only for the dubious privilege of being exploited in the same way but by a multi-racial capitalist class! But whether there yet exists a significant layer of the black proletariat that has misgivings in this respect, is difficult to say. So far there is no sign of this.

Not that there is no discontent against the ANC leaderhip in the black townships. On the contrary, very conspicuous signs were evident in the recent explosion of anger that flooded the streets of the main towns of South Africa in April, after the murder of Chris Hani. Slogans like «One Boer, one bullet », placards saying «Mandela released three years ago; South Africa still not free » were chanted or displayed across the country. Leading figures of the ANC and SACP, including Mandela, Slovo and Ramaphosa, were booed by packed meetings when they condemned the youth who were setting up barricades and having running battles with the cops at the same time in the streets.

But, so far, the signs of discontent only indicate that some are blaming the ANC leadership for not being tough enough with the police and the government or are becoming impatient at the length of the negotiating process. There is no indication of any questioning of the negotiating process itself, or of the nature of the future South Africa as it is planned by the nationalists.

Of course there are political trends in what used to be the anti-apartheid movement which present themselves as opponents to the ANC. The only sizeable one seems to be the Pan African Congress. But although it is obviously trying to capitalise on the impatience of the youth in particular, in order to boost its support, the PAC does not offer a policy which is different from that of the ANC. Its main reason for being opposed to the ANC is that it is not strong enough to compete with it in the negotiating process. The fact that the PAC, boasts of having organised a few attacks against white farmers in remote areas of the country does not indicate in itself a different policy. It only indicates that the PAC feels it needs to carry on such token actions in order to build support. In fact, if anything, by its repeated spectacular walkouts from the negotiations, the PAC is never quite in it but never quite out of it either.

For the time being therefore, there is no indication that a different policy from that of the ANC is being proposed to the black proletariat and has any support in its ranks. At this point, and despite the already lengthy negotiations and the agenda which is already set, it is very likely that the transition phase to the new regime, has far to go still. And the explosion of anger which set alight the townships for a few days in April, together with the frustration against the ANC which was visible on that occasion, show that the ANC leadership may experience some future difficulties in the implementation of its plans. In any case it certainly shows that there is still a significant explosive power in the townships, certainly strong enough to upset whatever plans are made by the politicians.

This explosive power could be used by the black proletariat to shape its future differently. It could again become a decisive weapon in their hands, just as it was against the apartheid regime. But this will only happen if the black proletariat uses this weapon to challenge the social set-up of society, if it undertakes consciously to fight against the exploiters, white and black, who plan to maintain that other kind of apartheid which is created by capitalist exploitation. If the black proletariat is to make any lasting gains from its fight against apartheid, it will have to take up the fight once more, but this time for a social revolution.