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Publication Details

Reference
Macozoma, Saki  (2003) From a theory of revolution to the management of a fragile state. Development Update Vol 4 No 3 : 1-20.

Summary
Debating the South African transition and its prospects to deliver thoroughgoing transformation is not new: it is the continuation of a century-long tradition of analysing the politics and economics of South Africa with a view to finding and forging appropriate responses. Two broad alliances emerged in South Africa over time: the capital/apartheid axis, and a nationalist/marxist axis represented by the Congress Alliance 2 led by the African National Congress (ANC). Each produced a central thesis that underpinned its ideological perspective. The ideological outlook of the capital/apartheid axis first appeared as jingoism sanitised by a civilising mission, exemplified by Lord Milner and his kindergarten after the South African War. Afrikaners, when their turn came, underpinned their ideological outlook with strident nationalism reinforced by Herrenvolkism. At the centre of both these ideological prisms was support for a system of capitalist accumulation that sought to pauperise Africans for the purpose of securing the plentiful cheap labour for which the economy thirsted. The consolidation of the settler state in 1910 resulted in a government that John Tengo Jabavu had earlier characterised as ‘playing a political baal to the entreaties of the Natives’ 3 and necessitated new political responses on the part of the African population. The burden of developing a theory and praxis of resistance, and later of revolution, lay with the leadership of the African population.

As resistance grew in response to the legislation of dispossession and greater discrimination, a theory of resistance became necessary. The confluence of resistance strategies between African nationalists and communists began in the late 1920s and culminated in the Congress Alliance in the 1950s. The complex reality of the relationship between national, class and gender oppression and its symbiotic relationship with capitalism had to be explained in political terms. The concept of colonialism of a special type CST) was developed.4 From this understanding of the South African problem a theory of revolution – the national democratic revolution (NDR)5 – evolved over decades of struggle and reflection. The concept of the national democratic revolution guided the ANC and its allies through the political negotiations of the early 1990s to a settlement that included significant compromises. The critical question at the conclusion of the negotiations was whether a programme for the fundamental transformation of society was possible, given the nature of the negotiated settlement. This question brought the role of the state in the South African transition onto the centre stage of political and ideological debate. The state, in any case, had assumed a particular significance in South Africa given the country’s socio-political development from a series of independent African polities, through the Afrikaner republics and the consolidation of the settler state by the British, to the evolution of the apartheid state. Each successive group needed the state in order to exercise hegemony. The British needed a coherent, unified state to put a firm grip on the country’s mineral wealth. Afrikaner nationalists needed the state to realise their dream of eradicating the poor white problem and give practical effect to their particular notions of Herrenvolkism and national socialism. African nationalists and their allies, in their turn, need(ed) to capture the state in order to stop and reverse the ravages of apartheid and its twin, racial capitalism.

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