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Date: Fri, 20 Jan 95 21:10 GMT-0200
From: namnet-request@lisse.NA
Subject: namnet Digest V95 #3

From Liberation Organisations to Ruling Parties: The ANC and SWAPO in Transition

NamNet Digest, Vol. 95, no. 3. 17 January, 1995

Date: Tue, 17 Jan 1995 14:01:33 +0800
From: (Timothy Dauth)
Subject: Namibia news
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"From Liberation Organisations to Ruling Parties: The ANC and SWAPO in Transition"

Outline of work in progress for PhD thesis in History.
Timothy Dauth. University of Western Australia, Department of History.

Alongside a comparative historical analysis of the transitions from liberation organisations to parties in government, this study aims to assess the development of specifically socialist politics in the ANC and SWAPO pre and, more particularly, post 1990. While it is obvious that the ANC and SWAPO led governments have no intentions towards implementing any outwardly socialist program, the debates within the organisations and their allies are not so circumscribed. Whether or not socialist currents can make any ground-breaking interventions within organisational debate - and from there into government policy - remains in question. As a comparative historical survey, this study hopes to be able to better reveal particular historical, organisational, and national conditions impacting on the respective political debates and to outline the similarities and differences in tangents of socialist thinking that have emerged.

As exiled liberation movements, SWAPO and the ANC came to share a stated view that independence and the transfer of political power would prove meaningless without embarking on a fundamental restructuring of their respective national political economies. Though roughly formulated and generally subordinated to the primary goal of national liberation, both movements generated strong socialist components to their perspectives of liberation. SWAPO expressed this in its 1976 commitment to "building a classless, non-exploitative society based on the ideals and principles of scientific socialism", and in 1969 the ANC referred to a struggle in which the horizons extended "beyond mere political control [to] encompass the element which makes such control meaningful - economic emancipation." [this study recognises & will examine contending interpretations of the '76 Program & Strategies & Tactics]

However, as many inside and outside the movements had indeed predicted, the processes and contexts of the transitions to power militated against the implementation, and even the proposal, of socialist socio-economic agendas. By choice or by default, both the ANC and SWAPO governments found themselves struggling to pursue ostensibly social-democratic reforms under austere liberal-capitalist economic policy frameworks. In its first election campaign, SWAPO did maintain a belief in the "moral superiority" of socialism and the ANC continued its political culture of radical populism. However, it is clear that the new 'neo-liberal world order' had demanded a realignment of official political image and programmatic content. In this environment the main themes of both the ANC and SWAPO's perspectives as political movements were - and remain still - reconstruction and development. For a variety of reasons, the language and many of the aspects of socialist thinking fell away from the main body of ANC and SWAPO perspective. It was generally accepted by the movements, including their socialist currents, that the vehicle for 'delivering the goods' would be capitalism - for better or for worse, for now and for the forseeable future. It could be argued that neo-colonialism has in effect triumphed in South Africa and Namibia - as unfortunate evil or the only path to development - and that movement perspective has largely conceded to this reality.

Few observers of the current period disagree on this point, and a range of approaches are being developed in the examination of this. Commentators from such journals as the Economist have, for example, spoken admiringly of the pragmatic professionalism and economic rationalism exhibited by new look liberation movements. Some commentators to the left have begun to berate the parties for their betrayal of the masses and of revolutionary principle. Considerable references are also being made to crises of expectations and the growing disillusionment and apathy amongst supporters of the movements.

At a more analytical level, there is one tendency of writing looking at the formation of 'liberation elites' and their accommodation with the old class order. Another line of argument suggests that the movements had always been informed by realpolitik, and had in any case adopted socialism as a matter of convenience rather than commitment. Others have painted scenes of idealists and ideologues slowly waking up to post cold war politics and emerging from exile as reluctant converts to prevailing orthodoxy. Some analysts have contextualised the changes in ANC and SWAPO politics with the exigencies of negotiated transfers and national reconciliation - evoking comparison with the Zimbabwean example. Others have looked further back to lessons learned from the troubled Mozambican and Angolan socialist experiments. On the left, some have proposed that the current outcome is a natural result of the 'two-stage' strategy: in tailing the national democratic struggle, socialist demands had been undervalued and weakened - and have now been relegated to 'tailing' current priorities of reconciliation and economic growth.

The crucial question underlying most analysis is whether the political and economic paths taken by the ANC and SWAPO in government were adopted under the duress of negotiated transitions in a new global order, or whether they were representative of a genuine capitulation of organisational ideology, or whether indeed they were always a preferred option. A further line of questioning that is beginning to be touched on is whether more radical options could be resurrected in ANC and SWAPO perspective. Has socialism been abandoned, submerged, or redefined? Considering the diverse strands that constitute the ANC and SWAPO, this study intends to begin with a qualified 'all of the above' answer to each of these questions. In terms of government policy, there is strong evidence that a mixed economy was always the favoured model for both the ANC and SWAPO - and as such the current directions should come as no surprise. The extent to which the movements considered - and now consider - this to be a transitional state depends on an analysis of the development of socialist thinking relative to the discussion in the movements as a whole.

By taking a comparative historical analysis of SWAPO and the ANC this study hopes to introduce some of the historical and contemporary factors contextualising the respective socialist dialogues. Beyond the regional and global contexts, it will be discussed how differences in organisational history and ideological emphasis may have produced qualitatively different prospects for the survival and development of socialist perspective within the main thrust of ANC and SWAPO politics. Essential to this is an historical analysis of the content and framework of internal political debate, an examination of the openness of the organisations to organic political developments, and an assessment of how the various strands of political culture have adapted to the transitions. On the basis of these broader questions, attention will turn to tracing the redevelopment of socialist theory and practice in various sectors of the movements since the turning points of 1989/90.

The main lineage of socialist thinking to be discussed is that informed by Marxism Leninism and roughly following from the 'two-stage' theory of revolution. Although this thesis was contentious in the ANC and SWAPO, it did persist in one form or another as a kind of theoretical axis around which ideas about the content of liberation revolved. It was also implicitly or explicitly accepted into political programs of both the ANC and SWAPO during the exile years. In very rough caricature, the theory envisioned an eventual transition to socialism with the first stage of national democratic revolution being an essential prerequisite for this. In this way, national democratic demands held priority until the seizure of power, from which point a socialist program could and would be advanced and implemented with the assistance of the existing socialist nations.

It is clear that the more mechanistic 'two-stage' concept as previously envisioned by the ANC and SWAPO has been dropped from the official agendas. Most obviously, its assumption of an assisted path to socialism is now void. However, the Namibian and South African struggles both fostered considerable radical and socialist expectations within the 'two-stage' tradition. On closer analysis, this lineage has not so much been discontinued as reinvented. It had in fact been under substantial revision as a theoretical guideline for socialists in Namibia and South Africa before the turning points of 1989/90. Most crucially, the tradition had moved away from its dependence on already existing socialism and had begun to recast the theory in a more organic mould - a 'two phase' approach. This thesis will examine the specific foundations of these currents, how they are now organised, how they are expressed, and ask whether they have the capacity of providing any decisive initiatives.

Concepts to be discussed under the auspices of a resurrected 'two-stage' tradition include those of 'structural reform', 'socialism in the interstices', and 'revolutionary reformism'. It is true that some of these ideas have remained the preserve of intellectuals in the movements, and most particularly, the SACP. However, examination still needs to be given to the context and development of such proposals. Also regaining some currency are arguments that such socialist experiments as Mozambique and Angola, and perhaps the Soviet Union and elsewhere, were premature to the socio-economic development of those states and as such were unsustainable. Socialism could still be built in Namibia and South Africa, it is argued, but on the back of - rather than in place of - further capitalist development. The 'second stage' remains in view, albeit somewhat delayed and in an even more subtly phased approach. On the other hand, other sectors of the left have called for a continuation, and an escalation, of militant class struggle - a 'second stage' with or without the co-operation of the ruling parties.

As attempts to construct a new socialist agenda (as well as attempts to resurrect the old) are being expressed by prominent individuals and by organisations such as the youth leagues, NUNW, NANSO, COSATU and the SACP, they are also finding certain reflection and response in central ANC and SWAPO perspectives. The SACP, for example, has proclaimed a 'struggle for the heart and soul' of the ANC. Whether this struggle is in essence defensive (as the SACP insists) or offensive, remains to be seen. The extent to which this struggle might be broadened into a mass campaign in South Africa, and the extent to which a similar struggle is being carried out in Namibia [could the rumoured pressures for a split in SWAPO be comparable??] are other crucial questions to be addressed.

The current working framework of argument is that while SWAPO's large victory in Namibia's second national elections has to some extent opened space for a flexibility in program, any struggle for a socialist perspective would be marked by historical factors such as a centralising tendency in SWAPO and lack of autonomy in the labour movement. These factors, with their roots in the specific character of the Namibian struggle, were beginning to be addressed at SWAPO's 1991 Congress, but remain something of a restraint on the depth of debate. On the other hand, there is a stronger historical basis for a commitment to socialism at the core of SWAPO. The ANC, while it was less explicitly socialist in its exile years, includes and is under pressure from stronger and independently developed socialist and labour influences. They are, though, beginning from a tradition and a current direction of building a socialist perspective alongside, and not generally through, the ANC. On the basis of such historical observations it might be contended that, in the Namibian case, any rebuilding of a socialist program could either find itself struggling in the ranks or, as has happening to some extent, projected from above. While, unlike SWAPO, the ANC would not be expected to adopt an explicitly socialist agenda, it might, however, take on board aspects and demands of this as developed by its allies. [Of course the situation - and my own thinking - remains fluid and that these observations are intended only to mark a starting point for debate.]

Despite these and other differences, this study does hope to isolate common themes and to determine if there is any evidence of a new perspective of socialism emerging in the region. An initial observation in this regard is that the concept of socialism has indeed been under reexamination by sectors allied or central to SWAPO and the ANC. The direction of this has been strongly influenced by regional developments and by a global rethinking of socialism, but has also become more responsive to national conditions and organic developments. For historical and contemporary reasons, there are differences in socialist perspective and more particularly in organisation, but there are also some similarities. For example, in the main lineages under examination, socialism redefined has been more augmentary than contradictory to the current policy directions of the Namibian and South African governments. In short, the concern is with deepening and extending democracy and with pushing forward, and beyond, state sponsored reform programs. Democratic socialism through 'non-reformist reforms' is one way in which this approach has been characterised.

It is difficult in this case to determine where reconstruction and development ends and where socialism begins - if indeed it is neccessary to make such a distinction. In also fusing traditional working class politics with social movement concerns such as feminism, environmentalism, anti-racism, and anti-militarism, democractic socialism has further blurred the lines of distinction. When isolating the definition of socialism as a political economy, the practical and conceptual problem is that the current programs of reconstruction and development are explicitly dependent on the expansion of capitalism - on attracting foreign investment and increasing competitiveness. A transition to socialism would proceed then, on the basis of 'substantially socialist' reforms implemented within or despite this context. Whether this direction is sustainable - or any different in effect from social democracy - remains to be seen. In both Namibia and South Africa, the current climate suggests that the actual implementation of socialist reforms (in name or in aspect) faces considerable obstacles, and to varying extents implies struggles of perspective within the ANC and SWAPO. The real fight would not then be one for labels, but for content. Organisational history and the relative position of the unions, youth leagues, the party rank and file, and community organisations would be important in this.

The crucial questions in this arena of debate are whether the current programs of the ANC and SWAPO can be interpreted as having potential for socialism or for socialist intervention, and what strategies this implies. If many analysts of the exile period were able to argue for a social-democratic reading of such documents as SWAPO's 1976 program and the ANC's Strategies and Tactics, is it really absurd then to read the current programs as at least having some socialist potential? This study intends to examine and compare key post 1989/90 ANC and SWAPO documents in this light, and to concentrate on the development of those currents of socialism remaining within the orbits of the ANC and SWAPO in this period.

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