51st National Conference: Conference Update 5
All Power To The People - Building On The Foundation For A Better Life
Draft Preface To The 2002 Edition
The 51st Conference of the African National Congress, 2002 confirmed the Strategy
and Tactics adopted at the 50th Conference as a guide to action for the coming
period. Conference also resolved that an explanatory note should be appended
to the document, in the form of this Preface to the 2002 edition
of the Strategy and Tactics of the ANC.
The Preface aims at assisting in the interpretation of our Strategy and Tactics
in the light of new developments and experience gained in this period.
Objectives and methods of struggle
The Strategy and Tactics of the ANC define the broad objectives of the struggle:
the kind of society we seek to create. The document identifies the forces that
are the main drivers of that struggle and those opposed to them. In the circumstances
characterised primarily by the attainment of political freedom in 1994, the
Strategy and Tactics identify the variety of methods at the disposal of revolutionaries
to achieve a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society.
At the core of these tactics is the creative use of instruments of state power,
steadily but surely resorting to the hands of the motive forces of fundamental
change. For the first time African people and blacks in general are taking charge
of their destiny and, together with all other democrats, they command the authority
of a state legitimately and popularly at the helm of the management of social
This complements in a decisive way the instruments of mass organisation and
mobilisation that we have historically commanded.
The significance of this new situation will take years to clarify itself in
the mind of all the social forces in our country and beyond our borders. In
some instances, practice will march ahead of the theory required to illuminate
this. In others, theoretical guidelines will float in the realm of abstract
logic, easy for the mind to grasp but difficult for the organisational collective
practically to realise.
Characterisation of an epoch
The Strategy and Tactics document raises some of the complex of issues thrown
up by this new situation. As its title itself suggests, we had by 1997 moved
from building the foundation to building on the foundation for a better life.
In a sense, the 51st Conference in 2002 takes us further along this road, by
asserting this as a phase in which we have started to experience people's
power in action.
The definition of what that better life means as outlined in these Strategy
and Tactics remains unchanged, guided by the ideals contained in the Freedom
Charter. While, since 1994, the instruments to implement change remain broadly
the same, how we wield them and set them to work, will continually change as
the circumstances of struggle themselves change.
The 50th Conference signalled the challenges of the post-1994 epoch, which
include: how the motive forces wield state power without glorifying its significance
at the expense of mass organisation; the dangers of social distance that may
develop between the cadres operating in government and the mass of the people
who should continue to be the drivers of change; as well as the opportunities
and challenges of an emergent array of class forces within the ranks of the
The Strategy and Tactics document also seeks to integrate gender theory and
practice into the interpretation of history, the definition of the present and
mapping out the future. Much improvement is still required in this regard.
It also interprets the new global situation in a balanced, realistic and optimistic
way. The end of the Cold War marked the end of the previous period characterised
by rivalry between two competing power blocs. The Strategy and Tactics further
argues that, with the advent of a unipolar world, has come real difficulties
of rapacious and uncaring social relations imposed across the globe in a system
that operates virtually as one unit.
However, precisely because of this deepening integration, globalisation also
results in growing inter-dependency. This creates space for Africa, the developing
world and the poor across the globe to advance progressive demands and perspectives
for new forms of global partnership, co-operation and solidarity. As such, the
Strategy and Tactics document argues that opportunities exist for the transformation
of a system that relies for its sustenance on the resources, markets and labour-power
of developing countries; a system that, at the same time, destroys our shared
global environment, marginalizes whole continents, regions and cultures, and
In the overall, the continuing relevance of any set of Strategy and Tactics
depends not merely on the correctness of their propositions. It relies, above
all, on the capacity of the revolutionary practitioners to apply these broad
propositions to the concrete circumstances of struggle.
In which respects do the propositions of the Strategy and Tactics document
require clarification? What has changed, and how has our understanding of the
Character of the NDR
The Strategy and Tactics document defines in clear terms the character of the
National Democratic Revolution in relation to apartheid socio-political relations
that democracy is meant to eliminate. This character plays itself out in both
class and national terms, in the intersection between national oppression and
The document correctly argues that national liberation should be accompanied
by programmes to improve the quality of life of especially the poor. However,
it does not adequately elaborate on how these processes relate to economic power
relations prevalent in our society.
A critical element of the programme for national emancipation should be the
elimination of apartheid property relations. This requires:
- the de-racialisation of ownership and control of wealth; equity and affirmative
action in the provision of skills and access to positions of management; consolidation
and pooling of the power of state capital and institutional and social capital
in the hands of the motive forces;
- encouragement of the co-operative sector;
- as well as systematic and intelligent ways of working in partnership with
private capital in a relationship that will be defined by both unity and struggle,
co-operative engagement and contestation on fundamental issues.
This is a continuing struggle which, as a matter of historical necessity, will
loom ever larger as we proceed along the path of fundamental change.
Because property relations are at the core of all social systems, the tensions
that decisive application to this objective will generate will require dexterity
in tact and firmness to principle.
The ideological struggle
Emphasis in the Strategy and Tactics on the challenges of material transformation
- political, social and economic - is correct and speaks to the urgency of dealing
with the human tragedy that apartheid exacted on our society.
Yet, a critical element of social transformation requires emphasis:
Fundamental change also demands the redefinition of the outlook, cultural values
and moral attributes that characterise South African society. This is the realm
of ideology - the battle of ideas - in which new values and mores that place
humanism above greed and individual selfish interest need to be strongly asserted.
Without such broad cultural transformation, even the efforts aimed at changing
material conditions will in the long run, but certainly, wilt in the friction
between lofty ideal and the gravitational pull of greed, self-centredness and
In this ideological struggle, the ANC needs clearly to define itself in relation
to modern expressions of class and sectoral interests. The principal ideological
currents in terms of which we need to contrast our own positions are neo-liberalism
and modern ultra-leftism.
On the one extreme is the ideology of rampant capitalism, a system in which,
as the Strategy and Tactics explains, formal democracy should be underpinned
"by market forces to which all should kneel in the prayer: 'everyone for
himself and the Devil takes the hindmost!'" This is at the core of the
ideology of neo-liberalism and other such worldviews, which dare the
democratic state to emasculate itself.
On the other extreme are ultra-left practices, assumptions and ideologies.
A common feature of ultra-leftism is subjectivism - a confusion of what is "desirable"
with what is actually and immediately possible. This results in all manner of
voluntaristic adventures, including the advocacy of impossible and dangerous
great leaps forward, which reflects a systematic inability to understand the
dynamic complexity of objective factors.
In our South African conditions, ultra-leftism has historically been impatient
with the national grievance of the oppressed and dismissive of national democratic
struggle. It fails to understand the national question as being a profoundly
objective reality, shaped by centuries of colonial domination. As such, it advocates
class struggle that should be waged purely and only in "direct" pursuit
of a system without exploitation. This would be achieved in a linear reversal
of the capitalist market with the state increasingly becoming the owner of the
means of production. This is at the core of the ideology of ultra-leftism which
relates to the democratic state as the main target of its critique and action.
The ANC rejects both approaches. In our situation, positions that either advance
the dictates of rapacious global social relations, or propagate the irrelevance
of the national question and an adventuristic struggle against these global
relations, are a sure recipe for the defeat of the National Democratic Revolution.
To us, and indeed to all genuine revolutionaries, the historical task of national
liberation is not a fleeting convenience or an ephemeral tactic. It is an objective
requirement to eliminate the historical contradictions arising out of a system
constructed over centuries of colonial domination.
But ours is more than just a national liberation struggle because it places
the interests of the poor and the role of the working class at the centre of
its theory and practice. The ANC, as the leader of the national democratic struggle,
is a disciplined force of the left, organised to conduct consistent struggle
in pursuit of the interests of the poor.
Motive forces of the NDR
The Strategy and Tactics document defines the motive forces as those classes
and strata that objectively and systemically stand to gain from the victory
and consolidation of the national democratic revolution. It identifies the working
class and the poor as the core of these forces, the sectors whose material conditions
impel them consistently to pursue thorough-going change.
These motive forces include the black, emergent capitalist class, whose interests
are served not only by formal political democracy; but also by the programme
to change apartheid property relations. This class, as with other motive forces,
needs to be organised and mobilised to serve the interests of reconstruction
At the same time, the ANC needs to win over to the cause of transformation
all other sections of South African society, including white workers, the middle
strata and the bourgeoisie. They should consistently be persuaded to appreciate
that their long-term interests reside in joint patriotic efforts to build a
better life for all.
The changing nature of the environment in which the struggle is waged should
over time redefine the alignment of all these forces, creating the possibility
for the national democratic project incrementally to represent the broad interests
of all the people. Such realignment may bring about a situation in which class
antagonisms as such, emerge as the primary engine of the locomotive of further
change. Yet the time is long off when such alignment will be shorn of an apartheid
colonial legacy in which a disproportionate number of the poor and marginalized
Character of the ANC
The challenge of utilising terrains of political power and mass mobilisation
imposes new demands on the ANC. The Strategy and Tactics document identifies
some of these challenges.
In addition to these, the movement needs continually to sharpen its structures
and systems in order to give effective leadership to all terrains of struggle,
including government. This calls for observance of broad mandates, encouragement
of initiative on matters of tactical detail, and the building of requisite capacity
within the ANC for purposes of policy formulation.
In actual struggle, many issues need to be attended to in very specific terms.
This in part gives rise to social movements that are issue-based. Their pursuits
may not necessarily coincide with those of the other motive forces, their understanding
of the relationship between the sectoral and the general may not be optimal,
and some of their tactics may not necessarily be along the general line of march
of the liberation movement.
Though conditions may have changed, and though some of these tendencies express
themselves in new ways, the experience itself is not new. As history has shown,
the leader of the revolution has to find creative ways of giving leadership
to such structures and activities of civil society. This requires theoretical
acumen, leadership skills and organisational capacity.
On an on-going basis the ANC should master the art and science of managing
secondary contradictions ("contradictions among the people"), and
unite all who aspire for progressive change around minimum objectives that take
the revolutionary process forward.
Character of the international situation
Since the adoption of the Strategy and Tactics document in 1997, new opportunities
have emerged in the global arena to pursue the interests of the poor and marginalized.
These include the formation of the African Union (AU) and adoption of the New
Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the outcomes of the World Summit
on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and increased articulation by a number of
multilateral bodies of the developmental interests of the South.
This has not happened by accident. It confirms the optimism in the Strategy
and Tactics which informed the injunction that "it is the task of revolutionary
democrats and humanists everywhere to recognise dangers; but more critically,
to identify opportunities in the search for a just, humane and equitable world
It is in this context that the standing of South Africa has been enhanced,
at the core of the efforts of developing countries and Africa in particular
to reverse the unequal power relations that define global politics and economics
In the midst of this, the system of global capitalism has witnessed many crises,
exposing its incapacity to address in a lasting and comprehensive way, the plight
of the world's poor.
The recent period has also witnessed attempts by leading circles in some developed
countries to heighten international tension and insecurity. This includes the
pursuit of a militarised global agenda that detracts from the key challenges
of sustainable development, and fudges the real fault lines in global society.
Contained in this tendency is a grave danger of a global conflagration in which
the poor, as always, will be the main losers.
The recent period has also brought to the fore the issue of terrorism - the
deliberate targeting of civilians in armed conflict, which the ANC unreservedly
condemns. Terrorism by anyone, in pursuit of whatever cause, is not only inhuman.
It can also have the effect of encouraging militarism and global insecurity.
The main losers, similarly, are the poor of the world.
In this context, the injunction in the Strategy and Tactics that the ANC should
"aim to contribute to the restructuring of international relations in the
interest of the poor" remains as relevant as ever. "We are moved in
this regard by the conviction that, as long as injustice, poverty and conflict
exist anywhere on the globe, so long will humanity find within itself the individuals,
movements and governments to co-operate in their eradication.
The ANC is a proud part of these international forces."
Programme of National Democratic Transformation
The transformation agenda outlined in this Strategy and Tactics document summarises
the core challenges of implementing the Reconstruction and Development Programme.
The main elements of this programme are: deepening democracy, good governance
and the culture of human rights; transformation of the state; economic transformation;
meeting social needs and consolidating people's safety and security.
As indicated earlier, the Strategy and Tactics document does not pay sufficient
attention to the ideological struggle as a critical area of contestation, a
centre of power in its own right. This relates to such matters as culture, media
discourse, moral regeneration of society as well as the content of academic
and civic education.
An important element of the programme for transformation is the development
and preservation of the country's human resources. This includes the development
of skills which are geared towards the needs of the economy and of society at
large, and comprehensive strategies to address the challenge of unemployment.
Given the progression of the AIDS epidemic, and the evolution of weapons to
combat it, our programme of transformation should not only acknowledge this
danger; but it must also put the campaign against it at the top of our agenda.
As we enter the Second Decade of Freedom (2004 - 2014), and the period leading
to the Centenary of the founding of the ANC (2012), the detailed programmes
of the movement need to outline the expectations, possibilities and broad targets
being pursued in this period. This demands a clearer understanding of the sequencing
of policy actions and the time lags between policy determination, implementation
and actual impact.
As the 51st Conference has resolved, this Strategy and Tactics document charts
the path we should follow in the coming period.
Many of the changes since the 50th Conference in 1997 in fact confirm the basic
conclusions reached in this document. The central challenge remains that of
intensifying the struggle in line with the five pillars.
The clarification contained in this Preface should further sharpen both our
understanding of the challenges we face and the implementation of the programmes
to meet this challenge.
In the period since the 50th National Conference, the balance of forces has
shifted in favour of the movement for fundamental change. This includes the
ANC victory in the 1999 elections with an increased majority. Further, while
opponents of change may still occupy strategic positions in a number of centres
of power, they have failed to muster any significant force against the revolution.
It is our task, in the coming period, further to shift this balance in the
interest of faster transformation. In the words of the Strategy and Tactics
"We call on all South Africans to join us in this march to a better future.
We are keenly aware that it will take time to realise the strategic objective
of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. But the foundation
has been laid, and the building has begun."