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National General Council 2005: Discussion Document: Guidelines on discussion of Strategy and Tactics

29 June 2005

THE CURRENT STRATEGY AND TACTICS document of the ANC was adopted at the 50th.

National Conference in Mafikeng, 1997. When the ANC meets in Conference in 2007 the document will be ten years old. Will its provisions still be relevant? What changes have taken place in South African society and in the global arena, and do these dictate new strategic and tactical approaches on the part of the movement?

As we answer these questions, we also have to take into account the fact that the 51st National Conference in 2002 reaffirmed the relevance of the document as a guide to action "for the coming period". However, it resolved to append a preface that would assist in the interpretation of the 1997.

Strategy and Tactics (S&T) against the backdrop of new developments and experiences. Is this adequate, or should we set out to amend or rewrite the document?

These are the critical questions that we need to reflect on as we prepare for the National General Council (NGC). The aim is for the NGC to give guidance to the National Executive Committee as it conducts the preparatory work for the 2007 National Conference.

This guidance should be informed by our understanding of "strategy" and "tactics" in a revolutionary struggle. Strategy, on the one hand, defines the long-term objectives that a movement pursues: in our case a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. On the other, tactics constitute the methods to attain those objectives: the various forms of struggle that are used in pursuit of the ultimate goal.

While the broad circumstances in which the struggle is conducted may remain the same, and while the long-term objectives may stay unchanged, it may still be necessary to revisit S&T. This could be, among other reasons:

  • to improve the articulation of strategic objectives and tactical approaches in the light of details in our experiences and changes in the local as well as global balance of forces;
  • influenced by some movement in the alignment of forces of change and those who oppose them, which though small, may have long-term implications; and
  • more firmly to clarify the meaning of developments which, when earlier drafts were prepared, were just starting to play themselves out.


The preface to the S&T adopted at the 2002 National Conference identified a number of major issues that need to be taken into account in defining the strategic posture and tactical approaches of the movement. In the first instance, it suggests, in popular terms, that when we met in Conference in 1994, we had just started to build the foundation on which to construct the new order. In 1997, we had started to build on that foundation; and in 2002 we had started to experience people's power in action. So, how in popular terms do we define the phase which by 2007 will be characterised by the fact that we will be some three years into our Second Decade of Freedom? Character of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR): One of the weaknesses in our S&T identified in the 2002 Conference is that it does not adequately address how the process of change relates to economic power relations. While the S&T asserts the need for programmes to improve the quality of life of all, especially the poor, it does not clarify the issue of eradicating apartheid property relations. How do we address issues of distribution of wealth and income, and so-called black economic empowerment in particular? The transformation of economic relations is meant to combine the improvement of the conditions of the poor and greater social equity on the one hand, and the smashing of the glass ceiling that kept aspirant black middle strata and business-people from rising to the commanding heights of the economy, on the other. How do we address the class differentiation and contradictions that are bound to emerge among those who seek a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society?

The ideological struggle: As the 2002 Preface asserts, social change entails more than just the improvement of material conditions of any society. It has to be combined with changes to the spiritual elements. This includes the battle of ideas and programmes to inculcate social values, identities and self-worth informed by the national objectives. How do we define these national values, primarily to build a society that cares, in the context of a market system?

The ANC also has to clarify its own positioning in the vast array of schools of thought both in our society and across the globe. The critical ideological currents against which we need to contrast ourselves, argues the 2002 Preface, are neo-liberalism and modern ultra-leftism. It then asserts that the ANC is a disciplined force of the left, organised to pursue the interests the poor. Does this require elaboration, and are there other strands that should be included?

Motive forces of NDR: We have historically defined the motive forces of the NDR in national terms as the African people in particular and blacks in general. Attached to these, we have argued, are white democrats who identify with the cause of social change. Does this approach require redefinition?

What about the assertion in the Freedom Charter that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white" - in the context of more than ten years of building a nation under conditions of democracy? Is race still a relevant criterion in defining motive forces? What is the meaning of "being African"?

In class terms, we have argued that black workers are the leading force; but also that black middle strata and the aspirant black business class constitute part of the motive forces of the NDR. This is because, objectively, they stand to gain from the programme of social transformation and therefore share a keen interest in the transformation project. Is class identity in our situation subsumed under national identity and will this apply for all time? How does the ANC manage the contradictions among the forces of change, particularly between business and labour; and should it encourage inter-racial class solidarity?


Both the Preface adopted in 2002 and the S&T document itself define the ANC as a national liberation movement characterised by its identification in particular with the aspirations of the working people and the poor. Its central task is to organise and mobilise the motive forces of the NDR to march in step in pursuit of their common interests. It uses the various terrains of struggle and centres of power - the state, mass organisation, the economic centre, the ideological struggle, and two-way international solidarity - to attain its objectives. What balance in theoretical and practical terms needs to be struck among all these centres?

Within society, a variety of organisational forms express themselves, which can broadly be categorised into political and civil organisation. As the construction of a new society proceeds apace, how should the ANC manage three contradictory tendencies. Firstly, because of its success in carrying out a mission that is in the long-term interest of the country as a whole, more and more organisations seek closer political relations with the ANC: the movement assumes the character of a representative of the nation as a whole. Secondly, a residue of society committed to the past of racial privilege becomes more rabid in its opposition to the ANC. Thirdly, under conditions of open democracy issue-based civil society structures are bound to assert narrow objectives sometimes at the expense of the common agenda.

Character of the international situation:

The global situation characterised by a unipolar world and socio-political globalisation does pose many difficulties for the cause of national liberation and social equity; but it contains within it many possibilities to address the fundamental question of improving the human condition all-round. Immense possibilities exist to promote a popular African agenda both on the continent and further afield. What are the motive forces and allies in this struggle and how do the ANC and the democratic government pursue this agenda?

Attached to unipolarity is the rise of neo-liberalism, unilateralism and a militarised global agenda. The other side of the coin is the emergence of terrorism - an inhuman deliberate targeting of civilians in armed conflict -in the main itself quite right-wing and against progressive social transformation. How should progressive forces contain and reverse these twin evils?


In addition to the issues identified above, which are flagged in the Preface to the Strategy and Tactics of the ANC adopted at the 51st National Conference, there are many other issues that emerge from our recent experiences - both concrete and theoretical - which may require elaboration in a new S&T. Some of these are listed below.

Programme of National Democratic Transformation:

The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) constitutes the foundation of our approach to social transformation. This programme is informed by the ideals of the Freedom Charter. Among the questions that need reflection are:

  • In relation to interpretation of the Freedom Charter, have the objectives of a "united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic" society been adequately defined in our S&T, and should we find positive expressions in the place of "non-racial/non-sexist"?
  • The concrete definition of the objectives we pursue in the Second Decade of Freedom is contained in the 2004 Election Manifesto, which contains the popular mandate for the coming period - how should this find expression in the S&T?
  • How do we characterise the type of state required to pursue developmental goals, beyond the phrase, "developmental state", particularly in relation to economic challenges?
  • Having gained experience in the operation of our governance system, what are the strategic interventions required to ensure more effective implementation of our programmes, including the relationship among the three spheres of government?
  • What approaches are required to deal decisively with the legacy of the spatial manifestations of apartheid, in both social and economic sectors? Organisational challenges: The proposals emerging from the document on "organisational re-engineering" have far-reaching implications on the strategic organisational posture of the movement. While in the main they are informed by the standard outlook of the movement with regard to centres of power, motive forces and the vanguard role of the ANC, contained within them are choices that will define the organisational character of the movement in a fundamental way. Some of the issues, not necessarily in this document, which require reflection are:
  • In the post-1994 milieu, what is the key pillar of our tactical methods for purposes of advancing the NDR - in what way has our access to state power introduced a new dimension to the conduct of struggle and how should this find expression in theoretical and organisational terms?
  • Have our organisational forms sufficiently adapted to the post-1994 situation, both in terms of various motive forces taking advantage of the new conditions and the ANC reaching out to these motive forces?
  • Have we sufficiently addressed the challenge of building a cadreship that in essence is meant to swim against the tide of a socio-economic system that encourages cut-throat competition and greed and can we withstand the danger of a movement of social transformation being transformed by the very system it seeks to transform?
  • What is the true meaning of our membership of the Socialist International in terms of the core values of this movement both in their historical evolution and future trajectory?
  • How do we deal with balances in representation in our leadership structures - in national, class and gender terms?


A productive discussion of all these issues will require a thorough understanding of the Strategy and Tactics document itself, including the Preface as adopted at the 51st National Conference in 2002. Discussion of the question whether there is need for a new S&T document should therefore be preceded by a presentation of the current S&T and clarification of issues contained therein. Thereafter, issues listed in this discussion document and others identified by members themselves should be debated.

Members should then resolve to propose either a retention of the current S&T - if the assessment is that these issues are adequately addressed - or to suggest a redraft. They should highlight the issues that need to be added to the current S&T or to be changed. Each of these should be listed in brief format with not more than two paragraphs of elaboration (a quarter-page per issue). This is with the understanding that, if a new draft is prepared after the NGC, it will be circulated for discussion in the build-up to the 52nd National Conference in 2007.