THE outlawed African National Congress (ANC) recently put forward a 24-point document committing the ANC to negotiations with the Pretoria regime. The ANC is now willing to begin discussions with the South African government, subject to certain conditions. They are: The South African government must release jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela, lift the three-year old state of emergency, and legalize the ANC and other outlawed political groups. This is a remarkable departure - given the ANC's previous commitment to an ANC-dictated settlement entailing an immediate transfer of power, leading ultimately to a socialist South Africa.
Why should the ANC now wish to negotiate? The ANC no longer can rely on secure sanctuaries outside South Africa's borders, especially in Mozambique. (Mozambique has gone even further; it now soft-pedals its former commitment to turn Mozambique into a Marxist-Leninist state.) The Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev has weakened its support for the ANC.
Moreover, the sanctions campaign against South Africa has not fared well. South Africa's economic problems are numerous, but the economy has not suffered nearly as much as the sanctioneers had assumed. South Africa is not, as so many Marxist-Leninists assume, an economic dependency of the West. South Africa supplies the bulk of its capital (some 90 percent) from domestic sources, a point that would not have been lost on Lenin.
Inflation remains a serious problem. But between 1986 and 1988, South Africa's rate of inflation has dropped (from 18.6 percent to 12.9 percent). The burden of foreign debt has somewhat diminished. Unemployment among the country's white voters is not excessive. West Germany and Japan remain major trade partners, substituting in part for loss of trade with the United States brought about by US sanctions.
African guerrilla warfare has had no serious effect on the South African economy. Security forces have not been disrupted. The black townships have not become ungovernable, as African revolutionaries had intended. US disinvestment has had the unintended effect of strengthening South African corporations that were able to acquire foreign subsidiaries at knocked down prices.
What then stands in the way of negotiations between the ANC and Pretoria? The government has repeatedly insisted that the ANC must first give up the armed struggle. But the problem does not rest there. The ANC is linked in a ``revolutionary alliance'' with the South African Communist Party (SACP). The ANC-SACP alliance in its own words looks to revolution by well-defined stages.
The first step will be a ``national democratic revolution,'' accomplished through alliances between the SACP, the ANC and ``progressive'' elements of the ``petty bourgeoisie'' and the ``national bourgeoisie.'' Once the ``national democratic revolution'' has been achieved, it will rapidly be transformed into a socialist revolution. The revolution will be spearheaded by the urban proletariat, led by a progressive ``vanguard,'' that is to say, the SACP-ANC alliance. The ultimate result: a Marxist-Leninist state run on the lines of ``democratic centralism,'' according to the dictates of ``scientific socialism.''
This is not a prospect that will appeal to white South Africans. Neither will it be popular among those black and brown South Africans who are familiar with the record of Marxism-Leninism in African countries as far afield as Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia - all of them economic basket cases. Marxism-Leninism worldwide is in a state of profound crisis. From Warsaw to Beijing, Marxist-Leninists are now on the ideological defensive. Though living relatively isolated lives, ANC and SACP expatriates in communist countries can no longer be unaware of the hatred and contempt that the ``toiling masses'' feel for the nomenklatura and the ``new class.'' At this point, there is no longer the slightest reasons to stick to Marxist-Leninist programs that have failed wherever they have been tried - in Poland, Vietnam, the People's Republic of China, and the USSR.
Let the ANC break its ``revolutionary alliances'' with the South African Communist Party and repudiate Marxism-Leninism. After all, even the Mozambique Liberation Front movement in Mozambique, once regarded as a model ``vanguard party,'' is now retreating from the principles of Marx and Lenin. That is not, of course what representatives will hear at African studies programs on prestigious US campuses. But that is what the State Department should be telling ANC emissaries in Washington. Thereafter, serious negotiations can begin.