South Africa's ANC Weighs Costs of Communist Ties
THE presence of many communists in the top decisionmaking bodies of the African National Congress (ANC) is raising concern in political and business circles as to whether the South African Communist Party (SACP) will set the ANC's agenda in the post-apartheid era."It is open to doubt whether the ANC can be an effective and constructive participant in the process of evolutionary change as long as it insists on remaining a liberation movement and on preserving its ties with the SACP," said Anglo American Corporation chairman Julian Ogilvie-Thompson. President Frederik de Klerk recently described the 30-year-old ANC-SACP Alliance as a "scrambled egg" rather than an alliance and has vowed that he will not enter into an alliance with the ANC as long as the ANC-SACP Alliance continues. Although the alliance was solid at the ANC's recent national conference in Durban, outgoing Secretary-General Alfred Nzo cited it as one of the factors that had contributed to the ANC's failure to draw more members from the white, mixed-race, and Indian minorities. An analysis of the ANC's new 81-person National Executive Committee elected at its conference two weeks ago shows that at least 20 members are practicing communists, and another 15 to 20 are known Communist Party members who devote most of their time to ANC matters. More worrying to diplomats and business executives is the presence of at least 13 communists on the 26-person Working Committee, the smaller group that will run the day-to-day affairs of the ANC and function as the old executive committee used to do.
Affiliation not revealed The debate about the number of communists on the ANC executive reached such a pitch following the conference that the ANC's new secretary-general, former mine worker's chief Cyril Ramaphosa, issued a directive to party members not to disclose their party affiliations. Mr. Ramaphosa complained about a McCarthy-style witch-hunt of communists. At the same time he declared that he was not a communist after evading the question in several interviews. The SACP, despite its recent shedding of its Stalinist past and embracing of multiparty democracy, retains a two-stage political program. It is ambiguous whether it will drop its present selective recruitment for open party membership, but this will be resolved when the SACP adopts a new constitution and a new program at its December eighth party congress. SACP radicals are becoming irritated with some of the compromises they are forced to make in the name of the alliance with the ANC. Some party activists already argue in favor of a separate role for the SACP, independent of the alliance with the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. "A problem we are grappling with is to define more precisely the role of the party as an independent force," said SACP Secretary-General Joe Slovo speaking at a conference July 19 on the future prospects for communism at the University of the Western Cape to mark the 70th anniversary of the SACP. That is Mr. Slovo's dilemma: If - as is the case - there is broad consensus between the ANC and SACP on the shape of a post-apartheid South Africa, why does the SACP not close shop and throw its full weight behind the ANC? Some party members have already chosen this route, but hard-liners insist that the party is the standard-bearer of the interests of the working class and must spread the message of an ultimate socialist society. The party, which has signed up only about 12,000 members since last July, appears to have made little impact on the working class. A further argument for closing is the loss of the SACP's financial base as communist allies have been swept from power in eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union has adopted more pragmatic policies.
No covert influence Mr. Slovo, a white South African born in Lithuania, is regarded as one of ANC President Nelson Mandela's most trusted advisors. Mr. Mandela insists that the SACP does not undermine the ANC or influence its policies through covert means. "We have got an agenda and we are carrying out that agenda," Mandela said. "The SACP have not sought to undermine it." But he concedes that once apartheid has ended and a democratic constitution is in place, there will be no further need for a party which advocates socialism. "The SACP has declared that their cooperation with us is only up to the moment of the overthrow of the apartheid state," he said. "After that they take their own line ... which we will not follow. We won't follow socialism." The ANC has gradually shifted away from hard-line policies of nationalization and state ownership of industry in favor of a growth-oriented mixed economy which would protect foreign investors. But it insists there would have to be massive state intervention in the economy to correct the socioeconomic imbalances of the apartheid era. Mr. Ramaphosa's recent directive to prevent ANC members disclosing their ANC affiliations received a mixed reaction within the ANC itself. "Far from silencing people, we should be encouraging them to state their party affiliations," an angry ANC official said. SACP radicals argue that it is the party that is losing out because many of its office-bearers also wear an ANC hat and - in terms of the alliance - must give priority to their ANC office.
Leadership announced This month the SACP announced the names of the 27 members of the Internal Leadership Core. Party officials have pledged that all its members will be disclosed when it holds its first legal national conference inside the country in December. This has begun a process of separation between the SACP and the ANC. An important step was made last month when the SACP acted for the first time as a separate entity at the peace talks convened jointly by the church and government. "The alliance is unbreakable, but the party is in the process of developing its own identity," says Slovo.