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Contradictions of the New South Africa

Those of us whose memories go back to the insurrectionary years of the mid-1980s—when millions of oppressed people were drawn into struggle in townships, factories, mines, schools, colleges and universities—will recall how regularly the language of contradiction was used to analyse what was happening from day to day, and to move people forward into action. In mass rallies, at funerals, and in smaller meetings, speakers would urge their audiences to think dialectically about their situation, to recognize its contradictions, and exploit these to the full. Ten years later [in 1995], many of the same comrades who urged us then to think dialectically, urge us to be realistic instead.[i] What is this realism, which has won so many new converts? What does it mean to be realistic? It means to limit your aspirations and demands to what you are able to achieve - that is, to what you are able to achieve, given the “reality” of how the world is organized, and what is “objectively” possible in it. In a political context, it means limiting your aspirations to what is acceptable to those who hold power, and to what is compatible with their interests. Who are these powerful people in the context of South Africa today? Foreign investors, local investors, the conservative and often racist politicians and bureaucrats who can influence the opinions of investors. The claim of these new realists is that we must adapt ourselves to conform to the needs of this power. It is, after all, a reality. We should not attempt to take control of areas of our lives in which these powerful people have an interest. These areas include housing, jobs, health care, education—whatever concerns the question of who has control of the economic resources of the country. To do so, we are told, is to live in a fool's paradise. * In South Africa today, there is no greater symbol of resistance to the realities of power than Nelson Mandela. While facing a possible death-sentence at the Rivonia trial of 1963, he refused to acknowledge the power of his captors, and ask forgiveness for what he had done. For 27 years, he withstood imprisonment, ill-treatment, isolation. His jailers offered him the opportunity to acknowledge their power, and to gain the benefits of that acknowledgement. In his recently published autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela describes a visit to him in 1976 by Jimmy Kruger, the Nationalist minister of prisons: “He came armed with a specific offer ... If I recognized the legitimacy of the Transkei government and was willing to move there, my sentence would be dramatically reduced. I listened respectfully until he had finished. First, I said, I wholly rejected the Bantustan policy and would do nothing to support it, and second, I was from Johannesburg, and it was to Johannesburg that I would return. Kruger remonstrated with me, but to no avail. A month later he returned with the same proposal, and again I turned him down. It was an offer only a turncoat could accept.” Almost a decade later, in January 1985, P.W. Botha publicly offered Mandela his freedom, if he “unconditionally rejected violence as a political instrument.” Mandela's reply, read by his daughter to a mass rally in Soweto a few weeks later, was absolutely clear:“I cherish my own freedomdearly, but I care even more for your freedom. Too many have died sinceI went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fatherswho have grievedand wept for them. Not only I have sufferedduring these long, lonely wasted years. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free.” What would have happened if Mandela had accepted the realist norms of limiting your aspirations to what was objectively possible? Would he have accepted a position in the Transkei government of K.D. Matanzima, and renounced violence against apartheid? You can be sure that, if he had done so, the collaborators of that time would have applauded him for his realism. For they wanted above all to believe that their collaboration was all that was objectively possible. And their collaboration helped to strengthen apartheid and make resistance more difficult. But Mandela made no reference to the question of what was “objectively” possible. We can see that his defiance changed the balance of what was objectively possible in South Africa. In a world made up of groups with fundamentally conflicting interests, the only objectivity is the result of their conflict. To accept what is objectively possible is no more than to refuse to engage in the conflict. Mandela's emergence from prison shows us how feeble and short-sighted is the advice of the realists, and how completely lacking in historical vision. *

Precisely for this reason, there is no-one better able to lend credibility to the very same conformity to power which lies at the heart of the new realism than Nelson Mandela. There is today no clearer indication of what this new realism means in our context than his pronouncements, as a free man, on the question of who controls the economic resources of the country. In January 1990, he re-affirmed the economic clauses of the Freedom Charter, saying that “the nationalisation of the mines, banks, and monopoly industry is the policy of the ANC and a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable.” By November 1993, he was pledging that an ANC government would take decisive steps to “guarantee the security of all investment against expropriation.” The ANC, he said, would abandon its long-held commitment to nationalization in order to attract foreign investment. Less than a year later, in an interview to mark the first 100 days of his presidency, he told the Sunday Times that he was discussing plans to 'tighten our belts' in order to achieve economic growth. He continued: “The critical issue is not the investment from outside, although we need that. It is the investment from inside the country. We have to reverse the process where R10 billion was sent out because our investors have no confidence in their own economy.” To do this, he said, it was necessary to reduce unacceptable levels of taxation on capitalist profits. Realism, we have said, consist in limiting your aspirations and demands in order to make them acceptable to those who hold power—in this case, local and foreign capitalists. But this realism has its own contradictions, for Mandela himself also holds power. He holds power because the oppressed majority see him as the leader who can make their ideals and aspirations a reality. It is on their behalf that he must be realistic. He believes that he can best serve the interests of the oppressed majority by gaining the confidence of capitalist investors, and their allies. But he can only gain the confidence of investors by showing that he can suppress and silence the very demands made by the oppressed majority. In the end, Mandela must use his own power in order to ensure that these demands are limited. Nor is it possible for Mandela to shift his position on the question of who controls the economy without adopting the same kind of realism in other aspects of his politics. On the day of his release from prison five years ago, 11 February 1990, Mandela told the crowd gathered on the Parade in Cape Town: “I stand here not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.” Surely, these sentiments of identification with the struggling masses need not be sacrificed to the demands of political realism? But consider Mandela's position in an interview given to the Star soon after the Bisho massacre of September 1992. He explained why negotiations had become urgent: “The youth in the townships have had over the decades a visible enemy, the government. Now that enemy is no longer visible, because of the transformation that is taking place. Their enemy now is you and me, people who drive a car and have a house. It's order, and anything that relates to order, and it is a very grave situation.” Was it enough to defend “people who drive a car and have a house”? Before long, the same realism required praise of the social mechanism that made them wealthy. In his speech to the American Houses of Congress on 6 October 1994, Mandela described the free market as the “magic elixir” that would break down racism and establish a peaceful new world order. He explained this magic: “A buyer is a buyer. The profits that your great corporations make derive from whoever has the capacity to purchase the products and services, regardless of whether the customers are Chinese or African, Indian or American, European or Arab or Polynesian.” Once you start on the road of realism, it seems that there is no turning back; you may begin by recognizing the reality of capitalist power, but you will end by singing its praises, and forgetting just who it is who ensures the profits of the great corporations. * There is no need to question the sincerity of Mandela, or his stature, in order to understand these contradictions. He expresses these contradictions so clearly because he is so fully a part of the new South Africa. All of us are, to some extent, caught up in a society whose purposes and goals have been democratically affirmed by the majority in the election of 27 April 1994, and yet in which the interests of a small, privileged minority are decisive. We live under a government which represents the aspirations of the oppressed majority, but can only carry out the programme of the privileged minority. The fact that the privileged minority is being deracialized, to a limited extent, does not alter the fundamental inequality which characterizes this society. So pervasive is this contradiction that even Mandela, who embodies it most completely, is aware of it in his own way. How else are we to understand his claim, in an interview with the Sowetan in July 1994 that “we have won this election, for those who do not know, because of the financial support of big business”? This is not a historically accurate account of the elections of 1994. But it is not hard to see how the contradiction would be overcome if only responsibility for the election victory could be given, once and for all, to big business! . This brief account of the new realism should be sufficient to show that, far from doing away with the contradictions that characterized the period of mass struggle, it only expresses them in new form. How, then, are we to think dialectically about the new South Africa? How are we to describe its contradictions and their movement? To do this, we must return, first of all, to the contradictions of apartheid. Once these have been described, we can ask how these were addressed by the negotiated settlement reached by the ANC, the NP and other parties. Against that background, we must see whether the familiar features of contemporary South Africa can be interpreted in a new way. *

After the uprisings which followed the Sharpeville shootings of 1960 had been crushed, the apartheid regime appeared invulnerable. The liberation movement had been outlawed, and its leaders were in jail. Pass laws were viciously enforced, and ensured a high degree of control over the urban townships. Trade union organisation among black workers was almost non-existent, and strike action by them was illegal. Economic growth averaged over 7% per annum in the 1960s, and was supported by an influx of foreign investment. Inflation was almost non-existent. South Africa had left the Commonwealth, but its whites-only cricket and rugby teams still competed freely with their old rivals. The National Party had finally removed representatives of Africans and coloureds from Parliament, and increased its majority at every whites-only election. To fight apartheid, in that context, could hardly be considered an act of realism. Today, thirty years later, apartheid belongs to history. The British Anti -Apartheid Movement recently estimated that as many as 15,000 South Africans died in active struggle to end it. Today, it is only Eugene Terreblanche and his kind who believe that apartheid could have been kept going, if the white minority had been sufficiently determined. But we still lack a clear account of what brought about its downfall. Why did those who defended apartheid, and benefitted from it, turn against it in the end? There are two ways of answering this question, and it is difficult to overestimate the political importance of which answer is given. It could have happened because of the moral conversion of the ruling-class. This is the dominant theme of Mandela's autobiography: “I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity.” Even the most unlikely individual can change; but it does not often happen that an entire ruling-class experiences such a change of heart for moral reasons. To give a fuller answer to this question, the second kind of answer, we need to discuss the internal contradictions of apartheid itself. Apartheid made possible rapid accumulation of capital for the ruling-class, but it also placed insurmountable limits to its continuation. By denying political rights to the majority of South Africans on the grounds of race, it made possible a supply of cheap and exploitable labour. Cheap labour was the foundation on which South African capitalism had been built in the mines and on the farms. In the apartheid era, manufacturing overtook mining and agriculture as a percentage of GDP. Manufacturing was confined largely to the production of consumer goods, and was heavily dependent on tariff protection. Its initial growth was aimed at satisfying white demand for these goods. And beyond this restricted market, it reached its limits. Cheap labour could ensure high profits for manufacturing, but it also prevented the growth of an internal market. Very simply, the workers who received such low wages could not use those wages to buy the consumer goods produced with their labour. Protected by tariffs and unable to exploit economies of scale, South Africa could not become a significant exporter of manufactured goods. Restricted largely to consumer goods, the manufacturing industry remained heavily dependent on imported technology, and hence on the world economy. This exposed the ruling-class to international political pressure, beginning in Africa and the third world and spreading to the advanced capitalist countries as they found it necessary to win favour in the third world. The mechanisms of rightlessness, control and exploitation that drew foreign investment to South Africa came to keep it away—not because foreign capitalists were opposed to exploitation, but because they saw that too close an association with apartheid damaged their profits elsewhere. Apartheid also made rapid accumulation of capital possible at first through its political and economic protection of the white working-class and petty bourgeoisie and white farmers. These were the buyers of locally manufactured consumer goods, the supervisors of black workers, the NP voters, and ultimately the personnel of military and police repression. But there was an increasingly heavy price to pay for this in the ongoing expansion in the economic role of the state, and in subsidies, etc. The big corporations had always had less interest in protecting white privilege. As the contradictions of accumulation under apartheid grew, capital had to look beyond this narrow grouping. The political and ideological contradictions of apartheid also made themselves felt. A racially­ restricted democracy is inherently vulnerable, making room for forms of dissent or criticism which are bound to reverberate outside the racial elite. Apartheid's claims to defend western civilization, moral values, etc., became increasingly absurd as the regime resorted to ever more vicious and bloody repression to secure itself. The crucial factor in exacerbating these contradictions was black resistance. The growing power of the black working class, organized precisely on the basis of the industrial growth which profited from their labour, presented a challenge to which apartheid had no coherent answer at all. By the end of the 1980s, even the government recognized its own illegitimacy. *

How was this crisis to be overcome? What was essential for capital in South Africa was a legitimate state. Only then would it be possible to attract foreign investment, to find hospitable markets abroad for South African exports, to go unimpeded into their supposedly “natural” market in Africa and to develop an internal market in South Africa itself. What kind of state couldbe consideredlegitimate? On this -question, capital hadto strike a delicate balance. It needed a government which included black people, but did not really represent the aspirations of the black majority. This was why it put its hopes so eagerly on P.W. Botha's tricameral parliament in 1983, which brought coloureds and Indians into parliament and into government, but ensured that they always remained a minority. The discrediting of the tricameral parliament did not change this basic requirement. But changed circumstances made it possible to interpret them in a different way. Capital could not have supported government negotiations with the liberation movement during insurgency of the mid-l 980s. It saw the need for a government that represented the aspirations of the oppressed majority; but it could not afford a government which expressed those aspirations without reserve. It could not afford a government that represented the revolutionary temper of the mid-1980s, or that stood for the transfer of power to the street committees, civics, SRCs and trade unions that were in the forefront of the struggle. It needed a government that expressed the aspirations of the oppressed majority, but did so only in modified and limited form. For this, negotiations were not enough. Three conditions first had to be met. First, it was necessary also to complete the repression of the revolt of the mid -1980s. This was the main legacy of P.W. Botha, and once he had completed this task, he became historically redundant. Botha could never understand that it was his own success that made it essential for his colleagues to get rid of him. Second, a favourable international context was needed, in which the real demands of the oppressed majority could be deprived of world support. In this context, the collapse of the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and the discrediting of socialism as a feared alternative facing the bourgeois governments of the world was a real stroke of luck for South African capitalism. It was not entirely essential. Even in the mid-1980s, Soviet experts were advising the liberation movement to compromise with the apartheid regime - some of them going so far as to suggest that the ANC agree to a parliament with equal representation of all racial groups in South Africa—a system in which the black majority would have been represented as one quarter of parliament, and hence in a permanent minority—in a kind of “democratic” apartheid. But in spite of this willingness to co-operate, it remained difficult for South African capitalists to rely on the bureaucracy of so-called 'socialist' states. Third, it was necessary for the liberation movement itself to be transformed in such a way as to instill in it the spirit of compromise, and make it amenable to world pressures. When we remember that this was the movement which led millions of oppressed people into the struggles of the 1980s, with their extraordinary feats of courage and commitment, then it is possible to see how unlikely the achievement of this third condition must have seemed. * It was not only capital and the state which faced contradictory requirements as the struggles of the 1980s unfolded. The position of the liberation movement contained its share of contradiction as well. These can most easily be traced from the international context to the local. A crucial strategy for the liberation movement, from the 1960s onwards, was the mobilisation of world opinion against apartheid. In this, it was enormously successful. In the age of decolonization, apartheid South Africa was a unique object of moral condemnation, and many different sentiments were drawn into the anti-apartheid movement around the world. It seemed to be a considerable advantage to have the status of the world's moral favourites. At the same time, there was a price to be paid for this success. For the world opinion which had been mobilized against apartheid was had its own class interests.

What was the class character of the international anti-apartheid movement? Very large numbers of working people throughout the world abhorred apartheid, ·and protested against it. Tracie union members were often active in campaigns to have pension funds and the like withdraw investment from South Africa. But these efforts were made in a context, in the advanced capitalist countries of the West, in which the main thrust of working-class politics was not clearly distinct from that of the bourgeoisie. The western countries which took the lead in the anti-apartheid movement - the United States, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands - were those in which working-class political organization was either absent, or most fully integrated into a corporatist state. And the institutions in those countries which were crucial points of focus in the anti-apartheid struggle were, in almost every case, essentially bourgeois-dominated institutions—governments, donor agencies, big corporations, banks, national boards of control for sport, universities. The anti-apartheid struggle was successfully internationalized. But in the process its class character was changed. Its result was what we can call a bourgeois internationalization of an essentially working-class struggle. And the contradictory poles of this internationalization drew increasingly further apart; as the role of the working-class became more prominent in South Africa, and workers themselves became more confident, so the bourgeois character of the international support they drew became more evident. An interesting parallel is to be found in the support given to the struggle against apartheid by the Soviet Union and its allies. The ANC and SACP relied heavily on material support from these countries. But in the context of authoritarian one-party states, in which the freedoms which the oppressed majority of South Africans were demanding did not actually exist, support for the liberation movement was necessarily restricted to the bureaucracy. This had two results. First, the SACP was always among the most slavish and uncritical supporters of these hated regimes, and appeared to be caught off balance when they were overthrown. Second, newly-elected governments in these countries promptly withdrew all support for the liberation movement in South Africa. In the case of Poland, the new government went as far as inviting Pik Botha to visit them to set up trade links. The SACP protested at this collaboration with apartheid. But it is not difficult to see why ordinary Polish workers felt they had no obligation to show solidarity with oppressed South Africans, when Polish solidarity until then had been a way for their own (Polish) oppressors to demonstrate their internationalist credentials.

This contradictory form in which the struggle against apartheid came to be internationalized played a major role in deciding the direction of the liberation movement once negotiations with the apartheid government became possible. It could not have had so significant an effect, however, if it had not corresponded to other contradictions within the liberation movement. The jailed leadership of the ANC—and Nelson Mandela, in particular—came to serve as a symbol of black resistance to apartheid. It was a symbol for local as well as international consumption, and a means of aligning local struggles with international solidarity campaigns. The more the struggles of the oppressed majority intensified in townships, factories, schools and universities in South Africa, the more important that symbolism became in uniting those struggles. In the context of those struggles, beginning in the trade union movement, new ideas and techniques had developed for seeking mandates, reporting back and ensuring accountability. But the spread and strengthening of these ideas could not ensure the accountability of a national leadership, for as long as that leadership was cut off from its basis by exile and imprisonment. The leadership of the ANC were not themselves responsible for these conditions. But these conditions had the result of locating authority within the movement, where it was less accountable. This became especially significant once the organs of people's power—the street committees, and the like—had been crushed by government repression.

Finally, the peculiarities of racial capitalism in South Africa also made contradictory forms of politicisation within the working-class itself. In a racially-structured workplace, the boss is opposed not just as a boss, but as a white as well, who relies on the support of the white state. In this context, politicisation led to increasingly militant forms of action; but could do so without increasing the degree of class consciousness of those involved in it. In the last analysis, this also played its part in making possible a leadership of the liberation movement which was willing to compromise on the aspirations of the oppressed masses in order to reach an agreement with the apartheid government, and in making it necessary for the oppressed masses to accept that compromise.

In this sense, the idea of a “sell-out” could be misleading. If other organizations or individuals had been involved in negotiations, the same contradictions would have made themselves felt and the same pressures would have been at work. They could have made other choices, and the better their understanding of the process the wider the choices would have been. But the constraints outlined above would have remained.


The new South Africa was born on the day of the first democratic election, on 27 April 1994. Has it introduced an era of freedom, in which all differences are overcome? If anything, the contradictions of the new South Africa are even more glaring than those of the old, precisely because the new South Africa claims to offer a “better life for all”. Closer examination will show that it is only to a very limited extent that it will be able to do this.

The fundamental contradiction of the new South Africa is this: it represents the aspirations of the oppressed majority of its citizens, but can only carry out the programme of the privileged minority. This contradiction is apparent in many different forms, each of them with its own specific dynamics, and only a few aspects of it can be discussed here.

It is important to begin at the level of South Africa's place within the international community, and world capitalism, in particular. The new South Africa represents precisely the acceptance of South Africa back into the world community, and in its integration into the world capitalist economy. It is for the sake of that integration, and the benefits it will bring, that we are being asked to “tighten our belts”. The underlying assumption is that, if we moderate our expectations, the world will be ready to invest in South Africa and help re-build its economy.

What is the world economy into which we are to be re-integrated? It is a world economy in which the privilege of a tiny minority requires the misery of the vast majority. Less than 25 % of the world's population has at its disposal 85% of the world’s income. The gap between the wealthy and the poor has widened consistently for the past half-century or more. The difference between living standards in Europe and those in the Third World stood at a ratio of 40:1 in 1965. By 1990, that ratio stood at 70:1. There is very reason to suppose that it will continue to grow. On a world scale, one out of three children goes hungry. In the 1980s alone, more than 800 million people were added to the number of those living below the poverty datum line. The world which we are re-joining is in this respect a replica of apartheid South Africa on a global scale.

Which place will the new South Africa occupy in this world economy? It is no part of my purpose to make predictions about South Africa's economic performance. My own belief is that the various predictions made about future economic growth are missing the essential point about the political meaning of that performance both internationally and locally. Within the context of world capitalism, we can only be 'competitive', to use the fashionable phrase, by outcompeting other countries, and building our prosperity on their misery. Perhaps something of this intention is already implicit in Mandela's links with the Indonesian dictator, Sukharno, whose increased credibility as the mentor of Mandela and the ANC helps to hold back the struggles of the Indonesian and East Timorese people.

But locally, too, we can only 'compete' by ensuring that our own South African brand of misery flourishes as well. In the context of contemporary globalisation, investors will move their capital to wherever it is most profitable to them. Component parts of manufactured products are sometimes made in as many as 20 different countries. Even in service industries, in the age of computers, different functions of the same job are easily allocated across to the other side of the globe. (For example, the main booking facility for British Airways is in India, where salaries for computer operators are comparatively low.)

How do we compete in such a context? Either by lowering wages, reducing taxes on corporate profits, or developing particular forms of highly-skilled labour which for which capitalism will pay on a more generous scale. How low must wages go? That is a question which can only be decided historically, but it might be worth comparing present South African wages in manufacturing with those in such emerging countries as Thailand, China, Vietnam. According to a recent survey, average wages are up to 15 times higher in South Africa than in these low-wage zones. Perhaps there is a physical minimum beyond which belts can no longer be tightened? But there is no such maximum level for corporate profits. How high must capitalist profits be in order for foreign (or local) capitalists to invest? (In 1993-94, Anglo-American had earnings of R2.98 billion, with a market value of their investments of R65 billion.) Again, this is decided historically. The recent devaluation of the Mexican peso caused foreign investors to claim that they would now require larger profits in order to compensate for the risk of investing in an emerging economy.

Can South Africa establish itself as a high-skills, high-wage economy? Perhaps it will, and there is surely need for such jobs. But again, if we examine the global pattern, we see that such jobs are being reduced precisely through the technical developments they make possible. In the United States in 1994, no less than 600,000 jobs were lost in middle management. Increasing numbers of people are working part-time, and increasing numbers of jobs are for specific contracts, with the employer accepting no responsibility for the future. Some commentators have described this tendency as the 'abolition of the job,' as capitalism finds more efficient ways of exploiting labour. This is the world from whose acceptance we hope to get more jobs.

What of taxation? Reduced taxation, which Mandela has called for, means reduced spending by government. There are some areas of taxation which hit the poor harder than the wealthy, and whose reduction or abolition could relieve their plight. VAT is an example. Has VAT on foodstuffs been abolished by the government of national unity. No, but taxes on profits from gambling, and on the purchase of racehorses has been very considerably reduced. (All this while Sol Kerzner is still being sought for bribing Matanzima to give him exclusive gambling rights in the former Transkei. He could apparently not be extradited to the Transkei after admitting this to the Harms Commission in 1989, but even that excuse no longer exists.) No doubt there will be large-scale re-allocation of the budget to overcome the racial basis of inequality in apartheid spending. But these are also signs of the contradictory character of the new South Africa.

It would be possible to add to this list of anomalies and contradictions. There is no time now to discuss what is involved in the arguments about parliamentary salaries, the role of the traditional leaders in the new constitution, the rise of the black business sector, the collapse of the alternative press, etc. In each case, we might seek to add up the balance sheet. In each case, we could also ask whether we are not better off than under apartheid. The end of apartheid is undoubtedly an important gain. But it does not mean that we have no option but to conform to some kind of arbitrary power over our own lives. This is to fall back into the realism whose contradictions we discussed earlier.


What is essential is not a static balance-sheet, but an account of the ongoing movement of the historical processes of which the new South Africa forms a part. It will yield many gains for oppressed people, along with the losses. But what we need to know is the direction in which events are moving.

Apartheid collapsed, in part, because it rested on a fantasy - a utopian vision of restoring tribal society in the homelands, providing the minimal resources to keep in place the institutions of chieftainship and the like, so that they could be used for purposes of white domination. Alan Paton described the fantastic nature of this exercise well in his famous novel, Cry, the Beloved Country: “They were feeding an old man with milk, and pretending that he would one day turn into a boy.” The problem was not just the lack of land for the homelands, or milk for the old man, but that fundamentally different processes were underway, which could not be reversed.

The new realism which informs the present period rests on a utopian vision which is even less likely to be achieved. It is not tribal society that our new leaders want to keep in place (although there is still hope of manipulating some of its institutions, such as the Zulu monarchy), but the world capitalist economy. The policies of the new South Africa depend on the idea that you can make concessions to the powerful, and that once they are made, they will want no more. It depends on the idea that there are natural limits to capitalist profit, which capitalists will not overstep.

Verwoerd had guns with which to try to keep his illusion alive. That was not enough, in the end. Will the legendary status of Nelson Mandela be enough to prevent the new illusion from being exposed?


[i] Paper presented to Marxist Theory Seminar, University of the Western Cape, on 16 February 1995


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