South African struggle history

Paul Trewelha – Critique of Padmore, Pan-Africanism or Marxism (2 articles)

This also fits into the category of useful South African left writing, being an incisive critique of the politics of George Padmore, former Marxist-Leninist-turned-African-nationalist. Through the “Pan-Africanist” variant of African nationalism, Padmore remains a major influence on current movements — a critical examination of his contradictions, flaws and prescriptions remains, then, essential.

PDF is here: Trewelha – Critique of Padmore

This is from  Searchlight South Africa, Vol.l, No.1, September 1988

Another paper by Trewelha also deals with Padmore, and is provided below purely in the interests of additional material on Padmore. While it has a few useful points about Padmore’s silences about Stalin’s brutality, much of it is taken up with a bizarre Trotskyist theory, based on uncited anecdotes (via other Trotskyists) trying to show Stalin had Alfred Nzula — the first black general secretary of the CPSA/ SACP — killed  by the GPU/ KGB in Moscow in 1934. The fact is that Nzula died of pneumonia, after passing out drunk on a street at night. Not a glorious end, but there you have it. The slightest familiarity with Nzula’s work as writer and party leader and theorist reveals a thoroughgoing Stalinist, hardly a political opponent that would vaguely interest Stalin’s secret police. That Nzula opposed the two-stage theory is simply nonsense. The other SA communists killed in the USSR at the time — like Lazar Bach and Paul and Maurice Richter — were not killed for “Trotskyist” views, but for failing to keep up with the swift shift from (Stalin’s) New Line to (Stalin’s) Popular Front. All three were ardent Stalinists. Nonetheless, the appallingly thin historiography on SA communism — and the CPSA/ SACP’s culture of never compiling the texts of its main leaders (hagiographic biographies, icons and dubious official histories substitute for any real discussion of party history, in the party) — open the door for such myth-making. SACP/ CPSA silence on people like Nzula has less to do with their alleged Troskyism, than the embarrassing fact that the two-stage theory originally excluded the ANC as a group of “national-reformist” traitors from the transition in SA. The ANC now being the  SACP’s ally, some might say master, the fact that two-stageism was originally ANTI-ANC has to be occluded.

PDF is here:Trewelha – Death of Nzula and silence of Padmore

This is from Searchlight South Africa, Vol.1, No.l, September 1988


1993 letter (confidential) of agreement between ANC and IMF

sa-imf letter of intent

South Africa’s ANC making a deal with the IMF back in 1993 (that’s right, not 1994 when it formally became the ruling party). This is NOT the cause of the ANC’s drift to neoliberalism, but an OUTCOME — there was no fiscal crisis requiring capitulation, nor was the ANC yet a ruling party!

Searchlight South Africa/ Baruch Hirson, 1991, “Third Worldism: The Albatross of Socialism”

PDF: Hirson – Third Worldism – albatross of socialism

Also from Searchlight South Africa, a journal edited primarily by the late Baruch Hirson, independent South African Marxist, this article argues against the left’s embrace of ‘third worldism’, meaning the support (more or less uncritical in practice) of nationalist movements and regimes in the colonial and postcolonial world. In the name of ‘anti-imperialism’ this boils down to abandoning class politics in favour of a de facto nationalist north vs south view of the world — and to various disasters for the left. It can be mentioned here that the direct lineal descendant of this ‘third worldism’ is the inability of large part’s of today’s left to take a critical and oppositional stand on radical Islamism, on the grounds that critique ‘helps’ ‘imperialism’ or is ‘Islamophobic’ (a hugely problematic concept in its own right) or will be done ‘later’ — as if the left project of progress, universalism and equality has anything in common with the far right politics of radical Islamism… Also read this article by Hirson critiquing widespread problems in left theorisation of imperialism and left ‘anti-imperialism’.

SOCIALISM: Once Again On The Colonial Question

Vol 2, No 2 (No 6)
A Marxist Journal of Southern African Studies

Baruch Hirson, 1991, “Colonialism and Imperialism”

PDF: Hirson – Colonialism and Imperialism

Article by the late independent South African Marxist Baruch Hirson: criticises narrowly economistic explanations of ‘imperialism,’ the sloppy use of the term as a catch-all, and the politics of a crude ‘anti-imperialism’ that amounts to an defense, largely uncritical, of dubious ‘third world’ regimes. Written ca the 1991 Gulf War, but still relevant today incl. on issues of how left relates — or capitulates — to reactionary currents like radical Islamism in the name of a vague ‘anti-imperialism.’ Includes discussion of the (disastrous) widespread failure to examine dynamics and autonomy of post-colonial states and ruling classes. Also see this article by Hirson’s journal Searchlight South Africa on ‘third worldism’ and the left.


Vol 2, No 3 (No 7)
A Marxist Journal of Southern African Studies