About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

3. Colonialism of a Special Type

South Africa has a developed capitalist economy. In our country, and wherever it exists, the capitalist mode of production has the same basic characteristics. It is an exploitative system based on the extraction of surplus value from wage labour. But the universal features of capitalism occur within concrete societies, each with its own specific balance of class forces and particular economic, political and ideological features. In different capitalist countries the bourgeoisie exerts its class rule through different kinds of domination, ranging from bourgeois democracy to fascism.

Like many earlier oppressor classes, the bourgeoisie also exerts its class rule across frontiers. In the imperialist epoch, capitalism has extensively developed its own variants of colonial, semicolonial and neocolonial rule, underpinning the brutal superexploitation of working people in the dominated societies.

Within South Africa, bourgeois domination and capitalist relations of production, which emerged within the context of colonialism, have been developed and maintained since 1910 through a specific variant of bourgeois rule colonialism of a special type. It is a variant of capitalist rule in which the essential features of colonial domination in the imperialist epoch are maintained and even intensified. But there is one specific peculiarity: in South Africa the colonial ruling class with its white support base on the one hand, and the oppressed colonial majority on the other, are located within a single country.

On the one hand, white South Africans enjoy political power, racial privileges and the lion's share of the country's wealth. On the other hand, the overwhelming black majority of our country are subjected to extreme national oppression, poverty, superexploitation, complete denial of basic human rights, and political domination.

There are significant class differences within both the white colonial bloc and the oppressed black majority. However, the effect of colonialism of a special type is that all white classes benefit, albeit unequally and in different ways, from the internal colonial structure. Conversely, all black classes suffer national oppression, in varying degrees and in different ways. The social and economic features of our country are directly related to its colonial history.

The Origins of Colonialism of a Special Type

From the time of the first white settlement, established by the Dutch East India Company over 300 years ago, the pattern was set for the ruthless exploitation of the black people of our country, the seizure of their lands and the enforced harnessing of their labour power. The Dutch made war on the Khoi people of the Cape, whom they contemptuously called 'Hottentots', and rejected their appeals for peace and friendship. The San people, the socalled 'Bushmen', were all but exterminated. Slaves were imported from Malaya and elsewhere. White settlers gradually penetrated into the interior. They drove the indigenous people from the best farm lands and seized their cattle. They subdued them by armed conquest and forced them into their service at first through direct slavery, later through a harsh system of pass laws and taxation.

Colonialist propaganda has emphasised the negative features of traditional African society the relatively low development of productive techniques, the illiteracy, intertribal conflicts and wars, superstitions and poverty. It is true that such features existed in traditional African society just as they did among all peoples at the period of early communal economies. But hostile propaganda has presented a distorted image. Prior to colonial conquest, the indigenous peoples had developed their own independent culture and civilisation. They mined and smelted iron, copper and other metals and fashioned them into useful implements. They had developed a number of handicrafts. Their system of extensive agriculture and livestock breeding was wellsuited to the type of country and the tools at their disposal. Their system of government though simple was essentially democratic and popular in character. Private property in land was unknown, and food and shelter were freely shared, even with strangers.

But when the colonists began their ceaseless acts of armed aggression, the African people resisted bravely to defend their cattle and their land from robbery and their people from enslavement. They took up the spear against the bullets of the invader with his horses and wagons. But, tribal society and a rural economy could not provide the material basis for successful warfare against an enemy with a more advanced economy and more destructive weapons. Disunity among the various African peoples prevented the development of a common front of resistance. Time and again in their wars of conquest against African peoples, the colonisers were able to play off one community against another and to enrol African auxiliaries.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the development of capitalist industrial mining on the Kimberley diamond fields and on the goldfieds of the Witwatersrand had profound and farreaching consequences. British and European finance houses exported vast sums of investment capital to South Africa. To seize complete control over the goldfields, British imperialism waged a successful war against the Boers. The gold mining companies were now the real rulers of the country. They had only one interest in the Africans to force them into labour on the mines at minimum rates of pay. The mine bosses found the harsh colonial policy of the Boer Republics admirably suited to this purpose. The poll tax and pass systems were intensified. Dispossession of Africans from the land was speeded up. Not a single move was made to introduce into the northern colonies even the minimum citizenship rights which had been conceded to some blacks in the Cape. In the oppression, dispossession and exploitation of blacks, British imperialism and Afrikaner nationalism found common ground. This was the basis for the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

In that year South Africa was established as a political entity with a centralised state power. This established the political conditions for the construction and development of a national capitalist economy and the national institutions of bourgeois political domination. The economic power and political influence of British imperialism were not abolished with the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910. They were now exercised indirectly through the political structures of the new state monopolised by the descendants of European settlers. These new national structures were based on the effects of centuries of colonial conquest and land dispossession. They reproduced, in changed forms, the essential features of colonial domination that had existed before the Union of South Africa.

The new Union of South Africa perpetuated the inferior colonial status of Africans who were recognised only as the objects of administration, without any citizenship rights. In elected bodies, as well as in public administration, whites occupied all positions of authority, skill and competence. Africans occupied only subordinate, unskilled positions without any authority over whites.

The form of domination developed by the Union of South Africa also perpetuated the racialised economic structures of the preUnion period. There was a white monopoly of capitalist, means of mining, industrial and agricultural production and of distribution. There was also a virtual white monopoly of skilled and supervisory jobs in the division of labour. Whites had privileged access to trading and petty commodity production. The 1913 Land Act, confining land ownership for the African majority to a tiny arid proportion of the country, legally entrenched and intensified the results of centuries of colonial land dispossession.

The South African capitalist state did not emerge as a result of an internal popular antifeudal revolution. It was imposed from above and from without. From its birth through to the present, South African capitalism has depended heavily on the imperialist centres. Capital from Europe financed the opening of the mines. It was the colonial state that provided the resources to build the basic infrastructure railways, roads, harbours, posts and telegraphs. It was an imperial army of occupation that created the conditions for political unification. And it was within a colonial setting that the emerging South African capitalist class entrenched and extended the racially exclusive system to increase its opportunities for profit. The racial division of labour, the battery of racist laws and political exclusiveness guaranteed this. From these origins a pattern of domination, which arose in the period of external colonialism, was carried over into the newlyformed Union of South Africa. From its origins to the present, this form of domination has been maintained under changing conditions and by varying mechanisms. In all essential respects, however, the colonial status of the black majority has remained in place. Therefore we characterise our society as colonialism of a special type.

The Class and Social Structure of Colonialism of a Special Type

Since 1910 South African capitalism has developed enormously. From a typical extractive,colonial economy, whose core was gold mining based on cheap migrant labour and agriculture based on cheap forced labour, South Africa is now a relatively advanced capitalist society with the most developed infrastructure on the African continent. Today monopoly capital dominates every single sector of the South African economy. The development of capitalist forces of production has led to the extensive growth of a modern proletariat. Numerically, the working class, of which the core is a large industrial proletariat, is by far the largest class in our society. Even in the South African countryside, the agrarian working class, and migrant workers and their families, constitute the great majority of the population. Bourgeois class domination is, however, still based on the colonial oppression of the black and, in particular, African majority.

The special colonial domination is based on an alliance of white classes and strata. The maintenance of this system, producing as it does increasing instability, violence and a growing isolation from the international community, is not in the overall longterm interests of the majority of South Africans, black or white. However, in the short term, all white classes and strata benefit from the oppression of the black majority.

Within the white colonial bloc, it is the bourgeoisie and in particular monopoly capital that is the leading class force. In every sector of the economy mining, manufacturing, finance, and increasingly even in agriculture and services monopoly capital is now overwhelmingly dominant. Enormous power is wielded by a handful of companies controlling vast economic empires. By the mid1980s 2.7 per centof enterprises controlled over 50 per cent of our country's total turnover; 6.3 per cent of all enterprises employed over half of the national workforce; and a mere 6 per cent had 85 per cent of all fixed assets. Monopoly concentration of capital is a universal trend within capitalism but the level of concentration in South Africa is virtually unprecedented. And the trend to ever greater concentration is increasing each year. By 1987, four companies (Anglo American, Sanlam, SA Mutual and Rembrandt) alone controlled 80 per cent of all shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Of these companies, Anglo American alone controlled 55 per cent.

Over the last decades Afrikanercontrolled monopoly conglomerates have developed, and their interests have interlocked and merged with those of the older monopolies traditionally controlled by Englishspeaking whites. A decisive role in the capitalist economy is also played by the state. State corporations in some of the key sectors armaments, energy and transport play a central role in propping up the entire capitalist economy. With all of these developments, the level of collusion between the state and private monopoly capital, and between English and Afrikaans big business, has increased substantially on the economic and political fronts.

Faced with a deepening crisis and the prospect of a national democratic revolution, these monopoly interests are now calling for some restructuring of race domination. At the heart of the various political arrangements they are advocating is an attempt to keep South Africa safe for monopoly capitalism. Under the guise of protecting 'group rights', they seek to perpetuate their monopoly control over the wealth of our country. In fact, their stranglehold over the great bulk of our country's productive land, machinery and capital is the accumulated result of more than a century of colonial dispossession, oppression and exploitation of the majority. There can be no true liberation from colonial oppression in our country without transforming this fundamental economic legacy.

Although monopoly capitalism has now become dominant in every sector, there are also nonmonopoly capitalists. In particular, there is still a large number of nonmonopoly white farms. This is the most backward sector of the capitalist economy. The national farming debt in 1986 exceeded the gross agricultural income, and it was ten times the sum of annual profits to farming capitalists. A large number of whiteowned capitalist farms are only able to survive as a result of the most barbaric oppression and exploitation of their black labourers, and extensive government loans and other forms of protection.

Among the white middle strata, particularly from the Afrikaans speaking community, large numbers are now integrated into the state bureaucracy. They are highly dependent for their positions on having in power a political organisation committed to a strong, racially privileged state bureaucracy. Other sectors of the white middle strata, professionals and particularly the intelligentsia, often feel least threatened among the white community by the prospect of a nonracial future. It is necessary to detach significant numbers of these sectors from an unquestioning support for white minority rule, and win them over to the struggle for national democracy.

The two million economically active whites mostly hold clerical, supervisory, administrative and technical positions. In many ways white wageearners constitute a classical, labour aristocracy. Although their longterm interests lie in making common cause with their black working class brothers and sisters, decades of racial privilege have brought them real material gains. These have instilled an extremely reactionary outlook within a significant proportion of white workers. It is from this stratum that the ultrarightwing, neofascist parties receive their major support. With the deepening crisis of South African capitalism, and with the growing collusion between the state and the monopolies, the economic situation of white workers has deteriorated. Their trade unions, which have for a long time been in deep collusion with management, are now proving less and less effective in defending the interests of their members. While organising white workers into progressive trade unions, and winning them away from racism is not an easy task in the present situation, every endeavour must be made in this direction.

The alliance of white classes and strata is not without contradictions and countertendencies. Although historically all white classes and strata have united around the system of white minority rule, the different interests that draw them together in this alliance are not static. Monopoly capitalism now tends to secure its labour from a more stable, better qualified and higher consuming workforce. From the perspective of monopoly capital these economic changes require a political and economic restructuring of colonialism of a special type. This restructuring is resisted by sections of the white working class and petty bourgeoisie, and by some of the nonmonopoly capitalists in agriculture and manufacture.

Above all, the growing revolutionary challenge, and increased international isolation are now dramatically weakening the cement uniting the white bloc. Today, the white community is more confused, more divided and more demoralised than in many decades. While certain sectors are in favour of reform to ward off revolution, others are increasingly swept into the ranks of the ultraright and various neofascist groupings that propagate the most rabid race hatred. Generally speaking, these differences and conflicts within the white bloc are not centred around the abolition of colonial domination of the majority, but around how best to maintain stability and privilege.

However, with the deepening political and economic crisis, increasing numbers of whites are beginning to doubt whether apartheid is in their own longterm interests, and whether it can ever bring them peace and security. White domination means more and more police and military expenditure to burden the taxpayer, diverting resources from useful production. It means enforced conscription of white males into the apartheid armies, to serve and even die for an unjust cause. It means more and more dictatorial policestate measures, and the extinguishing of civil liberties for whites themselves. It means a South Africa despised and shunned by the whole world, subjected to economic, sports and cultural isolation. It means a future of uncertainty and fear.

There are now many possibilities for detaching significant sectors of whites from at least an unquestioned faith in white minority rule. Indeed, increasing numbers of whites are now espousing an anti apartheid position, joining the broad front of forces aligned against the Pretoria regime. There is also a long tradition within South Africa, pioneered in the 1920s by our Party, of whites renouncing colonial privileges and standing shoulder to shoulder with their black brothers and sisters in the revolutionary struggle for a united, nonracial and democratic South Africa. One of the features of the struggles of the 1980s has been the still small but growing number of whites actively making this fuller, revolutionary commitment.

Within the colonially oppressed black majority, the six million strong working class is by far the largest and most significant class force. Neither the profound economic changes that have occurred in South Africa, nor the restructuring that monopoly advocates, amount to an abolition of the special colonial oppression of the black working class. Despite the changes, black workers still occupy the less skilled and lower paid jobs. Inferior education, the unequal provision of resources and the denial of political rights all continue to reproduce a racially divided, colonialtype workforce. The system of national oppression has guaranteed a low paid black labour force, while allowing for changes in size and technical understanding. Until the 1960s there were relatively few black clerical workers and still fewer black employees who were formally described as skilled, semiskilled, or supervisors, foremen and workers in service capacities.

By the beginning of the 1970s the present shape of the working class had been established. A more literate black workforce entered occupations previously dominated by whites, although the apartheid educational system still limits the vast majority of black people to low levels of education. Colonial oppression of the black proletariat has been retained through the changes. Whites work alongside blacks who, at a lower wage and with a lower status, increase their capacity to run a modern industry. Job descriptions are redefined, as blacks move into them at wages only a fraction of those paid to whites.

Oppressed by the special colonial form of bourgeois domination in South Africa and superexploited, black workers stand to gain the most from the immediate abolition of national oppression. It is also black workers whose longerterm interests are for the complete and final eradication of all forms of oppression and exploitation in our country.

The South African industrial proletariat, concentrated in the large urban complexes, has emerged as the most organised and powerful mass revolutionary contingent in our country. Its proletariat class consciousness has been developed and deepened by decades of militant trade unionism. This tradition is today embodied in the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and in the giant federation, the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU). It is a working class that has responded in its millions to calls for national stayaways, shutting down the mines, factories, shops, and bringing the capitalist economy to a grinding halt for days at a time. It is a working class from among whom increasingly large numbers are actively rallying to the MarxistLeninist positions of the SACP, openly espousing the perspectives of socialism. Within our own country this proletariat is gathering its forces to fulfil the historical role predicted over one hundred years ago by Marx and Engels for the working class movement on a world scale. Assembled in millions within the very heartland of an advanced capitalist economy, and leading the struggle against national oppression, the South African working class is poised to be the gravedigger of capitalist exploitation itself.

Largescale and chronic unemployment has now become a central feature of South Africa's capitalist economy. Some 300,000 new jobseekers enter the labour market each year, while a stagnating economy is only able to absorb an extremely small proportion. Official figures deliberately underestimate the number of unemployed Africans by many millions. The most reliable estimates in the late 1980s were between six and eight million unemployed Africans. Other groups, in particular the Coloured people, have been seriously affected by unemployment. This enormous wastage of the human wealth and potential of our country is characteristic both of colonial oppression and of capitalism, a system based on private profits and not on social needs.

Closely allied to the South African industrial proletariat are the oppressed rural masses. There are some 1.3million black workers on whiteowned farms. Conditions for black workers on these farms are invariably bad. They are often treated with brutality, wages are extremely low, and they are not covered by labour laws in effect in other sectors of the economy. Malnutrition is common among black children on white farms, and many children are themselves also forced to work to supplement their family income.

The vast majority of about thirteen and a half million people in the bantustans are landless and without livestock or agricultural implements. While landlessness is acute, the land that is available to African peasants tends to be both overgrazed and barren. Among households with some land it is virtually only those that receive remittances from family members at regular intervals, in the form of wages or pensions, who are able to engage in any agricultural production beyond a garden plot.

The apartheid regime has tried to develop a stratum of middle peasants, so called 'bona fide farmers', in the bantustans. This strategy has generally failed because patronage and corruption have led to resources for development and the little effective farming land available falling into the hands of bantustan civil servants, and bantustan government ministers in particular. These collaborative strata do not engage in smallscale farming, but set themselves up in commercial agricultural enterprises, often in joint ventures as junior partners to white farmers and commercial interests.

Within the economy of apartheid colonialism the bantustans serve as suppliers of cheap labour and as dumping grounds for the unemployed, the aged and the sick. Apart from migrant labourers and 'commuters', who are forced to travel many hours from dormitory townships, the vast majority of people in the bantustans are workers, families, unemployed workers and poor peasants. They are linked in many ways,direct and indirect, to the South African working class in their outlook and in their objective interests. Their demands are for land, for the right to settle where they choose, for secure and rewarding work, and for an end to the corruption and repressive actions of the bantustan authorities. In their struggle to achieve these demands, the rural masses are the major social ally of the working class in the broad struggle for national liberation, and the longerterm struggle for the socialist transformation of our country.

Among the oppressed black majority of our country there is a fairly small but growing and relatively significant range of middle strata, made up of a commercial petty bourgeoisie, and various professional categories. These middle strata suffer, with their fellow black, under the brutal and humiliating system of colonialism. The majority of these middle strata, in terms of their living conditions, their social origin and their political aspirations are closely linked to the oppressed black proletariat. Despite the regime's attempts to woo these black middle strata, hoping to transform them into a buffer between the masses and the white colonial bloc, the overwhelming majority have rejected these ploys. Indeed, the active participation of black middle strata within the national democratic movement has been an important feature of our revolutionary struggle. This is not to say that there are no other, contradictory tendencies among sections of the black middle strata. The apartheid regime has not abandoned its attempts to win them over, and their continued allegiance to the people's cause requires active and ongoing work.

There is also a very small but emerging black bourgeoisie in South Africa. At present it controls means of production that are responsible for less than two percent of our country's Gross National Product. One fraction of this emergent black bourgeoisie is closely associated with the various apartheid collaborative structures like bantustan administrations, community councils, management committees, and the tricameral parliament. Using its control of subordinate bureaucratic apparatuses and by patronage and corruption it accumulates some capital resources. Because of its dependency on these apartheid structures, this fraction tends to be extremely reactionary, aligning itself to the colonial ruling bloc. However, its subordinate status and its very dependence upon the ruling bloc are sometimes the source of resentments and secondary contradictions which can be exploited by the liberation movement.

Other emergent fractions of the black bourgeoisie are developing out of petty bourgeois commercial activities, and also through the professional and managerial routes. Though growing in numbers, their hopes of entrepreneurial operations remain blocked by the economic stranglehold of the monopolies and by racial oppression. These strata can be won over into the broad national liberation movement.

The black majority includes two sizeable groups, the Coloured and Indian peoples. They share with the African majority the bitter suffering and humiliation of racial oppression. There have been considerable social changes over the last 30 years within these communities, with a growing process of class differentiation. The apartheid regime has used these changes, in particular the growing affluence of some of their upper strata, to intensify its attempts to win active collaboration from these communities. These attempts by the regime have failed dismally, and the Coloured and Indian people in their majority have soundly rejected and isolated the few collaborators drawn from their midst.

The Coloured community, numbering some three million, is predominantly working class in character. This community is subjected to many forms of racial discrimination, reflected in low standards of living, education, housing, nutrition and health. The changes in the national economy, with increased capital investment in the manufacturing sector in the 1970s, led to a significant growth in the number of Coloured workers in whitecollar and skilled jobs, and a declining relative share of Coloured employment in the lower manual and skilled occupations.

Despite these advances the average Coloured monthly wage was still only 35 per cent of the average white earnings in 1986. Another significant change in the last decades has been the movement of Coloured women out of domestic service and agriculture into semiskilled manufacturing, sales and clerical work. Coloured farm labourers still work and live under wretched conditions. The increased mechanisation of agriculture has resulted in over 100,000 Coloured farm workers losing their jobs since 1960. They and their families have swelled the ranks of the unemployed in the urban areas.

Although the Coloured community has always suffered racial oppression, in the first half of this century it occupied a privileged position in relation to Africans. The white ruling group extended various concessions such as a qualified franchise, trade union rights and property rights in order to prevent the emergence of a united front of oppressed blacks against white colonialism. This policy was not without success. However, with the accession of the National Party to power in 1948, many of these relative privileges were removed. In the late 1950s and 1960s the Coloured community was subjected to brutal, mass forced removals under the Group Areas Act.

In the 1980s the regime's attempts to incorporate Coloured people within the tricameral parliament have failed miserably. Increasing numbers of Coloured people have now come to align themselves unambivalently with the broader struggle of the African majority. One of the most significant developments in the 1980s has been the militant, mass participation of the Coloured community in the national democratic struggle.

The Indian community, nearly one million strong, originates mainly from the indentured labourers who came to work in the Natal sugar fields a century and a half ago. From the earliest times all sorts of degrading and discriminatory restrictions have been placed on South African Indians, restrictions which they have resisted in many historic struggles. Today there is a substantial number of Indian industrial workers. Like their fellow African workers they face appalling problems of unemployment and overcrowding in slum conditions. There is also a significant stratum of Indian merchants, factory owners and small shopkeepers. Indian business people, and all sections of the community, are subjected to numerous disabilities, especially relating to land and property ownership and economic opportunities. Until recently they were not allowed to move from one province to another without special permits. The apartheid regime has applied the Group Areas Act with particular ferocity against the Indian communities, uprooting them from their homes and livelihoods.

On the other hand, the Indian community in general has advanced economically and socially much more rapidly than other oppressed communities. There has been a significant increase in the number of Indian people in professional, managerial and supervisory positions in the last twenty years. In addition, the rigid application of the Group Areas Act for over 25 years, which has seen the enforced separation of Indian and African communities, has also had a political and cultural impact. Any negative tendencies resulting from these developments present special challenges to the national liberation struggle in the task of forging the broadest unity of action of the oppressed, while recognising real cultural and other differences. In accomplishing this task it is necessary to build upon the long traditions within the Indian community of united struggle with the African peoples. In the 1970s and 1980s these traditions have been actively reasserted through the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses.

Work amongst the Indian people has to take into account the class differentiation within this community. While there has been some economic advance within this community, it has not been evenly spread. The majority of the economically active Indian people in our country are exploited wage labourers, toiling shoulder to shoulder with African workers. In particular there is a large concentration of Indian workers in the garment industry, many of them working in appalling sweatshop conditions. Deepening the class consciousness of Indian workers, and strengthening their class unity with the majority of workers, is a priority task.

The Crisis of Colonialism of a Special Type

Today, colonialism of a special type is in deep crisis. The crisis is the result of a combination of factors the economic impasse of South African capitalism, international isolation, divisions in the ruling bloc, and, above all, the broad revolutionary struggle. The present crisis is more generalised, deeprooted and enduring than those of the 1940s and the early 1960s.

The present crisis is intimately linked to the economic changes of the previous period, and to their interaction with the central features of colonialism of a special type. The development of an advanced capital economy, with its needs for a relatively settled and skilled workforce and an expanding market, have been distorted by apartheid colonialism.

On the economic front the crisis has many features: a severe shortage of skills as a result of the cultural and educational oppression of the majority, the largescale underutilisation of productive capacity, an increasing reluctance of capitalists to invest in fixed capital, and massive organic unemployment.

The capitalist economy is now stagnating, while the apartheid state itself sinks deeper into financial crisis. The state, with its largescale investment in strategic industries and basic infrastructure, has in the past been a moving force for capitalist development. But it is now contributing directly to the overall crisis of the economy. Relying increasingly for its survival on naked repression and upon regional military adventures, the apartheid regime is squandering vast ums on its repressive machinery. In addition, the racial institutions of political control have spawned a huge state bureaucracy. There are numerous racially separate administration departments, bantustan apparatuses, and the tricameral parliament. These are a heavy drain on the regime 's finances. The resulting fiscal crisis has, in turn, fuelled inflation and provoked severe difficulties in the repayment of foreign loans.

The ruling bloc's strategic objective of securing a manufacturingled economic boom, to pull the economy out of its stagnation, has not materialised. The oppression of the black majority, with low wages and massive unemployment, has resulted in a very restricted home market. On the other hand, attempts to compete on international markets with South African manufactures have also failed to live up to the regime's expectations. South Africa's manufactured goods are, generally, not competitive on world markets. The attempts to compete have resulted simply in a greater dependence on foreign markets for imported machinery and high technology. The southern African market is more accessible to South African manufacturers, but the military and economic destabilisation of our neighbouring countries impoverishes the whole region, thus restricting its market potential.

But, above all, the crisis of apartheid colonialism is a political crisis. The ruling class and its political representatives realise that it is impossible to continue ruling in the old way. Amongst their major strategies is the attempt to secure black participation and collaboration in a subordinate form of civil government. At the political level the essence of the regime's crisis is precisely the failure of this strategy. As long as significant black participation is withheld, the regime's crisis will continue to fester and, in one form or another, upsurge and revolt will continue with increasing intensity and frequency.

Every racist constitutional and, reform, initiative, designed to divert the revolutionary pressures, has landed on the rocks. Such initiatives have usually led to an increased tempo of struggle. The forced retreat from the concept that the bantustans would provide the, final solution, and the selfevident ineffectiveness of the tricameral parliament, are amongst the most significant of these failures. The attempt to win black participation in the setting up of local ghetto councils as a step towards the socalled 'Great Indaba' has failed ignominiously.

The reform failures, the absence of any viable alternative political strategy, growing international isolation, the changing relation between racism and profit in important sectors, a bleeding economy and, above all, the unrelenting people's resistance, have led to significant splits and divisions at the top. Within the dominant race group the centuriesold confidence and belief in the eternal survival of white hegemony has begun to evaporate, leading to a significant shift in the traditional context of white politics.

The ideological cement which had for so long bonded the mainstream white politics together, has crumbled considerably and there is no substitute to fill the gaps. Afrikaner nationalism the tribal pillar of white political power in the postwar period is developing significant cracks. Its middle strata leaders had successfully exploited Afrikaner nationalism to win political office and with it access to the upper echelons of the economy. The embrace between English and Afrikaner capital is leading to a noticeable shift away from the purely ethnic divide within the white bloc.

The regime is less and less able to meet the expectations either of the capitalist class it represents or the mass of white workers who have, for over half a century, acted as its historic political support base. Mounting international pressures are having a serious effect on the economy and could reach a point which can no longer be tolerated by the capitalist class as a whole. The search for a way out of the crisis is also leading to increased vacillation and divisions within the power bloc.

The deeprooted crisis and conflict in South Africa cannot be resolved within the confines of the apartheid colonial system. Nor can they be resolved by the National Party regime or any other section of the ruling class. The basic aims of all sections of the ruling class revolve around maintaining the essence of the system of oppression, and monopoly control over the wealth of South Africa. Our struggle is not, and cannot be, merely for civil rights within the framework of the existing system. This system is rooted in the special colonial subjugation of the majority of the South African people and the denial of their basic rights.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.