About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

24 Aug 1990: Pahad, Essop

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POM     If you take your mind back to, you're a member of the Communist Party so you're speaking on behalf of them, taking your mind back to February 2nd, did what De Klerk said surprise you? What do you think motivated him to move so dramatically and so quickly at the same time?

EP     I think it's inter-connected. One, it did not surprise me because it had become clear months before that there was no way in which this regime could even begin to resolve some of the fundamental problems they were facing without taking steps which would be contrary to what they had believed in for a very long time. The economy was in tatters, politically the whole of the apartheid system had collapsed. Internationally they remained a polecat. It was clear that even though they had managed to arrest, detain, torture many of our people that they were not going to be able to defeat us either militarily or politically. They were able to contain the capacity of uMkhonto weSizwe, launch massive attacks but it was clear that they could not, on the other hand, defeat us militarily.

     I think this combination of a political and economic crisis forced the regime to understand that they either had to make a sharp change or the situation was only going to worsen from their point of view. It would seem to be also that there was a great deal of pressure on them from their allies internationally because however much they pretended that they could ignore what the world was saying, the fact remains that no country in the world can ignore international opinion.

     For all these reasons De Klerk and some of the people around him understood that they had to make a move, that they had to make some kind of dramatic move, from their point of view, not from ours. At the same time my understanding is that they thought that they could control the pace and the direction of this change. They themselves have set out for themselves a programme within which over a certain period of time certain things will happen.

POM     So do you think Mr de Klerk approached this with a strategy and with a grand design to it, that he knew where he wanted to get to and when he wanted to get there?

EP     Sure, I'm sure he had a strategy. He's not a fool. They have a strategy and they had outlined it in any event in the last all white election that had taken place. But I'm saying that that programme was a five-year programme and they want to control the pace and direction of this change and that's why they thought that they needed to take the initiative that they did.

POM     Do you think De Klerk has since the last election and since February 2nd conceded on the issue of majority rule?

EP     Well at this moment in time it's rather difficult to say because one gets slightly conflicting signals from them. At this moment I think one can say with some confidence, but one could be wrong here, that they have conceded on the question of a non-racial voter's roll. They have conceded on the question of one person one vote. The problem remains that until we really sit down and talk about it, we don't know what they mean by one person one vote.

POM     One person one vote doesn't necessarily mean majority rule.

EP     Sure, or that they necessarily mean the same thing as we do. Now we are saying that it should be a non-racial voter's roll. Viljoen has said certain other things which are not very clear what he means by that. Thirdly, they still harp on the question of minority rights, well they use different words, national groups or interest groups or whatever, and then they basically point to some kind of mechanism which would be a restraining factor on parliament's ability to adopt legislation whoever the major political party or alliance of parties will be. To what extent they will stand by this is difficult to say I think at this moment because they haven't played their hands and I think quite rightly so, they haven't played all their hands. And they know that you do not put all your cards on the table before the negotiations actually take place. I would say that even on those issues I think they are going to find that like on all the other issues they are going to get left behind.

     I must say that they didn't expect, I think, that the ANC would take the initiative to ask for the meeting in Cape Town, it was an ANC initiative. I don't think that they expected that quickly that the ANC would be ready to discuss any number of questions relating to the obstacles and in that sense I think that they themselves will find themselves in some difficulties if they stick to their publicly stated positions. Whether they will change, one hopes that they will be very willing to change and move to what can only be the most sensible position: is one person one vote.

POM     Do you think that within a one person one vote system what they will be looking for is some form of power sharing?

EP     Well that's what De Klerk is saying now. It's what he said yesterday when he spoke at Potchefstroom that what they are looking for is power sharing but the problem is, at this moment in time, to know what exactly he means by power sharing. If by 'power sharing' they mean the right of a particular national group which they define as a minority to veto legislation of the sovereign party, that is unacceptable.

POM     If they were talking about some sharing of executive power, like in Northern Ireland the British government will only allow a new parliament to be formed if there is power sharing between Catholics and Protestants in it which means that Catholics, 40% minority, would have about 40% of the executive positions in government, so it would be executive power sharing.

EP     Well I'm not sure that analogy will work.

POM     I'm only using that as an example. Would you have an objection to executive power sharing?

EP     I'm saying that I have an objection to this kind of analogy of saying that power sharing takes place in different countries. Northern Ireland is a very specific situation.  One doesn't know what will eventually emerge out of the outcome of the negotiations but any kind of arrangement which smacks of reproducing representation on the basis of race or colour would be unacceptable.

POM     What about De Klerk's promise that he would take any proposed new dispensation back to the white electorate for its approval? Is that a promise he can keep or a promise that he must keep?

EP     One doesn't know what is going to happen but the thing is that what is he going to go to this white electorate about? If they then go back to the white electorate to ask the white electorate to accept certain things then what? They've already moved in the process of removing the obstacles. Is he then going back to the white electorate to say, "Shall I negotiate?" because what would that referendum actually imply. That's the first thing. The second thing is this means once again that your press people are now supposed to be dependent on the whims and fancies of an electorate which is the beneficiary of a system. Thirdly, that would mean that we are going to have to be dependent on whether we move forward or not on the basis of what this white minority is going to say. Now I don't know whether that he will eventually go or not but even if he does go to the white electorate for this referendum of his I think it would still be a mere reproduction of the present system that the lives of black people are going to be determined by a white minority and we want to move away from that.

POM     How would you assess, first of all the threat of the Conservative Party and then the threat of the right wing? I'm making a distinction between those who want to be constitutional and those who would go to unconstitutional means.

EP     That is a very difficult question to answer. It seems to me that even some of the top analysts of Afrikaner politics are having a great deal of difficulty in coming to a clear understanding of the depth of support for the Conservative Party and to what extent traditional NP supporters have moved to the right. There's a lot of stuff in the media but essentially I find it rather shallow and guesswork. So, again, there hasn't been, at least I haven't seen, a sufficiently competent scientific analysis which would give a clearer indication of the shifts if there have been shifts in the pattern of positions taken by Afrikaners. Having said that I think we need to understand that - maybe you've talked to Afrikaners and you therefore already have a better idea of this question than I have.

POM     Well my response is some people say it's a real threat, some people say it will pass.

EP     No I know it constitutes a threat, I was going to determine the extent of the threat. My own gut feeling, and that is what it is, it's not really based on a deep understanding of these fluctuations that I've been talking about, is that the Conservative Party cannot win an all white election.

POM     It cannot?

EP     Cannot win an all white election and will not win an all white election. Secondly, that it would seem to me that even though there might be a great deal of confusion within the ranks of Afrikanerdom that at such a critical point I think a lot of them will turn out to be sensible human beings who will understand that a vote for the Conservative Party means a vote to go back to the old days and to go back to the old days is only going to exacerbate the economic and political crisis in this country, it's not going to solve it, which makes me rather feel, anyway I rather think the Afrikaners or large sections of them are very sensible people whatever their outbursts are on a number of issues, that there are good sensible people who realise that for their own safety, for their own security, for the good of this country the Conservative Party is a non-starter. So I believe if elections are to be held the Conservative Party may well increase their seats but I do not believe that they will win a general election in this country.

POM     How about the extreme right wing militants?

EP     I think you are right in separating them, I don't think necessarily that we need to separate them so totally because if you take the far right there may be anything up to forty something groups at the moment. There are some which are politically (competent?), there are those which are radical. There are all kinds of little groupings and then a few individuals get together and decide to call themselves an organisation and it's very difficult to determine how many there are. Of course we know that there are two or three main ones.

     Their support has been practically impossible to quantify and it's interesting while everybody asks the Communist Party to become more open, all of these people who are pressurising the Communist Party to become more open are not making the same  pressures on others. They don't believe that we are a democratic organisation. But what I am saying is that they all seem to be closed groupings, bloodshed and so on and so forth but as a political force they don't have anything. What I think they constitute, they constitute now and may possibly in the future, is not that they can threaten to overturn a new democratic state, I don't believe so, but they can be very difficult. They have within their ranks very violent people. They have within their ranks some individuals who may well prefer to engage in horrific acts of death which are not going to overthrow any democratic state but which could destabilise to some extent the political situation and I think make it more difficult to actually proceed on the basis of a real democratic state and a real democratic situation so that one doesn't ever need to have laws such as we have at the moment, nor such as you have in Northern Ireland for that matter, on the basis that there are terrorists and you therefore need to take certain steps. They could do that. They cannot threaten to take over this country. That's not possible.

     In that sense, yes, the extreme right at this moment in time constitutes a threat. The question is are we in a position, when I say 'we' I mean the whole of the mass democratic movement, in a position to deal with it? I think that if the ANC have greater opportunity to engage larger numbers of these people in actual discussion, and I say ANC not the Communist Party, I think we've backed a position in which we will begin the process of defusing a lot of the fears that these people have. The ANC has only become legalised since February 2nd but really only began to operate in this country after May. So we're talking really about three or four months only.

POM     We hear a lot about white fears. What in your view are white fears and have any of them a basis in reality or are they all imaginary?

EP     No, I think that they are real because they are the beneficiaries of the whole system and when that system goes they are no longer beneficiaries. Their fears are real. We may not agree with their fears but I think that we do understand that these fears are rooted in reality and the reality is that we're talking about probably one of the most, certainly an inhuman system, and certainly one of the most disproportionately unfair systems in the world in terms of the distribution of resources. The reality is real, the fears are real and we need to address those fears.

POM     What are they specifically?

EP     Well they take a number of forms. The ones that they most speak about are of course concerns with language and culture which indeed are not difficult to deal with from our point of view and from the point of view of the ANC. There are of course other fears and they are fears that one would get from, I would imagine it's slightly broader than just whites, of the middle class, middle class elements within the Indian community too, a fear of chaos, fear that the high standard of living which they have at the moment could be lost, a fear that any of these change could lead to a declining in the economy. It's quite clear now that all of these fears have been further fed by the violence that is going on in the townships. I would say that's not a fear only that whites have, I think it's basically a fear that whites have but I would say that there are sections of the Indian community, I haven't talked to the others, but certainly the Indian community that I have been in touch with express similar fears and there is here a combination of a national or ethnically based fears intertwining with a class fear, this class fear of losing these things.

     So I think we would need to address, I think certainly the ANC has addressed in very clear terms the question of language and culture. I think we will continue to address that. I think we will continue to say to the whites and try to convince them that they actually have more to gain from a non-racial democracy than the anti-democratic system, even though they have been the beneficiaries it's in the wrong climate, not in their interests either. If I look at the history of dealing with the Afrikaners, since we first met them, really met them openly in Dakar in Senegal, I think you will find that there has been such rapid movement that one is not pessimistic about being able to go and talk to very large sections of the white population and convincing them. It doesn't mean that you will not get still people like Eugene Terre-Blanche but I think taking the core of the white population, I think the ANC, not sure about the Communist Party, but the ANC with its policies, with its programme, with its clarity of understanding would be able to, not totally, but certainly go along with allaying these fears.

POM     Now one of their fears is of communism. It's a fear that has been enunciated to me on a number of occasions. Given the close relationship between the SACP and the ANC is that a fear that the ANC has to address?

EP     Sure, we always have to address those fears because if that is what people think we can't pretend that it doesn't exist. The question is (i) what are the grounds for the fear, (ii) where are the fears coming from, (iii) why are these fears being expressed in the way they are expressing them and though they're interrelated they are also different. Now it is clear that not now but for a considerable period of time successive white minority governments, people who hold economic power, have been harping on this question of the ANC/SACP alliance, they've been trying their damnedest to drive a wedge between the ANC and the SACP and they've been trying to break this alliance and they have failed. I'm not going to repeat but you can read what Mandela said when he first replied to that. I think that's just about one of the most beautiful replies that I have heard on the question of this alliance.

     You see now that the situation is increasing, De Klerk spoke at Potchefstroom University calling on the ANC to shed the communists. Unfortunately, there are some powerful elements within the security forces in this country who can only be described as having a pathological hatred for the communists. If you try to understand it this pathological hatred comes from not knowing a single thing about communism. It's a regurgitation of the old boring anticommunist days. The day I read something fresh and creative, I don't mind that they're anticommunist, fine, but there's nothing creative about their anti-communism. They either go and read the right wing trash from Western Europe or the US and reproduce that. They have not met the communists. We have no problems with meeting them, none whatsoever, and we are going to meet them.

     If you take the white workers in this country as far as we're concerned the white workers are part of our constituency as a worker and we are going to go and meet with them, we are going to go and discuss with them. We are ready to do so. So we are ready to work, come to the ANC party. But let me state this very categorically once and for all, that the SACP has been banned for forty years in this country. It was not us that chose to operate under conditions of illegality. It was not us that chose that our members should therefore be secret. It was not us that chose that our members should be arrested and tortured in detention. So it was circumstances imposed on us by a very undemocratic and a very vicious regime. You should understand that from the beginning. We have always said that we prefer to work as an open, legal organisation, that we would prefer to have open, democratic practices, open not to the scrutiny of government officials but open to the scrutiny of the people of this country because whether we survive or not, whether we get strong or not is not going to depend on our rhetoric and our declarations and our statements. It's going to depend on our capacity to be able to mobilise and organise the people we purport to represent and it's going to depend on whether the people that we are saying we want to represent is going to accept us. We haven't been given the chance for forty years to test our own abilities, to test our own ideas openly in a competitive spirit of the market place of ideas.

     And the fact is, by the way, that this party has been one of the great defenders of democracy in this country. They may have whatever their ideas they might have about other communist parties, that's their problem, I'm discussing the SA Communist Party. I want to emphasise that this party will remain a defender of democracy and not only the democratic rights of communists but the democratic rights of both formations that exist and to be active if they so choose in the political arena. That's why we are insisting that now and in the future SA must have a multi-party system.

POM     But isn't there a need on your part to dispel some of the myths around just the word communism? Many people that I have talked to associate it still with the Stalinist regime, Soviet Russia, Eastern Europe or whatever. Many blacks that I've spoken to associate it with atheism.

EP     Of course we have to, that's what I'm talking about, that for forty years we were never given a chance to speak openly to the people of this country. It's not our fault. And of course we've got to go and dispel the myths. We've been operating legally for one month now, since the launch of our party on July 29th 1991. I think you will find, and make your own examination, that in fact we do more than almost any other party with our slender resources to exactly address these issues. Anyway you will find next week in the Johannesburg Star there is an article by me on communists and religion.

POM     I won't be here next week.

EP      I can get someone to send it to you. But sure, we are in a position unfortunately in which to some extent with sectors of the population in this country that we have to start from scratch and it's not only amongst whites. You are quite right that there are groups. Again, for example, if you take Indians who are Moslems, every time I meet them the first issue I have to address is the question of religion because it's been drummed into their heads that somehow or other the communists are anti-religion. We ourselves make mistakes, we are not absolving ourselves that in our own failure to criticise attacks upon believers in certain socialist countries that this might (work against us).

     What I am saying is that, yes, we need to do that but these are genuine concerns of people. They are not pathological hatred of communists, and I want to distinguish between large sections of people, black and white, who are genuinely concerned that the communists may be anti-democratic and the communists may be anti-religion or the communists are this, that and the other. And those are the people that we are going to have to address, those are the people that we're going to have to speak to because that comes from ignorance but also from a willingness to want to know something as a party. There is another group which I'm talking about which has this pathological hatred for the communists but we are ready to even talk to them. We are open to talk to them in order to say, 'Well, what are your criticisms? On what do you base your criticisms?' Let's understand them and let's try to get rid of them. We don't want them as Communist Party members but at least the right of the Communist Party to exist as an open, legal organisation we think must be defended by everybody.

POM     One of the things that is associated with communism is the centrally controlled economy. (1) What role do you think economic structures will play in the negotiations? Will it be a pivotal issue or not? And (2) what is the policy of the Communist Party with regard to economic structures? (3) Do you think that the government will be trying above all to protect white economic power, that they're quite prepared to give political control over as long as they maintain economic control?

EP     Of course the economy is going to constitute an important part of the negotiations when they take place. One only hopes that it will go beyond the banal statements of the bottom line that it is the free enterprise system and it's only the free enterprise system that works. That's a lot of hogwash, it's propaganda. Frankly speaking I must tell you that no-one believes that. A lot of those people who keep on shouting about these things actually haven't read Friedman himself, never mind Adam Smith. So they just come here to speak what somebody else has told them is supposed to be this so-called panacea for all our evils, this free market system of theirs. So it's going to be part of the debate.

     Secondly, let me say now that the Communist Party doesn't have a blueprint, it doesn't have concrete economic policies as yet. What we have is a general understanding of what are the fundamental economic issues that have to be addressed. On this I must say I don't think we're any different from the ANC,  that it's something I said earlier about the massive imbalance in the distribution of resources and income. We must address that issue. That's fundamental. We cannot go on having an economic system which is going to reproduce 50%/60% unemployment among our people. We cannot have an economic system which is going to reproduce the fact that 87% of the land must belong to whites. We cannot continue to reproduce an economic system in which you have probably in any of the developed capitalist countries the greatest concentration and centralisation of capital. We cannot have an institution in which four or five companies, someone can check the figures, control something like 75% - 80% of the shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. This is an immense concentration of economic power in very few hands. So in order to redress this historic injustice any democratic state, whoever is in power in the democratic state, would begin to have to take steps to find solutions to those problems.

POM     Agreeing with that, what would be the difference between a Communist Party approach to these problems and, say, the approach of liberal democrats?

EP     I don't know what the approach of liberal democrats is. They talk a lot, they keep on asking us to come up with economic policies when we've said to them, 'You come'. Not one of them has come here with an economic policy, they just talk a lot of nonsense about the free market and that don't touch the market and don't rock the boat. They haven't actually come with an economic policy which will address the questions that I am addressing. Not one, and you can go round this whole country and you won't find one.

POM     What do you think must be done to address these problems?

EP     Certainly any new democratic state would have to intervene in the economy. The extent of the intervention must be determined by a whole lot of factors of which we are not even in control and on which we do not have information. As we are sitting here we don't have information, detailed information about the South African economy. South Africa's statistics are notorious for being unreliable. All of the major companies, they issue their statements in newspaper advertisements, that's only the tip of the iceberg. We don't really know their operations or anything else. We certainly lack the kind of information that would be necessary to produce a detailed economic policy. But I would say that I don't think there's going to be much difference between the position of the SACP and the position of the ANC if we're talking about an immediate post-apartheid economy.

POM     You were saying there wasn't much difference between?

EP     I don't think so, not in the immediate post-apartheid situation.

POM     How would you enumerate steps you would take to address the problems that you raised.

EP     Well what we said, again it's in general terms because nobody has worked out concrete economic policies and I think, as you may well know, the ANC is in the process of trying to look at a whole number of variables. Naturally communists who are members of the ANC will also participate in that debate and discussion but in general I think we would say of course, quite clearly we need a mixed economy. Quite clearly we need a climate of investment in which both foreign and domestic investors are confident that they will get an equitable return on their investments otherwise quite clearly there's no reason for them to invest. I think we accept that that would be necessary and important but we would argue, and what I say to you by the way is what Mandela has said in all his speeches in the US and Canada so I'm not saying anything that's new or fresh, that in order for that to happen we need political stability but you cannot get political stability in this country unless you address this fundamental problem that I talked about earlier. It doesn't matter who's in power. And therefore, it seems to us too, that the business community should regard the question of redressing this historic imbalance as an issue within which they must also become involved. It's the business community's job not only to say I'm going to invest X amount of capital, I'm going to put up those factories, but be a part of this process of redressing this historic injustice and that could help to create the kind of political stability we want which is necessary for the kind of economic growth that I think all of us want in this country. All of us understand that you need to have economic growth in order to have a wider form of redistribution. We're all for economic growth. The question is that we do not believe, and I want to repeat what I said earlier, that a so-called free market or free enterprise system is capable of bringing about the kind of redistribution we're talking about. It is inherently incapable of doing so.

POM     Do you think that the government will try to get provisions relating to economic structures, specifically relating to free enterprise, written into the constitution?

EP     You'd better ask them that question. I don't know, I don't want to speculate in that sense.

POM     This would be one of their pivotal issues.

EP     Sure, well we will have to discuss that I would imagine. Sitting here now there is not a single country in the world, including your Ireland and including such as Britain, which has a free enterprise system written into the constitution. Anyway Britain doesn't even have a constitution.

POM     What guarantees and what forms of protection do you think the government would be looking for for the present economic system? We'll go back to the question do you think that what they're more interested in doing is seeing the inevitability of majority rule that their agenda has now shifted to saying, well, let's as far as possible maintain our control of the economy?

EP     I don't want to speak for them but it is possible that that is what their line of thinking is. I would argue, and here I'm speaking for myself, that in any discussion one would have to look at the very concepts. Because I'm saying that notions, concepts, terms are bandied about but nobody really wants to sit down and decide them so they say control. We would then have to say, sit down and ask them, what do you mean by control? Because who is actually controlling the economy? To what extent is the Minister of Finance in this country a free agent in determining financial policies? To what extent is the Minister of Finance in Britain a free agent in determining his or her budget? I don't think they are because any Finance Minister would have to take into account the economic situation pertaining in that particular country. He would have to take into account that if they raise VAT, for example, in Britain that this would have disastrous consequences for Britain and no single government that I know of in this country has relinquished control over foreign exchange mechanisms. Why? Why don't they just say let these things run wild? Because they know very well that if you did that it could lead to economic chaos so that there is no-one that I know of in my lifetime, or situation in which there is this total so-called free hand for any Chancellor or Minister of Finance.

     Now what I am therefore arguing is that if these issues are raised, I don't think they would be raised, but if they are raised then I think one needs to examine them on the basis on which they are raised, taking into account what the other side is saying. It's no use speculating and being critical of them unless we know what is the content of their position. On the basis of the content of that position I think it's possible to argue, to look at a whole number of things as to exactly what do you mean when we use those things, because as I say it's used too loosely in this country.

POM     What then is the difference between a member of the SACP and a member of the ANC?

EP     Well I think you should understand that it is a tripartite alliance which includes COSATU, and in fact SATU before them. We are talking about, if you're talking of the ANC and SACP, two totally independent organisations. The ANC was formed in 1912, the party in 1921. In the past relations were uneasy. However, over the years as a result of the struggle an alliance developed between the ANC and the SACP in terms of an understanding that the primary issue in South Africa is to get rid of this white minority government. There was no disagreement about the racist regime, apartheid regime, whatever. On that the ANC and SACP had no difference at all. As far as the SACP is concerned the primary task at the moment is the national liberation of the black people of SA, in particular the African people; it is also the primary task of the ANC. The SACP and the ANC have shared common ideas about the strategy and tactics to be developed in the fight against apartheid. It's a public fact that the formation of uMkhonto weSizwe was as a result of discussions between leaders of the Communist Party and leaders of the ANC. It is now a fact that amongst the first born of uMkhonto weSizwe were members of the SACP. It is a fact that some of the first people to die in this country in this new phase of struggle were members of the SACP. So I think that the relationships that developed between the SACP and the ANC was one in which there was a mutual understanding and a mutual respect for each other. That's the first thing.

     Secondly, if I take myself, I didn't fall from the sky. My political involvement began with the Indian Congress from when I was a little child because my parents were involved in the Transvaal Indian Congress. So when I became a member of the SACP it isn't that on one night I decided to shed this baggage of mine that some people would like to call it. No of course not, I went into that Communist Party with political experience which I had accumulated in the Congress movement. I hope that in the time that I've been a member of this party that I've made some contribution, however little it be, but that contribution has come partly as a consequence of the politics learned in the Congress movement and vice versa that my work in the ANC has improved because I was a member of the party. And so it's not only that the Communist Party influenced the ANC. I would believe in equal measure the ANC influenced the Communist Party. The problem with that debate is the way it's been seen too long in this country and outside, that there is this group of communists who've got nothing to do but go around manipulating and there's this group of ANC who are so foolish and so stupid that all they require is a small group to manipulate them. So there is no, for me as I sit here, there is no problem in being a member of the ANC, which I am, I've worked full time for the ANC for the last five years and been a member of this SA Communist Party.

POM     My question is I don't know what the difference is. Everything you've said

EP     No I'm coming to that because that's the issue. People are not worried about the difference. Now I'm coming to the difference. We've said it so many times that one is surprised people still ask the question. The difference is that the SA Communist Party is guided by the science of Marxism/Leninism which as far as we are concerned is a clear class ideological position. The ANC is not guided by a clear class ideological position, it's guided by the Freedom Charter which encompasses different kinds of influences. The ANC is a broad parliament of our people in which hopefully as we develop, in the ANC we will have communists, other Marxists, social democrats, socialists, liberals, business people. All they need to do is to accept the policies and programme of the ANC. They don't have to be radically in a particular ideological position. To join the Communist Party you would have to accept the science of Marxism/Leninism.

POM     But which science? I mean the science that was followed for the better part of sixty years?

EP     That's a different question now. If you want to talk about what I'm saying is Marxism/Leninism that's different. You didn't ask that question, you asked me what is the difference between the SACP and the ANC so I'm telling you what the difference is.

     Secondly, the ANC has stated over and over again that it is here for the national liberation first and foremost of the African people, for a national democratic revolution, on which the Communist Party is also agreed. But the Communist Party goes further and says that for us we have a perspective of socialism and we think that in the long term the future of this countries lies with socialism. The ANC does not have that perspective. That's what differentiates us in terms of between the ANC and the SACP but it is not a difference which at this moment in time the ANC has difficulty.

     To answer your other question there is, it's true, a wide variety of interpretations of Marxism/Leninism so I suppose how we interpret it and how we put it in practice will be an additional variety. What we are saying is that people will have to judge us not by what we say but by what we do and for that judgement to be made clearly the party has to be given the time to do it. As I said, we are legal for one month. We have taken a decision already now that by next December when we hold our congress here every single structure of our party, including the Central Committee, will be democratically elected by secret ballot, that in the course of power we are both inside our own structures and inside other organisations that members of the party will belong to, that at all times our members have to behave in the most democratic manner.

     Thirdly, the reason why, one of the reasons for the success of our alliance with the ANC is because the ANC comrades know that the communists will not caucus before an ANC meeting, will not caucus. You can go to ANC meetings, even at the level of the NEC, and some of the most difficult arguments and differences of viewpoints have been between communists sitting in that meeting because you go into that meeting, you go as an individual member of that ANC and you discuss the issues on the basis of the issues in front of you and you don't sit and look and say, oh I know O'Malley, of course I know, he's in the party, or I know if O'Malley thinks that what we are saying is incorrect he will say so whether or not he knows I'm a member of the party, whether he or she knows that I may even be holding a leading position the party. It is not relevant to the issue. The only thing that's relevant to the issue is what is the issue we are discussing and what is the best possible answer to the problem. So this is how communists are behaving at the ANC and this is how communists will continue to behave in the other mass democratic formations.

POM     On a point of information, if the ANC became a political party, let's say there were going to be elections some time in 1992, would people who are members of both the Communist Party and of the ANC have to choose between one or the other or could you be a member of both parties?

EP     I suppose we could be members of both organisations but we will have to wait and see when that time arises. It's not only a decision of the SACP.

POM     So you could be a member of two political parties?

EP     Sure, I am now. I don't see why not. It depends on what the ANC, as far as we're concerned and as far as the ANC is concerned it's going to remain this broad national liberation movement and I think politically it's incorrect to say merely because you participate in an election therefore ipso facto you are some kind of narrowly defined political party.

POM     But you would have register?

EP     Sure but that's neither here nor there. The question is, what is the substance of this organisation, not whether not you register as one or the other. As far as I understand it the substance of the ANC will remain, that it is a national liberation movement encompassing, or seeking to encompass this very broad range of forces. So, no, I mean when it comes to that point we will discuss it but as far as I can see at this moment in time, no, we will continue to have dual membership.

POM     One last question, as you look at the process, as it unfolds, if you look at Mr Mandela first, what are the main obstacles that lie in his path within his own constituency as he's trying to manage this process to a critical conclusion? Similarly when you look at De Klerk what problems do you see lying in his path, in his community?

EP     I don't know. I think you should ask Mandela that question and you'd better ask De Klerk that question.

POM     But you see no problems?

EP     I am sure there are a lot of problems but you'd better ask them. You're asking me to speak for somebody else, I don't want to speak for somebody else.

POM     When you look at the process what problems do you see?

EP     That's a different question. I think I said over and over again that sure the economy is one that we've spoken about, I think that will be an important element. Two, to the extent that we're not clear about yet but what kind of blocking mechanisms if any the other side may want to introduce which would be brake upon genuine democracy in this country. I would imagine that around those areas there would be certain discussions.

POM     How about the spreading violence that is presently going on?

EP     Well you know our position is very clear on that. We want this violence to come to an immediate end. This carnage must stop. But by all accounts and hopefully over the next few weeks everything in relation to what I'm going to talk about is going to emerge even more strongly, is that without the active collusion of the Police in these areas, and I'm not saying there is a conspiracy at the highest levels, no, I am saying that each of these local areas where this violence has broken out the collusion of the police is so open and so clear. In fact I hope some day somebody is going to make an investigation of those dead bodies and see how many have died from bullet wounds. It's very interesting that.

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