The BNF and the October Revolution (Part 2)

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Lacking a semblance of organisational, let alone ideological autonomy within the BNF the workers in the BNF are completely ‘in bad company’. Workers find themselves in the limbo of a political cul-de-sac with their hands tied at the back.

For instance, 10 years after the formation of the BNF political study groups, the main strategy for training both BNF social democrats and socialists, could not begin thanks to strong opposition from the ‘progressive’ petty-bourgeois leadership. They claimed that this would amount to a communist take over of the party.  Study groups only commenced in 1975 after the overthrow of Portuguese colonialism in Angola by MPLA and Frelimo on Mozambique had created a conducive atmosphere for them. Workers and their intellectual allies are  in disarray and therefore incapacitated from influencing the ideological direction of the BNF or UDC in a meaningful way.

However the founders of the BNF committed some  strategic blunders in their prognostication of the revolution  which might help to explain why 50 years since the formation of the BNF there is no socialist  party on the horizon. For a proper prosecution of the National Democratic Revolution it was imperative to understand the role of the different classes and to determine which of those classes constituted ‘the basic force’ of the united front. From that analysis Dr Koma concludes that,  ‘The working class must be regarded as the potential leader of the struggle’ but because it lacked class consciousnesses it could   not lead the Front.  He goes on to observe that ‘where there is some nucleus organisation, they have fallen under the influence of the pro-imperialist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions’  (IFCTU) i.e. the imperialist infiltrated IFCTU as opposed to the progressive World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) with members in all socialist countries. Having concluded that workers were not in a position to form a socialist party that would lead the mass BNF, Dr Koma then argues that ‘ the intermediate wing of the petty bourgeoisie’ have ‘some elements’ who ‘can become very revolutionary patriots who are dedicated and resolute in their opposition to foreign domination. They may partake of the ideology of the class conscious proletariat’ . As a result of this flawed analysis of the revolutionary potential of the petty-bourgeoisie  Dr Koma then claims that the working class leadership of the United Front must be ceded to the ‘revolutionary petty-bourgeoisie’ on a ‘temporary’ basis.  Consequently, 50 years later, BNF is still stuck in the  ‘temporary’ leadership  groove of the so-called ‘revolutionary’ petty bourgeoisie. The question is; was this a strategic blunder on the part of the founders of the BNF  i.e. the anti-Leninist strategy of placing the working class under the leadership of the so-called ‘progressive’ petty-bourgeoisie?

Were they fooled by the vacillating tendency of the petty-bourgeoisie?   Both organically linked  democratic and socialist phases of the struggle, must be led by the working class organised into a  socialist party. In industrialised countries the National Democratic Revolution, then  called the ‘bourgeois democratic  revolution’,  was led by the bourgeoisie.  This is not  possible in the Third world because in the  era of imperialism and decadent capitalism  is incapable of taking society forward.  Hence the democratic demands of the struggle remain only half illusory if the capitalist edifice is not smashed. Lenin warned against the dangers of the bourgeoisie in backward countries posing as communists and advised  the Communist International to make temporary alliances with ‘revolutionary’ bourgeois democrats (without merging with them) in the colonies and backward countries. Socialists were advised to safeguard the organisational and ideological independence of their parties, even in their rudimentary form. History is replete with examples of liberation movements that professed commitment to the National Democratic Revolution,   but betrayed the struggle because of  petty bourgeois rather than  working class leadership.. Examples abound -  the ANC in South Africa, ZANU(PF) in Zimbabwe and SWAPO in Namibia. The lesson to be drawn from the experiences of these countries is that there is no such thing as a ‘revolutionary petty bourgeoisie’ capable of delivering on the National Democratic Revolution. After seizing state power the petty-bourgeoisie entrench themselves and suppress the workers.  Equally controversial is the rather abstract manner in which Koma  poses the question of a Marxist party. His assertion that transforming the mass BNF   into a socialist party is ‘ ahistorical’   while correct on the surface, implies that a Marxist  party must be made up of ‘real Marxists’  right from the beginning. The impression created is  that  Marxists must ‘preserve their ‘purity’  through sectarian existence in a completely separate party’ first, before they can carry out a revolution. This approach has been criticised for seeming to ‘doom the BNF in advance to sterility’. Marxists must conduct propaganda and agitation   in  mass organisations to raise their political consciousness. They cannot detach themselves from the mass organisation they wish to conscientise.  Ernest Mandel in his Leninist Theory of  Organisation reminds us that according Lenin, ‘there is no self-proclaimed vanguard, rather the vanguard must win recognition as a vanguard through its attempts to establish revolutionary ties with the advanced part of the class and its actual struggle’.  This problematic  perspective of the revolution might partly  explains why 50 years since BNF was founded there is still no socialist party. The question must be asked whether the BNF’s perspective was consistent with  a Stalinist two-stage theory of the revolution - first,  the ‘National Democratic Revolution’ led by the ‘revolutionary’ petty bourgeoisie, then at a later, unspecified date, and in vaguely explained circumstances, a socialist revolution led by the workers? Perhaps having studied in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in the 1960s Dr  Koma could not escape the dominant  Stalinist interpretation of Marxism of the time.

In 1928 the Comintern had instructed  communist parties internationally to seek alliances with liberal bourgeois parties – an anti-Leninist strategy that betrayed the struggle.Contrary to Marx’s call for a ‘continuous revolution’  Koma  says, ‘we would oppose resolutely measures which seek to confuse our national democratic tasks with the tasks of a socialist revolution or which commits the national democratic front to the socialist camp’, in the same way we should ‘oppose resolutely measures which commit our country to the capitalist camp’.  The question  that arises is; how then can he reconcile his argument that the economy of a National Democratic state is an  ‘an economy in transition’ , which is ‘basically socialist’, with his other statement that we must ‘oppose resolutely measures which seek to confuse our national democratic tasks with the tasks of a socialist revolution?’ This amounts to erecting a Chinese wall between the democratic and socialist demands of the struggle.


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