The ANC, the Tutu Report and revolutionary morality

Referring to a news item that Thabo Mbeki had criticised the Tutu report, Charles Brown quoted him,: "it's about time someone stood up to this reconciliation nonsense. The mere mention that the ANC engaged in Human Rights abuses on a par with the settler regime of South Africa is a gross miscarriage of the truth."

Surely by "standing up to" the Tutu report in this way, Mbeki tries to divert responsibility away from the ANC for human rights abuses during the struggle, indeed to silence any discussion of them. It is not a matter of them being nowhere near the crimes or apartheid - they have neatly been buried too - but of accountability of the ANC. It is a deeply moral question that does concern many black South Africans, particularly those and their families that were affected by these abuses. The whole damn thing is a whitewash of Biblical proportions. SWAPO have done more or less the same thing.

Steve Drury

There is some obtuseness in this discussion, but Charles Brown isn't the obtuse one. As is now well known, the ANC "dissidents" were secretly financed by BOSS [the South African secret police, the Bureau of State Security] though the Geneva-based IUEF [International Universities Exchange Fund] directed by BOSS agent Craig Williamson when he was the leading "anti-apartheid" figure supported by the various West European governments and liberal foundations. Similarly, the organization with which I was affiliated, the South African Military Refugee Aid Fund, publisher of the illegal paper for white SA conscripts Omkeer ["About Face" in Afrikaans] was thrice infiltrated, originally by BOSS agent Behrend Schuitema, who used his credibility to lure Breyten Breytenbach into a trap, arrest, and long-term imprisonment; once by BOSS agent Clifton Westraad; and once by FBI provocateur Joe Bangert (who in 1972 had worked with the FBI's leading infiltrator/provocateurs at Wounded Knee, Jill and Gi Schafer). These guys also were promoting the ANC "dissidents" within SAMRAF. After Westraad was exposed, BOSS published and circulated a forged edition of Omkeer with a shrill, caricature-of-Marxism "dissident" line. The genuine Omkeer agitated for soldiers to desert and offered them refuge and sanctuary; the "dissident" Boss counterfeit gave directions that led easily to their capture. How would comrades Drury and Linehan recommend that we should have treated these traitors, flattering as it may have been that our modest efforts drew such attention from the apartheid state? Williamson has testified to the T&R Commission that he was complicit in murder and torture, including, if I recall correctly, the assassination of Ruth First.

Kronstadt, indeed! Before we reopen that debate, at least get your parallels straight. The Bolsheviks held state power in 1919; the ANC had neither power nor any truly safe havens during the period when these so-called abuses occurred.

Ken Lawrence

Like many in Britain, on Sunday night I watched Ken Loach's Land and Freedom. For those who do not know the film, it centres on the revolutionary militias in the Spanish Civil War. They were made up of volunteers from various Spanish anarchist groups, the CGT, POUM and internationalists from all points of the compass, including many workers who were card carrying CP members. The militias _were_ the vanguard of the Spanish Revolution. It was they who carried revolutionary war forward against fascism, allying workers with peasants for communism and the overthrow of private property, capital and the church.

The militias were liquidated by the CP-led 'official' republican army, because their demands and their actions threatened Moscow's seeking treaties with bourgeois states. This liquidation set worker against worker and dug the grave of the Spanish Revolution, as well as involving crime upon crime that are still unanswered.

The sense of dissent in my mails on the subject of Mbeki and the Tutu report, is precisely of this kind. The parallels are clear for all to see, for exactly what was behind the crushing of dissent in the ANC and SWAPO other than their leaderships' secret negotiations with Anglo-American, Rio Tinto and the many other transnationals in southern Africa that are imperialism in real form?

So whom does it serve to avoid discussion of what happened in the Zambian, Tanzanian and Botswana camps? What is this rubbish about being confused by some notion of CIA black propaganda regarding Hani's role. What is this attempt to divert attention by well-tried methods of casuistry. It is simply not good enough to hide behind, 'It's part of a tragic history'. Nor is it good enough to use the old method of, 'Are you for us or against us?'. Just who are 'we', Charles?

Regarding 'the use of wholesale terror and very strict discipline within the ranks of the army', on whose behalf was this, either in Spain or in southern Africa? The questions that I asked, are being asked by workers in Namibia and in South Africa, and they are directed at the ANC and SWAPO, not Charles Brown. If he can't answer them, it does not matter one bit. If he chooses to hedge the issue by a battery of not questions, but what amounts to an old method of dissimulation that has long lost any material support, then that is his problem, not mine. It seems to me that it is bound up with the old reformist chestnut, 'Politics is the art of the possible'.

Steve Drury

Steve Drury has been thoroughly unprincipled in this discussion, imagining an ANC opposition modeled on Spanish anarchists and POUMists for which not a shred of documentation exists. In previous debates, Louis has demanded that protagonists present facts. Let's have some here.

On the other hand, it has been documented beyond dispute that BOSS-supported and/or -controlled dissidents always were those who accused the legitimate leadership of selling out the masses, either from an ultra-left or an ultra- nationalist posture.

What actually happened when Craig Williamson was exposed as the most effective BOSS agent in the history of apartheid, with a huge secret slush fund he poured into supporting every dissident ANC faction he could find or create? Did the recipients of BOSS's largesse confess to having been duped -- if that is really the explanation for their relationship to BOSS? No, they remained silent or changed the subject, as Drury now does, sometimes making the disgraceful and unsupported assumption that the ANC majority also had similarly benefited from Williamson's patronage.

Perhaps worse is Drury's avoidance of a much more important fact. ANC was not directed by some external discipline, but by its own chosen leadership that reflected the organization's political breadth, whether or not he agrees with its political and military decisions. The ANC had every right and duty to impose discipline, and under conditions of war, when every lapse of security was fatal, to enforce it ruthlessly. Were mistakes made, or BOSS plots occasionally successful within ANC, or personal scores settled under color of political authority? I'm sure they were. But that is not the subject of this debate, nor of the Tutu report.

In reality, Drury's position is a liberal one, which if adopted generally would make the conduct of guerrilla war impossible. He, like Tutu, does not accept the legitimacy of the liberation movement's leadership to impose military discipline. I'm awaiting his critique of Che Guevara's application of summary justice in Cuba's guerrilla war, which was generally harsher than anything the ANC has been accused of.

Drury reminds me of Staughton Lynd in the 1960s, complaing that the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal had failed to investigate the conduct of the National Liberation Front.

Ken Lawrence