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The current resurgence of Marxism is based on new sources of inspiration and creativity from movements that seek democratic, egalitarian and ecological alternatives to capitalism. The Marxism of many of these movements is neither dogmatic nor prescriptive, but rather, open, searching, utopian. It revolves around four primary factors: the importance of democracy for an emancipatory project; the ecological limits of capitalism; the crisis of global capitalism; and the learning of lessons from the failures of Marxist-inspired experiments. Marxisms in the Twenty-First Century challenges vanguardist Marxism featured in South Africa and beyond. Featuring leading thinkers from the Left, the book offers provocative ideas on interpreting our current world and serves as an excellent introduction to new ways of thinking about Marxism to students and scholars in the field. Many anti-capitalist traditions and themes - including democracy, globalisation, feminism, critique and ecology inform and shape the contributions in this volume.
At the heart of South Africa's national liberation struggle was the constitution of a future South African nation in which white domination would be defeated. From the 1960s the Oliver Tambo-led African National Congress (ANC) increasingly used Marxist tools to develop its analysis of the South African social formation that had been shaped by three centuries of colonial dispossession and close to a century of capitalist development. The ANC defined and characterised this social formation as a ‘colonialism of a special type’ (CST) in which all classes and strata of black people were oppressed on the basis of their race. According to the ANC, what was needed to free black people from this national oppression was a multi-class revolutionary front uniting all the oppressed in prosecuting a national democratic revolution (NDR). This ANC theorisation of the social formation and the required political strategy also asserted the crucial and leading role of the working class in the revolutionary process and that the struggle for national liberation would be incomplete without fundamentally and systematically shaking the roots of racialised capitalism in South Africa, even though the ANC did not necessarily mean, or accept the necessity of, a transition to socialism. In essence, the ANC's use of Marxism was vanguardist and shaped by Stalinised/sovietised influences that were transmitted to it through leading members of the South African Communist Party (SACP) who, from the 1960s, dominated ANC theoretical perspectives.
What has become of the ANC's use of Marxism? What do the nineteen years of post-apartheid ANC rule and nation-building say about the scope and limits of the ANC's ‘Marxism’? This chapter critically engages with the CST thesis and shows that the ANC's continued use of Marxism has been transformed into attempts to hegemonise and marry the working class to a project to transnationalise and deracialise South African capitalism. This has been through what the chapter describes as an Afro-neoliberal project that defines the ANC in government today. In addition to this critique of the limits of Afro-neoliberalism in resolving the national question, the chapter takes the argument further by reviewing how the ANC's nation-building project has failed to grapple with racialised post-apartheid social struggles over housing in the Western Cape. The chapter provides a second case study, which reviews sustained ANC government legislative efforts to retribalise the former bantustan countryside against the logic of a progressive nation-building project.