Armed struggle a viable substitute for the mass movement?
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation statement on alleged armed struggle tendency of Swaziland pro-democracy movement (7 December, 2006)
Recent reports in The Star (25/11/06) allege that the development of the “armed struggle” tendency within a section of the pro-democracy movement in Swaziland could be accelerating. Given that the pro-democracy movement has set itself the goal of liberation in 2008, it is understandable that frustration has led some comrades in this direction.
We do not believe that an “armed struggle” approach is appropriate. The dangers inherent in such an approach are many. We support the right of the oppressed to self-defense against repression.
However, “armed struggle” is generally not a very effective strategy. It substitutes a small cadre of militants for a mass movement of the workers, peasants and poor. Militarily, it is not very effective in confronting and defeating a well-entrenched regime. Buildings are replaceable, as are the officials and functionaries of the State. If a large section of the Royal Army does not join the masses, there is no real chance of the regime falling. To win over soldiers requires drawing them into a popular movement for
- Economic and social justice
- People’s power
The soldiers are from the popular classes; they must join them and desert the ruling class.
What is also likely to happen, as it did in Lesotho, is that the SANDF could well invade swaziland in order to defend South African and British investment.
It is the structure of power itself that must be challenged, not simply a few individuals in that structure. This can only be done by a mass movement. What is necessary for the people suffering under the Tinkhundla regime is to create organs of counter-power in the communities and workplaces that can both resist the existing power structure, and eventually replace the traditional authorities and capitalists with grassroots democracy.
Only such organs, organized and controlled by the oppressed masses, will place power in the hands of ordinary people, replacing the centralized power of the old regime with the class power of the masses. Only such a system can prevent a new elite emerging to take control of the existing power structure.
Armed struggle provides a ready pretext for the repression of the whole pro-democracy movement. Rather than act as a catalyst to propel the people into revolutionary action, which we believe is the intention, armed struggle acts to scare them away from the arena of struggle. Popular confidence and organizations are difficult to rebuild, yet it is only mass action that holds out the prospect of really changing society.
The power of the regime also lies in popular acceptance of the instruments of the Tinkhundla regime, such as the chieftaincy. Political conscientisation is crucial: the battle of ideas is more important than a few acts of sabotage. This is partly about challenging the existing power structure, and the ideas with which it clothes itself. It is also about convincing the masses that the problem is not just the King and the chiefs, but the capitalists and the State. That power must rest in the hands of the masses, not a group of leaders, whether traditional or otherwise. That economic democracy and social justice are just as important as political freedoms. An “armed struggle” lends itself to the military group becoming a new elite, which will create or maintain a power structure that places the masses at the bottom, once again.
What is needed for the liberation of Swaziland from the yoke of Royal oppression is a mass movement of the workers, peasants and poor, both in rural and urban areas. This will only come about when they have come into political consciousness, and the main activity of pro-democracy cadres should be in assisting this process until the point where sufficient numbers of the Swazi oppressed masses are conscious of the aims and goals of the liberation movement, namely social revolution. To substitute the ideas and struggles of the masses for their freedom with a minority insurrectionist group will jeopardize the hard work done by cadres in raising the level of consciousness of Swazi society thus far.
We wholeheartedly support the movement for freedom, justice and human dignity of the people of Swaziland.
We support their’ right to defend themselves and the social gains made during the struggle, with arms when necessary, from the repressive and violent forces of the state and Tinkhundla authorities.
We do not consider armed struggle to be a viable option, as the liberation movement at this stage appears to be insufficient in numbers, weapons and lacking in popular support to wage successful guerrilla warfare, and that a guerilla force lends itself to creating a new elite.
The struggle for democracy must not confine itself to winning limited political freedoms, but to creating a participatory economy planned from below, a system of libertarian socialism. Otherwise, the struggles of the masses are more likely to be used as a bargaining tool than a revolutionary one, with the basic system of class domination unchanged.
We maintain that the only force capable of liberating swaziland is a mass movement, and that anything short of this is only likely to lead to repression, collaboration and, at most, limited reforms.