The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in South Africa: An ideological journey

Abstract

Many people are familiar with South Africa’s political past – the prolonged periods of colonialism and oppression of the black majority, and the eventual dismantling of apartheid and the introduction of a new democratic order. Relatively few people, however, know what principles actually steered South Africa on its journey towards freedom and democracy.

It is not uncommon for oppressed people to rise up and institute change through violent revolution. While some groups of people threw their weight behind the idea of an armed struggle, South Africa’s revolution was largely an ideological one ‒ characterised by a succession of struggle leaders debating the merits of communism vs. socialism, forming resistance groups and alliances, and producing authoritative treatises on how to achieve political and economic liberation (not so much a revolution but a bloody evolution). With the desired political dispensation long since attained, South Africa now faces the formidable challenge of freeing the majority of the population from economic bondage – an outcome that few anticipated back in 1994.

This paper traces the history of the ‘National Democratic Revolution’ (NDR) as it applies to South Africa ‒ from its tentative beginnings, to its heyday, to the present time when overwhelming economic challenges are now threatening to eclipse much of the ideological fervour and progress of years gone by.

Keywords: Class alliance; colonialism; democracy; Freedom Charter; National Democratic Revolution; socialism; Tripartite Alliance; political resistance.

 

Opsomming

Die Suid Afrikaanse politieke verlede is bekend aan baie mense – die uitgerekte tydperke van kolonialisme en die verdrukking van die swart meerderheid, en die uiteindelike aftekeling van apartheid en die inleiding tot ‘n nuwe demokratiese bestel. Betreklik min mense is egter bewus van watter beginsels Suid Afrika se reis tot vryheid en demokrasie bepaal het.

Dit is nie ongewoon vir onderdrukte mense om in opstand te kom en verandering te bewerkstellig deur gewelddadige revolusie nie. Suid Afrika se revolusie was hoofsaaklik van ideologiese aard – gekenmerk deur ‘n opeenvolging van anti-apartheidsleiers wie die meriete van kommunisme vs sosialisme, die vorming van weerstandsbewegings en alliansies, en wie gesaghebende geskrifte oor hoe om politieke en ekonomiese vryheid te bekom, gedebatteer het. Met die verlangde politieke bestel reeds stewig gevestig, moet Suid Afrika nou egter die besondere uitdaging hoe om die meerderheid van die bevolking van ekonomiese gevangenisskap te bevry.

Die artikel verken die geskiedenis van die Nasionale Demokratiese Revolusie (NDR) soos van toepassing op Suid Afrika – van sy onstaan, gevolg deur ‘n bloeitydperk, tot die huidige bestel waarin groot ekonomiese uitdagings nou dreig om die ideologiese ywer en ontwikkeling wat tot stand gebring is, te verskraal.     

Sleutelwoorde: Demokrasie; klasalliansie; kolonialisme; nasionale demokratiese revolusie; politieke weerstand; sosialisme; driepartyalliansie; vryheidsmanifes;

https://doi.org/10.19108/KOERS.84.1.2367

https://doi.org/10.19108/KOERS.84.1.2367
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