‘Red October’ in South Africa

Spring 2018

Several parties in South Africa claim the Russian Revolution as their own, some as a landmark in their history, all as a pivotal point in the imaginary world which they strive to achieve. Of course, the South African Communist Party (SACP) is the most influential of them, though not in the sense of membership or number of parliamentary seats. COSATU, South Africa’s biggest trade union federation, also calls itself a Marxist-Leninist organisation, and ascribes to the SACP the role of ‘the vanguard of the South African working class’ in the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which both organisations see as the ‘Road to Socialism’ in South Africa. The ideology of the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA), expelled from COSATU in 2014, is even more radically socialist than that of COSATU. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which split from the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, in 2013, positions itself as a Marxist-Leninist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist party, and demands the implementation of the second, more radical, stage of the NDR. The Black First Land First (BLF), a splinter from the EFF, lists Marxism-Leninism as one of its ideological guidelines, and ‘the October Russian Revolution’ as one of ‘the great socialist revolutions’. All these organisations had a reason to celebrate the centenary of the Russian Revolution in 2017 – and they did, although in very different ways. This article looks into the ways the revolution was commemorated, and into the reasons behind them. 

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Twentieth Century Communism 14: 1917 in 2017