The South African Communist Party is debating its vision for a democratic and socialist South Africa and its role in bringing it about.
A document called Building Workers' Power for Democratic Change — the draft manifesto of the SACP — is being circulated to all branches, districts and regions for discussion, debate and revision.
The document will be presented to the SACP's eighth congress in Soweto in December. The congress will the party's first inside South Africa since 1962, when it met illegally in Johannesburg.
The draft says that the initial objective of the party is to achieve a "national democratic transformation" followed by "the longer term perspective — democratic socialism".
It emphasises that "socialism can only succeed if it is firmly rooted in democratic structures".
Although written before the recent abortive coup in the Soviet Union, the draft adopts a frank approach to what it calls "the collapse of socialism in eastern Europe and the profound problems besetting the Soviet Union".
These events, it argues, as well as "the failure of capitalism", pose new challenges to socialists: "The reins of economic and political power must be placed under democratic ownership and control of the working people of the world".
Until that occurs, there will remain some parts of the world where there is "plenty in the amidst of mass hunger, disease and poverty".
The concept of democratic socialism is clarified: "The democratic socialism for which we stand would involve a multi-party democracy, a bill of rights, an independent judiciary, basic freedoms of speech, association, worship, press freedom and, in general, full citizenship rights.
"We will uphold these basic rights, and we will extend them to include broader social rights. We will work for a situation in which it is possible to guarantee everyone the right to work, the right not to go hungry, the right to housing, to free education and free health care."
Democratic socialism is "the increasing empowerment of the people not just through representative democracy but also through a series of participatory democratic organs ... Popular democratic involvement and control should not be confined to periodic elections."
The SACP advocates the strengthening of "civil society" — sectoral and community organisations such as societies, clubs, youth groups: "Under socialism, the rudimentary organs of people power that emerged in the mid-1980s should be greatly extended and they should increasingly have an institutional right and opportunity to ing of our country.
"Trade unions, as the key mass social organisation of the organised working class, should participate at all levels of economic planning and implementation."
On the economy, the SACP manifesto explains: "Increasingly, the economy must come under public ownership and control. This ownership and control must be designed to progressively change the relations of production and distribution with the object of eventually eliminating all economic exploitation ...
"There is no socialism even where all the means of production are owned by a state run by a small circle of bureaucrats, without the democratic participation by the actual producers and consumers at all levels of the economy.
"This democratic participation is compatible with various forms of ownership of the means of production. These include state, municipal, collective, cooperative and small-scale, non-exploitative family-owned enterprises ...
"Our enemies like to spread the lie that the SACP wants to take away people's cars, houses and furniture. Democratic socialism will give every individual the right to own and to dispose all non-exploitative private property."
[Abridged from the Johannesburg Southern Africa Report.]