Conference of the Democratic Left: ‘We are our own liberators’

‘We are our own liberators’ is the slogan that is to be adopted by the new South African left. This is obviously meant to differentiate the new left-wing movement, Conference of the Democratic Left (CDL), from the increasingly un-participatory and top-down led ANC and its tripartite alliance partners, COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Before the formation of the CDL in 2008, there was no left-wing alternative to the tripartite alliance. The CDL seeks to rectify this. In a recent press statement, the CDL called for all “left forces” committed to “an anti-capitalist politics” to participate in the first national congress of the CDL to be held in January 2011.

The form of the CDL and whether it will take part in elections is still unresolved, however. “At the moment, the CDL is something of a hybrid united front of the left. Different voices are arguing for different perspectives”, Mercia Andrews, a preparatory group member and co-founder of the CDL, tells Africa Contact. “But it is the first time that a political form of united front has emerged in South Africa, and the launching conference will certainly discuss the form of the CDL”.

There are many reasons for forming a truly left-wing movement in South Africa. According to the press release, “South Africa’s post-apartheid project has floundered on the back of neo-liberalism, domination of the capitalist logic, corruption and greed, authoritarian populist politics, the hollowing out of democracy and the absence of sustained mass participatory processes. The CDL initiative is a response to these realities”.

The CDL therefore wishes to change and transform South Africa “along eco-socialist and participatory democratic lines” by becoming a vehicle for the “self-organisation of the excluded, the exploited, the discriminated and poverty-stricken majority in South Africa”. “But we need the action to come from below, and we need unity, not narrow aims and dogma”, says Mercia Andrews, “and for this we need a different listening process”.

The press statement also speaks of the CDL’s common purpose with other left-wing organisations, of “reclaiming lost ground for the left”, and of rekindling the mass movement of the eighties by learning from previous successes such as the United Democratic Front. “Such actions can eventually unite class struggle forces in all working class movements not least from COSATU and the SACP”.

According to Mercia Andrews, the CDL has already been successful in mobilising many of those who have not benefitted from the ANC’s neoliberalism.  “We have had a great deal of success so far already in bringing together different popular currents and rallying together to support the struggles of the popular forces”.

Mercia Andrews is a co-founder and preparatory group member of the CDL, and the director of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education, an NGO collective that works to build a strong land-rights movement in South Africa.


CDL’s programme for their first national conference, 20-23 January 2011

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