Political Education Programme

The importance of political education

Political education is at the centre of what it means to be a member of WASP. For a revolutionary party like ours a politically educated and trained cadre is essential. One of the five requirements of being a cadre member of WASP is a commitment to take part in political education.

This approach stands in stark contrast to the capitalist parties. Unlike WASP, their leaders have no ambition beyond taking over the management of capitalism. They see a politically educated membership as a threat to enjoying the privileges of office. For them the masses are only voting fodder requiring their ‘cadre’ to be shallow careerists and ‘yes men’. The leaders of these parties are not interested in mass struggles for higher wages, service delivery or free education. A politically independent working class or youth movement with its own democratic organisations and activists who can think for themselves are viewed as a threat.

But tireless and systematic political education is a practical necessity in a revolutionary party. With political education comes the confidence to organise and lead struggle for immediate improvements in the living standards of the working class and youth. WASP works to arm its members with an understanding of the revolutionary ideas of Marxism that can guide the day-to-day struggles in the workplaces, the communities and on the campuses and connect them the struggle for a socialist society. In turn, participation in struggle further enriches our ideas allowing us to continually sharpen our theoretical weapons.

Further, political education is vital to strengthen the democracy of the party and the accountability of leaders. Political education allows members to draw conclusions about new political developments and their impact on the work of the party; to take decisions about the tactics necessary for successful struggle;  and to assess the correctness or otherwise of the decisions and direction given by the leadership.

As a starting point, all WASP members should:

  • Read and study our “what we stand for” demands and our manifestos.
  • Regularly read the WASP and ISA websites for political analysis and reports of struggle in South Africa and internationally.
  • Read (and write for) uManyano lwaBasebenzi, WASP’s magazine.

Building a strong political foundation

But it is also important to be familiar with the ideas that all of our current analysis, programme, tactics and strategies are based upon. Our introductory political education programme is designed to give an overview of those key ideas.

These include the ideas of:

  • Karl Marx (1818-83) & Frederich Engels (1820-95)
  • V. I. Lenin (1870-1924)
  • Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)
  • The first four congresses of the Communist International (1919-22)
  • Trotsky’s Left Opposition (1923-27) and the founding conference of the Fourth International (1938)
  • The documents and experiences of International Socialist Alternative (formerly Committee for a Workers International) (1974-), including its predecessors and its South African founding affiliate the Marxist Workers Tendency (1979-1996).

Some crude Africanists assert that Marxism is not relevant to Africa. We disagree completely! Marx’s analysis of the political-economy of capitalism as a world system, further developed in Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and Lenin’s theories of Imperialism and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination, provide the only solid foundation to understand the history of Africa and the situation we face today. The CWI and MWT, using these theoretical tools, further developed a Marxist analysis of the post-World War II ‘Colonial Revolution’, so-called ‘African Socialism’ and  the so-called ‘African Marxist Regimes’, as well as the economic and class foundations of apartheid.

Overleaf we have broken our key ideas into 12 ‘topics’. New members should aim to cover one each month, completing the course in their first year of membership. The topics include suggestions for readings, all of which are available of the WASP website and in printed booklets.

Wherever possible, political education groups should be organised so that comrades can work through the material together. All WASP branches should regularly revisit the programme for discussion. New members should be supported in working through the material, including the organisation of individual discussion. This is important because some of the suggested material is in old fashioned English and can be challenging even for mother-tongue speakers. (It is our ambition to make all of the suggested readings below available in all of South Africa’s languages.)

Political education programme

We are working to make all readings available online.

Please bare with us whilst this work is completed.

Topic 1

Introduction to Marxism: who were Marx & Engels and what did they say?

Reading 1: Marx the Revolutionary (MWT)

Reading 2: The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (Lenin)

Reading 3: Ninety Years of the Communist Manifesto (Trotsky)

Reading 4: The Communist Manifesto, Chapters 1 and 2 (Marx & Engels)

Download Topic 1 as a printable PDF booklet here.


Topic 2

How do Marxists understand the world?

Marxism’s dialectical and historical materialism

Reading 1: Dialectical Materialism: the Foundation of Revolutionary Theory (WASP)

Reading 2: The Preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (Marx)

Reading 3: The Materialist Conception of History (Engels)

Reading 4: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Chapter 2 (Rodney)

Download Topic 2 as a printable PDF booklet here.


Topic 3

How is the working class exploited?

Introduction to Marxist economics

Reading 1: Capitalism’s Big Con: Understanding Marxist Economics (CWI)

Reading 2: Value, Price and Profit (Marx)

Reading 3: Capital, selected chapters (Marx)


Topic 4

Social grants & police brutality

The Marxist theory of the State

Reading 1: The State (Lenin)

Reading 2: The State and Revolution, excerpts (Lenin)

Reading 3: Should We Participate in Bourgeois Parliaments? (Lenin)


Topic 5

How can we win the working class to revolutionary socialism?

Trotsky’s Transitional Programme

Reading 1: The Transitional Programme (Trotsky)

Reading 2: Founding the Fourth International (CWI)

Reading 3: On the Radicalisation of the Masses (Trotsky)


Topic 6

When the working class took power

The lessons of the Russian Revolution

Reading 1: The Russian Revolution and the Rise of Stalinism (MWT, SAISR* Chapter 2)

Reading 2: The Lessons of October (Trotsky)


Topic 7

The rise and fall of Stalinism: how and why did the bureaucratic dictatorship fail?

Reading 1: The Rise of Stalinism, (MWT, TLOLT**, Chapter 2)

Reading 2: The Nature of the Soviet Regime, (MWT, TLOLT**, Chapter 3)

Reading 3: The Crisis of the Stalinist States, (MWT, SAISR*, Chapter 4)

Reading 4: From Perestroika to Capitalist Restoration (CWI)


Topic 8

The socialist revolution in the neo-colonial world – Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution vs the SACP’s National Democratic Revolution

Reading 1: The Theory of the Permanent Revolution (MWT, TLOLT** Chapter 1)

Reading 2: The “New” SACP’s Explanation of Stalinism (MWT, TLOLT** Chapter 5)

Reading 3: Results & Prospects (Trotsky)

Reading 4: The Right of Nations to Self-Determination (Lenin)


Topic 9

Lenin’s theory of imperialism: why was Africa colonized and how is it exploited today?

Reading 1: Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism (Lenin)

Reading 2: The Colonial Revolution (MWT, SAISR*, Part 3)

Reading 3: A History of Pan-African Revolt, excerpts (CLR James)

Reading 4: Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions (Lenin)


Topic 10

Apartheid and the liberation struggle

Reading 1: Brief History of the Marxist Workers Tendency (WASP)

Reading 2: Capitalist Power and ‘White Minority Rule’ (MWT, SAISR*, Chapter 8 edit)

Reading 3: Letter to South African Revolutionaries (Trotsky)

Reading 4: The Freedom Charter: Blueprint for socialism or for capitalism?, edit (WASP)

Reading 5: Armed Struggle and Workers Power (MWT)

Reading 6: Sanctions and Disinvestment (MWT)

Reading 7: From Slavery to the Smashing of Apartheid (CWI)


Topic 11

Africanism vs. Marxism

Reading 1: Class & Race: Marxism, Racism and the Class Struggle (WASP)

Reading 2: Africanism vs. Marxism (WASP)

Reading 3: The Third International After Lenin, selected chapters (Trotsky)

Reading 4: African Socialism Revisited (Nkrumah)


Topic 12

The revolutionary party & democratic centralism – organising a Bolshevik party

Reading 1: Our Organising Principles (WASP)

Reading 2: A Letter to a French Syndicalist (Trotsky)

Reading 3: The Class, the Party and the Leadership (Trotsky)

Reading 4: Tactics & Revolution, selected articles (Lenin & Trotsky)


* South Africa’s Impending Socialist Revolution, 1982 (MWT)

** The Legacy of Leon Trotsky, 1990 (MWT)