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Anthony Butler’s The Idea of the ANC in Time for Conference in Mangaung

The Idea of the ANCThe African National Congress (ANC) has established itself as Africa’s most famous liberation movement. The year 2012 is an important year in the history of the African National Congress’ organisational, political and ideological development and growth. It marks 100 years of the ANC’s existence; a milestone that has prompted partisans to a century of unparalleled achievement in the struggle against colonialism and racial discrimination and the year of the 53rd National Conference in Mangaung.

It is, though, a liberation whose critics have painted a less-flattering portrait of the historical ANC, as a communist puppet, a moribund dinosaur, or an elitist political parasite. For such sceptics, the ANC – now in government for two decades – has betrayed South Africans rather than liberated them. The politics of the ANC, and those of the country it governs, are today tumultuous. South Africans endure deep inequality and unemployment, violent community protests, murders of foreign residents, major policy blunders, an AIDS crisis, and deepening corruption. Inside the ANC there are episodes of open rebellion against the leadership, conflicts over the character of a post-liberation movement, and debilitating battles for succession to the movement’s presidency.

The Idea of the ANC explores how ANC intellectuals and leaders interpret the historical project of their movement. It investigates three interlocked ideas: a conception of power, a responsibility for promoting unity, and a commitment to human liberation. It explores how these notions have shaped South African politics in the past, and how they will inform ANC leaders’ responses to the challenges of the future.

About the author

Anthony Butler is Professor of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town. He has previously been a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; Director of the Politics and Administration Programme at Birkbeck College, University of London; and Chair in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. Butler is the author of four books and he writes a weekly column for Johannesburg’s Business Day newspaper.

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