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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Programme of the Communist Party of South Africa adopted at the seventh annual conference of the Party, 1 January 1929


Most of the world is living under the system of Society called Capitalism. The essence of Capitalism is the ownership of land, mines, factories, machinery and all other means of production by private individuals and financial groups who are thus able to exploit the propertyless workers for their own gain and profit.

The phase of Capitalist colonial expansion known as Imperialism has brought whole nations under its domination and capital, ever seeking cheaper labour, new markets and spheres of investment, has migrated to India, China, Africa etc., where the mass of the people have been robbed of their land and forced to work for a pittance on farms and plantations, in mines and factories.

The struggle between Imperialist powers for domination and control of colonies leads to war on a world-wide scale, and the 1914-1918 war threatens to be eclipsed by a greater conflagration than was ever known.

South Africa is in a period of transition. At first it was a source of raw materials, and also to some extent a market for British manufacturers; and in addition there is a commencement of cultivation of commercial crops and a more highly developed system of agriculture on large scale capitalist lines.

Whilst South Africa continues to be financed mainly by British : Capital, American capital too is beginning to penetrate rapidly, thus giving rise to pronounced rivalry between two powers.

In the industrial life of South Africa the native predominates as worker, and the numerical increase of native workers is greater than of white, although measures of repression debar the native from developing freely into skilled spheres of labour, and prevailing wage rates are on a very low level. A position of domination is exercised by the whites as a whole, but the position of the white workers as sharers in the exploitation of the natives is gradually breaking down with the reduction of their average standard of living.

In addition to the economic exploitation suffered by the natives they have the additional burden of a whole system of race discrimination measures which keep them socially and politically under semi-feudal conditions. This double burden of exploitation carried by the native masses calls for a democratic revolution which will mean the smashing of all feudal relationships and the securing of full citizen rights. To all natives, whether farm labourers, factory workers, chiefs or peasants, this revolution means the abolition of all discrimination against blacks as such, with independence and the opportunity to develop as a national or racial unit. Such a revolution does not by itself mean the final liberation of the broad masses of South Africa. The stage remains to be traversed to the final abolition of exploitation and combination of class by class, of man by man, the final stage of the Social Revolution for the establishment of Socialism under which all men shall be socially, economically and politically free to share alike in the fruits of their joint labour, with equal opportunity and equal access to all the comforts of life.

This can only be accomplished under the leadership of the United Workers and Peasants of town and country.

The overthrow of Imperialist domination and the Capitalist system is the recognised objective of the Communist Parties of the World, united in the Communist International which points to Soviet Russia and the wonderful progress already achieved there as proof that Imperialism and the Capitalist system can be overthrown and that Socialism can be and is being built up.

The tasks of the CPSA

The accelerating intensification of Imperialist exploitation and oppression in recent years, in South Africa no less than in other countries, colonies and semi-colonies, has led to new stages in the development of the revolutionary working class movement, necessitating a certain revision of Communist programmes. The Communist International itself has just issued its new world programme which must be read as the foundation of all local party programmes.

The Communist Party of SA, for its part, has always been an active champion, ever since its origin in 1915, of complete political and industrial equality for me black man, declaring for working class unity irrespective of colour, and for removal of all race oppressions and discriminations, such as pass laws. In recent years it has succeeded in drawing into its ranks an overwhelming majority of native workers and also peasants who are learning to acclaim it as their own party, the party of me masses, giving it already me largest Negro membership of any Communist Party in the world. The work of the party in its turn has come to centre more than ever on native agitation, education and organisation, political and industrial extension of the party's influence wherever possible in native bodies like the African National Congress or ICU; promotion of an assistance to native trade unions, strikes and political demonstrations; and a commencement of mobilisation of me agrarian masses who constitute me great bulk and potentially; owing to land hunger, perhaps me most revolutionary section of the oppressed race; accompanied by strenuous propaganda among the white workers both on their own particular demands and also in favour of labour unity and militancy and one Trade Union centre, as against the estranging and debilitating effects of "white chauvinism' and reformism.

The native national clause

Moreover, as a weapon in me overthrow of Imperialism i.e. world capitalism in its last phase, and in its principal strongholds, the colonies, the Party devotes special attention to the national cause of the native people as such, not indeed in the sense of a campaign 'to drive the white man into the sea', but in the Leninist sense of underlining the prime importance of supporting movements for complete national liberation of colonial peoples, removing all the political and social disabilities which make up their enslavement, restoring to them lands and liberties taken away from them by foreign conquerors, settlers and financiers, and vindication of their right, as the immense majority and in the truest sense the people of Africa, to equality, emancipation, independence and self-determination, and hence (for freedom here means power) to predominant political power in their own country - on a basis however of equal rights for Europeans and other minorities as 'most favoured nations'.

Class and race emancipation

Is this a departure from the strict class outlook? By no means. 'Labour solidarity' cannot mean ignoring race discrimination or subjection. Moreover, modern capitalism typically treats colonial races, at any rate in Africa, as constituting, en bloc, reservoirs of labour. South African imperialism helotises the whole of the native people as a race as providing a national labour breeding and recruiting ground. Again, unity postulates equality. If we are to achieve real labour unity we must first remove the greatest obstacle to it, viz., the unequal, subjected, enslaved status of the native workers and people. Hence race emancipation and class emancipation tend to coincide. Hence too the conception and realisation of native rule merges into that of the Workers' and Peasants' Republic, non-imperialist, non-capitalist, non- racialist, classless and in effect Socialist.

This policy has become all the more necessary as the result of the markedly increased aggressiveness of the South African ruling class which today flaunts and stresses the racial domination of the whites as against the old Cape nominal equality, deliberately inflaming white chauvinism, suppressing native movements as 'creating hostility between black and white,' attacking the native franchise such as it is and, through General Hertzog's bills, promoting increased native landlessness and proletarianisation - to mention only a few recent turns of the screw.

The non-exploiting whites

As for the white working class and peasantry, they will not for ever be content with a position of tinsel" aristocracy' whose material advantages are continually dwindling, or with the venal role of mere policeman, watchdog or bully for the master class over the black slaves. Today there is almost as great poverty and hopelessness to be found among large strata of whites as among blacks. "Poor whites' are already a .. depressed class' and many white proletarians tend to become declassed or excluded as "redundant' from the working class proper. White labour today, viewed as a racially exclusive section, hangs in mid- air between ruling class and proletariat with no room for it in either; without stability or prospects, heading for degeneration or fascism, a role of either helplessness or treachery in the class struggle. The SA Labour Party is in collapse because it no longer represents the working class centre of gravity in South Africa.

At the same time white workers are beginning to realise the need of joint action with black if they are ever to win in a first class "forward movement', which clearly implies that if the black is not to scab on the white his demands must be espoused by the white. And after all, the whites are only a small minority of the population and still more of the proletariat.

Hence the Communist Party, which has always been in the forefront of the battles of the white workers in South Africa, claims their support also for its present programme as the only practical one for the over-throw of capitalism and imperialism and attainment of workers' rule in South Africa. In this revolutionary epoch the world labour movement cannot allow itself to be held up in favour of one or another small privileged section; it must march forward for the emancipation of the whole labouring class and subject population of the world, "subordinating', as the Comintern programme says, 'the temporary, partial, group or national interests of the proletariat to its lasting, common and international interests'.

Accordingly the Communist Party, on behalf of the working class and subject population of South Africa, puts forward the demands set forth below, the struggle for which will lead to the forging of the revolutionary weapons necessary for the attainment of power.

. Down with imperialism, British and Afrikaner!
Down with the capitalist class!
Down with the Subjection of race by race!
For equality and majority rule!
For the liberation of the whole world from slavery and exploitation!

General demands

Complete equality of races in South Africa; abolition and repeal of all laws, regulations, customs and administrative practices tending to support white domination ove~ black, conferring special privileges on Europeans as such, or placing restrictions, disqualifications or disabilities on non-Europeans as such, persecuting or discriminating against them or favouring their segregation, exploitation or treatment as a subject race, including removal of all limitations on their right to own, acquire and occupy land in any part of the Union, or to reside in any town.

The land for the landless, expropriation of the expropriators, restoration of the land of South Africa to the land workers and poor peasants, consisting chiefly of non-Europeans but also including poor whites, bywoners, etc.

Unity of the working class of all races in South Africa in the militant revolutionary struggle, in conjunction with the peasantry, for the overthrow of capitalism and imperialist rule.

Self-determination of the African people, i.e. their complete liberation from imperialist as well as the bourgeois and feudal or semi-feudal rule and oppression, whether 'British' or 'South African', and wresting of power for a Workers' and Peasants' Soviet Republic wholly independent of the British or any other Empire, and comprising all the toiling masses, whether native or otherwise, of the Union and adjacent protectorates, etc., under the leadership of the working class, with the slogan of 'An Independent South African Native Republic as a stage towards the Workers' and Peasants' Republic, guaranteeing protection and complete equality to all national minorities' (such as Europeans): leading to the reconstruction of the country and rehabilitation of its people on a non-Imperialist, Socialist basis.

Internationally: strenuous campaign against the growing danger of Imperialist war, and support by every means of the USSR as the present headquarters of the world revolution against imperialism.

Particular demands

As immediate, interim or partial demands and subject to revision from time to time as the various needs become clarified.


Retention intact of the Cape Native Franchise and extension of the parliamentary, provincial, divisional and municipal franchise to the whole of the adult male and female population of the Union irrespective of colour, on the same purely residential qualification as applies to Europeans in the Northern Provinces, with the right to sit in Parliament and on all other public bodies, to enter the public service and to occupy all ministerial and other public offices.

Total repeal of the pass laws. Abolition of hut and poll taxes, and of all other taxes calculated to drive the taxpayer into the labour market. Poorer workers and peasants to be relieved of taxation altogether.

Repeal of the Native Urban Areas Act. Self government for locations, native townships, etc., pending their abolition.

Repeal of Clause 29 of the Native Administration Act, with compensation to all who have been sentenced thereunder. Recognition of full rights of free speech, press and assembly.

Abrogation of all special or arbitrary powers (whether of proclamation, regulation or otherwise) conferred by that Act on the Governor-General, and abolition of his Supreme Chieftainship.

Universal free compulsory non-religious primary education for non-Europeans with higher education on the same terms as enjoyed by Europeans.

A National Health Service meeting the needs of the whole native as well as white population.

Abolition of the present system of Government-paid chiefs and revival of the popular authority of the tribe in the form of elected tribal councils.

A Native Citizen Force. The right of non-Europeans to purchase arms.


Equal justice for all races in the courts. Non-Europeans to serve on juries.

Establishment of popular tribunals of native justices, especially in native areas and labour districts.

Severe punishment for police bullying of prisoners.

A public defender in every Court for poor accused.


Removal of all restrictions on right of combination and strike irrespective of race. Recognition of all bona-fide working class unions, urban or rural, and no prosecution of same.

Repeal of master and servant act and all other laws criminally penalising failure to work or breach of contract to work or enforcing serf or semi-serf relations.

Abolition of indentured and contract labour, no labourer to be bound for longer than one month. Abolition of labour compounds.

Abolition of labour recruiting system.

Provision of full facilities for family life of workers in labour districts.

No importation of native labour from outside the Union.

Prohibition of child labour, including all obligation or compulsion of heads of families to supply the services of members of their families.

Repeal of colour bar laws and regulations.

Civilised wages, hours, housing and conditions generally for non- European workers equally with European, including sickness, accident, occupational disease, unemployment and old age insurance, workmen's compensation and pensions.

Equal-pay for equal work irrespective of sex or colour.

National provision of work or maintenance for unemployed of all races.


Repeal of Natives Land Act.

In view of the extreme land hunger of the native population, immediate provision of vastly increased areas of land for natives.

Expropriation of big estates, large farms and land held by big trusts or companies and all land lying idle, and throwing open of Crown Land, for redistribution among landless squatters, poor peasants and labourers, black and white.

Where tribes or portions of tribes occupy European owned land, this to become the property of the native occupiers.

Mineral wealth of areas set aside for native inhabitants to be developed for their sole benefit.

Rejection of General Hertzog's Land Bill and of all legislative interference with squatting or attempt to drive natives off European lands.

Protection of crops and stock and security of tenure of squatters, labour tenants, etc., on farms, and compensation for improvements made by them.

Abolition of pound charges.

Application of Wage Act to agricultural labour; Wage Board to be empowered to revise agricultural conditions of service of all kinds.

Establishment of large up-to-date scientific model community farms under communal control with proper provisions for housing, schooling and common village life and for expert management in the sole interests of those working thereon.

Promotion of irrigation on a national scale, and conversion of irrigated areas into self administered co-operative farm units.

Increase of agricultural schools and farm demonstrators, encouragement of improved stock breeding, provision of improved seed, fertilisers, implements, fencing, marketing, credit, banking and co- operative facilities, railways and transport services, and promotion of greater and better agricultural and pastoral production generally in native districts and among poor peasants and farmers everywhere.

Tasks of Communist Party

In support of the foregoing the Party's tasks will include:

Formation of factory, mine, works and farm groups or committees and councils of action, and formation of unions and co-operatives of poor natives and white peasants.

Energetic promotion of militant trade union organisations of all unorganised workers, especially non-Europeans, on industrial lines, including farm labourers.

Organisational contact and co-operation between rural and urban workers, between non-European and European workers, and between South African workers and workers of Britain as the imperialist 'home' country, and also of the USSR. Promotion of affiliation with the Red International of Labour Unions.

Strenuous campaign in labour organisations against white 'chauvinism', against all illusions of 'class peace' or 'the classless state' under capitalism, against bourgeois reformism, social democratic confessionalism, corruption and treachery.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.