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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.


The prospects of achieving a revolutionary breakthrough in South Africa are greater today than ever before in our history. The apartheid regime faces an allround crisis which results from our broad revolutionary offensive, together with the internal contradictions among the rulers. The crisis of racial tyranny cannot be resolved, except by the revolutionary transformation of our country.

The national liberation offensive is led by the African National Congress in revolutionary alliance with the vanguard workers' party the South African Communist Party and the South African Congress of Trade Unions. It is a national liberation struggle that combines many mass democratic contingents the youth, women, students, civic and others and the trade union movement.

The mobilisation, organisation and unity in action of this large front of forces has swept into every corner of our country, into the factories, townships, schools and rural villages. Our struggle is known throughout the world, stirring freedomloving people in every country. The building of this broad front of forces inside and outside our country has been the greatest achievement of our struggle.

The Communist Party of South Africa, the first Communist Party on the African continent, was formed on July 30, 1921. Our Party was rooted in South African struggles, and in socialist organisations and socialist thinking which had existed in various forms since the turn of the century. The formation of our Party was also directly inspired by the Bolshevik Party of Lenin, and its vanguard role in the world's first proletarian socialist revolution in Russia, the Great October Revolution of 1917.

One of the first attacks by the Nationalist Party regime on the people's rights was the suppression of Communism Act of 1950, which banned the Communist Party of South Africa. This attack was the beginning of an assault on the whole democratic movement. In the 28 years before its banning, the Communist Party had played a pioneering role in rooting the theory and practice of MarxismLeninism in South African soil. In South African conditions this meant, above all, playing a leading role in building the national liberation movement. Party members also played a leading role in organising black workers into the trade union movement.

It was no accident that the apartheid regime made this Party and the ideas and practice of MarxismLeninism its first target. Communism stands for the direct opposite of apartheid colonialism. Communism stands for the rights of the workers and oppressed people, against all forms of racism, privilege, colonialism and exploitation. Communism stands for peace, freedom, democracy, national independence and social progress.

The banning of the Communist Party and the persecution of individual communists have proved incapable of destroying us. Within a short time after the banning and dissolution of the Party, underground groups of communists were formed in several places. In 1953 the first underground conference of the Party under its new name, the South African Communist Party, was held.

Today the influence and prestige of the South African Communist Party is greater than at any time in its history. Although it has been forced to operate in the underground for nearly forty years, our Party is one of the main pillars of the national liberation movement. The principles, the strategic objectives, and the organisational approach which our Party pioneered from the 1920s have come to be widely accepted among the broad masses within the country.

In the decisive period ahead, the SACP has a crucial role to play in the mobilising, organising and ideological development of all contingents of our revolutionary struggle, and in particular the South African working class. The struggle for national liberation, the destruction of colonialism of a special type and the transition to socialism in South Africa require a vanguard MarxistLeninist party capable of providing a highly disciplined organisation and the guiding light of scientific socialist outlook grounded in South African realities.

In 1962 the South African Communist Party adopted its programme, The Road to South African Freedom. The 1962 programme has made an indelible contribution to the scientific analysis of the situation in South Africa, and to practical revolutionary work for national liberation. It has proved to be a major guiding light over more than a quarter of a century of struggle, inspiring the work of party and nonparty militants alike.

But after 27 years there have been major changes in the world, in our region, and within South Africa itself. The deepening crisis of racial tyranny in our country and the great wave of mass struggles over the last decade have brought our immediate goal much closer, and they have introduced a wealth of revolutionary experience. The period ahead is pregnant with revolutionary potential and challenges. In this programme the South African Communist Party analyses the fundamental features of South African society and considers the main characteristics of the present international situation and of the region in which we live. It puts forward our strategic approach to the struggle to end national oppression and to advance to socialism, with the ultimate objective of building communism in South Africa. It outlines the main tasks of the MarxistLeninist vanguard party of the working class, and the immediate path to power in the national democratic revolution.

The Communist Party is the leading political force of the South African working class. Together with our allies in the liberation front headed by the ANC, our immediate aim is to win the objectives of the national democratic revolution, whose main content is the national liberation of the African people in particular, and the black people in general, the destruction of the economic and political power of the racist ruling class, and the establishment of one united South Africa in which the working class will be the dominant force.

The Communist Party has no interests separate from those of the working people. The Communists are sons and daughters of the people, and share with them the overriding necessity to put an end to the suffering and humiliation of apartheid. The destruction of colonialism and the winning of national freedom is the essential condition and the key for future advance to the supreme aim of the Communist Party: the establishment of a socialist South Africa, laying the foundations of a classless, communist society.

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