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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
2 The African Revolution
For centuries the peoples of Africa were subjected to exploitation and robbery by the capitalist maritime nations of western Europe and other marauders. Millions of sons and daughters of Africa were transported as slaves to far away countries. In the words of Karl Marx, Africa was "a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins." The invaders destroyed Africa's ancient civilisations. They seized and laid waste her natural wealth. By the end of the 19th Century almost the whole of Africa had been conquered - by trickery or the force of superior arms - and brought beneath the alien yoke of a handful of European powers - Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Germany and Spain. Her peoples were deprived of selfgovernment, alienated from their ancestral lands and driven to work as forced labourers on whiteowned plantations, mines and other enterprises. Africa's normal economic and political development was arrested and set back. Vast fortunes werc accumulated in Europe and North America out of African resources and African labour. But the people of our Continent remained the most povertystricken in the world, with the highest death rate and the lowest expectancy of life. The colonialists proclaimed that their mission was altruistic and civilising. But now when they are being driven from Africa, they leave behind them a crippling heritage of illiteracy, ignorance, economic stagnation, starvation and disease.
As a result of the heroic struggles of the African peoples, all over the Continent, and also of the breakup of the colonial system of imperialism which was inaugurated by the great October Socialist Revolution, the peoples of Africa have swept forward to win freedom and independence. At the end of the second world war, only Ethiopia and Liberia could claim to be African states governed by Africans. By 1962 the whole picture had been transformed. Only Angola, Mozambique and a few other scattered territories remained under the direct colonial rule of European powers, and in the Republic of South Africa, SouthWest Africa and the Rhodesians, White minorities continued to dominate. The area of formal political independence had spread to almost the entire continent. This sweeping process - the return of Africa to the rule of the African people themselves - is a great victory for the African people and the cause of freedom. It must be pressed forward and completed as soon as possible. It is the essential basis for all future advance. The working class, and its most advanced leaders, the Communists, arc intimately concerned with this great movement for political independence; they form its spearhead and its most determined and uncompromising defenders.
But, formal political independence alone will not ensure the genuine independence of the African peoples, and their equality amongst the nations of the world. The former colonies remain tied by a thousand bonds to their former owners. Through the "British Commonwealth" and the "French Community" powerful pressures are exerted to influence them and ensure their continued adherence to political, diplomatic, military and economic systems of Western imperialism. There is a new "scramble for Africa" in which United States, West German and Japanese finance capitalists are vying with the older imperialists to extend their investments and their economic stranglehold over African territories and resources. The imperialists all strive to retard the development of national economies and national industries in the African countries, Through such instruments as the European Common Market they strive to keep them backward, in a position of suppliers of raw material and cheap labour for imperialism. These plans of neocolonialism are the greatest threat to the real independence and development of the newly emerged African States.
The young African states need to abolish illiteracy, backwardness and economic dependence. They need to "Africanise" their civil services and administrations, rapidly to train personnel from amongst their own people to administer and develop their countries. They need radical land reform, to transform and improve African agriculture and greatly raise the desperately low living standards of the masses. They need rapid industrialisation and economic development, in order to overcome the terrible heritage left behind by colonialism, and to catch up with the advanced countries of the world. In these aims the young African Republics are tremendously assisted by the generous and unconditional aid extended to them by the Soviet Union and other countries of the socialist world system. Such aid is rendered upon the principles of strict equality and true brotherly friendship. It aims to lay the basis for the industrialisation of undeveloped countries - the foundation stone of true independence and equality - and to train competent specialists in the hundred fields which the new Africa so urgently requires.
Only if they can achieve a social transformation, a fast rate of economic and social development, can the African countries ensure genuine independence and equality in the world family of nations, and higher standards of life, health and culture for their people. In their drive towards these goals the African peoples are faced with the choice between capitalist and socialist paths. More and more, the revolutionary workers and peasants, the radical intellectual youth of Africa are turning towards the socialist path. They have seen the evils of capitalism at work in their midst, its greed and wastefulness of life and resources; its ruthless contempt for the dignity and value of the human being. They have learnt of the tremendous rate of development which socialism has made possible especially in the Asian Republics of the Soviet Union, in People's China and other formerly colonial countries which, under workers' rule and socialism, have advanced with giant's" strides. Noncapitalist forms of development, aimed at the building of socialism, are the only way in which Africa can rapidly liquidate racialism, feudalism, tribalism, poverty, backwardness and disease, and the exploitation of man by man.
The South African Communist Party regards as a dogmatic distortion of Marxism, the concept that African countries which are in a precapitalist stage of development must necessarily pass through a period of capitalism before achieving socialism. We are living in the epoch of the transition, on a world scale, from capitalism to socialism. The experience of the Soviet Asian Republics, of People's China, Vietnam, the People's Republic of Korea, and People's Mongolia, show that in our epoch it is possible for the people of colonial countries to advance along noncapitalist lines towards the building of socialism.
Recognising the tremendous attraction of socialist ideas in Africa, various leaders have advanced the concept of a special kind of "African Socialism" different from MarxismLeninism. These concepts are mistaken. It is true that the precise paths of the African peoples towards socialism will differ from those of peoples of other continents, due to differences of national tradition and history, to the long period of colonialist domination which, amongst other factors, has prevented the development of African societies along the same lines as those in Europe and Asia. But the whole of international experience has proved beyond any shadow of doubt, that the main truths of MarxismLeninism are fully applicable to countries in every stage of social development. The only road towards a socialist and communist future is that indicated by Marxism. The innumerable attempts, in many parts of the world, to propound or practise nonMarxist socialism," or to revise, "modify" and "improve" MarxismLeninism, have one and all ended in disaster and betrayal of the working class.
The countries of Africa are in various stages of historical and social development. In some areas, such as the Republic of South Africa and the Congo, there is a relatively high degree of industrial development, of powerful monopoly capitalism and a numerically strong working class. Other areas have hardly been touched at all by capitalist development. There is little or no commodity production and exchange, and modern nations have not developed. Feudal and prefeudal societies prevail. There is thus no common solution which would answer the needs of all the territories of Africa; each area needs to be studied specifically in the light of its own actual conditions. But, in most parts of Africa, the needs of the people will best be met at the present time by the formation of states of national democracy, as a transitional stage to socialism. The minimum essentials for a state of national democracy as indicated in the declaration of 81 Marxist Parties in December 1960, are that it: "consistently upholds its political and economic independence, fights against imperialism and its military blocs, against military bases on its territory; fights against the new forms of colonialism and the penetration of imperialist capital; rejects dictatorial and despotic methods of government; ensures the people broad democratic rights and freedoms (freedom of the press, speech, assembly, demonstration, establishment of political parties and social organisations) and the opportunity of working for the enactment of agrarian reform and other domestic and social changes, and for participation in shaping government policy." The basis of a national democracy is a leading alliance of workers and rural people. Such a state will provide the most favourable conditions for advance, along noncapitalist lines, to socialism.
In their advance towards national independence, democracy, unity and socialism the African peoples are seriously handicapped by the lack of understanding of socialist ideology - largely a result of the imperialists' censorship and distortion of Communist ideas - and by the absence in most parts of our Continent of independent, MarxistLeninist parties of the working class. Socialism cannot effectively be built without socialist organisation guided by socialist theory. The development and growth of such parties, devoted to the people's struggle for freedom and independence, and building and forming part of the united front of all patriotic classes for national liberation, would be an important contribution to the cause of Africa. By making a profound study of scientific socialist theory and creatively applying it to the solution of the problems of their own countries, such Parties can play an indispensable role in carrying the African Revolution forward uninterruptedly to its consummation: the crowning of national independence with deepreaching social revolution and the full emancipation of the African peoples from bondage.
The common struggle of the peoples of Africa against imperialism and colonialism in all its forms has brought the peoples of Africa closer together than ever before. The African countries which have already achieved independence render fraternal assistance to the freedom struggle of their brothers who still suffer under foreign or White minority domination. A powerful urge towards closer ties and solidarity exists among all Africans based upon the understanding that unity can best enable the African people to maintain and consolidate independence, overcome their grave social and economic problems, develop the resources of the Continent and raise their living standards. This urge finds its expression in the historic AllAfrican People's Conferences and in regional groupings such as the PanAfrican Freedom Movement of East, Central and Southern Africa: in the formation of the AllAfrican Trade Union Federation; in joint economic and defence plans; in actual or projected regional Federations aimed at the ultimate establishment of a United African Commonwealth. This movement is progressive and antiimperialist in character, reflecting the essential unity of the African Revolution. The frontiers of Africa were drawn by the imperialists. For the most part they record past conflicts and settlements among the colonialists. They do not reflect African interests, nor do they demarcate natural geographical, linguistic or other divisions. Progressive elements in Africa will seek to redraw these frontiers, to create larger and more viable communities, leading to a fraternal commonwealth of Africa as a whole. Because they are achieving independence in the epoch of the world transition to socialism, it is not inevitable that the African nations should follow the path of other continents by developing antagonistic nation states, each jealously guarding its frontiers. Such states arc the product of capitalism. Provided all the African countries follow noncapitalist forms of development the achievement of a united Africa will become practical and desirable. But if this great historical process is to be effected without sowing the seeds of new conflicts, it must be based on consent and persuasion, not upon force.
Communists recognise the right of all peoples and national groups to selfdetermination. They respect the languages and progressive traditions of all African peoples, and their right to independent development of their culture. While recognising the progressive elements in African nationalism and the movement for PanAfrican unity, South African communists remain true to the principles of working class internationalism. They will fight against all expressions of racialism, isolationalism, and the glorification and perpetuation of reactionary traditions, which have their roots m capitalist, tribal and feudalist outlooks.
The struggle of the peoples of the rest of Africa and those of South Africa, against colonialism and for freedom are one and indivisible. White colonialism in the Republic of South Africa threatens the independence, peace and progress of the whole of Africa. It is a stronghold and refuge of reaction and imperialism threatening the gains of the African revolution; a breeding ground for plots and activities designed to restore colonialism throughout the Continent. A poor and backward Africa profits the South African monopoly capitalists, enabling them to exploit cheap African labour, both in their heavy investments in many parts of the Continent and by importing workers from other territories to mines and other enterprises in the Republic itself. The South African state and its military forces collaborate with those of the Portuguese, Rhodesian and other colonialists. In fighting against White supremacy, for the democratic revolution in South Africa, the people of our country are fighting for the cause of the African Revolution as a whole. In this fight they are greatly heartened by the victories of their brothers and sisters beyond their borders, and by their actions of solidarity with South Africa. They welcome the decisions for the complete diplomatic and economic isolation of the Republic, the boycott of South African goods and the withdrawal of migrant labour from this country, and call for the strict implementation of these decisions. The liberated South Africa of the future will build ties of the closest fraternity and mutual assistance, based upon equal friendly relations, with all peoples of Africa. Its wealth, experience and skills will be a source of strength to the new Africa.