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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Circular to Regions from Central Committee


Central Committee


6 March 1991

TO: ALL Regional Secretaries/ Administrators.

FROM: Geraldine

Dear comrades,

Revolutionary greetings!

We urgently require the following input at Head Quarters:

1.. By Monday, 11 March 1991, we require the membership target from each regions set for 1 May 1991. Furthermore, we will there after require targets for each significant date as set out in the Programme of Action arising from the National W/shop.

2. . We also require each region to provide us with schedules and approaches toward the Programme of Action. It is necessary for Regions to note that May day is forthcoming.  (* Such a schedule and outline of approaches toward organising around May day is required by Monday, 11 March.)

3.. The Economics Forum meeting - 28 March 1991.  The figure of delegates per region has been cut to one comrade.  Preference being the Education officer.  We require the names of delegates by 7 March 1991 in order to make travel arrangements.

4. . Comrades, smother urgent aspect arising from our w/shop is the issue of Party building.  By the end of next week a full report is required on progress in terms of setting up branches and expansion of membership.  This will be Imperative to ensure that we are able to assist where and when the need arises.


NB: The next ILG meeting is scheduled for 6-7 April in Johannesburg.  Inform all ILG members in your respective regions and inform HQ of their confirmation.

Written reports are required in advance using the previous format!


Notes on input by the General Secretary, Joe Slovo.

1. This is perhaps the most important event in the life of the Party since its launch a little over six months ago.

-. We are here to take stock of how far we have come and where we are since the launch.

-. But, above all, we are here to assess what we have learnt through our experiences of Party building in order to make a thrust into the future.

-. On behalf of the CC and ILG we welcome all of you most of you new generation communists. I am convinced that you will show yourself equal to the tasks before us.

2. In relation to the last six months of party building we have come through a period of what we call - for want of a better word - experimentation.

-. We started with some broad and essentially tentative guidelines circulated by the leadership. It was always our hope that these guidelines would be tested on the ground and enriched and adjusted by the lessons of experience.

-. Indeed we are all novices in the relation to the new post-February 2nd  challenges which faded us. Forty years of illegality meant that at best, we were out of practise in the art and science of legal organisation and, at worst, that habits of illegal life would impinge themselves negatively in the new period.

3. We decided that the best way of starting is to encourage the regions to make their own probes. And in this way real life (as Kruschev used to say) would in time enable us to give Party building a uniform thrust throughout the country.

-. But even though our purpose here is to emerge with a uniform approach we should not rule out the degree of flexibility in the future to meet special conditions in particular areas or sectors.

4. In our deliberations we should obviously and correctly concentrate on the weaknesses and failures in order to seek remedies for the future. But we should also avoid drawing the wrong conclusions from this type of emphasis. When we pitch in, as we should, into an uninhibited and remorseless self-examination it can make the weaker spirits among us unnecessarily despondent, demoralised and unduly pessimistic about future prospects.

5. We need to situate what we have achieved and what we've failed to achieve in a framework which contains all the facts. And we should emerge with confidence that we can do it. We need to remind ourselves that we could not or should not have expected miracles within the time frame we've had so far.

Launch August - 6 months +/- - task of setting up regions took months after that.. In most cases the job of actually creating branches have gone on no longer than about 3 months.  In one case (Natal) the region itself has not yet
been officially launched.

6. We should perhaps learn the lesson of raising unreal expectations.

7. I'm not making these points to make us feel that after all we've not done so badly.    We should not feel good or smug.  On the whole it has just not been good enough.. The pace and momentum of Party building is untenably slow especially bearing in mind the vital reality of our situation.. It is

If there was ever a time when the Party was needed as a sgtrong independent structure, it is now. The reasons stick out.  We have to protect the historic positive ideological gains of our past.

Secondly, in a situation of broadening unity we have to prevent the working class constituency from being swamped and above all, we have to provide the working class leadership and to chart a path in the emerging period in which the class preferences and sharpening ideological conflict will more and more assert themselves.

8. But if this is a moment which calls for a stronger and well organized Party, it is also a moment when the offensive against us has escalated and, in some ways, has become more subtle.

We know that we always had political enemies. But the basis of their attacks was traditional anti-communism and (certainly within the broad democratic movement and among our working class, constituency) these attacks made little impact.

Now the patent failures of existing socialism has provided our enemies with new ammunition whose impact we should not underestimate. Confusion is being spread and uncertainty which infects even some of our supporters and potential supporters.

9. In addition questions are being posed which cannot be dismissed as pure mischief-making or as cover for old-style anti-Party propaganda.

For example, - the two caps debate - a new phenomenon raised at the last meeting of the CC.

- . Party's place in negotiations and the, All Party Congress.

- . When elections come will the Party compete independently etc., etc.

10.  In short, there is not yet full clarity on the role and identity of the Party post February 2.  This is both a political and organizational question which is surrounded by new dimensions in the new situation. But certain basic perspectives from the past retain their validity. The most basic is that our strategic goal for this stage of the revolutionary process remains the same.  We retain the objective of winning the National Democratic Revolution whose main contingent is the revolutionary alliance headed by the ANC.

-This alliance is not a Front on a defined number of issues. It has been and is based on a common approach on all basic immediate issues and the key immediate strategic objective. And this very reality brings in its wake (in a more intense form than ever before}the problem of the Party's identity in the new situation.

-What. can we do that the ANC cannot?

In the illegal period this problem was not so mind-bending because we were all invisible. We were absent on the ground and broad guidelines for the struggle used to suffice. But now we are called upon to operate as a living legal, force. We are called upon to provide leadership from day to day in a way which reinforces the common campaigns but which also give them a special communist stamp. And beyond common campaigns what independent and individual activity should our top and primary organs undertake so that we project our Party's individuality? We have for many decades been plagued by the fact that 99% of our cadres were totally integrated into the ANC and Trade Union political life.  Party activity was a sideline.  This was a problem but not a fatal one in exile where the party had no independent role worth talking about and the average member (apart from party unit meetings) had no Party task worth talking about.

[International profile and building the underground involved a few of us at the top, and media work AC.  And, of course, political exchanges at the ANC level.  In the small underground, apart from the odd leaflet – all work was done in and through legal organizations.]

11.. If we carry on in this way we might as well fold up.  There are some problem areas we have to address – especially in this forum.  But, in general, there iews so much for the Party to do as Party that we should be careful not to exaggerate the identity problem. It could become an excuse for something else.. In some cases or in some communities it is more comfortable to be seen as ANC rather than Party.. In other cases we are still in the grip of the exile set-up of the ANC representing us in most important areas.

12. Let us look firstly at some problem areas:

a) . What do we do in campaigns which are common on immediate issues. First of all we need to pronounce on all issues even if we reinforce one another.  A Party of concern! e.g. de Klerk's speech

- We must have our own positions and emphasis even here- e.g.

i. . Post- apartheid economy.

ii.. Violence in the Transvaal - (ethnic outlooks - which are alien to socialist ethics and the spirit of internationalism.)

b) In areas such as the negotiation process, All Party Congress and possibly elections.

c) Our role in the broad front. We can't continue to sink our identity into the alliance.  e.g

i) . Patriotic conference. We should be represented as a Party.

ii) . Tutu conference. Party not invited.  Sometimes outsiders are more conscious of our identity than we are.

d) But also a more aggressive stance within the alliance e.g. the position of the ILG on the All Party Conference was adopted by the recent Tri-partite alliance meeting.

13. There may be other problem areas but some areas stick out for Party visibility even as a leading actor -

a) Socialist Education of members and of working class. Defence of socialism. A more aggressive posture. I don't mean that we should defend the perversions. But place failures in perspective and emphasise failures of capitalism. (We should be aware how we are regarded by the world.)

b) Running of campaigns in which the Party takes the lead. e.g.

i) May 1st - slogans - demands placed before the working class. Its our day!

ii) Appeal to youth on negative oonduct.

iii)Joint campaign with COSATU on retrenchment and unemployment.

iv) We tend to have a launch and that is the end of our public demonstrations and meetings, unless we are invited by others.

v) The year of our 70th anniversary should be a year of activity

vi) The year of our 8th Congress. Make others think it something which is also theirs. Make an input.

14. In general we must recreate the excitement which greeted the Party and the expectations of its role. We must rediscover ourselves!

But everything is organisation at this moment.    "A practical advance is worth more than a thousand manifestos."

15. We can't be satisfied with the rate of progress. A few words on this.

a) ILG (4 meetings)

b) ILG Working group - not functioning.

c) Secretariat - just a work horse with no real political life.  Political direction was supposed to come from the working group. So really we have no political committee worth talking about.

d) The alliance a good start but we must watch it. It should not revert to what it was in Lusaka.

But above all

-. Build a mass Party of activists, organised into dynamic branches and regions.

-. A key question for discussion. What do we mean by a Mass. Party?

-. Are we still prisoners of the old elitist approach which turns us into a sect.  This will be the death of us. Let us not fear growth.  Do not want to pre-empt code of conduct but some of the rules are more onerous than would apply to the Community of the Resurrection.

-. Is it a pipe dream that our 8th Congress should be attended by delegates representing twenty thousand communist activists organised into functioning and dynamic branches? I think not.


I don't believe it is pompous to say that the future cannot be assured without a powerful Communist Party of democratic socialism. Based on our experience we must emerge with answers.

This Year is the Year of the 70th anniversary of our Party!




In our National Workshop dealing with party building we resolved that 1991 be the year of Party building and consolidation especially since it is the the Seventieth, anniversary year.

The national workshop in the words of the General Secretary, has been "the most important event of the Party since its launch." He went on to say that it would be correct to state that we have come through a. period of experimentation with respect to building the Party during legality, following a period of illegality.

Broad and tentative guidelines have been circulated by the leadership of the Party in relation to our building process. This workshop essentially reviewed our approach to building the Party.

This workshop constituted of fifty Party members representing each of the Party's six regions.

A Programme of Action emerged based on the following campaigns:

The area of campaigns were sub-divided into the following two areas –

1. Those specific to the Party.

2. Shared campaigns.

1. The Party Calendar:

The Party Calendar is to focus, as a Party, on activities Nation-wide.. This will require organisational and mass-work by all Regions to build-up towards these days.

Since the year has been declared the "Year of building a legal Party" a target has been set of 30,000 Party members by Congress. The party Congress is scheduled for December 1991. Regions have to set Interim membership targets around all major events/days.

Major events/days are scheduled as follows:

May Day: . Activities have to build-up towards May day. Umsebenzi campaign, involving the sale of Umsebenzi from door-to-door in preparation for May Day. 5000 sales are targeted per region.  Organisation around pickets in the preceding week and various other forms of action.  Bi-laterals with COSATU will be required around some of these actions.  The May Day actions will either take the form of marches/rallies in major industrial centres.

July 30 . The seventieth anniversary of the Party. A special 70th anniversary committee will be set up.  The workshop endorsed a "WEEK OF COMMUNIST ACTION" in celebrating the 70th Anniversary.  This will also be accompanied by active door-to-door sales of Umsebenzi.

Suggestions were made of exhibitions on the party history. Involving Party stalwarts in all Party regions in the celebrations.

There were also suggestions of conferences to be held on "SOCIALISM"/ "HISTORY OF THE SACP". (This will not necessarily co-inside with the ,specific day)

The 70th anniversary celebrations committee should flesh out and concretize suggestions; prepare special material and set various targets,

30 August . All Regions must hold their Regional Conferences by the end of August.

All Regions to review their membership prior to their Regional Congresses.

7 Nov.. This event to be marked nationally. The political

committee which is to be constituted as per recommendation of the workshop to look into activities for the day.

Labour actions: . The Party must be present in the picket lines during worker actions. During the pickets the Party stamp must be clearly visible in the form of specific Party slogans etc.


Constituent Assembly campaign

Retrenchment/Unemployment - 'Jobs for all' Anti-privatisation

Living wage

Bread price

Rent crisis

Electricity cuts



*The Political Committee must identify the respective campaigns and identify issues raised in the campaigns.


Party media has a political role.

If Umsebenzi comes our more frequently then it can intervene politically. The solving of the distribution problem will enhance its political role.

*Greater local input is required in the form of photos, cuttings, articles e.g. Shaft no.4.

-Translations were discussed, look at the recommendations.


Internal party education is crucial.  The following abroad areas identified at present:

1. What is our Party? The history of the Party.

2. Manual.  Introduction of basic concepts of historical materialism.

3. Study Party programme. (Umsebenzi discussion series.)

4. The economy.

Various suggestions were made around education. The need for the Party to develop educators. Also to go into areas as mobile units etc.

The need for the use of visual aide e.g videos etc.

It was emphasised that there is a dynamic link between education and organisation.

16 – 17 February 1991

Party Building National Workshop : Recommendations

Our Party held a two day workshop which was attended by Fifty delegates representing the six Party regions.

At this workshop the following recommendations emerged:

1. That a National Political Committee be formed which will be replicated at Regional and later at lower levels of Party structures.

2.  A National Organising committee be formed, Such a National Organising committee will meet regularly with the full-time regional organisers.

This committee will give content to what has been mapped out in broad terms by the workshop in the following areas:

- . guidelines be drafted on intermediary Party structures between Regional and Branch levels.

- . to elaborate on Industrial sub-committees which will be responsible for recruitment in Industrial areas. Furthermore, there is a need to look into an Industrial Sub-committee which will look into labour issues.

- . to review the whole debate on the size of Party branches.

- . to review subs.

It was, however, agreed that we continue to be guided by the original position of branches constituted of 25 to 50 members.

3.  A Party Congress Committee will be formed. This committee will be faced with the important political task of reformulating the existing Party Programme. The drafts will be circulated to Party units for discussion prior to Congress.

4. Within one month of this workshop a short simple leaflet on "why you should join the Communist Party" will be prepared for circulation to regions. All regions should immediately ensure translations into the dominant languages in their respective regions.

5. Regions must assume the responsibility of translating parts or the complete Umsebenzi, into various languages.  Contribution to Umsebenzi in various languages should be encouraged.

6.  Party membership was initially set at being reviewed by April 1991. The workshop decided that this be adapted and that Party membership be reviewed prior to the Regional Congresses which are due to take place by end of August 1991.  Thereafter Party membership will be review on an annual basis.

7.  Within three weeks from this workshop the Secretariat will circulate guidelines on the conduct of Party members.

8. There is a need for the Party to have a more aggressive approach to the Commercial Press.

9.  Resources. By mid- March 1991 all regions must be provided with transport. Regions should send their recommendations on transport required.

Other equipment such as computers etc for Regions must be looked into.

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.