This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
4. The Forces of Change
The system of colonialism and racial oppression in our country is powerfully challenged and will be overthrown by the unified struggle of national liberation and working class movements that have grown, developed in experience and maturity and become steeled in many years of complex and difficult struggle.
The impact of capitalism destroyed the traditional economy and fabric of African tribal society. It scattered and disarmed the tribal armies. It turned the chiefs from people's leaders into instruments for implementing the laws devised by Whites. But the spirit of the African people was not broken. Patriotic African intellectuals, with the backing of many chiefs, began forming a new type of organisation, a national political organisation of the African people. A number of such bodies was formed, and in 1912 these united to form the African National Congress. The establishment of the A.N.C. is a profoundly important landmark not only for South Africa, but for our Continent as a whole. It was the forerunner of similar bodies in very many other countries of the Continent, movements which led the African revolution, and today take part in African governments.
As a national liberation organisation, the A.N.C. does not represent any single class, or any one ideology. It is representative of all the classes and strata which make up African society in this country. With the advance of members of the working class, together with revolutionary young intellectuals, to leading positions in the A.N.C., the organisation steadily developed and went forward in its policy and methods of struggle. Congress has steadfastly rejected narrow nationalism, Black chauvinism, antiCommunism and other outlooks which are harmful to the people's cause. It was precisely on these issues that the rightwing PanAfricanist Congress broke away from the A.N.C. to form a rival organisation. The A.N.C. has formed a firm alliance between itself and patriotic organisations of the Indian and Coloured people, the democratic Europeans and the nonracial Trade Union movementthe Congress Alliance. Even though driven underground since 1960, the A.N.C. has carried on the struggle.
The representative organisation of the Indian people is the South African Indian Congress. For many years, under the leadership of representatives of the wealthy commercial classes, the Indian Congress contented itself with sectional struggles, aimed at maintaining and improving the status of its community alone as a minority group. But, in the middle forties, a dynamic new leadership, representing the mass of exploited Indian workers and peasants, as well as radical intellectuals who had absorbed the teachings of MarxismLeninism and identified themselves with the working class, pointed out that the future of the Indian community in South Africa was dependent upon the establishment of conditions of true democracy for the country as a whole. The struggle of the Indian people was one with that of the African national movement for freedom and equality for all in this country. This new policy and leadership was accepted by the great majority of the members of the South African Indian Congress, and since that time this Congress has taken full part in the major struggles of the Congress Alliance.
The pioneer Coloured political movement, the African People's Organisation, conducted militant campaigns and pursued a radical united front policy, but this tradition was not maintained. For many years, leadership of the Coloured people's organisations and trade unions was dominated by middle class elements, who either collaborated openly in the maintenance of White supremacy, or - under the cover of wordy denunciations of "Herrenvolkisrn" - preached a policy of abstention from political activity and hostility to the African national liberation movement. In recent years the Nationalist government's attacks on their longstanding rights have led to a revival of militancy among the Coloured people. The masses of Coloured working people and radical youth are turning increasingly towards the Coloured People's Congress, an ally of the African National Congress.
There has always been a minority of Whites in South Africa who fought against racial oppression and courageously came out for the rights of the oppressed. The African people will never forget the memory of such democrats, Christians, liberals and Communists as van der Kemp, Pringle, Olive and W. P. Schreiner, Ivon Jones and S. P. Bunting, who swam against the stream of racialism. From its formation in 1953 until it was outlawed in 1962, the Congress of Democrats represented the most advanced and progressive section of the White population. In spite of unceasing persecution by the State which banned and restricted the greater part of its membership, the C.O.D. joined all the major campaigns of the people for freedom, and shared all the trials and tribulations of the other members of the Congress Alliance.
This alliance headed by the African National Congress, which has been joined by the lionracial Congress of Trade Unions, has adopted a revolutionary democratic programme, emanating from the masses, the Freedom Charter, which envisages profound democratic changes in every field of South Africa's political, social, economical and cultural life. During the grim years of the Nationalist regime, the Congresses have conducted one stirring campaign after anotherthe May Day and June 26 strikes of 1950 and many general strikes in the years that followed, the campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws and the Congress of the People are examples. In its foreign relations, the Congress Alliance has done much to bring the outrages of apartheid to the attention of the outside world, and to evoke acts of international solidarity which have greatly inspired and encouraged the peoples of our country.
The labour movement of South Africa has reflected, in an especially acute way, the profound international cleavage of the working class between reformists and revolutionaries, socialdemocrats and Communists. It began almost exclusively as a movement of the White skilled workers. During the first quarter of the present century the White working class fought many a bitter and stirring struggle against the monopoly capitalists. The miners and other White workers of the Witwatersrand formed armed commandos to defend themselves against the attempts of the Smuts government in 1922, to smash their strike by force. But, led by Rightwing renegades from socialism, such as (erased) and bribed by concessions and privileges extended to them by the monopolists, the great majority of the White workers repudiated the principles of socialism and working class unity. So far from joining bands with their oppressed and exploited fellowworkers of a dark skin colour, they have turned their backs on them and joined in an alliance with the White capitalists and wealthy farmers to maintain White colonialism and to subjugate and exploit the nonWhite peoples. The years since 1922 have seen a steady decline in the militancy and classconsciousness of the White workers. The once powerful Labour Party is dead. The White trade unions - with a few honourable exceptions - collaborated in the implementation of apartheid in industry and job reservation. In fact, most of these unions have become little more than societies to preserve a White monopoly of skilled jobs. For the most part, the White workers of this country support their capitalist rulers and exploiters in the maintenance of White supremacy and colonialism.
The labour laws of South Africa, accepted in the main by the White trade unionists, have compelled the African workers to form their own trade unions. In spite of all the disabilities under which they have to function, these unions have played a notable part in raising the wages and improving the conditions of th& workers. They have educated the workers in the spirit of class unity and international solidarity. Following the exclusion of African trade unions from the Whitedominated Trade Union Council in 1956, these came together with workers of other races who remained loyal to the principles of trade unionism, to establish the South African Congress of Trade Unions. S.A.C.T.U. has consistently campaigned to organise the hundreds of thousands of unorganised workers, particularly the Africans. It has opposed every manifestation of racialism and White privilege in the economic life of the country and in the trade union movement. It has endorsed the Freedom Charter and played an important part in the Congress Alliance. The Congress of Trade Unions has consistently upheld the principle of working class internationalism as expressed by the World Federation of Trade Unions. It has opposed the efforts of the socalled International Confederation of Free Trade Unions to split the workers' movement in Africa and elsewhere. S.A.C.T.U. is a foundation member of the AllAfrica Federation of Trade Unions.
Established on July 29, 1921, the Communist Party of South Africa was the first MarxistLeninist Party on the African Continent. It was itself based mainly on the International Socialist League, which in 1915, under the leadership of men like Bill Andrews, had broken from the S.A. Labour Party over the issue of opposition to the imperialist war. It spread socialist teachings among the people and strove unceasingly against racialism and for the unity of the working class. It demanded complete freedom and equality for the African and other subject nationalities and led the workers and oppressed people in struggles many of them historic, against pass laws and unemployment, against fascism at home and abroad, and for a democratic South Africa. The Communist Party brought about profound changes in the thinking, political outlook, demands, forms of organisation and methods of struggle of the oppressed and exploited people of this country. Members of the Party worked hard to build up the trade union movement, the African National Congress and other organisations of the people. Hated, slandered and persecuted by the ruling classes, the Party grew to become the outstanding champion of the oppressed and working people in every struggle against exploitation and national oppression. Nevertheless, despite its great achievements and struggles, the Communist Party of South Africa proved incapable of surviving under illegal conditions. Legalistic illusions had penetrated into the ranks of the Party, including its leading personnel. The Party was unprepared and unable to work underground. These errors culminated in the dissolution of the Party upon the passing of the Suppression of Communism Act by the Nationalist Government in 1950. Under this law hundreds of "listed" Communists were victimised, banned, banished and forced to resign from organisations which they had given their lives to build.
The Nationalists boasted that they had "destroyed Communism in South Africa" it was an idle boast. Defying the Nazi laws of the Nationalists, the most steeled and determined Communists of South Africa came together in 1953 to form the South African Communist Party, to carry forward and raise still higher the banner of the Communist movement under the new and testing conditions of illegality. Combining legal mass work with the illegal work of building the MarxistLeninist Party as the disciplined vanguard of the fight for freedom, democracy, peace and socialism, the South African Communist Party is the heir to the tradition created by the Communist Party of South Africa. It is a tradition of unflinching struggle against oppression and exploitation, for unity of the workers and freedomloving people of our country, irrespective of race and colour.
The South African Communist Party is the party of the working class, the disciplined and advanced class which has no property stakes in presentday South Africa and has been the core and inspiration of other classes in every struggle of our time. The working class seeks a close alliance with the rural people, and with the urban middle classes and intellectuals in the national democratic revolution. Only under its leadership can the full aims of the revolution be achieved. It is to enable the working class to fulfill this historic mission that the workers have founded and built their own political party, the South African Communist Party.
The historic task of the Communist Party is the abolition of the capitalist system, and through socialist transformation of the economy of the country, to attain a classless Communist Society. However, At a time when the majority of the people are subject to the most vicious and degrading national oppression, when White colonialist reaction imposes a rule of terror on the whole population and sacrifices the people's living standards on the altar of White supremacy, the central and immediate task of the Communist Party is to lead the fight for the national liberation of the nonWhite people, and for the victory of the democratic revolution. The Party will strive continuously for the building and strengthening of a united front of national liberation, the unity of Communists and nonCommunists, the unity of freedomloving people of all nationalities and all anticolonialist classes in the national democratic revolution.
The South African Communist Party is a part of the world Communist movement. It participates in meetings of fraternal Communist and Workers' Parties and abides loyally by their common decisions. True to the principles of working class internationalism, the Party works for unity of the workers of the whole world, and especially of the MarxistLeninist parties. The Party works for the unity of all antiimperialist and sane forces in the world in the lifeanddeath struggle against a devastating nuclear war, for peaceful coexistence of nations of whatever stage of social development, for universal and complete disarmament. This policy coincides with the fundamental interests of the people of our country. It is in harmony with the aims of the independence and integrity of our country and of allAfrican cooperation and unity
The structure of the Party is based on the principles of democratic centralism. While demanding strict discipline, the subordination of a minority to the majority and of lower Party organs to higher organs, and the prohibition of all factions within the Party, it upholds the principle of democratic election of all leading organs of the Party, collective leadership and full debate of policy. The curtailment of some aspects of democratic procedure is inevitable under illegal conditions; this temporary situation must be compensated for by all members, regarding it as their duty to participate in the formulation of policy and by the leadership, encouraging and making it possible for them to do so.