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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
5. The National Democratic Revolution
The Nationalist Party, which has governed South Africa since 1948, has brought this country to the verge of revolution. The Afrikaner nationalist movement, which was always corrupted by White chauvinism, has today lost all trace of the antiimperialist element it once had, during the period of its struggle against British rule. Dominated by the Afrikaner capitalist class and largescale farmers, the Nationalist Party is controlled by the fascist "Broederbond" secret society. Deeply influenced by the Nazi movement in Germany, it adopted many of Hitler's ideas and worked for a fascist victory in the second world war. The Nationalist Party has become the instrument of the most racialistic and imperialistic sections of the capitalist class. The declaration of a Republic in May 1961 in no way lessened the dependence of the South African economy on British and American financecapital. The Republic left the British Commonwealth not by choice of the Nationalist government but because the unpopularity of its racial policy among African and Asian member countries faced it with expulsion. In all major questions of international policy the Nationalist government identifies itself with the most aggressive elements of international imperialism in the United States, Britain, France, West Germany and Japan. It is dependent on financial and armaments aid from these countries to maintain its rule in South Africa.
The Nationalist Party relies on violence and terror to maintain itself in office. It has disfranchised the few nonWhites who once enjoyed the vote and otherwise altered the electoral system to ensure that it cannot be removed by Parliamentary means. It has outlawed workers' and liberation organisations, meetings, newspapers and other publications, and resorted to arbitrary bannings, deportations, arrests, confinements and housearrests of freedomfighters. It has closed the door to every possibility of peaceful advance of the nonWhite peoples to social, political and economic rights. It is mobilising and arming the White population for the express purpose of "shooting down the black masses." Already its police have committed massacres of unarmed Africans, such as those of Sharpeville and Langa, which have shocked the whole world. A powerful international movement has developed, supported by African, Asian and socialist governments, for the diplomatic, economic, cultural and sporting isolation of South Africa, and for boycotts and sanctions against the Republic. The policy of the Nationalist government has brought about a state of permanent and deepening crisis in the country.
The other White parliamentary parties can offer no way out of this crisis. The United Party, traditionally the instrument of the goldmining interests and the Englishspeaking capitalists, laid the basis for all the excesses of the Nationalists during the many years in which it governed South Africa prior to 1948. As the main "opposition" group in Parliament it has steadily retreated before Nationalist reaction. It is compromised by its own antidemocratic class character and afraid lest genuine opposition to the government might result in disturbances which would adversely affect business and the confidence of foreign investors. It vies with the Nationalists in appealing to the racial prejudices of the White voters. It has actively or passively assisted the Nationalist Party at every stage of its march to fascism.
Disgusted with the surrender of the United Party and alarmed at the dangers to the country's stability and future presented by Nationalist policy, a number of former U.P. M.P.s and members broke away in 1959 to form the Progressive Party. Backed by influential imperialist interests, such as the Oppenheimer mining group, and supported by a section of urban, middleclass Whites, the Progressive Party seeks to avert the coming democratic revolution in South Africa by offering a "qualified" franchise to middleclass nonWhites and concessions to ease the intolerable burden of apartheid.
A more radical tendency among progressive middleclass and intellectual circles is represented by the Liberal Party. This Party proposes a universal franchise, but since it expressly confines itself to "parliamentary and constitutional methods," it suggests no realistic or convincing method to obtain this. Its insistence on antiCommunist and antisocialist policies and its failure to attack the roots of raceoppression in the economy of the country seriously lessen the Liberal Party's usefulness and effectiveness. Its adherence to the "West" in the cold war continually conflict with its opposition to the Nationalist government, and make the liberation movement doubt its reliability as an ally in the struggle.
The deeprooted crisis in South Africa cannot be resolved by the Nationalist government, using methods of force and violence or attempting to deceive home and world opinion with fraudulent schemes of "Bantu selfgovernment" Nor can it be resolved by a mere change of government to another section of the White ruling class which would make superficial concessions while leaving the essence of the colonial system and monopoly control intact. The crisis springs from the fundamental contradictions of South African society: between the oppressed people and their rulers; between South African colonialism and the worldwide movement against colonialism and imperialism; between the working class and the rural masses, together with the middle classes, on the one side, and the handful of monopoly capitalists on the other.
This crisis can only be resolved by a revolutionary change in the social system which will overcome these conflicts by putting an end to the colonial oppression of the African and other nonWhite people. The immediate and imperative interests of all sections of the South African people demand the carrying out of such a change, a national democratic revolution which will overthrow the colonialist state of White supremacy and establish an independent state of National Democracy in South Africa.
The main content of this revolution is the national liberation of the African people. Its fulfilment is, at the same time, in the deepest interests of the other nonWhite groups, for in achieving their liberty the African people will at the same time put an end to all forms of racial discrimination. It is in the interests of the White workers, middle class and professional groups to whom the establishment of genuine democracy and the elimination of fascism and monopoly rule offers the only prospect of a decent and stable future.
The main aims and lines of the South African democratic revolution have been defined in the Freedom Charter, which has been endorsed by the African National Congress and the other partners in the national liberation alliance. The Freedom Charter is not a programme for socialism. It is a common programme for a free, democratic South Africa, agreed on by socialists and nonsocialists. At the same time, in order to guarantee the abolition of racial oppression and White minority domination, the Freedom Charter necessarily and realistically calls for profound economic changes: drastic agrarian reform to restore the land to the people; widespread nationalisation of key industries to break the grip of White monopoly capital on the main centres of the country's economy; radical improvements in the conditions and standards of living for the working people. The Communist Party pledges its unqualified support for the Freedom Charter. It considers that the achievement of its aims will answer the pressing and immediate needs of the people and lay the indispensable basis for the advance of our country along noncapitalist lines to a communist and socialist future. To win these aims is the immediate task of all the oppressed and democratic people of South Africa, headed by the working class and its party, the Communist Party
In their long and difficult struggles the national liberation organisations of South Africa, including the Communist Party, have always sought peaceful methods of struggle. In the past they have counselled nonviolent methods not because they are cowardly or believers in pacifist illusions but because they wished to avoid the bitterness and bloodshed of civil war. But the ruling class has invariably replied to nonviolence with violence; to peaceful protests with suppression and police massacres of unarmed men, women and children. The Nationalist government has closed, or is closing, every channel of legal protest and normal political activity. It is openly preparing for civil war.
In the face of these provocations, the liberation movement has had to reconsider its attitude towards "nonviolence" as a universal principle. The patience of the people is not endless. They are determined to win freedom in our lifetime. They would prefer to achieve their liberation by nonviolent means. But today they are left with no alternative but to defend themselves and hit back; to meet violence with violence. The Nationalists are forcing a solution upon South Africa in which patriots and democrats will take up arms to defend themselves, organise guerilla armies and undertake various acts of armed resistance, culminating in a mass insurrection against White domination. In such a conflict, however long and costly, the fighters for freedom must win, for they will enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of the people of our country and the whole world.
The Communist Party considers that the slogan of "nonviolence" is harmful to the cause of the democratic national revolution in the new phase of the struggle, disarming the people in the face of the savage assaults of the oppressor, dampening their militancy, undermining their confidence in their leaders. At the same time, the Party opposes undisciplined acts of individual terror. It rejects theories that all nonviolent methods of struggle arc useless or impossible, and will continue to advocate and work for the use of all forms of struggle by the people, including noncollaboration, strikes, boycotts and demonstrations.
The Party does not dismiss all prospects of nonviolent transition to the democratic revolution. This prospect will be enhanced by the development of revolutionary and militant people's forces. The illusion that the White minority can rule forever over a disarmed majority will crumble before the reality of an armed and determined people. The crisis in the country, and the contradictions in the ranks of the ruling class, will deepen. The possibility would be opened of a peaceful and negotiated transfer of power to the representatives of the oppressed majority of the people.
Whether its end is brought about through such a peaceful transition or by insurrection, the vicious type of colonialism embodied in the present Republic of South African cannot long endure. Its downfall and the victory of the South African democratic revolution are certain in the near future.
The Communist Party unreservedly supports and participates in the struggle for national liberation headed by the African National Congress in alliance with the S.A. Indian Congress, the Congress of Trade Unions, the Coloured People's Congress and other patriotic groups of democrats, women, peasants and youth. With them, it demands the immediate summoning of a sovereign national convention to draw up and promulgate the constitution of a state of national democracy in South Africa. It considers that it is important and urgent for all the forces and movements for freedom to agree upon all their main goals and aims at this time.
It is in this situation that the Communist Party advances its immediate proposals before the workers and democratic people of South Africa. These are not proposals for a socialist state. They are proposals for the building of a national democratic state. These proposals are put forward within the framework of the Freedom Charter which the Party considers to be suitable as a general statement of the aims of a state of national democracy. Our proposals are not directed towards communists and socialists alone, but are submitted as a basis for discussion for all democratic and patriotic people, and in particular for members and supporters of the national liberation and trade union movements.