23 May 2012

Arusha Declaration

National Democratic Revolution, Part 8c

Arusha Declaration

So far in this series we have moved through five decades from the 1920s to the 1970s, with sufficient detail to demonstrate that in the world at large and in South Africa in particular, conscious, deliberate National Democratic Revolution was the main historical process under way in that time. In Africa, the process gathered speed from 1960.

On 25 May 1963, earlier regional initiatives, especially the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA), of which Tanzania had been a leading member, gave way for the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Africa Day is consequently celebrated each year towards the end of May.

The last supporting document to the Morogoro Strategy and Tactics is named after another Tanzanian town: Arusha. It is the famous (attached) 1967 “Arusha Declaration” of Julius Nyerere and the ruling TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) party of Tanganyika at the time, on Socialism and Self-Reliance. (Tanganyika and Zanzibar united in the following year as Tanzania, and TANU united with the Afro-Shirazi Party in 1977 to become the Chama cha Mapinduzi – “the party of the revolution”, CCM).

This document reflects TANU’s view of the political economy of their country and how it could be led to a better condition (i.e. a better life for all). This document is now over forty years old but at the time of the release of Nelson Mandela, for example, it was only a little over twenty years old. Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College was established in Morogoro only about a decade after the Arusha Declaration. (In those days “Arusha Declaration” was slang for “going by foot”).

The document has a peculiar understanding of socialism, which it calls both a policy, and also a belief. Nyerere’s 1962 pamphlet “Ujamaa – the Basis of African Socialism” (also attached) calls socialism “an attitude of mind”. Peasants can be as socialist as workers, according to these documents. Yet Tanzania did have an understanding that a purely peasant family was not fully socialised. They encouraged villagisation and rural party organisation according to the “tenth house” (chumba kumi) principle. The document tries to reconcile socialist aspirations with peasant facts of life.

The document is both national-democratic and developmentalist. It prefigured much of what has happened since, including in South Africa, and which is still happening. It prefigures President Zuma’s sentiments about his May, 2010 visit to Sweetwaters, for example, except that South Africans do not say that “money is not the weapon”. On the contrary, in South Africa money, translating into “delivery”, is nearly always thought to be the weapon of development.

The NDR has constantly been debated, and continues to  be debated.

22 May 2012

Dealing with the Anti-Communist Tendency

National Democratic Revolution, Part 8b

Dealing with the Anti-Communist Tendency

Following the African National Congress National Executive Committee meeting of 14-16 May 2010, it was reported in the mass media that ANC President Jacob Zuma had referred in his summing-up to the story of the Gang of Eight, and had mentioned at least one of the eight (Kgokong, also known as Mqota) by name.

The National Union of Mineworkers Central Committee, meeting 13-14 May 2010, also resolved as follows:

“CC noted with dismay the current anti-communist tendencies publicly displayed through public platforms and at times hidden under questions already addressed by the SACP CC in the response to the Gang of 8 in 1976. CC rejects any insinuation that the ANC is under serious threat by Communists and the CC further confirms that the ANC class character should be defended, in fact any attempt to chase Communists away or removing them from leadership of the ANC should be rejected by members of the ANC. CC further confirms that any member irrespective of other political activeness who gets nominated and elected in the ANC elective conference is nominated and elected as ANC member by ANC members, this means that there are no Communist or SACP representatives in any structure of the ANC .”

The full text of the 1976 SACP CC statement on the Gang of Eight is contained in Document 131 of the volume “South African Communists Speak”, published in 1981, and in the African Communist, 2nd Quarter, 1976. The document, called “The Enemy Hidden Under the Same Colour”, is also archived here. It directly quotes from, and reinforces in argument, two of the other main documents used here this week: the “Road to South African Freedom” and the (Morogoro) “Strategy and Tactics”.

This Gang-of-Eight document is 14 pages and nearly 9000 words long. For that reason the shorter 1962 document issued by the SACP following the breakdown of the South Africa United Front because of the treachery of the PAC was preferred for discussion, and is the one attached and also available from the link below.

The 1976 CC statement makes an emphatic the link between the two occasions. It refers to the Gang of Eight, and the PAC, as “Birds of a Feather”. More precisely, it says:

“…like the PAC before them, this group is the expression of a political trend which seeks to dilute and eliminate the revolutionary content of South Africa's liberation struggle. Basically it wants the ANC to return to a type of nationalism which serves only a small elite and not the masses of the oppressed people. The social base for this tendency is to be found amongst those classes and groups within the oppressed who seek the kind of 'liberation' which will, at best, replace the white exploiter with a black exploiter.”

The South Africa United Front, made up of the ANC, PAC, SWANU and SAIC had been put together after Sharpeville. The attached and linked document is a contemporary article by Dr Dadoo about the break-up of the Front and the causes of the break-up, which had to do with the behaviour of the PAC, in particular. This document is useful for its description of the political structures and for Dadoo’s enunciation in it of the general principles of united fronts (which the PAC had violated).

Once again, like all of the main theoretical and programmatic documents of the movement, these are about National Democratic Revolution in particular. More than most, they deal with it directly and in its most difficult aspects. The 1976 document unequivocally denounces “the type of nationalism which is not revolutionary but reactionary”.

It goes on to say:

“Our movement has never hidden the fact that there is a relationship between the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party on those questions of policy which both organisations share in common. In particular both organisations believe that in the present stage of the revolutionary process in South Africa, the primary aim is the national liberation of the most exploited and most oppressed section of the South African people - the Africans.”

This formulation, which is cheaply denounced as “stagism” by the camp-following panders and scavengers of the revolution, is actually the very understanding which liberates the National Democratic Revolution from “stewing in its own juice” in the manner proposed by the 2007 Strategy and Tactics, as we discussed here. Because as Joe Slovo later wrote in “The South African Working class and the National Democratic Revolution”, (1988, which we will come to next week in this series) the point about a stage is that it is followed by another stage.

Tomorrow, in the interest of an all-round view of the politics of National Democratic Revolution, we will look at Tanzania’s Arusha Declaration, forever associated with the late Mwalimu (“Teacher”) Julius Nyerere.

[Image: Dr Yusuf Dadoo, President of the South African Indian Congress, Chairman of the SACP, Vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Council]

21 May 2012

The Road to South African Freedom

National Democratic Revolution, Part 8a

Road to South African Freedom

Among other things we are trying, in this short series, to recover the fact that the National Democratic Revolution, taken in full, is a project whose origins can be found at least 90 years ago, and which has a continuous history from that time onwards, both outside and inside South Africa.

We are trying to trace the main steps of the NDR in South Africa and we have consequently touched, among others, upon the Black Republic Thesis, the Cradock Letter, the Doctors’ Pact, the Defiance Campaign, the Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter, the Peasants’ Revolt, and now the Strategy and Tactics document of the Morogoro, Tanzania conference of the ANC in 1969, which is our main document in this part.

The Treason Trial that followed the Congress of the People came to an end in 1959 with the acquittal of all the defendants. In the same year, the African Communist magazine was launched from exile. It was the first public manifestation of the South African Communist Party, re-established and renamed after the banning and dissolution of the CPSA in 1950.

Between 1959 and the 1969 Morogoro Conference, a number of things happened. New campaigns were launched, but came to an abrupt end following the Sharpeville massacre and the banning of the ANC and the PAC in 1960. Umkhonto we Sizwe was launched in 1961. The raid on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia took place in 1963. It was a great setback to the movement.

The SACP published the Road to South African Freedom in 1962. It is probably the first published document of the SACP, apart from a few quarterly editions of the African Communist (the “AC”) that had appeared up to that time.

The Road to South African Freedom is about National Democratic Revolution. This can be seen from its section specifically on the NDR, where the document spells out that:

“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 non-White 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…”

Things that were said and written in those days continue to be relevant. In a document we will review tomorrow, it is recorded that by 1928, after less than seven years of existence, the Communist Party of South Africa had 1,750 members, and that 1,600 of them were Africans, using the classification of the time. In the 1960s and 1970s there were struggles within the movement that were essentially about class, but which often focused on those few members of the SACP who were white, Indian or Coloured.

We will return to this question in the next post. Meanwhile, let us celebrate two white comrades who must surely have assisted with the publication of the Road to South African Freedom, Hilda and Rusty Bernstein, pictured above.

  • The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Road to South African Freedom, 1962, SACP: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

20 May 2012

Strategy and Tactics

National Democratic Revolution, Part 8

Strategy and Tactics

“The art of revolutionary leadership consists in providing leadership to the masses and not just to its most advanced elements… what appears to be 'militant' and 'revolutionary' can often be counter-revolutionary.”

“The enemy is as aware as we are that the side that wins the allegiance of the people, wins the struggle. It is naive to believe that oppressed and beleaguered people cannot temporarily, even in large numbers, be won over by fear, terror, lies, indoctrination, and provocation to treat liberators as enemies. In fact history proves that without the most intensive all-round political activity this is the more likely result. It is therefore all the more vital that the revolutionary leadership is nation-wide and has its roots both inside and outside the actual areas of combat. Above all, when victory comes, it must not be a hollow one. To ensure this we must also ensure that what is brought to power is not an army but the masses as a whole at the head of which stands its organised political leadership.”

“In the last resort it is only the success of the national democratic revolution which - by destroying the existing social and economic relationships - will bring with it a correction of the historical injustices perpetrated against the indigenous majority…”

The above lines are taken from the ANC’s [Morogoro] Strategy and Tactics document of 1969 (attached). It can be taken as the idea of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in a nutshell. What must be brought to power is not an army, but the masses.

Politics is in the subjective realm. Politics is about the essence of subjectivity - freedom. But politics can only have an existence within the limits of objective realities.

Objectively, the NDR has a steadily-built organisational history of personalities, of events, and of documents. It has worked within the several class components, and at the same time it changed by its action the balance of class forces in South Africa.

After to the Freedom Charter, the original 1969 ANC Strategy and Tactics document is the next most prominent of all the NDR documents. In discussing the military activities of Umkhonto we Siswe (MK), the Morrogoro S&T outlines alliance politics in terms that are sometimes crystal-clear, and sometimes not so clear. For an example of the latter, the class nature of the enemy is not described in very direct terms in the S&T document itself. Still, the Morogoro S&T is the best one to use as the basis for a discussion of the subjective political action of this period, and for some of its remarks on the underlying class realities.

The new version of “Strategy and Tactics” passed at the 2007 52nd National Conference of the ANC at Polokwane supplies a concise description of how, in the past, the enemy was defined, thus (from paragraph 96 of that document):

“The liberation movement defined the enemy, on the other hand, as the system of white minority domination with the white community being the beneficiaries and defenders of this system. These in turn were made up of workers, middle strata and capitalists. Monopoly capital was identified as the chief enemy of the NDR.”

Unfortunately this clarity of the latest S&T document is only in relation to the past. In the paragraphs that follow the above, it can be seen that the current S&T rehabilitates the monopoly capitalists as part of “concentric circles” of “drivers of change”. This new S&T was drafted by the “1996 class project”, i.e. those who were removed from the leadership at the same conference but who nevertheless managed to get their version of the S&T passed. It holds out an imaginary scenario where the liberation movement mediates and manages relations between all classes in a static, eternal and practically class-neutral “National Democratic Society”.

Whereas the 1969 S&T never mentioned any such static “National Democratic Society”, but was, on the contrary, unequivocally in favour of a bold transfer of class power.

“In essence, a revolutionary policy is one which holds out the quickest and most fundamental transformation and transfer of power from one class to another,” it said.

19 May 2012

The Petty Bourgeoisie and Poujadism

National Democratic Revolution, Part 7b

The Petty Bourgeoisie and Poujadism

Last in this section on class alliance, which has looked at peasants and traditional leaders as well as at bourgeois and proletarians, we now consider the petty-bourgeoisie, a large class in South Africa, and one that includes a high proportion of the very poor. The hawkers and the “survivors” are members of this class, as much as the small shopkeepers and small business people (the so-called “SMMEs”).

The petty bourgeoisie are the urban equivalent of the peasant class. They share with the peasantry the peculiar characteristic of being what Karl Marx called (in the “18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”) a “sack of potatoes”. Such a class has minimal internal linkages. It exists as an aggregate, and not as an organism. In chemical terms, it is a mixture, and not a compound.

This is in contrast with the working proletariat, which is a socialised, or in other words, interdependent class. For this among other reasons, the working class is a more advanced class, capable of giving leadership to the peasantry and to the petty-bourgeoisie.

In his address at Joe Slovo’s graveside on the 15th anniversary of Slovo’s death, 6 January 2010, the current General Secretary of the SACP Cde Dr Blade Nzimande said, concerning the leadership the working-class party must give:

“We must also recruit amongst small businesses, who continue to be suffocated by monopoly capital in general, the capitalist malls built in the townships that are killing their small businesses, and the ‘tenderpreneurs’ who continue to enrich themselves often through corrupt tenders at the expense of honest small entrepreneurs who do not have political connections in the state. We must strengthen small entrepreneurs and defeat ‘tenderpreneurs’! We need to support skills development for co-operatives, small and micro enterprises. We need to deepen our struggle for the transformation of our financial sector to benefit the workers and the poor, including co-operatives and small and micro businesses.

“As we have done over the past 16 years and before, we need to engage and seek to influence the terms and conditions under which a new black section of the bourgeoisie emerges and grow. We need to fight for truly broad based empowerment and seek to direct investment into the productive sectors of our economy that is creating jobs. We need to continuously expose and challenge self-enrichment of a few and fight the emergence of a highly dependent compradorial bourgeoisie! In this struggle we must also seek to expose opportunistic use of the language and demands of the working class in order to hide the accumulation agenda of a compradorial bourgeoisie. This is the meaning of Slovo’s life, struggles and observations today!”

The above-quoted speech was all the more valuable for the fact that the Marxist literature devoted to the petty bourgeoisie in our time is pitifully small, worldwide. We now go to a recollection of France in the 1950s (but written later) for an account of the phenomenon of “Poujadism”. This was a petty-bourgeois uprising that allied itself, in its beginning and at local level, with the communists, until it degenerated towards near-fascism. See above for a picture of Pierre Poujade (1920-2003), the leader of this movement.

In their relations with the intermediate classes, history shows that the communists must proceed with great care, and must not lose focus. But it also shows that these classes are real, and can potentially have a self-conscious and beneficial development, especially if aided by the always-better-organised working class. But if petty-bourgeois populism gets out of hand, which it can do, then the distance between it and fascism can be covered in a short time.

Foster’s account is written from a somewhat sectarian point of view. It disparages the efforts of the French communist party, but it does not say that the vanguard party should not give leadership to the petty bourgeoisie. On the contrary, Foster confirms this necessity. All he can manage to say against the communists is that if the Trotskyists had been in charge they would have done better. This is a hollow claim.

More on the nature and the problems of the petty bourgeoisie can be found in Engels’ (e.g. “The Housing Question”), Rosa Luxemburg’s (e.g. “Reform or Revolution?”), and Lenin’s (e.g. “The Tax in Kind”) writings.

18 May 2012

Citizen and Subject

National Democratic Revolution, Part 7a

Citizen and Subject

Dar-es-Salaam-trained Ugandan intellectual Mahmood Mamdani’s 1996 book “Citizen and Subject” brings more facts and insights about peasants and workers to assist with understanding class alliance - the condition for the National Democratic Revolution. The chapter attached is the book’s summing-up. Note that Mamdani's sense of the word “subject” in this work is different and opposite from the usual philosophical and communist one. Here it means a subordinate person, as opposed to a free person.

Professor Mamdani [pictured above] has now returned to Uganda to head the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). To read more about this significant move, click here.

While the proletariat seeks allies, so does Imperialism. In this work, Mamdani’s principal insight is to recognise the class alliance typically sought by the Imperialists in neo-colonial Africa countries.

According to Mamdani, the Imperialists prefer to ally with the backward rural feudal elements commonly called “traditional leaders”, “chiefs” or sometimes “Kings” in Africa; and against the modernising bourgeoisie and proletariat of the cities and towns.

To a South African this is not surprising, and indeed Mamdani regards South Africa as the classic case in this regard, although he quotes many other examples in the book.

Mamdani’s analysis is important because it contradicts a common presumption, namely that the Imperialist monopoly-capitalists tend to work through “compradors”, who are local aspirant bourgeoisie, or bourgeoisie-for-rent, who do the Imperialists’ work for them.

Such compradors do exist, and clearly they exist in South Africa. Yet Mamdani’s scheme reflects the facts and history of Imperialism in Africa better, at least up to now. Imperialism is, in general, hostile to the national bourgeoisie. The typical neo-colonial war of recent decades, including both the Iraq war and last year’s NATO war of recolonisation against Libya, is a war of Imperialism against a national bourgeoisie that wants national sovereignty and control over its country’s national resources.

In the light of this analysis it becomes easier to see why it is that the South African proletariat has long been, via the ANC, in alliance with parts of its national bourgeoisie, for national liberation, and against the monopoly-capitalist oppressors with their Imperial-globalist links.

For their part, the Imperialists relied heavily in the past on Bantustan leaders and on the Inkatha Freedom Party, but the ANC was able to form better links with the rural as well as the urban masses, thus achieving a class alliance that could, and did, dominate the country in terms of mass support.

16 May 2012

Peasants’ Revolt

National Democratic Revolution, Part 7

Peasants’ Revolt

The National Democratic Revolution is based upon a clear understanding of objective, dynamic class politics. It proceeds from a class alliance against the oppressor class, towards the fullest possible democracy.

There is an interrelationship between the underlying (objective) class realities and the subjective (conscious) organisational politics of democracy. In these posts, we have tended either to concentrate upon one side of this dialectical relationship, or the other.

The previous two parts of this series have been about the deliberate organisation and mobilisation of the NDR in the 1940s and 1950s. This part is more about objective class realities, or in other words, about Political Economy. The next part will be about organised politics again, and then the final two parts will be of a more synthetic nature, dealing with both subject and object together.

Looking forward, the last revolutionary confrontation is bound to be between the big bourgeoisie and its gravedigger, the proletariat that it must constantly bring into being. Yet it is far from the case that in the present time all other classes have died out in South Africa. For success, these other, relatively minor classes should be allies of the proletariat in the National Democratic Revolution.

Class alliance is essential for the isolation and defeat of the oppressor, so as to deny the oppressor the comfort of support, and to prevent the oppressor from isolating and defeating the working class. The politics of class alliance were practiced in Karl Marx’s time and before that, in the Great French Revolution. Class alliances were again crucial in the Russian and the Chinese Revolutions, to name but two out of many. The hammer-and-sickle emblem of the SACP, first used during the Russian Revolution of 1917, signifies class alliance between workers and peasants.

In order for a class alliance to be possible, the working class must be class conscious, and so must the other classes. The latter often need to be assisted by the working class and by the intellectual partisans of the working class, the Communist Party. Yet there is rather little in the way of class-conscious literature about South Africa’s large petty-bourgeois class, who are for the most part very poor people, and little of a directly political nature about the agricultural petty-bourgeoisie, who are the peasantry, or about the oppressors of the rural petty-bourgeoisie and peasantry, who are South Africa’s bureaucratised feudal class.

The classic exception to this intellectual famine is communist journalist and Rivonia trialist Govan Mbeki’s [pictured] “Peasants’ Revolt”, published in 1964 (see the link below). Other works such as “Landmarked”, by Cherryl Walker (Jacana, 2008) tell us that the huge misery of rural displacement and impoverishment has still not been ameliorated nor turned in a sufficiently positive direction.

[Pictures: Pondoland Revolt, taken by Eli Weinberg; Govan Mbeki]

11 May 2012

The Freedom Charter as part of the NDR

National Democratic Revolution, Part 6a

The Freedom Charter as part of the NDR

This week we are looking at the Congress of the People campaign that in 1953 followed the Defiance of Unjust Laws campaign, which was in turn a consequence of the banning of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1950; plus we are looking at the Freedom Charter.

The 1955 Kliptown Congress of the People, where the Freedom Charter was adopted, was followed by a campaign of conscientisation and positive endorsement of the Freedom Charter both by individuals and by mass organisations. This was interrupted in 1956 by the Treason Trial of most of the Congress Alliance leadership, which was not concluded until 1961, a year after Sharpeville and the banning of the ANC in the year of 1960.

In the previous post on this topic we looked at the “Call to the Congress of the People”, taking it as a typical tactical example of the conscious, deliberate, democratic formation of the collective revolutionary Subject of History through well-designed organisation.

Taken all together, we can see the 1950s as a time of focussed, concerted organising towards the NDR – a “process and not an event”, as we used to say.

This leaves us with the Freedom Charter itself. Nowadays it is often quoted as a bible, and without explicit reference to the NDR.

The Freedom Charter does say that “all who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers”. But it does not specifically say that political parties shall be free to organise. Nor does it say that women should organise as women, or as working women.

Hence there are two lessons coming out of the 1950s. One is the practical example of the movement’s work throughout the decade; the other is the rights-based Charter that was produced in the course of all the work.

This sometimes disconnected contrast between action and prescription remains characteristic of South African politics.

Picture: Chief Albert Luthuli, President of the ANC in the 1950s

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Call to the Congress of the People; Freedom Charter.

·        To download any of the CU courses in PDF files please click here.

10 May 2012

Congress Call

National Democratic Revolution, Part 6

Congress of the People, Kliptown

Congress Call

This post is about the preparations, from 1953 onwards for the 1955 Congress of the People (CoP); the Congress of the People as a definite event; and the Freedom Charter that came out of that event, all considered as historic acts and as part of the process of building the South African National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

What could very advantageously be used for this discussion is an electronic copy of the book by Jeremy Cronin and Raymond Suttner, published in 1986, called “30 Years of the Freedom Charter”, or even just a good extract from the book. But unfortunately the book is not available on the Internet. Instead, it has been polished up and re-published as “50 Years of the Freedom Charter”, in hard copy only. If you can get either one of these editions, do use it to prepare for this discussion.

“The Congress of the People and Freedom Charter Campaign”, by Ismail Vadi, Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 1995, is another book that comes up in searches of the Internet.

According to the small samples of Vadi’s book that can be read on line, (i.e. the Introduction, the Preface, and the Foreword by Walter Sisulu) the planning of the CoP began in 1953, and the campaign was only wound down in 1956, the year of the beginning of the Treason Trial, which was a consequence of the CoP. The Treason Trial continued until 1961, by which time all the defendants had been acquitted.

Another document on the Internet is a short History of the Freedom Charter on the “non-partisan” South African History Online web site, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and other liberal philanthropists. “Non-partisan” in the case of SAHO therefore tends to mean that the Communist Party is mentioned as little as possible. Nevertheless, these pages bear out the extended nature of the political intervention that was the total CoP Campaign, a campaign that was a clear extension of the National Democratic Revolution policy of the recently-banned CPSA and of the Comintern before it, since 1920.

The CoP/Freedom Charter campaign was a determined and deliberately visible construction of a national democratic project. It involved huge masses of people. It was a conscious and fully worked-out design, even to the Nehru-style caps in ANC colours that the Volunteers wore. [See the photo above showing the platform at Kliptown, with a Volunteer in attendance]

There is an error in the SAHO text: There were five organisations involved, not four. SACTU, the non-racial South African Congress of Trade Unions, was a late entry to the CoP but it made the cut and it managed to feature in the “wheel of unity” that nowadays still forms part of both COSATU’s and the ANC’s logos.

The second image shows the document that was used to publicise the Freedom Charter after the Congress, including the newly-pasted “SACTU” acronym, and the “ANC” acronym shifted from the rim to the hub of the wheel. The document includes quotes from the Freedom Charter itself.

This series is about the NDR. This post and the reading are given so as to invite you to consider the whole episode of the CoP campaign from 1953 to 1956, and the subsequent struggle around the Treason Trial, as one of the strongest specific and historical contributions to the NDR.

The document linked below includes the “Call to the Congress of the People”. It was a mobilising flyer and it shows very clearly the large scope and scale of the call to “all Unionwide Organisations”.

The Freedom Charter was much more than a list of demands. It was an integral part of a kind of conscious nation-building which had real revolutionary content and which demonstrated real democracy in action.

Those old comrades laid down an irresistible pattern. It appealed to the heart as well as to the eye and to the mind, and it still surrounds us today, manifested in the continuing Congress Alliance of which the SACP, legal once more, is now an open part. There was never a time when the communists were not part of the National Democratic Revolution. It is ours, as much as it is anybody else’s. It is family.

As it was when Lenin spoke to the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, so it was in 1955. Two things were required. One was a genuine class alliance and unity-in-action against the main oppressor class, the colonialist monopoly capitalists. The other was the deliberate extension of democracy for the creation of a democratic nation. The CoP campaign was exactly in this mould.

03 May 2012

Defiance Campaign

National Democratic Revolution, Part 5b

Defiance Campaign

The document linked below, the third in this part of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) series, was written by the famous “Drum” reporter, Henry Nxumalo [pictured above].

In 1950, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was banned, dissolved itself, and gradually began to reconstitute itself as a clandestine party, the SACP. The Communist Party made no further public statements until 1959, when the first issue of the African Communist magazine was published.

But two other things happened: the remaining, legal components of the movement rallied round to protest against the banning and to support the formerly-CPSA comrades, such as Dadoo, Marks, Bopape and Kotane, as reported by Henry Nxumalo a few months later in the Drum magazine.

Nelson Mandela

The movement was solid. The ANC did not wash off the communists. The NDR was already on firm foundations. The Defiance Against Unjust Laws campaign was led by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela among others. Mandela was that campaign’s Volunteer-in-Chief.

The lead up to this episode is also described in Govan Mbeki’s 1992 book “The Struggle for Liberation in South Africa”. At the beginning of Chapter 7 of that book, Mbeki recalls the joint ANC/CPSA protest against the Suppression of Communism Act on May Day 1950, and the massacre of 18 people on that day by the National Party regime that had come to power in 1948. This is something South Africans should always remember on the May Day holiday each year.

Consequent to this massacre, 26 June 1950 was observed with a stay-away as Freedom Day.

Two years later, the same day, 26 June, was used for the launch of the Defiance of Unjust Laws campaign in 1952, and it was used again in 1955 when the Freedom Charter was adopted on that date at the Congress of the People in Kliptown.

Note that 26 June, our original Freedom Day, having to do with the protests against the banning of the Communist Party, is not a Public Holiday in South Africa. 24 September was made a public “Heritage Day” holiday at the insistence of the Inkatha Freedom Party (see here).

02 May 2012

The Three Doctors’ Pact

National Democratic Revolution, Part 5a

Naicker, Xuma, Dadoo

Three Doctors’ Pact

“This Joint Meeting declares its sincerest conviction that for the future progress, goodwill, good race relations, and for the building of a united, greater and free South Africa, full franchise rights must be extended to all sections of the South African people…”

This second document in the fifth part of the CU NDR series is a transcript of the “Three Doctors’ Pact” of March, 1947. It was a historic pact for democracy and for national liberation, as the above quotation from it shows. There had been nothing like it before.

The three doctors were Dr A B Xuma, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, and Dr Monty Naicker, leaders of the ANC, the Transvaal Indian Congress, and the Natal Indian Congress respectively [Picture: Dr Xuma signing; Dr Dadoo is seen on the right side of the picture, Dr Monty Naicker on the other side].

This Pact was a precursor of the Women’s Charter of 1954 and of the Freedom Charter of 1955, including the latter’s volunteer campaign prior to the Congress of the People and its succeeding campaign of publication after the signing of the Freedom Charter.

The Pact declares “the urgency of cooperation between the non-European peoples and other democratic forces.” It demanded Equal economic and industrial rights and opportunities and the recognition of African trade unions under the Industrial Conciliation Act.”

In other words, it goes beyond the immediate business of unity of African and Indian organizations, and quite explicitly leads the reader towards the grouping of democratic forces that was to be further developed into the Congress of the People eight years later, and into the product of that assembly: The Freedom Charter.

In all of these cases we can see that mass organisations of specific constituencies were able to combine as part of a process of national social development; and more precisely, towards a National Democratic Revolution.

This Doctors’ Pact made a direct reference to the gains of the anti-fascist war, during which South Africa had been allied with the Soviet Union among others, as follows: “every effort [must] be made to compel the Union Government to implement the United Nations' decisions and to treat the Non-European peoples in South Africa in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

To this end the Pact determined that “a vigorous campaign be immediately launched.”

Reaction was closing in. The quasi-fascist and racist National Party was elected to a majority the all-white Parliament in 1948. The Communist Party of South Africa, later reborn as the clandestine South African Communist Party (SACP), finally legalised again in 1990, was banned in 1950. The consequence of this banning was the Defiance of Unjust Laws campaign when the ANC rallied to the defence of the Party, while the Trade Union Movement grew towards the foundation of SACTU in 1955, just in time for it to take part in the Congress of the People.

Many other diverse and historic events took place in the decade between the end of the anti-fascist world war in 1945 and the Congress of the People in 1955, but the general movement is clear: towards a National Democratic Revolution, based on the unity in action of the workers’ Party, the united national liberation movement, and the organised mass trade union movement.