pages 22 - 66
Chapter 2: Concerning the
History of the South
African Liberation Movement.
"To chase the white men from the earth
and drive them to the sea.
The sea that cast them up at first
For AmaXhosa’s curse and bane
Howls for the progeny she nursed
To swallow them again." (1)
Up to the present day there still does not exist any scholarly historical analysis of the South African liberation movement. (2) It goes without saying that the present South African historiographers do not deal with this subject. Schools and universities are compelled to conform to the requirements of the white power elite. It would be illogical to expect the African freedom struggle against white domination and economic exploitation to figure on the syllabus. For the established educational system, being an instrument of oppression, finds itself in marked contrast to the aims of the freedom movement motivated by emancipatory interests and a concern with the social revolution. Thus the historical sciences in South Africa are totally subordinated to the economic and ideological interests of the policy of apartheid and Western imperialism. The then Minister of Native Affairs, Dr. Verwoerd, in a statement to the South African Senate in June 1954, pointed out:
must equip him (the native) to meet the demands which the
economic life of South Africa will impose upon him [...]
It is therefore necessary that native education should be controlled in
such a way, that it should be in accordance with the policy of the
1 A stanza from the war song of the legendary AmaXhosa chief Makana, who during the fifth war of conquest of British imperialism (1818-19) fought fiercely against the colonial armies with guerrilla units organized on supra regional lines. Translated by Thomas Pringle in „Makana’s Gathering“.
2 i.e., an exact historical analysis of the African freedom struggle against European colonial domination from 1652 to the present.
3 Quoted from Brian Bunting, The Rise of the South African Reich. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964), p. 206.
Since, however, most historical works that deal with the subject of South Africa are based on official sources and materials of South African origin, it is obvious, that they make short thrift of the African resistance movement. Nonetheless, some white South African historians or writers have attempted a description of the black freedom struggle. Their analyses are, however, marred by errors and inconsistencies which are due to both, subjective and objective factors.
It was not until 1950
that African historians also engaged in an analysis of the class and race
conflicts besetting South African history. That viewed it as a process,
in which such diverse economic systems as a subsistence economy and capitalism
confronted each other and subsequently clashed. For these authors (4),
the history of South Africa is the history of the African freedom struggles.
Their works in most cases remain fragmentary, and their approach is characterized
by a spirit of partisanship, which determines the direction and content
of their cognitive endeavours cum ira et studio and makes a political
stance part and parcel of the process of scientific research.
Taking its cue from such pioneering ventures, this study proposes to show, that since the early Twenties, Marxism (5) has exerted a positive, sociologically relevant influence on the South African liberation movement, conductive to the advancement of the social revolution (6), and in short, has functioned both as an instrument for explaining social conflicts as well as a decisive social catalyst.
4 e.g. M. Molema, Three Centuries of Wrong, 1952; ‘Mnguni’, A History of South Africa, 1952, Nosipho Majeke, The Role of the Missionaries... , 1952, and Isaac B. Tabata, The Awakening..., 1950.
5 The South African Marxist leaders were trained in the „South African Communist Party“ (1921), the „Lenin Club“ (1928), the „Spartacus Club“ (1934), and the „Fourth International Organization of South Africa“ (1934).
6 Especially in the „All African Convention“ (1936), the „Unity Movement“ (1943), and the „African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa“ (1961).
Since this influence, however, has to be ascribed in the final analysis to the freedom struggle of the oppressed Africans all through their centuries old history of conquest and exploitation, first by European colonialism, then by imperialism, we first have to outline the salient historical developments ever since the total military defeat of the African peoples. As far as the material available to us permits, we shall attempt to deal with aspects of the following four phases of the South African freedom struggle relevant to our work: (7)
A - The transitional
period after the military conquest, 1880-1910.
B - The political struggle for democratic and civil rights within the existing
capitalist society, 1910-1943.
C - The „United Front“, an attempt at an all embracing organization,
D - The development towards violent resistance, since 1960.
A) The Transitorial Period (1880-1910)
The colonial wars against the indigenous people of Southern Africa lasted for more than two centuries. (8) During the phase of colonial aggression hundreds of thousands of blacks were massacred or robbed of their land and cattle under the auspices of „Western civilization“. Their military might was totally broken.
7 Since the history of the freedom struggle, which forms the essential basis of the present study, has hardly ever been taken into account by European historians, it will have to be treated here at some length.
8 i.e., from the first „Hottentot War“ (1658) to the last „Herero War“ (1907).
An indirect result of colonization is the atomization of African life. The structure of traditional African society, which, in terms of function, content, and value of work, was comparatively egalitarian and homogeneous, disappeared. It was replaced by a differentiated structure of the world of labour organized along authoritarian lines, which is completely cut off from the values and requirements of the black sub-proletariat. While in tribal society work was always carried out visibly and recognizably within a practical context, where the worker or his group themselves consumed the result of their labour, (9) the African integrated into the capitalist system works for a society which repels him, i.e. reduces him to his mere productive function.
The traditional African tribal system was destroyed by the capitalist mode of production imposed from outside. The entire way of life of the indigenous was disrupted. Barter trade was replaced by a monetized economy, industrial wage labour took the place of cattle rearing and agriculture on communal lands in a subsistence economy, the priest and the doctor were substituted for the medicine man. Ancient tribal kinship bonds and forms of organization were dissolved. Only secondary elements of traditional society managed to survive in isolated areas.
The historian Nosipho Najeke sums up this process of disintegration as follows:
"Capitalism has shattered
tribalism and destroyed the
social relationships that go with it; it has broken the
old tribal bonds, but it has created new ties that bind
men together in a much wilder unity." (10)
9 Cf. D.M. Goodfellow, Principles of Economic Sociology. The Economics of Primitive Life as Illustrated from the Bantu Peoples of South Africa. (London: G. Routledge and Sons, 1939) pp. 85 sq.
10 Nosipho Majeke (pseudonym), The Role of the Missionaries..., p. 140.
In the same measure as the traditional society was gradually destroyed, the process of integration into the new society gained momentum. I.B. Tabata considers the adoption of new methods in the freedom struggle an essential element of this process:
"The end of the last
century brought to a close one
phase of the struggle of the African people. It had
been a struggle waged in military form against conquest
by what was then the invader. It had been a struggle in
defence of land. The beginning of the twentieth century
opened up a new phase of struggle - a political form of
The „Bambata Rebellion“ (12) in Natal in 1906 was the last armed rebellion of the blacks against colonial domination organized in traditional lines. Since that date no further organized military undertakings, either on a regional or a national level, directed against the white colonizers, took place. (13) From time to time there occurred local flare-ups labelled „native unrest“, „native disturbance“ or „native discontent“ by the government; they were thus seen as signs of recalcitrance and maladjustment and ruthlessly dealt with.
The Boer Wars (1899-1902) and the First World War gave Africans an objective chance to shake off their their colonial oppressors on a nation-wide scale. The South African colonial armies were either politically divided or engaged in the war between the imperialist powers. At that time, however, the African masses had not yet evolved any political consciousness, let alone a socio-economic awareness of capitalist realities, which are indispensable preconditions for a solidary social revolution.
In 1844 the anti-British
Voortrekkers (14) had founded the Republic of Transvaal, and four years
later the Orange Free State. These Boer republics were characterized by
a feudalistic --------------------
11 Isaac B. Tabata, The All-African Convention..., p. 7.
12 In 1906 twelve African resistance fighters who had protested against the colonial dispossession of land as well as the pass and tax system were publicly sentenced to death and shot by British government troops. During the ensuing protest demonstration, 4.000 Zulus were massacred. Cf. E. Roux, Time Longer than Rope..., pp. 94 sq.
13 i.e. apart from regionally limited guerrilla operations since 1960. For the manner in which the Whites in South Africa view such operations see Al J. Venter, The Terror Fighters. A Profile of Guerrilla Warfare in Southern Africa. (Cape Town/Johannesburg: Purnell, 1969).
14 i.e. the Boer feudal lords. Of course, feudalism of the West European type as a specific type of social organization had never existed in South Africa.
economic structure, which was, however, dealt a decisive blow when gold was discovered at the Witwatersrand in 1866, firstly by the rise of a potential mining labour force, secondly by the increase in agricultural production as a result of the appearance of a new body of consumers, the uitlanders, (15) and thirdly by the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few farmers and traders - but also of the State.
Within the areas of influence of Boer „feudalism“ the blacks were expropriated by force. Unless they were murdered (16) or fled (17), they were compelled to live under the conditions imposed by the Boers. Slavery was abolished, and the remaining blacks were reduced to the status of cheap labour deprived of any rights. Within this context the Boer variety of serfdom takes on special importance: the dispossessed blacks were permitted to settle as „squatters“ on Boer farmland in order to supply regular services. Other Africans were pushed back into barren wastes, the so-called „reserves“ - in actual fact reservoirs of cheap labour - where they were unable to subsist by merely relying on the traditional means of reproduction, that is, land and cattle:
"That, of course,
was one of the prime objectives of driving the
Africans off the land into restricted areas: to force as many as possible
to work outside the land available to them. Land alienation transformed
self-supporting peasants into squatters, tenant farmers or migrant
labourers on the settlers’ farms, or drove them to the mines and cities in
search of work." (18)
15 i.e. foreigners. From all over Europe and America adventurers, traders, gamblers and financiers rushed to this new Eldorado. Within the shortest possible time they formed 70% of the white population of the Republic of Transvaal.
16 e.g. in the wars against Chief Mzilikazi, 1847-1848.
17 across the Limpopo River into what become Rhodesia.
18 W. A. Hunton, Decision in Africa. (New York: International Publishers 1960), p. 29.
Starting from 1886 thousands of blacks were employed as unskilled labour in the gold industry at the Witwatersrand. A representative of one of the monopoly societies commented on the procurement of a cheap labour force as follows:
"If every kaffir could
be traced; if it could be told whether they
have been registered before or been in the service of a company, then we
would have control over them." (19)
In order to keep the wage level for blacks low, the participants of the conference agreed that „a constant and abundant supply of native workers is necessary.“ (20) The same exponent of mining capital (21) emphasized the importance of controlling the black labour force:
"If we had complete
control over the native labour, we would teach
the kaffirs to do all lower forms of work that are now done by white men.
You would have more mines at work ... and the man who had invested his
money in the mines would receive greater dividends." (22)
All laws passed since 1866, which overtly or covertly referred to the Africans, aimed either at accelerating the influx of black labour to the mines or at subjecting the workers to strict controls. Apart from the intervention of the state, the mining industry set up its own institutions
19 See: The Mining Industry. Evidence and Report of the Industrial Commission of Enquiry. Witwatersrand Chamber of Mines, Johannesburg 1897, p. 44.
20 The Mining Industry... , p. 256.
21 Mr. Sidney J. Jennings, General Manager of the ‘Crown Reef Gold Mining Company’.
22 The Mining Industry... p. 44.
designed to solve the problem of labour demand and the control and discipline of the workers, with recruitment agencies (23) and compounds. (24)
The destruction of the traditional African society with a view to impelling the African to offer his labour for sale was tantamount to integrating him into the South African economy. Today the most radical tenet of apartheid, with the total geographical separation of black and white, has turned out to be unworkable because of the economy’s dependence on black wage labourers.
While the beginnings of English colonial rule at the Cape of Good Hope and in Natal were distinguished by violence and aggression similar to that of the Boers, the English around the middle of the 19th century began to administer the „pacified blacks“ on „liberal“ lines. A qualified, that is, restricted franchise was introduced. (25) Liberalism as a political principle akin to the classical English model was, however, an impossibility in the colonial imperialist context of South Africa. Its basic tenet of economic competition existed neither on the level of production nor in the labour marked.
Diamond mining had rapidly developed into a monopolistic industry, (26) while gold mining, with a few negligible exceptions, was controlled by six combined finance and investment houses (27) consolidated in the „Transvaal Chamber of Mines“ (1889). The Chamber of Mines introduced
23 The „Witwatersrand Native Labour Association“ and the „Native Recruiting Organization“.
24 These are the strictly supervised camps where male migratory workers live and sleep during the term of their contract. Also cf. Ch. Leubuscher, Der südafrikanische Eingeborene als Industriearbeiter und Stadtbewohner. (Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1931), pp. 61 sq. For an assessment of the present labour conditions in the Republic of South Africa, also cf. Alex Hepple, South Africa: Workers under Apartheid. (London: Christian Action Publication, July 1971) p. 10 - 24; Francis Wilson, Migrant Labour in South Africa. (Johannesburg: SPRO CAS 1972), p. 1-6.
25 This was further restricted in 1892 by the introduction of a so called civilization test“, while the property qualification was raised from £25 sterling to £75. Up till 1936 only one black person in the colony of Natal had passed this test.
26 The "De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd.“ holds the monopoly in diamond mining.
27 Cf. H.J. Frankel, Capital Investment in Africa. (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), p. 84.
fixed wages for the gold industry and organized a central recruitment agency which supplied African labour to all gold mines, thereby eliminating any competition for the „production factor labour“. That factor, far from being firmly established, still had to be constituted by the destruction of the African subsistence economy, i.e. the separation of African peasants and pastoralists (28) from their means of production. This necessitated rigorous political interventions in the existing African socio-economic structures.
The expediency of combining
economic and political power was exemplified by the position of Cecil John
Rhodes, who at the end of the 19th century was holding the post of managing
director both with „De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd.“ (diamonds) and „Consolidated
Goldfields Ltd.“, while at the same time being in control of the chartered
„British South African Company“. In addition, he was appointed Prime Minister
of the Cape Colony in 1890.
To achieve the maximum efficiency and profitability of all South African mines, all that remained to be done by the British after their military victory over the Africans and their economic defeat of the Boers, was the seizure of political control in the Boer Republics.
Between 1895 and 1899 Rhodes, in collaboration with German imperialism, (29) created the political conditions (30) enabling him to declare war on the Boers. With a cruelty reminiscent of the treatment formerly meted out to the blacks, the Boers were now slain, starved and interned in concentration camps throughout the war (1899-1902). After the defeat of the Boers, however, the English in their policy vis-à-vis the vanquished, adopted a policy of „peaceful integration“ - a precondition of economic stability. Thus the future transition from the British divide et impera to the Boer apartheid was initiated. (31)
28 Within the strict terminology of the Social Sciences we can in this case obviously neither speak of „peasants“ in the classical European nor in the traditional African sense. Cf. in the same context the highly interesting essay by John Saul, „African Peasants and Revolution“, in: Review of African Political Economy. (London) No. 1, 1974, pp. 41 - 68.
29 Emperor William II, the Boers’ former ally, left President Krüger in the lurch during the conflict. Cf. G.W.F. Hallgarten, Der Imperialismus vor 1914. vol. I, (München: Beck, 1963).
30 On 29 Dec. 1895 Rhodes supported his friend, Dr. Jameson, in his direct military aggression against the Transvaal Boers. However, Jameson’s raid ended in defeat, and the expected uprising of the „Uitlanders“ did not take place.
31 However, the British underestimated Boer nationalism and the rabid master race mentality of the Boers.
I. B. Tabata sums up this process as follows:
"As soon as the Boers
were defeated, however, the British
found it expedient to rehabilitate them and paid reparations
to the vanquished. They needed the Boers to act as super-
visors over the millions of potential Black workers and as
guardians over the investments of British Imperialism.
With the Act of Union in 1910 the Boers were placed on a
footing of political equality as co-rulers of the country." (32)
B) The Political Awakening of the Africans (1910 - 1943).
Since the foundation of the Union of South Africa the overriding problem facing the dominant group had been to solve the so-called native question, i.e., to procure a sufficient number of consenting cheap black labour for the mines, the farms, and finally the processing industry. (33)
The „native question“
had two clearly discernible aspects: on the one hand, there was a need
to transform the Africans into a wage proletariat, which meant at the same
time that they had to be integrated into capitalist conditions of production.
For this purpose, the government introduced diverse taxes as well as the
pass system and pursued an agricultural policy that was to become characteristic
of South Africa. (34) On the other hand any emancipatory integration of
the Africans into the new capitalist society had to be avoided as far as
possible. Emancipatory integration means a process by which the proletarianized
Africans might have been freed from their intended status as a mass of
cheap, unskilled or semi-skilled wage labourers devoid of any civil or
property rights with the aid of modern education or through the organization
of effective political and economic pressure groups.
1. From forms of tribal organization to national political movements.
In protest against the pass laws, the system of taxation and the expropriation of land, against racial discrimination and economic exploitation and in the face of an incontrovertible process of dissolution affecting their traditional tribal societies, Africans began to found their first modern organizations. Around 1900, black organizations aiming at federations of tribes, such as „Imbumda ya Manyama“ or „Ingqungqunthela ye-Zizwe“, arose in the Northern parts of South Africa. (35)
32 I.B. Tabata, The Pan African Congress Venture in Retrospect. (Queenstown: A „Non-European Unity Movement“ Pamphlet, 1st Sept. 1960), p. 2.
33 Economic profit interests were given precedence over British philantrophy. The „native question“ at that period had nothing to do with the possibility of a social revolution.
34 Cf. Chapter IV.
35 The first tribal organization, „Imbumba Yama Afrika“, was founded in the Eastern Cape in 1882.
Their membership was recruited from fragments of African tribes led by some particularly outstanding African, who had distinguished himself through his opposition to the colonial system and thus acquired charismatic features. These organizations were not, however, modern political movements defined by rationality of ends and means. Their inherent differences, engendered by the multiplicity of existing ethnic units, often enough proved stronger than their common anti-colonial objective, and they fell into disarray.
The Coloureds, having
a long tradition of political activity, (36) developed an up-to-date type
of organization more rapidly. (37) As early as 1902, together with the
Cape Malays, they founded the „African Political Organization“ (APO) in
Cape Town. (38)
Seven years later, the APO, which was conceived as a national non-white movement, already had more than 100 branches in the whole of South Africa. The APO did not, however, succeed in gaining access to black groupings, whether workers, peasants or intellectuals, and not even the Indians could be roused. It thus remained the political organization of the socially isolated coloured intelligentsia.
The Indians likewise
became politically active relatively early. Mahatma Gandhi achieved special
prominence in the process of activating their political awareness, while
at the same time gaining the experience which later led to his policy of
In 1850, thousands of Indians had been imported to South Africa as labourers for the sugar plantations in Natal. Upon the expiry of their contracts the majority of these so-called coolies decided to stay on in South Africa to work as „hawkers, market-gardeners, domestic servants etc.“ (39)
To start from 1880, numerous Indian traders and businessmen immigrated to the colonies of Natal and Transvaal. These Indians, in whose country British colonialism had destroyed a highly developed manufacture, (40) and who were already conversant with the capitalist principle of competition, worked quickly, skilfully and at cheap rates.
For this reason, an anti-Indian movement soon arose, especially among the white petty bourgeoisie, and rapidly gained influence. In 1893 the Indians were debarred from the Natal parliament. In addition, a poll tax for Indians was introduced. In 1896 the Indians in Natal were disenfranchised. (41) In Transvaal they were deprived of their citizenship as early as 1885. In this manner the colonial overlords hoped to be able to compel the Indians to return to their country.
36 As early as 1853 they fought for their enfranchisement in the Cape province.
37 It was precisely among the „coloured“ that Marxist theories first gained influence, e.g. in the „Spartacus Club“, the „Lenin Club“, the „Fourth International Organization of South Africa“, or the „Teachers’ League of South Africa“.
38 Later renamed „African People’s Organization“ and led by a coloured man, Dr. A. Abdurahman. See also Kenneth A. Jordaan, „The Coloureds Play Their Full Part“, in Africa and the World. No. 12, London, September 1965, pp. 38-40.
39 E. Roux, Time longer than rope, p. 101.
40 P.A. Baran, Political Economy of Growth, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1957), p. 144 sq.
41 In 1895 the population of the Natal colony was made up of about 400.000 blacks, 80.000 Indians and only 40.000 whites, mostly English.
In 1893 Mahatma Gandhi
visited Natal and thus became acquainted with the policy of racial discrimination.
He was soon elected spokesman of the Natal Indians and in 1894 founded
the „Natal Indian Congress“. (42) Two years later he narrowly escaped lynching
by an anti-Indian white mob. Only a policeman managed to save the originator
of non-violent resistance from a deadly hail of stones!
During the Boer War the pacifist philosopher Gandhi, who had been preaching the „weapon of love“, called upon the exploited Indians to support the Boer feudalists against England. In 1906, however, during the „Bambata Rebellion“, Gandhi changed his political stance by siding with the British crown and urging the Zulus to put up non-violent resistance against the well-armed government troops; nonetheless four thousand of them were mown down. In spite of their loyalty towards the British the Indians as from 1906 on, were treated like pariahs by the successive British and Boer governments.
As early as 1906 the compulsory pass system was also made to apply to the Indians in Transvaal, then a British colony. To counteract this government measure, Gandhi organized a passive resistance campaign among the Indians, which incidentally found the support of the Chinese contract labourers. He also travelled to London with the intention of having the so-called Black Act repealed. But neither his passive resistance campaign nor all his petitions and resolutions could prevail against the rule of British monopoly capital. (43) Only one year later in 1907, the „Black Act“ was ratified by the British parliament. Gandhi himself was arrested, marched through the streets in handcuffs and then jailed.
In the following year the main political exponent of British imperialism, General J.C. Smuts, promulgated the „Transvaal Immigrants Restriction Bill“, which did not even authorize Indians to travel to, let alone settle in, the Transvaal. Another five years later (1913) the Union government denied all non-Christians, which meant in particular the Indians, the legalization of their marriages. The result was a new wave of Gandhian resistance. For the first but also the last time Gandhi was able to register a temporary success for his policy in South Africa. In the face of unflagging protests Smuts saw himself compelled to abolish the poll tax for Indians, and to guarantee the legitimacy and protection of their marriages.
Although obviously there could not be any question of a social revolution in South Africa at the beginning of the present century, it stands to reason that neither Gandhian pacifism nor British liberalism have brought the oppressed African majority in South Africa even a single step closer to their objective of a democratic social order. On the contrary, it enabled the fascistic Boer governments to institute a police state. In India itself Gandhi’s policy did not have any noteworthy success since even today millions of Indians live below starvation line or die of malnutrition.
42 It was there that Gandhi evolved his Satyagraha programme, the so-called „soul-force“ doctrine.
43 Nonetheless the Indian „Congress Party“ was to apply Gandhi’s political methods up to 1960.
It is true, India obtained
its independence, among other factors, through the pressures of the Gandhi-led
„Non-Cooperation Movement“ and the principle of „civil disobedience“, but
his policy of non-violence not only aimed at formal independence but also
at a pacified classless society. In this respect, however, his policy failed,
being in principle conceived as an alternative to the class struggle. (44)
In the USA this policy, symbolized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot dead by a racial fanatic on 5th April, 1968, also failed to bring about a solution to the social problems of Afro-Americans.
exerted a decisive influence on the South African liberation movement.
(45) As A matter of fact, Gandhi and Marx split the freedom struggle into
two political camps which for decades fought one another bitterly. Since
1960, however, the fundamental superiority of the „sword of ethics“ over
the „sword of violence“ has no longer been an accepted tenet in the South
African political life. (46) The year 1912 saw the foundation of the first
political organization of the blacks on European lines. The „South African
National Congress“ (SANC) (47) was organized at the national level, while
its membership was recruited on an individual basis.
Although the „Congress“ had decided as a general principle to break with the tribal past, (48) a certain measure of thinking along ethnic lines still survived within the movement for a long time. (49) It adopted Gandhi’s political theories and resistance methods aiming at reform within the capitalist status quo. The political activity of the „Congress“ centred around the struggle against national oppression. (50)
„Congress“ leaders such
as Dr. P. Ka I. Seme, Rev. J. L. Dube, Solomon T. Plaatje or
W. Rubusana, who, from an historical point of view, considered the new British capitalist social system relatively progressive, as compared with Boer feudalism and African tribal organization, still hoped that social equality and political freedom could be achieved by the peaceful means of parliamentary democracy. (51) The earlier resolutions and petitions of the A.N.C. are, therefore, very moderate, liberal and loyal both in tone and substance. For the same reason the early African nationalism, while being anti-imperialist, is not anti-capitalist. (52)
44 Cf. R. Segal, The Crisis of India, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 186 sq.
45 Starting from the 1920’s the British Liberals and missionaries, and from the 1940’s the Stalinists, joined forces with the „Congress“ movement.
46 O. Wolff, Indiens Beitrag zum neuen Menschenbild, (Hamburg: Rowolt, 1957), p. 57.
47 Later abridged to the „African National Congress“ (A.N.C.)
48 L. Kuper, An African Bourgeoisie, (New Haven: Yale U.P., 1965), p. 368.
49 These tribal influences were particularly noticeable among the old „Congress“ leadership and it contributed to the fact that by 1934 the A.N.C. was virtually dead from a political point of view.
50 Later in the A.A.C. (1935) political activity was directed against national oppression and economic exploitation.
51 After Sharpeville (1960) no African leader believes in this possibility any more.
52 The Africans were opposed to the imperialist ravaging of human lives, land and cattle while appreciating the glorious bourgeois-democratic postulates of the French Revolution.
Before 1920 the number of educated Africans was negligible. Hence the organizational and bureaucratic as well as educational work within the A.N.C. was mainly in the hands of British liberals and missionaries. For decades the influence of their political thinking obstructed any militant mass action in the sense of a social revolution. Historically speaking, however, the „Congress“ marked a significant step forward for the liberation movement.
The Land Act (1913),
which even more unambiguously than the „Glen Grey Act“ of 1894 restricted
the Africans’ right of land ownership to bleak, overcrowded reserves, thus
legalizing the land robbery of the whites, drove thousands of blacks from
all parts of South Africa into the „Congress“. (53) The leaders of the
„Congress“ tried to unite the African people through a supra regional newspaper,
The organ increasingly reflected the political awakening of the blacks.
Slogans such as „Vuk, Africa!“ and „Mayibuy i Africa!“ (54)
sprang to life.
The first World War also made an impact on the South African liberation struggle. Although there was little fighting in South Africa itself, (55) the blacks were allowed to join the „Native Labour Corps“. (56)
S. M. Molema commented, „...Bantu chiefs throughout South Africa have also contributed generously to the various war funds.“ (57)
In 1916 thousands of Sothos, Zulus, Bechuanas, Fingoes and Xhosas were shipped to France. On 21st February, 1917, the French ship Mendi hit a mine near the Isle of Wight - seven hundred Africans died. (58)
On 10th July, 1917 the British King, George V, paid homage to the black South African defenders of the British Empire in the following words:
"I have much pleasure
in seeing you who have travelled so
far over the sea to help in this great war. ... This work
of yours is second only in importance to that of my sailors
and soldiers who are baring the brunt of the battle. But
you are also part of my great armies which are fighting for
liberty and freedom." ... (59)
The African „sumpter-mule“ had learned a great deal while abroad, particularly in France. In Europe he did not need to feel embarrassed because of his colour, he did not have to carry his pass or pay poll tax.
53 Cf. Albert Luthuli, Let My People Go, (London: Collins, 1962), p. 89 sq.
54 Meaning „Africa awake!“ and „Africa, return to us!“.
55 In 1914 the „Boer Rebellion“ in Transvaal was crushed. In 1915 five thousand black British troops - mainly the former warriors of Chief Mzilikazi - fought against the Germans in South West Africa.
56 An organization recruiting blacks who were to carry their white masters’ guns and ammunition and build dugouts on foreign battle-fields.
57 S.M. Molema, The Bantu - Past and Present, (Edinburgh: W. Green and Son, 1920), p. 296. The paramount chief of the Sotho paid £ sterling 52.887. Chief Molala of the Batlaping donated 200 oxen; Chief Khama of the Bamangwato paid £ sterling 1000, and Chief Lewanika of the Barotse could only scrape together £ 200.
58 Previously a German submarine had sunk the French boat, Athos, in the Mediterranean; many West Africans recruited for the war perished in the disaster.
59 Quoted in: African World, London, 21 July, 1917.
In his capacity as handyman
for the imperialists in their feats of belligerence the African envisaged
for the first time the distinct possibility of armed struggle as a means
of his own liberation.
In a war song the Africans returning from Europe sang:
„I went to France
in the great war of the whites.
Do you hear the thundering of the big guns?
It is like the thundering of Heaven.“ (60)
2. The Rise of Politico-Religious Movements.
For British imperialism
Christianity (61) represented an important instrument for integrating the
blacks into the capitalist society of South Africa. This was true, however,
only as long as Christianity had not yet become part and parcel of the
spontaneous African consciousness on the one hand and the Africans’ social
experience at the other. That stage was reached about the turn of the century.
The blacks now conceptualized the inhumanity of their exploitation as an infringement upon the Christian tenet proclaiming the equality of all men which they had meanwhile made their own. Christianity as it were supplied them with „modern“ arguments for their centuries old liberation struggle. They were modern insofar as there was no longer any question of wrenching the old liberties of the tribal past from the hands of imperialism but to impel a capitalist society to redeem its own pledges.
By beginning to adopt the abstract claims of Christianity and merging them with their own concrete historical demands, the blacks no longer attacked the white exploiters from the outside but on their home ground, and with their own methods. The superiority of their call for freedom (62) henceforth resided in the fact that they spoke no more the language of „backward natives“ but that of „Christian civilization“.
South Africa’s capitalist government, considering of necessity the historical difference between the „backward Kaffir" and the „civilized European“ absolutely axiomatic, realized that the development just described was a political phenomenon of the first order, since it threatened the social hierarchy indispensable for protecting the huge profits of the mining industry. This assumption was fully justified, for the African did not possess the ability nurtured in European bourgeois society to withdraw into one’s inner self as the realm of a humanity unaffected by any social relations and constraints. (63) For him who was regimented right into his private sphere, freedom could only be realized by a consciousness that remained close to the practical world. The substance of Christianity for him, therefore, was not a means for his edification but an instrument for his liberation.
60 Quoted by E. Roux, Time..., p. 113.
61 In 1823 the Wesleyan missionary, William Shaw, living in Cape Province was still justified in saying, „There is not a single missionary station between the place of my residence and the Northern extremity of the Red Sea,“ whereas in 1910 there were 263 white and 46 black Christian missionaries representing 18 different denominations and having 200.000 religions adherents in Natal alone.
See also B.G.M. Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa, (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 25-32.
62 As early as 1896 the Zulus organized in the separatist „Congregational Church“ in a circular letter called for „ukuziphatha“ (self-determination).
63 See Jürgen Habermas, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit, (Neuwied/Berlin: Luchterhand, 1965). Ch. III, pp.69-91.
Christian movements among the Africans originating in South Africa about
the turn of the century must be seen against this background. The three
main tendencies were the „Ethiopian Movement“, the „Watch Tower Movement“,
and the „Israelite Movement“.
The so-called Ethiopianism represents an African revolt against racial discrimination as practiced in European-led churches. The leaders of these opposition movements founded their own independent churches, in which great value was attached to the „ukuziphata“ of the blacks (Xhosa-Zulu for "self determination") within the confines of church administration. (64) Gradually the numerous white missionaries lost their authority among the blacks, both objectively and subjectively. (65)
The Africans now finally
desired to see primitive Communism, the common factor of African tribal
society and primitive Christianity, translated into practice. At a later
date many of the social aims of Marxism could also be related to elements
inherent in the precolonial social and cultural history of South Africa.
The pioneer of Ethiopianism was Nehemiah Tile. As far back as 1884 he was accused of activities endangering the state. Rev. Chubbs of the „Wesleyan Church of South Africa“ denounced him for having committed the following punishable acts:
stirring up a feeling of hostility
against magistrates in Tembuland; addressing a public
meeting on a Sunday; refusing to inform him of his
After being excluded
from the Wesleyan Church, Tile founded an independent African church, the
„Tembuland National Church“. In the next few years Tile’s church gained
a foothold everywhere in the reserves.
The main advocate of the separatist politico-religious movements, Mangena Mokone, in 1892 founded the „Ethiopian Church of South Africa“.
After the first World War Enoch Mgijima launched another religious organization, the „Israelite Movement“, which attracted a large membership especially in the Cape Province and Natal.
64 In the „Wesleyan Church“, e.g., black pastors could not rise to high positions but were merely restricted to lower functions.
65 In the 19th century pioneers among the missionaries such as Dr. van der Kemp, Dr. Philip, Wilberforce, Rev. Edwards, Rev. Edmonds and Dr. Moffat had managed to keep the blacks under their exclusive control.
66 e.g. tribal democracy, primitive Communism, communal property etc.
67 Quoted by T.D.M. Skota, ed., The African Yearly Register - Black Folks Who’s Who, Johannesburg.
Mgijima called upon the blacks to drive the colonial overlords out of South Africa:
„Within a short time,
Mgijima recruited thousands of
Blacks around his standard, especially in the Cape Province,
where he set up a national headquarters at Bulhoek Location,
near Queenstown. There he gathered the masses around him
and told them to burn their passes and to stop paying taxes
and working for the white men.“ (68)
The Watch Tower Movement had its origin in East Africa. It was organized in Nyassaland, the present-day Malawi, by John Chilembwe, who was influenced by the social doctrine of the Christian Socialist priest, Russel. Chilembwe also set up branches of his movement in South Africa. He taught his black adherents that they, too, were children of God and therefore entitled to claim the same rights as the whites. His theology was orientated towards this world, and he appealed to his followers to struggle for social and economic justice here and now.
All these politico-religious movements, Mokone’s, Mgijima’s as well as Chilembwe’s, instilled elements of a social revolutionary orientation into the growing political awareness of the Africans from the very outset. (69) Up to 1925 (70) the separatist church movements demanded land and social reforms, supported strikes, boycotted government institutions, and some of their members even sacrificed their lives in the struggle for freedom. (71)
In the following section
two cases of the concrete violent conflict between the British colonial
government insisting on the status quo and the adherents of religious sects
propagating the social revolution or other anticolonial groupings, will
a) The Bulhoek Massacre, May 1921.
As previously mentioned, Enoch Mgijima
had his headquarters in the „Bulhoek Location“. (72) There, in 1920, numerous
black „Israelites“ assembled to celebrate their annual „passover“. They
came in their thousands to Ntabelanga from all parts of South Africa to
worship Jehovah and pray for months on end.
The Smuts government watched this massive assembly of blacks with growing uneasiness and requested them to return to their reserves. Even the ‘African National Congress’ - loyal to the British - tried to disperse this religious mass meeting because of the potential political dynamite it contained.
68 George Padmore, How Britain Rules Africa. (London: Wishart Books Ltd., 1936), p. 366.
69 The „long march“ of the Africans from Christ via Gandhi to Marx, „Che“ Guevara was, however, to last almost a century.
70 At that time there already existed in South Africa 140 different independent African churches, which were mostly influenced by one of the three above mentioned tendencies.
71 e.g. during the „Bulhoek Massacre“ of 1921.
72 It was situated in the urban area of Queenstown and called Ntabelanga in Xhosa.
73 The theoretical organ of the „International Socialist League“ (I.S.L.) founded in 1915.
On 17th December,
1920, the South African socialist newspaper International (73)
being made by capitalism to commence a
wholesale bloody slaughter. ... The Native is inarticu-
late..., his aspirations to progress are manifested in a
religious form. ... The Native Israelite rebels will be
rudely taught that no saviour from on high can help them.“
In May 1925 the Smuts
government were determined to strike before the revolt could spread nation-wide.
The „Defence Force“ and the police were ordered to nip the revolt in the
bud. About 800 men marched on Bulhoek, were 500 black men, poorly armed,
tried to defend their wives and children against the government forces.
A bloody battle ensued, with spears and swords pitched against machine-guns.
163 black „Israelites“ were shot and 129 seriously wounded.
The judge who later condemned Mgijima to six years of penal servitude cynically remarked:
"I am ... sure that
the great bond which bound these
people together under the accused Enoch and Charles
was the crazy notion that the day was coming when the
black man was to have his freedom." (74)
Neither British imperialism - in those years represented in South Africa by General Smuts - nor Boer republicanism, the representative of which Dr. Verwoerd was to become three decades later, ever intended to accept the black man as an equal and a free citizen. Dr. Verwoerd in 1953 put this as follows:
"If the native in
South Africa today ... is being taught to
expect that he will live his adult life under a policy of equal
rights, he is making a big mistake." (75)
The present Prime Minister and chief executor of apartheid, Balthazar Johann Vorster, in 1968 gave a precise formulation of the „crocodile conclusion“ (Lucianus) inherent in the policy of racial segregation:
"It is true that there
are blacks working for us. They will
continue to work for us for generations, in spite of the
ideal we have to separate them completely. Surely we
know all that ... The fact of the matter is this: We need them,
because they work for us ... It makes no difference whether they
are here with any degree of permanence or not ... under no
circumstances can we grant them those political rights in our
territory, neither now or ever." (76)
74 "Report of Native Churches Commission", U.G. 39, 1925, Cape Town, S. 16.
75 Quoted from I.B. Tabata, Education for Barbarism in South Africa, (London: Pall Mall Press, 1960), p. 20.
76 House of Assembly Debates, Hansard, 24 April, 1968, quoted in: Barbara Rogers, South Africa - The ‘Bantu Homelands’, (London: An International Defense and Aid Fund Pamphlet, October 1973), p.6.
Six years earlier the then Prime Minister and architect of apartheid, Dr. Hendrik F. Verwoerd, had put it less stringently:
"I believe that these
people (the Bantu) should be given
their own States as they desire ... I have confidence in
the mass of our Bantu, with the exception of a small
group of agitators." (77)
All South African colonial
governments from Rhodes to Vorster have set in motion an enormous legal
and military machinery to maintain the status quo against any form of African
While religion at that time quite definitely determined the Africans’ political consciousness and the form their resistance would take, a government commission arrived at the conclusion „that the rebellion was only a screen to hide political aspirations.“ (78)
This view certainly differed greatly from the way the blacks at that period saw themselves, although subsequently the political consciousness of the Africans was to become increasingly emancipated from religious concepts.
b) The Bondelswart Massacre, May 1922.
One year later the Smuts government furnished
another example of the methods which alone were susceptible of establishing,
and maintaining in future, the capitalist „parliamentary-democratic“ system.
The Bondelswarts were a Khoi-Khoin tribe (79) which had been driven all the way from the Cape of Good Hope into the heart of Namibia (South West Africa). At the beginning of the century they were defeated by the local colonial masters - the Germans - after a bitter struggle, and almost wiped out. Since Namibia’s incorporation as a South African mandated territory the pass and
tax system devised for blacks was also introduced there. This included, among other things,
a dog tax. (80)
Since the Bondelswart Khoi-Khoin were basically still pastoralists and for this reason owned many dogs, the dog tax affected them more than anybody else. They protested by refusing to pay this tax.
In May 1922 General Smuts sent a body of 400 men equipped with rifles and machine-guns as well as two bomber aircraft to South West Africa in order to make the rebellious „Hottentots“ see reason „once for all“.
77 House of Assembly Debates, Hansard. 23rd January 1962, quoted in B. Rogers, South Africa..., p.4.
78 See Report of Native Churches Commission, op.cit.
79 The scientific ethnological designation for the so-called Hottentots. By 1922 only fragments of Khoi-Khoin tribes were still in existence. Hundreds of thousands of them were exterminated by the colonial masters.
80 A Khoi-Khoin cattle-rearer would on the average own 10 dogs. For as few as 5 dogs he would have to pay five pounds sterling, the equivalent of three months’ wages for the black farm labour.
The balance sheet of this exercise
in „practical reason“ by British imperialism looked like this: more than
100 defenceless men, women and children were shot in cold blood, while
not a single white soldier was killed or even wounded. (81)
3. The beginnings of the Trade Union Movement.
As a result of the economic crisis of World War I, but also in consequence of the increasing pogrom tendencies among white workers, (82) who were striking for higher wages for themselves and a stricter regimentation of African labour, spontaneous strike and boycott movements sprang up among the blacks, particularly in the cities of South Africa. The economic motive of such protests emerged more and more clearly.
Into this period of increasing pressure exerted by the white society and its government falls the foundation of the African „Industrial and Commercial Workers Union“ (I.C.U.). Its activities originated on 7th January, 1919, under the leadership of Clements Kadalie, initially in the form of an organization for dock workers. A month before the foundation of the I.C.U. 8.000 Cape Town dockers had already organized themselves spontaneously and carried out a successful strike. They requested not only higher wages but also an export embargo on foodstuffs urgently needed in their own country, a demand which showed that the dock labourers, far from merely representing their own narrow economic interest, viewed their activity, that is the loading of commodities for export, within the context of the entire society in which they lived, drawing their own economic political conclusion from the existing state of affairs.
The I.C.U. rapidly developed
into the rallying point of disgruntled African workers with a more highly
developed political awareness than the rest, coming from the various branches
of industry and commerce. The organization was not structured according
to trades, and the relative lack of differentiation among the rank and
file strongly contrasted with the power of decision concentrated in Kadalie’s
hands - until at a later date the I.C.U. split into three parts.
Taking recourse to primarily economic strategies such as strikes and boycotts, the trade union aimed, first, at representing the specific interests of individual trade groups (e.g. the stevedores) and second, at abolishing social pressures of a more general nature, like the compulsory carrying of passes al the system of taxation and debt recovery, which weighed heavily on the blacks.
81 Cf. E. Roux, Time Longer Than Rope..., p. 142.
82 Cf. Ralph Horwitz, The Political Economy of South Africa, (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), p. 97 sq.
George Patmore commented as follows on the character and scope of these black workers’ movement:
"While the African
National Congress was purely political, the
I.C.U. combined political agitation with industrial activities.
It organized the African workers in town and country to fight
for economic betterment by means of strikes, demonstrations
and other forms of mass pressure. ... The new organization
spread like a prairie fire. Kadalie and a group of lieutenants
toured the length and breadth of South Africa enrolling members
in town and countryside. Everywhere thousands of black workers
and peasants flocked into the I.C.U. and by 1928 the organization
boasted a membership almost a quarter of a million strong. " (83)
The I.C.U. was neither
a trade union in the European sense of the word, nor was it a political
party. Not inappropriately, Padmore calls it an „industrial organization“.
For the I.C.U. there was no possibility of fulfilling the function of a
trade union, viz. of exploiting to the maximum the chance of an economic
reform within the capitalist system. In South Africa, a social-democratic
party was also lacking, which might have prepared the ground politically
for any economic improvements. For reforms, irrespective of whether they
are mediated by the objective of a revolution or seen as an end in themselves,
are possible only where the capitalists or the government show some kind
of positive response to them. This precisely was not the case in South
Africa. On the contrary, the Africans’ economic and political emancipation
at that time was increasingly forestalled by legislative measures, enacted
to no small extent as a result of the considerable pressure by the white
proletariat fearing the competition of the blacks. Charlotte Leubuscher
calls the emergence of armed gangs of white thugs at African demonstrations
and boycotts an essential element of the industrial conflicts of the period.
And so, in April 1925, a police raid against illegal 'beer halls' was carried out in a Bloemfontein location (85) and a black man killed in the process. Angered by the African resistance a Boer mob wrought vengeance the following day. During a discussion which took place at the I.C.U. headquarters, armed policemen were trying to
„disperse the natives, both men and women, who were armed with
sticks and stones, when a shot was fired from amidst the charging
European civilians, which threw part of the police detachment into
a panic and caused them to fire further shots without any order being
given. A total of five natives were killed and twenty-four wounded in this
A government commission confirmed:
„...there is no doubt,
that the native feels the economic pinch
acutely and this was represented to us as one of the chief grievances
of the natives in the Bloemfontein Location.“ (87)
As the attempts of the I.C.U. to merge with the „Trade Union Co-ordinating committee“ reserved for whites clearly showed, the organizers of African labour were fully aware that only unity of
83 G. Padmore, Pan Africanism or Communism?, (London: D. Dobson, 156), p. 348.
See also the autobiography of the founder of the I.C.U. which was published a quarter of an century after the main events: Clements Kadalie, My Life and the I.C.U. (1946) (London: Frank Cass, 1970), p. 157.
84 Ch. Leubuscher, Der südafrikanische Eingeborene als Industriearbeiter und als Stadtbewohner, Jena 1931, p. 157.
85 Blacks were legally prohibited to brew and sell their own beer. Nonetheless the so-called 'shebeen queens' continued staying in business.
86 Ch. Leubuscher, Der südafrikanische Eingeborene, op.cit. p. 160.
87 Quoted from Commission of Enquiry - Native Riots at Bloemfontein“, No. 1553, 8 Sept. 1925.
action with the white workers could guarantee
their success. Such attempts, however, failed in consequence of the „Trade
Union Co-ordinating Committee’s“ fear to be dominated by a majority of
blacks organized in the I.C.U., which in turn would have led to mass resignation
of its own racist rank and file.
On the other hand, as far as back as 1913, black workers had ,through their solidarity, saved a strike of their white colleagues from utter failure - a fact subsequently not even mentioned in the 'terms of settlement'. (88) In 1919 white workers of the Johannesburg municipality stroked in protest against inadequate wages, given the rapidly rising cost of living. Here again the black workers joined the strike, thus showing evidence of their solidarity, although their efforts were quickly thwarted by the government with the aid of the numerous existing pass laws and the strike clause of the „Master and Servants Act“.
Like the white trade
union, the government refused to have any dealings with the I.C.U. . In
1928 it even happened, that a minister, who had decided to negotiate with
Kadalie and Ballinger - a Scottish adviser of the I.C.U. - in the presence
of Andrews, the secretary of the white „Trade Union Congress“, was excluded
from the government in a cabinet reshuffle. (89)
The various institutions of white society thus formed an intensely co-operating, monolithic power block composed of the government, the Chamber of Mines, and the ‘white’ trade unions. While these institutions refused to recognize the I.C.U. as a negotiating partner, its leading organizers and agitators became the butt of repressive acts by the government. This did not, however, lead to a weakening of the movement, on the contrary, the people, identifying with their representatives, flew into a rage - an emotion not devoid of justification since the punishment and incarceration of its spokesmen were actually aimed at the people themselves - which in turn tied them more closely to the I.C.U.
In October 1920 Masabalala, an I.C.U. leader, made a speech in Port Elizabeth. He demanded higher wages for blacks and stressed the „necessity of agitation, education and organization of the blacks and all other non-white groups“. (90) The following day he was arrested without any legal justification. Indignantly, white and black workers the day after demonstrated in front of the City Hall.
88 E. Roux, Time.., p. 146.
89 E. Roux, op. cit.
90 „The Masabalala Bloody Upheaval“, quoted from an article by S.H. Kemp in the Illustrated Bulletin, London, May 1946.
Subsequently, armed with sticks and missiles, they stormed the police station to free Masabalala by force. Thereupon „rifle fire ordered by no one was opened on the natives already in full flight, killing 23 of them and wounding many, while one European woman received a fatal blow from a native.“ (91)
Up to 1927, i.e. during
the early struggles and the most glorious years of the I.C.U., the Smuts
government and later the Nationalist Labour coalition had passed a variety
of laws which entailed a decisive tightening of anti black discrimination
both economic and political. (92)
The I.C.U. had been unable to counteract these measures. Hardly noticeable wage increases in individual firms were the only concrete achievement of the Africans’ industrial organization, despite the fact that its membership was larger than that of the ‘white’ trade unions. This led to a growing measure of disintegration within the cadres of the I.C.U., which had never formulated any long-term political strategy, and at the same time to a dramatic dwindling of its membership. The movement split into three factions: "One faction remained under Kadalie in the Cape (Independent I.C.U.), another under a Zulu organizer, W.A. Champion, was based in Natal. The third faction passed into the hands of a Scoll trade unionist, W.G. Ballinger." (93)
I.B. Tabata explained the main reason for the failure of the first African attempt to found a trade union (94) as follows:
"The I.C.U. was meant
to be a trade union, but the African
people did not know what a trade union should
look like. All they knew was that it was an organization
of workers and so they set out to organize all the African
To sum up we can say
that between 1900 and 1935 the oppressed African population made three
attempts to obtain political freedom:
(a) through politico-religious organizations,
(b) through a national political organization,
(c) and through a semi trade union movement.
By 1935, however, all these attempts at organization had failed because the Africans had not succeeded in countering the organized violence of white society by a nation-wide political unity of action, whose radical demands and methods of resistance would have been equal to the authoritarian domination of capitalism in South Africa.
91 Ch. Leubuscher, Der südafrikanische Eingeborene..., p. 158 sq.
92 Mines and Works Act, 1911; Apprenticeship Act, 1922; Industrial Conciliation Act, 1924; Wage Act, 1925; Colour Bar Act, 1926, and ‘Civilized Labour policy’ starting from 1924.
93 G. Padmore, Pan Africanism..., p. 350.
94 Between 1936 and 1944 sixty-five African trade unions with a total of 97.000 members were founded. In 1946 70.000 African miners went on strike at the Witwatersrand.
95 I.B. Tabata: The Awakening..., p. 13.
4) The Foundation of the All African Convention, 1936
As previously shown, the defeated Boer feudalists in South Africa in 1910 were granted the same political rights (96) as the British colonial bourgeoisie. Economically, the Boers continued concentrating on agriculture while the British controlled the extractive industries and later also the finishing industry.-
In order to ensure that the Boers really forgot the imperialist cruelties inflicted upon them during the Anglo-Boer Wars (1880-1881 and 1899-1902) and would be prepared to lend support to the new capitalist system, the constitutions were gerrymandered in their favour in 1910 in such a way as to allow the Boers to obtain more political power than actually warranted by their economic situation. (97)
As a precautionary measure, however, London amended the union constitution of 1909 by the insertion of a two thirds clause, thus preventing its alteration by a simple majority. By the same token, the black and coloured voters in the Cape and in Natal were granted the active and passive franchise. (98) Thus the English camp was hoping to have all important politico-economic resolutions passed by the South African parliament with a two-thirds majority.
With the aid of this stratagem the British imperialists intended to go on usurping the power to decide any sensitive economic and political issues. Although international capital, especially its English variety, succeeded in maintaining its economic control over South Africa, the political situation did not remain stable as a result of the industrial conflicts of 1910-1922. (99) These were characterized by a two-pronged struggle of the Boer petty bourgeoisie and labour force against, on the one hand, foreign capital, and on the other, the proletarianized Africans, who were turning into serious competitors. (100)
96 i.e. the active and passive franchise.
97 The Boer „Nasionale Suid-Afrikaanse Party“ (S.A.P.), led by General L. Botha, obtained 66 seats in 1910. Only 39 seats remained for the British „Unionists“, while the British „Labour Party“ obtained 4, the „Independents“ 12 seats.
Cf. also B. Bunting, The Rise of the South African Reich..., p.21 sq., L.M. Thompson, The Unification of South Africa, 1902-1910, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), p. 470 sq.; and E.A. Walker, A History of South Africa..., Ch. XIII, pp. 454-558.
98 In 1929 there were 15.780 blacks (7.6% of the electorate) and 25.618 coloureds (12.3%) eligible to vote on the Cape. Seven years later they were already reduced to 10.628 (2.6%) and 24.793 (5.9%), respectively. In Transvaal and the Orange Free State there were no non-white voters. In Natal there were only 353 coloured voters and one black voter in 1936.
99 Cf. Norman Herd, 1922 - The Revolt on the Rand, (Johannesburg: Blue Crane Books, 1966), and G. Mbeki, South Africa: The Peasants’ Revolt, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964), p. 27.
100 Cf. R. Horwitz, The Political Economy..., pp. 177-180.
Subsequently a racist legislation designed to guarantee the white labour electorate a privileged status was to become an essential instrument of all governments in the maintenance of industrial peace and the creation of political stability.
In the early Thirties (101) at the time of the world economic crisis, many Boer farmers, big estate owners, and businessmen began to comprehend their dependence on the economic system in South Africa - which in turn was geared to world capitalism - and to regard its economic potentialities from the point of view of a „partner in the game“. Thus they hastened to invest their surplus capital either in British industrial and financial enterprises or in those set up by the Boers themselves, partly with government subsidies. (102) In 1933 the merger of British and Boer capital was paralleled in the political sphere by the inauguration of a coalition government of the British liberal general, J.C. Smuts, and the Boer nationalist general, J.B.M. Hertzog, followed by the passing of the „three notorious Hertzog Laws“, (103) viz. the „Native Representation Act“, the „Native Land and Trust Act“, and the „Native Laws Amendment Act“, in 1936.
The objectives of these
Laws, which Mbeki calls an „Unholy Trinity“, were the following:
1. The abolition of the black franchise, (104) which in terms of practical
politics meant keeping the overwhelming majority of the populace from
the parliamentary decision making process. (105)
2. Paving the way for a radical demarcation line to be drawn between
white and black South Africa. (106)
3. The tightening up of the labour laws as pertaining to Africans. (107) The
free choice of one’s place of work was suppressed, strikes were
banned, the foundation of African trade unions was impeded and the
Africans’ freedom of movement restricted to a minimum.
101 i.e. the period when A.N.C., I.C.U. and the numerous politico-religious movements were disintegrating.
102 Cf. E. Hamer, Die Industrialisierung Südafrikas seit dem 2. Weltkrieg, (Stuttgart: G. Fischer, 1964), Ch. I. (1914-1939), pp. 3-6.
103 I.B. Tabata, The Awakening..., p. 17 sq.
104 In 1956 Dr. Verwoerd also abolished the franchise of the two million Coloureds. They were thenceforth represented in the Union parliament by three puppets. This „privilege“ was suppresses in 1967.
105 Instead, it was decided to set up „dummy councils“ like the „Native Representative Council“ which cut any genuine political influence.
106 This was subsequently given legal sanction in the „Group Areas Act“ (1950). About 87% of the South African land surface was allocated to the inhabitants of European descent, i.e. one fifth of an overall population of 15 million.
107 African resistance in the form of the 10 Point Programme, the principle of non-collaboration, and the political boycott ba the A.A.C. is a direct outcome of this development. The 10 Point Programme was initially formulated in 1937 as an 11 Point Programme but did not find approval until 1943, at the foundation conference of the N.E.U.M.
The „Hertzog Laws“, which involved an intensification of discriminatory measures aimed at all social groups of the African population, the masses of peasants and workers as well as the small intelligentsia, drove home to them the necessity of national unity in the freedom struggle.
The various splinter organizations of teachers, students, trade unionists, sportsmen, workers and „peasants“ gathered spontaneously. Leading African politicians, such as Professor D. D. T. Jabavu, Dr. A. B . Xuma, Dr. S. M. Molema, Dr. J. S. Moroka, and Professor Z. K. Matthews, organized a congress, on which I. B. Tabata reports as follows:
„The African leaders
called a Conference of all the existing
African organizations to discuss the crisis. More than 500
delegates representing 150 organizations, representing a
cross section of the whole African population, assembled to con-
demn and reject the Bills. So successful was the Conference
that it was decided to create a permanent organization,
federating all the existing African organizations, to become
the mouthpiece of the African people. This was called the
All African Convention.“ (108)
The historic conference took place in Bloemfontein from 29th June to 2nd July, 1936. About 500 delegates were present. They adopted an 11 Point Programme (109), demanding equal democratic rights for all South Africans. (110) The policy of „non-collaboration with the oppressor“ (Tabata), which has its roots in Marxism and whose practical method is the boycott of all puppet institutions such as dummy councils, was formulated here. (111)
The principle of „non-collaboration“, which in practical terms amounted to a boycott, was directed against the institutionalization of apartheid, which according to Tabata could not be implemented without the support of the non-European intellectuals. The objective of this policy was the "organization of our own forces in the struggle of freedom“, (112) for which the boycott
108 I.B. Tabata, „The struggle for Unity in South Africa“, Africa and the World, London, November 1965, p. 19.
109 Cf. I.B. Tabata, The Awakening..., p.74.
110 The policy fo the „All African Convention“, both with regard to its basic programme and its tactics, was decisively influenced by the Trotskyite Spartacists (Tabata et al.) who previously belonged to the „Lenin Club“ (1928-1934). For an analysis of this Marxist-Trotskyte influence see the following two chapters.
111 This decision is mainly due to the militant younger leadership of the A.A.C. Cf. also I.B. Tabata, „The Struggle for Unity...“, p. 19 sq.
112 I.B. Tabata, The Boycott as Weapon of Struggle, Cape Town, 1952. An „All-African Convention“ Publication (cyclostyled), p. 29.
was to create the basic pre-conditions: getting away from the idea, that government policy had the interests of the oppressed at heart, casting off a slave mentality; and developing a new self-confidence. The difference between the policy of non-collaboration and Gandhi’s „non-cooperation movement“ resides in the fact, that Gandhi rejected as a matter of principle the use of violence as a means of politics. In his interpretation „non-cooperation“ was „civil disobedience“, a moral weapon meant to win over the opponent, whereas Tabata considered the boycott an historically determined means of boosting the class struggle.
From an historical point of view, the first serious organized attempt to form a united front of all oppressed (113) in South Africa was a revolutionary step forward. Unfortunately, however, the particularistic interests of the various groups joined together in the A.A.C. gained the upper hand. As regards a common policy, up to 1960 this did not go beyond enlightenment campaigns, especially in the reserves and among the intellectuals in schools and universities, and a few isolated boycott measures. (114)
The A.A.C. rejected the Hertzog-Smuts „Native Laws“ without exception, but it lacked the political and military power to translate its demands into reality. In view of the organized indignant rejection of the Hertzog laws, purported to bring about a „final and permanent settlement“ (115) but actually designed to impede any autonomous political mass movement among the Africans, the South African colonial government found itself in a precarious situation. While General Hertzog pleaded for a swift, violent suppression of the „native disturbances“, General Smuts, the British liberal par excellence, showed greater political acumen. He was aware that 90% of the active A.A.C. leadership were old Gandhian pioneers of the A.N.C. of 1912, i.e. blacks who obstinately clung to the hope that democratic rules might one day still function in South Africa. He therefore insisted on a policy of compromise.
The black vanguard of the A.A.C. was invited to Cape Town for negotiations with Prime Minister Smuts. They were provided with tickets as well as board and lodging from the public coffers. But once installed in Cape Town, the „Kaffirs“ were not given any opportunity to meet either Smuts or Hertzog; instead the were received by some hand-picked white liberals.
113 The adherents of the A.A.C. were mainly black intellectuals and peasants, with a sprinkling of black workers or members of other population groups joining the Organization now and then.
114 Since the Sixties, new elements aiming at the social revolution started to develop in both the A.A.C. and the „Unity Movement“.
115 Quoted from G. Mbeki, South Africa..., p.28.
After a series of politically irrelevant discussions lasting for days the „compromise of 1937“ was reached: three whites were to represent the blacks in the central white parliament - a concession abolished in 1959 - and in addition the blacks were to be granted the usufruct of a larger proportion of land. (116)
The A.A.C. politicians returned home with the slogan, „Half a loaf is better than no bread“. A split in the A.A.C. leadership had now to become inevitable. One organization after another broke away from the „Convention“. The secessionist groups later coalesced into the „Congress“ movement led by a medley of Gandhi supporters, Liberals, Christians, and Stalinists. Its policy was characterized by a basic preparedness to work with the government (i.e. by abandoning the principle of non collaboration) and a reaffirmation of the method of passive resistance.
Within the groups remaining in the A.A.C. two political tendencies developed. They crystallized around two Trotskiyte movements, the „Spartacus Club“ and the „Fourth International Organization of South Africa“. (117) Tabata sums up the revolutionary importance of the A.A.C.’s development thus:
„The evolving of the
organization, the All African Convention,
has been dynamically bound up with this process of awakening.
Its ideas, its policy and programme are an expression of new
ideas and a new outlook foreshadowing the nature of the
struggles to come...
It might be said that the All African Convention marks
the beginning of a new epoch where for the first time
our struggles are guided by a set of principles. ...
a tradition is being established for consistent and
principled action along a definite course.“ (118)
C. The Attempt to form a United Front (1943-1960).
As the South African
freedom movement was splintering up, the second world war broke out. It
contributed a great deal to giving the political consciousness of the Africans
a new radical outlook.
In anticipation of a Japanese attack, General Smuts for some time thought of arming the Africans - an astounding parallel to the American policy which allowed its underprivileged blacks to die as first-class citizens for their „fatherland“ (119) on the Vietnamese battle-fields. British liberal slogans such as „Fight for Freedom“ or „The War Against Fascism“ did not fail to impress the South African blacks. They began to look through the ideology of the master race and to envisage a struggle against Boer fascism which oppressed them in their own country. A new era in the freedom struggle began.
116 Up to this day the proportion of land inhabited by the blacks has not exceeded 13,7% of the total land surface of South Africa.
117 These influences later culminated in the „Non-European Unity Movement“ (1943 to this day), which to all intents and purposes was led by the Spartakists.
118 I.B. Tabata, The Awakening..., p. 159.
119 Cf. Der Spiegel, Hamburg, 22/4/68, p. 146-147.
In the early Thirties a dissenting group developed within the „Nationalist Party“ on the right of the official party line. It propagated „a free and independent South African Republic on the basis of Christian Nationalism and the maintenance of White civilization.“ (120)
Members of the group reacted sharply against a political and ideological merger of Boer and Briton in the guise of coalition governments, which they ascribed to „British-Jewish influence“. Among the radical Republican „Christian Nationalists“ were to be found especially those Boer politicians organized in a secret society, the „Broederbond“ (founded in 1918), among them Dr. H. F. Verwoerd. During the war years the policy of the Broederbond (Brotherhood), which aimed at making the „Nationalist Party“ the only strong political representative of Boer nationalism, clashed with that of other politico cultural groupings of more recent vintage, often openly fascist in tendency, the strongest of which was the „Ossewa-Brandwag“. (121)
However, the „Nationalist
Party“ succeeded in absorbing these divergent tendencies, enlarging its
basis, and winning the 1948 elections.
Vatcher considers the influence of these Fascist groupings, (122) whose members were most of the time also organized in the „Nationalist Party“, relevant for the formation of the system of domination:
„The nazis also made
a more direct contribution to the
development of Afrikaner (Boer) nationalism. Nazi ideas
undoubtedly influenced the conception of the proposed
apartheid policy that helped Malan into power in 1948.“ (123)
The political methods
of the „Christian Nationalists“ also recalled the Nazi ones: boosting the
sinister image of an internal enemy and bringing rival organizations into
line was their trade-mark. Thus they gradually infiltrated public life.
Around 1943 Broeders occupied strategically important key positions in
various government bodies and seized control of nearly all institutions
important for the development of the country, as e.g. the educational system.
B.J. Vorster, the present South African Prime Minister, is the former chief of the „Ossewa-Brandweg“. In 1942 he pointed out:
„We stand for the
Christian Nationalism which is an ally of
National Socialism. You can call this anti-democratic principle
dictatorship if you wish. In Italy it is called Fascism, in
Germany German National Socialism, and in South Africa Christian
120 B.Bunting, The Rise..., p. 77.
121 Ossewa Brandwag = „Oxen-cart night guard“ or vigilantes (Translator’s note). Cf. Alexander Hepple, Verwoerd. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 86 sq.
122 Similar to the „Ossewa Brandwag“ there were the „Grey Shirts“, „Brown Shirts“, „Black Shirts“, „New Order“, „National Socialist Party“, „Hitler Youth“, „Labour Front“, „Strength Through Joy“, „Winter Help“ etc. Cf. Star, Johannesburg, 27 and 28 January, 1938, and W.H. Vatcher Jr., White Laager, (London: Pall Mall Press), 1965, p. 55-65.
123 W.H. Vatcher Jr., White Laager..., p. 60.
124 From 1948 to the present „Brothers“ like Verwoerd took on ministerial appointments in the successive South African governments.
125 Cf. B. Bunting, op.cit., p.88
Since South Africa’s
constituencies had been divided in favour of the Boers as far back as 1910,
the former constituencies of the „Natives and Coloureds“ had
gradually fallen into the hands of the Boers in consequence of the piece-meal
abolition of the direct franchise for blacks starting from 1948, and since
the racist „poor whites“ together with the white proletariat voted for
the Boers, Malan’s fascistic party had no great difficulty in seizing political
power in 1948. A decade later the road to the „Republiek“ was open.
Tabata sums up the result as follows:
„The Malan victory
was the victory of a party controlled
by the petit-bourgeois. For the first time in the history
of South Africa the big financial interests found themselves
busted from the Government. ... Since then South Africa has
been under the rule of the petit-bourgeois, and they have used
their new won power like men intoxicated with it.“ (126)
During this period of increasing radicalism in South Africa politics an A.A.C. leaflet - „Calling All Africans!“ - was distributed all over South Africa in 1943. With the battle cry UNITY a new phase of the African freedom movement was initiated. The A.A.C. called upon all oppressed in South Africa to close ranks against the fascist menace. The militant young A.A.C. leadership declared:
"There is a clamour
for unity. ... There is a great
desire amongst all sections of the Non Europeans to
forge a weapon not only for political defence but for
attack. There is a determination not only to defend
ourselves but to launch a struggle for full democratic
rights. ... The desire for unity comes from the reali-
zation that our physical differences have nothing to
do with our economic and political situation. There
is one fundamental factor common to us all and that
is oppression." (127)
All A.A.C. leaflets and
programmes dating from that period emphasize the fact that the differences
between the various categories of Africans only exist by virtue of being
imposed by Capital’s interest in total domination, that these differences
are designed to conceal a fundamental trend which should under no circumstances
be reversed and which entails the proletarianization of all Africans, the
ever increasing deterioration of their economic situation, and the consistent
policy of excluding Africans from the process of political decision making.
What Marx had presented in theoretical terms here became the living experience of the oppressed and a call for practical action:
have first transformed the mass of
the population into workers. The rule of capital has created for
this mass a common situation, common interests. Thus this mass is
already a class vis-á-vis capital, but not yet for itself. Through
struggle (...) this mass finds a common purpose and constitutes itself
as a class for itself. The interests it defends become class-
126 I.B. Tabata, The Pan African Congress..., p. 3.
127 „Calling All Africans!“ A.A.C. Leaflet, Cape Town June 1943.
128 Karl Marx, „Das Elend der Philosophie“, Marx/Engels, Werke, vol. IV, p. 181 (trans. W.F.).
The clarion call of the A.A.C. bore fruit. On 17th December, 1943, 150 delegates from various African organizations met in Bloemfontein. At that conference the idea of a united front was discussed at length, and it was decided to bring together all groups present under the umbrella of the „Non-European Unity Movement“ (N.E.U.M.) However, a dispute arose as to the degree of subordination or independence of individual organizations in relation to the central body. The Spartakists advocated a federation of the A.A.C., the „Anti-Coloured Affairs Department“, and the „South African Indian Congress“. (129) Its main spokesman were Dr. Gool, I.B. Tabata, B. Kies, and others. The other group, F.I.O.S.A., which was Trotskyite in outlook, pleaded for a union of all African organizations. The Spartakists carried the day and assumed the leadership of both A.A.C. and N.E.U.M. The F.I.O.S.A. theoreticians such as H. Jaffe, Averbuch, ‘Babeuf’ and W. Peters continued working within the framework of the N.E.U.M. and made excellent contributions to the movement on a theoretical plane.
Meanwhile the „Spartacus
Club“ was dissolved and its members worked their way into leading positions
within the „Unity“ movement. Some Marxists, like Tabata, Gool and Taylor
until recent years did not, however, break off their contacts with the
„Fourth International“, founded by Trotsky in Switzerland, in 1938.
However, neither the „African National Congress“, which since 1936 had regained momentum, nor the S.A.I.C. (South African Indian Congress) rallied to the N.E.U.M. Consequently, the majority of black workers and Indians were not represented in the „United Front“. Neither did any of the trade unions join the N.E.U.M.; they opted for the „Congress“ movement instead. In 1955 this rallying of cognate movements culminated in the formation of the „Congress of the People“, amalgamating all „Congress“ groupings in a single union.
Thus, five years before Sharpeville there existed in South Africa two African united fronts, a Federation and a Union. The Federation was headed by the disciple of Trotsky, Isaac B. Tabata, while the Union was led by the disciple of Gandhi, Albert J. Luthuli. The one accorded the class struggle primacy in politics, the other considered the struggle for equal rights, i.e., the racial conflict, paramount. For the „Congress“, bourgeois democracy was the ultimate objective; for the „Unity Movement“, it was just a transitional phase on the road to socialism. By virtue of these theoretical differences, which of course also had their practical implications, the South African freedom movement was split into two antagonistic political camps.
During the ‘Fifties and early ‘Sixties the N.E.U.M. had the following class basis: a small, active intelligentsia recruited from all strata of the population, (130) a large membership among the coloured petty bourgeoisie and the coloured proletariat, diminutive support from the black farm and migratory labourers, and a mass basis among the „peasants“ permanently resided in the reserves, particularly the Transkei, Zululand, Witzieshoek, and Pondoland.
129 The „Anti-C.A.D.“ was founded in 1942 as a political rallying point of the coloured; it was directed against segregated government institutions.
130 Mainly blacks and Coloureds from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Herschel, Queenstown, Cradock and East London.
The „Congress movement
was likewise led by a group of intellectuals recruited from among all population
groups. (131) It was supported by white missionaries, liberals, and Moscow
oriented Socialists. Its mass basis, however, was mainly among the urban
proletariat of Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town, owing partly the influence
of the S.A.C.F. among the black workers’ organizations.
Both movements also admitted white freedom fighters for membership. Some whites even rose to leading positions, e.g. Bram Fischer (S.A.C.P.) D. Tayler (NEUM), or P. Duncan (PAC).
Up to 1960 the activities of the „Unity Movement“ were mainly focused on the political education of the masses, while the „Congress“ organized schemes of passive resistance. The N.E.U.M. lost more and more members, getting alienated from the masses, whose social and economic situation kept deteriorating. It became an organization of teachers, lawyers, medical doctors, and university and high school students. (132) The „Congress“ although managing to maintain its basis among the black workers by various ventures undertaken without any serious theoretical reflection, gradually lost its organizational cohesion.
The N.E.U.M. became the
training ground for those young socialist intellectuals of the South African
liberation movement who later were to found in the „Yu Chi Chan Club“ and
the „National Liberation Front of South Africa“ and to consider guerrilla
warfare applied to South African conditions the ultimate and most radical
means of freeing the exploited masses.
In 1961 - after the „Sharpeville massacre“ and the peasant revolt in Pondoland - Tabata attempted once more to obtain a mass basis for the „Unity Movement“. He called into existence the „African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa“, a workers’ and peasants’ organization.
Political developments during the period from 1943 to 1960 can be summed up as follows: Instead of the confidence in the subjective goodwill of individual leaders the objective social function of organization as such gained primary significance, i.e., the organizational structure itself became the main topic of discussion. It had to legitimize itself as an instrument in the struggle for democratization in view of the objectives of the movement. The expediency of the organization for a given target group became its foremost principle. The question of expediency was intimately tied up with the question of political strategy and tactics, which split the liberation movement into two parts. The „Congress“ as the union of the right wing decided in favour of Western bourgeois democracy.
131 Mainly, however, from among blacks and Indians.
132 Organizations such as the „Society of Young Africa“ (1951), „Cape Peninsula Students Union“ (1955), „Teachers’ Association“ and „Parents-Teachers Association“ sprang up. Cf. L. Kuper, An African Bourgeoisie, p. 115.
The „Unity Movement“ as the federation of anti-capitalist forces opted for a democratic socialist reconstruction of society, although its manifestations up to the crisis of 1960 remained preponderantly at the verbal level. Its strongest weapon in the anti-imperialist struggle was the policy of „non-collaboration“, i.e., the political boycott of all repressive government measures. Luthuli glorified the striving for reforms in conjunction with passive resistance. Tabata did not exclude the possible use of revolutionary violence. The one propagated the struggle for integration on the basis of equal rights, the other on class struggle.
Between 1948 and 1960 over one hundred race laws and amendments, which robbed the African of the most fundamental human rights, were bulldozed through the South African parliament. These laws could not function without the passive toleration of the majority of Africans and the active support of those coloured, Indian and black „officials“ employed by the government-sponsored institutions that make the system of apartheid work.
The policy of the N.E.U.M.
with its Marxist stamp, advocating non-collaboration and political boycotts,
has proved to be the most effective in South Africa in terms of practical
political results. However, it was only adopted by a small fraction of
the African population.
D. The Social Revolutionary Development since 1960.
For „Che“ Guevara the year 1960 was a landmark in the liberation struggle of oppressed peoples:
„...the year 1960,
the year of the underdeveloped
peoples, the year of the free peoples, the year in
which at last and for always the voices of the millions
of human beings who do not have the luck to be
governed by the possessors of the means of death and
payment are going to make themselves respected...“ (133)
On 21st March, 1960, during the Sharpeville events, 74 unarmed demonstrators were shot, 240 seriously injured, and 1043 imprisoned throughout South Africa. (134) Thereupon the P.A.C. and the A.N.C. (135) proclaimed a general strike. Although without hardly any preparation, it was so successful that it paralysed the South African economy for two weeks. In Cape Town, e.g., the strike pervaded all branches of the economy; the 60.000 migratory labourers employed on the Cape peninsula, almost to a man, downed their tools. The whole industry of the country lay dormant and foreign investors started withdrawing their capital. 270.000 blacks took part in the general strike. On 25th March, 1960, for the first time in its history, the mainspring of South African capitalist exploitation, the pass laws, were suspended for all days on end.
On 30th March the Verwoerd government proclaimed an emergency. Up to 8th April 2.000 adherents of the „Congress“, among them the major part of its urban cadres, were politically silenced, either by radical limitations imposed on their personal liberty or by imprisonment.
133 Quoted from C. Wright Mills, The Marxists, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), p. 446.
134 On that day the „Pan-Africanist Congress“ (P.A.C.) had organized a nation-wide anti-pass demonstration.
135 The most active organization of the „Congress“ movement. For two weeks they practiced de facto the non-collaboration policy of the „Unity Movement“.
On 9th April the general strike collapsed. In the course of the protest movement of the toiling black masses 83 people had been shot, 365 seriously wounded, and more than 20.000 arrested. The collapse of the general strike and the number of victims intensified the discussion about whether non-violent resistance could be an appropriate means of liberation. Under the given circumstances, Gandhi’s ideas had in fact proved inadequate. Since that time „Congress“ leaders have been increasingly influenced by Mao, Fanon, and Guevara.
The most important single
event in South Africa in 1960 was, however, the „peasant revolt“ (Govan
Mbeki) in Pondoland, (136) where peasant committees seized power for several
The Marxist orientated African leaders of the A.A.C., such as I.B. Tabata, A. Fataar, Dr. Limbada and N. Honono, who had achieved a mass basis in the Transkei and other reserves, (137) consider the black migratory urban and farm labourers the real focus of the South African freedom struggle. Their theory takes its point of departure from the fact, that this social group is not only the most numerous - with nearly ten million it constitutes one half of South Africa’s total population - but also the most brutally exploited.
Since 1943 this group was kept informed in a steady and intensive flow about the 10 - point programme and the „non-cooperation policy“ of the A.A.C. and the N.E.U.M. As a result of aggravated oppression and a sustained political enlightenment campaign, huge mass uprisings took place, touched off no doubt by news of the Sharpeville shootings. In this context a phenomenon has to be noted which characterized the Russian revolution of 1905, the Polish revolutionary insurrections of 1905-1906, (138) as well as the mass strikes that broke out in France in April 1968. It is the surprise and the lack of preparedness on the part of the established cadres of the left, the reason being, in South Africa’s case, that the political leadership of the A.A.C. and the N.E.U.M. considered a national revolutionary uprising of the toiling African masses premature, particularly in view of the still deficient organizational set-up (139) and the lack of communication with other parts of the country and the continent at large.
136 Part of the Transkei „homeland“, which has a Xhosa population of about two million.
137 Up to this day the „Congress“ movement has but a negligible number of adherents among South Africa’s peasants and farm labourers.
138 Cf. Peter Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg, (Cologne/Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch Verlag, 1967), p. 289 sq.
139 At that period guerrilla warfare was not yet envisaged as a distinct possibility by either the „Congress“ or the „Unity Movement“. Mao, Ho Chi Minh and „Che“ were only just being given a first reading.
It seemed, however, that
the revolutionary social theory of the A.A.C. leadership had taken a powerful
hold over the masses of radical migrant workers, for they proceeded to
use „material force“ (Marx). Thousands (140) of the most exploited Africans
revolted in the Reserves, primarily in Pondoland.
At illegally convened mass meetings the landless migratory labourers discussed and decided their political strategy and tactics. They created the so-called „mountain committees“ (141) and „popular courts“ answerable to them, which dealt with any „impimpi“ (puppets, in Xhosa), „abangcatshi“ (traitors), and „abathengisi“. (142)
The intaba, which had
been formed from among the ranks of the assemblies, functioned for several
months as the executive, i.e. as a de facto people’s government, in vast
areas of Pondoland.
In late 1960 the peasant revolt in the Transkei was crushed by the government in a series of military attacks. The political power of the intaba steadily decreased and the „Bantu Authorities“ came back into their own. Peasant organizations with thousands of members - such as Fita Khomo or Makhuluspan (143) - have, however, gone on existing in semi-legal form in the Transkei, despite the continuing state of emergency.
The year 1960 was a turning point for the African freedom movement for the following reasons:
1. It became clear that to be successful
the liberation movement must have
a mass basis to begin with;
2. that the relay station between revolutionary theory and practice is the
organization, which needs long-term planning;
3. that a system of revolutionary organization (144) must be evolved which
does not lead to a dichotomy between the leadership and the masses so
as to prevent the freedom struggle from becoming leaderless and
disoriented through inevitable arrests and execution;
4. that the various cadre organizations and branches of the national
liberation movement must be co-ordinated on a national and Southern
African scale; (145)
5. that Sharpeville definitely refuted the thesis according to which the
Gandhian pacifist method is the ultima ratio in the struggle for the
abolition of apartheid; the idea of armed self-defence as a legitimate
means to be used against government’s arbitrariness came to be
6. that the Africans can expect little, if any, help from outside, i.e., that they
themselves have to sustain and carry out their social revolution. Only then
can they hope for solidarity from socialist oriented states.
140 Cf. S. Thion, The Pouvoir pâle, (Paris: Seuil, 1969), p. 263.
141 Also called „intaba“. They had the function of councils and replaced the hated „Bantu Authorities“ set up by the Verwoerd administration.
142 Spies or sell-outs. See also: New Age, Johannesburg, October 6, 1960.
143 Cf. Memorandum Submitted to the Committee of Nine of the Organization of African Unity by the A.A.C. and UMSA, Lusaka, June 1965, p. 19.
144 See the attempted revolutionary theory of the South African N.L.F. below.
145 The collapse of the Pondoland „Peasant Revolt“ shows the eventual ineffectiveness of such geographically limited uprisings. In addition, the liaison with politically independent African and Third World countries is nowadays indispensable. (See the Angola and Zimbabwe conflict)
1. The foundation of the AFRICAN People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa (APDUSA).
Apart from the fact that
in some instances there was a lack of adequate leadership and planning,
the violent upheavals of 1960 clearly showed two factors:
"the heroism and revolutionary tenacity of the African toiling masses,
and for the first time in the emancipatory history of modern South Africa,
the already definite existence of a social revolutionary basis. The millions
of African migratory workers became active." (146)
This new development
called for a commensurate form of organization. The stronger centralization
which became imperative was achieved by the founding of the APDUSA in 1961.
This political organization, under the leadership of I. B. Tabata, subscribed
to the programmes and policies of the A.A.C. and the „Unity Movement“.
At the same time the South African revolution became to be viewed as part
and parcel of the emancipation movement on the whole African continent
and in the „Third World“.
The Verwoerd regime desperately tried to nip the new movement in the bud. (147) However, in 1963 the „Unity Movement“ was able to report to the O.A.U. as follows:
„The last six months
have seen the All African Convention
grow by leaps and bounds. In addition to the village-
committees all over the Transkei, it has now won over
the MAKHULUSPAN, (148) numerically the biggest organization in
South Africa. We have been penetrating also into
the towns, where for the first time African, Coloured
and Indian workers and intellectuals are joining as
individuals the new organization, the APDUSA, which
has captured the imagination of the oppressed.“ (149)
146 Franz J.T. Lee, Address to the „United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid“, New York, 14 September, 1966.
147 Through the ‘90 Day Detention Act’, the ‘180 Day Detention Act’ and the ‘Sabotage Act’, in addition to banishment, imprisonment, torture and murder.
148 A peasants’ organization.
149 Memorandum submitted to the Committee of Nine of the Organization of African Unity, by the A.A.C. and Unity Movement of South Africa, Lusaka, June, 1965, p.19.
The constitution of the APDUSA defines its central objectives thus:
"The democratic demands
and aspirations of the oppressed
workers and peasants shall be paramount in the orientation
of the APDUSA in both its short-term and long-term objectives." (150)
In his presidential address at the first supra regional APDUSA conference in April 1961 Tabata describes this new tendency:
"...it is only when
we realize the supreme importance
and worth of the toiling masses that we shall be able
to adjust our attitudes properly towards them. Only then
will the intellectuals in our midst rid themselves com-
pletely of any suggestion of condescension in their
dealings with the masses. This is the sine qua non for
the proper integration of the leadership with the op-
pressed masses. APDUSANS turn to the masses not with
the idea of using them or their numbers but of
identifying themselves with them, drawing strength and
inspiration from them, while at the same time imparting
to them that feeling of confidence, self-esteem and pride
in their own achievements." (151)
Tabata considers the „labouring classes“ the revolutionary element in South Africa. He says:
"History has placed
the destiny of our society in the hands
of the toiling masses. If we are to succeed in our task
of liberation, we must link ourselves dynamically and in-
separably with the labouring classes." (152)
2. The foundation of underground movements developing methods of guerrilla warfare.
a) POQO and UMKHONTO WE SISWE.
As previously mentioned,
the various „Congress“ groupings had merged in 1955. Although the conference
deciding on the merger was attended by 3.000 delegates, they represented
only 200.000 Africans. (153) The tightening up of apartheid policy aggravated
the discontent felt by many Africans and in 1958 led to another split among
the „Congress“ groupings into „Charterists“, i.e. bureaucratic elements
in sympathy with the liberals and the S.A.C.P., and „Africanists“, the
militant Young avant-garde influenced by the ideas of Panafricanism.
In 1959 the leadership of the „Africanists“, among them M.R. Sobukwe, P. Leballo, and J.M. Madzunyaden, founded the „Pan-Africanist Congress of South Africa“ (P.A.C.), which was promptly banned by the Verwoerd government, along with the A.N.C., on 8 April, 1960.
150 Cf. I.B. Tabata, The Freedom Struggle in South Africa. In „Alexander Defense Committee“ Publication, New York, Merit Publishers, 1965, p. 18.
151 Tabata, The Freedom Struggle..., op. cit.
152 I.B. Tabata, The Freedom Struggle..., p. 19.
The leader of the „Unity Movement“, since 1972 Dr. h.c. Isaac B. Tabata, is no doubt an excellent Marxist theoretician and organizer. Nevertheless his works do not reflect the revolutionary action of the rank and file of the „Unity Movement“. Just reading Tabata gives us an inaccurate idea of this revolutionary tendency.
153 F.Feit, South Africa, (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 32. Also Richard Gibson, African Liberation Movements, (London: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 53.
Since that time the A.N.C.,
in collaboration with the S.A.C.P., has been operating underground as the
„Umkhonto we Siswe“ movement. (154) The P.A.C. likewise reorganized as
an underground movement under the name of „Poqo“.
Between 1962 and 1965 the „Congress“ underground movement was almost totally dismantled. Its entire leadership was arrested and part of it sentenced to life imprisonment. Thousands of members were incarcerated, hundreds fled abroad. The P.A.C. - Maoist in outlook - is at present reorganizing its underground network.
From 19 to 22 September, 1967 the avant-garde of the P.A.C. at a meeting in Moshi, Tanzania, discussed at great length the possibility of guerrilla warfare in South Africa. We quote some passages from the „Revolutionary Message to the Nation“ written by the Pan-Africanists in Noshi:
"Our liberation movement
has over the past decades of its
existence been strongly influenced by socialist thinking and
this has helped it to understand the nature of oppression in
Azania (South Africa) ...
We are convinced of our ultimate victory through a people’s
war. We say ground the struggle firmly amongst the masses!
We believe in protracted armed struggle as the only way to
obliterate all traces of white supremacy and imperialism! ...
On the basis of the three revolutionary principles, let hundreds
of fighting groups blossom over the far corners of Azania. In
the course of the coming confrontation they will unify into
Azania’s Army of National Liberation." (155)
b) The foundation of the Yu Chi Chan Club
(Y.C.C.C.), later renamed
National Liberation Front of South Africa (N.L.F.).
When speaking in his own defence before the Bolivian military tribunal, Che Guevara’s erstwhile companion, Régis Debray, made the following challenging statement:
"Except for the mentally
sick and the fascists, no one likes
men to have to make history by killing. But if you want to
talk about crimes, where are the innocent ones? ... Each one
has to decide which side he is on - on the side of violence that
represses or violence that liberates." (156)
154 For further information see H.H.W. de Villiers, Riviona: Operation Mayibuye. (Johannesburg: Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel, 1964).
L. Strydom, Riviona Unmasked. (Johannesburg: Voortrekkerpers, 1965).
B. Mtolo, The Road to the Left: Umkhonto we Siswe. (Durban, 1966).
G. Ludi and B. Grobbelaar, The Amazing Mr. Fischer, (Cape Town: Nasionale Boekhandel, 1966).
The preceding books represent the point of view of the Boer regime, whereas in the following the main actors in the drama state their own case.
B. Fischer, What I Did Was Right. (London: Mayibuye publications, 1966).
N. Mandela, No Easy Way to Freedom. (London: A Christian Action Pamphlet, 1965).
Al J. Venter, The Terror Fighters. (Cape Town/Johannesburg: Purnell, 1969).
Hilda Bernstein, Die Männer von Rivonici. (Berlin: Verlag Volk und Welt, 1968).
155 „P.A.C. Report of National Executive Committee Meeting at Moshi, Tanzania“, 19th to 22nd September, 1967, Lusaka 1967, p. 28 sq.
156 Quoted from Granma, Havanna, 28 Jan., 1968.
Up to Sharpeville (1960)
none of the great political movements in South Africa - neither the „Unity
Movement“ nor the „Congress“ - had considered the violent overthrow of
the Herrenvolk regime and the seizure of politico economic control an integral
part of its strategy. The „Congress“ insisted on Gandhian pacifist methods
of struggle, while the „Unity Movement“ emphasized political education
and the organization of the masses.
What both failed to see was the fact that the historical conditions, both objective and subjective, for a possible social revolution had never before matured to the same point as in the early Sixties.
The urban and suburban migrant workers uprisings in 1960 had confronted the rulers of South Africa with the distinct possibility of a social revolution. Politically the representatives of Western imperialism and of Boer Herrenvolkism were divided, while militarily the Verwoerd regime was in no position to crush a full-blown national revolt. The economic situation was skirting chaos. Foreign capital was being repatriated from South Africa. The general strike paralysed the entire economy. The pass laws were no longer functioning. To put it in a nutshell, the whole country found itself plunged into a grave social crisis.
In this critical situation the old leadership cadres of the „Unity Movement“, including the newly founded APDUSA, were unable to develop any initiative in furtherance of a social revolution, (157) although the former „Spartacists“ in the A.A.C. like Tabata, Gool, Fataar and Taylor were finally being offered a genuine chance to translate Marxist theory into revolutionary practice after thirty years. Since this old guard had for decades monopolized the leadership of the „Unity Movement“, partly even using bureaucratic and dictatorial methods, and had thus developed into an in-group impervious to any outside impulses and unable to grasp „the sudden turning point of history“ (Lenin), far from moving to the front-line of the revolution, it chose to consider the uprising premature. The masses of migrant workers were marching leaderless in the streets of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Bizana, Flagstaff, Lusikisiki, and Nqusa Hill.
The younger Socialists in the APDUSA (158) consequently began to criticize the policy of the established leadership groups. As a result in 1961 Dr. N. Alexander and Dr. K. G. Abrahams were expelled from the APDUSA, and hence from the entire „Unity Movement“. Since Alexander and Abrahams enjoyed the support of the majority of young revolutionaries in the Western Cape, they decided in April 1961 to found the „Yu Chi Chan Club“ (Y.C.C.C.), independent of the „Unity“ movement and conceived as an underground organization with a strategy of guerrilla struggle. It was inspired by the writings and practical activity of the Cuban guerrilla leader, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. The Y.C.C.C. was later renamed N.L.F. (1962). Just how much the N.L.F. has learned from ‘Che’ will be documented by a few quotations from its newspaper, LIBERATION, Pamphlet 3 (1961).
157 Almost the entire „Congress“ leadership was in prison, although some leaders had fled abroad.
158 Such as Dr. Kenneth G. Abrahams, Dr. Neville Alexander, Ottilie Abrahams, Fikile Bam, Marcus Solomons, Elizabeth von der Heyden, et al.
During the sensational trial of Dr. Neville Alexander and ten other leading members of the N.L.F. in 1964 this document was used by the prosecution as the main piece of incriminating evidence. The activity of a guerrilla is characterized as follows in the N.L.F. organ:
"A guerrilla is an
ardent and convinced person who is
willing to sacrifice his life and to take up arms to
He is far more than a man with a gun; the gun is but
one part of his activity. He represents the highest
development of a dedicated revolutionary and effectively
unites political theory with military action.
He knows when to fight and where to fight... .
Much time is spent spreading political propaganda,
winning support for the revolution and weakening the in-
fluence of the enemy. A guerrilla is always creative! He
is creating a new society. As he builds he reduces the
present oppressive society to ruins."
Theoretically the N.L.F. took its point of departure from the following theses:
a) that the non-white population is the
force in South Africa;
b) that the South African revolution was to advance in
the form of guerrilla warfare designed to destroy
the socio-economic basis of the Herrenvolk state;
c) that guerrilla struggles, to begin with, would
mainly take place outside the cities;
d) that the typical guerrilla would be an agrarian
revolutionary having to fight to free the land;
e) that certain key areas would have to be liberated first,
which subsequently would have to be enlarged;
f) that such operations in the country must be supported
by sabotage operations in the cities and industrial centres;
g) that the N.L.F. is leading a revolution of the „oppressed
and exploited people of S.A.“ (159)
"Liberation" defines its practical revolutionary aims as follows:
"The Y.C.C.C. sets
out to establish an organizational
network that will lead the struggle. We train the
guerrilla fighters for leadership of the national
liberation war. ... The Y.C.C.C. is a wide network made
up of hundreds of cells, (one cell to each major town in S.A.)
... we will co-ordinate the multiple local revolts in-
to a national revolution. ... The target is thus 2.500
members (minimum) distributed throughout South Africa." (160)
159 See Theoretical Organ of the Y.C.C.C., vol. II, Cape Town, 1961.
160 Liberation, vol. III, p. 1 sq.
By July, 1963, the N.L.F. had gained a foothold all over South Africa. It succeeded in building up over 20 cadres in Natal, the Cape Province, the Transvaal, and Namibia. However, the South African secret service managed to infiltrate the underground organization. What’s more, the young pioneers of guerrilla struggle in South Africa were inexperienced, imprudent and sometimes even politically naive. The tragic result was that eleven leading N.L.F. members of the Western Cape branches were arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Still, the overwhelming majority of members succeeded in making for safety. Some, among them Dr. Abrahams, fled abroad (161) to carry on the struggle.
Why had it become necessary
for the young militant revolutionaries to establish the „National Liberation
Front of South Africa“?
In a period of extreme social tension and antagonism the oppressed seeks a thousand ways and means of fighting back. The young generation is ever responsive to this urge to attack the bastions of oppression and, free from mature restraint, embarks on emotionally motivated and ill-thought-out minor operations. Such operations, and the organizations that carry them out, are doomed to a short but tragic life. Add to this a period when the major national organizations of the oppressed black, themselves reeling from the heavy body blows of the Herrenvolk, are in full-scale retreat from the front line of the revolution in South Africa, leaving their rank and file in confusion and disarray, and it is obvious that minor organizations are all the more ill-fated.
Numerous such groups sprang up in South Africa after the so-called „Sharpeville crisis“ but most of them have in the meantime met with their inevitable end.
The N.L.F. of South Africa was not one of those. From its very inception it was a serious attempt at re-organization by elements in the national liberation movement and an endeavour to re-launch the revolution at a higher level, giving it clear scientific socialistic momentum. The N.L.F. was a genuine and authentic attempt to set the South African oppressed firmly on the road to a revolutionary overthrow of the Herrenvolk regime. Though short-lived, it pointed with unmistakable clarity to the road which the South African revolution shall have to take. At the beginning of the ‘Sixties it surely served as a vanguard of the oppressed South Africans. - In which way was it the vanguard?
The N.L.F. postulated,
as the first task of the national liberation movement, the complete and
absolute destruction of the white Herrenvolk state. In practical terms
this means that insofar as it is the white rulers of South Africa who have
erected and perpetuated their domination through an oppressive state, the
Herrenvolk must out of historical necessity be destroyed.
The N.L.F. stated that every means of struggle, legal and illegal, political, economic, non-violent and violent, should be used to the fullest extent in order to bring about the overthrow of white hegemony and international capital. The concrete realities of the social situation (i.e. brutal suppression of the defenceless African masses) determine the form of the struggle and give it its own morality.
161 To Zambia, where he continued his activities until his expulsion, in 1969, to Sweden.
The N.L.F. had certainly realized that the revolutionary struggles of the various States in Southern Africa are inextricably bound up together, and that none of these states can free itself on its own from the fatal embrace of the sub imperialist centre, the Republic of South Africa. Hence the South African Revolution, even considered in its narrowest sense, is at the least a revolution of all the oppressed peoples in Southern Africa. For this reason the leadership of the revolution, whose essential task is to find an emancipatory function for all genuinely committed people, no matter how contradictory their personalities and ideas might be, must of necessity incorporate representatives from all the states of Southern Africa.
The multiple facets of
revolutionary guerrilla warfare were studied and the application of its
principles adapted to the South African struggle. The founders of the N.L.F.
saw their organization as being per se outside the pale of South African
law; they did not view it as the underground continuation of a previously
legal political organization; it was an organization without the slightest
shadow of a legal existence.
It represented a radical break with the cowardly subservience to white rule of a large part of the black intelligentsia, which had been a marked feature of the majority of South African political organizations for decades. The N.L.F. was an emphatic declaration by the rising youth from all strata of society of their firm commitment to the freedom struggle.
Although the NLF was „nipped in the bud“ before it could set out on full-scale revolutionary action, nevertheless from it documents it is crystal-clear that it scorned a policy, namby-pamby and absurd, advocating sabotage of inoffensive electric pylons, offices and telephone booths (typical of „Umkhonto we Siswe“ in the early ‘Sixties), without harming a single hair of the agents of imperialism and capitalism in South Africa; it likewise scorned a policy advocating the white men, women, and children, must be slaughtered, without any political organization or military mobilization of the African masses in the country itself.
One of the leaders of the N.L.F. had expressed this harsh reality in 1966 in unequivocal terms:
„The revolution will
be bloody and prolonged, necessitating endless
sacrifice on the part of the oppressed and exacting a heavy toll in
human life. The new South Africa, like the new Cuba, the new Algeria
and like the new Vietnam, will be born bespattered with blood from
head to foot. This is both inevitable and necessary. There is no other way
No. III, published by the N.L.F. and reproduced as an appendix to this
book, is obviously brash and unsophisticated, and contains certain errors,
as it was produced in the heat of the revolutionary battle and not edited
ever since, nevertheless it contains the essence of the spirit of the N.L.F.
which still lives on in South Africa. As the South African Revolution will
advance in the near future, in the transitional epoch between capitalism
and socialism on a global scale, its main contributions to revolutionary
theory and practice and also the continuous application of its overall
strategy by the national liberation movement will be thrown into relief.
All the refined tricks
of Herrenvolkism in Southern Africa, from the establishment of an „independent“
Transkei as a „Bantustan“, or giving some ANC leaders like Nelson Mandela
on Robben Island political amnesty in order to try and bring the policy
of „separate development“ to full flowering, to international lies and
crookery, will not stop the emancipatory flow of history in the „Deep South“
A knowledge of the history
of the South African liberation movement such as we have endeavoured to
describe as concisely as possible, is a sine qua non for any analysis
of Marxist influence in South Africa.
Ideally the historical development of the liberation movement can be divided into two phases:
1. 1880 - 1960: the phase of protest remaining
the confines of the capitalist system (passive resistance);
2. 1960 - the present: the tendency towards liberation
through force (counter violence).
By virtue of its renunciation of violence the policy of non-violent resistance remains within the bourgeois norm, according to which the social order of capitalist society represented and guaranteed by the state „exists only on the basis of an assumed general consenting will“ and „a destruction of the system of domination is tantamount to the self-destruction of the general will“ (Marcuse). (162)
Experience, however, - in particular the one gained through the adoption of a policy of non-violence - showed the black emancipation movement in South Africa that the „general consenting will“ is a fiction under the cover of which the paramountcy of the White minority with its narrowly defined group interests can be all the more safely entrenched. The very policy of apartheid which according to Walker „is in many ways an idealistic programme for the protection of the interests of each racial group and the fostering of goodwill and co-operation between them by the complete segregation of each group“, (163) proved unequivocally that the political and economic interests of the impoverished African migrant workers („peasants“ and workers) are incompatible with those of the privileged white middle class. The idea of liberation through violence in South Africa is also given a fillip by palpable practical experience accruing from contact with Boer nationalists who do not just oppose one or the other manifestation of emancipatory action among the exploited but detest their liberation on principle and thwart it through their authoritarian and racist policies.
The development of independent African organizations - from the ‘Watch Tower’ movement to the N.L.F. - is indicative of the growth of political awareness among the Africans: from Christian and chiliastic concepts of a radical transformation of the world, through isolated political and trade union demands which fail to arraign the capitalist system as such, to the bourgeois-democratic 10 point programme and the principle of non-cooperation with the oppressors, and finally to the virtual negation of the capitalist system in South Africa through the guerrilla struggle.
162 Cf. Max Horkheimer, Schriften des Instituts für Sozialforschung, in the volume entitled Studien über Autorität und Familie, (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1936), p. 170.
163 Eric A. Walker, A History of Southern Africa..., p. 770.
Such a development, however, in no wise allows of a static definition of the term „liberty“, which appears again and again in the pamphlets and programmes of the various liberation movements. It covers elements of both continuity and discontinuity. Its continuity is accounted for by the objective structure of South African society, in which up to this day non-Europeans (Africans) have been a group subjected without recourse to the arbitrariness of governmentally authority, a group discriminated against both economically and socially. This static approach must be supplemented by a dynamic one, taking into account the changes in the social structure and in the consciousness of the oppressed. Thus, we have seen that up to the end of the 19th century liberty for the African merely meant the negation of colonialism and the re-establishment of tribal society. The concept of liberty of the politico-religious movements was essentially characterized by Christian egalitarian notions relating to forms of social life, whereas that of the ANC and the „Congress“ movement bore the imprint of the political theory of liberalism and the teachings of Gandhi. Today the concept of liberty of all liberation movements, especially that of the „Unity Movement“, is unimaginable without the influence of Marxism and its ideological deformations.
The influence of Marxism, including the theories of Lenin, Trotsky, (Stalin), Mao, „Che“, Castro, and Ho Chi Minh, is mainly manifested in the programmes and policies of the A.A.C. and the Unity Movement whenever the discussion is focussed either on the agrarian question (164) or on an analysis of the race or class character of South African society as relating to an overall conception of leadership and the masses, which is of special significance for the problem of organization. (165) It is also reflected in the revolutionary theories of the N.L.F., as well as in the strategies of „Poqo“ and „Umkhonto we Siswe“ (as an overall strategy of its underground continuation today.)
The short history of
the South African liberation movement shows the influence of Marxism not
so much as an influence of specifically „Marxist“ dogmas but in terms of
a materialistic dialectic.
This influence is not an other-directed product of Marxism but an outcrop of South African history itself or, more precisely, of the history of colonialism. The specific problem of the liberation movements in the given situation therefore consisted of, firstly, identifying the frame of reference imposed upon the people and inculcated into them by the colonizers, which compelled them to interpret all socio-economic phenomena in terms of the inequality of races, and debunking such racial theories as superstructural phenomena, and, secondly, developing a strategy and tactics which would annul and supersede the act of colonization. While the colonizers invoked the dynamics of capitalism, the capitalist imperialist conditions of production in South Africa themselves had to be convicted of historicity, i.e. of being subject to supersession.
164 Conducted in the „Spartacus Club“ and the F.I.O.S.A
165 Cf. I.B. Tabata, Letter to Mandela on the Problem of the Organizational Unity in South Africa, Lusaka, All African Convention Unity Movement, 1965, and The Freedom Struggle..., op.cit..
In this context yet another aspect of Marxism
became increasingly significant, viz. its translation into victorious societal
power among former colonial or semi-colonial nations. All those peoples,
whose modes of production, institutions, and cultures colonialism had destroyed
by violence, found in Marxist thought both an analysis of the true nature
of capitalism and a theory of how to overcome it. This international perspective
symbolized by Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, „Che“, Fanon, Lumumba,
Ben Barka, Cabral, Neto, Mondlane, and Malcom X, is by no means the luxury
of an intellectual never-never land but an integral part of those „Third
World“ movements advancing the cause of the social revolution against the
rearguard action of a recalcitrant imperialistic block, operating through
the present world economic system.