03 February 2010

Congress of the People, Freedom Charter


Congress of the People, Freedom Charter

In our “Basics” course, this document is given as an alternative discussion document to the SACP constitution, because what we are looking for here is a discussion around alliance. The SACP’s Rule 6.4 makes a good basis for such alliances, and the attitude and principle that it exemplifies has been reciprocated over the decades, but most conspicuously in the 1955 Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter that was adopted there.

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

The campaign of which the Freedom Charter was a part, and which generated it, began long before the Kliptown event, and was intended to go on for a long time afterwards. It got under way with the collection, by countrywide volunteers, of suggestions and inputs to the document, so that they would “write their own demands into the Charter of Freedom”, as the “Call” document said.

In practice, the campaign was disturbed by the Treason Trial that followed the arrests of many of the Congress and allied leadership, in 1956, but this did not stop the Freedom Charter from attaining the classic status that it still carries today.

Those old comrades laid down an irresistible pattern. It appealed to the heart as well as to the eye and to the mind, and it still surrounds us today, manifested in the continuing Congress Alliance of which the SACP, legal again, is now an open part.

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