30 April 2010

National Planning Commission


Statement by President Jacob Zuma on the appointment of Commissioners to the National Planning Commission; Presidential Guesthouse, Pretoria

30 April 2010

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe

Minister Trevor Manuel,

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,

Last year we announced that the new administration would do things differently and would work consistently to change the way government works, in order to improve service delivery.

A key aspect of this exercise was to introduce effective planning as well as monitoring and evaluation capacity in the Presidency, to guide these functions in government.

Today we are pleased to announce the names of the members of the National Planning Commission, who are tasked with producing a national development plan and development vision statement for the country.

The Commission, assisted by a full-time secretariat will develop well-researched, evidence-based proposals, cutting across the three spheres of government and across ministries and departments.

They will produce reports on a range of issues that impact on our long term development, such as water security, climate change, food security, energy security, infrastructure planning, human resource development, defence and security matters, the structure of the economy, spatial planning, demographic trends and so forth.

While each of these areas of work relate to an aspect of government¡¦s work, the Commission is asked to take an independent, cross-cutting, critical and long term view of these issues.

This exercise will enable us to make government¡¦s policies and plans are more coherent and focused on achieving the type of society that we all envisage.

The revised green paper on the National Planning Commission sets out the roles and responsibilities of this Commission.

Members of the commission represent various areas of expertise and reflect a diversity of experiences and perspectives.

The Commissioners are appointed in their personal capacities and do not represent any organisation or stakeholder.


Minister Trevor Manuel will chair the Commission and feed its work into Cabinet and government in general.

The Deputy Chairperson will be Cyril Ramaphosa.

The other members of the Commission are as follows:

- Bobby Godsell
- Elias Masilela
- Jerry Vilakazi
- Noluthando Gosa
- Jennifer Molwantwa
- Mike Muller
- Mariam Altman
- Chris Malikane
- Vivienne Taylor
- Marcus Balintulo
- Vuyokazi Mahlati
- Malekgapuru Makgoba
- Joel Netshitenzhe
- Anton Eberhard
- Bridgette Gasa
- Thandabantu Goba
- Phillip Harrison
- Ihron Rensburg
- Jerry Coovadia
- Karl von Holdt
- Mohammed Karaan
- Tasneem Essop
- Pascal Moloi
- Vincent Maphai

These individuals bring a broad range of expertise to the work of the Commission.
This includes expertise on finance, industry, telecommunications, biotechnology, water engineering, rural development, governance, energy, education, health, food security, and climate change, among others.
The work of the Commission will commence immediately.

The first meeting is tentatively scheduled for 10 and 11 May 2010 and will report on an ongoing basis to Cabinet.

We congratulate these men and women and wish them all the best in their work as they guide the country towards sustainable development and prosperity.

They are assured of our full support as government.

We urge all key sectors in the country to support their work as well as to ensure an improvement in the quality of life, especially of the poor and marginalised.

We also wish to thank those members of the public who made nominations and to those who volunteered their services to the country.


Our monitoring and evaluation function in the Presidency is also functional.

Central to this is the conclusion of performance agreements with Ministers.

The Deputy President and I spent yesterday meeting with Ministers individually to discuss and sign their performance agreements.

We will continue the exercise today until we conclude the process with all 34 Ministers.

The Ministers will cascade these agreements to their Deputies and Directors-General to ensure the entire government reads from one script with regards to what is expected during this term.

We are convinced that our vision of changing the way government works will truly yield results.

I thank you.

28 April 2010


CU, NDR Part 7b

Defiance Campaign

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

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

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

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


Further reading:

26 April 2010

Three Doctors’ Pact

CU, NDR Part 7a

Three Doctors’ Pact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Further reading:

23 April 2010

African Mineworkers' Strike 1946

CU, NDR Part 7, main

Congress, Pact and Defiance

The National Democratic Revolution is more than a theory. It has a history. In South Africa, the unity of the vanguard party, the mass democratic liberation movement, and workers’ industrial unions was created by the actions of countless individuals in the course of many historic events.

In terms of South African history we have already noted among others the formation of the ANC in 1912, the ICU in 1919, and the SACP in 1921. We have considered the Black Republic Thesis, Moses Kotane’s Cradock Letter, and the sectarian problems of the CPSA in the 1930s. The Party had already begun to solve some of these problems by the time South Africa became part of the war of 1939-1945.

Although we will mostly refer from now on to South African events in the second half of this 12-part series on the NDR, yet it is as well to keep in mind that the National Democratic revolutionary wave was a world-wide historic change. NDRs swept old-style colonialism almost completely off the face of the planet in the decades following the second world war.

Thanks partly to the Comintern and to Georgi Dimitrov, the World War that began in 1939 was to a great extent a conscious unity-in-action against the fascists. It is true that the Comintern was wound up on 15 May, 1943, but by that time the international anti-fascist alliance was in place.

The war came to an end in August, 1945, and the United Nations came into being on 24 October 1945, with a membership of 51 nations. Sixty-five years later, and as a direct consequence of multiple worldwide National Democratic Revolutions, UN membership is approaching 200 independent nations – nearly four times as many as there were in 1945.

A lot of organising had been done in the relatively more favourable conditions in South Africa during the anti-fascist war. Among the structures that came into existence were the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions, and the African Mine Workers’ Union, one of whose leaders was J B Marks [pictured above].

A lot was in place, yet action was required that would convert the preparations into permanent, historical and revolutionary facts. The historic action that fulfilled this role in the first place was the African Mineworkers’ Strike of September, 1946.

Writing in 1976, M P Naicker described how the African Mineworkers’ Strike changed everything, both within South Africa and also externally:

“The African miners’ strike was one of those historic events that, in a flash of illumination, educate a nation, reveal what has been hidden and destroy lies and illusions. The strike transformed African politics overnight.

“Dr. A. B. Xuma, President-General of the African National Congress, joined a delegation of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) sent to the 1946 session of the United Nations General Assembly when the question of the treatment of Indians in South Africa was raised by the Government of India. He, together with the SAIC representatives - H. A. Naidoo and Sorabjee Rustomjee - and Senator H. M. Basner, a progressive white ‘Native Representative’ in the South African Senate, used the occasion to appraise Member States of the United Nations of the strike of the African miners and other aspects of the struggle for equality in South Africa.

“Dealing with this visit the ANC, at its annual conference from December 14 to 17, 1946, passed the following resolution:

"Congress congratulates the delegates of India, China and the Soviet Union and all other countries who championed the cause of democratic rights for the oppressed non-European majority in South Africa.”

“The brave miners of 1946 gave birth to the ANC Youth League's Programme of Action adopted in 1949; they were the forerunners of the freedom strikers of May 1, 1950, against the Suppression of Communism Act, and the tens of thousands who joined the 26 June nation-wide protest strike that followed the killing of sixteen people during the May Day strike. They gave the impetus for the 1952 Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws when thousands of African, Indian and Coloured people went to jail; they inspired the mood that led to the upsurge in 1960 and to the emergence of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) - the military wing of the African National Congress.”

In the set for the coming week we will proceed to the Doctors’ Pact and then to the Defiance Campaign that was mounted following the banning of the CPSA in 1950. In the week after that, we will go to the Freedom Charter campaign of the mid-1950s. In all of this we are seeing the NDR as a revolutionary class alliance that is democratic in both form and content.


Further (optional) reading:

21 April 2010

Communist University


Umsebenzi Online, Volume 9, No. 7, 21 April 2010

Red Alert

Strengthening the ideological capacity of the working class: An urgent political task

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

"Capitalist influence must be rooted out in the fields of ideology and culture, and a new type of intellectual must be trained, devoted to the welfare of the people and to socialism - The Road to South African Freedom

The intensity of the class struggle both inside our movement and in broader South African society requires that the working class takes bold and decisive actions to take ideological work and the battle of ideas to higher levels, now and going into the future. The battle of ideas is a battle we dare not lose, as this is critical in driving a radical national democratic revolution as our direct route to socialism. This task must be carried out and work intensified both inside and outside the organized formations of the working class.

Apart from the above, there are a number of other reasons that necessitate that we pay particular attention to this matter. The bilateral we have had with the ANC, as well as our forthcoming bilateral with COSATU necessitate that issues relating to building the ideological capacity of the working class be placed even on a higher pedestal in our overall political agenda.

However there is a broader imperative that necessitates this. That the working class is the leading motive force of the national democratic revolution is not something that should only be words on the pieces of paper of our strategy and programme documents, but should be turned into a palpable reality. In other words the leading role of the working class has to be daily earned on the ground through both a combination of mass and ideological work.

We are currently in a period of a huge ideological offensive, especially directed at the youth, to push them towards the idolisation and the worshipping of wealth, obscene display of consumption, and generally the promotion of a 'get rich quick' mentality. This mentality is reaching out into almost every corner of society, including academic institutions and some religious organizations - areas that ordinarily have been thought of as repositories of the highest standards of morality. In fact partly our anti-corruption campaign is informed by these problematic developments.

All these developments run the danger of turning South Africa into one big tender! However it is not enough to wage a struggle against corruption outside of deepening ideological work both inside our organizations and in broader society, as corruption is often also a reflection of the growing influence of the corrupting ideology of capitalism.

Since 1990, especially since the launch of our Red October campaign, the SACP has continued as before that period doing a lot of work on political education, working together with many of the COSATU affiliates. This work has intensified over the last two years and we intend deepening it.

During this period the National Union of Mineworkers established the Elijah Barayi college, the SACP and COSATU established the Chris Hani Institute, COSATU was also instrumental in the setting up of Ditsela and Naledi. All of our organizations have their own publications.

One of the most recent initiatives has been that led by the SACP in establishing an internet based 'Communist University', which is also starting to meet through contact group discussions and also reaching out to other countries in the continent. We need to think boldly about offering systematic programmes that are accredited and can also give the working class other vital skills like reading, writing and ICT. In fact the Communist University has been the most advanced in the creative use of the internet as a critical platform for educational initiatives. The ANC itself already has advanced plans to establish a political school and a policy institute.

Despite this important work, there are two glaring weaknesses in all of our work on this front. Firstly, they operate in an unco-ordinated manner, when in fact they are important platforms for intensified and co-ordinated ideological work by the working class. Secondly, in all these initiatives we tend to talk to ourselves and those sections of the working class that are organized, whilst bourgeois media talks to both our constituency and the rest of society.

It is therefore important that we take our ideological work to new heights. We need to be innovative and bold by building on these foundations and reach out to broader society. Our international allies often comment that given the strength and power of the working class in South Africa, we should by right be having our own newspapers, radio stations, formally recognized training institutions and other structures that will institutionalize this power. These of course should not be substitutes to mass work, but complement it, though mass work in itself is also an important terrain for the battle of ideas.

The one matter we shall be tabling in our bilateral with COSATU is the need to consolidate working class media and educational initiatives and institutions, that may in the medium to long term can even offer properly accredited certificates, diplomas and degrees. Surely it cannot be that in our public institutions neo-liberal ideas are daily being institutionalized, whilst working class theory is marginalized. Whilst this must not be a substitute for our public institutions to offer working class oriented education as well, let us consolidate what we already control. We need to build these institutions such that they are not only attractive to organized workers only but also to the youth and adults in broader society.

Despite enormous opportunities since 1994 created by the opening of the airwaves, the working class has not adequately taken up the space of community radio stations for instance. These are very important platforms for class analysis of society and the local issues and challenges that face our people on a daily basis.

Since 1994, government has also opened up huge opportunities for training, yet there is no systematic education and training strategy for the working class, despite the many important initiatives we have undertaken. This space has largely been left to employers, focusing only on job related training without a broader strategy to train a different kind of worker - skilled, informed, critical and through which the ideas of the working class can be made a living force in society.

Indeed such vital initiatives and skills will also enable the working class to intensify the battle of ideas in the very platforms of mainstream media, through targeted and ongoing engagement with its mainly bourgeois ideas.

Indeed consolidation on this scale will require resources, but this should not stand on our way to beginning to build working class capacity on this front. For example resources already existing within the organized formations of the working class can be better utilized and co-ordinated to direct them towards these overarching tasks. This does not imply that the various platforms we have servicing particular needs (e.g. Training workers in negotiating skills in particular sectors, 'The Shopsteward', etc) must all be collapsed into one, although they need to be subject to our overall political and ideological objectives. But a strategic and programmatic synergy and pulling together of these existing resources can go a long way towards the attainment of our objectives to consolidate broader working class ideological work.

An immediate task that needs to be initiated by the organized formations of the working class is the establishment of a permanent 'Ideological Commission', that would lead all this work, including undertaking feasibility studies on the various components of such work. Such a commission, to be principally driven by the SACP and COSATU, could for instance be located in one of the already existing working class institutions (eg Elijah Barayi College or Chris Hani Institute).

Of course a systematic attempt at institutionalizing aspects of the working class initiatives, must not replace the thousands of political schools and socialist forums that we hold in various localities and workplaces. These continue to be important, but nevertheless they need to be guided by an overarching working class vision on the important question of the battle of ideas.

It might as well be that an urgent conference of our commissars, organizers, and policy experts and media officials is required to formally table and discuss these matters.

Let all the formations of the working class discuss and debate these matters guided by our medium term vision of making the second decade of our freedom as the decade of the workers and the poor.

All these initiatives are not a substitute to the vanguard role of our South African Communist Party, but ideas placed before all our organized working class formations as part of seeking precisely to play that role.


20 April 2010

People's Democratic Dictatorship

CU, NDR Part 6a

People's Democratic Dictatorship

Ten years after the 1939 publication of Mao’s near-perfect example of the way to lay out the Political Economy of a country, given yesterday and linked again below, the same Mao stood in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on 1 October 1949, to declare the founding of the People’s Republic of China [photograph above].

Also in 1949 Mao wrote of the People’s Democratic Dictatorship in a document linked below. There he rehearsed some of the history, for example:

“Imperialist aggression shattered the fond dreams of the Chinese about learning from the West. It was very odd - why were the teachers always committing aggression against their pupil? The Chinese learned a good deal from the West, but they could not make it work and were never able to realize their ideals. Their repeated struggles, including such a country-wide movement as the Revolution of 1911, all ended in failure. Day by day, conditions in the country got worse, and life was made impossible.”

In 2010, sixty-one years after the revolution, China is still called a People’s Republic, and not a socialist republic. How is it constituted? The Chinese nation is constructed in terms of its political economy. Mao is very clear about this, for example in the following passage:

“Who are the people? At the present stage in China, they are the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. These classes, led by the working class and the Communist Party, unite to form their own state and elect their own government; they enforce their dictatorship over the running dogs of imperialism - the landlord class and bureaucrat-bourgeoisie, as well as the representatives of those classes, the Kuomintang reactionaries and their accomplices - suppress them, allow them only to behave themselves and not to be unruly in word or deed. If they speak or act in an unruly way, they will be promptly stopped and punished. Democracy is practised within the ranks of the people, who enjoy the rights of freedom of speech, assembly, association and so on. The right to vote belongs only to the people, not to the reactionaries. The combination of these two aspects, democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, is the people's democratic dictatorship.”

In 2009, according to information from a Chinese delegation then touring South Africa, the number of people living in the rural areas of China was 800 million, but the number of people in Chinese cities is 500 million, an enormous increase on the three million “modern industrial workers” counted by Mao in 1939.

The South African NDR

As we become more aware of what is happening, it becomes apparent that the National Democratic Revolution should never be seen as a regrettable compromise, or as a temporary or an interim measure, or even as a stage, if a stage means a halt.

The National Democratic Revolution is a positive, revolutionary move forward. It is the only direct move forward that is possible in our circumstances, that can be accomplished in a conscious, peaceful, deliberate and rational way. This is because the NDR corresponds to the political economy of the country, and because development is class struggle.

The National Democratic Revolutions cannot properly be defined by a set of tick-boxes next to self-justifying stand-alone goods such as “non-racial”, “non-sexist” and “unified”, as much as those things may be desirable in the abstract.

The organic nature of the NDR and its consequent trajectory can only be properly and fully seen in the light of Political Economy. The NDR should always be defined, and from time to time redefined, in relation to a specific class alliance for unity-in-action.


Other reading:

19 April 2010

People’s Republic

CU, NDR Part 6, main

People’s Republic

In all the countries of the world, there is division into classes.

The form of study (discipline) that enumerates, names, describes, and narrates the changing absolute and relative condition of all the classes is correctly called Political Economy, meaning literally, the arrangement of the classes within the overall polity.

18 April 2010

Jack Simons, short biography


Jack Simons

Obituary by Dr Hugh Macmillan, in Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 21, No. 4, December 1995

The death occurred in Cape Town on 22 July of (Harold) Jack Simons, one of South Africa's first and most influential Marxist intellectuals. He will be remembered as a dedicated teacher, an original thinker, a lucid writer, and as a life-long fighter for non-racialism and for socialism. Jack Simons was born on 1 February 1907 into a large middle-class family at Riversdale in the then Cape Colony. He joined the civil service and worked as a prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice. It was this experience which alerted him to the essential injustice of the South African social system. While he was working in Pretoria he did his first two degrees by correspondence with the University of South Africa. He completed an MA dissertation on penal policy in South Africa in 1932. He then proceeded to the London School of Economics where he wrote a PhD dissertation in which he compared penal policy in South Africa, Kenya and Southern Rhodesia. He studied Social Anthropology with Bronislaw Malinowski, whom in later years he described as reactionary and racist', and African government with Lucy Mair. Fellow students at Malinowksi's seminar included Max Gluckman and Z. K. Matthews. He travelled in Europe in the mid 1930s, observed the rise of fascism at first hand, including Mosley's British Black Shirts, and joined the Communist Party of which he remained a loyal, if often critical, member for the rest of his life.

16 April 2010

Print on Demand and “Just World Books”

Print on Demand and “Just World Books”

An innovation in publishing

The Communist University has been using a “print on demand” for several months now, by arrangement with the Jetline Print on Demand company. Jetline has uploaded a large number of Communist University “short texts”, and made them available via their outlets and hence to study groups all over South Africa. To find out more about this very economical CU service, click here (see top of right-hand panel).

Just World Books

Now, an e-friend of the CU, Helena Cobban of Washington, DC, USA, who is the proprietor of the longstanding Middle-East-oriented blog “Just World News” (JWN), has taken the Print On Demand publishing concept to another level.

12 April 2010

Theory and Practice


Theory and Practice

What was happening in the six years between the “Black Republic Thesis” of 1928 and Moses Kotane’s “Cradock Letter” of 1934? Why was it necessary for Kotane to ask again in 1934 for things which should have been assured in 1928?

10 April 2010

The National Question


The National Question

The main document this time is large but is of great use because it covers this period from a different point of view, while nevertheless confirming the general outline that we have drawn so far. It is from Brian Bunting’s 1975 book, “Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary” (download linked below).

09 April 2010

Time for rural people to experience change: Gugile Nkwinti


 ANC Today, 9 April 2010

Progress Report | By Gugile Nkwinti

It is the time for rural people to experience the desired change that we have all talked about

The resolution of the 52nd National Conference of the ANC (December 2007) on agrarian change, land reform and rural development, confirmed the ANC's acute awareness and sensitivity to the centrality of land (the land question) as a fundamental element in the resolution of the race, gender and class contradictions in South Africa.

Pitfalls of national and class struggle

Chris Hani Memorial Lecture delivered by Buti Manamela, National Secretary of the YCLSA, at J Dumane Hall, Vosloorus, 9 April 2010

Chris Hani Memorial Lecture

“The pitfalls of national and class struggle: what role for the youth”

The Struggle Continues

One of the most heroic, brilliant and consistent leader and revolutionary of the ANC, SACP, the working class and the poor - Martin Thembisile “Chris” Hani was assassinated 17 years ago on the 10th of April. The assassins, Waluz Jaluz and Clive Derby Lewis, where later apprehended through information received from a white woman, a neighbour of the Hani family, and confessed their political motives.

07 April 2010

34 days of activism against corruption


Umsebenzi Online, Volume 9, No. 6, 7 April 2010

In this Issue: 
  • Remember Chris Hani in 2010: Waging a relentless struggle against corruption!

Red Alert

Remember Chris Hani in 2010: Waging a relentless struggle against corruption!

29 March - 1 May: 34 days of activism against corruption

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The SACP Politburo has declared the 29 March to May Day 2010 a period within which to intensify our campaign against corruption, beginning with our highly successful seminar against corruption on 29 March 2010 in Braamfontein and culminating on 1 May 2010, the workers' historic May Day. This is the 34 Days of Activism against corruption!

06 April 2010

Socialism and Nationalism


Socialism and Nationalism

Jack Simons and Ray Alexander (they married in 1941) were two of the greatest communists South Africa has ever produced.

Ray Alexander’s record as a trade union organiser was second to none. Her record as a founder of the Federation of South African Women is still the benchmark.

Jack Simons was a great scholar, from humble beginnings, and a great teacher. Jack Simons is the benchmark in political education. Samples of his contribution in this regard can be found in the book “Comrade Jack - The Political Lectures and Diary of Jack Simons, Nova Catengue”, STE Publishers and the ANC, December 2001.

The Simons’ most outstanding joint work is “Class and Colour in South Africa, 1850-1950”, published when they were in exile (from which they both lived to return in 1990). Click on the title to access the full book on the ANC web site.

In this series on the NDR, the main post for this week was the selection from “African Communists Speak” (1981), a book full of verbatim documents. Our selection included the “Black Republic Thesis”, and Moses Kotane’s “Cradock Letter”.

“Class and Colour” is a narrative, with footnotes indicating sources. Many people are named. “Jones” is David Ivon Jones, and “Andrews” is Bill Andrews. Other names will be more familiar. Others again may only be on public record in this book.

This chapter covers the decade from the latter part of the inter-Imperialist war (The Great War) of 1914 to 1918.

This was the formative period of the Communist Party of South Africa, the African National Congress, and the black trade union movement; and the course was set from that time which continues in the form of the National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance that still exists today.


04 April 2010

Democracy Taken to the National Scale


National-Scale Democracy

We have founded this study of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) on the practical necessity, as well as the historical fact, of class alliance, and most pointedly on Lenin’s report to the 2CCI on 26 July 1920, on the National & Colonial Question.

A class alliance, or in other words a popular front or a unity-in-action, was always necessary for the defeat of colonialism. Such class alliances were successfully put together in many countries, including South Africa, as the tactical road to strategic political independence.

Such an alliance is what is broadly known as a National Liberation Movement. What the movement is supposed to do is called the National Democratic Revolution. As much as it was nationalist, the anti-colonial liberation movement was equally international in character.

Its national dimension was the enlargement of democracy, which the Imperialists invariably opposed with divide-and-rule schemes of provincial federation, regionalism, et cetera. Hence the continuing struggle against Provincialism, and the on-going defence of Provincialism by the reactionary remnants in our country.

The NDR’s international dimension is solidarity with the National Liberation struggles of others, in the common fight against Imperialism.

We now need to look specifically at the expansion of democracy to the national level. Why? Because for revolutionary purposes the entire working class, and the entirety of the allied classes, must unite all of their potential support, in numerical, and in territorial terms. This is a practical necessity, if the liberation forces are to defeat the well-concentrated class enemy which is the monopoly and Imperialist-allied bourgeoisie.

The battle to spread democracy to the farthest corners of the country, and to the whole population in terms of class, race and gender, is also the battle against regional and ethnic chauvinism. This effort aims to create a centralised parliamentary democracy, or democratic republic, even if, as Lenin pointed out in the report to the 2CCI, such a democratic republic can only be bourgeois in nature.

The structure of parliamentary democracy (i.e. the democratic republic) is the organising scheme within which the polity at the national scale is conceived and arranged. It is not sufficient in itself. It is a shell that must be populated with organised elements, elements which must also be extended to the national scale, just as much as the parliamentary franchise is.

Among these organised elements are:

  • The mass movement of national liberation
  • The vanguard party of the working class
  • The national (industrial) trade unions and their national centre
  • Class-conscious national media of communication
  • Many mass organisations at the national level, including Womens’ and Youth organisations.

Communists can be found organising, educating and mobilising, as is their duty according to the SACP Constitution, in all of these areas, and this has been the case throughout the 89 years of the Party’s life. The texts that are collected together in the linked document below clearly demonstrate that the communists, even before the formation of the Party, were concerned with the extension of organisation to all parts of the population.

The linked documents show that one predominately-white precursor of the Party was acutely aware that its own aspirations could not be fulfilled unless the Black Proletariat was mobilised to take the lead in the struggle. This was the International Socialist League. It, like Lenin, had opposed the Imperialist war that broke out in 1914. It was later to become a component part of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) on its formation in 1921. “No Labour Movement without the Black Proletariat,” it said.

After its 1921 formation, the Party quickly became predominantly black in membership, and the black cadres soon exercised a leading role in mass organisations, of which the biggest, in the 1920s, was the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU). [Note: The (white) Labour Party had been formed in 1908, and the African National Congress in 1912.]

The expulsion of communists from the ICU, and in particular of J.A. (Jimmy) La Guma, ICU General Secretary; E.J. Khaile, ICU Financial Secretary and John Gomas, Cape Provincial Secretary, was a set-back for the working class and as it turned out, it was fatal for the ICU. This episode is recorded in the first linked document, below.

In 1927 Josia Gumede was elected ANC President and travelled to meet the top leadership of the Soviet Union. That year was the tenth anniversary of the Russian revolution. He travelled with Jimmy La Guma, a member of the party, secretary of an ANC branch in Cape Town and recently expelled leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). La Guma was expelled by the ICU together with E.J Khaile for being communists. In that very year Khaile was elected Secretary-General of the ANC at its national conference in 1927.

The CPSA and the ANC drew closer together, though not without problems. But the alliance was endorsed by the Sixth Comintern Congress in the famous “Black Republic Thesis” resolution, which said among others:

“The Party should pay particular attention to the embryonic national organisations among the natives, such as the African National Congress. The Party, while retaining its full independence, should participate in these organisations, should seek to broaden and extend their activity…

“In the field of trade union work the Party must consider that its main task consists in the organisation of the native workers into trade unions as well as propaganda and work for the setting up of a South African trade union centre embracing black and white workers.

“The Communist Party cannot confine itself to the general slogan of Let there be no whites and no blacks'. The Communist Party must understand the revolutionary importance of the national and agrarian questions.

“A correct formulation of this task and intensive propagation of the chief slogan of a native republic will result not in the alienation of the white workers from the Communist Party, not in segregation of the natives, but, on the contrary, in the building up of a solid united front of all toilers against capitalism and imperialism.”

In the first of the linked documents, the Comintern resolution is followed by the famous Cradock Letter written by Moses Kotane in 1934, before he became General Secretary of the Party. It called for the “Africanisation or Afrikanisation” of the CPSA, something that had clearly not yet fully taken place, five years after the adoption of the “Black Republic Thesis”.

The second linked document is the chapter on “Socialism and Nationalism” from Jack Simons and his wife Ray Alexander’s 1969 book, “Class and Colour”. It contains a wealth of detail about the period and it mentions many of the active personalities in the years before and after the formation of the CPSA (i.e. roughly from 1917 to 1930).

Further (optional) reading: