18 September 2009

Congress, Pact and Defiance

[CU for Monday, 21 September 2009]

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

The World War that began in 1939 was, thanks partly to the Comintern and to Georgi Dimitrov, a conscious unity-in-action against the fascists. The Comintern was wound up on 15 May, 1943. The war came to an end in August, 1945. The United Nations came into being on 24 October 1945, with a membership of 51 nations.

During the war, a lot of organising had been done in South Africa. Among the structures in existence were the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions, and the African Mine Workers’ Union.

Writing in 1976, M P Naicker described how the African Mineworkers’ strike of September 1946 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.”

The second linked document is a transcript of the “Three Doctors’ Pact” of March, 1947. The three doctors were Dr Xuma, Dr Dadoo, and Dr 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. 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 – the National Democratic Revolution. In the next installment, we will proceed to the Congress of the People Campaign, including the Freedom Charter.

The third document linked below was written by the famous “Drum” reporter, Henry Nxumalo. 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, making no further public statements until 1959, with the publication of the first issue of the African Communist.

But two other things happened: the remaining, legal components of the movement rallied round to protest against the banning and to support the ex-Party comrades, such as Dadoo, Marks, Bopape and Kotane, as reported by Henry Nxumalo in Drum. The movement was solid. The ANC did not wash off the communists. The NDR was already on firm foundations.

Click on these links:

The African Miners Strike of 1946, Naicker (3894 words)

Three Doctors Pact, 1947, Xuma, Naicker, Dadoo (380 words)

Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign, Drum, Nxumalo (617 words)


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