15 September 2009

The National Question

[CU for Thursday, 17 September 2009]

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”.

Kotane was the author of the Cradock Letter (1934), used in the previous CU instalment. Five years later Kotane became General Secretary of the CPSA and then of the SACP, holding the position from 1939 until his death in 1978.

The supporting document is from Jack and Ray Simons’ 1969 “Class & Colour in South Africa, 1850-1950”. [The entire book is on the Internet at the ANC web site.]

Both of these documents were written by participants and witnesses of the events described. The period was one of difficulty for the Party (the CPSA). Those who had ostensibly advocated the correct “line” at the correct moment, and who, perhaps for that reason, possessed the leadership, behaved with extreme cruelty towards the comrades who had been more circumspect about the adoption of the “native republic” thesis, using wave after wave of expulsions.

It is a lesson on how not to behave. In the end it is clear that there were great obstacles in the way of the execution of the native republic thesis, and that those who took the difficulties seriously were some of those, like Brian Bunting, Jack Simons, and Ray Alexander Simons, who survived; while those who had expelled their comrades, blaming them for the difficulties, and who ruled the Party like tyrants, did not last.

Moses Kotane [pictured] came through, survived, and is identified forever with the defence of the NDR and of the Alliance that the NDR required. It was on the surface an alliance between the SACP and the African National Congress, but at root it was an alliance between the proletariat, and national class elements, for freedom, and against monopoly capital.

In the next instalment we will look at the shifting class relationships in China, before and after the revolution of 1949, so as to reinforce our understanding that class alliance is the universal tactical characteristic of class-conflicted society, and is not a solely South African phenomenon. Then we will continue to track the National Democratic Revolution in South African theory and practice through the second half of the 20th century and up to date.

There is nothing exceptional or unique to South Africa about class alliance. It is an organic factor in all class-divided societies. Nor was it imposed. The following excerpt from Brian Bunting’s book says:

“After he had left the Party, Roux was at pains to make out that the Native Republic resolution was imposed on The South African Communist Party from outside by a Comintern concerned more with the furtherance of its own interests and those of its biggest constituent element the Russian CP than with the interests of the South African people… the eventual Native Republic resolution flowed from an interchange of views between the Comintern and the CPSA, and was accepted in South Africa in terms of the policy of democratic centralism on which the international Communist movement was based. Certainly, there is no doubting that the impetus for the Native Republic resolution came from the nationally-minded elements in the South African CP…”

Click on these links:

Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary, Chapter 2, The National Question, Bunting (13844 words)

Class & Colour in South Africa, 1850-1950, Chapter 19, Theory & Practice, Simons & Simons (8579 only)


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