18 February 2010

Congress of the People, Freedom Charter

Congress of the People, Freedom Charter

We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. Next week’s session will be as follows:

  • Date: 24 February 2010 (Wednesday)
  • Time: 17h00 sharp to 18h30 sharp
  • Venue: The Library, University of Johannesburg, 37 Nind Street, Doornfontein, Johannesburg (former Technikon Witwatersrand). Cars enter from the slip road to the left of the bridge on Siemert Road.
  • Topic: The SACP Constitution

In our “Basics” course, this document is given as an alternative or supplementary discussion document to the main one (the SACP constitution), so that we could have a discussion around mass and vanguard organisation, alliances between classes, and the role of the Party.

The SACP’s Rule 6.4 makes a good basis for alliances. The attitude and principle that Rule 6.4 represents has been successful over the decades. Alliance of mass democratic organisations was exemplified the 1955 Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter that was adopted there. [Picture: Kliptown, 1955]

The Freedom Charter was much more than a list of demands. It was an integral part of a conscious nation-building project which had real revolutionary content and which demonstrated real democracy in action, following the banning of the communist party (CPSA) in 1950.

The campaign of which the Freedom Charter was a part, and which generated the Charter, began long before the Kliptown event. It was intended to go on for a long time afterwards. 

The campaign got under way with the collection, by countrywide volunteers, of suggestions and inputs to the document, so that the people could “write their own demands into the Charter of Freedom”, as the “Call” document said.

In practice, the campaign was disturbed, following the Kliptown event, by the arrest of many of the Congress and allied leadership, in 1956, and the subsequent Treason Trial. But this did not stop the Freedom Charter from attaining the classic status that it still carries today.

Those old comrades laid down a well-designed 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.



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