30 July 2014

The Freedom Charter as part of the NDR

National Democratic Revolution, Part 6a

The Freedom Charter as part of the NDR

This week we are looking at the Congress of the People campaign that in 1953 followed the Defiance of Unjust Laws campaign, which was in turn a consequence of the banning of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1950; plus we are looking at the Freedom Charter.

The 1955 Kliptown Congress of the People, where the Freedom Charter was adopted, was followed by a campaign of conscientisation and positive endorsement of the Freedom Charter both by individuals and by mass organisations. This was interrupted in 1956 by the Treason Trial of most of the Congress Alliance leadership, which was not concluded until 1961, a year after Sharpeville and the banning of the ANC in the year of 1960.

In the previous post on this topic we looked at the “Call to the Congress of the People”, taking it as a typical tactical example of the conscious, deliberate, democratic formation of a collective revolutionary Subject of History through well-designed organisation.

Taken all together, we can see the 1950s as a time of focussed, concerted organising towards the NDR – a “process and not an event”, as we used to say.

This leaves us with the Freedom Charter itself. Nowadays it is often quoted as a bible, and without explicit reference to the NDR.

The Freedom Charter does say that “all who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers”. But it does not specifically say that political parties shall be free to organise. Nor does it say that women should organise as women, or as working women.

Hence there are two lessons coming out of the 1950s. One is the practical example of the movement’s work throughout the decade; the other is the rights-based Charter that was produced in the course of all the work.

This sometimes disconnected contrast between action and prescription remains characteristic of South African politics.

Picture: Chief Albert Luthuli, President of the ANC in the 1950s

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Call to the Congress of the People; Freedom Charter.

29 July 2014

Congress Call

National Democratic Revolution, Part 6

Congress of the People, Kliptown

Congress Call

This post is about the preparations, from 1953 onwards, for the 1955 Congress of the People (CoP); about the Congress of the People as a definite event; and about the Freedom Charter that came out of that event, all considered as historic acts and as part of the process of building the South African National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

What could very advantageously be used for this discussion is an electronic copy of the book by Jeremy Cronin and Raymond Suttner, published in 1986, called “30 Years of the Freedom Charter”, or even just a good extract from the book. But unfortunately the book is not available on the Internet. Instead, it has been polished up and re-published as “50 Years of the Freedom Charter”, in hard copy only. If you can get either one of these editions, do use it to prepare for this discussion.

“The Congress of the People and Freedom Charter Campaign”, by Ismail Vadi, Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 1995, is another book that comes up in searches of the Internet.

According to the small samples of Vadi’s book that can be read on line, (i.e. the Introduction, the Preface, and the Foreword by Walter Sisulu) the planning of the CoP began in 1953, and the campaign was only wound down in 1956, the year of the beginning of the Treason Trial, which was a consequence of the CoP. The Treason Trial continued until 1961, by which time all the defendants had been acquitted.

Another document on the Internet is a short History of the Freedom Charter on the “non-partisan” South African History Online web site, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and other liberal philanthropists. “Non-partisan” in the case of SAHO therefore tends to mean that the Communist Party is mentioned as little as possible. Nevertheless, these pages bear out the extended nature of the political intervention that was the total CoP Campaign, a campaign that was a clear extension of the National Democratic Revolution policy of the recently-banned CPSA and of the Comintern before it, since 1920.

The CoP/Freedom Charter campaign was a determined and visible construction of a national democratic project. It involved huge masses of people. It was a self-conscious, deliberate and fully worked-out design, even to the Nehru-style caps in ANC colours that the Volunteers wore. [See the photo above showing the platform at Kliptown, with a Volunteer in attendance]

There is an error in the SAHO text: There were five organisations involved, not four. SACTU, the non-racial South African Congress of Trade Unions, was a late entry to the CoP but it made the cut and it managed to feature in the “wheel of unity” that nowadays still forms part of both COSATU’s and the ANC’s logos.

The second image shows the document that was used to publicise the Freedom Charter after the Congress, including the newly-pasted “SACTU” acronym, and the “ANC” acronym shifted from the rim to the hub of the wheel. The document includes quotes from the Freedom Charter itself.

This series is about the NDR. This post and the reading are given so as to invite you to consider the whole episode of the CoP campaign from 1953 to 1956, and the subsequent struggle around the Treason Trial, as one of the strongest specific and historical contributions to the NDR.

The document linked below includes the “Call to the Congress of the People”. This was a mobilising flyer and it shows very clearly the large scope and scale of the call to “all Unionwide Organisations”.

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.

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 once more, is now an open part. There was never a time when the communists were not part of the National Democratic Revolution. It is theirs, as much as it is anybody else’s. It is family.

As it was when Lenin spoke to the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, so it was in 1955. Two things were required. One 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.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Call to the Congress of the People; Freedom Charter.

24 July 2014

Defiance Campaign

National Democratic Revolution, Part 5b

Defiance Campaign

The document attached, and 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.

The lead up to this episode is also described in Govan Mbeki’s 1992 book “The Struggle for Liberation in South Africa”. At the beginning of Chapter 7 of that book, Mbeki recalls the joint ANC/CPSA protest against the Suppression of Communism Act on May Day 1950, and the massacre of 18 people on that day by the National Party regime that had come to power in 1948. This is something South Africans should always remember on the May Day holiday each year.

Consequent to this massacre, 26 June 1950 was observed with a stay-away as “Freedom Day”.

Two years later, the same day, 26 June, was used for the launch of the Defiance of Unjust Laws campaign in 1952, and it was used again in 1955 when the Freedom Charter was adopted on that date at the Congress of the People in Kliptown.

Note that 26 June, our original Freedom Day, having to do with the protests against the banning of the Communist Party, is not a Public Holiday in South Africa. 24 September was made a public “Heritage Day” holiday at the insistence of the Inkatha Freedom Party (see here).

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign, Drum, 1952, Nxumalo.

23 July 2014

Three Doctors’ Pact

National Democratic Revolution, Part 5a

Naicker, Xuma, Dadoo

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 fifth 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 for national liberation, as the above quotation from it shows.

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 for it 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.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Three Doctors Pact, 1947, Xuma, Naicker, Dadoo.

22 July 2014

Congress, Pact and Defiance

National Democratic Revolution, Part 5

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, in the second half of this 12-part series on the NDR, to South African events, 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. Almost, but not quite. The brutal colonization of Palestine continues to this day.

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 (and an intention of banning war forever). Sixty-eight 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 of 1939-45. 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 current set 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.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: The African Miners Strike of 1946, Naicker.

17 July 2014

Reform or Revolution?

National Democratic Revolution, Part 4b

Reform or Revolution?

Rosa Luxemburg’s “Reform or Revolution?” is a great classic of revolutionary literature. In the first place it is a thorough polemical rejection of Eduard Bernstein’s 1899 “Evolutionary Socialism”, which book Luxemburg deals with comprehensively, to the point where she concludes:

“It was enough for opportunism to speak out to prove it had nothing to say. In the history of our party that is the only importance of Bernstein’s book.”

This was true. The reformists have never made any advance on Bernstein; but they only keep pushing the same busted case.

“Reform or Revolution?”, first published in 1900, was the beginning of an even more crucial polemic which we will now summarise.

Lenin published “What is to be Done?” in 1902, in response to the same book of Eduard Bernstein’s, as well as to the general outbreak of “economism”, also called “opportunism”, or “reformism”, or “syndicalism”, or in South Africa, “workerism”. In this book, Lenin clarified the basis for the vanguard communist party of professional revolutionaries of the type that the SACP, for example, is.

Lenin went further than Luxemburg, so that Lenin’s “What is to be Done?” is regarded today as the defining blueprint of the communist parties as they have been for nearly a century. The communist parties make no compromise with reformism.

Although she had demolished Bernstein even before Lenin did, yet Luxemburg in 1904 sharply contradicted Lenin’s subsequent book, and was in turn corrected by Lenin’s final reply. In the course of these polemics, the modern communist parties were fully defined for the first time, and irreversibly differentiated from the reformists, and from the reformist mass organisations such as trade unions. Let us look at this in a little more detail.

The German Social Democrats were the most numerous, well-established and long-standing of the supposedly revolutionary parties before the First World War. Luxemburg, although she was originally Polish, was a senior member of that German party.

The founding Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic and Labour Party (RSDLP) took place in Minsk in 1898. Lenin was a member, and was the editor of the party journal “Iskra”, which he founded in 1900. 

In 1903 the Second Congress of the RSDLP took place in Brussels and London. The consequence of this Second Congress was the split between the Bolsheviks (majority) and the Mensheviks (minority), whereby the Mensheviks, though really a minority, blackmailed the majority and consequently got away with most of the spoils, including “Iskra”. Hence Lenin’s detailed 1904 report of this Congress is called “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”. It is this document that prompted Rosa Luxemburg to raise objections in the form of her 1904 “Leninism or Marxism?”.

Lenin’s reply (1904) to Rosa Luxemburg was conclusive. It settled all the open questions.

In 1905 a revolution broke out in Russia, which resolved into a bourgeois-democratic advance and the establishment of the “Duma”, or parliament, in Russia. The RSDLP held its Third Congress in that year, and Lenin wrote “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, a full differentiation of the revolutionaries from the reformists. The revolutionaries make class alliances (unity-in-action) for strategic goals. The reformists capitulate, collaborate and subordinate themselves to the ruling class.

In 1914, at the outbreak of war between the main Imperialist powers, it was duly found that the Social-Democrats of the Second International, including the German Social-Democrats led by Karl Kautsky, abandoned their internationalism and sided with their separate bourgeois ruling classes – the ultimate in class collaboration. The RSDLP held out against this collapse, while Rosa Luxemburg founded the anti-war Spartacist League in Germany. In February, 1917, a second bourgeois revolution in Russia overthrew the Tsar and in October of that year the Great October (proletarian) revolution was successfully executed under Lenin’s leadership.

In January 1919, Rosa Luxemburg was murdered in Berlin by the proto-fascist “Freikorps” organisation. In the same month, the anti-communist German Workers’ Party (DAP) was founded by Anton Drexler. Adolf Hitler joined it in September of that year. In the following year of 1920 the DAP was re-launched as the NSDAP, better known as the Nazi Party.

In the same year of 1919 the Communist International (also called Third International, or Comintern) was formed, and by 1921 the CPSA (now SACP) had been admitted to it as a recognised Communist Party.

The attached and linked download is a redacted (shortened) version of “Reform or Revolution?” prepared for discussion purposes. Two more points can usefully be picked out at this stage. The first point is the direct statement of the matter at issue in the opening lines of Luxemburg’s Introduction:

‘Can the Social-Democracy be against reforms? Can we contrapose the social revolution, the transformation of the existing order, our final goal, to social reforms? Certainly not… It is in Eduard Bernstein's theory… that we find, for the first time, the opposition of the two factors of the labour movement. His theory tends to counsel us to renounce the social transformation, the final goal of Social-Democracy and, inversely, to make of social reforms, the means of the class struggle, its aim… But since the final goal of socialism constitutes the only decisive factor distinguishing the Social-Democratic movement from bourgeois democracy and from bourgeois radicalism, the only factor transforming the entire labour movement from a vain effort to repair the capitalist order into a class struggle against this order, for the suppression of this order – the question: "Reform or Revolution?" as it is posed by Bernstein, equals for the Social-Democracy the question: "To be or not to be?"’

Special Relevance of this work in relation to the National Democratic Revolution

The second point comes within the text where Luxemburg describes the Sisyphus-like situation of the small enterprises under monopoly capitalism, so typical of South Africa today, as follows:

“The struggle of the average size enterprise against big Capital… should be rather regarded as a periodic mowing down of the small enterprises, which rapidly grow up again, only to be mowed down once more by large industry.” [see Chapter 2, page 10 of the attached Part 1]

Without a working-class struggle against the capitalist order, for the suppression of that order, there can only be “vain efforts to repair” it – for example, trying to make capitalist work into “decent” work.

Meanwhile the small (petty bourgeois) enterprises are periodically “mowed down” and hence can never come right under the monopoly power of “big Capital”. These circumstances give the two repressed classes a strong basis for unity-in-action against big Capital (e.g. in a National Democratic Revolution) both nationally, and internationally.

An alliance with anti-monopoly national capital against the monopoly bourgeoisie is a revolutionary alliance in keeping with the National Democratic Revolution. But a collaboration of all, that would include the monopolists, would be akin to fascism and would not be revolutionary, or even democratic.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Reform or Revolution Part 1, Intro, and C2, and Part 2, C7, C9, C10, by Rosa Luxemburg.

16 July 2014

People's Democratic Dictatorship

National Democratic Revolution, Part 4a

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 in the previous instalment, the same Mao stood in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on 1 October 1949, to declare the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Also in 1949, Mao wrote of the People’s Democratic Dictatorship in a document linked below (please download it). In it 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 2014, Africans can still feel the truth of these words in relation to their own experience.

In 2014, sixty-five years after the revolution, China is still called a People’s Republic, and not a socialist republic. Why is this? 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 still 800 million, but the number of people in Chinese cities was by then 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 fully 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 nature of the NDR and its consequent trajectory can only be properly seen in the light of Political Economy. The NDR should always be defined, and from time to time if necessary redefined, in relation to a specific class alliance for unity-in-action.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: People's Democratic Dictatorship, 1949, Mao Zedong.

15 July 2014

People’s Republic

National Democratic Revolution, Part 4

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

The form of study or 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.

In Marxist terms this study has to be an “ascent from the abstract to the concrete”, or in other words it must make possible a view of the whole social phenomenon as a “unity and struggle of opposites” at a particular moment in time.

The social classes are formed as a consequence of various modes of production. The study of the bourgeois mode of production in isolation, and the imagined generalisation of its laws to the entirety of current human experience, and to history, is what is known as (bourgeois) “Economics”. The confinement of political thought within the bounds of bourgeois economics would cripple it and render us incapable of projecting forward in any way, and especially not towards socialism.

Hence revolutionaries from time to time, and with varying degrees of precision and detail, are apt to prepare a balance sheet of the Political Economy at a particular moment in time. This is what Karl Marx did in the “Class Struggles in France 1848-1850, and in “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (1852). These were exemplary calculations, which apart from their practical revolutionary value, served forever after to educate and to re-educate revolutionaries about the facts of class-struggle life.

Mao Zedong’s extraordinary study of the political economy of China in 1939, called “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party”, is another great example of this kind of exercise (attached; otherwise please click on the first link below and download it).

This piece of writing is about as concentrated and as directly relevant to South Africa as it could be. Here you will find the relationship between Imperialism and the most backward, feudal elements; the role of the national bourgeoisie; the role of the gentry (rich peasant farmers); the concept of “motive force” and many other matters that are crucial in South Africa today.

Note that Mao was not embarrassed to talk of a bourgeois-democratic revolution. This is only one of the differences between the Chinese revolutionaries and their Soviet counterparts of a generation earlier.

The general scheme of rational class alliance aimed towards the construction of a national and democratic republic - what Mao calls the new-democratic revolution, is as follows:

“…in present-day China the bourgeois-democratic revolution is no longer of the old general type, which is now obsolete, but one of a new special type. We call this type the new-democratic revolution and it is developing in all other colonial and semi-colonial countries as well as in China. The new-democratic revolution is part of the world proletarian-socialist revolution, for it resolutely opposes imperialism, i.e., international capitalism. Politically, it strives for the joint dictatorship of the revolutionary classes over the imperialists, traitors and reactionaries, and opposes the transformation of Chinese society into a society under bourgeois dictatorship. Economically, it aims at the nationalization of all the big enterprises and capital of the imperialists, traitors and reactionaries, and the distribution among the peasants of the land held by the landlords, while preserving private capitalist enterprise in general and not eliminating the rich-peasant economy.”

Taken together with the piece coming next, which Mao wrote ten years later in the year of the victory of the Chinese Revolution, 1949, this text allows us to get a sense of the dynamics of plural class formations, and of their ascent and decline in China, and the consequent practical inevitability of the National Democratic Revolution.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party, 1939, Mao Zedong.

12 July 2014

Theory and Practice

National Democratic Revolution, Part 3c

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?

The answer is that the intervening period was a time of terrible sectarianism in the SACP, causing a weakening of the entire liberation struggle.

In the linked, downloadable chapter Jack and Ray (Alexander) Simons tell the story of how the “Black Republic Thesis” was, within two years, perverted into a self-contradictory, mechanical formula by the very same ECCI (Executive Committee of the Communist International) that had laid down the famous Black Republic Thesis of 1928. This formula proposed at one and the same time a “two-stage revolution” that was to be led exclusively by a “go-it-alone” communist party. The Simons reveal the confused nature of the ECCI’s thinking with the following rhetorical question:

“If there was to be no united action, not even with leaders of Gumede's calibre and not for a programme of immediate demands, why should the party aim at an 'independent native republic’, instead of an out-and-out socialist revolution?”

The ECCI’s 1930 memorandum was neither fish nor fowl. It was neither one thing nor the other.

The arrival of two individuals, Wolton and Bach, who played on their connections with the Communist International (CI), triggered, in these circumstances, wave after wave of expulsions and horrible treachery of comrade against comrade. The Simons do not flinch from telling the truth about all this.

As much as it is a terrible story, yet the whole affair revolved around the same fundamental questions that resolved themselves in due course, once again, into a firm theory of National Democratic Revolution.

These are the questions of the relationship between the Vanguard and the Mass, and between the National and Class questions.

The ghosts of the sectarian period still reappear occasionally in holes and corners of our movement, and sometimes burst out with temporary ferocity.

To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed.

In this clear and easy-to-read chapter the Simons did a great service to our movement as a whole.

The picture above is of Ray Alexander Simons: worker, intellectual, trade unionist, leader of women, and communist.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Class and Colour, C19, Theory and Practice, Simons and Simons.

11 July 2014

The National Question

National Democratic Revolution, Part 3b

The National Question

The attached document, divided into two parts, is large, but it is of great use because it covers the period under consideration from another 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 1934 Cradock Letter, “For Africanisation of the Party”. Five years later Kotane became General Secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and subsequently of the SACP, holding the position from 1939 until his death in 1978. He was also at some stage Treasurer-General of the ANC, and an ANC NEC member.

This document was written by Brian Bunting, a participant and witness of the events described. The period covered 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 other comrades who had been more circumspect about the adoption of the “native republic” thesis. Wave after wave of expulsions took place.

The sectarian period of party history 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, and remains, an alliance between proletarian and national-bourgeois class elements, for freedom, and against monopoly capital and imperialism.

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

“After he had left the Party, [Eddie] 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…”

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary, Chapter 2, The National Question, Bunting, Part 1 and Part 2.

9 July 2014

Socialism and Nationalism

National Democratic Revolution, Part 3a

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.

This chapter covers the decade following the 1914-1918 inter-Imperialist war (The Great War).

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.

Illustration: Cover of “Comrade Jack”, a book that includes political lectures Jack Simons gave in Angola.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Class and Colour, C10, Socialism and Nationalism, Simons and Simons.