South Africa: Revolution on an Upgrade(1)

The month of June marked two significant events in the history of the struggle of the oppressed peoples of South Africa against racism and apartheid tyranny and for national and social emancipation. June 16 was the second anniversary of the heroic revolt of Soweto which lifted the revolutionary struggle in racist South Africa to new and higher levels. June 26 is observed throughout the country as South Africa's Freedom Day every year since 1950, when it was observed by the African National Congress in alliance with the Communist Party and other national organisations. On this day our people, in spite of the reign of terror of the racist regime, find ways and means of paying homage to the fallen heroes and those languishing in Vorster's dungeons and they reaffirm their unyielding commitment to pursue the struggle relentlessly until final victory has been won.

Since the first shootings in Soweto thousands of our people have been murdered, maimed, arrested, and tortured. Every day offers evidence of the racist rulers' seemingly inexhaustible capacity to commit the most barbarous crimes of oppression and enslavement. But the blood that has flowed in the streets of Soweto and other ghetto areas has increased the determination of our people to intensify the resistance on all fronts. In the heat of the battle the people demonstrated great inventiveness and ingenuity. They ambushed police vehicles, erected different types of barricades, produced home-made bombs and carried out well planned actions against the institutional symbols of apartheid. It is clear that the enemy has failed to cow the people into submission. The initiative has inexorably passed into the hands of the people and their liberation organisations.

National liberation revolutions are dialectically interconnected and determined, on the one hand by the nature and content of the historic epoch in which they occur, the epoch of the worldwide transition from capitalism to socialism. In contrast to the deep socio-economic crisis afflicting the capitalist world we witness the ever-growing economic, political and moral strength and influence on these revolutions by the socialist world and in particular by that great bastion of freedom and democracy, the Soviet Union.

The process of detente and peaceful coexistence is becoming increasingly far-reaching in its impact. In these conditions, the peoples of our continent have been scoring fresh successes in bringing pressure to bear on the positions of imperialism. The advances in Angola and Mozambique have altered the geopolitical situation in Southern Africa and given an incalculable boost to the fighting morale and militant spirit of the oppressed toiling masses in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The revolutionary forces of Angola and Mozambique have brought into sharp focus the difference between people's power and that exercised by a privileged minority, the pawns of imperialism and neo-colonialism. Their example will undoubtedly be an inspiration to the peoples of Namibia and Zimbabwe. who have been rebuffing the attempts to impose on them the notorious "internal settlement", which is actually a neo-colonialist deal with the racist authorities that would leave the white minority retaining control of these countries.

It is imperative that the worldwide revolutionary, progressive and democratic forces rally around SWAPO and the Patriotic Front who are the true spokesmen of the peoples of Namibia and Zimbabwe. We must do all we can to defeat the intrigues of world imperialism which seeks above all to prevent genuine people's power in Namibia, Zimbabwe and, of course, South Africa, that bulwark of racism, neo-colonialism and imperialism on the African continent.

In an attempt to prevent such a revolutionary trans-

formation from occurring in our country the imperialists are feverishly active in proposing all kinds of reformist prescriptions. Both U.S. imperialism and the racist regime in South Africa share a fundamental aim - to safeguard capitalism in South Africa - but they differ on how best to achieve it. Vorster has an unwarranted belief - based more on wishful thinking than concrete reality - that he can contain the revolutionary upsurge in South Africa by making limited cosmetic changes at a very slow pace. The imperialist Powers, on the other hand, want the racist regime to move more rapidly in dismantling some of the racist structures, preserving, of course, South Africa's socio-economic system, but to give some sections of the Black middle strata a stake in this system.

They recognise that open support for the racist regime imperils imperialist and monopoly interests in Africa. Thus during his mini "African Safari" Carter(2) demagogically claimed in Nigeria that he was determined to eliminate South Africa's "evil and oppressive system of apartheid". It is of course impossible for U.S. imperialism to work for a shift of meaningful political and economic power from the white minority to the oppressed Black majority as this would contradict the very basis of neo-colonialism. Nor will the demogogy, political maneuvering and tactical adjustments deceive the oppressed masses of South Africa.

To disguise their real intentions, the imperialist Powers are stepping up their anti-communist, anti-Soviet campaigns, and will do their utmost to divide the national liberation movement as also the worldwide progressive and democratic forces which support the struggle. The imperialists will intensify their efforts to isolate the revolutionary movements in South Africa and other African countries from their natural and genuine allies, the socialist world. We can expect their wrath to be directed at the socialist community, especially at the Soviet Union and Cuba, since with the help of these comrades-in-arms Angola was able to defeat the racist-imperialist aggression, and Ethiopia, to expel the Somali aggressors. The imperialists and their hired scribes may froth at the mouth but more and more people of Africa are realising that their real friends and allies are the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and that without their support, national and social liberation in the conditions of unceasing imperialist aggression is merely an illusion. We South African Communists reject outright any attempt at spreading anti-Sovietism, whatever its source, for it can only add grist to the mill of our avowed and secret class enemies.

Historical practice has confirmed the Marxist-Leninist appraisal of revolution as "the locomotive of history" in which the socio-political basis of oppression has to be fundamentally altered. It is not only racial and national oppression but also the class character of the given society which determines the very content and depth of the revolution. Any and every revolution is conditioned by the laws and regularities of the class struggle and consequently the real driving forces of revolution are progressive social classes. Lenin put it most succinctly when he said: "The passing of state power from one class to another is the first, the principal, the basic sign of a revolution, both in the strictly scientific and practical meaning of the term." (Collected Works, Vol. 24, page 41).

Applying the Marxist-Leninist method in studying the character of the revolution in South Africa we concentrate on the exceptionally complex interplay of national and class factors. A clear scientific understanding and a consistently correct political position on this question are necessary preconditions for the overthrow of the inhuman system of apartheid. Thus the key methodological and socio-political principle of a Marxist-Leninist approach lies in the indivisible connection between the national question and the solution of the antagonistic class contradictions between the exploiters and exploited.

Nowhere else in the world is the ideology of racism so blatantly proclaimed by those in power and so systematically coded in the most obscurantist, anti-human and anti-democratic laws. Such laws deny the oppressed Blacks (Africans, Indians and Coloureds), that is, the African majority, even the very basic human rights of bourgeois democracy. From the cradle the African people are daily humiliated, their skin colour ridiculed and their cultures and traditions destroyed. Daily, thousands of African people are imprisoned or banished to remote areas under one or other of the vast battery of obnoxious racist laws which litter the South African statute books. Racist legislation is a key element of the system of national oppression in our country.

In the conditions operating in South Africa, national oppression constitutes an exceptionally significant factor in the super-exploitation of the African people. The national income gap between whites and Africans is 14:1. African workers are denied even the elementary rights of collective bargaining, prevented by law - except when it suits the racist regime and monopolists - from doing skilled jobs, and have no social security and unemployment benefits. They are regarded as mere "labour units" to be dispensed with once they have served the "needs" of the white minority. Africans in the rural areas are compelled to work on white farms for starvation wages - some are "paid" in kind and not cash - and are not allowed to own even a small plot of land in 87 per cent of the territory of the country. In the other 13 percent - the so-called Bantustans - the poverty of the land and the destitution of their lives compel the Africans to become migrant labourers. The African middle strata, such as they are, have very limited scope for development since they are as much the victim of racist laws and racial discrimination as all other sections of the Black population.

Thus we see that in racist South Africa, since the national aspect is not "secondary" or mere form, the chief mobilising factor for the African people is their response to national and racist oppression. Proceeding from this the ANC and SACP are deeply involved in stimulating and injecting a greater depth and content to the national confidence, assertiveness and pride of the African people.

As Lenin taught us, we should never underestimate the psychological factor in the national question. From its founding in 1921 the SACP has grappled with this problem. In the formative years there had been a tendency to over-estimate the role of the white workers in the class struggle due to the fact that the white workers at the time constituted the bulk of the industrial working force, that it was well organised and engaged in militant strike actions, whereas the African working class was an emerging social force and the ANC was still in the process of becoming the leading and dynamic spokesman of the African people as a whole.

Following the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, which was attended also by a delegation of our party, the correct general line was first formulated in detail. The 1928 resolution of the Comintern's Executive Committee unequivocally called for the national liberation of the African people, which was clearly reflected in the native republic slogan. Some time later this line became clearer as the Communist Party of South Africa adapted it to meet the specific situation which confronted it at different historical periods, overcame the dangers of sectarianism and reached its fullest expression in the party programme adopted in 1962. In our search we were greatly assisted by the Communist International and the accumulated experience of the world revolutionary forces, in particular of the Great October Revolution.

On the basis of national and international experience, the programme of the SACP characterises South Africa as "colonialism of a special type". That is, that within one single geographical entity we have "two South Africas". One is "white South Africa" which has all the main features of state-monopoly capitalism, and the other "non-white South Africa" in which we have some of the main features of a colonial type of life, administration and rule. Proceeding from this the SACP came to the following conclusion: "As its immediate and foremost task, the South African Communist Party works for a united front of national liberation. It strives to unite all sections and classes of oppressed and democratic people for a national-democratic revolution to destroy white domination. The main content of this revolution will be the national liberation of the African people... The destruction of colonialism and the winning of national freedom is the essential condition and the key for future advance to the supreme aim of the Communist Party: the establishment of a socialist South Africa, laying the foundation of a classless, communist society."(3)

In South Africa the victory of the national-liberation revolution is inextricably linked with the destruction of that socio-economic system which nourishes and sustains racism and apartheid. To skip the objective, historically determined stage of the national-democratic revolution is a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, due to the objective level of economic development and the long militant record of struggle of the SACP and ANC, South Africa also has the well-organised, disciplined "grave diggers" of capitalism. This is above all the Black working class, concentrated mostly in the mines, industries, factories and docks, which has consistently shown in practice that it is the most powerful adversary of racism and the main social force for change. Its revolutionary potentialities tend objectively to grow in a period in which racist South Africa is increasingly bogged down in the deepest socio-economic crisis in its history. It is marked by a drop in industrial production, raging inflation, and widespread unemployment among the Black population (2 million). Even if the condition of some sectors of the economy does improve, there is every indication that in 1976 the economy will not be able to cope with the upheavals. As the crisis intensifies, the international isolation of the racists increases, and the political and armed struggle against the regime mounts, there is a gradual maturing of the revolutionary situation.

The South African Communist Party and the African National Congress have always been clearly aware that the revolutionary struggle to smash the evil and barbarous regime in South Africa is a complex, exceptionally difficult and contradictory process. Having exhausted the potential of non-violent struggle, during which the enemy never scrupled to use brute force, the SACP and ANC decided in 1961 to launch armed revolutionary struggle. The correctness of this decision was confirmed by the events in Soweto and more recently, in October i977, by the banning of 18 organisations, all of which had advocated a peaceful road. The latter action demonstrated even to the most blinkered that the racist regime is not prepared to tolerate even moderate criticisms and actions. Armed struggle has become the most significant factor in the revolutionary struggle, but we have to become even more professional in acquiring the necessary skills to combine different forms of struggle, armed and unarmed, legal and illegal, and mass militant actions.

Even though the South African ruling class was badly shaken by the Soweto and other events connected with it, the enemy and its repressive State apparatus have not reached the point of disruption and dislocation. The enemy still retains great reserves of power and resources, and is able, albeit with ferocious brutality, to act in a cohesive manner and so limit the spread of militant actions. It is also important to recognise that the ferment of revolt was not nationwide, as the rural areas were not as deeply affected.

Furthermore it is a fact that the Soweto events could not be transformed into an all-embracing armed uprising. These events were not an end in themselves but form a crucial part of the process to heighten the political consciousness of the masses and the preparedness of well-organised, mobile underground structures and units for offensive and defensive political and armed actions.

It is not, as some people argue, a question which can be reduced only to logistics and organisation, crucial as these factors are. As one of the latest Central Committee statements points out: "Peoples' armed conflict is a protracted process. Even though conditions now exist for the struggle to be extended enormously, we must not be tempted by the passion and excitement of the moment to spread a dangerous and damaging illusion that it will be short and swift... There is no doubt, however, that the new situation has brought closer than ever before the possibility of an effective beginning to the armed struggle. And there is already public evidence that units of Umkhonto we Sizwe (military wing of the ANC) have begun to act against the enemy."(4)

It is up to the revolutionary forces to grasp the nettle so as to respond in the most effective way. Failure to do this could lead to a demoralisation within the ranks of the oppressed and thereby give Vorster and his imperialist allies the possibility of relieving the revolutionary pressures which have grown with such intensity.

To ensure that armed activities have a firm basis in every part of the country and to give direction and leadership to the mass discontent and militant actions of the people we need to strengthen our underground structures. It is only the presence of an experienced and dedicated leadership of the ANC and SACP, with deep roots among the people that can ensure the correct tactical and political responses to a rapidly-developing, fluid situation. This has added significance when we take into account the fact that large numbers of youth and students have learned from their own experience that to defeat the enemy they have to acquire the necessary political and military skills which can only be imparted by the well-organised underground structures of the ANC and SACP.

Our party is now working with redoubled energy within the various classes and sections of the population, including democratic and progressive elements among the white population.

The SACP has undertaken with renewed vigour the necessary steps to organise the working class, especially at the factory level, and to disseminate even more widely the science of Marxism-Leninism. We fully support the South African Congress of Trade Unions - which is an integral part of the national-liberation movement - in its fight to improve the working conditions and wages of the Black workers, to extend the meagre rights of the African trade unions, to organise the Black workers into militant trade unions, to mobilise them for nationwide unity of purpose and action and to develop viable illegal structures in the production area.

The fighting youth and students have demonstrated their willingness to make the supreme sacrifice for national and social liberation. The mass organisations through which so many of the youth and students articulated their grievances and aspirations need to be injected with a clearer revolutionary and political content. One of the most heartening features of the recent period is the ever-growing search by these young militants for a deeper understanding of Marxism-Leninism. It is of vital importance for the future of the revolution to give a greater social content to the elementary rejection of capitalism so forcefully expressed by the fighting youth and students.

There is no doubt that for guerilla warfare to expand, our movement's capacity to mobilise and organise the rural working people is of great significance. A nationwide revolutionary upsurge is intimately connected with the galvanising of the rural masses into even more effective political actions. This has become even more urgent following Vorster's feverish haste to implement his racist Bantustan policies.

Increasingly the ruling circles egged on by world imperialism, are seeking ways other than brute force and naked terror to keep intact the basic structures of racism and monopoly capitalism. This requires the support of Black collaborationists. Through the policy of Bantustans the racists also seek to create an administrative elite and small capitalists who will identify their interests with those of their white masters. We shall spare no effort to destroy the monstrous scheme of Bantustans. The very possibility of international recognition of the "independence" of the Transkei and Bophuthatswana must not be allowed.

In the cities too there is an effort to wean the Black middle strata away from the national-liberation movement and to get them to oppose the social goals of our struggle. The aims of the national-liberation movement represent also the aspirations of the Black middle strata which suffer the same form of national oppression as others and whose creativity and initiative have been stifled by apartheid. It should be recalled that during the Soweto events numerous trades and professional groups stood side by side with the youth and workers.

A crucial aspect of our work is to forge greater unity between the oppressed Blacks - Africans, Coloured and Indians. The racist regime, utilising the divide-and-rule policy, has offered a few concessions mainly to the Indian and Coloured petty-bourgeoisie. Opposition to this policy and to the government-created South African Indian Council and the Coloured People's Representative Council is growing and has to be further intensified. The interests of the Indians and Coloureds are inextricably bound up with those of the African people. A united front in action of all the oppressed peoples is of great significance as we enter the decisive stage to eliminate the bulwark of racism and colonialism.

To accomplish these tasks, the bonds of comradely relations forged between the ANC and SACP in the heat of battle will be strengthened. The party has no immediate interests different from those of the ANC. Both organisations are committed to the overthrow of the racist regime and the installing of a revolutionary government which would take effective measures against monopoly capital and revolutionise the economic, political, social and military structures and institutions.

The present wide-ranging international campaign to isolate racist South Africa in every sphere evokes a sense of deep gratitude among all the revolutionaries and patriots of our country. Even the friends of the apartheid regime find it difficult to defend it in public. We welcome the United Nations decision to designate 1978 as International Anti-Apartheid Year and call upon all peace-loving anti-racist forces to make it a success. In addition to the effort to boycott racist South Africa, the campaigns during this year should be used among other objectives, to ensure the maximum support for the ANC and SACP, to expose the growing racist Tel Aviv-Pretoria axis, the Bonn-Paris-Pretoria nuclear conspiracy and the attempts to settle whites from Rhodesia and South Africa in Bolivia, and to demand the release of all political prisoners languishing in Vorster`s dungeons and torture chambers.

We South African communists express our warm appreciation to our comrades-in-arms in the international communist movement, in the socialist community, the non-aligned countries, large democratic circles and the various anti-apartheid groups in capitalist countries which have done sterling work to publicise and support our struggle.

It is becoming more evident that the blood shed by our people, the inhuman tortures undergone by our patriots, the imprisonment suffered by our heroes have not been in vain. The victory of the national-liberation revolution will follow as inevitably as spring follows winter.

1 From: World Marxist Review, Prague, July 1978

2 President Jimmy Carter of the United States of America

3 The Road to South African Freedom: The Programme of the

South African Communist Party, London, page 7

4 African Communist, No. 70, 1977, page 34


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