The Maturing of the Revolutionary Process, 1971-1977(1)

Since the volume Fifty Fighting Years was published in 1971 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Communist Party of South Africa, much water has flowed under the political bridges of South and southern Africa-and indeed of the world.

In the year 1970 we faced a most difficult and grim situation. The enemy had in the mid-sixties severely disrupted the internal underground apparatus of both the Party and the African National Congress, and many of our outstanding leaders, as well as thousands of active militants, were on Robben Island, in Pretoria Central or other prisons throughout the country, serving life or long-term imprisonment. Others were banned from participation in public activities, house arrested, detained or driven into exile. The borders of our country were turned into a cordon sanitaire by the unholy alliance of Vorster, Caetano and Smith.

Nevertheless the Party maintained its presence in South Africa.

Whilst the continuing fascist terror of the racist regime was taking a heavy toll, the Party was called upon to undertake the hard and arduous task of rebuilding the Party's internal organisational structure, of mobilising the working class, the rural masses and all sections of the oppressed people; helping in the work of the consolidation of the national liberation movement headed by the African National Congress and preparing the material conditions for the unfolding of the armed struggle. These then were some of the major tasks decided upon by an augmented meeting of the Central Committee of the Party held in the middle of 1970.

The intervening period has been marked by a revolutionary transformation of the situation on an international scale. Vietnam, the focal point of anti-imperialist struggle, had emerged victorious - reunited, independent and engaged in the construction of a socialist society. United States imperialism suffered its most severe defeat at the hands of the brave Vietnamese people supported by international solidarity action of the Soviet Union, the socialist countries and the progressive forces of the world.

Portuguese colonialism and fascism collapsed under the weight of the brilliant victories of the liberation movements of Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola and the determined struggle of the people of Portugal under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Armed Forces Movement and democratic forces.

The unholy alliance of Vorster, Smith and Caetano lay in ruins-the cordon sanitaire was a shambles. The newly-independent countries of southern Africa were set on a socialist-oriented path determined to liquidate the evil legacy of colonialism, backwardness, illiteracy, poverty and exploitation of man by man, to eliminate the stranglehold of imperialism in the region.

Sensing the emergence of progressive States in a region vital to monopoly imperialist interests, United States imperialism made a desperate bid in collusion with its puppet-the FNLA and UNITA and the racist regime of South Africa-to strangulate and destroy the newly-founded People's Republic of Angola led by the MPLA.

The imperialist plot was foiled, the invading armed forces of racist South Africa were heavily defeated and the People's Republic of Angola emerged victorious. An important significant feature of this victory, like that of the Vietnamese people, had been the all-round support rendered by the USSR, Cuba and the socialist countries on the basis of proletarian internationalism. Vietnam and Angola demonstrate in practice the vital necessity of the interaction and mutual support at all levels of the three main revolutionary streams of our time - the world socialist system, national liberation movements and working class movement in the advanced capitalist countries.

Southern Africa is today one of the main battlegrounds in the worldwide struggle against imperialism, neocolonialism and racism. In the recent period the heightened political and military actions of the national liberation movements in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have created new and more favourable conditions for the further deepening of the revolutionary process in southern Africa.

In Zimbabwe the United States and British Governments are desperately seeking a "negotiated" settlement in order to forestall the growing strength of the revolutionary forces. However, in spite of the machinations of the imperialists, the struggle continues to make headway under the leadership of the Patriotic Front.

In Namibia, the people's forces under the leadership of SWAPO have stepped up their armed activities for national liberation from the racist-colonialist occupying power - South Africa.

The future of southern Africa and of the continent as a whole is intimately linked to the liberation of South Africa from the yoke of racism, fascism, capitalism and imperialism. Racist South Africa is the bulwark of imperialism and neocolonialism in our continent. Consequently imperialism is desperately manoeuvring to impede the revolutionary advance in our country so as to retain South Africa within the orbit of the world capitalist system. We are confident that they will not succeed.

The unprecedented upsurge of revolutionary militant actions since June 1976 has irrefutably demonstrated the willingness of very large sections of the oppressed people - especially the youth - to make, if necessary, the supreme sacrifice for the overthrow of the vile and inhuman system of apartheid. The cold-blooded killings of innocent people, including children, the brutal torture and murder of political detainees and the repressive administrative measures against all forms of opposition have reached unheard of proportions. But this naked fascist terror has not dampened the people's revolutionary ardour. Indeed it has intensified the militant spirit of the masses in their continued search for different and innovative ways to hit back at the enemy. There is no doubt that the Soweto and connected events have raised to a new and qualitatively higher level the political consciousness and readiness of our people and thereby greatly increased the capacity of the liberation forces to strike back even harder.

In the rapidly developing revolutionary struggle the African working class is the leading force for both national and social liberation. During the three months immediately following the Soweto events three general strikes in Johannesburg and Cape Town involved over a quarter of a million workers. The Black working class, increasingly confident about its organised strength, is, in alliance with the agricultural labourers and poor peasants, the most unyielding enemy of racial oppression and class exploitation. As a recent statement of the Central Committee of the SACP points out:

"The working class gains nothing but misery from the Bantustans which are used as an excuse to deprive it of all rights and to hound it in the cities built by its labour. It has nothing to gain from the kind of liberation which gives a few Blacks the opportunity to share in the people's exploitation. For the Black working class, the biggest and most exploited section of the oppressed majority, there is only one way out - the complete defeat of racist supremacy and the creation of a people's government which will put South Africa on the road to socialism".(2)

Throughout the period under review, the ANC and SACP courageously pursued their revolutionary duties and tasks. The heroism and sacrifice of our militants in the face of vicious terror has led to the strengthening of our underground machinery, increased political mobilisation of the masses and stepping up of direct action against the enemy. There is no doubt that the proven capacity of the ANC and SACP not only to survive the fascist terror but to grow from strength to strength, greatly contributed to the recent ferment of resistance in South Africa. Ii is, therefore, not surprising that Vorster and his allies, world imperialism, single out for ferocious attack the ANC and the SACP.

The recent upsurge of mass militant actions, and in some areas virtual uprisings, have opened a new and glorious chapter in our revolutionary struggle. Soweto and the connected events have their roots in the socio-economic structure of the country. Racist South Africa, like its counterparts in the capitalist world, is undergoing a deep general crisis - economic, political, ideological and moral. Inflation is spiralling and affects primarily the Black majority. Unemployment is reaching tidal proportions with over two million Black people unemployed. Industrial and manufacturing production has suffered owing to racist policies which preclude most Black workers from entering skilled trades. The rapidly increasing militarisation of the country which is aimed at the liberation movement and the neighbouring countries, especially Angola and Mozambique, has demanded the channelling of economic resources into unproductive military expenditure.

The deteriorating economic situation means that the oppressed Black majority is getting poorer and poorer. It is the very condition of their impoverished lives amidst the ugly opulence of the whites which has propelled the people into mass militant action. From their own bitter and bloody experiences ever greater numbers of the oppressed people are realising that only revolutionary overthrow of the entire socio-economic system which sustains and nourishes racism can put an effective end to the racist, colonialist and class oppression afflicting the Black majority in our country.

To achieve this, however, is an exceptionally difficult and complex task. It requires the utilisation of all appropriate methods of struggle, armed and unarmed, illegal and legal, and planned, purposive mass actions, economic and political.

A people's armed revolutionary struggle is a protracted process. The enemy backed to the hilt by world imperialism still has tremendous reserves of resources and strength. The ruling class still possesses the capacity to act coherently and to control the escalation of mass militancy. Nevertheless the possibility of initiating and sustaining armed revolutionary actions inside the country has greatly increased. Indeed in the recent period units of Umkhonto we Sizwe - the armed wing of the ANC -have taken action against the enemy. Thus the stage is set for the final and decisive confrontation between the forces for revolutionary change on the one hand, and the forces of obscurantism and reaction on the other.

Commensurate with the development of the internal struggle, the international solidarity movement is gathering even greater momentum. The international communist movement, in particular the socialist world led by the Soviet Union, have been in the forefront of providing us with the necessary wherewithal to wage armed revolutionary struggle. All over the world, in many lands, ever greater numbers of democrats, progressives and anti-racists are identifying themselves in one way or another with our struggle.

We wish to pay special tribute to the people of India for their long and sustained support of our struggle which began from the time of Mahatma Gandhi. Independent India can be justifiably proud that it was one of the first countries in the world to boycott racist South Africa economically and politically. The People`s Publishing House is to be warmly congratulated on taking the initiative to publish an Indian edition of Fifty Fighting Years. We have no doubt that its publication will lead to even greater understanding in India of the character and nature of our struggle in South Africa and to a further deepening of material and moral support.

We are convinced that neither Vorster nor world imperialism can stop the march of history in our country and in southern Africa as a whole. The initiative is inexorably passing into the hands of the revolutionary forces. In the concluding words of tie statement of the CC of the SACP:

"We embark on all these tasks in the knowledge that the road from Soweto to Pretoria is still an arduous one, demanding great dedication, heroism and sacrifice. But we are confident that our whole liberation movement can rise to the historic challenge which the new situation presents, and lead our revolutionary masses towards a united people's South Africa in which all forms of racism will be utterly destroyed and which will create a society free of all forces of exploitation of man by man."

December 1977

1. 1 Postcript to the Indian edition of History of the Communist Party of South Africa: Fifty Fighting Years, 1921-1971 by A. Lerumo. New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1978.

2. 2 African Communist, No. 70, third quarter, 1977, page


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