Tribute to J.B. Marks(1)

Speech at funeral of J. B. Marks at Novodovichy cemetery in Moscow, August 11, 1972

We are gathered here to bid our last farewell to one of the greatest sons of our country, South Africa, outstanding fighter of the international working class, John 'Beaver` Marks.

Uncle J. B., as he was affectionately known to us all, was truly a hero of our struggle. His long history of courageous leadership of the cause of liberation, his dauntless championing of the aspirations of the working people, deservedly made his name a household word among the oppressed and exploited people throughout the length and breadth of the land, inspiring confidence among the masses and striking awe into the hearts of the enemy - the ruling class and the white racialists.

As Chairman of our South African Communist Party and a member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress, he played an indispensable role in helping to guide our whole liberation movement through one of its most difficult periods. His conviction that our cause would triumph never for one moment flagged.

After listening to the late S. P. Bunting addressing a meeting of workers at the mine where he was employed, J. B. Marks joined the Communist Party in 1928 and devoted himself thenceforward to the fight for national and social emancipation, undeterred by the fierce hostility of the white racialists towards the revolutionaries of our country. He narrowly escaped death in 1929 when a fascist opened fire on the platform he was speaking from. The incident served only to steel his determination. He was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1932.

The name of J. B. Marks will ever be associated with the bitter struggles of the African gold miners of the Witwatersrand, surely among the most savagely exploited proletarians in the world. Recruited from all corners of Southern Africa, both inside and outside the borders of the Republic of South Africa, herded like prisoners into barrack-like compounds, and constantly policed and spied upon by the monopoly-capitalist owners and their State, the organisation of these workers was a most formidable task. This task was successfully accomplished by the African Mine Workers' Union under the presidency of our late Comrade J. B. Marks. In August 1946 under his inspiring leadership the miners came out in a historic strike directed at the heart of the cheap labour system until after a week they were forced back to work by police bullets and batons.

There followed a wave of unprecedented repression and persecution of Communists and all revolutionaries which has continued to the present day - first under the Smuts Government and then its successor, headed by the openly Nazi Nationalist Party of Malan, Verwoerd and Vorster. The Communist Party was banned in 1950 and the African National Congress in 1960.

J. B. Marks, like his comrades, was subjected to numerous and repeated bans and restrictions on his activities and movements. He continued undeterred with underground activity, both in the ANC and in the South African Communist Party of which he was elected Chairman at its fifth illegal conference in 1962.

He was then instructed by the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress to join the headquarters of the External Mission in Tanzania in organising our resistance. He stood at the heart of this movement until he suffered a stroke - that is, cerebral damage - one year ago.

Comrade Marks was an outstanding internationalist. As the Chairman of our Party he ardently supported our unanimous policy; unity of the international Communist movement - the core of the worldwide struggle against imperialism and war, for national independence and peace.

As a Marxist-Leninist he firmly believed in the need at all times for the international working class to rally around the banner of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the community of socialist States, the main force against imperialism and reaction.

The Soviet Union - 'Land of the proletariat` of 'the Mecca of revolutionaries` as J. B. was fond of calling this country - was very dear to his heart and it was but fitting that the last year of his life was spent here, and that this great land has become his resting place. The Central Committee of the South African Communist Party expresses its deep and sincere appreciation of the wonderful care and attention which was shown towards Comrade J.B. Marks by the Government of the Soviet Union and the leadership of the CPSU, the skill and kindness of the doctors and the nursing staff and the hospitality of the Soviet people.

Farewell Comrade Marks!

Your personal warmth, humanity and charm will ever remain fresh in our minds. We shall ever be inspired by your example as a man, a comrade and a great political figure.

Rest assured that we and the millions of our oppressed and exploited people shall not relent nor waver, but shall continue to work unceasingly, as you did, for the complete victory of the noble cause of destroying once and for all the hideous system of white supremacy and of creating a South Africa free from all forms of exploitation.

We pledge to carry on to the complete victory of our revolution - for the final triumph of the noble cause for which you lived, struggled and died, in your own words:

"The triumph of peace, national freedom, democracy and socialism, all over the world!"

Hamba kahle, J. B. Marks!

Maatla ke a Rona!

Amandla Ngawethu!

Mayibuye i` Afrika!

1 From: African Communist, No. 51, fourth Quarter, 1972


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