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New International, October 1947


Robert Stone

Political Program for South Africa

Conclusion of a Series


From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 8, October 1947, pp. 246–249.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following article is the third and concluding political section to the article The Plunder of South Africa which appeared in the July and August issues – Editor. [1]

Freed from the crippling fetters of segregation, color-bar discrimination and race oppression, the non-European masses would rise from their knees to their feet.

Segregation is the life-force of imperialist rule in South Africa, for in segregation is expressed the nature of the national oppression imposed by the mining oligarchy and the semi-feudal farmers on the non-European people. The alienation, the brutalizing and dehumanization of man which capitalism breeds all the world over is factually expressed in the system of segregation in South Africa. It has imposed a grim wardenship over the non-European peoples’ lives, whereby the white ruling class tormentors batter and deform their black victims, daze them with their display of superior brute force and violently deny them any fundamental democratic or even human rights.

The ruling class theory of allowing the non-European peoples to “develop along their own lines” of separatism and segregation is no more than a means of obtaining and exploiting non-European cheap labor for the maintenance of the imperialist colonial gold-mining civilization and agrarian economy to the total exclusion of the needs and cravings of the non-European majority.

Segregation is the cement which fuses national oppression with an intense class oppression. Therefore the struggle against segregation is the struggle against the basic core around which is built imperialist domination. The struggle against segregation demands a revolutionary transformation, striking at every vital part of the economic, political, social and cultural life built by imperialist domination.

That is why to challenge the whole colossus of the segregation structure, a colossus of mass resistance must be organized with a program to batter at every bastion of oppression. First and foremost it must be an anti-imperialist, anti-segregation program. The component elements of the program are:

1. The Struggle Against Imperialism: In its broad outline the struggle is to break the death-grip of imperialism over South Africa, to gain the right of national self-determination for the non-European people, who, the leading force of all the oppressed (of the white worker, too), can thereby free the country from the yoke of British imperialism. The struggle for the expulsion of British imperialism, for the expropriation of its economic and political overlordship and the overthrow of its local tools and agents is the spearhead of the assault which must strike at every branch of oppression.

The struggle against imperialism involves breaking the stranglehold monopoly of the Chamber of Mines, unleashing the onrush of industrial development, creating thereby an internal market with which to bridge the gap between European and non-European and lifting both to new peaks of development. Freed from imperialism, South Africa will move out of the vicious net of the British Empire, escape the toils of its predatory wars, the burdens of defense for all its bloody crimes and slave colonies in the Middle East, India and the rest of Africa. The struggle against British imperialism will add its weight to the complete and final liquidation of the British Empire. It will also express the determination of the oppressed people of South Africa to free itself from the bloody capitalist hell, to strike its own blows against the imperialist powers in their insane drive to atom-blast humanity and reduce our planet to elemental chaos.

2. The Struggle Against Segregation, concretized in the following manner: The main slogan must be for full democracy. The struggle for democratic rights, the pivot of which is the right to vote, aims to propel the non-European masses into political consciousness, into an awakening and an awareness of themselves as active political fighters with the right of holding their destiny in their own hands. They must imprint their mark on the political future of South Africa.

The terrible repression which crushes the lives of the Africans in particular and the non-European masses as a whole must be fought on the most decisive front – the political one. Every section of the ruling class – United Party (Chamber of Mines government party), Nationalist (Afrikaans landowners’ party), supported by labor (white worker aristocrats) and liberals, are all firmly united and resolved in their determination to exclude permanently the non-European masses from independent intervention in the political life of the country. Because of the unchallenged and supreme control of state power in the hands of the European ruling class, every local or national industrial or agrarian struggle is thoroughly beaten down. The common lack of full political rights has leveled out the non-European masses into a politically enslaved nation.

Therefore the struggle for democratic rights is aimed point-blank at the ruling class power.

The struggle for democratic rights has been a revolutionary struggle throughout modern history. It will and must be a revolutionary struggle in South Africa, too, for it is in the backward and colonial countries most particularly that the struggle for democratic liberties against the reactionary foreign imperialist conqueror and its local agents takes on its most irreconcilable and acute form, which challenges the very existence of the ruling class state power.

It is the task of the non-European toilers today, as the leaders of the vast continent of African oppressed, in this last stronghold of unbridled imperialism and unchallenged white arrogance, to battle for the democratic revolution.

The demand must be for unhampered universal suffrage, for all men and women, of any race or color, for the right to elect as their representatives any candidates irrespective of race or color, and for the establishment of a Constituent Assembly as an instrument of the movement for freedom from imperialism; for the achievement of full equality between European and non-European; granting all the oppressed masses the fundamental right to determine the type of state power they want to set up. An integral part of the program for democratic liberties is the right of freedom of movement (away with all passes), freedom of the press, speech, assembly, complete freedom of trade union organization, the right to strike, inviolability of person and for an end to police terror; full equality for all citizens without distinction of race, color, sex and the total abolition of every form of discriminating color legislation in industry, agriculture and social life; the extermination of all racialistic abominations.

Linked to this struggle for democratic liberties is the struggle for the agrarian revolution, for the overthrow of imperialism, since national liberation is the struggle for the everyday interests of the workers against capitalist exploitation, for the organization of the agricultural laborers against serfdom and slavery on European farms. Today limited to the simplest and most pressing demands, the struggle will grow in magnitude and intensity with the upsurge of the national struggle to the most far-reaching socialist solutions.

The tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution can be realized only in the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the millions of oppressed peasants and agricultural laborers, in the transition to socialism.

But to raise the non-European peoples of South Africa to the heights of political consciousness necessary to carry out these indispensable tasks, they must be assembled in one unit and begin to feel and to conceive of themselves as a living historical force. This colossal task of coalescing all the oppressed masses in struggle against the ruling class can be undertaken and achieved at the present stage of their development only through a unity movement of all non-European groups for national liberation.

The National Liberation Movement

The full weight of the balance of power hangs so completely in the scales of the white ruling class (making South Africa comparatively one of the most stable areas of imperialist rule) and against the non-European toilers, because together with all the forces of repression and oppression at its command it is also a thoroughly organized political machine and, although split up into two rival sections, both United Party and Nationalists are conscious of their aims to maintain an iron police grip on their slaves, to spread and maintain division in the ranks of the oppressed. For this purpose it has all the facilities of an iron controlled press, radio, church, etc., to dupe, deceive and poison the consciousness of the masses.

The effect of this power has been not only the enslavement of the body but the chaining of the consciousness of the non-Europeans, their feeling of impotence and subservience before the combined might of the ruling class state.

The white rulers have propagandized the non-European peoples to the effect that they are an inferior and backward race, that they have not the mental ability to equal their rulers, that they are not fit to have any voice in their government and that they are toiling slaves and must remain so. All these hammer-blows are rained so tellingly upon them because they have no means of retaliation, because they have no political leadership that will hurl back the defiance of eight million people against these vicious slanders, these herrenvolk stupidities, because they have no mass organization to give strength to this defiance and to retaliate, because their. seething hopes and strivings for human and national recognition have not yet been made fully articulate.

On the order of the day is the political organization and mobilization of the non-European masses. Opposed to the force of the ruling class, the thrust of millions stirred to political activity can make the at present ever so firm monopoly of power in the hands of the white ruling class crumble to dust.

The preponderance of political and economic power on the side of the imperialist ruling class has up to the present further been assured by the general division between European and non-European workers (the policy of divide and rule) and by the atomizing of the non-European toilers into three separate camps graded in slight variations of oppression by skin and color and set one against the other by racial myths injected by the ruling class.

The African people have already been reduced to the lowest levels of human existence. When introducing the new Indian ghetto bills. General Smuts said:

“I think we have decided: I think South Africa [i.e., the ruling class – R.S.] has decided once and for all that our complex society will be dealt with on separate lines. We have done it in the case of the natives and we are going to do it in the case of the Indians.” (House of Assembly, March 25, 1946.)

The colored people already have their colored Affairs Council and now it is their turn to be robbed of their few last remaining rights and to be placed in their own “separated” camp.

This is the ruling class plan to maintain, in the words of that strutting imperialist hypocrite and pious slave-driver, General Smuts, another three hundred years of white supremacy. This plan must be smashed to fragments.

The most vital task facing the non-European people in South Africa, a task which must be tackled before any shake-up of the present-day political equilibrium is possible, is the merging of these three streams into one sweeping torrent under the banner of a revolutionary national liberation movement. Dropping the separatism which has been fostered by imperialism, fighting against all segregationists in the ranks of the oppressed, all non-Europeans must unite on the basis of a unified aim of national and class liberation. This unity movement is not an anti-white movement, but an anti-segregation movement. It must open its ranks to all the oppressed, including all European workers who have broken with the European herrenvolk ideology. In fact, the challenge of a politically organized non-European national movement is the only way the European worker can, be forced to break his alliance with the ruling class.

The Africans are a race of toilers, while the non-European people as a whole, in spite of the small clusters of Indian merchants and other petty bourgeois groupings, are composed in an overwhelming majority of exploited workers, tribalist peasants and agricultural slaves. In view of this, the movement for national liberation can only be an organization of the toilers of town and country. It must be a bloc of all the oppressed classes, the workers in the towns, the agricultural laborers on the farms, the reserve dwellers, all joined together in a struggle for national and social liberation. In this bloc the restricted and controlled African worker, the more free Indian and colored worker, occupying the most strategic positions in the national economy and concentrated by the very process of capitalist production, must form the class base and supply the pressure for the national liberation movement. Joined by an intelligentsia united in thought and feeling with all the oppressed masses, these toilers must take into their own hands the solution of all the national and social tasks of the non-European people, to liquidate the barbarism and poverty and primitiveness imposed by the European ruling class.

The Present-Day Political Setting

The tempo of non-European political consciousness and development is increasing. The despotic segregation system is caught in the shackles of its own contradictions and is being assailed by its self-generated elemental forces. In the towns the mass influx of Africans from the starving reserves, the deserters from the barbarity of white-owned farms have spilled over in the form of squatter movements and camps numbering hundreds of thousands, demanding in struggle the right to remain in the town and the right to houses and land. The mine-workers’ strike of August, 1946, was a revolt against the greatest economic power in the land and its policy of cheap black labor, and the gunfire of this strike reverberated throughout the land. It led to the adjournment of the government-sponsored Native Representative Council, with demands for a radical revision of native policy, which, in the absence of mass support and mobilization, has deadlocked both government and Native Representative Council. But the issue today is spreading among the masses of Africans in the form of an embryonic movement for equal political rights and a boycott of all the sham forms of “native” representation created by the white ruling class.

The Indian passive resistance campaign with its mass arrests and world publicity has also been a blow shaking the Indian and non-European people, although it is at the moment petering out in Gandhist pleas to the ruling class to carry out the meaningless decisions of the UN.

Among the colored people, too, the movement toward non-collaboration with the ruling class has been manifested in the anti-Colored Affairs Council and in the traditionally conservative African People’s Organization, leading to a desire for non-European unity.

But all these currents of opposition are still isolated one from another. The general political movement is still fragmented and chaotic, rising spontaneously and falling into passivity, lacking cohesion and a clearly defined program and leadership. The existing important national organizations like the African National Congress, the Indian National Congress, are reformist organizations working within the framework of the segregation structure and opposed to real unity. The African trade unions have been weakened and made impotent by a combination of government repression and opportunist leadership.

But controlling and overshadowing all these organizations stands the Communist Party, the agency for Stalinist totalitarianism in South Africa, using the struggle of the non-European peoples to support every new turn and twist of Soviet foreign policy. Their support of the imperialist war destroyed the chances of the non-European people to enter vigorously into the political arena and disoriented their political development. Today, following Stalin’s policy of embarrassing British imperialism, they divert any mass struggle into the morass of reliance on the impotent and hollow UN decisions. Afraid of a surging mass movement they stand out against the real unity of the masses in one organization and with a united anti-imperialist, anti-segregationist program and struggle. They represent the chief obstacle and are the main enemy in the unfolding of a mass revolutionary movement for national liberation.

This necessity for a mass-based national liberation movement will, however, break through all the barriers imposed on it by both the ruling class enemies and the GP-dominated misleadership. The whips of economic crises and the increasing tension between the needs of the people and the reactionary rigidity of the ruling class will lash the non-European people into such a national movement. Their very future and existence depends upon its formation. But to achieve this and guide it in struggle, a party based on an advanced revolutionary theory and practice must be organized to fuse with the awakened masses.

This program can be formed only on the foundation of revolutionary Marxism, as developed in the ranks of the Fourth International. But an important necessity is the active support of the international working class. At present the internal forces for a revolutionary upheaval are still undeveloped. The crushed non-European masses require active help from the more powerful working class movements abroad.

The British workers must denounce the inhumanities perpetrated by the financial magnates and monopolists of the City. Today American capital intervenes in the economic life of South Africa to support and reap profits out of the super-oppression of the non-European people. It is opportune for the American working class in general and for the Negro toilers in particular to stretch out a hand of solidarity and to intervene in protest against these conditions.

The plight of the non-European people must be made known, not through imperialist organizations like the UN, but through the ranks of the working class and oppressed colonial peoples throughout the world. Backed by these protests and concrete signs of support and drawing encouragement from the revolutionary struggles against imperialism in the metropolis and the colonies, the incipient non-European national liberation movement will expand and rise to the strength necessary to wage a successful struggle for democracy, national liberation and socialism.

Note by ETOL

1. The articles actually appeared in teh Autust and September issues.

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