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South African Communist Party

South African Communist Party

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South African Communist Party (SACP) is a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. It was founded in 1921 as the Communist Party of South Africa by the joining together of the International Socialist League
International Socialist League
The International Socialist League is a small Trotskyist organisation in Britain. Its irregular publication, Socialist Voice, was published frequently until 2002. and from 2011....

 and others under the leadership of Willam H. Andrews.

The SACP is a partner of the Tripartite Alliance which consists of the African National Congress
African National Congress
The African National Congress is South Africa's governing Africanist political party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party , since the establishment of non-racial democracy in April 1994. It defines itself as a...

 and the Congress of South African Trade Unions
Congress of South African Trade Unions
The Congress of South African Trade Unions is a trade union federation in South Africa. It was founded in 1985 and is the biggest of the country’s three main trade union federations, with 21 affiliated trade unions, altogether organising 1.8 million workers.-Establishment:COSATU was established in...

 (COSATU).

History


The Communist Party of South Africa first came to prominence during the armed Rand Rebellion
Rand Rebellion
The Rand Rebellion was an armed uprising of white miners in the Witwatersrand region of South Africa, in March 1922, sparked off by their intensified exploitation by their employers. Jimmy Green, a prominent politician in the Labour Party, was one of the leaders of the strike...

 by white mineworkers in 1922. The large mining concerns, facing labour shortages and wage pressures, had announced their intention of liberalizing the rigid colour bar within the mines and elevate some blacks to minor supervisory positions. (The vast majority of white miners mainly held supervisory positions over the laboring black miners.) The CPSA supported the strike against the mining concerns from a class perspective in the context of the struggle between the working class and the capitalist class but condemned the demand to preserve the colour bar as well as the slogan "Workers of the world, unite and fight for a white South Africa!". With the failure of the rising, in part due to black workers failing to strike, the Communist Party was forced by Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

 to adopt the Native Republic thesis which stipulated that South Africa was a country belonging to the Natives, that is, the Blacks. The Party thus reoriented itself at its 1924 Party Congress towards organising black workers and "Africanising" the party. By 1928, 1,600 of the party's 1,750 members were Black. In 1929, the party adopted a "strategic line" which held that "The most direct line of advance to socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 runs through the mass struggle for majority rule
Majority rule
Majority rule is a decision rule that selects alternatives which have a majority, that is, more than half the votes. It is the binary decision rule used most often in influential decision-making bodies, including the legislatures of democratic nations...

". By 1948 the Party had officially abandoned the Native Republic policy.

In 1946, the CPSA along with the African National Congress
African National Congress
The African National Congress is South Africa's governing Africanist political party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party , since the establishment of non-racial democracy in April 1994. It defines itself as a...

 took part in the general strike that was started by the African Mine Workers' Strike
African Mine Workers' Strike
The African Mine Workers' Strike, by mine workers of Witwatersrand started on August 12, 1946 and lasted around 1 week. The strike was attacked by police and over the week, at least 1,248 workers were wounded and at least 9 killed.-African Mine Workers' Union:...

 in 1946. Many party members, such as Bram Fischer
Bram Fischer
Abram Louis Fischer, commonly known as Bram Fischer, was a South African lawyer of Afrikaner descent, notable for anti-apartheid activism and for the legal defence of anti-apartheid figures, including Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Trial.-Tributes:Fischer is widely acknowledged as a key figure in...

 were arrested.

Apartheid


The CPSA was declared illegal in 1950. The party went underground
Underground resistance
Underground resistance may refer to*Underground Resistance , a musical collective from Detroit, Michigan*Underground resistance during World War II, the inhabitants of various locales resisting the rule of the Nazis, the Empire of Japan, and Mussolini...

 and, in 1953 relaunched itself as the South African Communist Party - the name change emphasising the party's orientation towards the particular concerns of South Africans. The party was not legalised until 1990.

The CPSA/SACP was a particular target of the National Party government elected in 1948. The Suppression of Communism Act
Suppression of Communism Act
The Suppression of Communism Act, No. 44 of 1950 was legislation of the national government in South Africa, passed on June 26 of that year , which formally banned the Communist Party of South Africa and proscribed the ideology of communism, defined by the government as any scheme that aimed "at...

 was used against all those dedicated to ending apartheid, but was obviously particularly targeted at the SACP.

Following the repression of the CPSA, the party adopted a policy of primarily working within the ANC in order to reorient that organisation's programme from a nationalist policy akin to the CPSA's former Native Republic policy towards a non-racial programme which declared that all ethnic groups residing in South Africa had equal rights to the country. While black members of the SACP were encouraged to join the ANC and seek leadership positions within that organization, many of its white leading members formed the Congress of Democrats
South African Congress of Democrats
The Congress of Democrats was a radical, left white anti-apartheid organization founded in South Africa in late 1952 as part of the multi-racial Congress Alliance. The establishment of the COD sought to illustrate opposition to apartheid among whites...

 which in turn allied itself with the African National Congress
African National Congress
The African National Congress is South Africa's governing Africanist political party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party , since the establishment of non-racial democracy in April 1994. It defines itself as a...

 and other 'non-racial' congresses in the Congress Alliance
Congress Alliance
The Congress Alliance was an anti-apartheid coalition formed in South Africa in the 1950s. Led by the ANC, the Congress was a multi-racial alliance committed to a democratic South Africa.- Congress Alliance, multi-racial struggle, and the Freedom Charter :...

. The Congress Alliance committed itself to a democratic non-racial South Africa where the 'people shall govern' through the Freedom Charter
Freedom Charter
The Freedom Charter was the statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress and its allies - the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People's Congress...

. The Freedom Charter, having been developed by leading members of the Congress of Democrats, was adopted by the ANC leadership and has since remained the cornerstone of the ANC's programme throughout the years of repression.

SACP played a dynamic role in the development of the liberation movement in South Africa and had an influence beyond its size. The 'Africanists' of the Pan Africanist Congress broke from the ANC not as a specifically anti-Communist bloc, but in opposition to the creation of a five member Congress Alliance executive that reduced the 100,000 member ANC to the same status as the 500 strong (white) Congress of Democrats and three other small organisations. While the PAC proved to have little lasting organizational impact (the group was suppressed a mere 11 months after its founding), its policy of Africanism and acceptance of Maoism
Maoism
Maoism, also known as the Mao Zedong Thought , is claimed by Maoists as an anti-Revisionist form of Marxist communist theory, derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong . Developed during the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely applied as the political and military guiding...

 informed the black student uprisings of the mid and late 1970s which were led by the Black Consciousness Movement
Black Consciousness Movement
The Black Consciousness Movement was a grassroots anti-Apartheid activist movement that emerged in South Africa in the mid-1960s out of the political vacuum created by the jailing and banning of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress leadership after the Sharpeville Massacre in...

 of Azania
Azania
Azania is the name that has been applied to various parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In Roman times—and perhaps earlier—the name referred to a portion of the Southeast African coast south of the Horn of Africa, extending south perhaps as far as modern Tanzania....

 (South Africa) and Steve Biko
Steve Biko
Stephen Biko was a noted anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. A student leader, he later founded the Black Consciousness Movement which would empower and mobilize much of the urban black population. Since his death in police custody, he has been called a martyr of the...

.

As the National Party
National Party (South Africa)
The National Party is a former political party in South Africa. Founded in 1914, it was the governing party of the country from 4 June 1948 until 9 May 1994. Members of the National Party were sometimes known as Nationalists or Nats. Its policies included apartheid, the establishment of a...

 increased repression in response to increased black pressure and radicalism throughout the 1950s, the ANC, previously committed to non-violence, turned towards the question of force. A new generation of leaders, led by Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 and Walter Sisulu
Walter Sisulu
Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu was a South African anti-apartheid activist and member of the African National Congress .-Family and Education:...

 recognised that the Nationalists were certain to ban the ANC and so make peaceful protest all but impossible.

They allied themselves with the Communists to form Umkhonto we Sizwe
Umkhonto we Sizwe
Umkhonto we Sizwe , translated "Spear of the Nation," was the armed wing of the African National Congress which fought against the South African apartheid government. MK launched its first guerrilla attacks against government installations on 16 December 1961...

 ('Spear of the Nation') which began a campaign of economic bombing or 'armed propaganda'. However the leaders of Umkhonto were soon arrested and jailed and the liberation movement was left weak and with an exiled leadership.

In exile the influence of the SACP grew as communist states provided the ANC with funds and arms. Patient work by the ANC slowly rebuilt the organisation inside South Africa and it was the ANC, with communists in prominent positions, who were able to capitalize on the wave of anger that swept young South Africans during and after the Soweto Uprising of 1976.

Communist Joe Slovo
Joe Slovo
For Joe Slovo Informal Settlement in Cape Town, see: Joe Slovo .Joe Slovo was a South African politician, long-time leader of the South African Communist Party , and leading member of the African National Congress.-Life:Slovo was born in Obeliai, Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South...

 was Chief of Staff
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of Umkhonto, his wife and fellow SACP cadre Ruth First
Ruth First
Ruth First was a white South African anti-apartheid activist and scholar born in Johannesburg, South Africa...

 was perhaps the leading theoretician of the revolutionary struggle the ANC were engaged in. The ANC itself, though, remained broadly social democratic in outlook.

Eventually external pressures and internal ferment made even many strong supporters of apartheid recognise that change had to come and a long process of negotiations began which resulted, in 1994, in the birth of a new non-racial South Africa.

Post-apartheid


With victory a number of Communists occupied prominent positions on the ANC benches in parliament. Most prominently, Nelson Mandela appointed Joe Slovo
Joe Slovo
For Joe Slovo Informal Settlement in Cape Town, see: Joe Slovo .Joe Slovo was a South African politician, long-time leader of the South African Communist Party , and leading member of the African National Congress.-Life:Slovo was born in Obeliai, Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South...

 as Minister for Housing. This period also brought new strains in the ANC-SACP alliance when the ANC's programme did not threaten the existence of capitalism in South Africa and was heavily reliant on foreign investment and tourism. In his autobiography
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 Long Walk to Freedom
Long Walk to Freedom (book)
Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiographical work written by Nelson Mandela, and published in 1995 by Little Brown & Co. The book profiles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison. Mandela was once regarded as a terrorist but he is now regarded as uncontroversial...

, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 famously remarked:
"There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us. But who is to say that we were not using them?"

However, through the Tripartite Alliance and the sitting of many SACP members on the ANC's NEC
National Executive Committee (African National Congress)
The ANC National Executive Committee is the chief executive organ of the South African political party, the African National Congress. It is elected at every National Conference; the executive committee, in turn, elects a National Working Committee for day-to-day decision-making responsibilities.On...

, the SACP has wielded influence from within the ANC, often serving as an ideological opposition against the presidency and socio-economic policies of Thabo Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki
Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki is a South African politician who served two terms as the second post-apartheid President of South Africa from 14 June 1999 to 24 September 2008. He is also the brother of Moeletsi Mbeki...

 (1999–2008); this became most apparent with the ouster of Mbeki from the presidencies of both the party (2007, by vote) and the government (2008, by ANC party recall) and his eventual replacement in both offices with Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is the President of South Africa, elected by parliament following his party's victory in the 2009 general election....

, who is widely seen as being more conciliatory to the ideological demands of both the SACP and COSATU.

List of General Secretaries of the SACP

  • Moses Kotane
    Moses Kotane
    Moses Mauane Kotane was a South African politician and activist. Kotane was secretary general of the South African Communist Party from 1939 until his death in 1978.-Early life:...

  • Moses Mabhida
    Moses Mabhida
    Moses Mabhida was a South African politician. Mabhida was leader of the South African Communist Party from 1978 until his death in 1986.-Biography:...

  • Chris Hani
    Chris Hani
    Chris Hani, born Martin Thembisile Hani was the leader of the South African Communist Party and chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress . He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government...

  • Joe Slovo
    Joe Slovo
    For Joe Slovo Informal Settlement in Cape Town, see: Joe Slovo .Joe Slovo was a South African politician, long-time leader of the South African Communist Party , and leading member of the African National Congress.-Life:Slovo was born in Obeliai, Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South...

  • Blade Nzimande
    Blade Nzimande
    Dr Bonginkosi Emmanuel "Blade" Nzimande is a South African politician who has been Minister for Higher Education and Training since 2009.He has been the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party since 1998...


Prominent members of the Central Committee of the SACP


  • Brian Bunting
  • Jeremy Cronin
    Jeremy Cronin
    Jeremy Cronin is a South African writer, author, and noted poet. A longtime activist in politics, Cronin is a member of the South African Communist Party is a member of the National Executive Committee member of the African National Congress...

  • Bram Fischer
    Bram Fischer
    Abram Louis Fischer, commonly known as Bram Fischer, was a South African lawyer of Afrikaner descent, notable for anti-apartheid activism and for the legal defence of anti-apartheid figures, including Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Trial.-Tributes:Fischer is widely acknowledged as a key figure in...

  • Chris Hani
    Chris Hani
    Chris Hani, born Martin Thembisile Hani was the leader of the South African Communist Party and chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress . He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government...

  • Ronnie Kasrils
    Ronnie Kasrils
    Ronald Kasrils is a South African politician. He was Minister for Intelligence Services from 27 April 2004 to 25 September 2008...

  • Mac Maharaj
    Mac Maharaj
    Sathyandranath Ragunanan "Mac" Maharaj is a South African politician affiliated to the African National Congress, academic and businessman of Indian origin....

  • Ivan Schermbrucker
  • Leslie Schermbrucker
  • Joe Slovo
    Joe Slovo
    For Joe Slovo Informal Settlement in Cape Town, see: Joe Slovo .Joe Slovo was a South African politician, long-time leader of the South African Communist Party , and leading member of the African National Congress.-Life:Slovo was born in Obeliai, Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South...


Literature

  • Raising the Red Flag The International Socialist League & the Communist Party of South Africa 1914 - 1932 by Sheridan Johns. Mayibuye History and Literature Series No. 49. Mayibuye Books. University of the Western Cape, Bellville. 1995. ISBN 1-86808-211-3.

  • Time Longer Than Rope by Edward Roux. The University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, Wisconsin. 1964. ISBN 9780299032043.

External links