Document 120 - Draft Programme of the Communist Party of South Africa (c. 1940)41

From: South Africa's Radical Tradition, a documentary history, Volume One 1907 - 1950, by Allison Drew

TREASURER'S REPORT

The Treasurer's Report (annexed hereto) was accepted.

The Conference was formally closed by Mrs. Gool late on Monday .evening.

(signed) Z. Gool, President. (signed) MOSES M. KOTANE, Secretary.

3. The Struggle for National Liberation

The Communist Party is pledged to work unceasingly and without qualification for the absolute freedom of the Non-European peoples in the political, economic, and cultural spheres of South African life. Socialism cannot tolerate the imposition of the slightest discrimination or restriction upon any section of the workers. The achievement of a socialist republic for South Africa is impossible except by means of the most active and loyal support of the Non-European peoples. The release of the Non-European peoples from their present stage of bondage is the most urgent task that awaits the South African working class and democratic movements.

The pisions between the workers and oppressed peoples originate in the first place in differences of racial type, language, customs, and tradition. In addition the people are pided by discriminating laws and differential privileges. The Communist Party aims at the abolition of such discrimination, and at the extension of social services and rights to the members of all races, equally and without distinction. Only by granting equality of treatment and of opportunity can a solution be found to the race and cultural problems of South Africa and the people be enabled to develop their abilities to the full in the interest of themselves and the society.

Social and legal discrimination, by perpetuating and strengthening the sense of difference and disunity arising from racial and cultural pisions, serves the interests of the capitalist and the imperialist. By education and propaganda, by unequal distri¬bution of social services, by the grant 6f special privileges to different sections of the working class, the capitalists are able to prevent unity of workers and oppressed people in their struggle for bread, freedom, and socialism.

The African is bound down by pass laws and the segregation system; he is made to pay discriminating tax; he is not allowed to buy land; he is shut out from the skilled trades, the professions, and government employment; he is denied the right to vote. He does the hardest work, gets the lowest pay, and receives the least education. The Coloured people are given a slightly higher "status"; in the Cape their men have the right to vote if they comply with the electoral qualifications; they may buy land; they receive more education than the African; and they include amongst them a number of skilled workers. The Indians, subject as they are to a wide range of discriminating laws and segregation measures, deprived of the elementary rights of freedom of movement, residence, and occupation in the greater part of South Africa, nevertheless include amongst them a small group of well-to-do traders and business men.

Even between the sections of the Non-European peoples, therefore, differences of legal status and privilege exist in addition to language, cultural and racial differences. But the incessant attacks that are being made upon each and all of them in the name of "segregation", and the growth of understanding of the root causes of their oppressed state, are creating a consciousness that they have interests in common and tasks in common for which unity is required. At the same time they feel that their interests are not share by the main body of European workers.

Europeans, whether rich or poor, capitalist or worker, form a privileged class. They enjoy free and compulsory education; they have the right of admission to all branches of employment; they are provided with social services like unemployment assistance, medical attention, workmen's compensation, old age and blind person’s pensions, on a more liberal scale than the Non-Europeans. They may move about freely, buy land, and live where they please. Above all, they possess adult suffrage for men and women, and may vote and stand for Parliament.

The worker of each racial group naturally clings to its privileges and is afraid to share them with others in case its share will be smaller. The less privileged look with resentment upon the superior advantages and treatment accorded to those of a higher "status". The loaf to be pided is too small to satisfy all, and therefore each tries to get enough for himself without thinking of those who starve. But the smallness of the loaf is the direct outcome of the capitalist system, which enables the capitalist class to obtain the greater portion of the wealth produced by the workers of all races. Only under socialism, when there is enough to go round for all who work, when the fear of unemployment and of starvation will have disappeared, will it be possible to eliminate competition and antagonism between the different racial groups. But the workers will understand the need of unity before socialism comes to South Africa.

The basis of disunity is the grant of special privileges to one or other group of workers. The capitalist class of South Africa will not continue indefinitely to pay the cost of such privileges. Already attacks are being made upon the Coloured and Indian people to drive them down to the level of the African. Already one-fifth of the European population has lost most of its economic privileges, and has been forced into the class of "poor whites". Capitalism reduces all workers down to the same low grade. Low wages drive out high wages. The capitalist wants "cheap" labour and thousands of white workers are to-day earning little more than the Non-Europeans.

The frightful cost of this war, leading to the impoverishment of peoples and the bankruptcy of large sections of the capitalist world, will bring in its train determined attacks upon the standard of living of the working class. The Prime Minister, General Smuts, has uttered the warning on behalf of the ruling class: after the war, he said, "this will be a much poorer world. It will probably be a world of unprecedented impoverish¬ment after the most colossal destruction in history". But the capitalists will want to keep their profits, and will try to do so at the expense of the workers, above all of the highest paid European workers.

The war will merely accelerate a tendency constantly at work under capitalism, to replace highly paid workers by low paid workers. Re-organisation of industries, ration¬alisation, the introduction of the conveyor belt system in the factories, are the means used to create the "semi-skilled" class of workers, who take the place of the skilled artisan. Under capitalism the bulk of the privileged workers must fight a constant battle to retain their superior economic position, and they cannot succeed unless and until they join hands with the Non-European workers. The lesson of the need of working class unity is being learned by increasing numbers of European workers, for the same reason that it is being learned by the Non-European peoples.

Segregation and the colour bar serve the purpose of blinding the workers to the unity of their interests in the face of attacks from a common enemy, the ruling class. The policy of "industrial" segregation, the professed aim of which is to give the European workers a preference or a monopoly over certain jobs, is regarded as a means of reducing the wages of the European workers and at the same time preventing them from realising that they and the Non-Europeans have the same interests in spite of racial and legal differences. Every step taken to separate the workers in different groups must clearly accentuate the absence of unity between them, and therefore further weaken each section in its attempts to maintain and advance its standard of living.

Freedom from racial and national oppression for all people in South Africa will be found essential to preserve the rights and improve the welfare of the European workers. But freedom is a vital and immediate necessity of the Non-European population. Representing eight million out of the total population often million, the Non-Europeans have a right to claim equality of opportunity and treatment for themselves, and their future, and the future of South Africa, depend upon their ability to press for and secure such rights. They, and only they, can throw off their chains. No one else can win freedom for them.

4. The Non-European Liberatory Movement

The Communist Party supports the national liberatory movements of the Non-European peoples against racial and colour discrimination and for equality of political, economic, and cultural rights. Only through the extension and development to more advanced stages of their national movements can the Non-European peoples succeed in abolish¬ing the oppressive restrictions that have been placed upon them; only in the course of their struggle for freedom can the people of South Africa succeed in building a socialist, classless and republican society. All genuine movements towards national liberation are progressive because they develop the people's abilities and widen the scope for the employment of their mental and physical capacities, and because they weaken the basis of imperialism, and, therefore, aid in the task of creating the workers' socialist state.

The Non-European is a citizen and taxpayer, but does not enjoy the rights of citizenship. He is a worker, but is prevented from making full use of his capabilities. Gaols and prisons are filled to overflowing with hundreds of thousands of men and women of colour, who have committed no crime, but have merely broken one of the many oppressive laws - pass, tax, segregation, liquor, master and servant laws - that harass the people. Slums are crowded with Non-Europeans whose only offence is that their wages are low, but who are denied the opportunity to increase their wages by performing skilled work. The Non-European peoples are deprived of the elementary rights and opportunities that even capitalist democracy grants to the people as matter of course.

The Non-Europeans are "backward" and uneducated because the ruling class refuses to provide them with a sufficient number of schools and teachers. The ruling class keeps them ignorant and backward, and then makes their ignorance an excuse for refusing them political rights. The attitude is that of the Nazis, who say that the mass of the people cannot think for themselves, but must blindly follow the commands of a "higher" race or leader. Without the vote, without the right to take part in the government of South Africa, the Non-European cannot fulfil his duty towards himself and his race. Without political rights he cannot remove the barriers of segregation and colour bar that prevent him from receiving education and keep him in poverty. Without the vote he cannot be free.

Each race has its own special problems and difficulties. The African demands more land and the right to buy land without restraint, abolition of the poll tax, and removal of all segregation laws. The Indian demands the right to trade, and to move about freely in the Union. The Coloured, who until recent years, had more rights in the Cape than other Non-Europeans, want these rights maintained and extended. But there are demands that are common to all Non-European peoples. They are united in wanting more education, better health and medical services, adequate old age pensions and unemployment benefits, the right to enter any branch of employment, whether in government service or industry, and the right to vote and stand for elections to parliament, provincial and municipal councils.

There are sectional and common Non-European organisations such as the African National Congress, All-African Convention, National Liberation League, Indian Na¬tional Congress, and Non-European United Front, that can become mighty weapons in the struggle for these demands and for equal rights for all citizens irrespective of race, colour, or nationality. In these organisations there is a place for all Non-Europeans, who are determined to fight for the removal of all forms of discrimination against their people. In this struggle the Communist Party is ranged without hesitation or qualifica¬tion on the side of the Non-Europeans.

At the same time the Communist Party fights for absolute unity between the European and Non-European workers. Without such unity it will be impossible to maintain independent workers' policy and class struggle in the face of the attempts of the ruling class to lower the standards of the workers of all races. The Communist Party therefore stands four-square against the so-called "liberals" and "friends" of the Non-Europeans who advise him to undercut the European worker in order to get his job. The "cheap" labour policy must be abolished, not by bringing down the standards of the European workers, but by raising those of the Non-Europeans. The profits of the capitalists, not the pay envelope of the worker, must be made to bear the cost of granting equal opportunities and rights to all workers.

Unity must not however be bought at the price of the Non-Europeans' subordination and acceptance of the colour bar in industry, social services or government. In these circumstances unity would be false, and would constitute a betrayal of the interests of Non-European and European workers. The Communist Party therefore repudiates the policy of these labour and trade union leaders who stand for the maintenance of the colour bar, and hinder the development of working class solidarity. The policy of these leaders has caused them to become the allies of the ruling class and to betray the interests of all sections of the working class.

The false slogan of "save white civilisation" is echoed parrot-like by the Labour Party and trade union leaders who have ranged themselves on the side of the capitalists. In this way they attempt to deceive the European workers and to cover up their own betrayal of socialism and working class interests. The slogan is false because civilisa¬tion is not something that is the property of any one race along. Western civilisation is descended from the cultures of India, China, Egypt and Arabia, as well as of Western Europe. Civilisation is the product of all mankind. It belongs to all men. Civilisation is being destroyed by capitalism, and the working class is entitled and in duty bound to demand the abolition of capitalism before humanity will have been reduced to savagery. Civilisation in South Africa is being threatened by the forces of capitalism; it can be saved only through the unity of the workers in a struggle for socialism, based on racial and national equality.

Racial peace and harmony will be finally achieved only when the establishment of a socialist republic has eliminated the competition between workers for jobs and higher wages. The fear of unemployment and of being replaced by badly paid workers will disappear only when the productive forces of South Africa have been freed from the fetters of the capitalist system. Collectively owned, the mines, factories, and land can be developed to meet all human needs. The liberation of the productive forces will bring with it the liberation of men and women and the raising of all to high levels of material and cultural development. With the removal of backward features from the lives of the peoples of South Africa, the causes of racial prejudice and antagonism will disappear.

8. Immediate Tasks

The present period is dominated by the war between British Imperialism and Nazi Germany for power, markets and colonies.

This acute form of capitalist rivalries has been preceded by the growth of Fascist and Nazi States in which working class organisations have been suppressed with brute force, workers' leaders executed, tortured and imprisoned, democratic rights abolished, and the standard of living of the people reduced to starvation level.

Fascist dictatorship, the rule of the political gangster on behalf of the banker and monopoly capitalist, is the organization of capitalism for imperialist war and the re-pision of the world. [....]

The Communist Party of South Africa, recognising the dangers that confront the working class under conditions of the imperialist war and the advance of the Fascist armies, calls upon the workers to close their ranks, strengthen their organizations, and resist the attacks of the ruling class.

Realising that the working class must be rendered powerless by pision into hostile and competing racial groups, the Communist Party calls for unity of all races based on an unqualified determination to work for the removal of race and colour discrimination.

The democratic elements in the Union's constitution and the rights of the workers cannot be rendered secure from attack until the eight million Non-European peoples have been liberated from oppression and backwardness.

The struggle of the working class is a political struggle for power to influence the state and parliament, and it cannot end in victory unless the Non-European masses join 'n the struggle.

The Communist Party recognises that the emancipation of the Non-European peoples is essential for the defeat of fascism, the defence of working class rights and standards, and the establishment of socialism. The immediate tasks of the working class are to unite with Non-European liberatory movements in their demand for the removal of industrial colour bars, residential segregation, discriminating taxation, and racial differentiation in the administration of educational, health and social services, and in the demand for the extension of the parliamentary, provincial and municipal franchise on an equal basis with Europeans.

To demand the repeal of emergency, industrial conscription and other regulations or laws, such as Riotous Assemblies Act, Native Administration Act, and Native (Urban areas) Act that restrict the right of the workers and oppressed peoples to freedom of speech and political action.

To demand the raising of wages for all workers to civilised standards, satisfactory working conditions and hours on mines, farms and in factories, state unemployment insurance for all workers, and the prevention of profiteering and checks upon the rising cost of living.

In fighting for and gaining these demands the people of South Africa will pre and strengthen themselves for the ultimate triumph of socialism.