”Future of the Africanist Movement”. Questions and Answers Y.R.M. Sobukwe, in The Africanist, January 1959

Q: Who are the Africanists?

A. A simple answer would be that they are the members of the Africanist Movement. But, if one wishes to go deeper into the question, one would say that they are those Africans who believe that African Nationalism is the only liberatory outlook that can bind together the African masses by providing them with a loyalty higher than that of the tribe and thus mould them into a militant disciplined fighting force.

Q: How long has your movement been in existence?

A. The germ of the Movement was there even before the advent of the European. When Moshoeshoe brought together the scattered rem­nants of various African tribes and moulded them into a patriotic Sotho tribe, he was engaged in nation-building. Similarly Shaka's wars whereby he sought to establish a single authority in place of the many tribal authorities of Natal, were, we say, steps in the direction of nation-building. In the Cape the House of Gcaleka was recognised as the Paramount authority. There is no doubt that the pressure of social and economic conditions would in time have given rise to the Union of these territories.

As a political organisation, however, we trace our origin to 1912””the year the African National Congress (ANC), was born””with 1944 the year our Movement was given that purposiveness which helps to give clear direction and power to a mass struggle. It is in that year that Lembede and those in his immediate circle demanded from the A.N.C.:

1. A clear outlook: African Nationalism and Africanism.

2. A basic policy outlining our fundamental postulates with respect to our social intentions, especially in the ultimate future.

3. A Programme.

The first two demands, Lembede himself met, while the third was met in 1949 when the Afncanists (known as the Congress Youth League) provided the A.N.C. with the popular Nation-Building Programme of 1949.

Q: What are your differences with the A.N.C.

A. First of all we differ radically in our conception of the struggle. We firmly hold that we are oppressed as a subject nation””the African nation. To us, therefore, the struggle is a national struggle. Those of the A.N.C. who are its active policy-makers, maintain, in the face of all the hard facts of the S.A. situation, that ours is a class struggle. We are, according to them, oppressed as WORKERS, both white and black. But it is significant that they make no attempt whatsoever to organise white workers. Their white allies are all of them bourgeoise!

Secondly we differ in our attitude to "co-operation" with other national groups. Perhaps it might be better to say we differ in our understanding of the term "co-operation." We believe that co­operation is possible only between equals. There can be no co-operation between oppressor and oppressed, dominating and dominated. That is collaboration, not co-operation. And we cannot collaborate in our own oppression! The A.N.C. leadership, on the other hand, would seem to regard collaboration and co-operation as synonymous. They seem to believe that all that is required for people to be "equals" is that they should declare that they are equals, and lo! the trick is done.

At the present moment the A.N.C. leadership regards anybody and everybody who is against the Nationalist government (for whatever reasons) as allies.

This latter attitude is the result of a mentality that continues to speak of South Africa as though it were an island, completely cut off from the continent and, therefore, able to fashion its own policies and programmes, unrelated to and unaffected by those of the other African States. We, on the other hand, have always been acutely aware of the fact that ours is a particular front in a battle raging across the continent. We claim Afrika for the Africans; the A.N.C. claims South Africa for all. To the A.N.C. leadership the present Nationalist government is the properly elected government of South Africa whose policies, however, it does not approve of. And the A.N.C.'s main struggle is to get the Nats out of power. The fact that the Nats are a logical product of past South African history and that what they stand for is approved and supported by the overwhelming majority of whites in the country has apparently escaped the notice of A.N.C. leadership.

We, however, stand for the complete overthrow of white domination. That means that the S.A. Act of 1909””that fossilised relic of the whiteman's exclusive privileges and prejudices””must be scrapped.

Q: What is your answer to the accusation that you are anti-white?

A. Our reply has been officially given in a statement appearing in the Golden City Post of Sunday 7th November, 1958 signed by Mr. P. K. Leballo (Chairman) and Mr. S. T. Ngendane (Secretary). On the material level we just cannot see any possibility of co-operation. To say that we are prepared to accept anybody who subscribes to our Programme is but to state a condition that one knows cannot be fulfilled. From past history, not only of this country but of other countries as well, we know that a group in a privileged position never voluntarily relinquishes that position. If some members of the group appear to be sympathetic to the demands of the less-privileged, it is only in so far as those demands do not threaten the privileges of the favoured group. If they (the privileged) offer assistance, it is for the purpose of "directing" and "controlling" the struggle of the underprivileged and making sure that it does not become "dangerous."

Q: Q. But are you anti-white or not?

A. What is meant by anti-whiteism? Is it not merely an emotional term without a precise signification? Let me put it this way: In every struggle, whether national or class, the masses do not fight an abstraction. They do not hate oppression or capitalism. They concretise these and hate the oppressor, be he the Governor-General or a colonial power, the landlord or the factory-owner, or, in South Africa, the white man. But they hate these groups because they associate them with their oppression! Remove the association and you remove the hatred. In South Africa then, once white domination has been overthrown and the white man is no longer "white-man boss" but is an individual member of society, there will be no reason to hate him and he will not be hated even by the masses.

We are not anti-white, therefore. We do not hate the European because he is white! We hate him because he is an oppressor. And it is plain dishonesty to say I hate the sjambok and not the one who wields it.

Q: Do you regard all whites as oppressors?

A. We regard them all as shareholders in the S.A. Oppressors Company (Pty.) Ltd. There are whites, of course, who are intellectually converted to our cause, but because of their position materially, they cannot fully identify themselves with the struggle of the African people. They want safeguards and check-points all along the way, with the result that the struggle of the people is blunted, stultified and crushed.

Q: Do you include white leftists in your indictment?

A. There are NONE! And there have never been any in South Africa””white or black. All we have had are quacks. In fact, like Christianity, Communism in South Africa has been extremely unfortunate in its choice of representatives.

Q: Do you think the Africanist Movement will last?

A. Not only will it last, it will nourish. History is already vindicating our stand as far as the continent is concerned. We are in step with the continent. And the reason is that we correctly interpret the aspirations of the African people. We are not exaggerating when we say that the demand for membership is more than we can cope with.

Q: Why can't you cope with the demand?

A. Because we lack funds. You see we do not want a blind following. We want an intelligent, informed and politically educated membership. We, therefore, require a full-time information service, full-time organisers and above all, well-run offices. We don't want undisciplined branches mushrooming all over the country. And to maintain the necessary contact, discipline and co-ordination, we need funds.

Q: Do you think the African people will tolerate a splinter movement at this stage?

A. The African people want freedom and they are extremely anxious to find themselves as a Nation. They are aware of the futility of the post-1949 struggles of the A.N.C. with more and more emphasis on spectacular activity as distinct from principled programmatic action. That is why they have welcomed our emergence.

Q: What is your attitude to the A.N.C?

A. We say, "Let the best man win." If the A.N.C, launches campaigns, which we believe, are for the good of our people, we will support them wholeheartedly. But we are not going to get ourselves involved in muddled, clumsy, senseless activity. We have the 1949 Programme to implement, and as it unfolds and its dynamism is revealed, the A.N.C. will cease to exist. Perhaps the Congress alliance may eke out a precarious existence for some time. But there will be only one organisation for the African people””and that will be the Africanist Movement.

Q: Have you decided on a Name yet?

A. No””not on a national level. Such matters as a name, policy, the Constitution, etc., will be finalised at the National Convention which we hope to hold in April. From then onwards we shall operate on a National level. And from then onwards we will sweep the country.