South African Communist Party (SACP)

On 30 July 2011, the South African Communist Party (SACP) celebrated its 90th anniversary. Initially known as the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), the party changed its name to the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1953, after it had been forced underground.

The formation of the CPSA in 1921 was a turning point in the development of labour politics in South Africa. The organised labour movement until the 1920s consisted mainly, but not exclusively, of members from the White working class.

Since its formation the CPSA worked to change South Africa’s political landscape, often in conjunction with other political organisations. One of the most important relationships it maintained was with the African National Congress (ANC). Although the relationship was based on a tumultuous beginning, with the ANC rejecting communism in the 1930s, a strong working relationship to achieve national liberation developed during the 1950s – and this bond extended into the exile years and persists today.

In its involvement in mass struggles that focus on organising workers around issues of workers’ rights, the SACP continues to play an important role in South African politics.

The history feature examines the history of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), later the South African Communist Party (SACP). The feature includes; a periodised history article, a timeline of events, a list of key figures, and an archive that lists articles/documents/links/books that relate to the history of the SACP. Use the contents menu to navigate between these sections

• Davenport, T.R.H. (1991). South Africa. A modern history, London: Macmillan
• Beinart, W. (1994). Twentieth century South Africa, Oxford: OUP.
• Karis, T.G. & Gerhart, G.M. (1997). From Protest to Challenge. A documentary history of African politics in South Africa, 1882-1990. Volume 5: Nadir and Resurgence, 1964- 1979, Pretoria: Unisa Press.
• Hermann Giliomee and Bernard Mbenga (2007). New History of South Africa. Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town.
• Muller, C.F.J. (ed)(1981). Five Hundred years: a history of South Africa; 3rd rev. ed., Pretoria: Academica.
• SACP website:

Last updated : 25-Jul-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 30-Mar-2011