Document 13 - Sarah Mokone [Victor Wessels] "The T.A.R.C.", Majority Rule : Some Notes. Chapter XIX
The best shorthand introduction to what the struggle against train apartheid was all about, what its difficulties were from the very beginning and why it is inevitably ran into the sand, is provided by a document, "The T.A.R.C. Reports", published by its Secretary, A.E. (Sonny) Abdurahman, a bare two months after the Train Apartheid Resistance Committee was formed (August 18,1948).
The TARC was an ad hoc Committee. The Anti-CAD and the Local Committee of the NEUM, opposed in principle to ad hoc committees and ad hoc campaigns which highlighted one or other aspect of oppression and failed to struggle against it as part of the whole system, nevertheless joined the TARC. The first reason was to demonstrate that, although it was politically strong in the Western Cape particularly, it was not sectarian and divisive. There was a widespread and angry reaction to the introduction of train apartheid in the Peninsula, and the move was regarded as an arrogant provocaÂtion by an intoxicated Nationalist government. The second reason was that the Anti-CAD and Local Committee hoped to broaden the relatively narrow struggle into a mass struggle of an all-embracing nature.
In the "T.A.R.C. Reports", the Committee states that after existing for two months it wanted to report to the people on how things stood. It reported that it had held crowded
Meetings throughout the Peninsula, that there had been financial and moral support locally and from other parts of the country. It said "After a tremendous mass rally on the Grand Parade on September 5th, the Government decided to prosecute 10 of the TARC on charges of inciting to public violence, inciting to break railway regulations, and fomenting ill-feeling between Europeans and Africans. Nine were found 'not guilty' on all counts. One was found guilty on the second charge, and fined £5. We are appealing against this on the grounds that the Railway ms under which the latest apartheid measures have been introduced are ultra vires (not valid in law). This will be the nature of a test case on the regulations." This was case of R. v. Abdurahman.
Then the Report goes on to say: "But the TARC was not formed merely to make a test prove Train Apartheid invalid. It was formed to organise ACTIVE, DISCIPLINED MASS RESISTANCE by boarding the marked coaches on the trains, and the regulations unworkable. It was formed to DEFEAT the regulations by every means at our disposal. This was and is the purpose for which TARC exists. This is what working to bring about as soon as possible. The TARC is convinced that this CAN be done. Why, then, the delay? Why hasn't it started yet?"
It says 'There are two reasons why the mass boarding of the marked coaches has not yet begun. It is important that YOU should know these reasons, because YOU alone can help us to remedy the position and mass action cannot but be delayed until YOU get moving.
“The first reason is that, despite the enthusiastic support we have received from tens of thousands of people all over the Peninsula. WE HAVE RECRUITED ONLY 450 VOLUNTEERS. We are, of course, pleased that these 450 have come forward and credit is due to them. But with such a small number we cannot start MASS boarding of the coaches to train apartheid, we cannot have MASS boarding of the coaches marked “Slegs Blankes'. To attempt such a move would be foolhardy, and ineffective and the movement may suffer a severe setback. We could, of course, send in tiny batches 20, but these would not achieve anything and would merely be offering a TOKEN resistance. We don't want mere token resistance. We want REAL resistance, MASS resistance so that the regulations will be unworkable. We are up against a Government which is determined to carry out its plans irrespective of our resolutions. Token resistance would not 'soften our hearts' or change their minds. They will move only organised, disciplined, determined mass resistance makes it impossible for them to carry on with their train apartheid.
So we must have an army of volunteer-resisters. We must have thousands of people determined to ride in the marked coaches regularly, day after day, week after week. Until we have such an army, nothing can be done to bring about EFFECTIVE resistance. Thus the question, 'Why the delay?' resolves into a question which YOU should ask yourself. YOU volunteered? Has your fellow-worker volunteered? Your neighbour? Your brother? Your sister? Your father and mother? Your son and daughter? Or are you depending on someone else to volunteer? Are you waiting for someone else to go into action, while you are content to remain aloof or to cheer and pass resolutions at meetings? The second important reason why mass action has not been launched yet, is that only nine trade unions have come forward to join the TARC. In other words the majority of the organised workers are still standing aloof, outside the TARC. Some unions say it is none of their business. Some say they can't have 'polities' inside their union. Others say that they will fight apartheid when it reaches their union. Others say that they are waiting for the S.A. Trades and Labour Council Local Committee or the W.P. FederaÂtion of Labour Unions to give a lead. And only NINE have come into the TARC.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Into which group does YOUR trade union fall? Have YOU been consulted, or has someone else decided that YOUR trade union should not join the TARC?
Very many of the unions which are not yet in the TARC have a large Non-European membership. Some of them are predominantly Non-European. But yet SOMEONE has decided on behalf of these workers that their union should stay out of the TARC and thereby accept train apartheid.
There are unions which have boasted for year that they allow no racialism and no politics inside them. It is about time that the workers examined this boast a little more closely. In very many cases, in fact in most cases, they will find that it is a lie. Every trade union which claims to be non-racialistic and non-political but refuses to join in the fight against train apartheid, which affects every Non-European worker, is in fact supporting the racialistic doctrine of apartheid. Every such union HAS a political policy - it supports the politics of the Government, the Nationalist Party, or the politics of the United Party."
In conclusion the leaflet says: "You have heard accusations that the TARC is shilly-shallying, avoiding the issue, afraid of action. This accusation comes from two sources:
(1) from those who are eager to see the People's cause defeated so that they may justify their own policy of collaboration with, and submission to, apartheid; and (2) from elements who are prepared to plunge the Non-Europeans into any irresponsible and adventuristic action, just to be able to boast that 'we are up and doing', even if this action must inevitably lead to disaster. This is the line of the Communist Party against which the majority of the TARC have had to fight for the past two months. We are not prepared to send into action the few volunteers whose self-sacrifice would not make any impression on the train-apartheid issue, as their small number could only lead to their imprisonment WITHOUT anything being achieved thereby, except the fizzling out of the movement in a miserable defeat.
The issue is much too big, and much too important for all the Non-European oppressed, for any display of individualistic heroics. And as responsible leaders we can think only in terms of MASS resistance. Mass action...”