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

Document 141 "Apartheid Spells Disaster", Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to the Party's National Conference, Johannesburg,6 to 8 January 1950,2y Freedom, New Series 15 December, 1949

[....] Disillusionment

63. Discriminating policies, exploitation, as well asprevailing bad conditions have caused resentment and unrest among the Non-Europeans and already a process of disillusionment is beginning to set in among the Europeans. Naturally, the Europeans cannot be expected to be agitated and roused by discriminatory measures against the Non-Europeans. But they will be irritated and incensed by the rising cost of living, the acute housing shortage, unemployment and the general mismanagement by the Nationalist Party Government. Judging by the results of a number of elections held in recent months, we can safely say that the anti-Government forces are growing.

64. As far as the Non-Europeans are concerned, protests against discriminatory policies have been ma [--] continuous. There is not a Non-European organisation [--I not protested against apartheid and other forms of discriminat[ion]. [-] churches have also protested against it and even the so-called institutions of collaboration have voiced their protest. The Natives Representative Council has been on strike ever since August, 1946.

65. Incidents resulting from discriminatory conditions have in several instances led to direct action by the people affected and in some the actions took the form of pitched battles between them and the police at Sophiatown, Newclare, Krugersdorp, Nelspruit, etc. But the fighting took place in all instances because of the provocative actions and behaviour of the police.

The Boycott Weapon

66. The most significant phenomenon has been the militancy of the masses and the timidity and "hamba kahle" attitude of the leaders. Indeed, the contrast has been very glaring. Leaders have talked loudly and generally but took care not to commit or compromise themselves. Others have become quite cynical about everything. The latest refuge for the doctrinaire and drawing-room strategists is the boycott. The boycott weapon is now put forward as the only effective form of struggle against discrimination and injustices. It is not difficult to find out the real reason for this strange attitude of wanting to get away from realities.

67. We are against differential and inferior institutions and systems of representation, and we believe in the boycott as a form of struggle. But we believe that the boycott is only good if it conducted in such a way that the masses participate in it in great numbers and when it leads to mass action for positive demands. The boycott is certainly useless if it leads to disengagement and withdrawal from the struggle, if it leads to the laying down of arms by the soldiers or warriors. That the boycott campaign has been given this defeatist character is shown by the boycotters' continual, scathing, pointless and utterly destructive criticism against those who refuse to sulk and withdraw from the struggle. No, we cannot withdraw from the struggle or be a party to any propaganda or deeds the effects of which will be to sabotage and subvert the people's morale and will to fight.

68. The Nationalist Government is not as strong as it pretends. Its war record and its rabid racialism -anti-English, anti-Jewish anti-foreigner and strongly pro-Afrikaner attitude -have made it unpopular overseas and cast suspicion on South Africa. And what is more, Dr. Malan's Government is utterly incapable of solving the problems of this country. It is doing a great harm by poisoning the relations between different sections of the population.

The Big Question

69.The big question confronting the whole labour-progressive movement in this country, particularly our Party, is how to get rid of this government. We can get rid of it if we organise the people and co-ordinate their activities against rising prices of foodstuffs, food shortages, unemployment and housing shortage; for increase in wages, pensions, more hospitals and schools, greater democracy, etc.

70. Strenuous efforts must be made to get all workers and all democrats -European and Non-European -to stand together in the fight against the fascistic policies of the Government and for its overthrow. If the leaders of the trade union movement and the leaders of the various Non-European National liberatory organisations are not prepared for any positive action against oppression, exploitation, discrimina- tion or misconduct by the Nationalists, it will then be for our Party to face the situation squarely and once and for all decide what to do in the circumstances. The most important question today is leadership. Leadership is needed, and leadership must be given.



74. In order to take advantage of the present favourable conditions for the growth of the Party, we shall first have to overcome our present shortcomings. Four things are necessary if we are to do this: an all-out recruiting campaign, particularly in the larger urban centres; a careful selection and intense training of cadres; ideological education for the general membership; and the building up of factory groups.

75. Recruiting must not be left to chance, but must be organised in the same way as other Party activity is organised. It can, of course, take place only within the framework of increased public activity and propaganda amongst all sections, and no medium should be neglected in this regard. Particular attention must be paid to the recruitment and organisation of industrial workers. Our propaganda work amongst them must be intensified. Regular factory meetings must be organised on a large [-I by all districts, and a direct appeal for recruits made at all such meetings. The work must be tackled in a vigorous and imaginative fashion, with the planned co-operation of Party members already working in the different industries. Lists of names and addresses of workers of all nationalities should be compiled. Copies of "Freedom", important statements and notices of meetings should be sent to them regularly.

76.Recruiting amongst other sections of the people must be conducted, with the necessary modifications in a similar carefully planned and organised fashion with public meetings, house meetings or public lectures taking the place of the factory meeting. Care should always be taken to see that our meetings deal with those subjects which are likely to prove of greatest interest to whichever section we are making our appeal to.

77. Our recruiting should be both general and selective, i.e. we must also aim at recruiting the rank and file leaders of the people, those who have established themselves as such in the ordinary course of life. Such people are to be found in all walks of life, in every locality, in every factory and compound. We must seek to win them over to our policy and to our Party. Thousands of such rank and file leaders have been produced by the people. Their proper place is inside the ranks of the Communist Party.

African Membership

78. In order to draw maximum advantage from our recruiting we shall, however, have to solve our present organisational problems. In some districts our Party has succeeded in gaining a big influence amongst the African workers with the result that the African membership is increasing by leaps and bounds far outstripping the rate of recruitment amongst other sections. The majority of these members are organised into groups which are exclusively African. All business is conducted in their own language, the majority of members either not understanding English at all, or only imperfectly. The same position arises in regard to Coloured and Indian members in different districts. For instance, only five out of twenty groups in the Cape District have a mixed membership, all the others being composed exclusively of one nationality. There is a definite tendency for the Party organisation to separate into groups of different nationalities, particularly outside the main urban areas.

79. What is to be done? Must we try to reserve this tendency? Or must we accept it as inevitable and adapt our organisational methods accordingly? This tendency to separate into groups of different nationalities flows from the pattern enforced upon us by segregation (separate residential areas) and, equally important, from different languages used by our members. This tendency could, therefore, theoretically be reversed by:-

a)  establishing groups without regard to specific residential areas;

b)  the use of interpreters. Neither of these solutions is satisfactory. The first would destroy much of the effectiveness of the groups; take the punch out of them as it were. The second, even when practicable, would be extremely clumsy and lead to a loss of efficiency.

80. It appears inevitable then, that the Party, as it expands, will more and more take on

'the pattern already revealed in such striking fashion by developments in the Cape District. This development carries with it certain obvious dangers. Groups com- posed exclusively of one nationality will tend to devote their attention only to those matters which affect their own nationality. (In another sphere, the Durban District has revealed this tendency time and time again.) The international, class character of the Party has always been under pressure from nationalist deviations and this pressure was increased by the existence of separate groups. The problem is not insurmountable. It is time, however, that we were conscious of the problem and took steps to ensure that our members fully realise that the Party is a class organisation, embracing all races.

Ideological Work

81. The different groups should be brought together regularly at general members' meetings. Joint functions, socials and party activity should be organised for the specific purpose of bringing our members of different nationalities together. More intensive ideological propaganda must be conducted amongst the general membership, propaganda designed to spread knowledge of the basic principles of Communism and the class character of the struggle we are waging. Such propaganda must be conducted both verbally and by means of material printed in the different languages, particularly the African languages. In addition, we must place much more emphasis than hitherto on making our members understand, and conscious of, the importance of the revolutionary struggle in other lands, and of [-I achievements of the workers in the Soviet Union and the People's Democracies.

82. The racial isolation existing in the area group must not be tolerated in the factory groups, in particular, where the identity of interests and the class character of the Party must be stressed, and where the best opportunities for doing so exist.

83. The establishment of factory groups therefore becomes of prime importance as a means of strengthening the working-class character of the Party. We are weak in the sphere of factory groups, the overwhelming majority of Party organisations being area groups. Factory groups which have been established have not proved stable organisations and have soon collapsed. New methods must be found and a new approach tried. We must realise, first of all, the limitations of such groups and the often difficult objective difficulties under which they must work. We must be clear, therefore, on the nature of the tasks which we set them, and must not expect them to function in the same fashion as an area group.

84. We must guard against the danger of our members in such groups confusing the role of Party with that of a trade union. If we do not do so our factory groups will continually fall into the errors of economism (i.e. neglect their political task) and will not function as political organisations of the workers. Our factory groups must function primarily, though not entirely, as political units of the Party. One way to guard against the danger of economism would be to make members of factory groups members of area groups as well. This would enable them to appreciate more easily the political role of the Party. It would enable them to make contact with more advanced members, give them facilities for political education and bring them into contact with workers of other trades and occupations, and thereby help them to overcome the sectarian tendencies of the factory group. [....]

86. But whether we are discussing area or factory groups, the training of cadres is perhaps the most urgent organisational task facing the Party at the present time. We need hundreds more rank and file Party leaders than we have at our disposal now. We need rank and file leaders who will have a sound grasp of fundamental Communist principles and be able, in turn, to impart this knowledge to others in their own language. We need rank and file leaders who are convinced of the necessity for stable, regularly functioning basic organisations and who will know how to run these organisations properly.

87. We must give our cadres adequate Marxist education which is related to our own problems and which will enable them to dispel the misconceptions which we know exist in the minds of those amongst whom they shall have to work. We must train them to be self-reliant so that they will know what to do and where to turn when any problem, political or otherwise, arises in the areas or in the factories where they work. This education should, wherever possible, be given in the home language of the pupils concerned. We must aim at giving the member a thorough grounding so that, on his own initiative, he will be able to improve his knowledge by individual study and observation.

88. We must teach them the value and necessity of paying meticulous attention to elementary organisational functions, such as regular meetings, keeping of minutes, collection of subs., check-up on membership, regular correspondence with higher Party organs, etc. This must be done in relation to practical work. Regular meetings of group officials should be convened for the specific purpose of discussing weakness revealed in the routine organisational work of the District concerned.

89. Pupils for cadre schools or classes must not be chosen haphazardly, but only after careful study of the membership by the higher Party organisation. And once pupils have been chosen, every effort must be made to assist them to attend the class [-] school. [....]