Document 36 - Letter from E. R. Roux to the Executive Bureau, Communist Party of South Africa, 18 November 1930
18 November 1930
The Executive Bureau
I was very pleased to learn of Comrade Douglas' return and hope that it will mean an extcnsion of Party activity particularly in the country districts. We have reached a stage now where, thanks to the paper, the Party has become widely known in the country districts. What is wanted now is consolidation and the building up of branches in the areas where the paper now circulates. We have recently obtained agents for "Umsebenzi" in a large number of new areas, including Kingwilliamstown, Bell (Eastern Province), Naauwpoort, De Aar, Pearston (Cape), Port St. Johns (Transkei), Zuurbrak (Cape), Wynberg and Dysseldorp (Cape). Durban is now taking 20 dozen as is also Oudtshoorn. Pretoria is taking 12 dozen. Our free numbers sent to Native voters in Kingwilliamstown and Queenstown districts are beginning to bear fruit. We now have two agents in the Kingwilliamstown area but only one in Queenstown. However l expect we shall meet with further responses.
We have sent out an appeal to a number of subscribers for a monthly guarantee to maintain the weekly publication of the paper. This will probably bring in enough to keep us going until the end of the year at any rate. I propose (if you are not unwilling) to close down the publication of the paper between December 19 and January 9,thus providing me with a fortnighl's holiday. I shall be able to attend the Party Conference on Boxing Day, though I do not yet know where I shall get the train fare. Perhaps the E.B. could help me with this.
The Cape Town Branch is making preparations to send a delegation of about four members and is organising a social to raise the necessary funds.
With regard to Dingaan's Day celebrations in Johannesburg, the Cape Branchfin reply to your query) asks me to say that they think you should go ahead with the burning of passes if you get a demonstration approaching in size that of last year. If only a mere handful turn up of course you will have to do something less spectacular. We think however that the publicity given to the demonstration by the Anti-Pass Conference and by the capitalist press plus whatever we can do between now and the sixteenth by way of meetings, leaflets, organisation of Anti-Pass Committees etc., should guaranteea crowd at least equal to lasl year's. I think we should defy any ban Pirow may place on our meetings on Dingaan's Day, particularly in large centres like Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.
With regard to a possible transfer of the paper from Cape Town to Johannesburg, I sent you a couple of weeks ago a statement of the various difficulties that will have to be overcome before this will be possible. It depends partly on the amount of money at the disposal of the E.B. for the upkeep of the paper and whether we desire to continue to run it as a weekly, It is of course highly undesirable that the paper should be a one-man-show as at present. We must remember however that it is many years since the Party organ ceased to appear weekly (1925 I think it was). Since we became we became a weekly once more our circulation has increased considerably and is still rapidly rising, I think therefore that the present arrangements should not be terminated until we are definitely certain that we can continue to maintain a weekly paper in Johannesburg. However we can discuss these matters in greater detail at the Conference. I understand that the E.B. now has two resolutions (political and orgamsational) from the ECCI. Are these suitable for publication in "Umsebenzi"? If so, please let me have copies as soon as possible.
Comrade Bunting informs me that he and I are condemned by the ECCI for racial chauvinism. I should like to know definitely what the charge is and in what details I have offended aginst Comintern policy. I admit having made certain slips, e.g.my opposition to the new slogan in 1928 and a certain article in Umsebenzi 'last' May in which I adopted a rather unMarxist attitude towards the Pirow dictatorship. The latter I think is a small matter: since May I have tried to keep the policy of the paper as near to that of the Comintern as possible and I think I have not made any serious mistakes since then. With regard to my previous opposition to the slogan, I have long since retracted. I think I undersiand the significance of the slogan as well as any comrade in the Party. I have persistently preached it on the public plattorrn, and, what is more, I have tried to give comrades in the Party some idea of the theoretical basis of Comintern policy with regard to the national question and modern imperialism.
If I am now accused of racial chauvinism by the ECCI it can only be because they have received incorrect rcports of the situation in South Africa. I sincerely appeal to comrades Dougie and Solly to write to the ECCl explaining the position. I would point out that the latter comrade a year ago when I was in Johannesburg was still very hazy about the slogan. Very few of us have a really good understanding of the theoretical basis of Party policy and I do not see why I (who have offended less than many) should be picked out. With regard to Comrade Bunting, any charge of racial chauvinism directed against him is obviously ridiculous and the sooner the whole party protests against such a travesty of the truth the better. I should like to have a letter from Douglas as soon as possible.
[E. R. Roux]