Document 4 - B.M. Kies "The Background of Segregation", Address delivered to the National Anti-CAD Conference, 29 May 1943
[”¦] The determined stand at present being made by the Coloured People is but one humble example of that new and militant spirit which is being shown by have suffered under the Herrenvolk. It is a part, however small at present, spirit of manhood and brotherhood which has already shown itself in China and which must inevitably sweep the Colonial countries and the whole of world (....]
While is true to say that the Coloured People have learned more in the past three years their rulers than they have learned during the past thirty years, it is a grim necessity that we should recognise the fact that we are only at the very beginning of that there is much, very much, to learn and to do before we can consider ourselves anywhere near the road to emancipation. [....]
The bitter truth is that white South Africa still dominates because it has been able to mind, the ideas of the non-European. It is a known historical fact that in any society the prevailing ideas, manners and customs of even the oppressed section, is manners and customs of the ruling class. South Africa is no exception. Segregation is the prevailing idea of the South African ruling class and it has created segregationists in our own ranks. So, We can distinguish the three main causes of our defeats
”¢ Segregationist outlook of the non-Europeans.
”¢ The Segregationist political organisations and efforts of the non-Europeans.
”¢ The Segregationist and reformist leadership. The fact 291 years after the advent of the European in this country, one still has to speak of African oppressed. Coloured oppressed and Indian oppressed is sufficient the sad fact that the slaves have taken over the segregationist ideology of their master. The white minority looks upon the African as a "raw kaffir," and such he has been to the majority of Coloureds and Indians. The white minority looks upon the Coloured man as a "bastard Hottentot" and such he has been to most of the Africans. The white minority looks upon the Indian as a "bloody coolie," and such he has been to most Africans and Coloureds. The African is told that he is superior s "pure blooded" - and he has believed this. The Coloured man is told that or because the "blood of the white man" flows in his veins - and he has believed this. The Indian has been told that he has been told that he is superior because he belongs to a great nation with a mighty culture and he has believed this. The Herrenvolk of South Africa have nothing to learn from Dr. Goebbels, for their vicious racial myths have bitten deep into the life and ways of non-Europeans. [....]
Let us turn now to the segregationist political organisations and efforts of the non-Europeans. There are three organisations which immediately spring to mind: the African National Congress, the A.P.O., and the S.A. Indian Congress. We are not concerned with the pious protestations of these bodies, but with their practice; we will not worry about what they said, but only about what they did. What they still say they are going to do is not our concern at the moment, but only what they have done.
And the bald fact is that each one of these organisations, as their very names imply, has had a sectarian approach towards the political emancipation of the non-European. The African National Congress ploughed its lonely furrow, trying to turn up a few reforms; the A.P.O. was never actively concerned with anyone except Coloured voters, handing them over to this or that Party in the hope of getting some concessions by way of gratitude.
They always were rewarded with further repressive measures, but still they continÂued with their separatism. We have just had the C.A.C forced upon us, but at this very moment they have an organiser doing a pre-Election trip around the country. He is concerned only with votes for the master, and so it does not matter to him whether a Branch is pro- or anti-C.A.C. The S.A. Indian Congress was always more concerned with trade licenses for their merchant members, with welcoming Agents-General or sending cablegrams to Mother India, than with a broad mass struggle at home. They looked everywhere for aid except to their own workers and peasants, or to the Coloureds and Africans.
From time to time the A.P.O. and the S.A. Indian Congress have uttered the dire threats of unity with the African. Prom time to time they did enter into what they called a United Front. But it was never more than an empty gesture, a token, a threat to the rulers that terrible things might happen. Coloured used it and Indian leaders to increase their bargaining powers for petty concessions, and naturally, the African became suspicious of the little game of using him as the monkey's paw to take the chestnuts out of the fire. And it was a little game played by the top leadership; it was a little tin trumpet that they used to try and peeve the whites. It never touched the masses and it was not meant to do so. . .
If either the A.P.O. or the S.A. Indian Congress had anything but a sectarian conception of the political struggle, they would have roused the people in 1935-36 at the time of the three Native Bills, a smashing attack on the non-Europeans' main line of defence: they would have gone into the All-African Convention and built it up into a real united front with a mass base, and they would have opposed and defeated the disgraceful "compromise" by Jabavu and company. It was because they allowed the defeat of the African in 1935-36 that to-day we have the C.A.C. and the Indian Pegging Bill.
However, we are not here to discuss what might have been, and we must go on to the third important reason why we have failed - the fact that our leadership has been both segregationist and reformist. We have only to recite the names of a few of them and you will immediately recognise them as such - the Jabavus, Abdurahmans, Gows, Ka Semes, Kajees, Dubes and Nanas who have landed us in the wretched plight we find ourselves in today. 7 They were all sectarians, as we have already shown. But more than this, they were petty reformists. They took over the ruling-class ideas of what was and was not political cricket. To them politics was a gentleman's game with gentlemen's agreement written in flowery language and decorated with red seals and green ribbon. It was never a grim life-and-death struggle between oppressors and oppressed. In fact, there was no struggle at all, only resolutions and petitions and deputations. It is said that the servants of the aristocracy are snobbish and highbrow than the aristocrats may or may not be true, but it is certainly true that the so-called leaders of the African Coloured and Indian oppressed have been greater upholders of constitutionalism than the Government itself. They were better policemen to the people than the police and law courts themselves.
The main bee in their bonnet was that the Colour Bar was all a misunderstanding. One Half Government did not know it was there and had to be informed about it; the other half knew of its existence and so had to have their hearts changed. And so they went on, generation after generation, informing their masters that they were being lashed, and respectfully begging for a change of heart.
A change of heart, indeed! They were asking the Unionist Party, the South African Nationalist Party, the Labour Party, and the Coalition Party for a change of heart! Fancy making such a request to the Unionist or South African Party, which represented British Capitalism in the form of the Chamber of Mines and the Chamber of Commerce and who had built and maintained an Empire on the sweat and toil of the Non-European! Fancy talking such arrant nonsense to the Nationalist Party which farming interests, which wanted only one thing, cheaper and cheaper black and Labour Council, it has deliberately held up the African Trade Unions. And what honest man can except anything but more oppression from the coalition or fusion or united party call them what you will? For they came the together in their unholy alliance for one only, to make mutually agreeable arrangements for the unhindered exploitation of non-European labour. This is their record - the Native Acts, the Wireman's Act, the amendment of the Factories Act C.A.C. the Housing Bill, and the Indian Pegging Bill. In fact, every Act since Fusion has a colour Bar. And fancy appealing to them to change their heart when they ' that their aim is to make South Africa a white man's country. United list. Dominion or Labour Party - they are all equally fascist towards the non –European: there may not be a Non-European United Front but there certainly is United Front of European political parties. A plague on all of them! [....]
During all this dark and dreary history there was only one bright spot. There was only one organisation and one movement that made a clean break in deeds as well as e sectarian and petty reformist leadership of the past. It was the first real mass movement which in fact and not in mere talk, took in all the non-Europeans. I refer to the I.C.U. (the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union). It started humbly as little trade union but soon grew to a mighty organisation which swept the country rulers tremble. Significant about the I.C.U. was the fact that, while the old Coloured leaders were still having academic discussions as; to whether Coloureds should unite with Africans, the Coloured workers had long ago taken matters into their own hands and were fighting side by side with the African workers. They did not lose their identity and they did not lose their personality. But they DID lose some of their economic chains! Another significant thing was that while the reformist African leaders were also having abstruse discussions on the advisability of this, that and the other, thousands upon thousands of African workers were already putting up a militant fight in the I.C.U. Unfortunately, the Government succeeded in corrupting the top leadership, and this together with the "reorganisation" by Mr. W. G. Ballinger on reactionary and docile British Trade Union lines, resulted in its collapse. But the brief episode of the I.C.U. has taught us four things: First, that the masses want the unity of all oppressed in their struggle for emancipation. Second, that sectarian and reformist leadership is always more worried about its own hide than about the liberation of the oppressed. Third, that what the rulers of this country fear most is the unity of all the oppressed non-Europeans for the furtherance of their struggle. Fourth, that when such unity is established upon a militant mass basis, the Herrenvolk tremble in their boots and use hook and crook to stop it. [....]
The question now is: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
There are only two things that can be done about it. There are only two paths to take. We are free to take either, because we are all at the cross-roads. African, Coloured and Indian, we are all at the cross-roads. It is a crisis in world history, and it is a crisis in our history. We must choose ...
The choice is this. We can continue in the old way, each travelling along his own lonely ditch which leads into his own segregated camp. This means that we accept the idea of trusteeship and segregation. We accept A. C. Petersen's idea that some races are superior to us. We each keep to ourselves and see what we can get for "our own people." We take his motto. "Charity begins at home," and therefore segregation should begin at home. We go on like this until we have Africans, Coloureds and Indians all completely enslaved by the same master, but content to remain segregated and content to remain slaves. That is one alternative.
The other one is this. We must take the road to unity. We must unite the struggles of oppressed Africans, oppressed Coloured, and oppressed Indian, into the unified struggle of the oppressed non-European. We must build up a real and militant United Front of the PEOPLE.
Let us be quite clear as to what we mean. Let us realise that throughout our whole history there has never, at any time, been a real united front. The nearest approach was the I.C.U. There have been several attempts at a United Front, sometimes sincere and sometimes not sincere. But there has never been a REAL United Front. There have been threats of a United Front. The Coloureds have threatened and the Indians have threatened. There have been united fronts of a few of the leaders at the top and a few of the organisations at the top, but this does not make a REAL united front. A REAL United Front is not something which can be made by the collaboration of a few isolated leaders, nor yet by a few organisations of indeterminate membership. A REAL United Front cannot be made by declaration or by passing any amount of resolutions. It cannot be created overnight by loud shouts for a national organisation or any other sort of organisation. A REAL United Front cannot suddenly be called into being by Coloureds or Indians whenever they are faced by -a new piece of repressive legislation. A REAL United Front cannot be created out of spite or panic or despair.
The fact of the matter is that a REAL United Front cannot suddenly be called up or created, but it has to be BUILT UP from below. It can only be BUILT UP by the slow and steady unification of the African, Coloured and Indian workers I and through the struggle for their full democratic rights. This is the first condition for a REAL United Front: it must have a mass base, and its aim must be to fight for national emancipation and equal rights for All peoples in South Africa. It is a fact that in South Africa the National and agrarian questions are inseparable from each other. The question of land and political rights go hand in hand and cannot be formed, otherwise there is no use trying to form it at all. Its programme must have this common minimum basis: for this alone embraces both the needs of the day and the needs if the future, and can arouse the masses to action. Second, it cannot have leaders who speak with two voices, one to the Government, the Liberal and the Conservatives, and another to the people. Its leaders must have one loyalty only and loyalty only –to the oppressed people, not rulers. Third, it must rid itself of the reformist methods which have only bred failure to failure. It must use every means at the disposal of the oppressed people to rid themselves of their exploiters.
These are people are the essentials for a REAL United Front, built upon a solid foundation. It will take a long time, but it is THE ONLY ROAD that can travel if we non-Europeans really wish to enjoy full democratic rights. It is the ONLY ROAD for honourable men and women. It is the ONLY ROAD for honest fighters against tyranny.
At this stage it might be well to strike two notes of warning. Firstly, when we speak of united front of ALL non –European we do not mean lumping ALL non-Europeans holus –bolus together and fusing them all together in the belief that, since ALL are non-European oppressed, the African is a Coloured man, an Indian is an African, and a Coloured man is either Indian or African, whichever you please. Only those who are ignorant of both politics and history can believe in this nonsensical type of unity. When we speak of the unity or the united front of all non-Europeans, we simply mean this: they are all ground down by the same oppression: they have all the same political, but yet they remain divided in their oppression. They should discard the divisions and prejudices and illusions which have been created and fostered by their rulers. They should remember only that they have a common foe and they should unite themselves. When they have thrown off the chains, then they can settle whatever national or racial difference they have, or think they have. After we have rid of our common oppressor, the national question will remain. BUT THE NATIONAL QUESTION MUST BE SETTLED ON OUR TERMS, NOT THE TERMS OF THE EXPLOITER. As long as we allow these national or racial differences to keep as apart NOW, then we will never liberate ourselves. A simple analogy ought to suffice. Take the case of the Moslems and Hindus in India. Everyone knows that the faction fights between Moslems and Hindus have been actively fostered by Great Britain for she knows that as long as she can segregate the Moslem minority from the minority, so long will she rule. If the Moslems and Hindus were to bury all their real and imagined differences and unite, then it would be the end of the British Raj in en they could solve the Hindu-Moslem question on their own terms and in their own time. Exactly the same applies to Africans, Coloureds and Indians in South Africa.
The second note of warning is this: when we speak of a united front of ALL non-Europeans, it is not for the purpose of putting white against black and stirring up race hatred. It is for the purpose of uniting ALL non-European oppressed, so that they may bring the white working-class to its senses, and demonstrate that its real place is with us and against the Imperialist exploiter. It may seem fantastic to some of us at the moment. It may seem to us that all the whites are living on milk and honey. That is not so. They are better off than we are, but they are exploited all the same. They may all appear to be little bosses TO-DAY, but that is because they are bribed at our expense. TO-MORROW, by means of a united front of all oppressed non-Europeans, they will learn where they really belong, because the majority of them are also workers. This may seem fantastic to some of us. It is probably even more fantastic to the white workers. That need not deter us. Let us get on with our main task, the building up of the REAL United front, and we will settle the other problems as they arise. We are not trying to paint a dream world, a Utopia. We are only honest and fearless men, seeking the right road to freedom and equality, and finding that the road of the REAL United Front is the right road and, therefore, the only road that we can travel.
There is one last matter that we must deal with, and that is the question of leadership.
It is a known historical fact that the emancipatory theory and the practical leadership always come from the intelligentsia. The workers and peasants have always been so exhausted and bowed down by their arduous toil, that they have never had time to study and look deeply into the why and wherefore of their miserable condition. More than that, even if they had the time, most of them had not the education. So it was always the intelligentsia, who came of a more leisured and educated class, who took the ideas to the working class and who provided that fusion of theory and practice which is known as leadership.
We have no leisured class, except amongst the sons and daughters of a few merchants. But we certainly have an intelligentsia. And we are luckier than that; because our intelligentsia has sprung straight form the loins of the working class. They do not have to go to the people. They belong to the people and the people are all around them.
I refer, of course, mainly to the teachers. For almost the only persons amongst the non-Europeans who have had more than just a mere smattering of education, are the teachers. And they are certainly almost the only ones who have a certain amount of leisure. The leadership will come mainly from them. You can overlook the seven teacher traitors on the C.A.C. But you can never overlook the fact that in every part of the country, in the large towns and in the small dorps, the teachers have played a very great part in telling the Coloured People the truth about the C.A.C. swindle. There have been waverers and cowards. Some of them, and some Branches of the T.L.S.A. are still sitting on the fence, too scared to come off. At least one of them, Wynberg Branch, is running with the traitors. But many, many more of them are standing firmly by the people, enlightening them and helping to organise them.
This augurs very well for the future. It means that the intellectuals are realising the role that they have to play, and they are beginning to fulfill that role. It is a very healthy sign also to see how keen an interest the students are taking in the Anti-C.A.D. movement and that several University and other student groups have actually affiliated to the Anti-C.A.D. Committee. All these are promising signs that the leadership will come from those whose historical duty it is to provide such leadership.
And so I wish to turn for one moment to the young men and women teachers, and I wish to say to them: "We have a very responsible task within and without the classroom. We are not pioneers in this field for many men and women teachers in other parts of rid have gone before us. We walk in their tradition and our generation of teachers is the pioneer in this country. We should keep constantly before us the example of those teachers in France, who for decades and decades fought against darkness and despotism until the dawn of French Revolution; we should always remember and follow aerations of teachers who for a full hundred years prepared the way for the Russian Revolution. You will not find their names in the official manuals of education, because of officialdom is always opposed to the forces of real progress. But without the teachers there would never have been a French or a Russian Revolution. For it is the duty of the true teacher to pull off the mask and scrape off the scales of ignorance that the youth. It is the duty of the true teacher to give his pupils knowledge so that lay KNOW the world and so that they may CHANGE the world. For it is not h for them to know: they must also change things for the benefit of humanity. And more Indian this, the true teachers' s duty does not end with his pupils. He has a vital and active part to play in the liberation of the people. He has to help to educate the people in the struggle. He has to help to lead them along the right road. We are all in chains, teacher and worker: we can never throw them off individually. But if we both play our part to the full, we will break those bonds.
So we teachers, men and women, must make up our minds whether we are going to s teachers, or whether we are going to be traitors and cowards, whether we are to be WITH our people or AGAINST our people. For those who are both honorable and courageous there can be only one answer: WE STAND WITH OUR LE. First, we must see to it, then, that we fit ourselves for our task. The ignorant can never lead. We must see to it that we study the problems of the people and that we stand them clearly. Liberation is never achieved by raving or passing violent resolutions. It is only achieved by those who KNOW HOW. Second, we ourselves must practice what we teach our students and our people, namely, that it is not enough to know how the world must be changed, but that WE must also change it. In other words, it is only unity of theory and practice which can produce sound leadership. Theory without practice is useless: practice without theory is suicide. Third, we must have courage. It is a sad fact that, while the intelligentsia of the world has produced some of the greatest heroes, sung and unsung, it has also produced some of the greatest intellectual cowards. Let this not daunt us, but rather let it inspire us to see to it that we are not the ones to falter and to betray. For he who wavers and falters in his allegiance people is no longer with the people, but with the enemies of the people.
We must make a break with the past. We must blot out the shame cast upon our profession by those teachers who have helped to mislead and betray the people, who have helped to put on the chains and to keep them on. WE MUST TURN OUR FACES UR PEOPLE AND WE MUST BE AMONG THEM AND WITH THEM AND HEM, TEACHING AND LEADING THEM.
One last word: The leadership must choose and the people must choose the road that e to travel. We have trodden the mud and the slush of the road to segregation. Are ring to choose to continue along that road? Or are we going to take the only road to liberty and equal rights for all - the road that leads to the unity of all the oppressed e against those who oppress us. We stand on trial.
We must choose - either LIBERTY OR SLAVERY. WE CAN ONLY CHOOSE ONE. WE MUST CHOOSE LIBERTY. Issued by Anti-C.A.D. Committee, Secretary, H. Ahmed, Constantia Road, Wynberg.