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

Document 59 - Letter from the Workers' Party of South Africa to N. J. Barclay, 21 February 1936

141 Longmarket Street,


21st February, 1936

N. J. Barclay

Dear Comrade,

Comrades Grant30 and Frost are in a better position than myself to inform you about the development of our movement in Johannesburg. I will confine myself to Cape Town.

We will take as a starting point the Lenin Club which was formed in 1933 by our or five Jewish-speaking members, two of which had been expelled from the Commmission Party (Stalinists) as right-wingers. The L.C. grew slowly (almost exclusively Jewish-speaking) until the end of 1933 and the beginning of 1934 when the Left Wing of the Independent Labour Party joined. (The I.L.P. blew up before achieving an organ or even a constitution.) As a result of its growth the Lenin Club became English-speaking; the Jewish members taking a less and less active part in its work which consisted of holding regular lectures (twice a week) and issuing occasional leaflets. The Lenin Club stood for the International Left Opposition and propaged its views but in the opinion of some of the comrades it was Left Opposition before it had been communist (with a small "c"), Although united on the international problems, the Club rapidly developed two points of view on all the South African questions. As a step towards forming a Party, it was decided to elaborate theses on the South African questions. The Theses Sub-Committee split and submitted minority and majority theses to a series of general meetings of the Club where the theses were accepted after discussion by a majority of the members. The accepted Theses, the Majority Theses, have been sent to you together with the Minority Theses.

On the basis of the Theses accepted by the majority of the Lenin Club the Communist League was formed but, and this is very important, after discussion with the Johannesburg group, the Communist League decided to change its name to Workers Party. (Reason: in most Bantu languages there is no separate word for League as opposed to Party which led to endless confusion between us and the Communist Party (Stalinists).) The Communist League became the Workers Party but the Lenin Club minority whose theses had been rejected picked up the discarded name of Communist League.

The position now was that there were two political organisations, the Workers Party which issued and issues the "Spark" and the Communist League both inside the Lenin Club. It was decided to ask the International Secretariat to decide between the two groups on the basis of their theses but the I.S. counselled peace, peace, peace, and detailed Dubois to comment on the Theses of the W.P. The ignorance of Dubois was equalled only by his cocksureness but L. T. wrote a "Remark" (a copy was sent to you) which is now the Magna Carta of our Party. The arrival of L. T.'s "Remarks" had no effect upon the Communist League and in June 1935 the split was widened by the withdrawal of the Workers Party from the Lenin Club.

The position to-day is this. The Lenin Club-Communist League carries on an issues "The Workers' Voice". The Workers Party has formed the Spartacus Club here and in Johannesburg, in Alexandra, and in Benoni, and issues "The Spark". Negotiations are are present being carried on between the W.P. and the C.L. but whether or not a basis for unity will be found I cannot say at this date.

The opinion of the W/.P. is that the C.L. is not communist in so far as South African questions are concerned but actually takes up a left-social democratic position, i.e., opportunism, on all South African problems. I leave to you the task of comparing our "Spark" with the "Workers' Voice", and of studying the various theses.