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

Document 60 - Letter from the Workers' Party of South Africa to the Communist League of South Africa, 3 March 1936

                                                                                                                     The Workers Party of South Africa

                                                                                                                                                      P.O. Box 1940

                                                                                                                                                          Cape Town.

                                                                                                                                                  3rd March, 1936.

The Communist League of South Africa,

Cape Town.

Dear Comrades,

We have two letters from you, dated respectively Jan. 13 and Feb. 18, on the subject of unity and a united Front for our two organisations, and we are sorry that the pressure of exceptional anxieties and urgent duties has prevented an earlier reply.

We regret further that the demands of our normal imperative duties oblige us now to say that at present we do not see our way to expending time and energy on the proposed negotiations for union and the proposed special Bulletin for full discussion of the issues that led to our separation last year. We are wholly convinced that such negotiations and discussion are a necessary preliminary to union, but at present the Workers Party has not its full man-power available for the considerable amount of extra work involved, without neglecting to some extent fundamentally important work already undetaken.

On this last point we owe you an explanation of the changed circumstances which in our opinion require that for the time being the Workers Party shall not assume any additional new obligations, but shall concentrate on its main existing duties, viz., systematically planned and intensive instruction and training of enquirers and new comrades besides the lectures and discussions provided for the benefit of all; the maintenance of "The Spark" in full vigour and with such developments as may be found practicable; and recurrent endeavour to rouse, enlighten, and direct mass feeling in the way so successfully begun at our October Celebrations last year, and promising increasingly valuable results.

Our present diminished man-power is due to the temporary loss of certain valuable comrades removed far from this neighbourhood, and to decreased activity on the part of others who have reached a very exacting stage in their professional studies, and similar unavoidable matters affecting the livelihood of the comrade and his dependants, This will right itself in time, if we concentrate on the positive task of building up a strong militant group.

You may perhaps say that all this would not necessarily hinder the formation of a united front. But that suggestion at once brings up the old disabling difficulty - or shall we say, impossibility? - of speaking from one platform, of composing a common manifesto, when minds are not agreed. In your letter to us of 13th Jan. you talk of "questions which are to-day rousing the masses of Africa to action on a scale unprecedented in modern times". To us that appears a ludicrous exaggeration, far removed from the realities with which we are faced. Again, in your leaflet, "Fight the Native Bills", you say, "we must prepare for a General Strike". But to our thinking it is irrational and irresponsible to urge the workers to prepare for a General Strike in a country where the necessary objective and subjective conditions simply do not exist. We have noted, moreover, with keen regret the similarly inflated, sensational, adventurist tone of the Communist League's communications to the Militant" and to "La VeritÁƒÂƒ©", giving what is in our opinion a false and misleading view of the African situation.

Please do not think that these comments are offensively meant. We merely want to remind you that less than a year ago you and we were in the painful process of finding out that we could not work fruitfully together while our minds and methods were widely divergent. It is, however, just barely possible that, in spite of the very short time that has since elapsed, negotiations and discussions might find a way of overcoming the paralysing effects of divergency, and it is therefore with some reluctance that the Workers Party has definitely decided that at the present time it cannot justifiably release comrades from their essential constructive work in order to enable them to enter upon what would certainly prove a long and arduous task, and not improbably a sterile one.

Meanwhile, if our two groups labour earnestly in the fundamental task of building up fully equipped militant workers in the revolutionary Marxist tradition as preserved and interpreted in the 4th International, we shall be most certainly drawn nearer together, i.e., towards union.

                                                                                                                              With Communist greetings,