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

The programme of the Fourth International Organisation of South Africa is built chiefly upon the necessary struggle arising out of the imperialist exploitation and oppression of the toilers of South Africa. The peculiarities of South African development, structures and relationships arise out of the ways in which imperialism exploits the resources and peoples of this country.

"Combined Development" -Industrialisation

The proper imperialist exploitation of South Africa by modern imperialism dates from the discovery and exploiting of diamonds and, soon afterwards, of gold. Before this time the imperialism of the Dutch and British in South Africa was not of the kind defined by Lenin in "Imperialism", being associated more with commercial than industrial capital. From 1652 to 1805 the Dutch used the Cape as a military outpost and refuelling station and not as a market for exported commodities, a source of cheap labour, raw materials and a field for capital investment -characteristics of modern imperialist colonial exploitation. It was much the same with the British rule over the Cape Colony. The type of life was slow, patriarchal in parts; subsistence farming covered most agriculture. Slavery and not wage-labour was the dominant form of exploitation up to about 1835, and thereafter semi-serf forms of labour-service prevailed until wage-labour became the fundamental form. Small-scale industry and subsistence farming existed instead of capitalist production. It was only with the opening of the diamond and gold mines that the real modern imperialist exploitation of South Africa began in earnest. It was from this time that the class struggle of the workers against the capitalists began to take shape and grow. Before this time there had been minor slave revolts and artisans' strikes, especially in the Western Cape; there were wars of exterminations and expropriation against the Bantu, and warfare between the Boers and the British. But there was no chance for the class struggle between the major contending social forces of a capitalist society to develop and flourish until the conditions for this were established by the opening up of the diamond and gold mines by imperialism.

British imperialism set about the exploitation of these mines. Capital was exported to this country; machinery was brought in, factories erected, railways and harbours developed; commerce stimulated, financial houses reared. British commodities poured into South Africa. South African diamonds, gold and some agricultural products went to Britain. Cheap labour in South Africa was utilised, and an elaborate system of reserves, compounds and colour bars constructed to maintain and extend the cheap labour supply. In coming to this country, imperialism set out from British soil from the classical country of industrial capitalist development during the nineteenth century. Industrialisation developed the modern form of imperialism in the mother country. On the other hand, imperialism brought industrialisation to South Africa. Industrialisation flowed, from the imperialist conquest of the country. At the same time imperialism strengthened itself through industrialisation, so that to-day, with the strongest economic structure in Africa, South African capitalism turns its face towards the exploitation of many regions in Africa itself. 

Precisely because imperialism introduced industrialisation into the crawling backwardness of South Africa, because imperialism had the task of producing the COM- BINED DEVELOPMENT of South Africa with more developed countries, imperialism produced tremendous UNEVENNESS OF DEVELOPMENT. In tending to level up the economy as a whole with overseas countries, imperialism intensified, extended and enormously developed unevenness within the economy and social structure of the country. It adapted backwardness to its purposes, hurled some sectors of the country (e.g., the cities) forward, while throwing back others (e.g., villages and farms). COM- BINED AND UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT WENT HAND IN HAND.

"Uneven Development": -Imperialism's South African Creations

Imperialism in conquering South Africa, destroyed many pre-capitalist forms of existence, especially the tribal life of the Bantu peoples. Imperialism adapted some of the old forms of life to its own requirements. Imperialism, finally, built up on the ruins it destroyed and the basis of adapted forms, new forms of exploitation and oppression. Imperialism built up in South Africa the system of RESERVES, the COMPOUND system, the COLOUR BAR; and step by step deprived the non-Europeans of what little rights they had before the advent of modern imperialism into South Africa. Imperialism CREATED, really, the unique system of race- oppression which holds the majority of the toilers by the throat; and has built up the colour bar, segregation and race-discrimination system as an essential component in the whole mechanism of exploitation in South Africa.

The wars against the Bantu tribalists steadily drove the Bantu peoples off their long-held land, herding the African people into areas which were ruthlessly diminished until today the Africans, 70 per cent of the population, occupy (without owning) a mere 10 per cent of the land area. By means of these anti-Bantu wars, by means of expropriation, non-Europeans suffered ever-growing political oppression. The "socialist" movement did not bring to the toilers of South Africa what it had brought to the toilers of Europe and England. This is because the "socialist" movement here was a "middle-class" movement, and not a proletarian movement. The "class" struggle of the white workers was not a real class struggle, but only a struggle of a tiny section for exclusive rights. The "class" struggle was not a real labour struggle, because the non-Europeans did not yet take part in it, and were often fought against by white labour.


It was not only the Labour Party which based itself in its "socialism" upon the "middle-class" white labour aristocracy. The socialist movement in South Africa, leading up to the formation of the Communist Party, though in words it followed the October Bolshevik revolution, in its composition was mainly a white organisation, and in its policy was more concerned with the white unions and political struggles. Communist Party leaders like Bill Andrews based themselves heavily upon the interests of the white labour aristocracy; their talk about equality with the black workers often served the ends not of the black workers, but of the skilled whites (e.g., when Andrews raised the slogan, "Equal pay for equal work", it really served the skilled white workers, for a white employer would obviously take a white worker at the same pay to do a certain job than to take a non-European worker to do the same work at the high wage of the skilled white worker. This slogan, as used by Andrews, meant protecting the skilled white workers against the performance of skilled work by lowly-paid Bantu workers. He and others in the Communist Party, even in those days, did not raise the 

slogan of equal pay as a slogan of the black workers). Even negrophiles in the Communist Party like S. P. Bunting, to take the best example, approached the Bantu and the non-European generally with the attitude of the missionary (in spite of their vigorous opposition to liberalism they adopted a zealous patronising approach to the black workers, going towards them from the whites, trying to bring them to the whites, and not basing themselves upon the Bantu workers as the firmament of the movement, as the centre of gravity of. the struggle, towards which the white workers have to travel if labour unity is to be achieved). In one way or another, in degrees ranging from Andrews to Bunting, the Communist Party itself never really based itself upon the non-Europeans, but from the standpoint of the "enlightened" white "socialists". At no time have non-European party members played a prominent, influential role inside the Communist Party, nor has this party concerned itself with the development of a socialist movement resting on the class struggles springing fundamentally from the non-European workers and drawing in the white workers. The orientation was ever tinged with a patronising negrophilism and militant liberalism.

The Hereditary, Urbanised, Non-European Proletariat and Intelligentsia

It was no accident that the "socialism" of both the Labour and the Communist Parties should have been either in opposition to or apathetic towards (Andrews) or negrophilistic (Bunting) towards the non-European. For the non-European movement itself was very tardy in developing. The artificial stifling of the proletarianisation of the Bantu played a heavy part in this slow growth. The movements that there were among the Bantu (I.C.U., etc.), Indian (Gandhi march, etc.) and Coloured people (post-war strikes, A.P.O. petitions) were cither slight or else directionless though spontaneous (e.g., large strikes on Reef after the last war) or else nipped in the bud due to feebly equipped leadership and the semi-peasant nature of' the city Bantus joined in many of these struggles.

But during the last 25 years since the end of the last war, there has been a considerable urbanisation of the Coloured and Indian toilers, and the development of a large, stable, settled, politically energetic city proletariat, especially in the Western Cape. At the same time, there has been a growth of a settled Bantu city proletariat, although not in large numbers, and although the degree of illiteracy and political backwardness is still heavy, especially in the case of the Bantu city proletariat, in comparison with the Coloured city worker. During the last quarter-century, in spite of the dullness and sluggishness and illiteracy and backwardness is still heavy among the African workers, there has been a large urbanisation of non- Europeans, a large industrialisation and proletarianisation of these urbanised masses, and the development of a small but growing advanced stratum among the non-European workers, militant, class-conscious and embracing the doctrines of socialism more and more.

Parallel with this development has gone a relatively tremendous growth of a non-European militant intelligentsia especially in the Western Cape. From the non- European teachers and students come sturdy revolutionary elements who come into a genuine socialist movement, forging a programme for this movement, going to the advanced element among the non-European workers to build a revolutionary, socialist programme and party. The development, especially since the end of the last war, of a politically advanced group of industrial non-European workers, and of a radical group of teacher and student intellectuals, formed the material ground for the growth of a socialist movement expressing, through its composition and its rootsthe interests and needs of the largest, heaviest, most important bulk of the workers -the non-European workers; and basing its socialism, in applying it to South African conditions, upon the most urgent needs of the vast majority of the workers; orientating itself from this bed-rock foundation, attempting to realise labour-unity not through missionary approaches to or work amongst the Africans by well-meaning whites, but through the building up of a powerful movement of unskilled chiefly non-European workers, a movement which would draw behind it and with it not only the seven millions on the farms and in the tribal reserves, but also the poor white workers and even the skilled whites, under the most fiery conditions of revolutionary upsurge and convulsions. This party, which alone has really fashioned a programme genuinely based on the principle of the class struggle in South Africa, building its transitional programme upon the nature of this class struggle -especially its anti-imperialist character- this party is the Fourth International in South Africa. This organisation, struggling to assert itself as the real expression of the aspirations of the masses of toilers in South Africa, has arisen in a milieu inside South Africa in which it can fruitfully raise high its banner of revolutionary struggle, a struggle which will draw behind the urban proletarians the seven millions from the farms and reserve villages; a struggle of the oppressed toilers, with the city workers at the head. A struggle and a programme at complete variance with the "white socialism" of the Labour Party and the approaches of the Communist Party throughout its various somersaults in this country.

Our Transitional Programme: The Anti-Imperialist Struggle

The peculiar condition created by imperialism in industrialising South Africa has created the need for a programme clearly expressing the struggle against imperialism. The anti-imperialist fight is the major, central, and internationally most significant, fight in South Africa. The struggle for democratic rights, the national-libratory struggle, the struggle for land and for "bread", cannot be separate struggles, cut off from one another by one screen or another. The struggle for democracy, to use the broad term, includes the anti-imperialist fight (for national liberation, independence, self-determination, a republic). The fight against imperialism, wrote Trotsky in 1938, is a part of the fight for democracy in backward and colonial countries. The fight for land, for "bread", and for political rights, forms part of a general fight, a fight soluble only through social revolution. These struggles integrate into the common onslaught against imperialism and landlordism.

The fault of many organisations in the past has been that they dealt only with one aspect, one sector of the general integral struggle against capitalist-imperialist rule and exploitation, instead of unifying these struggles on the basis of a common class struggle, with the spearhead of this struggle directed against imperialism. The economic struggles, the agrarian struggle, the struggle for political rights, the struggle for national liberation from imperialism, are interlocked. To emphasise one of these at the expense of the others is to give the movement a lop-sided, narrowed-down character to emasculate it, to enable it to draw behind it only certain limited strata of the population. The I.C.U. and non-European trade union bureaucrats who keep "politics" out of their unions (i.e., proletarian politics) laid the emphasis on the wage-struggle, to the relative exclusion of the political, agrarian and national-libratory struggles. The I.C.U., although it performed a historic mission in rallying many thousands of Africans to a keen struggle 

for economic rights and, to a lesser extent, political rights, did not seriously take up the land question, and neglected the fight against imperialism for national liberation. This, in addition to misleadership, brought about its downfall.

The Emphasisers of the Agrarian Struggle The agrarian struggle -the fight for the expropriation and the division of the land taken away from the expropriated land-companies and rich farmers -is intimately an anti-imperialist fight.

The Reserve-land forms the recruiting field for capitalist- imperialist exploiters, and the fight for the mechanisation of the backward reserve areas hits at the pit of the imperialist reservoir of labour.

The land owned by big land-companies is tied up financially with imperialist banking houses, and the fight for the division of this land is directed against imperialism.

The farming lands themselves are owned, in many instances, by large Chamber of Mines houses -cattle farms, citrus farms, maize farms -and the struggle for the expropriation of the land-owners comes up against the strongest bastion of imperialism in the Union -the Chamber of Mines. Since large numbers of those toiling on the farms are not semi-serfs, half-bound peasants but wage-labourers (1,000,000 strong), the agrarian struggle is linked up with the proletarian struggle against wage-labour exploitation. The peasant-tribal movement is tied to the proletarian movement through the farm-proletarians (and the peasants temporarily in the cities). The farm-workers' struggle requires the building of agricultural labourers' trade unions, a process already starting in the Western Cape on a small but important scale. The agrarian struggle is bound up with the trade union struggle.

The land-shortage and land-hunger assumes, to a large extent, black-white relation- ships, for those chronically in want of land are mostly the Bantu, the oppressed black ruralists. The unequal division of the land is, with the exception of the poor whites, a racial division. There are laws prohibiting the purchase or occupation of land by non-Europeans, laws which come on top of the host of anti-non-European legislation withholding the land from the vast masses of the oppressed, through labour-reservoirs, poll taxes, rural money-lenders who blood-suck the Bantu reserve- dwellers, reserve traders who place millions of Bantu toilers into debt and in permanent debt-bondage and all the other measures designed to keep the non-European landless and divorced from means of production. The agrarian struggle, therefore, cannot be separated from the struggle against race- discrimination, which binds together the host of other ways of rural exploitation, directing these mostly against the African, Coloured and Indian ruralist -peasant and farm-proletarian alike (e.g., the tot-system, which medievally oppresses over 100,000Coloured farm-workers in the Cape Province).

The agrarian struggle cannot in any way be regarded as distinct from, separated from and more important than any of the other componen8 of the anti-imperialist struggle. The struggle against capitalist-imperialism in South Africa requires not the emphasis of the agrarian struggle, nor the elevation of this struggle to the heights of being the "alpha and omega" of the whole struggle (i.e., the whole struggle itself). The struggle against capitalist-imperialism requires the co-ordination of the struggle on the economic plane, the struggle for agrarian reform and development (summarised in the slogan: "Land"), the struggle for full democratic rights, and the struggle for the complete national liberation of the colonial masses from the obnoxious yoke of British 

rule and imperialist subjugation (summarised in the slogans: "National independence and self-determination" and "For a Republic of Workers and Peasants").

The Emphasisers of the Political Struggle

Organisations like the A.P.O... The African National Congress and the Indian Congress of South Africa claiming to represent the Coloured, African and Indian communities respectively failed not merely because they adopted cringing, reformist, begging methods of conciliation towards the ruling classes." They failed also because of a lopsided emphasis on the winning of political rights only (the vote) and of certain rights of benefit mainly to the petty bourgeois non-Europeans (trading rights, land-holding rights, right of investment). Although other "points" appeared on the programmes (on the social colour bar, land, the right of workers to organise, etc.), these were sidelines, and are not seriously carried forward except, in some cases, as eye-dust to blind workers into following the Abdurahmans, Xumas, Jabavus, etc. Such organisations almost totally neglected the struggle for "bread", land, and against imperialism. The All-African Convention, formally the most ideal type of organisation to build a strong national- libratory movement (provided individual membership is free to develop as the mainstay of the organisation, instead of a federation of officials, bureaucrats, doctors and principals), has soft-pedalled the anti-imperialist struggle, and placed no political objective, no type of government as a goal for the movement. The leadership of such organisations soft-pedalled issues of trade unionism, issues of expropriation and division of land held by the rich, and the fight for independence from imperialism. If organisations like the A.P.O., the Indian organisations, the African Democratic Party, the All African Convention are to flourish and rally the people around a militant programme, then they have to develop an all- round and not a lopsided (purely political or mainly political) programme, and have to form some kind of federation (without in the least impeding the formation of the main basis through individual membership) to work out and act upon such a programme.

While organisations like the Non-European United Front and the National Liberation League in words spoke against imperialism and stood for full democratic rights, these organisations never came forward with a bold, clear programme dealing with the economic (trade union) and the land struggles. Nor did they stress that the struggle was an anti-imperialist struggle. This programmatic shortcoming in the N.E.U.F. and N.L.L. which, together with the false policy pursued by the Stalinists and the failure to draw in the African masses (except to a small extent on the Rand), brought about the collapse and dismal failure of these formerly promising bodies.

An Integrated Programme

Hitherto no political party has come forward with a programme based upon the need to struggle against capitalist-imperialist exploitation and rule in South Africa, with the exception of the Fourth International. No other organisation has come forward with a programme resting on this anti-imperialist basis, which integrates the various sectors* of the struggle -the trade union sector, the agrarian sector, the struggle for equality (away with race-discrimination and for full democratic rights), and the struggle for national independence and self-determination under a Republic of Workers and Peasants. This four-point programme, expressing the most burning desires, needs and strivings of the workers. peasants, tribalists and the poor and oppressed in general, is the transitional programme which will organise the masses of oppressed peoples behind 

the city proletariat and the city working class behind the revolutionary programme and party of the Fourth International in South Africa. The programme of "bread", land, democratic rights, national independence and self- determination will come more and more to the fore as the struggle of the workers develops, especially the struggle of the non- European toilers. On the other hand, this programme, borne aloft by a mass anti-imperialist organisation (analogous to the Indian Congress of India, with some important distinctions, will tremendously accelerate and deepen the process of unifying the various sections of the non-Europeans, the workers and peasants and the workers of all colours.

The task of the revolutionary party in South Africa is to guide and participate in the organisations fighting on any front against the capitalists -whether these capitalists be the Chamber of Mines, the industrialists or the rich farmers. In doing this, the revolutionaries have constantly to endeavour to foster the movement to unite all the workers.

The First Step

The first step in this unification is the bringing together of the non-European workers -African, Coloured and Indian. This is made possible by the double oppression of the non-European toilers: firstly as workers exploited, and secondly as peoples oppressed because of their colour. The common colour oppression which weighs down on the three sections of the 8 112 million non-Europeans forms the common factor making it possible to unify these sections as the broad mass basis for the anti-imperialist struggle for land, "bread", democratic rights and independence. All kinds of divide and rule politics dividing the non-European toilers have to be ruthlessly attacked -religious denominationalism, tribal divisions, sexual differentiations in pay, treatment and tribal customs. In common action, the unity of the commonly exploited and oppressed non-Europeans. The 80 per cent of the nation has to be forged. This is the first step, and the most weighty to be taken in the development of the unity of the working class in South Africa. The unification of the non-European toilers must inevitably have its centres in the cities and towns. From these centres of economic, social and political life, the unity movement will spread out to the country, the reserves, whither it will be brought by waging struggles of farm-workers against the farmers; of peasants against moneylenders, traders, recruiters, government institutions and agents, and farmers exploiting peasants as semi-serfs; of tribalists against chiefs, magistrates, recruiters, the poll tax, soil erosion, starvation, disease and all the miseries attendant upon the reserve system. In this way, by carrying the struggle into the countryside, and bearing the programme to the backward, illiterate rural masses in the shape of live struggles, the difficult process of unifying the peasantry behind the city proletariat must take place.

The unifying of the peasantry and proletariat has to go hand in hand with the unifying of the workers of different colours. The realisation of the two processes are interdependent, although one may at a given moment shoot ahead of the other, depending upon the combination of complex circumstances which composes South African history.

The Second Step

But the unity of the non-European workers, in town and country, can bring the revolutionary movement against imperialism only to a certain point. The non-European proletariat, in the lead of the non-European petty bourgeoisie and tribalists, etc., cannot take power unless it draws to its side the mass of white unskilled and even skilled workers and the bulk of the white soldiers. Black and white labours have to be united if the struggle for socialism is to succeed in this country. Although the whites constitute a mere 20 per cent of the total population yet the whites constitute a full 50 per cent of the city population. And it is in the cities that the decisive struggle will be waged. Secondly, the white workers. unskilled and skilled, constitute a fair proportion of the urban, mining, and industrial and transport working class, and occupy very important positions in the economy. This is even more true of the armed forces, which, if not neutralised or won over, will make a successful struggle the most difficult process, if not utterly impossible. The white workers, especially the majority, the unskilled workers have to be won over to the non-Europeans and the great anti-imperialist struggle.

This cannot be done by wooing the whites. It cannot be done by appealing sentimentally to abstract principles of labour unity. It can and will take place as the result of certain developments in the economic structure of the country and because of the development of a powerful movement against imperialism and for full democratic rights, resting essentially upon the non-European toilers. The white workers will not come over automatically to the non-European workers if their wages are cut into, if they are thrown out of work, if they see their wages reduced by the mine- magnates and industrialists to cut into the costs of production. The mere economic process itself will undoubtedly reduce the standard of living and the rates of pay of thousands of white workers in times of economic crises, slumps, unemployment, inflation, etc.

But this economic process of levelling the white workers down to the wretched plane of the non-European workers (and "poor whites") will not by itself bring into being labour unity. In fact it can do the very opposite, as indeed it has in the past. It can throw the menaced white workers into the camp of the fascists, as it has done in the case of the Ossewabrandwag. In this case, as in other respects, the South African white workers behave as did the desperate, unstable, insecure labour-fearing, capitalist-aspiring mid- dle classes of Italy and Germany when these middle classes, in town and country, built up the social base of the fascist party. Both skilled and unskilled workers have gone over to the fascist movement in this country in the past. They will do so again in times of economic crises, wage-cuts, inflation, etc., unless there is a force which can bring them over to the working class leading the anti-imperialist camp, instead of letting them drift or rush into the fascist camp.

The economic process of levelling up does not bring the white worker automatically over to the side of the non-European toilers, but merely brings the white workers to a crossroad, a forking of the ways. At this point the political, and not the economic factor, comes into full play. Either the fascist force draws the white workers into the maelstrom of destruction, or else the powerful anti-imperialist movement, the movement for full democratic rights waged by the mass of non-European toilers, will draw over the white workers into the struggle. If there is not such a strong movement, chiefly of non-Europeans (though naturally not exclusively so), then the white workers will unquestionably fall prey to their own deep colour prejudices and anti-working class feelings, as has formerly happened and form the social bulwark of the fascist movement in this country. The white workers cannot possibly play a neutral role in the revolutionary struggles. They will, by the logic of things, fight either by the side of the reaction or else come over to the non-European camp fighting for liberation and socialism. It is because of this, because the white workers will be a dangerous foe, a bastion supporting imperialism itself, fascism in South Africa, if they are not won to the revolutionary movement, that it is so vital and indispensible that the white workers join hands with the movement of the non-European workers. This unification of white and black labour will take place if the non-European movement is powerful, and if this movement wages a struggle which is in the interests of all the workers, white included.

The white workers must be drawn to a movement fighting to raise the standard of life of the non-European workers, for the higher this standard the less the drop which the white workers can plunge down. The struggle for "bread" is the struggle of all the workers. It must draw in the white workers. The fight against the colour bar, which is tied up with the phenomenon of poor whitism, will be accepted by the growing strata of the white workers themselves as in their interests. Against this, colour prejudice and race-hatred will fight dourly, but the levelling process and the fact that there will be no way out other than the revolutionary fight against imperialism, plus the ardour of the workers' party, will combat the traditions and conservatism of centuries. The struggle for land is a fight in the interests, in the long run, of the impoverished white peasants, although many of the bywoner type will fight stubbornly against the revolutionary movement for a long while. Finally, the anti-imperialist struggle itself, the fight for a Workers' and Peasants' Republic, in spite of fierce colour prejudice, dragging conservatism, will eventually tend to draw in many workers, especially Afrikaner workers who already profess to be anti-imperialist. The programme of the national libratory movement will, with difficulties, draw the white workers in their majority, and also the bulk of white soldiers into the army of the proletariat and peasants fighting for power.

"The Road to Democracy Passes Through the Socialist Revolution"

The movement of unifying the workers of all colours and the workers of town and country is a difficult, arduous one. But the very difficulties will steel the participants. This struggle will, in many shapes, organise the masses for the socialist revolution. And the socialist revolution alone will solve the transitional democratic programme. The socialist revolution alone will solve the democratic tasks, although many democratic concessions may be wrung from the ruling class in the course of the struggle for power. This struggle will inevitably place the proletariat in power as the ruling class. The proletariat will rule as the leader of the oppressed nation, chiefly the peasantry. A Workers' and Peasants' Republic (independent of foreign imperialist rule) will be the government of the country. This government will set up about solving the problems fought for in the stormy period organising the revolution; it will set about the socialisation of important sectors of the economy, and introduce the socialist order into South Africa. The government will help to spread the revolution, will draw aid from other revolutions, will defend the country from invasion, and will play its historical role in the process of the world revolution. In this role the party of the Fourth International alone can and will lead, as also in the long struggle for power itself. And, in playing this great leading part, the Fourth International by itself on an understanding of the imperialist exploitation of South Africa.