From: South Africa's Radical Tradition, a documentary history, Volume Two 1943 - 1964, by Allison Drew

Document 77 - Yu Chi Chan Club , Pamphlet No. II: The Conquest of Power in South Africa [1963]

In South Africa a class struggle is being waged, a struggle which is blurred by the historical accident of race, i.e. by the utilization of the existence of colour groupings by the ruling class. Precisely as a result of this policy of the ruling class it is an historical fact that the most revolutionary sections of South African society are to be found among those who are commonly called the Non-Whites. The most exploited classes of South African society are at the same time racially or nationally oppressed. These classes constitute the majority of the Non-Whites. The petty bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and the merchant class among the Non-Whites form a small but powerful and potentially dangerous section of the oppressed and exploited masses. By virtue of their position in society they have constituted the leadership of the masses up to now - whether this leadership has been revolutionary or reactionary is for the moment not at issue.

A very important social class in South African society is the white working class.

Imperialism and the national bourgeoisie have bribed them off for decades. So that today they form the main pillar of the colour-caste, capitalist system. While it is obvious that the class interests of these workers lie with the majority of the Non-White population, and while it is clear that they will eventually have to join hands with their class brothers as a result of the developing historical process, it must be equally clear that at the moment and for the foreseeable future their immediate interests with that of emergent Fascism in this country in every respect. This is especially so in view of the treacherous role-played by the official working-class organisations in this country and by the grandiloquent isolationism and rabid racialism sections of the national liberatory movement. It is from this white working class that the main supports of the ruling class have been and are taken in the form of police, army, navy etc.

[”¦] We turn directly to the question of the conquest of power, which has been put on the order of the day by the tremendous rate of political development in this country years as also by the spectacular events on the continent of Africa, in Asia and in Latin America. Although it would have been simpler to tackle this question directly, it becomes necessary to deal briefly with the question of force or violence i.e. to put it in its proper perspective in this country.

[”¦] Europe the propaganda of all parties (including the workers' parties) was (and is) concentrated on the national army in times of crisis. In other words, any revolution in Europe had one, almost fatalistically constant factor, i.e. the position of the army in regard to the contending classes. For this reason the main purpose of European political organizations (as indeed in all classical, class-society) was to ensure its political leadership. The army would normally tend to side with the-forces which promised internal stability. Naturally when the revolution was a radical social revolution there was less readiness on the part of officers (who as a rule came and come from the ruling classes) to join the revolutionaries. Then the scene of revolution would shift to the army itself for a time. [....]

From the introductory remarks in this pamphlet it will have become clear that such a position does not obtain in South Africa at all. Of course-it is hardly necessary to answer those elements which think of the revolution in terms of an isolated general strike. These people are as trapped in European conceptions as those who see the white army and state machine intervening (or not intervening) on behalf of the oppressed and exploited masses. We state categorically that no matter what the state of political organization and consciousness of the masses, if they do not have an answer to the diabolical role of the army and other arms of the state in time of-crisis, their activities must end in a bloodbath and victory for the state they wish to bring to its knees. In other words the political movement of the workers and rural poor must be prepared to deal state machine on the level of force. Non-Violence, Passive Resistance etc. has been exposed sufficiently in practice. These are the methods of the liberal bourgeoisie cf. India), which is not so liberal when it comes to workers' rights (cf. India).

In South Africa, the inevitably violent reply of the state to passive resistance campaigns in times of economic crisis can end only in one thing viz. Imperialist intervention in the form of U.N.O. or Afro-Asian embraces which will certainly be deathly in the struggle of the workers of this country. Let there be no doubt about it:

Non-violence means in the final analysis Imperialism under a (temporarily) liberal mask. In effect the same fate awaits those "red-hot", economist protagonists of the isolated general strike, or the isolated sabotage. For, in essence these unfortunate people depend on the kindness, disunity and lack of decision of the state on the one hand, or on the recuperative potential of the masses on the other hand. It is an historical fact, however, that the same masses who can "spontaneously" create miracles, can as "spontaneously" be shocked into semi-permanent inertia by the incredible viciousness and brutality of state repression.

None of these possibilities, therefore, neither Non-Violence, nor the isolated general strike, nor the isolated sabotage attempts and certainly not the dependance on the vacillation of the white army holds out any realistic basis for a concrete conception of the method of conquest of power. Yet we maintain that it is highly essential for an effective mass struggle against the prevailing system to give the political cadre a concrete conception of the forms in which the struggle for power must culminate. As there can be no imitation of European (classical) forms in this country it must be obvious that in this important and even decisive respect we have to look for "models" elsewhere. We have to do so consciously because in the very nature of our struggle will not allow of what is called spontaneity in regard to the form of struggle. Spontaneity in this question = suicide. To put it differently: in the same way as only a class conscious organization of the workers and the rural poor can lead the political struggle, so too only a class conscious, trained organization of soldiers can meet the threat of the highly-trained, albeit frightened army of the South African state. This is the logical conclusion of the policy of non-collaboration, which is the policy of class independence.

Having said the above it now remains for us to turn to the kind of warfare in which our struggle will involve us. Which are the forms in which the class warfare in South Africa will terminate? History itself has given us the answer in the form of Guerrilla Warfare. It is a term which has been distorted and coloured with all kinds of heroism, wrong conceptions and plain agent-provocateurism. In the following we treat this subject as an integral part of the class struggle for power.



Guerrilla warfare is a specific aspect of warfare as such. It is, therefore, necessary to pose the question: What is War? Von Clausewitz answered this question in the classical way: War is the continuation of policy by other means. [....]

Since guerrilla warfare is an aspect of warfare as such, it will be clear that it too is subject to the political strategy and principles of the class or group which uses it. However, its applicability in a given situation is determined not by political considerations, but rather by considerations of a military nature. In other words, we can be justifiably accused of discussing questions of a military-technical nature. That is true, but it is equally true that these technical questions have become decisive at the present stage of the class struggle. Hence our pre-occupation with them. Guerrilla warfare has been defined as follows: "It is a weapon that a nation inferior in arms and military equipment may employ against a more powerful aggressor nation". On the basis of this definition it might appear as if guerrilla warfare is not applicable to civil war and that it only applies to countries invaded by militaristic, foreign Imperialism. [....] It is necessary; therefore, to prove the applicability of guerrilla warfare and its methods in classical civil war, for we are far removed from those chauvinistic groupings, which would insist in the teeth of all history that the white man in this country is a foreigner who has to be driven into the sea.

Firstly, it is true that in almost all historical examples of the application of guerrilla methods, these have played only a subsidiary and complementary role to that of the regular army. They were employed mainly to introduce (from the military point of view) into the army of the defending nation (as opposed to the dependance on positional warfare of the militarily superior aggressor nation). Guerrillas were used, apart from their political, patriotic role in rousing the people and involving the civilian masses in the war, to turn defence into attack. [....] While the guerrillas might have been a more or less decisive factor in victory, they were subject to the general strategy of the forces, i.e. did not they dictate general strategy. [....]

In a country such as South Africa where the regular army is bound hand and foot, like classes from which it is conscripted, to the policies of the ruling class, where the revolutionary classes have no army of their own and can only depend on foreign intervention at their peril, the question obviously poses itself in the following manner: Can guerrilla bands be turned into a regular army systematically? [....]

Algeria, Cuba and to a lesser extent Angola are the examples which bear out our answer. In all these countries, more especially in the first two, guerrilla bands of vanishing magnitude were turned into regular armies in the course of the struggle through desertions, political propaganda and state repression of the civilian population. In the final stages of the struggle, before the actual conquest of power guerrilla bands from all over the country swelled together and turned to classical positional warfare, assisted by sabotage, strikes etc. in the cities to gain victory. In Algeria a petty bourgeois-Imperialist compromise prevented the struggle from being carried through to its logical conclusion. Be that as it may, it will become clear later on that South Africa's movement is in the fortunate position of being able to avoid the opportunism which characterised the Algerian leadership as well as the empiricism that characterises the Cuban leadership. These two countries then, show quite conclusively that the question posed above: Can guerrilla bands be turned into a regular army systematically? Must be answered in the affirmative.

Before turning to the political and social implications of guerrilla warfare, it is necessary to conclude this section with a few general remarks about the historical significance of guerrilla warfare i.e. its position from the point of view of world revolution . Guerrilla warfare is the classical form of colonial and semi-colonial revolutions against Imperialism. As such it involves all the problems of the colonial world and semi-colonial world, and more especially the problem of the land. This point will become clearer in the next section. Suffice it to say that the guerrilla fighter is essentially an agrarian revolutionary without necessarily being from the political point of view tied to the agrarian classes. Those who make the scholastic distinction between the "proletarian revolution" (when they really mean urban revolt) and the "agrarian revolution" they really mean jacquerie) will not be able to understand this question from the point of view of world revolution. The latter will be sympathetic towards it and will also be a very dangerous element politically; the former will sneer at it and condemn it is primitive substitute for the political class struggle. We attempt to answer both these points of view in the next section. At this stage it is only necessary to point out that those colonial or semi-colonial countries where there was or is no rational bourgeoisie strong enough to act as the managers of Imperialism, or alternatively, where there is no strong petty bourgeois, collaborationist political organizations of the masses, the struggle has invariably tended or will tend to revolve around guerrilla warfare.

Contrasting examples of the first group would be Tunisia as opposed to Algeria and of the second group Ghana as opposed to Angola, In a period of nuclear development as we are experiencing the guerrilla fighter has, for military and political reasons, come to occupy the same central position in the colonial and semi-colonial anti-imperialist revolutions as the uniformed soldier in the classical metropolitan revolutions.


We will deal with this aspect under three headings:

(a) Guerrilla Warfare and the political movement

(b) Guerrilla Warfare and the geographical terrain

(c) The initiation of guerrilla armies

(d) Guerrilla Warfare and the political movement

Guerrilla warfare in South Africa is the logical extension of the national democratic movement in this country i.e. it is the continuation of the policy of Non-Collaboration in a specific form towards the achievement of the same democratic aims. The aims and the general strategy of the political movement and its vanguard organization in this country have been fully discussed in pamphlet no. I of this series. We will therefore only treat this subject coincidentally in as far as it has a direct organizational bearing on the question under discussion.

The guerrilla armies must have the same political goals and political discipline as the political organizations of which it is the military, the strong arm. On this fundamen­tal question there can be no compromise. It is, therefore, essential that every guerrilla unit should have its political officers as well as the normal military officers. Since guerrilla units by their very nature will originally be composed of the most conscious political elements, they will in this sense also form an important part of the political vanguard. They will live among the people in a very concrete sense as we shall see later. Therefore, every guerrilla unit is at the same time a propaganda unit. Guerrillas must therefore be completely conversant with the practical aspects of political education. This will also become clearer when we discuss the equipment of guerrilla units.

We have said that the guerrilla is primarily an agrarian revolutionary. This does not mean that the guerrilla has nothing to do with the cities. On the contrary, a well-organ­ized guerrilla army assigns important functions (sabotage, espionage, diversion, supply etc.) to its suburban units. This is precisely the way in which we have tackled the question, having at our disposal the invaluable experience of the Cuban and the Algerian revolutions. But it must be clear that the tasks of the suburban guerrilla are, at least initially, hazardous ones, as the possibility of being discovered is so much greater. Clearly then, the suburban units will for a long time be involved in purely political and trade union activity, seeking to support the struggle on the land by sapping the vitality of the capitalist state.

On the land, however, the picture is very different. Only one-alternative presents itself to the rural poor who have reached the end of their tether-viz either brutal suppression (witness Sekhukhuniland, Pondoland etc.) or underground politico-mili­tary struggle, which on the land means nothing more and nothing less than guerrilla war against the state. It should be clear, [””] and political leaders of guerrilla units must know the agrarian programme of our political movement as they know their A.B.C. They must be able to inculcate the attitudes and political ideology implicit in our programme, into their men. This is of fundamental importance, because it will be the rural masses who will initially and for a long time in the future constitute the basis of the guerrilla army. It should be emphasized that we are not advocating any concentration on the agrarian question to the exclusion of the rest of our programme. But it should be equally clear that guerrillas who are forced by circumstances to operate mainly among the rural masses must be able to convey that point on our programme which will rally these masses to our political organization and gain soldiers for the army of liberation. It should also be noted by guerrilla leaders that in the beginning they might find open opposition to our agrarian programme because even this transitional programme is often too radical for the petty bourgeois mentality of the rural masses.

However, these masses become ingratiated to the guerrilla army because of its leadership and clarity. Every success scored against the enemy will gain hundreds of new soldiers and thousands of new sympathizers. Hence, there can be no question of concessions in regard to our programme even though tactical retreat might be a temporary necessity. The stronger the guerrilla army gets, the firmer the hold of the political leadership on the minds of the rural masses, the more progressive ideas and replace that which has been called the "idiocy of village life", the deeper the revolution becomes, the more boldly the leadership can introduce the theory and of radical agrarian reform. Amongst other things one of the main social tasks of guerillas is the education of the masses amongst whom they work. The fight against rural literacy starts during the revolution, not afterwards. The raising of the cultural level, apart from bringing our ideas to the masses on a higher level will also instill discipline into the soldiers and into the masses as a whole. Guerrilla "teachers" will prove to be among the most powerful agents of the political, social and cultural revolution. If we remember m that guerrillas are the fishes in the water of the masses, it will be seen that a [special?] type of treatment of the masses is essential. More of this later!

Having clarified these basic issues it remains now to discuss the political organizations under this heading. Which political organization specifically will lead the guerrilla army? On this question there can be to) doubt in our minds. We know that all kinds of petty bourgeois, reformist, adventurist and opportunist organizations are preparing for what they call “guerrilla warfare", In so far as they are creating a technical machine, we need not fear them. Indeed it should be our tactic to unite with them, with a view to taking over their units. In so far as they are propagating their reactionary programmes we have to oppose them on the political level. Indeed it should be one of our first aims to out organize them by of better propaganda techniques to spread our historically correct programme. It be quite clear to all of us, however, that the organization which controls the greatest concentration of popular force in the form of armed guerrillas (N.B. Algeria and Cuba) will in effect lead the struggle. Although its programme might be influenced by the revolutionary masses (in so far as it is a reactionary organization) it will in the final analysis be able to put back the political struggle and in effect betray it. What must be prevented at all costs is the unnecessary and costly fratricide which threatens to destroy the struggle in Angola. Not only because this kind of activity saps the military potential of the people and weakens their morale, but also because in the African soil it invariably leads to "tribal" warfare and racial pogrom, which are suicidal in the liberatory movement as we see very clearly in the Congo.

Guerrilla warfare cannot succeed without the masses. Hence all counter-guerrilla pipe dreams are doomed to miserable failure in the final analysis. The organizers of guerrilla units must remember this. The guerrilla army is a vital aspect, but only an aspect of the national liberatory movement. Any guerrilla army divorced from the masses and the movement of the masses is doomed to failure. In the period of preparation, therefore, the organizers of the guerrilla army must play a prominent part (even if it is not necessarily a public one) inside the political organizations of the mass movement. When it has been established, no guerrilla unit should ever forget its fundamental political character, especially in its dealings with the people. To forget this would mean to fall back into primitive militarism, which during, and especially after the revolution, could play a treacherous role. Although many decisions which leaders of guerrilla units will face, will be of a purely military-technical nature, no guerrilla unit may ever forget that its decisions must be synchronized with the general strategy of the political movement. It might eg. be militarily expedient to destroy traitors in certain villages, whereas it might be politically premature. In such a case, unless the very existence of the guerrilla unit is at stake, the political considerations must take precedence.

(b) Guerrilla Warfare and the Geographical Terrain The geographical question is also a political question. It is clear that guerrilla warfare can only be waged in a certain type of country. Fortunately South Africa has all the necessary requirements for this kind of warfare. As the experience of the Boers shows, guerrilla warfare can be waged successfully. In fact this experience must be remem­bered for another reason. The present regime is acquainted in a concrete sense with guerrilla methods.

Mountainous country, bushy, forested areas or swampy, marshy country are most suited to guerrilla warfare. As the experience in Cuba and in China shows, it is possible, although much more difficult, to wage this kind of war in the plains. In our choice of terrain we are guided not only by geographical considerations, but also, in view of the fact that all geographical requirements are present, more especially by the political considerations.

Wherever guerrilla activity will be initiated the people must be politically prepared and at least in principle prepared to support the guerrillas. In South Africa, especially in view of the agrarian nature of initial guerrilla activity the areas which must be prepared systematically are obviously the reserves and to a lesser extent, the white farms. The present Bantustan Rehabilitation Schemes form the best basis on which such activity can be unfolded.

The people have a tradition of struggle, to some extent even of quasi-guerrilla struggle (cf. Pondoland Hills, Ovamboland). They have clear political goals which can serve as a point of departure for our programmatic conceptions. They are armed to some extent. A natural, disciplined politico-military leadership is already in existence. All that remains to be done then is to synchronize the illegal activity in the various areas. Let us caste a brief glance at some of the more important areas.

A. The Transkei

This area of course will be the primary field of operations with a view to forming a strong base area. It has all the geographical requirements: mountainous area, adjacent to Basutoland, even a coastline which might prove to be an invaluable assert later on. It is the most densely populated reserve in the country; a constant struggle has been waged there against Rehabilitation and Bantustan for the past 10 years. There is a very long political tradition and many people are already hiding in the mountains. Like all other reserves it has the advantage of being "foreign territory" as far as the state machine in concerned? As such then it will form a natural base area which could easily become

A liberated area. The main fight will originally have to be waged against collaborationist impis leaders. But a note of warning has to be sounded here. Under no circumstances must this fight be allowed to degenerate into a tribal war. It is the one thing d disastrous to a "speedy" victory.

A special word about Basutoland. The people of this High Commission territory are allies of the South African workers and peasants. Our struggle is theirs. Their support will be essential for reinforcement of the struggle in the Transkei.

B. Zululand is in the same position as the Transkei. There the opposition to the government is if anything even more intransigent. However, the actual struggle in the political field is still very backward and unfortunately hindered by rabid racialism. However this problem can be surmounted if the political organizations are rejuvenated

[”¦] We should remember, however, that Mozambique would not be such a natural ally land. Hence concentration should be on the potential assistance which could a Swaziland.

C. Sekhukhuniland

Here too there is a long tradition and strong political agitation. Escape routes, retreat and withdrawal possibilities exist towards the badly guarded Bechuanaland border. It is essential that direct contact be established with the people's movement in Sekhukhuniland. Geographically the terrain is not too suitable but this is compensated for by the politically favourable climate.

D. Great Karroo and the Steppe

There is only one effective way of reaching the agricultural workers on the white farms viz. via the villages and the dorps dotted all over the barren, hilly interior of South Africa. The importance of these areas will lie initially in their diversionist possibilities. They're from 5 to 10 workers' families as opposed to one or two white farmer families on these farms. Large tracts of land could temporarily and periodically fall into the hands of guerrillas, helping to divert the attention and disperse the strength of the enemy. It is from the point of view of "making noise in the East and attacking from the west” that we have to view the role of these areas. Apart from that, the main supply routes of the enemy (roads and railways) run through this isolated, empty country. The importance of this fact need not be stressed any further.

The main point which has to be realized is that we must approach the agricultural workers through the village groups (see next chapter).

E. Special Position of South West Africa

Apart from all geographical considerations (Ovamboland is one of the most natural guerrilla areas in Southern Africa) S.W.A. occupies a very special position in our general strategy.

As far as we know the Ovambos are well-armed. There is a popular political movement, the political programme of which needs some tightening up. The people are prepared to act in the direction of independence. This demand is supported by the world at large and South Africa has often shown its sensitivity on the question. Most probably guerilla action on an extensive scale will bring about some kind of "Algerian" Independence. This will certainly not be satisfactory in the long run, but from the point of view of providing a strong liberated area, dedicated to the struggle of the South in oppressed it will be an invaluable gain for the struggle as a whole. It is South Africa's Achilles Heel and we have to concentrate as much activity on it as possible.

To sum up: it must be clear that the areas mentioned are only those we consider to be the best for the initiation and maintenance of guerrilla activity. This does not mean that groups should not be formed when and where possible. However, in our general strategy the areas mentioned will obviously play a more important role. Hence all efforts must be made to establish more and more cells in them. Only once there are units of the army in every single one of these areas can we begin to hope for success in our campaign.


Guerrilla armies are initiated in various ways. It is only necessary for us to deal with a few important possibilities. Before doing so, it is necessary, however, to discuss the role of the paramilitary cells.

These must be formed in every strategic area It is not necessary to form more than one or two in every demarcated area, more especially as large numbers increase the danger of espionage and betrayal. The basic principles of formation of these groups should be the same as those guiding the Yu Chi Chan Club. The importance of these groups lies in the intensity of their political engagement, their study of military tactics and strategy, knowledge of the enemy strength and their training for leadership of guerrilla regiments and battalions. Every person in a cell of this nature must be prepared consciously and systematically for guerrilla leadership.

I. Guerrilla groups formed by cells

The cell or cells in any particular area must look upon itself as the nuclues of a guerrilla unit. As soon as the time is ripe, politically speaking, the members of the cell go out consciously and deliberately to form squads, drawing upon the population of the area. One cardinal principle must be observed viz. that as far as possible the members of the squad must come from or know the area well in which they will operate. The makes communication easy, the members know the terrain, and the local population will harbour and feed the guerrillas when necessary. All guerrilla units must be linked up regionally and of course nationally. (The technical quesitons of equipment, function and study of the cells etc. must be discussed in Pamphlet no. III).

II. Guerrilla Groups formed by [other?] organisations

These must be unearthed. If possible and necessary one or two members of the cells should join them. In any case it is necessary to find out whether or not these groups are conscious politically. If they are, members of the cells must try to take over the leadership of the groups. If this is not possible, some kind of liaison must be established. The struggle itself will weld the groups together later on. Under no circumstances must there be competition for the "ear of the masses". Rather it would be adviseable to organise our strategy in such a way as to synchronize the activity of these groups with our own. If there is any well-founded reason to believe that these groups are following counter-revolutionary policies or that they [may?] compromise our position, they must be liquidated without any [-]. At no time, however, must the police or any other part of [the state] machine be used against groups which are not actively engaged in collaborationist activities. It is recommended that the F.L.N. [tactics?] employed against the treacherous M. N. A. groups be studied. 17 It should also be remembered that the very nature of political propaganda of the majority of organizations in this country will result in groups of this nature arising more especially in the cities: They will concentrate on sabotage campaigns, which could be utilized in our interests at certain times.

III. Guerrilla groups arising from the masses

This is the main kind of group that we will be concerned with., whether they arise in country. As examples of this kind of group we can take the existing ones in Pondoland and Ovamboland. Our approach to such groups must be that of the people. Which means that members coming from the area must join the groups. Their training, clarity in regard to military matters and political goals and strategy as well as their ability to link up the local unit with others in the region and even nationally, will soon lead them becoming the natural leaders of the groups. At no time must there be attempts to usurp positions of leadership in such groups, even if the policy followed by al leadership is at variance with our national strategy. In such cases the thing to do is to let the cells and other committed groups know through the national organization of this policy, so that it can orientate itself and endeavour to change the f the group in question.

Groups of this kind are to be found in all reserves, where the tradition of military struggle is deeply rooted. The cells or members of the cells should, after having surveyed the area carefully, waste no time in linking up with the most promising and best-organized groups. The people are born organizers! Secret organizations are very secret indeed. They have to be, for obvious reasons. "Dead" areas are not so dead at all. Members must be trained to best methods of gaining access to groups which are in existence.


In conclusion, a few words about our immediate tasks and [-] ion of launching the struggle. We have to draw practical conclusions from our analysis of situation and strategy. The main emphasis apart from general political [activity] must be laid on formation of cells in all strategically important areas. These must be [-] our general strategy as soon as possible so that they can be [utilized] immediately. At the same time information about other existing groups must be gathered systematically. This [must be] sifted and treated according to the principles laid down in the [-] series. At this stage any decision to form liaison with any other camps must be centrally and [democratically] decided upon. This [saf-””] will not be so [-] later on.

Finally, we cannot commit ourselves at this stage to any particular date or method of launching the struggle. Everything is possible. Our only guide will be the political situation itself and the state of preparedness of the masses and our own machinery. When the decision has been taken, however, it must take precedence over all-else.

Dedication to the tasks decided upon must be [systematic?] and unquestioning. Otherwise will only be assisting in our own destruction.