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

Document 83 "Native Bourgeoisie as a Class", Umsebenzi, 16 February 1935

To the Editor of "Umsebenzi"

In your issue of 2 February, there appeared an article under the heading, "Is there a Native Bourgeoisie in South Africa?"

I maintain that this article is a naive and sarcastic criticism of an article which appeared on January 26, entitled "What the A.C.C. Means." The latter article deals in length with the role of African National Congress, which is the institution of the Native bourgeoisie, whose existence is at present being disputed. Further the article very clearly explains how the oppressed Native bourgeoisie feels the pinch of the crisis and thus makes all attempts to shift this burden on to the shoulders of the exploited workers and peasants.

This is very clearly reflected in Dr Seme's scheme of African Congress Clubs. To consolidate this exploiting scheme, Dr Seme, on behalf of the Native bourgeoisie, appeals to the workers and peasants to contributed liberally towards the so-called National Fund. This fund as well as the proposed stores will be under control of persons selected by the A.N.C. And who will be selected? The businessmen and traders, of course, who to-day constitutes the membership of the A.N.C. This definitely indicates the class interest of Dr Seme's scheme. Now what class does he represent? He undoubtedly represents the Native bourgeoisie, who exist as a definite class, practically and ideologically, and form the social basis of national reformism in South Africa.

Where can we find this parasite class, known as the Native Bourgeoisie? On the Reef we have the Native businessman and trader in every location from Nigel to Randfontein. We have this type in each and every location in the Union and also in some of the large towns. What and how does this class exploit? This parasitic class exploits wage-labour and secures high profits during the course of the distribution of commodities. The fact that the exploiting possibilities of the Native bourgeoisie are very much restricted by the oppression and strong competition of Anglo-Boer capital cannot be denied. But this does not mean that there is no Native bourgeoisie in South Africa. The Native bourgeoisie referred to have not all the same capacity for exploitation, nor have they all the same amount of capital. Thus we have to differentiate between the Native bourgeoisie and the Native petty bourgeoisie. To present a vivid picture of the Native petty bourgeoisie in South Africa I should have to make an elaborate class differentiation of the Native peasantry. This I hope to do at a later stage.

Many comrades will ask, "Why is there so much ado about the Native bourgeoisie?" The answer is that in order to be able to determine the moving forces of the South African revolution one must have a clear understanding of the different classes within Native society. Such an understanding will enable us to distinguish between the revolutionary forces, the counter-revolutionary forces -and the fellow-travellers.

J. B. Marks."