Document 85 - E. R. Roux, "The Native Exploiters: A reply to 'A. Z."', Umsebenzi,20 April 1935
I am glad that A. Z.'s article, "Is there a class of Native capitalists in South Africa," has been published, as it gives one an opportunity of re-opening the discussion on this question, a discussion which in my opinion, should never have been closed, and should not be closed now until complete clarity is reached. One of the reasons for the low political level of comrades in this country is that discussions on important questions have been considered "taboo" in the columns of our paper. Even to day I doubt whether the average rank and filer in the party has a clear picture of the Native Republic. This is due to our failure to use the columns of our paper, as they can and should be used, to achieve clarity on all important questions.
With regard to the present controversy, I want to say definitely that there is no doubt that there are numerous bourgeois elements among it he Native people. I do not take the line of Comrade Coka, who fails to see so much as a trace of a Native bourgeoisie. These Native bourgeois elements exploit their fellow Africans by ordinary methods of capitalistic exploitation. At the same time they provide the economic basis of petty-bourgeois Native national reformism in South Africa. No one in our Party to my knowledge has ever talked about a "United Bantu Nation," and A. Z.'s polemic on this point is simply the setting up of ninepins in order to knock them down again.
The points at issue are: whether the Native bourgeois elements constitute a Native bourgeois class or only a petty bourgeoisie; whether the Native bourgeois elements may be considered to have gone over to the imperialist camp, or whether they are still lined up against imperialism. On the answer to these questions depends the whole attitude of the Party towards the Native bourgeoisie.
In their anxiety to prove that there are exploiting elements among the Bantu, comrades like A Z indulge in all sorts of exaggeration.Seme's "A.C.C." and lsitabataba become a means of "saving the Native bourgeoisie from the effects of the crisis," whereas they are no more than another "get rich quick" scheme on the part of the Congress leaders. It is true these same Congress leaders are petty bourgeoisie or people of a petty bourgeois turn of mind, who are trying to climb up on the backs of their fellow Africans. But to consider them as an organised Native capitalist class is ridiculous. Actually Seme's "A.C.C." scheme never became anything more than so much hot air. The very disunity and ineffectiveness of the various sections of the congress and I.C.U. and the complete failure of the A.C.C. scheme are proof of the fact that "there exists no Native bourgeois class in South Africa but only inpidual bourgeois elements." -Thesis of the Sixth Congress of the Communist International on South Africa.
It is hardly necessary to emphasise the effect of the present policy of Anglo-Boer imperialism upon the Native petty-bourgeoisie. Such measures as the Urban Areas Act, Wage Act, Native Service Act, etc., etc. have as their object the almost complete extermination of all those classes of Natives who are not ether wage workers for white bosses in the mines and factories or labour tenants on the farms. In a future article I should like to deal in detail with the effect of this legislation on the Native artisans and petty-bourgeoisie. It is quite clear that these "fellow travellers" will travel a very long way with the workers and peasants in the struggle against imperialism.