From the book: Freedom In Our Life Time by Anton Muziwakhe Lembede
27. "HITLER`S NEW CONVERT," Inkululeko, 9 September 1944.
Hitler is rapidly losing all his supporters in Europe. The rats are leaving the sinking ship. But he appears to have found a new recruit in the ranks of the African National Congress.
A correspondent who was present at the recent Congress meeting in Orlando writes criticising the speech made there by Mr. Lembede.
"He spoke firmly but like a qualified Nazi. He condemned every organisation which had Europeans in its ranks and lashed the Jews in the most vicious terms. In fact if one were to close one's eyes when he was speaking, one would certainly think one was listening to Hitler broadcasting from Berlin." My correspondent, himself a leading and distinguished Congressman comments: "Only a poor politician or an inexperienced nationalist would make such an attack on other organisations. Perhaps our 'intelligent' friend wilt yet learn by bitter experience if not by the experience of others, that to attack enemies and friends alike is national suicide."
28. "MR. LEMBEDE REPLIES," Inkululeko, 23 September 1944.
I HAVE noted with great surprise and disappointment the unprovoked vitriolic and virulent attack on me by the "Inkululeko" in its issue of 9th September 1944, under the heading, "Hitler's New Convert "”Š51
The said article refers to a Congress meeting held at Orlando on the 13th August, 1944. It says that in that meeting I spoke "like a qualified Nazi" and goes further "if one were to close one's eyes when he was speaking one would certainly think one was listening to Hitler's broadcasting from Berlin."
The said article identifies or associates me with the arch enemies of this country, and the probable result of that may be that I shall be exposed to the peril of internment or deportation. Were you aware of that, Mr. Editor? I do not think it was your intention at all.
Again the said article states that "I lashed the Jews in the most vicious terms." This statement can be dismissed as a laughable and distorted exaggeration. What is meant by vicious?
What I did, Sir, was to denounce all white people who pretend to be or pose as the leaders of the African people. "The leaders of a nation come out of its loins," so history teaches.
We cannot acquiesce in the political confusion occasioned by some white men who start or run some African political organisations which divide the Africans and render them helpless and impotent. It is immaterial whether such white men are English, Dutch, Germanor Jew. In the Orlando meeting I made mention of [. . .] Englishmen and Dutchmen and Jews. I was not conscious of the fact that the mention of the Jew is taboo in this "democratic" country.
Sir, the African people have been told time and again that they are babies, that they are an inferior race, that they cannot achieve anything worthwhile by themselves or without a white man as their "trustee" or "leader." This insidious suggestion has poisoned their minds and has resulted in a pathological state of mind. Consequently the African has lost or is losing the sterling qualities of self-respect, self-confidence and self-reliance. Even in the political world, it is being suggested that Africans cannot organise themselves or make any progress without white "leaders."
Now I stand for the revolt against this psychological enslavement of my people. I strive for the eradication of this "Ja-Baas" mentality, which for centuries has been systematically and subtlely implanted into the minds of the Africans. Of course this does not at all mean that we reject all political assistance to us by some kind, sympathetic and benevolent white people. "Lending assistance" is to my mind not the same thing as "arrogating to oneself the role of a leader." From then the only assistance which we can accept is that which will help us to consolidate the African tribes into one homogeneous nation.
I understand, Sir, that the "Inkululeko" is the organ of the Communist Party of South Africa. I hope therefore that the "Inkululeko" will not embark on a policy which may culminate in creating or widening a gulf between Communism and African Nationalism in this country; nor exhaust itself in a futile attempt to crush, destroy or extirpate the national consciousness of the African people. It must be remembered that practically every African is a nationalist at heart.
(We are assured by our correspondent that the report which appeared in Inkululeko was an accurate and fair comment on Mr. Lembede's speech. There is little to quarrel with what he now says in the above letter, but we are assured that his speech at Orlando was in quite different terms. We are not aware of which organisation Mr. Lembede is referring to as being run by White men or which White people are posing as the leaders of the Africans. In view of the immunity of well known Nazis like Messrs. Pirow, Van Rensburg, Weichardt,”Š52”‰etc., we do not think Mr. Lembede need worry about "the peril of internment or deportation." But racialism of the type preached by him at Orlando will do great damage to the true cause of African nationalism. True nationalism lies in love for and pride in one's own people, not the incitement of hatred against others ”” Editor.)
29.A. M. LEMBEDE, "Fallacy of Non-European Unity Movement," Bantu World, 11 August 1945 (also in Ilanga lase Natal,11 August 1945).
A great hullabaloo is being made by advocates of the Unity of all Non-Europeans in South Africa in their struggle against white supremacy or white oppression. This Unity we are told, is to include Africans, Coloureds and Indians.
Before irreparable harm is done to the development and progress of the African people, this fallacious and fantastic theory must be exposed. Unity among the abovementioned classes of Non-Europeans is impossible or extremely difficult of attainment for the following reasons:
(a) Africans are Natives of Africa; they and Africa are one; their relation to Africa is superior to the relations of other sections of the population. This superiority of relation to Africa clearly places the Africans in a position of ascendancy and superiority over other sections of the South African population. Hence it is evidently wrong to place Africans on a footing of equality with other racial groups at present residing in Africa. Africans are fighting for Africa; but other sections are fighting only for their rights to trade and extract as much wealth as possible from Africa.
(b) Another point which renders unity a non-practical proposition is the historical, cultural and religious differences between the above mentioned classes. The Indians have India as their motherland; they are only here in Africa chiefly as traders. Some of them profess the Mohamedan or the Hindu faith. Even amongst themselves there is no unity on account of their religious differences; otherwise India would have achieved Dominion Status today. Most of the Africans however profess the Christian Faith.
(c) There are three types of Coloureds: firstly there are those who have identified themselves with the Africans, who live with the Africans, and speak African languages and who have thrown in their lot completely with the Africans. These we can tolerate in our society. There is a second class of Coloureds which regards itself as a distinct nation namely Eur-African Nation. The third class of Coloureds consists of those Coloureds who regard themselves as Europeans and look down upon and despise Africans and call them "kaffirs."
(d) It must be remembered also that the first and primary duty of African leaders is to their own people, the Africans. The African leaders are not called upon to lead and organise Coloureds and Indians as some of the bigoted advocates of the Unity movement would have us believe.
(e) The Coloureds and Indians are regarded by Europeans as superior to the Africans and thus deserving of certain rights and privileges which are denied to the Africans, for instance the use of tram cars in Johannesburg, the right to reside and carry on business in certain areas of the town where Africans are prohibited.
But no sane person can deny the fact that there are some common problems confronting Africans and Indians and Coloureds e.g. the right of franchise. The solution of such problems needs the co-operation of all Non-Europeans. But co-operation is different from unity. Africans must be organised as a separate self conscious unit. So likewise must the Coloureds and Indians separately. Then if there is a common problem the leaders of the three sections can come together and take a joint decision as to how the common problem is to be jointly and co-operatively tackled. Then they will return to their respective sections of the population and mobilise the masses for the joint and concerted attack. This is the only sound way which is based on common sense and grim realism. Merely to create a motley horde or a colourless amorphous conglomeration of Africans, Coloureds and Indians will only lead to chaos, to wasted effort and ineffective action. The call then is: BACK TO COMMON SENSE! BACK FROM JUNGLES OF FANTASIES AND DREAMS! BACK!!!
30.L. B. MEHLOMAKULU, "Non-European Unity Movement,"Bantu World, 29 September 1945.
In an article on the above subject published in a recent issue of the "Bantu World," Mr. A. M. Lembede states: "Africans are natives of Africa; they and Africa are one, their relation to Africa is superior to that of other sections of the population. This superiority of relationship clearly places Africans in a position of ascendancy and superiority over other sections; hence it is evidently wrong to place Africans on a footing of equality with other racial groups at present residing in Africa."
On reading this excerpt and the rest of Lembede's letter, repressionists must have felt delighted, for it is a tacit endorsement of their "divide and rule policy," and also an endorsement of the prevailing social inequality among the different racial groups in this country. To claim ascendancy and superiority of Africans over other sections of the South African population simply justifies the whiteman's oppression of Non-Europeans as well as strengthening his claim of rightful possession of this land by reason of his conquest. Besides, to say that historical, cultural and religious differences among non-Europeans render unity a non-practical proposition, is merely to advance a flimsy argument as these differences exist even among Africans themselves. Ample proof can be shown that unity can exist even in diversity. If these differences among non-Europeans render unity impracticable, then Lembede must abandon all hopes of uniting his own people who are no less diverse historically, culturally, religiously and tribally.
The clamour of all right-thinking Africans to-day is for justice which they want extended to all sections of the population, and not the "ascendancy and superiority" of Africans over all others. It is for this cause, justice, that the Non-European Unity Movement strives.”Š53
31.M. NDLOVU, "Really, Mr. Lembede," ilanga lase Natal, 15 September 1945.
Recently, Mr. Lembede wrote an article under the heading, 'Man know thyself.' In that article Mr. Lembede would have us believe that certain types of government were created (by whom?) for certain peoples. Communism for the Russians, Democracy for the English etc. Mr. Cele of Durban wrote a very good article in answer to such wrong assertions. But, Mr. Lembede, instead of answering Mr. Cele goes on to write something on the 'Unity Movement' based on his wrong assertions which Mr. Cele corrected, and which corrections Mr. Lembede could not refute. Mr. Lembede is looked upon as a budding young African leader and many young Africans who are too lazy to think for themselves will be misled. Mr. Lembede seems to have a very unhealthy habit of dogmatising. I am not a member of the 'movement' but I know its working and its aims. The fact that I am not a member places me in a better position to see both sides.
In my most humble opinion there are only two reasons that make unity difficult ”” mind you not impossible. The first is economic, that is, some of the Non-Europeans especially Asiatics, are so rich that they have vested interests which would suffer if unity achieved its aim. The second we will call, for want of a better word, psychological; that is some of the Non-Europeans, especially Coloureds, do not see that the few privileges they get which are denied to others, are nothing but the Government's application of the old slogan 'divide and rule.'
(a) This is rather more amusing than anything else. To the writer it seems the Africans are fighting to drive non-Africans into the sea. The fight. Sir, is for a right for everyone to live. (AH these races who are in the Union have come to stay, figuratively and literally, and we have to live with them willy nilly). Indians have as much a right to live here as negroes have in the U.S.A. According to the writer's theory of 'superiority' only Red Indians have a right to fight for America; all the others are fighting for trading rights. We leave it to you, dear reader.
(b) The Unity movement is not a cultural or religious body, it's a political body whose aim is to fight against oppression based on colour. The writer cannot sanely deny the fact that if all the laws applied to Africans were applied to other non-Europeans unity would not only be practicable but inevitable, despite the historical, cultural, and religious differences.
(c) The writer here agrees with us that the only difficulty is presented by the inequality of oppression and the failure of some Indians and Coloureds to see through the covering.
(d) Who said Africans must leave their people and work for the liberation of Indians and Coloureds? I am afraid the writer shows an unhealthy ignorance of the working of the movement.
If the writer's argument that there are fundamental differences among these races which make unity impossible were carried to its logical conclusion, it would mean that even among Africans themselves there can be no unity because the tribes have different backgrounds, customs etc. So that even a national body like Congress is, in the writer's language (God, what language!) composed of 'a motley horde or a colourless amorphous conglomeration of Basutos, Xosas, Zulus etcs.'
32.A. M. LEMBEDE, "African Trade Unions," n.d., unpublished.”Š54
As things are today, Africans as employees in European Industrial areas have to fight for adequate wages improved conditions of employment and the right to do and be employed in any skilled jobs. The lack of these three elementary human rights is at the root of the alarming physical and moral deterioration of the African urban society. Unless the Africans desperate fight is crowned with success the above mentioned deterioration will certainly and rapidly culminate in a national disaster or calamity. Among Africans in urban areas death rate is alarmingly high especially child mortality. The moral tone of society is on the downward grade. The excessive use of alcohol and hooliganism are prevalent. All this is due to the economic exploitation of the African by white capitalists and oppression of Africans as a black race.
It becomes imperatively necessary therefore that African workers organise themselves and fight furiously and resolutely for an adequate wage which will enable them to live decently with their wives and children. Now an African family of say four (father mother and two kiddies) cannot in my opinion live decently on a wage of less than £9 a month. But today there are families of six or seven who are compelled to live on a wage of £2 or £4 a month or less. It is a shame!
It is thus crystal clear that the struggle of African Trade Unions is Indissolubly bound up with the African National Struggle for existence and survival in an industrial era. Strictly speaking it is the right to live in the land of their birth. Hence it is an illusion of demented political demagogues to imagine that African workers as such can achieve their emancipation and reach their goal of being recognised by the government on the same footing as Europeans Trade Unions while the rest of the African nation is still in chains and bondage of segregation oppression and colour discrimination.
It is appropriate here to dismiss a certain fallacious doctrine which is being propounded and disseminated by some trade unionists ”” especially some white men and other foreigners ”” under the influence of foreign ideologies and under the meaningless slogan or cry of "Workers of South Africa Unite" thereby urging all workers ”” African, Indian, coloured and European ”” to unite and overthrow the capitalist class.
The emptiness or bankruptcy of the above mentioned cry or slogan becomes self-evident when one observes that Africans are not primarily oppressed as workers but are oppressed on the ground of colour or race. The Union Colour Bar Act,'”Š55”‰the Industrial Conciliation Act,”Š56”‰the Urban Areas Act, the Masters and Servants Act”Š57etc are designed to "keep the Native in his place."
Moreover, the European coloured and Indian workers are so solicitous and anxious about safe guarding the precious rights they now enjoy of being employed as skilled workers and artisans that they are reluctant or strongly opposed to opening the door to competition with numerically stronger Africans. Generally speaking it is these non-African workers who determinedly stand in the way of success and recognition of African Trade Unions.
Supposing a labour government came into power today, would the African trade unions be recognised tomorrow? Not at all. Remember there is still something like "white supremacy" to be maintained at all cost in South Africa and about which all white people are agreed.
Again it is well known that Indians and Coloureds are regarded by the Europeans as superior to Africans and thus deserving certain privileges denied to Africans ”” thus rendering harmony very difficult if not impossible.
We should not forget also that even before the rise of capitalism in South Africa, that is during the days of the boer republics, it was constitutionally laid down that "Daar sal geen gelykstelling tussen blankes en kaffers wees nie, of in die kerk of in die Stadt." ["There shall be no equality between whites and blacks in church and state."]
To conclude my argument I may point out that there are some few wealthy Africans with bank balances running to five figures ”” capitalists in the usual sense of the word. But are these admitted into the ranks and society of white capitalists? May they attend same cinemas, concerts etc. together with their white prototypes? Why? Colour and race.
Today African trade unions present a monstrous pitiful bizarre spectacle; they have degenerated into a play ground or battlefield ”” I do not know which is which ”” for foreign ideologies of the so called "white Native leaders." African trade union leaders have become mere puppets in the hands of foreigners or foreign agents.
If therefore we are not to violate the canons of common sense we must unequivocally and emphatically state that African Trade Unions should be permeated and galvanised into a dynamic militant national trade union movement ”” an important wing of the Africanistic movement aiming at national liberation and racial survival. I am of the opinion that African farm workers on European farms should be organised into a powerful trade union. If we adopt this course the triumph, success and victory of the African Trade Unions may be a fait accompli within our lifetime or at least earlier than we can imagine.
Let us get rid of hallucinations; let us tackle the problem of African Trade Unions with grim realism and in the light of stern reality.
33.A. M. LEMBEDE, "The I.C.U. and the A.N.C.," Ilanga lase Natal, 26 October 1946.
Rumour is widespread that the I.C.U.”Š58”‰may stage a dramatic comeback. Such a move would be whole-heartedly welcomed by Africans who are hectically seeking for dynamic leadership; for inspite of its numerous faults, the I.C.U. had many exquisite virtues two of which are: its dynamic leadership and its purely Africanistic orientation. The I.C.U. was not a radio-controlled robot of some countries over the seas. It was an indigenous movement similar to the A.N.C.
A note of warning and caution must however be sounded. The I.C.U. leaders who may be labouring to revive the I.C.U. must keep in mind that times and circumstances have fundamentally changed. From 1926 to 1946 is a long way. History is moving forward inexorably by leaps and bounds. The I.C.U. cannot be revived in its old spirit. Oh no! but on a higher plane of clarity of vision and a saner sense of balance and responsibility.
When the I.C.U. was at the crest of its highest tide, the A.N.C. was at its lowest ebb. Between the two organisations there deplorably prevailed a spirit of mutual suspicion, unfriendliness and animosity. There was no rapprochement or co-operation. Both organisations failed to produce a leader that could transcend petty personal jealousies and hatreds and galvanize the two organisations into one or coordinate them on a higher rational basis. The result was that the I.C.U. totally eclipsed the A.N.C. and raged like wild veld fire through- out South Africa ”” which veld fire gradually consumed itself and fizzled out at the same period the A.N.C. became dormant and semi defunct.
The failure of co-operation and co-ordination between the I.C.U. and the A.N.C. was a tragedy of the grimmest character. The clock of our progress towards national emancipation was thereby put back indefinitely. Can we allow such a fatal error to be repeated today?
The African workers have to be organised into a single solid labour organisation which must be an essential wing of the national movement. It is a gross fallacy to imagine that the struggle of the African worker is separable or apart from the whole national struggle of the African people for liberation. To my mind it is the task of a movement like the I.C.U. to wage the economic and industrial warfare while the political aspect thereof is entrusted to the hands of the A.N.C. The struggle is one but only aspects differ. Thus the intrinsic nature of the struggle demands one national movement with the I.C.U. and A.N.C. aspects thereof. Both I.C.U. and A.N.C. should be complementary to each other. An A.N.C. without a workers organisation (like the I.C.U.) is a motionless cripple and the I.C.U. without the A.N.C. is a ghost-like skeleton.
Today the African Trade Unions are in a deplorable state, a sad plight. They are being torn and tossed about by foreigners and foreign ideologies. If African trade unions are not rescued as early as possible, Africans will be overcome by a sense of frustration and lose confidence in the Trade Union movement. What a calamity! With the poet we may thus say: "I.C.U. thou shouldst be living at this hour, Africa has need of thee."”Š59
The A.N.C. is faced with two inescapable alternatives ”” and it must adopt one or other if it is to survive ”” either to launch out its own militant workers' organisation or to assist with all its might, in the revival of the I.C.U. in the new spirit of Africanism ”” the out look of the African continent. The last alternative appears to me to be within the limits of immediate possibility and highly commendable.
Let us all (I.CU. & A.N.C.) outgrow our petty personal jealousies and the consuming lust for high positions; let us extricate ourselves from the shackles of narrow and parochial views of one another and of our momentous struggle; let us fix our gaze on the wider and ever receding horizons. Africa must be free; Africa must take her honourable and rightful place amongst the nations of the world.
34. T. NDLANGAMADLA, "A Challenge to Mr. A. M. Lembede,"I langa Lase Natal,23 November 1946
THE Ilanga of the 19/10/46 was worth reading with its columns full of interesting articles dealing with our national problems.
One of the notable articles was that drawn by the great African thinker and planner Mr. Lembede, a carefully considered article reviewing the past and never to return history of the A.N.C. as compared with that of the I.CU.
Perhaps we all know that the African National Congress is the national and foremost political organisation of the African peoples.
I need not comment on the I.C.U. and its followers; one remarkable factor of the I.CU. was its stupid unfounded belief in force instead of right.
Let us now consider Mr. Lembede's article in which he proposes:
(1) The revival of the I.C.U.
(1) Two African political armies (A.N.C. and I.CU.) to fight for African Liberation.
(3) Believes that an A.N.C. without or not backed by the LCU. is a skeleton organisation.
It is clear that Mr. Lembede before taking his pen, remembered the "Look before you leap" talk; although he succeeded to a considerable extent in convincing our well known "Yes Men" and also the ambitious former LCU. leaders, he failed out-right to convince the seasoned veterans of our politics.
These seasoned veterans of our advocated unity will even at "pistol point" oppose the Lembede idea. Does Mr. Lembede see any possibility of two bulls agreeing in one kraal?
Does he believe that the LCU. can work on good terms with the African National Congress?
Does he mean that he has no confidence in the A.N.C as an organisation capable of solving African affairs?
In my opinion the Lembede idea is not based on any fundamental facts or proofs; it only disqualifies the Lembedes.
It may be the aim of Mr. Lembede to witness a political war in the African Liberation movement.
35.A. M. LEMBEDE, "Mr. Msimang Answered," ilanga lase Natal, 19 July 1947.
IN YOUR ISSUE of a few weeks ago you published a letter [28 June 1947] by Mr. Selby Msimang,”Š60”‰Secretary A.N.C (Natal) in which, Mr. Msimang appealed to the African people in the Union not to reject in toto the recent General Smuts proposals but to consider them and accept what is good; and he further makes a lot of hullabaloo about the new powers of the N.R.C to govern and administer the Native Reserves especially if General Smuts would provide facilities for Africans to be trained as artisans, technicians and skilled labourers.
Now the argument that General Smuts' proposals be carefully considered and what is good in them be accepted is not new. The same argument was used "successfully" during the great historic 1936 sell out to the extreme delight and satisfaction of General Hertzog ”” but with disastrous results to the African people. There will be no more 1936!”Š61
In the Reserves the Government is growing unpopular, for, in stead of providing more land is calling upon Africans to limit their stock. This unpleasant task, it is now intended to delegate to Africans themselves. In other words the N.R.C. will be made a cat's paw. I also visualise a terrible friction between the N.R.C. and the African Chiefs in the Reserves whose power, influence and prestige will be seriously threatened by the N.R.C.'s administration of Reserves.
Mr. Msimang as a veteran and experienced politician should realise that the Government will never make the Reserves very attractive and comfortable to live in because that would stop influx of cheap African labourers into European urban areas. Where will the Chamber of Mines,”Š62”‰for instance, recruit its huge army of cheap African mine workers?
As to the training of skilled African workers, there can be no large scale training of Africans as technicians, engineers, magistrates, etc. until Colour Bar laws are scrapped from the statute book of the Union. Until and unless this is done, there will always be "white bosses" and "African boys" even in the Reserves, just as in African education you have white inspectors and African boys called supervisors.
No, Mr. Msimang, be clear-minded, we don't want a bone to chew. We want meat to eat. We are not dogs.