The Building of a Nation
Speech by O.R. Tambo - commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the ANC, on January 8th, 1972
After the festivities, activities and holidays marking the end of the year and the beginning of the next, the leaders of the African people converged on Bloemfontein on January 8, 1912, to found the African Nation, to become one people and to continue their centuries-old struggle against whites as one Black people that spoke and acted through the African National Congress which, established on that day, concretised the existence of this nation and gave it form and character.
On that day, having reviewed the past, the nation proceeded to work out the strategy of struggle for the future; and as they left Bloemfontein for their respective centres throughout the length and breadth of South Africa and the then Protectorates, a new era in the history of our people had been ushered in, the era of political struggle that was expected to rise through successive levels of conflict till freedom was won.
Because of its position in the year`s calendar and the vital issues discussed on that first January 8, this date represents for us the beginning of our political year and becomes the occasion for New Year messages to our people. It is for all these reasons that we meet, wherever we may be, to observe the occasion of January 8. Its historic significance has all too often been underplayed. In fact January 8th is the birthday not merely of the ANC, but of a nation -- the owners of the land, of the 46 country. This is an occasion of the greatest significance. But before we make any further reference to if let us pause to greet and salute our people, the militants and revolutionaries of our country, our supporters at home, our brothers in Africa, our close friends and comrades-in-arms - the Socialist countries, the revolutionary people and supporters of our cause in Asia, Western Europe, North and South America, in Canada and the West Indies. We salute the heroic people of Vietnam and the fighting militants of Palestine. New Year greetings to the Youth everywhere, especially our own Youth. We greet too the sister Parties and revolutionaries - ZAPU, MPLA, FRELIMO, SWAPO. PAIGC and others. We wish them all a great year of continuing unity among the masses of the fighting people, the armed forces and the revolutionary leadership.
We thank them all for the support and encouragement they have given us in the past year and we look forward to a year of increased mutual co-operation and assistance - a year of consolidation of unity among us all, and of decisive advances in our common struggle.
The year now ending has been marked by vital decisions taken by the National Executive Committee and the Revolutionary Council in pur-
suance of our 1969 Morogoro programme. It has been a year in which we made progress on a scale we have not know for some time, thanks to the devotion of the Comrades assigned various tasks in the Revolutionary Council programme.
The year has also been one of encouragement and inspiration from inside our country. It has further given proof of the indomitable spirit of our people and of their rejection of white rule and all the evil it embodies. Not for many years have we heard them speak out with such defiance of the acts of intimidation and victimisation to which the fascists resort whenever they hear a word of protest. There is no doubt that the propaganda of the ANC, the leaflets distributed by our underground, has given the people new courage and fresh confidence. They know it is leaflets today; but they know too it will be THE BARK OF OUR GUNS SOON!
This spirit is strengthened by the courage and inspiration of our leaders and colleagues in South Africa`s jails - on Robben Island and elsewhere; by revolutionaries of the calibre of James April, by the vast mass of silent, invisible supporters of the struggle who form part of the ANC underground all over South Africa; by~ the militant morale of activists and leaders released at the end of their long terms of imprisonment. Indeed no less a fiend than the notorious Swanepoel has let it be known that Vorster`s jails have become breeding nests for ANC revolutionaries. The Special Branch complains that our people look for the nearest ANC underground cell as soon as they are released from jail. Hence the bannings, house arrests and other restrictions imposed on people supposed to have been broken and politically destroyed by long terms of tortuous imprisonment. But we dare not understate the magnitude of our problems.
Sixty years is a very long time for fruitless struggle for freedom in an era in which government of the people by the people for the people is an accepted definition of democracy; an era rocked by two world wars of unprecedented magnitude; an era that embraces the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; an era during which man recalling the unspeakable horrors of Nazism, has called on the South African racists to abandon racism and apartheid. Within this 60 years and before our very eyes, the Great October Socialist Revolution broke out to change the course of human history for all time.
Within our lifetime, man has gone to walk on the moon, he has placed vehicles on it and driven them across its surface by remote control -miracles indeed in our lifetime! To the East and to the West of the Continent of Africa, nations and peoples, once the defenceless prey of colonialist plunder, have risen on the ruins of demolished colonial empires. When the ANC first sang the great song of Africa our National Anthem - Nkosi Sikelel` iAfrika, Morena Boloka Sechaba Sa Heso - Africa was still called the "Dark Continent", her light having been extinguished by the thieves who came from Europe to loot her wealth and her manpower. But today the bright light of political freedom and independence the light of a great future, burns and shines over most of Africa. Beyond its reach in the rest of Africa lies dark dungeons of colonial and racist white minority rule, and the darkest of them all is 48 Fascist South Africa.
Let us today put to ourselves the question that must be in the minds of our people whenever they ponder their history: what accounts for the fact that we, the first to rise as a national liberation movement in Africa, are now, 60 years later, counted among the very last few whose colonial status has still not altered in centuries? Why have we so far, and after so long, failed to wipe out and liquidate the source of our daily misery, persecution and humiliation, and replace it with our own power and our own sense of human justice? Why have we become the most pitied, often the most despised, the most led, the most helped, and not infrequently the most harassed? Why has our status increasingly become that of foreigners, as generation followed generation, in our country, and ultimately foreigners everywhere else? Why have we become more homeless the louder the enemy has mouthed the word "homeland"? What explains the fact that we, who resisted Africa`s White invader with arms in countless battles for over 100 years, have now become the motionless background against which the activities of others stand out in bold relief - why are we the still platform on which they dine, feast and dance and who call us "Bantus"? Why are we the football that they kick from pillar to post, who want to exercise their strength in our country and even outside its borders?
Why are we where we are - violently oppressed, brutally exploited and racially persecuted and insulted - which is worse than where we were this day 60 years ago? This is surely one of the rarest questions that a people could put to itself at the end of sixty years of continuous and courageous struggle and sacrifice.
The answer cannot be quick or easy. But it must be found - and found. not in words but in deeds, in action in struggle.
We must find it here, outside South Africa, we must find it in our country as individuals, as organised units and collectives, and even as fighting people, a fighting force nearly eighteen million strong. Let us go forth and find it before the next anniversary of, Lekgotla la Sechaba, even before the Spear of the Nation turns eleven. And as we assemble on each of these anniversaries, let us bring with us solid evidence of the emerging answer, vividly written in the record of our work and achievements between now and then.
Thus our underground workers, our planning teams, our men, women and youth everywhere - our entire oppressed people and anti-fascist democrats - all have a historic year on their hands: the year to find a historic answer. It will surely be part of the great answer for the Black man in our country to begin, this year, to recognise himself for the giant among giants that he is - a giant at least in his own Africa, on his own soil, if nowhere else. We must assert his imposing stature, White people should stop making laws for us or talking about us in their white Parliament. We must reject the role of slave who is told whom to work for and what meagre wages to accept. We must be workers by will not convicts sentenced to hard labour by whites for the offence of being what they derogatorily call "Bantu". We must take renewed pride in our Black skin and defend it against insults and indignities.
In thus asserting our stature and our dignity as men in the land of our forefathers and ancestors, in our country and our home, we must not hesitate to return blow for a blow; for many a blow will be rained on us the moment we stand up and declare ourselves full human beings. Neither the political oppressor, the economic exploiter, nor the racial bigot should be allowed to get away with it any longer. SIXTY YEARS of peace in slavery is for us sixty years too many. Let every act of white violence in any form breed Black violence in any form. This surely is the lesson of the past 60 cruel and tortuous years, to say nothing of the blood-thirsty plunder and pillage that preceded this period .
And this year, the lesson will be driven home with military parades, gleeful gloating and boastful outbursts when, on May 31, Racism celebrates 11 years of Republican terrorism in our country. We shall be reminded, with a display of white guns, ill-gotten wealth and the pomp of Fascist power, of that week in May 1961, when the then Union Defence Force left its barracks in full strength and proceeded to violently suppress a non-violent national strike, led by Nelson Mandela and supported by the oppressed millions and by all the progressive and right-thinking people of South Africa - a strike, incidentally, which was called precisely to challenge the creation of an exclusively white man`s republic on African soil, without even the courtesy of a consultation with the African and other oppressed and peace loving South Africans, who constitute the majority that should determine the sociopolitical structure of a proper South African state.
It was the armed repression of the peaceful protest to the creation of this white, racist and fascist Republic which marked the end of nonviolence as a strategic phase and introduced the historical necessity for armed struggle.
For this reason alone, 1972, is a standing challenge to every oppressed, exploited, and humiliated man of our country - every Black and every revolutionary, to let no day go by without his or her delivering a blow at the racist Republic regime and its backers. We should strike at this regime each day of this year, in one way or another - as an act of mourning for those the regime has killed; as an act of condolence for the bereaved widows, husbands, and parents, for the orphaned children and for the families it has destroyed as an act of solidarity with and active support for those it has tortured, jailed and imprisoned; and finally, as an act directly aimed at the forcible and immediate destruction of the white regime.
The preparations of the ANC for its 60th anniversary must commence today and should find expression in the challenge by our people of every manifestation of white dominance, in a determined assertion of their human dignity and their rights to every square inch of land in South Africa, and in an intensified struggle against exploitation.
We must call attention to the specific and concrete form which racism assumes in South Africa, and renders it necessary that in its South African version this racism should be defined and identified in simple, tangible and realistic terms. The African - the Black man - the Indian and Coloured - all these people, these human beings, live and suffer misery, humiliation, discrimination, exploitation and political oppression at the hands of other people, other human beings. Their enemy as a people is a people. The inhumanity they suffer as man is the inhumanity of man. In South Africa, therefore, the enemy of the Black man is the White man. The struggle against racism, exploitation and oppression in South Africa is, whatever its many class ramifications, a straight confrontation between the Whites who have seized and hold all power, and the Blacks who have been robbed of everything and are the daily victims of brutal policies conceived, enforced and maintained by the white man. It is therefore in the sphere of race that the struggle for power, against racism, colonialism and imperialism begins. For the oppressed in South Africa there is no other realistic form in which to combat racism, for there is no clearer form in which racism in that country has expressed itself.
If on occasion the Black man`s struggle for freedom should appear to the onlooker to be racialistic in its form, that will only be because the white man has deliberately, over many decades, closed every alternative course for the Black man. It will only mean that white racialism in South Africa, which will be 320 years old on April 6 this year, has been breeding counter-racialism despite our determined efforts, over many decades, to resist this process.
We shall need to pay a great deal more attention to, and be more deeply involved in guiding and providing necessary information for the offensive against the South African racists and their Portuguese and Rhodesian cohorts. Already we have much cause for worry. A few examples will suffice; the seizure of Malawi, now the scene of busy comings-in and goings-out by top ranking officials, Cabinet Ministers and military personnel from the conquering fascists of the South; the claim by the same Fascists that Malagasy has become another Malawi; the Racists` concentration of attention on the Ivory Coast and some of the other members of OCAM, coupled with France`s campaign to prepare certain English-speaking States in Africa to surrender to the South African regime - a campaign designed to provide France with added protection for her murderous arms deals with that kill-kill regime; the question of a dialogue with South Africa - a disturbing measure of Vorster`s success in his campaign to subdue and re colonise some African Independent States, thereby dealing a dangerous blow at African unity as expressed through the striking power of the O.A.U.; the invasion of Guinea which heralds a new and armed offensive against independent Africa in preparation for which Vorster is arming to the teeth and buying up arms from the enemies of Africa and the defenders of white minority rule and colonialism.
But if the blood suckers of our country appear to be winning one or two new Black co-suckers, the titanic struggle which the militant leaders of Africa are waging against colonialism and racialism in Africa, supported by all the anti-imperialist forces of the world, is gaining momentum from year to year.
To ensure that we give full time and attention to the cause and to our tasks for 1972, we shall need to tackle our work unpestered by enemy and similar distractions and provocations, be consolidated and ready to fight everything and everyone our enemies may choose to place in the way with the object of obstructing the progress of our people`s struggle.
Let everyone of us work harder this year than ever before. Time is against us if from every sphere of our activities we are to reap a rich harvest of achievements and victories with which to greet and salute the 60th year of our National Organisation, our Nation
On this historic occasion let us resolve to put the enemy to flight at every encounter, to frustrate his agents and expose them to the wrath of the masses, to consolidate the unity of all revolutionary forces in our movement, tighten the bonds of alliance across Africa and beyond her shores, raise still higher the level of the struggle in our country and move with cautious but revolutionary speed towards the seizure of power and the conquest of freedom, towards the liquidation of white rule and the construction by the masses as a whole of a South Africa of all races, colours and creeds, living together, under a Black majority as fellow-countrymen of equal worth.
Towards the attainment of this historic objective, January 8, 1972, is a significant milestone. It should, as it did 60 years ago, re-vitalise us, and accelerate the spread of revolutionary action to every part of the racist regime and to wherever an oppressed and exploited man is to be found. It would be appropriate, on this occasion, to meet in a great get together of a united people of South Africa in twos and threes, in scores and hundreds - meet and then move forward to the attack, and to victory.
Likewise, the preparations for observance of Mkhonto Day, December 16, our Heroes` Day, should begin now and express themselves in fresh enrolment for hard and bitter service for our people, in dedication and discipline, in activities characterised by enduring dynamism, in building up a solid and hard-hitting force of cadres in and outside South Africa, and in ensuring a discharge of leadership responsibilities with a degree of efficiency and devotion worthy of the great names in Umkhonto We Sizwe who have fallen in struggle or have been captured by the enemy: Mokgomane, Castro, Ndaba, Saloojee, Linda, Benson, Paul Petersen, Sparks Pooe, Mercy Shabalala, Setlhogo, KenKen, Watson, Goldberg, Ratas and many others. Towards the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Army under whose young banners they served, let us play our individual and collective part this year, and for their sake let us come together in unity, and fight together to victory.