This day, the opening of the National Consultative Conference of the ANC, is a great and moving moment in the history of our struggle for national liberation. The days we will spend here will live forever in the records of that struggle as marking a turning point in the history of all the people of South Africa. Our Conference itself will be remembered by our people as a council-of-war that planned the seizure of power by these masses, the penultimate convention that gave the order for us to take our country through the terrible but cleansing fires of revolutionary war to a condition of peace, democracy and the fulfilment of our people who have already suffered far too much and far too long.
History has therefore placed on the shoulders of the delegates here, both singly and collectively, a responsibility and a challenge which we must all discharge with all due seriousness. We greet and welcome you all and look forward to your constructive contributions in charting our way forward to people`s power.
The eyes of our people and the rest of the world, both friend and foe, are focussed on this Conference. That is so because the crime of apartheid has persisted for too long. Almost everywhere, at home and abroad, the peoples are saying that the beginning of the end of the apartheid system has commenced. And everywhere there is an open recognition of the fact that this pioneer of the African revolutionary movement, the ANC, is and will be at the centre and the head of the process which will result in the overthrow of the white minority regime and the suppression of the crime of apartheid.
Aware of the historic importance of this Conference, I would like to express the profound appreciation of the National Executive Committee to the National Preparatory Committee, the Regional Preparatory Committees, the branches, camps, units and individual comrades who took up the work of preparing for Conference with so much enthusiasm and seriousness. That preparatory work has laid the basis for the success that this Conference must be.
Global Offensive of Imperialism
The apartheid regime has survived for 37 years now. Born three years after the destruction of its fascist and Nazi progenitor, this regime was a historical anachronism from the very first day of its existence, a remnant of an epoch that was passing away. That it continues to exist to this day is a measure of the tenacity of the forces of imperialism and reaction which, in the last four decades, have sought to reverse the results of the Second World War and to stop the process of the democratic transformation of our planet to which the defeat of Nazism gave a new and added impetus.
It was because of this global offensive of imperialism that as we met in Morogoro in 1969, a war of liberation was raging in Vietnam and the rest of Indo-China. The Arab peoples were rebuilding their forces in preparation of a renewed offensive to annul the gains that Zionist Israel had made during the six-day war of 1967. At the same time, we were still experiencing the influx into our country of a new wave of European immigrants. These were the so-called freedom fighters from Czechoslovakia who fled to apartheid South Africa, there to be received by the Pretoria fascist regime with what it considered well-deserved accolades.
Portugal and Spain still suffered under the yoke of fascist dictatorships. For two years, the Greek people had been living under the tyranny of a military junta that had been sponsored by United States imperialism. At the same time, the United States was engaged in feverish efforts to stop Salvador Allende`s election as President of Chile the following year, a campaign that led to his assassination in 1973 and the victory of the counter-revolution.
As we met in Morogoro to confer about our own struggle, the peoples of Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe, as well as those in East Timor, still suffered under the yoke of Portuguese colonial domination. Zimbabwe was ruled by the white minority Smith regime whose illegal unilateral declaration of independence was a scant four years old.
Indeed, so confident was the counter-revolution of its strength in southern Africa that the United States Government of the day could accept, in 1969, the so-called National Security Study memorandum 39. Among other things, this official document said:
"For the foreseeable future South Africa will be able to maintain internal stability and effectively counter insurgent activity." This infamous document went on:
"The whites are here to stay and the only way that constructive change can come about is through them. There is no hope for the Blacks to gain the political rights they seek through violence, which will only lead to chaos and increased opportunities for the communists... We can, through selective relaxation of our stance towards the white regimes, encourage some modifications of their current racial and colonial policies... At the same time, we would take diplomatic steps to convince the black States of the area that their current liberation and majority rule aspirations in the south are not attainable by violence and that their only hope for a peaceful and prosperous future lies in closer relations with the white-dominated States." The memorandum dismissed the liberation movements of southern Africa as ineffectual and not "realistic or supportable" alternatives to continued colonial rule. It ruled out any possibility of victory by these movements and questioned "the depth and permanence of black resolve".
Period of Extreme Reaction
Within our country, the Vorster regime was at the pinnacle of its power. It felt that the period of extreme reaction which the racists had unleashed when it banned the ANC, with Vorster as the general officer commanding the campaign of repression, had succeeded to smash the revolutionary movement. The Pretoria regime also thought that it had further secured itself by helping to suppress the armed liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, in which units and cadres of the Luthuli Detachment of Umkhonto we Sizwe had participated with outstanding heroism and skill. Despite the fact that the United Nations General Assembly had terminated South Africa`s mandate over Namibia - a decision which Vorster dismissed as "ridiculous and impracticable" - the apartheid regime felt that it could continue its domination of Namibia for as long as it wished.
In opinion polls, white South Africa hailed Vorster as an "excellent" Prime Minister and helped him in 1970 to defeat the Herstigte Nasionale Party in the white general elections held that year.
1969 Morogoro Consultative Conference
It was in this situation that the Morogoro Consultative Conference was convened in 1969. Yet when it met it was not in a mood of pessimism. Rather, it was characterised by high revolutionary enthusiasm to confront our problems frankly and squarely and find solutions so that we could further intensify the struggle and, in practice, demolish the misguided confidence that the apartheid regime and its allies shared.
Many who participated to ensure that the Morogoro Conference was the success that it was are no longer with us. I refer to such outstanding leaders, stalwarts and activists of our movement as Moses Malume Kotane, Uncle J. B. Marks, Yusuf Mota Dadoo, Mick Harmel, Duma Nokwe, Robbie Resha, Kate Molale, Flag Mokgomane Boshielo, M. P. Naicker, Ngcapepe Ntunja and others. They left us a heritage of unwavering commitment to the people`s cause, a spirit of self-sacrifice for the victory of our struggle and a revolutionary morality and practice which did not allow for personal ambition, factional conspiracies or cowardice and timidity in the face of an enemy counteroffensive. As we observe a minute`s silence in their honour, let them serve as our example of the kind of cadre we must produce to carry their work forward to its successful conclusion.
Out of Morogoro came significant results, the most important being the reorientation of our movement towards the prosecution and intensification of our struggle inside South Africa, the restoration and reinforcement of unity within our own ranks and the integration of all revolutionaries within the ranks of the external mission of the ANC.
It is important to observe that, at Morogoro, our movement did not seek to underestimate the importance of or downgrade our international work. Indeed it could not, as the work that our movement had done, up to that point in our history, provided exactly the rear base from which we would carry out our internal work. The Morogoro Conference sought to ensure that we achieved the proper balance between our internal and our international struggle, with the internal being primary.
Once more, this Conference will have to address itself to this question, taking into account the altered circumstances of our struggle, the changed balance of forces at home and abroad and our immediate tactical, operational and strategic tasks. We shall come back to this issue later.
With regard to the issue of unity within our own ranks, the Morogoro Conference drew attention among other things to the importance of strengthening the links between the leadership and the membership, the necessity for the leadership to be accountable to the movement as a whole and the need to have clear strategic and tactical perspectives and a programme of work around which the membership would unite in pursuit of common objectives.
Need for Maximum Unity
These questions remain important still. Conference will therefore need to make the necessary assessment to ensure that we have an organised and systematic way to ensure that, at all times, we enjoy maximum political and organisational unity within our own ranks and that all members are actually involved in activity which contributes to the advance of our struggle.
The question of open membership, as it has come to be called, is also on our agenda. In the period since the Morogoro Conference dealt with this issue, the National Executive Committee has raised it with the membership, at home and abroad, with a view to determine whether as a movement we still felt it was justified to keep the restrictions that were decided upon at Morogoro. There has been extensive discussion of this question. It should not be difficult for us to reach agreement and, building on what was decided at Morogoro, to take decisions that will take our movement and struggle further forward.
The Struggle Mounts
The decision of the Morogoro Conference helped us to overcome many shortcomings and to gear our organisation to make a more effective contribution to the mounting struggle inside our country and the anti-imperialist offensive of the peoples internationally. For, indeed, as the world forces of reaction basked in a passing glow of superior strength in 1969, the revolutionary and democratic movement was engaged in ever-mounting struggles to wrest victory from the oppressors and the exploiters. Five years after our Conference, the situation in our country, in our region and in other parts of the world was very different.
Already by 1969 the masses of our people had begun to stir, in the process of overcoming the reverses and relative lull imposed on us by the brutal counteroffensive that the enemy had unleashed and which had resulted not only in the banning of the ANC, but also in the Rivonia and others arrests, the assassination and execution of patriots and the systematic use of torture as an instrument of State power.
In particular, the youth and the workers were once more taking up the cudgels, engaging in boycott and strike actions during 1972 and 1973. Student organisations and trade unions were formed which served as the means to arouse the people and mobilise them to attain the level of mass activity which we had last seen with the general strike of 1961 organised to oppose the establishment of a racist republic and to demand one that was representative of all the people of our country. Black consciousness became a fact of our political life during this period.
In part, the resumed mass activity in our country was inspired by the stirring battles that our combatants had fought in Zimbabwe. Our successes in sending cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe into the country through the machineries of the Revolutionary Council which had been established at the Morogoro Conference, raised the confidence of the masses of our people in their own ability to confront the apartheid regime successfully.
At the same time, our organised contact with the people had improved. The voice of our movement was also reaching our people through increased propaganda, both written and through radio. In short, both politically and militarily, our people were once more beginning to feel the organised presence of our movement among them and drew courage from this, to break out of the state of dormancy that the enemy had sought to impose on us through a policy of terror.
Outside our country, on the eve of our conference at Morogoro, the international democratic struggle had erupted with particular intensity, especially in Western Europe and North America. In 1968, millions of people in these regions joined in mass struggles for the democratisation of their societies and in favour of a just world order.
But as we have said, the counter-revolution succeeded in Chile in 1973. Salvador Allende was murdered, with hundreds of others. Thousands of others were imprisoned, tortured and driven into exile. With the coming to power of the Pinochet junta, the Vorster regime found an ally in South America. However, these events did not and could not change the fact that the progressive forces were advancing. In 1972, the Soviet Union and the United States had concluded a treaty limiting strategic nuclear weapons. This was an important victory of the world peace forces which had been engaged in struggle for decades to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust.
In 1973, the Arab armies succeeded to inflict a major defeat on Zionist Israel for the first time in a quarter of a century, forcing United States imperialism to seek new measures to protect its client State in the Middle East. At the same time, the prestige of the African liberation movements had grown to such an extent that for the first time, in 1973, the OAU Summit voted to sit the liberation movements at all OAU meetings as observers.
That advance within the OAU was also accompanied by the further improvement of our relations with the independent States of our region. In the years 1973-74, the ANC normalised its relations with the Governments of Botswana and Lesotho. This underlined the importance of the countries of our region in terms of their support for the cause of the liberation of our country.
Tribute to Independent States
In this respect, we should note and pay tribute to the sterling role that the independent States of our region have played in the furtherance of our struggle. Today, we meet in one of these, among people who assisted us even before their independence and who are today hosting this important gathering. All of these countries have, each according to its ability, including the latest among them to achieve independence, made it possible for us to survive outside the borders of our country and to advance our cause at home and abroad. We have to ensure that, at all times, we guard the fraternal relations that exist between them and ourselves, whatever strains these relations may come under now and again.
Other countries in our continent and Africa as a whole have also played an important role in the struggle against the apartheid regime, confirming the primary importance of our continent as our first rear base.
During 1973, in an outstanding victory for the world forces of progress, United States imperialism was compelled to enter into agreements with the genuine representatives of the people of Vietnam, as a result of which United States forces withdrew from Vietnam. The puppet regimes of Thieu and Lon Nol were left to fend for themselves.
This victory, in particular, symbolised the end of a chapter in world history which had been characterised by a determined drive by world imperialism, led by the USA, to impose its will on the peoples of the world. The collapse of this policy in the battle fields of Indo-China and in the streets of the United States itself, created increased possibilities for an accelerated progressive transformation of the world, including our region of southern Africa.
Shift in the Balance of Forces
It was in this situation that Portuguese fascism collapsed, thanks to the heroic struggles waged by the peoples in the African Portuguese colonies and the democratic forces in Portugal itself. That was in 1974, five years after the Morogoro Conference and five years after the United States Government had reached its conclusion that "the white (regimes) are here to stay."
It was also during the same year that the leaders of the Zimbabwe liberation movement were released from Smith`s dungeons in preparation for a negotiated settlement of the Zimbabwe question. Some of them had spent more than a decade in detention. Further afield, in Europe, again in 1974, the fascist military junta in Greece was defeated and democracy restored to that country.
Thus we can say that in the five-year period after the Morogoro Conference, the balance of forces had shifted radically in our favour, both regionally and globally. If in 1969 the apartheid leaders were revelling in the permanence and invulnerability of their power, by 1974 they had to sing a different tune.
In that year, Pik Botha made the hollow promise that "we shall do everything in our power to move away from discrimination based on race or colour..." Vorster followed him a few days later pleading: "Give South Africa a six month`s chance by not making our road harder than it is already..."
But, of course, the apartheid regime had no intention of addressing itself to the fundamental question of majority rule in South Africa. Rather, it was involved in a determined effort during 1974 to break out of its international isolation and to legitimise itself, particularly in Africa. Through this offensive, originally carried out in secret, which it described as detente, the racist regime sought to isolate the ANC from independent Africa, to defeat the strategy of armed struggle for the liberation of South Africa and drag Africa into a dialogue that would help to perpetuate the apartheid system.
In this offensive, the apartheid regime and its allies sought, among other things, to utilise a faction which had emerged within our ranks and which posed as the true defender of the policy of our movement. This is the group which ultimately emerged in public under the name "ANC (African Nationalist)".
This faction resorted to the well-tried counter-revolutionary positions of anti-communism and racist chauvinism, in an effort to change the strategic orientation of our movement, undermine the unity of the democratic forces of our country and win recognition for itself by the most backward forces in world politics. By a policy of vilification and outright lies, it tried to discredit the leadership of our movement and to foment a rebellion from within the ANC in the hope that it would regain the positions it had lost at the Morogoro Conference. For its activities this faction won the public recognition of the Pretoria regime which showered praises on it as the genuine leadership of the ANC and of our people.
True to the traditions of the ANC and in the interest of the maximum unity of our movement and people, our leadership worked hard to show these people the error of their ways and to reintegrate them within the structures of our movement. Many of them had made important contributions to the advance of our struggle and were leading cadres of our organisation.
As part of this process, we held a Conference of the ANC in 1971 where the differences that had emerged within the ANC were discussed. That Conference reaffirmed the decisions taken by the Morogoro Conference as well as the general strategy and tactics of our movement. It was also agreed that members of this faction should still be given specific tasks within the movement, taking into account their seniority. In the end, our efforts came to nothing as this group continued its factional activities.
Nevertheless, such was the level of consciousness and the commitment of the membership to the basic positions of the ANC, that this faction could not and did not succeed in its purposes. This important victory had important implications in the decisive struggle for the unity of our people and the broad movement for national liberation.
Black Consciousness Movement
As we have said, it was during this period that the Black Consciousness Movement emerged as a distinct political and organisational force within our country. Naturally, the ANC had to define its attitude towards this force. In statement issued after its second session in 1973, the NEC said: "In the last few years... there has come into being a number of black organisations whose programmes, by espousing the democratic, anti-racist positions that the ANC fights for identify them as part of the genuine forces of the revolution." The NEC went on to elaborate the following important positions: "The assertion of the national identity of the oppressed black peoples is... not an end in itself. It can be a vital force of the revolutionary action involving the masses of the people. For, it is in struggle, in the actual physical confrontation with the enemy, that the people gain a lasting confidence in their own strength and in the inevitability of final victory - it is through action that the people acquire true psychological emancipation." Proceeding from these positions, the ANC sought to establish relations with the forces represented in the BCM and to impart to them the collective revolutionary experience of our people contained in and carried forward by our organisation. Our aim was to establish close fraternal relations with this movement and encourage it to grow, but as an instrument for the mass mobilisation of our people into struggle.
The process I am describing was by no means easy and straightforward. Already, the idea was beginning to emerge among some circles, particularly outside our country, that the BCM could consolidate itself as, at worst, a political formation to replace the ANC and, at least, a parallel movement enjoying the same legitimacy as the ANC.
It was of primary importance that we should deny our opponents any and both of these possibilities. Despite the severe setbacks we had suffered during the sixties, the enemy had failed to remove the idea and prestige of the ANC from among our people. This, together with the activities that we undertook within the country, meant that the youth whom the BCM was organising were at least conscious of the ANC, despite the fact that many had grown up without any direct contact with us. This served as a basis for us to score significant achievements in terms of building our relations with activists of the BCM and frustrating the scheme to build up a so-called Third Force.
It is also important at this stage to recall that during this period, our movement was confronted with strong pressure from within the OAU to unite with the PAC. The leadership and the membership jointly resisted this pressure because we were convinced that such unity must grow in struggle among forces that are actually confronting the enemy. We were, further, not prepared to lend credibility to a group which, even then, had discredited itself as a divisive factor within our broad movement, whose complete collapse would help to limit the possibilities of the counter-revolution to plant its agents among the masses of our people.
In our discussions, we should take all these historical experiences into account because, as we shall show later, the idea of a Third Force did not disappear and is still with us today. Its creation will remain a strategic objective of the forces of counter-revolution.
In this regard, it is important to confront the matter objectively that within it, our broad movement for national liberation contains both a nationalist and a socialist tendency. Our national democratic revolution has both class and national tasks which influence one another. This is natural given the nature of our society and oppression and our historical experience. One of the outstanding features of the ANC is that it has been able to encompass both these tendencies within its ranks, on the basis of the common acceptance of the Freedom Charter as a programme that encapsulates the aspirations of our people, however varied their ideological positions might otherwise be. The forces of counter-revolution continuously seek to separate these tendencies ("nationalist" and "socialist" tendencies within the ANC) both politically and organisationally, set them at loggerheads and thus divide the national liberation movement. That is why the enemy always speculates about divisions between "Marxists" and "nationalists" within our ranks. It is on this basis that the PAC was formed, as well as the group we have spoken of which called itself ANC (African Nationalist). Our enemies had entertained hopes that the BCM would emerge, survive and grow as the organised representative of the "nationalist tendency" within the national democratic revolution, independent of the ANC.
These issues are of relevance to this day particularly because certain elements within the country, which describe themselves as belonging to the black consciousness movement, have set themselves against the democratic movement. At the same time, significant numbers of democratic activists, particularly from among the youth, see the ANC as a socialist party and project is as such. Though it came into being later than the period up to 1974 that we have been talking about, it might be appropriate at this stage to refer also to the formation within the ANC of a "left" faction which dubbed itself the "Marxist Tendency" within the ANC. This faction came out in opposition to our ally, the South African Communist Party, and sought to shift both SACTU and the ANC in a so-called left direction. Members of this group are no longer within our ranks. It is, however, true that some of their ideas have penetrated sections of the democratic movement inside our country. These need to be combated, once more, to ensure that this movement does not splinter into a left and right factions.
We cannot over-emphasise the strategic importance of ensuring the unity of the ANC, the broad democratic movement and the masses of our struggling people on the basis of our programme, our strategy and tactics. In the five-year period immediately following the Morogoro Conference, we can report that our movement achieved these objectives in the face of actual attempts to divide us.
We have already referred to the contribution that the BCM made to the activisation of our people into struggle. This is a positive contribution that we must recognise and to which we must pay tribute. We should also recognise the significant input that the BCM made towards further uniting the black oppressed masses of our country, by emphasising the commonness of their oppression and their shared destiny. These views were built on political positions that our movement had long canvassed and fought for. Nevertheless, we must still express our appreciation of the contribution that the BCM made in this regard while recognising the limitations of this movement which saw our struggle as racial, describing the entire white population of our country as "part of the problem."
Unity of Forces
Taking into account the collective experience of our people, our principled positions and the tasks of our revolutionary movement, our Conference will also have to address itself to the question of the unity of the motive forces of our revolution and the need, at all times, to take correct positions on the national question.
We should also draw attention to the fact, whose organisational and operational implications will be spelt out in the NEC report as presented by the Secretary General, that the Morogoro Conference viewed our struggle as politico-military. The Revolutionary Council was mandated to conduct such a struggle. The document on strategy and tactics adopted at the Morogoro Conference discussed at length the issue of the relationship between the political and military struggles, emphasising the primacy of the former. In the actual conduct of our struggle in the period up to 1974, we concentrated on political work, especially on the task of establishing contact with our people at home and rebuilding our organised presence inside the country. On the military side, we also emphasised organisational work, namely, the building up of Umkhonto we Sizwe inside the country in terms of both men and materials.
We raise this question because we shall have to discuss it once again, but in the light of our experience, the current situation and our perspectives. This issue bears not only on the conduct of our struggle inside the country, but also on such questions as our structure, the training and deployment of cadres and the exercise of the function of leadership. Thus we need maximum clarity on this issue so that we can proceed towards the seizure of power in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
When we entered the second five-year period after the Morogoro Conference, we were better prepared to face the challenges that this period posed. With the benefit of hindsight, we could possibly describe the years 1969-74 as, for us, the Period of Regrouping and Recovery.
Reversal and Reconstruction
It was during this period that we fully took into account the fact that our reverses at home, particularly during the years 1963-1965, compounded by the death of our late President, Chief A. J. Luthuli in 1967, had imposed on our External Mission the task of representing and leading our movement as a whole, including its internal units. We had to carry out the process of reconstruction from outside. There were no structures inside the country to receive the units of the Luthuli Detachment that had trained outside. It was the response to this reality, the fact that this External Mission took on those internal tasks in a serious and determined manner that gave the period 1969-74 its distinctive character and enabled us to recover the possibility to move further forward, confidently, to exploit the greater possibilities that emerged in the next five-year period.
We could perhaps characterise this latter phase as a Period of Consolidation and Further Advance. It was a period during which our movement worked to defend the gains we had made and to use those gains further to step up the struggle, finally to liquidate the achievements that the enemy had scored when it launched its campaign of extreme reaction in the early Sixties.
When the NEC considered the implications of the accessions to power of FRELIMO and the MPLA in their respective countries, it concluded that there has emerged in southern Africa a new kind of State power. Fundamentally new types of property were being established and consequently new social relation were emerging. For the peoples of southern Africa, Mozambique and Angola were the latest examples demonstrating that exploitative relations are a transitional phase in the development of human society.
We were convinced that the option made by Angola and Mozambique for socialist orientation of development was viewed by the imperialists as a declaration of war on their economic and ideological positions in a region that has traditionally been one of their preserves on the continent. Imperialism was therefore bound to use all means and methods at its disposal to seek to destroy the popular power that had come into being in our subcontinent.
We also concluded that the white minority regimes of Salisbury and Pretoria, together with their imperialist allies, saw in SWAPO, the Patriotic Front and the ANC, liberation movements that were determined to dismantle the colonial economic structures and install a new socio-economic order in the region. We were certain that the imperialists knew that such a victory would put an end to the continued plunder of our region by international capital and reinforce the advances made in Angola and Mozambique towards complete national and social emancipation.
Counter-Revolution in the Frontline States
As Conference will recall, Mozambique attained its independence on June 25, 1975. In this regard, we might consider sending a message from this Conference to the people of Mozambique on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of their independence. Angola became independent on November 11th of the same year.
Between these dates and the time of the revolution in Portugal, a complicated situation obtained both in Mozambique and in Angola, with the forces of counter-revolution involved in a series of desperate assaults aimed at destroying FRELIMO and the MPLA and preserving Mozambique and Angola as objects of imperialist plunder. The most determined counter-revolutionary offensive took place in Angola, spearheaded by an open invasion of that country by the racist army of the Pretoria regime and supported by United States imperialism and puppet forces within Angola. At the same time, the progressive forces in Africa and the world were forced to wage an intense struggle for the recognition of the People`s Republic of Angola.
The Heroism of Angola
Our National Executive Committee kept this situation under review continuously. We took the positions that we must defend the MPLA as the proven representative of the people of Angola, assert the legitimacy of the People`s Republic of Angola, as well as support the right of the people of this country to determine their own path of development and to establish their own system of international relations.
In this way, supporting the positions of the MPLA, we came out against the notion of a government of national unity that would have legitimised the puppet UNITA and FNLA. We stood for the immediate expulsion of the Pretoria invasion force from Angola, and fought against all imperialist intervention.
The Struggle for Our Continent
We were convinced that the counter-revolution had to be defeated. Failure to achieve this victory would have constituted a severe setback not only for the people of Angola, but also for the liberation struggle in our region and the process of the progressive renewal of our continent. Accordingly, we battled within the OAU in particular for acceptance of our positions, which coincided with those of many countries on our continent. The heroism of the people of Angola, the firm and timely support rendered to them by the socialist community of nations and the world anti-imperialist movement, coupled with the relative weakness of the forces of reaction, succeeded to save the People`s Republic and thus further to shift the international balance of forces in our favour.
We should bear in mind that these events were taking place at a time when the Pretoria regime was engaged in its "detente" offensive, using the Zimbabwe question in particular as a vehicle to gain acceptance for itself on the African continent. We opposed this manoeuvre, determined to ensure that, in the interests of our own struggle, the counter-revolution must not succeed.
We confronted the enemy offensive as a united movement, backed by our people inside the country, who had demonstrated their understanding, acceptance and support for the revolutionary perspective posed by FRELIMO and the MPLA, by organising the "FRELIMO rallies" for which some leaders and activists of the Black Consciousness Movement had been arrested, sentenced and jailed.
Up to that time, these events represented the sharpest confrontation we had with the apartheid regime in the struggle for the support of our region and of Africa as a whole. In a thousand battles and skirmishes, the question was being answered - would our continent march on from the victories in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique to new success or would we fall back in the face of the enemy counteroffensive, submit to neocolonialism and the perpetuation of white minority rule? It is no exaggeration to say that our movement played a role, however limited, in getting our continent to decide against any retreat, in favour of a continued advance against racism, colonialism and imperialism.
To prepare for this heightened confrontation with the racist regime, our movement had met in Conference from the 17th to 20th March, 1975. When we welcomed the delegates to that meeting we said: "At no time have we at brief notice assembled such a representative meeting attended by delegates from such remote places." That Conference adopted a Declaration that frankly stated our positions in the face of the enemy offensive. We pointed out that:
"The enemy has already undertaken actions to enable him to maintain the sole right and power to determine the content, direction and pace of change in southern Africa. The speed of advance of the African revolution is threatened by this counter-revolutionary manoeuvre. The very gains of that revolution, as represented by the reality of independent Africa, are themselves threatened with compromise." That is how serious the situation was when we had to convene once again in Morogoro.
Unity Throughout Africa
We had timed our own Conference to precede the 9th Extraordinary Session of the OAU Council of Ministers which was being assembled to discuss southern Africa. We had to work to ensure that the positions we adopted at our Conference gained the acceptance of our continent as a whole.
The African ministers resolved that our continent has: "as its important prerequisite the maintenance and strengthening of unity and solidarity of Africa in confronting the new situation in southern Africa. The enemies of independent Africa realise that this unity is the most powerful weapon in the continent`s arsenal. It is that unity and solidarity which Vorster, with his collaborators and supporters, are attempting to undermine. Therefore Africa`s urgent need to close its ranks in facing South Africa`s new tactics becomes self-evident." The ministers went on to reject Vorster`s "detente", reaffirmed their support for our movement and for armed struggle. They rejected the bantustans and called for the complete isolation of apartheid South Africa and characterised her as "the final major obstacle to Africa`s march to liberation".
All this signified that Pretoria`s political offensive into Africa had been defeated. The continent and our movement adopted the same positions. Ten months later, Pretoria`s military offensive into Africa, in this case its invasion of Angola, was also defeated. The People`s Republic of Angola had emerged victorious.
Both these results were of great importance to our struggle. They demonstrated that the Pretoria regime could not impose its will on the people of Africa. The myth of the invincibility of the South African army of aggression and oppression was destroyed and buried for ever. Young white South Africans began to question themselves as to whether they should allow themselves to die in defence of the apartheid system.
Independent Africa Our Rear Base
These victories had also conclusively demonstrated that our movement and struggle enjoyed sufficient support among the peoples of Africa for our continent successfully to defend and advance the interests of our revolution regardless of the means and methods our enemy used to subvert us and regardless of the support it had from its imperialist allies.
The events of 1974-1976, however, also confirmed the importance of independent Africa as our rear base and the need for us to ensure that at all times it remains a reliable rear base. The justice of our cause speaks for itself. At the same time, the ignominy of the apartheid system addresses itself directly to the hearts of the hundreds of millions of the African masses on our continent. And yet, we have to be with these masses continuously, maintain contact with their brother governments and, in struggle, retain Africa on our side as territory hostile to the apartheid regime. Any weakness on our part in this sphere inevitably raises serious complications for our struggle.
Period of Expansion
Conversely, during this period, the victories of the national liberation movement in southern Africa in particular, acted as an important factor in raising the level of militancy among our own people and spurring them further into action. Great, new possibilities emerged for us to reach into our country. Because allies with whom we had cooperated for a decade and more in the struggle for national liberation were now in power in Mozambique and Angola, a whole variety of other opportunities to increase our effectiveness emerged. One outcome of these developments was that, from 1975 onwards, we were able to establish an official presence in the Kingdom of Swaziland. Among the independent countries of southern Africa, Malawi was the only one with which we had and have no relations. At the same time, and as a consequence of these developments, the political crisis of the apartheid regime began to emerge into the open.
Building on what had been achieved in the past, we continued to expand our contact with the masses of our people as well as their democratic organisations, including the trade unions and the Black Consciousness Movement as well as the religious community within our country.
This is the appropriate occasion to disclose that in the course of this work we had, by 1976, arrived at the point where the time had come for us to meet that leading representative of the BCM, the late Steve Biko. By this time Steve and his colleagues had arrived at the following positions: (a) That the ANC is the leader of our revolution; (b) That the Black People`s Convention should concentrate on mass mobilisation; (c) That the BPC should function within the context of the broad strategy of our movement; and (d) That a meeting between the leadership of the BPC and ourselves was necessary. Arrangements were made for us to meet Steve Biko in 1976. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to bring Steve out of the country for this meeting. Another attempt was made in 1977 but this also did not succeed. Subsequent arrangements also failed as, for instance, Barney Pityana was arrested when he was due to lead another delegation. Steve Biko was of course subsequently murdered.
The Historic Soweto Uprising
These events might be of historic interest now, particularly as the BCM as an organised force was severely affected by the bans imposed by the Pretoria regime on the BCM organisations in 1977. However, this experience proved the correctness of the positions we had taken to deal with the BCM not in a competitive spirit but to relate to it as part of the broad movement for national liberation. The achievements made in building our relations with this movement and giving its members access to our policy, strategy and tactics were of great importance in enabling us to defeat a determined attempt by the forces of counter-revolution to build a so-called Third Force, especially in the aftermath of the Soweto Uprising.
This uprising of 1976-77 was, of course, the historic watershed of the period we are reporting about. Within a short period of time, it propelled into the forefront of our struggle millions of young people, thus immeasurably expanding the active forces of the revolution and inspiring other sections of our people into activity.
Naturally, these heroic struggles had a profound impact on our organisation as well. They resulted in the accelerated expansion of our movement both inside and outside the country. That process of course resulted in increasing the relative proportion of the youth and students within our ranks. It brought into our midst comrades many of whom had very little contact with the ANC, if any. It put at the immediate disposal of our movement militant cadres who were ready and yearning to carry out even the most difficult missions that the movement wished to give them. It increased many times over the responsibility we had to maintain large numbers of people outside our country.
Conference will discuss the question whether, as a movement, we have built of this new army of our revolution the kind of cadre that the new situation and the tasks that we face demand. The issue of a proper cadre policy that takes into account our human resources and our perspectives is of fundamental importance to our further advance.
In this regard, we would like to take this opportunity to pay glorious tribute to the older cadres of our movement, those that fought in Zimbabwe in 1967 and 1968, those who were the delegates at the Morogoro Conference. These same cadres manned the operations structures of the Revolutionary Council. They are the ones who were sent back into our country to carry out the organisational tasks that the Morogoro Conference and the Revolutionary Council had elaborated. Many of these are now serving long sentences on Robben Island.
Indeed, we could say that had it not been for the steadfast commitment and loyalty of these comrades to our organisation and our revolution, there might very well have been no ANC to join when the youth poured out of our country after the Soweto Uprising. The new situation that confronts us, the task that this Conference will decide upon, require that we pay attention to the question of utilising to the full the experience and maturity of these outstanding cadres of our movement.
The message of the Soweto Uprising was clear enough. It was that we had entered a new phase in our struggle, one that would be marked by an ever-sharpening confrontation between the masses of our people and the apartheid regime, one in which the mass offensive would, to all intents and purposes, be continuous and uninterrupted. It would also place the issue of the resumption of the armed struggle on our agenda, as an extremely urgent question in the face of the reality that the apartheid regime was using, and would continue to use, maximum force against our risen but unarmed people.
Consolidation and Further Advance
We have characterised the period we are discussing as one of Consolidation and Further Advance. As we have been trying to demonstrate, we had been consolidating our gains and on that basis taking further steps forward especially with regard to political work. We have also referred to the fact that from 1972 we had also been sending cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe into the country to prepare exactly for the resumption of the armed struggle. In brief, we were getting better prepared to assume our place as the active vanguard force of our struggling people within the country.
The Soweto Uprising demonstrated that our country was a veritable powder keg. A decade and a half after the military suppression of the general strike of 1961, the pent-up revolutionary fury of the people rose to the surface. It became possible to conclude that such uprisings would become a permanent feature of our struggle.
Our movement, as other revolutionary movements before it, has a responsibility to take advantage of such moments when the activity of the masses is increased a thousandfold, when the masses are prepared to fight to the finish for the destruction of their adversary. Understanding all this, it was however true that in 1976-77 we had not recovered sufficiently to take full advantage of the situation that crystallised from the first events of June 16, 1976. Organisationally, in political and military terms, we were too weak to take advantage of the situation created by the uprising. We had very few active ANC units inside the country. We had no military presence to speak of. The communication links between ourselves outside the country and the masses of our people were still too slow and weak to meet the situation such as was posed by the Soweto Uprising. An outstanding role in this situation was, however, played by those of our comrades who were inside the country, many of them former Robben Island prisoners. Through their contact with the youth, they were able to make an ANC input, however limited, in the conduct of the bloody battles of 1976-77.
Heroes and Veterans Remembered
Some of them are with us in this hall today. But among them we would like to select for special mention the late Comrade Joe Gqabi, former Robben Island prisoner, member of the NEC and our first representative in Zimbabwe. This implacable enemy of the apartheid regime was assassinated in cold blood by agents of this regime in July 1981 because the racists knew what Joe was worth to our organisation and our revolution. They could see that the seeds he had planted among the youth in Soweto in 1976, hardly a year after his release from prison, and in the subsequent years, were bearing bitter fruit for the oppressors and, for us, magnificent combatants for the liberation of our country.
The participation of the comrades we have spoken about in assisting to guide the Soweto Uprising, once more emphasised the vital necessity for us to have a leadership core within the country, known by us and in touch with the people, dedicated, brave, with clear perspectives and thus able to lead. The need further to strengthen our leadership structures within the country continues to press on us with ever-increasing insistence. It is an objective that must be realised without much delay.
We have said that the Soweto Uprising also raised the urgent question of the resumption of armed struggle. Happily, in the period 1977-79, we were able once more to carry out military operations. This was thanks to organisational achievements inside the country, an improved organisational capacity outside and, not least, the availability of cadres whom we could prepare relatively quickly to return to the country. We should, of course, also mention that much of this we owed to the changed balance of forces in southern Africa brought about by the collapse of Portuguese colonialism and the capture of power by our revolutionary allies.
We cannot overemphasise the importance of these historic blows struck by units of the June 16th and other detachments of the people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe. The members of those units, such as Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu have, despite their youth, left us with a tradition of combat and fearlessness which inspires both the young and the old to the acts of peerless bravery which our people are displaying today.
Umkhonto We Sizwe Lives
Those early actions signalled that Umkhonto we Sizwe lives, and lives among the people, within our country. They signified the defeat of the strategy of our enemy which, for more than a decade, had sought to ensure that no trained unit of our army ever entered South Africa and if it did, that it would never carry out a single operation. They established, in action, the fact that there exist in our country two armies, one a people`s army and, the other, an oppressor`s army. They meant the defeat of all efforts to liquidate the armed struggle in our country.
By the same token, they signalled the inevitability of our victory. After all, both FRELIMO and the MPLA had liberated their countries through armed struggle. In Zimbabwe, the Smith regime and its backer and ally in Pretoria were running into serious problems exactly as a result of the escalation of armed struggle. The apartheid regime was pouring more and more troops into Namibia in a vain attempt to halt the armed liberation struggle conducted by SWAPO. It was therefore obligatory that, from the small but historic beginnings of 1977-79, we should escalate the armed struggle by delivering bigger blows and on a continuous basis.
It would be a grave error on our part if we did not, at this point, refer, however briefly, to the socialist countries. The period we are discussing once more confirmed these countries as allies we can always rely upon, a secure rear base without which our struggle would be even more difficult and protracted.
To this day, the socialist countries continue to play an important supporting role in many aspects of our work. Always willing to consider and respond to our requests, every day they demonstrate an unwavering commitment to see our revolution through to the end.
As a movement, we need to be conscious of this all the time and protect our friendship and cooperation with the socialist community of nations very jealously.
The forces of reaction are always busy trying to detach us from these countries, knowing very well that, were they to succeed, they would weaken our organisation and our struggle to such a degree that they could then defeat us. The conditions that United States imperialism has arrogantly placed on the independence of Namibia aim specifically to achieve this objective, to deny the peoples of our region the enormous and disinterested support of the socialist countries and thus make us easy prey to continued imperialist domination.
The return to the internal, we must also report that throughout the period after the Morogoro Conference, we had been concerned about the organisation and activisation of the masses of our people in the bantustans against the apartheid system as a whole, including its bantustan creations. Consequently, we were of the view that, among other things, it was of vital importance that we should encourage the formation in the bantustans of mass democratic organisations where none existed, and urge that those which existed should be strengthened and activised. In pursuit of these aims we maintained contacts in such bantustans as the Transkei, Lebowa, Venda and Bophuthatswana. We are happy to welcome to this Conference one of the stalwarts who, for so long, held high the banner of genuine national liberation in one of these areas, an outstanding leader of our people, King Sabata Dalindyebo.
It was also in this context that we maintained regular contact with Chief Gatsha Buthelezi of the KwaZulu bantustan. We sought that this former member of the ANC Youth League who had taken up his position in the KwaZulu bantustan after consultations with our leadership, should use the legal opportunities provided by the bantustan programme to participate in the mass mobilisation of our people on the correct basis of the orientation of the masses to focus on the struggle for a united and nonracial South Africa. In the course of our discussions with him, we agreed that this would also necessitate the formation of a mass democratic organisation in the bantustan that he headed. Inkatha originated from this agreement.
Buthelezi`s Personal Power Base
Unfortunately, we failed to mobilise our own people to take on the task of resurrecting Inkatha as the kind of organisation that we wanted, owing to the understandable antipathy of many of our comrades towards what they considered as working within the bantustan system. The task of reconstituting Inkatha therefore fell on Gatsha Buthelezi himself, who then built Inkatha as a personal power base far removed from the kind of organisation we had visualised, as an instrument for the mobilisation of our people in the countryside into an active and conscious force for revolutionary change. In the first instance, Gatsha dressed Inkatha in the clothes of the ANC, exactly because he knew that the masses to whom he was appealing were loyal to the ANC and had for six decades adhered to our movement as their representative and their leader. Later, when he thought he had sufficient of a base, he also used coercive methods against the people to force them to support Inkatha.
During 1979, in one of its sessions, our National Executive Committee considered the very serious question of how to respond to a request by Gatsha Buthelezi for him to lead a delegation of Inkatha to meet the leadership of the ANC. By this time, divergences were becoming evident on such questions as armed struggle and disinvestment. After due consideration, the NEC decided that it was correct to meet the Inkatha delegation, once more to explain the position of our movement, and ensure unity of approach to the main strategic requirements of the struggle. An express and agreed condition for holding the meeting was that it would be secret and its deliberations confidential. However, Gatsha announced that we had met and explained the purpose, the contents and the results of the meeting to suit his own objectives, much to the delight of the commercial press of South Africa and other forces in the world that had, in fact, concluded that Buthelezi was possibly "the Muzorewa" of the people of South Africa.
We have dealt with Chief Gatsha Buthelezi at some length because, although his efforts are doomed to fail, in a way he is our fault. We have not done and are not doing sufficient political work among the millions of our people who have been condemned to the bantustans. The artificial boundaries purporting to fence them off from the rest of our country do not make them any less a vital and integral part of the popular masses fighting for national liberation and social emancipation in our country.
A Need to Organise the Countryside
Certain advances have been made with regard to the creation of a mass democratic movement in the bantustans, especially in the last twelve months. At the same time, it is true that, in the main, we have not succeeded to build this movement to the level of strength that is possible and necessary. We have not even succeeded to utilise fully the considerable experiences of such elders in our midst as Comrade Elijah Mampuru.
We have to build a mass democratic movement in the countryside and in this process, separate any existing mass organisations from their diehard counter-revolutionary leaders, redirect them to the only correct path of revolutionary action by the people themselves and, for this purpose, solve the actual political problems posed by this population in terms of their organisation and activisation.
Bound as we are historically to work for the greatest possible unity of the oppressed masses, and without forgetting that these masses are our reliable base, we have to deal with any personalities within these bantustans who display a democratic consciousness, however limited.
ANC: The People`s Own Organisation
The storm that erupted as a result of our meeting with the Inkatha delegation in 1979 demonstrated the absolute need for a clear and common understanding and an acceptance of the basic strategic and tactical positions of our movement by the membership of the ANC as a whole, our allies, the broad democratic movement of our country and the masses of our people. It also became clear that, once more, whatever the ANC did was seen by the millions of our people as a matter of vital importance to their future and one over which they had a right and duty to intervene, to express an opinion, to influence. We had defeated the attempt of the apartheid regime to isolate us from our people and reasserted our position as the representative of these masses, recognised by them as such.
This showed that in the period up to 1979, we had succeeded to vanquish the efforts of schools of political thought, different from our own, to resurrect the idea of a "Third Force".
This idea was pursued with the greatest vigour in the period following the Soweto Uprising. Our opponents sought to use the enormous contribution that our youth and students had made to the struggle, to ascribe the role to the students of a vanguard force in our struggle. On the basis of this wrong thesis, desperate attempts were made by elements in the USA, independent Africa and Western Europe, to form some youth political organisation specifically as a counterweight to our movement, taking advantage of the political immaturity of some of the young people who had battled the apartheid regime with such daring and courage. It was out of these manoeuvres that the so-called South African Youth Revolutionary Council was born.
Attempts were even made to form an anti-ANC coalition composed of this SAYRCO, remnants of the BCM, the PAC, the Unity Movement and the Group of Eight, which we had expelled in 1975 when it adopted public positions which were completely at variance with the policy of our movement.
Unity of Liberation Forces
Through struggle, in which we put to the fore our policy, strategy and tactics, while continuing to engage in action against the apartheid regime, at home and abroad, we defeated this attempt to create a "Third Force". The majority of the youth who had left the country had, in any case, come into the ranks of the ANC as had the majority of the activists of the BCM.
In this context, we should also say that as part of the process of consolidation and further advance, acting together with our youth inside the country, we had encouraged the establishment of a number of mass democratic organisations of the youth.
It is also important to recall that many leading activists of the democratic movement were arrested and detained in 1977, following the banning of nearly a score of organisations. Since they were held together, these leaders had the opportunity to discuss the perspectives of our struggle. Thanks to the position taken by many of these, including leaders of the now-banned SASO, a majority view had emerged clearly in favour of the ANC as the authentic representative of our people.
Thus by 1979, the end of the period we are discussing, the ANC enjoyed maximum political and organisational unity. Inside our country its prestige was high. There was no serious formation which could pose itself as an alternative, both politically and militarily. Its capacity inside the country to act, both politically and militarily, had increased.
It was in this context that we declared 1979, the centenary of the Battle of Isandlwana, the Year of the Spear. In the light of the armed actions which we had resumed in 1977 which were having the political impact we desired, it seemed clear to us that we could and should take advantage of this centenary to popularise the armed struggle using political means. This would serve the purpose of further mobilising the masses of our people for increased involvement in the armed struggle and, by evoking the heroism of our forebears, help further to inspire our people to make the sacrifices that armed struggle necessarily entails.
Culture: a Weapon in the Struggle
It is worth nothing here that on this occasion, activists inside the country used the weapon of culture to popularise the ideas of the Year of the Spear. This drew our attention to the importance of this medium of communication and to its value in the formation of our people and new men and women. Unfortunately, up to now, our leadership in particular has not paid sufficient attention to this question, to give it the importance it deserves. Among its tasks, Conference will have to attend to this issue.
We also wanted to make certain that we oppose the enemy`s view of Isandlwana, and therefore our resistance to colonialism, with our own revolutionary view. Thus we would engage this enemy in political struggle, interpreting the centenary in the context of our national struggle and not of tribalism and the bantustans, which is what the apartheid regime was bound to do.
This initiative was also important in the further development of our struggle in that it signified that we were beginning to pass over from the defensive to the offensive. We were beginning to determine what the political agenda of the day should be rather than merely reacting to what the enemy was doing. This is a frame of mind that we still need to inculcate throughout the ranks of our organisation and the democratic movement as a whole. It is, after all, in the attack that we shall gain victory.
The period 1975-1979, which was so important in laying the basis for the rapid development of our struggle to date, was also one during which the crisis of the apartheid regime further deepened, resulting in the enemy having to adopt extraordinary measures to defend itself.
Apart from the developments at home marked by the resurgence of our movement and of the mass political and the armed struggle, the balance of forces had shifted further against the apartheid system internationally.
The International Front
As we have said, already by 1975 we had defeated Vorster`s "detente" offensive. At the beginning of 1976 he was forced to withdraw his defeated army from the People`s Republic of Angola. His puppet forces in Mozambique and Angola were not making much headway. Despite such atrocities as the Kassinga Massacre of 1978, the struggle in Namibia continued to escalate, SWAPO`s position having been greatly strengthened by the birth of independent Angola. The offensive of the Patriotic Front also intensified, underpinned as it was by the popular victory in Mozambique.
Further afield, the Vietnamese liberation movement had finally won victory in 1975 with the collapse of the Thieu regime and the humiliating flight of the Americans remaining in South Vietnam. The Shah of Iran, originally placed on his throne by the CIA and since armed and developed by United States imperialism as one of its counter-revolutionary strongmen in the Persian Gulf, was swept out of power by the popular masses in 1979. As an act of solidarity with our struggle, the new Government of Iran, which was visited by an ANC delegation led by our Secretary General, imposed an oil embargo against apartheid South Africa. Up to this time, Iran had provided 90 percent of South Africa`s oil imports.
In the same year, the democratic anti-feudal and anti-imperialist revolution in Afghanistan had been saved, with the support of the Soviet Union.
In the Western Hemisphere, progressive changes took place in Nicaragua and Grenada with the victories of the Sandinista and the New Jewel Movement. The United States took the first tentative steps to normalise its relations with socialist Cuba. The democratic forces had won in Spain, bringing to an end an era which had been imposed on the Spanish people by resurgent European fascism in 1939. The Soviet Union and the United States had concluded the second SALT Treaty.
Imperialism in Retreat
All these events are important not just as a matter of historical record. We recall them because they marked a further shift in the balance of forces against imperialism and also reflected the extent of its weakness at that point in time. One outstanding result of this situation that accrued to the peoples of southern Africa was that United States imperialism was unable to intervene more extensively in Angola in support of the South African invasion of 1975-76.
In 1977, taking advantage of the adverse international situation for the Pretoria regime created by the murder of Steve Bike and the wholesale banning of popular organisations, but also bearing in mind that international imperialism was on the retreat, the progressive world pushed for and got the Security Council to impose a mandatory arms embargo against apartheid South Africa. This was the first such action to be adopted by the United Nations, despite the fact that the question of apartheid had stayed regularly on its agenda for thirty years up to that point.
Earlier in the same year, 1977, international imperialism had to consider the issue of sanctions against racist South Africa, but this time over the issue of Namibia. The United States, in particular, felt that its political positions were too weak to allow it to use its veto to block these sanctions. It managed to have this proposal postponed by establishing the so-called Contact Group and, in 1978, getting the Security Council to adopt Resolution 435 as the operational plan for the implementation of the earlier Resolution 385 which called for:
"free elections under the supervision and control of the United Nations... for the whole of Namibia as one political entity." We should also bear in mind that already in 1974, under the Presidency of Algeria, the General Assembly of the United Nations had refused to accept the credentials of the Pretoria regime. The Western allies of this regime failed to stop this outcome and have, since, failed to reverse it. This was an important victory for our diplomacy, which was further reinforced by the recognition of the South African liberation movement by the United Nations as a legitimate representative of the people of South Africa. From this came the decision to accord us the status of official observer to the United Nations. In 1976, for the first time ever, we addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, accepted fully as a representative of our people and entitled to be heard by the representatives of all nations of our globe.
These developments had an important bearing on the central questions of our political posture on the illegitimacy of the apartheid regime and our own character as the alternative to the Pretoria regime.
The importance of these positions is confirmed by the fact that in the aftermath of the conclusion of the Nkomati Accord, the offensive against our movement among other things, aimed to challenge these theses.
But as we have said earlier, the position is that a large part of the international community views the ANC as the genuine representative of our people. Thus we enjoy observer status both within the OAU and the United Nations, as against the Pretoria regime whose status with regard to these two important international organisations the delegates are familiar with. We enjoy a similar status with regard to the Non-Aligned Movement and participate fully in its activities.
Apartheid Crisis Deepens
During the period we are discussing, the situation internally and externally was therefore developing against the Pretoria regime. As we have said, this depended the crisis of the apartheid regime and brought it out into the open.
In 1978, the once mighty John Balthazar Vorster lost his premiership of apartheid South Africa to his colleague of long standing, P. W. Botha. He was kicked upstairs and made State President. The following year, in 1979, he left the Presidency in even worse disgrace than the year before and died in obscurity, despised by many of his erstwhile friends as a fascist leader who had failed.
In 1977, responding to the changed balance of forces and wishing to assert his leadership and the constancy of his policies, Vorster had called a snap white general election. His party won with majorities which were the largest in its entire history. The fact that Vorster could tumble in a period of two years from the most popular white Prime Minister to a retired and discredited politician reflected the seriousness of the crisis confronting the apartheid regime, the speed with which this crisis was developing and the intensity of the conflicts that these developments were generating within the ruling group.
Vorster had in fact taken a series of measures to protect his regime and the criminal system he sought to perpetuate. One of these, which served as the catalyst in his downfall, was the secret political and information offensive through which the Pretoria regime tried to buy itself international acceptance. When this was exposed, the leading groups among the fascist party feared that the prestige of this party among the white population would suffer permanent damage and thus further worsen the crisis of the apartheid system. Scapegoats had to be found and sacrificed. Therefore Vorster and other leading fascists such as General van den Bergh and Connie Mulder were sacrificed.
Pretoria Overrules Bantustan Leaders
But, in fact, P.W. Botha inherited and continued the policies of his predecessor, carrying to their conclusion initiatives that Vorster had taken. One of these concerned the bantustans. When Angola and Mozambique attained their independence, the Pretoria regime decided to accelerate its plans with regard to the bantustans. In a so-called Summit Meeting in November 1973, the bantustan leaders had agreed that they would not accept "independence". Three years later, in October 1976, Pretoria proclaimed the Transkei an independent State. Clearly, the paymaster had the power to change the minds of his employees as he wished. The Transkei was followed by Bophuthatswana in 1977.
The Pretoria regime represented this process as one of decolonisation, and wanted the world to accept that the African majority was regaining its right to national self-determination. For our part, it was vitally necessary that we ensure that the international community should reject these bantustans as the mere extension of the apartheid system that they are.
During its "detente" offensive the Pretoria regime had used some of the bantustan leaders to try to open the doors for itself internationally. When he led a delegation of the South African regime to the United Nations two or three years earlier, Pik Botha had included Kaiser Matanzima. In those years, we successfully fought against the acceptance of these bantustan leaders as representatives of our people and got the international community to reject the entire "separate development" programme. Similarly, we succeeded to ensure the rejection by the whole world of the so-called independent bantustans when Pretoria proclaimed them as such.
This was a serious blow to the Pretoria regime. And yet Botha, who had ousted Vorster because of the "failures" of the latter, continued with this policy, pushing Venda into so-called independence in 1979 as well as the Ciskei in 1981. After all, P. W. Botha had no other options.
Workers and "Influx Control"
Vorster had also appointed the Wiehahn and Riekert Commissions to consider labour questions, including job reservation, influx control, trade union rights and so on. Both these commissions reported to the new racist Prime Minister who proceeded to accept recommendations for relaxation of job reservation to meet the requirements of the capitalist economy and for even tighter influx control. This was despite the fact that since 1978 Crossroads had become a national and international symbol of the policy of influx control and forced removals and a focus of the struggle to resist this policy. To this day, despite Vorster and despite Botha, Crossroads continues to stand firm, having served to inspire the whole effort for the formation of mass democratic community organisations.
Further, having been forced to recognise the right of African workers to belong to trade unions, the Botha regime nonetheless legislated to impose further controls on the trade union movement to ensure that this movement does not emerge as an independent, democratic formation.
It was also Vorster who, in 1977, announced the project to amend the racist constitution and to try to coopt sections of the black people through the creation of a tricameral parliament. In the same year, as Defence Minister under Vorster, P. W. Botha announced in public the so-called total strategy for the defence of the apartheid system.
Perhaps more than anything else, the pronouncement of this posture, the admission that the apartheid regime needed to mobilise all available resources for the defence of white minority rule, signified the extent to which the racists felt that the initiative was slipping out of their hands.
Responding to this situation, increasingly the focus of State policy centred on so-called "national security", leading to the elaboration of measures for the management of the crisis in which the apartheid system was immersed.
Pretoria Regime Alone in Africa
The extent of that crisis was made patently clear to the Botha regime when the component parties of the Patriotic Front won the elections in Zimbabwe in 1980, taking almost all the African seats. The desperate efforts of the Pretoria regime to keep the Smith regime in power had come to nothing. Equally, the last ditch attempts to avoid complete defeat by sponsoring a puppet regime, failed miserably. Five years after FRELIMO and the MPLA had assumed power in their respective countries, events in our region had, once again, confirmed the inevitability of our own victory. The Pretoria regime remained the only one of its kind on the African continent. Botha was therefore not wrong when he proclaimed that the independence of Zimbabwe and the assumption of power by a Patriotic Front Government had changed the strategic position of apartheid South Africa. So frightened was he that he even announced that he would call a national conference representative of all the people of South Africa, both black and white, to consider the future of our country.
The masses of our people responded to this announcement by demanding the release of Nelson Mandela and the rest of our leaders, stating unequivocally that if Botha wanted to discuss the solution of the problems of our country, then it was with these leaders that he should negotiate. The leadership of our movement, for its part, called on the people not to attend Botha`s conference. That was the last that anybody heard of this bold initiative, exactly because the racists knew that were they to proceed with it, they would have nobody to confer with.
Thus we can say that when the period we have described as one of Consolidation and Further Advance came to an end, ten years after the Morogoro Conference, nobody could doubt the ascendancy of our struggle.
In 1980, one Dr. Chester Crocker, at that time no more than a university professor, said:
"I would say (the whites in South Africa) don`t have a long period of time, that the current window of opportunity could be shorter than they realise... You mention large-scale revolutionary warfare. I would argue that the options are more likely to be in the area of urban rioting, of large scale strikes, perhaps general strikes, of passive resistance efforts and things of this nature, consumer boycotts; the South African State is weakest in that area." Thus began for us a decade which our own people inside the country characterised as the Decade of Liberation.
If we may jump to more recent events, this week the United States Senate voted to repeal the Clark Amendment which the United States Congress had adopted ten years ago. That Amendment had prohibited any military involvement of the United States Government against the People`s Republic of Angola. We have now come to the point where powerful forces within the same United States Congress are willing and ready to free the hand of the Reagan Administration to engage in any military adventures against heroic Angola that it may choose.
The Cold War Resuscitated
As we began the Decade of Liberation, the most aggressive and reactionary forces of imperialism had gained or were gaining the upper hand in the countries of the West, including and ultimately in the United States. These forces began to resuscitate the cold war everywhere. They assumed an active posture against the progressive movement throughout the world and launched an economic and political offensive against the ordinary people and the democratic movement within the imperialist countries.
As a result of these policies, the process of detente between the socialist countries and the imperialist world came to a halt. New nuclear weapons have since been deployed in Europe. International tensions increased as did the danger of a nuclear war. To this day, the United States Government has refused to ratify the SALT-II Treaty. The arms race continues to escalate.
A determined effort was set afoot to roll back socialism, to reverse the victories of the national liberation movement and to force the peoples of the world to succumb to the wishes of imperialism. Hence we saw the complicated situation that arose in Poland. The offensive against democratic Afghanistan continued and intensified. The United States openly invaded Grenada, funded and assisted the removal from power of the progressive forces led by Michael Manley in Jamaica and has laid siege to Nicaragua. At the same time, it is actively involved in a campaign to defeat the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador, and openly supports the most reactionary and murderous regimes in Central and South America.
United States imperialism has also helped to sabotage all efforts to resolve the problem of Western Sahara by giving maximum support to King Hassan of Morocco to defeat the POLISARIO Front. In the Middle East, it has encouraged the forces of reaction to liquidate the PLO and permitted Zionist Israel to invade the Lebanon in an effort to turn it into a pacified dependency of this ally of racist South Africa.
As a token of their intent to intervene everywhere in their own interest, United States imperialism and its allies have established Rapid Deployment Forces which are designed to reach any part of the globe quickly.
In an interview he gave during 1980, while still campaigning for the Presidency, Reagan`s assertion that the Soviet Union was achieving world domination was challenged by a journalist. He replied:
"... You have forgotten, even though the Russians did not do it directly but through their proxies, there is Ethiopia, there is South Yemen, there is Angola, there is Mozambique, they have moved and advanced their positions - and in the Caribbean we are seeing by way of Cuba the export of revolution to the point that our sea-lanes for the essential things we must have, particularly in minerals and energy, are much endangered right now if the Soviets should decide to adopt that course... (To) say that they have lost ground in Latin America, I think is to ignore the reality there. Right now, Colombia, Bogota, is having a great infiltration of the same kind of people that have brought the downfall of other countries there in Central America, the moving into Africa, Afghanistan, Iran - once the great bulwark between the Soviet Union and their advance southward to the Indian Ocean - is shattered and gone.. (The) communists are the menace to civilisation in the world today... (As) Pope Pius XII said at the end of World War II, when the Soviet Union - when it looked as if the world might go into a thousand years of darkness: `...The American people have a great genius and capacity for performing great and generous deeds. Into the hands of America, God has placed afflicted mankind.` I want to see - I want to help us get back to those fiercely independent Americans... and I believe in their greatness and I believe this country has a destiny." Hitler, too, believed that Nazi Germany had a destiny to cleanse an afflicted world. He therefore set out to destroy socialism in the Soviet Union, to stamp out all progressive and democratic forces in Europe and to colonise people.
That, also, was the awesome meaning of the words that Ronald Reagan uttered. If they chilled and horrified the forces of progress throughout the world, they were like music in the ears of P. W. Botha. They signified that when Reagan assumed the Presidency of the United States, the Pretoria regime would have a powerful ally in Washington and would have the United States behind it in any action to remove what Reagan referred to as "Russian proxies" in Angola and Mozambique. Like the Iran of the Shah, which Reagan described as the "great bulwark between the Soviet Union and their advance to the Indian Ocean", apartheid South Africa would also win a place in United States strategy as a bulwark between the Soviet Union and its "advance" into southern Africa.
Thus we were to come face to face with the world forces of counter-revolution in a way that we had not experienced in the period 1974-1979. Like the great Vietnamese people before us, whose experiences were studied by a delegation of our movement which visited Vietnam in 1978, we had to win this life and death confrontation first and foremost in the battlefields of our motherland, but also in the streets of the United States and the other imperialist countries which back the Pretoria regime.
In 1978-79, we undertook an extensive review of our internal work, our structures handling this sphere, and our strategy and tactics. As a result of this review, we were better prepared to enter the Decade of Liberation, to build on the achievements we had scored and to help create the situation in which we can sense that victory is not far away.
Our observance of 1980 as the Year of the Charter was an important stepping stone in the process of that preparation for victory. The struggles of the previous ten years had resulted in the activities of millions of our people and the formation of many democratic organisations. Many of the struggles that our people had waged were around local issues. The situation had therefore arisen in which it was necessary and possible to bring the mass movement together, to influence it to act as one and to focus the minds of our people beyond local to national issues.
Year of the Charter
To produce these results it was necessary that we should in the first instance, achieve the political unity of the masses of our people and their democratic movement - therefore what better to do in observing the 25th anniversary of the Freedom Charter than getting the masses of our people, in a sense, to readopt the Charter as their perspective of the South Africa they were fighting for, their lodestar, as we said when we proclaimed the Year of the Charter.
As we have said, it was also during this year that the struggle for the release of political prisoners took root within the democratic movement as the Free Mandela Campaign. The combination of these two campaigns, the Freedom Charter and the Free Mandela, gave the active and conscious masses of our people the common political base from which to proceed and enabled them to unite behind the authentic leadership of our people.
These results, which were and are of decisive importance to our struggle, also meant that the democratic movement was projecting a consistent perspective in opposition to the enemy`s political programme, especially the "separate development" programme, and declaring its rejection of the leadership that the enemy had appointed to help administer its schemes and to pose as the genuine leadership of our people.
By the time that the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of the fascist and racist Republic of South Africa came, in 1981, we had managed to ensure the political cohesion of large sections of the democratic movement, enough for this movement to act together in opposition to the celebrations that the enemy was planning. More than this, the masses of our people could, on the basis of the Freedom Charter, pose the vision of an alternative democratic Republic to challenge the racist Republic which had brought untold suffering to the majority of our people for two decades.
This was the first time since 1961 that we had the possibility to test the readiness of our people, in their millions, to act in unity on the fundamental question of State power in our country. The increasing political and organisational unity of the people had already been demonstrated in such campaigns as the Fatti`s and Moni`s, the Red Meat and the Ford Motor Company struggles.
Massive Involvement of the "Coloured" People
In this regard, we should also mention that in 1980 we experienced the massive involvement of the "Coloured" people in the mass struggle. Of particular importance is that fact that this struggle took place in the Western Cape, the main area of concentration of these black masses and, historically, the main stronghold of Trotskyism in our country. Furthermore, these "Coloured" masses acted together with their African brothers and sisters. The stay-at-home, called in the region for the days June 16 and 17 of that year, succeeded because both sections of the black population supported it. Even when the fascist police shot down 40 patriots at the end of June that year, the only result was to weld the "Coloured" people even more firmly to the mass forces of our revolution, committed to the objectives spelt out in the Freedom Charter and loyal to the leadership of our movement.
This is the period when the Labour Party, with whom our movement had been in contact, responded to mass pressure to the extent of bringing about the downfall of the CRC, declaring its adherence to the Freedom Charter, supporting economic sanctions and announcing its intention to cooperate with the ANC. It is of course clear now that the leadership of this Party, even after it had changed with the demise of Sonny Leon, could not withstand the combination of enemy terror and bribes, and it abandoned these positions. By the time it deserted to the side of the enemy, it was clear that large sections of the "Coloured" population had come over to the side of the democratic revolution and that there was no significant organised political force in their midst capable of challenging the policy, strategy and tactics of our movement.
The Anti-Republic Campaign of 1981 turned out to be a great demonstration of the political and organisational unity of the democratic movement of our country, an affirmation of the acceptance of the Freedom Charter, our strategy and our tactics and an assertion of the authority and prestige of our movement in the eyes of our people.
What the fascists had intended to be a celebration had, for them, turned into a demonstration of how much the masses of our people, including many whites, accepted the leadership of our movement without question.
The ANC Emerges
At this time, we began to summarise the results of 20 years of struggle by saying that the people had lifted the ban on the ANC and imposed on our situation their own system of legality. This was an expression of the inevitable process of our emergence, in practical political terms, as the alternative power, the formation which commands the loyalty of the majority of the population of our country.
1981 was, for us, the Year of the Youth. Nevertheless, it was dominated by the events of which we have just spoken, as well as by the rejection by the Indian people of the South African Indian Council on the same basis and to the same extent as our people had rejected the racist Republic of South Africa.
Despite what we have said, it is also equally true that, five years after the Soweto Uprising and 20 years after the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, our youth was in the forefront of our struggle as never before. In particular, they had carried the armed struggle forward in a manner and with results which enormously expedited the political outcome that we have been talking about.
An American publication issued in 1981 has this to say:
"As South Africa enters the 1980s, perhaps the most dramatic trend in black politics is the resurgence of the African National Congress. The ANC`s renewed prominence was symbolised on the night of June 1, 1980, by the glow from burning SASOL oil-from-coal plants, which could be seen by people in Johannesburg, some fifty miles away." It quotes the Rand Daily Mail as saying that:
"South Africa has entered a state of revolutionary war". Proud inheritors of the patriotic traditions and fearlessness of the heroes of Isandlwana, whose centenary we had celebrated in 1979, the youth not only made our armed struggle a matter of daily life in South Africa during the first half of the Decade of Liberation. They, together with the rest of our people, ensured that the combatants who died in the front line, such as those who fell in Silverton, vilified by the enemy as terrorists, were buried as great heroes.
During 1982, the historic 70th anniversary of the ANC gave us the opportunity, once more, to celebrate the memory of these and other heroes and to take up the theme of Unity in Action of all the oppressed masses and the democratic movement that has been the hallmark of the ANC since it was founded. Unity in Action and United Action, which was our main slogan for 1983, constituted a perspective which we put in front of the masses of our people to encourage them to proceed beyond temporary alliances to stable and continuous coordination of the common offensive for the overthrow of the apartheid regime.
Political Maturity: The UDF
The United Democratic Front, that outstanding example of the political maturity of our people, is a product of the years that our country`s forces of progress have spent first to mobilise the masses of our people into action and to draw them into mass organisational formations, second to ensure that these masses adhere to a common political platform and, third, that this political unity finds expression in the kind of organisational unity which enables the people to move as one mass political army of revolution, under one command, focusing on the central question of all revolutions, whether peaceful or violent, the question of State power.
We take this opportunity to salute the countless patriots of our country who acted correctly and at the right moment, to make the UDF a reality, as a mass instrument of democratic change which inscribed on its banners the fundamental issue which we are about, namely the struggle for the birth of a united, democratic and nonracial South Africa.
Over the years, as we worked to build this mass political army of revolution, it became ever clearer that the entire progressive movement of our country had a responsibility to ensure that the women of our country should be active in this political army in their millions. The ANC Women`s Conference held in Angola in 1981 made an important contribution towards the realisation of this objective.
The Place of Women in the Struggle
During 1984, our Year of the Women, we devoted even more attention to this important issue. Further progress was achieved in the mobilisation and organisation of our women. The position has now been firmly established in our movement that the liberation of women is an essential element and an integral part of our struggle for national and social emancipation. The end of the Decade of Women, this year, does not and cannot mean the end of the struggle for the liberation of women. We must continue this fight and ensure the active and conscious involvement of the women of our country at all levels of our mass offensive.
In 1976, not long before the Soweto Uprising exploded, we accepted an invitation by the FRELIMO Party to tour parts of the People`s Republic of Mozambique. The purpose of this tour was to help in the mobilisation of the masses of the people to support the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe. The specific problem was that in the areas we had to visit, and did visit, the people wanted to mobilise for the liberation of South Africa and were happy to leave the task of the liberation of Zimbabwe to other areas of the country. Acting together with the FRELIMO Party, we had to persuade these masses that the immediate task confronting all of us was the freedom of Zimbabwe.
Comrades of the Luthuli Detachment
We accepted the task we were given by our revolutionary allies because as anti-imperialists, as internationalists and as Africans we were vitally interested in the independence of Zimbabwe, a country in which many of our own combatants were buried and where many others had been serving imprisonment or had been in death cells for nearly ten years.
Some of these comrades are at this Conference today. We salute them and are happy to report to them that even as we seemed to be diverting the people of Mozambique away from our own struggle, we knew that the emancipation of the people of Zimbabwe would return them to our ranks. We wanted to receive them back into our midst with the honour due to them, as we receive them today, as combat veterans who would visit Mozambique to say to these brother people that Zimbabwe is free: now is the time to crack the hardest nut of all, the apartheid regime in Pretoria. These comrades, members of the Luthuli Detachment, some of whom had to endure many years as condemned prisoners, still have a journey to make - a journey to Mozambique to complete a task that could not be completed in 1976.
When Reagan spoke about the destiny of the United States in 1980, he spoke about the export of counter-revolution. Hammered and battered, bled slowly and having confronted the brutal face of the counter-revolution for many years, by 1984 the independent countries of our region had to take some important decisions. The question that confronted them was the same that had faced Africa ten years before.
The difference between 1974 and 1984 was, of course, that the frontiers of freedom covered almost the entire border of South Africa. With the forces of reaction on the ascendancy in the greater part of the imperialist world, the same question was posed in circumstances in which it was difficult to answer in the forthright manner that Africa had replied a decade earlier.
And so the People`s Republic of Mozambique signed the Accord on Nkomati in March 1984. At the height of the offensive of the revolutionary movement inside South Africa, externally the same movement had to retreat - and here I am not just referring to ourselves but to the entire liberation and progressive movement of our region and indeed of Africa. The forces of counter-revolution which had described the Mozambique revolution in 1980 as an affliction and which had thought in 1969 that the "only hope (of the independent States of our region) for a peaceful and prosperous future lies in closer relations with the white-dominated States," could justifiably claim that they had scored a victory.
What had gone wrong? Why was it that in 1975 Africa could resolve that no matter how strong the enemy counteroffensive, we should not retreat and in 1984 be forced to accept retreat? The answer of course lies in the reply that Reagan had given to a journalist in 1980.
Given the offensive posture of United States imperialism, the Botha regime also felt that, for the first time in five years, the balance of forces was shifting in its favour. Consequently, it resolved that the opportunity had come for it also to go on the offensive, to shift that balance further in its own favour, in keeping with the global drive of its most powerful allies. It thought it was possible to reverse the advances that the national liberation movement had achieved from 1975 onwards and set out to realise this result, acting in concert with the rest of the imperialist world.
The accomplishment of this task was made all the more urgent by the fat that within our own country our own actions and those of the masses of our people were further deepening the crisis of the apartheid regime which had surfaced with such drama a few years before. To change the balance of forces in favour of reaction therefore meant, and had to mean, that the ANC had to be weakened decisively if not destroyed altogether. By August 1983, we knew that the United States Government was convinced that the ANC would be driven out of southern Africa or completely annihilated if it did not abandon armed struggle, surrender and join the so-called reform process in South Africa as a peaceful political formation.
The softening up process had started less than two weeks after Reagan was inaugurated as President of the United States. Our comrades were attacked and killed in Matola. Joe Gqabi was assassinated six months later. Griffiths Mxenge was murdered in Durban, the same city where Joseph "Mkhuthuzi" Mdluli had been killed five years before. Ruth First, the Nyawoses and other comrades were killed in cold blood. Our people, as well as nationals of Lesotho, were massacred in Maseru on December 9th, 1982. One after the other, patriots such as Neil Aggett, Mohammed Allie Razak, Bheki Zachariah Mvulane, Sipho Mutsi and Andries Raditsela, were to die in police custody, from attacks carried out by the bantustan administrations, from repressive measures carried out by the Pretoria regime, in ambushes laid by counter-revolutionaries in Angola and yet others, not necessarily members of the ANC, but opponents of apartheid such as Frikkie Conradie and Joe Mavi, in mysterious circumstances.
Puppet Forces on the Rampage
The South African army returned to Angola, where it remains to this day. The puppet forces went on the rampage throughout southern Africa, in Lesotho, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Where none could operate, as in the Seychelles, the Pretoria regime sent in its own forces, reinforced by mercenaries. Swaziland signed a secret agreement with Pretoria.
The countries of southern Africa came under intense pressure to sign so-called non-aggression pacts, with the express aims of compromising the independence of these countries and recruiting them to join Pretoria in carrying out police activities against the ANC. The offensive spread wide with the bombing of our office in London and demands by Pretoria that the various governments of Western Europe should close down our offices. In the United States, a veteran of genocidal war of aggression against the people of Vietnam, now turned Senator, chaired widely publicised hearings in the United States Senate designed to stigmatise the ANC as a terrorist movement and an agent of the Soviet Union, exactly to justify a concerted imperialist offensive to destroy us.
Pretoria scuttled the ceasefire conference that it had agreed to hold with SWAPO. The implementation of Resolution 435 became impossible as the United States arrogantly sought to barter the independence of Namibia for the withdrawal of the internationalist Cuban troops in Angola.
Our Right to Fight
From the most unexpected quarters we heard that South Africa was an independent State and the ANC no more than a civil rights movement with no right to engage in armed struggle. We were told that we should wage struggle exclusively by political means and seek an alliance with the big capitalists of our country. At the same time, we should distance ourselves from the South African Communist Party and the Soviet Union and reorientate our international relations towards the imperialist countries. And all this was diametrically opposed to the positions firmly held in southern Africa and throughout the continent that the solution to the problems of our region lay with the destruction of the apartheid regime and therefore with all-out support to the ANC and SWAPO to carry out their historic missions.
But fortunately, we had already alerted our people to what was likely to come and called on them to fight on. We had charged them with the task to make the country ungovernable and to defeat the cunning enemy manoeuvre represented by the amended apartheid constitution. And to that call and that challenge our people have responded with unequalled enthusiasm, persistence and courage. So we come to the perspectives that confront this historic Conference, our organisation and our people.
It is clear to all of us present here that we have the possibility actually to make this our Decade of Liberation. That requires that we must in fact and in practice accomplish the strategic tasks that we have set ourselves and which our strategic objective of the seizure of power demands. We have spelt out these tasks before and publicly communicated them even to the masses of our people. As the general command of our revolution, we should carefully identify the decisive theatres of action on which we should concentrate in order to achieve purposeful movement forward.
The apartheid system is in a deep and permanent general crisis from which it cannot extricate itself. The apartheid regime cannot rule as before. It has therefore brought its military forces into the centre of its State structures and is ready to declare martial law when the need arises. The widespread and increasing use of the army in the effort to suppress the mass struggle in our country, even before martial law is invoked, reflects the depth of the crisis engulfing the racist regime.
Despite massacres and murders that are carried out daily by Botha`s assassination squads, the masses of the people are engaged in a widespread struggle which the enemy cannot suppress and which is driving the enemy ever deeper into crisis. Of decisive importance is the fact that this mass offensive is directed at the destruction of the apartheid State machinery, at making apartheid inoperative, at making our country ungovernable.
International Solidarity Grows
Internationally also, the movement of solidarity with our movement and our struggle is growing and increasing its effectiveness. Already, many countries consider the ANC virtually as a government and work with us as such. On the other hand, the process of the isolation of the racist regime is developing rapidly, especially and notably in the United States.
In this respect, we should also mention the extensive political and material support that we enjoy from the non-aligned countries, the Nordic and other Western countries and the international anti-apartheid movement. Our relations with these important world forces have also contributed greatly in further weakening the Pretoria regime and strengthening our movement and struggle.
The key to our further advance is organisation. Our NEC addressed itself to this question in its last January 8th statement when it proclaimed this, the Year of the Cadre. The fact of the matter is that despite the enormous impact we have made in developing the struggle to the level it is today, our organisation inside the country is relatively weak.
We need a strong organisation of revolutionaries because, without it, it will be impossible to raise the struggle to greater heights in a planned and systematic fashion. Without such a strong revolutionary organisation, we cannot take advantage of the uprisings we have spoken about and which are a reality of the mass offensive of our people.
We have to discuss carefully the question why we are not as strong as we can and should be, review our experiences and draw the necessary conclusions. One thing that is clear is that we have to realise that we have in fact developed many cadres inside the country who understand our policy very well, who are in daily contact with the situation and our people and are committed to our organisation and struggle. It is vital that these cadres should be properly grounded in our strategy in its entirety, so that they can in fact advance all our strategic tasks.
Daily Contact with our People
It is very important that our leadership, by which we mean all those whom we consider the most mature among our ranks, must begin to involve itself directly in this work of internal organisation. We have to be in daily contact with our people.
We must also move with all due speed to take the tasks posed by our perspective of people`s war. In this respect, we would like to mention in particular that we have to take the question of mass revolutionary bases very seriously. We shall also be discussing this issue when we consider the document on strategy and tactics.
As a result of the strength and tenacity of the people`s offensive, many areas in our country are emerging perhaps in a rudimentary way, as such mass, revolutionary bases. The people are engaged in active struggle as a conscious revolutionary force and accept the ANC as their vanguard movement. They are organised in mass democratic organisations. They have destroyed the enemy`s local organs of government and have mounted an armed offensive against the racist regime, using whatever weapons are available to them. What is missing is a strong underground ANC presence as well as a large contingent of units of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
We must correct this weakness in a determined and systematic manner because it is within these mass revolutionary bases that we will succeed to root our army. It is the risen masses in these areas who have to be organised into larger formations of Umkhonto we Sizwe, turned into organised groups of combatants, and who have to replenish and swell our military ranks. We have to bear in mind the fact that the comrades we are training outside constitute the core of our army. They are the organisers and the leaders of the mass army that we have to build inside the country. They are our officer corps. We cannot deploy them forever as combat units. For obvious reasons, no army in the world fights with combat units composed of officers. Ours will be no exception.
Our Cadres: Their Crucial Role
The question of the kind of cadre we are producing assumes greater significance with each passing day. The level of struggle demands that we deploy inside our country as many of our cadres as possible. As we succeed to do this, these cadres will constitute an important component part of our internal structures and therefore of the ANC as a whole. They must therefore be what the ANC wants them to be. This cannot be left to chance.
It is a good thing that Conference will be discussing the question of cadre policy. Our decisions in this regard will have to be implemented seriously and consistently. All other decisions we take at this Conference will only have real meaning if we have the cadres to implement them with the sense of purpose that everything we decide here will require.
We are raising questions which might be organisational. But they are central to the solution of the question of how we raise the struggle to higher levels. Anyway, they are issues which require our most serious reflection.
We would also like to raise the question of the release of political prisoners. But in the first instance the NEC would like to report at this Conference that over the years, we have tried our best to keep in contact with these outstanding leaders of our people and activists of our movement. In this we were assisted by the great ingenuity and daring that these comrades showed in themselves ensuring that we kept in contact. When the need arose, we have consulted them on important questions of our revolution. Their constant steadfastness and their calibre as leaders was demonstrated only recently when they turned down Botha`s offer to release them on condition that they renounced violence.
Campaign for the Release of our Comrades
By its actions the Botha regime has admitted that it is finding it difficult to withstand the internal and international pressure for the release of our comrades. We can take pride in the fact that through consistent campaigning, we have utterly defeated all attempts by this regime and others before it to blot out the memory of these heroes of our people by keeping them behind bars for such a long time.
Our National Executive Committee is of the considered view that we must do everything in our power to secure their release. Their release would have an enormous impact on the advance of the people of our country towards a united, nonracial and democratic South Africa, apart from meeting the profound humanitarian concern that their return to the ranks of the people is long overdue.
As Conference knows, of late there has been a fair amount of speculation about the ANC and the Pretoria regime getting together to negotiate a settlement of the South African question. This issue has arisen at this time exactly because of our strength inside the country, the level of our struggle and the crisis confronting the Botha regime. The NEC is however convinced that this regime is not interested in a just solution of the South African question.
Rather, it is interested to use the question of negotiations to divide our movement, demobilise the masses of our people by holding out the false promise that we can win our liberation other than through its overthrow. It also seeks to improve its image internationally. In any case, it is clear that no negotiations can take place or even be considered until all political prisoners are released.
However, the NEC is of the view that we cannot be seen to be rejecting a negotiated settlement in principle. In any case, no revolutionary movement can be against negotiations in principle. Indeed, in our case, it is correct that we encourage all forces, particularly among our white compatriots and in the Western world, to put pressure on the Botha regime to abandon the notion that it can keep itself in power forever by the use of brute force.
"Talks" Must not Impede our Struggle
The growing crisis of the apartheid system is, in any case, causing some sections of the white population to consider ways in which they can defuse the situation. Among these are elements from the big capitalists of our country, representatives of the mass media, intellectuals, politicians and even some individuals from the ruling fascist party. Increasingly these seek contact with the ANC and publicly put forward various proposals which they regard as steps that would, if implemented, signify that the racist regime is, as they say, moving away from apartheid.
This poses the possibility that our movement will therefore be in contact with levels of the ruling circles of our country that it has never dealt with before. It is absolutely vital that our organisation and the democratic movement as a whole should be of one mind about this development to ensure that any contact that may be established does not have any negative effects on the development of our struggle.
Yet another significant result of the growing strength of our movement is that many Western countries are also showing interest in establishing and maintaining relations with us. Our policy on this kind of question has of course always been clear. In principle we can have no objection to establishing such relations. However, there are important tactical questions to consider about the timing of these developments and the form that the relations we may establish should take. The NEC would be happy to see us come out of this Conference with a consensus as to how our movement should handle these important questions of our revolution which, once more, confirm, the centrality of the ANC in the solution of the problems of our country.
These events draw attention to the fact that we have to act in a manner that accords with the responsibilities that rest on our shoulders, with regard both to the short and long term. If we seriously consider ourselves as the alternative government of our country, then we need to act and operate both as an insurrectionary force and a credible representative of a liberated South Africa.
With respect to the issues we have just raised, it is clear that we have to improve the quality of our diplomacy and therefore the training of our representatives and their staff. We need also to tap and utilise in a better way the intellectual cadres available to us, both inside and outside our country.
The scope, spread and intensity of our struggle has also thrown up a large leadership corps of our democratic movement. It is important that we pay close and continuous attention to the issue of maintaining close relations with these leaders, educate the masses of our people to understand and accept our own positions and at all times ensure that we are, as a movement, providing leadership on all major questions, in accordance with our position as the vanguard movement of our struggling people.
That, in any case, is the main lesson of our last 16 years of struggle since the Morogoro Conference. It is that we must act as a vanguard force, the repository of the collective experience of our revolutionary masses in their struggle for national liberation. We must be organised to act as such. We must focus on the offensive, instruct ourselves that we will win and enhance our position as the front commanders of our millions-strong army of revolution. Through 16 years of persistent struggle, we have placed ourselves in a position where we can discharge this responsibility and finally achieve the great dream of our people, the liberation of our motherland.