Presidential Address African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa by I. B. Tabata, April 1962 [Extracts]

This is the first National Conference of the African People's Democratic Union of Southern Africa, which was founded at the beginning of last year. The name itself is aptly chosen. Anyone approaching the organisation sees writ large on its banners the central theme of its programme. The organisation stands firstly for democracy for all those who accept this country as their home and therefore regard themselves as Africans. Every human being who lives in this country and contributes to its welfare is a citizen and is therefore entitled to an equal say in the Government and management of the affairs of the country. In short, he is entitled to full democratic rights.

Clause (c) of the Constitution states one of the aims of this organisation allows: "To struggle for the liquidation of national oppression of the oppressed people in Southern Africa, that is, the removal of all disabilities restrictions based on grounds of race and colour and acquisition by the whole nation of those democratic rights enjoyed at present by only a small section of the population, namely the white people."

The programme "shall be the Ten Point Programme of the Non-European Unity Movement as laid down by the founding Conference of the N.E.U.M. in December, 1943."

This, then, puts A.P.D.U.S.A. fairly and squarely within the fold of the N.E.U.M. As a child of the Unity Movement it inherits the policy of non-collaboration with the oppressor, and the boycott as a weapon of struggle. It inherits also the traditions of the Unity Movement, its intransigence in matters of policy, its unflagging devotion to principles. It treasures the experiences of the Unity Movement accumulated over the years of hard struggle. In the coming battles A.P.D.U.S.A. will draw from the arsenal of ideas of the parent body, but, like all children who grow up under the tutelage of their parents, A.P.D.U.S.A. must expect and prepare itself for situations that have not been met before by the parent body. For this reason APDUSANS must steep themselves in the fundamental ideas and the guiding principles of the Unity Movement; for only thus will it be able to face up to the new situation.

From the start I would like to warn Conference that this address might seem rather sweeping in scope and not coming down to the day to day problems that face the people. This is deliberate. We have recently held a conference of the Unity Movement in which all the burning questions of the day were dealt with. I have been made to understand that the papers read at the Conference are going to be published, if not separately, at least in the minutes. Since A.P.D.U.S.A. was part of that conference and will receive its share of the minutes, I deem it not only unnecessary but also wasteful to cover the same ground. In addition to this, the address has attempted to avoid forestalling the papers that will be read in this Conference. In view of these considerations I have decided to limit myself to directing the thoughts of Conference towards certain aspects of our political life in the country. The central theme of this address is chosen to bring home to the membership the importance, the vital importance, of those classes who are generally accorded a lowly status in society, the toiling masses that carry society on their backs. Clause (c) of our Constitution, under "programme and policy" , states:

"The democratic demands and aspirations of the oppressed workers and peasants shall be paramount in the orientation of A. P. D. U. S. A. in both its short term and its long term objectives." This is the first time to my knowledge that such a clause has been included in the Constitution of any organisations in the Unity Movement. This alone marks a development in the outlook of the Movement and in a way also reflects the time we are living in. If this address should succeed in illuminating the full meaning of this clause, I shall be satisfied.

A.P.D.U.S.A. is born during a time of crisis. If it is to survive it will have to learn not only to adapt itself to the present conditions but also to develop such foresight as to be able to anticipate events and adjust itself accordingly. This presupposes a knowledge of the various forces at work and therefore of the environment in which it has to live. Social crises are not accidental phenomena. They follow certain laws that govern the development of men as social beings. They are part and parcel of the evolutionary process of mankind.

If APDUSANS take their work seriously, they will have to realise that politics is a full-time job. It is not enough to go around organising the people, though this in itself is very important; but they themselves have to find time to study. Politics is a science and those who do not understand this are lost; for they are unable to know what is involved in the events taking place before their eyes. Science gives us conceptual tools to predict the future and it is this ability to predict that will enable us to survive. In a time of social ferment many organisations spring up, society becomes prolific in producing its political offsprings, but then the mortality rate also rises steeply. Many of them die out and only those that are furnished with the proper means of adaptability survive. In other words, only those organisations that arm themselves with the correct theory are able to live on and assist in guiding the struggle of the people towards a higher plane. We are at this moment living through that state of ferment.

Where capitalism is faced with an acute crisis it tends to move towards a totalitarian dictatorship: But a totalitarian regime of the fascist type is a condition of an unstable regime. By its very essence it can only be temporal and transitional. Naked dictatorship is a symptom of a severe social crisis. Society cannot exist permanently under a state of crisis. A totalitarian state is capable of suppressing social contradictions during a certain period, but it is incapable of perpetuating itself. A ruling class, like a wounded lion, becomes more vicious as it feels itself drawing near to its extinction. The more vicious it becomes, the more monstrous its laws against the oppressed, all the more insecure it must feel. The very condition of an acute social crisis means that the forces operating in society can no longer be accommodated within it. It is time to change the old social relationships. Only that class that is called upon to do so, by virtue of its historical role, can help to solve such a crisis. In this country it is the toiling masses, who are in the main the Non-European oppressed, those millions of workers and peasants toiling on the land, in the mines and in the factories, who are destined to lead this country out of the crisis and create a more rational social order. It is they who create the civilization and lay the basis for a cultural development. They, by virtue of their contribution, should be accorded their rightful place of dignity and worth in society. They should participate in the governing of the country for which they have done and continue to do so much. Without their labour all this magnificence, all this spectacular development, this wealth and progress would have been impossible.

The point we are making is that labour and labour alone, whether it be manual, intellectual or technical, is the creator of wealth and civilization. Only those who are actively engaged in the complex of production, administration and research are necessary to human progress. The rest are drones and parasites that feed on society.

We are now in a position to see by looking into the past what labour has done for mankind. Let us now turn our attention to our own country, the Union of South Africa. It was mainly the labour of the Non-Whites that transformed the economy of the country in a short space of time from a pastoral agricultural economy to a mining economy, which in turn gave birth to an industrial economy. The curious thing in our country is that, while industrialism has taken root, the social relations insofar as the Non-Whites are concerned are those of a feudal economy. While the Non-Europeans have contributed a lion's share in creating wealth and civilization in this country, the herrenvolk have excluded them from enjoying the fruits of their own labour. Flying in the face of history, they are at this moment desperately trying to legislate into being a dead and long-buried tribalism or barbarism.

In short, then, the manufacturing industry in this country is running at a loss insofar as external balance of trade is concerned. That is to say, it is unable to stand on its own feet. Yet, insofar as society internally is concerned, it is the manufacturing industry that provides the biggest national income, the bulk of which goes to the White section of the population, who constitute a minority in the country. It is from it that the extravagant salaries are paid to the Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentar­ians. It is from it that the luxurious buildings and other luxuries are paid for the whole army of functionaries and other hangers-on. It is this that pays for the amenities of Whites-only, grand holiday resorts for Whites-only, swimming pools, civic centres, entertainment and other luxuries for Whites-only. In short, it is out of this income that the Whites are afforded an artificially high standard of living, while the great majority, the Non-Whites, are languishing in poverty and are perishing from preventable diseases, because they earn less than a living wage.

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