Comrade Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU,

The delegation of the African National Congress shares the views of all the foreign delegations assembled here who have underlined the historic significance, for the whole of mankind, of the main event that has brought us together - the 70th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The unfading significance of the days of Red October seventy years ago rests precisely on the fact that the victory the working class scored in this country in 1917 resulted in the emergence, on the world scene, of a reliable base and spearhead in the struggle against imperialist, colonial and racist domination, against imperialist reaction and war.

True to the behest of the great Lenin, the first socialist State in the world has never deviated from the foreign policy course of a consistent struggle for world peace, for the social progress and happiness of mankind. The historical importance of loyalty to this revolutionary course is, in our days, underlined by the persistent threat of nuclear destruction hanging over the whole of mankind, a threat made all the more ominous by the reality that it is not beyond the aggressive circles of imperialism to bring their destructive plans to fruition. That is why we who are assembled in this hall today have every reason to congratulate the Central Committee of the CPSU and all progressive and peace forces in the world on the news that a treaty is soon to be signed between the USSR and the United States of America, focusing on the short and medium range categories of nuclear weapons. This development has increased the confidence of the rest of humanity in the real possibility of ridding mankind completely of the threat of a nuclear war.

It is in this atmosphere that the African National Congress joins other delegations in underlining the international significance of the present course of development of Soviet society under the guidelines of the revolutionary perestroikamovement. It can have no lesser impact than the further strengthening of the great bulwark of peace - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - and the relaxation of international tensions.

Comrade Mikhail Gorbachev and comrades,

The 70-year revolutionary course blazed by the Great October Socialist Revolution has not only changed the geopolitical face of our planet but has also irreversibly altered the world balance of forces in the interests of mankind's social progress. The socialist system now embraces one-third of the world's population; the colonial system has all but collapsed; the international movement safeguarding the peace of nations has greatly expanded its scope and the national liberation revolutions are assailing the remaining bastilles of colonial and racist oppression.

Apartheid Aggression

However, more than forty years after the successful conclusion of the Second World War, apartheid, colonial aggression continues to cause serious disruption of peace and stability in the region of southern Africa. This aggression invariably increases with the escalation of the struggles of the peoples of South Africa and Namibia, led respectively by the ANC and SWAPO. The apartheid regime, perpetrating a most gruesome crime against humanity, has long discarded pretensions of adherence to international norms of behaviour. With impunity, it transgresses State borders of sovereign countries on its way to committing aggression against peaceful villages, murdering innocent people and destroying property. This happens with brutal consistency against the People's Republic of Angola which has never known peace since the days of the Angolan people's victory over Portuguese colonialism. The same is true of the People's Republic of Mozambique. The apartheid regime trains, arms and deploys counter-revolutionary bands to destabilise that country, as well as the independent Republics of Zambia and Zimbabwe, and it constantly deploys its own murder squads against the people of the Republic of Botswana.

Within South Africa, unprecedented fascist repression aimed at the destruction of the democratic movement of the people keeps escalating all the time. Thousands have been thrown into prisons during the current state of emergency - and this includes children who are constantly subjected to savage torture and abuse. An unprecedented number of our comrades are awaiting execution. But the struggle of the people has become irrepressible and the regime is failing to stem the tides of revolt which have plunged the country into an ever-deepening political and economic crisis.

Talk of Negotiations

In the context of all its crimes, the apartheid regime has sought to convince its allies that it is ready to negotiate a peaceful solution of the problem engendered by the apartheid system. The imperialist allies of the apartheid regime readily fall for these obviously false positions because the concern of imperialist Powers is that any change in South Africa must leave the capitalist system intact, so that the country should remain within the orbit of the world imperialist economy as an integral and dependent part of that economy, and under its political diktat. As a result of these positions, the forces of reaction have developed a pathological fear of the transformation of our country into a nonracial democracy. Imperialism has no wish to see the peoples take full control of their lives, appropriating to themselves the unrestricted right to determine their destinies.

The racist regime has raised the issue of negotiations in order to achieve two major objectives. The first of these is to defuse the struggle inside our country by holding out false hopes of a just political settlement which the apartheid regime has every intention to block. Secondly, this regime hopes to defeat the continuing campaign for comprehensive and mandatory sanctions by sending out bogus signals that it is ready to talk seriously to the genuine representatives of the people of our country.

We wish here to reiterate that the African National Congress has never been opposed to a negotiated settlement of the conflict in South Africa. But, equally we have never had any doubt but that the apartheid regime was not, and is not as yet, ready for such a settlement. The objective conditions which would compel serious, genuine, as well as honest, negotiations on the part of the regime have not yet matured.

The objective of any negotiating process must be the transformation of our country into a united and nonracial democracy. This is a perspective we believe we share with the whole of humanity. This is the goal we seek to achieve by the intensification of our struggle on all fronts, including armed struggle.

For a World Free of Wars

Assembled in the "openness" of this great hall are leaders and representatives of political parties drawn from across the globe, each of whom is a friend, and active supporter or an ally of the people of South Africa, Namibia and the rest of southern Africa in their fight against the Pretoria fascists. This is a measure of the extent to which imperialism's chief agent in Africa is isolated.

Permit me, Comrade Gorbachev, on behalf of the ANC and the fighting masses in South Africa, to convey to the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Soviet people, to all the leaders and representatives sitting around this unique table, and to you personally, Comrade Gorbachev, our profound appreciation of this support. Permit me to repeat the ANC's pledge that never will it be said that this friendship, this support, this alliance in struggle was to no avail.

We reiterate our appeal to the rest of the international community:

  • firstly, to impose comprehensive and mandatory sanctions against racist South Africa;
  • secondly, to give maximum political, economic and military support to the Frontline States;
  • thirdly, to give full support to the cause of the Palestinian people under the leadership of the PLO and to the struggle for peace in Central America, against United States imperialist intervention;
  • fourthly, to raise the level of material assistance to SWAPO and the ANC.

In this connection, we wish to observe that the struggle for national liberation is by necessary definition a struggle for peace. And peace is indivisible. For either there is peace everywhere or there is no peace anywhere. A climate of world peace therefore provides a powerful inducement for the speedy resolution of regional conflicts through the removal, by force or by consent, of the cause and source of conflict. That is why our struggle is an inseparable component of the worldwide struggle for a world free of wars.

Our current meeting is thus a rebuff to those who are working time without end to encourage and maintain ideological and other divisions within the broad peace movement. The discussions that are currently going on here underscore the urgency of the task that devolves upon each one of us to spare no effort in helping to avert a nuclear holocaust as well as to stop the wastage of much-needed resources on the arms race.

The spirit engendered by the 70th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution must reinforce this historic task. The lead given by the Soviet Union provides humanity with a noble example to emulate.

Long Live Anti-Imperialist Solidarity!

Long Live the Cause of Peace!

1 From: Meeting of Representatives of the Parties and Movements participating in the Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution: Speeches made at the Meeting, Moscow, November 4-5, 1987. Moscow: Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, 1988