We are gathered here today to commemorate sixty years of the formation and existence of the African National Congress of South Africa. And, let there be no mistake, it has not been sixty years of conquest and defeatism but of constant struggle for liberation which involved tremendous sacrifices and even death.
This meeting is not of the ANC alone but of the forces it has represented which spread and multiplied and can, today, count a series of victories in the struggle of Man for freedom and dignity. This struggle encompasses not only the people of South Africa but embraces the greater part of mankind: it is a bitter struggle and is being fought at various levels in different parts of the world.
January 8, 1912 marks a turning point in the history of the people of Africa - it signifies the end of an era of unbridled plunder by foreigners and the opening of a new chapter of national consciousness among the oppressed people. The African National Congress came two years after the 1910 Act of Union which brought together erstwhile opponents - Boer and Briton - for the more intensive exploitation of the black people. Present at the inaugural conference which led to the formation of the ANC were representatives from as far afield as Zambia, Zimbabwe and further. They numbered among the workers and peasants, chiefs and intellectuals, people from all walks of life and from all the various tribes which constitute the South African nation. They came together to unite against oppression and to open a new era of united struggle which came to involve the whole of Africa and is now part of a worldwide struggle.
It is perhaps of some significance that in the very year the ANC was born the South African Defence Forces were created. Some day, these two opposing forces founded in the same year, 1912, are destined to confront each other in a mighty struggle whose outcome can only be victory for the oppressed black majority.
Faulty View of History
I have said our struggle is part of the African and worldwide struggle for progress; hence our invitation to our friends to be with us today. Though we may differ with some of them, our differences are small and minor compared with our agreement to oust our oppressors and exploiters. We sometimes note a sense of unease on the part of our friends when they reflect on our sixty years of struggle which has not brought us freedom. This appears to be a faulty view of history, a misunderstanding of the nature and significance of struggle. The independence of so many countries in Africa, the independent existence and actions of the OAU is part of our struggle, for we are part of that struggle for independence. We believe that the struggle has not been of single, separate countries but of the whole of Africa and we further believe that Africa will only have won that struggle when imperialism has been eliminated from every part of the continent. We have always believed in this concept of Pan-Africanism. That is why we have attended every conference meant to bring together the people of Africa - the All African Peoples Conference, the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Conference, the Bandung Conference, the Pan African Congress of 1963.
All Struggles Are Ours
Therefore, let my people not seek to hide behind walls when there is talk of independent and not independent - any independence is ours also. And even where the struggle is taking place directly against the enemy, when FRELIMO, MPLA, SWAPO, PAIGC attack the enemy, they are our attacks too. When the most powerful enemy of Africa, the apartheid regime in South Africa, will be tackled, it will be a vicious struggle and nothing can prevent this confrontation between progress and reaction. No amount of "reform" can prevent this, for the solution must include a radical transformation of the system of government in southern Africa and will have its impact on the whole of Africa. In fact, the struggle in the whole continent still proceeds, perhaps at a higher level, but every independent State which struggles for progress, for fulfilment of its people's aspirations is still part of the struggle.
Here we must pay tribute to our brothers and sisters in different parts of Africa who have joined in the struggle and have come to an important advance towards final victory. We mention countries like Botswana whose people were with us in 1912 at the formation of the ANC, Lesotho whose people are really part of South Africa and, in fact, part of their people are in South Africa in the Orange Free State which adjoins Lesotho and, of course, Swaziland. We pay tribute also to the peoples of Namibia who even now inspire us by their heroic mass action against the Vorster regime; to FRELIMO, MPLA and all the peoples of southern Africa. Even to the fighters of those organisations who may not have been recognised by OAU or anybody else for they too are making sacrifices for freedom. We say to all of them. Victory awaits us!
At this stage we must remind ourselves of struggles and victories in other parts of the world which have inspired us here in Africa. Perhaps the most important of these was the 1917 socialist revolution in the Soviet Union - an event which has resulted in tremendous transformation throughout the world. As a result, our struggle too, assumed a new meaning and strength. In this sense also, the achievements of the forces of progress in different parts of the world are interlocked. We, in Africa, are part and parcel of this worldwide struggle. Africa did not struggle in a vacuum. We owe our victories to forces in all parts of the world who fought along the same path.
We, of the African National Congress, are fully appreciative of the weakness of those who fight alone. That is why we have mobilised world opinion behind us and that is why we feel we are, in our struggle, flanked by revolutionaries from all parts of the world. We shall continue to press progressive forces in the world for support but, should this support be not forthcoming, we shall not sit idly by in the face of oppression. Historically we cannot avoid confrontation with our oppressors. We shall fight!...
Let us now talk of South Africa. The ANC has been in the vanguard of the liberation struggle for sixty years. Those sixty years of struggle have not, as I have already indicated, been fruitless and barren. However, if we measure our success and failures only in terms of the flags, the anthem and so on, then, of course, we have failed. But there is more, much more. For a greater part of our struggle we have engaged in a dialogue with our oppressors. Our strikes, our demonstrations, our campaigns, all these were a form of dialogue but the racists answered with ever increasing oppression. Today, the machinery of repression has been increased to the extent that white South Africa has a powerful army. This was the racists' answer to our dialogue and the massive South African defence budget is also a measure of our success. And this enormous expenditure on arms and other weapons of war is only possible because of the thousands of millions of imperialist investment in the South African economy. Without this support without the backing of the imperialist countries, South Africa would long have gone bankrupt even while we were fighting, literally, with our bare hands. As the guerrillas of the Umkhonto begin to rally the people inside the country to the stage of challenging the enemy with arms in their hands, the Defence Budget will have to be multiplied many times over, for that is the only source of hope for the oppressor - a false hope, needless to say.
New Forces Emerging
Inside South Africa new forces are emerging. Throughout the country there is a new ferment and there is considerable uncertainty in the ranks of the oppressors. This is a manifestation of the indestructible nature of the people's struggle when they know what they want. The time has now passed for a peaceful dialogue with the enemy. The time has came not to waste our forces and resources in strikes and demonstrations but to go forward towards an armed dialogue. There was a time when I thought it possible to talk racism and colonialism to abandon their oppression but that is now past. While we do not look forward to the armed struggle with joy, we must harden ourselves to that conflict and so should the people of Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and even Zambia for they will all become involved and will be part of the struggle.
This is why the policy of dialogue being put forward in certain quarters is misleading. What kind of dialogue can we have with people who have passed laws which bind us, hands and feet? How can we talk about "relaxing" the hated Pass Laws which control every moment of our lives? How can we talk of "ameliorating" the Land Laws which hand over nearly ninety percent of the land to 15 per cent of the population? Such laws cannot be relaxed or repealed. The whole apartheid system of which these laws are but a part must be completely destroyed and replaced by a system where all men will be truly equal.
Collaborators in Oppression
It will not be easy to reach the state of armed confrontation, for the enemy, too, is preparing. They hope to forestall it with such measures as the creation of the bantustans. And some of our people, sick and tired of being ruled, have thought of taking and organising the bantustans for use against the enemy at a later date. This line of thinking is dangerous and the ANC will not allow it. For the people must always remember that the land belongs to the majority and that is the African people. They cannot allow themselves to be fobbed off with a tiny piece of the land. Furthermore, the carving up of these bantustans will endanger all the countries in southern Africa including Zambia, for they will all become a part of a large economic unit with South Africa as the master. Eventually, just as Zululand is a bantustan, so will Lesotho, Swaziland and other southern African countries become a kind of bantustan. The bantustans are dangerous to the extent that they seek to break up a nation born in 1912, and those who work the system in conscious support of the South African Government are collaborators in oppression.
We must exclude from this attack those who have no choice but to work within the bantustan framework and those who use the bantustan platform to attack apartheid and supplement our demands.
In conclusion may I state categorically that our objective is a free unified South Africa which will be part of and on the side of the forces of progress part of the anti-racist, anti-colour anti-imperialist forces. We have pledged to fight for this and in repeating this pledge let us remember those who fought before us and those who fight alongside us.