National Democratic Revolution, Set
1401 National Democratic Revolution | 1402 Origin of the National Republic | 1403 Genesis of the NDR | 1404 Democracy on the National Scale | 1405 The National Question | 1406 People’s Republic | 1407 Congress, Pact and Defiance | 1408 Congress Call | 1409 Peasants’ Revolt | 1410 Strategy and Tactics | 1411 The Working Class and the NDR | 1412 Hegemony within the NDR Openings Note: The Communist University’s Generic Courses are first and foremost designed as a resource for people who may wish to meet regularly in study circles to learn in dialogue around suitable texts or “codifications”. The CU provides sets or series of texts for this purpose.

The Communist University Blog, and its linked e-mail distribution, functioned as the generator of new material for the Communist University’s re-edited and re-formatted versions of the CU’s original Generic Courses, which were first published nearly four years previously on the amadlandawonye Wikispace web site.

The following course on the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) is, as usual, mainly in the form of short, original writings. That is to say, they are for the most part texts that are sourced from the primary authors, and not interpretive texts from “analysts” or from academics.

Derived from the blog posts, the commentaries below are provided for continuity and as an explanation of why the particular texts were chosen, and why they were ordered in the way that they appear. Each one corresponds to one of the twelve main texts, and is numbered accordingly.

They can also serve as the equivalent of an “opening of the discussion” that one participant who had read the text would give to a study circle. It is better if you can do your own “openings” to such discussions.

There are many ways of doing an “opening” that can “kick off” the dialogue. One is to use a lot of quotations from the given text. Another is to try to find one or two strong points of controversy. Another is to attempt a summary, or a “review” of the item. Another is to state, frankly, what one does not understand in the text, and ask the comrades to assist!

1401 National Democratic Revolution


With any course, one must decide where to begin. In the case of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), what is immediately crucial is an understanding of class struggle and of class alliances in history.

Such a study could begin as long ago as 367 BC, with the Conflict of the Orders in the Roman Republic, and proceed through the class struggles involving, for example, the Gracchus brothers [Pictured: Gaius Gracchus, Tribune of the People], Julius Caesar and others, that led in 27 BC to the stagnant class truce called the Roman Empire, that soon declined and fell into a Dark Age. Class struggle is the engine of history, comrades. Without it, there is little life, and little light.

We could alternatively begin in 1512 with Machiavelli, and the class struggles of Renaissance (born again) Italy, where multiple city-states with populations of 100,000 or more were embroiled in internal and external class conflicts.

We could go to Thomas Hobbes, who published his Leviathan in 1651, describing the politics of the bigger national states of Northern Europe (Like Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands) which had by his time superseded the politics of Italy as the main theatre of recorded historical process.

These European machinations could be our workbook and our political sandpit, for the main reason that there is a record. There is very little virtue, but there is a literature.

But we might as well rather begin, as Frederick Engels does in the first part of his “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” (see the link below), with the Great French Revolution that started in 1789. From this point on we can meet, in their developed form, the class protagonists who allied and clashed from that time until now, in all possible permutations: alliances holy and unholy, strategic and tactical, marriages of convenience and marriages made in heaven; and we can have, for the most part, the benefit of Marx and Engels as eyewitnesses or near-eyewitnesses. These classes were the feudal aristocrats; the peasants; the bourgeoisie; and the proletariat.

Using this work of Engels’ as a starting point has the additional benefit of introducing the rudiments of political philosophy, and leading our thoughts towards the “democratic bourgeois republic”, which is at one and the same time the highest form of political life before socialism, and the prerequisite of concerted proletarian action, and also a form of the State, that has to be transcended. In other words, our study of the NDR will bring us, as history has already brought us, to the kind of crisis that Lenin outlined so sharply in “The State and Revolution,” as we have already seen, when majority rule is no longer an adequate substitute for freedom.

The next following text will be some extracts from Karl Marx’s “18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, an account of the period in France of which Marx made a particular study, when Bonaparte, for his two decades as Emperor, juggled the contending classes until the apocalyptic year of the Paris Commune: 1871.

Click on this link:
Click here to download the text of Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Part 1, Engels (5105 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1401a, Critique of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx

1402 Origin of the National Republic


The Great French Revolution that started in 1789 did not immediately produce a lasting democratic republic in France. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Empire, launched with a coup d’etat on 9 November 1799, which had attacked feudal monarchs all over Europe, was followed during the next three decades by the restoration of weak versions of the French monarchy, culminating in the “July Monarchy” of Louis Philippe. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels anticipated a coming revolutionary upsurge and published the Communist University at the beginning of the revolutionary year of 1848.
The Manifesto’s first major section is called “Bourgeois and Proletarians” and it says among other things that: “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other - bourgeoisie and proletariat.”

Yet it was Marx in particular, in two great books and one short Address (see the links below), who soon described the much less simple, more complex, permutations of class conflict at the time. For example, in the following cut from “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (click on the link below for a longer selection) it is clear that the proletariat suffered an almost immediate disaster, because it had no allies and was isolated and attacked by all the other classes together, and massacred in June of 1848 in Paris [Picture: photo of barricades in a Paris street in June, 1848].

This is the situation that the proletariat must always avoid, and it is one reason why the working class must always have allies. Here is the cut from Marx’s outline of events:

“a. May 4 to June 25, 1848. Struggle of all classes against the proletariat. Defeat of the proletariat in the June days.
“b. June 25 to December 10, 1848. Dictatorship of the pure bourgeois republicans. Drafting of the constitution. Proclamation of a state of siege in Paris. The bourgeois dictatorship set aside on December 10 by the election of Bonaparte as President.”

In the “18th Brumaire”, not only do the contenders of the Great French Revolution reappear, namely the Aristocracy, the Peasantry (known as the Montagne), the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat; but also described are the clear contradictions within the bourgeois class; the classless, manipulative Bonaparte, who played the four main classes off against each other for more than two decades until he lost the plot; and the “lumpen proletariat” of idle adventurers who were Bonaparte’s willing, and paid (with “whisky and sausages”) accomplices.

In his March 1850 Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League (linked below) Marx spoke in particular of Germany, which had also caught the revolutionary enthusiasm, again in terms of a precise and dynamic comprehension of the patterns and permutations of class contradiction, and of who must ally with whom at any particular moment.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were deeply, personally and very effectively involved in these events as individuals and as organisers, and in Engels’ case as a military combatant. These events shaped the new form of democratic republic that arrived in France after the eventual fall of Louis Bonaparte in 1871. That newly-formed kind of “democratic bourgeois republic” still remains the standard form of nation-state in the world, and it is the same kind that our republic has become, here in South Africa.

This historic understanding, as well as the unsurpassed clarity, with which Marx in particular describes the nature of practical multi-class struggle, can serve to prepare us for a progressively more specific, historical examination of the theory and practice of National Democratic Revolution (NDR) through the 20th Century, in Africa, and in South Africa up to the present time.

The NDR is nothing if it is not about class alliance, and about democracy on the national scale.

As the second component of the CU Generic Course on the NDR, the extracts from the “18th Brumaire” would be used as the discussion text, with the “March Address” and the “Class Struggles in France” offered as additional reading.

Click here to download the text of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Chapters 1 & 7, Marx(10719 words)
Further (optional) reading:

1402aMarch 1850 Address to the CC of the Communist League, Marx(4120 words)
1402bClass Struggles in France, Part 1, The Defeat of June 1848, Marx(9373 words)

1403 Genesis of the NDR


The Hammer and Sickle emblem of the communists, invented in 1917, is symbolic of a class alliance between two distinct classes: proletarian workers; and peasants.

Peasants often work hard and they are often poor, but they are not the same as the working proletariat of the towns. Nor are they the same as the rural proletariat. So the hammer and the sickle are not two equal things. They represent two different things, allied.

Practical politics is always a matter of alliance, and in different circumstances, different alliances are called for. Communists commonly regard an alliance between workers and peasants as normal. But rightly or wrongly, proletarian parties have in the past attempted class alliances with the bourgeoisie (against feudalism or against colonialism) and at least one instance, even with the aristocracy (against the bourgeoisie).

Alliances are normal and necessary, in order to isolate and thereby to defeat an adversary, and equally, to avoid being isolated and defeated by the adversary. Therefore, the question of the appropriate alliances in the anti-colonial and anti-Imperialist struggle was bound to arise.

Exactly when the term
National Democratic Revolution (NDR) was coined, we do not know. But the origin of the specific type of class alliance that is referred to by the term National Democratic Revolution can be precisely located in the Second Congress of the Communist International (2CCI), in the discussion on the National & Colonial Question, reported by V. I. Lenin on 26 July 1920 (click on the link below).

The founding Congress of the Communist International (“Comintern”) took place a little more than a year after the October 1917 Russian Revolution, in March, 1919. The First International had been disbanded after the fall of the Paris Commune. The Second International fell apart in 1914, when most of the Social-Democratic workers’ parties backed their bourgeois masters in the war between Imperialist powers. The communists, led by Lenin, had held out against that betrayal. After the revolutionary victory in Russia they lost very little time before constructing a new International. The Third, Communist International was naturally and explicitly anti-Imperial and anti-colonial.

In his report to the 2CCI on the National & Colonial Question, Lenin says:
We have discussed whether it would be right or wrong, in principle and in theory, to state that the Communist International and the Communist parties must support the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. As a result of our discussion, we have arrived at the unanimous decision to speak of the national-revolutionary movement rather than of the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement. It is beyond doubt that any national movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement, since the overwhelming mass of the population in the backward countries consist of peasants who represent bourgeois-capitalist relationships… However, the objections have been raised that, if we speak of the bourgeois-democratic movement, we shall be obliterating all distinctions between the reformist and the revolutionary movements. Yet that distinction has been very clearly revealed of late in the backward and colonial countries…”
Here we find all the makings of the NDR, including the name, even if it is not quite in its present-day order. Lenin calls it “national-revolutionary”, but he makes it very clear that he is talking of a class alliance with anti-colonial, anti-Imperialist elements of the national bourgeoisie in colonial countries. It is very instructive to read what he says.

The 2CCI was followed within two months by the famous “Congress of the Peoples of the East”, in Baku, in the southern part of the Soviet Union [Picture: delegates to the Congress of the Peoples of the East. Its manifesto (click the link below) makes very clear the strategic confrontation that existed following the end of hostilities, and the effective and menacing British Imperial victory, as they saw it.

This was the first international congress of oppressed nations against colonialism. It effectively launched the anti-colonial struggle on a new basis that began to bear fruit less than thirty years later in the late 1940s, with the independence of India and the victory of the communist revolutionaries in China.

Let us not forget that although the Soviet Union is no more, yet the profound change in the entire world that is the consequence of the anti-colonial movement for independence and sovereignty of nations is still with us, in the form of nearly 200 nations, most of which did not exist, as such, at the time of the 2CCI and the Congress of the Peoples of the East.

For one example of how quickly it took hold, and how close to our home this movement quickly came, the Red Trade Union International (Profintern) of the Comintern, founded one year after the 2CCI, in 1921, had by 1930 organised (in Berlin) an
International Conference of Negro Workers that included Jomo Kenyatta and Moses Kotane, as well as W. Thibedi and Albert Nzula.

We should also not forget to mention the founding of the Communist Party of South Africa under the auspices of the Comintern in 1921 in this connection.

Another example of the swift, strong effect of the Russian Revolution and the Comintern on South Africa is the Black Republic Thesis, and all that went with it, which we will come to in the next part of this NDR Generic Course.

The third item linked below is by Antonio Gramsci. It is an account of the “Southern (Italian) Question” in a time that corresponds to the early years of the Comintern. It is included here so as to provide more diverse reading about the shifting class alliances that exist in all sorts of situations. The situation of Southern Italy was not very much different from a colony at that time – colonised by the northern Italians. A South African may well recognise some of the political factors that are described by Gramsci in this essay.

Click here to download the text of Report on National & Colonial Question, 2CCI, Lenin (1983 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1403a Manifesto, Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East (4383 words)

1403b Some Aspects of the Southern Question, Gramsci (9675 words)

1404 Democracy on the National Scale


We have founded this study of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) on the practical necessity, as well as the historical fact, of class alliance, and most pointedly on Lenin’s report to the 2CCI on 26 July 1920, on the National & Colonial Question. A class alliance, or in other words unity-in-action, was always necessary for the defeat of colonialism. Just such a class alliance was in practice successfully put together in many countries, including South Africa, as the tactical road to political independence.

Such an alliance is what is broadly known as the National Liberation Movement. What the movement is supposed to do is called the National Democratic Revolution. As much as it was nationalist, the anti-colonial liberation movement was equally international in character. Its national dimension was the enlargement of democracy, which the Imperialists invariably opposed with divide-and-rule schemes of provincial federation, regionalism, et cetera. Hence the continuing struggle against Provincialism, and the on-going defence of Provincialism by the reactionary remnants in our country.

We now need to look specifically at the expansion of democracy to the national level. Why? Because for revolutionary purposes the entire working class, and the entirety of the allied classes, must unite all of their potential support, in numerical, and in territorial terms. This is a practical necessity, if the liberation forces are to defeat the well-concentrated class enemy which is the monopoly and Imperialist-allied bourgeoisie.

The battle to spread democracy to the farthest corners of the country, and to the whole population in terms of race and gender, is also the battle against regional and ethnic chauvinism. This battle postulates a centralised parliamentary democracy, or democratic republic, even if, as Lenin pointed out in the report to the 2CCI, such a democratic republic can only be bourgeois in nature.

The structure of parliamentary democracy (i.e. the democratic republic), although it is the organising scheme within which the polity at the national scale is conceived and arranged, is not sufficient in itself. It is a shell that must be populated with organised elements - elements which are also extended to the national scale, just as much as the parliamentary franchise is.

Among these organised elements are:

  • The mass movement of national liberation
  • The vanguard party of the working class
  • The national (industrial) trade unions and their national centre
  • Class-conscious national media of communication
  • Many mass organisations at the national level, including Womens’ and Youth organisations.

Communists can be found organising, educating and mobilising, as is their duty according to the SACP Constitution, in all of these areas, and this has been the case throughout the 88 years of the Party’s life. The texts that are collected together in the linked document below clearly demonstrate that the communists, even before the formation of the Party, were concerned with the extension of organisation to all parts of the population.

The linked documents show that one predominately-white precursor of the Party was acutely aware that its own aspirations could not be fulfilled unless the Black Proletariat was mobilised to take the lead in the struggle. This was the International Socialist League. It, like Lenin, had opposed the Imperialist war that broke out in 1914. It was later to become a component part of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) on its formation in 1921. “No Labour Movement without the Black Proletariat,” it said.

After its 1921 formation, the Party quickly became predominantly black in membership, and these black cadres soon exercised a leading role in mass organisations, of which the biggest, in the 1920s, was the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU). [Note: The (white) Labour Party had been formed in 1908, and the African National Congress in 1912.]

The expulsion of communists from the ICU, and in particular of J.A. (Jimmy) La Guma, ICU General Secretary; E.J. Khaile, ICU Financial Secretary and John Gomas, Cape Provincial Secretary, was a set-back for the working class and as it turned out, it was fatal for the ICU. This episode is recorded in the first linked document, below.

In 1927 Josia Gumede was elected ANC President and travelled to meet the top leadership of theSoviet Union. That year was the tenth anniversary of the Russian revolution. He travelled with Jimmy La Guma, a member of the party, secretary of an ANC branch in Cape Town and recently expelled leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). La Guma was expelled together with E.J Khaile for being communists by the ICU. In that very year Khaile was elected secretary general of the ANC at its national conference in 1927. [Thanks to Cheche Selepe for the information in this paragraph]

The CPSA and the ANC drew together, though not without problems. The alliance was endorsed by the Sixth Comintern Congress in the famous “Black Republic Thesis” resolution, which said among others:

“The Party should pay particular attention to the embryonic national organisations among the natives, such as the African National Congress. The Party, while retaining its full independence, should participate in these organisations, should seek to broaden and extend their activity…

“In the field of trade union work the Party must consider that its main task consists in the organisation of the native workers into trade unions as well as propaganda and work for the setting up of a South African trade union centre embracing black and white workers.

“The Communist Party cannot confine itself to the general slogan of ‘Let there be no whites and no blacks'. The Communist Party must understand the revolutionary importance of the national and agrarian questions.

“A correct formulation of this task and intensive propagation of the chief slogan of a native republic will result not in the alienation of the white workers from the Communist Party, not in segregation of the natives, but, on the contrary, in the building up of a solid united front of all toilers against capitalism and imperialism.”

In the first of the linked documents, the Comintern resolution is followed by the famous Cradock Letter written by Moses Kotane in 1934, before he became General Secretary of the Party. It called for the “Africanisation or Afrikanisation” of the CPSA, something that had clearly not yet fully taken place, five years after the adoption of the “Black Republic Thesis”.

The second linked document is the chapter on “Socialism and Nationalism” from Jack Simons and his wife Ray Alexander’s 1969 book, “Class and Colour”. It contains a wealth of detail about the period and it mentions many of the active personalities in the years before and after the formation of the CPSA (i.e. roughly from 1917 to 1930).

Click here to download the text of Black Proletariat, ICU, Black Republic Thesis, Kotane’s Cradock Letter (6288 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1404a Class & Colour, C10, Socialism & Nationalism, Simons & Simons (6934 words)

1405 The National Question


The main document this time is large but is of great use because it covers this period from a different point of view, while nevertheless confirming the general outline that we have drawn so far. It is from Brian Bunting’s 1975 book, “Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary”.

Kotane was the author of the Cradock Letter (1934), used in the previous CU instalment. Five years later Kotane became General Secretary of the CPSA and then of the SACP, holding the position from 1939 until his death in 1978.

The supporting document is from Jack and Ray Simons’ 1969 “Class & Colour in South Africa, 1850-1950”. [The entire book is on the Internet at the ANC web site.]

Both of these documents were written by participants and witnesses of the events described. The period was one of difficulty for the Party (the CPSA). Those who had ostensibly advocated the correct “line” at the correct moment, and who, perhaps for that reason, possessed the leadership, behaved with extreme cruelty towards the comrades who had been more circumspect about the adoption of the “native republic” thesis, using wave after wave of expulsions.

It is a lesson on how not to behave. In the end it is clear that there were great obstacles in the way of the execution of the native republic thesis, and that those who took the difficulties seriously were some of those, like Brian Bunting, Jack Simons, and Ray Alexander Simons, who survived; while those who had expelled their comrades, blaming them for the difficulties, and who ruled the Party like tyrants, did not last.

Moses Kotane [pictured] came through, survived, and is identified forever with the defence of the NDR and of the Alliance that the NDR required. It was on the surface an alliance between the SACP and the African National Congress, but at root it was an alliance between the proletariat, and national class elements, for freedom, and against monopoly capital.

In the next instalment we will look at the shifting class relationships in China, before and after the revolution of 1949, so as to reinforce our understanding that class alliance is the universal tactical characteristic of class-conflicted society, and is not a solely South African phenomenon. Then we will continue to track the National Democratic Revolution in South African theory and practice through the second half of the 20th century and up to date.

There is nothing exceptional or unique to South Africa about class alliance. It is an organic factor in all class-divided societies. Nor was it imposed. The following excerpt from Brian Bunting’s book says:

“After he had left the Party, Roux was at pains to make out that the Native Republic resolution was imposed on The South African Communist Party from outside by a Comintern concerned more with the furtherance of its own interests and those of its biggest constituent element the Russian CP than with the interests of the South African people… the eventual Native Republic resolution flowed from an interchange of views between the Comintern and the CPSA, and was accepted in South Africa in terms of the policy of democratic centralism on which the international Communist movement was based. Certainly, there is no doubting that the impetus for the Native Republicresolution came from the nationally-minded elements in the South African CP…”

Click here to download the text of Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary, Chapter 2, The National Question, Bunting (13844 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1405a Class & Colour in South Africa, 1850-1950, Chapter 19, Theory & Practice, Simons & Simons(8579 only)

1406 People’s Republic


In all countries of the world, there is division into classes. The form of study that enumerates, names, describes, and narrates the changing absolute and relative condition of all the classes is correctly called Political Economy, meaning, literally, the arrangement of the classes within the overall polity. In Marxist terms this study has to be an “ascent from the abstract to the concrete”, or in other words it must make possible a view of the whole social phenomenon as a “unity and struggle of opposites” at a particular moment in time.

The classes are formed as a consequence of various modes of production. The study of the bourgeois mode of production in isolation, and the imagined generalisation of its laws to the entirety of current human experience, and to history, is what is known as (bourgeois) “Economics”. The confinement of political thought within the bounds of bourgeois economics would cripple it and render us incapable of projecting forward our way to socialism.

Hence revolutionaries from time to time, and with varying degrees of precision and detail, are apt to prepare a balance sheet of the Political Economy at that particular moment. This is what Karl Marx did in the “Class Struggles in France 1848-1850, and in “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (1852). These were exemplary calculations, which apart from their practical revolutionary value at the time, served forever after to educate and to re-educate revolutionaries about the facts of class-struggle life.

Mao [pictured] Zedong’s extraordinary political economy of China in 1939, called “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party”, is another great example, in general, of this kind of exercise (click on the first link below).

In addition, and taken together with the piece Mao wrote ten years later, in the year of the victory of the Chinese Revolution, 1949, it allows us to get a sense of the dynamics of plural class formation, ascent and decline in China, and the consequent practical inevitability of the National Democratic Revolution as the viable way forward. Mao called it the People’s Democratic Dictatorship, and China was re-named, and is still 60 years later named the People’s Republic, and not a socialist republic.

In 2009, according to the information of a Chinese delegation currently touring South Africa, the number of people living in the rural areas of China is 800 million; but the number of people in cities is 500 million, an enormous increase that reflects the growth of the proletariat from the pitifully small relative size it had in 1939.

As we become more aware of what is really happening, it becomes more and more apparent that the National Democratic Revolution need not be, and should not be, seen as a regrettable compromise, or as a temporary or an interim measure, or even as a stage, if a stage means a halt. The National Democratic Revolution is a positive, revolutionary move forward, and it is the only direct move forward that is possible in our circumstances, that can be accomplished in a peaceful, willed and rational way.

Rosa Luxemburg’s “Reform or Revolution?” is highly relevant to this discussion because it, too, and among other things, describes a clear Political Economy of Germany at the time (1900). It also contains some unique and valuable remarks about the position of the petty bourgeoisie in the class struggle. The party of the working class has to consider the welfare of the entire body politic, including that of other classes, and especially of those classes, such as the petty-bourgeoisie and the peasantry, which find it next to impossible to organise themselves politically. The working class leads.

The National Democratic Revolutions cannot properly be defined by a set of tick-boxes next to self-justifying stand-alone goods such as “non-racial”, “non-sexist” and “unified”. Its nature and its consequent trajectory can only be properly and fully seen in the light of Political Economy. The NDR should always be defined, and from time to time redefined, in relation to a specific class alliance for unity-in-action.

Click here to download the text of The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party, 1939, Mao Zedong (8011 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1406a People's Democratic Dictatorship, 1949, Mao Zedong (5164 words)

1406b Reform or Revolution, Intro, C2, C7, C9, C10, Rosa Luxemburg (10250 words)

1407 Congress, Pact and Defiance


The National Democratic Revolution is more than a theory. It is a fact, and it has a history. In South Africa, the unity of vanguard party, mass democratic movement, and workers’ industrial unions was created by the actions of countless individuals and in the course of many historic events.

The World War that began in 1939 was, thanks partly to the Comintern and to Georgi Dimitrov, a conscious unity-in-action against the fascists. The Comintern was wound up on 15 May, 1943. The war came to an end in August, 1945. The United Nations came into being on 24 October 1945, with a membership of 51 nations.

During the war, a lot of organising had been done in South Africa. Among the structures in existence were the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions, and the African Mine Workers’ Union, on of whose leaders was J B Marks.


Writing in 1976, M P Naicker described how the African Mineworkers’ strike of September 1946 changed everything, both within South Africa and also externally.

“The African miners’ strike was one of those historic events that, in a flash of illumination, educate a nation, reveal what has been hidden and destroy lies and illusions. The strike transformed African politics overnight.

“Dr. A. B. Xuma, President-General of the African National Congress, joined a delegation of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) sent to the 1946 session of the United Nations General Assembly when the question of the treatment of Indians in South Africa was raised by the Government of India. He, together with the SAIC representatives - H. A. Naidoo and Sorabjee Rustomjee - and Senator H. M. Basner, a progressive white ‘Native Representative’ in the South African Senate, used the occasion to appraise Member States of the United Nations of the strike of the African miners and other aspects of the struggle for equality in South Africa.

“Dealing with this visit the ANC, at its annual conference from December 14 to 17, 1946, passed the following resolution:

"Congress congratulates the delegates of India, China and the Soviet Union and all other countries who championed the cause of democratic rights for the oppressed non-European majority in South Africa.”

“The brave miners of 1946 gave birth to the ANC Youth League's Programme of Action adopted in 1949; they were the forerunners of the freedom strikers of May 1, 1950, against the Suppression of Communism Act, and the tens of thousands who joined the 26 June nation-wide protest strike that followed the killing of sixteen people during the May Day strike. They gave the impetus for the 1952 Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws when thousands of African, Indian and Coloured people went to jail; they inspired the mood that led to the upsurge in 1960 and to the emergence of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) - the military wing of the African National Congress.”

The second linked document is a transcript of the “Three Doctors’ Pact” of March, 1947. The three doctors were Dr Xuma, Dr Dadoo, and Dr Naicker, leaders of the ANC, the Transvaal Indian Congress, and the Natal Indian Congress respectively [Picture: Dr Xuma signing; Dr Dadoo is seen on the right side of the picture, Dr Monty Naicker on the other side]. This Pact was a precursor of the Women’s Charter of 1954, and of the Freedom Charter of 1955. In all of these cases we can see that mass organisations of specific constituencies were able to combine as part of a process of national social development – the National Democratic Revolution. In the next installment, we will proceed to the Congress of the People Campaign, including the Freedom Charter.


The third document linked below was written by the famous “Drum” reporter, Henry Nxumalo. In 1950, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was banned, dissolved itself, and gradually began to reconstitute itself as a clandestine party, the SACP, making no further public statements until 1959, with the publication of the first issue of the African Communist.

But two other things happened: the remaining, legal components of the movement rallied round to protest against the banning and to support the ex-Party comrades, such as Dadoo, Marks, Bopape and Kotane, as reported by Henry Nxumalo in Drum. The movement was solid. The ANC did not wash off the communists. The NDR was already on firm foundations. The Defiance campaign was led by, among others, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who was that campaign’s Volunteer-in-Chief.

[Pictures: Drs (Monty) Naicker, Xuma, and Dadoo; J B Marks; Nelson Mandela.]

Click here to download the text of The African Miners Strike of 1946, Naicker(3894 words)
Further (optional) reading:

1407a Three Doctors Pact, 1947, Xuma, Naicker, Dadoo(380 words)
1407b Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign, Drum, Nxumalo(617 words)

1408 Congress Call


This post is about the preparations for the 1955 Congress of the People (CoP), the Congress of the People as an event, and the Freedom Charter that came out of the event, all considered as historic acts and as part of the process of building the South African National Democratic Revolution.

What we could very advantageously use for this discussion is an electronic copy of the book by Jeremy Cronin and Raymond Suttner, published in 1986, called “30 Years of the Freedom Charter”, or even just a good extract from the book. But unfortunately the book is not available on the Internet. Instead, it has been polished up and re-published as “50 Years of the Freedom Charter”, in hard copy only. If you can get either one of these editions, do use it to prepare for this discussion.

“The Congress of the People and Freedom Charter Campaign”, by Ismail Vadi, Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 1995, is another book that comes up in searches of the Internet.

According to the small samples of Vadi’s book that can be read on line, (i.e. the
Introduction, the Preface, and the Foreword by Walter Sisulu) the planning of the CoP began in 1953, and the campaign was only wound down in 1956, the year of the beginning of the Treason Trial, which was a consequence of the CoP. The Treason Trial went on for another four years.

Another document on the Internet is a short History of the Freedom Charter, in a number of parts, and with a picture gallery, which bears out the extended nature of the political intervention that was the total CoP Campaign.

This was a determined and deliberately visible construction of a national democratic project. It involved huge masses of people. It was a conscious and fully worked-out design, even to the Nehru-style caps in ANC colours that the Volunteers wore. [See the photo showing the platform at Kliptown, with a Volunteer in attendance]

SACTU, the non-racial South African Congress of Trade Unions, was a late entry to the CoP but it made the cut and it managed to feature in the “wheel of unity” that nowadays still forms part of both COSATU’s and the ANC’s logos. [The second image shows the document that was used to publicise the Freedom Charter after the Congress, including the newly-pasted “SACTU” acronym, and the “ANC” acronym shifted from the rim to the hub of the wheel. The document includes quotes from the Freedom Charter itself.]

The document linked below, “Call to the Congress of the People”, shows very clearly the large scope and scale of the call to “all Unionwide Organisations”.
This series is about the NDR. This post and the reading are given so as to invite you to consider the whole episode of the CoP from 1953 to 1956 as one of the strongest specific and historical contributions to the NDR.

The Freedom Charter was much more than a list of demands. It was an integral part of a kind of conscious nation-building which had real revolutionary content and which demonstrated real democracy in action.

Those old comrades laid down an irresistible pattern. It appealed to the heart as well as to the eye and to the mind, and it still surrounds us today, manifested in the continuing Congress Alliance of which the SACP, legal again, is now an open part. There was never a time when the communists were not part of the National Democratic Revolution. It is ours, as much as it is anybody else’s. It is family.

As it was when Lenin spoke in the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, so it was in 1955: Two things were required. One was a genuine class alliance and unity-in-action against the main oppressor class, the colonialist monopoly capitalists. The other was the deliberate extension of democracy for the creation of a democratic nation. The CoP campaign was exactly in this mould.

Click here to download the text of Call to the Congress of the People; Freedom Charter (2555 words)

1409 Peasants’ Revolt


The National Democratic Revolution is based upon a clear understanding of objective, dynamic class politics, and it proceeds from a class alliance against the oppressor class, towards the fullest possible democracy. There is an interrelationship between the underlying class realities, and the subjective organisational politics of democracy. In these posts, we have tended either to concentrate upon one side of this dialectical relationship, or the other.

The previous two parts of this series have been about the organisation and mobilisation of the NDR in the 1940s and 1950s. This part is more about objective class realities, or in other words, about Political Economy. The following one will be about organised politics again, and then the final two parts will be of a more synthetic nature, dealing with both subject and object together.

Looking forward, the last revolutionary confrontation is bound to be between the big bourgeoisie and its gravedigger, the proletariat that it must constantly bring into being. Yet it is far from the case that in the present time all other classes have died out in South Africa.

Class alliance is essential for the isolation and defeat of the oppressor, to deny the oppressor the comfort of support, and to prevent the oppressor from isolating and defeating the working class. The politics of class alliance were practiced in Karl Marx’s time; before that, in the Great French Revolution; and afterwards in the Russian and the Chinese Revolutions, to name but two out of many. The hammer-and-sickle emblem of our party signifies class alliance between workers and peasants.

In order for a class alliance to be possible, the other classes must also be somewhat class conscious, as well as the working class. They may have to be assisted by the working class, and by the intellectual partisans of the working class, ourselves, the Party. Yet there is rather little in the way of class-conscious literature about South Africa’s large petty-bourgeois class, who are for the most part poor people; and little of a directly political nature about the agricultural petty-bourgeoisie, who are the peasantry; or about the oppressors of the rural petty-bourgeoisie and peasantry, who are South Africa’s bureaucratised feudal class.


The classic exception to this intellectual famine is communist journalist and Rivonia trialist Govan Mbeki’s “Peasants’ Revolt”, published in 1964 (see the link below). Works such as “Landmarked”, by Cherryl Walker (Jacana, 2008) tell us that the huge misery of rural displacement and impoverishment has still neither been ameliorated nor turned in a sufficiently positive direction.

Dar-es-Salaam-trained intellectual Mahmood Mamdani’s 1996 book “Citizen and Subject” brings more facts and insights about peasants and workers. The chapter linked below is the book’s summing-up. Note that Mamdani's sense of the word “subject” is different and opposite from the normal, communist one. Here it means a subordinate person, and not a free person.

Lastly, and because of the pitifully small literature devoted to the petty bourgeoisie, we go to France in the 1950s for an account of the phenomenon of “Poujadism”. This was a petty-bourgeois uprising that allied itself, in its beginning and at local level, with the communists, until it degenerated towards near-fascism. In their relations with the intermediate classes, history shows that the communists must proceed with great care and not lose concentration; but also that these classes are real and can potentially have a self-conscious beneficial development. The account is written from a somewhat sectarian point of view.

[Pictures: Pondoland Revolt, taken by Eli Weinberg; Govan Mbeki]

Click here to download the text of Peasants' Revolt, C8, Chiefs in the Saddle, Govan Mbeki (5708 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1409a Citizen & Subject, C8, Linking the Urban and the Rural, Mamdani (7236 words)

1409b The case-history of Poujadisme, Foster (1714 words)

1410 Strategy and Tactics


“The art of revolutionary leadership consists in providing leadership to the masses and not just to its most advanced elements…”

The above line from the ANC’s Morogoro Strategy and Tactics of 1969 (linked below) can be taken as the idea of the

National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in a nutshell. Politics is in the subjective realm – it is about the ultimate subjectivity: freedom – but politics can only have an existence within the limits of objective realities.


The NDR has a steadily built organisational history of personalities, of events and of documents, working within, and at the same time changing by its action, the balance of class forces in South Africa.

Next to the Freedom Charter, the ANC Strategy and Tactics document of 1969 is the most prominent of all the NDR documents. In discussing the military activities of Umkhonto we Siswe (MK), it outlines alliance politics in terms that are sometimes crystal-clear, and sometimes not so clear. For an example of the latter, the enemy is not well described. Still, the Morogoro S&T is the best one to use as the basis for a discussion of the subjective political action of this period, and for some remarks on the underlying class realities, as well.


The Treason Trial had come to an end in 1959 with acquittal of all the defendants. New campaigns were then launched, but came to an abrupt end following the Sharpeville massacre and the banning of the

ANC and the PAC. Umkhonto we Sizwe was launched in 1961. Technically it was neither a “wing” of the ANC, nor of the Party, and a new structure had to be put into place to make MK accountable to the political leadership. Dr Yusuf Dadoo played a leading role in that structure.

The SACP published the Road to South African Freedom in 1962. It is a long document, and it has a long section on the NDR, where the SACP endorses the Freedom Charter and the Congress Alliance, and also rejects “non-violence”.

Also in 1962 came the dissolution of the South Africa United Front (of the ANC, PAC, SWANU and SAIC) that had been put together after Sharpeville.

The linked document is a contemporary article by Dr Dadoo about this break-up and the causes of the break-up, which had to do with the behaviour of the PAC, in particular. This document is useful for its description of the political structures and for Dadoo’s enunciation in it, of the general principles of (NDR) alliance.

The last supporting document is the famous 1967 “Arusha Declaration” of Julius Nyerere and the ruling TANU party of Tanzania at the time, on Socialism and Self-Reliance. This document reflects TANU’s view of the political economy of their country and how it would be led to a better condition. It helps us to remember that contemporary with our own struggles, others have also been travelling the road of National Democratic Revolution.

[Images: NDR personalities: Tambo, Slovo, Dadoo, Nyerere]

Click here to download the text of Strategy and Tactics, Morogoro, 1969, ANC (5882 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1410a Road to South African Freedom, 1962, SACP (18552 words)

1410b Disruptive Role of the PAC & United Front Failure, 1962, Dadoo (1020 words)

1410c Arusha Declaration, 1967, Nyerere (7171 words)

1411 The Working Class and the NDR


Joe Slovo published the SA Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution (see the link below) at a time when he was the General Secretary of the SACP. The Party was still clandestine. The end of its 40-year period of illegality was to come two years later. Like many political documents, it takes shape around a polemical response to contemporary opponents who may no longer be well remembered (in this case the particular “workerists” and compromisers of the time that Slovo mentions on the first page of the document).

But as with the polemics of Marx, Engels and Lenin, in the course of the argument against otherwise long-forgotten foes, Slovo was obliged to, and succeeded brilliantly to set up a fully concrete, rounded assessment of the meaning of the NDR, which still remains today as the best single and definitive text on this matter.

Slovo quickly establishes the class-alliance basis of the NDR and quotes Lenin saying that: “the advanced class ... should fight with… energy and enthusiasm for the cause of the whole people, at the head of the whole people”. This advanced class is the working class. Slovo goes on to write of the continuity of the NDR and of the institutional organisation that is the bricks-and-mortar of nation-building.

Slovo’s is a long document but it has many possibilities as the basis for a discussion, and that is always our purpose: dialogue.

The supporting texts begin with “We Need Transformation, Not a Balancing Act”, published nine years after Slovo’s pamphlet, in 1997, the year following what has since become known as the “1996 Class Project”, of which it is an initial critique. In the mean time, the SACP and the ANC had been legalised in 1990, the CODESA talks had taken place, SACP General Secretary Chris Hani had been assassinated, the ANC had been elected to government in 1994, and Joe Slovo had passed away, on 6 January 1995.


The third linked document, David Moore’s 2004 article, “The Brutal Side of Capitalist Development”, can stand here for the growing realisation in broader South African circles that the class struggle is still the engine of history, including historiucal “development” in any useful sense of the word, and that class struggle has winners and losers, so that the idea of “win-win” development is somewhat, or perhaps wholly, illusory.

The fourth document is the current version of the ANC Strategy and Tactics, as amended several times since the original was passed in Morogoro in 1969, and as passed by the 52ndANC National Conference at Polokwane, which was otherwise considered a victory for the popular forces within the ANC. But from paragraph 90, this document launched a revision of the previously much clearer understanding of class and colour in South Africa.

Now, in the latest S&T, all are ranked in a single table, as “motive forces”. “Blacks in general and Africans in particular” become commensurate with “The Working Class”.

In the draft, monopoly capital, too, was going to be included as a “motive force”, thereby removing even the oppressor from the equation, but this was changed in commission at Polokwane. The S&T document remains marred by its static and non-revolutionary conception of “National Democratic Society as a “Holy Grail” and final steady-stat condition of what Thabo Mbeki used to call a “normal” society.

This is the 11th and the second last in the CU series on the NDR. It has touched all aspects to some extent, though not exhaustively in terms of detail. Facts and arguments about the United Democratic Front, for example, and the formation of FOSATU and then COSATU, have been left to one side in the interests of brevity, although the period is a classic example of class alliance extending the reach of collective agency. Joe Slovo’s good summing up helps considerably in allowing us to make that jump.

Now we need to move forward to consider the state of the NDR in the present moment, and this will be done in the next part, by reference to the main discussion document of the forthcoming Turfloop Special National Congress of the South African Communist Party. That document is called “Building working class hegemony on the terrain of a national democratic struggle”. It is right to the point of this entire series on the NDR, which makes the CU series potentially very valuable to the Congress process.

[Images: Slovo, Nzimande, Cronin, Zuma]

Click here to download the text of The South African Working Class and the NDR, 1988, Slovo (14985 words)

Further (optional) reading:

1411a Transformation not a balancing act, 1997, Nzimande & Cronin (3264 words)

1411b The Brutal Side of Capitalist Development, 2004, Moore (1137 words)

1411c Strategy & Tactics, Polokwane, 2007, ANC (17523 words)

1412 Hegemony within the NDR


On 14 September 2009 the South African Communist Party released a main discussion document (click on the link below) in preparation for the SACP Special National Congress that is to take place in December 2009 at the Turfloop campus in Polokwane,Limpopo Province.

Further discussion documents are to follow on the following topics:

  • The State and the Future of Local and Provincial Government
  • Industrial Strategy and Rural Development

The main discussion document is titled “Building working class hegemony on the terrain of a national democratic struggle”. It is therefore directly in line with the previous eleven parts of this series on the National Democratic Revolution, and presents us with an ideal way to conclude the series in an open-ended way that is situated in the present conjuncture.

The most relevant parts of this document to our discussion so far are Part 2.4 (“The politics of working class hegemony...versus the politics of a multi-class balancing act”) and the whole of Part 3 (“Towards a politics of mass-driven, state-led radical transformation on the terrain of a National Democratic Revolution”).

In an echo of Lenin’s “The State and Revolution”, the SACP document notes that the “sectarian left” (equivalent to Lenin’s “anarchists”) and the “centrist reformists” (Lenin’s “opportunists”) are twins in their subjective denigration of the NDR. Lenin said that the anarchists and the opportunists are twins.

This document is work in progress. The challenge, prior to the Special National Congress, is to see how the document can be improved.


Click here to download the text of Building hegemony on national democratic terrain, 2009, SACP (13222 words)