Report of the National Executive Committee
43rd Annual Conference
Durban, 16-19 December 1954
Our National Organisation is facing a serious crisis. Its existence as the leader and spokesman of the African people is gravely threatened by the actions of the Nationalist Government. Among other things, therefore, this Report deals with the very vital and urgent question of organisation, the question that must in the end determine whether the African National Congress shall survive the attacks of the Government and continue actively and fearlessly to fight for the rights and the dignity of the African people in their fatherland.
It is the duty of every delegate to this Conference, of every Congressman and every lover of and believer in the cause of African freedom, therefore, to do all in his power to prevent the calamity and ensure that the Congress shall emerge triumphantly from this crisis.
We shall win if we follow and diligently carry out the instructions and directives of the Conference and the National Executive Committee of our Congress .
B. POLITICAL REVIEW
The March to Fascism:
After six years of Nationalist rule, fascism has arrived in South Africa. The first five of these six years were occupied with the building of the legal framework for the naked police state . After sweeping to power on a wave of intensified racialist propaganda, the Nationalist machine set to work. The reactionary anti-people legislation inherited from former South African regimes was made more efficient. What had been mere practices before were transformed into rules of law, and measures previously scattered in different acts of Parliament were consolidated into single comprehensive pieces of legislation. These laws were comprehensive not because they detailed and defined laws but because they left all powers of making laws to individual ministers. Into this category came the Group Areas Act, the Bantu Authorities Act, the Natives (Abolition of Passes and Coordination of Documents) Act, the Native Laws Amendment Act, the Population Registration Act, the Natives Resettlement Act and the Suppression of Communism Act. In the last Act the Nationalist Government, following the Hitler pattern, prepared the legal machinery for crushing the most militant opponents of their rule, the working class and national liberatory organisations.
Fascism does not arise until conditions call for it. It arises when the ruling class can no longer look forward to unlimited profits and to acquiescent people willing to be exploited. As the political consciousness of the people grows and their organisations become mature and effective in their struggles for economic and political rights, the ruling classes drop the methods of peaceful flattery, diplomacy and bribery, and employ force as the ordinary means of enforcing their rule. It is true that force is always there, but before the rise of fascism force was resorted to in times of "crisis"; . Under fascism the crisis becomes a permanent feature of life, and force and intimidation become the ordinary everyday methods of rule.
Here in South Africa the methods of the Nationalist Party Government are those which the ruling class must continue to use increasingly in its fight against the people. As the Acts passed in the first five years of Nationalist rule were not achieving their purpose and the Non-European liberation organisations were stemming the tide of Nationalist onslaught, more acts of Parliament and administrative orders and regulations became necessary. More amendments to the Urban Areas Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Land and Trust Act, Urban Bantu Authorities Act and others. Finally the Criminal Laws Amendment Act and the Public Safety Act were passed to meet the situation created by the historic Campaign for Defiance of Unjust Laws. The Nationalists have acted in complete disregard and contempt of the rule of law and the rights of Parliament. In the Public Safety Act they made provision for the Executive, when it deems it necessary, to declare a state of emergency, suspend all laws and assume dictatorial powers.
Today there are more reactionary laws: the Schoeman Anti-Labour laws, the Verwoerd notorious Bantu Education Act and streamlined Trust regulations. Meetings are totally banned in rural areas and virtually banned in urban areas. Foremost leaders of the National Liberation Organisations and leaders of Trade Unions have been banned from political activity; persons have been exiled and deported without trial and without regard to the welfare of their families; newspapers have been banned; fighters for freedom have been convicted for protesting against unjust laws; armed police intimidate people at meetings and homes; raids and searches are now commonplace; and to crown it all, our Secretary-General has been sentenced to three months imprisonment with compulsory labour for a crime unique in history, namely:
"Attending a gathering in order to partake of, or be present whilst others partake of refreshment (in the nature of tea and/or edibles and/or a meal)."
Yes, fascism has indeed arrived in South Africa. What has been the reaction of the people to it? On the Parliamentary front there has been no opposition to the Nationalists at all. There has not even been an attempt at a formal protest on the part of the United Party in particular. This is understandable. As the representative of an important segment of the ruling class this party could not very well oppose the anti-popular legislation. The groups represented by the United Party in their shortsightedness acquiesced in the reactionary policies of the Nationalists, crude as they were. The policy of the official opposition in Parliament has therefore been one of surrender all along the line. The same may be said of the liberals and reformist trade unions. Although they did now and again give expressions of formal protest against isolated acts of Nationalist tyranny they have made no attempt to actually resist the onslaught of the fascists outside Parliament. Not only did the Liberals and those of their kind encourage the illusion of social change through Parliament among themselves, but they spread the illusion even among those who have no parliamentary rights at all!
The one major force which has fought the Government consistently and organised the people against fascism has been the African National Congress and its allies. No action of the Government, no matter against which group it was directed, has not evoked condemnation and resistance from the forces allied to and under the leadership of the African National Congress. In this connection we recall the freedom strike in the Transvaal on the Ist May, 1950; the first Nationwide political strike on 26th June, 1950; the Cape Coloured Protest Strike on 7th May, 1951; the Witzieshoek Clash in November, 1950 where 13 Africans were killed, 9 committed to terms of imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 5 years; the Demonstration of 100,000 people on 6th April, 1952 against 300 years of white domination; the most historic Defiance Campaign which began on the 26th June, 1952, a day which has truly become a National Day for all South Africa and a day on which we remember all those who have laid down their lives in the struggle for a Free South Africa - a day of rededication and pledge.
The Defiance Campaign in particular is not only the most important event of this period but was the highest form of struggle ever undertaken in South Africa. It produced a solid and strong democratic front between Africans and other oppressed groups. It indeed changed the political situation in the country. In these political struggles, two other important things happened:
- The African National Congress became recognised and accepted by all democratic and progressive organisations and individuals in this country as the true voice and leader of the struggle for freedom, equality and justice;
- June 26th was set aside as the National Day, a day on which fighters for freedom remember all those heroes who laid down their lives in the struggle for a Free South Africa - a day of re-dedication and pledge .
TWO WRONG VIEWS
All fighters for freedom are warned against the danger of under-estimating and minimising the fascist beast, and of falling victim to the propaganda of the enemy and enemy agents. The enemy and his agents are not only brutal and ruthless but also cunning, deceitful and brazen. They do not hesitate to exploit the basest and meanest prejudice or racial or sectional difference and fear. No lie is too big or too terrible for them; they will use any dirty and nasty thing in order to achieve their purpose of dividing, confusing and rendering their opponents impotent. He who repeats to Congressmen the ideas and propaganda of the enemy is undermining the cause for which the Congress stands. The African National Congress stands for freedom, equality and justice for all, irrespective of race, colour or religion.
Having described the six years of Nationalist rule as a period of determined effort to destroy everything democratic and progressive in the political, economic and social life of South Africa, and having cited a long list of obnoxious and iniquitous laws which, added to existing oppressive and discriminatory laws, form a massive wall of dark reaction and cruelty, we should also show the reverse side of the picture, the credit side, as it were. Apart from the wealth of experience - the mirror - that we now possess, our cause has now gained an army of some 10,000 volunteers, men and women upon whom the cause of African freedom has been indelibly imprinted. Furthermore, these six years of struggle have created a general political consciousness among the masses of our people. They have given us a "LUTHULI".
The year 1954 was the year for the preparation for a new period - a period for the changing of tactics, a period for an advanced form of organisation to prepare for advanced forms of struggle.
The Congress of the People and the Resist Apartheid Campaigns are the two Campaigns on which we are going to base our future struggle. The Resist Apartheid Campaign is an issue on which we mobilise our forces in defence of our rights and our organisations.
On the other hand, the Congress of the People Campaign will open a new page, another turning point in the history of our country, when, for the first time a Peoples' Charter shall be drawn up by the masses from all walks of life and from all racial groups in the country - a Charter of a new South Africa. We are striving to bring the masses of our country the vision of a new South Africa - a South Africa wherein there shall be no starvation, and in which racial antagonism will be eliminated and all alike will share in the natural resources and prosperity of the country.
While it is dangerous to underestimate fascism and the power of the ruling class generally, it is equally dangerous to over-estimate the power and popularity of these reactionary and barbaric hordes. No force is more powerful than the power and will of the people. If the people are organised and united their power is invincible. The organised power and united actions of the people will defeat the fascist demons in South Africa. We must therefore organise the people properly, politicise and activise them and lead them against the forces of fascism and reaction.
WIDEN THE ANTI-FASCIST FRONT
We know that in every country where the fascists came to power they did so because the masses of the people did not wage determined struggles against those fascists, and in some instances, as in Germany and Italy, because the masses of the people supported them. Here in South Africa too, the fascists came to power because the mass of those who have political rights, those who decide governments and administrators, supported our local fascists. Fascism came to South Africa as a result of an electoral majority in an election in which Non-Europeans have no say.
From the point of view of the ballot box, therefore, the Non-Europeans can do nothing to their overlords and tyrants. Yet all concerned can successfully resist and defeat these oppressors. They must be fought outside Parliament, in the towns, on the farms - in the economic, political and industrial spheres; they must be fought everywhere! The policy of the African National Congress in this connection is inter-racial cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equality. This policy the African National Congress proclaims boldly to all interested groups and organisations and to the world at large.
Our policy of co-operating with other racial groups through their national organisations has made great strides and constitutes a very real threat to the present regime which is anchored on the idea of racial exclusiveness and domination. In the fight against fascism we must see to it that more and more of the other groups are part and parcel of the struggle. The Africans as the leading element in this alliance must do all they can to see that the Coloureds are really part of the fight, similarly with the Europeans. The Indian people led by the South African Indian Congress and inspired by that tried and tested leader, Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, are old and trusted allies. We hope that the vigorous and active, though small, Congress of Democrats, and the South African Coloured Peoples' Organisation will grow strong and swing more representative groups among their respective people to our side.
THE CONGRESS AND RURAL AREAS
As far as the Africans are concerned, the creation of an anti-fascist front means broadening the social basis of the National movement. There is a danger of the African National Congress becoming an urban-based and urban-oriented organisation. It may tend to forget and ignore the vast potential represented by the peasants and farm labourers. During the Defiance Campaign a great deal of contact was made with people in the reserves and farming areas especially in the Eastern Cape where there are many Congress branches in the country areas. This contact has not however, been sufficiently strengthened by concretely and actively taking up the demands of the people in those areas and by incorporating into the programme of the Congress the immediate demands of the peasants and the farm labourers. As a National movement the Congress cannot afford to ignore the demands and interests of large sections of the African population. Congress must voice and interpret the demands, feelings and aspirations of all sections of the nation. And, let us not forget that our nation consists of these sections:
The urban workers; the peasants; the farm labourers; the domestic servants; the businessmen; the intellectuals and professional men; the women and the young people - the youth.
It is the business of Congress to draw up programmes designed to reflect the vital interests of all these groups, and to see that the programmes drawn up should reach the people for whom they are drawn up.
The same applies to the question of our Women and Youth sections. It is essential that they too should see to it that the demands of their respective sections are taken up seriously and that in both their short-term and long-term programmes and activities they set themselves out to attract the mass of women and youth and get them to participate in the nation-building tasks in which the principal body, the African National Congress, is engaged. Congressmen must understand that the people will not readily respond to mere appeals to them to fight for freedom in the abstract. They must be able to see what freedom would mean to them in terms of things they clearly see in their own lives as a result of oppression and lack of opportunities .
THE NEED FOR A CONGRESS PRESS
The press is an important factor in the life of a nation and of a political organisation. A newspaper which expresses the correct point of view can mean everything for an enterprise. A Congress newspaper can serve as the political educator and leader, the organiser, the propagandist and agitator, the supplier of information, and the medium of cultural advancement and the trainer of future journalists and writers. But can Congress afford a newspaper or even just a quarterly journal?
It is impossible to start and maintain a newspaper without sufficient capital or a great deal of financial support from the general public. It is quite obvious that with its present meagre resources Congress is not in a position to run any decent publication at all. If we want to start publishing anything on a national scale, we shall first have to accumulate the funds necessary for the production of such publication. Accumulation of funds is a subject that has been discussed at many Congress conferences, and some of our provinces have at one time or another collected moneys towards the establishment of a Congress newspaper.
The pertinent question is: do we really want a Congress newspaper? The answer to this question is that we are not yet serious about the matter. It is true that a large sum of money would be required to finance such a newspaper, yet, it is equally true that if the African National Congress seriously intended to raise the necessary capital, there could be no possible difficulty in doing so. All members of the Congress are ready to make sacrifices whenever the cause of African freedom demands that sacrifices should be made. Now, assuming that the Congress has a membership of 100,000; if each member is asked to contribute the sum of I towards a Congress press, an amount of 100,000 could be realised in no time. 10/- a member would bring in an amount of 50,000! We can do it, but only if we really want to do it.
The African National Congress as a leading Political Organisation in the country and a representative of the people of South Africa, has a foreign policy opposed to that of the Government who represent less than 20% of the country' s population. The White rulers in South Africa support the war aims, imperialism, and white domination. During the 2nd World War, the President-General of the African National Congress appointed a special committee in 1943 to examine the place of an African in the post-war period and in the light of the Atlantic Charter. The Document drawn up by this Committee covered the international and national policy of the African National Congress, which was unanimously adopted at the National Conference in December. 1945, and finally published in a booklet entitled "African Claims in South Africa."(1)
This policy has been enforced by the successive Presidents of the African National Congress and was sharply raised by Lutuli s Presidential Address last year.
The cardinal points of our foreign policy are, opposition to war and an uncompromising stand for world peace, and opposition to colonialism and white domination.
Africa, the second-largest continent with its 200 million people and richly endowed by natural resources, is ruled over by no less than 6 colonial powers. These powers are counted amongst the greatest powers in the world. Therefore the struggle to free South Africa and indeed all Africa is a serious problem that will mean a struggle against six major imperialist nations and their satellites such as Malan, Roy Welensky, Blundell and others. This is a formidable prospect. And yet the dynamics of history say that the imperialists are doomed to ignominious defeat at the hands of the oppressed Africans. Already the whole continent is awakened and is tramping the road to freedom. The nature of our programme, the forces ranged against us, mean that the freedom of Africa can never be a local problem - an internal or domestic affair. However we look at it, the freedom of Africa is an international question. It is true, the struggle will only be fought by the Africans themselves under their own independent leadership but they will have to keep a very clear eye open for international developments detrimental or advantageous to us. We must look for allies and without going any further we must ask ourselves the following regarding any prospective ally:-
- Is this country or group in the imperialist camp or in theanti-imperialist camp?
- Is this country or group for equality or for racial discrimination?
- Is this country or group pro-African or anti-African Freedom?
- Is this country or group anti-colonialism?
On the answer to all these questions we will base our attitude to any country.
As you all know, the Defiance Campaign of 1952 sharply focussed the attention of the United Nations on the problem of racial discrimination in South Africa. We once more wish to record our highest appreciation to the United Nations Organisation for the continuous support it has given us, particularly do we want to do so to the United Nations Commission on racial discrimination in South Africa and those countries who have supported our cause despite strong opposition from the imperialist countries, who are in league with South Africa.
We are aware of the reasons for this attitude on the part of the imperialist countries. The liberation of the colonial and semi-colonial people will bring an end to the huge profits they are making through the cruel exploitation of subject peoples.
The expulsion of colonial powers in the great land of Asia is a source of inspiration to the African people. The emergence of the two great powers in this continent, China and India, both enemies of war and imperialism have shattered the hopes of the imperialist powers and made their rule impossible even under the military might of the United States of America, Great Britain and France.
We have year in and year out expressed our great concern over imperialist wars in Indo-China and Malaya. We now not only enthusiastically salute the victorious struggle of the Viet Minhs against the powerful imperialists of France and America, but have every reason to celebrate this victory and the end of the war in this part of South-East Asia. Yet, friends, the brutal wars are still being waged in Malaya, Kenya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco - all of which are in the continent of Africa except Malaya.
We express our solidarity and sympathy with these countries in bitter and bloody struggles, not excluding the people of British Guiana and other oppressed peoples in other parts of the world.
We call upon the British and French Governments to withdraw their armed forces and to release the gaoled leaders and thus pave the way for permanent peace in the world.
We appeal to the civilised world, to all democracies and peace-loving peoples to call for an immediate peace in Kenya and other affected places, to save innocent and defenceless people from the horrors of war.
AFRICA AND WORLD PEACE
The rise of the National Liberation movements in Asia and the Pacific regions and the loss of those vast countries as war bases and centres for investment has forced the imperial powers to turn their eyes on Africa. Here the imperial powers of Britain, Belgium, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain have either their chief or their only colonial dependencies. The rivalries amongst these colonial powers contain the seed of an extremely dangerous situation to peace and security in Africa.
To protect their markets and investments, to crush the national liberation movements and to forestall the rise of revolutionary democracy in Africa and to ensure an abundant cheap labour supply, America and her satellites have established military bases all over the continent. America has land, sea and air bases in Morocco, Libya and Saudi Arabia. There are British military bases in Egypt, East Africa, Somaliland and the Sudan. The Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean in 1944 writing in "Optima" of June, 1953, a quarterly review published by the AngloAmerican Corporation, put the matter very clearly:
"The spread of Communism to China and the uncertain political situation in other countries in the Far East are bound to have the effect of contracting the sources of supply of certain raw materials necessary for the manufacture of armaments, which will result in the intensification of prospecting and development in Africa."
According to him, the role of the two Rhodesias and Kenya, should be to protect and develop sea communications, to be ready to send forces overseas and to develop its industries to maximum capacity for war needs. To do this, he says, it would be necessary for the three colonies to come under one Central Command. In 1946 the "Rand Daily Mail" made the position equally clear:
"The British decision to quit Palestine, Burma's secession from the Commonwealth, the weakening of the ties with India and the uncertainty of Britain's tenure in Egypt have hastened the adoption of plans for a new Commonwealth defence system . . . Kenya is the new centre of Commonwealth defence and South Africa its arsenal."
It will thus be seen that the struggle for national liberation is inextricably linked up with the fight for peace and against imperialism. It will also be seen that the people of South Africa and of this continent will be the first victims of a future war. Their industries will produce armaments, their raw materials will be used not to develop their own economies but to destroy those of others. It is precisely because of this fact that the question of war and peace has become of immediate concern to us all. It is also because of this fact that we welcome the participation of our leaders in the Peace Movement. It is because of this dangerous situation to peace and security in Africa that we urge the widest sections of our people to take up the cause of peace and to uphold it until the scourge of imperialism is vanquished from the face of the earth.
1 The findings of the Atlantic Charter Committee were adopted by the annual conference of December 1943.