‘African Communist’ on Mandela at the Rivonia Trial

African communistI don’t really have that much to add to numerous pieces about Nelson Mandela, but I thought I would post this from the July 1964 editorial of the SACP’s African Communist journal on the Rivonia Trial and the guilty verdict given to Mandela and his comrades for terror offences. Published in London after the SACP went underground and had adopted the path of armed struggle (alongside the ANC) against the apartheid regime, African Communist was the bridge between the exiled SACP leadership and the secret members inside South Africa, but was also meant to be read across Africa and the world. In the context, the editorial discussing the outcome of Rivonia trial can be seen as a call to action for the anti-apartheid movement worldwide, taking inspiration from Mandela’s famous speech from the dock at the trial. Here is an excerpt from the last two paragraphs of the editorial:

“Mandela and his comrades made the ‘Palace of Justice’ at Pretoria a tribunal from which they addressed the entire world, and their words sank deep into the hearts of the people everywhere. Never before has the world understood so well not only the depth of our oppression, but also the duty of all good men to support our sacred right to rebel. Mandela’s revolutionary words were solemnly repeated in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Those who only yesterday spoke wishfully of the need for moderation and constitutional methods have been convinced, or shamed into silence…

Inside South Africa, Rivonia marks a turning point. Within days of the ending of the trial, a wave of fresh sabotage explosions broke out, all over the country. Once again, having announced that the trial had wiped out the ‘subversive’ opposition, Vorster’s nazi policemen are working overtime, out on nationwide raids, arresting fresh victims under the ‘no-trial’ law which Vorster, following an unprecedented campaign in South Africa, had promised he would consider abandoning. These vicious measures will succeed no better than those that have gone before in checking the tide of revolution. For this is not a matter, as the police mentality conceives it, of ‘dealing with a few agitators’. An entire people is on the march; learning the bitter lessons of the past, with greater vigilance, greater determination, greater militancy than ever before. Such a people cannot be stopped and it cannot be beaten.”

editorial AC 64

For those interested, the entire run of the African Communist from 1959 to 1995 can be found online here, alongside many other documents from South Africa’s recent history.

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