South African Communist Party

South African progressives and the Suez Crisis of 1956

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On 29 October, 1956, the Suez Crisis began with an Israeli attack upon Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, with the UK and France intervening the subsequent days to ‘protect’ the Suez Canal. Many historians have viewed these actions as the last major ‘roll of the dice’ for the British and French governments hoping to stem the decolonisation process in Africa and the Middle East, and the drawing of the postcolonial world into closer ties with the Soviet Bloc.

From South Africa, progressives watched as imperialist forces invaded one of its former colonies to prevent a programme of nationalisation, occurring amidst the wider decolonisation process across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This worried the various progressive groups that still existed in South Africa in the mid-1950s. Eight years into Apartheid rule, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) had been banned in 1950 and its membership driven underground (its successor, the South African Communist Party (SACP), was not officially established until 1960). The African National Congress (ANC) was still a legal organisation, but a month later, most of its leadership would be arrested and put on trial for treason by the Strijdom government. The remnants of the CPSA that remained in South Africa were often also members of the ANC, while other former CPSA activists coalesced around organisations, such as the ex-servicemen group, the Springbok Legion.

The Suez Crisis, coming at the same time as the Soviet invasion of Hungary, shocked these progressives as a blatant imperialist reaction to the decolonisation process, and an affront to the sovereignty of these newly formed postcolonial nations. In their journal Liberation, the ANC called the action a ‘blatant aggression’ and stated:

British, French and Israeli troops have invaded Egypt and occupied Egyptian territory by force of arms; a wanton, premeditated act of aggression taken in defiance of solemn undertakings under the United Nations Charter.

The reason for this invasion, the ANC declared, was control of the Suez Canal and the revenue generated from this, with the Israeli invasion providing a pretext for seizing control. The journal continued:

[T]hat in fact is exactly what the English and French imperialists are out for – loot. They want to grab the Suez Canal. The Israeli attack was just a feeble excuse (no doubt it was fixed up in advance with the Israeli Government)…

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Meanwhile, the newspaper New Age, run by a number of ex-CPSA members, such as Ruth First, published on its front page a statement drawn up by several progressive organisations in South Africa, such as the ANC, the Indian National Congress, the Coloured People’s Association and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). The statement read:

The invasion by the Israeli army and the decision of the British and French Governments to re-occupy the Suez Canal zone constitute a serious act of aggression against Egypt which will have world-wide repercussions…

These acts are in total disregard of the territorial sovereignty of the Egyptian people and cannot be justified by any alleged provocations. Britain and France have used Israel as a spearhead to re-establish themselves as masters of the Suez Canal in order to maintain their domination over colonial countries in Africa and the Middle East.

This idea of Britain and France reasserting their imperial dominance over the postcolonial world was something that was also highlighted by the ANC. As well retaking the Suez Canal, the ANC suggested that the Anglo-French aims were ‘to overthrow the Nasser Government and re-occupy Egypt as a colony’ in the short term, and ‘to teach the peoples of the colonies and former colonies of Africa, Asia and the Middle East “a lesson”’ in the long term. At this time, the British were fighting anti-colonial movements in Malaya, Cyprus and Kenya, while the French were fighting the National Liberation Front in Algeria.

However the actions of the British and French were not successful and both countries were chastised by the United Nations. Both the ANC and those attached to the New Age newspaper celebrated the fact that Egypt had not been defeated by the imperialist forces. Two weeks after the fighting stopped, the New Age newspaper wrote:

The force of world anger at the British, French and Israeli invasion of Egypt has led to a cease-fire and brought to a temporary halt the use of naked aggression to crush the Nasser government. This is a victory for the forces of progress, but it is by no means a final victory.

The ANC were just as celebratory, writing:

The plot to conquer Egypt has failed; the “lesson” has turned out to be the greatest fiasco in modern history. As we write, the aggressors’ armies are still in Egypt, but we cannot doubt that the massive reaction of the peace-loving people of the whole world will compel them to withdraw unconditionally, and to compensate the innocent Egyptian people for the damage and suffering that they have caused.

From this, both publications expressed solidarity between the progressive and anti-imperialist forces in South Africa and the Egyptian people as allies in the fight against imperialism and racialism. The ANC declared that the Suez Crisis had inspired ‘the awakening millions of Britain’s African empire’ and ‘[i[nstead of frightening the colonial world’, the Anglo-French-Israeli attack had:

raised against themselves a storm of mass solidarity, indignation and determination that can only hasten the doom of imperialism and colonialism through-out the world.

The aforementioned statement on the front page of the New Age finished with this expression of solidarity:

On behalf of all peace-loving South Africans we demand an end to force and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Egyptian territory. We express our sympathy with the Egyptian people and our support for their just claim to sovereignty in the own country.

In an editorial contained in the same issue, the links between progressives in South Africa and the Nasser government in Egypt were reiterated:

As an African country we are closely involved in this invasion of Africa. As members of the liberation movement we are closely involved in this attack on a liberation movement. As opponents of national oppression and colonialism we are involved in this oppressive and imperialist war…

We dare not remain quiet. Our voices must be heard in the call for an end to the war in Egypt – in the demand for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the territory of that country.

But while these various groups expressed solidarity in the face of imperialist attack, they did not all consider Colonel Nasser in the same light. Moses Kotane, the General Secretary of the CPSA and then the SACP, stated in New Age that Nasser was ‘no fascist’ as the Western media and politicians had described him, but was ‘an ardent nationalist whose main concern is the freedom, independence, progress and honour of Egypt and her 25 million inhabitants’. Kotane explained that Nasser played an important role in the worldwide anti-colonial movement, saying, ‘Colonel Nasser desires to see colonialism ended in Africa, Asia and the rest of the world.’ He concluded his outline of Nasser with this:

The South African people must clearly understand that the continued independence and progress of the Egyptian people means a lot to their own struggle against apartheid and injustices in this country.

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Lionel Bernstein, a comrade of Kotane in the CPSA/SACP and editor of the Springbok Legion’s Fighting Talk, was much more critical of Nasser and his government. The revolution that was led by Nasser and his fellow army generals was, according to Bernstein, simply passing Egypt ‘into the hands of the new dictatorship of the military junta, acting without consultation with the people, without elections, without any authority save the force they commanded’. Bernstein pointed to locking up of all political opponents, including Egypt’s communists, as a very negative aspect of the regime, but also pointed to positive changes, such as the creation of a ‘democratic’ constitution. However this constitution was deemed to be a constitution of the bourgeoisie – ‘the creation of the Nasser regime, of the middle-class revolutionaries representing the middle class of Egypt’. Teleologically it was moving the country ‘steadily away from military dictatorship towards bourgeois democracy’, but for Bernstein, the Nasser regime was not socialist.

On the other hand, Bernstein recognised Egypt’s commitment to anti-colonial solidarity:

It is a government of fighters against foreign subjection, taking the first steps against colonialism, against the backward heritage of imperialism. Let its enemies look to their own record in their own territory – in Kenya and Algeria, in Cyprus and in Malaya and Morocco and compare the record.

The Suez Crisis coincided with the Soviet invasion of Hungary and this led to a schism amongst communists, socialists and other progressives across the globe. Unlike other Communist Parties in the West, the fact that the CPSA had disbanded and gone underground meant similar open debates that occurred in the British, French and Italian parties could not happen, and in general, amongst South African progressives, the events in Hungary were seen as justified in comparison with the Anglo-French-Israeli actions in Egypt. In the New Age, it was pronounced that comparison between the two interventions was a ‘false analogy’, stating:

  • The Anglo-French aggression was directed against the Egyptian government; the Soviet [gave] assistance on the invitation of the Hungarian government.
  • The Anglo-French forces invaded Egypt. The Soviet forces were stationed in Hungary with the recognised responsibility of protecting Hungary’s independence and preventing her return to fascism.
  • Britain and France had no shred of legal right to invade; the Soviet armed forces were legally in Hungary in terms of the Warsaw pact.
  • Most important of all – the issue of Egypt is between imperialism and national liberation; the issue in Hungary is between socialism and reaction…

In the editorial of Liberation, the ANC made a similar case for the differences between Suez and Hungary:

we should not forget that the Soviet Union has not suddenly ‘invaded’ Hungary, as the British and French have invaded Egypt. Soviet troops have been in Hungary ever since the end of the second world war, and as a result of that war.

From these statements, it is evident that the progressive forces in South Africa were particularly concerned about other national liberation movements in Africa (and across the rest of the world) in their fight against imperialism and colonialism. Experiencing a severe racialist reaction against the decolonisation process in the form of Apartheid, South African progressives expressed solidarity with the Egyptian people and viewed the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion as part of a wider reaction by the global West against decolonisation. In the following years, southern Africa would be viewed as anomaly where the imperialist powers had not relinquished their stranglehold on these settler colonies, in the face of a generally decolonised African continent.

On the other hand, those progressives that were part of the SACP and ANC looked to the Soviet Union, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement (which had first met the previous year in Bandung) as guiding forces in the anti-colonial struggle. The ANC called the USSR ‘a great power openly and irrevocably hostile to imperialism’ that had ‘enabled the former colonies triumphantly to proclaim and consolidate their independence’. Criticism of the Soviets would come later on, but in 1956, there was little dissent amongst what the ANC and the underground SACP expressed towards the Soviet Union.

Like the putting down of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, the Suez Crisis showed South African progressives that the British were unwilling to give up control of some colonies that had strategic value to them, or where they felt that communists could potentially take power. Although Harold Macmillan would speak of ‘winds of change’ across Africa a few years later, the long struggle against Apartheid and imperialism in southern Africa was only just beginning.

 

 

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London Recruits: Please help fund doco on ‘secret war against Apartheid’

This is an appeal to help raise money to fund the completion of this documentary on the British activists who travelled to South Africa in the late 1960s to undertake secret missions to help the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party. Here’s a message from the film makers:

New documentary feature London Recruits tells the stories of the young women and men who undertook clandestine missions in the struggle to overthrow apartheid. Kept secret for decades, with your help, the nail-biting stories of those who risked all in taking on one of the 20th century’s most feared and brutal regimes will be told on the big screen for the first time.

The filmmakers behind London Recruits have launched a Kickstarter appeal to raise the final injection of funds needed to finish the project. Money raised with enable them to shoot reconstruction scenes, film remaining interviews, excavate further archives and build visual effects.

By backing London Recruits you will play and integral role in the project and help get the story of solidarity and internationalism to the big screen. Donate by October 1st. (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/londonrecruits/london-recruits

Keep up to date with the project on Twitter (https://twitter.com/LondonRecruits) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/londonrecruits/)

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If you can, do donate to the film’s Kickstarter. A book recounting these stories of those who went on these secret missions was published in 2012 by Merlin Press. Do check that out as well!

I may post more on this next week, as I am just going through the papers of Ronnie Kasrils that were recently deposited at the Historical Papers Research Archive at Wits in Johannesburg.

Policing Communism Across the British Empire: A Transnational Study

This is a revised (yet shortened) version of the conference paper I gave last week at the XXIV Biennial Conference of the Australasian Association for European History. I am currently knocking it into shape for submission as a journal article, so any feedback, comments or questions is most welcome. If you’re interested in reading the longer version, do send me an email.

A flyer from the campaign against the dissolution of the Australian Communist Party in 1951.

A flyer from the campaign against the dissolution of the Australian Communist Party in 1951.

The period after the Second World War looked to present the international communist and anti-colonial movements with an ‘interlude of hope’ as the forces of socialism and national liberation seemed to gather pace.[i] Based on the Lenin’s theory of imperialism, communists saw the collapse of the European colonial systems in Africa, Asia and the Americas as the catalyst for worldwide socialist revolution. On the other hand, these colonial powers, primarily Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal, also viewed colonial independence as a precursor for a communist takeover and prepared heavily to prevent decolonisation and the spread of communism.

The largest empire belonged to the British and there was an orchestrated effort from late 1946 onwards to allow colonial self-government where necessary, but also intense pressure put on the British armed forces and the security services to, in the words of Calder Walton, ‘to prevent former British colonies being absorbed by the Soviet Union as satellite states.’[ii] In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, this led to counter-insurgency measures being taken in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus (as well as support for the Royalists in the Greek Civil War), as well as ‘anti-communist’ interventions by the security services in other parts of the Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia.

While the threat of a communist takeover was more acute within the Commonwealth’s developing nations, the Dominions of Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia were seen as vital allies in the battle against communism inside the Commonwealth and bulwarks of ‘democracy’ on the periphery of the former empire, charged with maintaining order within the ever increasing post-imperial Commonwealth. Although its struggles were not as bloody as those of French, Dutch and Portuguese decolonisation, Britain did not willingly give up its rule in every former colony were part of a wider strategy developed by successive British governments that was ‘carefully calculated to allow decolonization to occur on British terms rather than those of the indigenous people’.[iii] As Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon states:

The British government developed a concerted imperial strategy designed to secure the colonies for the Commonwealth in an orderly transfer of power while maintaining British influence in the region and strengthening overall Western dominance in the Cold War world.[iv]

In a bid to counter these national liberation movements and their links to communists, the British authorities, alongside the United States, the Australian and South African governments (as well as those of Canada and New Zealand), looked to co-ordinate an anti-communist response across the British Empire. While the British authorities were able to ban many communist or workers’ parties in the British colonies, in the Dominions, where there was self-government, the British tried to build an anti-communist consensus. This was achieved through several measures:

  1. By a constant relay of information about ‘communism in the colonies’ via the Foreign Office through the various High Commissions;
  2. by the establishment of security agencies in liaison with the British and the Americans to gather and distribute intelligence on communist activists in each country;
  3. the monitoring of suspected communists inside the trade union movement, the civil/public service and other civil society organisations; and
  4. the introduction of legislation to ban the Communist Party.

Although much of this was driven by the British (as well as by the United States as the new global superpower), in some areas, the authorities in Australia and South Africa went beyond what the British government was inclined to do domestically, resulting in a process where often the periphery that drove the anti-communist policies and strategies of the metropole. Alongside this, there was also the horizontal transmission of anti-communist politics and policy transfer particularly between Australia and South Africa – two countries where anti-communism became intertwined with white supremacy and shared a common outlook as the Cold War began.

This paper proposes that anti-communism in the British Commonwealth as pursued by the ‘white’ Dominions fuelled by two overlapping sets of transnational ties. Firstly, there was a keen sense of imperial responsibility felt by the Dominions (particularly Australia) to maintain the Empire/Commonwealth and assist in the fight against communism, which threatened both domestic politics and the political situation in the colonies (such as Malaya). Secondly, there was the wider concept of the global West under the umbrella of the hegemonic dominance of the United States and an allegiance to the ‘global colour line’ promoted by the USA’s informal empire.[v] To varying degrees, Britain, South Africa and Australia co-operated with each other to combat the communist threat, but also taking inspiration from other Anglophone nations, such as the US, Canada, New Zealand and Rhodesia. This formed the basis for the intelligence network, developed during the Cold War, known as the ‘five eyes’ network between Britain, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.[vi]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall.

The Foreign Office as co-ordinating centre for information

Beginning in the late 1930s, the Dominion Office, and then the Foreign Office, compiled a weekly report from the various High Commissions across the British Empire/Commonwealth, routinely titled ‘Communism in the Colonies’. These typically took in reports from the Dominions of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, as well as the various countries of the Indian sub-continent, India, Pakistan and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and on occasions, Ireland. Correspondence was generally directed towards the Foreign Office in London, but copies of most reports were distributed between the High Commissions in Canberra, Pretoria, Ottawa and Wellington.[vii]

The transmission of anti-communist materials went essentially three ways and this differed with the kind of report produced. Firstly, the Commonwealth Relations Office produced weekly reports on ‘Communism in the Commonwealth [or Colonies]’ that were distributed to the High Commissions in Canberra, Ottawa, Pretoria, Wellington, Dublin, Delhi, Karachi and Colombo. These were, for the most part, summaries of the communist movement in each country and the measures being taken against them. Secondly, there were in depth reports produced by the High Commission in each country, which were fairly constant, but not regular, in their production and these were sent to the Foreign Office in London. Lastly, these in depth reports were also distributed horizontally across the various Dominions, fostering links between the various countries.

The co-ordination of intelligence

Up until the late 1940s, the security and intelligence services of the Dominions were overseen by MI5 and MI6 (also known as the Secret Intelligence Service), with local Special Branches being involved in the policing and monitoring of political dissidents and extremists. Special Branches were established at federal and state/province level within most of the Dominions in the first half of the twentieth century, aided by the British security services. As the Cold War began in the late 1940s, the newly formed CIA (Central Intelligence Agency, taking over from the US Office of Strategic Services) and MI5 formed closer ties and it was felt that a more rigorous security service needed to be established in such places as Australia, Canada and New Zealand after a series of security lapses. Originally perceived as overseas sections of MI5,[viii] each country established a domestic security service modeled on the British agency.

Alongside the establishment of security services in the Dominions and the frequent reports on Communism in the Commonwealth via the Foreign Office, the Attlee government attempted to foster closer ties between the security services and the executive branches of the government with the creation of the Information Research Department (IRD) in 1948. The IRD was an inter-governmental body established to produce ‘covert anti-communist propaganda’ and although originally constituted to counter the Soviet-inspired World Peace Council, it was transformed under the Conservative government, led by Winston Churchill, in 1951 into a strategic counter-subversion body to deal with domestic and transnational communist threats.[ix] Like ASIO under Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, the IRD’s scope for counter-subversion went beyond known Soviet operatives and CPGB members and also targeted ‘fellow travellers’ attached the trade union movement and the British Labour Party.[x] Despite this work on counter-subversion, others in the security services were not convinced of the political threat posed by communism in Britain, and instead focused on the role that communists played within the trade unions.[xi]

Purging the trade unions

After a general freeze on industrial action during the Second World War by many of the Communist Parties in the Western world, strike action involving communists rose sharply in the late 1940s as the Cold War escalated and the international communist movement shifted to the left. These episodes of industrial action in all three countries led the authorities, as well as many others, to worry about communist infiltration in the trade unions. This led to increased monitoring of the trade union leadership in all countries and numerous reports by the security services, the police and various British High Commissions being circulated on the subject. For example, a 1947 report (made public in 1952) by the Investigation Officer of the South African Police declared:

it might be mentioned straight away that they have only one policy, viz. control of all trade unions in this and other countries which must ultimately be used to establish anarchy at a given moment in order to facilitate world domination. Local and present-day strikes are primarily engineered by them in order to practise and perfect the necessary machinery for their ultimate object. In order to accomplish this, demands are invariably made on the employers for increased wages to an extent which can never be met in order that no alternative but a strike may be the issue.[xii]

With their links to the trade union movement, the ruling Labor/Labour governments in Australia and Britain both renewed their rules enforcing the proscription of members of the Communist Party from joining and encouraged those trade unions that also banned Communist Party members. Phillip Deery and Neil Redfern suggest that this revived anti-communism was influenced by Harold Laski’s pamphlet The Secret Battalion: An Examination of the Communist Attitude to the Labour Party, which was distributed widely amongst Australian Labor Party branches and to the anti-communist Industrial Groups formed inside the Australian labour movement.[xiii]

Similar to the Chifley government, Deery and Redfern argue that ‘proscribing the CPGB or banning its publications was not seriously considered’ by the Attlee government. But in all three countries, calls were made on the right wing side of politics for the banning of the Communist Party.

National Party PM of South Africa, who oversaw implementation apartheid, D.F. Malan.

National Party PM of South Africa, who oversaw implementation apartheid, D.F. Malan.

Banning the Communist Party

Of all the anti-communist measures introduced across the three countries (and the wider Anglophone world), the most transnational of these was the banning of the Communist Party (or attempts to ban it), where the governments of South Africa and Australia took inspiration and lessons from each other and other attempts to ban the Party in Canada and the United States. In a 2004 speech, Justice Michael Kirby stated:

In the United States,… the Supreme Court had held up as valid the Smith Act which was in some ways similar to the Australian anti-communist legislation. It, in turn, had borrowed elements from a South African law which subsequently became the model for “suppression of terrorism” laws in a number of British colonies.[xiv]

Shortly before his electoral victory in 1948, Opposition leader D.F. Malan cited the efforts made by Canada and Australia during the Second World War to deal with the ‘threat’ of communism, praising that ‘Canada decided to banish the Communist Party in that country and to take every necessary step to ensure Canada’s safety.’[xv] He further added:

In Australia we have the same phenomenon at the present time. I think it was announced last Saturday that two of the principal parties in Australia had announced that they wanted steps to be taken against Communism in so far as it exercised an influence from outside on Australia but also from within and that they also wanted steps to be taken to ban the Communist Party and its allied organisations. South Africa’s Government is powerless and is doing nothing in the matter…[xvi]

The Malan government and the Menzies opposition (and after December 1949, the Menzies government) did share some thoughts on how to deal with the communist ‘threat’, with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill (Cth) and the Suppression of Communism Bill both being entered into Australian and South African Parliaments respectively within months of each other in 1950. Records from the National Archives of Australia show correspondence between the High Commissions in Cape Town and Canberra in March 1950 that drafts of each country’s anti-communist legislation were confidentially shared prior to the introduction of Menzies’ bill in April 1950. A cablegram from the Australian High Commissioner in Cape Town to the Australian Minister for External Affairs states:

The Union Government has made available for your strictly confidential information, a copy of the draft bill to combat Communism, which I am sending by today’s airbag. It has yet to receive the final approval of Cabinet.

The Union Government state they would seek particulars of any Australian Government measures directed to the same object.[xvii]

In the end, the ban on the CPSA was the only one to survive (and did so until 1990), with the Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950 being ruled unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia and a subsequent referendum to change the Australian Constitution to allow such an Act narrowly failed in 1951. In the parliamentary debates on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill in Australia, veteran Labor MP Jack Holloway raised the fact that Australia was, in May 1950, leading the way in its pursuit of anti-communist legislation, stating:

No other country within the British Commonwealth of Nations would dream of passing legislation of this kind. Great Britain and Canada have refused to do so whilst South Africa is watering down its original proposals to deal with the Communist Party.[xviii]

Legislation was not introduced in Southern Rhodesia as the small communist circle inside the country worked clandestinely within the Southern Rhodesian Labour Party and as an extension of the CPSA (and after 1952, the South African Communist Party). Despite calls for the banning of the LPP, Canadian PM Louis St. Laurent rejected these proposals by the Opposition in May 1950 and the Party was allowed to continue legally until it was reconstituted as the new CPC in 1959. As The Guardian commented on during the debates over the Suppression of Communism Bill in South Africa:

Canada has learnt her lesson. Must we learn it too, in this country, only from bitter experience?[xix]

Conclusion

This paper shows that the co-ordination of anti-communism in the British Commonwealth went beyond the sharing of intelligence between the members what would become the ‘five eyes’ network in the Cold War (and post-Cold War) era. Through government agencies, the institutions of the Labor/Labour Parties and the executive branches in all three countries, Britain, Australia and South Africa drew upon each other’s policies and legal frameworks to develop a shared anti-communist response, although adapted to local political and social conditions. Between 1947 and 1951, this co-ordinated response was strongest, before divisions in the international communist movement and in the Anglophone world emerged in the late 1950s. Using the metaphor that Zhdanov promoted at the outset of the Cold War in the late 1940s, by the late 1950s, there no longer just two camps – the democratic/anti-fascist/anti-imperialist and the anti-democratic/fascist/imperialist camps – but a myriad of camps amongst the global West, the global East and the non-aligned, which complicated the Cold War. With these divisions, the anti-communist and imperial unity projected by Britain, Australia and South Africa (alongside the United States and other Anglophone nations) in the early Cold War period became more fractured and these countries were less likely to act in step with each other as they once did.

18-culture

[i] Robin Gollan, Revolutionaries and Reformists: Communism & the Australian Labour Movement 1920-1950 (Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, 1985) p. 143.

[ii] Calder Walton, Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire (London: Harper Press, 2013) p xxvi.

[iii] Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon, Imperial Endgame: Britain’s Dirty Wars and the End of Empire (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) p. 2.

[iv] Grob-Fitzgibbon, Imperial Endgame, p. 3.

[v] John Munro, ‘Imperial Anticommunism and the African American Freedom Movement in the Early Cold War’, History Workshop Journal (2015) doi:10.1093/hwj/dbu040 (accessed 21 July, 2015); Richard Seymour, ‘The Cold War, American Anticommunism and the Global “Colour Line”’, in Alexander Anievas, Nivi Manchanda & Robbie Shilliam (eds), Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line (London: Routledge, 2015) pp. 157-159.

For further discussion of the ‘global colour line’, see: Marilyn Lake & Henry Reynolds Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the Question of Racial Equality (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2008).

Both Lake and Reynolds, and Seymour have taken this notion from W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folks (1903) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/408/408-h/408-h.htm (accessed 20 July, 2015).

[vi] See: Stephen Lander, ‘International Intelligence Co-operation: An Inside Perspective’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 17/3, (2004) pp. 481-493.

[vii] See: Letter from Lord Harlech to Viscount Cranborne, 3 December, 1943, DO 35/1199, NA; Letter from Lord Harlech to Clement Attlee, 16 April, 1943, DO 35/1199, NA.

[viii] Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (London: Allen Lane, 2009) p. 371.

[ix] Thomas J. Maguire, ‘Counter-Subversion in Early Cold War Britain: The Official Committee on Communism (Home), the Information Research Department, and ‘State-Private Networks’, Intelligence and National Security, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/02684527.2014.895570, pp. 2-4.

[x] Maguire, ‘Counter-Subversion in Early Cold War Britain’, p. 12.

[xi] Andrew, The Defence of the Realm, p. 406.

[xii] Cited in, South African House of Assembly Debates, 13 June, 1952, col. 7949.

[xiii] Phillip Deery & Neil Redfern, ‘No Lasting Peace? Labor, Communism and the Cominform: Australia and Great Britain, 1945-50’, Labour History, 88 (May 2005) p. 66.

[xiv] Justice Michael Kirby, ‘Comparative Constitutionalism – An Australian Perspective’, paper presented at the University of Chicago, 23-25 January, 2004, http://ccc.uchicago.edu/docs/kirby.pdf , accessed 13 April, 2014.

[xv] South African House of Assembly Debates, 15 March, 1948, col. 3198.

[xvi] South African House of Assembly Debates, 15 March, 1948, col;.3199.

[xvii] Cablegram from Australian High Commissioner (Cape Town) to Minister for External Affairs, 3-4 March, 1950, A1838 TS201/2/26, NAA.

[xviii] Australian House of Representatives debates, 16 May, 1950, col.

[xix] The Guardian, 11 May, 1950.

We’re all off to Newcastle: The AAEH 2015 Conference

Coming around every two years, the Australasian Association of European History conference is being held in Newcastle (Australia) in July and by all accounts, it is one of the funnest conferences to attend for historians in the field (see Brett Holman’s reports from 2013 and 2011). Like many others, I will be making my way via plane, train and bus (and possibly taxi) to the grand city of northern New South Wales for four days of history, high quality research and hi-jinks. The paper I am presenting is ‘Policing communism in the British Commonwealth: The co-ordination of anti-communism between Britain, Australia and South Africa in the early Cold War‘. Here is the abstract:

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the British Commonwealth faced the twin ‘threats’ of decolonisation and communism, with many across the Commonwealth seeing decolonisation as the first step towards communist dictatorship. Recent scholarship has shown that the British attempted to ‘manage’ the decolonisation process to prevent socialist movements or national liberation movements sympathetic to the Soviet Bloc from coming to power. Therefore Britain, along with the Dominions, co-ordinated their intelligence services to combat the communist threat across the Commonwealth. This paper will explore how this co-ordination of anti-communist efforts was implemented in Britain, Australia and South Africa in the early Cold War era, which involved the violent breaking of strikes using the armed forces, the close monitoring of ‘persons of interest’ and the (attempted) banning of the Communist Party. It will seek to demonstrate that the history of anti-communism, similar to communism, has a transnational dimension that is only starting to be investigated by historians.

So if you’re attending the conference, come and say hello. And if you’re not, why not? (If you’re interested in reading the paper and not attending, send me an email and I will send something to you after the conference)

Furthermore, a number of people from the newly formed Australian Modern British History Network will be attending, so discussions may be afoot about organising something under the AMBHN banner in the not too distant future. So if you’re attending and have an interest British history or the history of the British Empire/Commonwealth, also come and say hello (and join the FB group) and maybe help get this new network off the ground!

See you at the Hunter on Hunter!

And to finish, here is some classic music from the Newcastle region:

The Last Stubborn Outpost of a Past Epoch: The British Communist Party and National Liberation in Zimbabwe, pt. 3

This is the third (and final) post in a series looking at how the Communist Party of Great Britain viewed and interacted with the national liberation struggle in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. The other instalments can be found here and here.

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Throughout the 1970s, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was seen as a weak link in the imperialist rule that spanned Southern Africa at the time. From 1972 (when the Pearce Commission was held) until the withdrawal of Portugal from Mozambique and Angola in 1975, Rhodesia was the primary battleground between the national liberation movements, the Soviet-backed ZAPU and the pro-Chinese ZANU, and the Rhodesian Army, supported by the South African regime (and by proxy the USA and the UK). After Mozambique and Angola became independent in 1975, the racist states of South Africa, Namibia and Rhodesia were further isolated. On the global stage, the US and the UK were now wavering in their (outright) support for these white-ruled countries and pressure, particularly from the US, was put upon Rhodesian leader Ian Smith to accept majority rule. The Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain, especially the Communist Party of Great Britain, were galvanised by these developments. In a 1976 pamphlet, the head of the CPGB’s International Department, Jack Woddis, wrote:

Southern Africa clings on, a last stubborn outpost of a past epoch. White rule in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia is an anachronism. History has passed its verdict. Apartheid and all its works must go.

After the Pearce Commission in 1972, the Communist Party suggested that any ‘settlement’ in Zimbabwe would have to take in the wishes of the Zimbabwean people and it had realistically put the end to any secret deal between the British Conservative government and the Smith regime. Writing in CPGB fortnightly journal Comment (August 11, 1973) Martin Gostwick stated that ‘a “settlement” now which does not enable the people to take the power and win independence will have to be made over heads’ and despite the ‘conniving’ of the British Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home and Ian Smith, it was unlikely that the Zimbabwean people would allow this to happen. The British, Gostwick argued, still had a role to play in ending white rule in Zimbabwe and urged ‘progressive forces’ in Britain to ‘aid the struggle in the ways which the peoples think will help’. However ultimately reminded readers that ‘Prime responsibility in the struggle for self-determination rests with the people of Zimbabwe’.

The granting of independence to Mozambique and Angola in 1975 changed the dynamic in southern Africa, with Mozambique (which shared a border with Zimbabwe) heavily assisting the ZANU and its armed section ZANLA and the civil war in Angola drawing in the South African military in a proxy war with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Rhodesia was becoming increasingly isolated and although the apartheid regime in South Africa still largely supported the Smith regime, South Africa was being pushed to the limits militarily and economically. As Mike Terry wrote in Comment in April 1975:

With the overthrow of the fascist and colonial Caetano regime in Portugal and with Mozambique and Angola on the road to independence, a key factor in how the struggle in southern Africa develops as a whole is the situation in Zimbabwe…

Apart from the external factors, the mid-1970s were also a turning point in the Zimbabwean struggle as it brought together the two largest national liberation forces into a formal alliance. Since the Pearce Commission broke down in 1972, there had been agreement between ZAPU, ZANU and the various African groups within Zimbabwe that the African National Council (ANC) would be an umbrella organisation for the different strains involved in the struggle. As the CPGB resolution on Southern Africa at the Party’s 1975 National Congress (republished in Comment in November 1975) stated:

In Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), the ANC… co-ordinates the various forms of struggle which have led to the increasing insecurity of the settler regime, and leads the fight against the growing repression, and to win full liberation, based on democratic majority rule.

As talks were to begin in Geneva in late 1976, the leading figures of ZAPU (Joshua Nkomo) and ZANU (Robert Mugabe) met in Lusaka to discuss a military and political alliance. The result of these negotiations was the establishment of the Patriotic Front, which was a formal alliance between the two groups, and the PF represented the national liberation movement in Zimbabwe at Geneva in December 1976, facing off against representatives from the Smith regime, as well as the Americans and the British. Combat intensified in Zimbabwe as the Geneva talks broke down, as Smith demanded a long ‘transition’ to majority rule under white supervision, which was rejected by the PF.

Despite being traditionally pro-ZAPU and highly critical of Mugabe’s ZANU, the CPGB welcomed the formation of the PF, with John Sprack calling the PF an attempt to ‘eliminate the chances of a civil war’ (Comment March 5, 1977). In May of the same year, Denis Shaw further outlined in Comment the Communist Party’s position, conceding that while ZANU had ‘many of the features of the right wing breakaway of the Pan Africanist Congress [in South Africa]’, it had ‘increasingly adopted a more progressive character’ and had ‘borne the brunt of the military operations of the liberation movement’ since 1972. For the CPGB, they argued that ‘coordination at a political was necessary if [unity] was to be maintained militarily’ and saw the PF as ‘the expression of this political cooperation’. By the time of the CPGB’s National Congress in November 1977, it seemed, on paper at least, that any apprehensions towards the role that ZANU were playing in the PF had disappeared. The resolution on Southern Africa boldly asserted:

We salute the heroic people of Zimbabwe who, in the face of Smith’s terror regime, are strengthening their unity under the leadership of the Patriotic Front in the fight to end white minority rule, win national liberation, and introduce a regime of democracy and equal rights, which will enable the people to complete their economic and social emancipation.

Between September 1977 and December 1980, a series of talks were held by the British and the Americans in an attempt to broker a deal between the Patriotic Front, the internal African groups and the Smith regime. Starting with the White Paper Rhodesia: Proposals for a Settlement (published in Sep 1977), the British proposed a staged transition to majority rule and an agreed ceasefire. Writing for Comment in December 1977, AAM activist Margaret Ling wrote that these proposals ‘were quite incapable of bringing about the kind of Zimbabwe for which the Patriotic Front are striving’ and condemned the British for putting forward this proposal. Ling wrote:

More than twelve years after UDI, Britain is still operating on the assumption that Rhodesia’s white minority can somehow be persuaded to voluntarily relinquish their powers and privileges, and can offer no guarantee whatsoever that by the time the proposed independence date arrives, the racialist regime would actually have been physically removed.

In March 1978, the Smith regime convinced the African groups inside the country to a new round of parliamentary elections where a number of seats were allocated to African voters. The Salisbury Agreement, or the Internal Settlement as it was more widely known, was boycotted by the Patriotic Front as it left the Smith government in power and the structures of the racist state still in tact. As Brian Bunting (from the South African Communist Party and CPGB/AAM member Christabel Gurney wrote in March 1978:

In Zimbabwe and Namibia…, the West recognises that the days of the white minority regime are numbered and that if no other ‘solution’ is found, the regimes face inevitable defeat by the Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe and by SWAPO in Namibia.

So they have intervened – not to ensure genuine majority rule in these countries, but to frustrate it by attempting to tie the hands of the only movements which can lead their peoples to genuine freedom.

The internal settlement saw the installation of Bishop Muzorewa, who had been a leading opposition figure at the time of Pearce Commission, as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, with his United African National Council the only legal African party. In Comment (Nov 1978) the Muzorewa regime was accused of only surviving via South African support, with Jill Sheppard writing, ‘its war against the Zimbabwean people and neighbouring states is massively subsidised by South Africa.

The internal settlement was also criticised in the pages of Marxism Today by John Ngara, ZANU’s representative in London. Ngara described the purpose of the newly installed Muzorewa government was ‘to perpetuate the repressive regime through the cosmetic involvement of some Africans in a government in which the Rhodesian Front [Ian Smith’s party] wielded all power’. The publication of a piece by a ZANU representative in a CPGB journal might have been a demonstration of how seriously the Communist Party in Britain, and the wider Anti-Apartheid Movement, took the Patriotic Front alliance. Even the SACP’s African Communist ran a similar version of Ngara’s article, although the ANC (the close ally of the SACP) was, at the time, sceptical about ZANU’s overtures towards closer ties.

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During 1979, talks increased between the Smith regime and the PF, with Britain and Australia joining the negotiations at Lancaster House. A ceasefire and an agreement was finally signed by the Patriotic Front in December 1979 and elections were held in February 1980. While nominally the Patriotic Front still existed, both ZAPU and ZANU campaigned separately and both featured on the ballot. When the results were announced on March 4, 1980, it emerged that out of a total of 80 seats, ZANU had won 57 seats, ZAPU had won 20 and the UANC won 3. Christabel Gurney wrote in Comment that month that these results were ‘a great triumph for the Zimbabwean people’s liberation struggle’ and now ‘represent[ed] the interests and aspirations of the majority of its people’.

However the electoral result suggested Mugabe’s ZANU was looking to abandon the Patriotic Front and started openly criticising Nkomo’s ZAPU. The CPGB published a subsequent article by Ngara in Marxism Today (May 1980) which now attacked ZAPU and pronounced Mugabe’s government as the way forward for Zimbabwe. Ngara alleged that:

ZANU’s dependence upon Zambia, a country heavily dependent on Rhodesia and South Africa for its economy, tended to circumscribe ZAPU’s operations against the Smith regime.

This was compared with ZANU’s reliance upon Mozambique, which ‘tended to make the party more ideological’ and ‘led to its adoption of Marxism-Leninism as its guiding philosophy’. Ngara announced that Mugabe was committed to building socialism in Zimbabwe, but this would be implemented in a cautious and pragmatic fashion.

Vladimir Shubin, the Soviet Union’s liaison with the national liberation movements in South Africa, admitted that the Soviets were unhappy with ZANU gaining power and that Mugabe’s regime had developed links with China and North Korea. The Communist Party in Britain didn’t, in public at least, seem to share these same concerns, and pronounced that the victory of the PF in Zimbabwe gave great hope for SWAPO in Namibia and the ANC/SACP in South Africa. Gurney reminded readers that:

We must recognise that neither Zimbabwe not any other country in Southern Africa can develop in peace and security while apartheid South Africa remains.

There was considerable debate over whether the events that led to the liberation of Zimbabwe, particularly the long military campaign, would serve as a framework for the eventual destruction of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. However, when interviewed in Marxism Today in 1984, SACP/ANC figure Joe Slovo distanced the approach that the SACP/ANC were taking to what had occurred in Zimbabwe:

We are going to have our own model. In a sense, I don’t believe in simply following models.

The Communist Party, through the pages of Marxism Today, were also distancing themselves from the two parties of the former Patriotic Front. In a May 1983 article, David Jones claimed that ‘ZAPU was no left wing party’ and described both ZAPU and ZANU as no more than national liberation movements with ‘a bundle of interests united against the overriding oppression of Ian Smith and his settler government’. Costa Gazidis, a member of the Pan Africanist Congress, wrote into the journal and criticised Jones’ claims:

For many years during the war of national liberation, the left in Britain gave exclusive support to ZAPU because it was regarded as the only ‘authentic’ and ‘socialist movement, while ZANU was all but ignored. The unexpected success of ZANU threw ZAPU supporters in Britain into disarray. The eclipse of ZAPU deeply saddened the Anti-Apartheid movement, and their support group ZECC (Zimbabwe Emergency Co-ordinating Committee) was quickly disbanded.

While Gazidis described the Mugabe government as a ‘revolutionary government’ and declared that the ‘national bourgeoisie in Zimbabwe are a progressive and patriotic force’, the CPGB was cooling any support it had for Mugabe, but still believed that victory in Zimbabwe was an important step for the forthcoming dismantlement of apartheid in South Africa.

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As I have argued over these three blog posts, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was seen as a vital battleground in the fight against racism, imperialism and apartheid in Southern Africa and for most of the 1970s, the Communist Party of Great Britain, as well as many others on the British left, viewed Rhodesia/Zimbabwe as the weakest link in the imperialist chain (to paraphrase Lenin). Roger Fieldhouse, quoting Abdul Minty (Honorary Secretary of the AAM in Britain), suggests that the struggle in Zimbabwe sometimes overshadowed the fight against apartheid in South Africa. However, as Fieldhouse acknowledges, others disagree and see the collapse of the Smith regime in Rhodesia as an important step for the national liberation of the whole of Southern Africa.

This is the line that the Communist Party took, expressing solidarity with national liberation movements across the developing world – while defeating apartheid in South Africa was important, it was only one arena in a larger struggle against imperialism and racism worldwide. At the same time, while the CPGB was heavily invested in the victory of the PF (and before that, ZAPU) in Zimbabwe, it became clear soon after Mugabe’s victory that things were developing differently to how it was predicted by the international communist movement.

The SACP and Czechoslovakia 1968

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I have been in the Mayibuye Archives at the University of the Western Cape this week and found in the papers of Yusuf Dadoo a draft statement by the South African Communist Party on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The draft statement began by declaring:

The Central Committee of the South African Communist Party fully supports the action taken in fraternal Czechoslovakia by the Socialist countries united in the Warsaw Pact in response to an appeal for help by Communist and progressive forces…

Today the imperialists seek through guile and cunning to achieve a change in the balance of power in Europe which has always historically threatened world war. In the interests of the revolutionary gains of the Czechoslovak people; the international working class and of peace in the world, the Socialist countries could not stand aside and allow these grave developments. (SACP, ‘Imperialist Counter-Offensive Halted in Czechoslovakia’, n.d., 2.4.7, Yusuf Dadoo Collection, Mayibuye Archives, University of the Western Cape)

A look at the 4th issue of African Communist from 1968 shows that the SACP embellished upon this draft statement with a long editorial justifying the invasion (pp. 5-15) and the inclusion of several statements of the SACP on the Czechoslovak ‘crisis’ over the previous few months (pp. 94-96). The justification for the invasion for the SACP was that this measure was necessary in the era of imperialist aggression to protect the gains of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and to prevent Western forces from reaching the borders of the Soviet Union. The editorial stated that events of August 1968:

must be viewed, above all, in relation to the central and overriding clash of our era – that between aggressive international imperialism on the one hand and the forces of socialism and human liberation on the other. Any estimate of those events which minimises or overlooks this great central issue must be one-sided or false… We must remember the geographic and strategic position of this country as a key-point for the security of the heartlands of socialism – and we must be acutely conscious of the whole international situation of rampant imperialist aggression on a global scale (pp. 6-7).

Recent works on the SACP indicate that not everyone in the Party supported the Soviet invasion, in particular there was a significant dispute between Ruth First and Joe Slovo, but the public face of the SACP was outwardly pro-Soviet.  The stance taken by the SACP is interesting because it is in stark contrast to the position taken by the two other Communist Parties that I have been studying, the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Communist Party of Australia. As Keith Laybourn noted, the Executive Committee of the CPGB issued a statement in September 1968, ‘deploring the intervention of the Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia’ (p. 79). In the case of the CPA, Andy Blunden documents that the Party’s newspaper Tribune pronounced:

We cannot agree to the pre-emptive occupation of a country by another, on the alleged threat from outside, particularly when such action is taken without prior notification to the government and CP of Czechoslovakia. … It is hard to believe that [the Soviet leaders] realise the damage they cause to their own standing and the image of socialism throughout the world by acting in this way.

Looking at the parties that opposed the Soviet invasion (such as the CPGB and the CPA, as well as the French and Italian Communist Parties),  most of them were Western parties operating in a liberal democracy. The SACP noted the opposition by the CPGB, PCF and PCI, stating:

An indication of the exceptionally complicated and severe nature of the Czechoslovakian crisis is that this time the critics who have condemned the Soviet Union and her allies include even some of the leaderships of Communist Parties, especially in Western Europe, including Italy, France and Britain. We should make it clear at the outset, that we differ radically from the analysis made and the conclusions reached by the leaders of these Parties (p.6).

But the SACP seemed to argue that the Western European parties were arguing against the Soviet invasion from a privileged position:

If our comrades in Western Europe have discussed and made statements about this questions, so have our comrades in Vietnam, Korea, the United States, Cuba, the Middle East, Africa (p. 11).

I think this split between Communist Parties in Western liberal democracies and Communist Parties in less democratic conditions over the issue of Czechoslovakia may go back to the events of 1956 and the changes to the international communist movement. After the denunciation of the ‘crimes’ of the Stalin era by Khrushchev in 1956 and the Soviet invasion of Hungary in October 1956, Communist Parties across the world went into shock, with many suffering significant membership loss and debate spilling over into the public sphere. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, dissidents within the CPGB, such as E.P. Thompson, John Saville, Brian Pearce, Peter Fryer and Malcolm MacEwen (amongst others), sought channels outside the Party to denounce the actions of the Soviet Union, as well as the lack of internal debate within the Party. Rachel Calkin has shown that similar scenes occurred in the CPA. Although the leadership of both the CPGB and CPA supported the invasion of Hungary in October 1956, the backlash in these Parties fostered a much deeper debate about the role of the Soviet Union in the international communist movement. This debate bubbled away during the 1960s and mixed with the rise of the new social movements of the mid-to-late 1960s, I would argue that this created the conditions that allowed these Western Parties in 1968 to criticise the actions of the Soviets publicly.

On the other hand, the SACP had not undergone this public bloodletting in 1956 and a much more orthodox approach to the Soviet Union remained amongst the SACP leadership in 1968. I have been thinking that because the Communist Party of South Africa was banned in 1950 and the underground SACP was caught up in  a series of major struggles in the late 1950s, this caused those who chose to remain in the illegal Party to take a much more hardline (and orthodox Marxist-Leninist) outlook. Those in South Africa who probably would have formed the ‘new left’ and broke away from the CPSA were probably also unlikely to be involved in the underground SACP, which maintained a strict democratic centralist line. Under the Apartheid regime, it might be argued that the conditions were not available to develop a socialist humanist Marxism.

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Although we do know that there was some dissent within (and around) the SACP over Hungary. A look at the letters page of the New Age journal (a proxy publication of the SACP) from late 1956 shows that some were willing to criticise the Soviet invasion, but were quickly retorted by the pro-Soviet journal editors. Raising the issue of the Suez invasion as well as Hungary (and the right of countries to self-determination), someone wrote to New Age rhetorically asking:

Could this be that a ‘police-action’ by Western states is to be condemned, but a similar action by a Socialist state is to be supported?

The editors of the journal replied:

In the case of Hungary, was it the Soviet troops or the counter-revolutionaries who prevented the Hungarian people from exercising their right to self-determination? Would Hungary under a right-wing government , and with a capitalist economic system, dependent on Western support for its existence, have been more independent than she is now?

This attitude was still in place in the SACP in 1968, but had faded somewhat in many other Western Communist Parties. Did the fact that the SACP had to go underground reinforce a Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy within the Party? Has this had a negative effect on the SACP since the 1960s? Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

‘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.”

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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.