A Critique To The Trend Against The Freedom Charter: A Reply To Sam Ditshego. Part Iii

By Dr Lehlohonolo Mahlatsi

Last week, Sam Ditshego continued to make wild allegations in two articles he posted on Uncensored Opinion, namely the Joinder to part I of my article and The freedom charter is not a revolutionary document, it is not an anti-colonialist document, and it is a useless document responding to the Freedom Charter Is not A Document of Communists But The Congress of the People  which I penned in collaboration with Cde Tseletsele I appreciate the energy and appetite with which he has responded so quickly. However, I wish to make few comments.

There is something untoward with the way Ditshego purports to record the history of our struggle. It is riddled with inconsistencies and abstruse arguments. For example, he claimed that the Communist Party of South Africa was launched in 1922. In fact, the party was established in July 1921. He accused the ANC of having labelled legendary Steve Biko as a “CIA Agent”. This is ridiculous and a fabrication. Many activists of Steve Biko’s SASO swelled the ranks and became leaders of the ANC and SACP. Some of them became commanders of the people’s army Umkhonto We Sizwe. It is widely believed that one of the reasons for the apartheid killing machinery to murder the former charismatic Black Consciousness leader was because of the underground communication network between himself and the liberation movement, especially President Oliver Tambo. Immediately after Biko was martyred, the ANC was outraged and sent a message of condolences.

Ditshego also claims that “The first people to raise their objections to the secret negotiations the ANC held with representatives of the white minority government were those in the PAC, led by its second President the late Zeph Mothopeng who also rejected a contrived meeting with Mandela in Harare orchestrated by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe”. The meeting he referred to was not in relation to the secret talks as he suggests. The meeting chaired by the Former President Mugabe in Harare was in relation to the adoption of the Harare Declaration in 1989 and Cde Nelson Mandela was not there as he was still languishing in apartheid prisons. The Harare Declaration was adopted by the Organisation of African Unity and Conference for the Democratic Future in 1989.

What puzzles me with his critique of the ANC and SACP, is that he bases his arguments on the writings of white researchers in as far as they cast aspersions on the ANC and its alliance. But he is having qualms with those white patriots who participated in the struggle for liberation. He relies heavily on what was written on elements like Steven Ellis and Steven Dorill, who have no connection with the liberation struggle of our country, our continent and the world.

He confesses that his analysis is based on writings of Stephen Ellis and Tshepo Sechaba (“pen name”) in Comrades Against Apartheid, the ANC and the South African Communist Party in Exile. What Ditshego does not tell us or is not aware of is that in subsequent interviews and before his death, Ellis accepted that, given the limited state of knowledge at the time, he got a few things wrong. This tells us that the book is based on the information he gathered from the apartheid spies and other agent provocateurs of imperialism. Ditshego thinks that we can take such fantasies seriously. His critique of the SACP is not different from what the Imperialists have waged and are still waging against the Party and Left forces.

Imperialism maintains itself in power today not only through force but also by ideological manipulation, utilising in that respect the lack of ideological awareness of our toiling masses. The real aim of imperialism on the ideological field is to mislead our people, to cause a split in our ranks, to attempt to diffuse our people’s revolutionary zeal to an impotent guest for reform. Quasi-leaders are groomed, miseducated and let loose to carry out these plans. It would be ridiculous to ignore the fact that those who opposed the Freedom Charter become toys in the hands of imperialism. The imperialists, quite obviously, hate our Freedom Charter, and would so much love to see the South African people opt for a less revolutionary document, some kind of reforms or even, for that matter, one document that looks super-revolutionary in form but which is reactionary in essence. Revisionism under cover of a ceremonial obeisance to Africanism as a kind of antiquated tribal shibboleth, in practice repudiated all its essential teachings, and substituted-of course as the supposedly most modem wisdom of new thinking-the most antiquated and exploded liberal-reformist illusions.

Chairman Mao Tse Tung warned that “We are also opposed to “Left” phrase-mongering. The thinking of “Leftist” outstrips a given stage of development of the objective process; some regard their fantasies as truth, while others strain to realise in the present an ideal which can only be realized in the future. They alienate themselves from the current practice of the majority of the people and from the realities of the day and show themselves adventurists in their actions.”

The genius of Marx consisted in drawing together these threads and developing therefrom his all-embracing theory, which has become the guiding theory of the modem world. Similarly, the international communist movement did not arise as a coterie of disciples of an individual teacher or leader. Marx and Engels did not first write the Communist Manifesto and then found the Communist League to propagate its principles. They first became members of the Communist League (in its initial form as the Federation of the Just, which they helped to transform into the Communist League); and it was the Second Congress of the Communist League which instructed them to prepare the statement of its programme and principles, published in the following year as the Manifesto of the Communist Party.

 The problem with Ditshego is that he argues from the comfort of arm-chair revolutionary and without participating in the day-to-day struggle of our people. Taking cue from Marx and Engels, it is advisable that he stops complaining about the Freedom Charter and the ANC-led alliance. Let him draw the alternative and more revolutionary document than the Freedom Charter and rally the masses of our people behind it. This will help in testing what he has been theorising and so eloquently. History will tell whether this will capture the imagination of our people. It is inconceivable to claim to be revolutionary and denounce the Freedom Charter as counter-revolutionary without coming with an alternative. However, the revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the springboard for revolutionary advance. Indeed, what appears to be “militant” and “revolutionary” can often be counter-revolutionary.

Again, Chairman Mao Tse Tung advised against such “left tendencies” who are not in touch with reality and who are baffling our people with utopia. He cogently observed that: “It often happens, however, that thinking lags behind reality; this is because man’s cognition is limited by numerous social conditions. We are opposed to die-hards in the revolutionary ranks whose thinking fails to advance with changing circumstances and has manifested itself historically as Right opportunism, these people fail to see that the struggle of opposites has already pushed the objective process forward while their knowledge has stopped at old stage. This is characteristics of the thinking of all die-hards. Their thinking is divorced from social practice, and they cannot march ahead to guide the chariot of society; they simply trail behind, grumbling that it goes too fast and trying drag it back or turn it in the opposite direction.”

The historically determined character of the ANC as the expression, the organiser and leader of revolutionary African nationalism in South Africa, actually underlines and confirms the central and dominant role of the ANC in the broad front of democratic forces. The ANC has a dual role to play: on the one hand it is the direct and authentic descendant of the South African Native National Congress that was founded in 1912 and as such is the trusted repository of the African nationalist cause. At the same time – and this is the product more than past century of maturing growth – the ANC is the spearhead of the entire movement for the liberation of all oppressed people in our country.

These two distinct but closely inter-related dimensions of the ANC’s existence correspond to the historical, cultural and socio-economic realities that exist in South Africa and which will exist for a long-time to come. To seek to blur this distinction, to bypass obligatory stages in the development of the unity of our liberation movement, is to lose touch with the social and political realities of everyday life, and to ignore the principles of the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter has reliably guided not only the ANC but also the wider mass movement which follows the ANC’s lead. To reject the Freedom Charter, and in effect, to seek a return to and counterpoise it with the 1949 Programme of Action is unrealistic. The dock of history cannot thus be turned back.

Reading the Programme of Action today, with the advantage of hindsight, one can see that viewed as a statement of aims, which in part it is, it had certain limitations which are not to be found in the Freedom Charter. First, it dealt largely with forms and methods of struggle, and only briefly with aims. Secondly, in defining aims it was, at some points, ambiguous. The Programme of Action is purely an experience of African nationalism. It does not address itself to the question of the liberation of the other oppressed groups in South Africa. It therefore provides the basic core of the programme of revolutionary democratic nationalism in the South African liberation movement, but by itself is insufficient as a comprehensive expression of the aims of revolutionary democratic nationalism.

In 1946, five years before the Africanists allege that the A.N.C was buried in the multi-racial alliance, Dr. A. B. Xuma (then President of the African National Congress) entered into an agreement with Dr. Y. M. Dadoo (then President of the Transvaal Indian Congress) and Dr. G. M. Naicker (President of the Natal Indian Congress) by which the African and Indian Congresses would work together on all matters of common concern in their fight against white domination. This agreement is commonly known as the Dadoo-Xuma-Naicker Pact, and it was confirmed at the annual conference of the A.N.C. in 1946. At no stage have any of the Africanists questioned this pact; nor have they asked the ANC. to repudiate or rescind it. They themselves claim credit for having given to the ANC. ” the famous programme of action from which the historic Defiance Campaign flowed”. Yet it was this very African-Indian alliance, established by the 1946 Pact, that led to the Campaign and developed the multi-racial Congress Movement.

In a message to the Congress from Natal, where he was confined by a banning order and by ill-health, the President General of the African National Congress Chief Albert Luthuli anticipated correctly the momentous importance of what happened on that occasion:

“Why will this assembly be significant and unique? Its size, I hope, will make it unique. But above all its multiracial nature and its noble objectives will make it unique, because it will be the first time in the history of our multi-racial nation that its people from all walks of life will meet as equals, irrespective of race, colour and creed, to formulate a freedom charter for all people in the country.”

The fact that anti-Communism is always closely linked with narrow African nationalism gives a clue to the class essence of this trend and helps to explain its recurrence and persistence. Whatever form it takes at any given time, anti-communism is in South African conditions actually opposition to the leading role of the working class in the struggle for national liberation. Anybody who seeks to circumscribe or weaken the role of the Communist Party in the national liberation movement – by opposing the vanguard party of the working class and the revolutionary ideology of the working class – objectively performs the function of assisting bourgeois trends within the liberation movement.

It is a pity that Ditshego recklessly remarked, without substantiating, that “the roots of dialectical materialism predate Karl Marx and are to be found in the philosophy of ancient Africa.” There was nothing like Dialectical Materialism before Marx and Engels. They were both scholars and followers of dialectics and materialism which at the time operated separately. Marx and Engels were able to bring dialectics and materialism into a fruitful synthesis because they were the first thinkers in history to base their philosophy on the revolutionary needs and aspirations of the working class, the only class in history which has absolutely nothing to lose from change.

Marx was a materialist and socially a follower of Ludwig Feuerbach whose weak points he subsequently saw only in his materialism being insufficiently consistent and comprehensive. As the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development, and the richest in content, Hegelian dialectics was considered by Marx and Engels the greatest achievement of classical German philosophy. However, the problem with Hegel was that he was an idealist. As to what Ditshego means when he claims that Dialectical Materialism predates Marx and its roots are found in Africa, it is unfortunate. My humble plea is that he should familiarise himself with the subject before he engages in the public discourse.

Suffice to say that the earlier materialists were not completely materialist, and the earlier dialectical thinkers were not consistently dialectical, because in both cases, the uncritical acceptance of a system of exploitation and the division of society into classes made these philosophers unable and unwilling to see everything, including “human nature” and private property, class privilege and social inequality, subject to the necessary forces of change.

 Engels in Socialism: Utopia and Scientific shows that dialectical materialism regards the world as a complex of processes, not as a collection of “ready-made things.” Dialectics is “the science of the general laws of motion both of the external world and of human thought.” He discussed the essential ideas of historical materialism, as the application of dialectical materialism to the sphere of human society. He shows that the driving force of is the class struggle and that classes and class struggles are rooted in economic conditions. He goes on to discuss the economic foundations of the development of the state mid of law, and then of political and social ideology, of religion, philosophy, etc.

The main thing is that dialectical materialism gives generalised philosophical expression to the outlook of a new class, the revolutionary proletariat. This outlook assimilates into itself the most advanced achievements of bourgeois science and bourgeois philosophy. But it is a new outlook, which transforms both science and philosophy. It discovers and brings out the underlying dialectical connections and the dialectical motion of the processes of nature and of history, thus introducing into the sciences what Engels called ” the dialectical synthesis, and at the same time ridding them of the limiting, hampering conceptions of bourgeois thought and bourgeois methodology.

One of the revolutionary features of dialectical materialism is that it is the complete victory of the materialist outlook, establishing the principles of a complete and absolutely consistent materialist approach in all spheres of thought. According to Engels this means “that it was resolved to comprehend the real world-nature and history-just as it presents itself to every one who approaches it free from preconceived idealist fancies. it was decided relentlessly to sacrifice every idealist fancy which could not be brought into harmony with the facts conceived in their own and not in a fantastic”. Dialectical materialism ends the philosophical systems of the past, in which it was attempted to erect a philosophy standing above the sciences, dictating its conclusions to the sciences, or claiming to produce a more true and complete account of the world and of human thought and activity than could be achieved by the sciences.

Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi Is SACP Free State PEC Member and ANC Member. He write in a Personal Capacity

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