The Freedom Charter Is NOT A Document Of Communists But The Congress Of The People

By Dr Lehlohonolo Mahlatsi & Xolani Tseletsele

This article is Part 11 of the “Forms And Methods Of The Struggle For Liberation: Critique To The Ideological Trend Against The Freedom Charter: A Reply To Sam Ditshego” 

The South African Revolution is on a precipitous path, with ideological decline and opportunistic trend in some quarters against the Freedom Charter. If mistaken and invented theories are not corrected, they will end up being taken as truth. It is for this reason that we are responding to Sam Ditshego’s, A Joinder to Expropriation Fits the Freedom Charter” as posted on Uncensored Opinion http://uncensoredopinion.co.za/black-consciousness-and-the-quest-for-a-true-humanity-and-american-policy-towards-azania-south-africa/. In his posting Ditshego averred that the Freedom Charter was drafted by the white Communists, notably Cdes Joe Slovo and Rusty Bernstein. He further averred that the former Soviet Union and the Communist Party have infiltrated the ANC. Part 1 of the response is here http://uncensoredopinion.co.za/forms-and-methods-of-struggle-for-liberation-a-reply-to-sam-ditshego-part-i/

Ditshego and PAC apologists proclaimed that the Freedom Charter was a Communist document, in this way virtually joining the Apartheid regime in proclaiming the moral justification for the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950. The Freedom Charter is not a manifesto of the Party. Rather, it is minimum demands for what the Party stands for. By claiming that the Freedom Charter is a Communist Document, Ditshego thinks that he can prove in his unscientific piece what the racist regime failed during the marathon Treason Trial of 1955-1961. He should be too ambitious and brave.

During the 1953 Queenstown Conference of the African National Congress, the National Executive Committee was instructed to make immediate preparations for the organisation of a mass assembly of delegates elected by people of all races in every town, villages, farm, factory, mine and kraal — to be known as the Congress of the People, whose tasks should be to work out a Freedom Charter for all the people and groups of the country. According to a document entitled, Congress of the People that was annexed to the report of the National Executive Committee at the Tongati Conference of 21 March 1954:

‘The South African people’s movement can be proud of its record of unbroken struggle for rights and liberty, but never before have the mass of South African citizens been summoned together to proclaim their desire and aspirations in a single declaration — a Charter of Freedom. The drawing up and adopting of such a charter of freedom is the purpose for which the Congress of the People has been called. Never in South African history have the ordinary people of this country been enabled to take part in deciding their own fate and future.”

The Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter, was the culmination of a long process of resistance to white conquest and domination. It was also a response to the immediate period of struggle which crucially influenced the mode of organisation of the Congress of the People. Ultimately, the struggles of the time also conditioned the type of demands which found their way into the Charter. This period was marked by the development of working-class organisation, which found expression in significant events such as the 1946 miners’ strike. It also saw the establishment of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). Finally, the ANC and Indian Congresses developed into mass movements after 1952.

The task of the organisers of the Congress of the People (who were called Freedom Volunteers and with Cde Nelson Mandela as a Volunteer-in-Chief)) was not to write the demands on behalf of the people but to collect them and to enlighten the people on the radical changes that such a campaign could make in the South African situation. By sneering at the Freedom Charter and calling it an ANC or even a Kliptown document, some people forget that the Charter was in fact, produced not by the ANC but by the people of South Africa. The ANC only adopted this Charter as its policy document as advised in a Presidential address by Professor Z K Matthews, then acting on behalf of Chief Albert Luthuli, who was banned and confined to the Lower Tugela district: “I shall therefore not say anything about it (the Freedom Charter) at this stage except to remind you that the Freedom Charter was drawn up not by the African National Congress but by the Congress of the People, and it is therefore necessary for you to ratify the Freedom Charter and to make it part, if you so desire, of the policy of the African National Congress”.

Delegates to the Congress of the People subsequently came from all the four corners of our country. They came on foot, in buses, in trains — the whole trip to Kliptown near Johannesburg took place in an atmosphere of great political demonstration. Freedom processions greeted delegates in every town they passed through. As the call of the National Action Council had said:

‘Where possible, Freedom Trains should be arranged to carry delegates but where funds are not available for this, delegates should band together on a Freedom March, even though it may take some days for them to reach the Congress”.

Our people gathered together in Kliptown to speak of freedom. Of the total of 2 884 delegates, 721 were women. There were 2 186 African delegates 320 Indian delegates, 230 Coloured delegates, as well as 112 Whites. Hundreds of delegates were prevented from coming by the action of the police. According to Professor ZK Matthews, “There were several wonderful things about the Congress of the People. The first is the fact that it was held at all. Here for the first time was a Congress which brought together people drawn from all sections of the population to consider and give expression to their vision of the South Africa of the future. The sponsoring organisations issued a challenge to any other group of organisations including the Nationalist Party to convene a similar conference and whether they could evoke an equal or better response from the people of South Africa.’

The ANC remains a liberation movement with deep roots among the people; communists in its ranks, supported by the socialist countries in the liberation struggle and proud of its alliance with the SACP. This is why reactionaries are alarmed. As we dissect their lies, their slanders and their distortions of the truth, perhaps we should pity them, for they are the victims of history itself and they know it.

When the ANC-led alliance with the Congress of Democrats, South African Indian Congress and South African Coloured People’s Congress formed a common front of struggle against Verwoerd’s fascist policies, a small group of ANC elements split away, complaining that the ANC had fallen under white influence, and set up their own organisation – the Pan Africanist Congress- as a purely racial organisation allegedly ‘free’ from white influence. As a formal organisational group, the PAC was created in November 1958 after a group of hooligans had failed to break up the ANC conference which was being held in Orlando under the chairpersonship of Cde Oliver Tambo. In a statement adopted by a group of approximately 100 Africanists, under the leadership of Potlako Leballo and Josias Madzunya, and sent to the chairperson of the conference, the signatories stated:

“We are launching out on our own as the custodians of ANC policy as formulated in 1912 and pursued up to the time of the Congress alliance”.

The PAC leadership immediately came out with violently anti-Communist statements and soon attracted the support of the white Liberal Party also engaged in vicious anti-Communist propaganda. The leader of its right wing, Patrick Duncan, a rabid anti-Communist and son of the former Governor-General of South Africa, became a particularly enthusiastic champion of the PAC. After having left the ANC for the alleged reason that it co-operated with progressive whites, the PAC fell into company with white reactionaries. This is, of course, quite natural: the main contradiction in bourgeois society is not between races but between antagonistic classes, between the forces of progress fighting for the Socialist transformation of society and the forces of imperialist reaction striving to save the outlived, decadent capitalist system.

The PAC leaders were no exception. There were political figures in other African countries who counterposed black to white, and with the same result: in turning their back on friends. They found themselves bound in a shameful alliance with the enemies of African freedom. The idea of ‘ideological independence’ had gained considerable ground among some Africans. They claimed that they cannot accept the ideology of either West or East because they have their own ideology and they must develop it further and improve on it. There are a number of factors behind the appearance of this idea.

African society includes petty commodity producers, private property owners, and petty bourgeoisie; in many countries a capitalist bourgeoisie has already appeared and is exploiting the labour of others. Consequently, bourgeois ideology finds fertile soil within African society. For a long time, Africa has been subjected to strong ideological influence from the bourgeois countries of Europe and America. The colonialists implanted bourgeois, and not some other kind of ideology. As a result, bourgeois ideas were more widespread in Africa than socialist ideas. The attempt to conduct a policy of ideological independence can in practice mean only one thing: to prevent the spread of socialist ideas and strengthen and consolidate imperialist-inspired bourgeois ideas.

Some African leaders claimed that Marxism could not be applied to their countries because the proletarian and bourgeois classes were not yet fully formed there. What they failed to understand is that Marxism offers, among other things, an explanation of the most general laws governing any society, including a pre-capitalist one. What s meant by a non-capitalist path is that countries where the proletarian and bourgeois classes have not had time to form, they can take a way of development which can lead to socialism, so by-passing the capitalist stage.

Anti-Communist hysteria espoused by Ditshego tries to convince Africans that if they accept the theory, of scientific Socialism, this means they must blindly copy the experience of Socialist construction in the former Soviet Union and disregard specific African conditions. These specific conditions are very real and substantial and will inevitably affect the tempo and methods of transition to a Socialist society, but scientific Socialism, in fact, demands a thorough analysis of conditions in a country and thereby building socialism. Anti-Communist propaganda has always been part of the imperialist agenda. It is a unfortunate that Ditshego chose unwittingly, to be their spokesperson.

Since its inception, the Pan African Congress had been characterised by an insatiable desire to wreck and betray the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed people in our country. Their activities had always been aimed not at destroying the oppressive apartheid machinery but at crippling and thwarting the revolutionary programme of ANC as enshrined in the Freedom Charter. When Leballo toured China, he offered himself as a leader of a truly revolutionary left, anti-imperialist force. When Nana Mahomo went begging for funds from the United States, he presented PAC as a bastion against communist influence in the National Liberation movement. They had swung from the most virulent racialism against the Whites and Indians to allowing representatives of both to occupy leading and dominant positions in their apparatus. This explains hypocrisy of the PAC leaders and for Ditshego to base his argument on the teachings of such rowdy, ill-discipline and politically unscrupulous leaders leaves much to be desired.

It was Karl Marx who wrote in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte that “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. The present state of squabbles and disunity in the PAC cannot only be attributed to its current leaders. It is inherent in the disruptive and anarchist behaviours as cemented by its founders. The disunity malady had not only affected their dealing with other organisations. The history of the PAC was replete with inner-party quarrels, fabrications and squabbles that caused the disintegration of the organisation into numerous small warring factions, each claiming a mandate to represent the people of South Africa. This cancer still persists in the PAC. The enemies of African unity, the enemies of African liberation can sometimes hide behind the flag of Pan-Africanism.

Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi is SACP Free State PEC Member

Xolani Tseletsele is Free State Young Communist League Deputy Provincial Secretary

They write in their personal capacities












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One Comment

  1. Brother Lehlohonolo is misguided on why the youth league of the ANC who were Africanist go and form their own party and he is bitter that Anton Muziwakhe Lembede and Mda were the first founding members of the radical as opposed to the “Ja Baas” organisation (ANC) had come to be. Luthuli did not know where the FREEDOM CHATTER came from….or he(Lehlohonolo) knew better than his president.

    If the ANC could not figure out that” THE CONGRESS OF THE PEOPLE”, was infiltration by foreign forces to derail the organisation from it”s original Manifesto of 1912….as replaced by the FREEDOM CHATTER, of 1956, was a catalyst point that changed the founding CONGRESS MANIFESTO of the NATIVE CONGRESS…Then, he is speaking of another unknown ANC of his own where a new history had been prepared for fools…..He (Lehlohonolo) is trying to render the FREEDOM CHATTER relevant to suit his own reasoning and thinks that all unanswered questions about where that document came from (The Kliptown Chatter) and suggest that it was from the people themselves IS NOT ONLY APPALLING but a deliberate act to score political points…….He was not even present at that gathering where that document was introduced. He was not even present when Potlako Leballo climbed on conference tables to protest against that document when the ANC adopted it at it”s consultative conference in December that same year.When the youth congress was formed in 1942….it”s manifesto was a replica of the 1912 congress document as endorsed by it”s first president….Anton Muziwakhe Lembede.

    The PAN AFRICANIST CONGRESS OF AZANIA is not prune to organisational problems or leadership squabbles but has had it”s own fair share…..and is no exception to present day organisational infighting….However, that does not mean that it is incapable of dealing with these problems in isolation from the core issues of our struggle.

    Therefore, it was correct to direct it”s struggle to those who stole our land and it was befitting so that political identification was of pivotal importance in order to identify the enemy. It is true that those who wanted to join our struggle must come from the oppressed and colonized and not from Indians and so-called colored people who identified with the oppressor.

    Once more… we are not racist but believe in one race… the human race, and therefore the word RACE does not have a plural form in our vocabulary…and that is non-racialism…When you hate a person, it must be about what they have done and not what color they are….in our case therefore, the people who ussupt our land are not only white but foreign too and come from Europe.

    My humble advice to the LEHLOHONOLO”s of this world…..stop falsifying our history because for some of us …it is traitor ship and only shows the squint and narrow political point scoring…..to salvage the dying horse….(the populist ANC)…

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