South African Communist Party

(SACP)
   Founded in 1921 as the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), the South African Communist Party played a central role in ending apartheid rule. The CPSA affiliated with the Comintern from its inception, with Moscow compelling the party to adopt the “Native Republic” thesis. This asserted that South Africa belonged exclusively to its black natives, and underpinned party action for the next three decades. The 1930s were characterized by the partial Stalinization of the CPSA, with purges of white party officials commonplace. In line with Comintern edicts, owing to the Nazi–Soviet Pact the party initially opposed conflict with Germany in World War II, but upon German invasion in 1941 rallied behind the Soviet Union. Under the terms of the Suppression of Communism Act, the CPSA was declared illegal in 1950 by the newly reelected National Party. Operating underground, it relaunched in 1953 as the SACP and, having dropped Native Republic theory six years previously, set about forging ties with the African National Congress (ANC) in order to work toward a South Africa underpinned by equality between all ethnic groups. Under the direction of Joe Slovo, the SACP worked with the ANC to form the Spear of the Nation (Umkhonto we Sizwe—UWS), a group dedicated via propaganda and economic sabotage to halting the apartheid administration. The alliance also led to the creation of the Freedom Charter, a blueprint for a nonracial South Africa governed democratically by all people. By 1963, however, the government had suppressed and forced into exile chief UWS figures such as Slovo, though the organization continued its activities from outside South African borders, largely through aid from communist states elsewhere. Throughout this period, the SACP worked alongside the ANC in order to engender a two-stage revolution of political liberation followed by economic transformation along MarxistLeninist lines. Despite its Marxism–Leninism, in the 1980s the SACP could not evade the deluge of reforms embodied in Soviet glasnost and perestroika, and by 1987 Slovo had affirmed the party’s commitment to multiparty politics and a partially market-oriented economy. When the new, nonracial South Africa was created in 1994, by virtue of their membership in the Tripartite Alliance alongside the ANC and Congress of South African Trade Unions, SACP members occupied National Assembly seats and ministerial positions, and continue to do so into the 21st century.
   Having been a Stalinist organization for much of its existence, and though still according to its constitution “guided by Marxism–Leninism,” the SACP stands out from many other communist parties in its espousal of gaining power through purely democratic means. By educating, organizing and mobilizing the working class electorate into voting for it, the SACP aimed upon its election to create a communist society via an interim stage of socialism. The Marxism of the SACP remains subject to local conditions, meaning that running concurrent to the aim of bringing about communism is that of completing the democratic revolution of 1994 and the national liberation of all South Africans.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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