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The Morogoro conference and the SACP

The opening paragraph of “Strategy and Tactics of the ANC” (adopted at the conference held in 1969 at Morogoro, Tanzania) proclaims: “The struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa is taking place within an international context of transition to the socialist system, of the breakdown of the colonial system as a result of national liberation and socialist revolutions, and the fight for social and economic progress by the people of the whole world.”

This statement pulled a number of important ANC perspectives, which had evolved over the preceding decades, into a coherent policy statement. In a petition1 to the Prime Minister on 14 February 1914, Reverend John Dube, then president of the South African Native National Congress, raised the issues of political representation, justice, landlessness, high rents, low wages and objections to other discriminatory laws. In Sefako Makgatho’s presidential address2 on 6 May 1919, he raised more or less the same issues as his predecessor.

Pixley ka Seme3 had proposed in 1911 that the ANC would be an organisation through which Africans would “have the opportunity and means with which to influence public opinion” in South Africa and to greatly assist the South African statesmen who were working for “the peace, prosperity, and development” of the land. Dr AB Xuma4 had in 1943 called for “a just and permanent peace” which would only be possible if the claims of all classes, colours and races for sharing and for full participation in the educational, political and economic activities were granted and recognised.

The ANC (at least, in the period leading to the 1969 Morogoro conference) had viewed the struggle for liberation as being all encompassing, claiming that political, social and economic issues were inseparable. The Sixth Comintern5 in 1928 introduced some critical and profound elements to the analysis of the South African political landscape. South Africa was described as a British dominion of a “colonial type”, the description derived from an analysis of the capitalist ideology that led the British to exploit the country (with the participation of white South Africans).

Since British capital had continued to occupy principal economic sectors in the country (the banking and mining industries, for example), and since whites were equally interested in the merciless exploitation of Africans, the characterisation of the South African economy as “colonial” was not without cause.

The Sixth Comintern proposed a political programme that sought to develop and strengthen the fight against all the customs, laws and regulations which discriminated against the native and coloured populations in favour of whites. The South African Communist Party (SACP) was urged to combine the fight against all anti-native laws with the general fight against British domination, the next step towards a workers’ and peasants’ republic, with full equal rights for all races (black, coloured and white). The concept of “two stages” was born, the first being a black republic and the second being full equal rights.

The central role played by SACP members in the build up to the Morogoro conference “was indicative of the political tone, with papers presented by Duma Nokwe on "International Affairs", Joe Matthews on "An Analysis of the Freedom Charter" and Joe Slovo on "Strategy and Tactics”.6

According to Nhlanhla Ndebele and Noor Nieftagodien in a document7 entitled “The Morogoro conference: a moment of self-reflection”, a salient feature of the National Executive Committee (NEC) report to the Morogoro conference was its strong association with the anti-imperialist forces, particularly the anti-colonial struggles in Africa. “The strident tone was carried through to the keynote policy document of the conference.” Both this document and the Strategy and Tactics document bore the ideological imprint of the SACP.

"Strategy and Tactics" identified the seizure of power by military means as a major objective of the struggle (the first stage of the “national democratic revolution”). The critical outcome of the Morogoro conference was, however, the subordination of the armed struggle to political leadership and the recognition that mass mobilisation was the key to the struggle.8 The African masses were defined as “the main force for liberation”, and “any strategic aim always had to emphasise the national character of the liberation struggle”. This involved “a stimulation and deepening of national confidence, national pride and national assertiveness”, which would not only include political liberation, but also the destruction of “existing social and economic relationships”. Thus the main content of the present stage of the South African revolution is the national liberation of the largest and most oppressed group – the African people. “This strategic aim must govern every aspect of our struggle, whether it be in the formulation of policy or the creation of structures.”9

The “two stage” theory of the SACP is evident in the core thrust of the Strategy and Tactics as adopted by the ANC in Morogoro. The theory was further reinforced by the analysis of the Freedom Charter, which according to Ndebele and Nieftagodien10 was prepared by Joe Matthews. “Today, the African National Congress and its allies are engaged in an armed struggle for the overthrow of the racist regime. In its place, the ANC will establish a democratic state along the lines indicated in the Freedom Charter. The Charter may require elaboration of its revolutionary message. But what is even more meaningful, it requires to be achieved and put into practice. This cannot be done until state power has been seized from the fascist South African government and transferred to the revolutionary forces led by the ANC.”11

The class content of the national democratic revolution was also dealt with in the Morogoro Strategy and Tactics document. “It is historically understandable that the doubly oppressed and doubly exploited working class constitutes a distinct and reinforcing layer of our liberation and socialism, and does not stand in conflict with the national interest. Its militancy and political consciousness as a revolutionary class will play no small part in our victory and in the construction of a real people’s South Africa.”12 › media library › Articles “Native Union”

6Ndebele and Nieftagodien, The Morogoro conference: A moment of self-reflection – www.

7Ndebele and Nieftagodien, The Morogoro conference: A moment of self-reflection – www.

9Strategy and Tactics of the African National Congress: forward to freedom, Morogoro, 1969

10Ndebele and Nieftagodien, The Morogoro conference: A moment of self-reflection – www.

11Report on the Strategy and Tactics of the African National Congress,

12Ndebele and Nieftagodien, The Morogoro conference: A moment of self-reflection – www.

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