The Africanist Case

Since April 1958, there exist in South Africa two Congresses, the old and the new, each claiming to be the direct heir and legitimate successor to the original Congress which was founded in 1912 and which styled itself the South African Native National Congress. Each of the two Congresses claims to be the mouthpiece of the African people.

According to its January, 1958 constitution, the African National Congress (ANC) stands for the “creation of a united democratic South Africa on the principles outlined in the Freedom Charter”. The new body, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), according to its April, 1959 constitution, stands for the “establishment and maintenance of an Africanist socialist democracy, recognizing the primacy of the material and spiritual interest of the individual”.

For the sake of convenience, therefore, the use of the key word from these foundation documents will be adopted to describe the new and old Congress. Unless it is glaringly inconsistent with the context, the African National Congress will be referred to as the Charterist Congress, its adherents as the Charterists, and its policy, programme and philosophic outlook as Charterist. The Pan Africanist Congress will be designated the Africanist Congress, its members the Africanists, and its policy, programme and philosophic outlook as Africanism.

The native Congress died a formal death in December, 1943, when its constitution was scrapped. That lengthy constitution was its manifesto, and it spoke of the ‘Native people’. The manifestoes of its successor, the African Congress, were the 1943 African Claims and the 1949 Programme of Action. These spoke of and for the ‘African people’. It died in 1953, with the birth of the (multi-racial) Congress Alliance, and was finally buried in December 1957, with the incorporation of the Charter into its new constitution. The manifesto of the Charterist Congress, the Kliptown Charter of 1955, speaks of and for the “people of South Africa, black and white together”. The Africanist Congress, in the 1959 Pan Africanist manifesto, speaks of and for the “African people”, who it regards as “part of one African nation”. The basic literature of each body, therefore, provides the clue to its essential nature.

On the 2nd November 1958, the Transvaal Africanists severed all relations with the Charterist Congress as it was constituted. “We are,” they declared, “launching out openly, as the custodians of the African National Congress policy, as it was formulated in 1912 and pursued up to the time of the Congress Alliance”.

The editorial in the January, 1959 issue of ‘The Africanist’, official organ of the Africanist Movement, stated:

“Our intention in this issue is to stress the inevitability of the step we have taken. Because of the ideological differences with the purveyors of the Kliptown Charter, it was inevitable that a struggle should rage within the ANC for leadership of that body. But the grave error made by the Africanists was to think that the leadership could be ‘democratically removed’. Because it controls the machinery of Congress, this bureaucracy has so juggled with it that they were always assured of victory”.

The Charterists allege that the principal target of the Africanist attack upon them is their “broad humanism, which claims equality but not domination for the African people”. This statement itself bears out the main Africanist contention that the difference between the Charterists and themselves are mainly ideological. The Charterists have yet to understand that politics is a matter not of race or colour, but of vital material and spiritual interests.

The crucial issue today is whether the interests of the five million Europeans throughout Africa must continue to dominate over those of the two hundred and eighty million Africans, or whether the reverse process should obtain. This is an issue that no social philosophy pretending to have a solution for Africa’s social problem can afford to gloss over.

Nationalism demands that the interests of indigenous people should dominate over those of aliens, because the country belongs to the indigenous peoples. Socialism demands that the interests of the workers should dominate over those of their employers, because their contribution to the creation of wealth is more significant than that of their bosses. Democracy demands that those of the majority should dominate over those of the minority, because they are a majority. In Africa in general, and South Africa in particular, the African people are indigenous to the soil, are the real workers and are the majority. Their right to the effective control of their own interests is, therefore, unchallengeable.

Following the dictates of it ‘broad humanism’, the Charterist Congress needs must be wedded to the evolution of some formula wherein that control shall remain vested in the European national group, and wherein the interests of the African people shall be ‘judicially balanced’ against those of the Europeans, so as to achieve ‘equality and justice’ between the two sections. It is the evolution of such a formula that constitutes the essence of multi-racial liberalism. By virtue of the logic inherent in its own constitution – a union of exploiters and the exploited – the Charterist Congress repudiates any movement that shows signs of being genuinely nationalist, socialist or democratic. The basic reason for the existence of the Charterist Congress is, therefore, to resist the transfer of effective political power to the African people. Charterism is, indeed, a charade representing a barricade.

The gravamen of the Africanist charge against the Charterists, therefore, is that they have betrayed the material interests of the African people. They have sacrificed these interests upon the political altar of an ungodly alliance, an alliance of slave-owner, slave-driver and slave. The ostensible object of this alliance is the destruction of slavery and the freeing of the slave, and yet the real motive is the perpetuation of that slavery under a new guise. The Kliptown Charter, erroneously called the Freedom Charter, offers a classic illustration of the essentials of Charterism.

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