Oration at the funeral of Michael Harmel in Prague, June 24, 1974
We have come together to pay homage to Comrade Michael Harmel, an outstanding South African revolutionary whose whole life was unconditionally and totally dedicated to the struggle of the people and who devoted all his adult years to the cause which was dear to him above all others: the cause of liberation, socialism and internationalism.
Comrade Harmel was a man whom nature had endowed with considerable talents as a thinker, writer and publicist. He used these gifts unselfishly to enrich a movement and a struggle towards whose growth and development he made a lasting contribution.
Born in Johannesburg on the 15th February 1915, son of an Irish Socialist immigrant, he became attracted to Marxism in his student days. He joined our Party in 1939 and for the rest of his life the Party was his master. He served it with discipline and loyalty as a full-time revolutionary until his untimely death on the 18th June 1974.
Within a short time of joining our party his obvious talents and leadership calibre were recognised. He was soon elected to the Johannesburg District Committee which he served as its secretary until 1943 when he was transferred to Cape Town as a member of the National Executive of the Central Committee. On his return to Johannesburg an increasing measure of his time was taken up with journalism as correspondent for the Guardian and as a member of the editorial board of the Party's official newspaper, Inkululeko.
When our Party was driven underground in 1950, Comrade Harmel`s courage and loyalty to our cause did not flinch. He found himself amongst the group of comrades who set about the task of rebuilding our Party in new conditions of illegality. It was during this decade of the 1950's that the mass struggle of our people reached stirring new peaks in the Defiance Campaign, the Congress of the People, nation-wide general political strikes and many other mass actions. Our Party is proud of the leading role it played in the mass upsurge and those of us who worked with him will remember Comrade Harmel`s participation as a member of the new underground Party collective.
During this period Comrade Harmel made a valuable contribution both as a publicist and as a participant in the process of internal policy formulation. He played an important and leading role in the sub-committee which prepared the original draft of our Party's new programme, "The Road to South African Freedom", which was finally adopted at our underground conference in 1962. This programme added a new dimension to our theoretical approach, particularly in its new elaboration of the concept of "colonialism of a special type" which characterises South African class and social structure.
To mark the 50th anniversary of our Party in 1971, Comrade Harmel was charged by the Central Committee with the task of preparing a short history of our Party, Fifty Fighting Years, which was published under one of the pseudonyms he used in illegal conditions - A. Lerumo.
The most lasting monument to Comrade Harmel`s role as a Party writer and publicist is the African Communist which he helped to launch in 1959 and which he edited continuously until a year before his death when he was appointed the Central Committee's representative on World Marxist Review in Prague. Under his editorship the African Communist established itself as an internationally recognised organ of Marxist-Leninist thought in Africa. Its pages contain a rich storehouse of Marxist analysis of problems relating to the African revolution in general and the South African revolution in particular.
Comrade Harmel was a familiar figure at international gatherings of world communist movement where, representing our Party, he worked tirelessly for the implementation of our policy on the unity of the international communist movement as a fundamental element in the struggle against reaction, imperialism, colonialism, racialism and social injustice. He never wavered from his unbending conviction that the socialist world and its strongest and most experienced bastion - the Soviet Union led by the Party of Lenin - constituted the impregnable fortress of the world forces of peace, national independence, socialism and social progress. As a dedicated internationalist he saw anti-Sovietism as a deadly weapon of the most reactionary circles; a weapon which imperialism, and its ally Zionism, use in their frenzied efforts to undermine and disrupt the underlying unity of national liberation movements and the Socialist countries -- a unity which in Comrade Harmel`s most recent words at the Baghdad conference "is a historical necessity for our common victory over imperialism".
Since he is being laid to rest in the soil of the Czechoslovak Socialist State, it is also fitting to record that Comrade Harmel was steadfast in his support of the Czechoslovak Party and people during the difficult 1968 events.
On behalf of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party, we dip our red banner in honour of a life well spent in the service of freedom and socialism. Comrade Harmel was on duty when he left us. Those of us who remain on duty have gained immeasurably by having worked with a comrade whose contribution to our struggle will forever be inscribed in the history of our country, South Africa. In the difficult and arduous days which lie ahead, we will find added inspiration, Comrade Mick, by your example of total dedication to the cause of Communism and freedom of all peoples.
1. 1 From: African Communist, No. 59, fourth quarter 1974