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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 13, No. 36, 5 September 2014

In this Issue:

Special Edition, Umsebenzi Online  

Red Alert

David Ivon Jones, Moses Kotane, JB Marks: The story of fine revolutionaries, the story of our liberation struggle


Our President, Comrade Jacob Zuma has recently announced that negotiations are underway with the Russian government to repatriate the remains of three of the most important people to lead, guide and direct the South African struggle in its formative years. These are David Ivon Jones (1883-1924); John Beaver "Uncle JB" Marks (1903-1972); and Moses Maune Kotane (1905-1978), "Chief Architect of the South African Struggle".

The fine revolutionaries and internationalists dedicated their lives to the struggle for our freedom. Their struggle was not confined in national borders, and so were their lives, and places of rest. The families requested their remains to be repatriated and reburied in South Africa. The Communist Party respects, and will work with both the families and government to ensure the success of the process, and the Party will confer the highest honour that this great revolutionaries deserve.

They all died, and were buried with honour, in the country which was then the most reliable and stalwart supporter of world proletarian revolution and anti-imperialist struggle, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Although the names of later Communist heroes such as Joe Slovo, Ruth First and Chris Hani are still well known, many of our younger generation do not know of the crucial role played by these three martyrs in the development of the South African liberation struggle.



David Ivon Jones was born in Aberystwyth, Wales and was a Welsh speaking Welshman for whom English was a second language. He contracted TB when very young which made him emigrate, to a drier climate, first to New Zealand, then, in 1909 to South Africa.

A brilliant socialist theoretician, he became General Secretary of the South African Labour Party in 1914. Prior to that, in 1912, following the formation of the South African Native National Congress (now the ANC), he sent a letter to The Star newspaper in Johannesburg congratulating the new organisation on its formation - the only white person in South Africa to do so. When the First World War broke out towards the end of 1914, he denounced the South African Government for sending young men to fight for the British Empire and take part in mutual slaughter in a war between competing imperialist blocs. He became a founder member of the War-on-War League and in September 1915, together with other principled socialists, broke ranks with the pro-War Labour Party to form the International Socialist League (ISL) which was to become of the organisations and main forerunner that formed the Communist Party of South Africa.

Unlike many other South African White socialists of the time, he also saw the problem created by the creation of an all-White Labour Party. In an article for the new ISL weekly paper, the International called Parting of the Ways, (1st October 1915), Jones said:

"An Internationalism which does not concede the fullest rights which the Native working class is capable of claiming will be a sham. One of the justifications for our withdrawal from the Labour Party is that it gives us untrammelled freedom to deal, regardless of political fortunes, with the great and fascinating problem of the Native."

This was a major contribution in the birth of the principle of non-racialism in South Africa, of which the Communist Party was to emerge as the leading force and living example. Jones immediately also recognised the Russian Revolution of February 1917 which overthrew the monarchy but had no clear direction as a bourgeois revolution, but arriving when the night of capitalism is far spent, and later that year gave full support for the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917.

In November 1920, David Ivon Jones left South Africa for Soviet Union where he reported on South Africa to the Communist International (Comintern), the world Communist Party. Although he maintained contact with his comrades in South Africa, he could not take part in the formation of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in 1921. In Russia, suffering severely from TB, Jones studied the works of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and Vladimir Lenin, becoming the first person to translate Lenin into English. In his last letter to the CPSA General Secretary before his death in April 1924, he wrote:

"We stand for Bolshevism, and in all minds Bolshevism stands for the Native worker".



"Outstanding fighter of the international working class and the SA struggle for national and social emancipation!"

Comrade JB Marks never dishonoured or deserted the course of struggle for universal emancipation – that is complete political liberation, economic and social emancipation.

After completing primary schooling he was denied access to a boarding school, because of his race. He soldiered on, and later became a teacher by profession. His father was an African worker on the South African Railways, and mother a White laundress and midwife; he was the seventh child in the family. We draw our inspiration from the revolutionary life and times of communist heroes like Uncle JB, who never succumbed to discrimination from the vast protective trenches of racist oppression and hegemony from school to play and to work. As a communist, and in line with the character of the Communist Party as the first non-racial political organisation in South Africa, he fought for non-racialism long before, and continued the fight for the rest of his life after, the Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955.  

JB Marks understood that neither political liberation nor economic and social emancipation can be complete or claimed to have been fully achieved, without the achievement of the other. He would subscribe to the scientific perspective, that, for so long as the working class still suffers from oppression in the form of economic exploitation, to claim that we are free will be an overstatement on the character of our April 1994 democratic breakthrough without any connection to the history and continuing realities of the economic organisation of our society and its social consequences. Uncle JB Marks would be very clear, that, the triple challenges of racialised and gendered class inequality, unemployment and poverty, are necessary conditions, products and levers of the accumulation of wealth on a capitalist private basis.

Uncle JB would be very clear, that, contrary to the demagogic and populist rhetoric from the detractors of our struggle for the National Democratic Revolution and socialism and their liberal anti-majoritarian fellows alike, those systemic effects of capitalism were never created by the ANC and the SACP. Uncle JB would be very clear, that, the racial and gender dimensions of class exploitation and its effects reflect the legacy of centuries- and decades-old national oppression and gender domination. Which is why low-paid jobs, unemployment and poverty still weigh heavily on the majority black people with women on the receiving end, while whites are relatively better off, but with the working class as a whole continuing to be economically exploited regardless of both colour and sex. 

JB Marks fully understood that both the ANC and SACP were founded in their respective historic mission respectively to address and resolve those problems, their root causes and driving forces. Rather than disunity and separatism which are only a road backwards, JB Marks would work for the unity as the solution. To understand the point, below in ‘The life of a revolutionary’ we have a much detailed biography of JB Marks by Z. Nkosi, published in the African Communist (1972) slightly edited to move tenses with the time.

The life of a revolutionary: Biography of JB Marks
Published African Communist, fourth quarter 1972

By Z. Nkosi

John B. Marks was born in the small town of Ventersdorp, in the Western Transvaal on 21 March 1903 and died on 1 August 1972 in Russia. His parents were working class. His father was a railway worker all his life; his mother a white laundress and midwife, died earlier in 1972 aged 108.

From his earliest years our Comrade Marks displayed the outstanding physical and mental qualities which were to mark him off from his fellow men. Brought up amidst all the grinding poverty and suffering which was the lot of the oppressed African people in the townships, he was clearly destined to fill a position of leadership. But what type of leadership? The older people in the community, resigned to having all doors slammed in their faces by the colour bar, expressed the desire that he should become a minister of religion. But Marks himself chose teaching, and after passing through all the classes of the country school, he went to a training college where he received a teaching diploma.

It was at school, incidentally, that Marks acquired his second initial 'B'. He had been born John Joseph Marks, and was still so called in police records at the time of his death. At school he was nicknamed 'Beaver' by his schoolmates, and the 'B' became incorporated in his name. Ever since he was known to everybody as 'J.B.' and to his comrades in the ANC and the Communist Party, as 'Uncle J.B.' - a measure of the esteem and affection in which he was held.

In an interview with the African National Congress (ANC) journal Sechaba in November, 1969, Marks said:

"When I eventually joined the struggle for national liberation I remember meeting one of the oldest residents in our town who said: 'My son, my dreams and wishes have come true only that you have not gone to the pulpit, but you are today on the platform to demand what we have been craving for all the time.' That was in the early days when I appeared on the platform of the ICU (Industrial Commercial Workers' Union) and of the Communist Party and the League for African Rights. I joined the ANC in 1928.

I was much influenced by my father who was a staunch supporter of the ANC and I myself had revolted against conditions, particularly those at the institution where I was trained, where the missionaries did not treat the students well.

In 1919 I participated in a strike of students because conditions were not good. We were not allowed time to go visiting, we were punished very frequently, and the food supply was very poor. This strike led to my expulsion from school."

Despite all these obstacles, J.B. Marks completed his training and embarked on his career as a teacher. In his young days he was also a very keen sportsman. With his dominant personality tall build and striking physique, his political insight, brilliant smile and quiet good sense, he bore a striking resemblance to his American colleague Paul Robeson.

Marks was irresistibly drawn into political action by his proud and rebellious spirit, and before many years had passed he was sacked from his post at Vredefort, in the Free State, on account of his political activities.

He was appearing at this time on the platforms of the ICU, the Communist Party, the League of African Rights and the ANC. He joined the Communist Party in 1928. It was a period of increased militancy among the oppressed peoples of South Africa - a militancy which was met in turn with increased repression from the side of the Government, with the Nazi-minded Minister of Justice, Oswald Pirow - later the friend and admirer of Hitler, Mussolini and France - setting the pace.

During 1929 the Communist Party, acting in terms of the "Black Republic" resolution passed by the 1928 Comintern Congress, launched and took part with other organisations in a number of campaigns against the pass laws. Pirow did not hesitate to resort to force, and many demonstrations were drowned in blood. At an anti-pass demonstration in Potchefstroom, in the Transvaal, on December 16, 1929 - anniversary of the Battle of Blood River between the Zulus under Dingane and the Boers in 1938 - Communist leaders Marks and Mofutsanyana were the main speakers when the meeting was invaded by a crowd of about 100 white hooligans.

Party Platform under Fire

Mofutsanyana reported later:

"I got on the platform and before I got very far with my speech, the whites began shouting in Afrikaans 'You lie!' and 'shut your mouth, Kaffir!' I managed to go through my speech however. The next speaker was Marks. He appealed to the police, who were present, to deal with the hooligans, but in vain. At about the same time a comrade touched my coat from behind and I looked back. A white man was just taking aim at me with a revolver. I jumped off the platform. The next thing I saw was Marks coming down from the platform head foremost. Several revolver shots rang out and I saw a man crawl on his knees, his leg completely broken by two shots."

The Africans made a rush for the whites, who were now running away. The police now became quite active and a number of people were injured besides the one shot in the leg. Hermanus Lethebe died later in hospital.

Later a white man, Joseph Weeks, a brother of the location superintendent, was arrested and charged with murder, but the white jury returned a verdict of "not guilty" despite the overwhelming evidence against him.

What had provoked the whites was Marks' declaration: "Africa belongs to us." From this moment on J.B. Marks was to devote himself to the task of bringing about a national democratic revolution in South Africa, overthrowing white supremacy and winning power for the people.

The Communist challenge to white racism was presented most vividly in 1932, when Marks was proposed as a demonstrative candidate for a parliamentary by-election in Germiston. Africans of course had no vote in the Transvaal, nor could any African sit in the South African parliament. But the Communist Party argued that the majority of the inhabitants of Germiston were Africans, and if they were enfranchised would vote for a Communist candidate. The Africans of Germiston location were in an extremely militant mood at this time, reacting very fiercely to repeated police raids for "illicit" liquor, taxes and lodgers' permits. The Communist Party held several large meetings and demonstrations, many of which were broken up by the police. Hundreds of men, women and children were arrested and many of them jailed for "public violence". In one clash 18 Africans were injured by police bullets, and one old woman later died of her wounds.

In his election speeches, J.B. Marks said the white candidates represented imperialist slavery, whereas he brought a message of struggle for full franchise rights, unemployment insurance and an end to colour bars. The election resulted in a defeat for the candidate of the Hertzog Government. The Communist Party conducted its own ballot in the location, and reported that Marks had received 3,000 votes. The white parliamentary farce had been effectively exposed.

After this J.B. Marks was sent overseas for a course of study at the Lenin School in Moscow. While he was in the Soviet Union he acquired a working knowledge of the Russian language which stood him in good stead on numerous visits to that land of socialism in later years. On his return to South Africa, he devoted himself full-time to the work of the Communist Party.
The thirties was a period of great stress and strain for the South African Communist Party, the victim not only of ferocious assaults from the white racists but also of internal schisms and factionalism which seriously undermined its work and support amongst the masses. In 1937 Marks himself was temporarily excluded from the party for a technical breach of its regulations. But he remained loyal to the cause and a year or two later, when the party leadership and policy had been placed on a firmer footing, he was restored to the full rights of membership and once again began to play a leading role.

Following the failure of the All-African Convention to halt the passage of Hertzog's Bills to disfranchise the African people, J.B. Marks and E.T. Mofutsanyana took the initiative in forming a committee to revive the ANC in the Transvaal, and were successful in replacing the old, tired leadership with men more capable of facing the challenge of the future. Marks himself was to become an executive member of the ANC and was elected Transvaal President in 1950. He devoted over 40 years of fruitful work for South Africa's premier national liberatory organisation.

In the 1940s J.B. Marks also began to devote more attention to the trade union movement. Unrest was growing on the mines, where over 300,000 Africans, separated for most of their lives from their wives and families, slaved underground as migratory labourers for starvation wages - at that time averaging about £3.11.8 a month. In the reserves, where more than a third of the people had no land, malnutrition and disease were rife, with infant mortality ranging from 150 to 700 per thousand. In 1943 the Government had granted a cost of living allowance to all African workers except those in mining and agriculture. A series of spontaneous strikes on a number of mines was a warning that the Government chose to ignore.

In 1942 Marks was elected President of the African Mineworkers' Union which had been formed the previous year. In the same year he was elected to the presidency of the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions. In both capacities he exercised a tremendous influence on the development of the trade union movement among the African workers.
The Mineworkers' Union met with a tremendous response from the African miners, and was able to generate such pressure that the Government was compelled to appoint a commission of inquiry into conditions on the mines. The Commission recommended a miserably small increase in wages and improvement of conditions of work, but the Chamber of Mines implemented only a portion of even these recommendations and ignored most of the report completely. Dissatisfaction continued amongst the mineworkers, aggravated by a Government proclamation banning meetings on mine property without permission. Marks and a number of other union officials were arrested under this war measure, but escaped conviction on a technicality.

The Great Mine Strike of 1946

In April 1946, a conference of the African Mineworkers' Union decided to put forward the demand for a wage of ten shillings a day, and this was followed by spontaneous strikes in a number of mines in support of the union's demand. The bosses refused to budge. On 4 August 1946, a public conference of over one thousand delegates was held in Johannesburg where it was decided to call a general strike of all mineworkers as from 12 August 1946. Marks warned the delegates: "You are challenging the basis of the cheap labour system and must be ready to sacrifice in the struggle for the right to live as human beings." The workers were in militant mood.

Up to 100,000 African miners responded to the strike call, and ten mines were shut down completely and 11 others seriously affected. But the Government responded with brute force, throwing in the full force of the police, armed with batons and guns. African miners were attacked wherever they were found, and in the course of the next few days nine were killed and 1,248 injured according to official figures, though the actual toll was probably far higher. The strikers were driven back to work at the point of the gun. Marks and other union officials were arrested, together with all the members of the Johannesburg District Committee of the Communist Party, and charged with incitement under the Riotous Assemblies Act - a charge which was eventually reduced to supporting an illegal strike, for which the accused were sentenced to fines and suspended terms of imprisonment. Later the Central Committee of the Communist Party was arrested and charged with sedition arising out of the strike events, but after a two-year long battle in the courts, the charges were eventually withdrawn.

Less than two years after this strike - the biggest in South African history - the Nationalist Government under Dr. Malan came to power. One of its first aims was to suppress the Communist Party and the growing militancy amongst all sections of the non-white people. The Suppression of Communism Act of 1950 not only outlawed the Communist Party but also gave the Government sweeping administrative power to ban and restrict any opponent of the Government's apartheid policy, whether or not he had been a member of the Party, and to ban newspapers and other anti-apartheid publications.

J.B. Marks, together with other Communist leaders, was amongst the first victims of the Act. Shortly after his election as Transvaal President of the ANC in 1950 he presided over the foundation conference of the South African Peace Council.

Eighteen Africans were killed and 30 wounded in the Great May Day demonstration of 1950 in Johannesburg, in which J.B. had been a foremost organiser. The Congress declared June 26 a national day of protest and mourning, and called for a general strike on that day. The strike was an enormous success, bringing the main industrial centres to a standstill. From that day June 26 was observed as "Freedom Day" by all sections of the South African liberation movement.

On Freedom Day 1952 the African and Indian Congresses launched a campaign of defiance against six specified unjust laws "whose continued operation, enforcement and observance is both humiliating and degrading to the non-Europeans of South Africa" and which the Government had refused to repeal. Nelson Mandela was appointed Volunteer-in-Chief.

In an attempt to prevent the growing agitation amongst the people, the Government had in May served notices on a number of prominent trade unionists and leaders of the African and Indian Congresses ordering them to resign from all political organisations, prohibiting them from attending any gatherings and, in some cases, confining them to the provinces in which they lived. Marks was one of those banned, but together with most of his colleagues, chose to defy his ban as a way of making his contribution to the Defiance Campaign.

Over 8,000 people went into action in the Defiance Campaign, openly defying the apartheid laws, and serving sentences of imprisonment imposed on them by the white magistrates for breaches of various discriminatory regulations. For Marks and other top Congress leaders the government intended a more serious punishment. They were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act with attempting, as leaders of the Defiance Campaign, to bring about the aims of Communism by the promotion of disturbance or disorder or by unlawful acts or omissions. They were found technically in breach of the law, but the judge gave the accused a suspended sentence of nine months' imprisonment.

For the following ten years, Marks was unable to take any open part in politics, and no word that he spoke could be published. For a short while after the first ban was imposed on him in 1952, he managed to spread his voice to audiences at meetings by means of gramophone records, but eventually the Government closed this loophole too.

But if the Government thought that it was preventing J.B. Marks from carrying on political activity it was very much mistaken. The fifties was a period of intense mass action throughout South Africa. Both in the towns and in the African reserves the people were on the march. Political strikes, boycotts, demonstrations of all kinds, anti-pass campaigns were conducted under the leadership of the Congress movement and the underground Communist Party. As one leader was struck down another came forward to take his place. At the heart of the resistance movement, Marks and his comrades were hard at work. Marks himself held the position of Chairman of the South African Communist Party to which he was elected at the Party’s re-constitutive Congress held underground shortly after it was banned. He was also an executive member of the ANC.

With each open act of rebellion on the part of the people, the Government replied with a new repressive law, more vicious restrictions, longer prison sentences, more brutal police reprisals, culminating in the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 and the savage repression of the general strike of 1961. Thereafter the political organisations of the people realised that new methods of struggle were called for. A campaign of sabotage directed against government installations was launched in December 1961, and preparations were made for guerrilla warfare. The logic of history had persuaded the masses that the only road to liberation was the revolutionary road.

Mission Abroad

J.B. Marks was sent out of South Africa on a mission connected with this revolutionary task in 1962, after presiding at the historic fifth underground conference of the Communist Party. He was a member of South African delegations at many international peace conferences, and headed the South African delegation at the international conference of Communist and Workers' Parties held in Moscow in June 1969. Although getting on in years and in declining health, nothing could dim the revolutionary fervour which inspired his every waking moment.

"There is no way to emancipation except that of revolutionary armed struggle", he said in his speech at the 1969 Moscow conference:

"In our conditions of total suppression of the people's rights, of constant daily terror and force exercised against the masses, with tens of thousands of patriots in detention and massacres a commonplace, with the great majority of the people in a state of seething revolt against enslavement and intolerable affronts to their human dignity, there could be no other way forward.

Indeed, comrades, a war has already begun and is in progress for the liberation of Southern Africa. In Mozambique, in Angola, in Guinea-Bissau, in Namibia and even in the Republic of South Africa itself, fighting has broken out. Brave African guerrillas are dealing heavy blows at the fascist and racist regimes. Behind the lines the workers of town and countryside are increasingly defying the fascist terror and raising the banner of resistance. Inevitably the struggle will spread and merge into a single people's war which can only end in the destruction of white minority rule and the establishment of people's power. We shall win!"

A year ago, in 1971, Uncle J.B. was struck down by a severe illness while on active duty at the headquarters of the ANC External Mission in Tanzania. When he had recovered sufficiently to travel, he was sent to the Soviet Union. With intensive treatment and his own indomitable spirit, he rallied and seemed to be making good progress, but suffered a fatal heart attack which took his life, the Treasurer General of the ANC.



"Chief architect of the liberation Alliance and the SA struggle for national and social emancipation!"

Comrade Moses Maune Kotane has rightly been described as 'Chief Architect of the South African Struggle'. He rose to prominence in the 1930s at a time when the ANC and the SACP had been nearly destroyed out of various factors. This was a period of the biggest, deepest and long-lasting (1929 -1939) capitalist system crisis known as the ‘Great Depression’. In the United States, which is the centre of the system now, the crisis was preceded by the stock market crash of October 1929. The crisis moved from one form to another. From 1939 to 1945 the earth was plunged into a world war.

Within the Communist Party in South Africa, the ‘Great Depression’ coincided with the emergence problems that further affected the Party negatively. These were caused, in part, by what (later refined) constituted the theory of our struggle, the National Democratic Revolution and its relationship to socialism. In 1928 the Executive Committee of the Communist International adopted a resolution on the South African question, known loosely as the black republic thesis. Others within the Party did not receive the resolution well. It was this difficult period that produced the leadership of JB Marks and Moses Kotane, who later refined Nelson Mandela’s world view. Mandela previously disrupted Communist Party meetings. It was the leadership of Marks and Kotane which shaped him to become different on the question and all other related political issues.

Marks and Kotane played a major role both in re-organising and directing the Communist Party and the ANC along a road which would put them at the forefront of the struggle and also in bringing them together and co-ordinating their activity. They built our Alliance of the ANC, SACP and the progressive trade union movement and belonged to all the three components of our liberation movement.

Kotane became General Secretary and therefore leader of the South African Communist Party from 1939-1978.

Moses Maune Kotane was born in Tampostad in the district of Rustenburg, then in Transvaal, on 9 August 1905. He came from a Tswana-speaking peasant family and spent his early years as a herd-boy. He was 15 years old when he first entered the doors of a mission school, where he was to study for only two years before starting work as a 'kitchen-boy'. 

Because of late entry in education, Kotane was to spend a great deal of time trying to compensate and studied right through his life.

After passing through a number of menial, low-paid jobs, in 1928 Kotane secured work at Quinn's Bakery, Krugersdorp as a packet dispatcher. The same year he joined the ANC and the Baker's Union, which had been organised by the Communist Party; he also attended the Communist Party Night School. In 1929 Moses Kotane joined the Communist Party.  
The CPSA had been formed in 1921, predominantly by white miners. At its formation there was only one black member, T.W. Thibedi. At its Third Congress in 1924, the Party agreed that it must struggle to obtain a black majority, and by 1928, this had become a reality, although whites continued as the majority in the Central Executive Committee for some years to come.

In 1929, following a visit to the Soviet Union by CPSA, a leading member James La Guma accompanied by ANC President J.T. Gumede, the Resolution on the South African Question was adopted by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) following the sixth Congress of the Comintern. This stated:

"...the Communist Party of South Africa must combine the fight against all anti-native laws with the general political slogan in the fight against British domination, the slogan of an independent native South African republic as a stage towards a workers' and peasants' republic, with full equal rights for all races, black, coloured and white".

And to achieve this goal:

"The Party should pay particular attention to the embryonic national organisations among the natives, such as the African National Congress. The Party, while retaining its full independence, should participate in these organisations, should seek to broaden and extend their activity. Our aim should be to transform the African National Congress into a fighting nationalist revolutionary organisation..."

Many South African Communists did not understand the necessity of the Independent Native Republic, the concept of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) was not understood and many saw the ANC as a weak and ineffectual organisation. S.P. Bunting, the main person behind the 1924 decision to recruit a black majority, believed in moving directly to a workers' and peasants' state - and was supported in this by many African comrades, notably T.W. Thibedi.

In December 1927, Douglas Wolton, who had come from Britain in 1925 became the first full-time General Secretary of the Party, together with his wife Molly, like him, hard-working and fanatical, led the Communist Party. In 1929, Albert Nzula was appointed General Secretary in 1930 but the Woltons, joined by Lazar Bach, a recent Jewish immigrant from Latvia who was extremely well versed in Marxist writings, pursued what they called the line of 'Bolshevisation' of the Party. In 1931, in their efforts to build a more disciplined Party, they expelled a large group of members as 'Right-Deviationists', the most prominent amongst them being S.P. Bunting.

In 1929 Moses Kotane was elected Chairperson of the South African Federation of Non-European Trade Unions; in 1931 he became a full-time functionary of the Communist Party, starting as a print compositor for the Party newspaper Umsebenzi. Also in 1931, Albert Nzula became the first black South African to go to the Lenin School in Moscow for political training, then, in 1932, he was followed by a number of others including Moses Kotane. Sadly, Albert Nzula died of pneumonia in Moscow in January 1934.

During his training, the Comintern saw the value of Moses Kotane:

His training and ideological development at the Lenin School indicates on the basis of his past record that he will prove one of the most valuable of the leading cadres. (Report to Comintern, Information on the Leading Cadres, CPSA, 8th June 1933)

Kotane, arriving back in South Africa early in 1933 was horrified by the problems besieging the Communist Party, membership had fallen from over 1,700 to about 150 under the Wolton-Bach leadership. In August the same year, the Woltons left South Africa permanently to live in Britain, Lazar Bach then remained at the helm in the Party - intensifying the Wolton line. Bach interpreted the 'Independent Native Republic' slogan not as a call for a National Democratic Revolution, but as one for a socialist revolution. Criticising a formulation by Kotane in Umsebenzi, 9 June 1933 (Kotane was at the time Editor of the Party journal) that:

"...the CP [Communist Party] leads the fight for an Independent Native Republic, for the democratic dictatorship and Soviet Power, to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the building of socialism. According to Kotane, the proletariat is more national conscious than class conscious" (Quoted: A. Lerumo, Fifty Fighting Years Chapter 4, 1971)

On 23 February 1934, Moses Kotane wrote from Cradock to the Johannesburg District Committee - it became famous as the ‘Cradock Letter’and opened up the way for the genuine Africanisation of the Communist Party.

The letter states:

"...the Party is beyond the realm of realities, we are simply theoretical and our theory is less connected with practice. If one investigates the general ideology of our Party members (especially the whites), if sincere, he will not fail to see that they subordinate South Africa in the interests of Europe, in fact, ideologically they are not S. Africans, they are foreigners who know nothing about and who are not the least interested in the country in which they are living at present."

Thus began Kotane's battle with Lazar Bach.

In November 1934, Bach went to Moscow in preparation for the seventh Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) the following year. He went expecting to be fully vindicated in his opinions. However, it was not only the Communist Party in South Africa which had suffered a major problems in the period; other Communist Parties had also suffered internal problems. In addition, Hitler and his Nazi Party had assumed power in Germany in 1933 and fascism and related right-wing extremism was taking hold across Europe. The Comintern was already aware of the need to change direction and the line did change to: "For the Unity of the Working-Class against Fascism."

Bach was detained in the Soviet Union, never to return, and Kotane returned to champion the new line, becoming General Secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1939.

Moses Kotane and J.B. Marks had taken part in the revival of the ANC at the Jubilee Conference of 1937 from the problems that it had been facing; they worked together with the Anglican priest, Rev. James Calata and the Editor of Bantu World, Selope Thema. Methodist minister Rev. Z.R. Mahabane, who had been ANC President-General from 1924-1927, became President-General for a second term. The Jubilee Conference was to usher in a time of co-operation between the ANC and the Communist Party which has lasted until today. It also was the beginning of the life-long collaboration between Moses Kotane and J.B. Marks.

Early in 1939, the Communist Party under Kotane's leadership, gained an important and strategic new recruit in Yusuf Dadoo, an active member of the Transvaal Indian Congress and was already Secretary of the Non-European United Front (NEUF) formed in 1938 in which Thabo Mofutsanyana, J.B. Marks and one of the first South African women Communists, Josie Mpama were active members. At about the same time, Dadoo and others formed the Nationalist Bloc within the South African Indian Congress which pledged both to support the national liberation struggle in India and to unite with Africans in South Africa in a joint struggle.

In 1940, the ANC elected Dr A.B. Xuma as President-General. ANC re-organisation begun as soon as he was elected and in 1943, with the help of Afrikaner Communist lawyer Bram Fischer, a new ANC Constitution was drawn up and approved. The House of Chiefs (modelled on the British House of Lords), was abolished and for the first time women were made full members. Xuma also established a working committee to supervise organisation and established a permanent office in Johannesburg. In 1945 Moses Kotane, J.B. Marks and another Communist, Dan Tloome were elected to the ANC Executive.

During this period resistance to the pass laws increased both amongst Africans and Indians. In 1944, the National Anti-Pass Council was formed which included Kotane, Xuma, Dadoo and Mpama.

Under Kotane's leadership, the Communist Party had changed from into a Leninist vanguard party with a clear vision, capable of leading mass action.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) was formed in 1944 under the leadership of Lembede, Mda, Sisulu, Tambo and Mandela. The militant Youth League had pushed for the Programme of Action, which in 1949 was drafted by Msimang, Tambo and Kotane. However, within the Youth League, there was a spirit of racial intolerance and anti-communism, the adherents of this tendency called themselves 'Africanists' and wanted only 'Africa for the Africans' - without regard to what form the economy should take, and opposed joint action with people from other racial groups. Most of all they opposed Communism as a "foreign ideology".

After the Programme of Action, which included mass action and civil disobedience was drafted it was opposed by A.B. Xuma who was used to organising deputations to government and writing polite but firm letters to Prime Minister Jan Smuts. At the 1949 ANC Conference, the Youth League obtained the acceptance of the Programme of Action, the replacement of President-General Dr A.B. Xuma by Dr. J.S. Moroka and the election of Walter Sisulu as Secretary-General of the ANC.

In 1950 the Communist Party was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, introduced by the first apartheid government, which had come into power in 1948 led by D. F. Malan. Under the Act, membership of the Party was enough to incur a 10 year prison sentence without the option of a fine.

Though many Party members wanted to openly resist the Act and were prepared to go to prison for their beliefs, the leadership, under the guidance of Kotane and Marks, decided to dissolve the Party before the Act could come in to force. This Act was subsequently used against the ANC, PAC and even the Liberal Party.

In 1953, still under the leadership of Kotane the Party re-organised secretly as the South African Communist Party (SACP), only announcing its existence in 1961. In 1959-1960 African Communist began publication in London, initially not acknowledging its origin. This theoretical journal was to become an important ideological weapon during the struggle, not only for South Africa, but for the continent of Africa.

Unlike some other members of the ANC Youth League, Sisulu soon saw the value of co-operating with all those opposed to apartheid, and when the Campaign of Defiance Against Unjust Laws started in 1952, he actively worked with members of the South African Indian Congress such as Yusuf Dadoo and Maulvi Cachalia.

During the Campaign, Nelson Mandela was the Volunteer-in-Chief; people marched and occupied public places marked 'Europeans Only'. More than 8 000 people were arrested, including most of the ANC and SAIC leadership.

Seeing the obvious advantages of a broad approach and under the influence of Moses Kotane and J.B. Marks, Walter Sisulu joined an undercover SACP school in 1954, joined the Party in 1955 (just before the Congress of the People) and was elected to the underground Politburo in 1956.

During the term of office of Luthuli, Kotane was to act as his closest adviser. The SACP, under the leadership of Kotane, was therefore able to influence and be influenced on direction to the militancy of the both the Youth League and the ANC.

In 1955, the Congress of the People proper was held in Kliptown. This Congress not only included the ANC, but also the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), the South African Coloured People's Organisation (SACPO) - later to be re-named the Coloured People's Congress - the Congress of Democrats (CoD) representing democratic whites and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) representing the organised working class. Together they formed the Congress Alliance while the Communist Party was active in the terrain but underground.

Despite his major role in building the Congress Alliance, during 1955, Moses Kotane, representing the ANC and Maulvi Cachalia representing the SAIC did not attend the Congress of the People, but instead were sent to the historic Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia which brought together the newly independent states of Asia and Africa together with the various national liberation movements and parties.

On their way to Bandung, they were to meet and be hosted by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) and Indian Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru (1889-1964). The Conference was also attended by Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) at that time Prime Minister of Gold Coast, who, two years later was to become President of independent Ghana and Chinese Foreign Minister, Zhou Enlai (1898-1976). The Conference was to be a step towards the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

At the Congress of the People, the main business was the discussion and formulation of the Freedom Charter. In every one of the Congress organisations SACP cadres formed an important part of the leadership. Party members also played a major role in the drafting of the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter was the product of the 'Native Republic' thesis refined and the work of Moses Kotane in putting the thesis at the centre of the activity of the Communist Party and transmitting that policy to the mass organisation, the ANC.

Through the Freedom Charter, the ANC had transformed itself from a black protest organisation into a national movement with a political and economic programme, prepared to take power and to run government.

By 1961, with the banning of the ANC and the PAC following the Sharpeville massacre, the time for armed struggle had arrived. The decision to form Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was taken by the SACP and the ANC; Nelson Mandela became Commander-in Chief. Second World War veteran and SACP member Jack Hodgson was the first to train young MK cadres in the use of explosives; others such as Wilton Mkwayi, Raymond Mhlaba and Joe Gqabi were sent to China for training. (Later, most of the training would be done with the assistance of the Soviet Union). The SACP was to play a major role in MK throughout its history.

In 1962, the SACP launched its programme, The Road to South African Freedom, which defined for the first time Colonialism of a Special Type (CST) and the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). This document, which enlarges on the ideas found in the 1928 Comintern resolution and the Freedom Charter, clearly bears the vision of Moses Kotane within the context of the leadership and membership collective of the Communist Party.

Later in 1962, at the first ANC Conference held outside the country in Lobatse, Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Moses Kotane was asked by O.R.Tambo, then head of the ANC External Mission, to leave the country and assist in its work. Similarly, JB Marks was also requested by the ANC to join OR Tambo. This became critical since the ANC has been denied all assistance by the West, without exception. Kotane played a key role in securing assistance in all forms and training from the socialist bloc with the Soviet Union doing its utmost in all respects without a single demand for payback.

Kotane had already played an important role in preparing clandestine structures even before the ANC was banned. Moses Kotane arrived in Tanzania in 1963 and became ANC Treasurer-General. His self-discipline and tight control of the purse strings played an important role in firmly establishing the ANC in exile.

Kotane worked in Morogoro, Tanzania together with his old friend and comrade J.B. Marks, until he suffered a stroke early in 1969 and was sent to Moscow for treatment. He remained in the Soviet Union for the rest of his life. Moses Kotane died in 1978 still General Secretary of the Party which from its beginnings as a small sect, he had built into a genuine revolutionary force.

Kotane was buried in Moscow next to his old comrade, J.B. Marks. At their funerals, both Marks and Kotane were honoured by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and other Communist parties and liberation movements, as well as by the ANC and SACP.

In his Introduction to Brian Bunting's Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary (1975) Yusuf Dadoo had this to say:

"His life is a true example of the consistency between proletarian internationalism and healthy nationalism. He spurned racialism in all its forms whether expressed in white arrogance or black chauvinism. Never hiding his dedication to the cause of communism, he also became a respected leader of the African National Congress because of his great contribution to the work of that organisation over many decades."