"The National Democratic Revolution"

The SACP's 1962 proposals for the building of a national democratic state

The following is an extract from the Road to South African Freedom, the programme of the SACP adopted in 1962, and published in the African Communist Vol 2 No 2 Jan-March 1963. It is undoubtedly the document with the greatest influence on African National Congress ideology. If the Freedom Charter was the glossy brochure for national liberation, the Road to South African Freedom was the detailed ideological handbook. The full version can be accessed on the web here.


... The deep-rooted crisis in South Africa cannot be resolved by the Nationalist government, using methods of force and violence or attempting to deceive home and world opinion with fraudulent schemes of "Bantu self-government" Nor can it be resolved by a mere change of government to another section of the White ruling class which would make superficial concessions while leaving the essence of the colonial system and monopoly control intact. The crisis springs from the fundamental contradictions of South African society: between the oppressed people and their rulers; between South African colonialism and the world-wide movement against colonialism and imperialism; between the working class and the rural masses, together with the middle classes, on the one side, and the handful of monopoly capitalists on the other.

This crisis can only be resolved by a revolutionary change in the social system which will overcome these conflicts by putting an end to the colonial oppression of the African and other non-White people. The immediate and imperative interests of all sections of the South African people demand the carrying out of such a change, a national democratic revolu­tion which will overthrow the colonialist state of White supremacy and establish an independent state of National Democracy in South Africa.

The main content of this revolution is the national liberation of the African people. Its fulfilment is, at the same time, in the deepest interests of the other non-White groups, for in achieving their liberty the African people will at the same time put an end to all forms of racial discrimination. It is in the interests of the White workers, middle class and professional groups to whom the establishment of genuine democracy and the elimination of fascism and monopoly rule offers the only prospect of a decent and stable future.

The main aims and lines of the South African democratic revolution have been defined in the Freedom Charter, which has been endorsed by the African National Congress and the other partners in the national liberation alliance. The Freedom Charter is not a programme for socialism.

It is a common programme for a free, democratic South Africa, agreed on by socialists and non-socialists. At the same time, in order to guarantee the abolition of racial oppression and White minority domination, the Freedom Charter necessarily and realistically calls for profound economic changes: drastic agrarian reform to restore the land to the people; widespread nationalisation of key industries to break the grip of White monopoly capital on the main centres of the country's economy; radical improvements in the con­ditions and standards of living for the working people.

The Communist Party pledges its un­qualified support for the Freedom Charter. It considers that the achievement of its aims will answer the pressing and immediate needs of the people and lay the indispensable basis for the advance of our country along non-capitalist lines to a communist and socialist future. To win these aims is the immediate task of all the oppressed and democratic people of South Africa, headed by the working class and its party7 the Communist Party

In their long and difficult struggles the national liberation organisations of South Africa, including the Communist Party, have always sought peaceful methods of struggle. In the past they have counselled non-violent methods not because they are cowardly or believers in pacifist illusions but because they wished to avoid the bitterness and bloodshed of civil war. But the ruling class has invariably replied to non-violence with violence; to peace­ful protests with suppression and police mas­sacres of unarmed men, women and children. The Nationalist government has closed, or is closing, every channel of legal protest and normal political activity. It is openly preparing for civil war.

In the face of these provocations, the liberation movement has had to reconsider its attitude towards "non-violence" as a universal principle. The patience of the people is not endless. They are determined to win freedom in our lifetime. They would prefer to achieve their liberation by non-violent means. But today they are left with no alternative but to defend themselves and hit back; to meet violence with violence. The Nationalists are forcing a solution upon South Africa in which patriots and democrats will take up arms to defend themselves, organise guerilla armies and undertake various acts of armed resistance, culminating in a mass insurrection against White domination. In such a conflict, however long and costly, the fighters for freedom must win, for they will enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of the people of our country and the whole world.

The Communist Party considers that the slogan of "non-violence" is harmful to the cause of the democratic national revolution in the new phase of the struggle, disarming the people in the face of the savage assaults of the oppressor, dampening their militancy, undermining their confidence in their leaders. At the same time, the Party opposes undisciplined acts of individual terror. It rejects theories that all non-violent methods of struggle arc useless or impossible, and will continue to advocate and work for the use of all forms of struggle by the people, including non-collaboration, strikes, boycotts and demonstrations.

The Party does not dismiss all prospects of non-violent transition to the democratic revolution. This prospect will be enhanced by the development of revolutionary and militant people's forces. The illusion that the White minority can rule forever over a disarmed majority will crumble before the reality of an armed and determined people. The crisis in the country, and the contradictions in the ranks of the ruling class, will deepen. The possibility would be opened of a peaceful and negotiated transfer of power to the representatives of the oppressed majority of the people.

Whether its end is brought about through such a peaceful transition or by insurrection, the vicious type of colonialism embodied in the present Republic of South African cannot long endure. Its downfall and the victory of the South African democratic revolution are certain in the near future.

The Communist Party unreservedly supports and participates in the struggle for national liberation headed by the African National Congress in alliance with the S.A. Indian Congress, the Congress of Trade Unions, the Coloured People's Congress and other patriotic groups of democrats, women, peasants and youth. With them, it demands the immediate summoning of a sovereign national convention to draw up and promulgate the constitution of a state of national democracy in South Africa. It considers that it is important and urgent for all the forces and movements for freedom to agree upon all their main goals and aims at this time.

It is in this situation that the Communist Party advances its immediate proposals before the workers and democratic people of South Africa. These are not proposals for a socialist state. They are proposals for the building of a national democratic state. These proposals are put forward within the framework of the Free­dom Charter which the Party considers to be suitable as a general statement of the aims of a state of national democracy. Our proposals are not directed towards communists and socialists alone, but are submitted as a basis for discussion for all democratic and patriotic people, and in particular for members and supporters of the national liberation and trade union movements.


State Structure

The Party stands for a unitary South African state with a Republican form of gov­ernment. All local and national representatives in legislative bodies should be subjected both to election and recall by universal, equal, direct, adult franchise, without regard to race, colour, sex or property, educational or other qualifications whatsoever. The Party declares that the revolutionary people of South Africa cannot merely take over existing State and government institutions designed to maintain colonialism, but must destroy them and create new people's institutions in their place. The Senate and all institutions based on property or other undemocratic qualifications must be abolished.

New territorial administrative regions should be established, enjoying full powers of local government corresponding to the progressive traditions and the wishes of the people of each area, but conforming to the overall character and laws of the people's democratic state.

Every vestige of apartheid and racial discrimination should scrupulously be removed from every field of state service and public life. Every rank of the Civil Service, of the army, navy and air force, of the judiciary, police, municipal services and other public institutions should be open to all South Africans The aim of the state should be to replace all officials who are disloyal to demo­cratic non-racial principles. Special measures should be taken rapidly to promote African and other non-White personnel, so as to ensure that all state institutions are fully representa­tive of the nature of the population of South Africa.

Civil Rights and State Security

The state must guarantee the fullest liberty of speech and thought, of the press and of organisation, of conscience and religion, to all citizens. The people's' freedom of movement must be guaranteed. Racialistic and counter­revolutionary propaganda must be forbidden. People must be free to discuss and debate all schools of democratic and progressive opinion.

In order to preserve and extend the gains of the revolution, particularly in the conditions of South Africa, the utmost vigilance must be exercised against those who would seek to organise counter-revolutionary plots, intrigues and sabotage, against all attempts to restore White colonialism and destroy democracy.

While extending the greatest measure of democracy to the people, and ensuring their fullest participation in the public life of the country, a vigorous and vigilant dictatorship must be maintained by the people against the former dominating arid exploiting classes. Towards this end, the Party will propose the disbandment of the police and military forces maintained by White colonialism. A new people's militia and people's liberation army; composed of and led by trusted representatives of the people, must be created.

The Party will work unceasingly to oppose the development of any form of cult of individual leadership, of illegal and arbitrary methods, or of misuse of power in any way. It will uphold proper legal and judicial procedures, and fight to protect the security of the citizen, the inviolability of his home, his privacy and his correspondence.

Economic Development

In order to ensure the rapid development of South Africa as a well balanced industrial-agricultural country, overcoming the lopsidedness caused by colonialism, to abolish unemployment, and to ensure continuously rising material and cultural standards of the people, the Party advocates the large-scale, planned development of the economy of the country, controlled and directed by the state.

In order to ensure South Africa's indepen­dence, the Party will press for the strengthening of the state sector of the economy, particularly in the fields of heavy industry, machine tool building and fuel production. It will seek to place control of the vital sectors of the economy in the hands of the national democratic state and to correct historic injustice, by demanding the nationalisation of the mining industry, banking and monopoly industrial establishments, thus also laying the founda­tions for the advance to socialism.

At the same time, the state should protect the interests of private business where these are not incompatible with the public interest. It should offer assistance, by way of state loans, to non-monopolist producers, in return for a state share in their undertakings, thus paving the way for a gradual and peaceful transition to socialism.

The state should encourage and develop the initiative, talents and crafts of the people and provide opportunities and the fullest encourage­ment for those who show inventiveness, mechanical skill and other socially useful talents.


In order to rally the support of the great masses of rural people, to raise their living and cultural standards and to rectify the injustices committed by the colonialists in seizing most of the land of South Africa, the revolu­tionary state must take immediate and drastic measures to restore the land to the people. The Reserve system, and any laws restricting land ownership on a racial basis, must be abolished.

All land must immediately be confiscated which is in the hands of financial monopolies and land speculators, absentee-owners, farmers who use convict labour or indentured compound labour, and other idlers, exploiters and parasites who allow the land to lie idle while the masses starve. This confiscated land must be placed in the hands of those who live and work upon the land. At the same time, the state should guarantee security of tenure to peasant farmers and smallholders who fruitfully cultivate the land by their own labour. All agricultural land transactions should be regulated to avoid accumulation of land once again in the hands of the rich.

Radical reform must be undertaken in regard to all communally-held and tribally-held lands, with respect to land tenure and social relation­ships. Backward tribal and other relationships should be replaced by democratic institutions. Special attention should be given to building industries in these areas, electric power stations, modern roads and railways, and all other things required to enable them soon to catch up with the economic and cultural development of the rest of the country. Advanced and efficient agricultural methods and techniques should be introduced.

The state should encourage the widespread development of democratically administered co-operative and collective farms rather than individual peasant smallholdings. Vigorous measures should be taken to meclianise and electrify farming operations, to conserve water supplies and create large-scale irrigation schemes, to encourage scientific livestock breeding and the diversification of crops. The state should aim at the development of a pros­perous cultured and progressive rural com­munity, close in its standards of living and edu­cation, social outlook and interests, to the people of the towns and cities.

Labour and Social Welfare

As the party of the working class, the Com­munist Party demands the protection and substantial advancement of the workers' stan­dards of living, housing, working conditions, wages, leisure and recreation. It proposes that all workers, including farm, mine and domestic workers, be entitled to full trade union rights and the protection of labour laws, including a national minimum wage, annual paid holi­days, sick leave unemployment and workmen's compensation benefits for all, and adequate safety regulations in all mines, factories, farms and other places of work.

The Party demands that the state provide special protection for women workers, the removal of all restrictions against married women employees, and the provision of ade­quate maternity leave before and after birth. The Party will fight for full and equal rights for women in every aspect of state, social and private life. It will work for the elimination of polygamy. It will fight vigorously against all vestiges and manifestations of contempt for or unequal treatment of women, or their being regarded as mere cooks, domestic servants, nannies and housekeepers. It will fight for the admission of women on an equal basis to every sphere of state, industrial, commercial, agricul­tural, scientific, academic and professional life.

The Party proposes that a state medical ser­vice be instituted providing free preventative and curative medical and health services to all, including hospitals, medicines, spectacles, den­tures and all other aspects of a comprehensive health service.

The Party proposes the provision of free meals at school to all children: that all workers be guaranteed cheap transport to and from work and that the state provide adequate pen­sions, without discrimination, to all old people. It demands adequate allowances for all who are unemployed, disabled, orphaned, or otherwise unable to earn a living.

The Party demands the abolition of all residential segregation and the provision of adequate housing for all, with special attention to the needs of those living in slums.


There must be no segregation in education. All children must receive free primary and secondary education from the state. Standards of education must be the same for all children, irrespective of race, home language or economic status, and designed to develop citizens imbued with a love of their people, their country and humanity.

There must be equal opportunities for all to receive higher education and specialised technical training. however, in order to correct the legacy of colonialism, priority must be given to the training of African and other non-White specialists in every field.

The state must organise a campaign among the masses for the complete elimination of adult illiteracy.

All teachers must be guaranteed decent stan­dards of living and the right to take part in public life. They must be enabled to attain the highest qualifications and their remuneration arid promotion must be on the basis of quali­fications and merit alone.

National Rights

In view of the ravages wrought by the White colonialists, the Party demands exceptional measures to uphold the rights, dignity, culture and self-respect of all national groups inhabiting our country.

All languages used by the people of South Africa should enjoy equal rights and status. In local administrative regions, organs of local government, laws, and courts, the language used should normally be that spoken by the majority of people in that region.

The state should encourage in particular the unity of the African people and foster the spirit of unity of all South Africans. At the same time it should encourage and stimulate the development of healthy, non-antagonistic national consciousness and legitimate pride among all sections of the people. It should en­courage the development of national cultures, art and literature.

While standing for a united South African state, the Party recognises the rights of all national groups in the country to develop and to determine their own future. To enable these rights to be realised, the Party demands the abolition of the Reserve system and the even development of agriculture, industry and communications throughout South Africa.

Freedom of movement must be an inviolable right of all citizens and all citizens must enjoy equal rights and status in every part of the country.

Vigorous measures must be taken to train and promote non-Whites, especially Africans, as managers and directors of industrial, agricultural, mining and commercial enterprises; as professors, doctors, chemists, architects, scientists and engineers; as leading personnel of every sort.

While regarding as its main task in the sphere of national rights, as being to correct the injustice and crime perpetrated against the African majority, the state must also safeguard and guarantee the rights of minority groups, whether of European, Coloured, Indian, Chinese or any other descent. The state must protect the rights of all citizens equally, and vigorously oppose and suppress all senseless acts of revenge which have their roots in the past. All manifestations of racialism, including the use of derogatory terms to designate people of various national groups must be prohibited by law.

Source: Communist University

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