South African Communist Party SACP

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

South African Communist Party (SACP)


a political party founded on July 30, 1921, in Cape Town as the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). It was formed through a merger of the International Socialist League and several other Marxist groups and organizations. Originally, most of the party members were workers of European descent; by the late 1920’s the overwhelming majority of the members were blacks. The party established contact with the African National Congress (ANC) and with organizations of the colored population and drew the working people into trade unions. During and immediately after World War II the influence of the CPSU greatly increased, and its membership rose severalfold; members of the party were elected to Parliament and to the municipal councils of major cities.

The victory of the National Party in 1948 and the proclamation of apartheid as the official state policy were followed, in 1950, by the banning of the CPSA. Since the party was insufficiently prepared to conduct clandestine work, the Central Committee of the CPSA decided that it should disband. In early 1953 the party was reconstituted underground as the SACP. In the 1950’s the SACP cultivated and broadened its ties with the ANC and with other democratic organizations; it helped rally these organizations into a united front of revolutionary forces and in 1955 helped draft a unified program of action, the Freedom Charter, which called for national liberation and far-reaching social and economic reforms.

In the early 1960’s, when the South African government abolished the last remnants of bourgeois democratic freedoms, the SACP and ANC announced that they would work to overthrow the racist regime by force of arms. The party’s program, The Road to South African Freedom, was adopted at the Fifth Congress of the SACP, held clandestinely in late 1962 in Johannesburg; it states that the final goal of the SACP—the building of a socialist society—can be achieved only after the victory of the national democratic revolution, which will consist basically in the national liberation of the African people and whose main task will be the construction of a national democratic state.

An extended plenum of the Central Committee of the SACP held in 1970 recognized a need “to concentrate on rebuilding the party within the country into an organization of professional revolutionaries working in close contact with the working class and the peasantry and capable of conducting organizational and propaganda work in the face of police terror.” The party assumes that the overthrow of the racist regime will be preceded by a long period of struggle that will assume various forms—illegal and legal, peaceful and violent—and that organized armed resistance will take on increasing importance. Responding to the upsurge experienced by the South African national liberation movement since the mid-1970’s, the party believes that its prime task is to strengthen and expand the network of underground organizations and groups, to step up propaganda work, and, jointly with the ANC, to rally all the opponents of apartheid, including the white population, into a united liberation front.

Delegations from the SACP attended the international Communist and workers’ parties conferences held in Moscow in 1960 and 1969. The party approved the documents adopted by the conferences.

The chairman of the SACP is Y. Dadoo, and the general secretary is M. Mabhida. The party’s central organ is the journal African Communist.


Lerumo, A. 50 let bor’by. Moscow, 1973. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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