Monday, 21 January 2013

The Role Of The Indian People In The South African Revolution: An Interview In 1968

QUESTION: Dr. Dadoo, you have just published a leaflet which is the first public call you have made to the Indian people since you left South Africa in 1960. Can you tell us what the background to this leaflet is, and why you have chosen to make your call at this time?

ANSWER: Today, history is witnessing a decisive turning point in the struggle for national liberation in South Africa. Armed struggle has begun. Under the leadership of the African National Congress in alliance with the Congress movement, the brave freedom fighters of the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) are on the march. Already combat units of Umkhonto, together with contingents of the Zimbabwe African People's Union, are giving battle to the armed forces of Ian Smith and Vorster in Rhodesia. Reliable reports from the battle front, contrary to the whitewashing accounts put out by the South African press and radio, indicate that the freedom fighters are fighting with great daring and skill, and are inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Even the enemy has to admit that the freedom fighters, whom he calls "terrorists", are not only well armed but highly skilful in the use of their weapons. It is on the cards that soon there will be fighting on South African soil.

So, in this new period of armed struggle and developing revolutionary upheavals, it is necessary to make every section of the South African population, both white and black, aware of the changing situation and of the tasks and responsibilities that it is being called upon to fulfil. As a leader of the Indian people, it is my duty to ask them to respond unreservedly to the call made by the Acting President of the African National Congress, our comrade Oliver Tambo, in which he says: "As our forces drive deeper into the south we have no doubt that they will be joined not by some, but by the whole African nation; by the oppressed minorities, the Indian and Coloured people; and by an increasing number of white democrats".

I have no doubt that the Indians will respond readily, and with the same spirit of self-sacrifice and determination that they have shown throughout their long and bitter struggles against segregation, and for human rights, ever since the days of Gandhiji.

Role of the Indian People

Q: What precise role do you expect the Indian people to play in this new phase of the struggle?

A: As an integral part of the South African population, the Indian community of half a million people has a very important role to play in the new form the struggle has taken. The militant Indian youth, who played not an insignificant part in the early struggles of Umkhonto since 1961 - several of them are serving long terms of imprisonment on Robben Island and in other South African jails together with their African, Coloured and White comrades-in-arms - have yet a larger role to play in the liberation army, and in mobilising the Indian people in town and country to support and help the freedom fighters in every possible way. The Indian people must and will, I am certain, help to make the path of freedom fighters easy. They must also mount ever-increasing resistance to every aspect of apartheid: the Group Areas Act must not be allowed to govern them; they must oppose and reject the regime's stooge body, the South African Indian Council, which is being used by Vorster as an instrument to obtain the collaboration of the Indian people in the implementation of apartheid policies. Every form of opposition to apartheid is of help to the freedom fighters in the war against white supremacy.

Q: The South African Indian Congress is still technically a legal organisation. How legal is it in practice, and how is it functioning? And how will the publication of the leaflet, calling for support for the armed struggle, affect the organisation?

A: The SAIC is a legal organisation only in name. The terror let loose by the Government through the Special Branch has made the legal functioning of the SAIC and its constituent bodies, the Natal Indian Congress and the Transvaal Indian Congress, impossible. Every one of its office-bearers and committee members at national, provincial and branch level, has been banned, imprisoned or driven into exile. And this applies to the members appointed to replace those banned and imprisoned, and again to those appointed to replace them. The legal functioning of the organisation is now impossible. But the new leaflet, and the fact that it is being distributed in spite of all the penalties, bears witness to the fact that the spirit of resistance for which the South African Indian Congress stands, lives on, and that no power on earth can crush it.

The Congress Movement

Q: You spoke earlier of the Congress Movement. Can you tell us something of the background of the alliance between the South African Indian Congress, the African National Congress and the other organisations of the Congress Movement?

A: Freedom is indivisible. A section of the population cannot be free if the rest is in bondage. In the course of their struggle against unjust laws, and for the redress of their grievances, the Indian people began to realise that no fundamental changes were possible without unity of action between all the oppressed people. And it was this realisation that made the younger members of the Indian Congress, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, set about trying to change the policies of the Congress in order to seek cooperation in the common struggle with the premier national organisation of the African people, the ANC, and with the national organisation of the Coloured people. A similar spirit also prevailed among the younger elements in the African political movement and in the Coloured community. This led to the formation of united front bodies to campaign to show the people that they must act unitedly, and to bring about changes in the national organisation (and necessary changes of leadership) to follow the new policies of cooperation and united struggle.

To bring about the changes in the Indian Congress, vigorous campaigns had to be conducted amongst the Indian people, and many bitter battles had to be fought against the "moderate" leadership of the time. Members of the progressive groups were assaulted, sometimes brutally. In the Transvaal, a volunteer of the progressive group was actually killed. But with the crushing of the moderate leadership it was possible for the Indian people once again to conduct a militant campaign - the Passive Resistance Campaign against Smuts` "Ghetto Act" in 1946. This was entirely a struggle of the Indian people, but a few African and Coloured volunteers participated as a gesture of solidarity.

Simultaneously there was a change in the leadership of the ANC, and this made possible cooperation between the Indian Congress and the African National Congress through a pact known as the Xuma-Naicker-Dadoo Pact of 1947. After that many joint struggles were conducted, such as the stay-at-home on May 1, 1950, the stay-at-home on June 26, 1950 (the first South Africa Freedom Day), and the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign of 1952 in which over 8,000 volunteers of all races defied laws and went to prison. Under the leadership of the ANC, in alliance with the organisations of the Indian and Coloured people, of the workers and of the progressive whites, the Congress of the People was held in 1955 - at which the Freedom Charter was adopted by over 3,000 delegates of all races. This Charter became the programme of all the organisations participating in the Congress Movement, and laid the basis for a united struggle for the transformation of South Africa. A Joint Consultative Council of all the organisations continued to operate until the premier organisation, the ANC, was banned in 1960.

The Campaigns of 1946 and 1952

Q: What, in your opinion, did the Indian Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946 and the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign in 1952 achieve?

A: With the departure of Gandhiji from South Africa in 1914 and with the removal from the political scene of some of his staunchest lieutenants because of death or old age, the leadership of the Indian community fell into the hands of "moderates" who believed in compromising with the Government on each and every legislative measure of racial discrimination against the Indian people. The Indian Congress was reduced to representing, by and large, the voice of the small Indian merchant class only.

The campaign for all-out resistance against all discriminatory legislation conducted by the younger progressive group among the Indian people culminated not only in ousting the moderate leadership but also in transforming the Indian Congress into a mass organisation of the whole people.

The Indian Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946 against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, enacted by the Smuts Government brought together in a united struggle all sections: the working people who constituted 80 percent of the Indian community, the professional class and traders. The unity it wrought was indeed so powerful that not a single Indian accepted even the limited franchise which the Act offered.

The Campaign of 1946, furthermore, laid a strong basis among the Indian people for the subsequent unity with the African National Congress and the other organisations of the Congress Movement in the struggle for liberation. The Campaign also made a significant impact internationally. It made the Indian community appreciate more fully the importance of international solidarity in the world-wide struggle against racialism, colonialism and imperialism. At the request of the SAIC, India demonstrated her solidarity by breaking off relations with South Africa and imposing economic sanctions. At its request India also took up the treatment of the South Africans of Indian and Pakistani origin at the United Nations. This was soon broadened to include the whole question of apartheid. Thus it is that the question of the apartheid policies of the fascist South African Government has been on the agenda of the United Nations Organisation ever since its inception.

The Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign, similarly, not only increased the attention of the world to the liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples; it also welded the masses of the African, Coloured and Indian peoples into a united force. Furthermore, it gave rise to the formation of the Congress of Democrats, a small but active group of white democrats, and the South African Congress of Trade Unions, who later joined the united front, popularly known as the Congress Alliance.

Q: How do you reconcile the tradition of passive resistance in SAIC with your call for support for armed struggle?

A: Passive resistance was never the ideology of the organisation, although it had been used as a method of struggle since it was introduced by Gandhiji in the early part of this century. The principles of Satyagraha as enunciated by Gandhiji were never accepted as a creed by the Indian people. It is true that in the SAIC, as a national organisation representing all interests and all viewpoints, there are some leaders - like Dr. G. M. Naicker and Nana Sita - who implicitly believe in Gandhian principles and who have lived by them; and of course we honour their convictions and their sufferings for their convictions. But in this connection it is significant to note that when the ANC and the SAIC jointly embarked upon the Defiance Campaign of 1952 it was deliberately not called a passive resistance campaign. It was called a Defiance Campaign, although it was non-violent. It expressed a more militant outlook, because most of the leaders had realised that in the situation of South Africa, where violence was the normal instrument of Government policy, there could arise a situation where no alternative would be left to the people, if they were to continue to fight for their freedom, but to resort to violent methods. When Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed, Indian youth readily responded to its call, and participated in its activities.

No Liberation Without African Majority Rule

Q: The argument has often been put to the Indian people in South Africa that as a minority group they would be no better off under African rule than they are under white rule. In the light of what has happened in Kenya, for instance, what is your answer to this argument?

A: This is absolute nonsense - it is merely the tactics of divide and rule used by the authorities in order to maintain the divisions of the people, as they already do by law, keeping the national groups apart and preventing intercommunication. This is the argument of the South African Police who seek to intimidate the people from participating in the struggle; it is the argument of their agents provocateurs in our midst who deliberately try to provoke hostility between African and Indian, African and Coloured, to convince each that their grievances are not the fault of an oppressive government, but of another oppressed group. They use this tactic precisely because it is our unity in the face of oppression that the oppressor most fears.

It must be understood that the fundamental of the liberation struggle is first and foremost the liberation of the majority of the population, the African people, and that it is unthinkable that there could be liberation without African majority rule.


Also read : Is South Africa under Muslim rule?

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