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ANC Youth League Manifesto - 1944


PREAMBLE

WHEREAS Africanism must be promoted i.e. Africans must struggle for development, progress and national liberation so as to occupy their rightful and honourable place among nations of the world;

AND WHEREAS African Youth must be united, consolidated, trained and disciplined because from their ranks future leaders will be recruited;

AND WHEREAS a resolution was passed by the conference of the African National Congress held in Bloemfontein in 1943, authorising the founding and establishment of the Congress Youth League;

WE therefore assume the responsibility of laying the foundations of the said Youth League.

STATEMENT OF POLICY

South Africa has a complex problem. Stated briefly it is: The contact of the White race with the Black has resulted in the emergence of a set of conflicting living conditions and outlooks on life which seriously hamper South Africa`s progress to nationhood.

The White race, possessing superior military strength and at present having superior organising skill has arrogated to itself the ownership of the land and invested itself with authority and the right to regard South Africa as a White man`s country. This has meant that the African, who owned the land before the advent of the Whites, has been deprived of all security which may guarantee him an independent pursuit of destiny or ensure his leading a free and unhampered life. He has been defeated in the field of battle but refuses to accept this as meaning that he must be oppressed, just to enable the White man to further dominate him.

The African regards Civilisation as the common heritage of all Mankind and claims as full a right to make his contribution to its advancement and to live free as any White South African: further, he claims the right to all sources and agencies to enjoy rights and fulfill duties which will place him on a footing of equality with every other South African racial group.

The majority of White men regard it as the destiny of the White race to dominate the man of colour. The harshness of their domination, however, is rousing in the African feelings of hatred of everything that bars his way to full and free citizenship and these feelings can no longer be suppressed.

In South Africa, the conflict has emerged as one of race on the one side and one of ideals on the other. The White man regards the Universe as a gigantic machine hurtling through time and space to its final destruction: individuals in it are but tiny organisms with private lives that lead to private deaths: personal power, success and fame are the absolute measures of values; the things to live for. This outlook on life divides the Universe into a host of individual little entities which cannot help being in constant conflict thereby hastening the approach of the hour of their final destruction.

The African, on his side, regards the Universe as one composite whole; an organic entity, progressively driving towards greater harmony and unity whose individual parts exist merely as interdependent aspects of one whole realising their fullest life in the corporate life where communal contentment is the absolute measure of values. His philosophy of life strives towards unity and aggregation; towards greater social responsibility.

These divergences are not simplified by the fact that the two major races are on two different planes of achievement in the Civilisation of the West. This is taken advantage of to `civilise` the African with a view to making him a perpetual minor. This obstruction of his progress is disguised as letting him `develop along his own lines`. He is, however, suspicious of any `lines` of development imposed on him from above and elects to develop along what the Natives` Representative Council1 recently called the `lines of his own choosing`.

In practice these divergences and conflicts work to the disadvantage of the African. South Africa`s two million Whites are highly organised and are bound together by firm ties. They view South African problems through the perspective of Race destiny; that is the belief that the White race is the destined ruler and leader of the world for all time. This has made it imperative for the African to view his problems and those of his country through the perspective of Race. Viewing problems from the angle of Race destiny, the White man acts as one group in relations between Black and White. Small minorities view South African problems through the perspective of Human destiny. These number among their ranks the few Whites who value Man as Man and as above Colour. Yet these are so few that their influence on national policies is but little felt.

The advantages on the side of the Whites enable two million White men to control and dominate with ease eight million Africans and to own 87 per cent of the land while the Africans scrape a meagre existence on the remaining 13 per cent. The White man means to hold to these gains at all costs and to consolidate his position, has segregated the African in the State, the Church, in Industry, Commerce etc., in all these relegating him to an inferior position where, it is believed, the African will never menace White domination.

TRUSTEESHIP

To mislead the world and make it believe that the White man in South Africa is helping the African on the road to civilised life, the White man has arrogated to himself the title and role of Trustee for the African people.

The effects of Trusteeship alone have made the African realise that Trusteeship has meant, as it still means, the consolidation by the White man of his position at the expense of the African people, so that by the time national awakening opens the eyes of the African people to the bluff they live under, White domination should be secure and unassailable.

A hurried glance at legislation passed by the Trustees for the African during the last forty years shows what a bluff Trusteeship is. The very Act of Union2 itself established as a legal right the claim of the White man to dominate the man of colour. It did not recognise the African as a citizen of the then newly formed Union; it regarded him as a beggar at the gate.

This was followed by the 1913 Land Act which deprived the African of Land and Land Security and in that way incapacitated him for that assertion of his will to be free which might otherwise have been inspired by assured security and fixed tenure. The Act drove him into urban areas where he soon made his way to skilled trades etc. But the Trustees had not brought him to urban areas to civilise him by opening to him avenues to skilled work. They had brought him so that he might be a cheap and nearby reserve of unskilled labour. This was finally established by the Colour Bar Act3 which shuts Africans from skilled trades etc., thereby blocked their way to Civilisation via these channels.

In 1923 the Trustees passed the Urban Areas Act and this measure as amended warned Africans clearly that they were bidding farewell to freedom.

This Act imposed forms of control on the Africans which would have stirred into revolt any other section of the population. But because the Africans were not organised they yielded to more oppression and allowed themselves to be `controlled` from birth to the grave. This control had the effect of forcing Africans to remain impotent under unhealthy urban conditions which were set up to add their due to the ruining of the African`s resistance to disease. The legalised slums, politely called Native Locations, were one aspect of these conditions.

But the Trustees were not satisfied with the emasculation of an entire community. In the 1927 Native Administration Act4, they established the White race as the Supreme Chief of the African people. The conquest of the African was complete.

As the African accepted none of these measures to `civilise` him without a struggle, the Trustees had always been worried by his prospects as long as the Cape Franchise remained. With little compunction, in 1936 the last door to citizenship was slammed in the face of the African by the Natives Representation Act which gave us three White men to represent eight million Africans in a house of 150 representing two million Whites. At the same time a Land Act was passed to ensure that if the 1913 Land Act had left any openings for the African, then the Natives Land and Trust Act would seal them in the name of `humanity and Modern Civilisation`.

The 1937 Native Laws Amendment Act closed up any other loophole through which the African could have forced his way to full citizenship. Today, Trusteeship has made every African a criminal still out of prison. For all this we had to thank the philosophy of Trusteeship.

While Trustees have been very vocal in their solicitations for the African their deeds have shown clearly that talk of Trusteeship is an eyewash for the Civilised world and an empty platitude to soothe Africans into believing that after all oppression is a pleasant experience under Christian democratic rule. Trusteeship mentality is doing one thing and that very successfully, to drive the African steadily to extermination. Low wages, bad housing, inadequate health facilities, `Native education`, mass exploitation, unfixed security on land and halfhearted measures to improve the African`s living conditions are all instruments and tools with which the path to African extermination is being paved.

But Africans rejects the theory that because he is non-White and because he is a conquered race, he must be exterminated. He demands the right to be a free citizen in the South African democracy; the right to an unhampered pursuit of his national destiny and the freedom to make his legitimate contribution to human advancement.

For the last two hundred years he has striven to adapt himself to changing conditions, and has made every exertion to discover and derive the maximum benefits from the claims of the White man that they are his Trustees. Instead of meeting with encouragement commensurate with his eagerness and goodwill, he has been saddled with a load of oppression dating from the unprovoked wars of the last century and now containing such choice discriminating legislation as the 1913 Land Act, and such benefits of Trusteeship as official harshness which recently attempted to hang an African under the very roof of the very State Department established to protect him and guide him on his way to civilisation, just because he could not answer questions as quickly as the impatience of the Pass Office Trustees wanted.

In this very war5 South Africa is fighting against oppression and for Freedom; a war in which she has committed herself to the principle of freedom for all. In spite of this, however, it would be the highest folly to believe that after the war South Africa will treat the Africans as citizens with the right to live free. South African blood - of Whites and Africans alike - has been shed to free the White peoples of Europe while Africans within the Union remain in bondage.

For his loyalty to the cause of human freedom and for his sacrifices in life, cash and kind, he has been promised a `Suspense Account` - another way of telling him that, in spite of all he has done for his country in its hour of darkest need, for him there will be no freedom from fear and want.

LOSS OF FAITH IN TRUSTEESHIP

These conditions have made the African lose all faith in all talk of Trusteeship. HE NOW ELECTS TO DETERMINE HIS FUTURE BY HIS OWN EFFORTS. He has realised that to trust to the mere good grace of the White man will not free him, as no nation can free an oppressed group other than that group itself.

Self-determination is the philosophy of life which will save him from the disaster he clearly sees on his way - disaster to which Discrimination, Segregation, Pass Laws and Trusteeship are all ruthlessly and inevitably driving him.

The African is aware of the magnitude of the task before him, but has learnt that promises, no matter from what high source, are merely palliatives intended to drum him into yielding to more oppression. He has made up his mind to sweat for his freedom; determine his destiny himself and THROUGH HIS AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS IS BUILDING A STRONG NATIONAL UNITY FRONT WHICH WILL BE HIS SUREST GUARANTEE OF VICTORY OVER OPPRESSION.

THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

The African National Congress is the symbol and embodiment of the African`s will to present a united national front against all forms of oppression, but this has not enabled the movement to advance the national cause in a manner demanded by prevailing conditions. And this, in turn, has drawn on it criticisms in recent times which cannot be ignored if Congress is to fulfill its mission in Africa.

The critics of Congress attribute the inability of Congress in the last twenty years to advance the national cause in a manner commensurate with the demands of the times, to weaknesses in its organisation and constitution, to its erratic policy of yielding to oppression, regarding itself as a body of gentlemen with clean hands, and to failing to see the problems of the African through the proper perspective.

Those critics further allege that in that period Congress declined and became an organisation of the privileged few - some Professionals, Small Traders, a sprinkling of Intellectuals and Conservatives of all grades. This, it is said, imparted to the Congress character taints of reactionism and conservatism which made Congress a movement out of actual touch with the needs of the rank and file of our people.

It is further contended by the critics of Congress that the privileged few who constituted the most vocal elements in Congress strongly resented any curtailment of what they considered their rights and, since the popularisation of the Congress character would have jeopardised or brought about the withdrawal of those rights by the Authorities, Congress was forced to play the dual role of being unconscious police to check the assertion of the popular will on the one hand and, on the other, of constantly warning the authorities that further curtailment of the privileges of the few would compel them, the privileged few, to yield to pressure from the avalanche of popular opinion which was tired of appeasing the Authorities while life became more intolerable.

These privileged few, so the critics of Congress maintain, are not an efficiently organised bloc. Their thinking itself lacks the national bias and this has made Congress a loose association of people who merely react negatively to given conditions, able neither to assert the national will nor to resist it openly. In this connection, Congress is accused of being partly suspicious of progressive thought and action, though it is itself unable to express correctly the views of the mass of the people.

Finally, the critics say that because the privileged few who direct Congress are poorly organised and have no marked following, Congress cannot openly defy popular wishes; hence to maintain its precarious existence, it is compelled to be very vocal against legislation that has harsh effects on the African underdog while it gives no positive lead nor has any constructive programme to enforce the repeal of all oppressive legislation.

CHALLENGE TO YOUTH

Some of these criticisms are founded on fact, it is true, but it does not advance the national cause if people concentrate on these while little or no effort is made to build Congress from within. It is admitted that in the process of our political development, our leadership made certain blunders. It was inevitable that this should have been the case, encompassed as the African people were and still are with forces inimical to their progress. But it does no good to stop at being noisy in condemning African leaders who went before us. Defects in the organisation of the people against oppression cannot be cured by mouthing criticisms and not putting our heads together to build what has been damaged and to find a way out of the present suffering.

Both the oppression and the causes that give rise to the criticisms of Congress cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. Soon the point must be reached when African Youth, which has lived through oppression from the cradle to the present, calls a halt to it all. That point, happily, is now reached - as witness some of the clear-cut national demands by Youth at the Bloemfontein conference and the formation of Youth movements and political parties. All this is proof that Youth wants action and is in sympathy with the rank and file of our oppressed people. It is all a challenge to Youth to join in force in the national fight against oppression.

In response to the demands of the times African Youth is LAYING ITS SERVICES AT THE DISPOSAL OF THE NATIONAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT, THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, IN THE FIRM BELIEF, KNOWLEDGE AND CONVICTION THAT THE CAUSE OF AFRICA MUST AND WILL TRIUMPH.

CONGRESS YOUTH LEAGUE

The formation of the African National Congress Youth League is an answer and assurance to the critics of the national movement that African Youth will not allow the struggles and sacrifices of their fathers to have been in vain. Our fathers fought so that we, better equipped when our time came, should start and continue from where they stopped.

The formation of this League is an attempt on the part of Youth to impart to Congress a truly national character. It is also a protest against the lack of discipline and the absence of a clearly-defined goal in the movement as a whole.

The Congress Youth League must be the brains-trust and power-station of the spirit of African nationalism; the spirit of African self-determination; the spirit that is so discernible in the thinking of our Youth. It must be an organisation where young African men and women will meet and exchange ideas in an atmosphere pervaded by a common hatred of oppression.

At this power-station the league will be a co-ordinating agency for all youthful forces employed in rousing popular political consciousness and fighting oppression and reaction. It will educate the people politically by concentrating its energies on the African homefront to make all sections of our people Congress minded and nation-conscious.

But the Congress Youth League must not be allowed to detract Youth`s attention from the organisation of Congress. In this regard, it is the first step to ensure that African Youth has direct connections with the leadership of Congress.

Circumstances call upon African Youth to make the League specialise in championing the cause of Africa; and to serve this end best, the League will sponsor a Congress political bloc, the Congress Progressive Group within the national movement. This will be the wing of the Youth League entrusted with the duty of organising Youth . . .

The Congress Progressive Group will stand for certain clear-cut national ideals within Congress; it will stand for specialisation within the national movement, to reinforce the latter`s representative character and to consolidate the national unity front; it will keep a vigilant eye on all un-national tendencies on the national unity front and in Congress policies.

We must be honest enough to realise that neither Congress nor the African people can make progress as one amorphous mass. At a certain stage we must cultivate specialised political attitudes. Failure to recognise this will wreck Congress and encourage revolts from it until it ceases to be a force in national politics.

By recognising this fact, Youth does not confess sympathy with those who revolted against the national movement. These failed to realise that the formation of parties out of Congress was a serious weakening of the national unity front. They recognised the fact that Congress is a national liberation movement but were not sufficiently experienced politically to form their party within the national fold and to develop opposition from within, while strengthening the national unity front.

The result of their inexperience has been the creation of serious rifts and splits on the national unity front. For this, there can be no pardon because we cannot afford to cause any rift on the national unity front at this critical moment. By weakening the national unity front we invite more oppression for Africans after the war. By strengthening the national unity front, we are preparing a strong front against onslaughts that will be made on the real aims of the national struggle and on its significance and that will make the co-ordination of our political activities difficult, with the result that the African cannot take advantage of situations which, if intelligently exploited in time, may bring the African nearer full and free citizenship.

Congress is destined for a great purpose and mission, but shortsighted policies will cripple it and make it unable to rise to its destiny. To prevent this and therefore the setting back of the clock of African progress, African Youth must join the League in their numbers to strengthen the national movement in view of the fact that divisions just now are being sown among the people by sections of the so-called privileged few, while no convincing effort is made to narrow down and finally eliminate the gulfs that divide our people even by those who clamour loudest for national unity. Those who sow these divisions direct their activities against the national unity front in order to make the national movement incapable of expressing the wishes of the people effectively; they are the enemies of a free Africa.

The Congress is the symbol of the African people`s common hatred of all oppression and of their Will to fight it relentlessly as one compact group. Youth recognises the existence of specialised attitudes and, where these lead to differences of opinion, that must be strictly a domestic matter within the national liberation movement and must in no way be allowed to interfere with the national unity front.

THE IDEAL OF NATIONAL UNITY MUST BE THE GUIDING IDEAL OF EVERY YOUNG AFRICAN`S LIFE

OUR CREED

  1. We believe in the divine destiny of nations.
  2. The goal of all our struggles is Africanism and our motto is `AFRICA`S CAUSE MUST TRIUMPH`.
  3. We believe that the national liberation of Africans will be achieved by Africans themselves. We reject foreign leadership of Africa.
  4. We may borrow useful ideologies from foreign ideologies, but we reject the wholesale importation of foreign ideologies into Africa.
  5. We believe that leadership must be the personification and symbol of popular aspirations and ideals.
  6. We believe that practical leadership must be given to capable men, whatever their status in society.
  7. We believe in the scientific approach to all African problems.
  8. We combat moral disintegration among Africans by maintaining and upholding high ethical standards ourselves.
  9. We believe in the unity of all Africans from the Mediterranean Sea in the North to the Indian and Atlantic oceans in the South - and that Africans must speak with one voice.

OUR PROGRAMME - THE THREE-YEAR PLAN

  1. Drafting and framing of the Constitution.
  2. Improving and consolidating our financial position.
  3. Establishing the Congress Progressive Group.
  4. To win over and persuade other Youth organisations to come over to the African National Congress Youth League, i.e. to create national unity and consolidate the national unity front.
  5. To win over and persuade other African Organisations to come over to and pool their resources in the African National Congress, i.e. to create national unity and consolidate the national unity front.
  6. To work out the theories of African urbanisation and the system of Land Tenure.
  7. To make a critical study of all those forces working for or against African progress.

Footnotes

  1. An African advisory board established in 1936 to replace the limited voting rights for Africans in the Cape Province. It had no powers and dissolved itself in 1946 after one of its members had described it as a `toy telephone` (quoted in H J and R E Simons, Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950)
  2. In 1910, following the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, the whites of the four territories - Cape and Natal (formerly British) and Transvaal and Orange Free State (formerly Boer) - joined together to form the Union of South Africa under the British Crown. Only in the Cape did some blacks retain a qualified franchise: it was later withdrawn.
  3. The Mines and Works Act of 1926.
  4. This Act made the Governor-General (representing the British Crown) `Supreme Chief` over all African areas, which were thenceforth ruled by proclamation. When South Africa became a Republic in 1961, this power passed to the State President.
  5. The Second World War 1939-45, in which the Union of South Africa fought with the Allies against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.