Judd (Stanley) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Henry Judd

Books in Review

South Africa

(May 1951)

From The New International, Vol. XVII No. 3, May–June 1951, p. 192.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The All African Convention (The Awakening of a People)
by I.B. Tabata
Johannesburg People’s Press, 1950, 161 pgs.

Our attention has recently been called to this remarkable booklet, the work of a South African nationalist and socialist. It is not our intention in this brief notice to do more than call attention to a work which, while lacking the polish and sophistication of other Marxist studies, more than counteracts this by the depth of its analysis, the concreteness of its suggestions and the feeling of reality and engagement running through its pages.

To our knowledge, it is the first extensive study of South Africa which presents the problems of that country in a revolutionary light, and from the standpoint of an African whose people represent the overwhelming proportion of the population. Unlike so many studies which proceed inward from political generalities and abstractions, this work builds itself outwards from the concrete problems of the African miners, farmers, tribesmen, workers, etc. The great movement of South African nationalism, represented by the All African Convention, thus takes on a shape and form which the reader can readily grasp. The unique organizational form of this movement (a federated and affiliated body of all African groups and movements) is splendidly described, as well as its relationships with other non-European minorities (Indian people, Colored people, etc.) In centering his work upon the Africans themselves, Tabata has supplied a new understanding of that most difficult and complex of all problems common to national liberation movements: the relationship between the masses of workers and farmers and their petty bourgeois leaders or would-be leaders. The details of the struggle for the formation of the present All African Convention supply the bulk of the material presented and take the reader up to the 1950 period, i.e., the period of the infamous Apartheid acts.

To be sure, certain shortcomings must be noted, but they do not detract from the seriousness of this work. International issues or forces affecting the South African white rulers, or the oppressed peoples, barely enter into the development of Tabata’s thesis. More important, his analysis of the reasons behind the unprincipled and changing positions of the South African Communist Party is faulty. No doubt the South African Stalinists are mainly “white intellectuals with roots in the Herrenvolk class,” but their politics cannot be explained in this fashion, as their present opposition position would indicate. A reconsideration of the role of Stalinism, its links with Russian foreign policy and its true objectives in South Africa are urgently required—particularly in view of the false notion that Stalinism supports colonial movements on a progressive basis.

The fact that African nationalism has produced this mature and advanced work, certainly one of the most original documents we have ever seen from the colonial world, cannot be underestimated. In it, the progressive forces of that unfortunate land have a most valuable guide in the long and difficult struggle against imperialist white rule. It merits a wide circulation among those concerned with colonial problems.

Isaacs Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 21 November 2018