The Morogoro Conference
On the 25th April 1969 an ANC conference was held in Tanzania -the Morogoro Conference. Its main task was undoubtedly to bring about organisational changes, a `new framework and structure` as some people said. Commenting on this conference, Mayibuye remarked:
`Comrades and supporters may well wonder why it has only been possible now to give expression to an organisational necessity which arose some years ago`. It gives an answer: `The answer lies in the scientific fact that there is always a time lag between the demands of history and the development of social forces except at that precise moment of revolutionary change when both factors coincide perfectly to advance society to a new, and qualitatively different, higher plane.`
Some sceptics call this moment a `crisis`. Surely at the Morogoro Conference there was no `crisis` - but problems - lots of them.
The main task before the conference was to map and chart the way to victory. But this could only be done through a democratic way to victory. This explains why the ANC involved all its members in large scale pre- conference discussions at all levels in all the centres where ANC people were to be found. These pre-conference preparations which took the form of expert papers, objective analysis and discussion of issues and rebutless criticism of our work; formulation of proposals aimed at removing shortcomings and ensuring improvements were a guarantee not only for the fruitful results of the conference but also for a solid basis for our future operations: that is total mobilisation of the millions of our people; radical changes in our machinery and style of work to enable us to accomplish the tasks that lie ahead. In short to fashion the instruments that will enable us to achieve a further spur forward towards the great goals of our movement. The question of collective responsibility and a pooling of experiences and ideas was very important and vital especially for a movement like ours which was then largely cut off from the masses at home.
There were many questions which were raised, discussed and partly solved at the Morogoro Conference. Central to all and most burning was the problem of reaching the fighting front. Relevant to this, and basic to it, were the problems of internal organisation coupled with and to a large extent dependent on, the means of communication between external centres and the home front.
Questions arose: Is our order of priorities correct? In other words are we concentrating revolutionary manpower, talent and material resources where they are most urgently required? This is in terms of short-term and long-term plans. Did our then existing organisational structures make for efficient and effective implementation of these plans? To consider and agree on the answers to these questions and the solutions to these problems was one of the central aims of the conference. We needed correct answers and correct solutions because, although historically time was on our side, strategically, it was not. The South African fascist regime was on the one hand constantly strengthening its defences and extending its horizons of economic domination and political influence well beyond our borders. On the other hand the regime was desperately striving to demoralise, divide and weaken our people; to intimidate and corrupt them into submission, while trying to stamp out and prevent the growth of a revolutionary movement in the country by every means at its disposal.
The enemy`s basic vulnerability was the reason for his utmost `vigilance` and justification for his aggressiveness. His discovery in Rivonia of large-scale and advanced preparations for armed struggle and his disastrous contact with our fighters in Zimbabwe in 1967 were for him a frightening revelation of the danger he faces. Both events stung him into panic- stricken preparations for war on all fronts and at all levels. The racist Government`s perspective and preoccupation with and fear of insurrection and guerrilla warfare, coupled with the hysteria that gripped the fascist regime during the post-Rivonia period and the armed clashes in Zimbabwe accelerated the counter-insurrectionary tactical needs of the fascist regime. The enemy was afraid of the revolution- he had seen the writing on the wall.
This was evidence, not of the enemy`s impregnability but of his fear - history, including contemporary history, has demonstrated that the overriding determinant in a people`s war of liberation is not the military, economic or manpower resources of imperialism (important as these may be) but the intensity and protracted character of the conflict. This meant that we should be in a state of preparedness for hardships and setbacks and this also served as a pointer to the scale on which we should operate and this in turn emphasised the vital importance to our success of a powerful and truly revolutionary movement.
Had we measured up to these revolutionary standards?
The other question which arose at Morogoro was the nature and character of the movement. The outcome of this discussion was the now famous Strategy and Tactics of the ANC.
This is the political and ideological angle of the question. But there was also the organisational aspect.
The alliance between the ANC and other organisations, notably the South African Indian Congress, Coloured People`s Organisation (later renamed Coloured People`s Congress); Congress of Democrats (organisation of white democrats) and later the South African Congress of Trade Unions evolved and changed in a constant process of search and renewal. This alliance started in 1950 when the ANC invited a number of national organisations to a national emergency conference in Johannesburg to protest against the introduction of the Suppression of Communism Bill. The Communist Party which accepted and took part in launching the first June 26 protests was banned the same year. During the decade 1950-1960 these organisations cooperated closely with the ANC, adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955 and by 1960, when the ANC was banned, the four organisations had formalised their relationship in a national consultative machinery, which continued to operate for some time even after the banning of the ANC.
This alliance was the political opposition in South Africa, offering the only real alternative policy to that of the white supremacists, and indeed the only realistic alternative government. It stirred the masses from political apathy and fatalism, awakening consciousness not only of the need for radical change, but also awareness of the shape, direction and the possibility of change. Through hard work and sacrifice it created a solid and unshakeable foundation among those social forces whose mission it is to accomplish the South African revolution. That was the imperishable contribution of the Congress Alliance - as we called it - to our struggle in the 50s.
That this was not easily achieved should be clear; every step along the road to unity had to be fought for bitterly, not only in direct struggle with the authorities but also against those elements (within the movement) of conservatism, prejudice, anti-communism, racism, suspicion, and hostility which centuries of history had sown among the various social, religious, class as well as racial division of our population.
Despite the banning of the ANC in 1960 (and subsequently the banning and dissolution of the Congress of Democrats) this alliance continued for a while to operate and meetings were held from time to time, with participation of the banned ANC.
With the banning of the ANC a new chapter in the history of our struggle had begun - a chapter which necessitated new forms of struggle, organisation and alliances.
This history was at the back of the minds of those people who posed the question at the Morogoro Conference of the functioning of the ANC - an African organisation - especially its relations with non- African comrades (Coloureds, Indians and Whites) abroad. It should be remembered that though the racists tried to annihilate the people`s movement there was an imperishable spirit and inextinguishable urge towards the unity of the oppressed.
At the same time the ANC was learning from other organisations on the continent. In some African countries liberation movements, which were exclusively African in composition had since independence i.e. when a new situation arose, opened their doors to non- Africans as members. We have TANU and UNIP in mind. Were we to wait until independence before we introduced this process of opening the doors of the ANC to other nationalities? Surely it had become undesirable - especially under the conditions of exile - to confine the membership of the ANC exclusively to members of the `majority group` since this effectively denied the members of the `minority groups` an opportunity to participate in the democratic process within the ANC. This was all the more important because `participation in the democratic process` meant how to mobilise the different national groups, how to draw them into the struggle for precisely the attainment of our goal.
It goes without saying that the brunt of the struggle must be borne by the African majority. Their effective mobilisation - which means the struggle must be led by their representatives - is our first consideration. But given this understanding and basic requisite it is clearly to the advantage of our victory and our revolution that the oppressed Coloured and Indian people must be won over to our side and mobilised for the fight; and for that matter that as many of the privileged white group as possible must be detached from the fascist government, `compelled` to recognise the inevitable defeat of white minority rule and if possible recruited to the camp of revolutionary democracy; human liberty and equality.
This policy should not be misinterpreted and misunderstood as or confused with `liquidationism` or `nihilism`. The ANC never for a minute believed that there is no need or room for the South African Indian Congress, Coloured People`s Congress, South African Congress of Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party. Where national groups are concerned, the revolutionary potential of groups as such is influenced, among other factors, by the extent of the exploitation and oppression. The size of the national group and its political consciousness are relevant to its effectiveness. But to be effective to any degree and for its individual members to be fully involved the group must be organised. In other words we need to speak to the African people, to the Coloured people, the Indian community, the workers, the intellectuals, the youth, the christians, etc. - people who are always distinguishable and have great revolutionary potential.
This decision to integrate all revolutionaries - irrespective of colour and nationality into the external mission of the ANC -had another important dimension: a moral value. Here are members of the same movement faced with the same problems, striving for the same objectives of building a national organisation in which each revolutionary is a potential organiser in any community with direct benefit to the entire movement, and where he runs an equal risk of maximum penalty if captured by the enemy. In such a situation all revolutionaries and activists are of equal worth, and equally entitled to participate in discussions and decisions affecting the prosecution of a cause for which they have offered their entire lives as individuals.
The other question discussed at Morogoro was the formation of a machinery to deal professionally and adequately with internal reconstruction and propaganda, planning of the commencement of sustained guerrilla operations and injection back home of our trained personnel to form the core of the armed force. This was also meant to correct the imbalance between the work of our movement externally and internally; to correct our priorities and to bring home the idea of the primacy of internal needs and the fact that the only possible justification for our existence and activity outside the country is as an adjunct of the needs of the situation at home. This body was later called the Revolutionary Council, the majority of whose members were relieved of all external work and administration except in so far as this had a bearing on the military side.
This was viewed as an aspect of the `new structure` and `general reorganisation` which was demanded in the pre- conference discussions. In these pre-conference discussions one comrade warned that a `new structure` is an aspect of the problem because a `good structure` can also act as a yoke of slavery round the necks of those it is supposed to serve, thus exciting the desire to break it up into pieces. The `new` and `good structure` had to be accompanied by a human element i.e. better politically and militarily trained cadres. Another comrade made a clarion call:
`A change is required; a change of heart and a change of attitude; a change of outlook towards the forces of the revolution and the revolution itself.`