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South African Communist Party, 1953–present

Allison Drew


Formed as an underground party in 1953, the South African Communist Party (SACP) is the successor of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) launched in 1921, and banned in 1950 with the Suppression of Communism Act. While the CPSA had generally stressed working-class organization and class struggle, the SACP emphasized close collaboration with the African nationalist movement. The SACP's politics should be understood in terms of its relationships with both the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). From its birth–at a high point in the Cold War–the SACP prioritized alliance politics over the development of an independent profile. In turn, the party's commitment to the liberation struggle protected it for decades from pressure to address its relationship with the USSR. Most South African communists joined the party because of their desire to fight apartheid . They were then acculturated into an international communist world to which they remained loyal. Thus, following the criticism of Stalin at the CPSU's 1956 twentieth congress, party stalwart Michael Harmel applauded the CPSU for condemning the cult of the individual that had developed around Stalin, while praising Stalin for promoting economic development and fighting Trotskyism. The South African government rationalized the apartheid system of white minority rule in part by ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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