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Communist Party of South Africa, 1921–1950

Allison Drew


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Launched on July 30, 1921 after almost a year of discussion involving more than ten small socialist groups, the Communist Party of South Africa (Section of the Communist International) used a class analysis that explained racial and national oppression by reference to South African political economy. Its politics can be understood in terms of its changing relationships with the Communist International (Comintern), with the black labor movement and African nationalism, and with other local socialists. Like communist parties around the world, the CPSA's formation was propelled firstly by the October 1917 Russian Revolution , which seemed to demonstrate the feasibility of the socialist project, and secondly by the March 1919 establishment of the Comintern, which granted recognition to one communist organization in each country. The left groups that did not join the CPSA faded into oblivion. Initially, therefore, the CPSA, overwhelmingly white and comprising approximately 175 members in a country of seven million, enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the left. The absence of a successful socialist revolution in Europe underscored the Soviet achievement and strengthened the increasingly dominant belief that the Bolsheviks had the right answer, a belief buttressed in South Africa by successive waves of immigration from Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, there was considerable disagreement in the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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