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Article

'We, the South African Bolsheviks': The Russian Revolution and South Africa

Journal of Contemporary History. 2017. Vol. 52. No. 4. P. 935-958.

In South Africa the Russian Revolution was admired by socialists and nationalists alike. The National Party soon stopped praising the Bolsheviks, but the effect of the Revolution on the nascent Communist Party was important and lasting. South African communists closely watched developments in Soviet Russia and established relations with the Communist International (Comintern) even before the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was born. The Party’s ideology and policy were shaped by the Comintern’s ideas and instructions.

           

In the 1920s and 1930s the struggle around the the Comintern-imposed slogan of the independent native republic and the Comintern’s campaigns for ‘bolshevisation’ nearly brought the party to its demise. But it survived, and its leadership took the Comintern’s ideals and ideas into the post-war era. The Comintern’s theoretical legacy, particularly its idea of a two-stage (national and socialist) revolution proved long-lasting. This idea became entrenched in the programs of the African National Congress, the party of national liberation and since 1994, the party of government. Even today a significant proportion of South Africa’s black population cherishes the vision of a radical revolution and demands its implementation.