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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The Communist Threat

Mac was a staunch member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), a member of the Central Committee and of the Politburo. When the government adopted the total onslaught in 19__, the government of PW Botha brilliantly exploited the fear of whites that the communist menace was just a border's length away. South Africa was the last bastion of freedom, the west's staunchest ally in the war against communism, and it did not take long for frightened whites to believe that if the ANC took control of South Africa, it would, as a pawn of the Soviet Union, subjugate whites and ruthlessly impose godless communion and all that came with it. It has become the politically correct thing to disconnect whites' fears of black majority rule and their fear of communion, and to decry the latter as a matter of whites using communism to mask their racism. But this is too simple. The fears of communism were genuine, as genuine as they were in other parts of the world, which were brought under the vast umbrella of western propaganda.

President Kennedy's going eyeball to eyeball with chairman Khrushchev in 1963 in the Cuban missile, his speech at the Berlin Wall I am a Berliner" in 1964, the escalating war in Vietnam, the propagation of the domino theory as divine writ, the experiences in Africa where countries upon achieving independence embarked on experiments with Marxism with uniformly disastrous results the stories coming out of the Soviet Union regarding Gulags, the banning of religions were all part of the Cold War. And, in this context, with Marxist leaning governments on its borders Mozambique, Angola, and SWAPO bearing down in Namibia, it is not difficult to understand that the whites of South Africa, living in a society where the flow of information was strictly controlled by the government, it is hardly that the barrage of propaganda had the desired effect, especially since it allowed whites to believe that they were aligned with the west in some special way, thus reducing their feelings of psychological isolation. South Africa was part of the west part of the civilized world.1

In contrast, Mac was in Berlin, when the Berlin wall was erected in 1963 and he fully supported the GDR's decision. Even the twisted strands of barbed wire that made it virtually impossible to cross over to the western side. He had been to West Berlin on many occasions during his stay in the GDR. He enjoyed the theatre there, the availability of more book stores, the wider range of cultural activities, but rejected its decadent consumerism. He accepted at face value the GDR's rationale for erecting the wall that it was necessary because goods, which were cheaper on the West German side, were being purchased by East German smuggling rings and sold in the East, thus undermining its economy. He was at this point a fully committed Marxist/Leninist. The overthrow of the capitalist system and all its manifestations was the mast to which he had lashed himself. Mac accepts the contradiction: if he through his prism saw no evil, heard no evil, and could easily countenance the erection of the Berlin wall on the grounds the GDR offered to the public, then whites in South Africa through their prism who saw evil, heard evil, and were aghast at the erection of the Berlin Wall were no different than he was. Both were prisoners of their respective ideologies.

Communism impeded the gradual recognition in the mid 1980s by people such as Neil Bernard that at the end of the day the government and the ANC would have to engage in a dialogue.2 In his autobiography, FW de Klerk emphasizes that had it not been for the fall of the Berlin Wall, his initiatives in releasing Mandela and undertaking that South Africa would resolve its conflict at the negotiating table would have come to naught. To dismiss white fears of communism as so much camouflage is disingenuous, given the circumstances of the times. The fact that they associated the ANC with communism was because of the ANC's alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP), and its dogmatic insistence that it would maintain the alliance no matter what repeatedly reinforced what whites already thought.

How did Mac's beliefs as a member of the SACP clash with the ideology of the ANC, and when clashes occurred, to which did he give allegiance, and why? And why did he leave the party in 1990 after a 37 year membership when so many of his colleagues, especially the likes of Joe Slovo, and Chris Hani remained steadfast?

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.