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University of KwaZulu-Natal | Political Science Essay: The Freedom Charter | Pols 307- SA: Apartheid & After |

Cindy Chamane 212518239

Communism can be defined as an ideology whereby everyone within a particular state is regarded as equal. It is an ideology that is all about having an equal society or state in the sense that people of a communist state earn the same salary regardless of their profession. The Freedom Charter is a document drafted in the early 1950’s. It can be described as a document that contained the aspirations and hopes of black people during the Apartheid era of the kind of South Africa they envisioned to live in some day. Chief Albert Luthuli stated in his biography, Let My People Go, that the Freedom Charter was a statement of aims. It is a classification of the goals of our liberation movement; it was the aggregate of our national democratic aspirations and the new democratic life that we need. On the foundation of the Freedom Charter are the foundation stones of our principles of freedom and democracy. Imperialism can be defined as big states taking advantage of weaker states and exploiting the weaker states for their resources so that the bigger states can expand or grow. The Freedom Charter can be regarded as a communist document and this essay aims to explain why this statement is not true.
When the white colonies came to settle in South Africa early in the late 19th century early 20th century, they came with the idea of suppressing the African middle class so as to prevent any growth of any kind. In doing so, they were able to gain full power and control over the rest of the ethnic groups that were there at that time. As time went on, the exploitation of these colonies increased and so they found themselves trapped with no escape. The introduction of Bantu education meant that black people were only taught what they needed to know, in accordance with the apartheid government, nothing more. However, there was a select few who got to further their education or studies and these people were a part of the black middle class. This middle class, much like in the French Revolution, consisted of the leaders of the movement.
The introduction of the freedom charter affirms that the people shall govern. This declaration is one that brings the intention of a democratic state. The concept of such a state entails a democratic nation. The aim of the freedom charter was nothing more than one of a democratic capitalist land. It goes on to declare equality in terms of voting rights, these were pretty customary, basic human rights that were compulsory to attain for any human being. Then it states that the people should be entitled to the administration of the country and this is where the document again discloses its true purpose.
The line which declares that the land shall be shared among those who work it, speaks of the eradication of the restrictions of racial government laws from possession of the land but not the actual ownership. This clause is all about the removal of restrictions of ownership of the land but not that the white people should give back the land they took from the blacks. In this sense, the continuation of the current owners of certain pieces of land will remain as is only that, the previously oppressed racial groups could now be able to own land. This clause also speaks of the continuation of the exploitation of the working class and the peasants. When it speaks of “those who work it” it relates to the entrepreneurs and the middle classes of the state, meaning that they are the ones who are entitled to the ownership of land and that they will share it among themselves.
There’s a clause that speaks of the country’s wealth and that the people should have equal rights of trade, this statement or clause is one of a capitalist view. It again speaks of the country’s wealth being restored to ‘the people’; the people in this context are the middle class society, the well-educated black people who were the leaders of this democratic movement. If the aim of the freedom charter was one of a communist state then there would be no clause of freedom of trade because in a communist state the whole wealth of the country is evenly shared amongst all its civilians.
Another clause in the freedom charter speaks of people having the freedom of settling their wages. This yet again shows the true intention of this document as a capitalist document. If the true intent of this document was one of a communist approach then wages wouldn’t be settled or agreed upon simply because in such a state the wages are exactly the same for everyone regardless of their profession or expertise. The aspirations for democracy in the freedom charter are nothing but endeavours to prolong capitalist wage slavery. The buttress of this point follows from fact that the Freedom Charter isn’t keen in on overthrowing the various class segments. This means that the existing industrialist relations will continue, therefore a working class will continue to exist and will still be exploited. The fact that they even go to such lengths so as state the working hours to be done per week is testimony to the objective of the middle class to take advantage of the working class. If the freedom charter was a communist document then it would have aimed to overthrow the classes within societies just as one of the most absolute rules of communism. Secondly, there would be no mentions of people having the freedom to trade with whoever they please.
In conclusion: The Freedom Charter speaks of nation building and nation pride. This document was created so as to bring the country together. Although it had no plans of alleviating the classes that existed, it’s aim was one that would allow the select few blacks who were previously oppressed the opportunity to contribute to the country’s wealth and of course to create their own wealth. Obviously the people who drafted it didn’t take into consideration that the gaps in-between the classes within the societies would grow significantly therefore creating more issues for the country but that’s a story for a different day. The issue at hand right now is the fact the Freedom Charter was aimed to fight against the apartheid laws that had numerous restrictions for non-whites, preventing them from living their lives freely as they are entitled to as human beings. Communism is an ideology that aims to equalise everyone and have a classless system. To achieve the status of being a communist state, the Stalin commencement of a 2 stage revolution would have to be undertaken. Whereby firstly the overthrowing of the current economic system has to occur this is known as national capitalism, and then this should be followed by an unknown impending stage of National Socialism. This however, did not happen since this wasn’t the aim of the freedom charter. The expansion of capitalism in South Africa is therefore shaped by imperialist finance capital. Of which, the Freedom Charter is rather silent about. This denotes that the Freedom Charter does not foresee a resistance against the oppression by imperialism. If imperialist domination is not going to be challenged, then it would pretty much indicate that the ‘nationalisation clauses’ of the Freedom Charter are an obscure cover for a segment of the black middle class to become the subordinate capitalist associates of imperialism in South Africa. The Freedom Charter in its essence was a democratic document that was put in play to continue the system of capitalism without any restrictions to all races. Its aims were to eradicate the apartheid laws but not the classes that within that system as a means of paving the way for the African middle class to enter the corporate world which with the fall of the apartheid laws meant a barrier free system. Nowhere in this document does it speak of a class-less system which is the very foundation of a communism. This document was a way for the oppressed middle class people to have access to the resources of the country in its entirety so as to continue the exploitation of the working class civilians and increase their wealth. Looking at South Africa today, there has been no change whatsoever of the system since the adoption of the freedom charter to a communist state. If the true intention of the freedom charter was to equalise everyone in the state then that would have been the first order of business for the first democratic president of the country. Instead, he continued with the system as is and just ensured that there was peace within the country because he knew the true intentions of this document. The freedom charter’s ideology or true essence can vary dependent on the perspective taken, even so, observing it closely it has become rather quite apparent that it was never a communist document at all...

Workers International (2008). Freedom Charter Critique. Online Source: (Accessed 7 March 2015)
F, Mzala. The Freedom Charter And Its Relevance Today. Online Source: (Accessed 7 March 2015)
African National Congress Website. The Freedom Charter. Online Source: (Accessed 7March 2015)
Google. The Freedom Charter. Online Source: Dorothy C. Woodson. (2008) Albert Luthuli and The African National Congress Biography.Online Source: http:// (Accessed 7 March 2015)
African History. The Freedom Charter. Online Source: (Accessed 7March 2015)
C.R.D., Halisi. (1999) Black Political Thought in the making of South African Democracy, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
The New World Encyclopedia. The Russian Revolution of 1917. Online Source: (Accessed 7 March 2015)
V.I., Lenin. (1999) Imperialism The Highest Stage of Capitalism. Online Source: (Accessed 16 March 2015)
B, Jones. (2005) International Socialist Review 44. Online Source: (Accessed 16 March 2015)

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