The Tradition of the African National Congress: Maintaining Relevance

In 1990, Nelson Mandela ended an almost forty-year prison term on Robben Island where he had essentially been internally exiled along with other African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leaders by the apartheid government in an attempt to neutralize his political influence on the black South African population. Even after almost four decades of imprisonment, what Mandela represented, as a symbol of a movement to rid the country of minority rule, still resonated with anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. Because of Mandela’s influence and the ANC in exile’s international political maneuvering, the apartheid government was able to use Mandela as a bridge between South African whites and blacks to initiate democratic elections and majority rule. A few short years later in 1994, Mandela, along with the African National Congress, were voted into office as a result of the first universal democratic elections held in South Africa. This was certainly a victory for anti-apartheid activists. For the first time, the government was truly democratic and representative.

However, the rise of the ANC after the end of apartheid raises questions about how the movement maintained its legitimacy in the eyes of both South Africans (apartheid government and anti-apartheid activists) and the international community during exile. This paper will focus on how scholars have addressed the effectiveness of the ANC as a resistance movement and potential governing institution in the 1950s and during the exile period. Based on the available material, the ANC often lacked direction and ideological coherence and was unable to reach or appeal to a large portion of the black South African population. Other movements, like Black Consciousness and the Communist Party, were essential in pushing forward the anti-apartheid movement both within and outside the country. Moreover, this paper will examine debates about the organization’s relationship with other nationalist movements, including Black Consciousness, the PAC, and African Congress members.

During the years between 1992 and 2009, there is a relative lull in accessible sources written from a historical perspective that address the role of the ANC in anti-apartheid activities. This lull corresponds to the unbanning of the ANC and SACP in 1990 and the democratic elections held in 1994 that brought the ANC to power in South Africa. Some of the authors noted that after 1994 the ANC allowed all of its records from the exile period to be made available for study.[1] It is reasonable to assume that transporting and organizing these records required time, and then researching that archive took additional time. With the exception of Hugh Macmillan’s work, the early 1990s generally separates two types of scholarship that this paper addresses: pre-1992 literature like that written by Gail Gerhart (1979) and Robert Fatton (1986) that is mostly first-hand accounts or that relies on interviews and eyewitness testimony; and post-1992 literature that relies more heavily on archival research and documentary evidence, like Sean Morrow’s 1998 article on the Dakawa education camp.[2]

This paper will first look at the debates presented by scholars writing about the African National Congress in the 1950s and its relationship with other movements during that time period. Gail Gerhart (1979) and Robert Fatton (1986) argue that the organization lacked ideological coherence and that it failed to deliver on its promises. The failures of the ANC, along with its offshoot, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), led to a public backlash during the 1960s that caused people to avoid becoming involved in political movements that could draw the attention of the white apartheid authorities. Stephen Ellis & Tsepo Sechaba (a pseudonym used by Oyama Mabandla, 1992) and Daniel Magaziner (2010) argue that this fear created an opportunity for another movement, Black Consciousness, to come to the forefront. By presenting itself as a sort of self-help movement that was at first interpreted as non-threatening to the establishment, Black Consciousness was easily disseminated and kept the idea and possibility of African self-rule alive during the 1960s when the ANC and PAC were banned.

This paper will then look at the debates surrounding the ANC in exile. In 1992, Stephen Ellis and Tsepo Sechaba argue that the SACP took control of the ANC in exile, occupying key posts, manipulating votes and re-orienting the ANC along Party lines of armed revolution. In 2009, Arianna Lissoni presents an overview of the ANC in exile in the 1960s, arguing that the organization suffered an identity crisis in terms of its “image” as an African organization, creating stresses that led to the 1969 Morogoro conference. Sean Morrow (1998), Rachel Sandwell (2015), and to some extent Colin Bundy (2012) present scholarship focused on the day-to-day life of the ANC’s camps. They generally argue that the ANC was inefficient and moribund, essentially struggling to maintain itself rather than working towards the goal of anti-apartheid. In 2013, Hugh Macmillan presents a history of the ANC in exile in Lusaka, in an attempt to counter modern accusations that weaknesses in the South African ANC government is a result of the exile experience.

Other scholars, like Janet Cherry (2012) and Steve Davis (2012), focus more heavily on the dissolution of the connection between the ANC and black South Africans within South Africa itself. Janet Cherry’s analysis of violent versus non-violent tactics is highly theoretical but also includes analysis that shows that the ANC had become marginal in the armed struggle against apartheid due to a lack of communications with actors inside South Africa. To show how the ANC attempted to overcome this barrier, Steve Davis looks at the role and use of radio by ANC personnel, arguing that the system was poorly planned and had limited effect.

In Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology (1979), Gail Gerhart shows how policies of accommodation cyclically fell out of favor for a more African-centered political ideology. Gerhart’s work is a political history and presents an overview of the development of black national ideology rather than a particular critique or exploration of any one group or organization. She covers a broad time period, from the founding of the ANC in 1912 to the banning of the South African Student Organization and Black People’s Congress in 1973. This presents particular difficulties in finding coherent arguments about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the organizations she is analyzing. The author indicates in her conclusion that she is hesitant in forming arguments or conclusions about the ANC, since she is writing about an ongoing conflict and does not have the benefit of hindsight.

Gerhart is generally critical of the ANC as an organization. Throughout her text she refers to the ANC as having no sound or consistent ideology to present to the public at large.[3] She is not alone in this assessment. In Black Consciousness in South Africa: the Dialectics of Ideological Resistance to White Supremacy (1986), Robert Fatton also argues that the ANC lacked ideological coherence, though he presents his analysis through the lens of Marxism and class struggle.  He attributes the failure of the early ANC to properly mobilize and actively engage in revolutionary activities to their attachment to entrenched “white” ideas of class membership. Fatton sees the “old guard” of the pre-1948 ANC leadership as being too infatuated with their status as members of the petty bourgeoisie to be capable of conceiving of an alternative ideological framework, and consequently a new system.[4] As a result, the organization was unable to achieve their goals.[5]

Both Gerhart and Fatton demonstrate that the ANC changed and shifted direction constantly. This can be viewed as an organization being realistic and pragmatic, but it also shows a clear lack of vision and a lack of any clear plan for reaching self-government or what that self-government might look like and who might be included. In addition to not having a clear ideological position, Gerhart argues that the lack of a clear goal turned the ANC into a “tradition”, rather than something one believed in. She compares membership in the ANC to membership in the local church: casual, traditional, and mostly composed of women, children and the elderly. This is a damning criticism of the ANC and shows that it had no connection with the public at large. Gerhart writes that:

Few in the ANC were prepared to admit to any ideological shortcomings, but it was evident by the late 1950s that the ANC was taking a line which no longer adequately reflected the mood of the urban African, or in particular the impatience of the urban youth. … as an organization it had now begun to lag behind the times, a captive of its traditions, its allies, and of the world view of its prestigious older leaders.[6]

The ANC then, as a movement, did not speak to the people. Other organizations and streams of thought stepped in to fill this gap, though Gerhart argues that they too had their failings.

Organizations like the Pan Africanist Congress, South African Student Organization, Black People’s Congress and early thinkers like Anton Lembede and even the early ANC Youth Leaugers, all adhered to the “rebel” stream of thought in African nationalist politics, which promoted an African centered theory of government, to one degree or another. In Black Power, Gerhart explains that in most cases, these early adherents of “Africa for Africans” ideology generally “mellowed” and became realists, attempting to work within the existing white apartheid framework of government.[7] The ANC was primarily representative of this racially inclusive stream of thought. However, together with other groups like the PAC, Steve Biko’s SASO and the Black People’s Congress, which promoted more militant ideologies, the ANC was banned and exiled by the apartheid government because it threatened the existing order. Gerhart argues that all of these organizations generally lacked proper planning, clear structure or goals. For example, she argues that the PAC failed to gain traction because it did not do enough grassroots organizing.[8]

Gerhart’s narrative essentially shows that all black political movements were ineffective during the period she writes about. Cycling between ideologies of ethnic solidarity, racial inclusiveness, and African-centered or African-only political ideologies, there was no cohesiveness to African political expression. Of course, expecting there to be one theory of proper politics from any group is unrealistic, but Gerhart clearly shows that the resistance movement as a whole was fragmented and disorganized. Additionally, these movements were restricted to small, educated and typically urban circles and had little impact on rural black Africans. Gerhart argues that the only movement to make any progress in that field was Black Consciousness, which appealed not only to students, but also to African clergy in independent churches. She also notes that Black Consciousness made inroads with the average black African because it included symbols and nonverbal language, like the raised first, that uneducated and illiterate people could understand and identify with. Black Consciousness, Gerhart writes, was not just a philosophy, but a “mood” with which all Africans could identify.[9]

Gerhart shows that Black Consciousness was more effective in reaching the people and reflecting the attitudes of average Africans than the ANC, but she questions whether or not Black Consciousness will remain relevant, describing it as a transitional philosophy that will outlive its usefulness.[10] In that respect, she is arguing that the ANC has something that Black Consciousness does not: lasting power.[11] She consistently shows that the ANC has established itself as a hallmark of African life and, while not particularly effective, has been able to stay active in one form or another, a feat no other anti-apartheid organization had managed to duplicate. This in itself, Gerhart agues, was its own form of currency. Gerhart only passingly mentions the ANC’s ban and the group’s subsequent ineffectiveness in the country, but her emphasis on the popular appeal of Black Consciousness further undermines the idea that the ANC was consistently the driving force in African political thought during the apartheid period.[12] At best, it was a symbol of a legacy of resistance to apartheid.

In Black Consciousness in South Africa: the Dialectics of Ideological Resistance to White Supremacy (1986), Robert Fatton builds on Gerhart’s analysis of Black Consciousness by analyzing its development and progress through the lens of Marxism and revolution. He argues that prior to 1948 the anti-apartheid movement failed as a revolutionary ideology and primarily focuses his attention on the rise of Black Consciousness, the ideology and movement attributed to Steve Biko.[13] Fatton’s interpretation of events is an attempt to marry Marxist class struggles with Black Consciousness, which promoted an independent system of values that would essentially place black men on their own, equivalent scale, separate and apart from white conceptions of civilization, values, and achievement. Black Consciousness was the idea that Africans were just as inherently valuable and worthwhile as whites, and that their culture and ideas were just as valuable, on their own, and did not have to be held in relation to white values and culture, or placed on some sliding scale of achievement created by white intellectuals.

Fatton analyses the history of ideologies that gave birth to the Black Consciousness Movement as well as other groups’ reactions to it. Most notably, he mentions the ANC’s view of the movement as a transitional stage that the ANC had already passed through, which was likely an attempt to delegitimize Black Consciousness and maintain supremacy as the sole legitimate representatives of the anti-apartheid movement and black Africans in South Africa.[14] This is important in understanding how little relevance the ANC actually had. The organization felt the need to “get in front of” a new movement and delegitimize it. This tactic indicates the ANC was reacting from a position of weakness and attempting to remain relevant in the face of a fresh and growing movement, rather than speaking from a position of strength. As an organization that had been relegated to a “tradition”, with a membership of mainly the elderly and children, the ANC had lost the initiative.

In addition, when Black Consciousness was gaining in popularity, Gerhart notes that the ANC was mostly dormant in South Africa because of the banning orders, internal imprisonment, and external exile of the organization in the 1960s.[15] Writing much later, in 1992, Stephen Ellis and Tsepo Sechaba would reach the same conclusion, as would Arianna Lissoni, writing in 2009. Ellis and Sechaba write that the arrests at Liliesleaf Farm in 1963 of the leadership of the ANC and Imkhonto we Sizwe (MK) rendered the ANC and SACP inactive in South Africa. Steve Biko, the Black Consciousness movement’s founder, had no connection with or interest in either the ANC or the SACP because neither one had any remaining power or influence in the country. Steve Biko had only just begun to think in terms of creating a political framework when he was assassinated in prison. Ellis and Sechaba argue that Black Consciousness was able to spread because the apartheid government hoped that the ideology would help to legitimate and promote the idea of separate African homelands (Bantustans). In some cases this did work, leading former ANC and PAC leaders to give up the struggle and head “home”.[16] The movement did, however, lay the foundation for continued resistance to apartheid, as well as widen the rift between the ANC and black South Africans.

Gerhart notes that the rise of Black Consciousness psychologically prepared urban black youth for confrontation with whites and was accepted to such a degree among Africans that it created a shift away from accommodation in politics. One could no longer operate within the white-defined political system and be seen as legitimately representing black South African interests.[17] This is significant in terms of the ANC’s effectiveness as a representative of South Africans during this period and after unbanning, since the organization promoted a non-racial, inclusive and democratic government for South Africa along existing institutional lines. Despite this inconsistency, Black Consciousness and its effects were indispensable to the anti-apartheid movement during the years when the ANC could not effectively communicate with or organize people inside South Africa. In The Law and The Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968-1977 (2010), Daniel Magaziner writes that “Black Consciousness filled the gap between the 1950s and early 1960s and the younger generation of activists who emerged in the wake of the Soweto protests of 1976.”[18]

Magaziner analyzes the Black Consciousness Movement from a perspective that is almost the exact opposite of that taken by Fatton. Where Fatton tries to fit the movement into a paradigm of class struggle with a teleological conclusion, Magaziner is attempting to avoid grand political narratives. Rather he wants to analyze process, positioning his work as intellectual history, something that he says is not popular in South African history because it is not popular or democratic, referring to popular literature that attempts to paint a rosy picture of the anti-apartheid movements.[19]

Magaziner looks at the period in the mid- to late-1960s and early 1970s as a time when ideas were fermenting and solidifying into an ideology that came to be termed Black Consciousness. Magaziner defines Black Consciousness as “multiple and contingent, subject to debate and change,” but also “an ethic, a way of life, a being for change that was supposed to saturate and fundamentally alter an entire society.”[20] Magaziner sees the Black Consciousness movement as having sold out on its original principles when it aligned itself politically, but that does not take away from the effectiveness of the organization in promoting the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa when the ANC and other groups were unable to do so.[21]

In relation to the ANC and PAC, Magaziner shows that Black Consciousness was consistently thought of as a “baby organization,” because of the movement’s early emphasis on philosophy and deference to older organizations in terms of political action. However, the South African Student Organization (SASO), of which Black Consciousness was a part, soon took an active role in promoting anti-apartheid activities. Magaziner describes the movement as having grassroots support and being at the cutting edge of black opinion in South Africa.[22] In other words, Magaziner agrees that the ANC had lost relevance in South Africa, especially among the younger generation, and Black Consciousness stepped in to fill the ideological gap.

The exile period was a time of internal disintegration for the ANC. Writing in 1992 in Comrades Against Apartheid: The ANC & the South African Communist Party in Exile, Stephen Ellis and Tsepo Sechaba argue that the organization had given up its ideological stance of multi-racialism and inclusiveness and had adopted an African first policy in order to appeal to African nations that they came to rely on for help and sanctuary. Arianna Lissoni focuses on this transformation in a 2009 article titled “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960-1969.” She provides an overview of the nature of the Congress Alliance in the 1950s and then argues that the idea of multi-racialism was undermined by pragmatic concerns when the organization attempted to restructure itself in exile. She notes that after Nelson Mandela returned from a mission in Africa to find support for the ANC, he expressed concern about promoting “the image” of the ANC as being authentically Africa in order to appeal to other African nations that the ANC relied on for sanctuary and support. This became an important point of discussion at meetings and a vote was taken that situated the ANC as the first among equals in order to create the right “image.”[23]

Ellis and Sechaba’s work is an outlier in terms of its position on the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Soviet Communist influence on the ANC as an organization. They argue that the ANC had essentially disappeared in all but name, with key posts being taken over by SACP members and votes being manipulated to conform to Party lines.[24] According to the introduction of Comrades Against Apartheid, Sechaba, Oyama Mabandla writing under a pen name, was an ANC and SACP member in the exile community and is writing from a position of insider knowledge. The claim that the ANC in exile was “[dancing] to the tune of the Communists” was not new when Comrades was written, however.[25] According to Lissoni that had been a common accusation beginning as early as the 1950s.[26]

Lissoni seems dismissive of the idea, as does Hugh Macmillan, who directly criticizes Ellis and Sechaba’s work in his introduction to The Lusaka Years, 1963 to 1994: The ANC in Exile in Zambia in 2013. He applauds Comrades Against Apartheid for revealing some of the excesses of the ANC’s security department in Angola and the mutinies that took place there, which Lissoni mentions had been covered up by the ANC, but goes on to call their work “marred by a conspiratorial view of history and profound anti-communism.”[27] Macmillan goes on to criticize Ellis’s solo reworking of the same book as equally poor for including the same thesis of the SACP hijacking the ANC and for overemphasizing the influence of Moscow in the organization.[28]

Given Ellis and Sechaba’s analysis, the claim that the ANC was run by Communists was likely due to the ANC’s policy of inclusiveness in contrast to the rest of Africa’s Pan-Africanist mentality. Ellis and Sechaba also argue that the SACP had a long-term plan in place to take over the ANC and redirect its fight for liberation into a revolutionary “People’s War” that would establish a socialist order. Macmillan probably disagrees with this as well, but weighing one scholar against another is difficult without a larger understanding of the issue involved.

For the purposes of this paper, it is enough to note that Macmillan is presenting and promoting a point of view that limits Communist and Soviet influence on the ANC in exile, while other scholars are promoting the view that the SACP and Moscow had some degree of influence. Considering the investment that Moscow made into the liberation movement, it seems reasonable to believe that the Soviets would have expected something in return for their help. Not only does that mesh with the overall atmosphere and terminology used in the ANC (commissar, comrade, etc.), it fits into the reality of Cold War politics in the “third world,” which in general expected a commitment to one side or the other in exchange for economic aid.

Lissoni notes that the issue of participation and inclusion in the ANC was constantly brought up by both former ANC members and members of other groups formerly in the Congress Alliance. She also notes, interestingly, that after a meeting in Morogoro in 1966, a non-public sub-committee of non-African organization members was established to facilitate coordination, including with the Communist Party, finally allowing them to have some degree of influence.[29] Ellis and Sechaba would argue that the Communist party already had all of the influence it needed. If Ellis and Sechaba are correct, the reasons for not opening membership were likely unchanged from the previously noted pragmatism towards maintaining support from African countries for the armed struggle against South Africa.

Ellis and Sechaba argue that the ANC had so completely been subsumed by Communist Party ideology that its very nature had changed. It was no longer an umbrella organization, but rather had become a socialist movement with commissars, education programs meant to instill Soviet-socialist ideology and a heavy emphasis on military revolution. The authors also note the disproportionate amount of energy and time put into military training and preparations for an armed struggle that failed, since it never arrived.[30]

According to the authors of Comrades against Apartheid the influence of the Communist party negatively impacted the ANC by misdirecting the majority of supplies and resources into armed struggle to conform to an imported Communist ideology. The atmosphere of the ANC was altered and became heavily socialist, paranoid and involved internal checks to enforce adherence to Communist ideology. [31] One could argue that this was a justified move in order to maintain the support of a super power (the USSR), but in the process the ANC as an organization disappeared in all but name and failed to accomplish its mission. The international solidarity that led the way to ending apartheid was triggered by the Sharpeville Massacre, which was associated with the PAC. Also, Arianna Lissoni writes that later efforts to mobilize international support for the isolation of South Africa and the end of apartheid was largely organized by those people who had been denied official ANC membership because of skin color.[32]

Ellis and Sechaba also note that the end of the cold war played a major role in ending apartheid. A situation was created that simultaneously denied the ANC its international military support while also diluting the Marxist influence in South Africa’s neighbors. Combined with the financial incentives of ending international isolation and normalization with her neighbor countries, Ellis and Sechaba argue that this gave the South African government the justification it needed to unban the ANC and SACP, which was the first step in ending apartheid.[33] Considering the major implications the end of the Cold War had for the world in general and the authors’ temporal proximity to the event, it is possible that this influence is overstated. If the ANC lost its military backer, that would be more of a reason for the South African government to continue apartheid. It is more likely that international isolation in general and the opportunity for financial growth played larger roles in the decision making process.

Of the articles on the ANC in exile explored in this paper, many are narrow in focus. They use particular situations or places as lenses through which to understand life as an ANC exile. For example, in an article titled “Dakawa Development Centre: An African National Congress Settlement in Tanzania, 1982-1992” (1998), Sean Morrow analyses the role of education in the ANC’s external mission, demonstrating a change in the organization’s focus from short-term exile to long-term self-sustainment with a diverse population.[34] Also, in “’Love I Cannot Begin to Explain’: The Politics of Reproduction in the ANC in Exile, 1976-1990,” Rachel Sandwell addresses changing perceptions of the ANC’s mission over time through the lens of women’s roles as mothers and revolutionary fighters. Both authors are critical of the ANC. Morrow shows that attempts were made to gain international support for education programs at Dakawa, near Morogoro in Tanzania, but through mismanagement of services and personnel, the program became a site of exploitation and punishment. Sandwell similarly shows that there was a consistent effort to use the Charlottes as a positive place to support and free women from the responsibilities of motherhood in order to engage in revolutionary work, but through administrative mismanagement the institution became a site of punishment.

Sandwell shows that initially the Charlottes were meant to be a place that freed women from the responsibilities of motherhood in order to engage in the struggle against apartheid. She then argues that in the ANC, women’s attitudes towards motherhood and family changed over time as it became obvious that there would not be a quick victory and return to South Africa. The ANC was ineffective in engaging with apartheid in a meaningful way, leading to apathy and the feeling of needing to settle down among ANC members. In Sandwell’s study, this was reflected in the way that women changed their minds about having their children stay with them in their current location.[35] ANC exiles were scattered all over Africa, Europe and Russia, but the ANC only set up one maternity center in Tanzania at Morogoro. The houses were not well built and were not constructed specifically to serve as maternity centers. The approach the ANC took was piecemeal, which would lead one to think the organization did not originally see maternity as a priority.

Later, as time passed and it became obvious that there would be no quick return, attitudes towards unattached, single mothers changed. Pregnancy came to be viewed as a lack of dedication to the cause and women were punished by sending them to the Charlottes, with their “sentences” reduced in exchange for breastfeeding their own children.[36] Money was often requested to build a real maternity ward according to the original intent of the Charlottes as a place to free mothers for ANC work, but that money was never provided.

Janet Cherry’s article, “The Intersection of Violent and Non-Violent Strategies in the South African Liberation Struggle” (2012), complements the work done by Morrow and Sandwell. Cherry analyzes the use of violence in securing the transition to a democratic, fully representative government in South Africa. In her article, Cherry presents evidence and analysis by security police analysts and underground ANC members that acknowledge that MK did not have the strength necessary to overthrow the apartheid regime. She also presents an assessment by a military intelligence colonel named Lourens du Plessis who believed mass action and international pressure, rather than armed struggle, were key to ending apartheid. In other words, mass action inside South Africa and international pressure from other countries was more important than anything the ANC in exile necessarily accomplished. The ANC had put a lot of effort and resources into providing military training for its personnel, but the organization lacked the requisite skill and equipment to actually take on the South African defense forces, leading to changing perspectives on the nature of living in exile, as noted above.

One of the more interesting concepts raised by scholars like Morrow, Sandwell, Lissoni and Cherry is the way that the desires of ANC members to actively do something to further the fight against the apartheid government was blocked, leaving them with pent up frustrations that had no available outlet. Lissoni’s article also notes the disaffection in the MK with the ANC’s leadership, but Hugh Macmillan really develops this idea in The Lusaka Years, 1963 to 1994: The ANC in Exile in Zambia (2013). Macmillan’s writing seems less academic in style. The text reads like popular history, especially since he uses endnotes rather than footnotes. He uses a considerable amount of archival research, oral testimony, personal experiences, secondary sources and even unpublished dissertations in his work, however, so that is less a criticism and more an observation on style. More unusual is the fact that his writing seems apologetic and glorifying in tone. It lacks the same critical tone common in other writing on the ANC.

Regardless, in Macmillan’s work on the ANC in Lusaka, the issue of diminishing morale stands out. He seems to indicate that this became a problem with the failed Sipolilo and Wankie raids.[37] He notes Chris Hani’s observations of a lack of morale and direction and then details the effects of the Hani Memorandum on the leadership of the ANC, which the authors of the 3000 word document accused of becoming career, salaried, globe-trotting bureaucrats that had turned the ANC into an end unto itself.[38] The document was not well received.

Macmillan also attempts to put the ANC in Lusaka in context with other movements, the most similar being the Palestine Liberation Organization’s establishment of extensive camp networks in Southern Lebanon. He shows that the ANC and Zambian leadership were not unaware of the similarities and that Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Zambia, feared that Lusaka might become the target of reprisals, as was the case with Beirut.[39] By the 1970s, Macmillan notes that the MK in Lusaka had been disarmed. The men lived in the towns with Zambian civilians and the trained fighting men being kept busy with vegetable gardening. Oliver Tambo thought these men should be sent for education or training, but many lacked educational qualifications, something noted by Sean Morrow in his analysis of Dakawa in Tanzania.[40]

It was almost as if, for lack of forward momentum, the ANC external mission began to turn in on itself, becoming trapped in a spiral of self-accusation and self-destruction. Lissoni’s article ends on a hopeful note, with the argument that the Morogoro conference of 1969 showed a willingness to work together and create something better, but Morrow, Sandwell, Ellis and Sechaba all demonstrate that issues of poor leadership and the inability of MK to be effective continued through the end of apartheid.

For example, Dakawa, a facility near Morogoro that was originally conceived of as an adult education center, became a site of punishment and exploitation, with training programs set up that gave people just the bare essentials in terms of knowledge so that they could engage in ANC work programs, but not necessarily have marketable skills. Dakawa was in operation until the end of apartheid. Apathy was reflected in the use of dagga (marijuana), alcohol, and an unwillingness to engage in physical labor.

Both Morrow and Sandwell show that ANC officials, cadres, paramilitary members and other exiled South Africans were acculturating to a life external to their country, with towns and welfare systems developing around self-support and maintenance.[41] This mirrors Macmillan’s argument that the MK rank and file became disaffected with a leadership that had committed to being “career bureaucrats” with large paychecks in exile, rather than revolutionaries. The ANC had stopped being a revolutionary movement and had instead set itself in a holding pattern.

In Colin Bundy’s article, “National Liberation and International Solidarity: Anatomy of a Special Relationship” (2012), the author examines the working relationship between the African National Congress and the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM). An interesting idea introduced in Bundy’s article centers on ideas of community and identity formation, which is relevant in relation to the articles written by Sandwell and Morrow. Bundy relates feelings of disconnectedness among people and families that were exiled from South Africa and shows how the AAM and ANC stepped into the gap, becoming cultural anchors that maintained community cohesiveness and solidarity.[42] The fact that exiles recognized and felt at home in ANC/AAM exile institutions shows that there was some degree of continuity between what was happening inside South Africa and in exile culturally. However, Bundy’s article also raises the question of the legitimacy of the ANC as a government in exile.

If the ANC had become a disconnected government in exile, with only other exiles as constituents, how well did the organization represent the actual will of black South Africans within South Africa? And, if the ANC and AAM were jointly creating a national identity among exiles, complete with education institutions and the management of sexual ethics, how did that identity compare to the national identity being formed within South Africa? Bundy reveals that there was a political and cultural disconnection between the “outside” and “inside” anti-apartheid movements and a parallel development of identities. Ellis and Sechaba also note that returning ANC leaders experienced culture shock. They noted that there were layers of removal from the South African reality, including those who had been interned at Robben Island, those in exile, and those who had lived in South Africa for the duration of the struggle.[43]

Janet Cherry’s analysis of violent versus non-violent strategies reveals that the external ANC leadership was unable to adequately communicate with the underground network inside the country, leaving the internal leaders to take the initiative while waiting for some “grand strategy to unfold.”[44] In other words, there was a distinct lack of a coherent plan of action or any means of implementing plans for anti-apartheid activities within the country. In an article by Steve Davis on the use of radio, addressed more fully below, Davis elaborates on this lack of a coherent strategy on the ground by pointing out that during the first two years of MK’s operations (1961-1963) there was only a vague notion among regional commanders in South Africa that they had to put pressure on the government. They supposed that if they could destabilize the economy, the “masses” would rise up and MK could lead them to victory.[45] There was no consideration of the logistics of arming these masses, just a notion of spontaneous action and victory. This is very similar to the idea presented by Ellis and Sechaba that the SACP wanted to initiate a “People’s War” through the ANC at some indeterminate point in the future.

Like Bundy, Janet Cherry also dismisses the role of the ANC in the liberation struggle as marginal. She describes Imkhonto we Sizwe members as being heroes after-the-fact and presents the ANC as being ideologically symbolic rather than practically effective, and certainly not as an organization at the forefront of the struggle.[46] If the ANC had largely become an “outside” organization and was ineffective in organizing or supplying internal anti-apartheid actions, militant or otherwise, then how did it maintain popularity and public support? Was it simply the best of bad choices? Or was it the organization’s legacy status, mentioned in 1979 by Gail Gerhart as a tradition, similar to belonging to and attending church? In his article, “The ANC: From Freedom Radio to Radio Freedom” (2012), Steve Davis explains one method the ANC attempted to use to maintain its status among the South African population.

Davis analyzes radio usage by the ANC as a lens through which to explore the ANC’s relationship with the anti-apartheid movement within South Africa. The physical proximity of friendly countries allowed the ANC’s exile leadership to attempt to remain relevant within South Africa by broadcasting messages over radio from neighboring countries. Unfortunately, the ANC never presented a clear plan of action and seemed to be more interested in fighting to stay relevant at home than fighting to actually free South Africa. As Janet Cherry noted, Imkhonto we Sizwe lacked the ability to actually engage with South Africa militarily, so the radio messages were merely rhetoric. Davis notes that the first broadcast did not appear to be planned or well thought out, but rather an act that signaled the desperation of the MK leadership to maintain momentum and legitimacy.[47]

However unplanned and potentially ineffective the use of radio was, it was the best option available to MK and the ANC and, if nothing else, reflects the adaptability of the organization.  Davis notes that the failure to “incorporate radio into a coherent plan for political mobilization within South Africa from the late 1960s into the early 1970s” was the result of “ongoing internecine conflicts within the ANC/SACP [(South African Communist Party)] alliance” that was formed in exile.[48] Ellis and Sechaba mention this infighting, noting that the organization’s military effectiveness was likely affected by the attempt to “neutralize” military and political leaders of opposing factions. They do not make clearly articulate whether or not they think this would have made a real operational difference.

After surveying these books and articles, it becomes apparent that the ANC had only a limited role in the actual popular uprisings and protests within South Africa after their banning. Existing scholarship is fairly consistent in its evaluation of the ANC as reactionary and generally ineffective, overly preoccupied with internal rivalries and gaining financial welfare. A major debate seems to be the amount of influence the USSR and the South African Communist Party exerted over the ANC in exile.

Even before the banning, the ANC is described as being reactionary at best and was unable to develop or maintain a coherent strategy. Existing scholarship seems fairly consistent in its presentation of the ANC as a type of heritage or legacy organization that had symbolic currency with the average South African. The ANC earned early recognition as leaders against apartheid, but its real strength was simply the organization’s ability to survive long enough to emerge at the end of the struggle mostly intact. Defiance of apartheid alone was socially significant.

Many of the leaders in the ANC were educated and education in South Africa was generally limited to those who came from upper-class backgrounds. It would be interesting to see research done on how black South African ideas of proper social customs affected their loyalties to the ANC and other political organizations. In other words, how much of their loyalty was based on ideas of traditional leadership being autocratic. How much influence did tribalism have in dictating loyalties among those who were generally uneducated? And, in terms of the modern conclusion to the anti-apartheid struggle, how does the legacy of being unrepresentative of actual South Africans affect the ability of the ANC to effectively rule South Africa?


[1] For example: Arianna Lissoni, “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960-1969,” Journal of Southern African Studies 35.2 (June, 2009): 287-288.

[2] For some early histories of the ANC that are not addressed in this paper, see: Peter Walshe, The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa, The African National Congress 1912-1952 (Christopher Hurst, London, 1970); John Pampallis, Foundations of the New South Africa (Zed Books, London, 1991); Mary Benson, The African Patriots (London: Faber & Faber, 1963); Heidi Hollander, The Struggle: A History of the African National Congress (New York: George Braziller, 1990); Stephen Davis, Apartheid’s Rebels: Inside South Africa’s Hidden War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). For primary documents of the early history of the ANC, see: Thomas Karis and Gwendolen M. Carter (eds), From Protest to Challenge, a Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964 4 vols., (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1972-77).

[3] For example: Gail M. Gerhart, Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology (Perspectives on Southern Africa, 19) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 88.

[4] Robert Fatton, Jr., Black Consciousness in South Africa (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 7.

[5] In Black Power (1979), Gerhart also addresses the issue of relative standards of achievement and the importance of understanding self-worth outside of a European framework (p.6, 111). She emphasizes the role of external black influence in guiding black South African thinking, especially in terms of ideology imported from other African countries and the American South, for example W.E.B. Du Bois (pp. 273-277). Additionally, she shows that the ANC had become ineffective, leading to the rise of organizations like the ANC Youth League and PAC (p. 49).

[6] Gail M. Gerhart, Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology (Perspectives on Southern Africa, 19) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 215.

[7] Ibid., 292.

[8] Gail M. Gerhart, Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology (Perspectives on Southern Africa, 19) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 226.

[9] Ibid., 294-295.

[10] Ibid., 311.

[11] Ibid., 214.

[12] Ibid., 249.

[13] Robert Fatton, Jr., Black Consciousness in South Africa (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 3.

[14] Ibid., 135.

[15] Gail M. Gerhart, Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology (Perspectives on Southern Africa, 19) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 249-251, 315.

[16]  Stephen Ellis and Tsepo Sechaba, Comrades Against Apartheid: The ANC & the South African Communist Party in Exile (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 69-71.

[17] Gail M. Gerhart, Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology (Perspectives on Southern Africa, 19) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 296, 315.

[18] Daniel R. Magaziner, The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968-1977 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010), 3.

[19] Ibid., 5.

[20] Ibid., 5, 187.

[21] Ibid., 181.

[22] Ibid., 141-150.

[23] Arianna Lissoni, “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960-1969,” Journal of Southern African Studies 35.2 (June, 2009): 292-293.

[24] Stephen Ellis and Tsepo Sechaba, Comrades Against Apartheid: The ANC & the South African Communist Party in Exile (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 6, 41, 52-60. For an example of this type of political maneuvering within the ANC by SACP members, see South African Communists Speak. Documents from the History of South African Communist Party 1915-1980 (London: Inkululeko Publications, 1981), 408-17. Also: Tom Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa Since 1945 (London: Longman Group United Kingdom, 1983), 302-303.

[25] Arianna Lissoni, “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960-1969,” Journal of Southern African Studies 35.2 (June, 2009): 291.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Hugh Macmillan, The Lusaka Years, 1963 t0 1994: The ANC in Exile in Zambia (Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd, 2013), 10.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Arianna Lissoni, “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960-1969,” Journal of Southern African Studies 35.2 (June, 2009): 293-297.

[30] Stephen Ellis and Tsepo Sechaba, Comrades Against Apartheid: The ANC & the South African Communist Party in Exile (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 200-201.

[31]Ibid., 125, 200-201.

[32] Arianna Lissoni, “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960-1969,” Journal of Southern African Studies 35.2 (June, 2009): 293.

[33] Ibid., 203.

[34] Sean Morrow, “Dakawa Development Centre: An African National Congress Settlement in Tanzania, 1982-1992,” African Affairs 97 (1998): 497, 504. Morrow’s article relies on primary research of African National Congress records from the exile period that had just been deposited in the Liberation Archives at Fort Hare and opened to the public, as well as interviews.

[35] Rachel Sandwell, “’Love I Cannot Begin to Explain’: The Politics of Reproduction in the ANC in Exile, 1976-1990,” Journal of Southern African Studies 41:1 (2015): 81.

[36] Ibid.: 78-79.

[37] Hugh Macmillan, The Lusaka Years, 1963 t0 1994: The ANC in Exile in Zambia (Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd, 2013), 71.

[38] Ibid., 71-74.

[39] Ibid., 64.

[40] Ibid., 101.

[41] Sean Morrow, “Dakawa Development Centre: An African National Congress Settlement in Tanzania, 1982-1992,” African Affairs 97 (1998): 501-502.

[42] Colin Bundy, “National Liberation and International Solidarity: Anatomy of a Special Relationship,” in Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, ed. by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2012), 218-220. For more information on families in exile see: Tom Lodge, “State of exile: the African National Congress of South Africa, 1976-86,” Third World Quarterly 9.1 (1987): 1-27; the chapter titled “Family in exile” in Luli Callinicos’s biography of Oliver Tambo; Hilda Bernstein, The Rift: The Exile Experience of South Africans (London: Johnathan Cape, 1994).

[43] Stephen Ellis and Tsepo Sechaba, Comrades Against Apartheid: The ANC & the South African Communist Party in Exile (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 205.

[44] Janet Cherry, “The Intersection of Violent and Non-Violent Strategies in the South African Liberation Struggle,” in Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, ed. by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2012), 144.

[45] Steve Davis, “The ANC: From Freedom Radio to Radio Freedom,” in Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, ed. by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2012), 118.

[46] Janet Cherry, “The Intersection of Violent and Non-Violent Strategies in the South African Liberation Struggle,” in Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, ed. by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2012), 148.

[47] Steve Davis, “The ANC: From Freedom Radio to Radio Freedom,” in Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, ed. by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2012), 119.

[48] Ibid., 126.




Cherry, Janet. 2012. “The Intersection of Violent and Non-Violent Strategies in the South African Liberation Struggle.” In Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, edited by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, 142-161. Cape Town: University if Cape Town Press.

Colin, Bundy. 2012. “National Liberation and International Solidarity: Anatomy of a Special Relationship.” In Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, edited by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, 212-228. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.

Davis, Steve. 2012. “The ANC: From Freedom Radio to Radio Freedom.” In Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional, and Global Perspectives, edited by Hilary Sapire and Chris Saunders, 117-141. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.

Ellis, Stephen, and Tsepo Sechaba. 1992. Comrades Against Apartheid: The ANC & the South African Communist Party in Exile. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Fatton, Jr., Robert. 1986. Black Consciousness in South Africa: the Dialectics of Ideological Resistance to White Supremacy. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Gerhart, Gail M. 1979. Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology. Berkely: University of California Press.

Lissoni, Arianna. 2009. “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960–1969.” Journal of Southern African Studies, June: 287-301.

Macmillan, Hugh. 2013. The Lusaka Years (1963-1994): The ANC in Exile in Zambia. Johannesburg: Jacana.

Magaziner, Daniel R. 2010. The Law and The Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968-1977. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Morrow, Sean. 1998. “Dakawa Development Centre: An African National Congress Settlement in Tanzania, 1982-1992.” African Affairs, 497-521.

Sandwell, Rachel. 2015. “‘Love I Cannot Begin to Explain’: The Politics of Reproduction in the ANC in Exile, 1976-1990.” Journal of Southern African Studies, January 9: 63-81.

The Role of Equality in the Formation of Government According to Hobbes and Locke

Comments on this assignment by the professor (including its weaknesses) are at the bottom of the post. Note that this was written using only the text in Leviathan chapters 4, 13-18, 21 and The Second Treatise on Civil Government chapters 1-9, 19. And, not necessarily all of those chapters. That was just the assigned reading.

Both Hobbes and Locke use the equality of men in a state of nature as a starting point for their theories of the rise of government. Equality plays an important role in how they conceive of government as arising and the form that government takes, but Hobbes and Locke see men’s equality in the state of nature in different ways. Hobbes’ view of equality is essentially negative. He argues that no value judgments can be placed on equality, or men in a state of nature, because there can be no such things as justice and injustice before a government exists to legislate what is right and wrong, but Hobbes’ view of equality is one in which men have no restraint and are prone to violence. All men exist in a state of equality, where every man is looking after himself to the detriment of all of other men. His conception of government then is as a force that compels restraint for the common benefit of all. Locke, on the other hand, conceives of man in a state of nature as being essentially good, and interested in the well-being of their fellow men. All men are at liberty to do what they want, when they want, but because they are equally the property of the creator, they do not have the authority to damage one another, and when they do, justice must be dispensed. Government arises when men, in the interests of preserving the universal rights of life, liberty, and health, as dictated by God, require a method of meting out justice that is fair and balanced.

Hobbes believes that all men are essentially equal, not necessarily as individuals, but as a whole. Even when two men are of unequal strength, the weaker man can still kill the stronger, either through planning or by allying himself with others to accomplish the task. Because of this, Hobbes believes that men cannot claim that they have any inherent benefit that is not also possessed by every other man. No matter your physical or mental ability, you have an equal opportunity to succeed, and that equal opportunity for success is what Hobbes views as an equality of men.

Because men are equal, Hobbes also believes that men in a state of nature have equal desires, which would inevitably lead them into conflict with each other (Hobbes, 55). Wherever a man possesses something of value, he can be reasonably sure that another man wants what he possesses and will attempt to take it from him. The only way a man can attempt to prevent this is through competition, by building up forces of his own until he is in a position where he cannot be threatened by others. This is a social structure that cannot be avoided (Hobbes, 55). Even if a man were to be satisfied with what he has and not engage in conflict to gain what others have, other men would still come to gain what he has. Similarly, Hobbes also says that men would engage in conflict over issues of status or reputation (Hobbes, 56).

So, in addition to an equality of potential, Hobbes posits that men in a state of nature are also equally in a state of perpetual conflict with one another, which Hobbes calls the state of war. This state of constant conflict is not desirable, because man cannot live his life with any certainty or security. Each man relies on his own strength and intellect and competes with other men on an even footing, but the only guiding principle that men in this state live by is “The Right of Nature,” which claims that each man has the freedom to do whatever is required of him to preserve his own life, up to and including the use of other peoples’ lives (Hobbes, 57-58).

Because men in a state of equality would be most concerned with fear of death and a desire for comfortable living, Hobbes says there is a “general rule of reason” that states that every man should work for peace and only engage in war when he has no hope of obtaining it (Hobbes, 58). To work for peace, Hobbes says that man should give up his natural right to everything and be content with having limits to what activities he can engage in against his neighbors. In exchange, man can reasonably expect that his neighbors will also surrender their rights (Hobbes, 58). In that way, man gains security against premature death and the ability to enjoy the result of his labor while remaining on an equal footing with other men. Men remain equal because the natural right to all things that a man gives up to gain security does not disappear or become abandoned. It is transferred to his fellow man. This mutual transfer of the natural right is what creates the limitations that allow men to live in peace. Hobbes calls this transfer of rights a contract, which is the basis of government (Hobbes, 59).

Because Hobbes supposes that men are naturally interested in self-advancement at the expense of their fellow men, enforcing a contract requires the existence of something that is capable of compelling men to fulfil their obligations. When man exists outside of government, there are only two forces that pressure him to honor his obligations: God and fear of retribution by the men he offends by breaking his contract. Outside of government, Hobbes says that the more powerful of the two is man’s fear of his fellow men, because though God is more powerful, other men and the consequences they might impose are more immediate (Hobbes, 63). But, given the opportunity, a man might decide that he is powerful enough to overcome those he has contracted with and re-enter a state of war. The only method of compelling peace is by creating a civil government that can impose a penalty harsher than any expected gain on people who violate their contracts (Hobbes, 64).

Throughout this process, men remain equal. In a state of perpetual warfare, men have equal and unlimited rights against each other for their own preservation or gain. When men enter into contracts, they both agree to give up a certain amount of rights against each other so they can be secure in their lives and property. When entering into a civil government men agree to give up more rights, including their right to break their covenants, without facing repercussions from the civil government, but still remain equal to one another in their rights and new obligations.

John Locke’s theory of government also involves the idea that men are equal when in a state of nature, where they are in “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man” (Locke, Kindle eBook location 454). However, where Hobbes believes that men in a state of nature are essentially evil and remain in a state of constant aggression against one another, Locke believes that men are essentially good and that men in a state of nature would not generally be inclined to inhibiting the rights of other men, as all men are equal before God and therefor equal to each other. This feeling of equality is described as that of creations before their creator, who do not have the authority to bring harm to others who, like themselves, were created. Locke calls this a rule of “reason and common equity,” established by God for man’s mutual security (Locke, Kindle eBook location 493).

This rule of reason and common equity states that men have a responsibility before God to not take away or impair another man’s life, liberty, health, or goods (Locke, Kindle eBook location 482). When men do violate God’s rule of reason and common equity, Locke says that every man has an equal right to punish the transgressor, because there is no superior authority among men (Locke, Kindle eBook location 502). Every man possesses executive power and can act as a judge, inflicting punishments up to and including the penalty of death, if that is what is required to prevent the commission of a particular type of crime (Locke, Kindle eBook location 532).

Where this state of nature fails is in man’s inability to be the judge in his own case, since man cannot reasonably be expected to find against himself when judging. To overcome this problem of partiality, man creates political society, where men equally surrender their natural rights to the community, which is assumed to be capable of judging disputes fairly and impartially (Locke, Kindle eBook location 1214). So, the equality of the state of nature gives rise to the need for every man to be responsible for punishing offenses, and because man cannot be impartial in his own case, that in turn causes man to relinquish his rights to the community, which forms a government that punishes crimes impartially. Equality is still maintained, as every man equally gives up his right to executive power.

Equality plays a major role in both Hobbes’ and Locke’s theories of man in the state of nature and their reasoning regarding the formation of governing institutions. Hobbes’ sees this equality as man’s equal right to everything, which necessarily must be regulated to create any sort of security, so that man can live comfortably. In Locke’s view, man is equal in the sense that every man is equally responsible for not harming his fellow men and for passing judgment on those who do. This equality of responsibility creates a need for impartial adjudication, which requires an equal passing of rights to the larger community. For both Hobbes and Locke, the process and result are essentially the same, where man begins with complete freedom of action and progresses to a state of being governed, but the problem that presents the need for change are of two opposing visions of man in his natural state: one good and one bad.



Hobbes, Thomas. 2004. Leviathan [with Biographical Introduction] [Kindle Edition]. Amazon Digital Services, Inc.:

Locke, John, and C. B. Macpherson. 2011. Second Treatise of Government (Annotated) [Kindle Edition]. Amazon Digital Services, Inc.: Hackett Publishing Co.

“[Professor’s] Comments: This paper is well-written and well-organized. It’s focused and does a good job working through the relevant dimensions of the text. One element lacking in the Hobbes’ discussion, however, is the determining role that scarcity plays in the conditioning of behavior (and as such, it is scarcity not some inherent evilness that causes man’s behavior). Likewise, in Locke’s nature, initial equality is replaced by scarcity and in inequality, which then requires the creation of government (as a result of currency). Since these dimensions of their thought impact some of the main assertions of the paper, they really needed to be tackled, But even without them, this is a very strong paper. Good work.”

The 2012 Manila Flood

Back in 2009, Typhoon Ketsana, known locally in the Philippines as ‘Ondoy’, dropped a lot of water on Manila in a short amount of time and caused extensive flooding.  I remember there was a lot of public concern outside of the Philippines for the well-being of the people, not just in the Philippines but in the other countries affected.  A lot of sympathy was shown.  I think there were even international donations sent to the Philippines.

Manila Flooding 1

Manila is just recovering from another bout of flooding.  Over the last week or so, Manila and surrounding provinces were covered by flood waters, affecting about 2.4 million and killing 65 (as of writing) in what was described as the worst flooding since Ondoy.  I only found out because I’m still subscribed to the US Embassy newsletter for the embassy in Manila, and the offices were shut down for quite a few days because of heavy flooding on Roxas Boulevard.

I was struck by the contrast between this flood and the last, when almost everyone seemed to know what was going on.  It could be that I was biased, of course, since I was in Asia at the time and news probably tends to give more coverage to local big events, but my wife, who is from the Philippines, didn’t even know there was any flooding until long after it started.  I knew first, because of the embassy newsletter.  I assumed she knew.  I assumed she’d seen it in the news, but I guess it just wasn’t in the news.

I was wondering why there is so much less coverage this time.  I think there are two reasons: it doesn’t sell and no one cares.  With the action in Syria and the Olympics, who has time to talk about flooding in a third world country?  It’s not like the massive flooding in 2009 that affected multiple countries.  And of course, there’s the feeling that Filipinos just didn’t learn.

The flooding was caused the first time around through a lack of proper drainage and littering.  There was so much garbage in the streets, in the rivers, jammed into the drains and drainage ditches that the water couldn’t pass through adequately, making a bad situation a lot worse, so now that Manila is flooding again, you can’t help but feel that they didn’t learn their lesson from last time.  When I say that no one cares, I don’t mean that no one is concerned about the hardships that people face in that sort of situation; I mean that people find it harder to pity people who are suffering from self-inflicted tragedies.

Filipina girl crouches on cement pillar to avoid flood waters
Filipina child crouches on cement pillar to avoid flood waters.

And there are tragedies.  A few years ago I visited my sister-in-law’s house for her daughter’s birthday and I remembering thinking how lovely the house was.  Now it looks like this:

Flooded kitchen at a home in Pasig City
Flooded kitchen at a home in Pasig City

It’s going to take a lot for people to rebuild their lives and their homes again.  Where does a person even begin in their cleanup efforts?  I can’t imagine how much work it’ll be for people to fix their houses and businesses again.  Hopefully, this time, the hardships suffered will make people think harder before dropping trash on the ground, and make them push harder for their government to take real steps toward improving drainage in and around the city.

Not that this is anything but sort of related, but I thought the image below is worth sharing.  I found it on a bulletin board, claiming it’s from the recent flooding in the Philippines.

Under the Sea
Filipina dressed as Ariel, making the best of recent street flooding. “Under the sea… under the sea…”

Alabama Attempts to Usher in a New Dark Age

Officials in Bay Minette, Alabama delayed a new program that would allow some nonviolent offenders to choose church over jail after a civil liberties group objected.

The “Operation Restore Our Community” initiative was slated to begin this week, but the southwest Alabama city’s legal team will take another look after the American Civil Liberties Union sent a cease-and-desist letter Monday.

via Reuters

What were they thinking?  The officials in Bay Minette, I mean.

I saw a small article about this tucked into a corner of an issue of the NY Daily News a few days ago and decided to look up more information about it online.  The Daily article didn’t mention anything about the ACLU or a protest; it was just all glowing and positive, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the reporter had suddenly forgotten about the separation of church and state provision in the US Constitution.

Reading the Daily article, I was mentally transported back to a time (a.k.a. the Dark Ages) when the Church presided over the sentencing and punishment/rehabilitation of criminals.  I thought we’d covered this ground already and gotten past it with that whole Enlightenment thing that happened in Europe.  The founding fathers of this country didn’t introduce the separation of church and state into the Constitution on a whim.

The officials mentioned in the article are trying to hide the obvious, that this is a drive to get criminals on the ‘right path’ by converting them to Christianity through extended exposure.  They’re instead claiming the weekly ‘check-ins’ are just for the purpose of accountability, and to access community based resources to help them fix their lives.

I wonder if such a thinly veiled excuse to get people into local churches will stand up in court?  I wouldn’t be surprised, since people can win lawsuits over spilled hot coffee, but I can’t believe that anyone would have thought that this would be OK, or that it would be true to the principles that this country stands for.  I’m not against churches.  I’m not against Christians practicing religion, but when you give someone an option of going to jail or going to church for a year, it’s not really a choice at all.  It’s more like a European telling natives in a newly ‘discovered’ land that they can either convert or be sold into slavery, or perhaps killed.  Freedom under a new religion will be preferable to a loss of liberty for most people.

There are reasons why church and state are separated in this country.  The US is diverse.  There are people of all faiths here and people who choose not to have any faith at all.  It’s one of our freedoms, and we should never be forced to choose between going to church or going to jail, even if the person in question is guilty of a crime.  A secular law system requires secular consequences.

The US is Broke, So Let’s Give Away More Money!

The Obama administration plans to give the Libyan opposition $25 million in non-lethal assistance in the first direct U.S. aid to the rebels after weeks of assessing their capabilities and intentions, officials said Wednesday.

via Yahoo! News, via AP

Really?  Last I heard schools in the United States were being shut down left and right due to budget constraints.  Teachers are being laid off by the dozens.  Unemployment is massive.  Our infrastructure is falling behind in comparison to other first world countries to the point that we’re almost at par with places we consider third world countries.  Our deficit is 14 trillion dollars.  We’re about to hit our borrowing cap and they’re talking about raising it so we can put ourselves even more in debt.  Pretty soon, Americans won’t own America anymore.  Our credit rating is plummeting as a nation.  They’re talking about cutting our social welfare programs that benefit American citizens who have (mostly) paid into the system.  Companies from other countries are outsourcing to the US because we’re now the cheap labor force.

So, in other words, our country is falling apart around us.  Almost every government agency in the country is in a crunch for money.  We’re borrowing 40 cents on the dollar from other countries.  So, what’s our best option?  Pissing away money on other country’s problems.  Giving money to Libyan Rebels that, more than likely, will be our enemies in 10 years, is a much better option than giving 25 million back to Social Security, or using it to keep schools open, or sending it to soup kitchens to feed the hungry and homeless here in the United States.  I know what it is.  Obama knows he’s not getting reelected, so he doesn’t give a shit about the people that elected him anymore.  He’s going to screw our country up as much as possible before he gets out of office.  Good job, dude.

Isn’t it past time we stop worrying about other people’s problems?  I think so.  The 7k+ comments on the news article I read were overwhelmingly negative, so I know I’m not alone in thinking that the American people deserve to have our money spent here at home.  Who the hell appointed us as the world’s police anyway?  Those other countries don’t want us meddling in their affairs.  The fact that they’re saying it and blowing our shit up should be enough of an indicator for anyone with half a brain to realize they don’t want us there.  So, why do we keep giving them money and keep interfering militarily in their affairs?

I’m not saying we should become strictly isolationist again, but I think we should pull back from world affairs, stop borrowing, stop spending on international problems, and focus on our own country’s problems.  I like how people try to claim that foreign aid is only a small portion of our budget, but even a small portion of the US’s budget is a huge amount of money that could be redirected to domestic programs.  Then you have to wonder how much better our country would be if the billions upon billions of dollars wasted on wars had been spent in improving our national infrastructure and education systems.

How can we help our neighbors fix their houses when our own home is burning to the ground?

When Is It Ok To Limit Free Speech?

Before you start reading this, let me give you some background information on why it was written.  I’m taking a 100 level (introductory) American Government and Politics course at CCNY.  We were given an assignment that involved writing a 5 to 6 page essay paper on one of three topics.  I chose the third topic:

3) John Stuart Mill argues that government must never censor its citizens, no matter what their opinion. Yet despite having a Bill of Rights, in the U.S. our civil liberties are subject to some limitations. Do you agree that our freedom of expression must sometimes be constricted? Why? To answer this question, you must 1) describe what the Founders wanted to achieve by adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution, 2) detail the limitations that the Supreme Court has developed over time on either our freedom of speech OR religion, as well as their reasoning for these limitations, and 3) argue, in light of Mill’s theory, whether or not these limitation are legitimate.

Information that’s quoted in the essay is either linked to within the essay, or can be easily looked up, in the case of amendments.  The excerpt of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” that was used to write this paper (as provided) is linked to at the bottom of the post.

Section titles have been added to make it clearer for reading on the web.

(If you came across this while researching for your own paper, please keep in mind that professor’s know how to use Google too, so don’t cut and paste my work and claim it as your own, unless you want to run the risk of being expelled for plagiarism.)



The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads, “Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech”.  Freedom of speech is the ability for citizens to express ideas or opinions without fearing government retribution. Free speech is incredibly important, and powerful.  When there are public disturbances or revolts in other countries, free speech is often the first thing to be taken away from citizens, most often accomplished in modern times by shutting down the country’s Internet access and/or directly controlling information sources.  The First Amendment is one of the ten amendments that compose what is known as the Bill of Rights, and, since its adoption, has been one of the most contentious and well-known of the rights American citizens possess, often leading to Supreme Court cases which have determined the constitutionality of certain types of speech.  Despite the importance of free speech, many of these Supreme Court cases show a clear record of limiting of free speech, when it is in the best interests of the public at large.  To understand why the right to freedom of speech is important, but why it should sometimes be limited, it’s important to understand the origins of the Bill of Rights, to examine Supreme Court cases where the right to freedom of speech was at issue, and to balance it against John Stuart Mill’s ideas as expressed in his book, “On Liberty.”


Why Were The Bill of Rights Added and How Does It Relate To Free Speech?

The right to freedom of speech is not guaranteed in the Constitution.  It was a right, added later, by the Bill of Rights, which is a list of the first ten amendments, approved by Congress and ratified by the States.  The Bill of Rights itself was a compromise.  As the Constitution was originally written, the majority of the Founders believed that a Bill of Rights wasn’t necessary, or that it would be redundant, since the rights of individuals were protected by the state constitutions and, as in the case of James Wilson, that “the federal government could exercise only those powers that were expressly delegated to it-and those powers did not extend to violating individual liberties” (James Madison and the Bill of Rights, Jack N. Rackove:  According to Jack N. Rackove, the director of the American Studies Program at Stanford University, James Madison in particular felt that a Bill of Rights was not only unnecessary, but dangerous.  Madison feared that by enumerating the rights of citizens, it would imply that other rights were not protected, or by improper wording, it would create loopholes that would allow for the violations of the very rights the amendments were meant to protect.  This is evident by his later proposal of what became the Ninth Amendment, which states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  This implies that common sense should be used when determining whether or not someone has an inherent right to do, say, or be protected from something not expressly mentioned in the Constitution or Bill of Rights, which could include protection from misuses of free speech.  It wasn’t until after the Constitutional Convention, when the states were in the process of ratification, that the necessity of a Bill of Rights became apparent.  One of the main arguments of the Anti-Federalists was that if the Federalists were really interested in protecting the rights of the citizens from a powerful national government, those rights would be enumerated and clearly defined (A More Perfect Union:  The Creation of the US Constitution (Introduction), Roger A. Bruns:  When it became obvious that ratification of the Constitution was in jeopardy, James Madison eventually gave in to popular opinion and peer pressure and admitted the need for a Bill of Rights.  Notably, Thomas Jefferson wrote Madison a letter in December of 1787, in which he said that a Bill of Rights is “what the people are entitled to against every government on earth”.  Madison began promising that after ratification (if elected to Congress) he would see to it that amendments were added to the Constitution that would be “the most satisfactory provisions for all essential rights,”(George Mason’s “Objections” and the Bill of Rights”, Robert A. Rutland: though he maintained that it was a “nauseous project” (Rakove).  As the Virginia Representative to the First Federal Congress, he drafted and proposed the amendments that became the Bill of Rights as we know them today.  From Madison’s strong objections to having a Bill of Rights in the first place, we can infer that when he was finally forced to write them, he took great care in what he selected as essential rights that every person should possess, and most people in the US today would likely agree that the right to free speech is one of, if not the, most important, because the ability to speak freely about all things, including politics, keeps the public informed regarding what our government is doing, both good and bad.  We couldn’t form a more perfect government without knowing knowing the imperfections of the then present government, and we can’t elect proper representatives today without having free access to information and the freedom to exchange ideas about their merits and deficiencies.  Given the then recent history of the country, it seems obvious that the desire for federally protected free speech was geared more towards freedom of political speech and expression, the peaceful exchanging of ideas without fear of retribution.  The founders of the country were generally well educated, and it would go beyond reason to assume that they’d want the First Amendment right to freedom of speech to imply that speech of a hurtful or obviously dangerous nature could be construed as Constitutionally protected under the Bill of Rights, and that line of thinking has been upheld by the Supreme Court in future generations.


Supreme Court Cases That Restricted Freedom of Speech

Supreme Court decisions have upheld the idea that free speech is important and protected, but that it sometimes must be restricted.  Schenk v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), is an important example of restricting free speech for the greater good of the country.  During World War 1, Charles Schenk distributed Socialist Party of America propaganda to potential military draftees, urging them to oppose the draft, since he felt it constituted a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment against involuntary servitude.  The court ruled against him, since his efforts created a situation that could undermine the safety of the country in a time of war.  In the unanimous opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote that “when a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.”  He went on to say that (emphasis added) “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.  […]  The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”  This set a precedent for judging when free speech is acceptable by whether or not it creates a clear and present danger to the public well-being.  In other words, it is partially the government’s responsibility to prevent the misuse of free speech, when it is clearly harmful or creates a dangerous situation.  Furthering that line of thinking is the outcome of Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), which introduced the ‘fighting words’ doctrine, which limited free speech for the sake of social stability and preventing breaches of the peace.  In November of 1941, Walter Chaplinsky was arrested and charged under a New Hampshire law that makes it illegal to use intentionally offensive speech, directed at others, in a public place (chap. 378, para. 2 of the NH. Public Laws).  In the unanimous decision, Justice Frank Murphy indicated that there are some types of speech that fall outside of the first amendment’s federally protected right to free speech.  He wrote that “There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech […].  These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting” words those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.  It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”  This decision both promoted the limiting of free speech for the purpose of preserving social stability and preventing subsequent illegal activity, as well as supports the idea that free speech, as protected by the first amendment, is solely for the purpose of the exchange of ideas that contribute some value to society.  The Supreme Court case Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957) also helped define when free speech should be limited.  In this case 14 people, members of the Communist Party USA in California, were charged with violating the Smith Act, but they argued that simply advocating a change in government wasn’t the same as actively attempting to overthrow the government.  The Supreme Court ruled that the Smith Act did not prohibit “advocacy of forcible overthrow of the government as an abstract doctrine.”  In other words, it wasn’t a violation of the first amendment to advocate doctrines, but it would be a violation to use free speech to advocate immediate calls to violent action.  These three Supreme Court cases show a continuing theme of limiting freedom of speech when it is necessary for the prevention of harm to the general public, or in some cases, to the government, or both, and support the idea that free speech, as protected by the first amendment, has a certain limited scope and is open to restriction.


Balancing The Limitation of Free Speech With John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”

In his book, “On Liberty”, John Stuart Mill said that, in regards to the limiting of free speech, “The best government has no more title to it than the worst” (Mill, 22).  He goes on to say that “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still” (Mill, 23).  Mill goes into great detail about how preventing free speech creates an assumption of infallibility, presuming that our idea is the only right one and is therefore the only one that should be heard.  He argues that, throughout history, ideas have been proposed, and that only through the test of discourse have any ideas been proven more correct than others, or that they are erroneous.  Mill says that wisdom can only be gained by defending a position against all comers, and that only after that defense of position can a man truly believe that his opinion is the correct one, even though he may at a later time be proven wrong by successive generations.  Throughout his work, however, we see that Mill is simply arguing for the free exchange of ideas.  At no point does he say (in the excerpt provided) that using free speech to create panic, injury, or danger is acceptable.  Based on his arguments in “On Liberty”, one could guess that he would consider such a use of free speech to be wholly criminal, and a perversion of what he argued so passionately for.



The creation of a Bill of Rights to accompany the US Constitution defined explicitly our right to free speech, guaranteed by the First Amendment.  However, nowhere in the First Amendment or elsewhere in the Constitution or the amendments does it say that we have the right to use free speech to endanger other people, the country, or to cause hurtful verbal injury to another person.  It can be inferred by examining the Constitution and Bill of Rights, considering the situation the Bill of Rights was written in, and other writings of the times what was actually meant by the term free speech and over the years successive Supreme Court cases have reinforced that idea.  It is safe to say that free speech has its limits, and those limits are well justified in being instituted.

Founded on God, or Founded on Freedom?


Someone I know was complaining on Facebook that people are forgetting that the US was “built on God but we can’t even pray now.”  I’m taking a US Government and Politics class right now, so this is fresh in my mind, and I think that people are forgetting what the country was founded on.  It wasn’t founded on God.  The country wasn’t built on God.  In fact, there is no mention of God, Christ, or Christianity in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, and there are reasons for that.

The only mentions of religion in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights are in Article 6, Clause 3, which says no religious test will be required to hold an government office, and in Amendment 1, which prevents the establishment of a national religion or government restriction of religious practices

Article 6, Clause 3 (emphasis added):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Amendment 1 (emphasis added):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Some of the foundering fathers were Protestant Christians for sure, and likely they didn’t expect the encroachment of non-Protestant Christian religions in US society, but they did see the necessity of ensuring that the government couldn’t make any decisions regarding religion, which I think includes not allowing the government to give any indication that it sponsors one religion over another.  The reason for this is that they were quite aware of the abuse of the system in England, where the English monarch was also the head of of the church.  This gave the government far too much power over people.  It’s better for people to be able to have the freedom to make their own choices in regard to religion, without having any one brand of religion forced down their throats by the government.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892. During a religious revival, “under God” was added in 1954, but, since that implies state sponsored religion, it’s a violation of the 1st Amendment and shouldn’t have been added in the first place.

God shouldn’t be mentioned in any government run institution and it shouldn’t be mandated by government that people are obligated to make oaths or pledges to or by God. That treads on ground the founding fathers implicitly said was outside the government purview, and denial of those powers is explicitly enumerated in the Constitution.  References to God shouldn’t be present in government buildings, courts, classrooms, or government offices, since it violates the Constitution.

The US wasn’t founded on God. It was founded on the principles of freedom and republican democracy.  However, I think our government is being too aggressive in telling students that they can not pray if they want to in a school. To me, that impedes practice of religion, since praying in school voluntarily isn’t hurting anyone, or implying sponsored religion. People should be free to worship, and the government should never imply that it sponsors a particular religion, but it also shouldn’t be preventing people from having an opportunity to pray, meditate, have an out-of-body experience, mentally prepare for the day, review notes, etc.