Briefing from ROAPE Volume 3 Number 7
Black Consciousness

Black Consciousness
Vol.3 No.7 (Winter 1976), pp112-117
We present below a series of extracts of documents of the Black Consciousness movement. They articulate a new mood of anger, resistance and militancy, and an unequivocal rejection of white domination in all its forms, political, economic, psychological and cultural. Black consciousness is a term adopted by a range of groupings - notably by SASO, SASM, BPC and BAWU, but also by many other groups as well: theatre and other cultural and community groups, educationalists, journalists, theologians. The Black Consciousness Movement contains within it a whole number of different views and tendencies: there are broad common themes, but no single coherent philosophy. It seeks to instil the idea of self-determination in the black community: to restore feelings of pride and dignity to blacks after centuries of racist oppression, to restore to them the knowledge of their own history and to assert their right to make history. Apartheid-inspired institutions are roundly rejected: the Bantustan policy in particular, also Bantu Education and the Urban Bantu Councils - Collaborationists - such as Bantustan leaders - are identified and denounced: the notion of working within the system is rejected. There is a strong identification with national liberation struggles (as evidenced by the pro-FRELIMO rallies on the occasion of Mozambican independence). In line with this, South Africa's detente policy is exposed as a sham. Spokesmen of the movement do not advocate the need for armed struggle - which would of course court immediate reprisal from the State - they speak of the need for blacks to come together and close ranks. White paternalism is rejected and white radicals are exhorted to show their support by playing an enabling role (see BAWU piece below). Clearly there are differences of approach to the question of political organisation, tactics, and armed struggle itself. There are also differences about the character of South Africa's economy and class formation - it is here, perhaps, that the Black Consciousness movement is least coherent or unified, in its ideology as much as in its practice. Some espouse a philosophy of black communalism, or humanism, while others envisage a struggle against capitalism and imperialism.