The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) is the youth wing of the African National Congress. Its foundation in 1944 by Anton Muziwakhe Lembede (1914-1947), Ashley Peter Mda, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo marked the rise of a new generation of leadership of South Africa's black African population. It developed a manifesto in 1944 and published a program in 1948.
By the end of the 1940s, the Youth League had gained control of the African National Congress. It called for civil disobedience and strikes in protest at the hundreds of laws associated with the new apartheid system. These protests were often met with force by the South African Government. In 1950, 18 blacks were killed during a walkout while protesters including Mandela were jailed and beaten for their opposition to the Government.
Thabo Mbeki became active in the Youth League in 1956 and was expelled from high school in 1959 as a result of participation in a strike. In 1959 many ANCYL members broke away to form the rival Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). In 1960, the PAC, ANC and its associated organisations had been banned. Mbeki organised a stay-at-home in protest at the South African Government's decision to leave the Commonwealth of Nations before leaving South Africa at the suggestion of the ANC.
In April 1944 they came together to found the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). Their goal of political organisation and action was the achievement of true democracy,
i.in South Africa and
ii.in the rest of the African continent.
In such a true democracy all the nationalities and minorities would have their fundamental human rights guaranteed in a democratic Constitution. In order to achieve this the Congress Youth League and/or the National Movement struggles for:
a.the removal of discriminatory laws and colour bars;
b.the admission of the Africans into the full citizenship of the country so that they have direct representation in parliament on a democratic basis.
Mandela soon impressed his peers by his disciplined work and consistent effort. He was elected to the Secretaryship of the Youth League in 1947. In 1948 the National Party came to power in Southern Africa.
Within the ANC, a small group of young Africans banded together calling themselves the African National Congress Youth League. Their goal was to transform the ANC into a mass grassroots movement, deriving strength from millions of rural peasants and working people who had no voice under the current regime. Specifically, the group believed that the ANC's old tactics of polite petitioning were ineffective. In 1949, the ANC officially adopted the Youth League's methods of boycott, strike, civil disobedience and non-cooperation with policy goals of full citizenship, redistribution of land, trade union rights, and free and compulsory education for all children.
For 20 years, Mandela directed a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies, including the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He founded the law firm Mandela and Tambo, partnering with Oliver Tambo, a brilliant student he had earlier met at Fort Hare. The law firm provided free and low-cost legal counsel to unrepresented blacks.
Our struggle for freedom has a long history. It goes back to the days when the African people fought spear in hand against the British and Boer colonisers.
The ANC Gains New Life - 1940s
The ANC was boosted with new life and energy in the 1940s, which changed it from the careful organisation it was in the 1930s to the mass movement it was to become in the 1950s.
Increased attacks on the rights of black people and the rise of extreme Afrikaner nationalism created the need for a more militant response from the ANC. Harsher racism also brought greater co-operation between the organisations of Africans, Coloureds and Indians. In 1947, the ANC and the Indian Congresses signed a pact stating full support for one another's campaigns.
In 1944 the ANC Youth League was formed. The young leaders of the Youth League - among them Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo - based their ideas on African nationalism. They believed Africans would be freed only by their own efforts. The Youth League aimed to involve the masses of people in militant struggles.
Many more people moved to the cities in the 1940s to work in new factories and industries. They began to from their own community organisations - such as the Squatter's Movement - and trade unions. The militant ideas of the Youth League quickly found support among the new population of the cities. The Youth League drew up a Programme of Action calling for strikes, boycotts and defiance. It was adopted by the ANC in 1949, the year after the National party came to power. The Programme of Action led to the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s.