“Setting the Free Thinker Free”: The Use of an Activist Archive to Analyze a Pivitol Moment in the History of the South African Communist Party (SACP)

David P. Thomas


This article draws extensively on an activist archive held at the University of Witwatersrand in order to analyze an important historical struggle within the South African Communist Party (SACP). A critical history of the crucial debates taking place within the SACP in the late 1990s is constructed from this archival material in order to explore the expulsion of Dr. Dale T. McKinley from the Party in 2000. The article argues that the expulsion of McKinley was a pivitol moment in the history of the SACP, and helps us understand the post-apartheid trajectory of the Party. Expelling McKinley fulfilled the SACP leadership’s goal of managing dissent at the rank-and-file level, and ensured that the Party’s loyalty to the ANC would remain an integral aspect of its strategy and tactics. Moreover, the use of this activist archive was absolutely essential in (re)constructing this critical story about the Party’s history.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/wjssr.v6n3p283


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