Deirdre Pretorius: "The Printed Propaganda of the Communist Party of South Africa 1921-1950"

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Deirdre Pretorius, University of Johannesburg: "The Printed Propaganda of the Communist Party of South Africa 1921-1950"

The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) came into being in 1921 and dissolved in 1950 in anticipation of being banned by the National Party government. It was relaunched as an underground party in 1953 under the name South African Communist Party (SACP), which was eventually unbanned in 1990. Before the 1950s there was no other South African political party like the CPSA as it was singular “in its commitment to socialism, its identification with the Soviet Union, its opposition to racial discrimination, the only political party open to all races, only party concerned to mobilise blacks, only political party whose primary focus was extra-parliamentary.”[1] From the outset the party produced printed propaganda, including an official newspaper, pamphlets and leaflets, and also large full-colour posters during the Second World War.

This paper provides an overview of the printed propaganda produced by the CPSA. The production, distribution, consumption and regulation of the printed propaganda are described, followed by a discussion of the representation and construction of identities in the images contained within the printed material. The various types of identities constructed in the images, such as the image of the South African worker, comrade gentleman, the intellectual and the warrior are discussed. The appearance, change and disappearance over time of these types are explained and accounted for.

[1] Johns, S.: Contesting Segmented Elections; Communists at the Polls in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s (Paper presented at the History Workshop, University of the Witwatersrand, 1994), p.2.

Deirdre Pretorius is associate professor and head of the Department of Graphic Design in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in South Africa. She lectures Design Studies on undergraduate level and supervises postgraduate students in the Honours Design and MA Design programmes. Her main research interest is the history of graphic design in South Africa, particularly in relation to printed propaganda. To this end she has published a number of journal articles on the printed propaganda of the Communist Party of South African from 1921-1950. Her current research focuses on South African Second World War posters.