The printed propaganda of the Communist Party of South Africa during World War II

  • Deirdre Pretorius
  • Grietjie Verhoef
  • Marian Sauthoff
Keywords: Communist Party, South Africa, Second World War, printed propaganda, image, iconography


This article examines the printed propaganda of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) from the World War II (1939-1945) period by briefly describing the impact that the War had on the party and its propaganda production. This is followed by an iconographic analysis of the subjects who appear prominently in the images contained in the propaganda. Four iconographic types are described and the reasons for their emergence and visual appearance are proffered. It is argued that the impact of the War on the CPSA and its production of printed propaganda was largely positive, owing to a change in perceptions of the party following the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Germany and the easing of State repression on the party. As a result, CPSA membership numbers increased, the volume and variety of printed propaganda expanded and the audiences for the propaganda grew. The gentleman, intellectual, leader and soldier are identified as iconographic types which appear prominently in the CPSA’s printed propaganda during the War. The emergence of these figures is ascribed to the ‘accommodationist path’ followed by the CPSA during the War, the development of closer ties between the African National Congress (ANC) and the CPSA, and the alignment of the party’s propaganda with values relating to respectability, which resonated with a large part of the audience for the propaganda.