African trade unions : - labour ideology - industrial and commercial workers' union of Africa

Master Thesis


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This work has grown from, and come to supercede, an honours dissertation written on roughly the same area of interest. broader though. The scope of this work is significantly There are two major foci of interest, which, it is hoped, blend to provide a more representative overview of this particular period. The first focus rests on Johannesburg for the reason that it was South Africa's most rapidly developing industrial centre; It was here that the predominant capitalist social formations were most truly represented. The other focus turns on the ICU and its peculiar development. The closing chapters are an attempt to locate the ICU in Johannesburg, to look at the manner in which the ICU might or might not have resonated the feeling of the people of that city. The period in which this thesis is set, l9l7 to 1930, possibly witnessed some of the earliest attempts to seize in harness the 'black' labour force, to manipulate and control its movements at the urban level. The Pass Laws and urban regulations, statutorily sanctioned by the Urban Areas Act of 1923, nurtured a proletarian class, hampered not only in its ability to live where it chose, but in its very ability to sell its labour power. The effect which these measures gave rise to is of immense interest. For a long time, it has been suspected and known that alternative methods have best devised in the urban African context simply to overcome the difficulty of surviving; the growth of intensive informal market networks is perhaps one of the most significant indicators about the attitude of ·victim people to their kind of existence. I have not been able to pursue the structure of this sub-market in this thesis. It is sufficient to note its pervasive presence against the development of organisations which grew out of the working class and try to understand the dynamics or interactions of consciousness which were produced in this situation. It is my under- standing that real interaction, between the working class and its highly peculiar approach to the struggle and the organisations and the approach of expediency which they adopted, never really came about. It would thus be possible to argue that the ICU and other similar organisations failed to comprehend and take advantage of the level of thinking of the workers themselves. The material which the ICU drew on, was, arguably, considerably advanced in its degree of proletarianization. The urban workers, the mine workers, had no access to a subsistence mode of production.