Johannesburg, 1917 to 1930 : a preliminary study of the protest and conditions of the African people

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

A struggle for control of the means of production and surplus is constantly played out between those who 'legally' possess the instruments of production - the bourgeoisie, and those who operate, but are alienated from, the means of production - the working class. This struggle manifests itself in countless ways and never retains the same form: the bourgeoisie always seeks fresh methods to keep the proletariat beneath its yoke, while the proletariat itself always forges new ways of counteracting the bourgeoisie's exploitative measures. It is the contention of this work that from 1917 to 1920 a phase of heightened class struggle occurred in South Africa between the African working class and the bourgeoisie in the form of its representatives in both government and the employing class. As we shall see in the chapters which follow, labour spontaneously confronted capital; it made certain demands on the capitalist system and the stage seemed set for a long and traumatic battle between the controllers and the operators of capital. Yet, as suddenly as it began, the popular militancy of the 1917 to 1920 period evaporated; in its stead came a period of dominance by petty bourgeois organisations accompanied by a decline of working class protest. This dramatic change in the quality of working class resistance merits discussion, and to this end a number of questions can he raised: (1) What gave rise to the growth of militancy during and after the First World War? (ii) What happened to this militancy after the War, and what caused it to go into decline? (iii) If militant class confrontation disappeared, what form did the conflict then take, and what new relations between the differing classes came about?

Bibliography: pages 143-149.