Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-8bbf57454-hr8xl Total loading time: 0.335 Render date: 2022-01-25T15:18:43.635Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Race and Class in the Postwar World: The Southern African Labour Congress

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2018

Duncan Money*
Affiliation:
International Studies Group, University of the Free State

Abstract

Understandings of class have often been highly racialized and gendered. This article examines the efforts of white workers’ organizations in Southern Africa during the 1940s to forge such a class identity across the region and disseminate it among the international labor movement. For these organizations, the “real” working class was composed of white men who worked in mines, factories, and on the railways, something pertinent to contemporary understandings of class.

The focus of these efforts was the Southern African Labour Congress, which brought together white trade unions and labor parties and sought to secure a place for them in the postwar world. These organizations embodied the politics of “white laborism,” an ideology which fused political radicalism and white domination, and they enjoyed some success in gaining acceptance in the international labor movement. Although most labor histories of the region have adopted a national framework, this article offers an integrated regional labor history.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

I am grateful for the helpful comments and suggestions provided by the editorial board of the journal, particularly Barbara Weinstein and two anonymous reviewers.

References

1. It is not the intention to survey this vast literature here. For a recent overview of the South African literature, see Freund, Bill, “Labour Studies and Labour History in South Africa: Perspectives from the Apartheid Era and After,” International Review of Social History 58 (2013): 493519CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For Zimbabwe, see major edited collections by Raftopoulos, Brian and Phimister, Ian, eds., Keep on Knocking: A History of the Labour Movement in Zimbabwe, 1900–1997 (Harare, Zimbabwe, 1997)Google Scholar and Raftopoulos, Brian and Sachikonye, Lloyd, eds., Striking Back: The Labour Movement and the Post-Colonial State in Zimbabwe 1980–2000 (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2001)Google Scholar. The literature on Zambia is smaller though follows the same national parameters. Parpart, Jane, Labor and Capital on the African Copperbelt (Philadelphia, PA, 1983)Google Scholar, Meebelo, Henry, African Proletarians and Colonial Capitalism: The Origins, Growth, and Struggles of the Zambian Labour Movement to 1964 (Lusaka, Zambia, 1986)Google Scholar and Larmer, Miles, Mineworkers in Zambia: Labour and Political Change in Post-Colonial Africa, (London, 2007)Google Scholar.

2. Bonner, Philip, Hyslop, Jonathan, and van der Walt, Lucien, “Rethinking Worlds of Labour: Southern African Labour History in International Context,” African Studies 66 (2007): 150CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Emphasis in original.

3. Breckenridge, Keith, Biometric State: The Global Politics of Identification and Surveillance in South Africa, 1850 to the Present (Cambridge, United Kingdom: 2014): xCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4. van der Walt, Lucien, “The First Globalisation and Transnational Labour Activism in Southern Africa: White Labourism, the IWW, and the ICU, 1904–1934,” African Studies 66 (2007): 223CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5. Hyslop, Jonathan, “The Imperial Working Class Makes Itself ‘White’: White Labourism in Britain, Australia, and South Africa Before the First World War,” Journal of Historical Sociology 12 (1999): 398421CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hyslop, Jonathan, “Scottish Labour, Race, and Southern African Empire c.1880–1922: A Reply to Kenefick,” International Review of Social History 22 (2010): 6381CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6. For insights into how the language of class is used in contemporary political debates, see Jamelle Bouie, “Fake Working Class,” Slate,  April 18, 2017. Available at: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/04/the_response_to_the_retail_apocalypse_shows_which_workers_count_in_trump.html (Accessed May 2017) and Christina Cauterucci, “When People talk About “Working-Class” Voters, They Only Mean White, U.S.-Born Men,” Slate, April 6, 2017. Available at: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/04/06/calls_for_democrats_to_focus_on_working_class_voters_mean_only_white_u_s.html (Accessed May 2, 2017).

7. Yudelman, David, The Emergence of Modern South Africa: State, Capital, and the Incorporation of Organized Labour on the South African Gold Fields, 1902–1939 (Cape Town, 1984), 235Google Scholar. Phimister, Ian, An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe 1890–1948: Capital Accumulation and Class Struggle (London, 1987): 92–3Google Scholar, 189–91.

8. O'Meara, Dan, “Analysing Afrikaner Nationalism: The ‘Christian-National’ Assault on White Trade Unionism in South Africa, 1934–1948,” African Affairs 77 (1978): 48CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9. South African Trades and Labour Council, Report of the Fifteenth Annual Conference (Johannesburg, 1945), 9. Simons, Harold and Simons, Ray, Class and Colour in South Africa, 1850–1950 (Harmondsworth, United Kingdom:, 1969), 526Google Scholar.

10. “Conferences Endorses United Labour Policy,” Forward, April 10, 1942.

11. “Sign of the Times,” Labour-Arbeiders Bulletin, January 1943.

12. SATLC NEC Minutes, September 11, 1945, AH646, Da2.15, Records of the Trade Union Council of South Africa, Historical Papers Archive, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa (hereafter cited as TUCSA).

13. Phimister, Ian, “White miners in historical perspective: Southern Rhodesia, 1890–1953,” Journal of Southern African Studies 3 (1977): 197CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14. “The First Milestone,” The Granite Review, October 1940. I am grateful to Nicola Ginsburgh for sharing her copies of this publication with me.

15. William Moore to Secretary, SATLC, February 15, 1943, AH 646, Dc12.7, TUCSA.

16. Stanlake Samkange, “A History of the Rhodesia Labour Party: 1920–1948” (BA diss., Harvard University, 1980), 47.

17. Davidson, J.W., The Northern Rhodesian Legislative Council (London, 1948), 43Google Scholar.

18. Money, Duncan, “The World of European Labour on the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt,” International Review of Social History 60 (2015): 234–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19. In August 1942, several trade union leaders were arrested, two were interned, and Katanga's mining towns were placed under military rule.

20. Alexander, Peter, Workers, War & the Origins of Apartheid: Labour & Politics in South Africa, 1939–48 (Oxford, 1999), 23Google Scholar.

21. Butler, Larry, Copper Empire: Mining and the Colonial State in Northern Rhodesia, c. 1930–64 (Basingstoke, 2007), 88CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

22. Steele, M.C., “White Working-Class Disunity: The Southern Rhodesia Labour Party,” Rhodesian History 1 (1970): 5960Google Scholar.

23. Ranger, Terence, Bulawayo Burning: The Social History of a Southern African City, 1893–1960 (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2010), 51Google Scholar.

24. Lewis, Jon, Industrialisation and Trade Union Organisation in South Africa, 1924–1955: The Rise and Fall of the South African Trades and Labour Council (Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1984), 160Google Scholar.

25. Steele, “Southern Rhodesia Labour Party,” 60.

26. “The Colour Bar,” Labour-Arbeiders Bulletin, November 1943.

27. Hirson, Baruch, Yours for the Union: Class and Community Struggles in South Africa (London, 1989), 100Google Scholar.

28. Alexander, Origins of Apartheid, 56–7.

29. Meebelo, African Proletarians, 110–4, Higginson, John, A Working Class in the Making: Belgian Colonial Labor Policy, Private Enterprise, and the African Mineworkers, 1907–1951 (Madison, 1989), 173–82Google Scholar.

30. Colin Henderson to Roy Welensky, September 25, 1942, 505/10, Welensky Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford, United Kingdom (hereafter cited as Welensky Papers).

31. Roos, Neil, Ordinary Springboks: White Servicemen and Social Justice in South Africa, 1939–1961 (Aldershot, United Kingdom, 2005), 36Google Scholar.

32. Simons and Ray, Class and Colour, 540.

33. Dubow, Saul, “Introduction: South Africa's 1940s,” in South Africa's 1940s: Worlds of Possibilities, ed. Dubow, Saul and Jeeves, Alan (Cape Town, 2005)Google Scholar, 2.

34. Tommy Grey to Roy Welensky, May 30, 1941, 700/1, Welensky Papers. Northern Rhodesia Chamber of Mines, Yearbook 1956 (Kitwe, Zambia, 1957), 68.

35. Clark, Nancy, “Gendering Production in Wartime South Africa,” American Historical Review 106 (2001): 1189CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Fourth Report on the Census of Industrial Production 1938–1944 (Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, 1946), 9, 22. Report on the Census of Population of Northern Rhodesia held on October 15, 1946 (Lusaka, Zambia, 1949), 14, 33, 35. The percentage for Southern Rhodesia is an estimate as employment figures in the Census of Industrial Production are incomplete. I am grateful to Victor Gwande and Lazlo Passemiers for directing my attention to these figures. Figures before 1946 are not available for Northern Rhodesia.

36. Clark, “Gendering Production,” 1205–6.

37. Murphy, Philip, “‘Government by Blackmail’: The Origins of the Central African Federation Reconsidered,” in The British Empire in the 1950s: Retreat or Revival?, ed. Lynn, Martin (Basingstoke, United Kingdom, 2005), 5376Google Scholar.

38. Party, Labour, The Colonies: The Labour Party's Post-War Policy for the African and Pacific Colonies (London, 1943)Google Scholar.

39. Katz, Elaine, A Trade Union Aristocracy: A History of White Workers in the Transvaal and the General Strike of 1913 (Johannesburg, 1976), 13Google Scholar.

40. “Arrest of Trade Union Leaders Results in Strike,” Forward, August 21, 1942. “Jadotville Trouble, Belgian Congo,” Granite Review, October 1942. Both these articles are based on correspondence from NRMWU members.

41. A 1939 survey of white workers in urban areas in South Africa found that Afrikaners constituted eighty-two percent of unskilled laborers but only eight percent of fitters. Lewis, Industrialisation and Trade Union Organisation, 69.

42. O'Meara, “White Trade Unionism,” 64, 70.

43. Lewis, Industrialisation and Trade Union Organisation, 77.

44. Visser, Wessel, “Politics under Conditions of War: The Effect of the War Measures Act on Political Struggles within the South African Mine Workers’ Union, 1939–1947,” Scientia Militaria 44 (2016): 211–14Google Scholar.

45. “Mayfair Candidate,” The Mineworker/Die Mynwerker, July 1943.

46. Vincent, Louise, “Bread and Honour: White Working Class Women and Afrikaner Nationalism in the 1930s,” Journal of Southern African Studies 26 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar: 63, 72.

47. Alexander, Origins of Apartheid, 89.

48. Minutes, Southern Africa Labour Conference, July 17–18, 1943, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

49. “South African Labour,” The Granite Review, September 1943.

50. “South African Labour Gets Together,” Forward, July 23, 1943.

51. Minutes, Southern Africa Labour Conference, July 17–18, 1943, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

52. “Absolute Majority for the Government,” Forward, July 30, 1943.

53. Minutes, Southern Africa Labour Conference, July 17–18, 1943, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

54. Ibid.

Ibid

55. Ibid.

Ibid

56. Brownell, Josiah, “Out of Time: Global Settlerism, Nostalgia, and the Selling of the Rhodesian Rebellion Overseas,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 43 (2017): 813CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57. Minutes, Southern Africa Labour Conference, July 17–18, 1943, 505/10, Welensky Papers. African mineworkers’ in Katanga undertook an array of jobs reserved for whites in the mining industry in Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and South Africa.

58. Ibid.

Ibid

59. Constitution Adopted at First Southern Africa Labour Congress, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

60. “Burnside in Rhodesia,” Labour-Arbeiders Bulletin, October 1943.

61. For the complete notes from one of Burnside's speeches, see: NRLP Public meeting at Broken Hill, 505/7, Welensky Papers.

62. “Northern Rhodesia,” Labour-Arbeiders Bulletin, Mid-October 1943.

63. F.M. Shepherd to Foreign Secretary, November 8, 1943, CO 795/123/8, The National Archives. This is a report from the British Consul in Katanga.

64. Ranger, Bulawayo Burning, 34

65. Samkange, “Rhodesia Labour Party,” 69–70.

66. Steele, “Southern Rhodesia Labour Party,” 62.

67. “Addresses of Delegates,” Bulawayo Chronicle, July 17, 1944.

68. Colin Legum to Roy Welensky, April 26, 1944, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

69. Walter Citrine to William de Vries, June 9, 1943, AH 646, Dc12.7, TUCSA.

Report of First Meeting of Representatives of Trades Union Congress with Trade Union Representatives of Canada and South Africa, April 12–16, 1943, AH 646, Da6.11, TUCSA.

70. “Resolutions at Labour Congress,” Bulawayo Chronicle, July 17, 1944.

71. “Amalgamation of the two Rhodesias the First Step,” Bulawayo Chronicle, July 17, 1944.

72. Hyslop, Jonathan, “‘Segregation has fallen on evil days’: Smuts’ South Africa, global war, and transnational politics, 1939–46,” Journal of Global History 7 (2012): 442CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 456.

73. “Resolutions at Labour Congress,” Bulawayo Chronicle, July 17, 1944.

74. “The Labour Viewpoint,” Bulawayo Chronicle, July 15, 1944.

75. “British Labour Party Policy,” Bulawayo Chronicle, July 17, 1944.

76. David Lewis to Colin Legum, July 26, 1944, 505/10, Welensky Papers. Lewis was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation's National Secretary.

77. Colin Legum to Roy Welensky, August 25, 1944, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

78. “Empire Labour and the Peace Conference Manifesto,” The Guardian, September 28, 1944.

79. Report of Delegates to the Dominion Labour Conference, September 12–17, 1944, AH646, Dd13.2, TUCSA.

80. Roy Welensky to Charles Henderson, May 29, 1945, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

81. Constituent Bodies and Delegates, August 11, 1945, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

82. SATLC NEC Minutes, July 11, 1944, AH646, Da2.14, TUCSA.

83. Samkange, “Rhodesia Labour Party,” 75.

84. “Statement of Labour Policy Adopted,” Granite Review, November 1944.

85. Minutes of Third Annual Congress, August 11–12, 1945, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

86. Ibid.

Ibid

87. Resolutions to be discussed at the Southern Africa Labour Congress, August 11–12, 1945, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

88. “Labour and the Native,” The Star Johannesburg, August 11, 1945.

89. Minutes of Third Annual Congress, August 11–12, 1945, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

90. “An Old Timer Looks at Johannesburg,” Forward, August 17, 1945.

91. Colin Henderson to the British Labour Party, Co-operative Commonwealth Federation of Canada, Australian Labor Party, and New Zealand Labour Party, September 3, 1945, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

92. “Labour and the Native,” The Star Johannesburg, August 11, 1945.

93. Hepple, Bob, Alex Hepple: South African Socialist (Cape Town, 2011), 38Google Scholar.

94. Minutes of Third Annual Congress, August 11–12, 1945, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

95. “Labour and the Native,” The Star Johannesburg, August 13, 1945.

96. Minutes of Third Annual Congress, August 11–12, 1945, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

97. Report of the Committee on Nominations to the General Council, the Executive Committee, Box 10, World Federation of Trade Unions Collection, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

98. Report on World Trade Union Conference, September–October 25, 1945, AH646 Dc13.7, TUCSA.

99. SATLC NEC Minutes, August 14, 1945, AH646, Da2.15, TUCSA. Clark, Nancy and Worger, William, South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Harlow, United Kingdom, 2003), 38Google Scholar.

100. “International Labour Conference,” Forward, July 12, 1946.

101. Roy Welensky to Colin Henderson, January 16, 1946, 505/10, Welensky Papers. “Labour Conference in Canada,” The Star Johannesburg, January 26, 1946.

102. Colin Henderson to Roy Welensky, February 11, 1946, 505/10, Welensky Papers.

103. Minutes of Third Annual Congress, August 11–12, 1945, AH646, Dd12.20, TUCSA.

104. Even progressives within the SALP supported the extension of residential segregation on racial lines. Colin Legum publicly announced at a Johannesburg City Council in 1944 that “We in the Labour Party stand for residential separation of Europeans and Non-Europeans.” “Residential Separation for non-Europeans,” Forward, December 15, 1944.

105. “Madeley Resigns from Labour Party,” Rand Daily Mail, July 25, 1946.

106. Alexander, Origins of Apartheid, 98.

107. “Madeley's Former Secretary Resigns,” Rand Daily Mail, July 27, 1946.

108. “Labour Party Suspends Senator Henderson,” Rand Daily Mail, August 5, 1946.

109. Samkange, “Rhodesia Labour Party,” 95–6.

110. Roy Welensky to Leo Gottlieb, September 21, 1944, 506/10, Welensky Papers.

111. Wood, J.R.T., The Welensky Papers: A History of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Durban, 1983), 89Google Scholar.

112. “All Copperbelt Mines Close Down,” Rhodesia Herald, August 16, 1946.

113. “South African Labour Gets Together,” Forward, July 23, 1943.

1
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Race and Class in the Postwar World: The Southern African Labour Congress
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Race and Class in the Postwar World: The Southern African Labour Congress
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Race and Class in the Postwar World: The Southern African Labour Congress
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *