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Author:       Limb, Peter, plimb@library.uwa.edu.au 
Title:        "The African National Congress and Black Workers in
              South Africa:  Continuity and Change in Their Relationships
              before 1940."

Date:         1997
Institution:  University of Western Australia
Advisor:      Norman Etherington
Degree:       Ph.D.

Abstract: Most analyses of relations between the ANC and black workers in South Africa have focussed on the gulfs between these groups, rather than their interactions. This thesis examines their relations by focusing on the attitudes of the ANC to black workers in the period before 1940. Empirical evidence is adduced to show that ANC ties with, and sympathy for, black workers were not restricted to momentary episodes. Rather the ANC strove to maintain some contacts with, and influence among, workers. The argument is situated in a broad analysis of ANC and South African labour historiography outlined in chapter one. The evidence presented in subsequent chapters suggests alternative ways of conceptualizing the conjuncture of African nationalism and the labour movement. The three decades of ANC history under review are examined both from the perspective of ANC national structure and policies, and from the viewpoint of provincial bodies and their campaigns which involved workers.

I focus not merely on leaders but also on the complex ideas and actions of ANC members and workers at local levels. This enables close analysis of the question and permits changes over time in the relationship to be plotted. A survey of a large portion of extant records of the ANC, labour movement, and the black press indicates how workers were viewed by ANC leaders and, to a lesser extent, what workers thought of the ANC. They further suggest explanations for why they acted or thought in these ways.

Some politically or industrially active black workers became in various ways attached to, or in touch with, the ANC, even if they may have at times regarded it as too moderate, or too abstract for their daily class struggles. Similarly, many ANC figures had a shifting interest in workers, and it is necessary to explain the ebb and flow of this interest. The relative continuity of this relationship suggests that features of South African society and politics helped cause the trend. Firstly, the socio-economic position of all Africans, which remained precarious throughout this period, pushed them together, helping to momentarily transcend the limited class stratification that existed. Contradictions of a settler-capitalist society ensured that the basic contradiction between white rule and black national oppression inclined organized black workers and the ANC to seek each other as allies. Secondly, the political strategies employed by the ANC and by its individual members helped encourage cross-class unity. Thirdly, representations of black workers by the ANC in various political forums, and in the pro-ANC press, helped to keep black labour issues before the eyes of ANC members, the public, and government.

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