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Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 H. J.





Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England Penguin Books Inc., 711 o Ambassador Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21207, U.S.A.

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia First published x969 Copyright © H. J. and R. E. Simons, £969 Made and printed in Great Britain by Hazell Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury, Bucks Set in Monotype Plantin This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser


Foreword 1 The Liberal Cape 2

Diamond Diggers and the New Elite

7 Hi 34

3 Gold Miners and Imperialist War


4 White Labour Policies


5 Workers and the Vote


6 National Liberation


7 Thunder on the Left


8 Loyalists and Rebels


9 The New Radicals


Io Socialism and Nationalism


zx Class Struggles Resumed


12 The Communist Party Formed


13 The Rand Revolt


14 Unity on the Right


15 Fruits of Partnership


I6 The Industrial and Commercial Union


17 Black Republic


18 White Terror


19 Theory and Practice


Fascism and War



21 United Front 22

The Battle for the Unions

486 508

Contents War and the Workers 24 Resistance and Reaction 25 The Police State 26 Class Struggle and National Liberation 23

527 554 579 61o

List of Abbreviations




Parliamentary Papers




Index of Legislative Measures Index of Organizations and Newspapers


Index of Selected Names




Some twenty years ago, South Africa was held in high esteem as a senior member of the British Commonwealth, a bastion of western capitalism, and the most advanced economic region in Africa. Her people, black and white, could claim with some justification that their material conditions were the best in Africa. The south had the highest national income per head of popula tion, the largest volume of trade, and the widest scope of oppor tunity for acquiring education or obtaining employment. Men from east and central Africa went south in search of higher wages or higher learning. Three centuries of white settlement - phased by colonial wars, expropriations of tribal lands, slavery, forced labour and industrialism - had produced a variety of human types, an inte grated multi-racial society and a way of life shared by some members of all racial groups. Colour prejudice was endemic and deeply ingrained among whites; but their policy of racial dis crimination, though vicious and degrading, differed in degree rather than in kind from the discrimination practised elsewhere under colonial rule. If racism was most bitter and intense in the south, it experi enced a measure of compensation in a countervailing radicalism that stretched across the colour line in pursuit of an open-ended, non-racial social order. Nowhere else in Africa did so many whites, Asians and Coloured participate with Africans in a com mon struggle against class or colour oppression. A peaceful transition to parliamentary democracy without colour bars seemed usible to some observers, as the tide of decolonization well at the end of the war. n years of unbroken rule by Afrikaner nationalism have I di troyed the hope of a peaceful revolution. South Africa Vll


remains by far the largest producer of goods and capital in Africa. Her public services - the infrastructure of political and economic organization - are still the most advanced. Her stan dards of public morality, law enforcement and race relations have deteriorated to such a level, however, that she is now a byword among nations for bigotry, intolerance and despotic rule. She has been turned into a police state under the control of a white oligarchy which uses fascist techniques to enforce racial t larianism and to suppress movements for social equalit Aeqxjf has consequently opened between the south and the rest of Africa. Millions of men and women in countries north of the Zambezi are being exhorted and trained for the tremen dous task of modernizing their societies. Southern Africans, in contrast, are being forcibly regrouped - by a white bureaucracy - into tribal communities under hereditary chiefs. Thousands of Africans in the independent states occupy the highest positions in government, education, industry, commerce and finance positions of a kind that are reserved for whites only in the south. The balance of advantage is being tilted in favour of regions that are still considered backward by southern standards. The best that black and brown South Africans with professional qualifications can do for themselves is to escape to these coun tries, where their skin colour is a social asset and where they can apply their skills with dignity and in freedom. For, as long as they remain under white man's rule, they must expect to be outstripped in every field of social activity by their self-governing racial compatriots in the north. Southern Africans have taken up arms against white suprema cists to redress the balance. The freedom fighters are the van guard of a people preparing to rise for the recovery of lost liberties and for the right to move freely on terms of equality with all men at home and abroad. Their struggle is an old one. It began 300 years ago, when the brown men of the Cape - the

Nama who were called Hottentot and the Khoi who were called Bushmen - fought the white invaders with bows, arrows and spears. Bantu-speaking warriors - the Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho,


Tswana and Venda - continued the struggle, until each nation in turn was defeated and absorbed in the white man's order. Wars of independence were succeeded by a struggle from within the industrialized society for parliamentary democracy, national liberation, or socialism. This book traces the interactions between the two main streams of resistance to white domina tion: the national movements of Africans, Indians and Coloured; and the class struggles of socialists and communists. Although it surveys the record of radical movements for the best part of a century, it is not a history. We prefer to think of it as an exercise in political sociology on a time scale; and we have not hesitated, therefore, to intersperse our narrative with comments and value judgements. We find no merit in apartheid and are wholly committed, as participants and observers, to the Resistance. We have not refrained from criticizing our heroes; and freely use the advan tages of hindsight in evaluating their programmes and procedures. A word of explanation is due to readers who think that this approach is unscientific, or who resent anything that seems dis paraging of the early radicals. We have no desire to muck-rake or belittle the achievements of men who, rising above the circ*mstances of their time and class, escaped from the stranglehold of white supremacy and suffered the penalties of opposition to an oppressive regime. We think that they must gain in stature from a frank account of the difficulties they experienced on their political pilgrimage. Our essays in political criticism of communists like Iron Jones, Bill Andrews and Douglas Wolton, of nationalists like Dr P. K. Seme and Dr Abdurahman, of radical labour leaders like Archie Crawford and Clements Kadalie, have a wider purpose than the purely biographical. Our view is simply this, that new generations of resisters are entitled to an honest appraisal of the past from the vantage point of the present. Many of the controversies here examined - the proper relationship between national liberation and class struggle, the choice between socialist and capitalist democracy, the con cept of African (or 'black') power, the strategies of a multi racial united front or 'non-collaboration with the Herrenvolk' -

Foreword are still with us and continue to produce furious debate. Our purpose is to tell a story and at the same time give resisters of today a guide to the background of these controversies. An attempt is made in the last chapter to abstract some con clusions and project them against an analysis of the power struc ture. Two propositions of theoretical interest emerge from the analysis. One is that an industrialized, capitalist society can per petuate pre-industrial social rigidities only by adopting the coercive techniques of fascist totalitarianism. The other proposi tion is that where class divisions tend to coincide with antagon istic national or colour groups, the class struggle merges with the movement for national liberation. We collected the bulk of the material in South Africa over a period of about ten years, in between our professional activities and political involvement. The actual writing was done in Man chester and London. We are indebted to the University of Manchester for the generous grant of a Senior Simon Research Fellowship, which enabled us to work in the tranquillity and comfort of Broomcroft Hall; to Professor Max Gluckman and colleagues in the University's department of social anthropology and sociology, for stimulating discussions; to Miss Nancy Dick, who patiently and reliably verified quotations and sources, un earthed material inaccessible to us, and compiled the index; to Michael Harmel and Kenneth Parker for reading and criticizing the draft; and to librarians of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Man chester, London and Moscow for their courteous attention and unfailing assistance. Finally, we acknowledge a debt and pay a tribute to our colleague Lionel Forman (1928-59), whose early

death deprived his country of a fine intellect and a brave fighter for freedom. Lusaka, Zambia ii September 1968




I The Liberal Cape

Britain took the Cape by force of arms in x8o6, after 150 years of Dutch rule, when the colony had a population of some 30,000 slaves, 26,ooo settlers, 20,000 free Coloured, Nama and Khoi* in white employ, and an unknown number living in remote regions. Apart from the officials, gentry and shopkeepers of Cape Town, most of the settlers were farmers, who either grew crops on the coastal plains or grazed livestock on the plateau behind the mountain ranges. Racial discrimination, a rigid division of labour, had hardened into a set pa T colonists did not disdain manual labour on their own accoi ugh they objected to working for a master. Slaves did the skilled and unskilled work in Cape Town and adjacent areas. They tailored, cobbled, built houses, cooked, traded, and mad ture, leather goods, wagons and music for their owner Th also worked on the farms, frequently with the free C]d Nama, the so-called Hottentots. Townsmen and farmers had much in common, in spite of substantial cultural differences. Both were stiffnecked Calvinists, who cited scripture to justify slavery and colour-class dis crimination. Both claimed for the white race an exclusive right to education, positions of public responsibility, the ownership of land and wealth. Both fornicated with slaves, Coloured and Nama, while keeping them in strict subordination. Farmers in the interior acquired, as well, the habits and outlook of pioneers and frontiersmen. They were independent and self-reliant; demanded aid from government yet resented its authority; and thought highly of physical courage, endurance, hunting skills and martial prowess. The colony resembled a feudal society in * Other suggested generic terms are Khoi-Khoi for the 'Hottentots' and San for the 'Bushmen'.

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

classes, and many ways. It was divided into estates rather than strongly resisted radical reforms. in the East The slaves came from Holland's possessions and Indies, from West Africa, Madagascar and Mozambique; groups. No slave, belonged to a wide range of cultural and racial

into a legal whether Muslim, Christian or pagan, could enter


between settlers, marriage before 1823. Extra-marital intercourse as kleurlinge slaves and Nama gave rise to the Coloured, known The slaves never or bruinmense (brown people) in Afrikaans. to liberate fused into a single community or acted in concert cattle and themselves while under Dutch rule. The Nama, whose offered some sheep had grazed on land occupied by"tIe colonists, were resistance in the early days of settlement. Their numbers and then greatly reduced by epidemics of smallpox and measles, nick they soon succumbed to the white invaders. T They collectors. named the Bushmen, were hunters and food but fought back stubbornly and with great courage, to be all annihilated. The colonists were quick to resent the authoritarian rule and mercantilism of the Netherlands East India Cm any. They on complained often ab-itterly of excessive taxation, restraints trade, inefficiency and corruption in the administration. There was little effective protest. Malcontents and potential rebels could escape into the interior, where land was to be had for the taking. The first serious demand for political reform was made as late as 1779, when the current of liberalism from Europe and America combined with symptoms of the company's bank ruptcy to produce some agitation in the western Cape. The Cape Patriots, as they called themselves after a party of that name in Holland, petitioned the company directors in Amsterdam for a written constitution, seats for burghers on the administrative council and high court, freedom to trade, and the right to flog their slaves without official restraint. Not then, nor at any other time, did the settlers propose reforms that would benefit persons of colour, whether freemen or slaves. The frontiersmen spread rapidly over a wide area in defiance of the government's injunction to remain within a fixed boun dary. They rode rough-shod over the prior rights of the original

The Liberal Cape inhabitants to hunting, grazing and arable land. Survivors of the Nama were absorbed in the Coloured. The Khoi were hunted down and killed off like the great herds of wild animals that once roamed the plains. Bantu-speaking Africans might have shared this fate if they had not been more numerous and better equipped to meet the predatory raids of the commandos, the name given to the farmers' militia. It is significant of white attitudes that when the colonists first revolted against the government, they rose not in defence of their own liberties but to deprive Africans of land and stock. The revolt took place in 1795 on the eastern frontier, . district of Graaff Reinet. Honoratus Maynier, the local la 7 or magistrate, had prudently tried to curb the brutal treatment of Nama and Khoi by the settlers, and restrain them from pre maturely launching a large-scale attack on the Xhosa in their homeland between the Sundays and Fish rivers. The first major clash between the two groups of cattle-raising agriculturists had occurred in 1779, and the Xhosa had succeeded in stopping the vanguard of the trekboers. The settlers gave vent to their frustra tion by driving Maynier away and declaring a republic. Their fellow burghers to the south, in the adjacent district of Swellen dam, demanding freedom to enslave the Khoi and impose un Hllowed this example and paid forced labour on the t Africa's first republic was elected a 'national assembly and an external imperial born in a struggle between wlttlers right to suppress, plunder and exploit an authority fo

African peop


his time an ally of Britain in the war against Hollan ea republican France. The East India Company had announced its bankruptcy. The government at Cape Town could neither bring the rebels to heel nor help them to defeat the Xhosa. Left to themselves, the colonists might have been forced to negotiate on terms favourable to the Xhosa. The British, acting in the name of Prince William of Orange, occupied the Cape soon after the revolt in Swellendam. While most of the settlers gave their allegiance to the new regime, the malcontents of Graaff Reinet revolted twice more, first in 1799 and then in I8oi, against the administration's alleged partiality 13

Class and Colour in South Africa Y850-1950 to Coloured and Xhosa. British troops and Coloured riflemen were sent to quell the revolt in 1799. Farm workers, anxious to fight their white masters, joined the Coloured regiments; the rising fizzled out, and the farm workers were ordered to sur render their arms. They chose instead to join Ndhlambi's Xhosa in an attempt to drive the settlers out of the Zuurveld west of the Sundays river. This led to a mass revolt of Coloured on the frontier and a devastating war against the Xhosa. A firm and enduring alliance between Africans and Coloured might have enabled both to free themselves from white domination. For, notes Marais, 'if the rising spread to the western Hottentots and slaves, the white to its foundations'.1 man's hold on the Colony would be shaken The British intervened to detach the Coloured from their allies. Dundas, the acting governor, established a garrison at the site of the future Port Elizabeth, promised land to the Coloured, and assured them of better treatment on the farms. He instructed Maynier, now the resident commissioner, to register labour con tracts of three months and over between farmers and servants. Though farmers objected to the labour regulation, it was ampli fied and extended to all parts of the colony by the Batavian administration which succeeded the British in 1803. The extension of the Dundas regulation laid a basis for labour legislation and gave the free Coloured a modicum of legal pro tection. 'Under this growing rule of law,' according to Walker, ' most of the Hottentots took service, and not only ceased to be a peril to the Colony, but in due course became a reinforcement to it against the Kaffirs.'* 2 The comment neatly summarizes the divisive effects of a strategy that turned the Coloured away from their African allies and into an auxiliary of the whites. The Cape Mounted Riflemen, a predominantly Coloured regiment, played a greater part than the settlers did in subsequent wars against the Xhosa. When Ngqika, Gcaleka and Thembu struck back at Harry Smith's troops in 185o, and the Coloured in the eastern * 'Kaffir', 'Kafir' (Arabic for infidel, unbeliever) was a name widely applied to Africans of the south-eastern Cape and Natal. It is now a dirty word and appears in this book only in quotations. The spelling follows the original in each case.

The LiberalCape Cape rose in rebellion, some of the riflemen joined in the struggle for liberation. The regiment was reconstituted after the war into a mixed force of white and Coloured; and disbanded in 1870, on the eve of responsible government, when the whites could dis pense with the service of Coloured troops. 'From that time onward the military profession was closed to Coloured men in 3 South Africa.' Apart from some useful administrative reforms, the Batavian Republic's short interregnum of three years produced few notable changes. Slavery and serfdom were bound to disappear under the impact of Europe's expanding industrialism and bourgeois democracy. Holland would have been the emancipator if she had retained the Cape, and the battle for human rights might then have been fought out between a Dutch government and Dutch settlers. An indigenous liberalism, rooted in South African soil and embracing a section of the Afrikaner people, might have grown to maturity. Instead, it was the British who represented the age of enlightenment, and the new liberalism came to be identified in the minds of all South Africans with the policies of British imperialism. Their seizure of the Cape in 18o6 led ultimately to the emancipation of slaves, the subjuga tion of the Africans, and a cultural dualism among the whites that developed into rival nationalisms. Whitehall kept a tight rein on expenditure and expected the colony to pay its way. The Cape governor could, however, draw on far greater supplies of manpower, capital and armed force than the East India Company ever provided. ess of strength turned the scales in the settlers' favo I was the British army and not the Boer commandos eated the African and forced him to accept white author itish immi grants joined Afrikaner farmers on the easte ron ier. Governor Cradock sent a large force of troops and militia to the Zuurveld in i8 12. They drove 2o,ooo Africans back over the Fish river and built a double line of block-houses, garrisoned with troops and civilians, behind which quit-rent farms of 4,000 acres each were offered to the settlers on what had been African soil. Trained troops won a victory that had eluded the frontiersmen in more than thirty years of guerrilla warfare and cattle raids. 15

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o- 95o Slaves and the free Coloured fared scarcely better under high Tory rule. Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807 but allowed the settlers to retain and sell or buy their human property. Caledon's proclamation of i November 18o9 applied a strict pass law-to the Coloured, made the registration of labour con tracts compulsory if covering one month or more, and laid down the conditions under which an employer could withhold wages for goods supplied to his servant. Proclamations of 1812 and 1819 allowed a settler to apprentice and employ without remuneration a free Coloured child, from the age of eight to eighteen years, if it was an orphan, or destitute, or had grown up on the employer's property. The regulations might have saved the Coloured from'utter destruction', as some observers claimed, but only by reducing them to the level of serfs, at the mercy of farmers and officials who were also farmers. Circuit courts, having both administrative and judicial func tions, were introduced in 181I. They afforded some protection against gross cruelty and neglect. Missionaries like the Dutch man Johannes van der Kemp and the Scot John Philip had no difficulty in accumulating a mass of evidence to convince White hall that the Coloured were being degraded by economic and social servitude. The House of Commons instructed the Cape administration to abolish legal discrimination against free per sons. Bourke, the acting governor, anticipated the instruction by enacting Ordinance 5o of 1828. It repealed the offending pro clamations, and so freed the Coloured from the pass system and the risk of being flogged for offences against the labour laws. The registration of service contracts continued, but their duration was limited to one year. Children could be apprenticed only with their parents' consent. The ordinance applied only to Coloured workers, yet went a long way to establishing the principle of equality before the law. The white working class, then in its infancy, had a higher social status but a similar legal position. Workers in Britain were then, and for many years to come, liable to be imprisoned for breach of contract under the master and servant law. The colonial administration acted- rigorously against defaulters of any race. The demand for punitive measures came from employers who 16

The Liberal Cape wished to stop the desertion of workers in whom they had in vested money. Immigrant artisans and labourers who received a free passage to the Cape were usually obliged to serve a given master for a specified period, or buy their release by repaying the passage money. Land and work were plentiful in the colony. Many immigrants took the opportunity to set up on their own or to change their employment in breach of their indentures. To deter them, Lord Charles Somerset's proclamation of 26 June I818 prescribed a maximum sentence of two months' imprisonment and fine of twenty-five rixdalers for a defaulting servant, to which corporal punishment could be added for a second and subsequent offence. Laws devised for indentured white immigrants, free Coloured workers and emancipated slaves were the forerunners of South Africa's master and servant laws. Emancipation itself occurred on i December I834. There were then about 40,000 slaves and as many whites in the colony. Slave prices had doubled since 1807, when the importation of fresh supplies was banned. The owners were no more willing than the planters of the West Indies and America to surrender their property or to accept any limitation on their right of ownership. They objected strenu ously to regulations that curbed their brutality and enforced minimum standards of care in the treatment of slaves. Bourke's Ordinance i9 of 1826, which provided for the appointment of a regis and guardian of slaves, led to the resignation of the president and two members of Cape Town's burgher council, while owners generally agitated for a representative assembly. They wanted political rights for themselves so as to enslave others. Emancipation was forced on the colony by Britain. The social pressures that produced the Reform Act of 1832 resulted also in the Abolition of Slavery Act of x833. The end of tormal slavery accelerated the migration of farmers into the interior and precipitated the great trek of 1836. Somer set's 1820 settlers, planted in the Zuurveld to strengthen the white man's hold on the frontier, were forbidden to keep slaves. The great majority of owners were Afrikaners, and they resented the emancipation, Ordinance 5o, and the principle of equality before the law. The £i million allocated by the British parlia-

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 ment as compensation to slave owners was, they said, less than the half the market value of the slaves. Settlers denounced colonial office for refusing to ratify D'Urban's annexation in rivers. 1835 of Xhosa territory between the Great Fish and Kei sell and They were outraged when the government decided to Land not make free grants of land seized from the Xhosa. hunger, dislike of British rule, and the rejection of racial equality by in any form were the root causes of the planned exodus whites with their Coloured servants from the colony. The firm stand made by the Xhosa barred the way to the escarp Transkei's rolling pastures between the sea and the great the ment. Turning westward, the tide of white migration crossed One Orange river to invade the grasslands of the high plateau. party of trekkers by-passed Moshoeshoe's kingdom of Lesotho

and entered Natal. Here a small community of English traders, hunters and missionaries had been settled since 1824. An armed struggle for supremacy took place in the years 1837 to 1842 between Afrikaners and Zulu and between British and Afrikan ers. It ended with the proclamation of Natal as a British colony in May 1843, when Napier, the Cape governor, decreed strict equality before the law of all persons in Natal, irrespective of colour, origin, language or creed. The Afrikaners then withdrew to join their fellow trekkers on the highveld. They founded republics of their own, free from British rule, on territory taken from Africans by force, and under a constitution that denied equality between white and black in either church or state. Few settlers in the Cape accepted the humanitarian's ideal of racial equality. Emancipation opened a new stage in the relations between white and Coloured; but it did not revolutionize the society or abolish discrimination. Ordinance i of 1835, which was supposed to prepare the slaves for freedom, changed little more than their name. Now called apprentice-labourers, they continued to work for their former owners, witmout wages and on the same terms of food, clothing, lodging and medical care. Penalties harsher in some respects than those prescribed by the slave laws could be imposed under the ordinance. It provided for police settlements, houses of correction and penal gangs. Ap prentices could be sentenced to hard labour, for periods ranging

The Liberal Cape from one week to six months, and a whipping of fifteen, thirty or thirty-nine stripes, for different classes of offences. These in cluded desertion, indolence, carelessness, negligence, damage to a master's property, drunkenness, brawling, insolence, unlawful conspiracy to disobey, persistent disobedience, and combined resistance against a master. This was harsher by far than Somerset's proclamation of 18x8 or Bourke's Ordinance 5o, and was consequently more to the liking of employers. They had no taste for the free labour market that developed after i December 1838, when the apprenticeship system came to an end. Many ex-slaves left their masters for the towns, or went to farm on their own in remote areas, or settled on government land. The migration, coupled with epidemics of smallpox and measles in x839-40, caused a shortage of labour on farms. The mean cash wage of agricultural workers in the west ern Cape rose from ten to fifteen shillings a month in the forties, and the customary wine ration was also increased. 4 Farmers complained of drunkenness, desertion and vagrancy among their Coloured servants, and agitated for restraints on movement and a disciplinary code. The Colonial Office had previously dis allowed a vagrancy law adopted in 1834 by the settler members of the legislative council. This yielded to the pressure by passing the Masters and Servants Ordinance of 1841, based partly on a British oraer-m-ouncil promulgated in 1838 for the West Indies. The ordinance repealed Ordinance 50 of 1828, re-enacted the disciplinary code prescribed for apprenticed ex-slaves, and re duced the scale of penalties to fourteen days' imprisonment for a first offence and/or a fine of not more than a month's wages. Employers were given a firmer hold over their servants by provisions that extended the statutory limitation on oral con tracts from one month to one year and on written contracts from one to three years. A contract could be terminated on a month's notice given by either party, and the notice became void if the servant failed to leave his service on the specified date. A servant was entitled to two months' wages and other contractual bene fits during sickness. It was made an offence to 'coerce' servants into joining a 'club or association', but the ordinance conceded a right to combine for collective bargaining.

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o Ordinance i of 1841 was the first labour law to include work ers of all races. The word 'servant' as defined included any to person 'employed for hire, wages, or other remuneration perform any handicraft or other bodily labour in agriculture or manufactures, or in domestic services'. Artisans, craftsmen, machine operators and labourers were equally affected. It was a unique case of class legislation without any trace of racial dis crimination. The legislative council made it generally applicable so as to meet anticipated objections in Whitehall. A law applying only to Coloured, explained Napier, would perpetuate their status 'as an inferior and distinct people'.


There was an addi

tional reason. Criminal sanctions were then commonly attached to labour contracts in Europe. The colonial administration saw no reason to exempt white workers. Belonging to the master race, they were less prone than their darker-skinned fellows to prosecution for breach of contract or disciplinary offences. The absence of a colour bar in the Cape's labour legislation had, however, a marked liberalizing effect on industrial relations in the colony. Cape liberalism stood for racial tolerance. It was not a general characteristic of the white population. British immigrants rapidly absorbed the racial prejudices of the older white inhabitants, or acquired their own, as in Natal, where English-speaking settlers were dominant after 185o. They disfranchised Africans in 1865 and developed under British rule a white supremacy state no more tolerant of African and Asian claims to equality than were the Afrikaner republics. Liberalism took root in the western Cape because of the region's peculiar history, relative tran quillity, racial composition and cultural cleavages. British radical and humanitarian movements reached their peak in the first half of the century during the colony's formative years. It was deeply influenced, through the Colonial Office, the British clergy and missionaries, by the agitation that produced the Reform Act and the Abolition of Slavery Act. The movement ebbed in the latter half of the century, by which time the Cape had laid the foundations of equality before the law. It was sustained both by pressure of a large, partially assimilated Coloured population and by antagonisms between English- and Afrikaans-speaking whites.

7 The Liberal Cape Both groups of colonists were represented in the agitation during the second quarter of the century for representative government. A legislative council of five officials and six nomi nated settlers was formed in 1834, only to whet the appetite for self-rule. The council fell into disrepute and nearly collapsed in 1849, when Lord Grey proposed to land convicts from the Nfune at the Cape. His decision caused great resentment, the more so since a draft constitution was then before the privy council. A country-wide Anti-Convict Association declared a boycott of government institutions and of private firms identified with Grey's action. Demonstrations and mass meetings disrupted business and caused a minor recession. Sir Harry Smith, the governor, refused to let the convicts land; and the Neptune eventually sailed with its cargo of prisoners to Australia. The propertied classes of Cape Town and the eastern Cape, alarmed at the upheaval, formed themselves into a party of moderates and rallied round the government. British liberals and Afrikaner settlers used the occasion to press the demand for a new consti 6 tution. The Colonial Office had countered early requests of this kind with two objections. No colony where people were enslaved was fit for self-rule, while the rise of Dutch and British parties would nullify one of the main benefits of representative government: the cultivation of common loyalties and national cohesion. Officials at the Cape and prominent liberals like John Philip and John Fairbairn, editor of the South African Commercial Adver tiser, reiterated the objections after emancipation. The Coloured lacked property and political experience. A settlers' parliament would pass oppressive laws depriving them forever of political power before they had learned to exercise their rights. On the other hand, British colonists, though the most wealthy, active and intelligent class, were a minority, and would not willingly submit to a Dutch majority inferior in all respects other than its numerical strength. The anti-convict agitation revealed a wide-, spread hostility to the British government, and when the Colonial Office decided that a representative parliament could not be avoided, its chief concern was to keep power out of the hands of the anti-British faction. 21

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o


claims could be ignored. Though many thousands of Xhosa peasants, farm workers, prisoners of war and convicts, employed on roads and public works, inhabited the colony, the war on the eastern frontier was then at its height, and the great mass of Africans still belonged to independent states. This circ*mstance greatly facilitated the adoption of the colour-blind franchise insisted upon by the Colonial Office. The British government was in two minds, however, about the qualifications. The higher they were made, the smaller would be the Afrikaner and Coloured vote. British merchants, backed by Harry Smith and his colonial secretary, John Montagu, wanted a high qualifi cation which would confine the vote to occupiers of property worth £50 or more. This, it was argued, would safeguard im perial interests by offsetting the Afrikaners' numerical superi ority; and property interests, by excluding the working classes. Afrikaners, on the other hand, stood for a low qualification which would strengthen their position against the British merchants and officials in command of the legislature; and they were pre pared to pay the price of extending the vote to a possibly significant number of Coloured. A third group of liberals, led by Sir Andries Stockenstrom, William Porter the attorney-general, and Fairbairn, also advo cated a low qualification, but for different reasons. They wished to secure both the imperial connexion and Coloured rights, two aims which in their minds were wholly compatible. The Coloured preferred crown colony rule to a settlers' parliament. If a settlers' parliament had to come, they would use their vote to support the imperial connexion and therefore the British minority. Porter, in particular, wanted a popular franchise for genuinely liberal reasons as well. Both 'Klaas, the Hottentot' and 'his neighbour, Mynheer van Dunder, the boer', might know very little about parliamentary issues, he told the legislative council, but the best school for teaching them was the vote. They knew enough to distinguish their friends from their enemies. The Coloured, he added, had a right to protect their labour and sell it at their own price; the right to make 'the most of whatever powers of mind and body God has given them'. To those who feared that

the Coloured were politically dangerous, he replied in memorable

The Liberal Cape

words: 'Now, for myself, I do not hesitate to say that I would rather meet the Hottentot at the hustings, voting for his repre sentative, than meet the Hottentot in the wilds with his gun 7 upon his shoulder.'

The constitution of x853 gave the Cape a system of represen tative government, a parliament of two elected houses, and a franchise open to any man who for twelve months preceding registration had occupied property worth £25 or received an aggregate wage of either £50 or £25 with board and lodging.

This was Porter's 'low franchise', which the Colonial Office adopted in the hope that it would foster common loyalties and interests among all subjects without distinction of class or colour. Class coincided so closely with colour that the constitution was colour-blind only in form. The Coloured made up the great bulk of the poor - the landless, the low-paid, and the unemployed - who were kept off the rolls. A majority of the Coloured worked on the settlers' farms; and, it was ruled, farm labourers living in cottages owned by their masters did not 'occupy' property within the meaning of the constitution. The franchise dis criminated, therefore, against a colour-class. Even in later years, when Coloured voters were marginally important in a dozen or more constituencies, they never succeeded in returning any of their own people to parliament. It remained at all times a bourgeois institution of white landowners, merchants, company directors and professional men, in which the working class, white or coloured, had no representative of their own. A parliament of masters showed small sympathy with the working man. When only two years old, it passed the Masters and Servants Act of x856 - a law far more ruth ess Itan its preaecessors in the range of offences and the severity of the penalties prescribed for servants. Designed to enforce discipline on ex-slaves, peasants, pastoralists and a rural proletariat, it survived a century of industrialism and became the model for similar laws in white supremacy colonies throughout south, central and east Africa. The Act of 1856 remains with its off spring on the South African statute book: a grim reminder of the country's slave-owning past and a sharp instrument of racial discrimination. For though it is nominally colour-blind, the

X U~

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o penalties are invoked only against the darker workers, some

breaches of the 30,000 of whom are sentenced annually for

labour code. The o ences can be rouped under three headsXbreach of 1 injury to property. The first group contract~indiscipline, includes ailure to commence work at an agreed date, unlawful disci absence from work, desertion and strikes. Among the and plinary offences are disobedience, drunkenness, brawling if he the use of abusive language. Finally, a servant can be jailed damages his master's property with malice or negligence, uses it unlawfully, loses livestock or fails to report the loss. Convicted servants were not given the option of a fine, however trivial the offence, by the original act. It authorized a sentence of one month's imprisonment for breach of contract or discipline by a first offender, and six weeks with solitary confinement and spare diet on a second conviction. A servant who damaged his master's property faced two months' imprisonment for a first offence, and three for a second, in each case with solitary confinement and spare diet. An employer who withheld wages could be sentenced to a fine of not more than £5. Liberals like Fairbairn and Saul Solomon put up some opposi tion to the act. Its victims were passive. Yet the urban prole tariat, if small, was well established and articulate. In 1856 the colony had some 9,o00 persons engaged in commerce, and 1,5oo

in manufacturing. Cape Town's list of manufactories in i859 included a total of fifty-six brickfields, limekilns, foundries, breweries, corn and snuff mills, soap, candle, fish-curing and printing establishments. The standard wage for white carpen ters, masons, bricklayers, joiners and mechanics in 1859-61 was 7s. 6d. a day, and for Coloured 6s. Employers complained that immigrants recruited in England to work in the colony for and 4s. a day often struck work soon after landing at Cape Town extracted as much as 15s. from employers." When regularly employed, building artisans, tailors, printers, bakers, wagon makers, and boat builders earned enough to qualify for the vote, fifteen years before Britain's second reform act of 1867. Yet there was no working-class movement in the Cape. Labour historians have diligently scanned the local press for


The LiberalCape

early evidence of such, and with meagre results. 9 Cape Town's printers formed a protection society in 1841, which soon faded away when some of the founders set up in business on their own. Workers took part in the anti-convict agitation, held mass meetings during the minor recession that followed, and de scended on the governor Smith to demand work or bread. The printers made another effort in 1857 at forming a mutual benefit society, to aid sick members, widows and orphans out of a fund to which every member subscribed 8d. a week.' 0 James Marriott, a radical printer, helped to promote the first labour newspaper, the Cape Mercury and Weekly Magazine, which ran from January to October 1859; and the first workers' cooperative,

formed in the same year 'for the cheapening of the price of provisions'. Prices were scandalously high, he wrote; and the Cape was not the land of milk and honey that immigrants were led to believe. A decent mechanic, earning Ci i6s. a week, had to find C2 2s. 3d. for the food, clothing and rent that cost only LI iis. 6d. in London." The Magazine recorded attempts by benevolent liberals to establish a Mechanics' Institute to instruct and entertain artisans. 12 It seems, however, that the first two trade unions were formed, both in Cape Town, only in 1881: a Typographical Society, and a local branch of the English Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners. The primary purpose of a trade union is to maintain and raise wage rates by limiting competition between workmen, prevent ing undercutting, and applying organized pressure on em ployers. For trade unions to arise, there must be a body of lifelong wage earners free to sell their labour, wholly dependent on wages, without prospect of becoming independent pro ducers, and aware of the benefits of collective bargaining. A century ago South African workers lacked one or more of these -qualities. White artisans could move easily out of their class to set up as masters on their own. Many of the less skilled workers were African peasants who retained a base in their traditional communities. Habits and attitudes inculcated during the period of slavery persisted among the ex-slaves, their descendants and for mer masters. Racial and cultural diversities in the working popu lation inhibited the growth of class consciousness and solidarity. C.S.A. -2

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o South Africa has never provided a good living for the ordinary labourer. Wages and working conditions were adjusted to the conventionally low standards of ex-slaves, the free Coloured and tribal peasants. Immigrant working men competed with the Coloured for both skilled and unskilled work. House servants, farm hands, dairymaids, gardeners and grooms who migrated to the Cape in the nineteenth century usually lost little time in 13 looking for more remunerative and congenial employment. Opportunities kept pace with immigration, even in the sluggish economy of the period before the great diamond and gold discoveries. Thomas Pringle noted in 1824 that 'to mechanics and farm labourers of steady and enterprising character, the path to independence is still open and certain'. Many of the 200 Scottish servants and mechanics who came to the Cape a few years earlier had 'already cleared little fortunes of from £500 to £2,000'; all but a few were in prosperous and improving cir c*mstances. 1 4 Germans who came under contract to farmers in the sixties were also 'intent on procuring their freedom and independence'. After completing their contract period of two years' service and repaying their passage money, nearly all left the farms to become their own masters in the towns. 5 The economic expansion that accompanied the mining of diamonds at Kimberley accentuated the instability of the immi grant white worker. Germans, according to witnesses before the parliamentary committee of 1879 on labour resources, entered the colony in order to become masters. No sooner had they learned to be useful than they bought a horse and cart, or set up as a shopkeeper, or acquired land and competed for labour. 'The objection to Europeans,' said a witness, 'is that after a time they will set up a brandy shop or something of that kind. They become independent of labour too soon.' Only Coloured men were content to labour.1 6 They were paid about 15S. to 20S. a month, with food, quarters and a garden allotment, in the

western districts. Africans in the eastern Cape received from is. to 2S. a day with rations. White employees on the farms were

much better paid. They generally occupied the position of an overseer; and if steady, active and prudent, soon became masters 1 7 and employers.

The LiberalCape Not every white worker climbed. The failures often embar rassed employers and the white community. Members of parlia ment told the committee of 1879 that farmers were hard put to isolate English labourers from Coloured on the farms: 'they must be put on an equality, and then they take black women and go back.' The Coloured, being more skilful than the greenhorns, tended to look down on them, 'and in many cases they degener ate in consequence'. A white man was said to be a degenerate if he fraternized with the Coloured. He usually took on the pre judices of the colonists and gave a racial reason for escaping from a disagreeable occupation. White navvies employed on railway construction in the sixties refused to work alongside Coloured, and abandoned their jobs for this reason when set to work on the line at Tulbagh Kloof in the western Cape. They 'spoke about the Kloof in very strong navvy language' and said they were not going to mix with the Coloured, or teach them the way to work for the same rates of pay. Though the contractors offered higher wages to skilled men if they would stay and instruct the labour ers, they refused and left for New Zealand. 18 Any indignity associated with the work of an unskilled labourer was attached to his status as a hired man and not to the work itself. The colonists never turned work into the fetish that it became on the North American frontier. Nor did they, however, develop the repugnance to manual labour that characterized the Spanish in South America. Rough and laborious work might be thought fit only for 'Hottentots, Kafirs and Coolies' when per formed for hire. A white man was not degraded, however, if he felled trees, ploughed, made hay or used pick and shovel on his own account. Many settlers practised a definite craft and com bined farming with the trade of a blacksmith, mason or harness maker.' 9 Traditional attitudes placed a premium on skills which, like capital, were imported, and associated with a white skin, though not regarded in the Cape as the white man's prerogative. A white artisan would not lose caste by working side by side with the Coloured who provided the bulk of labour, both skilled and unskilled, in the building, furniture, garment and leather industries. He maintained his superior status if he earned more, occupied a leading position, and mixed with the Coloured only

Class I

Colour in South Africa 185o-i950

when at work. This social distance deterred him from combining with Coloured artisans in a trade union. A high degree of social mobility, the smallness and isolation of the white working class account, on the other hand, for the failure of white workers to form unions of thpo own. These factors did not apply to the ere restrained by an entirely different set of Coloured. condition T centuries of colonial rule, slavery, forced labour velopment had fostered in them an unquestioning and arreste ited the growth of submission to white authority, and either a class or national consciousnes d. The independent One important exception must spirit of the pastoral Nama persisted in the offspring of unions between themselves and the colonists. The 'Bastards', or Griwas as they were later called, spoke Afrikaans and shared dfi culture of their white forbears. This affinity did not save them from constant persecution. They were conscripted for service with the commandos, expelled from their pastures, denied the right to own land, and forced into the least accessible parts of the country. The survivors eventually took refuge towards the end of the eighteenth century in the semi-arid tract west of the Vaal and Orange rivers, in what came to be known as Gq land %st. Here they formed a semi-autonomous state un8lKdries er. Another distinct Griqua state 'took shape after 1825 Wa under Adam Kok at Philippolis, below the confluence of the Caledon and Orange rivers, while a third Coloured-Nama settle ment, culled from mission stations, was settled by the adminis tration in 183o along the Kat river in the eastern Cape. The three groups of pioneers were border guards, defending the frontiers of white settlement. All lost their land to the whites, and all rose in rebellion against white settler rule. The Kat River settlers fought with troops and commandos against the Xhosa in the wars of 1834 and 1846, suffered heavily, and received no compensation. Many of them, led by Andries Botha, took up arms and joined the Xhosa in the war of I85I. Botha was convicted of treason, the rebels' land was confiscated, and the colonists soon afterwards took over the entire settlement. In Griqualand West, Waterboer concluded mutual defence treaties with the government in 1834 and 1843. His burghers 28

The Liberal Cape marched with Harry Smith against a party of Voortrekkers in 1848. Six years later, however, Britain recognized the Orange Free State and abandoned the Griquas. Diamonds were dis covered in Griqualand West in the I86os, and this led to the annexation of the territory by Britain in 1871. Meanwhile, farmers of the Orange Free State had overrun the Griqua farms at Philippolis. Adam Kok then led his people in 186i to a sparsely inhabited region called Nomansland on the eastern plateau slopes of the Drakensberg. Here they founded their commonwealth of Griqualand East. It, too, was engulfed by the colonists. When Gcaleka, Ngqika and Thembu clans made another desperate attempt to liberate themselves in 1877-8, the Griquas of Griqualand East and West took up arms in a rebellion that spread across the Orange to the northern border of the colony. This was the last armed struggle of a Coloured com munity against white supremacy in South Africa. The Griqua were destroyed because the colonists coveted their land. In the older parts of the colony, where they were essentially the working classes, the Coloured survived because they possessed only their labour power. Cape liberalism gave them equality before the law, access to the courts, protection against lawlessness, a free labour market, and in all other respects permitted a high degree of discrimination. They were emanci pated from slavery, but not from poverty, ignorance and disease. As the legal gap narrowed, the social gap between them and the colonists widened. White supremacy was entrenched by a growing inequality in educational opportunities. Mission schools were founded for the Coloured after emancipation, and government schools for the whites. 'It is quite impossible to assess the damage suffered by the Coloured People,' notes their historian, Professor Marais, 'through their children being con fined to the inferior mission schools.' 20 If an assessment were made, it might be found that segregation introduced and main tained an educational gap of thirty years between whites and Coloured. A few obtained a good middle-class education. None was admitted to a post higher than that of messenger in public services or private corporations. That Coloured workers in the western districts were conscious 29

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o of their disabilities appears from a petition presented to parlia ment in 1871 by Titus Lergele, Jacob Haas, Frederik Pitt and fifty-six other residents of Genadendal mission station. They protested against demands raised by colonists for discriminatory penalties under the masters and servants law for farm labourers, and a speedier procedure to deal with 'hard-necked servants' who caused 'great grievances and inconveniences'. 21 The peti tioners pointed out that memorialists before them had asked for relief from laws 'which injuriously affected the labouring classes'. Yet the obnoxious statutes remained in force, while others had been added which likewise bore hard on their class. The petition set out the case for reform, in particular for the option of a fine 'instead of imprisonment as a felon'. Since they were unrepre sented in parliament, and since 'strong prejudices still exist in the Colony against colour, race and class', the petitioners urged the governor, as Her Majesty's representative, to guard their interests. 2 2 Britain's master and servant law, equally one-sided, prescribed imprisonment for defaulting servants but not for employers. Trade unions mounted a campaign for reform and won a minor victory in 1867.23 The agitation touched at the Cape, where Saul Solomon 'lived himself into the heart of the Imperial Paorga ment by poring over political reports of 'the best English newspapers . He championed the workers' cause in the assem bly against J. C. Molteno, the main author of the 1856 Masters spokesman of the farmers. Responsible and Servants ct government came to the Cape in 1872, with Molteno as prime minister. He introduced a bill to give farmers the stiffer penalties they demanded for their servants, though Solomon was able to obtain important concessions after a long controversy. The amending act of 1873 did discriminate against servants employed on farms by exposing only them to sentences of imprisonment with hard labour, spare diet and solitary confinement. On the other hand, magistrates were given the power to impose fines, and not imprisonment alone, on all other servants; while em ployers were for the first time made liable to imprisonment for breaches of contract. Responsible government, imperial expansion and industrial-

The Liberal Cape

ism followed hard on the diamond discoveries of 1867-71.X British and colonial troops made war on the Hlubi in 1873, they 1 Gcaleka and Pedi in 1877, the Ngqika, Thembu, Pondo, Griqua and Rolong in 1878, the Zulu in 1879, the Sotho in 188o, the Ndebele in 1893, and the Afrikaner republics in 1899. The Cape absorbed the Transkei and its peoples in 1879-94. Britain an nexed Basutoland in i868, Griqualand West in 1871, the South African Republic in 1877, Zululand in 1887, Matabeleland in 1894, and the Afrikaner republics in 19oo. The Zulu rebellion of 19o6, in which nearly 4,00o Africans were killed, marked the last stage in 250 years of armed struggle by the traditional societies against white invaders. South Africa's industrial era was baptized in blood and the subjugation of small nations. As from the begin ning of the century, the liberation movement took the form of struggles between classes and national communities. The Cape's short-lived liberalism went into a decline after the granting of responsible government. Kimberley's mine owners produced diamonds under a regime of colour bars, pass laws and closed compounds for indentured, migratory peasant workers. Cecil Rhodes, mine magnate, politician and imperialist, domi nated the colony in the last quarter of the century. The formation of an Afrikaner Bond in 1879 polarized political differences among the colonists and strengthened the tendency towards overt racial discrimination. The Transkeian annexations multi plied threefold the potential African vote, then already a signi ficant electoral factor in eastern Cape constituencies. To keep out the 'blanket Kafir' - the term applied by racists to the Transkeian farmer - Rhodes, backed by the Bond, loaded the franchise against Africans in 1887 and 1892. Parliament ex cluded land held under customary tenure from the franchise qualifications, raised the landed property qualification from £25 to £75, eliminated the £25 wage qualification, and added a literacy test. The effect of the changes was to strike some 30,000 Africans off the rolls and to stimulate the growth of an African political movement. Wars, conquest and annexations provided one of the primary requisites of industrialism - an uprooted peasantry available at low cost for rough manual work. Peasant communities lost their

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-r95o

self-sufficiency under the pressures resulting from the confisca tion of their land and cattle, the imposition of taxes, the substitu tion of traders' merchandise for domestic products, the spread of education and Christianity. Wage earning became unavoidable for increasing numbers of men and women. Members of small agrarian societies had to acquire the discipline and skills of the industrial worker, accustom themselves to urban society, learn the laws and language of the conqueror. They learned the hard way: on the job, without formal instruction, by working under employers, supervisors and technicians who neither understood nor respected their language and customs. The alchemy of diamonds and gold that transmuted agrarian societies into a considerable industrial state attracted thousands of artisans, clerks, farm workers, men without special skills, fortune seekers and aggressive capitalists. South Africa's white population rose from 260,O0 in z865 to 634,000 in z891; it grew threefold in the Transvaal, from 40,000 in 1875 to 119,000 in x89o. The newcomers included men with habits and attitudes appropriate to an industrialized society. Some were staunch trade unionists and ardent socialists. They grafted their beliefs and patterns of organization on the colonial stock. White working men, set in authority over African peasants, despised them and also feared them as potential competitors. Employers, concerned mainly to maximize profits, exploited the weak bargaining posi tion of the peasants and substituted them, when this was ex pedient, for the better paid whites. Immigrant journeymen joined forces with local artisans to erect their traditional defences against undercutting. Printers, carpenters, miners, engineers, engine drivers, iron moulders, masons, plasterers, plumbers, tailors, bakers and hair dressers formed trade unions at Cape Town, Kimberley, Durban and the Witwatersrand between 1881 and x899. The early growth of trade unionism was an easy, uneventful process in the port towns. Small employers hobnobbed with artisans in the friendly atmosphere of a colonial community, where dark men did the dirty work and all whites belonged to a racial elite. Passions ran higher in the crude mining camps of Kimberley and the Witwatersrand. Here white working men fought against great

The Liberal Cape capitalist combines for rights. The struggle rarely crossed the colour line to unite workers of all races in a common front against the employing class. White workers usually chose to fight on their own, often under the banner of white supremacy. Racial discrimination, sponsored by governments, employers and white workers, divided the working class into antagonistic racial groups. As industrialism spread, the country moved ever farther away from the ideal state contemplated by Cape liberal ism, in which all persons 'without distinction of class or colour should be united by one bond of loyalty and a common interest'.

2 Diamond Diggers and the New Elite

Diamonds were found in 1867-8 along the Vaal and Orange rivers in a region where some 3,ooo Griquas, i,ooo Korarmas and IOOO Afrikaners lived in uneasy proximity.' Britain had acknowledged the Griqua claims to the territory by treaty in x834 and 1846. Reversing her policy, she gave independence to the Transvaal voortrekkers in 1852 and to the Orange Free State in 1854, repudiated her alliances with coloured peoples north of the Orange, excepting Adam Kok, and in effect abandoned them to Afrikaner domination. Then came the discoveries. Diamonds, prophesied the Cape's colonial secretary, Richard Southey, were 'the rock on which the success of South Africa will be built'. Britain rediscovered a moral duty towards the Griquas. Wode house, the Cape governor, informed Kimberley, the British secretary of state, that 'as a matter of right the native tribes are fairly entitled to that tract of country in which, for the present, the diamonds appear to be chiefly found'. 2 Kimberley agreed and added that his government would be much displeased if the republics were to extend their slave-dealing activities, oppress the natives, and cause disturbances of the peace by encroaching on Griqua territory.3 Britain walked off with the prize, while Griquas, Korannas, Rolong and Afrikaner republics disputed the ownership of the diamond fields. Cornelius Waterboer, the Griqua leader, had trustingly appealed to Britain for protection. An arbitration court awarded the territory to his people, and Britain annexed it in x871 under the title of Griqualand West. A payment of £9,0ooo was made to the Orange Free State as compensation for the loss of her title. To the Griqua went the consolation of having their name perpetuated in one of the richest portions of the earth's surface, which once they had called their own. South

Diamond Diggers and the New Elite Africans of all races and a random selection of immigrants took their place. The influx raised the population of the territory by June 1871 to 37,000, of whom 21,000 were Africans and Coloured.' None of the administering authorities, whether Griqua, Afrikaner or British, was prepared for the rush. The diggers appointed committees to enforce order, and the Orange Free State asserted a nominal authority before the annexation, but there was a dearth of even rudimentary services. Housing, hospitals, water supplies, sanitation, power and transport had to be improvised, usually by private agencies at rising prices. Diggers, some with families, lived in wagons, tents, huts or galvanized iron sheds. Africans, who usually walked barefooted to the fields, often arrived in an emaciated state: 'weary, grimy, hungry, shy, trailing along sometimes with bleed ing feet, and hanging heads, and bodies staggering with faint ness.' 5 Many came from far in the interior with the sole purpose of earning £6 for a gun, the only weapon with which they could hope to protect their land and cattle against invading colonists. No one accepted responsibility for the newcomers. Their desti tution rendered them unfit for hard toil, but forced them to labour twelve hours a day and more. They slept on the bare earth without shelter or in a brushwood hut, and suffered greatly from the cold. They lived on mealie-meal, with an occasional chunk of refuse meat. Water, at 2s. 6d. a bucket, was beyond their means. Many acquired a taste for Cape brandy, retailed at 3d. a tot and ios. 6d. a gallon. There were no laws to regulate wages and working conditions, impose safety measures

against accident and disease, or enforce the payment of work men's compensation. Farmers trekked to the fields with oxwagon, family, and a retinue of servants who were paid £3 a year, or the price of a cow, to dig for diamonds, while the patriarch, smoking his pipe, sat at the sorting table. Recent immigrants, who accounted for one-quarter of the white population on the fields, soon adopted the South African way of life. They too hired Africans to pick, shovel, break, haul and sift ground, to cut and carry firewood, to cook and wash, and to accompany their masters to market with sack or wheelbarrow. Most whites felt disinclined for manual 35


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-.95o work during the summer, observed Sir Charles Payton, who spent six months on the diggings in 1871. 'It is quite sufficient for them to sit under an awning and sort, leaving the Kafirs to 6 perform all the other stages of work.' Middle-class English gentlemen, like Cecil Rhodes and his brother, 'delighted to find themselves in a veritable Tom Tiddler's ground, where they could not only pick up gold and silver, but have it done for them by "nigg*rs" ,.7 Conditions were ideal for making fat profits on a thin invest ment. Luck, foresight, tenacity, ruthlessness and a little capital were needed for success. Most diggers probably lacked these qualities and failed to pay their way.' But the successful ones could amass great wealth, by production or speculation, out of a valuable mineral extracted without expensive plant and by peasants who received no protection against gross exploitation. Diamonds to an estimated value of rIl million were taken out of the ground by I872.1 The labourer's share was a weekly wage of 7s. 6d. or ios. and rations worth 6s. 6d., consisting of twenty five pounds of mealie-meal (but whole mealies came much cheaper), an issue of coarse meat (called 'kafir' meat in the trade), a handful of coarse tobacco, and a Saturday night's tot of crude wine, spirits or brandy. Africans could not fail to note the contrast between their poverty and the value of their labour. If they missed the point, dealers in stolen gems drove it home. Illicit diamond mining grew into a major industry. Stolen stones passed from the labourer to a 'tout', who sold them for a small part of their value to a registered claimholder or licensed dealer. Louis Cohen, a native of Liverpool who emigrated to the diggings m"IM6, noted that many wealthy diggers laid the basis of their fortunes by buying stolen gems. They robbed the small man of his diamonds and claim, became big mine owners or dealers, and were then loudest in denouncing the profession that they had previously practised with such success."' African and Coloured labourers supplied the stolen diamonds. Few were convicted but all were suspected, not least by unsuccessful diggers. A mythology took shape. Coloured claimholders were said to be more successful than white ones, because they received stones stolen by relatives and friends.11 Africans, it was main 36

* -



Diamond Diggers and the New Elite

tained, stole at least half the output.1 2 'The partially civilized Kaffir rapidly develops into a thief.' 1 3 The 'raw Kaffir'. fresh from the kraal, is best and most trustworthy. 'Above all things, mistrust a Kaffir who speaks English and wears trousers,' advised Payton, who had a prodigious capacity for consuming 14 and regurgitating colonial prejudices. Prospectors from Australia and California imported notions of a 'diggers' law'. A Diamond Diggers' Protection Society, formed in 1870, issued a set of regulations. 1ney stipulated that 'no licence to dig should be granted to a Native', prohibited persons of colour from holding claims or diamonds in their own right, and prohibited the buying of diamonds from any servant unless he had his employer's written authority to sell. The rules were given 'the force of law' by the executive council of the Orange Free State while it claimed to administer the diggings; but lost all semblance of legal validity after Britain had annexed Griqua land West.' - Coloured and Africans could then assert the same right as any white man to take out a licence and dig on their own account. The whites protested vigorously, especially when dia mond yields declined, or prices fell, or the cost of claims rose. There was always some distress among the diggers. They blamed it on the servants who stole and the dealers who bought the stones, but, above all, on African and Coloured licensed claimholders. Rioters swept through the streets of New Rush, the site of Kimberley, in z872; tried to lynch an Indian accused of buying diamonds; burnt the tents and canteens of suspected traffickers in stolen gems; chased and flogged African passers-by. Two of the three British commissioners appointed to administer the diggings submitted to the campaign of violence. They issued a proclamation on 23 July suspending all digging licences held by Africans and Coloured. No more licences were to be issued to persons of colour except by leave of a diggers' committee or of a board of seven bona fide white claimholders. 1 6 Barkly, the Cape governor and high commissioner of Griqualand West, ruled that such discrimination was contrary to reason and justice, and there fore ultra vires.1 I He disallowed the proclamation, but under took to see how far he could meet the rioters' demands. The diggers then submitted draft rules which would bar Africans and 37

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

Coloured from obtaining licences to search for, buy, sell, or otherwise trade in diamonds. The rules also provided for written labour contracts, the expulsion of unemployed Africans from the diggings, and the confiscation of diamonds held by servants.

Barkly conceded the substance of the demands in a proclamation of IO August 1872, described as a measure to prevent the stealing of diamonds. Barkly kept up the appearance of equality before the law by applying the proclamation to all 'servants'. But it discriminated, and was meant to discriminate, against Africans and Coloured. In the first place, no person could become a registered claim holder unless a magistrate or justice of the peace had certified him to be of good character, fit and proper to be registered. White officials under pressure from aggressive racists could be relied upon to use their wide powers against Africans as a class. Only a few licensed Coloured diggers, operating on the outskirts of the fields, remained to give credence to the Cape's doc trine of liberalism. Secondly, the proclamation laid the basis of the 'pass'I stem that spread in time to the Rand mines and from te-reto labour districts and towns throughout South Africa. It centred on the registration of labour contracts. Ser vants had to produce a certificate of registration on demand, and have it endorsed on taking their discharge. To leave the diggings lawfully, a servant had to produce the endorsed certificate and take out a pass. Any person found wandering in a mining camp without a pass and unable to give a satisfactory account of himself ran the risk of summary arrest, a 45 fine and three months' hard labour or twenty-five lashes. The object was to detect and apprehend deserting workers, who were liable under the Masters and Servants Act to fines or imprisonment. A related aim was the recovery of stolen dia monds. A policeman or employer might without warrant search a servant's room, property and person within twenty-four hours of his leaving his place of work. Diamonds in his possession belonged to his master unless the contrary was proved. Barkly's surrender to racism failed to appease the leaders of the malcontents. They were after bigger game than a handful of Coloured prospectors and debris-sorters. Aylward, Tucker, Ling 38




Diamond Diggers and the New Elite

and others like them wanted power - an unreasonable and dangerous amount of power, reported Southey, now the lieu tenant-governor of Griqualand West. They would use it, he warned, to deprive Her Majesty's Coloured subjects of their rights and privileges.' 8 He and his secretary John Currey resisted demands for a stringent vagrancy law and an outright ban on the employment of registered servants by Coloured and Africans for mining and the sorting of debris. More tents were burned. Discontented diggers made common cause with plotters from the Orange Free State and speculators out to buy claims cheaply. They formed the Kimberley Defence League, organized armed vigilantes, an hoisted the black flrag. Marvon, the secretary of state, sided with the diggers and ordered the dismissal of Southey and Currey in 1875 for having failed to establish good relations with the whites of Kimberley." 9 The Griquas rose in rebellion in 1878, and the Cape incor porated Griqualand West in I88o. The colony's Va r Act of 1867, as amended by Act 23 of 1879, could then-e applied on the diggings. It supplemented the pass laws by prescribing a maximum of six months' imprisonment with hard labour, spare diet and solitary confinement for any 'idle and disorderly person' - the phrase used to describe anyone who wandered abroad with out lawful means of subsistence and failed to give a good and satisfactory account of himself. Southey had fallen foul of the Colonial Office by rejecting racial discrimination and protecting migrant workers against gross neglect. In his dispatches he complained of diggers who turned sick labourers into the street instead of caring for them as the law required. At his instance the legislative council passed Ordinance 2 of 1874 to provide hospital accommodation, medical attention and sanitary services 'for the benefit of the native labourers', though at their expense. Every master was to deduct one shilling a month from his servant's wage and pay it to the registrar of servants, for a hospital and the improvement of general sanitation. The diggers objected strenuously to the levy, which came out of the worker's pocket, although the annual African death rate in Kimberley reached the alarming figure of seventy-nine per thousanid in 1879 in contrast to a rate


Class and Colour in South Africa T85o-.950 of forty for whites. 2 0 The levy yielded £Io,ooo in 1882, and a hospital was built. Nearly twenty years later, however, sick Africans, usually suffering from scurvy, were often left 'to lie in the compounds day after day in their dirty blankets and their bodies in a filthy condition .21 Human beings were cheaper than diamonds, as white workers also discovered. Men died or suffered injury in accidents caused by inexperience, lack of training, inadequate safety measures and the failure to supervise machinery. Witnesses told the Diamond Mining Commission of 1881 that no proper inquest or inquiry was held after an accident.2 2 The commission suggested that safety regulations be introduced, but Cecil Rhodes and some other members of the commission seemed more anxious to prevent diamond thefts than to prevent accidents. Much atten tion was given to whether white employees as well as Africans should be searched for stolen stones. For the small claim holders, whose pressure had led to the elimination of Coloured diggers, were by then being eliminated in turn. A world-wide slump in diamond prices in 1875 forced many diggers out of the fields. More left as the yellow ground became exhausted. At lower levels, when digging deep into the blue ground, men found open-cast mining impossible on small claims of thirty feet square. Rockfalls, water seepage, boundary disputes, high costs and technical difficulties associated with deep-level mining hastened the process of converting independent diggers into servants of big companies. Successful diggers and dealers, foreign merchants and in vestors bought and accumulated claims, formed syndicates and merged into companies. The original 3,600 claims in the four big mines at Kimberley were reduced by 1885 to 98 properties, held by 42 companies and 56 private firms or individuals. The mergers continued until each mine was worked as a unit. Big capitalists bought or squeezed out small shareholders. Small companies formed large companies which eventually merged into one great corporation, the De Beers Consolidated Mine. It controlled all the Kimberley mnes and ninety per cent of the world's output of diamonds before the end of the century. 2 3 Laws enacted to protect small diggers now operated for the 40 or,







Diamond Diggers and the New Elite company's benefit. Men who had clamoured for protection against illicit diamond buying found that the weapons they had helped to forge were being turned against themselves. A special court was set up in x88o to try cases of illicit diamond buying - 'the canker worm of the community', said the judge, Sir Jacobus de Wet. The Trade in Diamonds Consolidation Act of 1882 prescribed a maximum penatty or a tnousana-pount Mne or fifteen years' imprisonment or both for being in un lawful possession of uncut diamonds. Only a licensed dealer was allowed to buy the uncut stones. But heavy penalties did not stop the traffic. Attempts were therefore made to stop it at the source. Regulations of 1872 and I88o, that provided for the searching of persons when they entered or left mining ground, proved ineffective. A majority of the diggers and claimholders who replied to a questionnaire circulated by the commission of 1881 favoured the compulsory searching of African workers; some wanted whites also to be searched; and some suggested the lash, life imprisonment, banishment, or a stricter pass and vagrancy law to put down illicit diamond buying. Amended regulations of 1883 required all mine workers, other than managers, to wear uniforms and to strip naked in searching houses when they left work. White workers complained of being degraded to the 'Kafir's' level, went on strike, demonstrated and rioted in 1883. Twentyfive Africans who had joined in the turmoil were sent to jail for disorderly conduct, and the company rescinded the order to strip. A new instruction, issued in 1884, required white employ ees to be searched while clothed in shirt, trousers and socks, and those who refused were threatened with instant dismissal. The men called a general strike, stopped the pumps on all mines, and when the 'French' company resumed work, marched on the mine to put the hauling gear out of action. The company's guards, barricaded behind sandbags, called on them to halt, opened fire, killed four demonstrators outright and fatally wounded two more. The workers held a splendid funeral, gathered at mass meetings to protest, and went back to work after the owners had agreed to subject white employees to only 24 irregular surprise searches. 41


Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-I950


Africans were searched every day at the end of their shift. Stripped naked, they jumped over bars and paraded with arms extended before guards, who scrutinized hair, nose, mouth, ears and rectum with meticulous care. It was much the same kind of search that Africans endured in Kimberley's central prison where, remarked Judge, the civil commissioner, 'many a raw native ignorant of the laws of the province experienced the first acquaintance with civilization.'" 5 Rhodes and his fellow directors took the parallel a long way further when they hit on the idea of confining African miners in closed compounds for the four or six months of their contract period. This debasing form of working-class housing was firmly entrenched by i888, the year of the great merger of all controlling companies with De Beers. The compound was an enclosure surrounded by a high corrugated iron fence and covered by wire-netting. The men lived, twenty to a room, in huts or iron cabins built against the fence. They went to work along a tunnel, bought food and clothing from the company's stores, and received free medical treatment but no wages during sickness, all within the com pound. Men due for discharge were confined in detention rooms for several days, during which they wore only blankets and fingerless leather gloves padlocked to their wrists, swallowed purgatives, and were examined for stones concealed in cuts, wounds, swellings and orifices. 26 Kimberley's shopkeepers protested loudly that they were being deprived of trade by the company's policy of converting 'a labour contract into a period of imprisonment with hard labour and a truck system of wages'. 27 To appease them, De Beers undertook to stock its shops with goods bought only in the district; and Rhodes distributed the profits, amounting to a year, between a sanatorium, mining school and amenities for the whites of Kimberley."8 Africans, whose trade £1io,ooo

yielded the profit, were said to benefit in other ways from their enforced confinement. It shielded them, the company claimed, from the temptation to waste their money on strong drink and bad women or to risk unpaid imprisonment by stealing diamonds, deserting service, or breaking discipline. In truth, peasants who entered an alien world, dominated by persons of a different race,

Diamond Diggers and the New Elite language and culture, often fell prey to traders in shoddy goods, illicit liquor sellers, pimps and prostitutes. Many lives were wasted by alcoholism, venereal disease tuberculosis and crime. But free workers who inhabited the slums and shanties of industrial towns acquired the insights, maturity and hardness of will needed for survival in a harsh environment. Neither class nor national consciousness developed among the inmates of Kimberley's compound-jails. De Beers' monopolistic structure and political influence en abled it to rationalize mining techniques and enforce strict control of workers, output, markets and prices. Working costs dropped by half in the decade after amalgamation, to ios. a carat, while the average price of diamonds rose from 20S. to 30s. a carat. Dividends increased from 5 per cent in 1889 to 25 per cent in 1893 and 4o per cent in 1896.29 Rhodes, Beit, Barnato and Philipson-Stow, the four life governors, took 40 per cent of the profts I excess of £1,440,ooo a year - a right which the company for three million pounds' they eventuall T ough the harsh exploitation of Africans worth of shar urankel suggests, by 'miraculous industry' 30 and not, as Profe lions' worth of - the mine owners extracted more than £3 e accumulated diamonds at low capital costs in seventy ye o old on the Wit profits helped to finance the early watersrand. Rhodes seemed indifferent to the hom*osexual practices that the compounds of Kimberley and the Rand injected into African life. As prime minister of the Cape, he introduced the Glen Grey Act of 1894, which imposed a labour tax and introduced individual land holdings to make peasants migrate to the mines. He showed no desire to protect their families against disintegra tion and the moral rot caused by excessive labour migration. Unemployed white workers, displaced by his company mergers and rationalization, were given work on his Rand mines or recruited for the pioneer column that invaded Mashonaland in 189o. But there was a time when he required police protection

against the threats of unemployed diggers and bankrupt traders in Kimberley. De Beers dominated the town. Company detectives spied on 43 !1[


Class and Colour in South Africa r850-950 men at work and in their private ives, reported on their political activities, and set traps for suspected dealers in stolen diamonds. When white workers banded together in 1891, they called them selves the Knights of Labour, taking the American secret as their model, and declared 'perpetual war society o and opposition to the encroachment of monopoly and organized capital'. 3" Some Knights had taken part in an abortive attempt to 'rush' the Premier mine, later called the Wesselton, which de Beers bought in 189i for nearly half a million pounds. They accused Rhodes of a 'breach of trust and corruption' for taking options on the property in his capacity as managing director while at the same time, as prime minister, opposing a petition to 2 have it proclaimed an open digging. The Knights of Labour blamed De Beers, 'that great mono poly', and the 'wealthy, overestimated, disappointing politician' Rhodes for the depressed state of the working classes during the collapse of the first gold boom. 'Unity, Charity, Fidelity' were inscribed on the society's banner. The members were pledged to champion the labouring classes everywhere against monopoly capital and 'the insidious attack of cheap labour competition'. The society aimed, on the one hand, to secure direct representa tion of labour in parliament, and, on the other, to exclude Indian, Chinese or 'other cheap labour competition of any Inferior Race attempting to invade our shores'. Here, in brief, was the ideological platform of the future white labour move ment. But the Knights themselves failed to establish a hold. The banksmen,* white employees of De Beers were engine drivers, onsetterst or supervisors. Set in authority over the African, they earned four or five times as much, and lived in company houses in an attractive suburb with clubhouse, parks and recreation grounds. The Knights could not wean them from loyalty to the company; or, according to trade unionists, break the strangle hold of the company over their lives. 'The white miners of Kenilworth, the suburb of Kimberley,' wrote J. A. Hobson in igoo, 'are absolutely under the control of De Beers Company: drawing their wages from De Beers, * Overseers at brink of pit or shaft. -lSupervisors of cage at bottom of shaft; also called 'hangers-on'. 44

7 Diamond Diggers and the New Elite living in houses owned by De Beers, trading with shops con trolled by De Beers, they are the political and economic serfs of the company; if they object to any terms imposed upon them by the company, they must quit not only their employment but their homes, and must leave Kimberley to find a means of living outside the clutches of the diamond monopoly.' 33 The experiences of militant workers in Kimberley were to verify Hobson's analysis in years to come. Conditions in the company town made a lasting impression on white workers of the Wit watersrand. Kimberley became a symbol of the fate that would overtake them if they allowed mine owners to substitute 'inden tured compound labour' for a free working class. The Knights of Labour faded away. But its vision of a war on two fronts, against Monopoly Capital and Cheap Coloured Labour, guided the thinking of organized white labour for many decades to come.

There was no doubt about the preference of the owners for

cheap and docile workers whose wages could be pegged for thirty years or more at an average rate of 3s. 5d. a day, while the average wage of white miners rose in a few years from x6s. 8d. to 22S. 6d. a shift. Africans paid 2s. a month in 'pass' and hospi tal fees, received free quarters and medical care, and spent about Is. 2d. a day on basic foodstuffs, mostly mealies, beans, bread and meat. 34 By stinting on food and other requirements, a diligent worker who escaped sickness and injury could save at most £20 in seven months, the time taken to complete six 'tickets' of thirty shifts each. But his diet was worse and his accommodation no better than that of the hard labour convicts who also worked on the mines. The death rate among under ground workers was reduced to forty per thousand by 1914 as a result of improved sanitation and medical treatment. But the Tuberculosis Commission of that year reproached the manage ment of De Beers' Premier mine near Pretoria for its 'extrava gant waste of life and health'. And the rebuke applied more or less to all mines." The diamond mines never lacked labour. They attracted men by paying piece rates and a small reward to finders of high priced stones. Ex-miners in the eastern Cape and Basutoland sent their sons to the compounds where they would be shielded 45 _.i

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-950 from Kimberley's vices. The ten-feet high fences cut them off also from influences that might have made them politically conscious. The labour movement ignored the men in the com pounds. Both Coloured and African nationalists were committed to the mine owners' party and never criticized the compound system. It was 'as near perfection as it was possible to make it', declared Tengo Jabavu, editor of Imvo, when he visited Kim berley in 19o6 to collect money to found the South African Native College of Fort Hare. Officials of De Beers guided him 36 through the compounds and donated £2,500 to his college. But he complained that Alfred Beit left nothing in his will for the education of the African who had 'delved for diamonds to make Mr Beit a Magnate'. 3 7 The criticism applied equally to Rhodes, J. B. Robinson, Barney Barnato and other millionaires who made their fortunes out of the land and labour of Coloured and African. Financiers and mine managers were out to develop mines and not the miner. They adopted a laissez faire attitude, neglected his physical needs, made no attempt to teach him anything - the rudiments of mining, safety measures, the alphabet, or the elements of his new society - and used crude punishments to enforce required standards of discipline. Compound life con sequently tended to perpetuate tribal superstitions and antagon isms. Kimberley's Coloured and African residents formed mutual benefit and improvement societies in the eighties, but the men in the compounds never combined. Tribalism had a divisive effect also on other large groups of peasant workers. Fifty-six Zulu and Fengu were killed on Old Year's Day x883 in a 'faction fight' among railway construction workers at De Aar. The fighting, wrote Theal, doyen of South African historians, seemed to the men 'a not very objectionable mode of celebrating a holiday'. 3 8 His jocularity typified the colonial attitude to the new working class, as less of a threat than the Zulu impis (regiments) who cut down 8oo British soldiers and as many African levies at Isandhlwana in 1879. Indeed, another genera tion passed before African workers developed an outlook and organization to cope with the effects of industrialism. Radical whites and educated Africans blazed the trail.

Diamond Diggers and the New Elite The first African writers, journalists, ministers, teachers, clerks and politicians were sons or grandsons of tribalists and products of mission schools, among whom the Rev. Tiyo Soga (1829-71)

was an early and outstanding representativie,.is

father, a councillor of Gaika, had eight wives and thirty-nine children, and was killed in the war of 1877-8 against Gcaleka and Ngqika clans. Tiyo studied at the Lovedale Missionary Institution and the Free Church seminary in Glasgow, gradu ated at the age of twenty-seven in theology at Glasgow university, and was admitted to the ministry of the United Presbyterian Church - the first African from the south to take a degree and become an ordained minister. He married Janet Burnside, a Scot, and returned with her in 1857 to South Africa, where he preached, raised a distinguished family, trans lated The Pilgrim's Progress into Xhosa, composed hymns and assisted in a revision of the Xhosa Bible.3 9 Described in obituary notices as 'a perfect gentleman', a 'loyal subject of the Queen' and a 'noble missionary of the Cross', he died at the early age of forty-two on the eve of great changes that brought about many schisms in mission churches between white and African leaders. The missionary was a bearer of British culture as well as a teacher of the gospel. In both capacities he actively opposed traditional institutions such as chieftainship, the ancestor cult, the practice of magic, polygyny and bridewealth, that kept tribesmen away from the church.4 0 And he sided with the colon ists in their armed struggle to integrate independent states in the colonial society under British rule. The loyalties of missionary trained Africans, on the other hand, were divided between their people and the church, to which they owed their religion, education and livelihood. By the seventies, however, educated Africans, who found employment in government, commercial, legal and printing establishments, could free themselves of dependence on the missionary and become religious or political leaders in their own right. This development received a big impetus from the aggressive policy of expansion that Britain adopted after the gold and diamond discoveries. Reversing her policy of disengagement, Britain annexed

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 Carnar Basutoland in 1868 and Griqualand West in 1871. Lord to link von, the secretary of state for colonies in 1874-8, decided opposition colonies and republics in a federation. He met with Repub and resorted to force. Britain annexed the South African war with lic in 1877 and then, to appease the burghers, made The war the aid of Swazi warriors on the Pedi under Sekukuni. Natal and against Cetshwayo's Zulu kingdom followed in 1879. stood in Transvaal colonists coveted the land, and Zulu power began in the way of federation. The annexation of the Transkei the the same year, after a long and bloody war. Basutoland was next victim. Acting under the Peace Preservation Act of 1878, to the Sprigg ministry at the Cape ordered Africans everywhere to assist hand in their rifles, legitimately bought and often used and the British against independent tribes. The Sotho refused of turned their rifles against the Cape police in 88o. The 'war disarmament' spread to Griqualand East, while the Transvaal republicans rose in rebellion, defeated the British at Majuba, and regained independence in 881. Attempts at confederation were abandoned, but only after arousing passions in Afrikaners and Africans that never died away. Educated or unlettered, Christian or pagan, all Africans were subject in some degree to the 'disarmament' act, the 'cattle removal' act of 1870, the 'vagrancy' act of 1879, pass laws, prohibition of liquor, and other measures that discriminated against their race. There was great resentment and call for protest. But the hundred years of desperate struggle on the frontier had ended in defeat. The chiefs, councillors and district heads who led the people in wars of independence were dead, exiled, deposed or absorbed as minor officials in the colonial bureauc racy. The struggle for liberation would from then on be fought within the common society by men able to wield the colonist's own weapons of education, propaganda, political organization and the vote. Leadership passed to the teachers, ministers and others like them in the eastern Cape who formed the Native Teachers' Association in 1875, the Native Education Association in 188o, the South African Aborigines' Association (Imbumba in Yama Afrika) in 1882, and the Native Electoral Association they 1884.41 Though largely confined to Xhosa-speaking people,

48 1/1---

- ---. -1-.--- -1 - I I- _-%

Diamond Diggers and the New Elite were non-tribal in composition and reflected the growth of an African consciousness. vu (1859-192 1), a prime mover in the forma John Ten o Electoral Association, became the acknow -Native tiono15te ledged leader of progressive Africans in the Cape for the next thirty years. A certificated teacher and lay preacher during his teens, he was appointed editor in 1881 of the Lovedale mission journal Isigidimi Sama Xosa (Xhosa Express) - the forerunner of the ChristianExpress and the present South African Outlook and matriculated in 1883, the second African to do so. His political career started in 1884, when he and the Association mobilized the ninety African voters in the constituency of Vic toria East behind James Rose Innes, a liberal of the old school and future chief justice. Innes won the election against six other candidates with the aid of the African voters, who plumped for him, though he was an utter stranger, because 'he favoured a fair and sympathetic policy towards the Bantu people '.*2 Jabavu left the Isigidimi after the election to found, with financial back ing from a brother of Rose lInes and other liberals, the first independent African newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu (African Opinion). Imvo made its first notable impact with a campaign against the Sprigg government's Parliamentary Registration Act of 1887, which disfranchised thousands of Africans in the eastern Cape. Rhodes, then in opposition and angling for the Afrikaner Bond's support, wanted to go the whole way. Africans, he argued, were a subject race and should have no vote at all, as in Natal. There could be no union of South Africa unless the Cape met its neighbours on the issue of African rights. Writing in Imvo's editorial columns, Jabavu claimed that the bill, in addition to being 'the severest blow' yet aimed at his people, would 'establish the ascendancy of the Dutch in the colony for ever' by disfranchising the English party's 'devoted allies'. While the Afrikaner press deplored 'the impudence of the Kafir', Sprigg told the House that Imvo was 'libellous and seditious'. Yet Jabavu had leaned over backwards to show that he was no radical. 'We not only preach loyalty,' he wrote, 'but we preach subordination to superiors.' The 'Kafir', he maintained, was no C.S.A.- 3

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

leveller or democrat; he believed in caste and the principle that 'some are born to rule and others to be ruled '.' A petition to the Queen, protest meetings, a conference and talk of a deputation to England followed the passing of the act. Many such appeals were to be made before Africans learned the futility of looking for salvation to Victoria or her successors. Rhodes drove the constitutional lesson home in 1892 by spon soring the Franchise and Ballot Act which raised the franchise qualifications to the cusauvaage of Africans, Coloured and poor whites. It was colour-class legislation and acceptable to all sides of the House including the liberals - Rose Innes, then attorney general in Rhodes' cabinet, John X. Merriman and J. W. Sauer - who had taken the place of Porter and Solomon as champions of coloured rights. But they opposed Rhodes in 1893 when he moved the abolition of plural voting in the Cape division, where alone each elector had four votes, to forestall the candidature of H. N. Effendi, representative of the Moslem Association. Col oured voters were expected to plump for him; and parliament insisted on remaining exclusively white. W. P. Schreiner, a famous liberal in later years, who had replaced Innes as attorney general, defended the measure. The return of a Coloured mem ber, he argued, might precipitate constitutional changes preju dicial to Africans. Their interests, he thought, would be best secured if they were represented in parliament by white men nominated by government.44 Ever willing to sacrifice African interests for an alliance with *Afrikaners, Rhodes was as ready to sacrifice the alliance to build an empire. He plotted against Kruger's republic and organized the coup that ended in the fiasco of Jameson's Raid in x896. It changed the course of politics, wrote Jabavu, by substituting 'the Dutch Question for the Native Question'." Liberals who con demned the raid broke with Rhodes to join forces with the Afrik aner Bond in opposition to the pro-imperialist Progressive party formed in 1897. Schreiner, the Bond's parliamentary leader, took over the premiership in 1898 and included Merriman and Sauer in his ministry. Jabavu, who had stood with Sauer on the same platform for twenty years, supported the government and came under heavy fire from the English press.

DiamondDiggers and the New Elite Alfred Palmer, editor and publisher of the South African Review, wrote in September 1899, on the eve of Britain's war against the republics, that Jabavu 'has much to answer for'. He had helped the Bond into a position where it could manufacture 'whips for dusky backs', by turning African voters against the Englishman, who gave them the best wages and fairest treat ment, compared with the 'dog's life' they led under 'Boer employment'. Rhodes, and not any Bond supervisor, was their proper leader. 4 6 In 1897 Rhodes promised 'equal rights for every white man south of the Zambesi'. Three years later, during the war fought, so the imperial government claimed, to enfranchise all British subjects and secure the full liberty of all in South Africa, Rhodes declared a policy of equal rights for every civilized man south of the Zambesi. 4 ' African and Coloured national movements were to take shape a few years later in the course of an unsuccessful struggle to hold Britain to her pledge.

3 Gold Miners and Imperialist War

Barnato, Beit, Joel, Rhodes, Robinson, Rudd and Wernher used the fortunes they had made out of diamonds to buy gold-bearing rock and to finance mining operations on the Witwatersrand. They duplicated the pattern of labour organization that had served them so well at Kimberley. Fifty-three companies em ployed 3,400 whites and ten times as many Africans in x892 on outcrop claims along the Reef.' The whites supervised and did the skilled work. African peasant workers, who were housed and fed in compounds, usually worked for three or four months at a stretch before returning to their villages. The migratory labour system tended to be inefficient and wasteful. The large turnover of workers involved high recruiting and supervisory costs. Every new batch of peasants had to learn mining techniques and under go the painful process of adapting themselves to a strange en vironment. Standards of housing and diet were subordinated to the aim of extracting the greatest output at the lowest cost. Bad living and working conditions made for high morbidity and mortality rates, and discouraged men from coming to the mines. But the owners found compensating advantages in labour intensive methods of production; and turned down proposals to 2 settle Africans with their families in villages along the Rand. The white miner, a director of labour rather than a labourer, owed his supervisory role to the constant flow of greenhorns down the shaft. Since his job was a function of their inexperience, he was dispensable to the extent that they learned the skills of their trade. His dependence on the ignorance of the men under his supervision and his estrangement from them made him feel insecure. He feared competition, resented the African's ability to learn by doing, and with Kimberley's example in mind suspected the mine owners' intentions. 52

Gold Miners and Imperialist War

It was a fear of being swamped by fellow countrymen, how ever, that stimulated men from Cornwall, Lancashire and Scot land to found the Witwatersrand Mine Emp19 ' and Mechanics' Union on 2o August I592. zome 2,000 men d women, meeung in Johannesburg's Market Square, prote~l 'against the attempt of the Chamber of Mines to flood these fields with labour by means of cheap emigration'.I J. Seddon, the

union's first secretary, warned that the Chamber meant to cut wages by bringing out miners with wives clinging round their necks. He listed other grievances: unsafe and insanitary working conditions, excessive hours, low wages. But he would not advo cate a quarrel with capital. 'If any wages had to be reduced,' he appealed, 'let the wages of black labour be cut down.' The miners rejected class solidarity with Africans but col laborated with capitalists in establishing, also on 20 August 1892, V the Transvaal National Union to campaign for equal franchise rights for all white men in the Transvaal. The union became an instrument of subversion, a tool of Rhodes, Jameson and the mine owners who conspired to bring about the abortive putsch of 1896. Trade unionists had withdrawn long before then from the movement, but their initial participation revealed a conflict of loyalties and interests. Thomas, the mine union's president, wanted the men to cooperate with the owners whose interests, he said, they shared in such matters as the franchise and the customs tariff.4 Seddon, on the other hand, urged the men to have nothing to do with the National Union as long as the owners persisted in their 'dastardly attempt to deluge the country with miners'. It was arrogance on the part of the Chamber of Mines, he urged, to ask workmen to join the National Union while trying to 'crush them down with a worse tyranny than ever the Transvaal Government proposed to put upon the country'. They should be labour unionists first and national unionists afterwards. 5 British workmen, most of whom were temporary residents, did not feel strongly about the franchise and suspected the aims of the employers. E. B. Rose, a member of the miners' executive and at one time president of the union, contended that 'the working man was politically the equal of the richest mine owner' as long as neither had the vote. Indeed, he claimed,



Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

workers were better off without a vote unless it was accompanied by the secret ballot. For, as they had learned at Kimberley before the the Cape introduced the ballot in 1894, employers exploited worker's vote under the open system. The National Union's leaders rejected a proposal to include a demand for secret voting in the franchise campaign, whereupon the labour delegates withdrew from the union. They decided to put their claims directly to the government and did so, added Rose, 'invariably with the happiest results


Mine owners on the Rand, though arrogant, commanded less power than in the Cape where Rhodes, as prime minister, was able to promote legislation in which he, as managing director of De Beers and uncrowned king of Rhodesia, had a personal pecuniary interest. Such a corrupting concentration of power could not occur in the Transvaal while Kruger and his burghers controlled the state. An alliance between white worker and Afrikaner farmer was conceivable in spite of language and cultural differences. Both groups were at loggerheads with the capitalists, who exploited the one and plotted against the other. Afrikaners recognized colour-castes and not classes. The con stitution of i856 guaranteed inequality between white and black in church or state; but Jack, if white, was as good as his master. Mine owners rejected equality of classes and races. The Star sneered at the 'embryonic John Burnses and Tom Manns' who, ambitious for themselves, valued notoriety and power more than the success of the workers' cause." Employers showed their teeth. Andrew Hope, the miners' new president, was told to quit the union or his job at the Simmer and Jack mine. He chose to be victimized. The union decided to offer 'passive resistance' to the company's 'tyrannical conduct' by employing Hope, at his 8 former salary, to organize the union along the Rand. The republic was destitute of industrial laws and hardly able to protect workmen against exploitation and victimization. The government disliked intervening more than was necessary in the internal affairs of mining companies, President Kruger explained to Rose and J. T. Bain, the union's president and secretary, when they asked him in 1893 to open state-owned mines for the relief of white unemployment. He would not risk the public's money

Gold Miners and Imperialist War in dubious enterprises or stir up more noise in Johannesburg, from where enough noise was coming already, by competing with the owners. 9 The union was more successful when it agitated against the owners' gold theft bill. Like the Cape's Illicit Diamond Buying Act, on which it was modelled, the bill would authorize espionage and the surveillance of employees by company agents. Miners lobbied the Volksraad and demon strated through Johannesburg streets in February 1893 behind a

brass band and banners, with the slogan I G B T HE THE IDB - REMEMBER KIMBERLEY AND IDB.


The Volksraad threw the bill out; and the miners celebrated their victory with another procession, headed by Africans carrying a coffin in scribed 'In memory of G. T. Bill.'1 I The union claimed to have easy access to the government and a unique record of successes in obtaining legislative reforms, notably when the Volksraad adopted twenty of its twenty-three suggested amendments to the draft of the republic's first mining law of 1893."1 It introduced long-overdue safety measures and the first explicit industrial colour bar. This stipulated that no African, Asian or Coloured might prepare charges, load drill holes or set fire to fuses.1 2 The Volksraad adopted the clause by fifteen votes to eight. The minority pointed out that some 'Kaffirs' were well qualified to work with dynamite. It was unreasonable to pay a white man C5 a month for work that a black could do as well for £2. Anyone with a certificate of competency should be allowed to blast. But the state mining engineer contended that the only purpose of the clause was to prevent accidents. He, for one, had no confidence in a 'Kaffir'. Members who supported him said they would not give Africans 'so much right by law'; and read into the clause a general ban on their employment in the mines.1 3 The presence of competent Coloured and African blasters, some from the diamond fields, gave the lie to the contention that a dark skin denoted an inherent inability to acquire the skills and judgement of a skilled miner. Unqualified white men, on the other hand, were as great a danger in mining as unqualified Africans. The authorities soon found that a deficiency of pigment did not guarantee ability. The new mining code of x896 omitted


Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 the racial test and substituted a blasting certificate. It became the hallmark of a professional miner. In terms of the regulation a trained, reliable African or Coloured could assist the certifi cated blaster and under his direct supervision prepare charges, load drill holes and light fuses. 4 It was evidently assumed that only white men would hold a certificate. This was not a statutory rule. put the code did introduce two new colour bars. en the sole right to work as Or4 regulation gave whit er reserved the job of engine banksen and onsetters; an e miners, union had asked the driver to certificated whites. Is government to prohibit the employment of unqualified men on engines that hauled cages and skips along the shafts. Not only untrained whites, explained Rose, 'but Coolies and even Kaflirs also' were thus employed, 'with the inevitable result that acci dents to men employed in the mines through overwinding the cages or otherwise became more frequent.'1 6 But mine owners and managers objected to the colour bar. They argued for a test based on competence and not colour. Many 'Cape Boys', they said, were as competent as white men and should not be barred, especially in small mines and prospecting shafts.' 7 The govern ment made a concession to the owners in x897 by dropping the racial qualification for banksmen and onsetters, but retained it for engine drivers. 1 This was the only statutory colour bar left on the mines at the outbreak of war. White men did most of the skilled work, but there were areas in which Coloured and Africans could rise above the labourer's level. Colour prejudice, Anglo-Afrikaner rivalries and a shortage of skilled men formed the matrix of the labour movement. As at Kimberley, racial and national cleavages distorted class align ments. Immigrant miners, mechanics, fitters, joiners and prin ters formed trade unions along traditional class lines. The Witwatersrand Mine Employees' and Mechanics' Union agitated for an eight-hour day, safety measures, and compensation for injuries; celebrated May Day; and defended trade unionism against the accusation that it was prone to violence and anarchy.' 9 But the most class-conscious leaders, like the Scottish fitter J. T. Bain, also appealed to racial sentiment for protection rican miners and to republican sentiment for protec agams



Gold Miners and Imperialist War don against mine owners. The immigrants were torn between class interests and national loyalties. Bain, whom some his torians believe to have been South Africa's greatest trade union leader,2" became a citizen of the republic and fought against the British army. Few men of his class followed the same course. The great majority withdrew or joined the British troops. None identified himself with his African co-worker. Africans, observed the Star,2 1 had no value in the communitj' except as the equivalent of so much horsepower. They wer: * both indispensable and expendable. Accidents or disease killed, maimed or incapacitated thousands every year. Employers re cruited fresh supplies of sturdy young men from villages withi4 a radius of 5oo miles. They came by foot and rail, often ridin) for ten days in open cattle trucks, to be sent underground the day after their arrival and without training or time to recuperate. The resulting death rate was high. It averaged sixty-nine per thousand from diseases on Rand mines in 1902-3, when the first health statistics were compiled, and ranged from ix8 to 164 in groups of men from tropical regions. Pneumonia, scurvy, menin gitis, enteric, and dysentery caused the death of 3,762 Africans, or eighty-two per cent of all who died from disease on mines and works of the Witwatersrand in 19o3. The death rate fell to thirty-three per thousand in 19o6, after Milner's administration had enforced minimum standards of diet, housing, sanitation 2 and hospital care. The high incidence of deaths and injuries - for which no compensation was paid - bad food, poor accommodation and unpleasant work gave the mines a bad name. 'We do not like our men to go to Johannesburg, because they go there to die,' chiefs from Basutoland told Sir Godfrey Lagden, the Trans vaal's first secretary of native affairs under British rule.2 3 The African's only defence was to abscond or change his job for a better. Mine owners sang the praises of free enterprise, attacked Kruger's monopolistic concessions over dynamite, liquor and railways, but did not scruple to monopolize recruiting or to restrict the worker's freedom of movement and contract. Mana gers petitioned in i888 for a pass system, monthly labour con tracts, penalties for deserters, and the registration of all Africans


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o in the republic. The Chamber of Mines, formed in 1889, complained in its first annual report that competition for labour ers was taking 'the regrettable form of overt attempts to bribe and seduce the employees of neighbouring companies to desert their employers'. A manager had 'standing alone, scarcely any other remedy than to raise his rates of pay'. Rhodes, Lionel Phillips, George Farrar and other members of the Chamber took drastic action. They conspired in 1895 to bring about the downfall of the republic; agitated for a labour tax, pass laws, and a ban on liquor for Africans; and undertook to reduce wages from 2s. 3d. a shift to is. 6d. for skilled and is. for 'ordinary' workers.2 4 Kruger's men disarmed Jameson's filibusters with hardly a struggle; and the Industrial Commission of 1896, keeping an eye on British allegations of 'Boer slavery', refused to recommend any measure 'equivalent to forced labour'. 25 But the Volksraad gave the owners their pass law, which they then said was ineffective to an extent that made it one of the grievances to be redressed by war. To monopolize recruiting and stop crimping, the owners formed the Native Labour Supply Association in 1896 and instructed compound managers to impose uniform conditions of service. Africans were to work not less than nine hours underground and ten on the surface, with a diet of not more than two and a half pounds of 26 mealie-meal a day and two pounds of meat a week. The attack on wages followed in 1897. The African miner's average wage had reached a peak of 63s. 6d. for thirty com pleted shifts in 1895. It was reduced to 48s. 7d. on a scale ranging from IS. 2d. to 2s. 6d. a shift. Anticipating disturbances and desertions, the Chamber asked the government to draft extra police to the mines and to instruct native commissioners 'to send forward as many natives as possible to these fields '.2 White mining employees at Randfontein were notified at about the same time that their wages would be cut by ten shillings to 2os. a week. They struck work, and were evicted by police at Kruger's command from their company-owned houses. But the men won and went back to work at the old rates. W. H. Andrews, then employed as a fitter on Porges Randfontein, took part in the strike and claimed that it made two notable gains. It pre 58

Gold Miners and Imperialist War vented a reduction of wages all along the Reef and 'exploded the fallacy that Oom Paul and his government were the friends of the workers'.2 Whether fallacious or well founded, the belief persisted among white workers for many years after the fall of the republic. Rhodes had engineered the armed invasion and abortive rising of December i895 in his dual capacity of prime minister and company promoter. His fellow conspirators included members of his chartered company, leading mine owners, the Bechuana land administration, and the British high commissioner at the Cape. Chamberlain, the responsible British minister, knew of Jameson's preparations but made no attempt to arrest the raid. 2 9 After it had failed, the imperial government took the initiative against the republic with the full backing and active support of a majority of mine owners. Britain drafted Io,ooo troops to South Africa in August 1899 and moved troops to the Cape and Natal borders. Kruger presented an ultimatum on 9 October, demand ing the withdrawal of the troops. Britain rejected the ultimatum, and the republican commandos invaded Natal and the Cape to begin a war that was to last for thirty-one months. Britain annexed the Orange Free State on 24 May 1900, occupied Johannesburg on the 31st, and annexed the South African Republic on i September. Republican forces continued to fight a guerrilla war with great courage and skill against an army nine times their size. The war ended in the defeat of the republics and a peace treaty signed at Vereeniging on 31 May 19o2. Britain spent £250 million on the war, put 448,ooo troops in the field, lost 5,774 men killed in action and I6,I68 who died of wounds and disease. Her armies burnt homes, deva stated farms, and confined civilians in concentration camps. Nearly 4,ooo republicans were killed in battle, 2o,ooo died in the camps, 31,000 were taken prisoner, and 2oooo surrendered at the end of the war."0 Africans and Coloured also died, unrecorded and unsung, in their masters' war. They served as scouts, spies, stretcher bearers, transport drivers, labourers and camp followers, but not as soldiers. Both British and Afrikaners respected the tradition that allowed men of colour to fight with colonists against tribal impis

Class and Colour in South Africa T85o-r95o but never against whites. Peasants lost crops, livestock and huts, as troops, burning and pillaging, swept over the farms. Com mandos, living on the land, seized the cattle of tribesmen with out compensation. The tribesmen retaliated when the com mandos withdrew by seizing the farmers' stock. There were inter-tribal clashes and occasional attacks on isolated bands of dispirited burghers. 3 ' Schreiner, the Cape premier, gloomily predicted an African rising if colonial forces fought outside the border. But Africans hoped that Britain would restore their land and made no concerted attempt to free themselves from white domination. It was a white man's war also in terms of its objectives. Britain expressed great concern for the sufferings of Africans, Coloured and Indians in the Transvaal; and professed to be fighting for their freedom and to extend the rights and liberties of the common people. The promise of their liberation seemed to many Englishmen the war's single redeeming feature. But Afri cans, Coloured and Indians obtained no relief either at the peace settlement or in the post-war reconstruction. Acting under martial law, the British military authorities reduced the African miner's average wage in i9oo from 45S. to 30s. per thirty com 2d. a shift.3 2 pleted shifts and the standard wage to is. or Is. Africans lost in bargaining capacity under British rule, which turned the republics into colonies, restored authority to the defeated enemy, cultivated their loyalty, and consolidated an alliance with them on the basis of white supremacy. The republicans fought to retain their independence. They were an oppressing as well as an oppressed nation, writes the Marxist historian Endre Sik; but as 'freedom fighters' their struggle, he claims, 'belongs to one of the most glorious chapters 3 A similar opinion was current of the history of liberation wars'. at the time in the international labour movement, not least in Britain, where the Independent Labour party's vigorous anti war campaign made it for several years 'the most unpopular Party and its adherents and leaders the most bitterly abused Africans, Indians and Coloured persons in the country '. probably agreed with Britain's Fabians that the war, if wholly unjust, was wholly necessary in the interests of civilization and




7 Gold Miners and Imperialist War

the empire, whose control over such mighty forces as goldfields was to be preferred to control by small communities of frontiers 5 men. 3 Rosa Luxemburg, another Marxist, saw in imperialism the political manifestation of a ravenous capitalist system which existed by invading, destroying and absorbing small peasant societies. Like the Fabians, but without their faith in Britain's civilizing mission, she claimed that the war was 'historically necessary' and the evitable result of conflict between a'patriar omy' and 'modern large-scale capitalist ex chal peas ublican farmers and British capitalists, she ploitation4 n, le same aims. Both wished to subdue the argued, ha e expropriate his land, and force him into the labour mar o triumph of capitalism was a foregone conclusion in , o n absorption their to resist the republics for and it was futile in a modem state. 3 6 The Fabian-Luxemburg thesis rested on an assumption that the republicans could not or would not change their ways to meet the needs of an industrial economy. Sir Alfred Milner, the British high commissioner, Joseph Chamber lain, the secretary of state for colonies, the British press and the mine owners used a similar argument to justify their war. But it was a false and dishonest argument. Few agrarian societies were so richly endowed or well equipped as the Transvaal for an industrial revolution. The republic attracted educated and professional men from Holland or the Cape, and was beginning to produce its own specialists. Left to itself, it would have developed an efficient administration, a network of railways and roads, and adequate supplies of water and power. Far from being intractable, the burghers expanded production to provide foodstuffs for the Rand, built railways linking it to the ports, enacted an excellent mining code, kept order over unruly, rebellious fortune-hunters, repelled an armed imperialist invasion, and held the world's greatest military power at bay for more than two years. The mining companies under republican rule produced in 1897, after barely ten years of effective development, more than three million ounces of gold valued at £io j million and distributed £2,817,000 in dividends. Foreign capital flowed without let or hindrance into the republic; 61

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-.95o operated in absolute security even during the war, when Kruger set his face against a scorched-earth policy; made great profits and paid in taxes only five per cent of declared profits. A war was neither inevitable nor necessary to modernize the republic.

The mine owners claimed that the dynamite monopoly, high railway rates, an abuse of liquor by labourers, and a scarcity of

African workmen cost the industry £2-J million a year, which would be saved if they could bend the government to their will. The wasted costs were exaggerated and the grievances trivial. They originated in government policy, not in a backward social structure, and were neither irremediable nor so grave as to warrant the use of force. British taxpayers should have queried the wisdom of a war that saddled them with a debt a hundred times as great as the alleged annual loss; a war fought to augment the profits of shareholders or, in J. A. Hobson's memorable phrase, 'to place a small international oligarchy of mine-owners and speculators in power at Pretoria'. His first-hand study of the Transvaal just before the war persuaded him that the mine owners had provoked it to obtain a government suited to their purpose. Their 'one all-important object' was 'to secure a full, cheap, regular, submissive supply of Kaffir and white labour'. 37 This, concisely stated, he argued, was Britain's war aim. The judgement now seems harsh and intemperate, but it gains credibility from the content of the agitation preceding the war and from the policies that followed afterwards. If motives are to be judged by consequences, the mine owners did plot to instal a government able to tap labour resources in Africa and Asia that the republic neither commanded nor wished to utilize. Britain did not, however, make war only to benefit shareholders. South African historians have shown that Cham berlain and Milner, who forced war on the republics, had in mind broad imperial interests which were being threatened by the shift in the balance of power.3 8 Gold mining was changing the Transvaal into Africa's most advanced economic region. It was likely to become the centre of a vigorous Afrikaner nationalism, radiating to the south, drawing to it the loyalties of Afrikaners throughout the sub-continent, and challenging Britain's presence in all South Africa. Chamberlain and Milner

Gold Miners and Imperialist War decided to prevent the growth of a rival imperialism. They demanded franchise reforms that would give British subjects the upper hand in the republic, asserted the rights of a suzerain, and when these stratagems failed, provoked the war. This is a political interpretation. It comes from scholars who reject economic determinism as being too simple and crude an explanation of political events. The interpretation serves as far as it goes, but it does not account for all the facts. The mine owners who plotted against the republic in 1895 cannot be exonerated from blame for the war of 1899. It is of the nature of capitalists to make profits and of governments to make war. Neither will readily admit to responsibility for the other. Yet economic and political motives have seldom blended so nakedly as in the capitalists and politicians who conspired in the last decade of the century to bring about the downfall of the Trans vaal. The South African war of 1899-i9o2 stands as a classic ex

ample of imperialist aggression prompted by capitalist greed. Britain might have atoned for her predatory aims if she had fulfilled her pledge to free Africans, Coloured and Asians from racial tyranny. Milner told a Coloured deputation in January igo that he could not accept their offer to take up arms against the republican forces; but promised to secure fair treatment for all persons of colour in the Transvaal. He 'thoroughly agreed that it was not race or colour, but civilization which was the test of a man's capacity for political rights .39 Two months later, in the first round of peace talks at Middelburg, Kitchener laid the basis for a betrayal of African rights. He told Louis Botha that if the burghers surrendered, they would be allowed to keep their rifles under licence - 'to protect them', in Botha's words, 'from natives'. Secondly, the 'Kaffir question' would be solved by not giving franchise rights to 'Kaffirs' until after the introduction of representative government. 40 The imperial government reacted with a firm declaration of principle. Chamberlain's cable of 6 March go stated: 'We cannot consent to purchase peace by leaving the coloured popu lation in the position in which they stood before the war.' He instructed Milner to modify Kitchener's peace proposals by stipulating that the franchise, if given after the grant of 63

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 representative government, 'will be so limited as to secure the just predominance of the white race, but the legal position of the Kaffirs will be similar to that which they hold in the Cape Colony'."1 Milner watered down the guarantee by substituting 'coloured persons' for 'Kaffirs' in the text of his letter to Kitchener; but it was clearly Britain's intention at that stage to insist on a non-racial franchise. The republicans rejected the peace terms for reasons other than the franchise. Fighting a stubborn guerrilla war, they wore the British down and sapped their will to continue a struggle that seemed pointless and wasteful after the seizure of the gold mines. On 31 May 1902 Britain agreed at Vereeniging to a peace settlement that would put Afrikaners back in power, give them £3 million to restore the ravaged farms, and keep Africans, Coloured and Indians in subjection. It was Smuts, on behalf of the vanquished, who drafted the decisive clause in the treaty. Article 8 stipulated: 'The question of granting the franchise to natives will not be decided until after the introduction of self-government.' 4 2 The treaty made no mention of Coloured rights and left the issue of the 'native' fran chise to be settled after the introduction of responsible govern ment, and not of representative government as Chamberlain had insisted. By agreeing to these terms, Britain was pledged to allow a white oligarchy to decide whether or not to give the vote to the great majority of the population in the conquered territories. She had tacitly surrendered her moral responsibilities and abandoned her self-assumed role as the protector of Africans and Coloured. Chamberlain told Generals Botha, de Wet and de la Rey in London on 5 September 1902 that there was 'no parallel in history for conditions so generous granted by a victorious belligerent to its opponents'.4 3 Others since then have praised the Vereeniging treaty as a magnanimous gesture, an act of contrition, a bold bid for Anglo-Afrikaner conciliation and a stroke of genius in the best English tradition." Afrikaners and Africans disputed this verdict, the former because an unjust war had deprived them of independence, the latter because an unjust peace had entrenched white supremacy. Referring to the peace treaty, Tengo Jabavu wrote in October

Gold Miners and Imperialist War

that, since 'the English, the Dutch and the Native elements' had a right to be in the country, 'each should be accorded by 1902

the others the common rights of citizenship ,.s Dr Abdurahman,

the outstanding Coloured spokesman in the first quarter of the century, warned that 'in the settlement after the war and in the endeavour to conciliate the two white races the material welfare of the blacks might suffer'. His people wanted to put such 'morbid' fears aside. 'Did not our Gracious King promise protection to the Natives ? Are we not loyal? Is not the British Flag synonymous with justice and freedom ?' So they reasoned. 'But, alasl our forebodings were only too true.' 4 6 Milner concentrated after the war on restoring the mines to full working capacity and on settling British immigrants in rural areas to offset the Afrikaner's ascendancy. Republican tech niques of white domination were improved and expanded for the purpose. Africans in the Transvaal, reported lieutenant governor Sir Arthur Lawley, had hoped that 'the old position of master and servant would be altered'. But his officials were mak ing every effort 'to maintain the relative position of the races as it existed in past days'. 4 7 The effort included a mass of colour

bar laws, many of them churned out before elected members sat in the legislative council. Peasants were forced to give up their arms and return cattle seized during the war, but they never recovered their own stock seized by British troops and republican commandos. Every adult African male was required to pay a labour tax of two pounds, with another two pounds for the second and each additional wife of a polygynist. The administration reshaped the laws on passes, labour contracts and liquor pro hibition; authorized municipalities to segregate Africans in locations; hired out African convicts to mining companies; and prohibited extra-marital intercourse between a white woman and any African, Asian or Coloured. 48 Not surprisingly, some


Africans wished 'to call back the days of the Republic', since X they had received better treatment and wages 'when the Boers dominated'.9

Britain had seven years of supreme authority in which to give the African and Coloured population of the ex-republics a new deal. Military rule was succeeded soon after the end of the 65

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-r95o


governor war by crown colony government under a lieutenant minority of un assisted by two councils of civil servants. A May 1903 to the official white members were appointed in it acquired a Transvaal's legislative council. Two years later men could majority of elected members for whom only white was bound vote because, the Colonial Office declared, Britain by the treaty of i9o2 to deny representation to her coloured council subjects. 50 Civil servants dominated the executive throughout this period, however, while bills discriminating for against persons not of European descent had to be reserved also attention by the secretary of state. That safeguard appeared set in the Transvaal's constitution of 6 December I9O6, which up a parliament based on an exclusively white male adult suffrage. legal Until then the officials had power enough to do away with liberty' discrimination and extend to all races the 'equal laws, equal of South that Chamberlain had promised in igoo for the whole colonial Africa. s" But Milner's team of college graduates and their officials took over the racial ideologies as well as the offices of republican predecessors at Pretoria and Bloemfontein. The terms of the peace treaty, Milner's racism and the colour of bar constitutions alerted Africans and Coloured to the menace unbridled white power. They protested vigorously and on a scale that signified the presence of a large, well-informed opinion against discrimination. Africans in the Orange River Colony removal of petitioned Britain in 1902 for political rights and the goodwill. 52 of assurances windy only received and colour bars;

Africans was A 'monster' petition signed by 33,ooo Transvaal addressed to the king in I9O5. They asked that 'their interests

should be safeguarded in the granting of the constitution to the New Colonies . Coloured residents of the Transvaal made

similar appeals. 5 4 'As matters stand there is no help for it,' wrote

Jabavu, 'but for the Natives to combine with the Coloured people in the and make their representations to the ruling 5authorities 5 Street.' Transvaal, but better still at Downing

The African Political Organization sent Dr Abdurahman and


mI 9o6 to petition the government for to En gland

a non-racial franchise in the north. Jabavu regretted that Africans, 'not being properly organized', were not represented 66

Gold Miners and Imperialist War by 'a pure-blooded Native or two'; and took comfort in the thought that the deputies spoke for them as well as for the Coloured.5 6 Abdurahman urged Elgin to stipulate that Britain would extend the franchise to all races if the new colonies failed to do so within a year of obtaining self-government. The Colonial Office replied to this and all other such appeals that article 8 of the peace treaty bound Britain to limit the vote to 57 whites and to deny representation to her coloured subjects. This was a legal quibble, as Abdurahman was quick to point out. Article 8 referred only to 'natives'. It did not exclude Coloured and Asians from the projected franchise or prevent Britain from enfranchising Africans under the APO's formula. These possi bilities were never explored, however, nor was any attempt made to discuss a non-racial franchise on the grounds of merit. The British government, the colonial administration, white immi grants and settlers of all classes and shades of opinion assumed as a matter of course that only white men should exercise the vote in the north. The Transvaal Municipalities Election Ordinance of I9cliN, the prececient For an aU-wute franchise. Lionel Curtis, thefolnb clerk of Johannesburg and one of Milner's team of graduates from New College, Oxford, prepared the draft on which the ordinance was based. His franchise, he claimed, was so liberal 'as to include almost every white British subject, male or female'. 5 8 But his liberalism did not extend to persons of colour. Since article 8 of the Vereeniging treaty did not refer to local government, it could be argued that Britain was free to include them in the municipal vote. Indeed, Milner wanted to extend this vote to aliens and also to coloured British subjects who could pass an education test. Curtis objected, however, to the coloured franchise, and so did the Johannesburg municipal council, which consisted wholly of nominated white members. The official majority in the legislative council could have carried the government's proposal, but the administration preferred to yield without a struggle. Lawley saw no reason for imposing a franchise 'in opposition to the most deep-rooted sentiments of the white population'. He found it impossible to enforce 'a principle repudiated no less 67

Colour and Class in South Africa 1850-950 His govern by the British inhabitants than by the Dutch'. to coloured ment would not grant aliens a privilege denied strong body of British subjects, and so excluded both, though a 5 9 Though white opinion favoured the franchise for white aliens. formally pre patently discriminatory, the ordinance was never reservation sented to the Colonial Office for approval under the facts, but clause. The officials in Whitehall were aware0 of the 6 Britain had chose to ignore the constitutional safeguard. Yet were fought the war ostensibly to enfranchise her subjects who to her aliens in the republic. Her refusal to extend the vote coloured subjects or to aliens made a mockery of her preten sions to a high standard of political morality. She tried to justify the chicanery by pleading respect for the 'people's will', and then violated democracy by ignoring the legitimate claims of the majority. The Colonial Office turned a blind eye on measures taken to 'keep the Kaffir in his place'. It could not similarly ignore attacks on Indians. They had a doughty champion in Mohandas "Gandhi, influential friends in London, and the backing of the government in India. Britain had taken up cudgels on their behalf before the war in a dispute with the republic over the terms of Law 3 of 1885. It excluded Asians from citizenship, denied them the right to reside or own land outside segregated locations, and provided for their registration. Britain eventually agreed to the principle of residential segregation on alleged sanitary grounds, but objected to an order prohibiting Indians from trading outside the segregated areas or bazaars. The dis pute went to arbitration in 1895. Negotiations followed. The republic offered to compromise if the Coloured were included in the segregation law. MiMer replied that he 'could not, to help one class of British subjects, give away the rights of another class'. 6 1 He did just that after the war, however, in order to appease a handful of British shopkeepers. The Orange Free State had barred Asians from settling or trading in the republic. In terms of the Pretoria Convention of 1881, the Transvaal was bound to allow 'any person other than a native' to reside and trade within its borders. For this reason, and because they developed trade with farming communities,



Gold Miners and Imperialist War Kruger's government did not restrict the entry of Indians or segregate them rigorously. Milner's officials did both. They introduced a vexatious system of permits and gave notice, first in April 1902 and again a year later, of their intention to enforce the law of 1885, with exemptions for educated, wealthy Indians and for those who had traded outside the bazaars before the war. Chamberlain protested that he could not justify a continua tion of the republic's discrimination, but Milner endorsed his executive's action. He did this to satisfy the White League, an organization of shopkeepers and racists, and to win support for his policy of importing indentured Asian workers. Then, too, he and his officials believed in white supremacy dogmas. Lawley made this clear in his memorandum of 13 April 1904 on the need for new legislation to fetter Indian trade and immigration. 6 2 He argued, and Milner agreed, that the most momentous issue of the age was probably the struggle between East and West for the temperate zone. To honour past pledges of equality would be a greater crime than to break them, if they had the effect of handing South Africa over to an Asian people. The first duty of British statesmen was to find homes for the white race. Whites would always remain supreme in the public services, professions and farming. White artisans and mechanics could be relied upon to hold their own in the skilled trades by com bining. But Indian traders and small cultivators drove white men out of the retail trade and market gardening. Guided by an instinct of self-preservation, the Transvaal republic had pro hibited Indians from owning land. The same instinct was moving the commercial community to protest against Indian traders.6 3 Lord Selborne, successor to Milner, also saw no way of recon ciling Asian and European claims. South Africa would either remain a 'white man's country', based on a Negro proletariat, or be peopled by natives and Asians under European control. Britain had a duty when the Transvaal was a foreign state to protect her Indian subjects, even to the extent of making their grievances a cause of war. But the government would betray a trust, no less sacred, to the whites if it repealed the republic's anti-Asian law.6" Nearly i,1oo Indians had served in Gandhi's Ambulance Corps 69


Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-950 with British troops against the republics. Yet Britain preferred to betray her allies. The specific reasons given for anti-Asian legislation were as flimsy and contradictory as the Lawley Selborne ideology. Indians were said to have insanitary habits and live in squalor. So did many poor whites in the slums of Fordsburg and Vrededorp, but they were never segregated by law. Asian immigration was said to threaten white supremacy. Yet Lawley, Milner and the mine owners imported 43,000 Chinese for the mines against protests from South Africans of all races. On the other hand, Indians were accused of out-trading whites and using their 'immense wealth', as Lawley described it, to buy out the 'credulous' and 'ignorant Dutch farmer'. Summarizing white prejudices, Gandhi noted that 'the very qualities of Indians count for defects in South Africa'. They were disliked 'for their simplicity, patience, perseverance, frugality and other-worldliness '.65 With British supremacy firmly entrenched and closer union in the offing, a wave of reaction swept through the Cape from the north. In 1903 the East London municipality gave notice that 'Natives and Asiatics shall not be allowed or authorized to congregate, stand or walk upon any pavement' in any principal street or square. In 1904 parliament, reacting to an outbreak of bubonic plague, passed the Native Locations Act, providing for the segregation of urban ATricans. 7.he Immigration Act of 19o6 closed the Cape to Asian men over sixteen years of age from abroad and severely restricted their entry from other parts of South Africa. In the same year Natal brutally suppressed a small Zulu revolt against the ri poll tax, executed twelve Zulu convicted of killing two members of a tax-enforcing squad, and deployed o,ooo armed whites and some 6,0o0 African troops against Bambatha, the chief of a small Lala tribe in Greytown. This was the last upsurge of Zulu military power. The revolt originated in the poll tax, economic distress caused by cattle and crop diseases, and above all in the alienation of over two million acres of good farmland, representing five-twelfths of the Zulu country, to white sugar planters in 19o4. 6 Gandhi, thinking 'I must do my bit in the war' left the Transvaal to join the army 70




Gold Miners and Imperialist War with a small Indian stretcher-bearer corps; and was there con verted to the ideal of life-long celibacy and poverty in the service of humanity.


He was 'doing his bit' when the Transvaal government intro duced the 'Black Ordinance' of 19o6, making fingerprint registration compulsory tor ati Asians of eight years or upwards. Gandhi saw 'nothing in it except hatred of Indians' and their 'absolute ruin'. A mass meeting held in Johannesburg on ir September took an oath to resist registration. Gandhi and H. 0. Ali, a Coloured Muslim, were deputed to put"e Indian case Mefore the government in Whitehall. They interviewed Lord E ., the secretary of state, and told him: 'Our lot is toay nitely worse than under the Boer regime.' 68 He responded by withholding assent to the 'Black Ordinance', not out of generosity to a persecuted minority, but to evade the issue until the grant of self-government to the Transvaal. This followed in a few days. The Transvaal's new constitution was promulgated on 6 December 19o6. An all-white electorate went to the polls on 2o February 1907. Botha's Het Volk party took office and promptly, on 21 March, introduced a replica of the rejected ordinance. It was passed by the unanimous vote of both houses at a single sitting. The Asiatic Law Amendment Act laid the basis of a pass system such as that applied to Atricans. Every Asian male had to register himself and produce on demand a thumb-printed certi ficate of identity. Unregistered persons and prohibited immi grants could be deported without a right of appeal. The bill went to Elgin under the clause reserving discriminatory laws. He recorded polite disapproval and allowed the bill to stand because, he said, his government felt 'they would not be justified in offering resistance to the general will of the Colony clearly expressed by its first elected representatives '.69 In other words, Britain had transferred power to a racial oligarchy and turned her back on the voteless majority. The Transvaal government, now responsible only to white settlers, bore down on Indians with new discriminations; used an immigration act to keep them out of the colony; and prohibited them from trading or occupy ing land in proclaimed goldfields. 7 0 Led by Gandhi the Indians 71

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o began the first sustained struggle of a persecuted racial com munity against unjust laws. They refused to register, picketed the permit offices, and went to jail in batches. Smuts, the responsible minister, offered to repeal the Asiatic Law Amendment Act if a majority of Indians undertook to register voluntarily. Gandhi agreed to the com promise and was released with other Satyagrahi prisoners. They did register, but the act was not repealed. Instead, Smuts took new measures to keep Indians out of the Transvaal. Certificates were burnt ceremoniously at a large gathering on 16 August 19o8. At about this time Satyagrahis from Natal started crossing the border illegally to court imprisonment and deportation. Indians overcrowded the jails. Smuts hit back by deporting resisters to India, but this the courts declared to be illegal. Some of Smuts's political principles, observed Gandhi, were ' not quite immoral'; though there was room in them'for cunning 71 and on occasion for perversion of truth'. Gandhi appealed once more to the imperial government when he led another deputation to England in i9o9 to protest against the colour bar in the Act of Union. His mission met with no more success than in 19o6. Gandhi came to South Africa in 1893 to advise on a lawsuit. He delayed his departure to lead a campaign against a bill to disfranchise Natal's Indians, founded the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, and remained for twenty years, duingwic heworked a aha: 'non-violent struggle born of out his technique of Truth and Love'. It ASaec =que suited to the conditions of a small voteless community, numerically weak and tempera mentally disinclined to use physical force. It would become a powerful political instrument in India, but it failed in South Africa because it never acquired a mass base. Provincial barriers, cultural differences, inequalities of wealth and status, and an uneven rate of political development inhibited the growth of a broad non-racial front against white domination. Gandhi and his fellow Indians saw in the African only an innocent tribal peasant who was being corrupted by civilization. They never thought of joining with Africans and Coloured in a common struggle. The Indians fought their battles in isolation and won only moral victories.

4 White Labour Policies

Immigrant workmen of the early twentieth century were not pioneers, frontiersmen or revolutionaries. The colonial society was not so different from their own as to cause a sense of aliena tion. They fitted into the order of things as they found it and did what they could to better their conditions. They combined in ways familiar to them in their home countries, pressed their claims on governments and employers, and took political action to shape legislation affecting their terms of employment. The means they used varied according to the state of the labour market, the composition of the working classes, and the attitude of their masters. These factors, rather than differences in origin or outlook, accounted for the contrasting policies adopted by the labour movement in the Cape and in the northern colonies. The Cape's distinctive features were a non-racial franchise, an old tradition of legal identity between white and Coloured, a high proportion of Coloured artisans and factory workers, and the small size of the African population in the western districts. White and Coloured working people lived in the same neigh bourhood, worked on the same jobs, inter-married occasionally and cohabited more frequently, and had much the same standard of living. The elements of an integrated society existed. Labour leaders and trade unionists accepted the position, canvassed Coloured voters and organized Coloured wage earners. When George Woollends formed a socialist party in 19o4, he cited instances of hospitality extended to whites by Coloured families, and demanded justice for all working men, whether Dutch, Coloured, Malay or British-born. They should rid their minds of false ideas about colour distinctions, he urged, and unite on 1 equal terms for socialism. Not all trade unionists at the Cape were as tolerant. A small, C.S.A.


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o tight society of about i5o stonemasons refused to admit any Coloured and monopolized their trade on public buildings. Robert Stuart (1870-1950), the union's secretary, came to Cape Town from his native city of Aberdeen in 19o, took part in forming the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in I902, and

became a leading organizer of white and Coloured unions. But he never attempted to break down the colour bar in his own trade. Other early unions in the south were less successful in maintaining a colour bar. The plasterers barred 'Coloured labour' from membership in 190I and prohibited any member from working on the same scaffold 'with a coloured man, or a Malay, under pain of a fine'. F. Z. J. Peregrino (1853-1919, b. Accra), the West African editor and publisher of the South African Spectator, remarked scathingly that these 'inconsiderate and unreasonable white men' wished to perpetuate race pre judice, debase the Coloured artisan, and deny him the right to work at his trade. 'The Coloured Mechanic, Malay, black or Africander should make a common cause, and Organize, Organize, Organize.' 2 Bricklayers also adopted a colour bar in 19o4. The Coloured artisans then formed their own union and undercut the white man's wage of i2s. or 14s. a day. Employers hired the cheaper man, and the white workers negotiated with the Coloured for a single union of bricklayers and plasterers. Objections to an open, non-racial union came at times from the Coloured, as in Cape Town's bespoke tailoring trade. White journeymen, most of whom were Jewish, organized a society in 19o5. It tried hard but without success to enrol the large number of Muslims in the trade. Working seventy or eighty hours a week, the Muslims cut and stitched in their homes, usually in a room where the family ate and slept, and earned on an average £3 xos. a week for piece work.3 The union won its first victory in a test case, which decided that master tailors should pay for alterations to an ill-fitting suit. This, the union said, was tangible proof of its ability to fight also the battles of the Muslims, and should gain their confidence. The union then made an agreement with one big firm for a fifty-hour working week, a minimum wage of £4 4s. for a journeyman, and £ for a woman. Even this victory did not convince the Muslims. They adhered to their

White Labour Policies traditional work patterns and preferred to deal directly with shopkeepers and master tailors.' Manufacturers of leather goods, confectionery, cigarettes and furniture had a free hand in the absence of factory or wage legis lation. They employed juveniles and adults in badly ventilated shops, without proper toilet facilities or safeguards against injury. Employers giving evidence in 1906 before a select committee on a factory bill admitted to taking on boys and girls aged twelve years and upwards at a wage of is. 8d. to 2S. 6d. a week. Em ployees worked fifty-two hours a week and, where this was feasible, took work to be completed at home. African labourers were paid 3s. 6d. or 4s. a week; Coloured men might get is. more for the same kind of work. One tobacco firm paid girls of fourteen and sixteen years a weekly wage of 6s. 6d. to 8s. and women cutters 15S. to 35s. Another firm employing more than 300 white girls paid them an average wage of I Is. 3d. a week, and i6s. 7d. for packers. Skilled Coloured men in a food factory received an average of £3 a week, and white skilled immigrants £4 los. or £5 a week. Wages in the leather trade ranged from £2 to £3 a week. Most of the higher-paid men were whites, but they overlapped with Coloured in all skilled and semi-skilled grades. The two wings of the movement worked closely together in organizing May Day celebrations, soup kitchens for the unem ployed, legal defence for Needham and Lewinson, two SDF members arrested in August 19o6 for 'incendiary speeches', and elections. The societies of masons, printers, engineers and cigar makers hired the Federation's hall for meetings. When the cigar ette makers struck work in June for higher wages, they turned the hall into a factory and set up a 'Lock Out Cooperative'. The tailors complained that a member of the SDF was cutting prices, whereupon it decided to call on him to resign if he refused to join the union. But the tailors refused to donate money to the Federation's committee on unemployment, 'as it will lead to trouble in their union to mix up unionism with politics'. 5 Coloured and white working men had similar interests. They joined in the big unemployment demonstrations of 19o6 and in the campaigns of 19o6-7 for a workmen's compensation and 75

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o factories act. The Labour Advance party, formed in October

x9o5 by the Cape Town trades council and Social Democratic Federation, urged the adoption of a forty-eight hour working

week, universal, free and compulsory education, and adult 6 suffrage for all civilized persons. The party's speakers declared that there should be no distinction between white and Coloured 7 workers. All had the same aims and should work together.

Labour leaders drove the point home when addressing the cosmopolitan audiences at the Stone, the Coloured people's traditional open-air forum on the slopes of Devil's Peak in the workiqg-class area of District Six. The Coloured were sceptical. They drew attention to a 'no Coloured labour' clause in the contract for new university buildings, and blamed the unions. John Tobin, a founding member of the African Political Organ ization (Ap o), accused socialists of being rotten with colour prejudice. They denied the charge indignantly. Wilfrid Harrison, ex guardsman, carpenter and Cape Town's leading socialist, asser ted that the trades council had nothing to do with the obnoxious clause. All unions affiliated to the council welcomed any com petent Coloured tradesman. He proclaimed himself to be a red hot socialist revolutionary, at least in economic affairs, and like all genuine socialists repudiated a colour line. Harry MacManus, an Irish socialist, found a close resemblance between disputes over colour and the feud between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. Le Roux, speaking in Afrikaans, ridiculed the idea that South Africa could ever be a white man's country. A. Needham, leader of the short-lived Socialist Democratic party, claimed that the 'colour question' had no relevance to socialism. They might 8 as well speak of a 'red question' for men with red hair. This was the language of orthodox socialism, couched in an idiom attuned to the liberal tolerance of the western Cape. The Cape Federation regarded itself as a branch of the London SDF, sold its paper the Clarion, and adopted propa ganda techniques that were suited to the conditions of a multi racial society. New members were welcomed with the singing of the Red Flag; a weekly journal, the Cape Socialist, appeared

when funds permitted; study classes were held for immigrant 76

White Labour Policies Dutchmen, Italians and Jews; and speakers harangued the crowd in Afrikaans, Xhosa and English. The Russian revolution of 19o5 was applauded at a public meeting, to which Olive Schreiner sent a message of solidarity and confidence: 'we are witnessing the beginning of the greatest event that has taken place in the history of humanity during the last centuries.' The Federation gave much attention to the 'Native Question' and the 'Coloured Question', set up a 'Kaffir Propaganda Com mittee', and learned from Harrison that the Coloured people were beginning to consider the question of socialism and how it affected them. He suggested holding meetings at the Stone, the APO's open-air forum, but the Coloured comrades thought that this would be 'discourteous and inadvisable'. They reported 'a good deal of interest among the Malays' and proposed a concert to assist the parliamentary election fund. 9 Staunch socialists on the Rand, in contrast, appealed to a white electorate for protection from Asian, African and Coloured competition. The divergence between the attitudes of the south ern and northern wings of the movement can be explained in terms of a response to contrasting situations. It is less easy to decide how far organized white labour in the north was respon sible for racial policies which it supported, developed and ex ploited for sectional gains. The republic's bitter racialism had infected the whole society, until discrimination seemed as natural and inevitable as differences in skin colour. In its agrarian setting, where farmers hired craftsmen and rarely competed with them, the discrimination determined status, land ownership and political power rather than the division of labour. The industrial colour bar of the mining era was a new development. It originated in the special skills of foreign-born technicians who turned their spheres of employment into a closed preserve. The barriers were not so high or rigid at the end of the war as to keep all dark men out of skilled work. Coloured artisans, lured to the Rand by its promise of 'a golden pound a day', worked at their trades also on the mines. Africans with industrial experi ence could rise above the level of a labourer. Landless Afrikaners and unskilled immigrants were available for manual work at the lower end of the scale. The position was fluid and might have

Class and Colour in South Africa


been shaped into the pattern of the Cape's open labour market. It was Milner's officials, acting under the Mines, Works and Machinery Ordinance of 1903, who took the decisions that led to a rigid demarcation of work along colour lines. The ordinance itself did not discriminate or authorize a dis crimination that would have brought it within the ambit of matters reserved by the constitution for the secretary of state's approval. By repealing the republican laws ii of 1897 and 12 of x898, the ordinance removed the sole remaining colour bar in the Transvaal's mining legislation. But Wybergh, the com missioner of mines, introduced new colour bars in regulations issued under the ordinance. These defined the posts of manager, engine driver, banksman and onsetter in such a way as to reserve them for whites. 10 Amended regulations of 19o6 did the same thing for the work of a boiler attendant, lift operator, shift boss, 1 surface foreman, mine overseer and mechanical engineer. The discriminations were imposed by an all-powerful British adminis tration, without public pressure, stated reason, or comment by trade unions, mine managements and the legislative council. As in the case of at least two other discriminatory measures - the municipal franchise ordinance and the precious stones ordinance of 1903 - Milner failed to reserve the regulations for approval in

Whitehall. Was it to avoid publicity that Wybergh discriminated in an oblique, almost furtive manner by defining work categories? When president of the Transvaal branch of the South African League, that instrument of British imperialism, Wybergh had conducted a violent and dishonest campaign against the republic in 1898-9. His political activities lost him a lucrative post in Rhodes' Consolidated Goldfields. The firm had been deeply involved in the Jameson Raid and was not disposed to allow its staff to commit it in a similar conspiracy. Milner rewarded him after the war with the key post of commissioner of mines, but forced him to resign in 1903 for having opposed the introduction of Chinese indentured workers. Elected to the legislative assem bly in 1907, Wybergh told the Mining Commission that Africans should be barred by law from working on machinery, partly because they endangered lives but mainly to secure the jobs of white workmen. He suggested that the ban could be imposed 78 a.



White Labour Policies without such a bill 'as would have to be reserved for the consent of the Home Government'. Simply prescribe that white men shall be employed, he advised, 'and you avoid raising the ques tion of imposing disabilities on natives'. 12 Immigrant engine drivers, mechanics, miners and builders took advantage of the administration's racial bias. Many of their leaders, such as Whiteside, Walker, Waterston, Haynes, Craw ford and Andrews, had served with the British army against the republics. Belonging to a conquering nation and a racial elite, they adopted the ideology of a colonial society. The crop of trade unions that sprang up after the war combined class militancy with colour bars. Engineers, engine drivers, iron moulders and carpenters were represented on a joint mechanics committee that conducted a strike in April 19o2 against piece work on the Crown Reef mine. Five months later, 103 men struck work on the Village Main Reef mine where Frederic Creswell, the mine manager, and Wilfred Wybergh, commissioner of mines, were experimenting with a white labour force. Creswell substituted two white helpers at ios. a shift each for the five Africans who usually manned a machine drill at a wage of 2s. in cash and Is. in board and lodging. To offset the rise in labour costs, he told the machine minders to supervise three drills instead of two. They preferred less work to more white labour, however, and walked out, taking the white helpers with them.' 3 In spite of the setback, labour leaders insisted that it was sound for both economic and political reasons to employ large numbers of white labourers at rates intermediate between the African's 3s. and the artisan's 20S. The administration was at first sympathetic, since the proposal fitted in with the Milner-Chamberlain object of attracting as many British immigrants as would swamp the Afrikaner popula tion. Wybergh gave his official backing to the experimental use of unskilled whites on five mines. 14 The railways brought out navvies from Britain in 1903 to lay a permanent track for a wage of 5s. a day and all found. ' 5 But the white labourers were never given a proper trial. The mine owners had political and economic objections to their employment. Milner, ever complaisant to wards the Chamber, was converted to its policy of introducing 79

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-.95o indentured Asians, and set his mind on preparing the white the public for a decision that would cause as great an uproar as proposed introduction of convicts to the Cape in 1849. Creswell and Wybergh were dismissed from their posts, the British railway navvies were repatriated, and an inter-colonial customs con ference, held at Bloemfontein in March 1903, was manoeuvred into supporting the Chamber's scheme. The conference found, on no evidence other than the reluc tance of Africans to work for the prevailing rate of wages, that there were not enough of them south of the Zambesi to satisfy demands for labour. Therefore, the conference recommended, Asians should be admitted under strict state control and on the 6 firm condition of eventual repatriation, Milner appointed a Labour Commission to substantiate these findings, and nego tiated for the introduction of io,ooo Indians to be employed on on a railway works. The Indian government rightly insisted 17 Milner relaxation of the Transvaal's anti-Asian legislation. refused to make any concessions, withdrew his request, and threw his weight behind the Chamber's policy of importing Chinese. The majority of the Labour Commission duly reported that 'white labour cannot profitably compete with black' in 'the lower fields of manual industry'. The gold mines, they said,

were short of 129,000 labourers; the shortage would rise to 325,000 by 19o8; and Africa could not meet requirements.",

Two commissioners, Peter Whiteside and J. W. Quinn, dis puted these findings. Whiteside, an Australian-born engine driver, president of the Witwatersrand Trades and Labour Council, and a nominated member of the Johannesburg town council, was a fervent racist. His associate Quinn later took a leading part in the agitation against the Chinese and for respon sible government. Both men insisted that though white labour ers, if given a fair trial, would supplement and even supersede Africans, mine owners wanted to perpetuate an 'inferior race' system of labour organization. They had a political bias against a big influx of white labourers, who would strengthen the work ing class and enable it to determine both wages and state policy. The minority report blamed the employers for the shortage of African workers, alleged that it was temporary, and urged the

White Labour Policies adoption of a fixed ratio between white and African workers. These were principles on which the labour movement would base its white labour policy in years to come. The economic motives for the introduction of Chinese arose out of Milner's 'struggle for British supremacy'. I The war had devastated the Transvaal and disrupted the recruiting system of the mines. The output of gold dropped from its peak of C1,71o,ooo in August 1899 - under a supposedly corrupt and inefficient regime - to £823,000 in December 1902. As many Africans worked for a wage in the Transvaal as before the war, but the number employed on gold mines declined from 107,482 in 1899 to 64,577 in June 1903.20 The decline revealed the African's good sense and the actual source of profit. For the owners had taken advantage of the war to cut his average wage from 47s. Id. in 1898 to 26s. 8d. in 1901-2. Men of the Cape, Basutoland and Bechuanaiand "refused altogether to engage themselves at the reduced rate of pay'. 2 1 Natal closed its borders to recruiters. Settlers in central Africa also opposed recruiting, which would force up wages, then 3s. or 5s. a month in Nyasaland. Mozam bique alone continued to forward its conscripted workers, though even here old mine hands refused to work for the lower rate. There was no time to spare, in the view of Milner and the owners; they wanted a ready-to-hand proletariat at the lowest possible cost who would restore the mines to full working capacity without delay, satisfy shareholders, attract new capital, save Milner's reputation and the Transvaal from bankruptcy. They would not wait for taxation and land seizures to turn African peasants into work seekers. 'Is this huge industry to be a school for teaching savages to become civilized workers?' thundered Sir George Farrar when he moved in the legislative assembly on 28 December 1903 that government be asked to legislate for the introduction of Chinese. One of the men sen tenced to death by the republic's high court for their role in Jameson's raid, Farrar admitted that it was a mistake to have reduced the African's wage; or to have thought, as his side did, that the war would last only six weeks. But, he added, they would make another mistake if they imported unskilled whites, for this 81

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o meant labour combinations, discontent, strikes and nothing else. He spoke for his class. Charles Rudd, one of Rhodes' partners, and other company directors agreed that a big body of enfran chised white workers 'would simply hold the Government of the country in the hollow of their hand' and 'more or less dic tate, not only on the question of wages, but also on political questions'.22 There was, too, the fear of inter-racial fraterniza tion. Top-ranking executives and engineers told Joseph Cham berlain in Johannesburg in January 1903 that the white man would forfeit his natural supremacy and cease to be the master if he worked side by side with Africans as fellow labourers. 2 3 Chamberlain's views were as misinformed and intemperate as the mine owners'. Africans alone among the world's great races, he said, believed that 'the only honourable employment for a man is fighting, that labour is the work of slaves'. Slavery had been abolished in theory, but the 'Kafir' bought his wives, who worked 'to keep him in idleness'. Abdurahman replied in a biting analysis of Chamberlain's speech, which, he pointed out, con tained the same arguments as those used by mine magnates in favour of forced labour. Chamberlain had not mentioned the thirty per cent reduction in the African's wage, his unhealthy working conditions, or the over-capitalized mines 'which cannot pay a dividend until the Kafir is compelled to work at a wage 4 fixed by the mining magnates'.2 Africans and Coloured stood to lose most from an influx of low-paid, indentured workers; and voiced their objections at meetings in the Cape, Transvaal and even isolated Bechuanaland. Jabavu circulated a petition to the king to 'avert this evil' of importing Asiatics 'with no idea of any rights, and with morals and habits unlike those of the European races, in which your petitioners have been hitherto trained '.2 The Chinese, he wrote after importing had begun, cost more and did less work than the African, who 'cordially detested' them. 26 White workers on the Rand were less united on the 'Chinese question'. The trades councils of Johannesburg and Pretoria claimed that all unions 'totally' or 'largely' opposed the im portation. 27 According to Milner, however, the miners were predominantly, and other artisans mostly, in favour. 28 The

White Labour Policies trades council accused mine managements of browbeating their employees into acquiescence. For this reason, or because they believed that the industry and their jobs were in danger, a significant number of miners passed resolutions and signed peti tions for the immediate introduction of indentured, non-British Asians to be employed only on unskilled work. Mine owners told the men that they had less to fear from the Chinese than from a horde of unskilled whites who, Farrar warned, would soon become skilled 'and compete with you'. He dangled the prospect of sheltered employment before a miners' audience at Boksburg in March 1903. The Chinese, he explained, would be repatriated, prohibited from trading or holding land, and excluded by law from many specified occupations. 2 9 The Labour Importation Ordinance of 19o4 duly prohibited the employment of Chinese in fifty-five scheduled occupations, in cluding such non-mining trades as bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, painting, gardening and clerical work. Among other consequences, the agitation for and against the Chinese aroused and hardened colour prejudices, precipitated the emergence of the Afrikaner Het Volk party, prepared the ground for cooperation between Afrikaner nationalism and the white labour movement, and facilitated the introduction of a code prescribing minimum standards of housing, food, medical care and sanitation for African miners. 3 0 The Chinese were employed under conditions agreed by the owners, the Transvaal administration, the British and Chinese governments, after lengthy negotiations which centred mainly round the issues of wages and repatriation. Alfred Lyttleton, the secretary of state for colonies, complained that he 'really could not defend an arrangement by which the Chinese would be used to lower Kaffir wages'. 3 1 He was later bullied into agreeing to a guaranteed minimum wage of Is. to is. 6d. a shift, compared with the African's basic rate of Is. 6d. for surface and 2s. for underground work. Housed in compounds and working sixty hours a week, the Chinese were allowed a daily ration of I1 lb. of rice, J lb. of vegetables, and J lb. of meat or fish. The maxi mum compensation for death or total permanent disablement was fixed at £Io.

Class and Colour in South Africa


Medical officers attributed the occurrence of scurvy among African miners to the deficiencies of a mealie-meal diet and recommended the addition of rice, millet, legumes, meat and fresh vegetables. 32 The Chamber, however, 'viewed the native purely as a machine, requiring a certain amount of fuel', and took as its standard the 'minimum amount of food which will give the maximum amount of work' .3 3 Regulations issued in 19o6 prescribed a minimum of z lb. of mealie-meal and I oz. of salt a day, supplemented by 2 lb. of bone-free meat or fish, i lb. of soupmeat, i lb. of vegetables and i lb. of sugar or treacle a week. Though low in vitamins, calcium, animal protein and calories, the diet was a great improvement, saved many lives, and virtually eliminated scurvy as a cause of death. The men satisfied their craving for meat and milk by buying large quanti ties from the concession stores. No mine ever supplied milk, butter, cheese or eggs. Yet milk was a staple diet of men from stock-breeding communities and a primary source of the food constituents in which the mine ration was most deficient. The same kind of cheeseparing policy was applied to housing, working conditions and medical care. Huts of brick or stone, built for the Chinese and later also for Africans, were badly overcrowded, with rooms holding twenty or forty men each. The regulations prescribed a maximum air space of 200 cubic feet per inmate, though Dr Turner, the Medical Officer of Health, insisted that even 300 cubic feet were 'far too little'. 3 4 The Chamber replied that the adoption of his standard would cost the owners an additional £i million. No eating halls, tables or chairs were provided. The men drew their rations in tin bowls and mugs and ate squatting on the cement paving of the courtyard or sitting on the bunks in their sleeping quarters. They worked twelve hours a day on the surface or eleven hours underground without food, were often kept waiting in wet clothes for as much as three hours while the skips were being used to transport rock, and walked back to the compounds in a state of exhaustion, their bodies covered with stale sweat and grime. The regulations of 19o6 compelled owners to provide change houses for white and Coloured miners, but not for Africans, many of whom contracted pneumonia and chest com 84

White Labour Policies plaints through being exposed to sudden and great changes of temperature and altitude. 3 s Most mines had no hospitals before 19o6. when the health regulations obliged the owners to provide hospital accommoda tion for not more than two and a half per cent of the average number of Africans employed. In 1914, the Rand mines between them had only ten full-time doctors, each attending to between 82 and 265 hospital patients. There were thirty-nine part-time doctors, who had to reconcile their duty to helpless indentured Africans with the exacting demands of white miners backed by sick-benefit societies. The part-time men usually visited the hospital once a day to look at new patients and sign death certi ficates. Mine hospitals were managed by unqualified superin tendents and untrained African nurses who were paid 2s. or 2s. 6d. a day. Patients were underfed, mechanically treated with purgatives on admission, neglected, and forced to work during convalescence. Hospital costs were low and mortality rates high. Henry Burton, the minister of native affairs, asked in 1911: 'How is it that these things have not struck the mining people years ago? Here are these fellows, lying in their beds, and dying off like a lot of rats, [yet) nobody does a thing.' The hospital services became efficient only after the government had put a stop in 1913 to recruiting in tropical regions north of 220 south latitude and compelled the mines to pay compensation for miners' phthisis. 3 6 The high turnover of migrants exposed great numbers of men to the unfavourable conditions, spread the risk of pneu moconiosis and venereal diseases over a wide area, and delayed the peasant worker's adjustment to an industrialized environ ment. Mine owners acknowledged that 'the immense cost' of labour was 'not in the actual wages which we pay, but in the time wasted in teaching new batches'. 37 A certain way to reduce the high death rate from pneumonia was to settle the miners with their families in villages along the Reef, advised General Gorgas of Panama fame. 3 8 The owners preferred to offset the cost of wasted lives and skills with savings on housing, food and wages. Africans received less than a living wage, while their families kept themselves on the land. The owners contended that the

,Z. _'-




Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z950 migratory system was 'a fundamental factor' in the mining economy and essential to their prosperity. If the African 'has not got the reserve subsistence to go back to', said Gemmill, the a wage to make it secretary of the Chamber, 'we cannot afford 9 s possible for him to live in an urban area', Segregation in compounds, labour migration and job reserva tion accentuated the racial and cultural differences between white miner and Africans. He was their 'boss', and not a fellow worker; and he tended to enforce his orders with kicks and blows. Africans 'were knocked about by irresponsible miners under ground', said George Trow at a Tembuland meeting; but they would not complain for fear of being sjambokked by African mine police.4 ° Jabavu, being anxious 'to secure a perennial stream of Natives to the Goldfields' and a reciprocal flow of wages to the reserves, had no time for the 'discontented trouble maker' on the mines; he attributed their unpopularity to com 41 pound managers drawn from Natal with Zulu police. The correspondence columns of his paper recorded other grievances in 1907-8, when the Chinese were being repatriated. Labour

agents misrepresented conditions to recruits who loafed, deser ted or struck work on finding that they had been deceived. Task work was another serious grievance. Drillers were obliged to drill at least forty-two inches during a shift, for which they were paid 2S., with Id. for every additional inch drilled. A driller might have to spend three or four hours clearing debris blasted out by the preceding shift before he reached the place marked for a hole. If he failed to complete the norm, however, his shift boss would refuse to mark his ticket. This meant that he was not paid for the day's work or credited with a shift towards the com pletion of his service contract.4 2 Pneumatic drills were then taking the place of hand drilling. Originally operated by white miners with African 'helpers', the heavy, cumbersome machine was at first considered a highly specialized tool, and the operator a skilled workman. During the war, and as Cornish miners returned home or died of phthisis, Africans were employed to 'run' the machine drill for an un skilled labourer's wage. The white miner became a supervisor, responsible for one or two drills operated by an African 'helper'

White Labour Policies and his team. Creswell, as we have seen, wanted the miner to take charge of three drills operated by white labourers and so provoked a strike in 1902 at the Village Main Reef mine. In 19o7 the manager of Knights Deep mine instructed each miner to supervise three drills manned by Africans. The miners' union, at that time a craft organization confined to holders of blasting certificates, accused the owners of diluting skilled labour in preparation for large-scale retrenchments of whites. The men at New Kleinfontein mine struck work on i May. The strike spread until more than 4,000 miners were involved. Smuts, as minister of mines, made his first appearance as protector of the propertied class and of mine owners in par ticular. He called out the imperial garrison, who broke up picket lines and protected scabs. Africans and Chinese worked the mines without close supervision. Employers declared a lock out, dismissed the strikers and took on Afrikaners in their place. The strikers trickled back to work, and the union acknowledged defeat at the end of July. The executive's members and other leading strikers were victimized, the number of white miners employed was reduced by ten per cent, and the cost of breaking rock fell by twenty-five per cent. 4 3 Jabavu, ever partial to Afrikanerdom, applauded the entry of young 'colonials' in the industry. Their presence would establish 'a better understand ing' between burghers and the mining populations, besides stopping the drain of money remitted by Cornish miners to their families. 4 4 H. L. Phooko, representing the Transvaal Native Congress, drew a more significant conclusion in evidence before the Mining Commission of 1907. By keeping the mines in produc tion during the strike, he remarked, Africans had shown a capacity to master all parts of the mining operation. They were not intellectually itfterior and often performed skilled work, though the law denied them freedom of contract and held them down as unskilled. 45 The commission, too, rejected the theory that the African was a 'mere muscular machine' and no more than 'an aid to enable the White man to earn wages sufficient to keep him in contentment'. Africans, warned the commission, were not 'barred by lack of brain and industrial training from 87

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o

interfering with the White man's opportunities of employ ment'.46 The Transvaal Indigency Commission of x9o6-8 held

a similar view, and refused to recommend measures to protect white workers. Africans were being trained in regular work, showed a great yearning for education, and would in time insist on higher wages and access to superior kinds of work. Protective devices such as a fixed ratio between racial groups of employees or a minimum white wage would only discourage the employ ment of whites, insulate them against pressures for efficiency, and so hamper them in the coming struggle for supremacy.4 7 The miners themselves were in two minds about the white labour policy. A minority preferred African helpers. White labourers, according to this school of thought, were either casual, transient workers or Afrikaners who would learn the trade and saturate the market for skilled miners. 48 Men holding this view wished to maintain their bargaining power by limiting the diffusion of skills. Africans were socially inferior, easily handled and unlikely to compete. Jimmy Coward, a leading member of the miners' union and of the Independent Labour party, and at one time mayor of Germiston, claimed that he could take 'a raw green Kaffir from the Kraal' and within a week 'make him competent for me to leave my machine with him and go away whenever I have a mind'. White men were not willing to boss other white men in the same way as they would 'kaffirs'. He for 49 one would not do it.

Most labour leaders agreed with the Cornish miner Tom Mathews, secretary of the union from 19o8 to the time of his death from phthisis in 1915. He would treat Africans decently but 'not let them be free', and would rather have a white youth under him than 'a kaffir, or two kaffirs for that matter'. 5° The engineers' union, whose chief spokesman was its national organ izer W. H. Andrews, set out the reasons for this preference with prodigious subtlety in a memorandum submitted to the Mining Commission. 51 The coloured races, if unchecked would rise to the top and endanger the state itself by reason of their numbers, vitality and low standards. Unfair competition by unskilled whites was therefore more natural and infinitely more desirable than competition by Africans. Since white men were citizens 88

White Labour Policies and voters, they were 'far more likely to look at the matter from the point of view of the general welfare of the community.' On the other hand, 'the kaffir has no interest in the country except that he gets his living here. He has no voice in the Government'. Trade unionists who claimed privileges in the name of the capitalist state and for the general welfare of a class society had turned their backs on radical socialism. As members both of an inferior class and of a racial elite they were in an ambivalent position. It deflected them from their traditional attitudes. Ex perience of labour dilution convinced them that employers would substitute the cheaper coloured worker. A racial bar hardly needed justification in their eyes. It was a protective device, like restraints on the number of apprentices or on reclassification of jobs. Since the threat came from an alien and oppressed race, however, the trade unionists identified themselves with white supremacy so as to legitimate their class interests. Though Mathews, Andrews and other socialists of the time may not have been racists, they certainly excluded the African from their vision of the ideal commonwealth. Refusing to recognize him as a fellow worker and ally, they fused their craft outlook with the colour prejudices of feudalistic landowners in a struggle against both capitalists and Africans. The time had not yet come, however, for governments to catch votes with promises of sheltered employment. More ortho dox views about the value of competition prevailed, as in the report of the Indigency Commission. Trade unionists therefore found it expedient to demand protection from competition in the guise of protection against accidents. The plea that only trained and qualified persons should be employed in positions of trust seemed reasonable. Once the principle had been estab lished, it was easy to equate a white skin with technical skills and a sense of responsibility. The owners themselves were to blame for the myth of the African's incompetence. They objected to a regulation of 1896 that obliged managers to explain to illiterate workers, 'especially persons of colour', the rules 'apper taining to their particular occupation and duty'. Formal instruc tion was confined to whites, first by way of apprenticeship and classes in drilling techniques, and later at evening courses

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 The govern conducted by the Transvaal University College. i, admitted only ment mining school. opened at Wolhuter in 19 their trade on white men. Africans and Coloured had to learn the job from the white miner. the Mining Miners and mechanics who appeared before claim with some Regulations Commission of 1907-10 could efficiently and plausibility that the mines would be run more certificated with fewer accidents if only white and preferably Dr F. E. T. men were employed on all engines and machinery. assistant attorney Krause, the chairman, was sympathetic. As one Forster, a general in the republic, he had clashed with on a charge lawyer who defended Baron von Veltheim in 1896 of bizarre inci of murdering the magnate Woolf Joel. A series in 1902 dents led to Krause being sentenced at the Old Bailey to incite the to two years' imprisonment for an alleged attempt 1904, Krause murder of Forster. Returning to Johannesburg in for Het Volk sat on the municipal council in 1907-8, stood elections of Party against Bill Andrews in the parliamentary and other radicals in 19io, subsequently defended communists pass laws. political trials, and spoke up strongly against the a When chairman of the commission, however, he advocated in white labour policy. South African whites and Afrikaners industry. particular. he urged should be trained for the mining Trade unionists admitted frankly that they wanted a colour for bar to raise the status of their trade and provide employment said whites. Tom Hannegan, on behalf of the engine drivers, out of that they would do all they could 'to take these boilers of the hands of coloured men'.52 The Amalgamated Society Engineers similarly coupled safety measures with employment other opportunities. The 'growing practice of placing kaffirs and coloured persons in charge of boilers, winches, engines and other machinery' increased the danger to life and limb; it also reduced 'the sphere of employment for European labour without which this colony cannot progress'. The union urged that 'no Kaffir or other coloured person' should be issued with a certificate of 53 competence or allowed to take charge of machines. But none of the witnesses produced evidence to show that accidents were more likely to occur when Africans operated boilers and winches.

White Labour Policies 'It is reasoning and you do not require proof,' said Bill Andrews. Government records showed that the number of mine acci dents caused by overwinding was small and unrelated to the employment of uncertificated drivers. Managers, engineers and inspectors agreed that engines not used for hauling persons could be safely entrusted to uncertificated operators. Many uneducated and even illiterate men made excellent drivers. Training, sobriety, 54 self-reliance and nerve were the qualities of a good driver. Meeting in committee to digest the evidence, the commission viewed the proposal to license drivers of all types of engines with great scepticism. Krause suspected that the real motive was 'to prevent all intelligent work on the mines from being done by natives'. The commissioners agreed among themselves that drivers of motor cars should be licensed, but not the drivers of traction and stationary engines, including those used for hauling 55 rock. The commission criticized mine managements for employing large numbers of unskilled whites 'often entirely ignorant of mining, and whose principal and often only recommendation is their physical fitness and their suitability for rough work'. Yet when the commission reported in x91o, it submitted draft regulations that were heavy with colour bars. Some appeared in the interpretation of terms, as when the words 'white person' were inserted in the definition of banksman, onsetter, ganger and mine manager. Some took the form of an injunction to employ only whites in specified occupations, such as blasting, running elevators driving engines, supervising boilers and other machinery; or as shift boss and mine overseer. Furthermore, only whites would be allowed to obtain the certificates of com petence required, for instance, by engine drivers and boiler attendants. The draft served as a model for the colour bar regulations issued by Smuts under the Mines and Works Act of 1911. The only reason given in the Krause report for this massive and far-reaching piece of racial discrimination was the bare and unsubstantiated assertion that 'wherever the safety of life and limb is concerned only competent White persons should be employed 5 The Chamber of Mines made a formal protest. It pointed out

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o that discriminatory regulations would be ultra vires if not authorized by the enabling statute; and suggested that 'com 7 petent' or 'reliable' be substituted for 'white person ', But the mine owners never contested the regulations until after the miners had suffered the great defeat of 1922. Owners and govern ment acquiesced for political reasons in a discrimination that was both unjust and unlawful. The African's capacity was never seriously questioned. Engineers and mine managers agreed that selected Africans, adequately trained, would be as competent 5as8 the white man for any job including that of a mine manager. No attempt was ever made, however, to give him systematic training for skilled work. None of the many commissions that inquired into the state of labour organization even considered the possibility of systematic training. Their only concern, when they discussed the African's role, was the degree of protection that should be given to white workers against competition. The claim that the colour bar has a prophylactic function is not borne out by the exceptionally high incidence of accidents on the mines. More than 30,000 men died in accidents on gold mines during the first half of the century. Untold others died from septicaemia and other effects of accidental injuries, or lost limbs and sight, or were otherwise disabled by accidents. The death rate from accidents on all mines in 19io was 4"05 per 1,000

African employees and 3-36 per I,ooo whites. The rate fell to 1.56 for both groups by 1956, but the accident rate was then 58-7 per 1,ooo miners, as compared with 30 in 1927, when the

existing definition of accidents was first introduced. The decline in the death rate must therefore be attributed to improvements in first aid and medical treatment rather than to more effective preventive measures. For an accident is not a fortuitous, un avoidable event. It is broadly, the result of defective adaptation or inadequate control of environment. Though unintended and unforeseen, it flows from a deliberate act, and can be averted by the adoption of sufficient care or by technical and material safeguards. The high and increasing incidence of accidents on mines points to deficiencies in management. Far from saving lives, the colour bar reduced standards of efficiency and safety. By keeping Africans ignorant of their trade,

White Labour Policies the owners sent up accident rates and strengthened the white worker's claim to a monopoly of preferred occupations. Com petence was identified with skin colour. Yet a large number of Africans by dint of intelligence and long service, were more skilled than their white overseer. The Chamber acknowledged in 1914 that such men were 'in many cases as good, or better, judges as to safety underground' than the partially trained white supervisors. 'The time has now arrived,' urged Abdurahrnan, 'when we should agitate for the repeal of those regulations which prohibit Coloured men from performing skilled work on the mines.' s9 The regulations remained to block the African's prospects of promoLion blunt his initiative and deprive him of incentives to become more proficient. Colour bars discouraged efficiency for different reasons also in the white miner He was trained but left the actual manual work to Africans. The division of functions tended to cultivate indifference in miners and managements alike to the African's safety. Fergusson Boksburg's outspoken mining inspector, drew attention to the consequences in his report for o910-1I.60 In England where mining was something of an hereditary occupa tion a miner's son would assist his father by doing work of the kind allocated to Africans on the Rand. The English miner took great care to secure and make safe the places where a lad was set to work, and to point out dangers to him. In the gold mines, however 'the death of a native is not looked upon by the miners here as a very serious affair' The directors were well aware that 'hundreds of men lose their lives annually through careless ness on the part of the miners and apathy on the part of the officials'; but made no effort to have matters improved. The probable explanation for their indifference lay in the old adage: 'Dead men tell no tales 'For 'a live Kaffir who has been assaulted is in a position to do a great deal of harm on his return home by persuading his friends not to allow themselves to be recruited'. Ten pounds were paid in compensation to the dependants of an adult killed in an accident and £5 to those of a young umfaan.* The African was cheap in death as in life and scarcely worth the cost of safety measures that might slow down production. Mine * Xhosa for young boy, lad.

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o owners objected vigorously to the first statutory obligation im posed by the Native Labour Regulation Act of 191I1 to compen sate Africans for injuries. The benefits ranged from CI to £2o for partial incapacity and from £30 to £50 for total permanent disablement. A man who lost a leg and became virtually un employable received a maximum of £20, the equivalent of four months' wages, board and lodging. The higher scale was ex tended in 1914 to include cases of fatal injuries. Though grossly inadequate, and notably less in relation to earning power than the benefits paid to injured white miners, the statutory scales gave mine officials a powerful incentive to reduce the number of accidents. Africans were expendable. They had a preferential claim to rough, hard and dangerous work, as in rock drilling, which exposed the operator to deadly clouds of silica dust. When the white miner became phthisis conscious, drilling ceased to be regarded as skilled and was entrusted wholly to Africans. Asked whether white apprentices could be substituted for young Africans in cyanide works and mills, Henry Hay, the manager of the Witwatersrand Deep, replied: 'You could not put white boys in the mill work, it is too dangerous; you could put them to be careful.' 6 1 in the cyanide works, but you would have Conventional divisions between skilled and unskilled labour often denoted the hazards of the operator's calling or his skin colour rather than the degree of skill involved. Thousands of Africans employed as drillers, trammers, packers, or in laying and firing charges, would be considered skilled in Europe and America. They were called 'boys' in South Africa and were paid one-ninth of the white miners' wage. Discrimination spread from the mines to other trades in which the safety factor was insignificant. English-speaking immigrants asserted a prior right to all occupations. White South Africans learned from them to agitate for a white labour policy in govern ment, municipal and railway services, in factories, bakeries and butcher shops. 6 2 The cry went up also in Natal, where labour leaders railed against the employment of Indians and Africans 63 White as crane drivers, riveters, mechanics and painters. supremacy claims were expanded early in the century into a

White Labour Policies demand for total segregation. J. E. Riley, president of the Johannesburg trades council and a militant member of the Operative Masons' Society, urged in r907 that all Africans should be confined to reserved areas in the colony. 6 4 The trade union ists who pressed for a colour bar seldom attempted to reconcile it with their class outlook. Appealing to race prejudice, they applied their traditional, protectionist policies to what they regarded as an extreme case of unfair competition. Africans were said to be the unwitting instrument of the capitalist class. Housed in compounds, paid less than a living wage, denied the right to strike or combine, they threatened the white man's job. Given a free hand, the capitalists would run the country with a multitude of bonded workmen for the benefit of foreign shareholders. Legal protection for the artisan was no more than a counterweight to the African's legal disabilities. 'I hold that the Kaffir should be allowed to get free,' said Tom Mathews, 'but in the interim, as he is here only as a semi-slave, I have a right to fight him and to oust him just as the Australians ousted the Chinamen and the Kanakas.' If he were to be allowed to compete with the artisan, the African should do so on an open market, as a free worker and without the mean advantage of a servile status.6 5 Labour leaders might have been acquitted of acting out of self-interest and racial arrogance if they had demanded equal rights for all workmen. Few, however, pressed for the removal of restraints imposed on the African's bargaining power by in dentured labour, compounds, pass laws and the master and servant acts. Labour men even failed to protest on humanitarian grounds against the conditions that caused the death from disease and accidents of some 5,ooo Africans a year on Transvaal mines between 1903 and 1920. These were the formative years of labour legislation. A firm stand made against discrimination could have done much to narrow the gap between artisans and Africans. The racists who led the labour movement missed the opportunity, as when the Transvaal parliament passed the Indus trial Disputes Prevention Act of 19o9. The first of its kind in South Africa, it introduced conciliation procedures in essential municipal services, mining, the building trades, engineering

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

employees and and metal works; and applied only to white employers of more than ten white persons. Africans R. Goldman, the member for Newtown, said that virtually should not have the right to strike, since they could their labour. De paralyse the mining industry by withholding mines, agreed. Villiers, the attorney-general and minister of not competent Moreover, he said, Africans were 'ignorant and was far distant to appoint an arbitrator'. He hoped that the day in a strike. It when they would be capable of combined action labour policies, was left to Wybergh, a leading advocate of white had dislocated the to defend, if sideways, the African. Who by their 'in mining industry if not the owners themselves, 'to an enormous defensible and arbitrary' act in cutting wages they excluded extent' before and during the war? The more be the incentive Africans from industrial laws, the greater would humble slaves, to employ them 'because they were being made to be dealt not able to speak for themselves, therefore easier white people'. with and more satisfactory to employers than Africans That was his great reason, he explained, for wanting Even this to be covered by the act in the same way as whites. and Samp appeal to self-interest failed to move Whiteside, Reid

to include son, the Labour party members. They were prepared be Coloured, among whom were first class mechanics. It would the shop a strange thing, said Sampson, if they were to remain in while white men came out on6 6 strike. 'Nobody,'

he added,

'intended to include the Kaffir.'

The advantages of inter-racial class solidarity seemed remote and im and problematical. White solidarity promised real

mediate gains. The small number of artisans in key positions of could wrest concessions with comparative ease at the expense by labourers. Labour leaders were able to strengthen their hand as claiming that the interests of white workers were the same those of the entire white community. Class struggles between whites, they argued, set a bad example to Africans. W. McLarty, the member for Durban gave this as a reason in 1903 for the introduction of industrial conciliation. A strike of white brick layers, he said, was followed by a successful strike of African tramwaymen. 'We have the Native population growing up around

White Labour Policies us, and being educated, and they are learning to strike.' He uttered the same warning in 19o9, when introducing a bill to settle disputes between employers and white working men. The Natal railwaymen's strike of that year was a grim reminder, he said, of the unsettling effects of a long strike on African, Indian and other workers. 6 Appeals to racial sentiment strengthened the case for factory legislation. What could be more persuasive than sensational dis closures of white girls working side by side with Africans and Indians in sweated food and clothing factories? This was the line taken by C. H. Haggar, the Labour member for Durban, in moving his factories bill in i909. He spoke of 'Kaffirs mould ing and kneading the dough in the trough, and the perspiration running down them into the trough'; of laundries where 'you find Coolies sleeping on the clothing sent there'.68 His bill contained a clause prohibiting employees of different sex and different races from working in the same rooms at the same time. This, rather than the protection of workmen against excessive exploitation, would have been the most significant effect if the bill had become law. In the event, many years were to pass before parliament implemented Haggar's proposal to segregate one racial group of factory workers from another.




5 Workers and the Vote

White labour policies emerged from an all-white franchise.

Having concentrated political power in the white minority, the it British administration in the Transvaal connived at giving control of industry, commerce and the skilled trades. Political power opened the door to economic privilege. Class, colour and national antagonisms offered a wide range of possibilities. Am bitious working men could appeal to class interests against em

ployers or to racial sentiments against Africans and Asians; combine with Britishers against 'the Boer' or with Afri kaners against 'the capitalist'. Trade unionists and socialists on the Rand made a bid for political leadership soon after the war by forming the Witwatersrand Trades and Labour Council. Its foundation members were the societies of boiler makers, bricklayers, carpenters, engine drivers, engineers, iron moulders, musicians, printers, shop assistants and stonemasons. The council's aims were modestly worded so as to disarm any suspicion of an intent to organize unions or interfere in their domestic affairs. It would link 'all branches of the working classes' together, promote the efficiency and progress of trade societies, and 'secure the return of representatives upon all governing bodies'. A parliamentary committee was elected to report on bills and motions affecting trade and labour. Delegates could be unseated for taking part in political activity 'not in conformity with the accepted policy of the Council'.' This was the language of a political organization, and the council was commonly referred to as the Labour party. Patriotic members of the council worked closely with the British administration. Both the council and the miners' union backed Milner's proposal that the Transvaal should donate £30 million to the cost of the war. Chamberlain, when visiting the 98

Workers and the Vote Rand in January 1903, congratulated the unions on their decision. Working men in England, he said, were also paying towards the cost. They 'would feel they were rather left in the lurch by their comrades here, if they alone of all classes were to object to any contribution '.2 Peter Whiteside, president of the trades council, and Alexander Riatt, branch president of the ASE, were rewarded with seats on Johannesburg's nominated town council, while Milner also appointed Riatt as a member of the legislative council to represent the working classes. Born in Glasgow in 1867, Riatt qualified as a mechanical engineer, emigrated to South Africa in 189o, took a prominent part in the British agitation against the republic, and fought with Bethune's mounted infantry in the war. A leading opponent of the Chinese labour policy, he was again rewarded with a seat on the legisla tive council after the introduction of responsible government in 1907. He resigned his seat, however, to become Inspector of White Labour three months before he died in November 1907. The decision to import Chinese changed the political climate and opened a period of bitter class and national conflict on the Rand. More than any other factor, the 'Chinese question' spurred British working men and Afrikaner nationalists into organized political activity. Their common cause against the 'Hoggenheimers'* laid the foundations of unity in time to come. After the enactment of the Chinese labour importation ordinance Whiteside told the trades council that he would despair of his party's future in the Transvaal were it not for the active and cordial cooperation of the Dutch. They gave the worker reason to hope that he would not have to face the foreign capitalist single-handed when the Transvaal obtained self-government.3 Whiteside's solution revealed the labour movement's racial bias. British workers looked to anti-British landowners for alies, and disdained their African and Coloured fellow workers. The small body of white workers was unstable, poorly organ ized, divided and vulnerable. Some of the bigger unions, such as the societies of miners, railwaymen and plasterers, kept aloof * A term of abuse with an anti-Semitic flavour that was used then, and would be used even more commonly in later years, to describe the mining magnates. 99





Class and Colour in South Africa r850-I950

from the trades council because of personal rivalries or its political activities. Not having a firm base in the working class, Whiteside, Riatt and certain other leaders collaborated with business and professional men in the White League and African Labour League against the Chinese. The inter-class alliance operated also in Johannesburg's first municipal elections of December 1903, when every voter cast thirty votes to fill thirty vacancies. The trades council threw in its lot with the United Conference group and nominated five candidates on their ticket. Miners, railwaymen and plasterers backed the opposition Reform ticket, and also put up five candidates. Only two Labour men, Riatt and Shanks, were elected. The results of the 1904 elections were as disappointing. Whitesidewas the only successful candidate out of ten men who stood on a Labour platform. These setbacks and much disagreement over the participation by trade unions in elections strengthened the case for a distinct Labour party. All signs pointed towards such a possibility. A Social Demo cratic Federation had sprung up in Cape Town. Another SDF held a May Day demonstration on the Rand in 1904 as a counter blast to the conservative trade unions' Labour Day rally on Good Friday. The trades council invited the 'Boer Generals' to attend the rally, and received assurances of goodwill from Smuts. Whiteside visited Cape Town a few days later. He told the local trades council that only by taking part in politics could workers obtain the legislation needed to improve their condition. Foreign financiers would not be able to play ducks and drakes with a British colony, as they were doing in the Transvaal, if workers on the Rand had the Cape's advantages of a parliament 4 and a pro-Labour newspaper like the South African News. He was talking to the converted. Cape Town's trade unionists had already formed the nucleus of a Labour party and entered the lists in a parliamentary election. Five Labour candidates contested seats in the Cape's general elections of 1904. Four stood in Cape Town with the backing of the Political Labour League, an offshoot of the trades council. The fifth represented the British Workmen's Political and Defence Association of Port Elizabeth. The League's constitu tion and programme were suited to the colony's non-racial 100

Workers and the Vote

franchise. Membership was open to wage earners of any race or colour, and the programme required equal rights for all civilized men. This was a splendid avowal of democratic principle and a unique repudiation by white labour of racial policies. The effects were negligible. The leaders missed the opportunity of proving their sincerity by nominating a Coloured or African candidate. Their representatives were white, British and, with one exception, recent immigrants. They had little money, experi ence or organization behind them and were easily routed by Jameson's Progressive party, which had all three qualities, and could, in addition, rely on patriotic sentiments whipped up dur ing the war among English-speaking and Coloured working men. The Progressives obtained a majority of one in the legislative council and of five in the assembly. Dr L. S. Jameson, Rhodes' former lieutenant and the leader of the raid on the Transvaal, became prime minister. Britain's war had completed his mission, vindicated his political villainy, and enabled him to maintain the Rhodes tradition of combining the premiership with a director ship in the colony's richest corporation. The Labour candidates Corley, Craig and Purcell attacked his association with De Beers, accused him of supporting the Chinese policy, and demanded a tax on diamonds. They denounced his party as one pledged to the capitalists, that would not therefore introduce labour measures like workmen's compensation and compulsory arbitration in industrial disputes. Corley, a carpenter and the Labour League's president, warned his audiences that workmen would gain nothing from a representative of De Beers. A month later, defeated in the elections and blacklisted by employers, he broke up home and emigrated to New Zealand. 5 The decision to take part in elections was reached after much debate on the rival merits of political and direct action, an issue that perplexed radical socialists for many years also in the Transvaal and Natal. The federation decided on independent political action in June 19o6 and advised the trades council accordingly. It then formed a Labour Representation Committee and called a meeting of delegates from all working-class bodies to 'present a united front to the enemy at the elections'. The two wings of the movement could not agree, however, and the iol

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 Levin federation decided in March i9o7 to nominate Needham,

stood son and Howard for the parliamentary elections. Ridout for socialism for the municipal council and obtained 1,498 votes got 3,000 from the workmen's single vote; but his opponent 6 votes from the plural suffrage of property owners. De Trade unionists took a hard knock at Kimberley, where was James Beers ruled with an iron rod. The leading spirit here after Trembath, a Cornish compositor, who settled in the town organize the siege of 90oo and struggled for more than ten years to labour a labour movement. An attempt was made to put up

and his candidates in 1904, and when this failed Trembath

associates formed a trades council. Seven of its nine members worked for De Beers, which summarily dismissed them in 195o of the after a dispute over workmen's compensation. One victimized men was Walter Madeley (1873-1947), a fitter from Woolwich, who twenty years later held office in Hertzog's cabinet. The company's behaviour gave rise to much agitation, but the company never relaxed its grip on the town. Madeley and the other victims were unable to find work locally, while the council lost what influence it had over the majority of workmen. 'There are many good trade unionists who are but indifferent politicians and many good politicians who are not trade unionists,' declared Trembath. It was unfair, he added, to force any man to pay for political propaganda to which he might be wholly opposed. ' For these reasons, a Political Labour League was formed to fight elections and conduct political campaigns. Trembath urged working men in all centres to combine in order to put into parliament men who belonged to their class and looked after their interests. Without direct representation, he argued, they would always be mere pawns in the parliamentary game; they would receive only crumbs of labour legislation, never the loaf. Socialists in Durban held similar views and formed the Clarion Fellowship in 1903. Appealing to an all

white and almost wholly British electorate, Natal's labour move ment took on a distinctly British flavour. The Fellowship was modelled on the English society of the same name, distributed its publications, contributed to Hyndman's election expenses, and helped to send E. B. Rose as South Africa's representative to 102

Workers and the Vote the Second International congress at Amsterdam in 1905. The founders of the movement in Durban were two Scotsmen: A. L. Clark, 'the father of railway trade unionism', and Harry Norrie, a tailor from Forfarshire. Both spent their lives in preaching socialism, passed through many stages of radicalism, and never came to grips with the realities of Natal's multi-racial society. The Fellowship sponsored a Workers' Political Union in 1905 to fight a parliamentary by-election in Durban. Their candidate, C. H. Haggar, a bearded, colourful doctor of philosophy from East Anglia, was defeated. But he won a seat in 19o6 on the borough council as the nominee of the Natal Labour Representa tive Committee. This led to a quarrel between trade unionists and socialists over the choice of candidates that wrecked the trades council. Later in the year, however, Haggar, N. P. Palmer, D. Taylor and J. Connolly were elected on a Labour platform to the legislative assembly. Though this seemed a spectacular success, it reflected the amorphous nature of Natal's politics rather than the strength of its labour movement. The Witwatersrand trade council's decision to form a Political Labour League followed hard on Lyttleton's promise in July 1904 of representative government for the Transvaal. The in augural meeting took place only a year later on 31 August. Bill Andrews, the council's president, H. W. Sampson, its secretary, and Whiteside called for an end to Labour's local isolation, the formation of branches in every colony, and an all-South African campaign. The League's programme of twenty-two points made no concession, however, to the Cape's traditional policy of racial equality; and called for a union of the white races, equal rights for their languages, responsible government, white adult suffrage and single-member consti tuencies. Like their masters, the Labour leaders appealed for Anglo-Afrikaner unity at the expense of Africans, Coloured and Asians. Andrews, Sampson and J. H. Brideson represented the League in Johannesburg's municipal elections of October 1905. All were defeated in a campaign marred by internal squabbles and appeals to racial prejudice. The miners' union threw its weight against

Brideson, and the League sabotaged Andrews, its president. Its 103

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o

executive, which included Sampson and Whiteside, publicly rebuked him for allegedly repudiating his pledge to abide by caucus decisions. The Rev. C. A. Lane, who defeated him by twenty-one votes, included in his manifesto a demand for a ban on extra-marital intercourse between black and white; it was unnatural, he claimed, for the races had been differentiated by Nature and should be kept separate by law. C. H. Short, the third candidate in the ward, accused Andrews of being supported by the mine magnates of Corner House, condemned 'the ten dency to mix the races', and denounced 'the preaching of the gospel of social equality of White and Black'. Andrews alone avoided such racist incitement, though he did not repudiate the League's undertaking to employ white labour where possible in municipal services. While laying the foundations of their movement by taking part in municipal elections, Labour leaders staked a claim to representation on a higher plane by joining in the campaign for responsible government. Mine owners and big business men, with the backing of Milner and the Colonial Office, tried to keep the reins in their hands. They formed the Transvaal Progressive Association in November 1904 and advocated strong ties with Britain, Chinese labour, equal voting rights for white men, and an interim period of representative government. Abe Bailey, a leading mine director and Progressive politician, declared that what he for one would not let the Boers 'win with the ballot-box 8 they had failed to accomplish with the Mauser'. Botha's Het Volk party, the Transvaal Responsible Govern ment Association led by E. P. Solomon, and Labour countered with a demand for immediate self-rule. At times they seemed to interchange their traditional roles. Germiston workers heard Whiteside (who had served as a quartermaster-sergeant against

the republic) denounce the Jameson raid and praise Kruger for having offered a franchise more generous than that proposed by the Lyttleton constitution. 9 A few days later, in February 19o5, A. D. Wolmarans, an uncompromising member of Het Volk's head committee, told farmers at Nylstroom that they had no quarrel with Britain. Their enemy was the capitalist, who had made war on the republic and was now fighting artisans and 104

Workers and the Vote farmers. They should stand together, stop the importation of Chinese, give employment to white men, and make the Trans vaal a white man's country. 10 When hotheaded republicans like Wolmarans and C. F. Beyers spoke of war between labour and capital, their rural audience took them to mean the old battle against foreigners, mine mag-S nates and British imperialism. Het Volk represented landowners and not socialists. 'Capital and Labour must work hand in hand - the one could not do without the other,' was Louis Botha's message to the Pretoria branch of the ASE at their annual dinner in June 1905. He assured the engineers that his people, in their impoverished state, had drawn closer to the working man, for whom Paul Kruger always kept an open ear.' I British workmen and Afrikaner landowners stood far apart in language, tradition and national loyalties. Many working men in the Transvaal preferred to remain under Britain's protective mantle and supported the plea of the mine owners for representa tive government.1 2 Labour leaders who backed the demand for immediate self-government joined forces not with Afrikaners but with English-speaking merchants and professional men. Whiteside, Wybergh, Shanks, Riatt and Creswell helped to draft the manifesto of the Responsible Government Association, signed it in the company of eighty others, and spoke on the association's platform. The Responsibles entered into an elec toral pact with Het Volk after the publication in 19o5 of the Lyttleton constitution, which provided for an elected majority in the legislature and an executive council dominated by British officials. Andrews and Sampson met representatives of the Responsibles in May to discuss an extension of the pact to include Labour, and reported back to the trades council, which agreed to support the pact on condition that Labour was free to press its own claims for the eight-hour working day, work men's compensation and other reforms.1 3 The constitutional issue was settled by a change of govern ment in Britain. Balfour's conservative ministry fell in December 1905. Campbell-Bannerman took office, went to the country in January 19o6, and won an election unique in British politics for the prominence given to a wholly colonial issue - the Chinese o105



Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950

importations. The new Liberal cabinet scrapped Lyttleton's constitution and, acting on the recommendations of the Ridge way committee, decided to introduce quasi-responsible govern ment in the Transvaal. It was to have a nominated upper chamber and a legislative assembly of sixty-nine white members elected by white men only. Political parties in the colony pre pared for battle. Socialists and trade unionists formed the Independent Labour party in May 19o6. Het Volk's executive on the Rand turned down a motion to cooperate with Labour which, it said, had socialist tendencies. The Responsibles, in cluding Creswell and Wybergh, merged with the Reform Club, called themselves the Transvaal Nationalist Association, and renewed their electoral agreement with Het Volk. Labour held aloof and, in December 19o6, formed the Labour Representation Committee. It combined trade unionists, the I LP, and small left wing groups of Germans, Italians and Russian Jews. Socialists, trade unionists and political opportunists painfully edged their way to united action. Some trade unionists com plained that socialists dominated the LRC. A British Labour Union, making a brief appearance before the 1907 elections, denounced the 'fallacious doctrine of socialism as propounded by the Socialist Labour Parties'.14 At the other end of the spectrum, Jock Campbell's Socialist Labour party, formed in 1902, turned its back on all elections and distributed the works of Karl Kautsky, Daniel De Leon and his fellow syndicalists.1 5 Labour managed in spite of these differences to put up thirteen candidates in the Transvaal general election of February 1907. They polled 5,216 votes out of the 13,i8o cast in the thirteen constituencies and won three seats. Sampson and Whiteside were returned in Johannesburg, and J. Reid in Pretoria. Het Volk won thirty-seven seats, which gave it a clear majority of five, and Botha included E. P. Solomon and H. C. Hull, two leaders of the Transvaal Nationalist Association, in his cabinet. Het Volk did not oppose the Labour candidates. These lost to the Nationalists in three, and to the Progressives in seven, con stituencies. As in Natal and the Cape, the bulk of the working class vote went to parties representing capitalists and the middle class. They, and not Afrikaner nationalism, were Labour's chief xo6

Workers and the Vote political rivals. Sampson said as much when he reported back in October 1907 to his constituents. He was pleased that the Pro gressives were not in power. Labour's representatives were having an easy time under Botha's ministry. It had passed a workman's compensation act and could be relied upon to enforce laws against Asians. Labour looked forward, he added, to the elimination of Asians from the Transvaal, and would press for a law fixing ratios between whites and Africans in all industries. I6 Sampson was a compositor from Islington, London, who came to South Africa in 1892 at the age of twenty. He spent the next five years in Cape Town, where he helped to form a trades council; and then moved, after a printers' strike, to East London, where he founded a branch of the S.A. Typographical Union. Settling in Johannesburg in 1903, he became the union's presi dent and also secretary of the trades council. He lost three municipal elections before winning a seat in the legislative assembly; but then his parliamentary career continued without a break from 1907 to 1931. He was elected the first chairman of the S.A. Labour party at its formation in 191o. Ambitious, arrogant and racist, he was a principal architect of the white labour policy. His own union 'committed the dreadful sin' of admitting Natal Indian printers, but there was no truth what ever in the 'oft-repeated lie' that Sampson, as president, bore a special responsibility for the decision. 7 Radicals accused him of disrupting the party caucus in the Transvaal parliament by quarrelling with Whiteside and refusing to accept party disci pline.' Partly for this reason, the ILP'at its first annual confer ence in October 1907 repudiated the parliamentary actions of the three Labour members. 19 The heterogeneous elements in the Labour Representation Committee could never agree on a programme. The ILP, how ever, was explicitly socialist. It aimed, among other things, at 'The socialization of all the means of production, distribution and exchange, to be controlled by a democratic state in the interests of the whole community.' Whiteside explained that this was a beacon light, an ideal to be worked for, though nationalization of the mines was impracticable under existing conditions. 20 Some members wished to call themselves the 107

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-195o Transvaal Socialistic Party, but the annual conference rejected the motion. Delegates were divided equally on another motion, which would allow members of the 'coloured races' to join the party. New alignments and cleavages developed, however, before the various factions agreed in I909 to form the South African Labour party. It made its official debut at Durban on 1o January i9io as the first national political party. Labour was all set for the first round of elections under the South Africa Act. The Act had been drafted by an all-white National Conven tion in 19o8-9. Described as a 'compromise' between Cape liberals and white supremacists of the north, it represented the fruits of partnership or, more accurately, of antagonistic co operation between British and Afrikaner imperialists, each in tending to dominate the other. The British wanted union for economic, political and military reasons. Afrikaners accepted cooperation as the price to be paid for the spread of nationalism and the maintenance of white supremacy. Africans, Coloured and Indians were the victims of closer union. The act excluded them from both houses of parliament and denied them the vote in the three northern provinces. The background to the colour bar clauses has been admirably described by the liberal historian L. M. Thompson.2 1 Here it is necessary only to comment on the attitudes of the labour and liberation movements. None of the delegates to the National Convention represented Labour, and this was a sore point with Labour leaders. They made the most of it in their opposition to union and the draft act. The strongest opposition came from Natal, where organized Labour appeared in the same camp as ultra-British jingos. Both groups preferred isolation to Afrikaner domination. Labour men had an additional grievance in action taken by the government to break a railwaymen's strike in April-May 1909. Three of the four Labour members of the legislative assembly moved that the union parliament should have only one chamber, to be elected once in three years. Haggar, to his credit, moved the deletion of the clause barring persons of colour from the house of assem bly. The amendments were defeated, and three-quarters of the 14,8oo Natal voters who took part in a referendum voted in favour of union. io8


% RRO' - "






Workers and the Vote Whiteside, Sampson and Wybergh offered mild resistance to the draft in the Transvaal legislature. Trade unionists stated their objections in resolutions passed at a labour rally in Johan nesburg on Good Friday of i9o9. Madeley, C. B. Mussared, a leading member of the ILP, and Tom Kirby, president of the

Pretoria trade council, moved that since workers had not been represented at the National Convention, and since the draft act was undemocratic, it should be submitted to a popular referen dum. Bill Andrews and the Labour councillors John Ware and Jackson moved another resolution which called on the British government to withhold its assent until the draft had been amended and approved by a referendum of the electorate. The proposed amendments would eliminate the senate, introduce a separate 'Native and Coloured Assembly' having only advisory powers, block the extension of the Cape's 'coloured franchise', and confine the vote to adult whites, subject to retention of their rights by existing Coloured voters in the Cape. Tengo Jabavu, cautious as ever, took an intermediate position. He would give adult suffrage to white men and women, and the Cape franchise to Africans. It had worked well and needed no change. His scheme would prevent 'native predominance'." He steadfastly set his face against any agitation on behalf of the Africans while the National Convention was sitting. They should put their trust in the Cape's liberal delegates and not cry out before they were hurt. The Convention was 'a judicial tribunal set up to do justice to all sections without fear, favour or preju dice'. An agitation would be premature, give his people a bad name, and strengthen the argument that they had no place in the 'body politic'. 23 When the publication of the draft act ex posed the shallowness of his optimism, he pleaded that the colour bar clauses imposed an unnecessary humiliation. Africans, he insisted, had no desire to sit in parliament where they could exert no influence.2 He repeated this assurance on the Armadale Castle in July 1909, when on his way to London with an African delegation to protest against the colour bar. 'We have no wish to have a Native preponderance in the country,' he said; 'it is a thing which I should object to myself.' He 'would dread putting our people in a position of absolute equality with the 109

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-.95o Europeans, especially in the Northern colonies'. But rights already held in the Cape should not be curtailed; 'and as to the 2 rest, some restricted form of representation might be given'. There was a streak of the Uncle Tom in Jabavu, but he was no white man's lackey. He had principles and a strategy based on an assessment of the African's relationship to competing white power groups. Long ago, he explained, when the English dominated parliament, parties divided on the 'Native Question'. One faction, led by Porter, Solomon, Molteno, Sauer and Merri man, took a liberal view and fought for the liberties of both colonists and Africans. Opposed to them were the majority of Englishmen, who followed reactionary leaders like the Uping tons, Sprigg and later Rhodes. They adopted a 'vigorous Native policy', signalized by disarmament, disfranchisem*nt, pass laws and other 'repressive legislation under which the Natives ... have ever groaned'. Africans naturally supported the liberals. The Afrikaner Bond as naturally allied itself with the anti African party. The Jameson raid severed the alliance. The Bond then transferred its support to the liberal, anti-imperialist group led by Sauer, Merriman and Schreiner, which Africans had always supported and which became the South African party in 1903.26 The English press and party insisted that Jabavu, 'an able and most influential Kaffir', had 'gone over' to the Bond or 'Strop en Dop' party,* if only by associating with Sauer and the SAP. 2 7 Jabavu was too astute a politician to suppose that he could refute the charge with an historical treatise. His people were hard-headed, cold logicians, he maintained, and had no desire to instal a 'Dutch' government at Table Mountain. He wished to satisfy them that he was no Bondsman and, like they,

wanted a government of 'the best Englishmen who will dispense justice evenly to English, Dutch and Native people, without

fear, favour or prejudice'. On the other hand, he had to show that Africans had nothing to expect from the English Progressive

party, and should vote against it at the polls. He gave two reasons. By making Jameson their leader, the Progressives had shown *The 'Lash and Liquor' party: a reference to Cape farmers who flogged their workers and supplied them with rations of cheap wine. IIO

Workers and the Vote

themselves willing to 'hand over the government of the people to the Mining Magnates', whose sole interest was 'Wealth and not the Commonwealth of South Africa'. Secondly, the Pro gressives hated African rights, as was evident from Jameson's letter of 20 September 1903 to the Muslim leader H. N. Effendi. It promised 'equal rights to all civilized men' and went on to insult Africans by stating that 'It is only the aboriginal natives we consider uncivilized'.28

Africans might have shared Jabavu's misgivings about Jame son's party, but they certainly had less confidence in political descendants of the Afrikaner Bond, whose leader, J. H. Hof meyr, had declared that he would sooner give franchise rights to convicts in the Breakwater prison than to the coloured races. 2 9 African and Coloured delegates, including Dr Abdurahman, met at Queenstown in December 1907 and decided to support the Unionist party, as the Progressives were now called. Jabavu's paper printed a vicious attack on Abdurahman - 'a man of mixed race' who was 'ashamed of his skin' - and denounced the conference. It was 'not representative'. The 'so-called vote to support the ex-Prog. candidates was passed by a few ignorant people of the rank and file'. 30 Jabavu prepared a counterblast and called a Native Electoral Convention in January. It urged constituents to vote for the SAP and passed resolutions in favour of African rights in the future Union. 3 1 The


won the elec

tion, Merriman headed the new ministry, and Jabavu jubilated. 'Of the 12 newspapers published within the Eastern circuit, Imvo is the only one in sympathy with the SAP.' 32 The publication of the draft constitution in February i909 aroused bitter resentment in Africans and Coloured. Jabavu blamed Natal for insisting on the 'European descent' clauses that barred men of colour from parliament and denied them the vote in the northern provinces.33 The Rev. W. B. Rubusana's Izwi Labantu accused the Cape delegates to the National Con vention of conspiring to eliminate the Cape African franchise. Rubusana, Jabavu and the Rev. J. L. Dube, editor of Ilanga Lase Natal, convened a South African Native Convention at Bloemfontein on 24 March. It elected an executive to defend African interests, protested against the colour bar, demanded III

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 full and equal rights for all citizens without distinction of class, colour or creed, and called on Britain to fulfil her obligations under article 8 of the Vereeniging peace treaty by extending 34 the franchise to Africans, Coloured and Indians in all colonies. The convention agreed to send a delegation to England. The APO took a similar decision in April. Its campaign for a non-racial franchise had begun in x9o6, when Abdurahman, Fredericks and Daniels journeyed to England to protest against the terms of the Ridgeway constitution. The deputation's main purpose was to establish the claims of the Coloured to the franchise under article 8 of the Vereeniging treaty, but Abdurah man spoke for all the oppressed. If Britain refused to grant a non-racial franchise, he urged, there were other ways in which she could do justice to all her subjects. She could, for instance, before granting self-government to the ex-republics, repeal their discriminatory laws. They were still there, had been augmented, and were enforced with typical British rigour. Secondly, Britain should either extend the franchise to qualified persons of all races, or retain her sovereign authority over the unrepresented masses. In no circ*mstances should she commit them bound hand and foot to the colonists. 3 5 The deputation returned empty-handed but undaunted. The campaign continued and assumed a new dimension when the APO'S executive accepted an invitation to attend the joint con ference of Africans and Coloured at Queenstown. About 120 delegates came together, said Abdurahman, in 'the first genuine attempt to fuse the two sections of the population into one political whole'. 36 The men of the north, he told them, would always try to foist their repressive system on the coloured races; but would have less chance of success in a federation. For a union would be bound to follow the policies of the north more closely than Cape traditions. 3 7 When the National Convention met to draft the Act of Union, the APO petitioned it to respect existing rights and extend them to Coloured and Africans in the north. After the publication of the draft constitution petitions were submitted to the prime ministers, the high commissioner and the secretary of state, praying for the deletion of the colour bar clauses, the extension of the franchise to all qualified persons 112



Workers and the Vote in the Union, and the exclusion of 'native territories' from the 38 Union except on terms satisfactory to chiefs and councillors. Their rights were being whittled away for purely material advantages, said Abdurahman in his presidential address to the eighty-nine delegates who attended the APO's seventh annual conference in the Socialist Hall, Buitenkant St, Cape Town, on 13 April 19o9. The draft act was 'un-British in that it lays down


a colour-line'. The Cape's leaders had betrayed their trust; the light of freedom was vanishing before the old Transvaal repub lic's principle of no equality between black and white in church or state. 'No class in a State can progress,' he warned, 'if its political destinies are in the hands of a ruling caste'; or if it denied human rights that were inalienable and essential to national stability.3 9 The 'European descent' clauses, which barred persons of colour from parliament, were 'the foulest work that ever South African statesmen attached their names to', wrote Abdurahman in the second issue of the A.P.O. 'The original insult is there as fresh and bitter as when it was first deliberately hurled at us last February. It is an injustice, and cannot be tolerated by any self-respecting man.' 40 The decision to send a deputation, accompanied by W. P. Schreiner, to put their case before the British people and parliament, aroused great enthusiasm; and 'stimulated the feel ing of union among the coloured', reported the APO'S Aliwal North branch. More than twenty new branches were formed, fund-raising activities were organized as far afield as Rhodesia, and the first number of the A.P.O. appeared on Empire Day, 24 May 19o9. Every existing newspaper was there primarily to advocate the rights of property, wrote the editor; all assumed that South Africa belonged only to the few propertied whites. The press patronizingly condescended to the coloured races and regarded them as chattels: 'ever the subject race'. The A.P.O. would speak for the people. Time would show that a repressive policy was 'impossible, uneconomic and disastrous to all con cerned'. For nothing but moral decay and national degeneracy could come out of a racial aristocracy that dominated a degraded class. Abdurahman, Fredericks and D. J. Lenders of Kimberley 113


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-i95o Jabavu, sailed for England in June. The African delegates were general Rubusana, D. Dwanya of Middeldrift, T. Mapikelaythe J. Gerrans secretary of the Orange River Native Congress, and of Bechuanaland. The two deputations and W. P. Schreiner, the their unpaid counsellor and tireless spokesman, represented at their great majority of South Africans; but they travelled poor. At own expense and by means of funds donated by the about the same time an official colonial delegation, accompanied expense to by the high commissioner, travelled at the state's imperial put the bill entrenching white supremacy through the reception parliament. The official delegation was given a roaring and in England; the unofficial representatives were snubbed ignored by the wielders of power. Philanthropists, missionaries, Labour Gandhi, the prime minister of New Zealand, the British against party and a group of Liberals in parliament protested indifferent. the colour bar. The people of Britain were bored and the white They had already surrendered sovereign power to Act oligarchy in Natal and the ex-republics. The South Africa at merely put the final seal of Britain's approval on the betrayal

Vereeniging in


Asquith, Balfour, The Times, The Economist and other pillars They of the imperial establishment oozed an unctuous optimism. unifica agreed, on the one hand, that the settlers would abandon in tion rather than agree to an abatement of racial discrimination that the the act. The British public was assured, on the other, to racists, who would forgo the advantages of union if necessary to the maintain white supremacy, could be trusted to do justice Hardie subject races. Not everybody was as gullible. Dilke, Keir would and Ramsay MacDonald foresaw that the Act of Union establish a permanent white oligarchy. The Manchester Guardian we warned against deluding 'ourselves with the promise that 4 1 J. A. Hobson can undo the injustice when it is committed'. commented wryly on the irony of defeated Afrikaner generals rulers imposing on Britain a constitution which made them 'the upon of a virtually independent South Africa'. It would 'move group an unstable axis' and remain a source of 'weakness to the to of self-governing nationalities to which it falsely claims ap belong'. 4 2 The Labour Leader declared that Britain had 114

Workers and the Vote

proved of 'the union of a Boer Landed Aristocracy with an Exploiting Capitalist Plutocracy'; and damned South African trade unionists for being anti-African to a man.4 3 'Since our arrival here it has been a terribly up-hill fight,' wrote Abdurahman on 29 July. 'We are directing all our efforts and energies to the term "of European descent", but I fear all our efforts will be in vain.' The Cape's official delegates - the prime minister Merriman, Sauer, Hofmeyr, Jameson and chief justice Lord de Villiers - were 'our worst enemies'. Without the poison from them, the British public would never agree to the hateful colour bar. They were 'moving heaven and earth to retain the obnoxious words'; and 'naturally their opinions carry great weight, because the public who will suffer directly by the words "of European descent" are the Cape Colony people."' Critics of the colour bar in the Commons made their main stand on an amendment to clause 26, which would enable men of colour to represent the Cape and Natal in the senate; but the amendment was defeated by 157 votes to 57, the minority con sisting of 28 Labour members, 26 Liberals, and 3 Irish national ists."5 The bill was reported without amendment and passed the third reading without a division. The African and Coloured deputations returned with Schreiner to South Africa in September. They tried to glean comfort from their failure. The minds of English people had been enlightened as to the colour bar, Schreiner claimed; while Abdurahman assumed 'that at a very early date an attempt would be made ' 46 to erase the blot which now stained the Constitution'. Abdurahman's true assessment appeared in a leading article. Britain's national fibre had deteriorated. Everyone regretted the colour bar, but no one would reject it, apart from the Labour party and advanced radicals. 'No longer must we look to our flabby friends of Great Britain.' The political destiny of Coloured and Africans lay in their own hands. They would have to rely on economic struggle. 'We are the labour market'; and South Africa's stability depended on them. By refusing to bolster up the economy, they would bring selfish white politicians to their knees, and show white workers the value of combination their only weapon against the cursed wage system.4 7 1"5

6 National Liberation

The teachers, ministers, editors, lawyers and doctors who founded the liberation movements were constitutionalists. They defended existing rights and resisted new discriminations in a constant struggle against aggressive white supremacists. African, Coloured and Indian leaders of the early period took their inspiration from liberal and humanitarian concepts. Their vision of the ideal society embraced equality before the law; the vote; freedom of trade, labour, movement and residence; and equal opportunities of education and employment. Their natural allies in the white community before the rise of radical socialism were liberals of wealth and standing who counselled patience, acceptance of white supremacy, and respect for law and order; and who left a deep imprint on the liberation movement, most of all in the Cape. There, the non-racial franchise gave Africans and Coloured the means of enlisting the support of progressive politicians. Jabavu was one of the first to recognize the value of an organized, disciplined African electorate. His entanglement in white party politics began with the publication of Imvo in 1884. Twenty years later Abdurahman embarked on a similar course when he took his seat on Cape Town's municipal council. Gandhi rose to world-wide eminence after he had left South Africa in 1914. Jabavu and Abdurahman might also have made their way into the top rank of rulers if they had lived in a less repressive society. Racial discrimination restricted them to a minor political role, but they were great men among their people. Though unwilling, and perhaps unable, to alienate them selves from the poor and oppressed, they did not escape from the compromises that are forced on leaders without power who seek to reform but never to overthrow an evil social order. Both men witnessed the decline of Cape liberalism and the spread of racial In6

National Liberation discrimination. Abdurahman saw the process more clearly and gained a deeper insight into the structure of white power. Yet, like Jabavu, he maintained his trust in white patronage long after the futility of such an attitude had been revealed. Neither took to heart Gandhi's message that a voteless and rejected people would not obtain relief from a parliament of their oppressors, but must depend on their own strength and develop their own methods of struggle.

Dr Abdul Abdurahman


acclaimed as South

Africa's foremost Coloured leader, was a Muslim, a member of the 'Malay' community, and a grandson of manumitted slaves, Chashullah and Betsy Jamal-ud-din (corrupted to Jamalee) who bought their freedom. They kept a fruit shop in Roeland Street, Cape Town, amassed a small fortune, and sent their son Abdul Rachman to study theology at Cairo and Mecca. He returned after an absence of ten years and married Khadija Dollie, 'the prettiest Malay girl in Cape Town'.1 Widely known as Hadjie Abdurahman, he pioneered modern education for the Muslims and refused to put up with a second-class education for his own sons. His eldest, the future Dr Abdurahman, was admitted to the S.A. College School, the oldest high school in the country, 'where, by his diligence and ability, he outdistanced his com rades in almost every branch of school work '.2 The college then raised a colour bar, whereupon the Hadjie went to England and stayed there, while his second son qualified as a chemist, and the youngest as a doctor. He lost his wife in England, and by her side was later buried her brother, H. M. Dollie, the father of Dr 0. Dollie, who also took his children to be educated in England. 3 Having matriculated at the Cape, Abdul Abdurahman went to Glasgow, where he spent close on four years before graduating in medicine in 1893. Two years later he came home with his Scot tish bride. 'He makes a great sacrifice,' wrote Peregrino, 'in returning to a country where colour, and not character, ability or standing, makes the man.' 4 In 19o4, now a successful practi tioner, he was elected to the town council, the first coloured person to hold this office. 'I was reluctant to enter public life because failure at the polls would have drawn ridicule upon the 117

ip,- -.- - -

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-1950

coloureds,' he wrote after the election; but 'it is by individuals stepping beyond the establishments of the time that a people progress.' 5 The European support he received at the polls 'does not betoken a white race degenerating, but a sign of rejuvenes cence'. The British constitution was 'the admiration of the world, and one of the greatest blessings of mankind'. As leader of the AP o, Abdurahman spent much of the next five years in an unsuccessful attempt to vindicate his faith in British democracy. The elan and vigour of the African Political Organization in its early and middle years held great promise of a mass radical movement. Founded in I9o2, it soon grew into what was per haps the first national party, open to persons of all races and with branches in all the colonies. It failed to attract significant numbers of Africans and Indians, however, and remained predominantly Coloured, centred in the western Cape and con cerned mainly with Coloured affairs. Abdurahman traced its origins to the political awakening brought about by Carnarvon's confederation scheme and the Anglo-Afrikaner war; but a more immediate impulse came from participation in parliamentary politics. One of the APO'S first activities was to strengthen and mobilize the Coloured vote by urging qualified men to apply for registration on the electoral rolls. It made substantial gains by taking part in white party politics, but also encountered great hazards which often threatened to wreck the organization. The first of these crises occurred soon after its formation. John Tobin, a foundation member and an advocate of 'recon ciliation' between Coloured and white Afrikaners, canvassed for the SAP-Bond alliance in the general election of 1904. W. Col lins, the APO'S first president, favoured the Progressives, who were supported also by Peregrino and other members of the Coloured Peoples' Vigilance Committee. To avoid a split, the organization expelled both men and invited Abdurahman to take the leadership. He joined the Cape Town branch in 1904 and was elected in 1905 to the presidency, an office which he held up to the time of his death in 194o. He was 'not a Progressive or a Bondsman,' he told the annual conference in Port Elizabeth; and would never cease to agitate on behalf of their people as long as they were unjustly treated. The Coloured people were


National Liberation very fortunate, wrote Imvo, in having him as their leader. They could not have a more trustworthy guide. Whites were woefully mistaken in thinking that they could repress the Coloured and African people, 'as a policy of that kind is only calculated to unite and make the Coloured inhabitants more determined in claiming their own'. 6 The Chinese importations, colour bars on the mines, and the transfer of ultimate power to settlers in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony stirred Abdurahman to anger. His in augural address at the APO's annual conference in January 19o6 was one long indictment of the 'cosmopolitan exploiters' whose greed for gold had given rise to the system of indentured labour. 'Chamberlain, the great Imperial wanderer, visited South Africa, sympathized with the downtrodden Magnates, saw a Native war dance at Colenso, and gave the Rand lords forced labour at id. an hour.' The Flag had never been in such despic able hands since the old slave days. The ex-republics under British rule were 'simply Imperial prisons for coloured people, who are but goods and chattels in the hands of the country's exploiters'.'

The English press accused him of 'incendiary

talk' and of' stirring up the embers of race feud'. Johannesburg's municipal council refused to let him address a Coloured audience in the town hall, whereas the anti-Chinese opposition declared that he 'expressed in most outspoken language the feeling of ninety-nine per cent of the voters'.' The APO'S mission to England in 1906 failed to convince the British government that it was morally bound to extend the franchise to the Coloured in the north. Abdurahman then threw his weight behind the federal cause, represented in the Cape by the Progressive party. Jameson had said that federation would enable the Cape to 'hold to our Native policy until the neigh bouring colonies are sufficiently educated to agree to allow equal facilities for blacks and whites to rise in the scale of humanity'. 9 The AP o accordingly agreed at its annual conference in Indwe to support the Progressives in the 19o8 general election.1 ° Tobin, Peregrino and Jabavu backed Merriman's South African party; it won the election and argued the case for a unitary constitution. Jameson and his fellow Progressive delegates to the National lI9

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-95o Convention switched their allegiance, assented to a unitary con stitution, and accepted without protest the exclusion of persons 1 of colour from both houses of parliament. ' The APo's second mission to England in i9o9 failed to secure the deletion of the colour bar clauses. Abdurahman had not failed, he wrote, to learn that 'the rights of unrepresented classes of citizens are always unsafe, and are never free from invasion'.' The African and Coloured delegations returned smarting under the stigma of the colour bar and toured the Cape to report on their mission. At a public banquet attended by 300 notables in Queenstown in April i9io Abdurahman and Jabavu appealed for a political union of all the coloured races. Abdurah man reminded an African audience at Indwana a few days later that he had warned against unification, the form of constitution advocated by the SAP, which had shown no sympathy with the African and Coloured peoples. Their first duty was to have a political union. 'If they achieved that their full re-enfranchise ment would be rendered easier. '" 3 The need for unity was a constant theme in Abdurahman's speeches at this time. Coloured South Africans, he reiterated, were sons of the soil and had as great a claim to the country as any white settler. If 'Europeans persist in their policy of repression, there will one day arise a solid mass of Black and Coloured humanity whose demands will 14 be irresistible. The contemplated union never took shape. African and Coloured leaders joined in protest, but the political ties between their peoples were never more than tenuous. Geographical isolation, barriers of language, custom and race, economic differ ences and inequalities of status restrained them from merging into a single organization. Colour consciousness tended to smother class or national consciousness in the Coloured. They displayed an acute awareness of physical traits and a sensitive ness to gradations of colour that blocked the growth of unity within the group itself. 'And so through pride,' wrote a cor respondent in the A.P.O., 'the Coloured people, the true sons and daughters of South Africa, are today divided, and con sequently their political and industrial positions are becoming more critical day by day.' Many slightly coloured persons passed 120



for Europeans. 'Some of them select who, and who not, to recognize in public, through being desirous of being regarded as Europeans.' They often feared that if they supported a dark complexioned person in political life, he would expect a greeting in the street. Until 'the slightly-coloured and the pitch black confer at one table, we will only dream of what we would be, and remain the shadows that we are. ' 15 Genealogical gossip was a favourite pastime of Afrikaners and even more popular among the Coloured. They took malicious pleasure in tracing the dark-skinned ancestry of their rulers. If the 'European descent' clause meant that no ancestor was coloured, the A.P.O. remarked, it would bar two ministers of the crown in the Cape, one in the Transvaal, and several members of the Cape parliament, one of whom 'bears a titular distinction'.' 6 Such men might at least show sympathy with their kith and kin. 'But those who try to hide the little colour that is in them are always the bitterest anti-colour advocates. ' 17 When Botha formed his cabinet after the first Union elections, the paper dubbed it the regime of 'the half-white ministry'. Five of its ten members were not of pure European descent.' 8 Yet the 'piebald Botha Government' would employ only poor whites, and oust even Coloured relatives of ministers from the public service. The only government billet open to the Coloured would before long be 'a portfolio in the Union ministry'.' 9 White-baiting provided an emotional relief but left the im balance of power unchanged. The AP 0 failed to develop suitable methods of mass struggle in spite of the example set by Gandhi's passive resistance campaign. At Abdurahman's request, Gandhi contributed an article on his struggle 'for national honour, for conscience, and for manhood' in which he claimed that his methods were 'as pure as the ideal itself. Suffering is the panacea for all evils. It purifies the sufferers.' Passive resistance, he contended, would lead to violence only if soul force were trans muted into body force; and was therefore best for 'illiterate natives'. It taught them to break their own heads and not other people's in order to redress grievances. 2 0 The closest that the

came to instituting a passive resistance campaign was to urge the Coloured in Pretoria to conduct one against the APO




Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o municipality's decision to segregate them in townships. The Coloured residents preferred law suits to broken heads, however, and took the council to court.2 1 APO militants often spoke of using the 'economic weapon', but this too failed to materialize, although there were sufficient numbers of Coloured working men in the western Cape to make the political strike a feasible tactic. They were poorly organized, and reluctant to follow the A P o except during elections. Abdurah man tried hard to form trade unions, partly in order to detach Coloured workers from white labour leaders, and met with little success except among the teachers. Like Jabavu, he believed that his people would never hold their own against the colonists without a modern education, and so made this his primary concern. He fought a stubborn rearguard action against the spread of segregation in schools; used his position in the town council to force the S.A. College (later the University of Cape Town) to admit Harold Cressy and other Coloured students after him; and with J. W. Jagger, a prosperous merchant, induced the school board to establish the Trafalgar High School,

the first of its kind for Coloured, in 1910. 22 Many children owed their education to his private generosity. The A.P.O. gave much attention to educational needs, agitated for better facilities, admonished parents to send their children to school, and venti lated the grievances of the teachers. The formation of the S.A. Teachers' League in 1912-13 marked an important stage in the emergence of an intellectual leadership among the Coloured. Cressy, Francis Brutus, F. Hendricks and Abe Desmore, among others, worked closely with the APO, contributed to its paper, and through their own quarterly, the EducationalJournal,instilled in teachers a sense of national pride and of duty to their people. Employed in church schools, they were badly trained, grossly discriminated against, and underpaid at salaries ranging from L5 to £12 los. a month. 'The argument has been brought forward persistently,' wrote Brutus, 'that Coloured teachers cannot receive anything above a mere pittance in respect of salary because of the Native teachers, whose case has still to be dealt with.' 2 3 They had a remedy, he suggested. Let them combine with the Africans, 122

National Liberation who were then affiliated to the white-dominated Teachers' Association. The Coloured teachers, who were timid, politically backward and race conscious, continued to segregate themselves in the League. The AP O's leadership of intellectuals and small businessmen sedulously avoided mass struggles. They adopted, instead, the techniques of a parliamentary party, and concentrated on elec tion campaigns. Coloured and African voters held the balance in a dozen or so Cape constituencies. White candidates solicited their support during elections and ignored them at other times. Some of the money spent on elections trickled into the pockets of local agents, who were often leading members ofAP o branches, and from them to individual voters. The alleged corruption of the Coloured electorate, often given as a reason for taking the Coloured off the common roll, grew out of the colour bar con stitution. A vote without power proved to be more demoralizing than total disfranchisem*nt. Coloured politicians tended to be come appendages of white parties, which denied them member ship and rewarded them with scraps of political loot. The worst evil was not bribery, however, but the failure of the leaders to develop an alternative conception of the Coloured man's role in politics. The Coloured were stemvee - voting cattle - in the Afrikaner's vocabulary of contempt. They put their cross on ballot papers but never took part in the selection of candidates or in the making of policies. Since all parliamentary parties stood for white supremacy, the Coloured voter could only choose between evils. He usually chose the English party, representing the industrial ists, merchants and professions, who were protected by class barriers from Coloured competition and could therefore afford to deplore the grosser forms of racial discrimination, provided always that the darker man 'kept his place'. The leading liberal R. W. Rose Innes complained bitterly when the Rev. Rubusana, newly elected to the provincial council, exercised his right to travel in a first-class compartment with bedding, blankets and pillow supplied by the railway administration. 2 4 While insisting on social segregation, the English middle class objected to the industrial colour bar which interfered with the employment of 123


Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 the lowest-priced worker. They were his natural ally on the labour market against the policy of sheltered white labour. If the AP 0 ever had a political theory - and only glimpses of one appeared in the diatribes against racial discrimination-it was that an expanding, progressive capitalism would dissolve caste rigidi ties and give all men equal opportunities in a competitive society. It was impossible to relate this perspective to Botha's party of landowners. They preferred stagnation to progress if progress would bring equality in its train. Tradition, sentiment and party interest induced them to buttress caste divisions with statutory sanctions. The Coloured had little to expect from Afrikaner Nationalists, who made a 'white South Africa' one of their planks in the i91o general election, remarked the A.P.O.2 5 It reported resolutions passed by congresses of farmers urging government to expel African tenants from white-owned land, indenture their families to farmers, raise the hut tax and put convicts to work on public undertakings. 2 6 There was something radically wrong, the journal observed, when cabinet ministers invoked the black bogy to persuade whites to keep their children at school, accept compulsory military training, and employ whites only on skilled work.2 7 Hertzog's 'narrow racialism' was a menace to the Empire. He wished to extend the harsh, in human laws of the 'mis-named Free State' to all the provinces. 'In that prison-house of South Africa - worse even than the despotism of Russia - the Coloured people cannot work without 28 a permit.' Abdurahman told the Apo's annual conference at Port Eliza beth in 19io that in terms of the constitution each branch would decide for itself which candidate to support in the forthcoming election of the first Union parliament. The APO as an organiza tion could not bind itself to any particular party. Subsequently, however, he advised the branches to support Jameson's Unionists against the ruling coalition under Botha. Raynard and some other members of the APO who objected that this directive violated the constitution were expelled or resigned. 2 9 Jabavu, as always, backed the party of Sauer, who held a portfolio in the Botha ministry; and accused Abdurahman of 'prejudicing the case of the Coloured people in the eyes of the great Party in 124

National Liberation Power'. He was playing into the hands of the Transvaal by setting Coloured against Coloured. 30 Botha's coalition of Afrikaner parties, which formally merged into the S.A. National party in 1911, won the election with sixty-seven seats. The Unionists, representing mine owners, industrialists, merchants and the majority of English-speaking voters, won thirty-nine seats; the Labour party, four seats, all in the Transvaal; and eleven seats went to independents. All parties fought on a platform of white supremacy, promised to protect the interests of white workers, and accused one another of 'racialism', the current term for being anti-Afrikaner or anti British. Botha and Smuts, in common with the Labour party, called Unionists the 'capitalist party'. Unionists on the Rand asked the electorate to 'Vote British'. The Labour party replied that the capitalists who used the slogan were foreign Jews. This was not the first time that Labour had disgraced itself with anti Semitism. Tom Mathews lost the Fordsburg municipal seat in 19o8 because he called the capitalists 'Jews '. Arthur Noon polled 296 votes for Labour in Cape Town Central against the 1,695 votes cast for Jagger, the Unionist candidate. The APO had supported Noon when he contested a municipal seat in August 19o9. Then, he had been 'a true friend of all workers of every class and creed and colour', who would 'voice the views of all wage earners and tenants '.32 In r9Io , however, the APO supported Jagger. They would 'like to see Mr Noon returned some day, but it will take much time and 33 labour to convert the people of Cape Town to Socialism'. This vacillation reflected the ambivalence in Abdurahman's attitude to the labour movement. The British Labour party's opposition to the colour bar clauses in the South African Act left a deep impression. 'It is the one party,' declared the A.P.O., 'in whose hands the honour of Old England can safely be trusted.' Untainted by trade, not bemused by firearms, its democracy was pure. Labour would sweep the 'wretched hucksters' out of office at the next election. The Coloured hoped for a like display of class solidarity in South Africa. 'The same result will follow here as soon as all workers, white or black, learn that they are the country, and that on 125

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o labour everything rests.' 3 4 When the Cape railways advertised vacancies for white labourers only on construction works at Piquetberg, the paper appealed to trade unionists to join in protest. 'Too long have black and white been played off against one another. . .. It is to the Socialists that we must look for help in our fight against a class tyranny that deprives us of 35 political freedom.' It was a class as well as a racial tyranny. The word kleurlyn concealed the realities of capitalist exploitation behind the myth of racial inferiority. The 'colour line' was a subterfuge used to persuade the world that the darker races were inferior and in capable of undertaking so-called white man's work. 36 All em ployers took part in the exploitation. The capitalists hired 'Kaffir drudges' because these worked for a scanty wage. There was no more virtue in politicians like Sauer, Merriman and Burton, who employed convicts on their farms, than in the Rand magnates, who imported Chinese. 37 Smuts might appeal for unity between white South Africans, few of whom did physical work except on the rugby field. The whole industrial and economic structure depended on the coloured races. Even Mer riman, 'the greatest jabberer of the crowd', grew pumpkins by proxy with coloured workers, 'save when he can get white aristocratic convicts to slave for less pay'. 3 8 Abdurahman retained his early faith in working-class unity for many years in spite of rebuffs by white trade unionists who agitated for colour bars. White workers erred, his paper argued, in looking on the Coloured as their enemy. They should declare war on indentured labour, whether for mines, farms or domestic service. Coloured workers, like the whites, sold their skills to the highest bidder. Neither could obtain their true reward without cooperation. The employer, their economic enemy, could win only by playing off one group against the other. Un less white artisans overcame their stupid prejudices, their pros pects were no brighter than the Coloured's. 'Workers of all creeds and colours must stand together; must put an end to all divisions.' Unfortunately, the spirit of solidarity - the basis of all trade unionism - was 'deeper engraved in the heart of the Coloured artisan than it is in that of the white',39 126


When Noon and Tom Maginess spoke to APO branches on Labour's racial policies, Abdurahman declared himself to be a socialist, like any public man who tried to improve the position of the lower classes. By cooperation they could bring the capitalists to their knees within forty-eight hours. He objected to strikes, as they caused more misery than they alleviated, but the strike appeared to be the only weapon available. Maginess and many of his comrades in the Cape admittedly wanted the Coloured worker to get the same pay as the white for the same work, but the Transvaal Labour party's sole aim was to prevent the Coloured from living at all. The talk about 'dragging the white man down' was childish. The Coloured wanted to uplift themselves and all men. But the white workers on the Rand were about the most selfish lot he had heard of in any part of the world, as selfish as a pack of hungry wolves. 40 The A PO's faith in working-class solidarity turned into bitter resentment as the labour movement in the north pressed its demands for racial discrimination. Addressing the annual con


ference at Johannesburg in I912, Abdurahman referred to the

cumulative evidence that the general body of whites regarded his people as pariahs - banned from the Dutch Reformed Church, from schools and the army; and doomed to a condition worse than slavery. The self-styled Labour party aimed at giving white men a monopoly of skilled work for all time. Yet some skilled trades in the Cape employed a vast majority of Coloured, and the process must extend to the Rand. It was simply not practicable to assign separate classes of work to men grouped according to their colour. The interests of white artisans, too, demanded the removal of colour bars and the establishment of inter-racial working-class solidarity. Labour leaders who turned white work ers against the darker races were playing into the hands of the capitalist. The division of the nation into hostile camps would give rise to a solid front of Africans and Coloured. White racists were creating the conditions for a war of extermination. Con ference should meet the danger by laying the foundations of a Coloured Races Union. 'To ensure peace, one must prepare for war.' 4

The alternatives were class war or race war, and the choice 127


Class and Colour in South Africa T85o-i95o lay with the white worker. Though radicals might believe that class antagonisms would dissolve his colour prejudice, those in the A P 0 were more realistic. They acknowledged that the Cape's socialists were sympathetic to the Coloured worker. Was it not a fact, however, that they had joined the Labour party, whose white labour doctrines had been adopted by Botha and inserted into Het Volk's manifesto? Tom Maginess admitted to the affiliation. Labour leaders had decided on it, he said, after much hesitation, and were convinced that their party would not injure the Coloured worker. It was largely because of Abdurah man's influence, he complained, that Labour in the Cape had no seat in parliament. White and Coloured workers would not fail if they stood together, as they had done on the issue of work men s compensation. 4 I These assurances carried little weight, however, when set against such displays of hostility as the circu lars issued by the Transvaal federation of trade unions, calling for a boycott of builders, owners and merchants who 'sacrificed the heritage of the white people' by employing Coloured 43 workers. There was little in Labour's parliamentary record to evoke enthusiasm in Coloured and African voters. Creswell, Sampson, Madeley, Haggar and Andrews knew that their political bread was buttered on the side of white privilege. They represented artisans, clerks and small traders on the Rand; and rarely spoke on behalf of the entire working class. Creswell made this clear early in 191i when moving the adoption of his party's white labour policy. It was of the utmost importance, he argued, that whites should engage in every kind of social undertaking and productive enterprise.4 4 As parliament unrolled its endless chain of discriminatory laws, Labour members spoke only against those elements that might injure the white working man. The Unionists, but not Labour, opposed 'that blasphemous piece of legislation', the Dutch Reformed Church Act.45 Intro duced on the opening day of the Union parliament's first session, it excluded coloured persons from membership of the church in any province other than the Cape. Creswell criticized the Native Labour Regulation Act of 19xi for perpetuating the 'semi slavery system' of indentured labour which narrowed the white 128

National Liberation

man's sphere of employment. But he made no protest against the medieval penal code that the act inflicted on Africans. 46 He objected to the Immigrants' Restriction Act of 1911 because it left a loophole through which Asians might enter the country; and would not condemn the restraints on freedom of movement that imprisoned South African Indians in their province of domicile. 4 7 Even Andrews, the only genuine socialist in parlia ment, could be heard asking ministers to substitute white youths for Africans on the maintenance of telegraph lines in his con stituency of Germiston; or complaining that Africans were being employed to knock down rivets on railway bridges. This was a white man's job, and riveters argued that they were'making a rod for their own backs' by teaching Africans a part of their trade.48 It was not only for economic reasons that socialist principles gave way to electoral expediency. Labour leaders also pandered to the white man's sexual prejudices. Madeley drew attention in the House to 'brutal outrages on white women by Kaffirs', and would have the minister advise judges to inflict 'the utmost legal penalty of the death sentence on persons convicted of rape'.49 This display of ferocity occurred during a 'Black Peril'

campaign that had been sparked off by the reprieve of an African sentenced to death at Umtali in Rhodesia for the rape of a white woman. The A.P.O. commented sensibly that the employment of African men in white households inevitably exposed them to temptation. Labour's official paper the Worker replied with an outrageous attack on the 'A.P.O., the mouthpiece of the black, brown, snuff and butter'; and concluded that 'after a nigg*r has absorbed the poison into his head he will reckon that the white woman is his game'. The A.P.O.'s editor, 'who, we believe, has a white wife, should get 25 of the best enthusiastically adminis tered by someone from Umtali way'. 5 Abdurahman retorted that it was 'foul and loathsome con duct' so to drag in the family of another editor; and asserted that the Coloured were determined to make their opinions heard. The Worker returned to the attack with an abusive article on the A.P.O.'s alleged encouragement of the 'cholera' of Coloured business enterprise. The white worker would be ousted unless he woke up. His remedy was to boycott 'everything produced by 129

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950

the cholera' and to demand a minimum wage for all workers. South Africa, replied the A.P.O., was the home of the Coloured. They would assert their right to live and work where they liked, and would not concede privilege to any white man because of his colour. The aim of the demand for a minimum wage was to oust the Coloured man from his trade. He did not fear the whites in open contest but loathed their hypocrisy.5 1 In parliament Labour members took up the cudgels on the African's behalf only when to do so would strengthen the white worker's position. They had him in mind when they urged the House to extend the principle of statutory compensation for industrial injuries and miners' phthisis to Africans and Coloured. They, too, were human, said Madeley, and had a right to be compensated.5 2 Sampson gave the real reason when he told his party's annual conference in January 1912 that black labour was being preferred to white because workmen's compensation and other industrial laws made the white man more expensive. 5 3 As the A.P.O.54 never tired of explaining, the Labour leaders wanted to price the Coloured man out of the labour market. Alerted by these warnings, he looked askance at appeals to join hands with white workers. When Clark, president of the car penters' society, urged Coloured artisans in Natal to organize and affiliate to his federation, they told him that white carpen ters and bricklayers refused to work next to Coloured journey men. They were consequently obliged to take a lower wage in order to keep their jobs; and would be forced out of their trade if they followed his advice.55 Creswell outlined his party's policy of total segregation during the debate on the Natives Land Act of 1913. They were the first, he claimed, to advocate the partitioning of South Africa between the races. The reserves should be consolidated into a continuous tract 'so that the natives might have their own institutions and develop along their own lines'. Andrews criticized the draft act in so far as it aimed at the supply of 'an abundance of cheap Kafir labour'. He would not, however, exempt the Cape or any other region from the restrictive clauses. Nor did he wish to see large areas being set aside for Africans until they had learned to work the land to its fullest value. 56 None of the Labour mem130

NationalLiberation bers protested against the injustice or examined the consequences of restricting the occupancy rights of four million Africans to less than 8 per cent of the country's area, while the If million settlers

had unimited access to the remaining 92 per cent.|


The act scheduled some io4 million morgen,* with a promise

of more to come, for occupation by Africans, who would be

prohibited, except in the Cape, from buying or leasing from non-Africans outside the scheduled areas, without the governor general's express permission. This protected white landowners from competition by Africans, who were slowly buying back some of the land filched from them or their fathers. By outlawing tenancy agreements between landowners and Africans, the act would prevent some farmers from maintaining reserves of African labour while other farmers complained of labour scarcity. Finally, the restriction on landholding by Africans would force peasants to leave the overcrowded, impoverished reserves to work for mine owners and farmers. The Cape was excluded because a ban on the right to acquire land would diminish the African franchise, which had been entrenched by the South Africa Act. Territorial segregation was imposed on the Cape only after Africans had been removed from the common roll in 1936, and it was only then that parliament redeemed its promise to set more land aside for their occupation.5 7 J. W. Sauer, the minister of native affairs, piloted the Natives Land Bill through parliament. A great champion of equality in pre-Union days, he traded his principles for cabinet rank and succumbed to the racists of the north. The A.P.O. called on him to resign rather than betray the confidence that Africans had placed in him. His bill was 'more barbarous than anything Kruger ever introduced'; 'the most audacious act of piracy on rights of man that has been committed in South Africa'; and 'the quintessence of tyranny and falsehood'. Nothing so base had issued from a parliament that 'since the day of its foul birth, has loaded this land with loathsome rottenness in every con ceivable form of colour legislation'. It was the African's duty to send a deputation to England in the faint hope that the imperial parliament might withhold its consent.5 8 *A morgen is approximately equal to two acres. 131


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o

African reactions were no less immediate and vehement.

'Awakening on Friday morning, June 2oth, 1913, the South

African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth,' wrote Sol Plaatje, the first secretary 59 general of the S.A. Native National Congress. He toured the a areas affected by what he called the 'Plague Act' and wrote harrowing account of the plight of tenant families evicted with their livestock from farms within two months of the act's implementation. Meetings of protest, petitions and deputations failed to obtain relief. Conferences convened by the Congress in July 1913 and February 1914 decided to send a deputation

to England. Botha, the prime minister, curtly rejected a petition submitted by Dube, the Congress president, on behalf of his voteless people. '"I'll have your land, so go to England," is practically what Botha's reply means,' commented the A .P.O., '-and to England we trust the Natives will go to tell Englishmen 60 how the sons of the soil are being robbed.' Only Jabavu among the leaders adhered loyally to Sauer, defended the act and opposed the sending of a deputation. Misrepresenting the terms of the act, he told his followers that it would secure their land against alienation to whites and provide homes for landless squatters. His people rejected his special pleading. He had offended them in i9io by backing the Botha Smuts government and by opposing Rubusana's candidature for the provincial council seat of Tembuland. If Africans seized the first opportunity to send one of their own people to the council, Jabavu argued, they would stir up an agitation against them and endanger their franchise in the Cape. 61 Rubusana persisted, won the election with a majority of twenty-five votes, and became the first and last African provincial councillor. In 1911 Jabavu, his son Davidson, Rubusana, Chief Dalindyebo and Palmer Mgwet yana represented Africans at the Universal Races Congress in England. 62 On his return, Jabavu formed the S.A. Races Con gress in opposition to the S.A. Native National Congress, later 63 known as the African National Congress. By this time, how ever, he had lost his people's confidence. They looked for leadership to the AN C. Its foundations had been laid in the preceding decade by the 132

National Liberation formation of a provincial Native Congress in Natal, the Trans vaal and the Orange River Colony. The Act of Union stimulated the leaders to meet the challenge of a single, central white govern ment. The S.A. Native Convention, held at Bloemfontein in March i909, had elected an executive 'to promote organization and to defend the interests of the Natives' against the colour bar in the draft Act of Union. Rubusana, Dube, Silas Molema of Mafeking and other members of the executive claimed to have branches in all the provinces, Basutoland and Bechuana land.6 4 In 1911 Seme announced the proposed formation of a S.A. Native Congress. There was, he observed, a general desire for progress and for a national forum. 'We are one people. Let us forget the differences between Xhosa-Fingo, Zulus and Tongas, Basutos and other Natives.' Nearly all the leaders and greater chiefs supported the movement for a congress that would give them an effective means of making their grievances known to government and South Africa at large.6" Pixley ka I. Seme, born in Zululand, was related by marriage to the Zulu royal house. He graduated at Columbia University, was admitted to the Bar from the Middle Temple, and practised law in Johannesburg. He did the spade work for the conference with the aid of other young lawyers. One of them, Alfred Mangena (1879-1924), was a member of Lincoln's Inn, and became the first African from South Africa to qualify and practise as an advocate. Another, R. W. Msimang, who also qualified in Britain, drafted the ANC constitution. The notice convening the conference went out in December over Seme's signature. Con ference would formally establish the AN C as 'a national Society or Union for the natives of South Africa'; adopt a constitution; elect officers; take a vote of confidence in Botha, Sauer, and the 'Native Senators'; and discuss a variety of topics, including marriage and divorce, schools and churches, pass laws, 'the black peril and the white peril', and native beer, land, courts and labour. 'If there is no other reason to attend the Congress,' remarked Plaatje, 'it is at least worth a railway fare to go and hear what the "Four Native Senators" have done to deserve a 66 vote of confidence. ' Close on a hundred delegates from all parts of South Africa I33

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 and the Protectorates attended the ANC'S inaugural conference at Bloemfontein on 8 January 1912. Among them were nine influential chiefs, including Maama Seiso, representing the Basutoland monarch Letsie II, and Joshua Molema, represent ing the Rolong paramount Montsioa. J. Mocher, president of the Free State Native Congress, took the chair. Seine and Molema

moved the institution of Congress. This thereupon adopted a

constitution and elected an executive with Dube as president, seven vice-presidents including Rubusana, the corresponding secretary Plaatje, a recording secretary Attorney G. D. Montsioa of Pietersburg, and two treasurers, Seme and Mapikela. Letsie II accepted the position of honorary president, but he was only one of some eight reigning monarchs who were elected to that position; others were the kings of 6 7the Lozi, Zulu, Pondo, Tembu, Rolong, Kgatla and Ngwato. The deference shown to traditional rulers and the provision made in the constitution for an upper house of chiefs have led some writers to overestimate the influence of tribal leaders on Congress. The late I. I. Potekhin, a Soviet historian of Africa, argued that they were feudal compradores* who controlled the ANC for many years in opposition to the progressive intellectuals of the rising national bourgeoisie. It was because of the chiefs' influence, he maintained, that Congress rejected illegal mass struggle against oppressive racial laws and crawled before the authorities. In his opinion, an insoluble contradiction existed between the aim of building a nation and the aim of strengthen ing tribal institutions. 'An organization of feudal compradores, such as was the AN C at first, cannot be the standard-bearers of a nation.' Seme, like other right-wing leaders, Potekhin wrote, actually lowered the level of national consciousness by teaching Africans to think of themselves as junior partners of the white man who had brought peace and goodwill to Africa. 'Congress never even put the question of national independence for the imperialism.'68 Bantu or of freedom for their country from British Potekhin did not adequately examine the process of amalga mating scores of formerly independent and often antagonistic *Native agents of foreign firms. The word is used here to describe tribal chiefs. 134 *



NationalLiberation ethnic societies into a single nation. No Marxist who is familiar with the concept 'national in form, socialist in content' should be surprised to learn that tribalism will wither away only if given free play in a non-tribal environment. The teachers, lawyers, ministers, journalists, clerks and other 'intellectuals' who set the pace would have isolated themselves from the great majority of Africans if they had rejected the traditional leaders. Sol Plaatje was no tribalist, but he welcomed the participation of chiefs. Similar attempts at unity had been made before, he noted, but 'it became evident that the Natives can never effect anything unless supported by Chiefs'. For one thing, a majority of wage earners came from beyond the borders of South Africa, and would not join a movement if it was not sponsored by their chiefs. 6 9 This was true also of many peasant workers in South Africa, who made their living in the towns while their families, land and livestock remained a part of the traditional com munity. The chiefs were neither 'feudal' nor 'compradores'. Cast in conflicting roles, they defended their people against the colonists and also served as minor functionaries of the white bureaucracy. The dualism produced many strains and some overt resistance to authority. Most chiefs were illiterate and backward custodians of tribal values; but some were progressive, while not a few members of the new educated elite were reactionary. Both groups confronted white power in two dimensions. One was British imperialism, the dominant force until after the Anglo-Afrikaner war. The other was an authentic budding South African imperial ism. For historical and tactical reasons Africans, Coloured and Indians appealed to the external power for assistance against their immediate oppressors until experience taught them that salvation would not come from Whitehall. The educated leaders were restrained, religious, and skilled in handling whites with tact and tolerance. Always on the defensive, Congress was constrained to appease an aggressive, bigoted South African colonialism. Rubusana, on being nominated for the Tembuland seat, declared that his people acknowledged the superiority of the white race. All they asked for was equal opportunity and the open door. 7 0 Congress struck 135 ./


Class and Colour in South Africa 185-i95o the same conciliatory note in its first statement of aims.7 1 It would promote 'unity and mutual cooperation between the Abantu races'; maintain a central channel of communication between them and the government; strive for the educational, social, economic and political elevation of the African people; promote mutual understanding between the chiefs; encourage a spirit of loyalty to the British crown and all lawful authority; bring about better understanding between the white and black inhabitants; safeguard the interests of Africans, and obtain redress for their just grievances. Congress failed in the early period to arrive at a consistent political theory or strategy of struggle. The movement's great achievement was to develop a national consciousness through joint action and the medium of its paper Abantu Batho (The People). Meeting in Johannesburg on 8 May 19x2, the executive claimed that Congress held sway over all regions except the eastern Cape, where it had encountered Jabavu's resistance. The Congress leadership tended to be centred in the north partly for this reason and because it was there that Africans had no vote and were most fully absorbed in an expanding industrialism. The approved methods of struggle were to ventilate grievances at public meetings and through the press, and make representa tions for redress by means of resolutions and deputations. The complaints were endless: a new dog tax in areas where dogs were needed to keep down vermin; inadequate compensation for miners injured or killed at work; poor accommodation for third-class passengers on the railways; the substitution of white for African interpreters in the courts; the denial of franchise rights; the pass laws; the harassment of women in the Free State under municipal regulations. The women made history in 1913 by organizing a passive resistance movement and went to jail in large numbers rather than take out residential permits. Congress took up their case and scored one of its few victories in the struggle against discrimination. Congress established its claim to speak for the people when it conducted a country-wide campaign against the Natives Land Act. Recalling Abdurahman's famous speech of January 1912, it declared that his prediction of a war of extermination was 136

National Liberation

being fulfilled. Some fifty delegates at a special session in Johannesburg in July 1913 heard Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa inter preters read the act line by line. In August Saul Msane (Natal), J. M. Nyoking (oFs), S. M. Makgotho (Transvaal), Enoch Mamba (Transkei), Sol Plaatje (secretary), Chief Kekane (Hamanskraal) and the Rev. Twala interviewed F. S. Malan, who had taken Sauer's place after his death in July as minister of native affairs. They gave instances of hardships caused by the act and told him of their decision to appeal to Britain. Whatever steps they took, he was assured, would be within 'the four corners of the law'. Malan replied that the act had to be obeyed and doubted the success of a mission to Britain. The leaders toured the country to explain Congress policy and collect funds 2 for a deputation.7 Imvo sang Sauer's praises in obituary notices and failed to point out that his Land Act embraced the hated northern prin ciples which he had once opposed. The Congress took its cam paign into the heart of Jabavu's political domain and challenged him to debate the issue in public. He refused and struck back by standing for election to the provincial council in Tembuland against Rubusana, the sitting member. This split the African vote. A. Payne, the white candidate, won the seat with 1,oo4 votes, against Rubusana's 852 and Jabavu's 294. 'One of the ablest, most cultured and respected Natives, the first of his race to be elected to the Provincial Council, has been unseated through the despicable action of one who has long been dis credited by a vast majority of the Bantu race.' 73 The A.P.O.'s comment expressed the sentiments of Africans generally, in cluding many of Jabavu's followers. The betrayal, coming on top of his support of the Land Act, put an end to his political career; and no African was ever again elected to the provincial council. Rubusana left soon after his defeat, together with Dube, Plaatje, Mapikela and Msane, to put the African case before the British government and public. They left against the express wishes of Lord Gladstone, the governor-general, and Louis Botha; and. they received no sympathy from Lewis Harcourt, the secretary of state for the colonies. He rejected the deputation's petition, which pointed out that '37

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-1950 Africans were the original inhabitants of South Africa, and he told the Commons that a just, considered segregation would probably lead to greater happiness for all. Britain trusted the South African government and must respect its sovereign authority. Britain had never surrendered her position as pro tector of the natives, but would not intervene unless gross palpable injustice was proved. The deputation had come to England against the advice of Botha and Gladstone; knew that the act would not be disallowed; and should have made their case in their own parliament. It was not, however, their parliament. Britain had excluded them to appease white power. The South African government responded only to voters and ignored the interests of a political nullity. Congress met on i August 1914 to hear a report on the mission and to plan the next stage in its own campaign. Dube returned a few days later. Botha, he said, had deceived the British with assurances that all Africans evicted from farms would be given land in the reserves. Abdurahman's comment was more incisive. 'The Coloured races of the Empire may be robbed, plundered and forcibly driven into slavery by whites'; but the imperial parliament would approve as long as these things were done through legislative enactment. 'The present foundation of the Empire is rotten, and cannot last.' If 'it cannot be mended, then the sooner it is ended the better'. 'The coloured races could not possibly be worse governed when left to their own resources than they were governed under British rule.'" Britain went to war on 4 August. Two weeks later Abdurahman have to ask ourselves is how declared: 'The only question we 75 we can best serve the Empire.'




7 Thunder on the Left

Wilfrid Harrison claimed to be Cape Town's most noted 'mob orator'. His stock answer to hecklers who interrupted his de nunciations of capitalism with interjections about the 'colour question' was, 'And what about your red nose - that is coloured, isn't it?' He would go on to explain that he was there to deal, not with the pigment in a man's skin, which was a medical mystery, but with capitalism, the cause of colour prejudice and exploita tion in general.' The evangelical socialists of Harrison's Social Democratic Federation insisted that race discrimination, like the conditions of the poor, was a 'side issue', a symptom of the tensions inherent in capitalist society. No true socialist would allow colour prejudice to divert him from his function of per suading the people to place the means of production under public ownership. Discrimination would disappear under social ism and should be ignored as being irrelevant to the labour movement. The notion that class interest would prevail over racial an tagonism seemed more credible in the western Cape than in the north. Members of the SD F certainly tried to put their theory to the test. H. MacManus quoting in his Belfast twang from William Morris and the Bible; Hunter mixing socialism with temperance; H. B. Levinson relying on economic determinism; Arthur Noon propagating Christian socialism, and Harrison, armed revolt, took their messages to racially mixed audiences in District Six, in Salt River, and at the foot of Van Riebeeck's statue in Adderley Street. Coloured leaders reciprocated their goodwill and cooperated with socialists in the early years. H. P. Gordon, a prospective Labour candidate for Woodstock in 1904, took the initiative in directing the movement into

parliamentary politics, and proposed joint action with the



Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o in 19o5. Abdurahman replied that 'Yours, or rather ours because we feel the same, is a hard life.' None of them ever expected 'that such brutalities, and injustices would be perpetrated under the protection of the British Rule or Mis-rule. There is only and that is sink our little differences and one thing for us to do, 2 show a united front.' The united front never took shape. For all their Hyde Park oratory, the socialists failed the sovereign test of political sin cerity. They appealed for Coloured votes but were no more prepared than liberal or racist parties to nominate a Coloured candidate in municipal or parliamentary elections. Abdurahman himself built a first-rate electoral machine, which kept him in the Cape Town municipal council from 1903 until his death in 1940. He did not need the white worker's vote and, when obliged to choose between white candidates, preferred men of wealth or standing who backed him against Labour or Afrikaner National ist opponents. Neither white nor Coloured radicals attempted to recruit members from the Cape peninsula's 5,ooo Africans, who were excluded from skilled work by convention almost as effec tively as in the north. Without a large following in the Coloured population, and based on a small, conservative white working class, the socialists of the Cape remained in the cocoon stage of theoretical propaganda. Many of the Cape's more energetic socialists - the Needham brothers, Erasmus, Davidson, McKillop, Blake, Fraser, Bate man - left South Africa or moved to the Rand during the first ten years of the century. Those who remained lost their mission ary zeal, wrangled over whether or not to take part in elections, became armchair critics of the right-wing leaders, or joined the Labour party and were identified with its white supremacy policies. In spite of their failings, however, the pioneer socialists of the Cape made a significant contribution. Their insistence that class, and not race, was the basic cause of conflict left an imprint on later generations, and strengthened the hand of radicals with similar views in Natal and the Transvaal. Socialists in the Cape belonged to the inner circle of a weak labour movement. Their counterparts on the Rand had the advantage of appealing to a large, relatively well organized and 140

Thunder on the Left occasionally militant working class, but competed with a power ful right-wing trade union leadership. Ideological differences were therefore sharper, the conflicts within the movement more intense, than farther south. The right wing was heavily com mitted to racial discrimination. Socialists faced the dilemma of all radicals who contested elections based on an all-white franchise. They could denounce racism and suffer an abysmal defeat; or make a bid for success by trading radical principles for votes. Left-wing politicians were tempted to compromise. They concentrated their propaganda on the class war, evaded the colour issue, and when challenged rejected white labour policies as a betrayal of the white worker's interests. The white labour policy, according to Crawford's band of militant socialists, was a 'white kaffir policy' which would reduce all workers to the African's living standards. Archie Crawford was labour's most notable maverick until Smuts had him deported in 1914. Born in Glasgow in 1883, and a fitter by trade, he came with the troops in 1902, worked on the railways at Pretoria, and was dismissed in 19o6 for agitating against retrenchments in the workshop. In the following year he unsuccessfully contested the Boksburg West parliamentary seat, but was returned as a Labour member to the Johannesburg town council. His great achievement was to found, publish and edit the Voice of Labour, 'A Weekly Journal of Socialism, Trade Unionism and Politics'. It appeared regularly from October 1908 to December I912, when it died for want of funds. Its corre spondents included active socialists throughout the country: Harrison, Noon and Davidson of Cape Town, Norrie of Durban, Greene of Pietermaritzburg, Henry Glass of Port Elizabeth. It advertised and published extracts from the works of Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, De Leon, Eugene Debs, Blatchford and Keir Hardie; and made the first systematic attempt to spread the doctrines of revolutionary socialism. The paper, wrote its editor, 'is the barometer of working-class consciousness in South Africa'; and the failure to 'reach the moderate total of io,ooo indicates the almost criminal apathy of the working class'. As Labour councillor, active trade unionist, member of the IL P and LRC, Crawford belonged to the top leadership until it 141

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 broke with him over the issue of the Fordsburg nominations He attended the series of conferences held at Durban and Johannesburg in 19o8-9 to form the Labour party and draft its constitution. Representing his newborn Socialist Society at the conference of October 19o9, together with Davidson and mem bers of the ILP he moved that they call themselves the S.A. Socialist Party. This was defeated after a heated debate. Mathews, Mussared, Nettleton and other trade unionists told the conference that their members would not join a party bearing this name. Socialists would do more good by organizing their fellow workers than by preaching idealism. But the I LP delegates succeeded in obtaining a majority vote for their motion to insert in the con stitution a clause calling for 'The socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange to be controlled by a democratic State in the interests of the whole community.' This was hailed as a great victory over the right wing, as was also the defeat of Sampson's policy of total segregation. Their 'native policy', said Sampson, was the rock on which the party might founder. He would grant all Coloured persons having one white parent full political, industrial and social rights. The white and black races were first separated by nature and should be kept apart. It was morally wrong for one race to suppress or exploit another. Though he approved of the white labour policy as a means to an end, it offered no permanent solu tion. It could be dangerous to the white race, by leading to the importation of low-wage Europeans under contract. Moreover, it disregarded the interests of Africans, who had been deprived of their land. The only natural solution was to segregate Africans in their own territory, where they could govern themselves and progress in ways they found most suitable. This could be done without taking an inch of land away from white men. Repre sentatives of all European nations holding land in South Africa should meet to partition the country between whites and Afri cans. Meanwhile, Africans should be given their own elected councils, through which they could make direct representations to parliament. 3 Delegates from the Cape SDF, the ILP and Socialist Society spoke against Sampson's motion. The most effective speech 142

Thunder on the Left came from James Trembath, Kimberley's labour councillor and a leader in the struggle of 19o8 against De Beers over its decision to withdraw the customary half-holiday on Saturdays. 4 The colour prejudice in Johannesburg, he said, was most un reasonable. He was proud that the majority of white workers in the Cape were in favour of full equality. Labour could not afford to alienate the Coloured, who had a powerful organization in the APo. The party would be put back fifty years if they antagonized the 8oo Coloured voters of Kimberley. When he successfully contested a municipal by-election, he had to over come the handicap imposed by an anti-colour resolution moved by Bill Andrews at Johannesburg's Labour Day rally in I9o9. His opponents posted copies of the resolution to every African and Coloured voter in Kimberley. 'The thing is we must either have coloured men on our side or against us.' This convinced conference, but it could not be persuaded into accepting Craw ford's motion that the party should recognize only two classes in society and reject any policy based on differences of colour. The militants were highly satisfied, in spite of this setback, which was more than compensated for by the adoption of a 'socialist objective' and the rejection of Sampson's apartheid policy. His one real regret, said Crawford, was that conference had agreed to allow trade unions to join the party on the payment of a political levy. Trembath, Sampson and Mathews had strenuously opposed his motion to admit individuals only. They wanted to get at the pockets of non-party trade unionists. Socialism was dearer than life to him, yet he would not force it on anyone. 5 His scruples - which Trembath and the Witwaters rand trades council had shared in 19o5 - were related, however, to the disciplinary action taken against him in December I9o9. Accusing him of disloyalty, the L R c had resolved to exclude him from its meetings. Crawford's own explanation was that the members of the committee had already nominated one another for the parliamentary elections, including the constituency of Fordsburg, to which he had a prior claim. 6 His candidature was endorsed at the inaugural conference on 26 December of the S.A. Socialist Federation which had as chairman the great industrial agitator J. T. Bain of Pretoria.


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o Born in Scotland, a fitter by trade, he came to South Africa in the early 88os, helped to form the miners' union, became a Transvaal burgher, fought on the side of the republics against his the British, and was sent as a prisoner of war to Ceylon. Even backing failed to give the Federation a flying start. Natal and Cape socialists, clinging to their customary parochialism, refused in to affiliate. The Federation functioned only on the Rand and Pretoria, largely as an opposition group to the Labour party which made its official debut at Durban on io January as the first national political party, with Sampson as president and first Haggar as the general secretary. Labour was all set for the round of elections under the South Africa Act. Crawford's party disdained to join in the hue and cry against the darker man; but it did not add its voice to the protest against the colour bar in the constitution. It criticized Union in terms of the class theory, as a capitalist scheme, which had brought the workers nothing, and would take from them an increasing portion of the fruits of their labour. 'The Class War still wages' declared the Voice in its first issue after the inaugura tion of Union. 7 When challenged on the colour bar, Crawford took refuge in a philosophical discourse on socialist ethics, which knew neither race, colour nor creed. He would admit qualified 8 Coloured men to the franchise and to the socialist society. He did not follow this affirmation of principle with a campaign to recruit them to his party or to have the colour bar deleted. He argued instead that the white franchise was a capitalist device to stir up hostility between workers of different races. Colour consciousness, artificially stimulated, obscured class con sciousness, which was a natural thing. 'Before they will let the white worker get hold of the reins of government, they will 9 enfranchise the natives and exploit their ignorance.' Crawford contested Fordsburg against Bill Andrews, Krause and Patrick Duncan in the general election of 191o and polled eight votes. His team mate Jim Davidson stood in Commissioner Street against Sampson and received twenty-five. The two social ists fought on an uncompromising class war platform, called for the abolition of capitalism, and studiously refrained from making any reference in their manifesto to racial discrimination or 144

Thunder on the Left African claims. 10 The Labour leaders had agreed with Het Volk

that the two parties would not contest the same seats. This, said the socialists, was a betrayal of socialist principles. 'No single candidate of the South African Labour Party,' they urged, 'should receive working class support.'1 1 They did not rebuke Labour for betraying its principles by adopting white supremacy policies. After the election, however, the Voice claimed that Crawford and Davidson were the only two candidates in the Transvaal who had refused to draw the colour line, and were the first to stand for revolutionary principles. The votes they received were given 'for revolutionary Socialism and no race or colour bar'.' 2

Two other Socialist candidates, L. H. Greene in Pieter maritzburg and Arthur Noon in Cape Town, also lost heavily. The Labour party nominated eleven candidates in the Transvaal, six in Natal and two in the Cape; and won four seats, all on the Rand, where Creswell, the party leader, Sampson, Madeley and Haggar were returned. Among those defeated were Andrews, Bain, Coward, Reid, Mathews, Mussared and Wybergh who, like Creswell, joined the party only two months before the election. Tom Maginess, the Labour candidate in Woodstock, lost by the small margin of 25 votes to John Hewat, the Unionist, and James Trembath polled 584 votes for Labour in Kimberley against the Unionist's 1,121 votes. Abdurahman canvassed for the Unionists and told Trembath that he could not expect sup port from Coloured voters as long as his party in the Transvaal was determined to crush the Coloured out from every sphere of employment.' 3 Trembath and Maginess, said Crawford, owed their defeat to the white labour policy of the trades hall in 14 Johannesburg. Peter Whiteside found a seat in the senate by goodwill of Het Volk. 'A Ten Years fat job for Peter and the betrayal of the Workers,' noted the Voice. He was a Judas, the prototype of many present leaders who preached class war, such as Tom Mann, Andrews J.P., Tom Mathews and Mussared. He had not gone to the senate to represent the workers, for he had betrayed them as far back as 1907 by preventing his engine drivers and

firemen from supporting the miners' strike.1 5 The 'aristocrats of C.S.A. -7


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-r95o labour', wrote Crawford, were selling out for the sake of a few safe seats. 16 Eyebrows were raised in some other quarters at the alliance between a 'landed aristocracy' and a working-class party."7 Yet it was not very surprising, since the two saw eye to eye on the issue of racial discrimination. Botha had taken over the white labour policy for his election manifesto. Labour's own manifesto put forward a full-blown segregation scheme. Based on Sampson's rejected policy, it called for the subsidiza tion of white workers in mines and factories, the expulsion of Asians, and a ban on the right of Africans to buy or occupy land outside the reserves. Crawford put on a brave face. He was not disappointed, for to have won at the age of twenty-seven would spell popularity and put an end to his life's work! 'I stand for revolutionary Socialism,' he proclaimed, and 'refuse to draw lines of race, colour, creed, or sex. I only know the class division, its cause, and the struggle which arises therefrom; a struggle which will cease when there is only one class and that the nation. '18 He took his defeat badly, in fact, and relinquished control of his paper and press a few weeks later to commence a thirteen months' tour of the 'industrial world'. Visiting Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Britain, he reported on wages, working conditions and the movement, hobnobbed with radi cals, addressed meetings and poured scorn on 'reformism' and 'trade union fakirs'. He enlisted writers for the Voice and with less success potential revolutionary settlers for South Africa. This Odysseus, this wanderer, wrote his admirers, is probably 'the first of our class to circumnavigate the Industrial World on behalf of Socialism.19 His small band of followers, disheartened by their poor show ing and at war with the Labour party, turned their backs on parliament. The working class, they argued, could not be eman cipated through politics alone. Any labour movement would lapse into reformism and class collaboration if it was not founded on revolutionary industrial unionism as defined by the American syndicalist Eugene Debs: 'the unity of all the workers within one organization, subdivided in their respective departments, and organized, not to fraternize with the exploiting capitalists, 146

Thunder on the Left

but to make war on them and to everlastingly wipe out their system under which labour is robbed of what it produces and held in contempt because it submits to the robbery.' 20 South African syndicalists agreed that craft unionism catered only for the labour aristocracy and formed a bulwark of capitalism by perpetuating sectionalism. They instanced the miners' strike of 1907 - when engine drivers, under instructions from their

secretary Peter Whiteside, transported scabs and ore mined by scabs - and the Natal railway strike of i9o9, also lost because of

craft divisions. Industrial unions, syndicalism and the general strike were not recent discoveries. The Voice of Labour, which took its name from the official journal of the American Labour Union, the initiator of the i w w, was started to spread the idea of a general workers' union. It received a great if temporary impetus from Tom Mann when, at the invitation of the Witwatersrand trades council, he visited South Africa in March i91o on his way home from Australia. The socialists, who first hailed him as their ally against reformism, soon lamented that he was a good man fallen among thieves. Andrews, Mathews, Sampson and other reformists were accused of isolating him from the left wing, whose views he shared. Placing his great abilities and marvellous eloquence at the disposal of trade union officialdom, Mann strengthened craft divisions by advocating a policy of working through existing unions rather than forming a new organization. Unlike Keir Hardie, who had appealed for equal pay and oppor tunities for all workers when he toured South Africa in 1907, Tom Mann made no reference to the position of the darker working man in his public speeches. He admitted at Jeppe that industrial unionism would not work as long as eighty per cent of wage earners were excluded from the unions. Yet he refrained from urging the unions to admit Africans and Coloured. He was strong where no colour problem existed, but weak in South Africa where he adapted his teachings to all-white audiences. 1 Mann, in a letter to Dr Abdurahman, pleaded in self-defence that he could not advance any cause if he antagonized the men whom he wished to convert. Perhaps because of his com plaisance, his oratory left little permanent imprint. He persuaded 147

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-z95o the trades council to sponsor an industrial workers' union bY guaranteeing two months' salary to the organizer. The council lost interest, while the union itself passed into the hands of the radical socialists. T. Glynn, the new secretary and a motorman on the Johannesburg tramways, declared that the union would have to fight 'men of the type of Creswell, Sampson, Andrews & Co.' if it was to meet the need of a 'class-conscious revolutionary organization, embracing all workers regardless of craft, race or 22 colour', and dedicated to the entire overthrow of capitalism. The union, renamed the Industrial Workers of the World (S.A.), put its theory to the test in a successful one-day strike of Johannesburg tramwaymen against a brow-beating inspector. Hailed as the first triumph of working-class solidarity among whites, the strike was contrasted with the strike of bricklayers at Pretoria, which ended after seven weeks in a defeat for the men. The tramwaymen, dizzy with success, formed themselves into a branch of the i Ww and refused to recognize a municipal com mittee appointed to inquire into their grievances. Their leaders Glynn and Glendon were summarily dismissed in May, and this sparked off a strike famous in S.A. labour history as the one and only militant action of the industrial unionists. 2 3 Yet they failed hopelessly. They had no plan of campaign, left the strikers without effective leadership and relied mainly on the support of outsiders. The council set out to break the union, called in the police, banned public meetings, and ran the trams with scabs under police protection. 'The Tram employees,' complained Dunbar, 'were not defeated by the Town Council, nor by the police with their pickshafts, but by the workers who scabbed on their fellowmen.' 24 Glynn, sentenced to three months' imprison ment for inciting a strike, won his appeal against the conviction. He and Dunbar of the Iww, Back of the sP, Cameron the veteran leader of the sL P, and Councillor Lane, the man who defeated Andrews in the municipal elections of 1905, were prosecuted and acquitted on a charge of holding an unlawful meeting. Two strikers, Whittaker and Morant, were framed by police and charged with placing dynamite on the tram lines. They were also acquitted and obtained damages against the govern ment for illegal treatment while awaiting trial. 148 P-

.. .


. . .





Thunder on the Left This was one defeat that could not be attributed to craft divisions. It was therefore a splendid occasion for bewailing capitalist iniquities, working-class frailties, and the 'cowardly incompetence' of the 'Trades Hall clique'. No doubts were allowed to disturb the vision of one great industrial union. When Cape Town printers, white and Coloured, succumbed in June after a two months' strike and lockout on the issue of a closed shop, the radicals blamed not the scabs imported from Britain, but the abominations of craft trade unionism. Engineers refused to stop the machines, railwaymen hauled and workers bought scab 'matter', post office employees transmitted news, and printers in other towns set type from matrixes forwarded by rail to Cape Town master printers.2" Andrews, back from his assignment to assist the strikers, told a Johannesburg labour meeting that the strike had done more than years of street oratory to convert people in Cape Town to socialism. The Voice sneered that his craftmanship had the 'usual success' attached to his efforts as a strike leader.2 6 The radicals both detested and admired Andrews. His feud with Crawford dated from their clash in the Fordsburg election; and they resented his formidable role as organizer and political leader on the opposite side of the movement. He infuriated them with his cool, logical reasoning and exposure of sentimental humbug. Unable to find fault with his honesty and socialist sincerity, they descended to mere abuse. He was 'class war Andrews J.P.', a 'political opportunist' and 'labour fakir', who preached revolution and yet took office and title under capitalism. More than anyone else, they said, he perpetuated craft divisions and hindered class solidarity. When he contested the George town by-election in January 1912, they accused him of being at the bottom of half the discord in the movement. He was a sleek, well paid official (on £25 a month!) who sacrificed nothing for the cause, and sneered at honest, impecunious, victimized social ist agitators. Andrews was returned to parliament with 1,046 votes, against the 726 polled by the Unionist candidate. The Rand's working class had evidently resolved on the Labour party, remarked the Voice, and consoled itself with the thought that this brought closer the day of disillusionment.2 7 X49

Class and Colour in South Africa


'Political action is useless,' argued the bellicose blacksmith Andrew Dunbar, 'so long as the workers are split up in sectional unions.' Dunbar (1879-1964) came to South Africa from Scot land in 19o6, joined the Natal railways, led 2,500 men out on strike in i909 and subsequently settled on the Rand. An aggres sive socialist, he vacillated in the next three years between the SAL P, Socialist League, Socialist Party and I w w, of which he became the general secretary. The Voice defended him as unsurpassed in energy, enterprise and enthusiasm. When 'grimy and dirty, after having slaved nine hours at an anvil', he would address workers on the vices of social reformism and the merits of industrial unionism. They could not be emanci pated through political action alone, he told them; for to be of use, a socialist party must be founded on the 1 w w's principle of direct action.28 He demonstrated the advantages of 'direct action' in Johan nesburg's municipal election in October 1911, together with Mary Fitzgerald, the Irish beauty who partnered Crawford in his printing plant and later became his wife. A former typist in the office of the miners' union, she had recorded the death from phthisis of thirty-two executive members in a period of eight years; and was converted into a fiery socialist. She, Dunbar and Glynn came armed with pickhandles to election meetings of councillors whom they accused of banning free speech during the strike and turned them out of the hall. Labour increased its representation on the council from five to eleven members. The I wVw, said Dunbar, could claim a fair amount of credit for the success. 29 Though only in its second year, it had done more fighting than all the craft unions and political parties since their inception. He would have nothing to do with either, not even with the Socialist party, and this obduracy led to his expulsion from the IWW in February I92.3° The reasons given for his expulsion were intolerance, un predictable behaviour and intemperate attacks on his comrades; but he had sinned mainly by standing out against renewed attempts to consolidate socialist groups throughout the country in a single party. This led to a long and acrimonious debate. Dunbar and Glynn argued that the state reflected economic 150 ...







Thunder on the Left relations. No parliamentary action could alter its basic structure. Even if Marxists controlled parliament, military and police power would still be on the side of the capitalist class. The general strike was the most powerful weapon of the workers and they could bring about a revolutionary change only by destroy ing the economic structure of capitalist society. Davidson and Crawford retorted that the syndicalists had made a fetish of the I WW. It was merely a means to the end, and of relative impor tance to other methods of achieving socialism. Dunbar's opposi tion, they said, was based on the fallacy that a socialist party could grow only at the expense of the iww; whereas they were complementary. The one could not be strong while the other was weak. Davidson was another Scottish radical who had substituted Marxism for Calvinism. He came to Cape Town in 1898 at the age of twenty-one, worked in a bank and municipal offices, joined the

at its inception in 1902, and became its general secretary before moving to the Rand in I9IO. Marxism, he main tained, held the view that the capitalists possessed power 'as a reflex of the ideas of the masses as expressed in the State or ideological institutions'. A revolutionary should therefore con centrate on changing the mind of the masses by both political and economic activity. The masses had swung from political to direct or economic action. It was safe to predict that they would swing back to parliamentary action in the near future. Crawford agreed. The time might come when the iww itself would enter the parliamentary field as a final, strategic move towards working class emancipation. Crawford returned from his world tour after attending the unity conference at Manchester on 30 September x911 between Hyndman's SDP, Grayson's sp, the ILP, the Clarion, and other left-wing groups. Finding his paper at a low ebb and the radicals in disarray, he decided to follow the British example. Mrs Dora Montefiore, a former associate of Hyndman, combined wealth with revolutionary ardour and visited South Africa at Crawford's invitation. Speaking at socialist meetings, where the 'Inter nationale' was sung for the first time in South Africa, she argued SDF

the case for both political and industrial action. She, Mary


Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o

Fitzgerald, Harrison, Norrie and Knowles from Durban were among the delegates at a unity conference held in Johannesburg in I912. Agreement was reached and the United Socialist party announced its formation on May Day. The draft constitution repudiated reformism, affirmed 'the class war between the revo lutionary working class and the reactionary exploiting class', and called for the overthrow of capitalism. Membership would be open to any socialist 'without discrimination as to race, sex colour or creed'. 32

Socialists in Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg agreed to merge and turn themselves into local branches of the usP. The merger never took place. The local groups argued over constitutions and the rival merits of industrial unionism, anarchism, and parliamentary politics. Norrie carried the usP flag at a parliamentary by-election in Greyville, Durban, a constituency with a large railway vote, and lost heavily to Tommy Boydell, the Labour party candidate. Unable to gain a foothold on the electoral ladder, the socialists ran into financial difficulties. The Voice was losing £20 a week and often could not pay the printers, Crawford and Mrs Fitz gerald. If the paper served as a barometer of working-class consciousness, both reached their nadir at the end of 1912. There were times, mourned the editor, when socialists appeared not to want a paper to represent their interests: they certainly did not

deserve one. 33 Its obituary notice made a confession: 'We stirred things at times 4more well than wise, and have to pay the ' price in limbo. 3

Yet conditions were never again as favourable for the growth of a radical Labour movement on the Rand. A high proportion of the white workers were immigrant; many had a background of militant trade unionism. Industrial legislation was rudimentary and gave little or no protection against victimization, unemploy ment, occupational diseases or accidents. Workmen were un

settled, insecure and often came into angry conflict with employ ers and government. Trade unionism had taken root. Nearly all the unions then in existence were affiliated to the Transvaal Federation of Trades which replaced the Witwatersrand trades council in 191I. 3 5 The socialists were the kith and kin of the 152

Thunder on the Left working man, spoke his language and worked at the same trades. The identity between white workers and radical leaders was closer in the first two decades of the century than at any later period. Trade unionists, however, generally ignored or were hostile to left-wing socialism. Marxist categories that had been delimited in advanced industrial societies seemed unconvincing in a colonial-type society where colour rather than class deter mined status and the distribution of power. The radicals refused to believe that racial divisions pre dominated. 'The antagonism is class antagonism, and not racial,' they argued. 'The dividing line is not between white and coloured, but between property-owners and the proletariat.' 36 Africans had been specially selected for repressive legislation only because they were the largest body of wage slaves. The laws were meant to control all wage slaves, and would be applied also to whites who threatened the propertied classes. White workers conscripted under the Defence Act would be used first to chain up the African, and then to chain up the white worker. Africans would revolt one day against wage slavery. If they were crushed, whites would be reduced to the same condition. Both groups faced the same problem - how to dispossess an exploiting class. The solution for both lay in a universal organization of all workers and the general strike. 7 Inspiration as well as theory came from abroad. 'It is just lovely to be alive in these days,' exulted the IWW. 'The whole world is seething with industrial unrest.' 38 There was unrest also among white workers in South Africa, though the socialists misread its symptoms. It arose out of a struggle for recognition within the established order, and not against capitalism. The working man voted for the parties of white supremacy and their white labour policy, and not for the standard bearers of inter national socialism. These tried to wean him from the right-wing leadership by accusing it of pursuing a 'white kaffir policy' which would reduce him to the African's standards. Cheap labour drove out dear. A white man required at least ios. a day, while an African might live on 2s. 6d. The capitalist would not cut his profits. If he substituted white workers for Africans. he would pay them the lower wage. It was therefore in their interest '53

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o to reject the white labour policy. 39 Appeals of this kind were more likely to intensify the white man's fear of being ousted than to convince him that he could find security and win recog nition by joining hands with members of a downtrodden race. Tom Mann had pointed out that there could be no industrial unionism or general strike unless the African took part. The socialists dodged the issue, took refuge in revolutionary phrases, and never made it their business to help the darker man to organize. That, they argued, was better left to him. Their appeals for inter-racial cooperation were construed in terms of the white worker's interests. It meant, they said, no more than that the 'Chinaman or Kaffir' would not do the work of miners who came out on strike. The purpose of cooperation was to teach the coloured worker that to undercut was to scab, the punish ment for which had no limit. White workers would befriend him only as long as he did not willingly contribute to their degrada tion.4 0 Like the right-wing leaders, the radicals assumed that the African's role was to provide white men with the higher standards of living to which they laid claim. The socialists, to their credit, condemned the cruder forms of discrimination in the movement. The Bloemfontein branch of the typographical union induced the municipal council in 1909 to insert a fair wage clause in printing contracts, together with the stipulation that 'no skilled labour must be carried out by coloured labour'. The Voice protested that the restriction barred the union's own Coloured members and suggested that their people in the Cape would be well advised to withhold their votes from 41 a party intent on raising barriers against them. African miners who struck work in January 19 11 at the Dutoitspan, Voorspoed and Village Deep mines were driven back to work with blood

shed by the police and white miners, and then imprisoned under the master and servants laws without protest from the labour

leaders. The Voice commented angrily on the 'white wage slaves' who had 'prostituted themselves into guardians of Capi

42 talist plunder'; and denounced the futility of sectional strikes. Yet socialists, too, were prone to colour prejudice.

the Financial difficulties could not excuse the appearance in

paper of offensive advertisem*nts such as one inserted by the


Thunder on the Left tailors Ben Pickles & Co., which asked: 'Why should you wear a Suit that has been made by sweated or coloured labour?' 4 3 The socialists disclosed their own racial bias when they insisted that cooperation between white and African workers did not involve 'kissing a black brother or inviting him to tea'. Pere grino, the editor from Accra, who claimed to have sat with the master minds of socialism in Europe and America, agreed that 'intelligent black men' neither urged nor desired social equality. All they wanted was the open door to political manhood.4 4 This might have been a common opinion at that time, but socialists should have disowned the concession to colour prejudice. By refusing to adopt the principle of equality in every sphere, they isolated themselves behind an impregnable racial barrier from the bulk of the working class. One or two, like Greene of Pietermaritzburg, acknowledged that it was their duty to teach the 'great industrial, inarticulate mass of coloured labour' to welcome the advent of socialism and to unite under its banner. He too, however, gave priority to the interests of white workers. Socialism would keep them afloat by doing away with inter-racial competition. Capitalism, on the other hand, stirred up hostility and would drown them in a flood of coloured labour. Africans would have to secure their own emancipation; and the sooner the better.45 What form would their emancipation take? Unable to en visage equality, even in a socialist society, between white and black, the socialists tended to lapse into the cant of the right wing leaders. 'Under socialism,' wrote the editor of the Voice, 'the native would not be driven out of his kraal in order to be exploited. He would remain there with his own kind and develop along his own lines. 4 6 It seemed evident to the socialists that white working men would form the vanguard of revolution. Capitalist tyranny would open their eyes to the futility of colour bars and provoke indus trial upheavals which were bound to culminate in the general strike. The theory was plausible under the conditions of a raw industrialism. The ruling farmers, merchants and mine owners, though adept at forcing Africans to work, knew little about trade unions or class conflict and refused to take them seriously. '55

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 Organized labour, on the other hand, had not yet achieved the status and recognition to which it aspired. Exploitation and class antagonism were most acute in the gold mining industry, whose impermanence and terrible toll of life were unparalleled, wrote 7 In the contemporary pamphleteers Campbell and Munro.' March 1912 Crawford predicted that a miners' strike would a follow the failure of the parliamentary Labour party to carry bill for an eight-hour day 'from bank to bank', or from the time " There of going below to the time of return to the surface. were other grievances, notably an alleged tendency on the part of managers to 'blacklist' militants by making unfavourable com ments on their 'tickets' or work records. The tension between managements and men reached breaking point in May 1913 on the New Kleinfontein mine. The trouble began when the manager instructed five mechan ics employed underground to work until 3.30 p.m. instead of 12.30 p.m. on Saturdays. This led to a strike for trade union recognition, the eight-hour day and the reinstatement of strikers. Tom Mathews, the union secretary, J. T. Bain, Andrew Watson, George Mason and other militant members of a strike com mittee went from mine to mine calling the men out. Crawford, Mary Fitzgerald, George Kendall of the AS E and other syndical ists joined the struggle and tried to turn it into a general strike against capitalism. 'The mob went from mine to mine,' said Smuts in parliament, 'and no number of police could have protected every property though we had collected numbers from all parts of the country.' 4 9 The owners, on the other hand, were determined to break the unions. Mines were kept in production by means of Africans and white scabs. Individual strikers called on Africans to come out as well, but the police forced them to work or remain in their compounds. Some I8,ooo whites on sixty-three mines were out on strike by the end of June. Smuts drafted police, mounted riflemen and troops of the British garrison to the Rand. The strike committee summoned workers to a meeting at Benoni on Sunday, 29 June, for a display of determination. 'Therefore the Strike Committee again asks you to come, and to come armed if you can, in order 5 to resist any unlawful force which may be used against you.' " x56 I .



, - - -









Thunder on the Left The government invoked a republican law introduced in 1894 to check the white immigrant agitation, banned all public gatherings in Benoni, and proclaimed martial law on Friday, 4 July. The Federation of Trades called a general strike on the same day. 'The response to this was a display of spontaneous loyalty and solidarity which probably is unequalled in the history of the world's industrialism.'" Bands of 'excited men and women waving red flags' and numbers of youths 'armed with sticks and other weapons' appeared on the streets. 5 2 War had been declared, wrote the editor of the Labour party's official paper the Worker, and had to be fought to victory. This meant bringing the public and parliament to their knees and extorting substantial legislation in the workers' interests. In principle, if not in tactics, an industrial war justified murder, arson, destruc tion of property and all other forms of armed struggle. 5 3 Police and troops broke up a banned meeting in Market Square, Johannesburg, on Friday afternoon. Crowds of demon strators roamed the streets, stopped the trams, and pulled the running staff off the trains. That night hooligans burnt down a wooden ticket office at the main railway station, raided the bar, set fire to the Star newspaper offices, looted gunsmiths' and jewellers' shops, and exchanged shots with the police. The most serious clashes took place outside the Rand Club, the haunt of mine owners and the ruling elite, on Saturday afternoon. Demon strators assembled outside the club, rushed the entrance, and were fired on by Dragoons. At least twenty people were killed in the fighting on Saturday, including Labuschagne, a young Afrikaner miner - Labour's first martyr. A leaflet issued soon afterwards commemorated his death in language that expressed the strikers' mood: All civilisation cries Shame! Shame! Shame! on the work of the ist Royal Dragoons who was backed up and urged by the devil, his government, his press and his pulpit. Labuschagne was Cowardly Murdered while defending the lives of women and little innocent children. When the Chamber of Mines' dirty work was in full swing and honest working people were being shot down by Bums in soldiers' uniform in the employ of the Capitalist, a Man stepped off the sidewalk 157

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 in Commissioner Street nearly opposite the White Kaffirs' nest he said: Rand Club-he stood and tapping his breast with his hand For Man!' a 'Don't shoot any more women and children-shoot silenced by a these heroic words his Manly voice and heart was volley of bullets.... Working Man's Let the noble name of Labuschagne ring in every you. Labu home throughout the world. Cast fear and shame behind as a Man, schagne, the Hero Miner of the Rand goldfields died defending the lives of women and little innocent children. on Botha and Smuts rushed from Pretoria to Johannesburg the owners the Saturday and negotiated a settlement on behalf of on with the strike leaders, who agreed to call off the strike condition that all men would be reinstated without victimiza their tion, while the government undertook to inquire into one of the grievances. 5 4 Signing the document, said Smuts, was in no hardest things he ever had to do. He and Botha were position to bargain. 'We made peace because the Imperial forces town informed us that the mob was beyond their control.' The ruined. might be sacked that night and the mines permanently The two ministers drove away through hostile crowds and made ss up their minds that such a state of affairs would never recur. The strikers, too, were dissatisfied. They met in Johannesburg on the following Sunday in response to a leaflet issued by Bain, the secretary of the Federation. 'The Government has declared war against the Working Class of the Transvaal by its bloody, brutal and utterly unprovoked attack.' In spite of this rousing call to action in defence of civil liberties, Bill Andrews and the Federation leaders urged the men to accept the settlement. Opposition came from the radical socialists: Crawford, Mary Fitzgerald, Kendall and J. P. Anderson. The Federation had been bluffed, they said. The Chamber of Mines was not a party to the agreement, had not met the demand for collective bar gaining, and was free to set up company unions - as indeed it did a few months later. 5 6 The socialists correctly evaluated the government's weakness and the strength of the men's case. They were never again in so favourable a condition to enforce a legiti mate demand for trade union recognition by means of a strike. Though the meeting voted for Kendall's resolution to persist 158

Thunder on the Left until the authorities yielded, the right-wing leaders killed the strike. Nine years later, in the great revolt of 1922, it was Craw ford who pressed for a peaceful settlement and Andrews who stood out for struggle to the bitter end. Afrikaner miners, of whom some had entered the industry as strike-breakers in 1907, loyally supported the strike. The rapidity with which they 'developed a class sentiment', noted Campbell and Munro, was one of its noteworthy features. Labour leaders widened their horizon to take in the prospect of a rapprochement with Afrikaner nationalism. The Worker discovered that the 'Dutch temperament' had a 'remarkable leaven of what really approaches very close to Socialistic ideas'. Hertzog had much the same outlook as Labour on such matters as 'financial imperialism', the immigration of low-paid workers, racial segre gation and the white labour policy. His party and the Labour party 'represent the real forces of progress in South Africa'. 7 A glimmering of goodwill towards the African appeared at the other end of the spectrum. Correspondents to the Strike Herald, a Federation broadsheet, put the case for organizing African miners. They were ready for trade unionism, and many 'intelli gent natives' were willing to undertake the work. A mine could be kept going after a fashion when white workers only were on strike. If the Africans joined them, production would stop, and control of the mine would pass to the Federation. Abortive African strikes had broken out on half a dozen compounds in July, and there might have been a general stoppage along the Reef if the strikes had taken place in the weekend of 'Black Saturday'." s Years later, communists claimed that the 1913 strike opened the eyes of militants to the potential of Africans in the labour movement. From that time, declared Ivon Jones, 'there has been a growing minority of white workers who realize that the emancipation of the white can be achieved only by solidarity with the native working masses'." George Mason, a carpenter and staunch syndicalist from Durham, England, was one of those whom the strike converted into an advocate of solidarity with Africans. They stopped the Kleinfontein mine, he claimed, by responding almost without exception to his appeals. 60 R. B. Waterston (1881-igig), a fireman


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-95o who came from Australia in 1899 to fight the republics, was also said to have urged Africans at Kleinfontein to down tools. Speaking in Fanagalo, the jargon used on the mines, he advised them to 'tchella lo baas wena meningi mali; picanniny sebenza', meaning 'demand more pay and less work'. Whether because of such appeals or on their own initiative, Africans did stop work on a number of mines. They demanded a rise of 2s. or more a day. Police and troops drove them down the shafts with 61 bayonets and rifle butts and the white miners scabbed. The A.P.O. protested against this 'brutal savagery' and in sisted that Africans should have as much right as whites to withhold their labour. No whites were prosecuted for striking, while African strike leaders were sentenced to six months' hard labour. This was outrageous, said the African National Congress. A motion of sympathy for the white strikers failed to obtain a seconder at the special conference called in July to consider the Natives Land Act. Congress declared that the dispute affected only whites, dissociated itself from rumours of 'native unrest', and asked for protection of African miners in the event of a general strike. The ANc deputation to the minister of native affairs put these issues before him and complained that the convicted strike leaders were being punished for 'doing what their white overseers told them to do'. Malan, the minister, replied that the punishment was a deterrent to others; undertook to appoint H. 0. Buckle, the chief magistrate of Johannesburg, to investigate the grievances of African miners; and gave assur ances of protection for them in any general strike of white workers.6 2 Threats of a general strike were being made throughout the second half of 1913. Even conservatives like Creswell declared that 'they would have to adopt other means' ff constitutional protests failed. Speaking at Pretoria on 2o July, he said that work ers on the Rand had done more in three days to bring the government to its knees than could be accomplished in ten years of agitation. A general strike, warned the Worker a week later, 'now means something like a civil war'. With ' great, general and united popular movement, it would very likely be successful, and therefore justified'. George Mason told trade unionists in 16o

Thunder on the Left Cape Town in September that they were fighting a class war in which the police and military served as 'the bribed assassins of the "Corner House"' (the large mine company building in Johannesburg). The exhortations met with a favourable re sponse. Both wings of the movement profited from Smuts's blunders and the arrogance of the mine owners. While new members streamed into the Labour party, the Federation made great headway with a trade union drive in the main industrial centres. The next substantial defiance of authority came, however, not from Labour but from Natal's 140,000 Indians. They rose in November against the humiliation and injustice of restricted immigration, provincial barriers, discrimination under licensing and landholding laws, and the £3 tax imposed on persons who had not renewed their indentures. Gandhi accused Smuts of having broken his pledge to repeal the tax; and called on his people to strike.6 3 They came out from coal mines, sugar fields, railways, factories, shops and offices. The police clashed with armed strikers on the plantations, killed nine and wounded twenty-five Indians. Gandhi led bands of satyagrahis three times across the Transvaal border before he and his lieutenants were imprisoned. India's government and press denounced the bru tality, Botha appointed a commission to inquire into the causes of the disturbance, and Gandhi, released from jail, came to an agreement with Smuts. It closed, said Gandhi, 'the passive resistance struggle which commenced in the September of 9o6', and led to the Indian Relief Act of 1914.64 Parliament abolished the tax and recognized the validity of Indian customary mar riages. These were meagre gains, a South African sociologist has observed. 6 5 Though valuable as methods of political education, Gandhi's passive resistance campaigns were ineffective tech niques of liberation. 'In 1913, at a time when it appeared obvious to all that the government had been brought to bay, he chose to demonstrate Indian magnanimity of heart, rather than exploit the situation for the immediate rectification of Indian rights.' The great Indian strike crippled industry in Natal and, co inciding with the white miners' strike on the Rand, 'placed the 161

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-r950 government in a particularly precarious position'. By calling off the Indian campaign, Gandhi left the government unhampered to suppress the miners' strike. His soul force had succumbed to Smuts's physical force. Gandhi went to India in July 1914, never to return. 'His name,' said the A.P.O., 'will be handed down to posterity as one of the greatest and truest sons of India that ever came to the shores of South Africa.' 6 6 The entire Indian community would have followed him if Labour had had its way. The party's fifth annual conference agreed on i January 1914 that the presence of Indians would 'always lead to grave difficulties', and urged the 67 government to repatriate them with adequate compensation. As to Africans, the third annual conference, meeting at Bloem fontein in January I912, adopted a full-blown segregation policy. It would isolate them in separate areas under advisory councils; rule out any extension of their franchise; prohibit them from owning or leasing land in so-called white areas; replace them by white workers in the towns; and absorb persons so displaced in sugar and cotton plantations in the reserves. Development costs would be met out of revenue from African taxation. 68 Armed with these resolutions, Creswell told parliament in the debate on the Natives Land Bill of 1913 that his party was the first to advocate the separation of the races. Left to themselves, they would naturally tend to live apart. Indentured labour and other institutions that increased the points of contact were evil and served only the propertied classes. 'It should be the aim of the 69 country to give the natives their own parallel institutions.' The Coloured could not be disposed of so easily,, even on paper, by deportation or segregation. Labour party branches in the Cape wanted their votes; trade unions wanted to organize the Coloured artisans. George Mason, returning from his organ izing tour in the south, advised the Federation in September 1913 to admit those who were prepared to demand 'civilized white standards of wages'. The Worker agreed. 'Altruism in this respect is also the first step towards self-protection.' Trade unionism, the paper discovered, depended 'not upon boycotting, but upon organizing the coloured workers and raising them economically'. 70 The party's third, fourth and fifth annual con 162

Thunder on the Left ferences debated these issues with great solemnity and some acerbity. A report on 'Coloured Labour Policy' came before the conference at Cape Town on i January 1913. Delegates affirmed the policy of maintaining white standards, accused the Coloured of undermining them, and piously proclaimed the aim of uplifting those who aspired to achieve them. The white man could not afford to surrender his monopoly of the vote 'until such time as our native policy is given effect to'. I This, the A.P.O. caustically remarked, might be 'as long in coming as the Greek Kalends'. 7 2 The party constitution drew no colour line; membership was 'Open to all adults of either sex who endorse the objects of the party and are accepted by the branch they desire to join.' Com menting on this clause, the committee appointed to consider the question of membership conceded that it was unjust, indefen sible and even suicidal to exclude civilized Coloured. On the other hand, nothing should be done to attract them at the expense of the party's white ideal. This schizophrenic dialectic produced a monster: 'it is undesirable to admit coloured per sons to membership of the party who have not given practical guarantees that they agree to the party's policy of upholding and advancing white standards.' The fourth conference, held at Pretoria on 29 December 1913, adopted the negative condition by seventy-two votes to forty-nine. Both sides wished to maintain white supremacy, and disagreed over whether this would best be served by admitting or excluding Coloured members. Would they be more, or less, dangerous as competitors on the labour market if brought into the movement? Would the party lose more white votes than the number of Coloured votes it might gain by opening its doors? Personal prejudice or sectional interest dictated the answer. H. D. Bernberg, the party secretary and a member of the Transvaal provincial council, confessed that he was a racist who wanted to keep the party white. George Mason, who had pulled African miners out in the New Kleinfontein strike, thought that it was ridiculous to raise the 'mongrel race' to the European's level. The Coloured man, 'all right as a friend or chum', always worked at a lower rate. The miners' delegates were personally in


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

favour of admitting the Coloured, but their union had instructed them to vote against. John Ware, the Australian-born stonemason and another provincial councillor, said that his society would not allow a Coloured apprentice; and warned conference that the open door would frighten the rising generation of Afrikaners away from the party. The Cape Town delegates, Tom Maginess and Bill Freestone, were in favour of admitting the Coloured. Arthur Barlow agreed, and argued that the same blood flowed through white and Coloured veins. S. P. Bunting saw no objection against allowing the Coloured to help them fight for white standards. Bill Andrews declared that since the Coloured undersold the white man when work was scarce, it was in his interests to raise them to his level. Harry Haynes thought that Coloured the white man would remain supreme if he admitted 7 3 wage. higher the for members and got them to fight The conference of 1913-14 elected Andrews as the party's chairman for the coming year. He predicted in his inaugural address at Pretoria that other parties would make capital out of Labour's decision to admit Coloured members. Derision would turn to fear, however, when the Coloured joined the great proletarian alliance. They never did join. The negative and humiliating resolution on membership was swept aside by the dramatic episodes of 1914: the general railwaymen's strike in January, the deportation of labour leaders, the party's subse quent successes at the polls, the outbreak of world war and the split in the party. The war was the dominant issue when the party next discussed the question of membership in August 1915 at Johannesburg. John Ware, now a senator, reminded confer ence that he had opposed the Pretoria resolution because it was not worth the paper it was written on. Every branch had put its own interpretation on the resolution, with the result that not a single Coloured had joined outside the Cape. He moved an amendment that would74make it possible for Coloured to become members of the party. Creswell deeply regretted the motion. There were, he said, more important questions before conference. Andrews, having moved to the left on the war issue, remarked that 'the working class of this country are the Native people'. If the party was 164

Thunder on the Left genuinely Labour, and not the middle-class party it appeared to be rapidly becoming, they would admit Africans as well. Gerald Kretzchrar, an executive member of the Federation of Trades, spoke passionately against the motion. A permanent gulf would separate English and Afrikaner workers, he warned, if the party were to concede equality to the Coloured. And the party would never gain power without the Afrikaners' support. Conference rejected Ware's motion by sixty-one votes to twenty-six, and went on to discuss the main business - the party's war policy. Andrews was voted out of the chair after a furious debate; conference carried the war policy by eighty-two votes to thirty; 75 and the anti-war faction walked out, taking along three leading officers and seven members of the executive. Denuded of its militants and radical socialists, the Labour party would never again attempt to build a bridge between white and coloured working men.



8 Loyalists and Rebels

The Labour party claimed to have close on i6,ooo paid-up

members in


and the trade unions about



in 1914.1 Support for both came from the few scattered indus trial areas in the port towns and at Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Pretoria, but the movement's stronghold was on the Wit watersrand. The Rand retained for many decades the feverish and unstable atmosphere of a mining camp; partly, some observ ers thought, through the unsettling effects of a high altitude in a sub-tropical region. The main contributory factors, however, were social. Recurring booms and slumps on the 'kaffir' share market injected a strong speculative element; while the big rewards and risks of deep-level mining encouraged a reckless and aggressive spirit in the mining community. Glaring contrasts between wealthy English-speaking suburbs and the squalid slums inhabited by Africans, Afrikaners, Indians and Coloured empha sized class, national and racial cleavages. Perhaps the most important cause of underlying tension was the presence and ceaseless rotation of the 200,ooo African peasant workers. Iso lated in the compounds, never allowed to become full members of the community, and yet indispensable to its prosperity, they were a constant reminder of the society's intrinsic immorality and a challenge to the democratic or socialist pretensions of the white elite. Labour leaders often forgot that the Rand was unique. They identified the small body of artisans whom they represented with the interests of all workers. Labour's principles, said Creswell in January 1913, came from the working man's 'hard necessities' and 'were calculated to promote the best human interests of all classes'. Journals sympathetic to Labour echoed these senti ments. The movement, declared the South African Review, took


Loyalists and Rebels

as its platform 'those interests which are common to all'. Class consciousness meant only that workers recognized their special interests and the possibility of obtaining reforms through the political channel. The class war, on the other hand, 'was created, as it is sustained, by Toryism; it is the Labour movement which the class war seeks to destroy'.2 The government, urged the

South African Quarterly,should distinguish between its political and economic functions, remaining neutral in the struggle for economic sovereignty. The feeling that the state was partial to the capitalists had prompted French syndicalists to urge its overthrow by means of the general strike. South Africa should meet this danger by enforcing the principle of collective bargain ing through recognized trade unions. 3 A general strike, even if confined to the Rand, threatened to disrupt the country's economic nerve centre. Smuts was deter mined to forestall a repetition of the July upheaval. In December 1913 the government published the texts of five bills dealing with industrial disputes. 4 Before parliament could consider them, a new round of strikes broke out. Prompted by the effects of an economic recession, retrenchment and alleged victimization, white coal miners in Natal struck work in December for i8s. a day and the reinstatement of men declared redundant. African coal miners followed with a demand for 4s. a day. The railway men were the next to threaten a strike against retrenchments. The union executive called on railway and harbour workers throughout the country to stop work on 8 January if the adminis tration refused to stop retrenchment and re-employ men who had been discharged. H. J. Poutsma, the union's general secre tary, urged the Federation of Trades to call a general strike in support; and appealed to the railwaymen at Pretoria 'not to resort to violence, not to do anything that civilized people as they were should not do, but just cease work'. 5 The Federation stood solidly behind the railwaymen, said J. T. Bain. The government, he added, had called out the troops and 'were preparing to use the same damnable force against the workers'. They, in turn, 'were prepared to use all the force they had in their power '.6 Smuts also was prepared, to the limit of his powers under the Defence Act. He mobilized the active 167

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o

citizen force, ordered armed guards to be stationed at railway premises, and instructed them to shoot after warning if any 7 unauthorized entry was attempted. Ten thousand troops were brought to the Rand by io January, and trade union leaders in different towns were arrested, among them Waterston, Glendon, 8 Colin Wade, Poutsma and other officials of the railway union. South Africans make a practice of dramatizing their patterns of racial discrimination. While strike leaders were receiving 'courteous treatment' in the Pretoria jail, Sotho miners at Jagersfontein diamond mine suffered serious casualties in yet another of the so-called riots that resulted from the brutal suppression of African strikes. The men struck work on the their comrades 9 th because a white overseer had kicked one of to death. When the manager refused to have him arrested, the strikers attempted to break out and join forces with men in other compounds. White employees were called together, cornered the strikers, fired on them, killing eleven and wounding thirty-seven. Most of the Africans then went back to work, but 25o or so who refused were marched to jail under armed escort. A judicial inquiry was held; the white witnesses disagreed over the necessity for the shooting; and none of those responsible for the massacre was prosecuted. 9 Back on the Rand, an overwhelming majority of the Federa tion's affiliated unions voted in favour of a general strike, which was timed for the 13 th. Smuts put his emergency plans into operation, proclaimed martial law on the 14th, and called out 7o,ooo armed men, 'a larger military force', he announced in parliament, 'than was mobilized by the late Republics at the beginning of the late war'. 10 Generals Beyers and de la Rey who were to lead an armed rebellion against the state in October - rode with the commandos into the Rand. A cordon of troops, training a field gun, besieged the Johannesburg trades hall. The police arrested the Federation's entire executive, including Bain, Crawford, Andrew Watson, J. P. Anderson and Charles Mus sared. They went to jail singing the'Red Flag'. The police swooped in all the big industrial centres and arrested hundreds of strikers, trade union and Labour party leaders, among them Creswell, Boydell and Andrews. 168

Loyalists and Rebels Deprived of their leaders, bewildered by press reports of capitulation, and intimidated by threats of dismissal, the workers lost heart. The Federation's acting executive, headed by George Kendall, tried hard to rally them by issuing a series of 'mani festos' which claimed widespread support and explained the purpose of the strike. 'This is a fight for civil liberty, a fight for better conditions.' Prepare 'to suffer and endure for the biggest fight in history.' This was a war 'not against the Community, but for it. You are battling for genuine free labour - for a land of the free, a land that men can love as their own.' The last manifesto, issued on 22 January, called on 'all workers to down tools' in the struggle for liberty, wages, and trade unionism. On the same day, however, Kendall announced that the execu tive had 'declared the strike off - for the present'." Andrews, as chairman of the Labour party, issued a manifesto urging 'every patriotic South African' to condemn and show his abhorrence of 'the violent and provocative methods adopted by the government'.' 2 His appeal met with little response. Apart from Durban's railwaymen, few workers outside the Rand and Pretoria followed the Federation's lead. Though a majority of the unions affiliated to the Cape Federation voted in favour, the executive decided against the general strike. 13 Six hundred Col oured stevedores at Cape Town's docks struck work on the i4th for an increase in pay from 4s. 6d. to 6s. a day and for an eight hour day; but the administration broke the strike by introducing Africans from the eastern Cape to work on the ships. Some ioo African miners broke out of the Van Ryn Estate mine compound on the I 7 th. They were rounded up by a large force of burghers, arrested and fined £I each. One was shot in the leg while attempt ing to get away. Otherwise, reported the press, 'the attitude of the natives has in all cases been most exemplary'. 4 Smuts sealed his victory with a high-handed show of power. He decided to eliminate the 'dangerous men' and deter others of a like disposition while the country was in turmoil and before the labour movement could organize a public protest. Orders were given for the deportation of nine leaders: Bain, Crawford, Livingstone, Mason, McKerrill, Morgan, Poutsma, Waterston and Watson. They were rushed with great secrecy to Durban, C.S.A. -8


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-1950

placed on board the steamship Umgeni, and sent off to England on 30 January, the opening day of the new parliamentary session. Smuts immediately introduced the Indemnity and Undesirables Special Deportation Bill to legalize the deportations and other unlawful acts committed under martial law. He based his defence on the urgencies of public safety, law and order; but could not deny Hertzog's accusation that since his victims had broken no law, and would not have been convicted in any court, he had ordered their abduction because he had no lawful reason to imprison them. The six Labour members rose to great heights of parliamentary strategy in a filibuster against the bill. 'This was not a conspiracy on the part of the workers,' declared Creswell; 'it was a con spiracy between the Government and their friends, the capitalis tic school of Johannesburg, to run the country in their own interests.' They had conspired to grind down the working man for the benefit of the mining magnates. Andrews said that the strike was orderly passive resistance; and accused the govern ment of deploying the state's full resources to break trade unionism. The government had made a great blunder, he added; and would yet discover that it had failed to crush the spirit of the people.1 5 In England George Lansbury called for a general strike to secure the return of the deportees. Stop work, he urged, 'until both the home and the South African governments are brought to their senses. The right of combination, the right to agitate, and the right to preach revolutionary ideas must be maintained.' 16 The deported men were advised to sue the ship owners for unlawful imprisonment on the high seas, but the action was discontinued after war had broken out. 1 7 Smuts

retreated under pressure and allowed the deportees to return to South Africa at the government's expense. The arrests, imprisonment and deportations humiliated and angered the labour leaders. They were in no mood to respond sympathetically to the government's proposed measures for industrial peace. One of these, the Industrial Disputes Preven tion Bill, empowered employers and employees to form concilia tion boards or appoint arbitrators. Strikes and lockouts would be illegal unless preceded by an unsuccessful attempt to arrive 170

Loyalists and Rebels

at an agreement. The bill, which reached the statute book in an amended form only in 1924, contained a major colour bar. It excluded from the definition of employees and therefore from the conciliation machinery all pass-bearing Africans, including those subject to the terms of the Native Labour Regulation Act of 1911, and all indentured Indians. The parliamentary Labour party denounced, not the colour bar, but the partial ban on strikes. Andrews said that the bill was intended to cripple the trade unions. Creswell thought that it should be left alone until it could be considered by a new parliament 'in which the indus trial population would be more congenially represented'. Haggar maintained that the class war had been forced on the workers and would be waged until one class was wiped out.' 8 The government shelved the Industrial Disputes Prevention Bill and its companion, the Trade Union Bill; but Labour could not stay the passage of the far more repressive Riotous Assem blies and Criminal Law Amendment Bill. This penalized attempts to force workers to join or not to join trade unions; banned strikes in public utility services; gave magistrates, acting under ministerial authority, wide powers to prohibit meetings expected to endanger the public peace; and allowed the police in certain circ*mstances to arrest speakers and listeners or, in the last resort, to fire. This was the strongest attack yet made by a South African legislature on civil liberties and working-class rights; and marked a new stage in the transition from a colonial economy to an industrialized society. Techniques of colonial repression, as exemplified by the Natal Code of Native Law, were from then on supplemented by more modern and pervasive restrictions on the labour and national liberation movements. White voters demonstrated at the polls against Smuts's brutal attacks on trade unionism and the working class. Tom Maginess won a parliamentary by-election for Labour in Liesbeek, Cape Town; Morris Kentridge won another in Durban Central, giving Labour eight members in the assembly. Walter Snow, a victimized railwayman, was returned from Liesbeek to the pro vincial council. Labour won two provincial council seats in Durban and one in Bloemfontein during 1914, and scored its

greatest victory in the Transvaal by contesting twenty-five and 17r

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

winning twenty-three seats in the provincial council. The Labour councillors had a clear majority of one in the chamber, but could not obtain control of the executive, and so were unable to implement their policy. Their two notable achievements were a new municipal rating ordinance, which the central government disallowed, and a revision of the municipal franchise, which was extended to white women and modified so as to incorporate the principle of proportional representation. Under the leader ship of F. A. W. Lucas, a barrister and firm adherent of Henry George's land tax theory, the Labour group tried hard to substi tute economic issues for Anglo-Afrikaner rivalries in provincial politics, and never wavered in their adherence to the party's white supremacy policy. S. P. Bunting, who won the Bezuidenhout seat, set out the case for the policy in an election manifesto of 3,000 words. Written in his involved style, and studded with capitalized phrases, it contained both an analysis of South African society and a passionate protest against class oppression. It has additional significance as marking a stage in the development of a great South African radical. Born of middle-class parents in London in 1873 and a graduate of Oxford, Bunting came as a lieutenant in the British army to South Africa in ioo, took a law degree after the war, and settled down to practise as an attorney in Johannesburg.' 9 Wybergh and Creswell were his intimate friends, and he came to share their belief in the white labour policy. He helped to found and took on the secretaryship of the White Expansion Society in 19o9, with Patrick Duncan as its

president and Lucas as one of the committee members. He then joined the Labour party in i9io, became the secretary of the Witwatersrand district committee, and was elected to the

national executive in


His manifesto, therefore, repre

sented the views of a senior if exceptional member of the party. He managed the Worker, his party's paper, in 1912, and sat on its editorial board; yet his manifesto, printed in heavy type with many capitalized phrases, came far closer in spirit to the radicalism of the rival journal Voice of Labour. Like Crawford, he believed that South Africa's industrial upheavals formed part of

a world-wide struggle between international finance and the 172

Loyalists and Rebels working classes. They were striking, not for higher wages, but FOR BETTER STATUS, the RIGHT TO LIVE, a PLACE IN THE SUN. They refused to be mere servants, and this was natural in South Africa 'where every white man has tasted more or less the sweets of masterhood himself'. But the ruling class in this, THE MOST CAPITALIST-RIDDEN COUNTRY IN THE WORLD,

was determined to suppress trade unions, dispense with white workers, and run the economy with white overseers, and '"cheap", unenfranchised, unorganized Kaffirs'. This 'means

eventually a Kaffir's land.


White South Africa was in danger, and only the Labour party resisted the REAL ANARCHIC CONSPIRACY AGAINST TION'.


Labour would do away with the differences between master and servant, secure equal opportunities for all, and reconstruct society on a cooperative basis - 'the only possible means to TRUE AND UNIVERSAL LIBERTY AND WELLBEING'. It would be a white man's heaven. Africans were enemies within the gate: the 'allies, or rather tools, of Capitalism against the white workers'. There followed an odd qualification: 'But this is merely a temporary obstacle, for the native workers are bound to organize soon.' An obstacle to what? And would they organize with or against the white workers? If Bunting had misgivings about the African's role, he suppressed them in deference to the party's official policy. Ignoring the effects of industrialization and the pressures that forced peasants to enter the labour mar ket, he maintained that they were landowners, who did not need to work if left to themselves. They were better off than the whites, and earned wages as a luxury. The party's policy was to separate them territorially, repatriate Asiatics, and gradually eliminate the Coloured by preventing miscegenation. Racial tolerance could not be expected of Labour councillors when a man of Bunting's calibre identified himself thus whole heartedly with white supremacy. Reviewing their 'one-sided ness', the A.P.O. listed some of their colour bar proposals. They refused to grant supplies unless the executive undertook to build roads departmentally and with white labourers only at adequate wages; voted money for public buildings at Warmbad '73

Class and Colour in South Africa T85o-z95o

with a proviso that Africans employed there be dismissed; and denied the municipal franchise to the darker peoples while conferring it on 'every pimp, prostitute and illicit liquor seller in gaol'. 10 The Labour majority introduced free secondary educa tion to white children in the province, and opposed schools for Coloured and Africans. 21 Ware, sitting on the Witwatersrand School Board, moved the adoption of a resolution that 'the teaching of trades, or the use of tools, to Coloured people and Natives will be sternly discountenanced'. Labour members of the Johannesburg town council were notoriously rigid in denying Coloured, Indians and Africans the use of the municipal trams. A solid phalanx of parliamentary parties - South African, Unionist, Nationalist and Labour - confronted black and brown South Africans on almost every issue involving racial discrimina tion. Individual Unionists occasionally protested. A few Cape liberals, notably Morris Alexander, Merriman and the Schrein ers, consistently skirmished for Coloured rights. Labour stood always on the side of the extreme racialists, as in the debates on the colour bar regulations issued by Smuts under the Mines and Works Act of 191 . 2 2 These reserved thirty-two categories of work for whites and prohibited the issue of certificates of com petence in the Transvaal and Orange Free State to any person of colour. A certificate obtained by one of them in Natal or the Cape had no validity outside that province. Merriman took up the cudgels at the request of the AP o and moved the deletion of

the colour bar in 1914. A petition before the House, signed by 1,624 Coloured residents of the Transvaal, complained that they

were prevented from earning their living by following their trades as engine drivers, carpenters, blasters, gangers, banksmen be and onsetters; and prayed that the word 'white' should 23 replaced by the word 'competent' in the regulations. Smuts admitted in the Senate that the discrimination against the Coloured man was indefensible and would have to go, though not in the immediate present. The strongest opposition to Mer riman's proposal came from the Reef's representatives, both Unionist and Labour. Creswell repeated his familiar argument in moving an amendment to the motion. It was really directed against trade unionism, he said, and aimed at setting the col 174

Loyalists and Rebels oured peoples against white workmen. His party advocated equal pay for equal work, whereas the mine owners wanted to hire labour at the lowest possible rate. They would not pay Africans a shilling more, but would, if allowed, give individuals something more to take over the white miner's occupation. It was for this reason that a number of Coloured were being given work in the mines. He was against the colour bar, as it instilled a false sense of security in white men. His amendment declared that the abolition of the colour bar would increase profits at the expense of the white, African and Coloured population as long as the mining industry employed uncivilized, servile and largely imported workers, and as long as there was no legislation to guarantee miners a civilized standard of wages. Steps should be taken to change the system before the House could take note of the petition. It was an impossible condition in the existing social order. Indeed one must doubt if the white workers really wanted a change along the lines indicated by Creswell. They aspired, in Bunting's percipient phrase, to 'a better status' and 'a place in the sun': but not, as he suggested, to an egalitarian society. Their aim was to achieve recognition as members of the master race. They would rather supervise African servants than fraternize with persons whom they, like other whites, considered to be members of an inferior race. Creswell's party and the trade unions made no attempt to organize Africans and Coloured behind a demand for equal wages and opportunities. In spite of disclaimers, white workers had the same interests as mine owners in perpetuating the migrant labour system. The A.P.O. drew the inescapable conclusion. There was a time, it said, when the Coloured were free to sell their labour on an open market. Their main concern then was to defend the franchise. As doors of employment were being closed to them everywhere, the question of where to find work overshadowed all other problems. In that frame of mind, they responded favourably to Labour leaders, and hailed their vigorous cam paign in the Cape. The Labour party's attitude on the colour bar and Indian Relief Bill soon convinced many of its insincerity. The party would keep the Coloured out of the mines, and the 175

k.=- - -_ -


Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o Indian in a semi-servile condition on the sugar plantations so as to prevent him from finding employment in other occupations. This intolerable narrowness and selfishness would disenchant exploita the Coloured. 'The continuance of the White policy of welding tion and repression of the Coloured races is gradually the latter into one solid mass.' None of the existing generations one would be alive when black humanity learned to speak with 24 irresistible voice; but that time would come. The outbreak of world war delayed the event, opened old and wounds, revived the conflict between British and Afrikaner, checked the growth of an alliance between white Labour and Afrikaner nationalism. At a special session early in September ninety-two to twelve 1914 parliament adopted a resolution by votes affirming the 'whole-hearted determination' of the House to 'take all measures necessary for defending the interests of the Union and for cooperating with his Majesty's Imperial Govern ment to maintain the security and integrity of the Empire'. No section of the population adhered more loyally to this pledge than the African, Coloured and Indian. They must endure their domestic burdens in solemn silence, declared the A.P.O., and 25 empire's other sons. the than worthy less no themselves prove Abdurahman told a crowded Coloured meeting in Cape Town to forget their many grievances while the empire's very existence was at stake. Other leaders - Carelse, Veldsman, the Rev. Dr Gow, S. Reagon, Dr A. H. Gool - echoed his appeal and under took to raise a Coloured war relief fund. 'With all its faults,' wrote Abdurahman, 'the Empire contains some attractive force which during periods like the present converts the silken thread into bonds of steel'. 26 The APO offered to raise a corps of 5,0o0 men for active service. Fully 13,000 volunteered within a month. Africans also asked to be allowed 'to cast a few stones at the Germans'. Dube and other ANC leaders left a special conference on the Native Land Act to offer their services to the government at Pretoria. Coloured and Africans who professed loyalty so spontaneously and without official exhortation were probably motivated by the usual sentiments and reasons of a people at war: a sense of duty, a spirit of adventure and desire to escape from the daily round, 176

Loyalists and Rebels the prospect of a job and of gaining social esteem. Then, too, a Coloured man might hope to escape in uniform from the nagging humiliation of being 'different' and inferior. By taking part in the war effort and 'doing his bit', he would merge with the 'nation' and lay up credit for the day of victory. He could claim freedom and justice, and an easing of the black man's burden, to the extent that he made sacrifices in the common cause. This is what his leaders told him. He suffered a rude rebuff. The government would recruit Coloured men to groom army mules and drive transport wagons; but fighting Germans was a white man's privilege, reserved for the active citizens' force organized under the Defence Act of 1912. Then came the rebellion of October. Six thousand burghers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State took up arms against Botha. Beyers, having resigned his post of commandant general, Maritz and Kemp, two high-ranking officers, and the veteran

general de Wet led the revolt. It was a romantic, somewhat mystical resumption of the republics' struggle for independence, a protest against the invasion of German South West, and a crusade to avenge Slachtersnek, the concentration camp martyrs and the humiliation of Vereeniging. Botha proclaimed martial law, appealed for volunteers to fight in South West, and sum

moned the commandos against the rebels. Maritz led his men over the border to join the Germans. The Coloured in the north west Cape asked for arms to defend themselves. The AP0 repeated its offer to raise a corps, and was again refused. This was a white man's war, the government replied. It was anxious to avoid employing Coloured citizens, or others not of European descent, in a combatant capacity against whites.2 7 Yet black and brown men were fighting on both sides in Europe and Africa. Even the Union had a quota of dark-skinned

soldiers. The government assured Afrikaner nationalists that 'no armed Natives or Coloured persons were employed to assist in the suppression of the rebellion'. The statement rested on the false assumption that all South African soldiers were of pure European descent. In reality, many were coloured passing as white. 'Their dark complexion, the kink in the hair, the broad flat nose - these all betray their ancestry.' 28 Some Coloured men '77

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-i95o

made their way at their own expense to England, to enlist there for active service. Bewailing the refusal to lift the colour bar in South Africa, the A.P.O. declared that whites would rather see 29 the empire fall than place Coloured men in the firing line. Their faith in the Allied cause remained undimmed. 'Thrice we offered our services, and thrice they were refused. We cannot do more.' They could only pray that peace would bring 'true British liberty and justice'; not the liberty that enabled a dis loyal crowd to pass a Natives Land Act, rob men of their fran chise rights, and ban them as outcasts; but a liberty ensuring to 30 all in the empire an equal opportunity to live in freedom. Botha announced the conquest of German South West on io July 1915. Abdurahman wrote that the Coloured had small reason to rejoice. He hoped that Botha would go forward in the path of duty to the king, and with a more tender conscience to the large Coloured and African population of the conquered territory. It would be a great mistake if he gave way to pressure and appointed only Afrikaners to administer them. Very few had been trained to deal tactfully and fairly with persons of colour; most of them suffered from centuries' old colour prejudice. At least the northern half of South West, which was inhabited mainly by tribal Africans, should remain a protectorate on the 3 model of Basutoland, to be administered directly by the crown. ' The advice was sound, as time would show; but Botha had other considerations on his mind. Fixing his eyes on the ap proaching elections, he wished to reconcile Afrikaners to his successful imperial venture by promising them farms and administrative posts in the conquered territory. Thousands of Coloured and Africans served with Botha's troops as transport drivers, medical orderlies and labourers. Now that the fighting had finished in South West Africa, troops could be sent to more distant fields, where the employment of Coloured combatants would be less obvious and perhaps less offensive to racial susceptibilities. A volunteer force had already been raised for Europe. The Coloured agitated once again for the right to kill or be killed. The war, they said, was not for white people only. The great majority of South Africans were not white. No army recruited in South Africa could be truly repre 178

Loyalists and Rebels sentative unless it included a Coloured contingent. At last, in September, they were told that the government had offered and Britain had accepted the formation of a Coloured infantry corps under white commissioned officers. Abdurahman was appointed to a recruiting committee and asked his people to take their proper place in the fighting line. 'Today the Empire needs us. What nobler duty is there than to respond to the call of your King and Country?' 3 2 The Labour front was less united. The party's conference of January 1913 had committed it to a watered down version of the Socialist International's Stuttgart and Basle resolutions. If war threatened, the conference agreed, workers of all countries con cerned should try to prevent it by a simultaneous stoppage of work. It was an innocuous motion, said Creswell, since it would not place any country in the position of being crippled by a general strike while its adversary carried on with the backing of the workers.3 3 In keeping with this resolution, the administrative council, with Andrews in the chair, appealed on 2 August 1914 to workers everywhere to organize against the war. It had been fomented by capitalist governments, was unjust, and could benefit only armament manufacturers and other enemies of the working class. The S.A. Industrial Federation, the Cape Town SDF and Durban SDP passed similar resolutions. This was a brave stand, which put South African radicals well in the van guard of international socialism. They found little support among the party rank-and-file. The Worker, then edited by Wybergh, whipped up enthusiasm for the war after Britain's entry. A leading article in the issue of 6 August argued that the German workers had failed to make an effective protest. 'And if your best friend goes mad and attacks you with deadly weapons, you have no choice but to defend yourself.' Creswell agreed. 'If you are attacked,' he said, 'you have got to fight.'3 The government undertook on io August to invade German South West. Parliament met a month later to give its approval. Botha told the House that South Africa was legally and morally committed by her allegiance to the crown. Only Hertzog's Nationalists stood out for neutrality. The South African party, Unionists and Labour, including Andrews,


Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 carried a motion of loyalty to the king and support for the war by ninety-two votes to twelve on 14 September. Madeley abstained, but joined the pro-war group before long. The first troops sailed for South West Africa on the same day. A patriotic wave swept through the party as one branch after The another voted for war in defiance of the executive's policy. Cres industrial federation also rescinded its anti-war resolution. well and Maginess left to serve in South West. The Worker conducted a pro-war campaign. There was resistance to the war fever only at the highest level of the party's leadership. D. Iron Jones, Bunting, Colin Wade and P. R. Roux claimed that the party was bound by its resolution of 1913 and the Basle declara tion. The administrative council under their direction passed a series of resolutions urging the international labour movement to convene peace conferences. Wade and his colleagues formed the War on War League in September, and published the War on War Gazette. Though censored out of existence at the end of November, it left an imprint. Branches of the League appeared along the Reef, in Durban and Cape Town, linking pacifists and radical socialists in a united front. Who was the defender of the true faith: Creswell, fighting in a major's uniform to extend South Africa's frontiers; or Jones, the consumptive teacher from Wales, fighting for lost causes and the underlying masses? The League maintained that the Creswel lites had surrendered the party's principles for the sake of parliamentary seats. Reinforced by Andrews, and in control of the party machine, the anti-war group mustered a majority of the delegates to the annual conference at East London in January 1915. Creswell was on active service and Andrews in the chair. Conference had before it John Ware's pro-war motion. James Clark, another Transvaal provincial councillor, moved that all wars under capitalism injured the working class. Conference evaded the issue in the interests of unity by adopting a 'neu trality' resolution from which only Wybergh dissented. It reason and allowed every member to decide, according to his 35 war. the conscience, whether to support or oppose The conference put the War on War group in the saddle by re-electing Andrews, Jones and Weinstock to the posts of presi18o

Loyalists and Rebels dent, secretary, and treasurer, and giving them a majority on the executive. 36 Party members, however, responded more eagerly to the call of war than to the call of peace. The executive intensi fied efforts to recruit Afrikaners, who were less susceptible than the British to war fever. Bunting had earlier predicted that a pro-war stand would ruin the prospect of attracting Afrikaner workers. The party, he said, could not hold its own with Unionists and Nationalists in the 'patriotic game'. 37 To ap preciate the significance of his comment, one should bear in mind the steady movement of unskilled Afrikaners into the industrial centres, and earlier attempts by the labour movement to gain their allegiance. As far back as 19o8 Frank Nettleton, the secretary of the Pretoria trades council, had cooperated with officials of Het Volk in forming Arbeid Adelt, a non-political society of unskilled Afrikaners on a white labour policy platform. The party's executive decided in January 1912 to print its constitution in Afrikaans and English. The whole-hearted par ticipation of Afrikaners in the miners' strike of 1913 alerted the movement to their potential role. The Labour party and Hertzog's Nationalists had much in common, argued the Worker at great length in August. Both rebelled against the oppression and exploitation that stemmed from capitalism; both advocated racial segregation and a ban on the importation of cheap contract labour; both represented the forces of progress. Hertzogism was bound to shed its 'racial' bias against the British and develop its socialistic side, the paper predicted. 38 Nettleton, then endeavouring to organize railway and other transport workers in one union, made a special drive to recruit Afrikaner gangers, drivers and labourers. Afrikaner leaders were not prepared, however, to stand aside while their people fell into the clutches of foreign socialists and atheists. The Rev. Brandt launched a Christian Union in Johannesburg. Madeley asserted that it was Botha's brain child. The prime minister had proposed the union's formation, took a hand in drafting its rules, and promised to obtain recognition for it on the mines. 3 9 Afrikaner names appeared with growing frequency from August onwards in the Worker's reports of branch activities



m- .




Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o along the Reef and, more surprisingly, in Transvaal country towns. The general strike of 1914 and the subsequent deporta tions gave further impetus to the spread of the party's influence among Afrikaners. S. T. Pienaar and G. H. Kretzchmar, the first Afrikaners to represent Labour in a legislative chamber, were elected to the provincial council in March by English and Afrikaner voters in Denver and Vrededorp. English-speaking candidates were returned in the predominantly Afrikaner con stituencies of Krugersdorp, Maraisburg and Pretoria West. Jock van Lingen polled 6o0 votes for the party in the platteland constituency of Heidelberg in May. Afrikaner audiences at Ficksburg, Brandfort, Edenburg and other Free State towns gave Labour speakers a sympathetic hearing. E. W. Connelly, the secretary of the Bloemfontein branch, wrote in August that if the party were to cultivate them at every opportunity, thou 40 sands of Afrikaners would soon follow the labour movement. The favourable trend was checked, though not halted, by the rising of Afrikaner nationalism in the north after the Beyers de Wet rebellion of October 1914. Colin Wade's anti-war group tried to persuade the party's administrative council to negotiate a peaceful settlement, but it would do no more than send a deputa tion urging de Wet to 'obey constituted authority'. The new executive, elected in January, renewed the effort to attract Afrikaners. It appointed a rural propagapda committee headed by Bunting, who co-opted half a dozen Afrikaners, and conducted an extensive campaign in country towns with the assistance of Gideon Botha, a former member of the miners' union, and Bob Waterston, the Australian-born mechanic who had been de ported by Smuts in 1914. Iyon Jones reported on 6 June 1915 that though the prospect of winning country seats at the next election had to be discounted, 'a great and unexpected advance' had been made on the platteland. Afrikaners, even when linked to a racialist party, were anxious to learn about Labour princi ples. From all parts came a demand for Labour leaflets and literature. 4 ' The party's efforts to establish a basis among Afrikaners received a permanent setback in the second half of 1915. Anti German riots broke out on the Rand after the sinking of the 182

Loyalists and Rebels Lusitania. Andrews and his executive protested publicly against the mass hysteria, whereas Creswell's supporters used the oc casion to whip up sentiment for the war. He returned from the front to lead the campaign, and issued a circular letter on 30 June urging party members to endorse his 'see it through' policy at the forthcoming special conference. Most of them, he claimed, approved of the decision to vote for Botha's loyalty motion. Not one of the Labour men in parliament would have been elected if they had told their voters to disregard all ties and feelings other than the 'principles of international socialism'. Like the vast majority of socialists in the belligerent countries, he refused to believe that being a socialist involved any repudia tion of one's patriotic duties. The anti-war group replied in a pamphlet denouncing the war as an imperialist venture. Cres well's policy, they maintained, disregarded the sentiments of Afrikaners. It was the party's duty, not to win the next elections at all hazards, but to stand firm on the principles of peace, international goodwill and working-class solidarity. Bunting's report of 5 August argued that an anti-war policy was politically expedient. The party had to choose between the Afrikaner vote and support for the war. Its position in country districts had been made 'frankly desperate' by the violent imperialist sentiments of prominent members. His committee could neither disclaim nor defend such jingoism before Afri kaner audiences. The party had already lost the mass of the Afrikaner vote, and would lose it for perhaps twenty years if the forthcoming conference adopted a war policy. 'At present the Party appeals to the Afrikander about as much as to the Kaffir.' Hope of a Labour majority in parliament could never be realized until the party had regained the sympathy of the country vote. Creswell himself preferred the assumed certainty of the British working-class vote to the doubtful prospect of obtaining Afrikaner votes in rural constituencies. Harassed by the govern ment press, he wanted to rid the party of the taint of disloyalty. The special conference, meeting in Johannesburg on 22 August, was packed by Creswellites. They carried a pro-war resolution by eighty-two votes to thirty, and so put an end to Labour's assault on the citadels of Afrikaner nationalism.


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

The anti-war group staged a dramatic withdrawal, taking with them the senior officers, Andrews, Clark, Jones, Weinstock, Bunting, and half the administrative council. They went on to

form the International League of the South African Labour Party. As the title indicates, their intention was to remain in the party so as to preserve unity and win it back to its 'native

42 principles' of international socialism and anti-militarism. One of their first actions was to produce a weekly, the International. It soon had a clear field in the movement, for the Worker, having lost its chief contributors, ceased publication before the

year was out. The attempt to reconcile conflicting loyalties within the party was short-lived. Electoral rivalries made compromise impossible. The new leadership insisted that every party candidate for public

office should pledge loyalty to the pro-war policy. Andrews and Clark resigned in order to stand for parliament against the party nominees. A final split followed. A general meeting of League members decided on 22 September 1915 to secede and form the International Socialist League (S.A.), with Andrews as chair man, Jones as secretary, and a committee that included Clark, Crisp, Weinstock, Bunting and Dunbar. The October parliamentary elections gave the South African party 54 seats, the Unionists 39, the Nationalists 27, Labour 4 and Independents 6. Botha remained in office with the aid of the Unionists. Labour contested 44 seats on a platform of moderate social reforms and obtained 24,444 votes, nearly io per cent of the poll, though its share of the Transvaal votes amounted to 16 per cent. Maginess retained Liesbeek with a majority of one vote. Labour's other candidates in the Cape peninsula, Batty, Forsyth, Freestone, Haggar and Whitaker, were heavily defeated, in spite of their attempt to woo the Coloured vote with a local manifesto urging the extension of the Cape franchise to other provinces. This violated the party's constitution, said the A.P.O., and the deception was too palpable to deceive anyone. 43 The paper called on Coloured electors to oppose every Labour candidate. The party's record in the Transvaal provincial coun cil showed that it was composed of 'a greedy pack of vultures,

who would keep the black man as a helot'. They were the 184

Loyalists and Rebels 'avowed enemy of the Coloured man, who should spurn them with loathing and disgust' * Coloured and African unity often buckled under the strain of coping with the bribes and blandishments of white candidates, some of whom were not averse to promoting the growth of rival organizations among the electors. A section of the AP0 leader ship hived off from the parent body in response to such pressures in 1904, 191o and 1913. The APO did not escape internal dissen sions in the x915 elections. Its members in Paarl and Stellen bosch defied the leaders by supporting Nationalist party candidates; while Abdurahman himself broke discipline when he backed John Hewat, the Unionist candidate in Woodstock, against the decision of the APO's executive to work for the return of the independent candidate W. Mushet. Hewat won the five cornered contest by a comfortable margin, and the AP0 never fully recovered from the effects of its president's refusal to abide by the majority decision. Abdurahman was by then deeply committed to the Unionists. They had allowed him to be returned unopposed to the provin cial council in 1914 and the town council in 1915. Their candi dates advertised heavily in his newspaper. It significantly ceased publication shortly after the elections for want of financial sup port by agents and readers. When the Unionists amalgamated with the South African party in 1921, he gave the new force his full allegiance and came to be known as Smuts's man. This involvement in white party politics exposed him to attacks from right and left. Creswell, fighting a losing battle in Kimberley in 1915, accused him of being an ally of De Beers and the 'constant catspaw' of the Unionists, the 'bulwark of the Mining Houses'. Yet their policy of importing 'cheap Kaffir labour' was equally detrimental to Africans, the civilized Coloured, and the white worker. Abdurahman's reply listed the colour bars introduced or proposed by the Labour party. He was, 'however reluctantly, forced to conclude that they are the greatest political enemies of the Coloured races , . 45 The split in the Labour party left Coloured and Africans unmoved. Like Creswell, they were patriotic and pro-war, but his party's racialism shut the door to any prospect of gaining their x85

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z950

have goodwill. He and Sampson removed doubts that might arisen on this score after the split by reiterating their opposition 46 to an extension of the franchise. Sampson, looking for a scape the goat to bear the blame for his party's defeat, accused Unionists and the South African party of plotting to enfranchise Coloured and Africans in the north. 'If this Parliament lasted five years,' he said, 'there would be very few white workers here 47 to vote at the next election.' Though the International Social their ists, in contrast, soon began to discard their racial bias, Col violent opposition to the war made them unacceptable to in oured and African leaders. Isolated, and without a mass basis the working class, the socialists could offer nothing besides a bitter struggle against authority. Andrews and Clark, represent ing the IS L in the parliamentary elections for Georgetown and Langlaagte, constituencies which they had previously won for Labour, lost their deposits by polling no more than eighty-two and fifty-eight votes respectively. One is tempted to attribute this resounding defeat to the candidates ISL's stand against the war. Since pro-war Labour

fared only little better, it is more reasonable to suppose that voters turned their backs on Labour politics for the duration. Their reaction tended to obscure the long term consequences of the cleavage. Its immediate effect was to disrupt the party organization in its stronghold on the Rand, where eight branches went over to the ISL. This initial support faded as the East African campaign gained momentum and the economy expanded.

The split may have contributed to Labour's reverses in the 1915 elections. Some historians go further and suggest that it contri 48 buted to the party's destruction. This verdict is too severe, however. The party's recovery in 192o suggests that the rupture did not permanently impair its parliamentary prospects. In the final analysis, the right wing probably suffered less from the defection of the radicals than from its growing involvement with Afrikaner nationalism.


9 The New Radicals

Class conflict abated during the war. Full employment, a rise in profits, and patriotic sentiment generated goodwill on both sides. Government and employers discovered that trade unions could contribute much to industrial peace and efficiency. The union leaders responded with a policy of avoiding action that might reduce output. Trade unionism recovered from the set back suffered after the abortive general strike of 1914 and the resulting large-scale victimizations. The Transvaal Federation of Trades, in a bid to repair the damage and overcome weaknesses disclosed by the strike, changed its name to the South African Industrial Federation and invited the affiliation of unions throughout the country. Only the Cape Federation of Trade Unions held aloof. Established in 1913, it proclaimed a willing ness to organize and admit all workers without regard to race, colour or creed. Some of its affiliated unions, notably in the printing, furniture, baking and building trades, consisted mainly of Coloured members. Bob Stuart, the Cape Federation's secretary and a stubborn Scot, refused to play second fiddle to the north and rejected its white labour policy. The SAIF was the major trade union centre and developed into a powerful organization under the leadership of another Scot, the former radical Archie Crawford. Deported in 1914, Crawford returned a changed man. His metamorphosis from an extreme radical to a right-wing bureau crat paralleled that of Bill Andrews in the opposite direction. They interchanged their roles. Andrews, now an uncompromis ing revolutionary, would accuse Crawford, in more elegant language, of the crimes against the working class of which Crawford had accused Andrews in the earlier period. It has been suggested that Crawford when in exile was persuaded by British


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-r95o trade unionists to adopt a policy of class collaboration.' He was not one to be influenced easily against his basic inclinations. It is more likely that he found an outlet for his ambition in an important office of the kind to which he had aspired without success in the days of his youthful militancy. Not satisfied with building the SAI F into a big organization, he wanted the entire trade union movement to turn around him. The war gave him an opportunity to obtain by means of diplomacy and conciliation the kind of power that he had failed to achieve through bluster and appeals for mass action. His favoured technique was to form reference boards which enabled him to negotiate on behalf of the unions affiliated to the SAIF. He and Gemmill, the secretary of the Chamber of Mines, settled nearly all white labour disputes on the mines in this way during the war years. 2 The owners showed their goodwill by collecting trade union dues under a stop order system; while the unions reciprocated in September 1916 by agreeing to freeze wage rates for the duration of the war and three months there after. This, said Andrews and his associates in the ISL, amounted to a vicious collaboration that stemmed from the basic error of support for the war. The unions were seeking favours from their masters, who 'packed them off as cannon fodder, this probably being the final destination of Trade Unionism by Craft and Crawfordism'.


African miners received neither favours from the owners nor aid from the white workers. When whites employed at Van Ryn Deep mine came to work on 21 December 1915, they were told to return home as the entire morning shift of 2,80o Africans had struck work in protest against an unsympathetic compound manager and to redress the grievances of drillers. The latter were kept so long at 'lashing' (removing rock dislodged from the face by the previous blast) that they could not drill the minimum norm of thirty-six inches and so were given 'loafer' tickets. Unable to obtain satisfaction, a party of strikers set off along the Main Reef Road to interview officials of the Native Recruiting Corporation in Johannesburg. A posse of mounted police intercepted them and forced them back to the compound. The strike ended when the management agreed, under pressure 188

The New Radicals of government officials, to assure the men that 'their legitimate grievances would be redressed'." International socialists did not

fail to draw the contrast between African militancy and the passivity of white workers. Jones and Bunting, the League's leading theorists, gave two broad reasons. The Labour party, they said, had erred by making votes its main target, only to find that it could not match the jingoism of the Unionists in a khaki election. 5 More basically the workers had been corrupted by racialism. 'Slaves to a higher oligarchy, the white workers of South Africa themselves in turn batten on a lower slave class.' They compensated for their inferior class status by lording it over Africans. More intolerant than any other working class, the whites were also more para sitical. Appeals to international unity could never evoke a sincere response from a rank-and-file so situated.6 The war was being waged in the name of freedom, and to get it they had to give it. The fact had to be faced that the freedom for which they fought was a mere name to an overwhelming army of native wage labourers who were spat on and spurned by the great majority of their white fellow workers. 7 Vote-catching had ruined the movement, agreed Jimmy Bain, who had preceded Crawford as secretary of the SAIF. The comment appeared in an obituary on Tom Mathews, a victim of the miners" white scourge' in March 1915. His last words were: 'I have served the Labour movement faithfully these twenty one years. I hope it is satisfied.' Few men had done more for the workers than Mathews, wrote Bain, and few had received less. Born at Newlyn, Cornwall, in 1867, he migrated to the United States at the age of fifteen, rose to be president of the miners' union in Montana, and was elected in 1892 to the state house of representatives as Labour's only member. He came to the Rand in 1897, took a prominent part in the miners' union, and became its general secretary in 1907. 'Strong as a lion' and 'fearless of speech', he was more of a socialist than a Labour party man, according to Bain. He helped to found the movement 'before votes were counted of so much importance; before there were places and preferment, Provincial Councils and all other soul stifling influences of today, at work'.8 Mathews was succeeded 189

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-z95o

by another militant, the Australian-born J. Forrester Brown, a founding member of the ISL and an advocate of inter-racial working-class solidarity. He too succumbed like Mathews to what Bain described as 'the narrow-mindedness of his own class'. Brown, Andrews and other prominent trade unionists in the ISL were unable to detach themselves wholly from the white power structure; and had no intention of following the socialists of Durban and Cape Town into the isolation of a debating society. The League made a bid for leadership by taking part in elections at every opportunity. It nominated nine candidates in the Trans vaal municipal elections of October 1915. Two, Colin Wade at Germiston and J. A. Clark in Johannesburg, were elected. J. van Lingen represented the League later in the year in a provincial council by-election and came at the bottom of the poll with 138 votes. He won a municipal seat in Germiston in October 1916, while all other League candidates were defeated. This was hardly surprising, as they fought under the slogans of 'No Conscrip tion' and 'Away with Capitalist War and Capitalist Robbery'. The League claimed that the result was all a revolutionary party could desire. 9 Some 2,ooo electors in Johannesburg, Germiston and Benoni had endorsed the revolutionary call to the workers. Colin Wade contested Troyeville, Johannesburg, at a parlia mentary by-election in January 1917 and polled thirty-two votes against Creswell's 8oo. The League's election manifesto de nounced the war as a quarrel between national groups of bosses; it had nothing to do with workers, who were propertyless and therefore without a country to defend. Creswell's white labour policy was a fraud, since Africans were there to stay at the com mand of their capitalist rulers. The workers' salvation lay in industrial unionism. This would enable them to capture power and lead humanity out of chaos.1" Andrews and Bunting stood on a similar platform in the provincial council elections in June, with the added incentive of Russia's February revolution. They called on workers to emulate this example and 'claim domination of all the countries of the earth'. The final struggle for socialism had begun. If elected, the League's candidates would strive only for the downfall of capitalism and for industrial democracy. 1 ' go

The New Radicals The mob broke up the League's meetings on May Day, the miners' union asked Forrester Brown not to speak on the League's platform, and both candidates lost their deposits. Bunting polled seventy-one votes in Commissioner Street, and Andrews, 'the foremost working-class name in South African politics', ob tained 355 votes in Benoni.12 This series of defeats spread a mood of pessimism about the value of election campaigns. Like the anti-political faction among Crawford's socialists in 1910, some members of the League

argued that 'vote hunting' reduced them to the level of the reactionary parties in the public's estimation. Moreover, the election of workers to office was futile unless they were backed by economic power. 1 3 'Now is the time to run up the Industrial banner,' urged John Campbell. 'Now is the time to throw all academic discussions and abstractions to the winds and to rally the workers to Industrial Unity by immediate action." 4 A joint meeting of branches on the Rand accordingly decided in October 1917 that the League would not nominate candidates for the coming municipal election.' 5 De Leon's concept of industrial unionism, which would obliterate craft and colour divisions, appeared to be the proper alternative to fruitless electioneering and the dead-end campaign against the war. The organization of all workers for industrial action, declared the executive com mittee, was the great revolutionary fruit of an otherwise pointless agitation.'


Workers who rejected the League's candidates and its anti war policy could not be expected to embark on revolutionary strikes. Like every radical party which has exhausted the possi bilities of parliamentary struggle, the League was forced to recognize that only the voteless majority would respond posi tively to appeals for far-reaching social changes. To be taken seriously as a contestant for power, it could trim its sails to suit the electorate and compete with the Labour party in defence of white supremacy, or it could attempt to acquire a mass base among the oppressed. The decision to take the second course marks the great divide in the development of the labour move ment. From this emerged a genuine radicalism, which accepted the consequent identification with Africans, Coloured and '9'

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

Indians in a struggle outside the bounds of constitutional politics. The International Socialists made their greatest contribu tion not by protesting against the war, but in spreading the vision of a single integrated society embracing all South Africans with out distinctions of class or colour. The vision grew out of the protest. It was the failure of the mission against militarism that led to a critical appraisal of claims to racial privilege. The League, wrote Jones after the defeat in Troyeville, could not hope for a large backing among the Labour party's constituents, the small shopkeeper and artisan. It was poised like Mohammed's coffin between the two economic bases of craft workers and the propertyless proletariat, who happened to be black and were therefore disfranchised and despised. If the League was not to be Utopian, it would have to develop their consciousness as a great emancipating and emanci pated class. International socialism 'is nothing if not a virile propaganda to awaken the native wage earner, and with the native his white prototype, to a consciousness of his great mis ' 17 sion of human reclamation . The socialists reached this point slowly and with misgivings during two and a half years of increasing isolation. They had broken away from the Labour party to fight militarism, and not the colour bar; and they could not easily rid themselves of a belief in white supremacy. One advantage of the withdrawal, they claimed, was that it gave them 'untrammelled freedom to deal, regardless of political fortunes, with the great and fascinat ing problem of the native'. 18 He was a problem, and not a comrade at this stage. They could not hope to free the white, they said, until they had freed the native. The possibility that the African would free himself did not then occur to them. He was not mentioned in their original statement of aims, or in their appeals for socialist unity against militarism. When the Durban SDP replied that unity would be prejudiced by adherence to a white labour policy, the League evaded the challenge. The socialists were hitting the enemy where it hurt most, and would yet find time to clarify their attitude to 'such important matters as the Coloured and Native question'19 The League's first annual conference in January 1916 defined 192

The New Radicals an attitude to Africans in a resolution based on Bunting's 'petition of rights'. It called for the abolition of indentured labour, compounds and pass laws in the interests of working class emancipation; and urged 'the lifting of the Native worker to the political and industrial status of the white'. Dunbar put up the familiar pseudo-radical argument that there was not a 'native question'; only a worker's problem. Colin Wade suggested that Africans were 'biologically inferior'. Conference rejected both views, and made a concession to racism by adopting a modified version of the Labour party's segregation policy. The number of Africans employed in industry should not be increased until they had been elevated to the white man's status. Meanwhile, those in employment would be assisted to free themselves from the wage system - presumably by keeping them off the labour market. This approach represented no advance on the position taken up by radicals in 1912. The League was still paternalistic, a group of missionary socialists intent on bringing enlightenment to the darker brethren for their own sake, but primarily to save the white proletariat from itself. The League from then on gave increasing attention to African disabilities and aspirations. The Johannesburg central branch made 'native affairs' a feature of its lecture syllabus. Africans were invited to the League's public meetings. Saul Msane of the Transvaal Native Congress listened with other Africans to the Rev. Father Hill of the Community of the Resurrection when he denounced the Natives Land Act as a barefaced attempt to force peasants into the labour market. The Internationalhailed this as 'the first Labour or Socialist meeting with natives in the audience'. 20 It was, indeed, a notable stage in the education of the Rand's socialists, who could not reshape their ideas until they associated with Africans on equal terms. The League pro vided the opportunity, but clung to the remnant of the old segregation myth. A leading article in the International of 17 March 1916 blamed capitalism for breaking down the 'ethno logical tendency' to a'natural social apartness of white and black'. The system compelled white workers to recognize the African 'as perforce a permanent fellow worker'. They needed his industrial cooperation to destroy capitalism. This done, the C.S.A.-9


Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 play. The conclusion 'natural tendency' could be allowed free would then tolerate that Africans, having made the revolution, Crawford's socialists. apartheid was as absurd as any reached by a growing awareness The discussions revealed no more than League's main aim of the African's role. It was marginal to the solidarity against of soliciting votes and preaching international by exhortations to militarism. The socialists were inspired less of Cape Town's combine with Africans than by the strike of Wilfrid tramwaymen in May 1916, or by the prosecution anti-militarist in Harrison, 'the most policed and summonsed against the South Africa', for distributing a melodramatic protest the class horrors of war.21 Such events were symptoms of seemed struggle, whereas the extent of the African's participation to urge an problematical. George Mason found it necessary audience of League members and Africans in the Johannesburg in Trades Hall to rid themselves of the stale nonsense purveyed man the movement about the African's mental capacity. Any good enough for capitalist production was doubly so for labour organization. Since white workers were bribed to keep the African down, it was a waste of time to argue against their prejudices. The League should concentrate instead on helping intelligent Africans to organize their people. This admonition evoked no more than the derisive comment that 'George was a kind of Bobby Burns who allowed his dominant sense of kin ship with the Universal Human to warp his judgement as to degrees of mental capacity'.22

The socialists denied racial prejudice and claimed to be guided only by good intentions. All they wanted was to protect a docile and ignorant people from exploitation. Africans would be ex cluded from government even under socialism until they reached maturity. Mixed marriages were objectionable not on account of. colour differences, but because of the immaturity of the blacks. One correspondent of the Internationalwould repudiate socialism if it required him to have tea with Charlie, Jim or Sixpence. The editor replied that socialism did not mean mixed marriages: 'as to the evils of this both whites and natives largely agree'. As for segregation, only the combined pressure of all workers would compel the capitalist to dispense with the best part of his work 194

The New Radicals ing force. 'The way to healthy social segregation is through IndustrialCooperation.' It alone would civilize the 'Kaffir wage earners' and purify the atmosphere. A labour movement that failed to organize and educate the unskilled was by that fact a movement of only a part of labour and would surely sacrifice the rest.23 Logic led to the further conclusion that socialism could not be attained without the African's assistance. Only he could save himself and in so doing save the white society. The argument was repeated often, with an assurance that a growing number of white workers were grasping the point. This was a delusion. Socialists applauded Msane for saying that the important thing was to educate the whites. Africans would join trade unions, which had been formed to fight them, he said, if the barriers were lifted. 24 The socialists also needed education, however. Their emotions had not yet fused with reason to produce the passionate conviction that provides the driving force behind a genuine radicalism. They condemned the colour bar because it retarded the growth of class consciousness, not because it was an evil in itself. This was the fundamental flaw in their approach. It blinded them to the nature of the African's problems, and to the quality of his resistance to race discrimination. The League's theory belittled the importance of social divi sions other than class, and the value of combinations other than industrial. Nationalism, both African and Afrikaner, was said to be the nostalgic yearning of small proprietors for a vanishing era, or a false patriotism that blunted class consciousness. Afri cans and Afrikaners would turn their backs on nationalism when capitalist production forced them to work for a wage. Class divisions, said Andrews, cut across the colour line. Rich natives combined with rich whites to exploit the masses. The assertion suited his theory, and not the facts. He and other socialists dis trusted educated leaders like Jabavu, Abdurahman and Grendon, the editor of Abantu Batho, the African National Congress's newspaper. Such men expressed loyalty to Britain, support for the war, and 'old-fashioned bookish aspirations for the vote as the be-all and end-all'. Wrongly described as a 'bourgeoisie', the intellectuals, lawyers and parsons of the national liberation 195

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-195o

movement were said to lead African and Coloured workers along the false trail of collaboration with government and the capitalist class. African leaders clung to a liberal creed as long as they hoped to find relief in the existing social order. Their faith was being undermined by racial laws and a decline in living standards. Signs of discontent appeared towards the end of 1916. B. G. Phooko, a member of Abantu Batho's staff, advised his people to shun the recruiting offices of the native labour corps until action had been taken to improve the conditions of workers who were exploited under the system of colour prejudice. The paper published articles protesting at the effects of the Native Land Act and the treatment of African wage earners. Unprotected by labour unions, they undertook all unskilled drudgery, worked the hardest for the least pay, and were often housed worse than the white man's horse or dog. The Transvaal Congress was urged to make representations to the native affairs department for reme dial action. Free men, who had been robbed and ousted from their land, were being reduced to further enslavement and penury. One day they would rise against their oppressors. The socialists viewed these outbursts of militancy with mixed feelings. They welcomed the'initial rumblings of a spontaneous, indigenous class-conscious industrial movement', yet com plained that Abantu Batho was the mouthpiece of the govern ment, the capitalist class, and the 'tame wing' of lawyers and parsons in Congress. The paper's 'racialism' was irrelevant to the labour movement. After all, white workers were treated essentially in the same way. The remedy was to organize not separate African unions, but one big union of all workers, irrespective of race. The 'volcanic eruption' foreshadowed by Abantu Batho would fail unless preceded by sound organization, and unless it involved all workers. Though whites might blaze the trail, mainly Africans would complete the process of wresting control of the productive system from the ruling class. White of a common unions should be invited to discuss the formation 25 movement with the African National Congress. The League launched a campaign for industrial unions which

would disregard craft and colour divisions, present a united x96

The New Radicals front and ultimately take over the control of industry. A soli darity committee, headed by Forrester Brown and Andrew Watson, one of the nine men deported in 1914, issued a circular drawing attention to the erosion of craft privileges by the em ployment of women and other unskilled workers. The Building Workers' Industrial Union was formed in March 1917, partly in opposition to Crawford's federation. Carpenters and joiners at Durban, Cape Town and Krugersdorp agreed to admit Col oured and Indian tradesmen to the union, as a preventive against scabbing and undercutting. The typographical union proposed to admit Coloured and white printers' assistants who were being attracted to a benefit fund sponsored by the master printers for non-union employees. These were meagre gains. The BwIu adopted an open con

stitution, yet never admitted Coloured and Africans in the north. When white printers in Durban struck work for £5 a week, they refused to combine with Indian employees, who then decided to form a union of their own. No white union ever contemplated organizing Africans. Abantu Batho, taking note of the facts, warned its readers against collaboration with 'any section of white labour'. The socialists retorted that there was no colour line in the working class, 'however much some hire ling Labourites draw that line'. Africans had more in common with white workers who fought against capitalism than with native property owners and agents of the Chamber of Mines. In no country did artisans as a class 'descend' to organizing the unskilled. Africans would have to do this themselves. The League had no desire to ride on their backs. Its function was to provide disinterested education. 2 6 Andrews, Bunting and Jones were then rethinking their ap proach to Labour's segregation policy. It no longer seemed feasible or expedient to resist the pressures that turned the peasant into a wage worker. He must go through the industrial mill, said Andrews, before 'anything can be done with him'. Only an 'urban, industrialized, highly organized force', acting politically and through labour unions, could remove the ruling class. Bunting thought that the Native Administration Bill of 1917 was meant to complete the work of the Native Land Act. '97



- --

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-Z950

in the reserves Peasants would have to choose between starving including or working under whites. All parties in parliament, power, but the Labour, wished to exploit the African's labour blacks. Only the issue was not really one of whites against them from the organized power of all workers could deliver might have Beast. The aims of capital, as expressed in the bill, 27 to be attained before that power could take shape. a struggle Africans had no intention of being reduced without the to the level of a landless proletariat. The bill reaffirmed of principle of territorial segregation; contemplated the addition pro eight and a half million morgen to the scheduled reserves; vided for the final elimination of labour tenants and share croppers from the 'white' areas; and placed the 'native' areas under the exclusive control of the native affairs department, with 28 power to legislate for them by proclamation. The policy behind the measure, said Dr Dube in Cape Town, 'was really one of extermination. What the natives wanted was equality of oppor

tunity'. 2 9 The African National Congress met at Bloemfontein on 31 May 1917 to discuss the bill. Sol Plaatje, back from England, denounced Smuts for having said in London that Africans must on no account be armed, as this would make them a menace to civilization. Congress resolved to agitate for the defeat of the bill, condemned Smuts's speech, deplored the government's action in introducing the measure while calling on Africans to join the overseas labour corps, and reaffirmed loyalty to the king. Neither Smuts nor the government had 'any right rights and guarantees of to rob the Natives of their human 30 liberty under the Pax Britannica'. The League protested publicly against the bill in March 1917 at a meeting held in the Johannesburg Trades Hall. It was an historic occasion as socialists demonstrated for the first time on the Rand against racial legislation that did not directly affect whites. Msane and Mbelle, speaking from the platform, hailed the display of socialist sincerity as a triumph over colour pre judice. Africans now knew that even in Johannesburg there were white men brave enough to assail in public the detested colour bar. The link between socialists and Africans might be tenuous, but it was being forged in spite of abuse from the daffy 198

The New Radicals press and the right wing of the labour movement. For fraterniza tion with Africans widened the gulf caused by the split over the war. The extent of the cleavage became visible in the middle of the year, when Andrews and Bunting stood for election to the provincial council. Workers and soldiers broke up the League's May Day rally and besieged the hall in which it held a social; manhandled Bunting, Jones and other speakers, and forced them to suspend their outdoor meetings. Bunting could not obtain a hall for his election campaign, which the League fought under the banner of anti-militarism and social revolution. I. Kuper, the Labour party's candidate in Benoni, concentrated on the League's non racial policy, and accused Andrews of planning to extend the franchise to Africans. Andrews replied that all segregation schemes were doomed to failure. Either lift the native up to the white standard or sink down to his. He must be given the right to combine and withhold his labour. There could be freedom and justice for all only when whites dealt with him as a fellow worker and not as a chattel. Kuper then appealed in a Dutch pamphlet to his 'brother Afrikaners' to vote for the Labour party's policy: 'First white then black', and no equal rights. 'Vote for Andrews and you vote for the downfall of the workers and the blanket or Kaffir vote.' The international socialists would allow their coloured brethren to compete in trades such as those of masons, painters, cabinet makers and mechanics. 31 The League's stand against racism was the central issue in the elections, and probably lost it many hundreds of votes. So Bunt ing and Andrews thought, as they grappled with the problem of removing the white worker's fears. Attempts to reserve skilled jobs for whites, argued Bunting, could only lead to their dis placement. Self-interest and principle dictated the alternative. This was to ignore colour, and rope all workers, high- and low paid alike, into the unions. Andrews singled out a central principle on which socialists could not compromise. Africans and Coloured formed an integral part of the working class and must organize either in identical or parallel unions. The former were the ideal, but the latter might have to be chosen on tactical grounds. All other issues were subsidiary, and would be settled '99

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-Z950 through industrial organization. There was no need to worry about a transfer of political power, for instance. The capitalist himself would extend the vote to masses of Africans, as a bul wark against revolution, long before they became class conscious. Inter-racial marriages would decline as poor whites, Africans and Coloured moved to a higher standard of living and educa tion. 31 None of the predictions came true. They were based on an assumption that class antagonisms would dissolve colour pre judice. In fact, white workers entered into an alliance with capitalists, were absorbed in the racial elite, shared its privileges and also the burden of keeping the darker man in subjection. Andrews and his associates were not blind to these possibilities. 'The governing class,' wrote Jones in April 1918, 'must almost be called the governing race.' Most white workers, skilled and unskilled, identified themselves with 'their top exploiters' and refused to free the African. And, he predicted, 'white capitalists and white artisans will unite and fight like demons to keep the native proletariat "in its place".' The socialists refused to believe that the betrayal of class principles was inevitable. Indeed white workers were yet to fight their gravest battle before they would be accepted fully into the lower ranks of the ruling hierarchy. The die had not been cast by the end of the war.




Socialism and Nationalism

Socialists had reason to hope that their cause would triumph as opposition to the war mounted in Europe and as soldiers or sailors on both sides mutinied. Even sceptics might be silenced by the 'seeming miracle', as Bunting called it, of the Russian upheaval. It far outstripped the wildest dreams of socialists themselves, who 'never hoped for so early a fruition of their movement'. 'This is a bourgeois revolution, but arriving when the night of capitalism is far spent', wrote Jones in March 1917. 'It cannot be a mere repetition of previous revolutions. It par takes infinitely more of a victory for the proletariat, as well as for the industrial capitalist.' With surprising insight, consider ing South Africa's isolation, Jones recognized that Russia was heading for a revolution 'by the side of which this and all previous ones are but "shopkeepers' riots" in immensity'. The Russian 'elemental mass' was about to enter 'the International class struggle for human emancipation. The day of its coming seems immeasurably nearer by this awakening'.' Enthusiasm kept pace with the spread of soviets, the councils of workmen and soldiers, in Russia. She of all countries, 'clear sighted, audacious, unfaltering, with magnificent contempt for the bogies and fetishes that capitalism would have us dread or revere, has suited the action to the word', wrote Bunting in June. His election manifesto of that month urged South Africans 'to rise to the occasion' by 'following the bold and inspiring lead of the Russian Workers'. When the revolution moved to its climax in the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in November the Internationaldeclared that they had incarnated the theories of Karl Marx. 'The Word becomes Flesh in the Council of Workmen.' 2 Two hundred socialists from the Reef, Pretoria, Durban, 201

Class and Colour in South Africa Y85o-195o

Kimberley and Cape Town met in the Johannesburg Trades Hall in August to send Andrews to the proposed peace con ference in Stockholm. It was a great occasion. Among the main speakers were Sigamoney, of Durban's Indian Workers' Union, and Selope Thema, secretary of the African National Congress. A number of Africans attended. Outraged by this breach of the racial taboo, the Labour party's executive, then meeting in the same building, adjourned to a near-by hotel in protest against whites and Africans sitting together in conference. Unperturbed by this protest, the socialists passed a resolution moved by Dunbar instructing their delegate to demand peace 'on the basis of the complete destruction of the capitalist system'. This was ' mere demagogy' noted Andrews at a later period. 'Dunbar and his supporters were more revolutionary than Lenin and the 3 Bolsheviks.' Andrews sailed in August to represent the IS L, the Cape SD F, the Jewish Socialist Society in Cape Town, the S.A. Peace and Arbitration Society in Cape Town, the Indian Workers' Union in Durban, the Native Workers' Union in Johannesburg, and Kimberley Socialists. He took with him a report 'on the state of the working-class movement in South Africa, and the state of the "minority" socialist movement and its origin through cleavages on the war question'. The report also challenged Creswell's status and claims to represent the labour move ment at the allied socialist conference in London. For the white working class shared to a great extent 'the illusion of all white master communities, Athenian democracies, that they represent the whole of the people and that the mass of the serfs or slaves beneath are politically non-existent '.4 It was an optimistic report. The League, it claimed, had sur vived constant persecution for its stand against war and racism, and was now the only vigorous political organization of the working classes. The Labour party might win elections, but these were no test of real power. The League's fight against racism had far greater world-wide significance and was making headway also among white workers. Ten of the thirteen mem bers of the League's executive committee were wage earners and staunch supporters of trade unionism without colour bars. The 202

Socialism and Nationalism great bulk of Africans had not yet acquired a class consciousness, but the League was breaking through the barriers by means of propaganda and trade union organization. 'It would be hard for our European comrades to realize the significance of Indian and Native delegates sitting in a working-class gathering in South Africa. The very fact of these black fellow workers voicing their class consciousness with us lifted the Conference to a high pitch of enthusiasm.' Though not representative of the great masses, they were 'the advance guard of that mass in its struggle towards articulation'. The League's propaganda and its first fruits were of 'mighty significance for the millions of the coloured proletariat in all parts of the world, and a surety that they too will unitedly tread the path of the working class Inter national'. One of the first fruits was the Durban Indian Workers' Industrial Union. Gordon Lee, a follower of De Leon, took the initiative in forming it along the lines of the iww. 'Some croakers here, Socialist and Labour,' he reported, 'say we cannot organize the coolies.' Yet he recruited in less than six months an appreciable following of printing, tobacco, laundry and dock workers. The 'common Indian worker' was realizing at last that Indian capitalists were as much his enemy as any white boss. Miners, municipal workers and the 'sugar slaves' stretched out their hands for aid, and the union would soon be able to stand alone under its own elected leaders. 5 B. L. Sigomoney took over from Lee and soon became prominent in left-wing circles. He was elected the vice-chairman of a socialist conference held at Durban in October 1917 to debate the rival merits of 'pure' industrial action and parliamentary politics. In January 1918 he represented his union at the ISL'S annual conference in Johan nesburg. This, too, was a memorable occasion. Never before had the League included among its delegates a member of the darker races; and it rejoiced at having made great ideological progress towards non-racial labour solidarity.6 'Organize and educate' produced better results when applied to Africans than to whites, discovered Charles Dones, a miner and member of the League's management committee. This was said in August after he had addressed the first of a series of 203

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-1950 Johannesburg classes on the labour movement held in the replied Trades Hall for Africans. Asked what they wanted, they remarked 'Sifuna zonke' - everything! 'What White Union,' 7 Bunting, 'ever aimed so high or so true?' From the classes Union of emerged later in the year the Industrial Workers com Africa, one of the first African trade unions, described by union, munists in later years as 'an "all-in" Industrial trade with the idea of roping in the Native and other unorganized Non-European workers'. 8 In 1918, however, when Bunting and the others stood trial on a charge of inciting Africans to strike, organizers minimized the union's role and said that it was9 no more than 'a little body of native students of socialism'. At least five of the students were police informers and detectives. One of them, Wilfrid Njobe, had become the union's secretary; another, R. Moorosi, had been elected to the committee and represented it at a meeting with the A PO. When warned that spies were present, Bunting assured the members that they had nothing to fear from the police. Police and press kept a watchful eye on the League; and F. S. Malan, the minister of mines, hurled threats at the 'agitators' who 'played with fire' by inciting Africans to strike. Undaunted, the African National Congress called on its people to support the I WA and make it strong, for it could teach employers that workers wanted higher wages. The prime minister, Louis Botha, told a deputation from the Transvaal ANC to steer clear of international socialists. S. M. Makgatho, the provincial presi dent, replied that Congress had decided on its own to call a strike against the Native Administration Bill. The Labour right wing, joining in the red-baiting, closed the Trades Hall to the League's non-racial gatherings. Bunting showed his disapproval by resigning as honorary secretary of the hall's management committee, which then gave the League notice to vacate its offices. Crawford, more tolerant, invited Talbot Williams, a leader of the Transvaal AP 0 and organizer of the W A, to address the Industrial Federation's annual conference in December. The federation refused to admit Coloured delegates from the Cape. Williams then declined to speak at a 'Pure White Labour Congress'; and delivered his address instead before a large 204






Socialism and Nationalism audience of Africans and Coloured in Johannesburg on 9 January 1918.

'We who have never enjoyed our just rights, either in the labour market or politically,' he said, 'have but one weapon and that is the organization of black labour, upon which the whole commercial and mining industry rests today.' This was the only way of bringing white trade unionists to their senses. Their great grievance against the black man was that he sold his labour cheaply. Yet they worked at the sewerage plant for 5s. a day, were hired as railway porters at 6s. 6d., and went on strike at the Van Ryn mine because they wanted white men to be given the jobs of Coloured waste packers at a rate of 7s. a day. Trade unionists who refused to work 'within five yards of clean respectable intelligent Coloured men at a skilled trade', willingly worked 'side by side with a raw blanketed native' so long as he was a subordinate at their beck and call. They would rather dine and wine with mine owners than combine with their darker fellow workers. Servile, afraid of competition and prejudiced, the white man was a supervisor of labour and not a genuine worker. 'The true worker, the backbone of labour in this country, is the brown and the black man, who are now organizing against this federation of rotters." ° Bunting, no less optimistic, reported that 'the different races of workers of this country, whites, coloured, natives, Indians, are rapidly coming together to form one great Industrial Work ers' Union of Africa."' The desired unity never took shape. Even Williams found it expedient, against the advice of the socialists, to organize Africans and Coloured in separate unions under a joint executive. White workers, with few exceptions, rejected the vision of 'proletarian freedom', but not because of any servility such as Williams alleged. They were in a strong bargaining position and exploited the advantages of a growing industrialism that outstripped the supply of skilled labour. Strikes in 1917 resulted in wage increases or a shorter working week for printers in Johannesburg, tailors, bakers and hair dressers in Cape Town, and men employed on the diamond mines. Policemen who struck work in Cape Town in January 1918 were less successful, and received only a suspended 205

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-r95o sentence for refusing duty. The socialists hailed them as young Afrikaners with a great revolutionary potential; and accused Crawford of leading white workers away from an alliance with Africans into a policy of collaboration with employers. Even the former international socialist, Forrester Brown, the had secretary of the miners' union and president of the SAIF, the turned reactionary 'under the baleful influence of Crawford, apostle of Brother Capital and Brother Labour'. The white workers backed the Chamber of Mines in its efforts to sidetrack the inevitable revolution by keeping natives in subjection and throwing sops to whites. 12 Crawford presented a list of fifteen demands to the Chamber in July 1918 on behalf of five unions. They asked, among other things, for the dismissal of seventy four Coloured drill sharpeners, the cancellation of a wage freeze clause adopted in 1916, an increase in the mechanics' pay to £8 2S. a week, a closed shop agreement and a paid holiday on x May. The Chamber agreed to maintain the prevailing practice for the employment of Coloured on the mines, introduced an improved war bonus scheme, and donated £io,ooo to the Federation's cooperative stores instituted by Crawford to com bat the rise in prices. Africans, who suffered most from the steep rise in prices, received neither a cost of living allowance nor an increase in wages. The slightest display of militancy on their part evoked a violent reaction. When African miners on the East Rand boy cotted concession stores in February 1918, the police arrested

the pickets and broke the boycott. Botha used the occasion to lecture parliament on the evils of African trade unionism and the disastrous consequences that might follow from the activities of

white men who 'were going to the native kraals urging them to combine',13 The capitalist press was both more ferocious and

less accurate. It printed extracts from Talbot Williams's address, blamed the boycott on' ill-balanced and fanatical Socialists of the baser sort', and detected the sinister influence of the 'iww', which was 'notoriously financed by Germany'. The socialists of the I SL denied having had anything to do with the boycott.

Indeed they regarded it as a 'misguided tactic', an attack on the branch rather than the root. Their only contribution, they said, 206


Socialism and Nationalism was to collaborate with the Industrial Workers Union of Africa in compiling a leaflet in Sesutu and Zulu. It was the first serious attempt to put Marx's clarion call for unity into an African language: 'Let there be no longer any talk of Basuto, Zulu or Shangaan. You are all labourers. Let Labour be your common bond. Deliver yourself from the chains of capitalism.' 14 A few months later the socialists faced more serious charges in consequence of an African strike wave on the Rand. White mechanics employed at the municipal power station came out on strike in May for £8 2s. a week, the equivalent, they claimed, of their pre-war wage of £6. They won their demand after leaving the town in darkness for several nights. Impressed at the success of this operation, Africans working in the municipal sanitary services asked for a modest rise from is. 8d. to 2s. 6d. a day. But they were black and handled lavatory buckets, not electric generators. The council refused, some fifty men struck work, and all except fifteen were convicted. Another 152 men then came out, initially in protest against having to do the work of the arrested strikers. T. G. Macfie, the chief magistrate and a staunch ally of Crawford, sentenced the 152 strikers on 12 June to two months' hard labour for breach of contract. They would be compelled to do the same work as before, he told them, without pay and under armed guard. They would be shot if they tried to escape and flogged if they refused to work. The

harsh threats and the contrast between this treatment and the concessions made to the white strikers infuriated the African

public. The ANC launched a campaign for the prisoners' release which soon developed into a demand for a general wage increase of is. a day, to be enforced if necessary by a general strike on I July. Socialists and ANC leaders disapproved. Makgatho warned a meeting of nearly 2,ooo Africans that striking was dangerous. Even socialists, being white, would join in shooting down Africans. The League retorted that it could have no part in the 'more reactionary, middle-class and religious-cum-racial ten dencies' of Congress, though 'the close coincidence of native and working-class interests' might yet force it to play a useful role.1 5 T. P. Tinker, the League's secretary, told Africans that they 207

Class and Colour in South Africa Z850-z950 which was bound were too badly organized to succeed in a strike ISL claimed that to give the enemy an excuse for violence. The to instigate its job was to 'agitate, educate, organize', and not sunk in ignor strikes. Ninety per cent of the workers were 'still be done before ance and servility'. Much work would have to industrial white and black workers could bring off really effective 16 action. Macfie urged the SAIF to organize a defence force to protect and women and property against the expected strike. Crawford Forrester Brown agreed and offered to raise workers' battalions. their The whites, commented Bunting, assumed that it was duty to shoot down helots at the smallest sign of discontent; 'and

one of the darkest episodes in the history of South Africa Labour is the attempted enlistment of white trade unionists in the Defence Force for the avowed purpose of so shooting them down'. 17 The daily press, the Bishop of Pretoria, and the Native Recruiting Corporation took fright and joined Africans in condemning Macfie's judgement. To relieve tension the govern ment ordered the release of the strikers, whose sentences were hurriedly suspended by the Supreme Court on 28 June. Botha interviewed an African deputation led by Saul Msane and promised to investigate their grievances. The strike was called off, but i5,OOO men employed at three mines refused to work on i July. Police and troops rushed to the compounds and drove the men down the shafts after serious clashes at Ferreira mine and the Robinson Deep, where they fought back with pickhandles, jumpers,* axes and iron pipes. The grievances commissioner, J. B. Moffat, chief magistrate of the Transkei, accepted Msane's diagnosis. 'The whole trouble in the compounds is due to the colour bar. A native may know his work very well, but on account of his colour he cannot obtain advancement.' If those who possessed the necessary qualifica tions could obtain better pay, 'it would encourage them to improve in their work and would bring about peace and satis faction'. 8 The police arrived at a different diagnosis. They prosecuted * Iron bars with chisel edge used in mining to bore holes. 2o8

Socialism and Nationalism Bunting, Tinker and Hanscombe of the League, together with five Africans - D. S. Letanka, vice-president of the Transvaal Congress; L. T. Mvabaza, a director of Abantu Batho; and J. Ngojo, H. Kraai and A. Cetyiwe, three members of the IWA. For 'the first time in South Africa', noted T. D. M. Skota, author of the Black Folks' Who's Who, 'members of the Euro pean and Native races, in common cause united, were arrested and charged together because of their political activities'. 19 The accused disclaimed direct responsibility for the strikes. The League, said Bunting, preached socialism and industrial union ism, and approved of strikes only when preceded by sound trade union organization. 'If any public organization called a strike,' he added, 'it was not the IS L but the Native Congress, with which the Socialists are at arm's length.' 20 The prosecution's case collapsed after its chief witness Luke Massina, a govern ment informer, had admitted in cross-examination to having given perjured evidence. The attorney-general declined to indict the accused before the Supreme Court. Moffat commented caustically on the League's claim to have done no more than educate and organize Africans for industrial unionism. This was like 'teaching children to play with matches round an open barrel of gunpowder'. Socialist propaganda would make a catastrophe inevitable if reasonable grounds of complaint were not removed. Low wages were not, however, a legitimate grievance according to Moffat. The men volunteered to work on the mines for 2s. a shift. Like other people, they should buy less if prices were high. But he said the right things about the colour bar. Africans and Coloured would not be con tent to do rough work only for ever. To arrest their advance would antagonize them and provoke industrial disputes. The tendency for the men to settle down and become permanent miners should be encouraged, while the government ought to withdraw the colour bar in the regulations. This would free it from the odium of being a party to obstacles that prevented Africans from rising as their industry and ability entitled them. Finally, he remarked, 'So long as natives are denied the rights of citizenship as Parliamentary voters there can be no real contentment in the country.' These were wise words. They 209


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o sounded the spirit of traditional Cape liberalism; and were ignored. Some years later Andrews made this comment on the episode: 'of course, when the workers had taken their decision and were on strike the ISL did all it could in support '.21 The support it gave was negligible. The League did not possess the means to promote strikes and riots. Its membership had changed during its short life of three years. Most of the foundation members had drifted away, leaving a bare score of former Labour party mem bers in the branches and only two on the management com mittee of thirteen. The gap was filled by a handful of white South Africans and a much larger number of immigrants from Europe, many of them Jewish, whom the League attracted by its solitary defence of the Russian revolution. Though tireless pro pagandists for Marxism, the new radicals lacked the industrial background of the League's founders. Andrews continued to be a source of strength among white workers. There were others, like C. B. Tyler of the Building Workers' Industrial Union, who worked mainly in the white unions. Yet the League was more isolated in 1918 from the bulk of the labour movement than at any time since its formation. It was far more isolated from the rest of the population. The League had no Coloured or African members. In spite of their insistence on the African's revolutionary role, the socialists had failed to bridge the language and social gap between themselves and the masses, or to formulate a theory acceptable to Coloured and African leaders. The binary model of standard Marxist theory did not fit South Africa's multiple structure of colour, class and cultural groups. Even Jones, a natural Marxist of high degree, failed to appreciate the dynamic qualities of an indigen ous national movement. He and his associates insisted that class, not colour, marked the great divide. They refused to bear the label 'negrophile', or support the struggle of the Africans as an oppressed race. Their mission, they said, was to agitate among white workers for solidarity with blacks, and not to concern themselves with the civil disabilities of22 Indian storekeepers, African lawyers or Coloured middlemen. The socialists agreed that white workers, who were the van210

Socialism and Nationalism guard of revolution, could enter the promised land only by combining with the African. Had not Marx declared that 'Labour cannot emancipate itself in the White while in the Black it is branded?' Regrettably, the white worker feared the effects of an African rising. To allay his fears and absolve themselves of blame for riots, the socialists condemned the use of violence and even strikes as instruments of social change. Strikes, though inevitable, were old-fashioned and would diminish as the work ing class drew nearer to the 'general strike' which would finally eliminate the capitalist's rule. Violence did not pay, especially when pursued by the black proletariat. There was a great danger of violence if Africans were left to assert themselves without organization and guidance. The business of the League was to avoid a blood bath by preaching industrial unity and providing patient instruction. This would ensure peaceful change without 'such evils as the white workers justifiably fear'. 2 3 A greater danger stemmed from the tendency of the ruling class, nowhere more pronounced than in South Africa, to use violence in defence of the established order. In discussing this classic principle of revolutionary theory, the socialists acknow ledged that their main reason for rejecting violence was the prospect that white workers would join in shooting Africans who revolted. What other conclusion could be drawn from Forrester Brown's offer to form workers' battalions to suppress African strikers? A member of the League and former war-on warite, he had often urged his miners to accept Coloured workers on an equal footing and to organize African miners.24 Now he had succumbed to the 'corrupting influence of false labour organization, of labour-fakirdom, of miseducation, of capitalist flattery and bribery, of sectional and colour pride and preju dice'. 2 5 In less abusive words, Brown followed the dictates of his union members who earned ten times as much as the African, bossed him around, and feared that he might one day take over their jobs. They would put up with any kind of heresy from Brown as long as they believed that he would keep the door shut against the African. The radical who appealed to white workers could hardly avoid reflecting their sentiments. Racial prejudice was 'insane' 211

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-r95o and 'suicidal', the socialists exclaimed, yet they confirmed it by alleging that Coloured workers had taken over the building trades in Cape Town, clerical posts in Durban, and semi-skilled work on the mines. The white man, they predicted, would be driven from all fields of employment unless he joined with the 6 African in a struggle for equal pay. 2 This was the Labour party's argument over again. It pointed, not to inter-racial solidarity, but to the white labour policy of sheltered employment behind colour bars. The League made other concessions to prejudice. It was 'not out to get the native admitted into the White Labour Unions'; or to preach equality under capitalism, for this was indeed a contradiction in terms. Equality would come only under 27 socialism, when there would be room and plenty for all. The League tried facing both ways and so fell between the stools of white supremacy and African nationalism. The white worker preferred racial solidarity to class war, and turned a deaf ear both to prophecies of disaster and promises of working-class power. Socialists assured him that he was not called upon to love the darker man as himself. Yet no lesser degree of devotion would persuade the African that he was being exploited as a worker and not as a member of an oppressed race. He claimed dignity, higher wages, better jobs and freedom from discrimina tion. The socialists gave him lectures on working-class emancipa tion and exhorted him to practise restraint until the day of liberation. They pleaded for unity and denied equality. The concession failed to appease the whites and antagonized the leaders of national liberation who believed neither in the class theory nor in the vision of socialism. The upsurge of nationalism in Europe made little immediate impact on the socialists. They saw in it the surface rumblings of a greater upheaval to come and equated it with Afrikaner nationalism. It was a 'petty bourgeois' movement which looked backward to the era of small property and would vanish before the wave of industrialism. This miscalculation can be traced, if only in part, to a narrow and dogmatic interpretation of the class theory. The socialists believed, with some justification, that industrial experience would detach the Afrikaner worker from the landowners and intellectuals who led the Nationalist party. 212


Socialism and Nationatzsn The League opened a fund to pay for leaflets in Afrikaans, and expressed sympathy with republican aspirations which tended to weaken the grip of British imperialism and could be used to help make landless Afrikaners see their true salvation in a socialist republic. But socialists could have no truck with the Nationalist party. It demanded self-determination for Afrikaners and denied it for Africans. It bandied words like vrede and vryheid about, which meant only freedom to exploit the African. If the Nationalists came to power, and Africans resisted with the methods used by the rebels of 1914, 'it would be the signal for the greatest massacre of the native workers known in the history of South Africa'.28

This was a fair assessment. The socialists made the mistake of applying the same kind of yardstick to African nationalism. It, too, was racialist, they said, because it attacked whites generally and 'the Boer' in particular. Congress leaders refused to see that class cut every nationality in two. They drew their people away from the workers' struggles into a 'ruthless oppor tunism'. Andrews addressed Congress in December 19z8 and came away sceptical. 'Servility could go no further' than the conference's protestations of loyalty to the crown. Socialists applauded the Congress campaign against the pass laws in 1919, but denounced in extravagant terms the appeals made for help to Britain and the United States. African nationalists were said to play the same part as the right wing in the labour movement. They were the 'Labour Fakirs of black South Africa, black bell-wethers for the capitalist class'. 29 Two things need to be said about the League's approach. Africans were not racialists. They wanted equality, not black supremacy. They wished to free themselves from racial oppres sion and not to oppress the white man. In the second place, they were not Marxists. The basic cleavage in the society, as they saw it, did not run along class lines. White workers stood on the same side as Afrikaner landowners in the racial conflict. Africans would gain more by identifying themselves with British financial, industrial and commercial interests that profited by employing the largest possible number of low-paid workers, and there fore opposed the colour bar. In more abstract terms, African 213

Class and Colour in South Africa


and Coloured concepts of South African politics postulated an inherent antagonism between British imperialism and Afrikaner nationalism. Queen Victoria, Cape liberalism and the Unionist party symbolized the one; Hertzog represented the other. Like other colonial peoples in later years, African and Coloured leaders appealed for British intervention against their immediate oppressors. The appeals were futile, but the underlying assump tion was no more erroneous than the socialist concept of a simple two-class division. Congress at least gained a better insight than the socialists did into some realities. It was Congress, and not the International Socialist League, that protested against the transfer of South West Africa to the Union. The Congress resolution, adopted at its seventh annual conference in March 1918, asked that the conquered territory should be placed under France or America, if Britain refused for imperial reasons to annex the colony. To hand it to the Union would expose innocent natives to burgher tyranny and defeat the ideals that Africans had in view when insisting on British protection. 30 Abdurahman and Fredericks made a similar plea on behalf of the APO to the governor-general and Lord Milner, and asked them to forward a memorandum on the issue to the Versailles peace conference. The memorandum reviewed the disabilities of the coloured peoples in the Transvaal and Orange Free State, which they regarded as the 'Slave State of the British Empire'. The people of South West wanted to be con trolled directly by the Imperial government, and shrank with terror from the prospect of becoming a part of the Union. The APO prayed that the peace conference would not take any irrevocable step 'that is bound to lay up for the British Empire in general, as well as for the Union of South Africa in particular, the seeds of racial unrest and endless disputes and strife'. None of the conquered territories should be handed to South Africa until it had removed the colour bar from its constitution, ex tended full political rights to all coloured peoples, and repealed the republican laws which still disfigured the statute book. No racial privileges or disabilities should be tolerated in the con quered territories.31 The League's interest in African and Afrikaner nationalism 214

Socialism and Nationalism

dwindled after the war. The few hundred radical socialists on the Rand and in the port towns fixed their eyes on 'the Light from the East'. They celebrated the anniversary of the Russian revolution in November, and not the armistice. Copies of Andrews' pamphlet on the revolution and the Soviet constitu tion were widely circulated. Bunting drafted blue-prints for the coming revolution. The main burden would fall on the white workers, he wrote, if socialism came quickly in western Europe. Africans might form rural pitsos or soviets and send dele gates to a national convention. 32 Even the Labour party moved to the left in preparation for a general parliamentary election. Creswell suggested a reunion with the League 'now that the war is happily at an end', and promised a revised constitution to bring the radicals into the fold. They derided the offer as 4 amusing, if not impertinent'. Andrews, who had taken over the post of secretary of the League from Tinker, scoffed at 'Labour lieutenants of the capitalist class'. There could be no unity between the Labour party, which functioned within the system, and international socialists who were dedicated to its destruc

tion. 3


The socialists had trouble enough in keeping their own ranks united. A syndicalist faction was pressing hard for a withdrawal from all public elections. Members of the Cape SDF complained of its isolation. It had no young members and little contact with the Coloured, while Africans, who lived apart, were regarded 'as men coming from the bundu '. . 3 1 A. Z. Berman, J. Pick and M. Lopes decided to put theory into practice and formed the Industrial Socialist League in May 1918. They adopted the principles of the i w w and its programme of industrial unionism, the general strike, and no parliamentary politics. Their first attempt to organize a trade union ended in a rout, when they found the police waiting for them at the factory. Like the SD F, Berman and his associates confined their activities largely to propaganda for socialism and the Russian revolution. Johannesburg's unrepentant syndicalist, Andrew Dunbar, repeated his performance of 1910-12 with similar results. He * The word bundu is a corruption of bundok (Tagalog and colloquial English) meaning wild and open spaces. 215

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950

fell foul of the League's leadership by conducting a vigorous campaign against parliamentary elections, craft unionism and the alleged reformist tendencies of the I SL. Bunting had de scribed him three years earlier as an 'industrial Cincinnatus at his forge', a frequent defendant in sedition trials, and 'the most cheery of comrades, loyal of friends, reasonable of counsellors, good tempered and broadminded of collaborators, dogged and imperturbable of fighters'. 3 - Andrews, however, said he was disloyal and dropped him from the League's list of public speakers. The League's annual conference in January i919 re jected his views and defeated a motion to delete from the constitution a clause calling for participation in elections. Later in the year Dunbar and his followers formed a Johannesburg branch of the Industrial Socialist League. The conference decided to end the League's 'splendid isola tion' by cooperating with other socialist bodies, and adopted a statement of principles drafted by Jones. This asserted that Labour could not emancipate itself until it had conquered all race and colour prejudice. The League's task was to educate, agitate and organize for revolution. The socialists would go out to inspire Africans to take their place in the ranks of the world proletariat, and to educate white workers to organize and co operate with their African fellow worker in mine, factory and workshop. Some delegates thought that more attention should be given to Afrikaners, as little could be done with 'semi savages'; but two African delegates from the wA indignantly repudiated the stigma of 'savagery'. Finally, conference adopted a new statement of aims. The original objective had been to spread the message of international socialism, industrial union ism, and anti-militarism. Now the League would go forward 36 Revolution ap 'To establish the Socialist Commonwealth.' peared to be just round the comer at the beginning of 1g9. Jones did not attend the conference. He was being treated for tuberculosis in Pietermaritzburg's health centre. Here he wrote and distributed a pamphlet headed 'The Bolsheviks are Coming.' It explained, in English and Zulu, that Bolshevism meant 'the rule of the working class' and would soon spread everywhere. The capitalists feared that the workers of South Africa would 216

Socialism and Nationalism follow the trail and also become free and independent. The working people should get ready for the world-wide Republic of Labour by combining regardless of colour, craft or creed. For 'while the black worker is oppressed, the white worker cannot be free'. Jones was turned out of the centre and prose cuted, together with L. H. Greene, Pietermaritzburg's veteran socialist, on a charge of inciting to public violence. They sub mitted a statement which summarized the Communist Manifesto, and declared that their policy was the reverse of mob rule and violence. Their aim was 'to avoid on the industrial field the territorial strife of the pioneer and tribal days'. 37 The prosecution called police officers, native affairs depart ment officials, employers and Africans to testify that the leaflet would excite, stimulate and alarm the 'native mind'. The accused had offered 'the enticing possibility of taking over the country'. The African witnesses said that the leaflet might provoke disorder and bring back the days of Tshaka. Josiah Gumede, the secretary of the Natal Native Congress and editor of flange Lase Natal, thought that the African would be made a slave if the Bolsheviks took over the government. He feared a republic and placed his faith in British military power. The magistrate held that the leaflet was libellous, treasonable, and indeed diabolical; 'while the idea that a South African Lenin might conceivably be a Bantu suggested lunacy'. He sentenced each of the accused to pay a fine of £75 and undergo four months' imprisonment. The Supreme Court upheld the appeal and set the convictions aside. The leaflet, said the judge, advocated a policy quite unlike that of armed insurrection and could have had no effect on the prosecution of the war. 38 Gumede left soon after the trial with an ANC deputation for England in terms of a decision taken by a special conference at Johannesburg on 16 December 1918. More than one branch had suggested that Africans should be represented -at the peace conference, though Imvo ridiculed the 'Native Nationalists' for wasting their money on a foolish project which was bound to fail, as had the deputation of I9o9. 3 9 Meshach Pelem, president of the Bantu Union, explained that the peace conference afforded a unique opportunity which might never recur to C.S.A. - 10


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-Y95o

'represent the vexed native question to the Imperial authorities, 4° as well as to the Christian and the civilized world'. Congress deputed L. T. Mvabaza, managing director of Abantu Batho, Selope Thema, its editor, Sol Plaatje, Gumede and the Rev. Ngcayiya, president of the Ethiopian church, to petition the king for Freedom, Liberty, Justice and Fairplay. They interviewed the colonial office in May and August with the usual negative results. Britain, they were told, could not intervene in the domestic affairs of a self-governing dominion. Lloyd George gave a similar answer on 7 June to Hertzog's 'freedom' deputation of eight Afrikaner nationalist delegates. These requested independence for South Africa or, if that was denied, then independence for the Free State and Transvaal. Lloyd George replied that Britain could not mediate in a dispute between sections of the South African population. 'As one of the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, the South African people control their own national destiny in the fullest sense.' Dominion self-government, retorted Hertzog, fell far short of independence. By taking part in imperial councils, for instance, South Africa necessarily assumed responsibility for imperial policies, with all their attendant problems and dangers. 4 1 Africans did not control their national destiny. This was the gravamen of their complaint. Gumede spelled it out in a long letter in September on the failure of their mission. It reproached Britain for having assented to the colour bar in the South African Act, and declared that the Natives Land Act had reduced them to a condition worse than slavery. 'Why shall veiled slavery be permitted in a British Dominion, under the British Flag?' he asked. 'A section of this British dominion wants a Republic, and how will the natives fare?' They objected emphatically to the contemplated handing over of Basutoland, Swaziland, Bechuanaland, Rhodesia and German South West Africa to the Union of South Africa. Mvabaza reminded Lloyd George that 93,ooo Africans had responded to Britain's call for

help in South West and East Africa. They had answered the call, and expected to get some benefit from President Wilson's Fourteen Points. Lloyd George took special note of the ten kinds of passes that 218

Socialism and Nationalism Africans were forced to carry: the identification certificate, tax receipt, travelling pass, permit to seek work, labour registration, monthly permit, resident's permit, visitor's permit, night pass and scholar's pass. If South Africa were under the direct control of the colonial office, he would examine their grievances very carefully. He recognized with gratitude their loyal services to the flag in the great struggle for freedom throughout the world. Referring to Hertzog's deputation, he thought that it inter preted the principle of self-determination in a very curious manner by claiming independence for South Africa in the name of only one-third of the white population and none of the coloured peoples. But Britain had to take the constitutional position of a self-governing dominion into account. He could do no more than communicate direct with Botha and Smuts on the subject of the grievances, which the deputation had presented with very great power and in clear and temperate language.4 2 Africans and Afrikaners returned knowing the futility of appeals for aid from abroad. Their struggle for national libera tion would be fought out on South African soil. Britain's strategic and economic interests were opposed to any kind of nationalism that would weaken the alliance between Afrikaner landowners and British investors, mine owners and industrialists. Gumede absorbed the lesson. His political career took a turn to the left that led him into close association with the communists. As president of the ANC he accompanied James la Guma to Brussels in 1927 to attend the first international conference of the League against Imperialism. He travelled further, to the Soviet Union, and came away with glowing impressions of its policy of equality and national autonomy for the dark-skinned Asians in its eastern territories. The man who had once denounced Bolshevism in a trial of communists became a firm supporter of their party. The right wing of Congress ousted him from the presidency for this reason in 1930. Many other Africans underwent a similar radical change in the stormy decade that followed the war.


II Class Struggles Resumed

The impetus given to secondary industries during the war persisted in the boom that followed. Of the 6,ooo factories recorded under the x918 Factories Act, 4,300, with a working force of 30,000 white and 74,000 other persons, were registered in 1919-2o. The number employed in all manufacturing estab lishments topped the 18o,ooo mark at the end of 192o. Trade unionism made a corresponding advance. There were ninety unions with 132,ooo recorded members in 1920, compared to 10,500 trade unionists in 1915. Goods were scarce and prices soared. The wholesale price index rose from i,ooo in 1914 to 2,38 in i919 and 2,707 in 192o. The incidence of strikes rose from twelve in 1914 to forty-seven in 1919 and sixty-six in 1920, when 105,658 employees lost an aggregate of 839,415 working

days through strikes. The majority took place on the Rand and in the port towns; affected a wide range of occupations, includ ing the police and banks; and were settled quickly by voluntary arbitration. Organized labour was strong and the employing class conciliatory. The socialists entered I99 with great expectations. The work ing class of eastern and central Europe had hoisted the red flag. Symptoms of revolt appeared from Mexico to China. South Afri cans, too, showed signs of renewed militancy. The SAIF'S conference at Durban in January passed a resolution, by thirty two votes to fourteen, condemning allied intervention in Russia and calling on capitalist powers to stop their intrigues against the working class. The conference also voted against the admis sion of Coloured delegates. The Cape Federation of Labour Unions retaliated by deciding to sever all relations with unions in the north. Such incidents were treated as minor divergences from the great forward movement. 220

Class Struggles Resumed Appeals for industrial solidarity made headway. Building workers on strike in Port Elizabeth refused to resume work unless employers included Coloured artisans in the terms of settlement. Tramwaymen in Pretoria stopped work in February 1919. Andrews urged them to form a workers' council and to run the trams in defiance of the municipality. They applauded and disregarded his advice. He was more successful in Johannes burg a few days later, at a mass meeting called by the SAIF to demand a shorter working week. The meeting passed a resolu tion, which he moved from the floor, protesting against the arrest and imprisonment of Africans who had demonstrated in Bloemfontein for higher wages. The ice had broken, the League declared. 'For the first time in industrial history white workers have thus publicly and corporately associated themselves with the grievances of native workers.' This was 'a historic landmark in the progress of the movement not only of this country but of the world'.' Cape Town's socialists experienced a fresh rash of schisms. A. F. Batty resigned as organizer of the Labour party to found the Democratic Labour party on a non-racial platform. A Con stitutional Socialist League appeared in opposition to the International Socialist League. The Industrial Socialist League published a monthly 'satirical' journal, the Bolshevik, under the editorship of A. Z. Berman. He, Joe Pick and Manuel Lopes were arrested on the day of the paper's first appearance and charged with contravening a century-old newspaper ordinance. The African National Congress mounted a great passive resistance campaign on the Rand at the end of March against the pass laws. Makgatho, the ANC president, gave two specific reasons for the campaign. It was meant to forestall an extension of Free State municipal regulations that obliged men and women to pay is. a month for residential permits. Secondly, whenever Africans struck work, they were beaten, fined or jailed because, it was said, they had broken their service con tracts under the pass laws, and not because of their colour. Congress had therefore resolved to put an end to the pass system. Thousands of men threw their passes away or surrendered them to pickets so as to court arrest and force the government to 221

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195O attend to their grievances. More than 700 were arrested, while scores were badly injured by police and white civilians who assaulted Africans on the streets and broke up Congress meet ings. 'They were driven like cattle, trampled by mounted policemen under their horses' hoofs, shot at by white volun teers,' reported Makgatho; 'and some men and women are in their graves as a result of their refusal to buy any more passes. '2

At this time 65o municipal engineers and tramwaymen in Johannesburg walked out in protest against a decision to re trench men in the power station. Andrews was called from the I SL office to speak at a great town hall meeting. He gave the same advice that he had given at Pretoria, now with more success. The men elected a 'board of control' headed by J. T. Bain and W. Glendon. It invaded the council chamber, turned the councillors out, and installed Bain in the mayoral chair. The local 'soviet', as it was called, administered the municipal ser vices for several days until the council rescinded the retrench ment order and set up a joint board of councillors and employees to settle disputes. This fine demonstration of class spirit was, however, marred by a characteristic outburst of racial antagon ism. While Africans defied the pass laws, a majority of the men on strike promised assistance if called upon to quell the 'native3 menace' and to prevent'outrages' on white women and children. This betrayal of class solidarity infuriated Bunting, who had an additional and personal cause of complaint, since he had been assaulted by a mob of racists outside the court house where he was defending African resisters against the pass laws. As editor of the International he wrote bitterly about white workers who cheered Bolshevism and beat up Africans for daring to protest against passes: 'that outward and visible sign of semi-chattel slavery'. The whites, he pointed out, never condemned the daily outrages on their fellow workers, or protected them from the police, or helped them to obtain higher wages. The municipal 'soviet' was a commendable venture, perhaps the first of its kind in the empire, but it owed its success to the fatal defect of being a sectional enterprise. It was, after all, only an aristocrats' revolution. 'Where were the masses, the underdogs of Bantu 222

Class Struggles Resumed race who far outnumber the whites in Municipal employ?' The 'soviet', which claimed to be in control, did not include any of the sanitary workers who had struck nearly a year ago and whose demand for a rise of is. a day was haughtily ignored.4 The article, remarked Andrews in later years, disclosed Bun ting's 'deep-seated hatred of the trade union movement which remained with him to the end and was I think a serious handicap to his usefulness and to the movement which he so faithfully and unselfishly espoused'.5 Jones, writing from the sanatorium in Maritzburg, defended the white workers. They were separated from the African by a functional gap, and not by a conflict of interests, since to supervise was not to exploit. As the only articulate section of the proletariat, they were the masters of the situation and could themselves win dictatorship for their class. The revolution would fail within twenty-four hours, however, unless both white and black workers experienced the joyousness of freedom. White workers would soon realize that the economic machine would collapse without the cooperation of the African. Facts would fall in line with theory as the working class became one, with no demarcation of colour. To ignore or sneer at either section of the workers was to be anti-proletarian in the lowest 6 degree. The rebuke drew applause from the trade unionists, and ignored the basic issues raised by Bunting. Was the racial division of labour merely functional, or did it constitute a serious conflict of interests? Would white workers then or under social ism accept equality, perhaps at the price of reducing their standards in order to raise those of the Africans? Or would they insist on maintaining their superior status behind colour bars? Jones did not want discussions about the future to alienate the League from what he considered to be the revolutionary van guard. The immediate task was to convert workers to socialism, combat racism, and lay the basis for solidarity. Displays of righteous indignation at their backwardness could only damage the cause. When the 'black hundreds', as the League called white hooligans, broke up its meetings on the Rand and at Cape Town, the socialists declared that this was a reaction to their growing strength. They marched triumphantly behind their 223

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o

own band, playing the 'Marseillaise', in the SAIF'S May Day procession, and jubilated at the re-uniting of the workers' forces. While white workers marched in peace, the police broke up a

meeting of 4,0o0 Africans who were holding their own demon stration. The League's 1919 May Day brochure contained photo graphs of John Maclean, Lenin, Trotsky, Liebknecht and Luxemburg, together with the verses of the 'International' and the 'Red Flag'. The socialist rally passed resolutions acclaiming world revolution, condemning the League of Nations, and calling for unity without distinction of craft, sex or race. Andrews regretted the absence of Afrieans and Coloured. May Day 192o, he predicted, would see white and black demonstrating together. This seemed credible as the radical mood spread. White trade unionists joined in public protests at Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town against proposed legislation attacking African and radical organizations. The bill, which would amend the Public Welfare and Moratorium Act, proposed making it illegal for Africans to strike or for any one to spread ill-will among Africans towards other racial groups. Crawford's SAIF and NURAHS, the railwaymen's union, backed the protests, and the bill's most objectionable features were withdrawn. There were other promising symptoms. The railway union kept an open door, and claimed to represent African, Coloured and white wage earners of all grades. Sam Barlin of the ISL organized a clothing workers' industrial union in Johannesburg of Coloured and white tailors - though not of the African labourers. The SAIF's trade union congress at Bloemfontein in May i919 passed resolutions demanding the withdrawal of the Riotous Assemblies Act and other repressive legislation. Another resolution called for the nationalization of the mines, under the management of boards equally representative of the state and its employees. The congress also undertook to press for a minimum wage for white workers, and proposed an inquiry into the status of African miners. The radical phrases barely concealed a design to protect white workers securely against competition by placing the mines under the control of government, more susceptible

than the mine owners to political pressure. It was the policy of 224

Class Struggles Resumed trade unionists confident of their political strength, and whose socialism was geared to the structure of white supremacy. This mood of militancy inspired the government to convene a national industrial conference of workers and employers in November and December i919. Trade unionists from the north refused to sit with Coloured representatives of the Cape Federa tion, which thereupon withdrew. Radical in all other respects, the workers' delegates succeeded in carrying a resolution that urged the state to nationalize industries in the people's interests and as a prophylactic against strikes. The employers' side opposed the motion, and agreed that an overhaul of the country's primitive industrial legislation was long overdue. The conference unanimously voted for a new labour code which would provide for the recognition of trade unions, industrial councils, and benefits for white workers, including a minimum wage, paid holidays, equal pay for men and women, and bigger confinement allowances. 7 It was a splendid banquet of peace and friendship between white labour and capital, which left nothing, not even crumbs, for Lazarus outside the gate. Africans continued doggedly on their own to press for relief from discrimination and poverty. The ANC, meeting at Queens town in May, learned that eighty-six passive resisters had been rearrested on refusing to take out passes after serving their sentences. Congress expressed sympathy with the victims, blamed their troubles on the unjust policy of denying civil rights to which Africans were entitled as British subjects, and decided to renew its request for an extension of the franchise to all sections of the population in the north.' At this time H. Selby Msimang (1886-), a former court interpreter from Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, and secretary to Dr Seme, was organizing workers in Bloemfontein for an increase in wages, pegged at 2s. a day throughout the war in spite of the steep rise in prices. After holding a series of meetings, he presented a demand for 4s. 6d. a day, was arrested, and then committed for trial on a charge of incitement under the Riotous Assemblies Act. He was eventually acquitted. The case led to his being brought into contact with Clements Kadalie, the founder of the Industrial

and Commercial Union in Cape Town.9 225

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o According to Kadalie, the initiative for this venture came from A. F. Batty, founder of the Labour Democratic party and a persistently unsuccessful candidate in municipal and par liamentary elections. He asked Kadalie to join his electoral committee in the Harbours constituency; and, after losing a by-election, decided to 'consolidate the non-European vote' by setting up a permanent organization. A meeting of Coloured and African dockers agreed in January i919 to form the icu and, on Batty's motion, elected Kadalie to be the secretary. 10 Msimang visited Cape Town in August at Kadalie's invitation, to speak at a public meeting called to launch the union. 'They were the real workers,' he told the audience, 'yet white workers were reaping the benefit of black labour.'1 Returning to Bloemfontein, Msimang formed a parallel separate Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union. Abdurahman also moved into action on the industrial front in August by forming the APO Federation of Labour, the S.A. Workmen's Co-operative Union, and a Bootmakers' Union. His executive, he explained, felt that Coloured should have separate unions which would look to their own ranks for salvation against white labour aristocracy. The Cape Federation admittedly accepted Coloured workers, but they were barred from the white unions in the north and denied admission to the skilled trades. M. J. Green of the Motor Mechanics' Union in Johannesburg had recently announced that his society would 'not have any thing to do with a motor car owned or driven by Asiatics or Coloured'. Abdurahman refused to distinguish between such racists and Cape Town's trade union leaders, Stuart, Evans, Thompson, or McWilliams, who organized open unions. 'The Coloured people have not yet forgotten that the White Unions of Cape Town hounded Coloured carpenters out of their work shops and kicked Coloured bricklayers off the scaffold.' White trade unionists in Cape Town were either revolutionary bol sheviks, like A. Z. Berman, or mere place seekers, like Batty, who hoped to climb into parliament on the backs of the Col 12 oured. All of them were actuated by self-interest. The accusation might have been levelled also against Abdurah man. He denounced racial segregation yet resented class organ 226





Class Struggles Resumed izations that cut across the colour line. The labour movement in the western Cape was a greater threat than the bourgeois parties to his commanding role among the Coloured. Wilfrid Harrison of the SDF opposed him, and was defeated by more than 300 votes, at a municipal election in 1918. In 1919, Batty's Demo

cratic Labour party, with the assistance of J. J. Fraitas, Dean and other Coloured tradesmen, put Hendry, one of their number, in the town council, which Abdurahman regarded as his special preserve. Harry Evans of the Cape Federation was backed by Coloured artisans when he stood against him in the provincial council elections of 192o. Abdurahman had a political motive for wanting to divide working men into racial camps. Coloured artisans had equally strong economic reasons for combining in open unions with white printers, cabinet makers, builders, tailors or leather workers. Fraitas, Hendry, Gamiet, Gibbs, Abrahams and Petersen said as much when attending a conference called by Abdurahman. They refused to abandon the Cape Federation for his segregated organization. The non-racial body, they argued, gave them better protection and guaranteed the rate for the job. This might be so, he replied, though only in trades where the Coloured dominated and where the white man could not improve his wages without their cooperation, In other fields he persistently scabbed on them and smashed their strikes for higher wages. White labour enforced the colour bar on the mines, prevented engineering firms in Cape Town from apprenticing Coloured youth, and would remain their deadliest enemy until they 'learned to have no truck' with it at election times, and to 'organize themselves into separate unions for industrial purposes 1 . 13 Port Elizabeth was the only other centre where open trade unions took root. Here, practically all masonry, bricklaying, plastering and painting were in Coloured hands, and the unions enforced full rates for them. No less racial prejudice existed there than on the Rand, reported C. B. Tyler, the BWIU organ izer; but the unions had to take the Coloured in so as to protect themselves. 14 A union might, however, open its doors to Coloured artisans for the same reason, even though there were few of them. The Durban branch of the AEU admitted Coloured 227

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mechanics because, said Boydell, they were, when unorganized, artisan.' 5 at the mercy of employers and a danger to the white avoided any Trade unions in the north, with few exceptions, them need to combine with the Coloured simply by excluding open door from skilled work. The BWI U, for instance, kept an in the Cape, and barred Coloured tradesmen in the Transvaal, even to the extent of blacklisting contractors and intimidating painters. 16 and bricklayers as them employed householders who White prejudice imposed a segregated pattern on trade union ism in the north. Coloured and Indian workers had no alternative of but to take Abdurahman's advice and form separate unions their own. They were most successful in Durban because of the spade work done by Lee and Sigamoney. Indian dockers, shop assistants, hotel employees, tobacco workers and printers' assis tants were organized by the end of i9i9.'1 Here and elsewhere, however, the unions, whether white, Coloured or Indian, ex cluded Africans. Relegated to work classed as unskilled, they did not compete directly with workers in the higher paid cate gories, and were therefore ignored. Trade unionists professed sympathy with the African's demand for higher pay to meet the rise in living costs, gave him no assistance and belittled his claims. 'The native,' it was said, 'is in the happier position that he has a bit of land to go back to if his pay is unattractive - the white worker hasn't.'1 8 Yet it was the high cost of living that precipitated the icu's first and perhaps most dramatic action towards the end of 1919. A general election was pending. All sections of the labour move ment agitated against high prices and profiteering. The Cape Federation, backed by NURAHS, the railway union, urged dock workers to refuse to handle foodstuffs for export. The icu and a Cape Town branch of the IWA responded by calling the men out on 17 December; and used the occasion to demand a pay rise from 4s. to 8s. 6d. a day. 19 Two to three thousand men struck work. Police and troops were summoned. They ejected the Africans from their quarters in the docks, and prosecuted many for breach of contract under the master and servant law. The government yielded to the pressure and banned the export of food except by permit. NURAHS withdrew its moral support, 228



Class Struggles Resumed

white railwaymen scabbed, and the strike was called off after two weeks. The dockers received their reward in August 1920, however, when the stevedoring companies agreed to a minimum

wage of 8s. for labourers, 12S. 6d. for foremen, and double pay for overtime.20 The international socialists denounced the 'treachery' of white workers who had scabbed so shamefully on the dockers, as on Coloured van drivers in Kimberley and Indian waiters at East London. 21 Abdurahman fulminated against 'white irresponsible agitators' who deceived 'the poor native' with false promises of support. There were surely many competent Coloured and Africans, he argued, who would help the stevedores without their having to call in 'uneducated and discredited white men'. It was necessary to organize for industrial purposes, but the white manis example should not be followed in all things. Direct action, as practised in Johannesburg and Durban, was dangerous if resorted to by Coloured workers, since it 'would result in commandos using physical force against them. They must do nothing which would give Europeans any excuse for resorting 22 to violent methods.' Direct action held no such terrors for Harry Haynes, one of the great radicals in the movement and a leader of the Durban municipal 'soviet' of January 1920. Born in Ireland in 1877, he came to South Africa with the troops in 1899, worked on the gold mines after the war, was elected to the union's executive, and chaired the Kleinfontein strike committee in 1913. That, he said, was an epoch in his life, the point at which he and many others first began to study the class war. 'It was the year in which General Smuts planted the seeds of the working-class revolution in soil watered by blood spilt in the streets of Johan nesburg.' 2 3 He moved from the Labour party to the War-on War League, joined the IS L, worked on the trams in Johannes burg and settled in Durban to recover from phthisis. Here he adopted a strategy, during a strike of municipal employees, which the IS L said was worthy of the old Kleinfontein revolutionaries. Durban's municipal employees stopped work on 7 January in protest against the alleged victimization of the assistant town clerk, H. H. Kemp, a member of the municipal union and a 229

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-Z950 parliamentary Labour candidate. The strikers brought all muni cipal services to a standstill for three days and then installed a

board of control in the town hall. They won their point after a day of workers' management. The council agreed to set up a 24 permanent conciliation board of councillors and employees. It was a minor 'seizure of power' with a distinct farcical element.

There was more to it than comedy, however. The municipal 'soviets' of Johannesburg and Durban became a legend in the movement. Haynes, like J. T. Bain, had the makings of a genuine revolutionary, though they would hardly have been so bold, nor would the 'revolutionary instincts' of the rank and file have out stripped their 'socialist knowledge', to quote the International, public."1 if they had not obtained the sympathy of the white Their daring reflected the white worker's post-war mood of defiance. The boldness of the strategy and its success showed that he was becoming an important political force. He was on the way to winning his struggle for admission to the white elite. Colour-conscious and self-confident whites had no ear for the appeals and warnings of the socialists. The ISL'S fifth annual conference in January urged trade unions to organize Africans and demand equal pay for equal work. All would succumb to exploitation unless white and black joined hands to emancipate themselves. 2 6 In practice trade unionists complained incessantly of being undercut, never scrupled to widen the wage gap and obstructed the African's efforts to raise his standards. Employees at the Johannesburg power station seemed to be breaking ground in February when they decided to submit wage demands for all racial groups. A representative meeting of white municipal workers rejected the proposal, however, and deleted the claims made on behalf of Africans and Coloured. 2 7 A few days later eighty of the power station workers volunteered to scab, on condition that they were given armed protection, if their African 28 co-workers came out on strike. The offer to scab was made during a strike on the mines. A large majority of the white employees balloted early in February 192o in favour of a strike for higher wages and a shorter working week. They obtained an increase of 8s. a day with retrospective effect from i November 1919. African miners then organized a 230

Class Struggles Resumed series of sectional strikes for a wage of between 5s. and los. a day, a fair deal in the concession stores, and an opportunity to do more responsible and better paid work. They complained of the steep rise in prices and pointed out that their families in the reserves, while needing more money because of a severe drought, were receiving less from their wages. The owners granted an increase of 3d. a shift as from i January, thereby raising the average wage to 2s. 3d. for underground and 2s. for surface workers. The industry, said the Chamber, could not bear any additional wage increases; the removal of the colour bar was impracticable; and the strikes were due to the teaching of inter national socialists, particularly among the Zulu who put them selves on a par with whites. Africans continued to boycott stores on the East Rand, however; the strike spread, and 7I,ooo men had stopped work on twenty-two mines by 25 February.2 9 The strike put 8,600 white miners out of work. They drew full pay during the stoppage and on some mines took over the African's work, including tramming and shovelling, so as to demonstrate that they could keep the mines going without him. The executive of the SAMWU recommended its members 'to continue operations on the mines as usual' and agreed on 'the strongest possible measures to combat any attempt to imperil the colour bar'. While the Transvaal African Congress protested against assaults by the police and threatened a strike of domestic and commercial workers, the IS L circulated its famous 'Don't Scab' leaflet among the whites. 'The Native workers are begin ning to wake up,' it said, and it appealed for sympathy on the grounds of fair play, trade union principle, labour solidarity, and self-interest. 'Therefore, DON'T SCAB! DON'T SHOOT! Don't take a rifle against your own hammer boys.' 30 Joe Andrews, a member of the miners' general council and vice-chairman of his branch, was victimized for having distri buted copies of the leaflet. His fellow workers at the Crown mine voted for his expulsion, and the management gave this as its reason for dismissing him. O'Leary downed tools in sympathy with Andrews and was also sacked. The socialists commented gloomily on the contrast between the behaviour of the white scabs and the 'splendid example of the power of industrial 231

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-Z950 solidarity' set by Africans. They had shown a capacity to com bine in 'an instinctive mass revolt against their whole status and pig level of existence.3' The socialists regretted that 'the barriers of race, language, and, above all, police' prevented them from 'instructing the native labourers on the principles of working class solidarity'. Yet the Africans managed well enough on their own without such instruction. The strike was a well planned, disciplined campaign and not an 'instinctive revolt'. It showed that many thousands of men from a wide variety of regions and peasant communities could combine effectively. It was a 'new phenomenon', remarked Sir Evelyn Wallers, president of the Chamber of Mines, this first 'native strike in the true sense of the word'. The 'absolutely peaceful cessation from work' indicated that the African 'was advancing more rapidly than we had anticipated', and would not remain satisfied for very long with his position in industry.3" There was a high degree of organization. The strikers picketed the mines and otherwise kept quietly to the compounds. Their readiness to 'put into practice White organized labour's methods of direct action is an ominous sign of the times'. 33 This display of cohesion and discipline alarmed the government. 'General surprise and consternation were felt at the way in which the strike was engineered,' reported the department of mines; the more so, because a 'concerted attempt at violence in one form or 4 another was not seriously attempted'.3 Policemen and soldiers surrounded one compound after another, told each group of strikers in turn that the rest had returned to work, and drove them down the mine with rifle butts if they refused to credit the story or to resume work for any other reason. They were said to have 'rioted' if they resisted. The strikers at the Village Deep compound barricaded themselves behind logs. The troops broke through with fixed bayonets and fired, killing three and wounding forty. Police and civilians attacked a meeting of Africans in the slums of Vrededorp, killed eight and wounded eighty. 3 5 The quality of the alleged rioting can be gauged from the report of a trial on a charge of public violence of three strikers from the Langlaagte compound, who were accused of having threatened the compound manager. 232

Class Struggles Resumed 'You try to ape the white man by going on strike,' lectured the magistrate, 'but you do not understand a strike unless it is connected with rioting.' Yet they had not actually attacked the manager or assaulted anyone. For this reason, and because they had spent five months in jail awaiting trial, they were sentenced to only one month's imprisonment. 3 6 An African, according to the ethos of racists, 'apes the white man' when he develops a taste for good clothing, food or liquor; aspires to higher education, the vote and skilled work; or acquires any trait regarded as the hallmark of a superior status. He is a 'good boy' if he practises the Christian virtues of docility and resignation, is poorly educated and 'keeps his place'. There is no way, however, of supplying education and Christianity in such doses as to immunize him against the virus of ambition. The second generation of Africans educated in mission schools, mines, factories and stores were coming to the fore in the 1920S. They saw through the white man's claim to superior moral worth and intellectual capacity. Some of them had begun to challenge his monopoly of technical skills and the jobs to which such skills gave entrance. In retrospect, the failure of the labour movement to assist the strikers, if only by protecting them against intimidation, marked an irreversible trend to cleavage along racial lines. The African working class had matured and was ripe for organiza tion. Given assistance, the strikers might have taken a significant step towards the 'equal pay for equal work' that the white labour leaders insisted was an essential condition for the removal of the colour bar. The refusal of the leaders to support the strike displayed their insincerity. As the Is L admitted later in the year, white workers hated the African less out of fear of competition than because they aspired to membership in the ruling caste.3 7 The socialists attributed much of the hostility to the influence of Afrikaner workers. This was a delusion. The bulk of British workers were as determined to 'keep the kaffir in his place'. They did not want to narrow the wage gap or to promote soli darity between themselves and the African. The demand for a relaxation of colour bars was the strike's

most significant feature. It was not a new proposal. H. L. 233

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of the Phooko and S. M. Makgatho, the president and secretary Transvaal Native Congress, told the mining commission of I9O7 that many Africans were being paid at unskilled rates for doing skilled work. With proper training they could undertake all 3 branches of mining operations. " H. 0. Buckle, the native grievances commissioner of 1913-14, reported to the same effect

and found that the men were justified in asking for the removal of the statutory barrier. 39 E. J. Way, in his presidential address to the S.A. Institute of Engineers in July 1914, argued that

'colour' was the only difference between the races. He agreed with H. M. Taberer, director of the Native Recruiting Corpora tion, that the colour bar on the mines existed largely for senti mental and political reasons, discouraged efficiency among whites, and gave the African no scope or incentive whatever. A great many white supervisors on the mines were inefficient and could be readily replaced by more experienced and efficient Africans. 'The only remedy,' Way argued, 'is that white and black shall have equality of opportunity, and the better man must win in the long run. '" 0

J. B. Moffat, who inquired into the causes of African strikes on the Rand in 1918, pointed out that the Mines and Works

Act of 1911 did not authorize discrimination. The colour bar regulations under the act must therefore be regarded as ultra vires. It was the white workers, and not the regulations, who barred the employment of Africans on skilled or semi-skilled work. 'This means that one of the principal industrial avenues along which the natives might legitimately hope for advancement is to be closed to them, and that a policy of repression is to be followed.' The government, Moffat recommended, should free itself from the odium of being a party to such discrimination, by repealing the colour bar provisions. 4 ' They gave white men a monopoly of as many as thirty-two occupations in which 7,057 were employed in i92o. A conventional colour bar, not

prescribed by regulation, gave another 4,020 whites an exclusive claim to nineteen other occupations.4 2 It was the conventional and not the statutory barrier that the mine owners wished to abolish. They took up the cry with great urgency. The cost of mining 234

Class Struggles Resumed gold reached a peak figure of 25s. 8d. a ton of ore milled in 1920, when the mills crushed twenty-four million tons of rock. Gold prices, which soared to a record figure of 130S. a fine

ounce in February, declined sharply thereafter while working costs remained constant. The owners asserted that it would soon be unprofitable to keep the low grade ore mines in production unless labour costs were drastically reduced. White miners' wages had risen by fifty per cent since 1913, and African wages by only nine per cent. A major reason for this situation was a conspiracy by the owners to freeze African wages. Operating a 'maximum average' agreement arrived at in 1912 when the Native Recruiting Corporation was formed to organize labour supplies in South Africa, Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swazi land, the owners pegged the rate at 2S. 3d. a shift for the largest category of miners. Fines were imposed on mines where the maximum average was exceeded. The arrangement discouraged managements from introducing monetary incentives to increase output and obliged them to reduce piecework rates whenever the bulk of workers became more efficient. Because of this inelasti city, it would be hazardous to attempt savings by cutting African wages. The owners proposed a reshuffle of work patterns to diminish the white man's role. A government commission was appointed in i919 to consider possible economies. It included three officials of the Chamber of Mines and three labour representatives: Archie Crawford, Forrester Brown and Bower Pohl, a member of the miners' union. The testimony of witnesses before the low grade mines commission received much publicity on the Rand and influenced the attitude of workers on both sides of the colour line. The Labour World conducted a vigorous campaign against the commission and the mine owners. J. H. Gow, the editor, a town councillor and former secretary of the Labour party, had won a provincial council by-election in 1918 in the mining constituency of Siemert under the banner 'Vote for Gow and a White South Africa'. His Unionist opponent received some backing from the SAIF and white trade unionists who, according to the paper, had

been taken in by Crawford's conciliation policy. 4 3 This experience 235

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added venom to Gow's pen. He predicted that the com mission's findings were a foregone conclusion: they would defend the financial gang and recommend the abolition of the colour bar. The decision, he alleged, had been taken in London, which really controlled the industry. Sir Lionel Phillips was out to break the colour bar, probably with the approval of Crawford, Brown and Pohl. The white worker 'must now get ready to fight for his very existence'. Nemesis would overtake the owners. The African miner could not be expected to remain satisfied with his wage after hearing the praises showered by magnates and experts on his potential abilities. The police would chase and Smuts might deport Andrews, Bunting and others of the ISL if they were to 4tell Africans what the experts had said before the commission. Andrews, Bunting and Jones communicated with the white worker, however, and not with the African. Their reflections on the evidence given before the Low Grade Mines Commission led them to a significant stage in their long odyssey through the breakers of class and colour. The Chamber of Mines, declared Jones, 'has aligned itself on the side of right and progress. The white labour movement finds itself on the side of reaction.' The mine owners, he acknowledged, clothed their capitalist depreda tion in negrophile philanthropy. The plea of giving the African a chance in life was a cloak for the real object of increasing dividends. Even so, the quest for cheap labour coincided with the needs of social progress, as in the movement to do away with slavery in the U.S.A. The Chamber could link all demands for the African's advance to the demand for the abolition of the colour bar. The Labour movement, in contrast, appeared as the great enemy of four million proletarians. White workers had no moral right to a monopoly of any trade. 'Let the fact be conceded that under the Capitalist system the standard of life of the white workers and the rights of the native workers are incompatible. 45 The socialists refused to accept the corollary that the African miner had a common interest with the mine owner against the white labour aristocracy. To assert this would cut them off from their base in what they regarded as the vanguard of revolution. They fell back instead on speculations about the future soviet 236

Class Struggles Resumed society. If Africans could not rise except by ousting the white man, then so much the worse for capitalism. Equal pay for equal work would reconcile legitimate demands for keeping up living standards with the principles of justice and humanity. This was a Utopian solution under the existing order. In fighting for it, however, the workers would achieve socialism. A 'natural goodwill' born of the interdependence between white mechanic and black helper, miner and hammer boy, railwayman and cleaner, would then be 'reflected in amity on the political plane'.46 Africans would form their own soviets and sit in the supreme soviet where colour prejudice was weakest. The common society would take the form of an 'exchange of labour services en masse - between the white and native communities, the products and functions of each being indispensable to the other'. 47 The argument stopped at this point, leaving an im pression that socialism, as conceived, would perpetuate segrega tion or at least the traditional division of labour between skilled whites and unskilled Africans. Africans wanted immediate relief from racial discrimination and excessive exploitation. They had all to gain, as Colonel Pritchard, the director of native labour, told the commission, by acting in concert against a system that actually prohibited their advancement.4 8 If allowed to do skilled work, many would settle down as permanent and professional miners with a better status and wage than the migrant worker could hope to obtain. African miners as a class would benefit from the abolition of the colour bar by obtaining improved medical services, working and living conditions, and compensation for injuries and pneumoconiosis. There could be no doubt as to the nature of the African's interests. As for the country as a whole, Pritchard warned that it was sitting on a volcano, which was bound to erupt unless men acted in a statesmanlike way by removing the colour bar, the root cause of the inefficiency alleged to be throttling the mines, and the African's most powerful lever against government and the white community. Both government and the white com munity discounted the danger and ignored the warning when the African miners came out on strike. The mine owners had no intention of paying them more unless 237

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o went back they could take the white man's place. The strikers to a to work at the old rates of pay and, after a few months, longer working day. For the owners, acting on a recommenda tion of the Low Grade Mines Commission, revised work schedules so as to make Africans put in an hour more per shift without an increase in wages. Crawford, Brown and Pohl, who represented Labour on the commission, also agreed to 'speed up the nigg*r', as the Labour World 9 vulgarly called the decision. They shied at the real issue, and dissented from the majority's recom mendation to relax the colour bar. That would have to come, said Crawford, or the men would have to accept a wage cut, if economic calamity was to be avoided. Yet he feared the trouble 50 that would arise before they adapted themselves to either course. Other sections of the movement shared his fears. The 13,000

white men working underground would not take it lying down, warned the Labour World. Capitalists could afford to take a liberal view. Company directors and trade union officials 'do not have to work alongside the smelly black'. The issue was one of life or death to the poor worker. 'Breaking the colour bar will be the signal for the biggest example of "direct action" that 51 has yet been shown on these fields.' The APO interviewed government, Unionist and Labour party members in April i92o, two months after the African miners' strike. Creswell told the deputation that his party would not cut its own throat. White miners to a man opposed the removal of the colour bar. The APO had never supported the party at elections and would continue to oppose it even if the colour bar were deleted from the constitution. 52 Merriman came to the rescue with a motion in the House similar to the one he had introduced in 1914, calling for the repeal of the colour restrictions in the mining regulations. He said that the white miner was an overseer who drew Ci ios. a day for sitting on a bucket while the African did the work for 2s. a day. Creswell, as in 1914, moved that the House decline to discuss the motion until the mine owners ceased to employ indentured workers and undertook to pay a civilized wage on an equal scale for all em ployees irrespective of colour. The white miners threatened an industrial revolution if the colour bars were removed. The 238

Class Struggles Resumed government side adjourned the debate before the House could vote on Merriman's motion. The forecast was shrewd, as the Rand revolt of 1922 would show; and it pointed to the beginning of Crawford's downfall. An uncompromising internationalist, he had antagonized the Labour party by setting his face against its flagwagging and patriotic gestures. He widened the breach after the war by keeping the trade unions out of the party's electoral fold, initially for syndicalist reasons and later so as to bargain with its political opponents. 5 3 He was equally hostile to the ISL, whose leaders had spurned him in his radical youth, although he shared its views about war and industrial unionism. His grit, determination and refusal to overlook old scores were allied to a great egotism and desire for power. The Federation of Trades grew under his management into the largest, richest and most influential section of the labour movement; and he would not share its control. He defeated Andrews in 1920 in an election for the post of secretary, and converted Forrester Brown, the miners' union secretary and former IS L leader, into a loyal disciple of what the League called Crawfordism: the use of revolutionary phrases for the purposes of reaction. 54 Described as the Gompers of South Africa, Crawford kept a tight rein on the affiliated unions and set himself up as their chief representative. His policy met with success during the boom, since employers readily made concessions to keep the industrial peace. The full weight of the federation could then be brought to bear against men who took the bit between their teeth, or against unions, like those of the ironmoulders, engin eers, municipal employees and builders, that insisted on nego tiating directly with employers. This craft sectionalism destroyed Crawford's scheme of welding the workers into one great indus trial union. Trade union officials resented his invasion of their authority, and accused him of bungling when he failed to pro duce the required results. Inflation caused a rash of wildcat strikes. The Federation congress at Bloemfontein in 191 9 decided to withhold support from strikes not previously sanctioned by the central executive, and so indicated that its controls were breaking down. Crawford's report to the general council in 239

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

April 192o called for solidarity and denounced sectional strikes. What Crawford really had in mind, said Andrews, was to nego tiate with employers at the expense of the workers, and not to call for a more general strike or a bigger mass movement. Both reformers and radicals suspected Crawford's sincerity towards the working class. It was a strange metamorphosis, they said, that had turned the one-time mob orator of the town hall steps into an intimate of mine magnates and company directors. He expounded the principles of the wage fund theory instead of singing the 'Red Flag', and advised workers to accept wage cuts so as to keep the mines in production. He appeared on public platforms with Wallers and accompanied Gemmill at the state's expense to the first international labour conference at Washing ton in 1919. The government appointed him to the industrial advisory board and to commissions of inquiry into the cost of living, the mining industry, and unemployment. The higher he climbed, the farther he moved from his radical past. He and his Federation demanded the dismissal of Coloured drill sharpeners in 1918, supported the mine owners' plea in 1919 for

the removal of the embargo on the recruiting of Africans in tropical regions, and took part in the anti-Asian conference called by the S.A. League in i92o.

Territories north of latitude 220 south had been closed to recruiting because of the high death rate among miners from the tropics. Home-born Africans were finding more congenial and better paid work outside the mining industry. The owners wished to tap new sources of labour, and Crawford agreed. The ban should be lifted, he argued, both to give Africans freedom of movement and to stimulate the economy. That would relieve unemployment among whites. Andrews and Bunting, giving evidence before the unemployment commission, put in a copy of the Communist Manifesto and said that capitalism caused un employment. The competition of cheap labour was 'clearly a special contributing cause'. It also resulted in acute anti-native prejudice, particularly in whites most likely to want 'kaffir jobs'. Segregation was possible only under socialism, which did away with indentured labour; and then there would be so much less reason for it, since unemployment would disappear. The proper 240

Class Struggles Resumed remedy was to nationalize the means of production, introduce a system of labour exchanges, and provide for insurance against unemployment.5 5 An emphatic protest against all forms of indentured labour came from African and Coloured trade unionists meeting at Bloemfontein on 13 July in response to a resolution moved by Msimang at the annual conference of the ANC in May. White workers had only the capitalist as their foe, he told the delegates, 'but native and coloured workers have both capitalists and trade unions to fight against'. The conference decided to form one union, called the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, of Africans, Coloured and Indians of both sexes south of the Zam bezi. The fifty delegates undertook to conduct a campaign against the pass laws and the system of recruiting men under contract. This was 'detrimental to the progress of all native races' and should be abolished at an early date.5 ' Msimang was appointed president, and M. Mocher the secretary of the union. Kadalie took this badly and on his return to Cape Town per suaded his organization to dissociate itself from the proceedings at Bloemfontein. Samuel Masabalala, another delegate, returned home to Port Elizabeth and started an agitation for higher wages. He drew large crowds and in October threatened to call workers out on strike for a wage of los. a day. In an attempt to pacify them, the municipal council invited Dr Rubusana to visit the town and appeal for restraint. He was assaulted at the first meeting which he addressed, and this led to Masabalala's arrest. A group of workers gathered outside the police station on 23 October to demand his release and attacked with sticks and stones. A shot was fired into the air, the demonstrators fled in all directions, and while fleeing were shot at by the police and armed civilians. Twenty demonstrators and three white bystanders were killed and 126 others wounded in what Abdurahman called South Africa's 'Amritsar'. R. Sidzumo, the secretary of the local Icwu, appealed for assistance to Msimang, who came from Bloemfontein, organized a funeral procession attended by 30,000 people, met the mayor and a group of employers, and persuaded Rubusana to withdraw his complaint. Masabalala was acquitted C.S.A.




Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-r95o on a charge of public violence, and Smuts, yielding to pressure, appointed a commission of three to inquire into the causes of the disturbances. One of them was Abdurahman, the first person of colour to be appointed to such an office. The commission found that 'all the firing which took place after the mob broke away was directed against fugitives; that it was unnecessary, indiscriminate and brutal in its callousness, resulting in a terrible toll of killed and 5 7 In wounded without any sufficient reason or justification'. spite of this uncompromising verdict, the government denied liability and offered only ex gratia payments as compensation to the victims. 58 An amount of £2,857 IS. od. was eventually paid to the claimants. £2,327 I IS. of this went to the dependants of the three whites who had been killed, and to twelve whites injured in the disturbances; £377 7s. 6d. was paid to the depen dants of one Coloured killed and two Coloured injured. The dependants of two Africans killed received £75, and one African injured, £ 5. The cost of burying'unclaimed' Africans amounted to £62 2S. 6d. The international socialists deplored this brutal operation of Smuts's notorious 'don't hesitate to shoot' policy. White workers who flew to arms to 'keep order' for their masters shared responsibility for the terrible racial upheaval that would come if the African was not given the right and assistance to form trade unions. His strongest weapon was to strike quietly and without demonstrations which gave the police an opportunity to shoot 60 and stampeded the whites into the camp of the bosses. The Labour party predictably approved of the police action. The public would welcome a return to methods employed in Kruger's republic, where the police periodically raided Africans for assegais and knobkerries. Aggression such as the whites had experienced at Port Elizabeth could not be tolerated. 'We must for make it quite clear to the natives that we will exact measure 6' people.' measure in any unprovoked violence against our Port Elizabeth's workers disregarded both threats and advice and continued to press their claims with the assistance of Msimang, who remained to look after the union's affairs. In January 1921, after white municipal workers had been given a 242





Class Struggles Resumed cost of living allowance, Africans and Coloured rejected an offer to increase their wages from 4s. to 4s. 6d., and took another decision to strike. Abdurahman, who was in the eastern Cape on an electioneering tour for the South African party, intervened and negotiated a settlement with the municipal council. It agreed to pay its African and Coloured employees a similar allowance, on a scale ranging upwards from is. a day. Masabalala took his revenge on the government by canvassing voters on behalf of the opposition Nationalist party, much to Abdurahman's disgust. After the elections, and when the Nationalists had suffered defeat, Masabalala resumed his radical role and denounced 'the unprecedented bloodthirstiness of the capitalist class'.62

The police blamed the bolsheviks, complained of inadequacies in the criminal law, and urged drastic action against the 'machin ations of extremists '.53 Kadalie, the first victim of the witch hunt, was served with a deportation order in November 1920, ostensibly because he was a full time secretary of the xcu and might therefore become an economic burden to the state. The socialists protested and challenged the SAIF and other white workers' organizations 'to stand by a persecuted trade union official irrespective of his colour'. 64 Relief came, however, from another quarter. Lawyers, Scottish presbyterians, Abdurahman and his Unionist party friends applied pressure and prevailed on the government to cancel the order. 'I became as free a citizen as anyone could wish,' exulted Kadalie; and he used his liberty to consolidate the Ic u and canvass voters for Hertzog's National ist party.6 5


12 The Communist Party Formed

Labour leaders felt unhappy about their party's prospects at the end of the war. 'We have abandoned propaganda work,' Morris Kentridge complained as he contrasted their 'timid inactivity' with the British Labour party's bold record. The war-truce had lasted too long. Imperial interests were harmful to the party if they demanded neglect of national issues. 'The Labour Party have been far too silent, submissive and inert.' As the next

general election approached, the party turned its battery against the government. Botha was said to have ridden into power 'practically on the backs of Labour'; yet he and Smuts had rewarded them with whips and scorpions, cast British ideals into dust, and trampled British justice underfoot. Torn by apparently irreconcilable differences, Labour was scorned and reckoned to be 'down and out'. Each section insisted on its own point of view and found the other more hateful than the common enemy. 'Even its white ideal is challenged from within. Cursed by disintegration it treads the valley of humiliation and its enemies rejoice." The party instituted a series of unity conferences in September 1919. Creswell queried the wisdom of the 'socialization' objec tive, not for reasons of personal principle, but because its ambiguity put off many potential supporters. The ISL received a belated invitation to an all-in conference in November which lyon Jones attended in a 'semi-journalistic' capacity. He reported that the conference consisted of the old rump of Labour men without socialist guts, whose dominant aim was to get into parliament. The socialists, he claimed, had moved to firmer ground, leaving the reformists to fall back on their middle-class supporters. The League disdained 'the mugwump unity of a pot-bellied Labour Party without the fire of the Social Revolu 244


The Communist Party Formed

tion'; and decided to contest the elections under its own banner. 2 The decision, however, resulted in a major dispute within its ranks. The issue of political versus industrial action flared again. Syndicalists asked why they should fight elections and not for the soviet republic. Dunbar and his cronies in the Industrial Socialist League heckled the I SL's speakers and pressed for the deletion of the 'political action' clause in its constitution. The critics were told that no less an authority than Lenin himself had denounced the 'infantile disorder' of anti-parliamentarism. 3 This was so; but it was a moot point whether Lenin's argument held water in South Africa, where four-fifths of the working class had no vote. Jones conceded that conditions were unfavour able for a social democratic party. The 'political action' school brushed these considerations aside and stressed the propaganda value of an election campaign. Large majorities in the League's branches and at its annual conference in January 192o endorsed the management committee's decision to contest elections. 4 The conference also agreed, unanimously, to 'fall in line with world revolutionary trends' by affiliating to the Communist International. Andrews forwarded the application with the

League's constitution and rules. They would show, he wrote, that 'our policy is on all fours with that of the Communist Parties of Europe and elsewhere ,.5 The Comintern accepted the application and invited both the League and the SALP to send

representatives to its second congress, which opened in Petro grad on i9 July. Neither could attend. The Internationalpub lished reports of the congress proceedings, resolutions and condition for admission to the cI. A long and spirited discussion followed among the League's supporters on the prospects of

uniting left wing groups into one party. Preparations were made for an extraordinary conference, the convening of which was required by article i9 of the conditions for admission. Andrews, Bunting, Barendregt and Tyler on the Rand and Hicks in Kimberley represented the ISL in the general election

of March 192o. Hamstrung by the anti-parliamentarians in their ranks, they vowed that they hated electioneering and entered the fray only 'from a stern sense of duty'. Members were told 245

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-r95o

not to canvass or engage in 'any other trick of vote-catching'. Their job was to distribute the election manifesto and 5O,ooo prices, leaflets on bolshevism, soviet power, the colour bar, rising and the Labour party's double-talk on race. The manifesto to condemned the notion of reforming parliament, urged workers the soviets. reject capitalist misrule, and proclaimed all power to too heady. a Even radical voters might have found this mixture brew. The League's candidates lost their deposits. Andrews, table with defeated by Madeley in Benoni, topped the League's he seventy-eight votes - 'the irreducible minimum of votes', of declared. He attributed the socialists' defeat to the timidity vote petty bourgeois supporters, a reluctance to split the labour against Unionists, and resentment caused by the League's 'Don't Scab' leaflet. 6 Labour's manifesto promised benefits to the poor and needy, reaffirmed the twin aims of socialism and segregation, and made 7 attuned no mention of class war or revolution. Creswell, more than the radicals to the voters' mood, fought for the imperial 8 His connexion and against high prices, rents and profits. mixture of British patriotism and economic welfare went down com well on the Rand and in the port towns, but offered small fort to Afrikaner workers, then at a crucial stage. They were wavering in their loyalty to the political generals of South African war vintage, and vacillated between national and class affiliations. Labour's cultural insularity and sheer Britishness repelled them, however, and muffed for all time its chance of winning their allegiance. 'Dutch workers as a body are not voting for Labour candidates as by all the rules of the game they9 should do,' complained the Labour World after the elections. Its correspondents gave some of the reasons. Most of the Labour party's leaders, and all those in parliament, were immigrant and unilingual. They welcomed Afrikaners in their ranks, and expected them to communicate in English, the language of the master race. Sampson, one of the big four in the movement, deplored the 'fetish' of bilingualism, and would not make it a reason for dispensing with efficient unilingual, meaning 10 One correspondent English-speaking, trade union officials. wrote that the British working man voted for a Unionist or SAP 246

The Communist PartyFormed candidate in preference to a Labour candidate who was not British-born. It was for this reason that no Afrikaners sat on the Labour benches in parliament. 'We have not played the game with our Dutch brothers, and we do not encourage them to stay with us and draw others.' Afrikaners were not wanted in the party, wrote another; they were used merely as a tool to advance 11 the cause of British nationalism. Labour never made up on the roundabouts what it lost on the swings. It alienated Afrikaners by upholding British supremacy, and Africans by upholding white supremacy. Its members kept Coloured men out of skilled work in the north and solicited their votes in the south. The party won four seats in Cape Town and one in East London in 192o, and lost all but two of its Cape seats in 1921. The APO threw its full weight against Labour on both

occasions; and also against Hicks, the Is L candidate at Kimberley in 192o. 'White Labour,' declared Abdurahman, 'has been, and is today, all over South Africa, the enemy of the Coloured people.' 12 It kept them out of motor workshops, building and electrical trades, slaughter houses and skilled mining work in the Transvaal, forced them to work for a lower wage, and then used this as a pretext for barring them from trade unions. White scabs took their jobs when Coloured workers formed their own unions and struck for higher wages. The 'white peril' would squeeze them to death if they failed to consolidate their indus trial and political forces. 13 The Labour party was their 'natural enemy'. They would show their contempt for it at the polls.14 The AP0 followed the Unionists into Smuts's camp. Abdurah man had attacked him in 19io for his racialism, and now defended him as the champion of the British connexion against Hertzog's republicans. Like other white supremacy parties, Afrikaner Nationalists consistently appealed for Coloured votes, though never so blatantly as in 1920, when they were fighting hard in the Cape against an upsurge of British patriotism. The Nationalist party took the unprecedented step of putting its name to an election pamphlet addressed to 'Coloured Afrikanders',1 s who

were urged to vote for the party, 'the friends of South Africa and therefore our friends too'. Abdurahman and the APO were said to be 'politically bankrupt'. They had 'achieved nothing to 247

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o better our condition' because they pinned their hopes on Britain, the Unionists and Smuts. Yet Britain, once the world's greatest slave trader, showed beyond all doubt that she would never 'interfere on our behalf in the internal affairs' of South Africa. The Unionists were double-faced, and practised all the racial discrimination that they attributed to the Nationalists. As for ,Smuts, he had fought Indians, Labourites, the English and his own people; 'and now he wants to fight the coloured races'. The choice was this: vote British, and vote for a flood of British immigrants 'to drown us out in our own country'; or vote South African, and 'vote for our own protection'. The Nationalist party in the western Cape worked through Coloured agents of a Nationalist-sponsored insurance company; a Coloured newspaper, the South African Clarion; and a Coloured political organization, the United Afrikaner League. C. Dantu, the chief superintendent of the insurance company's Coloured division, was also the head of the newspaper's pub lishing department and president of the UAL. The men under him included N. R. Veldsman, A. Arendse and Abe Desmore, all former or current members of the APO. They canvassed among the Coloured in one operation for insurance, newspaper subscriptions and votes. 16 Their sole purpose, complained Abdurahman, was to fight the APo during elections on a plat form made up of the Nationalist party's doctrine of disloyalty to the crown and its disgraceful abandonment of sacred principles 17 sanctified by the blood of Coloured soldiers. The colour bar, and not republicanism, was the dominant issue, declared the Rev. Z. R. Mahabane, president of the Cape Native Congress. Africans had a duty to vote only for candidates who took a pledge to work for the elimination of racial dis crimination.18 The white supremacy parties cleared the deck, however, in the general election of io March i92O. Labour won 21 seats, which raised it to the peak of its parliamentary career. The South African party won 42; Hertzog's Nationalists, 44; the Unionists, 25; and independents, 3 seats. Smuts, the SAP leader and premier since Botha's death in August 1919, remained un easily in office with the backing of Unionists and independents. Labour held the balance in a House so divided, but its attach248




The Communist Party Formed ment to the British cause limited its ability to manoeuvre. The Creswellites pressed for price and profit controls, and would not vote with the Nationalist opposition to unseat Smuts. They wanted to avert a dissolution that would force them to defend their seats; and they refused to be made responsible for opening the way to an Afrikaner republic.' 9 Smuts and Hertzog resumed their pre-election unity talks, which had broken down on the republican question. The people, said Smuts, had outgrown the old racial feud between Afrikaner and English; they were sick and tired of party politics. He pro posed a national all-party government. Creswell declined; and Hertzog refused to associate with such discordant elements as Labour and the Unionists. He offered instead to enter into a parliamentary pact with the South African party alone. Smuts was right in thinking that Afrikaners wanted unity. The demand came from party branches on both sides and threatened to sweep all intransigent leaders aside. They were forced to resume nego tiations. More than 50o Nationalist and SAP delegates met at Bloemfontein in September 192o. Afrikaner churches blessed their deliberations in a national day of prayer, but divine provi dence failed the conciliators. The Nationalists demanded and Smuts refused to concede the right to agitate from within the alliance for sovereign independence and secession from the crown.2 ° Power and place were at stake in addition to principle. A bilateral pact such as Hertzog proposed would have assured him of the premiership; whereas Smuts was more likely to remain prime minister in an all-party coalition. Since neither would serve under the other, the popular movement for white national unity collapsed. The South African party played its last card, absorbed the Unionists, and became in form as well as in function the spokes man of mine owners, industrialists and the British interest. Smuts went to the-country in February 192z to defend the con stitution, he said, against secession. The Labour party accused him of wishing to upset the balance of power it held and to smash it in preparation for an attack on the white working class. The election caught the Labour movement in a state of disunity. Trade unions were indifferent or hostile to the political wing. 249

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o Socialist groups fought one another more than they fought the system. 1 Representatives of the SAL P and I s L met in November 1920 for unity talks. Creswell said he wanted a peaceful revolu tion, whereas the ISL wished to destroy the system by force and bloodshed. Andrews replied that it was the capitalist who used force on the workers, and without protest from the right wing, which had adopted a bourgeois outlook. The real gulf existed between the reformist ideas of the second international and the revolutionary tactics of the third. 22 The fourth general election took place on 8 February i92i. The ISL advised all socialists to stay away from the polls except at Durban, where three League candidates had entered the lists. They obtained i4o votes in all, against the 2,310 votes cast for

the Labour candidates. Harry Norrie, the veteran socialist and now a respectable town councillor, threw the weight of his SDP behind the Labour party. It fared badly, however, losing three seats in Natal and nine in other provinces to the SAP. Labour had failed for the second time to win the workers' support on a patriotic issue. When told that the empire was in danger they chose to vote for the jingos in the SAP-Unionist coalition. This won 79 seats, while the Nationalists won 45, Labour 9 and independents one. Smuts had gained a clear majority at the the expense of Labour, which never fully recovered. The SAP Unionists would always outmatch it in protestations of loyalty to the crown. The Nationalist party, on the other hand, stole Creswell's clothes, made the white labour policy its own, and attracted Afrikaner workers by appealing to language, blood, and sentiment. Africans watched developments on the white front with fore bodings. The Rev. Mahabane traced the history and effects of racial discrimination in his presidential address at the annual convention of the Cape AN C in May 192o. All white party leaders, he said, from Abraham Fischer to Smuts, were determined to keep Africans and Coloured out of the parliament of white plutocrats. Yet Africans were the rightful owners of the land, and would never consent to the status of bondsmen. The whites were foreign fortune-seekers, who had seized supreme political power with Britain's aid, and used it to entrench themselves in 250 II

The Communist PartyFormed

the state, church, civil service and economy. They had renounced the Christian doctrine of universal brotherhood for the creed of 'God our Father, the White Man our Brother, the Blackman an

Outcast'. The colour bar divided the two sections of the popula tion into hostile camps, contaminated the country's moral life, and, unless checked, would end in civil strife.2 3 Mahabane, Makgatho and Rubusana were ministers of religion who combined politics with their profession. They belonged to the same social class as the Afrikaner ministers, teachers and lawyers who inspired and guided Afrikaner nationalism. Their

race alone barred them from the centres of power. By rejecting white domination in terms of liberal and Christian doctrine, they were no less radical than socialists who rejected capitalist domination in Marxist terms; but they looked for relief to an electoral system in which their influence was at most marginal. Rubusana and Abdurahman contested provincial council seats in September 1920. Rubusana lost Tembuland by 200 votes; Abdurahman won Woodstock against H. A. Evans, the Labour party candidate, by 500 votes. This was the limit to which Africans and Coloured could go in their bid for direct representa tion. Since parliament was closed to them, they fell back on well tried methods of petition and deputation. Rubusana and A. K. Soga led a deputation of Transkeian councillors and chiefs to Smuts in August


over the Native Affairs Act of that year.

This established a native affairs commission; provided for a system of local councils in the reserves; and authorized the administration to convene conferences of chiefs, councillors and 'prominent Natives' with a view 'to the ascertainment of the sentiments of the Native population'. Smuts, who piloted the bill through parliament, said 'we must convince the Native that we are taking the right step and are setting up the proper institu tions in which his legitimate desires and aspirations can be satisfied'. 2 " His bill was a shoddy device to side-track the African demand for the right to sit in parliament. The ANC

denounced the measure, and when it had been passed, demanded

that the commission should include at least one African. Rubu sana's deputation asked Smuts to delete the colour bar from the 251

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o constitution and to include an African on the commission. He replied that whites were not in a mood for the one, and time was not ripe for the other. The time was never ripe for Africans to sit on even so futile a body as the commission. Its impotence was shockingly revealed in May 1921 when it failed to avert bloodshed at Bulhoek loca tion near Queenstown in the eastern Cape. The Israelites, a messianic sabbatarian sect, whose ritual included baptism by total immersion at midnight, the kiss of peace, and an annual passover, had made their headquarters in the location at Ntaba langa - the Mountain of the Rising Sun. They had broken away from their parent body, the Church of God and Saints of Christ, founded in America by the Negro bishop Cowdry; but retained its title and tenet - 'God grant that we may all agree to love without respect to race, colour or condition.' The members of the church gathered in April of every year at Ntabalanga on land belonging to their prophet and leader Enoch Mgijima. They erected a tabernacle and dwellings, some on the commonage because the surveyed lots were on marshy 25 ground and unhealthy in wet weather. A small religious com munity of i,ooo men, women and children settled in the village, living peacefully and awaiting their redeemer. They committed no crime, apart from breaking a minor by-law by refusing to demolish huts built on crown land.

The Israelites took their religion seriously, interpreted the Bible literally, and alarmed white farmers, townsmen and officials by shutting themselves up in a world of their own and refusing to work for a wage. The white public agitated for their removal. The ISL gave warning in December 1920 that capitalism was planning 'a wholesale bloody slaughter' of the Israelites, pro bably because of the scarcity of farm workers. The time was near when the black-and-tan would be mobilized against white workers as well. 2 6 The native affairs commission visited Bulhoek in April and reported that the Israelites were a law-abiding religious community and not a political movement. Many of them were religious fanatics who had disposed of all their worldly goods for the common cause and were penniless. Any attempt to remove them by force would be resisted. The 252

The Communist Party Formed government should therefore take no immediate action, other than to offer financial assistance and accommodation on crown land for the members who agreed to disperse.27 The government chose to disperse them by violence instead. Members of the church were summoned to give evidence in a case in which two white men were charged with culpable honi cide arising from the killing of two Africans. The witnesses refused to attend court, and the police sent a mobile column of nearly i,ooo men to Queenstown. The native affairs commission, which included two well-known liberals, Dr C. T. Loram and Adv. A. W. Roberts, visited Bulhoek again, met with unyielding defiance from Mgijima and his men, and advised the government to arrest the witnesses and remove the Israelites by force. Colonel Theodore Truter, the police commissioner, led six squadrons, a machine-gun and an artillery detachment, to Ntabalanga in the early morning of Empire Day, 24 May. Presented with an ultimatum, the prophet replied that 'the time of Jehovah has now arrived'. The Lord had informed him in a vision that war would begin in 1914 'and from thence there shall be no peace on earth .... The whole world is going to sink in the blood. I am not the cause of it, but God is going to cause it.'


If this was so, the police were God's agents. While women and children prayed in the tabernacle, their men advanced, carrying sticks, assegais and crude swords beaten out of cart wheel bands. The police, who outnumbered the Israelites by two to one, held their fire until the men were only a few yards away. The slaughter took ten minutes, and claimed 190 lives. All those killed and wounded were shot in the front. Many were horribly mutilated with abdominal wounds and shattered limbs, torn by machine-gun fire. No cry of pain or appeal for mercy came from the wounded and dying. Many who could crept away to hide in the rough and hilly country around. The Israelite women scoured the veld after nightfall to bring in their men. One woman, a former teacher, carried twelve, one at a time, on a wheelbarrow from the outer darkness. The white press said that the advance 'into the jaws of death' could hardly be called bravery: 'it was pure fanaticism'. 29 Smuts told parliament that 253

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950

the 'incident' would teach every part of the population ' that the in the last resort as fearlessly law of the land will be carried out 30 against black as against white'. Colonel Truter said that the police had fired in self-defence. No action was taken against them. Enoch Mgijima and his two brothers were sentenced to six years' imprisonment; thirty other Israelites, to three years; and seventy, to eighteen months each. Professor D. D. T. Jabavu told Fort Hare students that the government had shown as much patience and forebearance as could be expected; Imvo accused Nationalist and Labour party agents of causing unrest among Africans for personal and poli tical gain. 31 The African National Congress, in contrast, pro tested that the law which had been so brutally 'vindicated with such terrible effusion of blood' was no more than a minor local by-law. It doubted whether equally drastic action would be taken against whites in similar circ*mstances; and complained that Smuts had turned down an offer from the ANC executive to mediate with the Israelites. Africans wished to live in peace, but 'if you hit the dog without ceasing it will in the end turn and bite you'. Congress condemned the police pogrom and the failure to respect religious beliefs; adjourned in honour of the martyred dead; and demonstrated through Bloemfontein's town 32 ship behind a band playing the Dead March.

F. S. Malan, the acting prime minister, agreed that the public

wanted an inquiry. Merriman denied 'undue violence' by the

police, and regretted that the 'Africa for the Africans' movement

had not been stamped out years ago. 'Any time in Cape Town pure Bolshevik propaganda could be heard being taught in

District Six.' Why did they drag these people in? asked Water ston: the socialists had never preached that Africans should arm themselves to kill the whites. 33 The government side-tracked the demand for an inquiry by briefing the native affairs commission to report on 'disturbing influences' among Africans, their

churches, and the Israelites in particular.

Five years later, when nearly all whites had forgotten the

massacre, the commission gave a pr6cis of the court proceedings

without comment, and advised that there was no need for legislation to combat the ANC, Bantu Union, icu and ICWU.


xIzIz~ The Communist Party Formed Religious and political organizations would continue to multiply. To prevent their becoming dangerous, government should adopt a permanent native policy and proper system of native adminis 4

tration. 3

Down in Cape Town members of the United Communist party distributed a pamphlet headed 'MURDER! MURDER! MURDER! THE BULHOEK MASSACRE. Christians Slaughter Their Christian Brethren. Great Empire Day Celebration.' Wilfrid Harrison, the party secretary, and William Dryburgh, then in his eighties, were prosecuted for issuing the leaflet, and were sentenced under a placaat*of 1754 forbidding the publica tion of offensive, rebellious and libellous lampoons. The Appeal Court held that the statute was no longer in force and quashed the convictions; but W. Dryburgh, his son David, a well-known tailor in Adderley Street, and the hairdresser H. Green were fined on a separate charge of criminal slander for having called Truter, the police commissioner, a 'brutal assassin '. 3 5 The Bulhoek massacre and the prosecutions made a deep impact on left-wing groups in the Cape and accelerated the movement towards unity. 3 The IS L's annual conference in January 192o had appealed for unity on the basis of the Communist International's twenty-one conditions of membership. 37 These had been drafted, initially by Lenin, in expectation of approaching civil wars in Europe and the collapse of the Second International. To avoid its errors and prepare for the coming struggle, the Third International would be a single, integrated world organization rather than a loose confederation of independent national parties. The im mediate need was to precipitate a breach between socialists and communists; and to stimulate the formation of revolutionary parties characterized by the bolshevik attributes of 'democratic centralism' and 'iron discipline'. Every party affiliated to the Comintern must adopt the title The Communist Party of... (Section of the Communist International), and abide by the ci's decisions. The twenty-one points set out the duties and functions of the affiliates. They were to purge themselves of * Proclamation or ordinance. 255

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

reformists, combine illegal with legal work if necessary, agitate in the army and among the rural proletariat, win the support of trade unions, and defend the Soviet Union. Every communist party in an imperialist state was expected to give practical aid to colonial liberation movements and to demand independence for the colonial peoples. This was a tall order for the League's three or four hundred members. The management committee remarked in December 192o that much of the ci's thesis applied to a revolutionary situation, which was still far off in South Africa. Indeed, it might well be 'the last country in the world to adopt Com munism'. Their chief task was to educate, agitate and organize, rather than to speculate idly about the techniques of revolution or the form of a proletarian dictatorship. An illegal movement, for instance, was impracticable, being 'too easily betrayed and corrupted by police spies', and also undesirable, since the cam paign for the elementary rights of combination, strike action and free speech should not appear as a conspiracy. Then, too, propaganda among the troops, though necessary, was very diffi cult, because of their brutalized attitude to black and until recently also to white workers. As for changing their name, the socialists could call themselves the Communist Party of South Africa (Section of the Third International), even though a faction in Johannesburg and Cape Town had 'jumped' the title earlier in the year. Alternatively, the name Socialist Party would do. If they failed to attract many new elements and well retain were substantially the ISL over again, they might as 8 3 their old name for the sake of its local associations. The most warmly debated issue was the instruction to unite all militant socialists. They should not strive to unite for the mere sake of uniting, wrote Bunting, or repeat ideas of Russian bolsheviks that did not apply to South Africa. 39 Lenin had advised British communists to seek affiliation to the Labour party. This could not be done in South Africa, first because the Labour party's constitution excluded any such affiliation, and secondly because Africans might turn against socialists who supported that party. In spite of such objections and the six years' feud between them, leaders of the League and Labour 256

The Communist Party Formed party had met in November 1919 to discuss the possibilities of cooperation. They agreed only that the gulf between them could not be bridged.4 0 The League's management committee reported to the annual conference in January that the Labour party would not merit their support unless it purged its ranks of '"patriots" and "social-traitors ", of centrists and mere reform ists, of opportunists, career-seekers, political adventurers, turn coats, and rogues'. A new 'socialist' party might become the stronger, and should continue the ISL's function, which was to show up the Labour party, oppose it at elections, goad it and scold it until it had mended its ways. 4 1 Unity on the left seemed almost as remote as unity with the Labour party. Harry Norrie and A. L. Clark of the SDP in Durban rejected the twenty-one points, allegedly because they required an illegal organization and disruptive work in trade unions. 'It smells of Russia in pre-war days.' 4 2 The Johannes burg Jewish Socialist Society (Paolei Zion) wished to retain its identity and applied on its own to the ci for affiliation. 4 3 The Industrial Socialist League in Cape Town made a similar

application in January


To add to the confusion, Dunbar's Industrial Socialist League in Johannesburg joined with other dissidents to form the Com munist League. This in turn merged in September with the Industrial Socialist League of Cape Town into the Communist Party of South Africa. 4 4 Its constitution affirmed the principle of mass action and no participation in parliamentary elections. The party undertook to organize workers irrespective of colour, craft or sex in communist groups and soviets to obtain control of production, seize political power, and defend their conquests by force. Every means would be used to 'remove existing prejudices between white, coloured and native workers and to bring them together in the struggle for Communism'. This was strong meat for some members. A. Z. Berman resigned as editor of the Bolshevik, the party's official organ. Manuel Lopes, the secretary of the Industrial Socialist League and now of the CP SA, took his place. Representatives of the CPSA, SDF and Constitutional Socialist League 4 5 held a series of meetings early in 1921 to discuss unity. The driving force came 257

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-z950

largely from E. J. Brown, an old member of the International Socialist League, who had been deported from the Belgian Congo in July 192o for having formed a white trade union which agitated against the employment of Africans as engine drivers. Lopes was persuaded into accepting the ci's thesis on the need for parliamentary action. Even if it was wrong, he said, the whole

world supported it, and South African socialists must fall into step. But the CPSA and Cs L split on this issue and on the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat. 46 Finally, only the SDF would accept the twenty-one points. It established the United Communist Party of South Africa in March 1921 with individuals from the other organizations. There followed the formation of a Young Communist League in Cape Town and, on the suggestion

of its secretary, S. A. Rochlin, of a YCL in Johannesburg in May

1921. Dunbar's section of the CPSA in Johannesburg adhered to

the anti-parliamentary line and refused to merge in the United Communist Party. The ISLrefused to tolerate any 'whining for "local autonomy of branches"' or other attempts to water down the principle of a strictly disciplined and centralized party. 'Better remain dis united' than admit centrists, anarchists and other improper elements. As to parliamentary elections, they were not really important in South Africa, where three-fifths of the population were disfranchised. In any event, the IS L belonged to the cI and was bound by its decisions. It would have to approve of the new party's programme and constitution. A united party that jibbed at this requirement would not be worth forming. Did the principle of unity apply also to the national liberation movement? There had been a difference of opinion on the issue in the Comintern's second congress of July 1920. Manabendra

Roy, the Indian delegate, urged congress to reject 'bourgeois democratic nationalism' and give its full backing to revolutionary mass organizations under communist leadership. Lenin, who drafted the theses on the 'national and colonial question', took the broader view; but went some way to meeting Roy's objection by substituting the words 'national revolutionary' for 'bourgeois democratic'. The resolution as finally adopted declared that the cI's policy 'must be to bring into being a close alliance of all 258

The Communist Party Formed

national and colonial liberation movements with Soviet Russia'. The form of the alliance would depend on the stage of develop ment reached by the communist movement or by the revolu tionary liberation movement in the colony or dependent territory.

All communist parties were under an obligation to support by deed and word the revolutionary liberation movements in these countries.4 South Africa's socialists accepted the theses. Their traditional policies and sympathies coincided more closely with Roy's attitude to middle-class nationalism. There could be no doubt as to the nature of Afrikaner national ism. Bourgeois to the core, it was neither democratic nor revolutionary. Even the Labour party's right wing, which flirted from time to time with Hertzog's followers, recognized their role. 'Nurtured in racio-clerical Toryism, and built upon a caste foundation, they have already proved a priceless political and economic asset to the higher command of high finance.' For their 'orgies of tearing, raging claptrap and bitter racial venom' diverted attention from economic troubles. 4 ' The radical social ists agreed that Afrikaner nationalism was antagonistic; and blundered by failing to distinguish between the nationalisms of an oppressor and the oppressed. Sectarianism and inadequate insights held them back from adopting Lenin's flexible approach. African nationalism, as they saw it, was a com petitor, if not an enemy, and never an ally in the class struggle. The IS L acknowledged that nationalism might for the moment be the most powerful available weapon against the social order; but it did not pursue this promising line of thought. 49 The management committee put forward instead an unmodified class analysis, as in Bunting's statement on 'The ISL and the Coloured and Native Worker' which he presented to the annual conference on 2 January 1921.50 South Africa, he wrote, was a 'unique

case' of ruling and subject races jostling together; 'an epitome of what happens on a world scale'.51 Just as the colonies im pinged on workers in Europe and competed with them, so did the African compete with white workers in South Africa. Ex ploitation, the loss of land, and industrialism had diversified the subject races. While allowance should be made for the differences, 259


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-950 same the message of socialism to the African must be the as to workers everywhere. Tribal peasants and farm labourers its would be 'passive beneficiaries' of socialism rather than part creators. African industrial workers, however, had a definite theory, to play in the revolution. They would supply, if not the of then the bulk of the numerical strength, courage and spirit the revolutionary labour movement. Socialists should support the peasants' struggle against land owners, the Native Land Act, pass laws, and for the franchise. This followed from the Comintern's approval of national libera tion movements. Yet 'nationalist native organizations' in South Africa, according to the League, were instruments of the ruling class - safety valves, like the S.A. Federation of Trades. African leaders were 'less concerned with the emancipation of their fellows from wage slavery than with an unproletarian ambition to rise in the social scale; leaning also for support on the capitalist-fed power and wealth of the chiefs'. The ideal of 'Africa for Africans' was reactionary in South Africa, for here the whites had come to stay. The crucial issue was how to bring about unity between white and African workers. Capitalism prevented unity. The white workers would sink to the black man's standards unless they raised him to their own through combined struggle. By excluding the African, the labour move ment doomed itself to failure and to betrayal of socialist princi ples. By conniving at the policy of repression, it rendered in evitable what socialism alone could prevent: a race war between white and black. The ioo delegates who attended the January 1921 conference included representatives of the League's branches, the Paolei Zion, cP SA, Indian trade unions, and individual members of the SALP, SAIF and African unions. It was, the League claimed, the largest and most representative gathering of socialists yet held in South Africa. They decided, by forty votes to twenty-nine, that a 'Communist Party can at no time identify itself with any nationalist or other bourgeois party, and cannot support its platform'. And further, they determined, there could be no unity with persons who refused to accept the principles of the Third InternationaL Unity would be worthwhile only if it took 260








The Communist Party Formed

the form of a strongly disciplined, centralized party affiliated to the c i. A committee was set up to call a unity conference, which met in Johannesburg on Easter Sunday. Five socialist organiza tions sent representatives, among them Norrie from Durban and Harrison from Cape Town.52 The chair was taken by Colin Wade, the Benoni dentist. The conference adopted without dissent the ci's twenty-one conditions of membership, but held that article 3, relating to illegal work, did not apply to South Africa. Socialists who objected to parliamentary elections were urged to set their differences aside. The issue was unimportant, since the centre of political gravity lay outside parliament. The SDF, cP and Jewish Socialist Society in Cape Town had already joined forces in anticipation of a wider unity. Durban's Marxian Club and local I SL branch now also agreed to merge. Norrie and the SDP, however, insisted that the twenty-one points were generally un acceptable. The League replied that communist policy, being based on the 'immutable laws of human progress', would attract the best of the working class. South African communists, acting in unison with the millions who were flocking to the banners of the International in Europe, would 'bring the capitalist system, already tottering, crashing to destruction'. 3 Nine delegates from the Rand " and five from Cape Town s s met on 30 July 192i in a 'humble upper room' in Plein Street,

Cape Town, under the chairmanship of David Dryburgh, one of the four men standing trial at about this time on charges arising out of their protest against the Bulhoek massacre. The conference set up the Communist Party of South Africa (Section of the Communist International), adopted a constitution, elected an executive and vested the ISL's printing press and newspaper in

the new party. With its headquarters in Johannesburg, Tyler in the chair, Bunting as treasurer and Andrews the secretary editor, it was virtually a continuation of the League. All the delegates and members of the executive were whites. 56 Only whites spoke at the public meeting of 2,000, more than half of whom were Coloured and Africans, in the city hall on the 29th. The party's first manifesto appealed mainly to the white working man. The communists seemed as isolated from the 26I

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o masses as they had been in 1915. But they left no doubt about

their determination to break through the racial barrier. Their prospects were rated highly by the police commissioner in his annual report for 1921-.. South Africa, he wrote, was 'a

suitable breeding-ground for the growth of the Bolshevik germ'. Cleavages between Afrikaner and English, black and white, worker and employer, and the effects of the post-war depression tended to stimulate teachings that 'anticipate the time when all will share everything equally'. The communists fostered socialist ideals, abused the authorities in vilest terms, proclaimed Lenin as the real saviour, extolled the Israelites at Bulhoek as the first South African bolsheviks, and promised a bloody revolution to exterminate capitalists, parsons, lawyers and politicians. The leaders included Englishmen, Dutchmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen and a high proportion of Russians, whose presence must be regarded with misgiving. Commercial travellers, hawkers and low-class store-keepers spread the propaganda and tainted the native population. The communists aimed to destroy parlia mentary government and institute communes. This 'visionary vista of accelerated progress culminating in equality of blacks and whites' naturally appealed to the native races, who had no share in government. Repressive legislation and counter propaganda were needed to combat this insidious doctrine and instil respect for law and order. The party anticipated such reactions. Its manifesto predicted an offensive by the government 'as the propaganda is seen to be working among the submissive helot races whose enlightenment and organization the ruling class dreads above all'. The com

munists would demonstrate as best they could that the adherence of 'cheap docile labour' to the working-class movement was the most deadly blow that South Africa could deal to world capital ism. Their main duty was 'to establish the widest and closest possible contact with workers of all ranks and races! The indus trial masses would provide the 'storm troops' of the approaching revolution. All workers should go forward to the overthrow of

capitalism and the establishment of a commonwealth without classes, where all men as fellow workers would receive 'the comfort and culture, the honour and the power'.57 The appeal 262

The Communist Party Formed

went out to the entire working class; and ignored the large body of African, Coloured and Indian leaders who aspired to national liberation rather than working-class power. It was reasonable to suppose that South Africans would live together in amity only after the white group had lost its mono poly of power. But who would bring about the change? Ivon Jones, writing from Moscow, where he and Sam Barlin attended the ci's third congress, gave the answer that seemed self-evident to communists at the time. Like many after him, he found that the colour of his skin, which gave him entry into the racial elite, was something of a handicap among radicals abroad. 'Why aren't you black?' he was asked. He confessed to feeling 'quite apologetic about our colour'. South African delegations should include Africans, but it would be a mistake to exclude whites. 'The African revolution will be led by white workers.' Yet his own analysis might have led him to doubt the proposition. He claimed that an increasing minority of white workers had learned since 1913 to put their hopes of emancipation in solidarity with the African. Yet the 'general tendency' was towards collabora tion with the masters, who had realized their need to humour the white workers as a protection against the native masses. 5 8 Jones, wasting away from tuberculosis, had left South Africa in November 192o, never to return. The Internationalpaid him

a great tribute on his departure. His 'insight kept the party clear on revolutionary policy and tactics', avoiding freakishness, right reformism and leftism. Reviewing his ten years of strenuous political work in South Africa, Jones wrote: 'if I have lived rapidly I have LIVED, for it is the Socialist movement that brought the zest into life for me.'-9 Born at Aberystwyth, Wales,

in z883, he was orphaned at an early age, contracted tuberculosis, and left for New Zealand to recover 'by roughing it rabbit catching'. He settled in the Transvaal in z9o9, worked as a clerk for the Victoria Falls power company, and came out on strike, the only office worker to do so, in 1913. Employed as a book keeper by the miners' union under Tom Mathews, he 'found out too much', according to Andrews, and was given notice. In 1914 he was elected general secretary of the Labour party and a member of the Transvaal provincial council. He resigned from 263

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o the party with other War-on-Warites in September x915 and became the first secretary-editor of the i L, retaining the post with interludes of ill-health until he left for Russia. 'A selfless man,' wrote Andrews, and an 'incorrigible optimist', Jones had movement ',60 no ulterior motives: 'all he wanted was to build the He drafted a io,ooo word report on Communism in South 61 Africa for the ci while he was at Nice on his way to Moscow. There he sat on Comintern committees and prepared documents as a specialist on colonial rule and nationalism. The report summarized his views and the IS L'S policies before he became enmeshed in the ci's official apparatus. The divisive effects of Afrikaner nationalism, British chauvinism and white racialism, he pointed out, inhibited the growth of a strong socialist move ment. The Labour party's only policy for Africans was 'the wholly utopian proposal of segregation of black from white in strictly delimited areas'. In South Africa '"class-conscious" meant white class-conscious'; and consciousness of class in white workers was 'fitful and easily lost'. Liberally paid out of the African's miserable underpaid labour, they lorded it over him and developed an increasing resistance to communist ideas. Africans were passing through a period of acute social change from primitive communism, which persisted in the segregated reserves. These were in fact no more than 'cheap breeding grounds for black labour'. Peasants came to town to earn bride wealth, pay taxes, acquire schooling, learn the use of machinery, or to escape from tribal life. They had to contend with pass laws, starvation wages, slums and the denial of civic rights. Yet, in spite of his oppression, 'the Bantu is a happy proletarian'. Aided by the ISL and the IwA, he was awakening to the con sciousness of class. His strikes revealed a capacity for industrial action as a more certain means of deliverance than tribal assegais. What factors were favourable to revolution? Jones gleaned comfort from the sharp rise in the number of Afrikaner workers. They soon became good trade unionists and loyal agitators for their class within the limits of their colour. The industrial system was gradually weaning them from the most violent forms of prejudice. Africans, too, were forming class organizations which would 'soon dominate or displace' the Native Congress. 264

7 The Communist PartyFormed Congress itself was a small, loose coterie of chiefs, lawyers, clergymen and other educated persons who agitated for civic equality and political rights while fearing the mass movement of their people. The government patronized Congress and sub sidized its press by advertisem*nts, but was dubious about its latent revolutionary character. For the African's national inter ests could not be distinguished from his class interests. They formed the basis of a 'revolutionary nationalist movement in the fullest meaning of Lenin's term'. The prospects were favourable. At the moment, however, the communist party depended almost entirely on a few advanced spirits drawn from the thin upper level of labour aristocracy. Africans, according to Jones, were unable to supply any active militants owing to their heavy social disabilities and political backwardness. The communists were absorbed in white trade unionism, which threw the more difficult task of native emanci pation into the background. The African workers' movement was therefore being neglected. It required a special department with linguists and newspapers, the large funds for which were not available. The few militants who had shouldered the heavy burden for more than five years needed reinforcements. Like Crawford ten years earlier, Jones looked for aid to the inter national working class. 'A few missionaries, revolutionists who need a spell of sunshine, would be very welcome.' Jones anticipated that the fall in gold prices - the source of the 'bribe fund' - would precipitate the crisis of 1922. The mine

owners had cancelled the stop order agreement of x916 in retaliation for an outbreak of unofficial strikes. This was a sure sign that the unofficial garrison of white workers against the larger mass of Africans had become too costly. The industry could save its profits only by raising the black standard and depressing the white, 'making towards a hom*ogeneous working class'. Jones underestimated the capacity and willingness of the ruling class to keep the white workers in a privileged position, and exaggerated the corrosive effects of industrialism on their national and racial prejudices. The chief error in his analysis was to minimize the role of African nationalism. If the educated elite could not emancipate themselves without a mass struggle, C.S.A.- 12


Class and Colour in South Africa -850-1950

as Jones argued, they were bound to make a great contribution in the 'national revolutionary movement'. He disregarded the justice and significance of their demand for political equality, and generally failed to appreciate fully the mood of low-paid workers in town and country as reflected in the spread of the ICU.

Transvaal farmers were then combining to put down strikes on farms, expel 'native agitators', and prevent African lawyers from defending farm workers in court. The icwu held its annual conference at Cape Town in July 1921, with a view to bringing about unity with Kadalie's Ic u. Conference agreed to make 16 December - the 'Dingaan's Day' of Afrikaner national ism - a day of national mourning for the martyrs of Port Eliza beth and Bulhoek. Selby Msimang in his presidential address told the delegates that they had to contend with two desperate forces: the government, whose greed matched Shylock's, and the white trade unions. Africans and Coloured could extend the hand of friendship or reciprocate the insolence, and in either event must be organized. 6 2 Kadalie boycotted the conference, and told Msimang that their organizations should maintain separate existences behind provincial barriers. Msimang replied that the split injured the workers' interests and offered to hand his branches over to Kadalie. He agreed, Msimang withdrew, 63 and the Icwu merged into the Icu later in the year. The ICU's conference, which was held at Port Elizabeth in October, undertook to campaign against the pass laws, organize farm workers and miners, and press for the direct representation of Africans and Coloured at the international labour conference in Geneva. The I CU, and not Mr and Mrs Archie Crawford, 64 could speak for the genuine workers of South Africa. James La Guma, the delegate from the ICU branch at Luderitz, pro posed and conference agreed to inquire into the grievances of people in South West Africa. La Guma took over the secretary ship of the branch in Port Elizabeth and was transferred two or three years later to Cape Town as administrative and later general secretary, while Kadalie held the post of national secre tary. Born at Bloemfontein in 1894 of French and Malagasy stock, La Guma went to work at the age of eight in Cape Town, 266



The Communist Party Formed took part in working-class demonstrations in i9o6, and migrated to South West Africa, where he worked on diamond diggings near Luderitz during the war, and became one of the first Coloured radicals to abandon the concepts of Cape liberalism for Marxist theory and class struggle. 65 Many Africans were also beginning to think in radical terms, said Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu in July 192o at a missionary conference in Durban.6 Born in 1885, educated at Lovedale, and refused entry to Dale College, a school for whites at King William's Town, he had completed his education in England, where he matriculated, qualified as a teacher at Birmingham university, and obtained the B.A. degree of London university. Returning to South Africa in 1914, he joined the staff of the S.A. Native College at Fort Hare and helped his brother Alexander to edit Imvo after their father's death in 1921. Professor Jabavu, as he was generally known, listed the people's grievances: high prices and low wages; drought and crop failure; taxation without representation; the Native Land Act; pass and other segregation laws; discrimination in schools, law courts, public services, post offices and trains. It was a well-worn catalogue of old complaints; but, warned Jabavu, leaders of a new type had appeared to arouse Africans against their oppression. Members of the Native Labour Corps came back from the war with a strong sense of grievance and a determination to unite against the whites. Bolshevism and its nihilistic doctrines enlisted the support of many Africans in the northern provinces. Educated men, who were voteless and landless helots without a future, turned to agitation, stirring up the populace to violent deeds. Their socialism was not the mild variety of a Ramsay MacDonald's. It was heady stuff: atheistic and revolutionary. Fortunately, Jabavu assured the missionaries, a cure could be found. The Young Men's Christian Association, boys' clubs, games and other such social activities would divert activities and provide the desired antidote. This was shallow reasoning, and revealed Jabavu's refusal to face up to the realities of his society. Like many leaders of the ANC, he substituted cliches about Christian ethics, white patronage or British fair play for a precise analysis of social forces. 267

Colour and Class in South Africa z85o-r95o The African National Congress had plenty of followers but no theory of social change. The communists had plenty of theory but few followers, and tended to blame Congress for their weakness. They accused Congress of being wholly opportunist, of blinding Africans to their working-class status and so staving off their real emancipation.6 7 The communists failed to recog nize the radical element in the ANC, which gave people a sense of national unity and purpose in their resistance to racial oppres sion. When Du Bois' second Pan African Congress met at Paris in September 1921, Andrews wrote that it and other racial or nationalist movements were mere ripples on the surface of a great upheaval. Africans and Negroes would yet learn to use the weapons of strikes and boycotts. Selope Thema, Dr Dube and Sol Plaatje, who represented South Africa at the congress, were of the 'usual safe kind'. The communists' role, he said, was to expose the fallacy of racial and national aspirations. The only solution lay in the overthrow of capitalism.6 8 Revolutionary exhortations did not compensate for the failure to organize the lower paid workers. The party's resources were meagre, as Jones had pleaded, yet this was not the only restrain ing factor. Communists repudiated colour bars and racism; but when the Johannesburg delegates reported on the inaugural conference to their branch, it hesitated to accept Africans who applied for membership and debated the issue at three successive meetings. 69 Africans were urged to form trade unions so as to win the white workers' respect. 'Let them see your organized strength,' advised Bunting, 'so that instead of shooting you down they must recognize you as worthy fellow labourers in the common cause.' It was the i cu, however, and not the Communist party, that recruited Africans and Coloured into a trade union in the early twenties. Besides being submerged in white unions and reluctant to offend them, the communists were sceptical about the possibility of turning the peasant worker, whom they called 'submissive, docile and backward', into a revolutionary. Their main function, they said, was to direct the militancy of white workers against the capitalist system, and to transform the race war into a class war. Racial groups fought one another for jobs as unemployment 268

The Communist Party Formed spread. Mary Fitzgerald, now Mrs Archie Crawford, the heroine of the 'pickhandle brigade' of 1911, led another charge in July 1921, but not against the 'boss class'. Her target was the Col oured proletariat. She and members of her Women's Industrial League stormed the premises of the French Club in Johannes burg, chased the Coloured waiters out, and forced the manage ment to hire white girls in their place. While the Johannesburg town council under Labour pressure refused to issue motor drivers' licences to Coloured, the railway administration sub stituted whites at twice the wage for Coloured gangers. When Dr Abdurahman led an APO deputation to protest against this treatment, the general manager of the railways, Sir William Hoy, undertook to dismiss 8oo Africans and employ Coloured men in their place. The Coloured ex-servicemen in the League of Comrades agitated for jobs held by Africans in all government and municipal services. That, protested Abdurahman, was no less detestable than the selfishness of white ex-soldiers who had shortly before demanded the dismissal of Coloured workers to make room for white Comrades. 'Who is to be sacked to make room for the native ex-soldier?' 70 Whites and Coloured competed also in politics. The Com munist party fought its first election in Cape Town's ward 7, where Harrison stood for the municipal council against Abdurah man in September 1921. The A Oreacted by attacking Harrison, communism and the Soviet Union. What man in his senses, it asked, would subscribe to communism'in our society'? Abdurah man scored an easy victory, but the Labour party candidates, Dr Forsyth and Charlie Pearce, won parliamentary by-elections in the Gardens and Liesbeek against SAP candidates who were backed by the APO. It attributed this defeat to African and Coloured resentment of the Bulhoek massacre; and challenged the Labour party to delete from its constitution the clauses relating to 'kaffir farming' and 'segregation'. Alfred Palmer, editor of the South African Review, 'a paper which never has a kind word about Coloureds or Natives', 7 1 won the provincial council seat in Liesbeek for the Labour party in November 192r. This was a bitter blow to the APO, whose candidate, Matthew Fredericks, was a foundation member 269

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

and its general secretary. His long and distinguished service to the community received poor recognition at the polls. He

obtained only 400 votes in a constituency which had i,ioo

Coloured and African electors. Most of them abstained or voted for Palmer and the Nationalist party candidate. It was humiliat ing, complained the AP 0, to see Africans voting for white candi dates who belonged to 'two violent anti-Native political parties'. 72

Capitalism and white domination, according to the com munists, rested on the four pillars of racialism., nationalism, jingoism and reformism. White workers joined with their masters in keeping the black worker subject, and were them selves divided into warring camps. British workmen wear ing war medals paraded behind the Union Jack when on strike and voted for the financiers and industrialists in the SAP Unionist coalition; Afrikaner workers joined trade unions and voted for Hertzog's Nationalist party. Coloured voters pre ferred Abdurahman to Harrison; Africans followed the ANC rather than the cip. Communist faith in the eventual triumph of class consciousness over false ideologies never wavered, how ever. These were momentary aberrations, symptoms of a vanish ing order. Industrialization would free Africans and Afrikaners from their rural backwardness. Capitalism would reduce white workers to the African's standard and force them to recognize their class interests. Inter-racial solidarity would grow out of the class struggle. Armed with this theory, the communists anticipated and welcomed the great upheaval of 1922. They believed that it was the start of a revolution which would unseat the ruling class and usher in the ideal commonwealth.


13 The Rand Revolt

The mining of gold involved many hazards. A large number of men died from injuries, silicosis or kindred diseases; many more were maimed. Of the eighteen men who formed the miners' strike committee of 1907, thirteen died from phthisis and one from a mining accident before the war. The four survivors, including Tom Mathews the union's general secretary, suffered from the disease. The work underground was rough and hard. It attracted a corresponding type of white worker. Miners in the early days tended to live recklessly and extravagantly on a high rate of pay. They earned ten times as much as the African miner, who did all the labouring work under their supervision, though he often knew more than his supervisor. White miner and African worked closely together within narrow confines underground, and lived poles apart upon the surface. The miners' union was the oldest and usually the most militant union in the Transvaal. Loosely organized and with a fluctuating membership, it was often heavily in debt.1 Three generations of miners passed through its ranks. First came the men from Cornwall and the north of England; then a variety of nationals from Europe; and finally Afrikaners, who constituted seventy-five per cent of the miners by the mid-twenties. The socialists thought it a triumph when Afrikaner miners on the Simmer Deep struck work in i919 against the dismissal of Krichker, a German miner, at the instance of patriotic members of The Comrades of the Great War. This was a 'truly amazing' demonstration of international working solidarity, said the ISL. Afrikaners had become 'for the first time the motive force of the movement'. They were 'learning the meaning of Industrial Democracy and the power of Labour, and the Red Flag '. 2

The miners, if class conscious, were also colour conscious. 271

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

Left militants, like the union's general secretary Tom Mathews and his successor J. Forrester Brown, were sympathetic to the organization of Africans in the industry. The general body of members insisted on a strict colour bar. When the SAIF agreed in 1921 that its affiliates should enjoy the right to admit Coloured members, E. S. Hendrikz, the acting secretary of the miners' union, said that it had instructed him to withdraw its representatives from any conference attended by Coloured delegates. 3 The union steadfastly opposed the entry of Coloured and Africans in what it claimed to be the white worker's pre serves. Mine owners and government were fully aware of this attitude. Sir Evelyn Wallers, the Chamber of Mines president, told the Moffat commission in 1918 that any attempt to substitute Africans for whites in mining work would cause a strike which would have the backing of the great bulk of white people on the Rand.4 Smuts admitted to an APO deputation in July 1921 that the industrial colour bar had become more pronounced since Union, particularly on the railways. The government feared that any attempt to do away with it in the mining industry would precipitate an upheaval on the Rand. F. S. Malan, the minister of mines, added that the colour bar in the mining regulations was probably ultra vires. He, too, predicted that its elimination would involve an industrial upheaval. 5 The mine owners nonetheless maintained a steady pressure for some relaxation of the colour bar. It was, they declared, unjustifiable on both moral and economic grounds. Africans had awakened to a sense of its injustice. They demanded responsible work consistent with their ability, experience and education. The economic reasons were dictated by the fall in gold prices from the maximum of 127s. 4d. a fine ounce in February 1920 to 97S. 7d. in December 1921. This was fifteen per cent more than the price in December 1914; but production costs had risen since then by forty-four per cent. Three mines had closed down, and twenty one were working at a loss or at a profit of less than 2s. a ton milled before July 1919, when the buyers began to pay a pre mium on the 'standard' price of 85s. a fine ounce. The owners contended that these twenty-one mines would also have to be closed if the price reverted to the standard figure, unless costs 272

The Rand Revolt were correspondingly reduced. The argument was driven home at one conference after another between the Chamber and the miners' union. The union, though prepared to consider econo mies in the organization of underground work, emphatically rejected any proposal to modify the colour bar. Crawford, negotiating for the AEU, conceded in February i921 that many mines were in a precarious condition. He proposed a wage cut of five per cent from October to prevent unemploy ment, provided that the owners granted an immediate rise of five per cent for three months to save the union's face. Though it had no objection, the Chamber doubted if 'responsible craftsmen' would agree. The engineers had previously voted in favour of a strike for a forty-four hour working week and a wage increase. They now agreed by a three to one majority to accept the Cham ber's counter-proposal of a reduction in wages at the end of the year. Crawford was severely criticized, and the AEu broke away from his industrial federation.6 At the time of the engineers' dispute in February, men on twenty-three mines came out in sympathy with a strike on the Consolidated Langlaagte mine against an obnoxious shift boss. When a ballot was taken, 4,743 miners voted for the strike and 2,820 against. Their union's executive refused to sanction the strike, since the required two-thirds majority had not approved, and ordered the men back to work. A disciplinary committee appointed by the executive punished twenty-seven of the leaders. Hendrikz was fined £6o. Ernie Shaw, the general treasurer, Percy Fisher, D. Taylor and J. L. Mare were each fined C50 and barred from holding office in the union for three years. H. Spendiff, J. Wordingham, W. Richardson, A. McDermid, K. J. van Coller and others were barred from office for one to five years or punished in other ways. Crawford explained that the union had taken this severe action so as to forestall punitive measures by the Chamber, which nevertheless served notice that it would cease to collect subscriptions on the union's 7 behalf. Some of the men penalized took a prominent part in the strike of 1922. The martial law commission which inquired into the strike found that Shaw, Fisher and Wordingham were communists, 273

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z950 but the party acknowledged only Shaw as a member" A former member of the SDF, he was an industrial unionist who preferred direct action to parliamentary elections. Fisher, on the other hand, had refused to join the miners' union in 1917 until forced to do so by the management in terms of the closed shop agreement. 9 The two men led an unofficial and successful strike on the City Deep mine in November i92o over a breach of the eight-hour working day rule. Shaw stood for election to the 10 and polled secretaryship of the SAIF in January following, 3,254 votes against Andrews' 2,309 and Crawford's 6,899. Fisher was elected secretary of the SAM WU in the same month but the executive annulled the election because of alleged irregularities. He lost the new election by a narrow margin. These struggles in the union and against Crawford's leadership strengthened Andrews in his efforts to promote a rank-and-file movement. A right-wing faction of Hertzog's followers made an un successful bid to organize a separate mynwerkersbond. Mili tants on the left, now isolated from the official leadership, also contemplated a breakaway union. The communists held that this was contrary to the Comintern's policy. Article 9 of the twenty-one points instructed them to carry on systematic work through party cells in the existing unions, which should not be antagonized, but won over to the communist cause. The mili tants thereupon set up a Miners' Council of Action. Fisher made the announcement at a meeting in the Johannesburg town hall on 24 July 1921. The council reported in November that it was *gaining ground, and recommended the formation of a new body to coordinate the activities of militants in all trade unions. This step was taken in January 1922, when the left trade unionists met in the Trades Hall to inaugurate a Johannesburg section of the Red International of Labour Unions, with E. J. Brown as its secretary. The struggle had reached a critical stage, they de clared. The working-class forces should be consolidated in a revolutionary trade union organization. 1 'Be with the workers WHEREVER THEY ARE' - in struggle, victory or defeat, appealed the communists. 'Success has bred defeat,' said Bunting, referring to Labour's setback in the 274

The Rand Revolt parliamentary elections; 'defeat may breed success.' When workers had been 'really oppressed, really whipped, not to say shot down', the unions would acquire a fighting spirit destined to blow the Chamber into air. 'Let it be a fight between the workers and the shirkers,' declared the ISL in March 1921. 'Forward to the assault on the citadel of capitalism.' If the Chamber took up the challenge, the fight would turn into a revolutionary struggle for the control of industry. The alter native before white working men was to be driven with the African into helotry or to advance with him to freedom. 1 2 The African miner's wage had risen by only nine per cent since 1913, and the white miner's by more than fifty per cent. 'Clearly,' argued the Chamber, 'the reduction of the excessive cost of European labour is the line along which the mines are bound to look for relief.' 13 The owners opened the attack in November by giving notice of their intention to modify the 'status quo agreement' of 1918, do away with the contract system, and reorganize underground work. The only point on which owners and miners agreed was to change work patterns in such a way as to extract more labour from Africans. Leaving the compounds from 4 a.m. onwards and returning between 2 and 6 p.m., they usually spent twelve hours or more under ground without food. The number of hours spent in actual work depended on the white ganger, who was required by regulations personally to inspect every working place before mining operations could commence. Miners and owners held conferences in November under Smuts's chairmanship to discuss the Chamber's proposal. The effect of their decision was to reduce the number of supervisors and add at least an hour to the time worked by African drillers in every shift.14 Africans were neither present at the conference nor con sulted. They themselves were chiefly to blame, remarked the International,since they had failed to form trade unions on the Rand, where the 'bourgeois' National Congress held the field.1 5 Disregarding statements to the contrary by spokesmen of Con gress, the icu and the African miners, the writer claimed that they had no desire to do skilled work. All they wanted was more pay for the work they did. The white unions were admittedly 275

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-950

confused and mistaken in opposing the African's advance, and would obtain his backing if only they helped him to demand higher wages and better treatment. At the same time, they were 'perfectly justified in fighting to keep up the numbers and pay of holders of blasting certificates'. This unqualified approval for the oldest and most significant colour bar on the mines revealed the decision of the communists to back the white worker against the Chamber in all circ*mstances. They condemned the unions, now a chief prop of capitalism, for assisting the owners to exploit Africans more intensively. Circ*mstances would yet force African and white miners to recognize their identity of interests, wrote the editor of the International.'6 Though the day for this might seem far distant, when it came it would put an end to capitalist exploitation. The changes in underground work schedules would lead to the sub stitution of 'cheap native labour' for the more costly white, and pave the way for a general attack on wages and working con ditions. The abolition of the colour bar, according to this hypothesis, would benefit the owners and also lay the basis for workers' unity by depriving the white worker of his privileged status. This being so, it might seem that the proper course for radicals was to back the owners on grounds of both expediency and principle. For, Jones had argued in i919, the owners represented the forces of progress, precisely because they clamoured for 'cheap labour'. There was, however, an opposing tactical principle. It pre scribed support for workers engaged in struggle, right or wrong. The men who defended the colour bar might be Luddites, but they formed the vanguard of revolution. The communists held in effect that a strike to maintain the colour bar was reactionary in form and progressive in content. Their theory led them to suppose that the white worker would develop a class consciousness during the struggle. A closer analysis might have persuaded them that his interests and those of the African were incompatible, or contradictory in the Marxist sense. The social basis of class consciousness was smaller in white workers than the communists supposed. 276

The Rand Revolt White miners were both contractors and wage earners, ex ploiters as well as exploited. Shaft sinkers and developers were the direct descendants of the contractor who in early days on the goldfields had developed, stoped or trammed* for a fixed price per unit of work done. He bought his tools and stores from the company; recruited, housed and fed his African helpers. The system had given rise to a partnership between skilled immigrant miners from Corn wall or elsewhere and white South Africans, usually Afrikaners, who hired and supervised the gang of African helpers. In later years the companies took over responsibility for recruiting and paying the African, partly to stop crimping and to peg his wages at a figure acceptable to all owners. The principle of relating the white miner's earnings to the amount of work extracted from his gang persisted. 1 7 He was paid both a minimum daily wage for stoping and developing and an amount determined by the area of ground broken or excavated. As an official of the Krugers dorp branch of the miners' union explained, his earnings de pended on 'the efficiency per boy per fathom per day'. 8 The harder the African worked, the greater was the ganger's income. Africans were paid a flat rate of is. 6d. a shift for shovelling, is. 8d. for tramming and is. 9d. or 2s. for drilling. A driller who completed more than two hours of shovelling and drilled more than thirty-six inches in the same shift was paid two-thirds of a penny per inch drilled instead of the 2S. He received no pay for the day's work if he failed to complete a specified norm. His shift was then held to be incomplete and did not count against his period of service under contract. The decision lay with the ganger, before he lost his power after the war to issue the 'loafer ticket' that deprived his helper of a day's pay. Mining authorities urged that Africans also should be put on piece work so as to provide an incentive and the opportunity to earn wages related to capacity and experience. White miners wished to retain their right to issue 'loafer tickets'; and never advocated incentive schemes for their helpers. Since the supply of African labour was constantly renewed, a ganger had no material interest * 'Develop': open a mine by sinking a shaft; 'stope': extract ore from a staircase in the seam; 'tram': load ore into the tram or skip. 277

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

in conserving the strength or promoting the well-being of the men under him. He did not regard them as fellow workers. He was their 'baas'. and so they addressed him. The changes proposed in the contract system might reduce the miner's earnings, but not the number of men employed on work reserved for whites by the mining regulations. Any displacement or retrenchment would affect other workers, to whom the 'status quo agreement' applied. It pegged the demarcation of jobs between whites and Africans by stipulating that no member of either racial group would be allowed to encroach on the other's field of employment as defined on x September 1918. If the owners had their way, Africans could take the place of whites in twenty-five semi-skilled occupations in which some 4,000 men were employed. 19 The owners said that not more than 2,000 would be retrenched, and then only as a temporary measure pending the return to the former level of profits. When this happened, expansion would follow, bringing with it a rise in the number of employees, including whites. On the other hand, according to the Chamber, retrenchment on an even bigger scale would be unavoidable if the desired economies were not achieved. Labour leaders were concerned less with the hardships of 2,000 men retrenched out of a working force of 21,000 than with a racial or national ideology. The S AM WU and the S AI F declared that they were fighting 'to protect the White race', or 'to main tain a White standard of living', or 'to preserve a White South Africa'. 20 This was not a question of wages, said Sampson and Creswell, but a 'great national issue' of breaking down or maintaining the colour bar. 21 Nationalist politicians and predi kants harped on the same theme. 'The Chamber of Mines had declared there should be a black South Africa,' the Rev. Oosthui zen told Brakpan strikers; while dominie Hattingh thought that the souls as well as the bodies of the workers would be murdered if the colour bar were abolished. 2 2 Though disapproving of strikes generally, said Dr A. M. Moll, the Nationalist party supported the miners' fight against the removal of the colour bar.2 3 Tielman Roos was all for a white man's country, and Hertzog claimed that ninety-five per cent of the people were behind the strikers' demand for the colour bar. 24 Wages were 278

The Rand Revolt never an issue in the strike, declared the legal defence committee

formed after the strike. 'The Strike was fought throughout on the question of the Colour Bar, including the Status Quo Agree

ment.' It was the same vital principle of 'National life and character' as in the Chinese labour dispute or as in the American civil war. Was free European labour to be displaced by Negro slave labour?2 5 The northern states of America made war on the south to liberate the slaves and establish the rule of equality before the law. The strikers of z922 paralleled the south, and not the north, in their attitude to African rights. 'When Mine Negro labour is free labour it will be time enough to decide what our attitude shall be towards it,' the defence committee explained; 'but that is not the present position or question. We are not even expres sing any opinion about the compounded Native Labour system for unskilled work on the Mines, since we have no desire to encroach on it.' 2 6 The strikers protested against the 'extension of the slave labour system' and not against its existence. In reinforcing the colour bar, they perpetuated the African's economic and social inferiority. White workers, one must con clude, would rather boss indentured Africans than compete with free Africans on an open labour market. The dispute began on the coal mines. British coal miners had taken a big wage cut after the abortive general strike in 1921. South African colliery owners said that they could not compete on the world market with British coal at its reduced price, and asked their white employees to accept a smaller wage as well. After fruitless negotiations, a deputation from the SAIF met Patrick Duncan, minister of the interior, on 28 December and agreed on arbitration. The owners refused and gave notice of their intention to reduce the standard wage of 30s. a shift by 5s. Engineering firms had previously notified their skilled em ployees of a wage cut from i January; the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power company rejected a demand for a wage increase; and the mine owners announced that they would replace con tract and piece work rates by a daily rate of pay. This amounted to a general assault on living standards, said the trade union leaders, and they made up their minds to resist. 279

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-r950 The coal miners decided to strike work on 2 January. A meet ing of trade union delegates held on 3 December approved the strike; agreed to ballot miners, engineers and electric power workers; and formed an 'augmented executive' of members of the SAIF and unaffiliated unions. The ballot paper, which was drafted by the augmented executive, urged the workers affected to vote in favour of a strike against four 'ultimatums': the 'refusal of the Coal Owners to arbitrate'; the 'Chamber of Mines' threat to substitute cheap black labour for white'; the refusal of the power company 'to continue to negotiate' for higher wages; and the 'threatened wrecking of agreement and reduction of wages' by engineering firms.27 Only the colliery owners could be said to have delivered an ultimatum. Although the other issues were still open to negotia tion, of the 24,000 workers concerned nearly 14,ooo voted for a strike and 1,336 against. The coal miners came out on 2 January, and the rest on the ioth. Joe Thompson, chairman of the SAIF and the augmented executive, opened negotiations on the same day with the Chamber. The two sides conferred from the 15th to the 27th under the chairmanship of Justice Curlewis, and failed to agree. The Chamber issued a statement on the 28th recognizing 'the utmost importance' of preserving the Rand's white population. To safeguard the whites, the owners offered to guarantee an average ratio of one white worker to io'5 Africans, as compared with the existing i to 8'5 ratio, on pro ducing gold mines for the next two years. The ratio would place a ceiling on retrenchments due to any departures from the status quo. The owners undertook further to respect the statu tory colour bar and existing agreements on hours and basic wages. In return, the men would lose their cost of living allow ance and two paid holidays, May Day and Dingaan's Day. The militants attacked the negotiators. 'The side which calls for a truce, especially when the fight is barely begun, confesses defeat,' wrote Andrews, and advised: 'Hit as hard and as quickly as possible.' Harassed by the police, the Council of Action ceased to function as a group soon after the strike began. Therefore, wrote Ernest Shaw28 in later years, 'all the elaborate "fudge" about the Council of Action being engaged in creating fighting 280

The Rand Revolt commandos and formulating a "red revolution" is so much "moonshine".' Individual members, acting on their own initia tive, worked closely with Andrews and made his office in the Trades Hall, which was also the Communist party's head quarters, the centre of their activities. 'Our opinion,' added Shaw, 'was that the strike would end as it did.' This was also the opinion of Andrews. Cheap labour, he argued, would drive out dear. The only solution was to narrow the gap between white workers and Africans. This the capitalists tried to do by bringing the whites down in numbers and pay. Their proper answer was to insist on civilized wages for all. "9 In a private letter, which fell into police hands, he confessed that the prospects were unfavourable. The strikers, in his opinion, were fighting for a lost cause. It was impossible to keep Africans out of industrial employment for which they were capable. But white working men would listen to reason only after bitter experience had taught them the futility of colour bars. 30 The fight was on. The duty of communists was to guide it correctly, instil a revolutionary consciousness in the strikers, and lead them to victory. None of these aims would be attained if the strike degenerated into a race war. The party must therefore stress the common interests of all workers, develop a spirit of inter-racial solidarity, and turn the strike into a crusade against capitalism. 'What to fight for?' asked Bunting, and answered: 'Wages, then, not colour, is the point to strike about and so far as this is a strike to maintain wages, it deserves the whole hearted support of all Labour, including the coloured and native workers themselves.' The supporting arguments were addressed to both groups. Colour bars were 'of course unfair', yet served the interests of all workers 'to the extent' that they helped to keep up higher wages and the number of those drawing on them. The abolition of the colour bar would benefit only a small handful of Africans, and leave the great bulk in the same low paid position as before. Security for the white man, on the other hand, lay not in retaining the colour bar but in raising the wages of Africans.' The communists never deviated in principle from this line. 281 ........

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o Their manifesto of 30 January gladly offered the party's services to the Strike Committee. Its fight, in spite of some questionable slogans, was essentially a fight against capitalist rule. For it was impossible to maintain the 'white standard' or build a 'white South Africa' under capitalism. 'Then away with it ' The means would be found in the utmost solidarity of all workers, irrespec 32 tive of race or colour, 'as this strike is plainly teaching'. If that was the lesson, it made no impact on the strikers. They ignored the appeal for solidarity and continued to fight under the banner 'For a White South Africa'. In the event, com

terms dictated by the munists also participated in the strike on 33 workers' 'deficient class consciousness'. Even Jones, observing events from the Comintern's head quarters in Moscow, found some merit in the colour bar. He conceded that it put the white labour movement in the false position of resisting 'the undeniable justice of the capitalist plea for native advancement'. Yet, he claimed, the barrier provided 'the best possible condition for cooperation of white with black'. Their functions were complementary. They got on 'very happily together at the place of work'. The white workers would honestly like to do justice, without 'social contamination', to Africans. The attack on the colour bar threatened to put an end to this idyllic state. Competition, he warned, would lead to the introduction of the ugly forms of race hatred prevalent in 3 America. 4 Hertzog argued in the same strain that whites would never do justice to the African until they had lost their fears by taking away his vote. But no Marxist should have entertained the notion that absolute white power would guarantee justice and fair play. No patriot would buy harmony and solidarity at the price of his people's subservience. Abdurahman, for one, did not share the communists' illusions. His petition to parliament, issued during the strike, urged the removal of the colour bar for the sake of even-handed justice, peace, harmony, goodwill and respect among all sections. Africans, Coloured and Indians in all provinces should be given 35 the right to vote and to stand for parliament. Abdurahman poured scorn on the white miners. Sheltered behind the colour


The Rand Revolt bar, he said, they lived on the labour of the black man, scabbed when he struck work, and forced him to put up with the miser able wage of 2S. a day. Twenty thousand white men on the mines drew wages amounting to £Iol million a year. Ten times that number of African miners received only £6 . million. The whites were parasites, bloodsuckers and drones. They had exploited the 'White South Africa' policy to such good effect that they now filled the position of mere overseers. As experience on the coal mines had shown, Africans could manage well enough without the supervision of the white parasites. 36 The communists viewed with gloom the continued flow of coal from the collieries. Six hundred white miners sat idly on the surface while 20,000 Africans kept up production with the aid of a handful of officials. One mine claimed record outputs; the others were scarcely affected. Andrews complained that the colour bar had disappeared from the coalfields. 'It is probably too late to rectify this grave blunder now, and it is extremely likely that the ratio of whites to blacks in the coal mines has permanently been lowered.' The moral, he added, was that all men, black or white, official or wage earner, who worked during a strike were scabs. The African had never been asked to help. Given any little encouragement by recognizing his rights to better conditions, he would strike solidly. This is what the capitalists feared. 3 7 So, it seemed, did the strikers. They made no effort to enlist the African's backing, yet wanted him to wait idly until the strike was over. When the Chamber announced

that it had sent 28,ooo men back to the reserves, Benoni strikers called on the government to nationalize the mines in view of the

threat to close them by repatriating Africans.3 5 Signs of a decline in morale appeared at an early stage. The Germiston strike committee stirred turbulence on i February by calling for a settlement and asking Smuts to intervene. Cres well pleaded for a 'reasoned adjustment and compromise'. Crawford, back from Geneva, claimed that the augmented executive, being unconstitutional, had no authority to call a strike. The communists complained of having been excluded from the 'guiding councils in the fight', and rejected any com promise. War to the knife was the only method.3 9 The 283

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 strikers' leaders tended to look for a political solution. Hendrikz, the miners' secretary, told demonstrators in Johannesburg on Smuts. 21 January to vote for Hertzog or Creswell and not for The augmented executive accused Smuts of backing the owners and invited negotiations with the Nationalist party. A meeting held in Johannesburg on the 29th urged workers to substitute a government pledged to support the white race. Labour and Nationalist party spokesmen appeared on the same platform in Pretoria on the 3oth. Two Labour party members of parliament, Sampson and Madeley, were deputed with two Nationalists, to Tielman Roos and Pretorius, to ask the governor-general 4° summon parliament to meet in the Transvaal. He refused. Tielman Roos, the Nationalist party leader in the Transvaal, used the occasion to gain a foothold in the labour movement and conduct a campaign against the government. He issued a pamphlet accusing Smuts of having conspired with the Chamber of Mines to make war on the workers, and advised them to settle the dispute at the next elections. Speaking at Fordsburg on 3 February, he suggested that the state should take over the mines. Only a government sympathetic to the whole of South Africa, and not to the Chamber alone, he added, could be ex pected to take this step. Two days later a big meeting of strikers adopted a resolution moved by Waterston, a Labour M.P. and leader of the Brakpan commando, calling on Nationalists to join with Labour in proclaiming a republic outside the empire. A delegation, which included Shaw and Fisher of the Council of Action, put the proposal before Nationalist and Labour leaders at Pretoria, and met with no encouragement. They proposal', commented the martial law rejected 'the treasonable 1 inquiry commission.4 Abdurahman reacted strongly against what he thought was an unholy alliance between Labour and Nationalists - those 'ante diluvian obstructionists' encrusted with 'narrow prejudice and hoary out-of-date love of serfdom'. White workers had little, the Coloured and African far less, to hope for from the Nationalist party. It was out to exploit a national disaster for party political ends.' 2 Bunting also warned against Nationalist influences. The 'white South Africa slogan had become the strikers' chief motif.' 284 /

The Rand Revolt It supplied the steam and ginger, even to the extent of bringing the strike to a 'revolutionary situation'. But it was a two-edged cry. In the mouths of the farmers' champions, it meant only 'cheap and servile black labour'. Indeed, it came close to a demand for the 'black labour country' that capitalism had made of South Africa. Communism alone, he argued, could make it a 'white man's country' in the sense of securing to all the full product of their labour.4 3 The attempt by the communists to infuse a radical content into a racial slogan followed from their unqualified support for the strike. They even justified the legend 'Workers of the World, Fight and Unite for a White South Africa.' It appeared on a red banner carried on 7 February at the head of the Fordsburg commando on its daily march with cycle outriders, advance guard and band playing the 'Red Flag'. 44 'On the face of it,' explained Bunting, 'such a motto is a grotesque travesty of the words and meaning of Marx, but the matter must not be dis missed so hastily.' Cynicism at this muddled thinking would get them nowhere. The cry to maintain the colour bar was really a fight for civilized standards. It brought into the struggle sections of the population that would not normally be on the side of a strike for wages. In spite of appearances, there was no hostility among the strikers against African workers as such, though they loomed as a frightening spectre behind the strike. What was important was that town and country had united for the first time against Big Business. The rest would follow. The workers would yet learn that the true remedy lay not in colour bars but in solidarity against the capitalist class.45 The leaders of the strike were more reactionary than Bunting would acknowledge. They feared a repetition of 1914, when

Smuts had rushed the commandos to the Rand. To obviate the danger, and cement the alliance between'town and country', they tried to neutralize the farmers by hoisting the race and colour flag. A pamphlet went out from the miners' union before the strike began, with an appeal to Afrikaners to stand aside rather than assist the government to defeat the strike. In the event of a defeat, 'the Kafir in future will take up the place of the white man, and then we are doomed to national annihilation'. The 285


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Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 quotation, and much more to the same effect, came from the Nationalist party press, which never hesitated to inflame race prejudice. As 'the Kafir' got higher wages and social status, the public were told, 'many white girls, embarrassed by the removal of the colour bar, will enter into marriage with Coloured people - a danger against which the Afrikaner is always fighting'. There was no need for farmers to come to the Rand to defend it against an African rising. Hendrikz, the union secretary, gave the assurance that the miners would be able to cope with it on their own. 4

The strike, Smuts told Africans in a special message, was no concern of theirs. 'Stay quietly in your compounds, obey orders, and you will be protected.' Any act of disobedience or dis order, he threatened, would be put down at once and by force. With this spectre before them, the strike committee agreed with the police on Io January to help in keeping order so long as this did not encourage scabs. The police expressly encouraged the strikers to form commandos so as to have an auxiliary corps of disciplined men on hand if Africans revolted.4 7 When the Putfontein commando on the East Rand raided a police station for rifles, the police took no immediate action other than to obtain their return. The commandos exercised, drilled and paraded under the direction of ex-soldiers, but their elected commandants were nearly always Afrikaner nationalists. The

SAIF endorsed the decision to raise commandos to protect the interests of white workers and 'fundamentally establish this

country as a white man's country'. 4 8 The communists also

approved, for another reason. Bunting hailed the commandos as 'Red Guards of the Rand'; and praised them for enrolling in the Red Army under the Red Flag, 'which alone can ennoble war and bloodshed . The militants urged the commandos to seize arms, com mandeer food and prepare for the fight that would surely follow the anticipated proclamation of martial law. 'The issue has got to be won by force and violence,' Fisher told a meeting in

Johannesburg on 4 February. Mine owners, strike leaders and Smuts began discussions on the same day and nearly reached

an agreement after three days of negotiations. The Chamber 286

The Rand Revolt repeated its offer to observe a ratio of one white to io'5 Africans, and made a new concession. The status quo would continue on all mines except the low grade ones until such time as govern ment and parliament had considered the findings of an impartial board. Smuts undertook to appoint the board and give effect to its findings if they proved fair and workable. The men agreed to call off the strike provided that the 'status quo agreement' remained in force on all mines pending a final settlement based on the findings, which should adequately protect the white workers' position in the industry. No agreement was reached, other than an indefinite undertaking to meet again if 'new light was thrown on the situation'. This proved to be a turning point. Relations deteriorated from then on until the strike reached the climax of an armed battle. Thompson and Crawford issued a circular on the 7th reaffirm ing the SAIF's endorsem*nt of the commandos and instructing strike committees to use them against scabs. Fisher, Shaw, Spendiff, Wordingham and McDermid, all members of the Council of Action, were arrested on charges of incitement to public violence and taken into custody on the 8th. A large meeting held in Johannesburg on the same day demanded their release and called for a general strike. The augmented executive turned the proposal down, to the great indignation of the com munists. They denounced the executive's lack of courage, ideas and initiative; and attacked the leaders for negotiating with the Chamber. Their proposals amounted to 'a considerable climb down for the men', and showed 'a distinct weakening on the question of the status quo agreement', s o The criticism was illogical, coming from militants who maintained throughout that the strike had been called to keep up wage standards, and not to enforce the colour bar. At this stage, however, they had turned their backs on any negotiated settlement, even if it introduced a measure of flexibility that would open fields of responsible work to Africans on the mines. As on the war issue, the communists took up a position wholly opposed to that of Africans and Coloured. The status quo, said the A.P.O., deprived them of any opportunity to rise above the unskilled level. If the colour bar were removed, they would be 287

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o employed according to their ability, skill and degree of education. No Coloured man in his senses would place his trust in the white Labour movement and its ally, Afrikaner Nationalism. Selby Msimang argued that the white worker demanded both a monopoly of certain trades and the exclusive right to a high rate of wages. His object was 'to put the iron heel on the neck of both mine-owner and Native'.51 If the line was drawn as clearly as this between the two groups of protagonists, Smuts's own position was more ambiguous. His next move placed him squarely on the side of the owners, though he continued to insist that his role was 'to form a ring 5 for the two parties to fight it out . 2 He told a deputation of Nationalist and Labour party leaders on the 8th that the govern

ment could not force the Chamber to settle the dispute on the strikers' terms. On the xith he urged the men to resume work on the Chamber's terms, and promised police protection to those who complied. As the leader of a party that represented mine owners, industrialists and bankers, Smuts had to protect their

interests against the pressure of the opposition, which repre

sented landowner and white workers. Both backed the strike on the ground that it formed part of a struggle to defend the colour bar and a white South Africa.-5 Like the communists, Smuts denied that this was the issue. Unlike them, he contended that4 industry. the dispute centred round the future of the mining While agreeing with the Chamber that the colour bar obstructed the growth of efficient and profitable enterprise, he never ac cepted the view that racial discrimination was unjust to Africans and Coloured. He never departed a hair's breadth from the basic postulate of white South Africans that it was their inherent and 55 eternal destiny to dominate persons of colour. As minister of mines in 1912, Smuts had been responsible for inserting, without parliament's mandate, colour bars in the mining regulations. As leader of the opposition in 1925, he defended his action by claiming that he had done no more than 6 perpetuate an old republican tradition.5 At heart he might well have sympathized with the miners' fight for white supremacy. Party politics and his involvement with the mine owners and financial interests prevented him from proclaiming his sympa 288





The Rand Revolt thies in public. Unable to repudiate the concept of a white South Africa, he took refuge in silence, evasions and finally explosive violence. The Nationalist party demanded on i March an inquiry into the shooting of three strikers by policemen at Boksburg. Smuts rejected the motion with the historic words: 'let things develop'. As they developed to their violent and bloody end, he abandoned even the pretence of dealing with the merits of the dispute, and relied wholly on the 'law and order' phrase to defend his policy. His statement of the i ith, calling on strikers to resume work and owners to restart the mines, provoked a sharp reaction. 'We accept General Smuts's challenge,' proclaimed the augmented executive, 'and we recommend all men on Strike to stand fast.' Tensions mounted as the prospects of a settlement receded. The first clashes between whites and Africans took place at Fords burg on the 13th. Forty Africans were arrested. The police began the arrests of pickets on the I 4 th, and took Andrews into custody on the next day for incitement to violence. Bunting suggested that the government was set on removing prominent opponents of 'Crawfordism'. Although the police denied reports of 'anti-white outbreaks', Bunting accused the ruling class, the administration and Abdurahman of fostering anti-trade union ism among Africans. A strikers' meeting passed resolutions demanding 'a white standard of living for the workers' and 'a country fit for white men and women to live in'. These events gave the cue for yet another effort in the Internationalto equate the class struggle with colour bars. Bunting thought that even Abdurahman, though apparently a tool of the owners, ought to want a 'white standard' for blacks also. The strikers admittedly still believed in 'keeping the kaffir in his place'. Yet unconsciously, even unwillingly, they were fighting his battles, too. Communists disagreed with the plat form cry that the aim of the strike was to prevent him from rising to the white man's level. They supported the strike for opposite reasons. Its true purpose, they said, was to put the African on a civilized standard as against the Chamber's objective of putting the white man on 'kraal' standards. Defence of the colour bar meant defending wage rates, and this merited the support also C.s.,. - 13


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-95 o of Africans. Ideally, the struggle should be for equal wages, but it could not be postponed until the rate for the job had been

secured. The immediate, partial demand for the retention of colour bars was consistent with the movement's long-range aims. The removal of the colour bar would put money into the

owner's pockets and not in the African's. His leaders who agi tated against it, said the International,were 'simply playing the game of the capitalist'. They were his 'tools, dupes, or snobs'.

Their agitation was neither spontaneous nor proletarian. They did not benefit their people by fighting the white unions. Each

section of the working class was weakened by fighting the other section.

5 7

While they probed the striker's mind for signs of a true proletarian instinct, the communists could hardly ignore the dilemma of their own reasoning. The penalty of defeat, they said, would be large-scale victimization and the eventual elimination of the white worker. On the other hand, if he returned to work on his own terms, his privileged position would be entrenched at the African's expense. This would be a pyrrhic victory for the cause of inter-racial solidarity. The communists looked for a solution in their revolutionary vision. Capitalism, they argued, offered no hope for white or black. It degraded by causing enmity between them. Equality could be realized only after the revolu tion, 'when for the first time it will lose its sting'. The central task of all workers, irrespective of colour, was to destroy the whole capitalist class, irrespective of colour. They could unite on this platform. If they were to split again on the rock-bottom issue of labour exploitation, let them face it when the question arose. The communists hoped that struggle would purify and revolu tion redeem the strikers' bitter racialism. Sworn opponents, they exulted, now called one another brother and comrade. 'Labour, right, centre and left, socialist, communist, nationalist, sane trade unionist and syndicalist, Sons of England, Sinn Feiner, comrades of the great war, and war-on-warites, aU may be seen mixed up.' 5 8 It was a united front of communists and those to the right of them. No African or Coloured appeared on the platform. They could not expect to gain from a movement so 290

The Rand Revolt constituted, in which they had no part and the avowed aim of which was to keep them in their place. 'Nothing can make our position worse,' lamented the A.P.O.,5 9 'except the placing in power of men of the Labour stamp.' Just that, and not revolu tion, was to come out of the strike. As C. F. Glass, secretary of the Communist party's Cape Town branch, pointed out at the time, the white workers were too backward, their trade unions too weak, and the party's forces too insignificant to make a revolution.60 Without this redeeming element, the strike ran its reactionary course. The commandos beat up men who trickled back to work. The managements armed mine guards and strike breakers. A pro clamation issued on 22 February banned commando strike pickets. Andrews and the five Council of Action members were released on bail on the same day. This was a terrible blunder, thought C. J. McCann, the general secretary of the SALP at the time. When he heard of their arrest he said, 'Thank God, I hope they will have sufficient sense to keep them there.' 6 1 Ivan Walker, the secretary of the strike legal defence committee in 1922 and of the labour department from 1932 to 1946, came to a similar conclusion. The government, he insinuated in later years, allowed these 'so-called "prominent exponents of violent methods"' to re-enter the struggle so that their activities might provide evidence of a 'Red Terror' or 'Revolution '.62 The Council of Action accused Crawford of having 'framed' them.63 He retorted that they were 'professed extremists and direct actionists' - the same charge levelled against him when deported by Smuts in 1914. The long-standing feud of the militants with Crawford might well have hardened them against any compromise likely to re establish his authority. Re-elected secretary of the S AIF in January, he was isolated from the augmented executive, the strike committee and the delegates who negotiated with the Chamber. Andrews and his associates had condemned 'Craw fordism' - the settlement of disputes by negotiation and com promise - since he became secretary of the SAIF in x915. The strike gave them an opportunity to vindicate their own policy of direct action. Andrews wrote on the 25th to a correspondent 291

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 in Australia that there was 'a revolutionary undercurrent in the situation'. The commandos constituted a 'military formation', largely 'Dutch', well disciplined, and if armed 'it is sub rosa'. Loose and unofficial ties between the Labour and Nationalist parties could develop into an alliance for 'complete autonomy and independence for South Africa'. The commando leaders held secret meetings towards the end of February, discussed 6" plans for a general rising, and resolved to declare a republic. The strength of the government's armed force on the Rand, including the police, mounted riflemen, special constables and civil guards, was raised by 4,500 to 7,000 men before io March. The police attacked the Putfontein commando on 27 February, wounding some and arresting others. Members of the commando serenaded the prisoners by singing the 'Red Flag' outside Boks burg jail. The police fired without good cause and killed three demonstrators. A two-mile long funeral procession and big meetings along the Reef condemned the killing. The strike committee distributed leaflets urging the public to keep calm and avoid violence. 'More and more clearly the class war emerges,' wrote Andrews.' s He pointed out that white workers, who had previously applauded and even taken part in the brutal repression of Africans, were now being hoist with their own petard. White supremacy was not the issue, he insisted. The strike had taught the lesson of labour solidarity and would be won conclusively if all workers joined. 'The time is past for any truce with the enemy excepting for the purpose of getting breathing space.' Organize the African, he appealed; extend the fight, spread the strike, force the Chamber off its pedestal and compel the government, for its own safety, to offer reasonable terms of settlement. The augmented executive also wanted a settlement. Writing on its behalf, Crawford suggested a round table conference on 4 March with the Chamber to discuss 'possible terms upon which the strike might be declared off'. But the owners were no longer interested in negotiations. Emboldened by Smuts's whole hearted backing and the success of their attempts to restart the mines, they planned to discredit the miners' unions and detach them from the industrial federation. The Chamber replied in 292


The Rand Revolt provocative terms that the proposed conference would be futile. 'Further, the Chamber will not in future recognize the South African Industrial Federation for any purpose.' Whatever might have been its status in the past 'under different control', it no longer represented the bulk of employees in the industry. The owners saw no reason why they should discuss their business 'with representatives of slaughtermen and tramwaymen'. The Chamber would assist the workers 'to get rid of the dangerous junta which has brought them to the present pass '.66 This calculated arrogance exasperated the men and jolted the augmented executive into deciding to hold a second ballot. Andrews, it seems, regarded the decision as 'cowardly and humiliating', and intervened to frustrate the last attempt to arrive at a negotiated settlement.6 7 He and other militants did not believe that the strike could succeed, but they were deter mined to break Crawford's influence and fan the flames of revolution. Andrews, Shaw, Fisher, Spendiff, Wordingham and George Mason had previously - and probably in the Fort formed themselves into an unofficial Committee of Action. All were 'persons who advocated the prosecution of the strike with greater determination and who worked unceasingly to encourage and assist the men '. 6 They decided on the night of the 4th to take over the leadership, stop the ballot, and call a general strike. On Sunday the 5 th they addressed big meetings along the Reef, 'urged the workers to demand a general strike', and advised the commando leaders (who by then were called 'generals') to bring their troops to the Trades Hall on Monday morning.6 9 Thousands of men surrounded the building, where the aug mented executive was in session, and remained there all day. The Committee of Action catered for them with 'an unceasing torrent of oratory' and food 'organized on the spot' so as 'not to allow the Commandos to disperse', observed Andrews. Virtually imprisoned and either inspired or intimidated by this show of strength, the executive declared an immediate general strike and abdicated. The leadership passed into the hands of the committee: 'the implacable enemies of capitalism' who would fight at all times to bring about its downfall. 7 0 Even they

could not, however, persuade railwaymen, printers, factory and 293

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 other workers to join in the strike. It met with less response on the Rand than the general strike of 1914, and was virtually ignored in the rest of the country. The call for a general strike was more of a gesture than a serious attempt to retrieve a desperate situation. That the appeal would fail was evident in January, when the SAIF urged unions in all towns to prepare for a general strike. The unions in Cape Town, politically the most advanced centre after Johannesburg, took no heed, and ignored requests from the local Communist party branch to demonstrate their support. They refused to send speakers to a party meeting on i February, 'as the struggle in the north was purely a question of the colour bar'. A. Z. Berman, Green and Glass took the line that the strike had been called to defend living standards and not the colour bar; but Abdurahman received the backing of Coloured in the audience when he heckled the speakers. The Cape Federation of Labour unions held a special meeting on i i March to consider the letter from Johannesburg asking them to take part in the general strike. The Coloured delegates reported that there was much resentment among workers at the treatment meted out to them in the Transvaal and at the unprovoked attacks by strikers on Africans. The meeting agreed to arrange for a demonstration outside parliament, but cried off even this display of solidarity 7 when the government refused to meet a deputation. The strikers fought on with no effective aid from the trade union, Labour and Nationalist leaders who had edged them into battle. Frustrated men, inflamed by weeks of violent propaganda and martial exercises, vented their fears and resentments on Africans and scabs - on Africans especially. Unprovoked attacks on them were reported from many parts of the Rand on the 7 th, the day of the general strike. The communists blamed provocateurs and distributed a leaflet headed 'LEAVE THE KAFFIR ALONE. WHITE WORKERS, HANDS OFF THE BLACK

WORKERS!' The strike committee issued a notice prepared by the police. It asserted that 'bodies of strikers are attacking Natives wantonly and without any reason or cause'. The com mittee instructed strikers to cease the attacks, which provoked Africans to disorder and antagonized the general public. The 294



The Rand Revolt

Transvaal executive of the African National Congress asked the government to proclaim martial law or to supply Africans with arms for self-defence. The APO executive urged Smuts on the 9th to protect inoffensive Coloured and Africans against 'cow ardly murders' by armed bands of strikers. An i c u meeting held at Cape Town on the 12th condemned the strikers because they murdered 'our poor innocent brothers and sisters'; and de manded that 'full justice' be meted out to the guilty men. 2 The Committee of Action urged the commandos to set up a unified command to stop 'the native trouble that had broken out'.7' Fisher chaired a meeting of commando 'generals' in the Trades Hall to discuss 'the unrest among the natives . But the generals refused to take orders from the committee or even inform it of their plans. They turned Andrews out of the Com munist party offices and held a meeting on their own. 'Racial and traditional feelings had not simply disappeared, in spite of the common struggle.' 7 The generals wanted a republic and were prepared to fight for it with guerrilla warfare. The committee dissociated itself from these aims and issued a statement denying any intention to set up a rival government, or of allowing 'our industrial strike to pass out of our hands '.6 Communists and

trade union militants lost control of the commandos. They became an independent force but without a central command of their own. The struggle developed into a series of isolated skirmishes and last-ditch stands as police and troops moved in for the kill. Smuts declared martial law on the ioth for the fourth time in ten years, rushed to the Rand and took charge of the troops. They rounded up 1,500 strikers at the show grounds and made them prisoners. Andrews, Shaw, Mason and others, though warned of an imminent raid, were trapped in the party office. The police took them and the entire strike committee to the Fort, where they remained for the rest of the strike. Bunting joined them two days later. The Internationaland the Transvaal Post, a Nationalist newspaper, were banned. Strikers began the

attack by raiding police stations for arms. Police and troops retaliated along the Rand with air support, bombs, artillery,

machine guns and tanks, driving the commandos from their 295

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-950 strongholds at Benoni, Boksburg, Brixton and Langlaagte. Fisher and Spendiff made a last stand with their commando on the 14th at Fordsburg. Heavy artillery rained shells on them and forced their surrender. Fisher and Spendiff died, either at their own hands as the police alleged, or killed by the troops after the surrender.7 7 The augmented executive formally announced the end of the strike on the i6th. Smuts returned to a hero's welcome in parliament and asked for an act of indemnity. The strike cost between 23o and 25o lives, compared with the I 13 South Africans killed in the Ger man South West campaign and the I9O Africans killed at Bulhoek. The strike defence committee found that at least 214 were killed in the five days' fighting, of whom 78 were strikers, 76 members of the government forces, and 62 'ordinary' resi 78 dents. Some 3o Africans were killed by strikers or hooligans. Of 4,758 persons arrested, 953 appeared before the courts, 46 on charges of murder; of these last, 18 were sentenced to death and 4 were hanged. Sixty-seven were convicted of treason or sedition and fined or sentenced to imprisonment for periods ranging from io years to 14 days. All those still serving sentences were released under the Strike Condonation Act of 1922 on or before 17 May 1924, immediately prior to the general election. Andrews, Shaw, Mason and Wordingham, the surviving mem bers of the Committee of Action, were acquitted on charges of public violence. Bunting and seven other communists were released without having been charged. The International,resum ing publication on 26 May 1922, printed a 'roll of honour' of party members who had felt 'the weight of the iron heel in the period of White Terror'. The only ones sentenced to imprison ment were Brown, Chapman, Glazer and Goldman. They served seven, six or four months for carrying arms or breaking martial law regulations. The press published lurid accounts of 'a foul 79 conspiracy which seized on the strike as a means to Bolshevism'. Yet not a single Communist party member stood trial on a charge of treason. The execution of H. K. Hull, D. Lewis, S. A. Long and C. C. Stassen for murders committed during the strike increased the resentment raging against Smuts. The Labour and National 296




- -- -- _ZjQ=;NOM=M ,

The Rand Revolt ist parties said that his refusal to reprieve Stassen, convicted of killing two Africans, was a sop to Africans and Coloured. The execution of Taffy Long in particular caused bitter resentment. A leader of the Fordsburg commando, he was said to have served on a firing party that shot an alleged police spy. Hull, Lewis and Long went to the gallows on 17 November singing the 'Red Flag'. Their funeral was turned into a great demonstration. While Labour mourned its martyred dead, Clements Kadalie and the icu expressed their confidence in the government 'for bringing to the scaffold resolutely in accordance with our March resolu tions those responsible for the outrageous and cynical murder of our people'." 0 Abdurahman also condemned white labour's 'bloodiest crimes' on the Rand, and asked how a repetition could be avoided. The lesson to be learnt, he said, was that the govern ment should at once remove control of the industry from dividend-mongering directors and colour-prejudiced white trade unionists. The state must obtain a fuller control of working conditions and a fair share in the output. This implied that the African's wages, opportunities of advancement and living stan dards should be improved. Any settlement, however satisfactory to the state, capital and white labour, would end in disaster if it did not also recognize the invaluable services he rendered to the country or his legitimate and growing aspirations.8 " Here was an idea for a radical programme on which com munists, militant trade unionists and the national liberation movement might have combined. Its great defect was the assumption that the white man's state would be any more benevolent than employers and white workers towards the African miner. But the proposal had the merit of stressing both his claims and the need to curb white power, greed and privilege. The March rising, said the communists, was the 'most glori ous event in the history of white civilization in South Africa', or, in a more restrained evaluation, 'one of the most glorious episodes in the history of the South African workers'. Its only fault was failure.8 2 The party's post-mortem appeared in Bunting's pamphlet Red Revolt. He remained an unrepentant defender of the colour bar regulations. 'THEIR REPEAL WILL 297

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-z95o NOT BENEFIT THE NATIVE WORKER, RATHER THE REVERSE,'

he emphasized; and he rebuked Africans who were 'taught' to say otherwise. Simple trade unionists, Afrikaner republicans, white supremacists and a small minority of class-conscious work ers had joined hands behind the battle cry for the maintenance

of white standards. Andrews, in a foreword, denied allegations of a Bolshevik or Nationalist party plot. The rising, he said, had

begun in an ordinary strike against wage cuts, to which the Chamber had given a political character by attempting to replace white workers with the cheaper African. The govern ment, alarmed at the workers' solidarity and the backing they received from farmers and the petty bourgeoisie, had decided to suppress the movement by force. The executive committee of the Comintern arrived at a similar verdict. The mine owners, it said, had turned a struggle for wages and daily bread into an armed conflict, leading to the murder of hundreds and the imprisonment of the flower of the proletariat. Fisher, Spendiff and other brave labour leaders who had honestly fought for racial equality had been torn by shrap nel. The magnates' idea of equality was to reduce the white worker's living standards to the black man's level. They 'brought the black wage slaves into the field against the white exploited workers '.83 South African communists could not ignore the accusation that strikers had taken part in brutal and unprovoked attacks on Africans. There had been, the party acknowledged, a general fear of a rising in March. Both sides had been alarmed. Fighting had taken place between Africans and whites all along the Reef on the 8th. The violence had been neither provoked nor con doned by the leaders. They had gone out of their way to stop it, and had sent men to warn strikers against turning the struggle into an anti-native pogrom. The party had distributed leaflets to this effect. Fisher and others had risked their lives to stop hooligans, who were more 'police stooges' than strikers, from 84 attacking Africans. Even so, none of the men who fought under the banner 'For a White South Africa' or who shouted 'scab' at Africans could be held free of blame for the outbreaks of racial violence. The


The Rand Revolt virus had infected the strike at birth. The communists realized early on that it had degenerated into a struggle for the retention of colour bars, which they condemned in principle. Doubting the success of the strike, they continued to support it, and were then pushed into defending it by alleging that Africans stood to lose rather than to gain from the abolition of the bar. The argument was false and revealed the hollowness of the appeal for inter-racial solidarity. Comradeship could not develop between the beneficiaries and victims of 'baasskap'. The white miners had made this clear in February 1920, when the executive of the SAMWU instructed its members to scab on African strikers. Communists from Johannesburg to Cape Town denounced the betrayal of class solidarity and warned that Africans would be forced into siding with the owners against the white worker. 8" He ignored the warning and fought only to retain his privileges, never to remove their disabilities. In back ing him, the communists put themselves in the position of being identified with white supremacy, in spite of their persistent and vehement rejection of racial discrimination. The party's role in the revolt gave African and Coloured leaders reason to regard communists as the left wing of an exclusively white labour movement. They brought the reproach down on their own heads; and they gave substance to the accusation by failing to repudiate the main article in the banned issue of the Internationalof 20 March, the day when its editor, Bill Andrews, was arrested and taken to the Fort with other members of the Committee of Action. The article appeared in Dutch and was addressed to policemen and armed civilians on the government side. 'Are you prepared to serve idiotic capitalists as their stupid under lings and accomplices in suppressing your fellow Afrikaners? It is their intention to replace us and also you with cheap black labourers.'


14 Unity on the Right

The 'kaffir' share market boomed after the strike. Discoveries of new goldfields were announced. The industry, said to have been on the verge of bankruptcy a few months earlier, attracted large amounts of capital. The total dividends paid by the gold mines rose to the record figure of £9,558,ooo in 1924. Gold prices continued to fall, and reached the 'danger' point of 85s. an ounce when Britain returned to the gold standard in 1925. Working costs had then fallen by twenty-four per cent, and the wholesale price index by twenty per cent, since 1921. Stores and equipment were cheaper, but the mines effected their biggest economies by substituting the jackhammer drill for the hand drill, and by reorganizing working methods at the expense of African and white employees. The owners exploited their victory by introducing the wage cuts and retrenchments that the men had fought to prevent. White miners lost their cost of living bonus, supervised a larger number of Africans, and took on a bigger load of responsi bility after the strike. The mines employed eight Africans to every white worker in 1918-21 and nearly ten to one in 1923-6. An additional 4,000 white men would have found work on the mines if the old ratio had been maintained. A revision of under ground work schedules enabled the management to extract more labour from Africans at the same rates of pay. White miners took over from men declared redundant the supervision of pipe fitting, tracklaying, rough timbering and pack-building.' Changes in the contract system reduced the white miner's average wage by lOs. to 32s. 6d. a shift. Average white incomes on the mines fell by twenty-six per cent, and total wage costs by twenty-four per cent between 192o and 1923.2 The strikers' defence com mittee claimed in its impassioned pre-election report that the 300

Unity on the Right owners had reduced wages 'without mercy' and abolished the colour bar. If Smuts won the election, warned the committee, at least 8,ooo more whites would be thrown out of employment on the mines alone. 3 Though the colour bar clauses were not in fact abolished, Justice Krause, who had drafted the mining regulations in i91o, held in November 1923 that they were invalid. The case before him arose out of the prosecution of a mine manager, Hildick Smith, for employing an African 'Stephen' to drive an electric locomotive. Krause pointed out that some of the colour bars were absolute and applied to machinery in all kinds of under takings, including mills, potteries and brickfields. In i91o, as chairman of the Mining Regulations Commission, he had held the view 'that wherever the safety of life and limb is concerned only competent White persons should be employed'. In 1923, how ever, he refused to believe that parliament could ever have contemplated such 'unreasonable and even capricious and arbi trary' restraints on the right to employ competent coloured persons or on their right to be employed. The Mines and Works Act gave no authority to discriminate between racial groups; and the restrictions were repugnant to the common law. 'They deprived the native from enjoying the very fruits of his advance ment.' Greater repugnance, said the court, could hardly be imagined.4 Krause's judgement confirmed what had been suspected for many years by mine owners and lawyers, and removed the 'unnecessary and artificial restrictions' of which the Chamber had complained during the strike. Qualified Africans and Col oured could now be legally employed in any capacity. Custom, white opinion and trade unions, however, as the Low Grade Mines Commission pointed out, were at least as powerful as any legal restraint. 5 Some 600 white workers lost their jobs through the scrapping of the 'status quo agreement '.6 The anticipated substi tution of Africans for white mechanics, engine drivers and miners did not take place. 7 As the communists had predicted, Africans gained nothing from the defeat of the strike, while the whites continued to be 'Slaves to the Boss but Bosses to the Slaves'. 8 Skilled wages were depressed, commented Abdurahman, with301

Class and Colour in South Africa 185-i95o

out any increase in unskilled wages. It was time, he added, for Africans to organize and resort to passive resistance against 'the demands of the overseas vampires whose interest in9 our country is governed solely by the desire of big dividends'. The communists looked to the organization of the working class, including the Africans, for a solution. This was the plain lesson of the 1922 strike, explained Bunting, because Africans 'in increasing measure, are producing the boss's profits, enabling 1° him in increasing measure to flout the white workers'. 'Betrayed, starved and driven to desperation,' wrote Andrews in July 1922, 'those who are necessary to the boss class' had been 'hurled back to work under slave conditions.' The 'more active spirits' were thrown into the bastilles 'to rot and eat out their hearts during long terms of imprisonment'; while the remainder ' were 'callously and brutally thrown on the streets to starve'. Loyalty to stricken comrades, hatred of Smuts, and a strategic aim dictated the party's priorities. The Communist International had launched a campaign for a 'proletarian united front'. South African communists inter preted the slogan to mean the unity of white trade unions and opposition parties against the government. Andrews, Shaw and Dunbar appeared on platforms with Labour and Nationalist party leaders, or sat with them on committees to obtain legal defence for prisoners, a reprieve for men sentenced to death, and relief for the victimized. The united front, declared the party, was a defensive measure against unemployment and the per aim was to replace Smuts secution of strikers; but its ultimate 12 with a people's government. Smuts not only defended the interests of British imperialism, mine owners and Abdurahman's detested 'overseas vampires'; he also articulated the spirit of a budding South African imperial ism. While crushing the Rand revolt, he was engaged in attempts to extend the Union's boundaries to the Zambesi. A majority of Rhodesian settlers rejected his invitation to make their territory a fifth province and voted instead for responsible government in a British colony. The colonial subjects of South West Africa were not given the same right to decide their national destiny. They had innocently 302

.,_7 Unity on the Right believed that South Africa would restore the freedom and ter ritory taken from them by the Germans. Their new rulers were only concerned to provide white settlers with land and labour. The Bondelswart section of the Nama revolted in May against the threatened deportation of their leader Abram Morris, a hero in the liberation war of 19o6 against German colonial rule. Police and troops, aided by aeroplanes from Pretoria, bombed and machine-gunned them into submission. The indomitable Morris and more than sixty of his men died fighting. His world 'had taken on the cramped lineaments of slavery' under the rule of white men who knew no rights other than their own, wrote Freislich, the sympathetic narrator of this Nama epic. Morris could regain freedom only if he destroyed that world by his death. 13 An immediate cause of the rising was an increase in the dog tax from a flat rate of 7s. 6d. an animal to £4 1os. for four on a sliding scale. This was an iniquitous impost on hunters and stockbreeders who found dogs indispensable and earned at most £i a month when working for a white farmer. It was a labour tax, suggested Abdurahman. No money had been set aside in the budget, he pointed out, for schools, agricultural development or industrial training for the Nama, though £65,000 had been voted for the education of white children belonging to the settler community of io,ooo. He recalled his warning, given at the time of the Versailles peace settlement, that the native races of South West could not hope for justice under Afrikaner rule. Bloodshed marked the path of South Africa since Union, and all the Rand's riches or the revenue from a mere dog tax could not compensate for the loss of human life. German submarine atrocities were scarcely worse than the bombing of little men, one in four or five of whom was armed with a rifle. This was misgovernment, if not murder; and the least one could expect was that South Africa would be arraigned before the League of 14 Nations. No external agency could stop the spate of racialism that followed the Rand revolt. The communists were wrong in supposing that defeat would sharpen class consciousness, drive out national or racial antagonism, and imprint the moral of working class solidarity. The labour movement looked for allies 303

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 not to African fellow workers but to Afrikaner landowners, poor whites and the petty bourgeoisie. British socialists had co operated early in the century with Afrikaner nationalists to halt the introduction of Chinese and to defeat the Progressives, the party of British supremacy and the Chamber of Mines. Then it was Andrews, as president of the Labour Representative Com mittee, who had negotiated an agreement with Smuts, as leader of Het Volk. The plot was the same in 1922, though some of the actors had switched their roles. Now it was Smuts who spoke for the Chamber and the British interest; Hertzog, who repre sented Afrikaner nationalism and a white South Africa; Creswell, who led the labour aristocracy in the fight for colour bars. The Nationalist and Labour parties entered into an electoral pact. It was 'born in the Fort', wrote J. W. Jarvis,' 5 one of the strikers' leaders. The conception took place on the bloodstained streets of Fordsburg, Boksburg and Benoni. 'Smash Smuts' must be the slogan, said Tielman Roos to Arthur Barlow, and they plotted with Sampson and Madeley to split the English vote by detaching the working man from the United-South African party jingoes. 16 Being anti-capitalist, Labour had more in common with the Nationalists than with the SAP, said Dr Malan at the party congress in October 1922. When parliament met in the following January, Creswell seconded Hertzog's motion of no confidence in the government, and the debate strengthened their resolve to form a united front. They an nounced in April that their parties would work together so as to avoid splitting the anti-government vote. They agreed that the major obstacles to cooperation were the Englishman's fear of an Afrikaner republic and the Afrikaner's fear of a bolshevik seizure of property. 17 Republican and socialist principles would, therefore, be put in cold storage for the pact's duration. Hertzog gave an assurance that if he took office, no member of his party would vote to break the ties with Britain. The National ists, he argued with sophistry, wanted 'independence', which was not the same as 'secession'. Their programme, he pointed out, did not call for a republic; and they were bound by confer ence resolutions to consult the 'volk' at a general election or referendum before taking steps to secede.' I Creswell made his 304




Unity on the Right contribution to the alliance at the Labour party's annual con ference in January 1923. Never a lover of the socialist objective, he moved its deletion from the party programme so as to make it more palatable to Nationalist farmers and Afrikaner predi kants. He met with unexpected opposition from Madeley and delegates from workers' constituencies in Natal and the Cape. 19 Although Creswell failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority for his motion, conference adopted a compromise amendment that postponed the socialist commonwealth to the distant future of an 'ultimate achievement'. The outcome of these manoeuvres, scoffed Henry Burton, the minister of finance, was that Labour promised not to steal the farmers' land for five years, while the Nationalists, in exchange, promised not to rob the British work man of his flag. 20 Labour's turn to the right facilitated the penetration of the white working class by Afrikaner nationalism and speeded up the process that led to the party's extinction. Nationalists held their branch meetings on Labour party premises, while leaders of the two parties spoke from the same platform, as when Arthur Barlow and Colin Steyn 'stood hand in hand and heart to heart' in the hall of the railwaymen's union at Bloemfontein. 2 Hertzog took great pleasure, he said at Ceres, in having con vinced the Labour man that the Nationalist was not a terrifying animal, but a person with whom he could work for the country's good. 22 As that conviction spread, Labour ceased to be the artisan's only spokesman. The pact with Afrikaner nationalism alienated the British from Labour, the more so since it had lost much of its class appeal by watering down the socialist objective. On the other hand, Labour repelled Afrikaners by rejecting the ideal of a republic, and so was left only with the white supremacy drum. Creswell beat it with might and main. Labour's national aim, he told delegates in 1923 at Durban, was to strengthen the white race, stop the 'kaffir' from turning whites out of industry, and 'ransom' Natal for whites by sending Asians back to their real homelands.2 3 Year after year, he reminded parliament, Labour had advocated the extension of white employment in the interests of South Africa. 24 The Nationalists made the same appeal, 305

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more powerfully and to greater effect in the Afrikaner's language and idiom. Hertzog declared his civilized labour policy to the Assembly on 5 February 1924, when speaking to his motion on 'the prob lem of unemployment and increasing poverty'. White men, he said, were fighting a losing battle against 'uncivilized labour', as on the goldfields, and 'must be prevented from sinking down to the level of the native'. Asians, no doubt, had a civilization; yet it was so alien that it could be equally disastrous to the whites. The right of whites to find work was 'the first and most impor tant consideration', and also in the interests of Africans, who would 'be plunged back into the conditions of barbarism' if the whites left South Africa. It should be laid down as a fixed rule that the public service and the railways 'were spheres of employment for our civilized labour', both white and Coloured. Industries that required government licences or permission should also be required to employ the white man wherever possible. Only by raising fences between the races would the by the native'. 25 thing right the do 'and fears his lose man white It was one of Hertzog's stock arguments that whites would be 'fair' to Africans only after they had been disarmed and mastered by discriminatory laws. Yet, fixing his eyes on Afrikaner supremacy, he never allowed anything so quixotic as inter-racial justice to deflect him from his goal. The 'civilized labour' policy was adopted not to help the African, but to provide sheltered employment for unskilled whites. They came from rural areas to the towns, competed with Coloured and Africans for pick and shovel work at 6s. or less a day, and violated white supremacy taboos by mixing with them in the meanest residential quarters. Afrikaners for the greater part, they were ignored by craft unions and the Labour party, and tagged on behind the National ists, who valued their votes. The urban poor white was nonethe less a potential recruit for a radical non-racial class movement. The Nationalists recognized the threat to white solidarity. Subsidized employment on public works would isolate him from the dark-skinned labourers and give him a stake in the perpetua tion of colour-class discrimination. The i cu's third annual conference decided to launch a 36

Unity on the Right counter-campaign against the white workers' policy of ousting Africans from all branches of commerce and industry, particu larly the railways. Tom Mann, then in South Africa at the invitation of the AE U, opened the conference at Cape Town in January 1923. By this time the icu claimed eighteen branches, all situated in the Cape and South West Africa, and was at the threshhold of its most productive period. Delegates complained of the low wages and shocking conditions of farm workers, who were being paid ios. a month; of the 4s. a day paid to railway workers; and of the dockers' wage, which was 4s. 6d. except at Cape Town, where it had been raised to 8s. after the strike of 1919. The conference resolved to demand a minimum wage of ios. for all workers; to organize the African miners, farm and industrial workers in one big union; to conduct a struggle against passes and every other form of discrimination; and to press for representation on all governing bodies. 2 6 The Icu, according to its constitution, was 'a purely industrial organization aiming for the gradual introduction of political and industrial democracy'. It was strictly 'non-political', assured the Workers' Herald,the union's official journal, in its first issue in April 1923; though the paper belied the claim by denouncing the Third International and all its works. This drew a rebuke from the communists. They also deplored the icu's attack on the industrial colour bar, and its advice that Africans should undercut white workers. The 'White South Africa' slogan used in 1922, explained the communists, was misleading; it meant only that the Chamber of Mines should not drive whites out of jobs by giving them to others at lower rates of pay. 2 7 The i c u returned to the charge at its fourth annual conference in January 1924 at East London, on the motion of James La Guma and 'professor' J. S. Thaele. The white labour policy, it declared, injured any reasonable prospect of inter-racial work ing-class solidarity, violated the principles of trade unionism, and delayed the consummation of labour rule. Conference looked forward to the day when the white unions would open their doors to all workers, under 'an enlightened policy on the basis of which may be expected friendly cooperation and ultimate fusion of all labour forces into one big union'.2 8 307

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Leading members of the miners' union came to a similar conclusion after considering the effects of the judgement in the Hildick-Smith case. The propaganda committee pointed out in a leaflet to members that they had to choose between fighting on their own or in unison with the African miners. A general meet ing of white miners held at Johannesburg in September 1923 to discuss retrenchments and the abolition of the status quo, felt that the executive should undertake to organize separate branches for Africans, and make the necessary changes in the union's constitution. This was the 'peep of dawn', claimed the com munists; economic facts had forced the men to realize the necessity for inter-racial solidarity. It had always been advocated by the party, on liberal and humanitarian grounds as well as in the interests of the whites. The SAMWU bid fair to prove the most militant of all, and promised the workers' revolution. Africans would no longer be tabooed as helots, and whites would lose their bourgeois leanings in an all-South Africa labour move 29 ment. The discussion marked the sunset and not the dawn of hopes for an open miners' union. The capitalist press attacked the proposal as 'the white miners' death-knell'. 'If they want to avoid uncivilized outbreaks,' retorted the communists, 'they must not impede industrial organization, but rather welcome it in the interests of their own skins.' 3 0 The SAMWU'S executive took fright, and dissociated itself entirely from the suggested organization of Africans. White miners had always opposed the formation of unions among Africans, declared the Mine Worker in its first issue in November 1923; it reminded its readers that the union's delegates had refused to sit at the Durban trade union conference in 1918 if even one Coloured delegate attended. Contrary to the communists' prediction, the miners had no intention of either fighting their battles alone or alongside the African. They took the third course of supporting the National ist-Labour alliance, with the expectation that it would restore the statutory colour bar on the mines. In the face of all the evidence, the communists insisted that white workers were learning the lessons of solidarity, 'however slowly and reluctantly' and would yet discover the need of 308

Unity on the Right common action to establish working-class control. Unemploy ment was bringing the clash between white and black closer. White workers naturally blamed the African for undercutting, but he was not a willing scab. There was a world-wide tendency for cheap Coloured labour to eliminate the white worker. He could resist it only by overthrowing capitalism with the aid of the subject races. The Labour party, said the communists, offered no solution other than job reservation, segregation and 'separate development'. This was symptomatic of the oppor tunism and reactionary trends that had developed in the party since it lost trade union backing and turned its back on the socialist objective. Labour leaders no longer spoke of class struggle, capitalist exploitation or socialism, which were the very stuff and substance of the movement. Their policy offered Africans less than did Jannie Smuts, yet failed to stop the decline in white living standards. 3 The premises of this analysis amounted to a thorough rejec tion of Creswell's chauvinism and Labour's electoral pragma tism. Yet the Communist party's second congress, meeting in April 1923, decided by a two to one majority to apply for affiliation to the Labour party. The minority objected that a united front without Africans, Coloured and Indians would compromise the party's principles. This was not so, the platform argued. The united front was an old and well-tried tactic which enabled the party to overcome the difficulty of getting the approval, or even toleration, of the white labour aristocracy for joint action with Africans. The white worker would soon be forced in self-defence to agitate, educate and organize them. Did not the Labour party conference in January include Col oured delegates from the Cape? 3 4 Only the communists could link white and black workers in a true unity; and to succeed in their mission they had to gain the white worker's confidence.3 3 The party had by this time lost most of the trade unionists who once formed the core of the ISL. Its exploits in the Rand revolt brought in few replacements. All the leaders, if not all the members, were whites. 3 4 They wanted to regain lost ground and obtain a share in the spoils of the anticipated victory over Smuts. Watching events from Moscow, Jones gave this as a C.S.A.- , 309

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reason for the united front. He told Bunting, attending the fourth congress of the Comintern in November 1922, that some con traction might be worth while 'in order to secure a working class basis'. Jones also influenced Andrews, who sat on the Comintern's executive committee during the second half of 1923. In his last letter to Andrews. written from the tuberculosis sanatorium at Yalta on 13 April 1924, shortly before he died, Jones remarked: 'We have lost the Trade unionists'; and he added, 'Our trouble is isolation ...

The point is how to get a

foot in again. Now it will be very hard. There may be a chance during the elections to put you up as uF candidate with the LP somewhere. The cp would be justified in a little manoeuvring to get this. The cp as an affiliated section, with 35 members in SALP branches, would be the thing of course.' These were tactical objectives within the framework of Jones's general strategy, which he began to work out soon after the revolt. He argued that the strbggle in South Africa, unlike the class conflict of Europe, took the form of a 'colonial national move ment of liberation'. The appropriate standards to apply were set out in the Theses on the National and Colonial Question. These called for the formation of a bloc by all anti-imperialist forces. Even the reformist Labour party could not avoid being drawn into periodical revolutionary outbursts provoked by capitalist imperialism. Lopes and other alleged 'ultra-leftists' in Cape Town objected that the united front would make them 'bedfellows' of Creswell and his fellow opportunists. This was not so, replied Jones. The object was not to unite with them, but 'to get at the masses' who still followed the reformist leaders. By forcing them to accept or reject proposals for struggle, the communists would expose their true character and emerge with 36 an increased following. This was the Comintern's approved policy. Communists everywhere hoped to recruit new members through the tech nique of the united front. The significant question for South African communists was different. They had to decide whether Afrikaner nationalism belonged to the 'anti-imperialist bloc', and whether a 'national liberation movement' could include 3O

Unity on the Right supremacy parties. Jones ignored the existence of an imperium in imperio: a South African imperialism that kept Africans in a condition of colonial servitude while it cooperated with or opposed British imperialism. He noted that the united front was developing into a pact between Labour and Afrikaner national ism to the exclusion of the communists. This proved, he said, either that there was no need of a c P in South Africa or that it had incorrectly applied the tactic of the united front. The National ist-Labour pact was an anti-imperialist union, which should follow, and not precede, true working-class unity. Only the CP could accomplish working-class unity, Jones argued, by becoming the link between white and black workers. To do this, it must gain the confidence of the white worker. That, indeed, was the whole problem. The communists had thought that the withdrawal of trade union backing from the Labour party would enable them to break what remained. In stead, white workers remained loyal to its past record and its ties with British labour. 'We cannot liquidate the Labour Party,' he concluded, 'because the people think it is the trade union party.' Trade union control should now be restored under the slogan 'Trade unions back into the Labour Party.' This would enable the communists to cooperate in the daily struggle of the masses.

Having set out his conception of the proper relationship between communists and the Labour party, Jones turned his attention to the problem of bridging the gulf between white workers and Africans. 'We have somewhat neutralized our sound position on the native question in the past,' he argued, 'by our horror of partial demands.' He meant that the cP should modify its unqualified rejection of colour discrimination and look for 'planks of common interest' for both sections of the working class. The Labour party's old demand for the abolition of indentured labour, he suggested, was an excellent plank for the whole gamut of the united front 'from Jim Sixpence to Cres well' .

Jones should have recognized the absurdity of his basic postulates. It was unthinkable that the Labour or Nationalist party would ever take part in a movement to liberate the




Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o African. The idea of an anti-imperialist front between the two So parties and African nationalism was a romantic delusion. limited was the notion of a united front between them on a platform. Creswell's repeated condemnation of 'indentured refusal labour' was a shabby subterfuge. It barely masked his working in to condone any relaxation of the colour bar. Africans never factories and on farms were not 'indentured', yet he suggested that they should have the same status and oppor tunities as whites. One can only suppose that Jones's judgement was warped by his absence from South Africa, the hectic political in atmosphere of the Comintern, and his own long illness, then its final stage. The Rand revolt had raised his hopes of a revolu tion. He passionately longed for its realization before he died. 'This is the revolution now here,' he exulted in October 1922. Those who were with the masses in daily struggle would lead 38

the revolution. He wrote his last recorded message to South Africa when confined to bed with fierce pains in hips and legs, unable to walk or to sleep without morphia. As his vitality ebbed, so did his confidence in the movement that had been all his life in South Africa. 'As a cold matter of fact,' he told Andrews, 'there is no room for a c p in white South Africa except as the watch dog of the native, as the promoter of rapprochement, watching, within the broader organizations, for every opportunity to switch the white movement on right lines on this question and scotching every conspiracy to rouse race hatred and strike breaking of race against race.' He referred to 'the tremendous sacrifices, the wanderings in the wilderness of the last nine years'; and hoped that Bunting 'with all his wonderful devotion and self sacrifice of the last nine years, will not feel that his labours have been in vain'. 'We stand for Bolshevism,' he proudly affirmed, 'and in all minds Bolshevism stands for the native worker. Now we can safely review tactics, if necessary even dissolve tempor arily except for a nucleus for the paper, in order to give comrades like Bunting a breathing space.' This should be used to gain admission through the trade unions to the Labour party and 'even into the electoral machine. It would be a great asset to 39 have the govt. pay our organizing and travelling expenses.' 312

Unity on the Right Jones loathed racialism, of that there can be no doubt; but he never clearly understood the interactions between racial, national and class antagonisms. It was a gross miscalculation of his to assign to communists the role of Big Brother and 'protector' of Africans in a white supremacy party. He underestimated their revolutionary potential as much as he overestimated the white worker's. Blinkered by an unconscious white chauvinism, he visualized the dissolution of the Communist party and not an alliance between it and African nationalism in a genuine libera tion movement. His chief error was to imagine that the road to working class power lay through the Labour party. His views carried great weight among the communists, and were largely responsible for their decision to apply for affiliation to the Labour party and to support its alliance with the Nationalists. Every section of the movement supported the pact, except in the western Cape. Here Communist and Labour party members, competing against Abdurahman's APO for the backing of Coloured voters, hesitated to identify themselves with Hertzog's racialists. Bunting cracked the whip of party discipline. The Comintern's line of taking up 'partial demands' in a united front, he said, was a new method of propaganda and a way of 'penetrating' the masses. 4" Lopes, yielding to the pressure, swung characteristically to the opposite extreme. 'It is now definitely accepted,' he wrote in September 1923, 'that an immediate task before the cP is to assist the Nationalist and Labour parties to political power.' Their function, he explained, was to educate the workers through disillusionment, and to obstruct Smuts's imperialist designs. Communists should there fore 'support the Nationalist Party in their political activity and propaganda, even to the extent of joining that party'.41 Lopes never lived down his excess of zeal. Even Labour men in Cape Town objected that the pact was a dishonourable com promise between parties having nothing in common besides a personal hatred of Smuts and an ambition for office and place. Bunting chided the 'infantile sickness' of the 'Cape Labour Die-Hards'. Echoing Jones, he claimed that the pact was 'a tactic aiming at the overthrow of the orthodox colonial imperialist government', and a powerful aid, in the hands of a 'left' Labour 313

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party, to the social revolution.4 2 The communists tried to present the pact in a Marxist frame by suggesting that it was an 43 alliance between industrial and agricultural workers. Even the most loyal member must have doubted, however, whether Hertzog's farmers really represented the toiling masses on their farms. The party adopted cruder slogans in the hurly-burly of election campaigns. Members were told that they would accom plish a first-class revolutionary task by delivering a blow at Smuts's prestige. 'Workers, at the sacrifice of all else, BEAT his gang, and clear SMUTS,' they cried. 'Down with Smuts4 and 4 the way for the Workers' Government.' All reactions were predictable. The government and its press launched a vicious attack on the communists, accused them of having engineered the Rand revolt, and tied the bolshevik tag on the Labour party, which beat a hasty retreat, withdrew from all united action with the communists, and turned down their request for affiliation. Archie Jamieson, the LP'S general secre tary, wrote that Labour's aims conflicted wholly with those of the communists. The c P,he argued, was affiliated to the Third International, wished to achieve the dictatorship of the prole tariat by violent revolution, and unremittingly expressed a fundamental hostility to his party. Labour's constitution, he pointed out, did not allow the affiliation. The communists retorted that the differences between the parties were marginal, and not inherently contradictory. They would disappear if fully argued. The real difficulty was the 'colour problem'. Stripped of its 'irrelevant racial matter', the problem would be seen as one of uniting dear and cheap labour in a common fight. It was disgraceful of the Labour party to oppose a united front 4with 5 communists while forming one with Afrikaner Nationalists. The rebuff did not turn the communists aside from an alliance in which they had no part or any trace of influence. Indeed, it was, they admitted, a new experience to vote for Nationalists or even Labour men with whom they had in common only a determination to end the blood-rule of imperialist Smuts. But it was the duty of all opposition groups, regardless of differences in aim, to defeat the government candidate, irrespective of his antagonist's merits. This was necessary for the sake of the 314

Unity on the Right proletarian It was wrong of Hertzog to threaten the African's vote, or of Tielman Roos to advocate racial segre gation, and above all, of the Labour party to exclude Africans from the movement. Without them it would remain a 'bastard' movement, impotent, false to its own principles, a tool of capital ist imperialism, and indistinguishable from Smuts and Kenya's white settlers. 47 There could hardly be a more severe indictment of the pact. Yet the party freely promised to assist, or at least not oppose, the pact's candidates, and so threw away its only prospect of influencing Labour's policies. The better course would have been to reject all white supremacy parties and to concentrate on the long-range aim of building a third force in alliance with the national liberation movements. Conditions were then more favourable than ever before to a radical united front. The new alignments of the white political parties reflected a general state of flux which affected the whole population. Africans were also rethinking their posi tion under the pressure of new discriminatory laws. The African National Congress was at last losing its faith in British imperial ism. Meeting at Bloemfontein in May 1923, it denounced the Natives (Urban Areas) Act as a measure that reduced Africans to perpetual serfdom; demanded equal rights with other races; and appointed a deputation to put its views to Smuts. The congress met again in July to hear that Smuts had refused to modify his policy of compulsory segregation, influx controls, and the registration of labour contracts in the towns. Congress then passed a motion of no confidence in his administration and resolved to consider giving its support to a republican form of government. For Britain had consistently refused to honour its pledges to the African people, and pleaded that it had no constitutional right to intervene on their behalf in the internal affairs of a self-governing dominion.4 8 Even the APO was turning against Smuts. Squeezed between the entrenched white artisan and African labourers from the eastern Cape, the Coloured in the western districts benefited less than other groups from the growth of industry. The government failed to provide enough schools for Coloured children, dis criminated against Coloured passengers and workers on the revolution.4 6


Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950

railways, enforced a strict colour bar in the public services, and neglected the Coloured unemployed. Signs of discontent became obvious in October 1922, when the Wynberg branch of the APO supported the Nationalist party candidate in a provincial council by-election. Abdurahrnan, deploring the decision, acknow

ledged that 'there was perhaps no other alternative, except run a Coloured candidate, or abstain altogether from voting'. The APo, he warned, would have to review its policy at the next general election unless Smuts made an earnest attempt to redress the people's many grievances. 4 9 The constitution barred the Coloured from standing for parliament. They could only abstain or vote for a white can didate. A mass boycott of the polls might have been an effective tactical weapon, but it was never seriously considered by Abdurahman. Its immediate effect would have been to the ad vantage of the Nationalist-Labour combine, and that, he argued, was immeasurably worse than the Smuts regime. 'If ever there has been an unholy alliance of political parties,' he declared, 'it is the cooperation of Nationalists and Labourites.' They had nothing in common except an intense hatred of Smuts and a de termination to segregate Africans completely. Creswell had devoted his whole political life to ousting the black from the mines. Hertzog's party, on the other hand, wanted cheap and servile Africans on the farms. 50 Abdurahman was wrong in supposing that these demands were in conflict, or that Hertzog and Creswell were poles apart on economic issues. On the contrary, the exclusion of Africans from industry dove tailed with the farmers' insatiable demand for labour. This compatibility formed the economic basis of the partnership between white landowners and the labour aristocracy. Abdurahman was right in holding that the subject races would be the only losers under a Nationalist-Labour government. 'Let us pray,' he urged, 'that such a catastrophe may be averted.' The communists shut the door on the AP 0 by acting as the left wing of the white labour movement - the greatest enemy of the Coloured, said Abdurahman, in the industrial world. In addition to having led the Rand revolt, communists supported the Nationalist-Labour pact, and repeatedly opposed him in 316


..... ~A=

Unity on the Right elections. When he defended his provincial council seat in November 1923, his opponents were Wilfrid Harrison, the cp candidate, and two Coloured: C. C. Petersen, the Labour party's nominee, and P. Hendry of the Inter-Racial League, an organization sponsored by Coloured trade unionists in opposi tion to the APO. Abdurahman polled nearly twice as many votes as his three rivals, two of whom, Hendry and Harrison, lost their deposits. His victory would have been far less certain if the South African party had also entered the field. It supported him instead and so retained his allegiance. It was 'very backward' of the working class of Hanover Street, the communists complained, blindly to support Abdurahman, largely on colour grounds, in spite of his close association with the SAP: and it was 'backward' of Abdurahman to use working class support in the SAP'S interests. 5 ' The APO hit back. It vilified the Soviet Union, abused 'bolshevik communism', and urged the government to immunize Africans against the menace by redressing their grievances and suppressing agitators like Bunting.5 2 Abdurahman's presidential address of April 1923 rejected the communists' appeal for working-class solidarity. Alas, he said, 'the greatest exploiters of Coloured labour on the Rand are the white workers, and their solidarity has resulted in our being kept down at unskilled work. A position which we 5 3 should not tolerate much longer.' His address included the perennial survey of injustices to the coloured races since Van Riebeeck's landing at the Cape. He called the post-war settlement and the Act of Union their 'great betrayal', which had reduced them to 'political helotage'. They would be cowards, deserving the treatment meted out to 'caitiffs and miscreants and industrial serfs' if they were to tolerate political bondage any longer. The 'one unerring method to secure redress of grievances' still open to them was industrial warfare. If organized, they 'could bring the country to a panic in twenty-four hours' by ceasing work on farms, and mines, in factories and the white man's home. He hoped that unconstitu tional methods would not be found necessary; and warned Europeans in all Africa of the 'insensate folly' of repressing the African. If they persisted in this, they would 'awaken the 317

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o nationality of Colour' under the banner of freedom and in dependence. Egypt had struck the first note. She would soon carry the flag of liberty throughout the whole of Africa. The cry of 'Africa for Africans' would then arise. 'Then, just as the past witnessed a great scramble by Europeans for land in Africa, of Africa.' 54 so the future will see a great white scuttle out Abdurahman's words were prophetic, and gave no im mediate guide to action. His audience represented at most the Coloured population of 546,ooo or 7"9 per cent of all South Africans. Though the largest ethnic group in the western Cape, the Coloured formed small minorities in the northern provinces, and could not on their own bring the country to a standstill. To be a third force, independent of the white political parties and in opposition to them, the Coloured would have to come to terms with the 4,7o0,ooo Africans, who were poorly organized for industrial action. The i c u had not won a single wage increase since the spectacular success of Cape Town's dockers in 192o. Kadalie himself was showing signs at this early stage of becoming an opportunist politician rather than a militant trade union leader. Disregarding the persistent hostility of Afrikaner nationalism to African aspirations, he followed Hertzog in the 1924 election campaign. Their association began in 1921, when Kadalie solicited alms for the survivors of the Bulhoek massacre. Hertzog wrote back, enclosing a guinea, and promised to exert all his influence to establish 'between the white and black Africander that faith in and sympathy with one another which is so essential for the prosperity of a nation'." Flattered by this sentimental plati tude, Kadalie flaunted the letter to demonstrate his respecta bility and became Hertzog's man. The i cu's annual conference, meeting in January 1924, rebuked Creswell for having said that 6 his pact with Hertzog would lead to a renewal of the colour bar." Kadalie continued, however, to support the pact, and with this in mind attended the annual conference of the African National Congress in May. Africans were caught between Smuts, the feeder of 'vultures at Bulhoek', who harassed them with new restrictions under the Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923, and the Hertzog-Creswell 318

Unity on the Right combine, which threatened to squeeze them even harder in a strait jacket of segregation. The National Congress had repudi ated Smuts in May 1923. A year later, Kadalie and Masabalala persuaded Congress to resolve that a change of government was necessary 'in the best interests of South Africa' - as though the interests of all South Africans were identical. Armed with this resolution, the two men called on Hertzog, who snatched the opportunity to pick up African and Coloured votes in the Cape. He arranged to have copies of the resolution printed for distri bution by the congress delegates; and gave Kadalie an introduc tion to the Nationalist party headquarters in Cape Town. Here the party press printed, free of charge, io,ooo copies of an election issue of the I Cu's paper, the Workers' Herald. Kadalie and Masabalala then travelled, at the Nationalist party's expense, to King William's Town, where the Cape Native Voters' Association was holding an All-African Convention. Kadalie claimed that he induced it after an all-night sitting to adopt his motion for a change of government. The convention, in fact, drew up a list of demands for submission to the different parties, and ended by supporting Smuts.57 'Jubilant and strengthened by these two political victories,' wrote Kadalie, he returned to Cape Town, and became 'an important figure' in the election campaign. He canvassed African and Coloured voters on behalf of the Nationalist-Labour pact candidates, and ap peared on their platform. His policy was vindicated after the elections, he claimed, when Tielman Roos, the minister of justice in the Pact government, defended the icu's right to organize African workers in Durban. 8 Any African more politically mature than Kadalie would have refused to put his trust in an alliance between his people's most bitter enemies. They had no more intention than Smuts of allowing African miners, factory hands or farm workers to acquire skills and form trade unions on equal terms with whites. All parliamentary parties competed for votes at the expense of the voteless majority. All endorsed the discrimination intro duced by the Apprenticeship Act, the Natives (Urban) Areas Act and the Industrial Conciliation Act - three statutes that did more than any other legislation to depress the African's wages, 39

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o depreciate his status and isolate him from the rest of the working class. Abdurahman argued that Africans when segregated in urban locations would be well housed and sheltered from the vices of white men and women. 5 9 The African National Con gress was closer to the mark when it said that the Urban Areas Act condemned the people to perpetual serfdom. The act was to become a major instrument of their oppression. It made them perpetual migrants without permanent roots in the towns, put them under the surveillance of a harsh bureaucracy, and exposed them to the risk of being turned out of jobs, homes and towns if they took part in trade union and political activity. The main purpose of the Apprenticeship Act of 1922 was to 60 open the skilled trades to white youth and keep out other races. Committees set up under the act apprenticed young persons with prescribed educational standards to approved employers. Few Coloured and no Africans were apprenticed or admitted to technical colleges. The Industrial Conciliation Act of 1924 intro duced a system of collective bargaining between employers and employees, gave trade unions the status and legal protection for which they had clamoured since the beginning of the century, and facilitated the settlement of disputes by negotiation through industrial councils and conciliation boards. The act did not apply to agriculture, domestic and government services. It discrimin ated against pass-bearing Africans and indentured Indians by excluding from the definition of 'employee' all those whose contract of service was regulated by the Native Labour Regula tion Act of i911, the provincial pass laws, and Natal's Indian labour statutes. Wage earners who were not 'employees' could neither belong to a trade union registered under the act nor sit on industrial councils and conciliation boards. Acting in con junction with the apprenticeship committees, the industrial councils restricted entry into the skilled trades and gave white workers a preferential access to skilled and semi-skilled occupa tions. Trade union militants did not in 1924 anticipate these divisive consequences. Little attention was given to the discrimination against Africans, although it delivered a fatal blow to the ideal of working class solidarity. The militants concentrated their attack 320

Unity on the Right on the principle of class collaboration which, they said, had been forced on the defeated workers by Smuts and the mine owners in an attempt to tame the unions and stifle rank-and-file move ments against the union bureaucracy. 61 Strong national unions, they warned, did not need industrial councils, while smaller and poorly organized groups would be deprived of the strike weapon, their only means of bringing employers to heel. This was not the prevailing opinion. The movement had taken a hard knock. The combined trade union membership fell from the peak figure of 135,000 in


to 82,ooo in 1923. The

which once represented 6o,ooo workers, was left with barely 2,000, few of whom belonged to craft unions. They had broken away from the federation to form the Associated Trade Unions of South Africa, with an affiliated membership amount SAIF,

ing to only 25,oo0.

The mood of pessimism that followed the

debacle, noted Bunting, found 'expression in a 'comparative indifference to the bloody memories of last year's outrages and a widespread revival of conciliation and negotiation talk'. 62 Trade union leaders searched eagerly for an accommodation with government and employers; vowed that they, too, wished to avoid strikes; and, like Sampson, warned that the alternative to conciliation was 'bolshevistic' mob rule.63 The Nationalist party also joined in the chorus of praise and declared that strikes injured workers, employers and the whole community. 64 Seldom has a major industrial law, conferring wide recognition on unions under state supervision, received so cordial and unanimous a response. Smuts might have thought with his son that he had crushed the 'too-powerful' mine workers' union; 'taught the miners a salutary, if bloody lesson'; and 'put a fear of strikes into them'. 6 5 He was to discover that he, and not the white workers, had suffered the real defeat. They became junior part ners in a racial oligarchy. He lost the elections. A series of defeats in by-elections reduced his majority in parliament to eight. The climax came in April 1924 at Wakker stroom in the eastern Transvaal, where the government lost what it chose to make a test election. Smuts petulantly resigned with out consulting his cabinet or caucus and went to the country to save it, he said, from Moscow and a backveld republic. 6 6 The 321

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-i95o Chamber of Mines undertook to pay its white employees a

bonus adjusted to the gold premium, declared that the supply of

African workers was probably the chief determinant of the

industry's prosperity, and accused Nationalists and Labour of reviving the old, discredited theory that the mines could be run solely by whites. 67 The election was fought largely with banal trivialities, recriminations, charges of bad faith and personal abuse. Yet there was a new note. It was the Nationalist party's

first 'Black Peril'

election, and introduced voters to the

twin slogans of Segregate the Black and Save the Poor White. The Nationalist party propagandists made the most of an interpretation by Cousins, the director of census, which alleged an African population explosion; and demanded segregation. The liberal professor Edgar Brookes gave it academic backing and explained that segregationists would withdraw Africans from industry, make room for unemployed whites, and enable Afri cans to develop agriculture and handicrafts in their own areas. The White South Africa League gained a new lease of life and urged whites of all parties to give preference to their own people in skilled and semi-skilled jobs. Hertzog promised to end the pact after the elections. take away the Cape African's vote, ban the entry of workers from central Africa, and restore the indus trial colour bar. A Pact Bulletin issued by the Labour party accused the government of 'blackening' mines and railways, and of proposing to enfranchise the 'kaffirs in the Transvaal and the Free State'. Tielman Roos said that the country's greatest curse was 'the Native'. Die Burger said it was the mine magnates. 'Without conscience, or national loyalty, driven on by fanatic worship of Mammon,' they aimed only to exploit the mines at lowest possible cost. The Labour party, with an eye on the Coloured vote, substituted 'civilized' for 'white' in its election programme, and undertook to protect the worker against 'Native migration to European centres'; against 'wages insufficient for the maintenance of civilized standards'; and against 'the inroads of Asiatic competition '.6 The poisonous compound of racism, nationalism and social ism blew Smuts out of office. He and three of his ministers lost 322



Unity on the Right their seats. The Nationalists won 63, the SAP 53, Labour 18, and independents one. Hertzog could not rule without Creswell, and offered to take him and Boydell into the cabinet. Nothing loath, they called a special conference on 29 June to obtain the party's approval. The Communist party, which had urged workers to support the pact at the polls, now urged delegates 'in the interests of the toiling masses of South Africa to VOTE AGAINST THE COALITION'. French and German socialists had suffered heavily by joining capitalist governments. Labour could never reach its goal, which was to attract workers in town and country and obtain a parliamentary majority, if it became a minority group in a coalition. Two Labour members in a cabinet of eight would be mere hostages; whereas eighteen workers' representatives would hold the balance of power in their hands if they main tained their independence. 'Workers of the World, UNITE! But not with the forces of reaction! ! '69 This last-minute repentance had no effect on the special conference. Creswell told delegates that the party would have less influence, and would nonetheless be held responsible for policy, if it stood outside the cabinet and kept the government in power. Moreover, a cabinet without Labour members would be more likely to ride rough-shod over workers and the English community. 7 0 The conference gave Creswell his mandate by a two-thirds majority. He became minister of defence and labour; Boydell, the minister of public works and postal services. The communists said that the Labour party had signed its death warrant. The right wing said that the worker's struggle of 1922 had been vindicated. The Labour party, exultant, strode still further to the right, scattering favours and drawing prominent radicals to its pro cession. Walter Madeley joined the cabinet; Peter Whiteside accepted a lucrative post on the railway board; and Jimmy Briggs, the party chairman, took his place in the senate. Harry Haynes, hero of the Durban 'soviet' in 1920, moved into the editorial chair of Forward, the party's journal.7 1 Its aim, he declared in the first issue of i i December 1924, was 'primarily to fight for democracy'. Two weeks later he agreed that Coloured and African electors were 'rather easily influenced', and

323 w

[ II IIm [I


Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-95O publicized a resolution from the Troyeville branch calling for their removal from the common roll. The Rand strike, Sampson told the House, had given an unmistakable mandate to protect white men against encroach ments by Africans and Asians. 72 Labour took up the mandate with unflagging zeal. 'Frankly, we rejoice that natives are to be "thrown out of their jobs ",' wrote the editor of Forward; and branches submitted colour bar resolutions to their annual con ference at Kimberley in January I925. 7 3 Gabriel Weinstock, proprietor of Forwardand a foundation member of the War-on War League, moved that only whites should be employed in the liquor trade or be allowed to handle foodstuffs meant for whites. Conference adopted an amendment moved by A. Z. Berman, delegate from the Hanover street branch in Cape Town and a former editor of the Bolshevik, which would bar Africans and Asians from working on licensed premises. 7 4 A bill to this effect was introduced in February, and Morris Kentridge listed it as one of Labour's achievements. 7 5 This was more than most communists could stomach. Having never really believed that Labour would be able to implement its white supremacy policy, they were shocked into making a crucial decision about their role in the movement. An outward show of unity was still possible in commemorations of past struggles, on May Day or at Brixton cemetery, where workers gathered to pay homage to the martyrs of 1922. The big unions took the lead, while 'the rear of the procession was brought up as usual', commented Forward, 'by the one body that never misses any of these occasions, the communists under both the sce and YCL banners'.76 Communists refused, however, to trail behind the right wing as it jettisoned socialist principles to make room for the racial ideology of Afrikaner nationalism. The alternative was to identify themselves wholly with the victims of racial oppression. A step in this direction was taken in the Young Communist League, Johannesburg, by two South Africans, E R. Roux (19o4-66) and W. Kalk (1902- ), probably the first white communists born in the country. Both were sons of radicals, like many other party members in later years. Willie Kalk was a cabinet maker, whose parents were social democrats 324


Unity on the Right from Germany. P. R. Roux, Eddie's father, was a druggist, the secretary of a Labour party branch in Johannesburg, and before that a contributor to Crawford's Voice of Labour. He wrote articles on socialism and debated dialectical materialism with Gandhi, who agreed that spiritual and material phenomena were interdependent. As regards socialism, wrote Gandhi in reply to a letter by Roux, it 'will undoubtedly become a cure for all forms of intoxication when it is accepted just as much on the spiritual plane as on the material'. 7 Roux and Kalk argued that the YCL's main job was to preach communism to the young Natives and to bring them into the organization. 7 8 The proposal met with great opposition from other members, notably E. S. Sachs, a young Lithuanian who came to South Africa in 1914, joined the ISL in 1917, and entered the trade union movement in 192o as secretary of the Reef Shop Assistants' Union. He agreed that Africans should be recruited, and insisted on establishing a separate organization for them. Roux and Kalk rejected segregation and eventually won their point by appealing to the headquarters of the Young Com munist International in Berlin. The same issue cropped up again, though in a different form, at the cP's annual conference in December 1924. The question here was whether the cp should again apply for affiliation to the Labour party. Bill Andrews and C. F. Glass, the cP organizer and business administrator, put the case for affiliation largely in terms of the Cornintern's policy for Britain. Bunting, supported by delegates from Cape Town and the YCL, opposed the motion, which was defeated by a slender majority. Their main task, said Bunting, was to take the message of communism to the oppressed working class, and establish their mass basis among the Africans. By rejecting affiliation, the conference adopted Bunting's policy and so made a great turn to the left. Bunting and Roux were elected chairman and vice chairman of the party. Andrews retired from the post of secretary-editor in February 1925 and went back to his trade as a fitter. He had returned in February 1924 from Moscow, sharing Jones's pessimism about the movement's immediate future. The communists were to 325

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-1950 some extent beating the air, he felt, and would make no headway

in isolation from the organized workers. 7 9 Withdrawing from the

political wing, he resumed his role as trade union leader. Craw ford's death in December removed his chief opponent in that field. He was elected to the S.A. council of his union, the AEU, in January. In March he became the secretary, and Glass the treasurer, of the S.A. Association of Employees' Organizations, the successor to Crawford's S.A. Industrial Federation. Ernest Shaw, the only communist besides Andrews on the Committee of Action in the 1922 strike, joined the Labour party and was adopted by the Van Brandis branch as a provincial council candidate. Glass also defected. He resigned from the central executive in February and from the party in May because, he said, it had become a sect, isolated from the rest of the move ment, and regarded with some justification as an anti-white party. All its propaganda seemed to be aimed at stirring up the blacks, for whom the leaders showed a definite bias. Glass took on the position of secretary of the Tailors' Union and joined the Labour party with the intention, his critics hinted, of wrecking it from within.8 0 Even Andrews, in spite of his great prestige and acknowledged sincerity, met with suspicion. J. George, his rival for the post of secretary of the SAAEo, and a member of the strike committee in 1922, complained that many communists had shed their red labels since the pact government. Their methods led to famine, hatred and bloodshed, and they should be removed from all executive offices in the movement. The strike of 1922, he alleged, was lost largely through the intervention of these theorists, whose 'instincts of self-preservation were so well developed that when they got the general strike, they forced their way through the nearest police cordon to attain the restful sanctuary of the Fort'. The communists had nearly shattered the Labour party during the war, wrote the editor of Forward, and, as in Britain, 'must be treated as political lepers'. Labour branches in Johannesburg and Natal took the hint, and sent in resolutions 8 demanding the exclusion of avowed communists from the SALP. ' As the right wing struggled to establish a reputation for respectability, the communists gradually began to recognize the 326



Unity on the Right

great change then taking place in the movement. Like radical socialists before them, they had based their policies on the Marxist hypothesis of the inevitable impoverishment of the working classes. Capitalism, they believed, would grind the white workers down to the African's level until they were forced to take common action against their exploiters. The strikes of 1907, 1913-14 and 1922 were seen as rearguard actions; mile stones on the way to social revolution under the white worker's leadership. In reality, though defeated in battle, the artisan had won the struggle for recognition within the white power structure. New industrial laws, the 'civilized' labour policy, and the Labour party's presence in the coalition government marked his absorp tion in the ruling elite. The position of the factory operative and unskilled white worker was still in doubt. Left-wing trade unions and Afrikaner nationalism would compete for their allegiance in the following two decades. From 1925 onwards, a wide and unbridgeable gap opened within the labour movement between the party of white supremacy and the party of the oppressed. Ceasing to be the radical wing of white labour, the communists took their place with Africans, Coloured and Indians in the fight for national liberation.


15 Fruits of Partnership

Labour's role in the pact government was to detach the British working-class vote from Smuts and his imperialist Sbuth African party. Or so the Nationalists said, when explaining to their conservative followers on the platteland why it was necessary to enter into an alliance with a pack of English socialists. 'We are brothers,' said Tielman Roos; 'the Labour Party is part of us.' Its growth was almost as important to the Nationalists as their own, he claimed, and urged every Labour sympathizer to join the party. Creswell's standing in the cabinet depended on his ability to win and retain the allegiance of white workers. To get their backing he pursued a vigorous white labour policy through a new labour department and the trade unions. 1 Industrial relations had previously been handled by a sub division of the mines and industries department. When Creswell started his department in July 1924, it consisted of himself and a secretary, C. W. Cousins, the race-conscious former director of census. A year later the staff had grown to 154, one of whom was Ivan Walker, who resigned the secretaryship of the typo graphical union to take the position of chief labour inspector. The department professed to 'watch over the social and eco nomic welfare of the Coloured race', accepted responsibility only for 'races which subscribe to a civilized standard of life' and made its first aim the relief of unemployment among whites.

As in


when he managed a mine on the Rand, Creswell

maintained that the solution was to create employment for un skilled whites in rough manual work. He proposed to do this by insisting on a 'fair wage' clause in government and municipal contracts, which would have the effect of inducing contractors to prefer whites. Unemployed Coloured, it was argued, could find work on farms or take the place of Africans expelled from 328

Fruits of Partnership towns under the Natives (Urban Areas) Act.' At this early stage, then, were drawn the lines along which all governments would try to reconcile the demand for unskilled labour with the shibboleths of white supremacy. To enlist the trade unions, Creswell called the leaders to gether in August 1924 to discuss unemployment and the forma tion of a new inter-provincial centre 'able to speak with authority for the whole of the country'. A committee was appointed to draft a constitution and to convene a conference, which met at Johannesburg in March 1925. Believing in both the stick and the carrot, Creswell put before the conference an Emergency Powers Bill which, it was claimed, would 'avoid a repetition of the ghastly blunders of 1913 and 1922 '. The bill provided for compulsory arbitration and prohibited sabotage, intimidation, and the employment during a dispute of 'scab' or African labour. The delegates viewed the measure with mixed feelings. There was no objection, said J. George, one of Cres well's loyal adherents, to arbitration or the removal of Africans during a widespread strike; but he objected to giving the minister dictatorial powers 'almost indistinguishable' from those exercised under martial law.4 The conference defeated by twenty-four votes to nine a resolution moved by Glass repudiating the bill, and decided that it should be referred to a parliamentary select committee. Dealing with the main item on the agenda, Creswell urged delegates to avoid splits that enabled employers to pursue the old divide-and-rule policy; and promised to accept a strong trade union congress as the official mouthpiece of the movement. Much depended on the person chosen to guide the destinies of the new organization. 'The hour has struck and we trust the right man will be chosen.'" To Creswell's dismay, the conference chose Bill Andrews in preference to George as the general secretary of the S.A. Association of Employees' Organizations, the title under which the new federation was launched. Equipped with a research and statistical division, it was designed by the right wing to make a clean break with the movement's militant past and become a respectable body, advising the government on labour relations C.S.A.- 15




wW ~


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

and securing representation on public and international institu tions.6 Andrews's election spoilt this image, and gave the oppo sition a handle. 'Communists capture Trade Union Congress,' the daily press cried. It accused Andrews, Glass and others of pretending to leave the party in order to penetrate the unions for the furtherance of their pernicious schemes. Miners, engine drivers, printers, bank officials, and municipal employees, among others, refused to join the Association. They were put off by the red-baiting, or objected to the non-racial constitution that admitted unions with Coloured and Indian members. This was a sensational departure from the Transvaal's tradition, a triumph for both the communists and the Cape's open door policy. To become truly national, the Association wished to merge with the Cape Federation of Labour Unions, which would not join a colour bar organization. Another reason for the Association's tolerance was the improved status of Coloured and Indian workers under the Industrial Conciliation Act. After twenty-five years of pressure by Abdurahman and the APO, they had obtained at least formal equality with whites in the system of collective bargaining. A practical basis for soli darity now existed, and Johannesburg's furniture workers recog nized it by forming a union without a colour bar at a meeting convened in May 1925 by the SAAEO. Andrews used his influence to promote inter-racial solidarity, but his main endeavour was to overcome the hostility of the unaffiliated unions. The second annual conference held in April 1926 changed its name to the S.A. Trade Union Congress and altered the basis of representation so as to give the big unions a dominant voice in the organization. Andrews set out the benefits of affiliation in prosaic trade union terms. The TUC'S influence, he argued, would increase in proportion to its representative character. Like any individual union, Congress 'is not a body distinct and above the workers but is the worker himself in his7 corporate capacity acting with his fellows for the common good'. White trade unionism tolerated attacks on capitalism and not on colour bars. By taking the top executive post in the movement, Andrews became enmeshed in its white labour policies, though he never surrendered his socialist principles or reverted to his 330

Fruits of Partnership un-Marxist concepts of pre-war days. In 1907 he identified the state with the white workers, and argued that the African's vitality and low standards threatened not only their existence but 'the very State itself'.' In 1925, he sat on the Economic and Wage Commission and used the opportunity to lecture the public on the nature of the state. Quoting Frederick Engels, he defined it as 'an organ of class domination, the organ of oppression of one class by another'; and 'the product of society at a certain stage of its development'. State and society were not synony mous terms. When threatened in the slightest degree, the domi nant class used the state's coercive apparatus to defend its interests. South Africa 'cannot even pretend to be a democratic State, but is frankly an oligarchy allowing only a small minority of its adult males to have a voice in the selection of their rulers.' 9 'The one thing that the present Government is ruthlessly and savagely opposed to,' wrote Andrews in 1926, 'is any attempt by the native worker to assert himself as a man and a citizen.' Drastic laws prevented Africans from encroaching on the white man's preserves. The Labour party supported the policy because it depended wholly on the Nationalists for its share of minis terial portfolios and for many of its seats in parliament. White trade unions gave their backing because they saw no other way of protecting themselves from the ever-advancing African, whose cheapness endeared him to the employing class. Moreover, many trade union leaders, having adopted the class collaboration theory, denied that the interests of employers and employed were essentially antagonistic. These leaders attributed industrial friction to misunderstandings on both sides, and claimed that these could readily be removed by round-table conferences or by using the elaborate system of arbitration courts, wage boards and industrial councils.' 0 The labour movement, predicted Andrews, would never be come a dominant factor in public affairs unless it opened its ranks, both political and industrial, to the great mass of workers. He did not, however, repeat the familiar radical contention that capitalism would inevitably break down the white worker's defences and force him to shed his racial prejudices. For it was evident that the unions had achieved the formal recognition


Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

under industrial laws for which they had struggled since the turn of the century. Favoured by an economic boom and the labour department's active policy of promoting industrial 'home-rule'

from under 'cooperative control',"" the unions were recovering

the decline that had set in after 1922. The Industrial Conciliation Act imposed on both employees' and employers' organizations a duty to register within three months of their formation. 12 Registration conferred corporate status, enabled a union to sue or be sued collectively, protected it and its members from claims for damages resulting from lawful action taken during a dispute, and enabled it to take part in statutory conciliation procedures. These were substantial incen tives, and met with a ready response. The number of registered unions rose from 46 in 1924 to 113 in 193o, and their member ship from 38,8oo to 75,500. An additional 33 unregistered unions. with a combined membership of 43,000, were recorded in 193o.

its effects were Workers of all racial groups felt the stimulus, and13 Coloured. particularly noticeable on Indians and The act encouraged the formation of permanent industrial

councils, of which there were forty-three on 30 June 1931. A

majority were registered for a particular province or district, and represented the skilled trades, like printing, engineering, building, motor works, tailoring, cabinet-making, hairdressing, clothing and baking. Only registered unions and employers' organizations could constitute a council. It consisted in equal numbers of representatives of both sides and a chairman appointed from among them or from outside the council. They had the power to specify minimum wage rates and other con ditions of employment by agreement which, if published with ministerial approval, became binding on all employers and em ployees in the industry and area affected. Underpayment of wages or any other breach of an agreement might expose both parties to the risk of a fine or imprisonment. The councils relied mainly on a corps of salaried industrial agents, to inspect em ployers' premises and records, detect evasions and report delinquents. Industrial councils were charged with the duty of settling disputes and preventing strikes. No strike or lockout was lawful 332

Fruits of Partnership in a field covered by an agreement while it remained in force, or until the council had considered the issue. If negotiations broke down, a majority of the council members could refer the dispute to an arbitrator, whose award was binding on the parties. In the absence of a council, the minister, at the request of a representa tive number of employees or employers, could appoint a con ciliation board, which in effect was an ad hoc industrial council. A strike or lockout was illegal unless the minister refused to appoint a board, or unless one was appointed and failed to agree, or, if an agreement had been reached, unless it expired. Small unions, unorganized groups of workers and those employed in essential services, where strikes were prohibited, tended to use the conciliation board procedure; and it was resorted to also on the mines in preference to an industrial council. Of the 89 con ciliation boards appointed in 1924-35, 32 were in municipal services, 28 in mining, and i i in manufacturing.' 4 Left-wing critics complained that the unions were losing their independence and spirit of militancy. Collective bargaining, compulsory negotiation procedures, and the statutory ban on strikes in essential services were said to stifle or retard the growth of class consciousness. Even the industrial registrar deplored the workers' 'regrettable apathy', which he attributed to a feeling that members of registered unions were 'secure and unassail able', and could safely allow government agencies to negotiate on their behalf. 5 Indicative of the new mood, and also of the economic boom, the number of strikes declined sharply from a total of 205, involving 175,664 workmen, in 1916-22, to 44, involving 16,540, in 1923-9. The critics said that militant and well-organized unions would gain more by direct action than by conciliation. On the available evidence, however, it seemed that the privileged section, which included the upper stratum of Coloured and Indian employees, preferred negotiated settle ments, if necessary at the expense of African co-workers or the general body of consumers. Leaders of a new type took the place of the rugged, class conscious radicals who had built the first unions. Between four and five hundred trade unionists sat on industrial councils, conciliation boards, apprenticeship committees or other public 333



Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-95o

bodies; attended conferences in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town; and formed part of a large bureau cracy. Some officials administered large establishments, were well paid, associated with employers' and government repre sentatives in offices and hotels, and often depended on employers to collect membership dues under stop orders. The bureaucrats kept a firm grip on the union by manipulating constitutions and meetings, induced employers to enforce closed shop agreements, and threatened militant members or potential rivals with expul sion from the union and eventual dismissal from the trade. The pattern was set by the printing and newspaper industry one of the first to enforce an industrial council agreement. It charged the employers with a duty of 'maintaining the discipline of the S.A. Typographical Union', provided for a joint board to sit in judgement on defaulting union members, and gave those expelled a right of appeal to the industrial council. 16 Though employers seldom acted quite so blatantly as custodians of trade union solidarity, the closed shop agreements, which denied employment in the trade to non-union workers other than Africans, applied in the Transvaal clothing, baking and tailoring trades, as well as in the printing industry. Trade union officials were given special facilities under some agreements, as in the clothing industry, to organize the workers and collect subscrip tions; or employers undertook, as in biscuit factories, hotels and bakeries, to collect the union dues under a stop order agreement. Common interests multiplied across the table in boardrooms of industrial councils. Both sides could collaborate in under selling a rival producer in another province, or protect them selves against competition from underpaying employers and undercutting workers, or enter into agreements at the expense of consumers or the lower paid worker. Africans who shared fringe benefits such as a shorter working week or paid public holidays lost more than they gained because undercutting, their chief bargaining weapon, was made illegal. There were compensating advantages for Coloured and Indians. As 'employees' under the Industrial Conciliation Act, they could belong to registered unions and be represented on the councils. Those who gained admission to the skilled trades also 334

Fruitsof Partnership benefited from the principle of the rate for the job. The effect was to stimulate a moderate growth of 'non-racial' unions, largely in the Cape and Natal. Yet what seemed at the time to foreshadow a breaking down of racial barriers turned out to be a major setback for the national liberation movement. The relatively large and important group of Coloured artisans, and to a lesser extent that of the Indian, were drawn away from the struggle against colour bars into the orbit of the white labour aristocracy. As this process matured, the vision of unity between Coloured and African workingmen, to which Abdurahman had steadfastly adhered in earlier years, receded. Drafting errors in the Industrial Conciliation Act left loop holes through which African women generally and many African men in the Cape and Free State fell within the defini tion of employee.' 7 Except in Cape Town, few of those qualified to do so formed or joined registered unions. Excluded from the statutory bargaining procedures, the great majority were at the mercy of employers and trade unions. Some employers took advantage of the legal confusion to dismiss employees and substitute 'pass-bearing' Africans at lower rates of pay. 18 Some industrial councils made concessions to the best paid employees at the expense of the poorest and least organized, or introduced colour bars, as when the council for the Transvaal clothing industry stipulated in 1925 that no Africans were to be employed in machining, cutting or tailoring. 19 Racial discrimination depressed the African's standards and forced him to undercut. The unions approved of the discrimina tion and objected strenuously to the undercutting. The new Industrial Conciliation Act of 1936 authorized the minister to apply the terms of a wage-fixing instrument to workers other than employees. 20 More Africans were eventually brought within the scope of wage agreements than all other racial groups com bined. A few, who worked at the same jobs as whites, benefited; the rest usually lost out, either because the union deliberately sacrificed them to obtain concessions for its mem bers, or because employers refused to bargain and stipulated their own rates for occupations in which Africans were em ployed. 2 ' 335

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 extending Smuts's Industrial Conciliation Act had the effect of

the pattern of labour organization on the mines to manufacturing stake in industries. Artisans, like miners, obtained a permanent the cost of the white power structure, while employers offset

less than a living sheltered employment by paying Africans

between wage. The system tended to perpetuate the wide gap the colonial skilled and unskilled wages that had developed in of all races. economy, and therefore prejudiced unskilled workers

and Indian in Given the ability to keep the voteless African Un subjection, the ruling class could ignore their resentment. threat to skilled whites, in contrast, were voters and a potential interest white solidarity, since they might discover a common The with Africans despite differences of status, race and culture. as a social poor white was for these reasons as much a political the problem. Governments attempted to solve it by absorbing economy. unskilled white worker in the privileged sector of the South Africa's dependence on domestic sources of skilled vir workers had become acute during the war, when immigration x915 tually ceased. Juvenile advisory boards were formed from onwards to encourage the systematic training of white youngsters recogni in the industrial arts. The boards were given statutory the tion and wider powers by the Juvenile Act of 1921 and Apprenticeship Act of 1922, with the primary aim of enabling young whites to acquire skills and hold their own in competi 22 tion with low-paid adult workers. Apprenticeship committees, consisting of equal numbers of employees and employers, determined the conditions of apprenticeship in particular trades, and authorized approved employers to apprentice youngsters with prescribed educational and age qualifications. The printers, engineers, builders and railwaymen had estab lished apprenticeship committees by the end of 1924. They consisted of whites only, and adopted white labour policies. Africans, Coloured and Indians were excluded by racially biased for employers and trade unionists, the qualifications laid down apprenticeship, and the inadequacy of facilities for technical education. The system also put obstacles in the way of many who white youngsters, especially those with a rural background, had neither the required standard of education for apprentice 336

Fruitsof Partnership ship, nor the necessary amount of influence with employers and trade unionists. Moreover, as Creswell pointed out: 'All South African Europeans were not fit to be supervisors.' A large num ber were 'fit only for manual work '.23 Neither the Apprenticeship nor the Industrial Conciliation Acts contained an explicit colour bar. Men and women of any race could be employed on any class of work, provided that they were paid at the rates laid down by industrial councils and conciliation boards. Since underpayment was illegal, employers had no incentive to employ Africans on skilled work for which whites or Coloured were available. The market was wide open to inter-racial competition only for less skilled work. To give whites a measure of protection in this field, Creswell proposed to introduce minimum wage standards under the Wage Act of 1925. Its forerunner, the Regulation of Wages, Apprentices and Improvers Act of 1918, applied to women and juveniles in specified industries, notably the 'sweated' trades, such as cater ing, tobacco, sweet and box-making. Local trade boards were appointed to fix minimum wages and regulate working condi tions, with a view to keeping white women off the streets and encouraging white youths to serve an apprenticeship. Parliament decided against wage differentiation on racial grounds, however, since it might prejudice the employment of whites or lead to an 24 increase of production costs. Similar problems arose in the administration of the Wage Act. It provided for the appointment of a single national board, able to recommend minimum wages and conditions for all or any groups of workers in an industry or range of occupations. The board could at first differentiate according to sex, age or race, and was limited in principle to recommending not less than a wage suitable to 'civilized habits of life .25 If it was found that employers could not afford to pay a 'civilized' wage, the board needed special ministerial authority to recommend a lower rate. This was 'the most interesting and certainly most South African provision in the whole Act', remarked one observer ;26 and the clause disclosed the primary aim of pricing Africans, Indians and Coloured out of occupations considered suitable for whites. The act, said Creswell in the House, would 'open up greater 337

Class and Colour in South Africa i85o- 95o

areas of industry for every man demanding the civilized stan dards of Europeans'. Boydell, the minister for posts and tele graphs, was more explicit. Nowhere was the bill more necessary, he claimed, than in Natal, where whites were being ousted from one trade after another by the 'unfair competition' of Indians who were efficient and cheap. Employers would be forced to pay them the same wages as whites.2 7 This was the intention; but the wage board soon discovered that higher wage rates might put employers as well as African or Asian workers out of busi ness. In all investigations relating to 'unskilled labourers', the board invariably reported that it could not recommend a civil ized wage.28 In effect, unskilled whites could not be fitted into the wide gap between conventional white and African rates of pay. Wage determinations tended to maintain the gap, though Lucas, chairman of the board from 1926 to 1935, undertook to 'raise the lowest so that they conform to the highest and best standard of civilization'. The board, he claimed, was concerned only with the 'value of the job', and had neither the will nor the means to substitute white for coloured employees. 29 However, the board could not in practice ignore the racial factor, for this, rather than skill or merit, determined the spread of wages. The value of the job was made the touchstone only when it benefited whites. 30 Industrial councils and wage boards disregarded pro gress by individual Africans in terms of education, skill or experience, and polarized wages in manufacturing industries. Wages in the higher range fluctuated round C5 or £6 a week, and the labourer's wage between £i is. and I 5s. The ratio of five or four to one persisted with few significant variations for the next thirty years. In 1956 whites employed in private manu facturing received an average income in salaries and wages of £67 ios. a month, and Africans an average of Li2 ios. Unskilled whites might be fifteen per cent more productive than the African, as the Railways claimed on insufficient evidence; yet they were paid at least twice as much, and their employment sent labour costs up by twenty per cent. 3 ' As industrialists were no more willing than mine owners to sacrifice profits in order to rescue whites from poverty, it was left to government to find jobs for them at the taxpayers' expense. Hertzog's circular letter 338

Fruits of Partnership of 31 October 1924 instructed all departments to substitute ' civilized' for 'uncivilized' labour where practicable. 32 An un civilized person was one 'whose aim is restricted to the bare requirements of the necessities of life as understood among barbarous and undeveloped peoples', recorded the circular while civilized meant a standard of living 'generally recognized as tolerable from the usual European standpoint'. The public works department considered that a wage of 8s. a day was enough to elevate a 'kafir job' to the level of civilized labour. Though carefully worded to avoid criticism at the IL 0 in Geneva, the definitions were generally understood to distinguish all whites from all other persons. An A P 0 deputation told C. W. Malan, the minister of railways, in April 1926 that Coloured dockers for whom work had been found by dismissing Africans should receive a civilized wage. He replied that the Coloured, being less civilized than whites, could not expect equal pay. 3 3 Ten years later, when a member of the Cape Coloured Com mission, Abdurahman again argued that the aim of the civilized labour policy was to give whites preference over Africans, and not to drive the Coloured out of their jobs. 3 4 Government officials were less discerning and sacrificed Coloured, Indian and African employees to find jobs for 1,400 whites in 1925-6 at an extra cost of £i62,00o. The policy flourished most on the rail ways, in spite of their statutory duty to operate on business lines, and was extended also to provincial and municipal councils, while employers in the private sector were lured into collaboration with the bait of government contracts and protective tariffs. 3 5 An upward swing in the economy between 1925 and 193o did more than all the subsidized labour schemes to provide work for unskilled whites; yet they learned to look for jobs and security to government and the white supremacy parties. Labour leaders claimed the credit for the fall in unemployment, and urged more vigorous action to prevent Asiatics, Coloured and Africans from competing against wage earners who formed ninety per cent of the electorate in Transvaal urban constituencies. 3 6 'Conciliation Boards, Economic Commissions, Wage Boards,' said W. D. Dey, chairman of the central areas branch of the miners' union, were 'the same tripe as Jan Smuts used to dish up by the pound, 339

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

the only difference being the present crowd are slinging it out by the yard'. He persuaded his members at Jeppe to form an opposition union under the name of the Transvaal White Miners' Association, and urged them to redress the wrongs of 1913, 1914 and 1922. 3 A deputation from the SAMWU and SAAEO asked the Chamber of Mines to set a maximum ratio of

four Africans to one white on all new mines and to limit the employment of foreign Africans to mines earning less than six per cent on issued capital. 3 8 The Chamber wanted'a black South Africa', warned Forward, and the pact government stood in the way. 3 9 To fulfil its electoral pledges, said Hertzog, the government introduced a bill in 1925 to restore the colour bar on the mines, and appointed a com mission to provide the justification. It reported that 'throughout the mines natives are being set to do work that for its efficient carrying out requires on the part of its performers a regard for safety, a sense of responsibility and a capacity to exercise control over others, with which not even the most exceptional among their numbers are endowed '.40 The statement was patently

absurd, and belied by thirty years of mining experience. Health, safety and competence were irrelevant, however, to the main aim of placating white miners and teaching the owners to keep their profit-making within the confines of white supremacy. Self preservation was the first law of nature, said Beyers, the minister of mines; 'we must deal with the preservation of the white race'. 4 ' Smuts opposed the bill with evident discomfort. Having issued the original colour bar regulations of 1912 without a mandate from parliament, he could not consistently object to their being legalized. There was a basic difference, he argued. His regulations, to which he had consented with great reluc

tance, merely confirmed long-standing practice in the Trans vaal and OF S, whereas the bill would extend racial discrimination to regions and communities where it was unknown. He pleaded for 'honest, plain dealing and justice between man and man' as the proper basis of racial relations; and drew the inevitable retort that he opposed the bill only to please mine owners intent on substituting cheap labour for dear.4 2 Protests came from the owners, the Icu, the APO, and the 340

Fruitsof Partnership Transkeian general council, which asked to be heard at the bar of the House and, when this was refused, preferred not to waste its time by appearing before a select committee that had already adopted the bill in principle. Trade unions with Coloured mem bers - among them the engineers, woodworkers, printers, build ers, railwaymen, and members of the Cape federation - objected that the bill was too blatantly discriminatory. Less drastic methods, they argued, should be used to protect white standards against the effects of cheap labour. The mining unions and those with a colour bar constitution enthusiastically supported the bill, and reiterated their demand for a maximum ratio of four Africans to one white worker. 43 Beyers declared that he had never been unsympathetic to Africans and would deal with them as his children. Hertzog agreed to spare their feelings by discriminating against them in substance and not in name.4 4 This was done by authorizing the executive to limit the issue of certificates of competence to whites and South Africa-born Coloured. The assembly passed the bill, while the senate, where Smuts had a majority, threw it out, in 'total disregard', mourned Forward,for the future Euro pean civilization of South Africa. "5 Both houses passed the 'colour bar act', as it was generally known, in x926, thereby validating for the first time a racial discrimination that had operated on the mines since 1903. The effect of the regulations was to prohibit the employment, in either the Transvaal or the Orange Free State, of Africans and Asians in occupations for which a certificate was prescribed. These included the positions of mine manager, overseer, surveyor, engineer, assayer, blaster, driver of a winding engine, boiler attendant and lampman.46 The Mines and Works (Amendment) Act of 1926 differed in one notable respect from the 1912 regulations. It bracketed Coloured with whites in a position of privilege. For, explained Hertzog at Smithfield, OFS, in November 1925, there was no

question of segregating the Coloured, who spoke the Afrikaner's language, shared his outlook and stood closer to him than to Africans. 4 7 Strategic as well as sentimental reasons dictated a policy of identity with the Coloured community in economic and political life. It would be very foolish, Hertzog told parliament 341

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950

in 1929, 'to drive the Coloured people to the enemies of the Europeans - and that will happen if we repel him - 4to allow him

native'. eventually to come to rest in the arms of the Speaking at Smithfield, Hertzog outlined a comprehensive segregation programme, which he later incorporated in four bills. 49 One proposed to enfranchise Coloured men in all pro vinces and gradually integrate them in the white political struc ture. The other bills would isolate Africans behind territorial and political barriers. It was necessary, said Hertzog, to redeem

the pledge given in 1913 that more land would be added to the

reserves. This would enable Africans to live in splendid isola tion, conduct their affairs under local rural councils, and emerge only to work for whites. The Cape African franchise would disappear, that being the main purpose of the project. Instead, chiefs and handpicked notables would elect seven white men to represent them in the assembly, as well as a 'general native council' with power to legislate for Africans only on matters specified by parliament. A great debate followed. Afrikaner nationalists, Labour men and some liberals sang Hertzog's praises. He was 'an honest upright South African' who relied on Christian principles of equity and the expert advice of authorities on the 'native prob lem', eulogized Professor Edgar Brookes, one of the experts. Hertzogism, he maintained, would ensure that 'White civiliza tion gets a fair chance to develop itself without iniquitous inter 50 In ference on every occasion when it takes a step forward'. less elegant language, though with an equally sinister allusion to the 'anti-civilization' forces at work, Forward approved of any measures that would reduce the weight of the African and Coloured vote in the Cape, where all parties had to 'play up' to it in order to win seats. 'It is for this reason that even leading society ladies of Cape Town on polling day wear the most bewitching smiles to persuade the native and coloured voters to vote for "the master".' 5 Coloured and Africans refused with impressive unanimity to

sacrifice the Cape franchise in return for concessions to either section of the population. 'We do not want to sell the Natives' rights,' assured Abdurahman, 'or to be bribed by the Govern 342

Fruitsof Partnership

ment to leave the Native in the James Ngojo, president of the Cape ANC, warned that Hertzog wanted to divide the people in order to rule. His aim was 'first to disfranchise the native and after that the coloured man'. 53 Africans, said Kadalie, did not begrudge the giving of rights to the Coloured, and strongly resented the gross injustice of differentiating between them and a full-blooded race. Hertzog's policy would set the whole African population ablaze, and was 'the biggest political crime since the days of absolute monarchy'. 54 lurch.'5 2






reported the Workers' Herald: and it quoted H. D. Tyamzashe, the ICU's Transvaal provincial secretary; A. M. Jabavu, its senior vice-president and editor of Imvo; and R. V. Selope Thema, a former general secretary of the ANC. They agreed that segregation would be justifiable only if complete and coupled with the right of self-determination. In demanding territorial separation, whites had forfeited their right to direct the African's destinies. Let him therefore have his own state and parliament, 'which would not be under the control of the Union Government, but should form part of the British Commonwealth of Nations'. 5 The ANC called on 'Kings, Chiefs and leaders' to defend the people's rights, and summoned a national convention, which met at Bloemfontein on I January 1926: the biggest and most representative gathering yet, some said, with delegates from as far afield as South West Africa and Rhodesia. They expressed a keen sense of national pride; refused to kowtow, as Mahabane would have them do. by congratulating Hertzog on his' courage'; and applauded James Gumede when he chided them for speak ing in the white man's tongue. 'We have been conquered,' he told them, 'but I do not admit that we are slaves.' Men spoke of a 'native problem', said Kadalie, whereas their problems came from white arrogance, robbery and greed. After sitting all day and night, congress reaffirmed its 'bill of rights'; rejected segre gation in any form; agreed to boycott 'native conferences' called by government under the Native Affairs Act; and decided to cam paign for the removal of the colour bar from the constitution.5 6 In December, at the height of the campaign, the I cu's national council banned communists from official positions and dismissed 343

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o La Guma, Gomas and Khaile. This action, predicted the party's annual conference on i January, would split the icu and betray the people into the government's hands. The rank-and file should demand the unconditional reinstatement of the dis missed officials, purge the icu of its corrupt and bureaucratic elements, and demand an immediate campaign against the en slaving pass laws and Hertzog bills. Bunting told the delegates, among whom were Africans, Indians and Coloured, that no government had done more than the Nationalist-Labour pact to incite racial hatred. The conference denounced the bills as an aggravated measure of colonial oppression' which would 'enslave, impoverish and proletarianize' Africans, and con sequently 'undermine the standards of the white workers also'. It called on all African organizations to promote a general strike in protest, 'which white labour organizations, if only in their own interests, should support'. " The ic u's annual conference at Durban in April proposed a national day of prayer, and met with no greater response than the call for a general strike."8 Unable to discover effective methods of struggle, the liberation movement confined its protests to meetings and resolutions. The ANC called chiefs and councillors together at Bloemfontein in April. They too rejected the bills and demanded a constitution without colour bars, full civic rights for all races, and unfettered freedom to buy land.5 9 The climax of the campaign was the first 'Non-European Convention' to be held. It met at Kimberley in June, and was attended by more than a hundred delegates representing the ANC, APO, Indian Congress, Native Voters' Association, the Bantu Union, religious and welfare societies from all parts of southern Africa. They elected Abdurahman to the chair and resolved 'to take steps to combat any policy of differentiation on the grounds of colour or race'. The conference condemned Hertzog's bills, the colour bar act, the civilized labour policy and the native admini stration bill. On a motion by Sol Plaatje and I. J. Joshua, the APO delegate from Kimberley, it was agreed that 'the interests of South Africa as a whole can best be served by closer co operation among the Non-European sections of South Africa and also between the non-Europeans and the Europeans'. 60 344 L_

Fruitsof Partnership Unity was as hard to achieve, however, as militant action. There were too many warring groups and sectional interests among the dispossessed. Indian delegates at the convention did not speak, for fear that their participation might mar the prospect of persuading the government to modify its anti-Asian bills. A group of Coloured in the Cape revived the Afrikaner National Bond and boycotted the convention because, they said, Coloured rights, standards of living, economic status and political aspira tions were very different from the African's. The Bond placed implicit trust in Hertzog's honesty and assurance that the Coloured stood next to the whites. 6 1 Even the chiefs, at one time

a pillar of the ANC, were being detached from the liberation movement by the government's promises of official recognition, as well as by sanctions contained in a severe disciplinary code introduced under the Native Administration Act of 1927. This act was a major instrument of Hertzog's segregation scheme. Apart from creating a separate system of courts to administer African law, it extended to other provinces Natal's repressive techniques of colonial rule and turned chiefs into petty officials of the native affairs department. 62 Hertzog and Smuts agreed that it had been a great mistake and evil on the part of previous administrations to neglect tribal law, under mine the authority of chiefs, and deprive them of the power to restrain their young men. 6 3 This recantation marked a signi ficant change of attitude. In the nineteenth century white settlers had feared tribal institutions and regarded them as an obstacle to economic development. Now tribalism was to be reinvigorated; made into a bulwark against radical leaders and the thrust of African nationalism. African leaders protested that they had outgrown tribalism. 'I am a civilized man,' said Professor Jabavu, and he refused to be ruled by a chief. A. W. G. Champion, the ICU secretary in Natal, predicted that tribalism and rule by chiefs would soon be things of the past. The government should recognize the in evitable and make the best of the Africans' new civilization. Parliament ignored the objections, and welcomed the bill with a degree of enthusiasm that Hertzog found almost embarrassing. The enthusiasm centred mainly round section 29, which created 345

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o the crime of 'acting with intent to promote any feeling of hostility between Natives and Europeans'. This stirred both sides of the House. They denounced bolshevism, socialism and mili tant trade unionism; demanded repressive action against Andrews, Glass, Kadalie and Keable Mote; and urged the minister to provide for the deportation of persons convicted under the section. The bill's most objectionable feature, said Andrews in June 1927, was the clause allowing the police to search private premises without a warrant. As for the hostility clause, it had no bearing on him or those who shared his politics. All they did was to argue that workers of every race had the same interests and should receive the same rates of pay. 64 The police soon showed that they equated the class struggle with racial conflict. To demand equality, or to protest against discrimination, was tanta mount in their opinion to creating hostility against the master race. The Native Administration Act was gazetted in September 1927. Four communist and five Icu leaders were charged under the hostility section during the next six months. The first victims were three communist officials of the ANG branch in Cape Town - Stanley Silwana, John Gomas, and Bransby Ndobe - who spent three months in jail for having protested against the shoot ing of an African by a white policeman at Paarl. A. Brown, another Cape Town party member, was fined £25 for suggesting, during the flag controversy, that King George, General Smuts and General Hertzog might as well be put six feet underground for all the good they did to the people, which statement, the Supreme Court ruled, was less than incitement to hostility with 65 in the meaning of the act. Kadalie returned from a tour of western Europe soon after the promulgation of the act. It was being used, he complained, to ban icu meetings and to prevent the organization's officials from moving about the countryside. 'The real motive of the Act is clearly the suppression of the growing movement among the natives to secure a living wage.' The consequences might be disastrous to all. 'None knows better than we do how fatal is the narrow spirit of nationalism.' But who could blame the African for hating his oppressor? Denied all legitimate expres 346






Fruits of Partnership sion for his hopes and fears, maddened and humiliated by in justice, he would come to believe that the attainment of his liberty was synonymous with the crushing of white civilization.6 6 Smuts's party, conforming to the Box and Cox tradition in racial politics, took on the role of reactionary extremism. Opposition members harassed the government with lurid ac counts of icu agents inciting farm hands to demand a minimum of 8s. a day, and accused Madeley, the minister for posts and telegraphs, of setting the veld alight by declaring in public that no African could live decently on less. Africans everywhere, and particularly in Natal and the OF S, believed that the government approved of this opinion, complained Major Richards; while J. S. Marwick alleged that both Madeley and Boydell 'were definitely in favour of native trade unions and of revolutionary increases in the prevailing scale of native wages'. Quoting from the Workers' Herald, Sir Thomas Watt supposed that Africans wanted 'to pull down their white masters'; and he complained that all this was going on without any intervention by the

government.6 7 Madeley's incautious statement was symptomatic of a con flict in the Labour party that affected its relations with the Nationalists. The partners had much in common, besides their ruthless determination to suppress Africans and Asians. Labour's socialist background was less objectionable to Afrikaners than the capitalist press liked to believe. They expected government to provide farmers with land and labour, assist them when crops failed, and protect them against Africans and aliens. Since his capital went into land, and not into mines and factories, the Afrikaner had no material reason to resent the growth of state enterprise. The more it spread, the greater was the opportunity for a bureaucracy to manipulate labour and trade in his interests. Labour claimed that the state steel works at Pretoria and the state diamond diggings at Alexander Bay were products of a Crevolutionary and even socialist policy'. 68 Such projects ap pealed no less to Afrikaner nationalists, and might easily have been initiated by them without Labour's assistance. Both parties claimed the credit for state socialism and white racialism, but it was the Nationalists who made the bigger impact 347

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950

on the electorate. The Labour party recognized this, and found an additional reason for resentment in the Nationalists' ethno centric strivings for Afrikaner unity. When achieved, this would reduce the British to a secondary role in the political hierarchy, in and free the Nationalists of their dependence on Labour parliament. A group of Labour dissidents took exception in 1925 to Hertzog's policy of sheltering infant industries behind tariff 89 walls which, they said, would injure Britain's export trade. Madeley, who led the attack, was rewarded with a seat in the cabinet where, it was hoped, his radical bent would be straight ened out in administering posts and telegraphs. Barlow then complained that the promotion should have come to him, and other place-seekers in the party's national executive threatened at the annual conference in January 1926 to dissolve the pact0 unless the Nationalists conceded parity of posts in the cabinet. 'The year that has passed has been one of the most trying in the history of the SALP,' said Briggs in his presidential address 7 at the next annual conference. ' Times yet more trying lay ahead. Party loyalties were severely strained in the bitter con troversy over the flag, which ended with the enactment of the Union Nationality and Flag Act of 1927. Party branches accused Creswell of having sacrificed principles in order to maintain the pact, and the national council fell foul of the parliamentary caucus. 72 The dissension started a new round of self-criticism, and a re-examination of the party's racial policies. There was no unity in the movement, wrote Haynes; the white trade unions had lost their militancy since the pact, and were mere societies

7 3 Ever since for raising poor salaries for harassed officials.

Wybergh and Sampson had drafted the ridiculous 'segregation' policy, the party had failed to give a lead on 'the burning

question' of race and colour, complained J. W. Jarvis. He

blamed its troubles on the 'petit-bourgeois' psychology of the white worker, who was being bribed and kept contented out of the big margin of profits extracted from the labour of the African

and Coloured.

The quarrel came to a head at the annual conference in 1928.

Creswell refused to sit on the national council or accept its dictates in parliament. He and nine other members of the caucus 348

Fruitsof Partnership

broke away, held their own conference in Bloemfontein, set up an Cemergency executive', and claimed the legitimacy of suc cession. The national council declared that it was defending democratic control against caucus dictatorship and expelled the ten parliamentarians with a number of their leading supporters. 75 Madeley led the national council's eight adherents in parliament, the party's branches were divided between the two factions, and members resigned or fought one another with words and fists at branch or public meetings. The quarrel put an end to nego tiations, then at an advanced stage, for direct trade union repre sentation on the council. The crisis 'only holds the movement up to ridicule', wrote Stuart of the Cape Federation. It would be unwise for the unions to 'butt in' while the party was 'in a state of chaos'. 7 6 Labour had forfeited its last opportunity to secure the formal allegiance of the trade union movement. The split, said the communists, was over ministerial jobs and resulted from the opportunism of Labour leaders who collabor ated with capitalists against the African. 77 Old radicals made their contribution to the diagnosis. Dunbar, writing under the pen-name Cincinnatus, claimed that the Labour party was being forced to choose between the socialist objective and white labour policies. 'It assumed the role of the superior and governing race towards the dumb millions of the exploited natives,' threw them into the arms of the capitalist party, and made Afrikaner workers feel that a vote for the Nationalists was a vote for Labour. A genuine socialist party would attract both groups. If Labour feared to adopt this policy, it was bound to disappear, and a true workers' party would take its place.78 James Trembath blamed their troubles on the virtual abandonment of their socialist objective. The remedy, he urged, was to discontinue the pact and persuade the unions to become once again an integral 9 part of the SALP. 7 The party, unrepentant, ignored the advice and clung to its old habits. 'To further alleviate unemployment,' resolved the Transvaal division's annual conference in October 1928, 'the

S.A. Railways or any government or municipal undertakings be approached to replace the kaffir drivers of vehicles by unskilled white men.' When told that the Supreme Court had disallowed 349

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

an ordinance prohibiting African and Asian drivers from trans porting persons not of their own race, the delegates decided to ask the government to enforce the substitution by act of parlia ment. 80 Colour prejudice was a two-edged weapon, however, as the national council discovered in November, shortly before a by-election in Turffontein. Madeley was forced out of the cabinet on the 3rd, ostensibly for having met Kadalie and other ICU members in defiance of Hertzog's wishes. Labour's candidate, D. E. Becker, was beaten because, complained Forward, Cres well appealed to colour prejudice, 'that last resort of a scoundrel' 81 with the slogan 'Madeley and Kadalie'.

Madeley's followers claimed that he had fallen in defence of collective bargaining by valiantly attempting to open that safety valve, the i Cu, 'at present the only medium through which natives can present their grievances'. s 2 Yet it was difficult to detect significant differences, other than of temperament, between the rival leaders. Creswell was a martinet, resentful of criticism, aloof and frigid at party conferences. His hauteur repelled the rank-and-file, much as they admired his passionate desire to raise the unskilled white to a standard where he could compete 'with the increasing pressure of the black hordes who are threatening his very existence'. 8 3 Madeley, who claimed to be of working-class stock and class conscious, would sit down to lunch with the white driver of a government car, whereas Creswell found such equality distasteful. Yet both men found it possible to cooperate with a capitalist party in a policy of ruthless racial discrimination. Though choosing to break from the pact on the issue of the ic u, Madeley was as much a racist as *


They both sacrificed party to personal ambition and refused to heal a breach that they knew would ruin their prospects in the coming general election. The national council's conference in January 1929 gloried in its 'complete freedom from all political * In the unlikely event of any South African here called a racist object ing to the label, we offer this definition: A racist is one who asserts a causal biological relation between physical types, intelligence and be haviour; and who discriminates against persons because of their skin colour, nose shape or hair form. 350

Fruitsof Partnership alliances', yet humbly declared its willingness to bargain for seats with the Nationalists. s 4 The Nationalists rejected the offer and renewed the alliance with Creswell's group, which contested twenty seats in a crusade for 'white civilization' and won five. Both Creswell and Boydell were defeated. The national council put up as many candidates, under the banner of 'Vote Labour to make South Africa a country for white men to live in', and won three seats. 85 The party never recovered from the blow or from the effects of the pact, which proved to be indeed no less disas trous than the communists had predicted in 1924. Smuts speculated holistically in January 1929 about the pros pects of federating all British states in southern Africa. This, retorted Hertzog in a 'Black Manifesto' of unadulterated racial venom, amounted to an appeal for a great 'kaffir state'. He, on the other hand, promised to keep South Africa white by segre gating Africans in the manner projected by his bills. For, he warned, unless they were removed from the common rolls, the Cape franchise would be 'the cause of the greatest tragedy in the history of South Africa'."6 Smuts dodged the issue of the African franchise and lost the election.8 7 The SAP polled 47 per cent of the votes cast and won 6i seats. The Nationalists polled 4.1 per cent and won 78 seats. This gave them a clear majority in the assembly, but Hertzog generously took Creswell and Samp son into the cabinet and consoled Boydell with a government senatorship. The dividing line, said D. F. Malan, the Cape Nationalist leader, would be so drawn as to separate Africans from Coloured, who would receive much the same political rights as whites in all provinces. 8 These were false promises, said Abdurahman, and he reminded the Coloured that the government had talked of equality while sacrificing them in order to capture the poor white vote.8 9 G. R. Olivier, the general secretary of the Afrikaner National Bond, urged the Coloured to vote for Hertzog, who intended to raise them above the African's level. They, who had been treated on a footing of equality with the 'blanket native' before 1925, were now being recognized as a 'definite national entity', and could look forward to becoming 'partners in the civilization and culture of the European'. 90 351

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o

D. G. Wolton, the communist candidate, polled ninety-three votes and lost his deposit in the Cape Flats, a constituency with a large Coloured and African electorate. Bunting, who repre sented the party in Tembuland, fought a brave campaign against police intimidation, arrests, prosecutions and threats of violence by white racists; received 289 votes and saved his deposit. 91 He, his wife Rebecca, and his electoral agent Gana Makabeni were convicted under section 29 of the Native Administration Act on a charge of promoting inter-racial hostility. The Supreme Court ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove an intent to create feelings of hostility, and upheld their appeal. The police thereupon withdrew fourteen similar charges brought against one or other of the three during the election campaign. The choice of constituencies was significant. White workers, having 'drifted into a state of semi-dependency upon a paternal government', had lost their militancy and could no longer be regarded as a potential revolutionary force. 92 The communists turned their faces to the African masses who, as the icu had shown, were ripe for industrial and political organization. In an uncompromising rejection of the Hertzog-Smuts doctrine of white supremacy, the party's seventh annual conference in January 1929 demanded the 'complete equality of races', and adopted the boldest programme yet advanced by any party for the removal of discriminatory laws and practices. 93 Adhering to its basic principle, the conference urged workers and peasants of all races to combine in a militant revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and imperialist rule. The formula was not new; but the party broke fresh ground by attaching it to the aim of a workers' and peasants' republic 'wholly independent of the British or any other empire'. Africans should have the right of self-determination, meaning their 'complete liberation from imperialist as well as bourgeois and feudal or semi-feudal rule and oppression, whether British or South African'. Power would be vested in the working class and 'all the toiling masses, whether native or otherwise'. The programme, based on the theses adopted by the ci in 192o for the colonies, marked a major change in the policy and strategy of the Communist party. 352

I- - __


16 The Industrial and Commercial Union

'We have nothing; and can only tell each other sad stories of our slavery. We have waited long for a liberator, but we do not know where to find him.' This was Josiah Tshangana Gumede speaking at the Congress against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism, held at the Palais Egmont in Brussels in February 1927. 'I am happy to say,' he added, 'that there are Communists also in South Africa. I myself am not one, but it is my experience that the Communist Party is the only party that stands behind us and from which we can expect something." Gumede represented the AN C, of which he was the president; James la Guma was the Communist party's delegate; and Daniel Colraine, a boilermaker from Johannesburg, spoke for the TUC and the 'minority movement' in the white trade unions. Bill Andrews sent a message of goodwill on behalf of the South African labour movement. The three delegates submitted a resolution in the name 'of all workers and oppressed peoples of South Africa, irrespective of race, colour or creed'. It called on them to unite for the right of self-determination, the overthrow of capitalist and imperialist domination, and the removal of restrictions on freedom of organization. 'We are waiting and longing for the liberation that must come,' repeated Gumede. 'Let this not be the last congress.'" Clements Kadalie, the man from Nyasaland, in whom thou sands of Africans saw their liberator, denounced the conference and turned down an offer of £koo towards the cost of sending an icu representative to Brussels. No bona fide trade union, he declared, would associate with a body set up and financed by Moscow for the avowed aim of stirring up class hatred and promoting revolution. 3 Yet some of Kadalie's socialist friends from Britain - Fenner Brockway, George Lansbury and Ellen c.s.A. - 6 353

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-r195o Wilkinson - attended the conference, together with many respected leaders of national liberation movements, including Madame Sun Yat-sen, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohamed Hatta, Lamine Senghor and Hadj-Ahmed Messali. It was not the origin or composition of the League against Imperialism that deterred Kadalie, but his sudden decision to abandon the role of radical leader. He had often said that Lenin's victory made of Russia a heaven on earth, and that he would not rest until South Africa took the same course. His May Day message to i ¢u branches in 1926 urged them to hail the 'victorious republic of the Russian workers' and to join with all trade unions for 'the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a workers' commonwealth'. Kadalie spoke in the same strain at a rally held in October to protest against his arrest for defying Natal's pass laws. His national council, he hoped, would take up the challenge and awaken in the people the kind of spirit that had moved the Russians in November 1917.' Yet the council took a sharp turn to the right when it met in December 1926 at Port Elizabeth. The meeting was called, wrote Kadalie years later, to settle 'the struggle for ascendancy' between the communists and those like James Gumbs, the West Indian-born president of the xcu, who resented the cP because it was dominated by whites.' If there was a plot to unseat the communists, it took them by surprise. The council spent most of its time discussing whether to send a delegate to Brussels and whether La Guma should be given leave to go there as the c p's representative. Kadalie used the occasion to make an intemperate attack on the communists. They served two masters, he said; were puppets of the whites in the party, and sought to capture the union. Their main concern, he alleged, was to make propaganda and not to improve the workers' conditions. The council resolved by six votes to five that 'No officer of the Icu shall be a member of the Communist Party.' Three party members on the council - La Guma; E. J. Khaile, the financial secretary; and John Gomas, the provincial secretary in the western Cape - refused to resign from either organization and were summarily expelled. 6 They had given more attention to 354

The Industrialand Commercial Union political propaganda than to improving the economic conditions of the workers, explained Kadalie. 'No bribe will seduce us,' he vowed, into departing from the strictly constitutional path of peaceful methods and moral suasion. By functioning as an orthodox trade union, and without the 'artificial assistance of the Communists', the icu hoped to overcome racial prejudice, win recognition from the 'genuine European Labour element', and reach its goal of 'equitable treatment for the sweated workers'.' The expelled members served only one master: 'the down trodden workers of Africa', replied the Communist party. It urged members to intensify their work among Africans, and to discourage any tendency to break away from the ic u. The union's branches at Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Vereeniging and Johannesburg demanded the reinstatement of the expelled officials. Kadalie overwhelmed his critics by insisting that La Guma and his associates owed their primary allegiance to a 'white man's party'. The Icu's annual conference at Durban in April 1927 decided to 'demonstrate the international soli darity of labour' on May Day, 'the symbol of class struggle'; prohibited its members from identifying themselves in any way with the Communist party; and refused to allow S. M. Pettersen, a white party member from Durban, to take his seat as a delegate of the non-racial Seamen's Union. 'Racial antagonism is the chief stock-in-trade of the official element of the icU,' reported the Worker. 'It did not seem possible to them that the interests of black, white and yellow slaves were identical as against the slave masters of all colours.'" The ease of the operation suggests that Kadalie had no reason to fear a take-over by the communists, who denied any such intention and reproached themselves for having failed to antici pate and resist the expulsions from within the icu. To avoid offending it, they had refrained from organizing trade unions on their own account or from conducting study classes while trying to persuade it to undertake this work. 9 The dual membership of the few communists who held key positions in the icu was normal in the labour and national movement. All party members were expected to join a trade union; and no union, except the I cu, ever banned them or excluded them from office. Kadalie


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o himself worked closely with white racists and liberals, and could hardly have been sincere in objecting to the party's non-racial membership. His argument that whites dominated the ci' might have convinced his followers, but it concealed the true motives behind his reactionary policy. The motives were suspect, said the communists at their annual conference in January 1927. 'Much more lies behind the recent splitting tactics of Kadalie & Co., than a sudden swing towards the camp of reformism.' Though the expelled members had been victimized for taking Kadalie's teaching to heart, financial and other business reasons undoubtedly entered into the action. Three years later, after Kadalie's downfall, the communists accused him of having opposed their attempt to reorganize the union in industrial sections, introduce democratic controls of funds and elections, and pursue an active strike policy. When he had insisted on retaining dictatorial powers and on appointing officials himself, the communists on the national council had threatened to expose 'the disgraceful misappropriation and squandering of funds' by officials great and small, of whom Kadalie was 'the arch pilferer'. In addition, an influential group of Europeans in England and South Africa, representing the British labour movement and the 'yellow Amsterdam Inter national', had promised him support and recognition on con dition that he expelled the communists and adopted a moderate policy. 10 Having done this, he declared that 'strikes were wicked, useless and obsolete'.1 Financial irregularities, autocratic rule, and inefficiency were probably by-products of a failure to adapt organizational methods to the demands made by a large and rapidly growing membership. Estimates based on enrolment figures or sheer guesswork credited the union with 30,000 members in 1925; 40,000 in 1926; from 8o,ooo to 120,000 in 1927; and 70,000 in 1928; but the number in financial compliance with the rules was usually less than half the reputed membership. Kadalie told the Economic and Wage Commission in September 1925 that about half the members were in financial standing: La Guma's figure for 1926 was 28,000; Bunting estimated 30,000 in 1927; and

Ballinger 356


in February


Exaggerations apart, there

The Industrialand Commercial Union was no doubt that large numbers joined the union in all between 1924 and 1928. As Skota pointed out, 'It experienced and strict business acumen to manage, the ever-growing funds of this organization, but this,

provinces required properly, however,

3 was sorely lacking.' 1

Scores of untrained officials were employed to enrol members, collect their subscriptions of 6d. or 3d. a week, organize them into branches, and attend to their complaints. The most spec tacular advances were made in Natal, soon the union's financial mainstay under the dynamic leadership of its provincial secre tary, A. G. W. Champion. Born at Tugela in 1893, Champion worked as a mine clerk in Johannesburg after serving in the police force, organized his fellow clerks into a union, and joined the ICU in 1925. Starting from scratch, he built in less than two

years a powerful organization with a paid staff of fifty-eight secretaries, organizers and clerks: all 'preaching the Gospel of the I.C.U. and the emancipation of the African Worker in all parts of Natal'. 14 Many of his staff were former teachers who found the icu more remunerative; and who, said Kadalie, were not 'well equipped or trained for elementary trade union work'. 1 5 Ignorance of bookkeeping and trade union procedures often blurred the distinction between social and private property. Dishonesty or irresponsible behaviour on the part of branch secretaries, organizers and the national council itself had brought the union into disrepute, said Kadalie at the third annual con ference in 1923. 'People said the educated Native cannot be trusted; he is either a thief or a drunkard; look at the affairs of the I.C.U.' 16 These were teething troubles, unavoidable in a

trades union with many members drawn from scores of occupa tions in town and country. White unions which experienced simi lar difficulties in their infancy, had the advantage of possessing a significant measure of political power. The ic u, in contrast, fought a constant battle against hostile employers and an oppressive administration that never scrupled to use pass laws and other instruments of colonial domination against the union's organizers. Since only the most resolute could stand up to the intimidation and hazards, the pressure reacted on the 357

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-z95o internal organization, blocked all attempts to achieve efficiency, and finally deflected Kadalie himself from his radical course. He quarrelled with the communists partly because they criti cized both his policy and conduct of the union's affairs. He wrote in his autobiography that the Cape Town 'Coloured' members of the national council opposed his decision to move the head office to Johannesburg. They plotted secession and, to boycott him, transferred all the union's funds to the bank account of the Cape Town branch. Having exposed their manoeuvre to the council when it met in April 1927, he was obliged to inter vene, at La Guma's request, to save its members from being prosecuted for theft and fraud. 7 None of this rings true or has ever been confirmed. The union had a credit balance of only £23 7s. 6d. in its current account and £25 6s. 5d. in reserve at the end of 1925. C. H. Haggar, the veteran Labour party leader who audited the books, complimented La Guma and Khaile on having kept them 'well and carefully'. The accounts, he noted, consideration'18 were presented 'with a good deal of skill and The amounts involved were too small to be a bargaining counter in a dispute between the officials; the transfer of funds, if it occurred in the circ*mstances alleged, would not have been fraudulent; and the integrity of both La Guma and Khaile was never in doubt. Kadalie himself paid tribute to their effi ciency, and stated that the national council greatly regretted their departure from the ICU. 19 C. F. Glass, the ex-communist, became the union's bookkeeper after the expulsions. La Guma's organizational report of 6 March 1926 enumerated many of the shortcomings mentioned in Kadalie's presidential address to the annual conference in 1923.20 The union was losing at least £5oo a year through the inefficient, dishonest and irregular behaviour of officials. Inefficiency would have to be tolerated until the union could afford to employ suitably quali fied secretaries; but 'strong and severe methods' must be adopted to eliminate corruption, indiscipline and unconstitu tional action - 'otherwise we become party to the exploitation of the masses'. The national secretary, Kadalie, was also at fault. He set a bad example by ignoring constitutional procedures, notably in drawing heavily on the union's funds 'to bolster up 358

The Industrialand Commercial Union an unauthorized speculation of the Johannesburg Branch in acquiring the Workers Hall, before having obtained the sanction or approval of the Board of Arbitration'. The 'greatest danger of all', La Guma reported, was 'a dictatorship in embryo'. It was 'contrary to the democratic principles upon which the organiza tion is founded' and should be prevented. Kadalie might have seen in these strictures a threat to his leadership; and had an additional reason for wanting to expel the communists. 'The big employers of labour throughout the country, and, probably, the Government, suspected me of com munistic tendencies,' he wrote, 'while the communists them selves looked upon me as bourgeois.' 2 1 It was a familiar story. To be black, and a trade union leader to boot, exposed a man to many hazards; to be a red in addition made life nearly intolerable. The expulsions brought instant relief, claimed Kadalie. The public announcement of 'its policy against Com munist dictatorship, won for the i c u immeasurable support from liberal European public opinion'. 2 2 One of the liberals put the case more emphatically: Without international recognition, without legal protection within the country, suspected by the white Labour Party, hampered by legal restrictions, threatened by a Sedition Bill which on the least hint of extremism might lead to a disbanding of the whole organization by an apprehensive Government, the black Trade Unionists, far from profit ing by their association with the Communist Party, were imperilled 23 by it. The party's explanation was more succinct: Kadalie had 'sold out to the bourgeoisie' in 'an endeavour to placate the South African Government and prepare the way for affiliation to the 4

IFTU'. 2

The decision to affiliate followed a resolution of the icu's annual conference in April 1926 to join the British TUC as a means of 'bringing the case of the African workers before the League of Nations and public opinion throughout Europe'. The T UC suggested as an alternative that the union should apply for affiliation to the International Federation of Trade Unions, the so-called Amsterdam International. Kadalie agreed, the more 359

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 socialists readily because he was advised to do so by a group of behind the and liberals in Britain and South Africa. A 'factor was the scenes', which led him to adopt 'a middle course', women'. advice and help given him by 'certain European Miss Among them were the novelist Mrs Ethelreda Lewis, of Margaret Hodgson (later Mrs Ballinger), Miss Mabel Palmer then Durban, and his chief sponsor, Miss Winifred Holtby, 25 lecturing in South Africa. on She returned to England in July x926 and busied herself party and behalf of the icu, persuaded the Independent Labour about trade unions to regard it sympathetically, and collected that 2o0 books for its library. Kadalie reported in November assist the informal committees might be set up in England to Socialist union, and 'a number of well-known names in the ranks' were planning to secure its affiliation to the International 2 6 The Icu's anti-communist Federation of Trade Unions. IL P and the policy strengthened its claims to assistance from the Admin British trade unions. When protesting against the Native denied that istration Act in September 1927, Winifred Holtby settlers. On the union had preached hostility against the white of white the contrary, it 'constantly sought the cooperation of them 'attemp men', and expelled all communists when some 2 7 Lord Oliver, the ted to inaugurate a policy of direct action'. running of Labour peer, was more explicit. He deprecated 'the wished to a Native "Communist" Party in South Africa', and When see 'the I.C.U. relieved of its Communist propagandists'. candi strong enough, it should 'run genuine Labour Socialist dates of its own'. 2" a great His 'middle of the road' policy, writes Kadalie, was success. Instead of 'heading towards its doom as foreshadowed to strength. by the Communists', the ICu grew from strength By July 1927, six months after the expulsions, it claimed 30,000 and seven in new members, ten new branches in the Transvaal a vigorous the Free State, an improved financial condition, and recognition campaign against Hertzog's bills. It was pressing for the first time by the government and had gained support for his work in from the labour movement. Kadalie hoped that the eyes of Europe and the union's new prosperity would open 36o

The Industrialand Commercial Union white workers to the folly of standing aloof. They might yet realize that the only hope for South Africa lay in the united efforts of both black and white.2 9 Constitutionalism proved to be no more effective, however, than inflammatory speeches. The application of the Icu for registration under the Industrial Conciliation Act was rejected, as it might have foreseen, since the act was so drafted as to exclude Africans from collective bargaining procedures. The registrar objected that its 'pass-bearing' members were not employees as defined, and that, being employed in 'almost every conceivable occupation', they did not constitute a statutory trade union. 30 Attempts to group the members according to occupation, with a view to forming a federation of trade unions, were abandoned after the expulsions and subsequent splits in the organization. It remained a broad undifferentiated body of mainly unskilled workers, not unlike the industrial union favoured by the early syndicalists, and without the cohesion and discipline needed to make it an effective political force. Kadalie's bid for recognition had a more sympathetic hearing in the Amsterdam International, which accepted the ICu's application for membership in January 1927. This strengthened the union's claim to representation at the international labour conference in Geneva, and the government was asked to nomi nate Kadalie as the workers' delegate. It naturally refused, and as the white trade unions could not agree on a representative, there was no official workers' delegate from South Africa at Geneva in June. Kadalie went there as an unofficial delegate, 'the only black man at that great assembly', he writes, and 'the first African ambassador' to attend an I L 0 conference. He made a great impression, in spite of much obstruction by South Africa's government and employers' representatives, and alerted the organization to the needs of African workers throughout the continent. Harold Grimshaw, head of the I LO's colonial section, wrote to Fenner Brockway that Kadalie's visit aroused 'wide spread interest' and 'secured a personal success'. He had pre pared the way for a favourable reception of African delegates at future conferences. After leaving Geneva, Kadalie went on a lecture tour of 361

Class and Colour in South Africa I85o-i95o

England and Scotland under the ILP'S auspices; attended a congress of the IFT U in Paris, where he was 'again the central figure of attraction'; visited Holland and Germany - but not Russia, though all arrangements were made for him to go there, because 'time was so limited'. Besides, he 'was suspected by the Union Government and part of the European public of having some connexion with Moscow'. He found time, how ever, to spend another two months in England, revisit Paris and

Berlin, tour Austria, and revise the icu's constitution with the

aid of Grimshaw and Arthur Creech-Jones. In spite of all this goodwill and publicity, the British T UC would not let him attend its annual conference as a fraternal delegate, for fear of offending white trade unionists in South Africa. No matter; he had ful filled his mission to present the icu case before the bar of the international labour movement, and to expose the racial preju dices of white South Africa. While many leaders of the national liberation movement had done as much in England, he was the first African to represent his people in the socialist and trade union movement of western Europe. He returned to South Africa in November after an absence of five months, like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with new commandments for the children of Israel. As far back as August, when in Holland, he received news that the icu's affairs were chaotic and needed his personal attention. Africans were flocking to the union from previously untapped fields in Natal, the northern Free State, the eastern and northern Trans vaal. It was almost an evangelical movement, sometimes accom panied by mass conversions as when a Transvaal chief led his whole tribe into the union. The farmers were incensed; they demanded a 'sedition' law, refused to keep labour tenants who belonged to the icu, burnt their huts, turned them away and confiscated their stock if they did not leave quickly enough. Contributions to the union dropped markedly in Natal. The pressure, the growth, and the spirit of militancy abroad were straining the icu's resources and producing a crisis of leader 32 ship. 'Leaders who fail to lead when the struggle is on are of no use to the workers,' declared the Communist party; and it accused 362

The Industrialand Commercial Union the union officials of failing to organize or to support mass action. When farm workers in Natal, who were threatened with eviction for belonging to the union, suggested a strike, the officials sidetracked them with unrealistic proposals to buy land for the evicted tenants. Coal miners in Natal, many of whom were union members, struck work in June 1927. The officials denied respon sibility and even declared that the strike was illegal. Dockworkers at the Point in Durban, the union's main centre, came out on strike twice within a short period, and received no help or guidance from the Ic U. When men employed at Kazerne, the railway depot in Johannesburg, called a strike for higher wages, they were advised by H. D. Tyamzashe, a senior union official, to resume work pending a discussion of their grievances. They refused and were dismissed, their place being taken by peasants recruited for the mines. 33 The duty of a real trade union was to avert and not to 'look for' or 'manufacture' strikes, wrote Tyamzashe in reply to criticisms by Eddie Roux. Born in Kimberley in 188o, the son of a minister of the Scottish Free Church, and a compositor journalist, Henry Tyamzashe edited the Workers' Herald and served as Kadalie's chief public relations officer. His observations on the union's policy were therefore authoritative. 'I am glad to say,' he added, 'that owing to the broad outlook of the icu administrators the strike weapon has only been used on three occasions by the I cu:' the first, and only successful, operation at the Cape Town docks in November i919; at Maythams, Johannesburg, in 1927, for a breakfast hour break; and at Onderstepoort, Pretoria, in 1928, when seventy-one strikers were fined and dismissed from employment. 34 Many other strikes were initiated or led by branch committees; but the paid officials invariably intervened only to persuade the men to return to work pending negotiations, and never succeeded in obtaining any significant improvement in wages or working conditions. The leaders never rose to the challenge of the workers' mili tancy. A glaring example of failure occurred on the diamond diggings at Lichtenburg, Transvaal, in June 1928, when claim holders arbitrarily and without giving notice reduced wages 363

N em

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-95o

from 18s. and 20S. a week to


Some 30,000 Africans struck

work, picketed, and pulled strikebreakers out of the claims. The diggers formed commandos, urged the government to send aeroplanes, and received police reinforcements from Pretoria and Johannesburg. Government officials persuaded the diggers to offer the men I5s. a week, at which point Kadalie and his lieutenants pledged their support. They would induce the strikers to accept the 15s. and return to work while the union negotiated a final settlement. Similarly at Bellville, Cape, when quarry workers went on strike for a rise from 3s. 6d. to 5s. a day., with free quarters and free tools, the local branch of the union was left to handle the dispute without aid from the head office. 5 The iCU acquired a reputation as an extreme radical, even revolutionary force, by virtue of its messianic role and, in the eyes of some members, almost supernatural qualities. Its 'red ticket' membership card, wrote the communist Laurie Greene, probably the IC u's only white member in Natal, was said to keep employers, police and Hertzog himself at bay, to win cases in court, and to give the possessor equal treatment with whites, even to the extent of £i a day.16 Kadalie rightly claimed that 'the advent of the i c u was like a beacon of light on the horizon'. There was a great desire for emancipation, and the union promised the way. The i c u 'spread from Cape Town like a veld fire over South Africa' and as far north as Nyasaland, where a member was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for posses sing a copy of the Workers' Herald. The union 'demonstrated to the world the powers of the African workers once they were properly organized'. 3 7 This was so. It accomplished in the industrial field what the ANC had achieved in the political. Kadalie aroused the people to an awareness of their economic bondage, awakened a determination to escape from poverty and the stranglehold of colour bars, and fostered trade unionism. He also let the fire burn out behind him as he took his message farther to the north. He and his lieutenants shrank from turning the power they had generated into a weapon against the oppres sor. Walter Citrine, Creech-Jones, Winifred Holtby and other of 364

The Industrialand Commercial Union his British socialist friends were largely to blame for this futility. They impressed on him the importance of strict adher ence to constitutional forms, avoiding direct action, communism, or 'politics'; and they encouraged visions of a great bureaucratic organization, with officials trained in England, separate depart ments for research, parliamentary and legal affairs, and specialists in every branch of industry. These plans and the constitution drafted for him in England would have taxed the resources of a powerful union with a large, regular income and an established place in the social order. The i cu had none of these qualities and could never acquire them as long as African unions were ignored or harassed by employers, police and government. Morris Alexander told parliament in 1928 that there was a significant resemblance between the turbulent phase of white trade unionism and the icu's reputation for mass agitation and political propaganda. He moved that Africans be allowed to develop their unions freely and 'upon lines as are enjoyed by other workers'; and failed to find a seconder in a House that included eighteen Labour members. 38 Kadalie was happier when addressing a mass audience than when pleading for small concessions from employers inferior to him in will-power and intelligence. He missed his cue by trying to become a respectable trade union bureaucrat. On his return from Europe, he declared that he would transform the Icu into a 'true trade union', cooperate with the white unions, and repudiate any African who was anti-white. None of these aims could be realized under the prevailing conditions; and attempts at reform along these lines probably marred his prospects of settling disputes and restoring unity within the organization. A special congress, held at Kimberley in December 1927, adopted his new constitution, 'based on the model of the best modern trade unions in England', and agreed, after some dissension, to accept a trade union adviser from England. Conference also debated the crisis in the Natal section of the icu and rejected Champion's motion to impose a special levy of £i on every member for the purchase of land. Durban alone had 56,ooo members, said Kadalie, and the money could be raised if every member in Natal donated only Is. All branch offices in 365 -

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-Z950

Natal were overstaffed, and he urged them to dismiss the redun dant clerks. 39 'Our Kadalie was full of English ideas,' complained Champion. 'After spreading a gigantic spirit of mistrust against the white man and his Government he came back from overseas with a sudden revolutionized mind. He wanted a European private secretary, white girls as shorthand typists. All that was strange to us who knew his teachings so well.' The question was debated the whole of one night at Kimberley, 'where through the voices of two lady delegates, one from Capetown and another from Boksburg, he was told that he went away a black man and came back a white man'. 40 Champion was not an impartial witness; but these accusations were repeated often and with effect in the bitter wrangling that went on throughout 1928. The trouble started in Natal, while Champion was acting national secretary during Kadalie's absence. Samuel Dunn, a member of the famous Zulu clan founded by the Englishman John Dunn in Tshaka's reign, took over the provincial secretary ship in Natal. A powerful speaker and efficient organizer, he vied with Champion for leadership among the Zulu and like him was a bad bookkeeper. Champion had him prosecuted on a charge of theft by conversion of £865 belonging to the union, 41 and he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment. George Lenono, a member of the Durban branch executive, then issued a pamphlet alleging that Champion, too, was at fault. He sued Lenono for libel and lost his case. Tatham, the presiding judge, made severe criticisms of the way in which the union's affairs were administered, including Champion's practice of paying monies received by the organization into his personal bank account. These matters were discussed at length by delegates to the union's eighth annual conference at Bloemfontein in April 1928. It was the largest ever held, though many of those present were said to have come from inactive branches in anticipation of a struggle between Kadalie and Champion. The conference decided against Champion and agreed to suspend him from office pending an investigation. Champion's followers rallied round him in an atmosphere charged with racial animosity. The Royal Agricultural Society 366

The Industrialand Commercial Union of Natal met in February and agreed on vigilance societies, a rigid combing out of i c u members, and a ban on African meet ings without magisterial approval. The ban was introduced by proclamation 252 of 1928, issued under the Native Administra tion Act, which prohibited any meeting, except for religious or domestic purposes, of more than ten Africans in any reserve throughout Natal, the Transvaal and Orange Free State, without the permission of a chief and magistrate. On top of all this, a number of town councils in Natal decided to introduce municipal beer halls and prohibit the domestic brewing of the African's national beverage. Incensed at this attack on their customs and an important source of family income, men and women called for a boycott of the beer halls. Africans in Greytown, one of the places affected, gave vent to their anger in March by breaking tombstones in a white grave yard. This set off an outbreak of violence. 'Some white hooli gans,' reported Champion's paper, 'have gone so far as to organize "Anti-icu Leagues" which in practice must be anti black.' 4 2 The mobs invaded icu premises at Greytown and Krantzkop, damaged buildings, looted and burnt property of branch officials. Twenty whites were reprimanded on a charge of resisting the police, and fined £2 each for burning and damaging the effects of the i cu. There was no proof, said the magistrate, that the union was behind the desecration. 4 3 This outrage, said the Communist party, was 'a definite link in the chain of ruling class policy'. Leading farmers' organiza tions cultivated racial hostility in order to camouflage the class struggle. A call should go out for working class solidarity to smash the disruptive policy of all racialists. 44 Champion sounded the same tocsin. 'The cause of all this misunderstanding is a starving worker of Africa.' Five-sixths of the population starved, 'while the sixth has so much that there are men who are drunk with their bank balances'. The day would come when workers would cry from one camp. 'There shall be no Trade Union Congress of Bill Andrews, neither Cape Labour Federation of Bob Stewart nor icu of Comrade Kadalie, but there will be a 45 camp of the starving workers vs. the big baas.' The movement splintered instead. Kadalie was called to Durban 367





Class and Colour in South Africa r850-Z950 to explain why he had 'dismissed' Champion and encoun him tered a 'well organized, quasi military mob' that rushed into the Icu hall at 2 a.m. to face a crowd iooo strong. 'When I rose to speak I realized that death was certainly hanging over my head in those small hours.' The only person to offer protec tion was a white policeman, who escorted him out of Durban. When Kadalie returned to Johannesburg, he learned that Cham pion had hastily seceded and formed a rival organization, the I cu Yase Natal. 'This episode,' writes Kadalie sadly, 'would 1 6 appear to be the turning-point in the history of the ICu.' He begged Champion to return to the fold, and assured him that the suspension was a temporary measure 'to pacify the dis contented members in the other provinces'; but the breach was final. 4 7 Recriminations followed. Champion was accused of playing 'the big boss' behind Kadalie's back. 'He became so conceited and confident about his own abilities that he allowed to become inextricably mixed up with the Durban Branch funds 48 his own private funds.' The Icu stood virtually alone in its hour of need, rejected also by the Catholics, who formed a rival Catholic African Union and threatened to refuse the sacrament to members of the ICu. Kadalie replied that the Icu allowed full freedom of conscience in religion. If, he added, Catholics claimed that their union could serve African interests without being involved in politics or clashing with employers and government, they were asking 4 9 people to believe the 'impossible, ridiculous and untrue '. His liberal adviser, the anti-communist Mrs Ethelreda Lewis, rallied to his defence. She disapproved of the Icu's demand for 8s. a day. That idea never came from a black man, she said, and must have been put into the heads of the leaders. Not, presumably, by communists, however, since she claimed that the union had been cleansed of the elements of violence these past eighteen months. It had changed its original aims and should 50 be treated fairly in the spirit of Geneva. Kadalie had broken with the communists, quarrelled with the ANC, and repudiated strikes, all in vain. The white trade unions denied him the recognition that he needed to set the seal of constitutionalism on the ICU. Their colour prejudices stood in 368

The Industrialand Commercial Union the way of unity, said Andrews in August 1926, when talking to a crowded meeting of icu members. Most of the white unions still stood halfway between a white-collar and a working-class policy. It was for this reason that the TUC turned down the Icu's offer of joint action in response to Cook's appeal for an embargo on coal exports during the general strike of British miners. The Tuc executive, though in favour, 'thought they could not carry their membership with them'. 5 1 Kadalie encountered a similar resistance when he applied in December 1927 for affili ation to the TUC on the basis of iooooo members. This was an exaggerated figure and a tactical error. 'We were all scared that he would swamp us' recorded Ben Weinbren, a communist member of the TUC executive, 'so we rejected the application'. 5 2 It was examined at length by Andrews and Stuart in a memorandum submitted on 28 December to a coordinating committee of the TUC and Cape Federation of Labour Unions; and on 15 January to a meeting of trade union executives. All but two of the sixty delegates approved the memorandum and rejected the application.13 Kadalie immediately communicated the refusal to the British TUC, LP, ILP and IFTU. The whites had made hardly any progress in their ideology, he complained, whereas the icu sincerely rejected racial animosity and desired cooperation. 54 Andrews drafted the memorandum. It acknowledged that the application was important to all workers and 'should not hastily either be turned down or adopted'. Africans, who were paid far less than whites in South Africa, Europe and America for identical kinds of work, had learned from the whites and had built an important industrial organization. Their political status was inferior to that of a citizen, they were at the mercy of every constable or petty official, and were excluded from collective bargaining. They therefore looked for self-expression to indus trial organization and for recognition to the white worker their 'big brother so to speak'. Haunted by the fear of competi tion, the white worker demanded protection 'even sometimes at the price of gross injustice to those weaker than himself'. 'Self preservation is the first law of nature.' The policy had failed, however, to prevent Africans from encroaching on 'these 369

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950

privileged positions' in mining and manufacturing. A section of workers took the long view that repression and segregation could succeed only in part and for a time. They recognized that sooner or later the movement 'must include all genuine labour

industrial organizations, irrespective of craft, colour or creed. The question is when and how?' 5 5 'Not in our time.' This was the substance of the Andrews Stuart memorandum. Having conceded Kadalie's case in princi ple, the authors rejected it on grounds of expediency. If the icu were to affiliate with ioo,ooo members, it might outvote all other unions. If its voting strength were reduced to the more realistic figure of 5,ooo, some big white unions might secede or continue to keep aloof from the TUC. In that event, the white unions would suffer while the ICU 'would again be as they were, isolated'. Therefore, nothing more could be offered than periodic consultations; and even this gesture seemed to require justifica tion in terms of white interests. For, wrote Andrews and Stuart, 'the native masses will find friends in the enemy's camp' and be used 'to drag us down as nearly to their level as is possible', unless the white unions associated with their unions and gave them 'the benefit of their experience and superior knowledge'. The two most powerful leaders in the movement, and also the most radical, rejected inter-racial solidarity at a crucial stage, when Africans were demonstrating their capacity for large-scale industrial organization. As secretary-editor of the ISL and cP, Andrews in particular had worked for nearly fifteen years to bring about unity. When the test came, he withdrew, and made his stand on the issue of white labour solidarity. It was a difficult decision. Of the seventy-eight registered unions in the country, only twenty-two had affiliated to the TUC. Its annual income from fees and donations amounted to a mere £6oo; and Andrews's salary was £25 a month. He wanted to strengthen the organiza tion; and yet, wrote Bunting at the time, exposed himself to much opposition from both officials and members of white unions by associating with the icu in protests against the Native 56 Administration Bill. Some of the delegates at a conference of affiliated unions in September 1927 criticized his stewardship. T. Brown, the ASW 370

The Industrialand Commercial Union secretary, probably spoke for many present when he urged Andrews to be discreet in public discussions of the labour question. 'We have got to drop the Kaffir business,' he said; 'the organization of the native will come about, but the white trade unionists were not ready for this propaganda. We want to keep ourselves as pure as possible from the native and attend to the European.'


Andrews had reason to suppose that his executive would reject Kadalie's application. In spite of this, his proper course was to recommend acceptance and mobilize progressive opinion for a policy of opening the door to workers of all races. He would have had the support of communists in the movement, at least eight of whom attended the conference in September; and might have convinced African workers that a strong body of white trade unionists stood with them in their struggle for recognition. In yielding to white power without a protest, Andrews and Stuart isolated the icu at a time when it desperately needed the backing of organized labour. 'We have no intention of allowing the TUC to patronize us as inferiors,' retorted Kadalie. 'We will have full and equal status or nothing.' His spirited statement tore the Andrews-Stuart argument to pieces. They admitted that the white labour policy was unjust, yet recommended in effect that it should be main tained. They claimed to lead the white workers, yet succumbed to their blind anti-native prejudice. They professed faith in democratic rule, yet feared that the icU might outvote the minority. They paid lip service to the idea of working class solidarity, but relied on racial antagonisms to keep their own ranks united. The icu had offered friendship in all sincerity and suffered a rebuff. Condemned by the international labour move ment as a 'narrow racialist body, devoid of any true working class spirit', the T UC would sink into the forgotten. The CU, wrote Kadalie to the Natal Indian T UC, was more than ever determined to build the strongest trade union movement in Africa. He asked Indian workers, who had shown very little sympathy towards the I c u, to recognize that they had a common enemy in 'imperial capitalism . 5

Close on io,ooo Indians were employed in secondary industries 37'


. - - - __



Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-195o in 1929-3o, all but 700 of them in Natal, the home of

eighty per cent of South African Indians. Unskilled men who migrated from sugar plantations and farms to the town and use competed with Africans, had the advantage of being able to the statutory system of collective bargaining. This gave an impetus to trade unionism, which had declined after the pioneer

unions ing efforts of Sigamoney and Lee in 1917-x8. By 1928,

had been formed for Indians in the printing, 9furniture, garment, 5 leather, tobacco, liquor and catering trades. Indian employers and workers had a common interest in negotiating wages lower than the rates acceptable to whites, and therefore wished to secure representation on industrial councils and conciliation boards. V. S. Sastri, the agent-general for India, recognized the pitfalls in the policy of equal pay for equal work when applied to a minority group with inferior political status and educational standards. He was largely instrumental in the decision of the Natal Indian Congress, a body of employers and property holders, to take an active part in promoting trade unions and the in 1928.60 formation of the Natal Indian TUC The Indians ignored Kadalie's appeal and concentrated on 'securing the benefits', as the Indian Congress put it, 'of the Industrial Conciliation Act, Wage and Apprenticeship Acts for the Indian people'. They succeeded in persuading some white the unions and the TUC itself to relax the colour bar; though white labour movement remained hostile to the African's claims. Andrews acknowledged this when replying to a questionnaire prepared for the second British Commonwealth Labour Con ference held at London in July 1928. Attempts to perpetuate a caste system were 'unwise, unworkable and certain to lead to disastrous consequences', he wrote. Since industrial segregation was impossible, political segregation must fail. Yet the move ment's policy was to press for the substitution where possible of whites for Africans. The unions might not support, but would probably not try to stop, the disfranchisem*nt of Africans in the Cape. If a referendum were taken, white workers generally the would approve of further restrictions on 'the liberty of non-Europeans '.61

Later in the year Andrews and Bob Stuart represented the

372 r


The Industrialand Commercial Union workers' side at the Geneva ILO conference. It was indeed 'a strange turn of fortune', as Cope remarks, that brought Andrews to 'the thieves' kitchen' and 'assembly of Labour and Socialist prostitutes', as he and his fellow communists had described the conference when first Crawford and then Kadalie went to Geneva. 6 2 From there he went with R. McLean, president of the Durban Tramwaymen's Union, to the Commonwealth Labour Conference where, writes Cope, the British delegates 'adopted an essentially imperialist attitude'. 6 3 Some, like Lord Olivier, denounced South Africa's white labour policies. Andrews replied that his own views did not differ greatly from Olivier's. He was there, however, to express the opinions of his organiza tion. Africans were encroaching on the white man's sphere and accepting lower wages, in spite of colour bar legislation. He did not say this policy was wrong; yet would insist that all sections were ruled by self-interest. McLean added that they did not intend to allow coloured people to reduce the white man's living standards. 6 4 The British I LP and Walter Citrine demonstrated their sympa thies by sending William Ballinger, a Glasgow-born member of the Motherwell trades council, to advise the i cu. Kadalie looked with great hopes to his coming: he 'would tremendously help the icu to save its ship from sinking'. 'An African is a shrewd observer of human beings,' claimed Kadalie over-confidently; and he confessed to being 'somewhat disappointed' when he met his adviser. 65 The ship sank, in spite of Ballinger's attempts at rescue. More splits took place, even before he arrived. C. D. Modiakgotla and A. P. J. Maduna, the OFS provincial secretary who had moved the expulsions of communists in 1926, formed a 'Clean Administration Group' and agitated for Kadalie's own expulsion. He was said to be 'autocratic, Czarlike and despotic'. He had disregarded the decisions or authority of the congress and national council, appropriated icu money to his personal use, monopolized the union's motor car for his private purposes, and addressed a Communist party meeting in defiance of official policy. 66 Ballinger's mission was to shape the xcu after the model of a standard British trade union. He soon found that white 373

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 supremacists objected to an African union of any kind. The immi gration authorities would give him only a three months' residential permit and treated him like a criminal although, he told a reception committee at Ferreirastown, Johannesburg, in July 1928, he was actually a very respectable Scot, who had served for several years on Motherwell's parish council. No white trade unionists attended the gathering, whereas Kadalie's liberal friends from the S.A. Institute of Race Relations and the Joint Council of Europeans and Natives came in full force. Ballinger hoped that the Icu would have an opportunity to assist in making the country's laws, and emphasized that a strike should be the last effort of any trade union, for it was a gesture of despair, as they had found in the 'Old Country'. 'If any rash action is taken it will throw back the whole of your course for many years,' he told an audience at Marabastad, Pretoria. They should re organize the I c u quietly on the lines followed by European trade unionists, and avoid the errors of their leaders who had made 67 rash promises and wasted the union's resources. The attacks undermined confidence in Kadalie and the Icu, yet failed to appease its enemies. Sampson, the minister of posts and public works, speaking at a banquet held to celebrate his twenty-fifth year as president of the printers' union, refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the icU. He repudiated an organization 'of boys on the mines, kitchen boys, store boys, pastoralists, and all types of natives drawn higgledy-piggledy 68 into a union for the glorification of one or two leaders'. Champion, on the other hand, taxed Kadalie with having ignored the wishes of many prominent officials of the IcU. They had objected to the presence of Ballinger, 'a private agent of an unnamed organization' whose salary was being paid 'by mysteri6 ous people', perhaps not in Moscow but certainly in the ILp. 1 As charges were met with counter-charges, the icu's finances deteriorated, a deficit grew to £i,5oo, the union's furniture was seized for a debt of £ioo, and Mrs Ethelreda Lewis appealed to 70 the ILP in England for funds to pay Ballinger. Disintegration set in. Some branches in the Transvaal and western Cape broke away in October. At about the same time Maduna of the' Clean Administration Group' joined Champion's


The Industrialand Commercial Union union and accused Ballinger of having usurped Kadalie's place as 'dictator and autocratic ruler'. Kadalie tried to restore his prestige by making fiery speeches, which brought him into conflict with his advisers and liberal friends in the Joint Councils of Europeans and Natives. They accused him of having vilified Hertzog in a speech at Lichtenburg and to his great humiliation, he complained, forced him to apologize in public. The final break came in January 1929 when he was either ousted from the

leadership, according to his version, or given twelve months' leave of absence on half pay. He then resigned from what he used to say was himself incarnate: I, Kadalie, am the icu. The union's main weakness, Ballinger told Africans in Cape Town, was to have set up a sort of chieftainship and embark on strikes. They should ask employers for a living wage; and to do this they needed education, both literary and political.71 'I asked for an adviser,' retorted Kadalie, 'and received a dictator.' Ballinger was the Icu's secretary, president and national council all in one. It was essential for the union to be both political and industrial, and therefore it should free itself from the Joint Councils of Europeans and Natives, which had brought about his resignation. Africans would get their freedom by fighting, and not by begging, Kadalie told an audience of more than i,ooo in Johannesburg. 'Prepare yourselves to go to gaol, prepare yourselves to be hung if you want freedom.' They must stop work on the mines, railways and docks 'if the govern ment insists on dragging the native question into the elections'. 7 He had canvassed votes in 1924 for Hertzog's party, yet it 4grossly violated' the promises it made to the people. 'We were fooled, but never again.' 33 These were the opinions also of James Gumede, the ANC president. Speaking on the same plat form as Kadalie, he urged the people to raise their voice 'so that we fill all the gaols'. They must demand liberation, the franchise and seats in parliament; oppose Hertzog's imperialism; and secure a republic representing all nationalities irrespective of colour. This was the language of the League against Imperialism, which Kadalie had denounced in 1927 as a tool of Moscow. Having fallen out with the liberals, he now moved to the left 375

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

and recalled to mind his 'other European friends': the com munists C. F. Glass, Bill Andrews 'who recognized no colour bar', Sidney Bunting and Edward Roux, who often addressed xcu meetings 'before the dangers and implications of Com munism were generally understood'. 7 4 Kadalie formed a new union, the Independent icu, in April 1929. He applied to the League for affiliation and £200 to enable him to 'build a huge militant trade union' which would 'fight capitalism to the bitter end'." 5 The League turned down both requests, and the communists lectured him on the corrupting effects of bad company. There was no real difference between Kadalie and Ballinger; both were autocratic bureaucrats fighting for supremacy, while the rank-and-file were being bled for their support. Joint Councils, the 'Joneses, Pims, Ballingers and Brookeses', and their 'Native Damnation Societies' were but instruments for retarding the African's emancipation. 'Only by strength and relying a revolutionary policy based upon organized 76 on direct action can this be obtained.' Communists had earned the right to speak with some author ity. Years of systematic work along the lines proposed in 1926 by La Guma for the icu were bearing fruit, especially on the Rand. Kalk, Sachs, Fanny Klenerman (Mrs Glass) and B. Weinbren, among other party members, had organized unions of furniture, garment, sweet, laundry, catering and distributive workers. A parallel movement was making headway among Africans. 'We are having big successes in our work up here,' wrote Wolton from Johannesburg in February 1928. Unions had been formed of Africans in the laundry, tailoring, engineer ing and baking trades. 'Membership of these Unions is leaping up and our comrades are holding key positions.' Party branches were making steady progress, and the party school had eighty regular students. 'On every day of the week our Hall is crowded with Party members, potential members and close sympa thizers.'7 7 The school had been started in 1925 in the slums of Ferreirastown under the supervision of T. W. Thibedi, a com munist from the ISL days. Among the pupils were leading icu and party organizers: Stanley Silwana, Thomas Mbeki, Tantsi, Johannes Nkosi, Gana Makabeni and Moses Kotane. 376

The Industrialand Commercial Union Five African unions with a combined membership of about io,ooo drawn from furniture and clothing factories, bakeries, laundries and garages formed the S.A. Federation of Non European Trade Unions early in 1928. With Weinbren, Kotane and La Guma as president, vice-president and general secretary, the Federation made no attempt to conceal its political sympa thies. It affiliated to the Red International of Labour Unions in 1929, and was promptly accused of being a disruptive organiza tion led by foreign agitators and financed by Moscow gold. 78 The stated aims were modest, however, and specified only a forty-eight hour working week and 'equal pay for equal work'. 7" There was no reference to the colour bar or demand for equality of opportunity. For, Roux argued in Moscow at the sixth world congress of the Communist International in August 1928, it was sounder to stress the unity of all workers against capitalism than to expose 'the parasitical nature of the white workers'. 8 0 Roux, for one, thought that the new unions should press for affiliation to the T u c, the spokesman of the labour aristocracy which 'shares to a certain extent in the profits of the bour

geoisie'. The


fourth congress, meeting in



that the amalgamation of all unions into a single centre 'should be urged as the fundamental task of the revolutionary wing of the trade union movement in South Africa'. Only a united front of white and coloured workers against capital would put an end to inter-racial hostility. To support its contention, the congress maintained that the condition of white workers had steadily deteriorated since 1922, 'in consequence of the attrac tion of ever larger numbers of cheap skilled coloured workers to the mining enterprises'."1 In fact, however, the labour aristo cracy was then more firmly than ever entrenched behind statutory colour bars. African trade union leaders had every reason to reject the futility of knocking at a door which had been firmly bolted against the icu. The formation of a separate Federation of Non-European Trade Unions mirrored the white workers' racial exclusiveness, and represented a significant departure from the communist ideal of inter-racial solidarity. The aim of the Federation, it declared on 2 September 1928 ., was to promote a united front C.S.A.-



Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-1950

of all 'non-European' organizations, for equality 'in every sphere of industrial, economic and political activity', as a step towards non-racial unions. 'The white worker if not absolutely incor rigible,' wrote La Guma, 'must inevitably be forced to ack nowledge the incorrectness of his myopic policy of aloofness.' South Africa was in a stage of transition to a modem industrial country, using techniques of mass production and drawing on the large reserves of semi-skilled and unskilled workers. The white man would be isolated on the labour market if he did not cooperate with the black. The African would not allow himself to be used as a 'catspaw' to pull strike 'chestnuts' out of the fire for the white worker, as in the strike of Germiston clothing workers in May. 2 Africans and Coloured had come out in sympathy with a strike of whites against victimization. White garment workers in Johannesburg failed to reciprocate two weeks later during a strike of 2oo Africans for a similar reason. Seventy-five of the strikers were fined Ci each for being absent from work; Makabeni and five other leaders were charged with incitement under the Riotous Assemblies Act.83 A more serious betrayal of solidarity occurred in the Johannesburg furniture industry towards the end of 1929. The white and African unions had signed a mutual defence pact, which the Africans loyally observed during a strike of white workers in October. 'This was a distinctly his toric event,' declared the Federation; it would 'go far towards the shattering and ultimate abolition of the colour bar'. In Novem ber, however, when 2oo African and Coloured mattress makers struck work to enforce a wage determination, and i6o of the Africans were prosecuted, the whites dishonoured the agree ment, scabbed, and made no contribution to the strike fund. Embittered by the betrayal, the Africans gave no assistance when the whites repeated their strike, to remain out for ten weeks 84 and fail to win their demands. A real 'break through' was claimed in the laundry trade when Weinbren, the organizer, persuaded the white union to form a joint committee with the African union on condition that each retained its identity. Employers reacted by urging the whites to resign. 'Are you going to let nigg*rs assist you in demands for 378

The Industrialand Commercial Union more wages?' asked one. 'You'll only raise theirs and lower your own.' The Federation continued to progress, reported Weinbren at the second annual conference in September 1929. Five new unions, representing dairy, meat, canvas, transport and engineer ing workers, had been added during the past year. 85 The mem bership was predominantly African, with a sprinkling of Col oured and Indians. The law, police, employers and racial privilege made unity between white workers and Africans almost impossible. The obstacles to the association of whites with Coloured and Indian were less formidable. As members of the privileged (employee' class, they could all make their voices heard on industrial councils and conciliation boards. In August 1928 the industrial registrar reported that he had received applications for registration from the Durban Hotel Employees' Union, which was predominantly Indian, and from the Witwatersrand Col oured Mine Workers' Union. The registration of parallel racial unions in a single industry or occupation, he pointed out, might lead to dual and conflicting wage agreements. As a safeguard, he suggested the adoption of a guiding principle: 'Wherever the formation of one union embracing all races in a given industry can be brought about, it should be encouraged. If this form of organization cannot be attained in certain trades, parallel unions might be registered.' The TUc replied in October that while all its affiliates recognized and approved the right of 'the Non European worker' to organize industrially, they disagreed about their relations with Coloured and Indian workers. 86 The Coloured MWU was formed in 1911, before Smuts's colour bar regulations restricted a wide range of mining occupa tions to whites. The amendment of 1926 to the Mines and Works Act removed the statutory barriers against Coloured as distinct from Africans and Asians, yet few Coloured were employed in occupations for which certificates of competence were required. The union claimed a potential membership of 2,000 Coloured mine workers employed on the Reef as timbermen, waste packers, pipe fitters, track layers, lashers and trammers, winch drivers, pump attendants, and transport drivers - occupations which were also catered for by the white miners' union.8 7 Since 379

Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-x950 the union's constitution contained a 'Europeans only' member ship clause, the Coloured insisted that they were legally entitled to register their union. They were told that the SAMWU would delete the word 'European' if they accepted the principle of equal pay. But, said the Coloured, 'to ask us to demand the same rate of wages as a white man is to ask us to remain per manently unemployed, because the employers would always give preference to the white man if he had to pay the same wage to both ',8

Nine out of ten mine workers on the Rand, claimed the Rev. R. B. Hattingh, belonged to the Nationalist party, and only one third to the union.8 9 To keep its end up, the union launched a

bitter racialist attack on the new regulations. The government, wrote Harry Day the secretary, 'had no right to rob us of our status as white men and compel us to compete with Cape boys'. Since employers maximized profits by taking on cheap labour, 'all that will be left on the mines will be a few white bosses and cheap coloured labourers'.g0 While so protesting, the union did

remove the colour bar from its constitution. This, declared George Brown, one of the Transvaal Labour members of parlia ment and president of the Boilermakers' Union, was the finest 91 step so far taken towards open trade unionism. In fact, the SA M WU never admitted Coloured as members. The sole purpose of the constitutional amendment was to block the registration of the Coloured union. A fraternal embrace could be as deadly as isolation. Natal Indians made the discovery after being admitted to the S.A. Typographical Society early in 1929. White printers on strike in Durban had been kept out for six weeks because the Indians remained at work, said Albert Downes, the general secretary, and he urged an open door policy. At Cape Town, he claimed, 'the number of coloured people employed in the printing indus try had decreased since they had been admitted to member ship'. 92 The Durban printers, reported Forward, wanted to eliminate Indians from the industry. About 250 of them refused 93 to be eliminated; therefore they had to be absorbed. This would deprive them of the right to undercut, their only defence against the colour bar. 'As a matter of fair play,' pleaded Sastri, 380

The Industrialand Commercial Union

Indians who submitted to the rule of equal pay for equal labour should be allowed to acquire the technical training that would fit them to survive in open competition. 94 Twenty-five years later, Tom Rutherford, the general secretary of the union and president of the S A T Uc, reported that 'one could count the number of skilled Indian printers in Natal on the fingers of your one hand. They have been almost eliminated. That happened because we took them into the Union. 95 Varying proportions of self-interest, racial prejudice and socialist ethics produced divergent practices on the Witwaters rand. Several unions of factory workers - garment, leather, furniture, canvas - found it expedient to admit Coloured and Indians. Some national unions, notably the printers and building workers, excluded them in the Transvaal and oFs but admitted them in Natal and the Cape. When able to monopolize their trade by means of apprenticeship restrictions or political influ ence, white workers enforced a colour bar, as in the unions of engineers, engine drivers, reduction workers, carpenters and tramwaymen. Life itself was full of inconsistencies, remarked Andrews. 'The relationship between man and man, to say nothing of woman, is complex and full of unsolved problems.' This was a poor excuse, however, and the TUC was forced to take a stand against racial unions. It finally agreed, after a conference held in January 1929 with representatives of the

labour department and Indian unions, Sastri, the Rev. Siga money and Ballinger, to urge the adoption of an open door policy. Trade unions should enrol all employees 'irrespective of race or colour'; or, when this was not acceptable, establish parallel branches for each racial group within a single union.9 6 Much of the pressure came from the Cape Federation of Labour Unions, whose secretary Robert Stuart was stubbornly independent and unwilling to play second fiddle to Andrews. Their personal rivalries were closely bound up, however, with a long standing disagreement between the two centres over the Coloured worker's position. Formed in 1913 to forestall an invasion by the Transvaal unions, and affiliated at one time to the RI LU, the Federation was in one respect the more radical body, even though Stuart firmly rejected'party politics' in trade unions. 381

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

It was committed by its constitution 'to strive for equality of status, rights and treatment of all workers regardless of colour or race'; and it therefore objected, Stuart said, to losing its separate identity in a unitary organization under the Transvaal's leader ship. Charles Playfair, the Federation's chairman, maintained in 1927 that 'the greatest obstacle to unity was the colour differences as between the Cape and the Transvaal '.9

Three years later

Stuart pointed out that the Federation had 'consistently en deavoured to organize labour without regard to race', whereas the north opposed 'the entrance of non-Europeans into industry, or into the unions, no matter whether such a person be of mixed parentage or purely native'. This difference, he claimed, was the root cause of the Federation's preference for provincial autonomy within a federal constitution.9" The Federation's attitude to African unions was more ambigu ous than Stuart would acknowledge. He and Playfair thought that the icu might be political or racial rather than a genuine trade union, and gave this as a reason for supporting the TUC'S decision to refuse Kadalie's application to affiliate. 99 The icu went on its way in isolation from the rest of the movement. In January 193o at East London the union's annual conference decided to ask for a rise from 3s. to 6s. 6d. for railway and harbour workers. This led to a successf*ckstrike, which developed into a general stoppage of work by Africans and, claimed Kadalie, 'paralysed the whole industrial and commercial system of East London'. 100 He and eight other leaders were then arres ted. They stood trial on i 16 counts of incitement to public violence, and were acquitted, except for Kadalie who was fined £25 on one count. Back in Johannesburg, he was banned by Oswald Pirow, the minister for justice, from attending or speak ing at public meetings on the Witwatersrand. He thereupon made his home and headquarters in East London, where he used such influence as was left him to discourage any form of mass action against the regime. The remnants of Kadalie's union in the Cape peninsula had meanwhile grouped themselves into the Industrial and Com mercial Workers' Federation, an association of African and Coloured unions, instead of, like the icu, one of individuals. It 382

The Industrialand Commercial Union affiliated to the Cape Federation in June 1930 on the basis of an agreed voting strength, so limited as not to swamp the unions of skilled Coloured and whites. In spite of all that had been said about the 'reactionary' policies of the Cape Federation, declared Umsebenzi, the Communist party weekly, it was 'definitely ahead of the TUC in actual practice'. Stuart might be a 'bosses man' but he had the courage to invite all Cape unions, regardless of race or status, to the all-in conference held at Cape Town in October. The TUC passed pious resolutions condemning racial discrimination, and limited its invitations to registered unions, to the exclusion of the FNETU and the factions of the Icu. Real working-class unity, the communists urged, could be achieved only by smashing the trade union colour bar and organizing the masses of unskilled workers. 10 1 Stuart turned the conference into a novel display of inter racial solidarity. Of the eighty-six Cape delegates present, forty two were Coloured or African. All the thirty-four delegates from national or Transvaal unions were white, except John Gomas, the communist tailor from Cape Town, who was included in the garment workers' delegation. The conference was far from being 'all-in', since there were no representatives from Natal, the o s, or the great mass of Africans in the north. James Shuba, the communist secretary of the Cape laundry workers' union, lodged a protest on behalf of the Federation of Non-European Trade Unions. He attributed its exclusion to the 'chauvinist and reformist outlook of the white trade union', urged an abandon ment of 'capitalist conciliation' for 'militant class struggle', and warned that the world economic crisis would result in an attack on the living standards of all workers. Conference should 'once and for all break sharply with the policy of resolutionism, con ciliation, race superiority' and the cowardly policy of 'white South Africa'. °2 It was a new experience for white supremacists from the north to sit in the same hall, debate and drink tea with persons of colour on an equal footing. No more effective means could have been found to convince them that the old distinction between a white elite of artisans and hordes of peasant workers was break ing down under the impact of a rapid industrialism. Workers of 383

____ Class and Colour in South Africa



.1. .--



all races, employed in factories and services, were being organ ized. Their unions had begun to change the balance of forces in the movement. Don't disparage the new unions by calling them 'mushrooms', advised Cousins, the secretary of labour and chairman of the conference. 'It should be remembered that Industry had changed, and was still changing its methods, and the workers' organizations would have to adjust themselves to new conditions.'

1 03

The Cape delegates argued at length against racial divisions. Harry Evans of the bakers' union crystallized their views in a motion urging the T UC to ballot its members on the principle of 'equal opportunities and equal remuneration'. The formation of a national centre, he suggested, should be made dependent on the removal of colour bars in the Transvaal. TUC spokesmen sidestepped the challenge and asked delegates to 'cut out questions of colour'. It became evident that there would be no unity on a basis of racial discrimination. The conference finally agreed to establish a S.A. Trades and Labour Council which would admit 'all bona fide trades and labour unions' and 'promote the interests of all organized workers'. It was a momentous decision. Trade unions in the north had for the first time agreed to admit African unions to their fellowship. The election of Shuba and two Coloured delegates to a national council of eighteen members strengthened the optimists' faith in the new venture. Some communists were sceptical. It was a great mistake, argued Solly Sachs, to suppose that any good could come out of the conference, or from a spurious unity based on white patron age of down-trodden blacks. Leaders 'corrupted with reformism, racial chauvinism and capitalist conciliation' would never put up a fight against wage cuts. 'Let us get busy building a real trade union movement,' he urged. The c P, while agreeing with criti cisms of the reformist leaders, thought that the conference should be credited with two accomplishments. It had set up a national centre without colour bars; and it had protested against oppressive legislation. These small gains represented the first 'class-war breach in the anti-Native front of white imperialism'. 'Militant trade unionists, black and white, must now concentrate


The Industrialand Commercial Union

on the task of building up strong unions among the unorganized and securing their affiliation to the SATLC. ,I0 4 Afrikaner workers, threatened Pirow, would boycott the TLC if it persisted in championing the African's cause. 10 5 Deterred by the warning, the miners' union refused to affiliate. Andrews replied that only by cooperating could workers resist 'the in cessant pressure from the employing class to reduce them to, or even below, the bare subsistence level'. All sections had funda mental interests in common, and should not allow racial or geographical differences to keep them apart.1 0 6 J. H. Botha, an Afrikaner economist writing his doctoral thesis in Holland at about the same time, held a similar opinion. 'The economic factors that give rise to class consciousness and solidarity among workers,' he declared, 'are apparently too strong for the tradi tional divisions along lines of colour. The spirit of equal treat ment and cooperation has taken a strong hold on the working classes.' 10 7 His assessment was to receive some confirmation in the next two decades. During this period Afrikaner nationalists attempted to penetrate the trade unions, suppress the com munists, and isolate Afrikaner workers from the movement towards inter-racial class solidarity.


17 Black Republic

South Africa's liberation, wrote Bunting in 1928, involved three major freedoms: formal and actual independence from British imperialism; the emancipation of Africans from white domina tion; and freedom for workers and peasants of all races from bourgeois rule. 'In political form, it is a struggle for a S. African Workers' and Peasants' Republic, as contrasted with the present regime of white rule over black and capitalist rule over worker.' White workers, bywoners* and poor whites had nothing to fear from 'native rule'. To get freedom for themselves, they must get it for others. 'Experience has shown that white labour un supported by black is powerless against the ruling class.' As in the Soviet Union, national minorities would have absolute equality under a workers' government. The correct watchword was: 'not "destroy the whites" or "white civilization", but "DESTROY THE REGIME OF WHITE DOMINATION AND EX RULE OF RACE OVER RACE".' PLOITATION, DESTROY THE

In its place should come a workers' and peasants' government, 'PREDOMINANTLY







This was a bolder and more imaginative programme than any yet projected for the overthrow of white supremacy. Sanctioned by centuries of colonial war, slavery and forced labour; by brute force and the concentration of power in the oligarchy; by education, propaganda, Christianity and the entire range of approved institutions - white power seemed so formidable and inevitable that the most radical leaders of the liberation movement hesitated to present a direct challenge to it. They fought a defensive battle to preserve old rights or resist new assaults; *White share-croppers. 386

Black Republic they pleaded for acceptance as equals within the existing order, and never envisaged its destruction. The ANC's constitution, based on a draft prepared in I919 by a committee under R. W. Msimang, stipulated no higher aim than 'to advocate by just means for the removal of the "Colour Bar" in political, education and industrial fields and for equitable representation of Natives in Parliament'.2 It needed courage to demand 'equal rights for all civilized men', as the Congress stipulated in I923.1 Not then, however, nor for many years to come, did it claim universal suffrage and majority rule. The i c u leaned towards socialism until Kadalie succumbed to the liberals. A preamble to its constitution of 1925 declared that the interests of employers and workers were irreconcilable, and affirmed the aim of striving, 'along with all other organized workers throughout the world', for a socialist society based on the principle 'from each man according to his ability, to every man according to his needs'. Kadalie never applied the formula to South African conditions or defined his concept of the African's role in a classless society. Radical socialists and com munists, on the other hand, discussed these questions at length. Working-class unity, they argued, would lead to socialism; and it, in turn, to complete equality. White workers, it was assumed, would provide the main revolutionary force, and from this seemed to follow the further assumption that they would occupy the commanding heights in the new society. Faith in the white workers' revolutionary potential had weakened since 1929. Labour leaders sensed the change and made another onslaught on the party's socialist objective. It was a mere relic, wrote Harry Haynes in November 1928, 'a senti mental memorial to the dead-and-gone working men and women who thought British - and could think no other '. The old Labour party, he argued a year later, 'went "phut" through a hypocritical lip-service to white Socialism, while being in essence the political expression of the white working class'. South Africa, reported the party's national organizing com mittee in January 1930, was 'an undeveloped continent gar risoned by a handful of white people striving to live a civilized life, superimposed upon a proletariat of black people, gradually 387

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950

evolving from barbarism'. Socialism would not be practical politics for many years. The retention of the objective in the constitution identified the party with international concepts, 6 cramped its actions, and alienated many potential supporters. Coalition with the Nationalists, said the committee, had justi fied itself and should continue. The Nationalists have learned that Labour men are not the violent red revolutionaries they have been painted; that a man can be a good Labourite and remain a patriotic South African. The Labour Party, on their part, have realized that Nationalists as such are not reaction aries, nor lacking in social ideals; that they are, in fact, a liberal minded, peace-loving, humanitarian and fundamentally democratic party. The Nationalists would retain their ideal of sovereign inde pendence, and Labour its industrial ideals. The party's constitu tion must be brought into line with the sentiments and beliefs of Afrikaners, now a majority of the working class. The committee accordingly proposed, and the party's annual conference adopted in 193o, a revised version of the socialist objective. It called for the common ownership of the means of production and added the rider: 'due regard being had to the presence of an over whelming native population and the7 necessity of maintaining and improving the standards of life.' The Communist party's policy in 1926 was limited to a de

mand for the rejection of Hertzog's segregation bills, the abolition of pass laws and other racial legislation, an extension of the Cape franchise to other provinces, and the right of Africans to 8 elect representatives to 'native councils'. The party had begun to break out of its isolation from the Africans. Increasing num bers were joining the party, reported Jimmy Shields, the young Scottish communist who had come to South Africa in 1925 in

search of health. They should be drawn into the administration, he told the fifth annual conference in January 1927. The con ference agreed, and made history by electing Makabeni, Khaile and Thibedi to the central committee. 9 It decided to train 'cadres of class conscious native workers' and to form branches in African areas." ° The concept of African power was so far removed from current ideologies and apparent realities, how388

Black Republic ever, that even veteran communists doubted whether it was sound. Only a person who combined a firm adherence to Marxist theory with a passionate belief in national liberation could conceive the prospect of African rule as a necessary first stage to the achievement of a classless society. Such a man was James La Guma, the expelled general secretary of the i c u and secretary of the ANC branch in Cape Town. Though he left few documen tary records of his political growth, his son Alex, author and revolutionary leader, has given some insight into the father's thoughts at this period. It is evident that the great turning point was Brussels, where La Guma attended the conference of the League against Imperialism in February 1927. Here he 'had the opportunity to discuss questions pertaining to the national struggle in his own country with many leaders of the colonial countries '.' I

The conference adopted the South African delegation's resolu tion on 'The right of self-determination through the complete overthrow of capitalism and imperial domination.' A general resolution on the 'Negro question' asserted in effect the principle of Africa for Africans: their full freedom, equality with all other races, and the right to govern Africa. 12 The programme was evidently drawn up for colonies in which white settlers and administrators formed an expatriate outpost of a distant imperial metropolis. What did the policy mean for South Africa, where settlers and Africans constituted a single society; or, in more abstract terms, where the imperial-colonial syndrome occurred within the confines of a highly integrated and independent political entity? Did 'self-determination' mean that Africans claimed the right to 'secede' from the multi-national state? Or did it mean the right to expel the whites? And what was to be the position of other oppressed minorities, Indians and Col oured? There were evident difficulties attached to the formula, apart from the basic issue whether African 'tribes' or linguistic groups actually constituted a single 'nation'. La Guma found an answer in Moscow. He went there after addressing meetings in Germany, and discussed South Africa with members of ECCI (the executive committee of the ci) and 389

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-z950 especially with Bukharin - 'a genial man, unshaven and mous tached like many others, clad in a collarless shirt, trousers held up by an old necktie, and wearing scuffed slippers '.j What took place is not known precisely. According to Roux, then studying botany at Cambridge, 'It was agreed that the struggle in this country was primarily an anti-imperialist one.' After explaining the reasons for this conclusion, he proceeds to set out the corollary. 'It was clear therefore that the main task of the revolution in South Africa was to overthrow the rule of the British and Boer imperialists, to set up a democratic independent Native republic (which would give the white workers and other non-exploiting whites certain "minority rights") as a stage towards the final overthrow of capitalism in South Africa." La Guma subsequently referred to these decisions as the 'ECCI resolutions on South Africa'. The resolutions reflected a growing awareness of the common elements in the struggles of Africans against colonial rule and of American Negroes for equality. The Anglo-American secre tariat of the ci included a Negro Sub-Committee in which Americans were prominent. They urged the ci to give special attention to the problems of Negroes and Africans, and to their role in the world revolutionary movement. La Guma's arrival in Moscow coincided with a new urgency in the Comintern's approach to the 'colonial question'. Let us try to reconstruct the discussions in Moscow. The three South African delegates at Brussels - an African, soon to be president of the ANC; a white trade unionist, one of the skilled 'aristocrats of labour'; and a Coloured politician, the only com munist among them - had decided, voluntarily and without intimidation, that their country should have the 'right of self determination'. This could not mean the secession of Africans from the existing state, since they claimed prior rights to the whole territory. Nor could it mean the expulsion of any minority group, for whites, Coloured and Indians were also 'indigenous' and had no imperial homeland. Self-determination could there fore mean only secession from the British crown and the conse quent formation of an independent republic. Secondly the Brussels conference had adopted the general principle of African 390

Black Republic self-rule. Its application to South Africa would mean manhood or adult suffrage, one man one vote, and the prospect of majority African rule. The concept of 'a democratic independent Native republic' was certainly inherent in the Brussels resolutions, and involved no more than parliamentary reform of the kind intro duced into western Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century. Back in South Africa, La Guma and his fellow delegates were in duty bound to establish a branch of the League. Colraine, who had been elected to its national council, spoke bravely in Brussels of the bright prospects in South Africa and his devotion to the cause. 'I am determined,' he vowed, 'to do all in my power to further the aims of the organization.' 1 5 His militancy soon ebbed away in Johannesburg's hostile atmosphere. The Com munist party's executive met Gumede and Andrews to discuss ways of implementing the Brussels resolutions. 'A certain attack of cold feet is evident on the part of both,' reported Bunting. 'Colraine has certainly relapsed into a sulky inactivity.' He complained of receiving only £75 of the £I5o promised for his trip, and accused the TUG and others of using the balance for the fares of his co-delegates. There was 'very bad blood' between him and Andrews, who 'made this an excuse for joining with the reactionaries in the TUc'. They would have nothing to do with the Brussels decisions.16 Gumede also refused to take the lead in calling a conference. The ANC's total funds amounted to Is. 7d., he said, and he would first have to rebuild Congress. It had been 'more or less lethar gic' for some years, wrote Bunting in September, and the icu was eclipsing it in many regions. Moreover, its 'strong reactionary elements, including some paid agents of the Chamber of Mines, etc.' strongly opposed any 'anti-imperialist programme' and preferred 'to believe that Downing Street will redress the griev ances suffered at the hands of the Union Government '.7 Bunting concluded that the South African branch of the League could not be formed at the present; 'and it will once more devolve on the Communists to carry on the propaganda alone'.' 8 At about this time the party, being refused offices in the Tuc's new premises in Kerk Street, Johannesburg, returned to 391


Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-z950 the working-class quarters of Ferreirastown. These were symp toms, wrote Bunting, of the decline in the ambitions and militancy of the white trade unionists. They seemed to have finally decided 'to stand on a petty bourgeois, conciliationist,and anti-native platform'. Many old radical stalwarts had drifted away from the party, fondly believing that they would 'do more good' in the movement if released from the inconveniences of party ties. Like renegades elsewhere, however, they had turned into anti-communists. Though regrettable, the party's geo graphical isolation from the white unions might 'assist that constant review of our bearings' which was so necessary. For, alone in South Africa, the party 'was pioneering the anti capitalist and anti-imperialist movement on almost uncharted seas amid a multitude of conflicting currents and, in addition, an increasing threat of enemy guns'.19 In this uncertain enter prise, he tended to rely on old and tested doctrines of struggle in spite of a turn to the left in the ANC. 'The only friends of oppressed people are the Communists,' Gumede told an audience in Cape Town on his return from Europe. 'Division amongst our ranks is helping to maintain the present despairing conditions,' he warned, and urged the icu to cooperate and reinstate the expelled communists. It was not the white man as such, he said in Johannesburg, 'but the capitalist class which grinds the faces of white and black the world over'. This 'was the universal truth to which my eyes were opened'. The AN C would 'stand for our people as Hertzog stood for his, and in this fight we need the services of the icu also'.


His report on the Brussels conference was well received at the ANC's annual meeting in June 1927. Of all political parties, he repeated, the Communist party was the only one that honestly and sincerely fought for the emancipation of the oppressed. Congress paid him the tribute of electing him to the post of president-general for a term of three years. E. J. Khaile, a member of the c P's central executive and one of the com munists expelled from the Ic u, became the general secretary. The new leadership undertook to overhaul the structure of Congress, changing it from a loose type of organization limited 392

Black Republic to sporadic propaganda campaigns into a mass organization based on individual members grouped into branches. To draw together the industrial and political wings of the movement, the conference decided to set up a separate department, called the African Labour Congress, which would be directed by H. S. Msimang and provide for the needs of workers in town and 1 country.


Prospects were favourable for a united front against capitalism, declared the South African Worker, then edited by James Shields. If the ANC was to become a real fighting force, it would have to reject compromises with 'any set of capitalist and imperialist robbers'. He urged the Congress executive to repudiate a resolu tion of the Cape ANC affirming faith in the Union Jack - that 'symbol of British imperialism' - in the great flag controversy. The ANC's policy should be one of 'fighting militancy' against capitalism. 22 This was expecting too much, however. Congress was not a socialist party, nor would it abandon its traditional policy of looking to the British for support against Afrikaner imperialism. Gumede had to take note of the strong conservative element in his ranks, and of the growing opposition to his association with the communists. Comrade Gumede and Comrade Khaile, wrote S. M. Bennet Ncwana, a notorious political huckster, were not the sort of leaders likely to bring order 'out of a miserable state of chaos'. The 'effeminate leaders of the defunct African National Con gress deliberately betrayed the confidence of the Bantu Chiefs and their people in embracing, without mandate from the pro vincial congress, the communist platform'.2 When Mahabane appealed at the ICu's special conference in January 1928 for

cooperation with the ANC, Champion objected that the Congress looked for aid to Russia and placed at the head of its affairs former icu officials who had been expelled for their communist doctrines.24

Bunting came to the conclusion that the setting for a successful revolution was not yet present because of 'the extreme back wardness and widespread apathy of the native masses'. They certainly constituted a majority, 'but they are such an easy prey to rogues and charlatans that they will make a mess of it'. 393



Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950

The party's central executive, he told La Guma, would probably disapprove of 'those instructions re a Negro S.A. Republic, which seem to have originated in suggestions raised during your visit', and which were 'drawn up by people with insufficient knowledge of S.A. African affairs'. La Guma had then accepted an invitation to attend the October revolution celebrations in Moscow. Bunting thought he should stand down in favour of some one 'more closely in touch with the C.E.' (Central Executive). It would be an advantage for someone to go who 'could produce an effect, on his return, in fresh circles - e.g. pure Bantu circles, or again among whites, who still have a good '. 25 deal more to say than natives on the question of war or peace Did this mean that the whites were more powerful, or more aware of the issues, or merely more vocal? On this occasion, at least, Bunting ignored their political backwardness and fierce rejection of radical change. He also underrated the political sense of Africans and their capacity to influence the course of events. His emotional reaction indicated that, as in 1922, he

tended to equate workers' power with white power, and refused to credit the possibility of majority African rule. Organizational and financial difficulties might have contri buted to his pessimism. The party's printing press 'has eaten itself up', he informed La Guma, especially since Weinstock took away the Forward.The Worker was living on £5oo borrowed from Rostron and nearly £9oo from Bunting himself, 'so that my little fortune is nearly gone'. It had been decided to sell the plant and suspend publication of the Worker. 'Such are the difficulties of the only really anti-imperialist publication in S. Africa,' he told Gibarti, secretary of the League against Imperialism. 26 Dependent on the financial backing of white sympathizers, the party leadership might well have been appre hensive about a policy likely to alienate all but the staunchest radicals. La Guma went to Moscow after all, and so did Gumede. They took part in the October celebrations, attended a Friends of Russia convention, and visited some of the southern and eastern republics of the US S R. While in Moscow, La Guma submitted a statement on the 'South African Situation'. The 394

Black Republic resolution on South Africa "submitted by the E C C1', he reported,

'has not received the approval of the Central Executive of the Party' for reasons which were 'abundantly refuted by everyday facts'. It was wrong to suppose that 'the movement depends to a large extent, if not solely upon the European worker'. He ob tained his privileges and concessions at the expense of Africans, with whom he refused to cooperate. Bunting's arguments drove 'the non-European comrades to the conclusion that the Central Executive of the South African Party considers the mass move ment of the natives should be held up until such time as the White worker is ready to extend his favour'. A section of the party disagreed. Members of the Cape Town branch, including the whites with one exception, were for the ECCI resolutions.2 7 The party's annual conference, held at the end of 1927, viewed the Comintern's resolutions on South Africa with mixed feelings; and decided that the central executive should discuss them with La Guma and Gumede on their return from the Soviet Union before reporting to the ECCI. Meanwhile, Bunting put forward his own views in a fourteen-page document. 28 The 'native

republic' slogan, he supposed, was based on Lenin's famous thesis on the colonies adopted in 1920 - a copy of which was unfortunately not available to the party in South Africa! Bunting criticized the slogan, and in doing so challenged the thesis itself. National liberation movements, he argued, 'usually become a prey to imperialist and capitalist corruption'. This had happened also in South Africa, where the party contended with rival nationalisms, which could not be reconciled. An African move ment for secession from Britain 'would probably only accelerate the fusion, in opposition to it, of the Dutch and British imperial ists'. The party had 'coquetted' with Afrikaner nationalism in 1920-22 and helped it into power in 1924, 'if only to accelerate the disillusionment of Nationalist and Labourite workers'. The pact government was now the 'worst enemy of the party and of the S.A. proletariat'. On the other hand, the party's support of the ANC and icu 'has also led nowhere'. There was no movement among Africans for secession from British rule, which they generally preferred to Dutch rule 'as whips to scorpions'. A crusade for emancipation 395

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o from empire would fail unless it gained impetus from united anti-imperialist movements in the rest of Africa. It was white overlordship that Africans resented. A 'campaign in favour of killing off, "driving into the sea", or otherwise completely eliminating practically all the whites would be very popular if it were given the chance'. Their elimination seemed to be implied in the 'native republic' slogan, as in Garvey's 'Africa for the Africans'. This was not a popular demand, partly because of repressive action taken by the white bourgeoisie, partly because the elimination was 'probably too formidable to contemplate'. Africans had long since come to regard white participation, if not leadership, as inevitable and a disagreeable necessity, 'and so in fact it is, under any system of society'. The slogan was unjust, as well as inappropriate, according to Bunting. For it was 'directed not against the imperialists as such but against the whites as such, against large numbers of workers and peasants because they are white'. Objectively considered, they belonged to the anti-capitalist front, and many would support it but for their colour prejudice. If they were to partici pate in a workers' state, it could hardly be called a 'native republic'. If they were segregated in a ghetto, even with safe guards for minority rights, the existing injustice would be reversed, with whites taking the place of blacks as helots. A future 'native republic' could not, however, afford to dispense with the technical assistance and cooperation of sympathetic whites. Their cooperation was also immediately useful because of their advantages and the low average political understanding of Africans. It was a case of uneven development due to historical circ*mstances, and could not be ignored. The party itself had a large majority of African members, yet white members of average experience had to undertake many tasks for which competent and reliable African members were not yet available. This un evenness was reflected in the difference of opinion in the party over the 'native republic' policy. There was more violent colour prejudice in the north than in the Cape, where the general standard of Africans was much higher. Accustomed to 'a higher average type of native' than in the Transvaal, the party members 396

Black Republic in the Cape 'form a higher estimate of the natives' capacity to dispense with white aid'. No one could predict how 'an un armed native proletariat unaided' could defeat the capitalist class; 'but at least to win the support of their white fellow workers seems imperative'. The goal must be: All power to the soviets of workers and peasants - black and white. A slogan that implied a direct transition to socialism was the more revolutionary in class terms. 'The future holds no inter mediate stage,' declared the Worker in May 1928; 'the class struggle ever assumes a more open and undisguised form.' Disillusioned by the Labour party's squabbles and impotence, hundreds of its former supporters would turn to the com munists, for they alone represented the interests of the entire working class. 2 9 On the other hand, the 'native republic' policy would establish 'black power' under majority rule, and was therefore the more revolutionary in racial terms. The contro versy centred round the issue of 'working class power' as against 'African nationalist power'. South Africans had to choose between class war and race war. That was the essence of Bunting's appeal. There could be no doubt where he stood. One of the few surviving communists from the days of white labour militancy, he clung stubbornly to the Communist Manifesto's classic tenets. On a point of fact, he argued that white workers were poten tially more revolutionary than an African bourgeoisie which barely existed. The 'only effective bourgeoisie in South Africa is white'. 30 His main objection to the 'native republic' slogan was that it would neutralize the party's long struggle for unity, alienate white workers 'not altogether without justification', and drive them 'into a white united Fascist front against us and the blacks'. A race war would cloud the issue and destroy 'the tender plant of class solidarity that has just appeared above the ground'. To avert such a war, it was necessary to stress the common interests of all workers, accustom the whites 'to a prospect of black power', and make it clear that 'in our Republic blacks will not predominate as black, nor will whites be in a minority as whites; and that the future "black supremacy" will not in the least resemble the present "white supremacy" '. C.S.A. -



Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-950 La Guma, back from Moscow, challenged the view that white 31 workers were politically more advanced. They were 'saturated with an imperialist ideology', fully aware that their privileges were obtained at the African's expense, and 'therefore not prepared to assist in realizing the socialist objective in this country' - at least not until they were forced to do so. They must be educated to understand that their future 'lies in unity with the non-european masses against the exploitation of the large farmers and industrialists'. The new policy, he declared optimistically, 'would provide the necessary stimulant to the mental processes of the white "Socialist" and must ultimately produce that momentum that will drag the reluctant section of the working class of this country towards the realization of a WORKERS AND PEASANTS REPUBLIC .

On the other hand, wrote La Guma, 'the attitude of the non european masses is becoming sharper with the instalment after instalment of oppressive and discriminatory laws and threats of further oppression'. For this reason, and because of acute land hunger, heavy taxation, forced labour migration and political deprivation, a national consciousness was developing rapidly. The new slogan would appeal and give expression to aspirations that contained revolutionary possibilities. Citing Lenin as his authority, he argued that a national struggle for independence from imperial rule, even though led by merchants and middle class intellectuals, would promote the working-class revolution. 'To be revolutionary, a national movement in conditions of an Imperialist yoke need not necessarily be composed of prole tarian elements, or have a revolutionary or republican programme or a democratic base.' As in Egypt, a struggle for independence was 'objectively revolutionary' in spite of its bourgeois origin and antagonism to socialism, because it weakened imperialism. Bunting thought that the road to socialism lay through working-class unity under white leadership. La Guma wanted to reverse the sequence. First establish African majority rule, he argued, and unity, leading to socialism, would follow. The party should therefore concentrate on strengthening the movement for national liberation, and at the same time retain its separate identity and role as a socialist party. Communists should 'build 398 oo"

Black Republic up a mass party based upon the non-european masses', unite landless whites and natives behind an energetic agrarian policy, give expression to the demands of African workers, and dispel their illusion that the British acted as intermediaries between them and their Afrikaner oppressors. The 'native republic' slogan would act as a political catalyst, dissolving traditional subservience to whites among Africans and racial arrogance towards Africans among whites. The issues were thrashed out with much heat during 1928. 'All members are arming themselves with a battery of weapons for, and against the thesis,' wrote Wolton in February; and he advised La Guma to come to Johannesburg, 'adequately pre pared for a battle of logic and a good deal of nonsense'. 3 2 Douglas Wolton, the party's newly elected secretary-editor, was a comparative newcomer to the movement. Born in England, he emigrated to Cape Town in 1921, worked on a daily newspaper, set out on a Cape to Cairo journey by foot in 1923, and got no farther than Northern Rhodesia, where he contracted malaria. On his way back he met Schack, a former social democrat from Russia, who had settled in the Cape and joined the party. Through Schack he met the local communists, including his future wife Molly Selikowitz (i9o6-47), A. Z. Berman's cousin, who came to South Africa from Lithuania in I919. a3 The Woltons ranged themselves on La Guma's side, while a majority of members on the central executive rejected his thesis. They found ample reason for confidence in their ability to give a lead on their own and without entanglements. 'At last the masses of South Africa are turning to the cp for help from their terrible conditions,' declared the Worker, then edited by Wolton. The answer to the 'smooth-tongued leaders', the 'money grabbing clique' in the Icu, and 'the intellectual section' who collaborated with joint councils and 'imperialist exploiters', was the party's 'mushroom-like growth', especially in the country districts. 34 Even Basutoland had a large and active branch composed wholly of Africans. A meeting held at Vereeniging's 'location', in spite of a ban imposed by the superintendent, attracted 2,ooo Africans. Several hundred, among them sixty three women, joined the party. Its branch at Potchefstroom, the 399

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z95o

ideological centre of Afrikaner Calvinism and birthplace of the Broederbond, claimed to have 700 members after only six weeks' activity. Four delegates from the branch attended a meeting of the central executive to study its methods of work, and Gana 35 Makabeni opened a party school at Vereeniging. Equally satisfactory progress was being made on the industrial front. As the I cu split into warring camps, African workers looked to communists for aid in organizing trade unions. More than 150 delegates from half a dozen unions met in the Inchcape Hall, Johannesburg, in March 1928 to form the Non-European Federation of Trade Unions, with Ben Weinbren, a member of the party's central executive, as chairman, and La Guma as general secretary. Andrews and Tyler, both party members, told the delegates that they should not organize in opposition to the AN or TUc, and should work closely with the icu. This refused to cooperate, however, and accused the party of being led by white racists. The Federation claimed to have spon sored the first joint strike of Africans and whites, when clothing workers in Germiston came out in protest against the victimiza tion of trade union members. Their action was hailed as a significant sign that economic pressures were driving the whites 'towards the ultimate unity of the entire forces of the working class movement'. Even more promising was the decision of African and white laundry workers' unions in Johannesburg to affiliate under a joint committee. Here were the seeds of 'an ultimate powerful organization recognizing and embracing all 36 sections of the working class'. White racists attacked icu offices in Natal and communist

speakers in the Transvaal. The police also took action. They arrested African strikers for breaking service contracts, harassed party members under the pass laws, and prosecuted leaders for

inciting to hostility against whites. Kadalie, prosecuted in April 1928, was the ninth victim of the infamous clause. He was

followed by Sam Malkinson, a white party member in Bloem

fontein, and by Mrs M. N. Bhola, organizer of the women's section of the ANc, and the first woman to stand trial on the 'hostility' charge. Few of the cases resulted in a conviction.

Thibedi was acquitted at Potchefstroom when the magistrate 400

Black Republic found that the party was a legal organization, and fully entitled to agitate against the pass laws. Malkinson, charged with having distributed a pamphlet, 'What is the Communist Party?' at a convention of chiefs called by the ANC, was also found not guilty after the crown's chief witness Matebe testified that the conditions described in the pamphlet were well known to him. He had suffered under them all his life, he said, and reported that the pamphlet called on Africans to unite with white workers against the master class, white and black. 3 The police succeeded, however, in securing a conviction against three party members at Cape Town: John Gomas, the vice-president of the Cape ANC, Bransby Ndobe, its organizer, and Stanley Silwana, a member of the executive. They were sentenced to three months' imprisonment as a result of protest ing against the killing of an African and the wounding of another

by a white policeman at Paarl. The three accused conducted their own appeal in the Supreme Court. Gomas made a fiery speech, attacking the Native Administration Act and the trial court. Justice Twentyman Jones cut him short and dismissed the appeal, saying that the sentence erred if at all on the side of leniency. Writing from Cape Town's Roeland Street jail, where he was in solitary confinement, Gomas appealed for books. 'I was hoping to make a complete study of Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, but as all books are confiscated by the Prison I do not like to lose such a valuable copy.' He and his comrades found that 'in prison our wits become exceptionally sensitive'. Their thoughts were 'alive and every minute of the waking day we are reviewing in our minds the intolerable con ditions which are the lot of our people'. Imprisonment had increased their bitterness; but 'the feeling of revulsion which is continually with each one of us stabilizes and strengthens our determination to work for the freedom of all oppressed'. 38 Of all parties, said Gumede on his return from the Soviet Union in January 1928, the communists alone 'stood by us and protested when we have been shot down'. He was determined to do all in his power to emancipate his people and 'win national independence for all in South Africa, black, white or blue; a free republic for all races'. He told an ANc rally in the Inchcape 401

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-1950 Hall of what he had witnessed in the U.S.S.R. 'I have seen the new world to come, where it has already begun. I have been to the new Jerusalem.' He had brought with him a key which with their help would unlock the door to freedom. 'Others are persuaded to be Communists. The Bantu has been a Communist from time immemorial. We are disorganized, that's all.' Gumede became the chairman and Wolton the secretary of a free speech movement, sponsored by the ANC, AP0, CP, TUc and African unions. The i cu refused to take part. While Kadalie had rejected the call for unity, declared Gumede, the AN C would 'pursue its course of uniting the South African natives to help them selves '.3 9 It was a turning point in the African's history, said the com munists. Gumede's conversion was 'a manifestation of the revolutionizing of the oppressed masses ,.4o He told them about the Soviet Union's policy towards national minorities, of how it helped non-literate pastoralists to freedom and equality, of its laws that made overt racialism a crime. 'Such contrasts with their own lives electrified his Bantu audiences,' wrote Wolton, 'and contributed enormously towards stimulating the new hopes which were sweeping through the Bantu peoples.' 4 1 Addressing a convention of the ANC'S 'upper house' of chiefs in April 1928, Gumede said, 'We are nothing but slaves.' Sitting on the plat form were Bunting and Wolton, the local police commissioner and Bloemfontein's white notables. Africans were grateful for the white man's civilization, said Gumede, but the colour bar retarded their progress. Open the door and let us be represented in parliament by our own colour, he appealed. Class laws were an abuse of the power held by whites, who ruled only in their own interests. 4 2 Some of the chiefs objected to the president's association with the communists. Quoting Bennet Ncwana's articles, Joseph Moshesh of Matatiele said it was the most dangerous party in the world. 'What happened to the Czar and his family?' he asked. 'The Czar was of royal blood, the same as you, chiefs, and where is he now?' He called on the convention to record its disapproval of fraternization with the communists. Gumede replied that they 'were nearest to the natives, for they worked 402




Black Republic for the salvation of the oppressed'. The issue had been raised to cause a division in their ranks. Moshesh withdrew his motion on receiving an assurance that there was no connexion between the ANG and the cp, but the chiefs were not satisfied. When he left for Moscow to attend the October celebrations, Gumede told them, he thought that people were not safe in Russia. What he saw there surprised him. They were happy and prosperous under a workers' government, after having slain the Czar, all task-masters and the drones 'who lived upon the sweat of the brows of other peoples'. A member of the audience asked: 'Do you intend to kill our chiefs?' Gumede replied that the Russians revolted because their rulers dealt with them in an arbitrary way. The new Russia, he concluded, was destined to lead mankind to a happier life. For in Russia there were neither rich nor poor; all were equal, and all shared everything that they produced. Thereupon T. M. Mapikela, a successful building contractor who had gone with the deputations of 19o9 and 1914

to England, warned the chiefs that they were being dragged by hook and by crook into the hands of the Communist party, which aimed to overthrow the rulers be they white or black." The chiefs ended their session by suggesting a meeting with the i cu, then also in conference at Bloemfontein, to discuss co operation. The two executives met and agreed on a resolution moved by Kadalie and Selope Thema. It asserted that co operation between the ANC and icu on matters of national policy, such as the Hertzog bills and the pass laws, was essential for progress. 'But,' continued the resolution, 'in pursuing these objects, the ANC hereby repudiates its association with the S.A. Communist Party, which of late has openly identified itself with the Congress.' He had insisted on the repudiation, boasted Kadalie, and claimed that Gumede agreed 'after some hedging'." Bunting maintained that the talks had been 'stage-managed' in order 'to set on record a joint disclaimer of association with the Communists in the interests, so far as the chiefs at least were concerned, of "rulers, black and white"'; and he doubted whether the resolution had actually been adopted. 'The inference that Mr Gumede was forced to publicly repudiate the Communists is not supported by the facts.' 4 5 403



Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-195o

Whether provisional or final, the resolution was a serious set back to the party's campaign for united action with African

nationalism. Would the ANC repeat the icu's betrayal of 1926?

The Cape Town branch of the ANC urged its national executive to 'explore every avenue towards the closest cooperation with the Communist Party'. Of all political parties, it alone 'un reservedly advocates freedom and equality for the non-European peoples'. It knew no colour discrimination in its ranks and 46 correctly reflected the workers' aspirations. No such repudiation came from Gumede. It seemed as though the conservative wing of Congress had forced him to retreat from the bold stand he had taken on his return from Moscow. His apparent defection must have weighed on Bunting's mind as he and his wife set off in June for Moscow to represent the party at the sixth congress of the Communist International. Edward Roux, the third South African delegate, then working on his doctoral thesis in botany at Cambridge, travelled with them from London. Fifteen years later he wrote about the jour ney and the great controversy over the 'native republic' slogan. It had come 'like a bolt from the blue' to the great majority of members. 'Almost all the white communists were indignant,' and so were African members 'who had been trained in the old tradition'. They saw in the policy a revival of Marcus Garvey's cry, 'Africa for the Africans', and thought that it was the exact opposite of the party's steadfast appeal for international unity. 'We did not want to put the black man on top47and the white man underneath. We wanted them to be equal.' This argument ignored La Guma's strong point, that equality could be achieved only when Africans were powerful enough to win respect from the whites. Roux never really examined the merits of the proposed policy. He says that he and Bunting were 'negrophilists'. They should therefore have welcomed the notion of African rule in all parts of Africa. Yet one is left in doubt whether they objected to the slogan in principle or only because they thought it premature and inexpedient. In either event, the policy should not have come as a shock. The guiding lines had been laid down as far back as 192o by the Comintern's thesis on the national and colonial question. South African communists 404

Black Republic had evidently failed to study the relevant texts or to grasp their implications for the movement. Alternatively, they felt that the thesis did not apply to South Africa because there was no 'native bourgeoisie'. The chiefs and intellectuals who dominated the ANC were conservative and unreliable, while the party had demonstrated its ability to attract Africans in large numbers by militant struggle against both class exploitation and racial oppression. Roux's main objection, however, was that the slogan had been 'forced' on the party by the Communist International in the interests of the Soviet Union.4" It then 'regarded British capitalism as the main enemy' and attempted to weaken the empire by organizing liberation movements in the colonies. A contributory factor was the growth of a Comintern bureaucracy anxious to concentrate authority in its hands and impose uniform policies on affiliated parties. This indictment had unpleasant repercussions which Roux must have regretted. It dovetailed neatly with anti-communist sentiment and was seized on by government spokesmen and historians in South Africa to support allegations of 'domination

by Moscow'.

4 9

Yet Roux never

substantiated what appear to have been only his personal impressions. When recording them in 1943-4, he had not been

a party member for at least five years and was distinctly hostile to the Soviet Union. His 'main attack', wrote Andrews in a review at that time, 'seems to be directed against the Com munist International and its failure to recognize the value of his advice and opinions on the future of the African people'. 50 The 'native republic' policy undoubtedly met with the Coin intern's approval and coincided with the Soviet Union's oppo sition to imperialism. Approval does not mean coercion, however. Though exercising great moral authority, the cI could not com pel obedience from the South African party, which had a strong tradition of internal democracy. Roux's accusation of interference from Moscow does not stand up to scrutiny for this and other reasons. As Bunting himself acknowledged, La Guma, as well as the Comintern, initiated the policy, and the policy had the support of some members in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Both sides appealed to the Comintern, as Roux himself had done 405

Class and Colour in South Africa Y85o-1950 in 1924 during a dispute in the YCL over the question of African

membership. The South African party blundered by appointing three white representatives, all opponents of the new line. They seemed to present a 'white front' and aroused a suspicion at the Comintern congress of being racial chauvinists. The accusation has been repeated recently by the historian Endre Sik. 'The party leader ship headed by the opportunist Bunting' and 'consisting mainly of Europeans,' he states, 'was far from devoid of the remnants of racial chauvinism.' They did not understand and they belittled the significance of African racial oppression. At the same time, they adopted a sectarian trade union policy which 'deepened the gulf between the movements of European and African labour'. For good measure he adds: 'The Communist Party, as such, in the years 1924 to 1928 displayed very feeble activity.' 5 ' Apart from the reference to the dominant role of whites in the leadership, none of these statements is even faintly true. The party had been transformed since its 'turn to the masses' in 1925. It had 2oo African members in 1927 and 1,6oo in 1928, out of a total membership of 1,750. Twenty African and Col

oured and ten white delegates, representing in all nearly 3,000 members, attended the seventh annual conference in January 1929. This advance reflected much dogged work in the face of rabid racialism and police repression. The charge of communist sectarianism in the trade unions or of indifference to national oppression has as little basis as the assertion that men like Bunting and Roux were 'opportunists' and 'racial chauvinists'. They were Marxist missionaries, who sacrificed careers and comfort to an unpopular cause and identified themselves wholly with an oppressed people. If they erred in opposing the 'native republic' policy, they acted in good faith and according to a long-standing interpretation of the class theory in relation to African nationalism. More than any other party anywhere, declared Bunting at the sixth congress in August, the South African cp had 'as the very centre of its activities, fairly and squarely fought, conquered and killed the Dragon of Chauvinism'. This was true; though he set 406

Black Republic off on the wrong foot by saying that South Africa was 'a white man's country'. Dunne, the United States delegate, Bennett of the Anglo-American committee, and Bukharin himself saw in the phrase a 'survival of race prejudice'. Bunting hastened to explain that it merely described a factual situation. South Africa was a 'colony of settlement' with a large and permanent white population. But the damage had been done. His long and involved attack on the 'independent native republic' policy fell on deaf ears, the more so because he criticized the Comintern leadership. It had neglected to establish adequate communica tions with affiliated parties; and it drew an invidious distinction between the 'proletariat' of industrialized countries and the colonial 'masses'. Was not that distinction, he asked, 'exactly the way our "aristocracy of labour" treats the black workers?' 5 2 A majority of the party in South Africa, said Bunting, opposed the 'independent native republic' slogan for practical reasons, in addition to serious theoretical objections. In the first place, South Africa had no 'native bourgeoisie' as was contemplated in the draft resolution, and 'certainly no movement for a native republic'. The ANC 'which the resolution wants us to boost up' was moribund. It demanded equality, not self-determination, and looked to Britain for a redress of grievances. The party gave it much attention and joined with it in a united front whenever it showed signs of life. The 'cp is itself the actual or potential leader of the native national movement'. African workers and some peasants preferred the party to 'purely native bodies' which had let them down and had fallen into the hands of the bourgeoisie. 'Put in another way, the class struggle is here practically coincident and simultaneous with the national strug gle.' They had the same objects, forces, and methods of struggle. The class aspect was not less fundamental; and might even supersede the national aspect. 5 3 Another important reason for rejecting the draft resolution, said Bunting, was the presence of a white exploited working and peasant class with a spirited, revolutionary tradition. The resolu tion urged a united front of white workers, African workers, and the national liberation movement; but the class struggles of the whites did not coincide with the national struggles 407

Class and Colour in South Africa


of Africans. On the contrary, white workers tended to forget the class struggle and to side with their own bourgeoisie. 'Special tactics have to be adopted to prevent this, and to harmonize the national and the class movements' with a view to 'neutralizing and correcting white labour chauvinism'. The C PSA, though almost exclusively centred in the African people, took up the cause of the white minority because of the need for labour solidarity. The fact was that the 'infant native movement' lived in a state bordering on illegality. It was in constant danger of being suppressed by legislation or by mas sacre, needed allies, and found the occasional support, even the neutrality, of the white trade unions of incalculable value. 'We say that the white workers are unquestionably going to be alienated by the present slogan and that instead of support from white labour we are thus quite likely going to get its hostility and Fascist alliance with the bourgeoisie. This in turn will also encourage the government to prosecute and the courts to convict everyone who preaches the slogan.' Commenting on the speech fifteen years later, Roux wrote: 'it is probable that any communist or other labour radical in South 5 4 Like Bunting, Africa would today endorse every word of it.'

he evidently failed to grasp the significance of the demand for an independent republic under African rule. It was, in the circum stances of the time, as remote or 'utopian' as the concept of a socialist republic under working-class rule. The shift in empha sis reflected the related changes in the party and the society at large: the absorption of the labour aristocracy in the white elite; the 'proletarianization' of Africans after fifty years of industrialism; the transformation of the party from an all-white to an overwhelmingly African membership. As prospects of unity between workers of all races receded, Africans revealed a great capacity and will for militant struggle. The value of the 'independent native republic' slogan was that it jolted the party into awareness of its new role, and inspired in Africans a determination to reject the unquestioned assumption of per petual white domination. The Communist party's proper role, advised the editor of Forward,was to educate 'the white working class to a realization 408

Black Republic

of the actual economic position of the workers, irrespective of race or colour'. Africans, as a class, would remain unfitted to partici pate in government for many years to come. Both they and whites bitterly resented white communists who tried to lead Africans to equality 'by active participation in Socialist propa ganda and agitation among natives'. When Bunting, back from Moscow, explained the new policy to an audience in the Inch cape Hall, Forward noted that his speech 'would certainly satisfy sensation-mongers. Such publicity has been given to his declaration of a Black Republic that every newspaper-doped South African who possesses a firearm is sleeping with it under his pillow'. There was, however, 'a vast difference between communism according to St Marx and the Gospel according to St Bunting. The first treats every worker as equal, irrespective of race, creed or colour. The second makes the black worker a member of the Chosen and the white worker an Amalekite. Thus does a misinterpreted gospel of economic liberation become the dogma of a new religion!' 5 5 Was it 'in accord with Communist principles', asked La Guma, to sacrifice or delay the freedom of the large majority 'in the interest of a small minority of imperialistically imbued white workers?' They had refused to hear the party's message for twenty years, objected to its being taken to the African, and resisted every effort on his part 'toward a better and brighter day'. In 1922 they rose in arms on the Rand 'to perpetuate our serfdom'; now, through the Labour party, they supported anti native legislation and the enactment of colour bars in industry. A 'ray of hope has appeared on the horizon in the shape of an objective - freedom and equality with other peoples', for which 'the enslaved black masses of South Africa would be prepared to demonstrate their manhood and desire'. The party must not now turn to them and say in effect, 'Yes, you will be allowed to march into the promised land at such time as it can be considered without wounding the susceptibilities of the "Baas'.)6

Bunting loyally abided by the Comintern's ruling and accepted La Guma's plea for unqualified faith in majority African rule. He had misgivings. The slogan was defective, he thought, yet 409

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-i95o he would try to make the best of the new line. It might succeed after the initial outcry at it had receded. He and his wife met with a storm of alarmist newspaper reports on their return from Moscow. The police threatened to arrest them; white trade unionists reviled or ignored them. Old party members like Andrews and Tinker would have nothing to do with the Black Republic, and many African5 7members, including the trade unionists, shared their doubts. Hertzog demanded 'white rule and black subjection', Bunting told a crowded meeting in the Inchcape Hall in November, whereas communists demanded a black republic. 'We are a party for freedom and independence.' If there was to be race domination, then Africans must rule. 'If there was going to be equality, there must be domination by the majority.' He explained the policy and its background in the pamphlet 'Im perialism and South Africa', and presented a shorter, more satisfactory version in a programme drafted for the seventh an nual conference in December. Thirty delegates, of whom twenty were African and Coloured, marched with a crowd of supporters behind a band and flying banners from the party headquarters to the hall. Here they listened to reports of struggle and sacrifice in the teeth of persecution, intimidation and espionage; adopted a new constitution modelled on the British party's; spent a full day discussing the new programme; and elected an executive 58 bureau of six whites and three Africans. Bunting, in the chair, ruled that any motion to reject or modify the programme would be out of order under the Comin tern's rules. Wolton attacked the party's alleged 'chauvinistic errors', especially Bunting's, but the conference refused to be drawn into the quarrel. Wolton then announced that he wished to return to Britain. He was persuaded to remain in his post of secretary-editor until, he said, 'a non-European is ready to take my place'. The conference adopted the clause on 'self determination of the African people' by eleven votes to four and accepted the programme on the understanding that it implied a workers' and peasants' republic, 'for practically all natives are workers and peasants'. Real labour unity could be achieved, according to the pro-


Black Republic gramme, only when Africans had been liberated from subjection. Nothing less than a democratic revolution would destroy racial discrimination, abolish feudal relationships, and enable Africans to develop a national identity. A democratic society under African rule would lead to the abolition of class exploitation, socialism, and rule by workers and peasants. Racial emancipa tion and class emancipation coincided. The party's immediate task was therefore to remove all racial disabilities; restore lands and liberties seized by foreign conquerors; vindicate the prin ciple of equality, independence and self-determination; and establish Africans in power with guarantees of equal rights for all minorities. Communists had previously argued that equality could be realized only under socialism. First abolish class distinctions, they said, and colour bars would disappear. Bunting's programme reversed the sequence. The removal of racial discrimination in all its forms was now seen as a pre-condition for the building of a classless society. White workers were invited to abandon their role as a 'tinsel aristocracy', doomed to be either helpless or treacherous in the class struggle; and to support the demand for African power - the only practical road to workers' power. This was a great advance in the analysis of the relations between national and class forces in the liberation movement. The party had at last found a firm basis in Marxist theory for an un equivocal affirmation of the African's claim to govern his country. Bunting and Wolton took the new message to the electors of Tembuland and the Cape Flats in the parliamentary election of 1929. A manifesto drawn up by Roux gave the particulars: equal citizenship rights for all; the removal of colour bars from the constitution and the repeal of discriminatory laws; an open door to the public services and other spheres of employment; a fair distribution of land and an extension of the reserves; equal wages for equal work; the recognition of African trade unions; free primary education; and freedom of speech and assembly. The programme should have appealed to any voter who resented racial discrimination, but elections are not won by slogans alone. The party lacked a grass-roots organization such as the South 4"1







Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-r95o

African party had built over many years. Wolton lost heavily in the Cape Flats, despite its high proportion of Coloured and African voters. Even La Guna, the author of the 'black republic' slogan, suffered an unexplained lapse. He canvassed for one of Wolton's opponents, an 'independent' Nationalist candidate, and was expelled from the party for his breach of discipline and 'political opportunism'. 59 'The people of the Transkei are ready for a change,' reported Bunting in the midst of an epic electioneering campaign, the atmosphere of which was subtly conveyed in Laurens van der Post's novel In a Province. They came from far and near, eager to join in a militant movement against their conditions. Most of the whites were unspeakably ignorant and insolent. Hooligans broke up the first political demonstration held by Africans in Umtata. It was no more than a police camp. Nearly one-fifth of its voters were in police or government services. 'The shadow of the Kaffir wars is still over the land.' Nowhere else could a parliamentary candidate and his agents 'be shadowed through out his election tour, night and day, by motor loads of detectives, pursuing them even into grocers' shops and lavatories and arresting and persecuting them' without legal justification and for nearly every election speech. Far more oppressive was

the lifelong and inescapable persecution of the African resi dents. 60 Bunting gave the reasons for his defeat in a series of articles.

The police and courts had done all they could to disrupt his campaign. They convicted and expelled his driver for entering the Transkei, his only homeland, without a permit. They insti

tuted more than a dozen prosecutions against him and his agent, Gana Makabeni, at the height of the campaign, and so ww.L Ad

five valuable weeks. The ceaseless shadowing by the police, their interruptions at his meetings, and direct interference during canvassing frightened the electors away. Leading Africans visibly shunned him. Not a few stayed away from the polls for fear.

Fewer than 4oo had the pluck to vote communist. Intimidation, however, was the immediate rather than the main cause of timidity. The people had been corrupted by white missionaries, who 412

Black Republic taught them to be obedient, loyal servants of those set over them. Nothing was said in the schools of their national patriots and heroes, of the fighters for freedom from the oppressor. So crushed and moulded were the intellectuals, that some asked, like the Blind Boy, 'What is that thing called freedom or equal rights? We are content as we are.' Petty officials, interpreters and agricultural demonstrators formed a thin upper layer, deliber ately created, and were often willing to help keep the masses down. The Bhunga or general council of headmen and elected members was not even a safety valve, and served as a 'screen for imperialist despotism'. So treacherous was it, that the council unanimously agreed to ask the government to take action against Bunting under Act 29 of 1897, which allowed the administration to imprison any person 'dangerous to the public peace' for three months without a trial. The Transkei, declared Bunting in his election address, was Ca principal labour recruiting and breeding annexe of the Cham ber of Mines'. Behind the scenes it controlled 'the organs of administration, police, courts, Bhunga, Native Affairs Depart ment, yes, and the Union Cabinet itself, all dancing to the tune of big finance'. The economic standard of the people had been so adjusted by land laws and taxation 'as to ensure just that degree of poverty best calculated to drive the maximum number of able-bodied men from their homes to the mines'. They were allowed to retain a diminutive 'stake in the country' which relieved the employer of the need to pay them a living wage. By returning a communist, the electors would voice a mighty protest to the whole 'native policy' of past years, and demonstrate their will to wrest liberty, equality and self-government. The party called on the people to seek their freedom through agitation, political education, organization, demonstrations, strikes, boy cotts, and now even the election. He, Bunting, had devoted twenty years to the movement of the working class and subject peoples. He had repeatedly suffered arrest and imprisonment for it, and could be trusted to fight and die for the cause of African freedom. Wolton remained unconvinced. He blamed Bunting and other 'white chauvinists' in the party for the African's poor response 413

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o

to its call for national independence. They were 'hidden white supremacists' who concealed their chauvinism in a very stealthy fashion' by consistently discouraging the growth of an African leadership. In a 'benevolent paternal way' they 'tried to patron ize the black man and thus ensure that in reality the white man would continue to direct affairs'. Wolton and his wife left in July for England with the intention of making their way to Moscow. Here they would explain the reasons for the party's 61 shortcomings, and persuade the Comintern to intervene. Albert Nzula (i9o6-33) took Wolton's place as secretary

editor only six months after joining the party. This was remark ably quick promotion, even if he had crammed much into his short life. Born at Rouxville, OFs, he qualified as a teacher at Lovedale, and moved to Aliwal North where he taught, inter preted at the magistrate's court and acted as secretary of the i cu branch. He then took a teaching post in a mission school at Evaton, Transvaal, and here he joined the party in August 1928. Two months later, after reading Bishop Brown's 'Communism and Christianism' he decided that 'every right-minded person ought to be a Communist'. He could think of nothing else and wondered 'what part will be played by the Bantu in realizing for the world a Communist order'. 62 A good speaker and writer, he soon showed a great aptitude for politics and became a fervent disciple of Wolton, according to whom he was the only African at this time able to hold his own in polemics with white 'social ists'. He exposed their 'faults and shortcomings' with passion and conviction, and inspired a group of African leaders to assert themselves against the entrenched white leadership. The appointment of an African to the top position was one consequence of the party's 'turn to the masses' in 1927-8. It also led to a falling away of white supporters, taking with them valuable technical and financial resources. The loss was more than compensated for by an influx of Africans, among them teachers like Edwin Mofutsanyana and J. B. Marks, or workers like Moses Kotane and Johannes Nkosi. They Africanized the party; wrote articles for its paper in Tswana, Sesuthu, Zulu and Xhosa; organized its branches in country districts or concentrated on the trade unions. The proliferation of activities, coinciding with a 414

Black Republic splintering of the icu into warring factions and the inertia of the ANC, transformed the party. It had formerly been the left wing of the labour movement. The communists now became the

acknowledged leaders of the militant wing of the liberation movement.


18 White Terror

The Nationalist party took office for a second time in June 1929 on the eve of the great capitalist depression and South Africa's worst drought in sixty years. Workers, white and black, skilled and unskilled were plagued by wage cuts and unemployment. Africans suffered most in the lean years. Government agencies put them out of work to provide jobs for whites, and tightened pass law controls to keep work-seekers out of towns. The African National Congress set its face against any form of mass action; the com munists turned their programme of black power into a practical campaign for relief from unemployment and police persecution. Oswald Pirow, the Nazi-minded minister of justice, and his under secretary, J. F. J. Van Rensburg, later kommandant-general of the Ossewabrandwag,* launched a counter offensive against the radical opposition to white supremacy. The first shots were fired on 17 June 1929, at Durban, when six Africans and two whites were killed and io8 persons injured in a race riot. Its immediate cause was a boycott of municipal beer halls and an attack by Africans on the halls at the Point and in Prince Edward Street near the icu's headquarters. Deter mined to 'smash the nigg*r', white civilians followed the example set at Greytown and Weenen in 1928, beleaguered the [cu building, and hurled bottles through the windows. The men inside made a sortie from the hall and fought back, killing two whites. Africans rushed to the rescue from the Point and were driven back by police and the white mob, many of whom pursued the relieving column when it was in full fight. A band of white youths raided the deserted icu premises on the following day, threw typewriters, stationery and files out of the window, 1 and carted the safe away. * Oxwagon Sentinel, cp. Chapter 20, p. 483. 416

White Terror It was clear from his investigations, reported Justice de Waal, the government's commissioner, that Africans were not solely or even primarily to blame.' There would have been no dis turbance or damage had the civilian mob not attacked the icu hall. The whites were guilty of gross excesses; and he recom mended clemency for the imprisoned Africans who alone had been prosecuted as a result of the affray. Describing the back ground, the commissioner found that the African in Durban was 'a most loyal and law-abiding citizen, hardworking and thrifty', whose chief desire was to be left alone to earn as much as he could in the shortest possible time 'and then to go back to his kraal'. The beer halls, according to the report, had given general satisfaction from 19o8 until Champion, a remarkable man, upset the local population by urging total racial equality and condemning municipal beer brewing. He allowed such notorious communists as Bunting, Wolton and Pettersen to use his hall for meetings; therefore it was idle of him to profess a horror of their doctrines, which contributed to the general unrest. J. S. Marwick, the member of Illovo, objected to any exercise of clemency, and thought that the commissioner had underestimated the effects of communist agitation; Oswald Pirow assured the House that the law would take its course.3 The riots were the first fruits of Hertzog's election victory, declared the communists. They appealed for a united front against the threat of more repressive laws and against the mounting terror of raids in townships for pass and tax offenders. Bunting took the initiative. Acting on a suggestion made at the Comintern's sixth congress and in discussions with the British party's colonial commission, he arranged an all-in conference in August to form a broad organization with a limited objective. From this emerged the League of African Rights, the first successful coming together of working class and national radicals in the liberation movement. Gumede became the president; Doyle Modiakgotla of the icu, the vice-president; Bunting, the chairman; N. B. Tantsi of the Transvaal ANC, the vice-chairman; Charles Baker, director of the party school, the treasurer. The committee included Thibedi, Kotane, and S. M. Kotu, the assistant secretary of the FNETU. 4 C.S.A. - 19


I Class and Colour in South Africa r85o-z95o A leadership so constituted was bound to combine militancy

with a sense of what was practicable. The League planned to collect a million signatures to a petition for civic rights, and to organize anti-pass demonstrations on 'Dingaan's Day', 16 December, when Afrikaner nationalists came together every year to celebrate the defeat of Zulu impis in 1838 and to hear poli ticians ranting about contemporary 'black perils'. It had been decided by the ANC in 1928 to make this an occasion for counter demonstrations, and the League hoped to enlist the Congress leaders in its endeavour. Armed with an emblem and a battle song, 'Mayibuye i Afrika' (Let Africa Return), the League girded itself for battle. The song, written by Tantsi and sung to the tune of 'Clementine', conveyed the aims: We, the Black Race, cry for freedom! Africa, our Mother Land, Was taken from our fathers When the darkness hemmed them round. Chorus: Give it back now! Give it back now! Give us back our Africa! Let us break our chains - the passes, Rightly striving to be free. Gumede, Makabeni, Bunting, Roux and Modiakgotla stumped the country, speaking from the League's platform, and collecting signatures to the petition. It had many enemies, reported Makabeni, especially among the educated. They were corrupted by the 'coward-breeding education' of the missionaries, who lulled the people into acquiescence in the seizure of their country by its new rulers. There was sufficient support for the petition, however, to alarm conservative leaders in the ANC. Maha bane announced that the Non-European Christian Ministers Association would confer on methods of combating 'the menace of Communistic propaganda'.- The communists replied with renewed appeals for a united front against Pirow's bill to amend the Riotous Assemblies Act. Smuts called for measures to suppress 'communist propa ganda'. What he really wanted, commented Forward,was machinery to be used against working-class organizations and 418

White Terror free speech. Communism, 'a gogga emanating from the guilty conscience of society', was not acceptable anywhere outside Russia.6 Hertzog agreed that legislation was needed to offset the effect of the judgement handed down by the Supreme Court at Grahamstown in the appeals of the Buntings and Gana Makabeni against sentences imposed by the magistrate of Umtata during their election campaign. The court upheld the appeal on the ground that the prosecution had failed to prove an intention to provoke feelings of hostility. They had preached communism, 'a recognized political faith', and 'it was not easy to declare with any precision what exactly was meant by the expression "to promote any feeling of hostility between natives and Europeans"'," The police explained that it was almost impossible to prove intent in such cases, and Oswald Pirow promised his electors at Gezina, Pretoria, that he would legislate communism out of existence. The publication of a bill to amend the Riotous Assemblies Act disclosed the means. 'To our mind it will mean the practical illegalization of the Communist Party,' declared the communists, but its main aim was 'to prevent all opposition to impending legislation against the African masses'. The bill would give the minister dictatorial powers to prohibit meetings and to banish persons from specified areas. All workers, irrespec tive of colour, should defeat this 'damnable piece of legislation' against 'the whole nationalist movement'. 8 A united front seemed to be in the making on io November, when ANC, icu and cv speakers addressed a mass meeting of protest in Johannesburg against the bill. Pirow's effigy, in scribed umbulali (tyrant), was ceremoniously burnt. 'You may be burning your own fingers,' warned Gwabini of the icu. He and Ballinger counselled caution. Africans were disorganized and split into factions, and could not afford to antagonize authority. Pirow was a reasonable gentleman who would cer tainly be favourable to any case that was good or fair. Kadalie approved of this moderate tone. He would like to return to the icu fold, he said, provided that it adopted a fighting policy.9 Pirow struck back in Durban on the i4th with a melodramatic display of force. He led 700 policemen armed with machine-guns, 419

Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950

fixed bayonets and tear gas in a tax collecting raid on African compounds at 3.3o a.m. Tear gas bombs scattered African sightseers lining the streets, and there was no resistance. 8,ooo were 'rounded up' and searched; 5oo alleged tax defaulters were charged in six special courts, which sentenced those found guilty to pay the tax or serve a month's imprisonment. Tear gas had been used for the first time against inoffensive people who offered no resistance, protested Bill Andrews. They were heavily taxed without representation; and white workers, he added,

must expect the same treatment in similar circ*mstances. Since the tax could have been collected by normal means, the operation was clearly intended to create a favourable atmosphere for the adoption of Pirow's bill. 1 0 This 'bloody baboonery', as the communists called the

highly publicized police performance, was preceded by inspired press reports of evidence - 'more sensational than the notorious Zinoviev letter' - of a revolutionary plot directed from Moscow 1 to prepare the way for the black republic. I 'Keep cool; keep your heads; do not be rushed or bluffed into false moves even by your own leaders,' warned the executive bureau of the cp on the i 5 th. 'Once more the guns and bombs of the imperialist exploiters, Dutch or English, are turned on the masses.' The cause of the trouble was not Soviet gold but Rand gold, dug out by Africans whose race had been enslaved, whose national life was crushed, who were treated as enemies for the enrichment of a gang of foreign plunderers. 2 White workers were reminded of the attempts made to crush

them in 1913, 1914 and I922; and were urged to renew the

struggle for working class rule. Africans were told to keep their courage and self-respect, their hope and faith in national emancipation. 'Demonstrate in your masses everywhere, par ticularly on Dingaan's Day.' Kotane declared that it was time to renounce oppression and to strive for liberty under the com munist banner. The party had only begun to gain a footing among Africans, yet the government was already scared to death. Pirow flayed the English press for doubting the existence of a communist conspiracy. The government had definite proof, 420

White Terror he said, that the cp, ANC, ICU, and League of African Rights were in correspondence with the Communist International. Gumede was an elected member of its general council and, like several others, a graduate of the communist school in Brussels. The International had instructed the party in writing on 22 October to 'wage the struggle against the Native Bills and all other forms of oppression not through petitions, but in a revolutionary manner'. Communists were told to call for mili tant demonstrations and strikes on 16 December under the slogan of 'Long Live the Native Republic'. 1 At about this time, according to Roux, 'a telegram arrived from Moscow ordering the immediate dissolution of the League'. 1" The instruction was ill-advised. As a broad popular organization, with a limited and militant programme, the League of African Rights served a useful educational function, suited to the current level of political consciousness. Bunting pointed this out in a letter dated 29 October to the British party's colonial commission. Drawing on his Transkeian experience, he argued that the peasantry, having been crushed and degraded by alien conquerors, could scarcely be called the basic 'moving' force of revolution. Africans had no bourgeois propertied class to lead them, he contended, but at best only an intelligentsia. It tended to take the line of least resistance, to try peaceful methods and a moderate policy, 'because in the attempt to realize an immoderate one it will be immediately suppressed by force'. The party had to counteract the tendency; and it could not do so effectively by wishful thinking. In effect, he maintained that the revolutionary situation envisaged by the Comintern did not exist. The diagnosis was confirmed by the attitude of delegates at a conference of the Non-European Ministers Association at Bloemfontein on 6 December. Sixty representatives of churches, the ANC, the League of African Rights, the Cape Native Voters Association and the icu condemned the Durban raid. Like Hertzog's 'black peril' election manifesto, they said, it was meant to stampede whites into accepting repressive legislation. The autocratic powers contemplated in Pirow's bill would be used cruelly and create endless racial strife. There was no 421

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

substance in the allegations against the ANC and the icu. Neither was in any way affiliated to the ciP or the Third Inter national. Indeed, the bulk of the people refused to be drawn into the communist fold. The few exceptions who joined the party did so only because they despaired of obtaining relief from the government. 'The oppressive conditions under which the natives live are fertilizing the soil in which the Communist Party sows seeds of dissension.'15

'It was the old ANC' without Gumede's disturbing presence, reported Sam Malkinson, the party's leader at Bloemfontein. The delegates, he said, were trying 'to dam the rising spirit of the native mass'. He warned them that the government would to deeds.1 6 yield only to organized force, but they preferred words The Rev. J. S. Likhing, general secretary of the African Ortho dox Church, provincial president of the ANC in Griqualand West, and chairman of the convention, justified their timidity on the ground of political immaturity. The people, he complained, were hopelessly disorganized and divided by tribal and provin cial dissensions. Internecine feuds, indifference and lethargy had reduced their political and industrial organizations to a condition of impotence. Even Doyle Modiakgotla, vice-president of the League of African Rights, urged the convention to be reasonable. The delegates should accept Hertzog's proposal to give Africans in the north some representation in parliament at the cost of their franchise in the Cape. They rejected his advice, insisted on demanding all rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship for their people. and decided to launch a campaign for the removal of colour discriminations. The first step would be to seek a round-table conference with the government. Congress and xcu leaders had no qualms about associating with white liberals. Gumede, T. M. Skota and Selby Msimang accompanied Oliver Schreiner, Howard Pim, Edgar Brookes and W. Ballinger on a deputation to E. G. Jansen, the minister of native affairs, on 9 December. They asked him to repeal the pass laws. This was out of the question, he replied, though he would consider proposals for the relief of educated persons. They might, for instance, be given a distinguishing badge which would 17 make any exempted African recognizable at sight. 422

White Terror Gumede alone of top ANC leaders refused to be intimidated. The League of African Rights, he told delegates at its first annual conference on 15 December, must mobilize the people against the government's plans to burden them with yet more restrictions under the proposed Native Service Contract Bill, Pirow's amendment to the Riotous Assemblies Act, and a new Urban Areas Bill. Other organizations were quarrelling endlessly and vilifying one another, yet the League could fulfil its mission if only 'we are men and women enough with the mind to work for the liberation of the oppressed Africans'. They looked confidently to the League against Imperialism for support, and hoped that the world would 'once more wake up and speak out for the cause of freedom'.8 On the next day, he, Kadalie,

Bunting, and a small army of speakers addressed a Dingaan's Day demonstration held in Johannesburg under the auspices of the League, the Icu and the ciP. The African National Congress stood aloof. Demonstrations held in other big towns passed off without disturbance except at Potchefstroom, where about a hundred whites invaded the township and broke up an orderly gathering at which Marks and Mofutsanyana were the main speakers. 'Africa belongs to us,' declared Marks. 'You lie!' shouted a white bystander, and a revolver was fired at Mofutsanyana. The shot missed him and hit Hermanus Lethebe, a local party member, who died of his wounds. Joseph Weeks, secretary of the local school board and brother of the location superintendent, was put on trial for murder six months later and acquitted by the white jury. Eight white participants in the riot were convicted of public violence and dismissed with a caution at about the same time. 'For hooligans to shoot a Native is but to break a black bottle, and then congratulate themselves on being such good marksmen,' remarked Josie Mpama, one of the first African women to join the party. She, the Buntings and Chapman, a former chairman of the party, called a protest meeting in Potchefstroom after the trials, and had to demonstrate through the township before residents plucked up courage to attend.' 9 The party's eighth annual conference met on 29 December in a mood of grim determination. A year of 'unprecedentedly 423

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-1950

strenuous' struggle against 'an ever more ferocious oppressor' lay ahead. 'On top of Smuts's and Hertzog's whips come Pirow's scorpions.' The party's task for 1930 was to mobilize the people on a national scale for a 'native republic'. A start would be made by putting the communists' own house in order. The conference was expected to stop the wrangling of 'a few political dema20

gogues' in the party who persisted in opposing the new policy. Weinbren, the chairman of the F NETU, and one of the main offenders, suddenly decided to settle in Cape Town. He left Johannesburg in January; an acknowledged 'staunch friend' and 'esteemed champion of the workers'. T. W. Thibedi, the general secretary of the Federation, was suspended from the party and then expelled for mismanaging trade union funds. Albert Nzula took his place, and was succeeded in turn by S. M. Kotu as secretary-editor of the party. Bunting grieved over the action taken against Thibedi, for many years the only African communist. The party had lost several other capable Africans, like La Guma, Ndobe, and Tonjeni, whom it could scarcely afford to lose, during 1929. But its cause was bound to win. 21 Communists elsewhere shared this optimism. 'The outstand ing feature of the present "unrest",' reported a correspondent in the Comintern's journal, 'is the fact that the native workers are heading the struggle under the leadership of the cp.' The petition circulated by the League of African Rights was widely supported; mass demonstrations were being held in spite of great resistance from the government. The working class, from which came the driving force in the fight against imperialism, was more united than ever. This showed 'a tremendous advance 1 22 in the development of the revolutionary native movement . Right wing leaders in the ANC rejected revolution. It would leave the African in a worse condition than his present state, argued Moses Mphahlele, a noted poet and secretary of the Transvaal Congress. He and Mapikela of Bloemfontein started a public campaign for the removal of Gumede from the presi dency. Pirow had smeared him and the ANC as forming part of the communist conspiracy. This was bad for Congress, said the conservatives, and they complained bitterly of Gumede's com 424

White Terror munism, his visit to Moscow, his role in the League of African Rights, and, most of all, the ANC'S affiliation to the League against Imperialism. 'I am not a Communist and I defy anyone to prove I am,' retorted Gumede, but he defended the party. Congress had worked with it in i919 and again in 1927, accepted financial assistance from it in Johannesburg, and never had any trouble from those of its members who belonged to the ANC. The decision to affiliate to the League against Imperialism had been taken openly by the Congress leadership. As regards the League of African Rights, it was no more than the reincarnation of the old Funa Ma Lungelo - we seek our rights - movement. In any event, he was in sympathy with the communists, who alone pleaded the cause of the black proletariat. 23 Hopes for a united front faded under the pressure of anti communist propaganda and the Comintern's directive. It was the party, and not the League, that called the next all-in con ference on 26 January in Johannesburg to consider ways and means of defeating the new batch of racial laws. Invitations were sent to all trade unions and radical organizations. The only whites present, apart from communists, were members of the Garment Workers' Union and the Jewish Workers' Club. The TUC and its affiliated unions, reported Solly Sachs, refused to attend for fear of being identified with the party. The conference adopted a strongly worded resolution, calling for demonstrations, strikes, passive resistance and refusal to pay taxes, with a view to compelling the government of feudal landlords and slave drivers to abandon their repressive legislation. This was a pious gesture, remarked Selby Msimang; the masses were not prepared to sacrifice lives without prospect of gain. The militants wanted a general strike, however, even though it might be unsuccessful or encounter the kind of resistance experienced at Durban and Potchefstroom. A large majority of the delegates agreed with Tantsi that the League of African Rights and the party should conduct the campaign.2 4 The League had to die, since the Comintern found it un worthy and the communists were unwilling to defy the decision. The party itself sent out a call for the general strike, with no more success than in the militant years of white trade 425

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z950 unionism. This was not surprising. African unions were only just beginning to take root after the i CU's collapse, and scarcely existed outside the Rand and western Cape. The main obstacle was the law. There were many isolated African strikes - by dockers and quarrymen at Durban, brickmakers at Pretoria, laundry workers in Johannesburg and Cape Town, furniture and clothing makers on the Rand - but the police regularly arrested strikers and prosecuted them, usually with success, under the masters and servants laws. White trade unionists stood aloof, neither aiding nor protesting. The communists and national organizations protested, and never found a way to beat the law. In the circ*mstances and at a time of rising unemployment, even ardent syndicalists might have doubted the expediency of the general strike as a tactical weapon. By adopting it, the party demonstrated its complete rejection of white supremacy and faith in the ultimate triumph of black power. 'This is a high time that we should all be pure, active extremists,' declared Edward Dambuza, one of a new crop of militants trained by Sam Malkinson in the Orange Free State. 'The Communist Party is the only party that fights honestly for 2 the freedom of the black man in his birth country.' Thousands more shared his opinion. The decision taken in 1926 to train African members for leadership and draw them into top ranking positions had given the party a mass basis. Johannes Nkosi (1905-30), farm labourer, kitchen 'boy' and ICU official, who joined the party in 1926, was making great headway at Durban, where he went soon after the beer hall riots to organize a branch. Durban had the first communist town councillor, the Norwegian shipowner S. M. Pettersen, who slipped on to the council in a by-election in January 1929. G. E. Daniels was doggedly build ing a branch in the bitterly racialist atmosphere of Pretoria. Josiah Ngedlane had launched a branch with ioo members in Ndabeni, Cape Town. Ndobe and Tonjeni, working closely with Gomas, the party branch secretary, were organizing Africans and Coloured in the western Cape into the most militant section of the ANC.

Much of the credit belonged to Dr Edward Roux, the new editor of Umsebenzi (Zulu-Xhosa: The Worker), as the party's 426 m_

White Terror paper was called from April 1930 onwards. It was published in Cape Town, where he had gone to take a job in the department of agriculture, which dismissed him after three months for his political activity. The paper soon became a powerful political force among Africans and Coloured, attracted hundreds of them on the platteland to the party, and filled a gap left by the closing down of Abdurahman's A.P.O. Publishing articles and letters in the major African languages, as well as in English and Afrikaans, Umzebensi attained a bigger circulation, covering a wider area, than either the International or the Worker ever achieved. Roux performed wonders on a budget of £7 los. a weekly issue - £3 of which came from Bunting's private purse for printing costs, rent, postage and the editor's salary I As he pointed out, the party could no longer rely on big donations from whites. Most of its members were poor workers and peasants; and the few remaining white members were not exactly rolling in money. Only the 'exploited and oppressed slaves of Africa,' he urged, could keep their paper alive. While the party grew in size and influence, the ANC withdrew into a state of passive acquiescence. The one bright exception was the Western Province division, which led the struggles of farm workers from Worcester to Carnarvon and Barrydale. 'Follow the example of Ndobe, Tonjeni and other courageous leaders of the Cape,' appealed Malkinson on the eve of the ANC'S annual conference at Bloemfontein in April. Smuts, Creswell, Hertzog and Pirow, the communists warned, were 'united in their desire to crush the growing slave revolt and maintain British and Afrikaner imperialism'. Only the united action of the whole national movement could save it from being altogether outlawed. 26 Gumede made a similar appeal in the most forthright presi dential address yet heard at a Congress convention. After describing the organizational and financial irregularities that he found on taking office in 1927, he examined the charges brought against him. Africans were dubbed agitators when they respect fully, constitutionally and moderately asked for the return of their rights. It was the spate of anti-African legislation that had upset the relations between them and the white population. 427

Class and Colour in South Africa 185o-z950 Speedy and drastic measures must be taken if they were to gain their liberty and keep their self-respect. and The world, he went on to say, was in a state of revolt their chaos. Chinese, Javanese and Indians were rising against crisis imperialist masters. At the same time, a terrible economic added threatened capitalism. Millions of unemployed were being talks, dis to an already chronic number. League of Nations

hide the armament conferences and the like only served to the only preparations for international war. 'Soviet Russia was should real friend of all subjected races.' One of the ANC'S aims ideal of be to resist an onslaught against its true friend, whose emancipation inspired oppressed peoples everywhere. would Many of his people were under the illusion that they obtain justice from Britain. Yet Ramsay MacDonald's govern Indian ment was at that moment trying to crush the oncoming their revolution. Africans had failed in their petitions to Britain, supplications to the governor-general, their appeals to the South African government. Applications to the courts of law had resulted only in wasteful expenditure. What was then to be done? They must rely on their own on strength, on the strength of the oppressed colonial peoples, the strength of revolutionary white workers. 'We have to demand our equal economic, social and political rights.' That a could be expressed in no clearer way than by demanding South African Native Republic with equal rights for all, and free from all foreign and local domination. Four-fifths of the popula tion were on their side, but they had to be organized, particu larly in the towns and on the farms. 'Let us go back from this conference, resolved to adopt the militant policy' in 'the spirit all over the which has been exhibited by oppressed peoples 27 liberation. world'. No other policy would bring Pandemonium followed. The conservatives, led by Mahabane and Dube, urged delegates to reject the speech. How could they approach the government if it was approved? Nzula, Gomas,

Ndobe, Tonjeni, Champion and other militants rallied behind

Gumede in a hubbub of shouts, recriminations and points of order. Mapikela, the chairman, asked Ballinger to soothe the

meeting, but his intervention provoked more confusion. On the

White Terror next day, conference condemned the white barbarians who had broken up African meetings, demanded protection by the authori ties, and decided to ask the government for a round table con ference. If it was refused, suggested Ndobe, Congress should organize a national day of protest by means of strikes and mass demonstrations. Mapikela refused to accept his motion. 25 The conservatives had won the day. Gumede was ousted by fourteen votes to thirty-nine, and Seine became the new presi dent with an executive that included Mahabane, Mapikela, Skota, Selope Thema, Dube and Dr A. B. Xuma. The parsons, chiefs, agents of the Chamber of Mines and other 'good boys', declared the communists, had effectively opposed any forward movement by the ANC. 2 9 The conservatives and their white liberal advisers never quite understood their society or its power structure. They persisted in believing against all the evidence that liberation would come to them through reasoned argument, appeals to Christian ethics, and moderate, constitutional protest. Because of timidity, as Bunting alleged, or want of confidence in their people, they refused to mobilize them for mass struggle. Yet only by defying constituted authority - by 'pure active extremism' - could a voteless, fragmented proletariat and peasantry force it to con sider their claims seriously. The main issues in parliamentary politics arose out of conflicts between British and Afrikaner interest groups. Neither side was interested in coming to terms with Africans, whose role was to supply labour at low cost for mipes, farms and factories. All whites, apart from a handful of communists and liberals, were determined to maintain their supremacy through the ballot box, repressive sanctions and brute force. White suffragettes got their way after twenty-five years of agitation when parliament extended the vote in 1930 to all white women over twenty-one. Universal adult suffrage for white men in the Cape and Natal followed in 193 1. 3 0 Discrimination on grounds of colour was now a feature also of the Cape franchise, for the first time since 1852, and in spite of assurances given at Union and again in 1928 by Hertzog as regards the Coloured. He and Creswell argued that to impose a civilization test on any 429

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-1950 white person was tantamount to denying the civilization of whites in general. The logic was poor, and the Nationalist party's particular interests were unmistakable. It would gain most from the new laws, which doubled the size of the white electorate and halved the value of the African and Coloured vote.3 More votes for white supremacy went hand in hand with more repression for its opponents. The Riotous Assemblies Act of 1912 had been amended in 1914 to curb rebellious white workers.

It was amended again in 1930 to curb the liberation movement. The minister was authorized to banish, ban or prohibit any person, public meeting or book, if in his opinion there was reason to suppose that they would cause hostility between whites and other people. He could punish without trial, and the courts had no power to overrule his decision. 'We are setting up a precedent which is fraught with the gravest concern,' warned Advocate Close, the member for Mowbray, on the third reading of the bill. 'Are we going to give away those rights and privileges which we have won, in the liberty of speech and the liberty of the person?' 32 The House passed the bill by fifty-nine votes to thirty-five. Heaton Nicholls and three other Natal members of the SAP voted with the government; Madeley and three members of the LP voted with the opposition. While the bill was passing through its final stages, police detachments moved into towns and hamlets of the Hex River valley in the western Cape. White farmers had violently dis rupted an ANC meeting of Coloured labourers at Rawsonville a few weeks earlier. An African was killed in a 'beer raid' at Worcester in April. Race riots threatened, and the magistrate of Worcester prohibited meetings in the township. The ANC defied the ban by holding a demonstration on May Day. 'Rather let us die under the ANC banner than live under the slavery of the European,' declared a speaker. The police struck back on Sunday next, invaded the township with fixed bayonets, and fired, killing five and wounding sixteen Africans. Armed whites took to the streets, assaulting Africans and Coloured, and searching for Ndobe and Tonjeni. They escaped after hiding for four days and returned to Cape Town, to resume their agitation against the right wing leaders of Congress. 33 430

White Terror The communists saw their centre of political gravity shifting to the western Cape. Here, they believed, might be the textbook ingredients of a revolutionary situation. A 'bitterly exploited' rural proletariat, whose ancestors had been robbed of their land a hundred years ago, would form the backbone of the movement for a 'democratic Native republic'. The politically mature urban workers - dockers, railwaymen, factory hands - would provide the leadership. There was even a 'national bourgeoisie', con sisting of Coloured and African parsons, doctors, landlords and shopkeepers, who needed mass support to free themselves from colour bars, yet feared the effects of a revolutionary upheaval. Abdurahman, the prototype of his class, gave 'nominal allegi ance to the movement for national liberation', while insisting on the right of his daughter, Mrs Cissie Gool, to own a bungalow in the exclusive white suburb of Camps Bay.34 Villages and farm labourers might be moving forward, but Coloured intellectuals and artisans appeared to be standing still. As obsessed as whites with skin colour and hair form, they claimed to be 'brown people', denied any African ancestry, and rejected the vision of a black republic. Coloured voters continued to support white supremacy parties, in spite of a decision by a Non-European Conference, held at Cape Town in January 1930, to sponsor its own candidates for the provincial council. One African and five Coloured entered the lists in June. Two, Abdurahman and S. Dollie, fought each other in the Castle division; A. F. Pendla, solicitor's clerk and restaurant owner, scored 531 votes in Port Elizabeth North against the SAP candidate's 1,522; Samuelson lost heavily in Hottentots Holland; and Stephan Reagon of the APO, after defeating two white opponents on the Cape Flats, became the second Coloured man ever to sit in the council. The communists poured scorn on these proceedings. Freedom would be won, they claimed, not at the polls but by strikes, demonstrations and civil disobedience.3 s Activists in the AN C took the same line and clashed with the conservative leaders. Splits developed within several Congress branches in the Transvaal, OFs and western Cape, where James Thaele, the Lesotho-born provincial president, moved sharply to the right. A graduate of an American Negro college, and 'well 43'

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950 versed in English, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew,' accord ing to Skota, he combined eloquence with political ambition. Like Kadalie in 1926, he accused the communists of being a 'white man's party' and agitated for their expulsion from the ANC. The militants rallied to their defence. Communists fought for the bottom dog, declared Sam Hoho, a former icu organizer. It was largely because of the spirit Bunting left behind in the taken a firm stand in defence of the Transkei that the Bhunga had .1 franchise. While leaders squabbled 'like dogs over dry bones', com plained A. M. Plaatjes, chairman of the AN c branch in Worcester, Hertzog, Smuts and Pirow were carrying out the orders of the white exploiters. 36 All public meetings were prohibited on Sundays in the country districts of the western Cape. Ndobe and Tonjeni (1895-1962), the 'black lion', found the injunction more of a nuisance than a serious handicap and went on organ izing farm workers in defiance of landowners and police. Pirow then used his new powers under the Riotous Assemblies Act. He issued notices in September and October banning Kadalie and Charles Baker from attending public gatherings on the Witwatersrand, banished Champion from Natal for three years, and prohibited Ndobe and Tonjeni from entering the region between Worcester and George. Ndobe replied in an open letter written in Afrikaans. 'Your party at one time protested against British Imperialism,' he told Pirow. 'Now that you have won a assisting in keeping measure of freedom for yourselves, you are 37 a whole nation in oppression and slavery.' The bans and repression strengthened Thaele's hand. A special meeting of the ANG executive held in September dis missed Ndobe from the post of provincial secretary because he advocated the Communist party's policy; prohibited 'leaders and propagandists with communistic doctrines' from addressing Congress meetings; and banned the sale of Umsebenzi on Con gress premises. The militants fought back with a view to gaining control of the organization. Thaele defeated them by expelling Ndobe's adherents. They therefore formed an Independent African National Congress (Cape) and attempted to secure the affiliation of country branches. 38 The police beheaded the 432

White Terror movement by deporting Ndobe to Basutoland and forcing Tonjeni to retreat to Port Elizabeth. Congress in the western Cape never fully recovered from these blows and its fratricidal quarrels. The government blamed 'communist agitators' for the wide spread unrest, which was symptomatic of growing misery in rural areas and brutal repression by the police. An 'appalling problem of Native poverty', reported the Native Economic Commission of 1930-32, was developing in the reserves, where people were faced with mass starvation. 39 Drought, declining crop yields, overpopulation and lean herds were driving peasants to the towns. The authorities tried to divert them to the farms by erecting legal barriers under the Natives (Urban Areas) Act, amended in 1930 so as further to curtail the right of men to move into the towns and, for the first time, to block the entry of women.


Urban Africans were being herded into the segregated ghettos called locations. Here, isolated from the rest of the working class, they could be pinned down, supervised, patrolled, prosecuted for non-payment of rent, and raided for taxes, passes or pro hibited liquor. Swooping down in the early hours of the morning, the police posses invaded without warrants houses and com pounds, forced the occupants out of bed, arrested those who could not produce tax receipts, lodgers' permits or passes, cuffed and kicked the victims into the waiting pick-up vans. The constant raids and surveillance were reducing the inhabitants to a state of sullen submissiveness, from which the communists tried to rouse them by organizing campaigns against passes and tax laws. 'Whether educated or uneducated, rich or poor, we are all subject to these badges of slavery,' wrote Albert Nzula in a passionate appeal for united action. 'We are slaves as long as we think we can only beg and pray to this cruel government.' 'Freedom or Death,' cried Ngedlane in Cape Town. 'Let us go forward in the spirit of Dingaan, Makana and Moshesh to free our country from white imperialism.' The slogans rang out in towns throughout the country as the militants prepared for the great pass-burning demonstrations on Dingaan's Day. The communists invited the ANC, icu and trade unions to take part


Class and Colour in South Africa z850-950 in the preparations; and argued that the pass system was "an inevitable accompaniment and prop of the whole system of robbery and forced labour'. When fifty delegates from towns in the Transvaal, OFs and Natal assembled at Johannesburg on 26 October, they met under the party's auspices. The rest of the liberation movement boycotted the conference. Kadalie came out of his retreat at East London to warn people against the campaign. Don't burn your passes, he advised; don't follow the communists, who ever stir up trouble only to run away when it comes. Let them get money from Moscow to fight test cases in court, 'the only sensible way of getting rid of passes'. In any event, the government would soon abolish passes, so that it would be foolish to fill the jails for a cause already won. The burning of passes, added Keable Mote and Robert Sello of the Transvaal icu, would be 'the same madness which brought tragedy to the Ama-Xosa' in 1856, when Nongquase told them that if they destroyed grain and cattle, their ancestors would help them to drive the white invaders into the sea. Africans might be slaves, as communists alleged, and in that case 'we say, "Where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise"'." So negative an attitude in men who for nearly ten years had headed the largest section of the liberation movement revealed a timorous immaturity and poverty of leadership. It was 'politically corrupt', declared the communists in a comment on recriminations between Kadalie, Champion and Ballinger. The crisis of leadership reflected the uncertainty and disunity of a people undergoing a transition to an industrialized society. The ANC, though more discreet than Kadalie, failed to take practical steps against the pass laws in spite of its decision in October 1928 to conduct a country-wide campaign for their abolition. Seine, Mahabane, Thema and their colleagues feared to take the plunge from angry rhetoric into militant mass activity. And so, deserted by their allies and crippled by Pirow's bans, the com munists were left to conduct defiance unaided on i6 December. It turned out to be a bonfire rather than the conflagration for which they had worked so hard. Thaele's followers broke up an anti-pass demonstration in Cape Town; 15o passes were burned 434

White Terror in Johannesburg, 300 in Potchefstroom, 400 in Pretoria, and

3,000 in Durban. Here blood was spilt in a violent affray such as invariably terminated any large-scale campaign against racial oppression. The Durban branch of the party, which had grown into a powerful force under the able and devoted direction of Johannes Nkosi, began its Dingaan's Day demonstration on Cartwright Flats at eight o'clock in the morning. After four hours of speech making, the demonstrators prepared for a procession through the town, in defiance of a police command. A large force of policemen barred the way and, when the demon strators bore down on them, attacked with clubs and assegais. Nkosi and three other Africans were stabbed to death and horribly mutilated by African constables. The coroner commended the white police for their self restraint and put the blame squarely on the African constables. They had 'used more force than was requisite'; 'the use of assegais was not necessary'; and 'they had failed to exercise reasonable restraint'. Several witnesses testified to having seen constables stab the murdered men, yet the police were strangely 'unable' to identify the killers. "2 They escaped prosecution, while twenty-six demonstrators were convicted of public vio lence, four being sentenced to six months' hard labour. Seven African witnesses swore that they had seen the chief constable shoot at Nkosi, who was stabbed after being taken into custody, but the court rejected the allegations.4 3 'An uncompromising fighter, he died as he lived, fearless and conscious of the great fight,' wrote Nzula in a widely circulated tribute to Nkosi. His final message in Zulu warned the workers to awake and throw off their shackles. 'Durban, that centre of British jingoism,' declared the Communist party, 'has once more been the scene of a fatal clash between the forces of the slave drivers' government and the rising tide of the African liberation movement.' The party's campaign against the hated pass laws was fully justified. Africans were prepared to make sacrifices and die in order to free their country from bitter oppression. There must be 'no crying off. We must avenge our martyred dead.' The anti-pass campaign should be extended to every location, farm, mine and factory.44 435

Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 The party, struggling desperately in Durban to rally its forces and continue the burning of passes, was bludgeoned and broken by the police. Pirow banned all public gatherings on the Flats and drove hard against the militants. Using administrative procedures under the Urban Areas Act, magistrates declared that any African who held a party card or who worked with the party was 'idle, dissolute or disorderly' and liable to banishment for two years. Gana Makabeni, the new party organizer in Durban, was deported to his home in the Transkei. Abraham Nduweni, leader of an Independent i cu branch, who had taken it en bloc into the party, was deported under escort to his village near Standerton. More than 200 communists and militants were banished to their rural homes in the next few months without any semblance of charge or trial." Deprived of its leaders, infiltrated by spies and informers, the Durban branch was forced to instruct its members to comply with the pass and tax laws so as to avoid deportation.4 6 Critics have said that the campaign was premature; that it should have been preceded by a long, intensive course of mass 47 education in the techniques of passive resistance. Yet Africans had protested and defied the pass laws for some fifteen years. Both the i c u and the ANC put passes at the top of their long fist of grievances. It was the futility of verbal protests and appeals to government that justified the campaign. Some way had to be found of stimulating the people to throw off habits of con formity and acquiescence before they had been coerced into accepting passes as an inescapable evil. Only a widespread, vio lent rejection could stop the rot. The criticism should have been directed at ANC and icu leaders who betrayed the movement at a crucial stage when a combined effort might have forced the government to retreat. Both the ANC and the Non-European Conference, meeting at Bloemfontein in January 1931, discussed the burning of passes. It was one of the worst steps that could be taken, Seine told the ANC. They could obtain the respect of whites only by acting in a moderate way. The Rev. James Calata, Champion and Thaele urged Congress to rid itself of communists, who spread their doctrines under its auspices. The Non-European Conference 436

White Terror appeared to be more militant. Right-wing leaders for the first time contemplated calling on people to destroy the passes. When Abdurahman suggested Dingaan's Day for the event, however, Kadalie objected that this would amount to forming a united front with the communists. Conference finally agreed to ask the government 'respectfully but strongly', to do away with the system, and, if it refused, to set aside a day in 1934 on which passes would be burnt. As though to underline its futility, the conference decided to send another grievance deputation to the British government; and again postponed the formation of a united body to coordinate African, Coloured and Indian political activities. " The communists remarked derisively that the conference might as well have nominated the year 2034 for all the intention that it had of organizing an anti-pass campaign. Dissensions in the ANC were 'symptomatic of its present decay and futility'. Seine was expelling his rivals, including Thema, though both were 'good boys of conservative outlook'. Congress 'is now split into at least four sections and will soon come to rival the ICU in the multiplicity of its quarrelling groups, the opportunism of its leaders and its lack of a fighting policy'."' Before the year

was out, however, communists, too, would suffer from the internal dissension that plagued the liberation movement in all its parts.







i| -

.,,T .

ii iw

19 Theory and Practice

South African radicals gained a rare understanding of the inter

actions between labour and nationalist movements in a colonial type society. Those who served an apprenticeship in trade unions had no illusions about the colour prejudices of white workers. Communists were as familiar with the shortcomings of Coloured and African left-wing groups. Multi-racial from top to bottom, the party claimed to form a bridge between the two streams and aspired to unite them in a great revolutionary flood. Communist theory and strategy were most effective when adjusted to local conditions and the existing level of political maturity. The party had to set the pace and yet not move so fast as to become isolated. It might then turn into a doctrinaire sect like the early socialists, or run the risk of being destroyed. A fine judgement of political possibilities was needed, and this the party had acquired, sometimes at the expense of internal strain. Though they might seem to move slowly and with too much caution, the Communists were by far the most revolutionary group in the country. Critics in the international communist movement complained that the party was not revolutionary enough. It was accused of 'tailism'; of 'lagging behind the growing mass discontent'; of being 'practically isolated from the spontaneous movement of the masses'; of 'committing serious mistakes of a Right oppor tunist character'. The indictment appeared in a ten-page memorandum from the ECCI, the executive committee of the Communist International. 1 Though dated 7 May i93o, it was made public only in December, when a first instalment appeared in Umsebenzi. As in 1928, and in keeping with Lenin's thesis of 1920 on the national movement in colonies, the ECCI proposed two stages in


Theory and Practice South Africa's revolution. The first phase would terminate in a capitalist democracy, the second in socialism. Lenin's thesis assigned a primary role to a revolutionary nationalist bourgeoisie in the first phase. The ECCI, in contrast, asserted that in South Africa the 'native bourgeoisie exists only in an embryonic form. The intellectuals (native teachers, native parsons) are mostly in the service of the European ruling class.' Therefore, concluded the EccI, 'the only class capable of uniting the national revolutionary fighting front is the native proletariat, supported by the most exploited masses of the white proletariat'. Com munists were the vanguard of the working class. They should maintain their independence in all circ*mstances, for only in that way could they accomplish their mission: 'the complete carrying through of the nationalist revolutionary struggle, and, as the subsequent stage, the socialist revolution'. A programme of action for the 'independent native republic' in its first phase should include demands for civic rights and the removal of discriminatory measures - pass and poll tax laws, restrictions on freedom of movement and residence, labour com pounds and indentured labour - together with a return of land to the peasants and a united front between Africans and poor whites. All this was familiar. It had formed the political stock in trade for many years of the Communist party, the ANC, the icu and, more recently, the League of African Rights. Since all agreed, would it not be sensible of them to combine their forces in a concerted effort behind the programme? Definitely not, said the EccI. The League, the icu and the ANC were reformist organizations or 'petty bourgeois nationalist parties' which used radical slogans to entice the masses. By associating with 'reformists' like Gumede or 'low traitors' like Modiakgotla, the party made itself responsible for their waver ings, abandoned its independent role, and allowed the League's programme to eclipse its own. For instance, the party had urged Africans to 'keep cool, keep your heads' during the Durban raids; and collected signatures on a petition to the 'slave-owning imperialist parliament'. These were reformist methods of struggle. The party should have organized demonstrations of protest among Africans and whites, committees of action and


Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-z95o strikes in factories. Only in this way could it 'guarantee the hegemony of the proletariat in the nationalist revolutionary movement'. There was no reason to suppose that white workers and Afri cans would come out on strike or act in unison for a political aim. The Ecci exaggerated the strength of the party's resources and at the same time underestimated the value of its ideological contribution. It was correct of communists to work with and within the ANC, to criticize backward leaders like Seme and Modiakgotla, to praise Gumede for his spirited defence of the party and the Soviet Union, and to adopt methods of struggle appropriate to the general level of political consciousness and organization. If there was to be no united action, not even with leaders of Gumede's calibre and not for a programme of im mediate demands, why should the party aim at an 'independent native republic' instead of an out-and-out socialist revolution? This was the central issue. Instead of facing it squarely, the ECCI complained that the party failed to understand its own policy. African members, 'still influenced by petty-bourgeois peasant nationalism', insisted on a purely 'nationalist-revolu tionary movement' and ignored 'the necessity for the dic tatorship of the proletariat in the social revolution'. White communists, in contrast, retained remnants of racial chauvinism, denied the role of African nationalism, believed only in a 'purely proletarian struggle', and therefore neglected to put the party at the head of the growing nationalist revolution. Bunting, in particular, wanted to 'skip the bourgeois democratic stage' and proceed directly to the 'pure' proletarian revolution. The criticisms of Bunting were supported by extracts - dis torted or quoted out of context, he complained - from his letter of October 1929 to the British party. He, together with Andrews and Roux, was said to be a chauvinist because he had no confi dence in the African's capacity for struggle; a reformist, because he would limit the national movement to a struggle for equal rights; and a right deviator because he allowed 'the native bourgeoisie and the intellectuals' to take the lead. These errors amounted to 'a tacit acceptance of European domination'. Reduced to simple terms, the Dcci's complaint was that 440

Theory and Practice African communists were nationalists at heart and that white communists belittled the national liberation movement. The supposed dichotomy rested on a misunderstanding of the party's structure and role. For the former, the party had a uniform body of principles and should have been judged as a single entity. African party members like Nzula, Mofutsanyana and Nkosi repeatedly advocated a class struggle and criticized the ANC's conservative leaders. Bunting, Roux, Baker and Malkinson, on the other hand, accepted the black republic policy, worked closely with militant African nationalists, and consistently agitated for the removal of colour bars. As regards the role, the party could not take over the ANC's function of developing a sense of national pride and unity. The party and the ANC were allies rather than rivals in a struggle against class exploitation and racial discrimination. Congress represented a variety of interests and trends. It was hampered internally by tribal and regional rivalries; confused by external and contrary pressures from government agents, white liberals and radicals. Conservatives competed with militants for leadership. Unable to make any impression on a hard, implac able regime, the parsons and intellectuals who dominated Con gress allowed it to drift into apathy and despair. D. S. Letanka, editor of Abantu Batho since 1912, reproached the leaders for thinking more of presidential 'honours' than of the welfare of their race. They had forfeited the confidence and loyalty of the people, he warned, by quarrelling among themselves. Africans no longer believed that Congress would put an end to tribalism and lead them against the white oppressors.' The weaknesses reflected a general state of political immaturity which the ECCI ignored. The authors of the memorandum thought it quite evident that the opposition to Hertzog's bills was 'transforming itself into a struggle against the entire system of imperialist oppression'. To equip itself for the leadership, the party was advised to employ a core of full-time professional revolutionaries, form cells in factories and streets, organize revolutionary trade unions of workers and farm labourers, and launch a peasants' movement for the seizure of land. The party should also extend its activities to Bechuanaland, Basutoland and C.S.A. -20 441






Class and Colour in South Africa t850-1950

Swaziland, establish close contact with the revolutionary toiling masses of Rhodesia, Kenya and Portuguese Africa, and become the ideological leader of communists in other parts of the con tinent. The party should aim at forming 'independent native workers' and peasants' republics as a transitory stage towards the subsequent Union of Socialist Soviet Republics of Africa'. It was an ambitious programme, and so far to the left that any communist who did not accept all of it ran the risk of being called a 'right deviationist'. The party had earlier and without external prompting attemp ted to put its house in order for the sharp struggles that lay ahead. 'We have not yet built up a really centralized and disci plined organization,' reported the executive bureau. It decided to register only active members who paid their dues regularly, and to purge the ranks of those who were inactive or politically 3 unreliable. One of the first to be expelled for unreliability was Manuel Lopes of Cape Town, a radical socialist of fourteen years' standing and a die-hard opponent of the black republic. It was, he maintained, Marcus Garvey's gospel of rabid Negro national ism writ large in the constitution of the c P, and 'an opportunist distortion'. Any nationalist movement could only arrest the revolutionary class movement. To this Roux as editor replied that any white socialist who refused to acknowledge the right of the exploited and sjambokked Africans to complete national autonomy was a chauvinist. Nothing in the slogan of a 'native republic' should antagonize any genuine white revolutionary." Sterner measures were to follow. Wolton returned to South Africa in November 193o at the request of the Comintern and with two resolutions from the ECCI. He and his wife had gone with a British delegation in July to the fifth congress of the RILU in Moscow. They reported on South Africa and helped to draft the directives. 5 Molly Wolton remained to attend the Lenin school while Douglas proceeded on his mission to South Africa. He took over the position of acting secretary from Bunt ing and persuaded Roux, who was impressed by his determina tion and apparent command of theory, to transfer the paper to Johannesburg. 442

Theory and Practice The resolutions were circulated in December in preparation for the ninth annual conference. 6 They warned of a serious right-wing danger which caused sharp political disagreements, organizational chaos and 'intensely bitter, non-political and personal divisions in the leadership'. The right wing, according to the executive bureau, was fundamentally opposed to the policy adopted at the annual conference in 1928. In particular, the opposition had no confidence in the revolutionary capacity of the masses, failed to lead them in struggle, and for chauvinis tic reasons prevented Africans from taking a full part in the leadership. The indictment was repeated in a variety of forms throughout the year. Wolton, claiming the authority of a 'ci representa tive', installed himself firmly at the head. A new central com mittee 'was carefully elected to exclude the politically dangerous elements', notably Bunting and Malkinson. It consisted of nineteen Africans and four whites: Wolton, the general secretary, Roux, Sachs and Baker. For the first time, claimed Wolton, 'the conference was able to make a general analysis of the situation and tasks of the Party in this country in terms of Leninist theory'. The ninth congress, he claimed, 'marks a decisive turning point in the class struggle, away from the dangers of white chauvinism and opportunism, into the path of revolutionary struggle along the new line of independent leadership in the national revolution towards the dictatorship of the proletariat'." Wolton made an effort to reshape the party on the model adopted in advanced industrial countries. Branches were in structed to let inactive members lapse and to place the active ones in functional groups attached to factories, mines, labour compounds and townships. By concentrating its forces, the party would establish itself firmly in strategic areas. The scheme was a great improvement on the existing organization, in which members came together for propaganda purposes and rarely engaged in systematic, continuous political activity. But the branches had few members in factories or workshops and none on the mines, in spite of attempts made since July 1930 to form an African miners' union. The spade work yielded long term results rather than immediate gains. 443

Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

African trade unionism had declined on the Rand since the withdrawal of Thibedi and Weinbren from the FNETU. It was now revived under a new name - the African Federation of Trade Unions - and in the form of a broad militant movement. Instead of fighting for higher wages in specific occupations, it organized or took part in demonstrations of the unemployed, international labour day rallies, and pass burning campaigns. Wolton argued that no union worth its salt would restrict its activities to the economic struggle. The proper role of African unions was to take the struggle to a 'higher political level' and guarantee the supremacy of the working class in the national movement. The argument was sound in the circ*mstances. A strong infusion of workers into the ANC'S councils might have fired them with a sense of urgency and a militant spirit. Wolton, who had no practical experience of trade unions, forgot, however, that their primary function was to improve wages and conditions. A union that had passed this test might gain rather than lose by engaging in politics. As Kadalie had learned, on the other hand, no union would retain the confidence of its members if it neglec ted their economic interests. Wolton's policy therefore neither produced trade unions nor strengthened the influence of the workers on the liberation front. Wolton's main concern was to instal the party as the com mander-in-chief of the liberation forces. It should, he urged, steer clear of 'leaders who have repeatedly betrayed the struggle'. There must be a united front from below and with the rank and-file. His approach turned out to be much the same as the old policy of appealing to the masses. Instead of a League of African Rights, the party instituted Ikaka Labasebenzi - the Workers' Shield - in January 193 1. Affiliated to the International Red Aid, its function was to assist political prisoners, 'organize mass campaigns against all forms of White Terror', and 'fight8 against all forms of Racial oppression and Racial Chauvinism'. Meetings were held, collections were taken, and some relief to stimu was given; but, wrote Wolton, 'the organization failed 9 late any widespread support amongst the Bantu'. Workers and peasants, according to Wolton's thesis, were ripe 444 r

Theory and Practice for revolution. Only the influence of timid, reformist leaders restrained them. They would respond, he believed, to the party's call for a general strike, civil disobedience and any possible kind of resistance to governmental authority. Radical socialists before him - Crawford, Dunbar, Andrews, Bunting and Jones - had also followed the 'hard line'. They had appealed to a militant white proletariat, as he to the African working class, with equally disappointing results. He did succeed in arousing a feeling of urgency. New forms of propaganda were adopted. Roux and Gomas pelted members of parliament with leaflets from the gallery of the House on 6 March, the 'international day of struggle against unemploy ment'. An unprecedented multi-racial demonstration on May Day in Johannesburg brought 2,ooo Africans and i,ooo whites on to the streets. Advancing from different points the two columns converged and shouting 'We want bread,' 'Work or Wages,' swept down on the Carlton Hotel. Police fastened the doors and beat off the attack. The demonstrators moved on to the Rand Club, where they clashed with the police in hand-to hand fights. Four whites and two Africans were arrested.'" Issy Diamond, a revolutionary barber and leader of unemployed whites, was sentenced to twelve months' hard labour, the longest sentence yet imposed on a white communist. The unusual display of inter-racial solidarity confirmed Wolton's belief that he had found the key to revolution. So slight a gain as the temporary coming together of four white unions with the AFTU reflected, he thought, 'the rapid radicalization of the workers'. Drawn together in common struggle, workers of all races would lead the peasants 'in the national revolution for a Native Republic towards a Workers' and Peasants' Government in defence of the Soviet Union'." Similar optimistic forecasts recurred in a stream of manifestos, directives and appeals from the party, the AFTU, Ikaka Labasebenzi, and the Unemployed Workers' Union. No amount of slogan shouting would stop the government's offensive. New curfew regulations required African women to carry night passes between io p.m. and 4 a.m. on the Rand and in other selected areas. Africans were being reduced to 445

Class and Colour in South Africa z850-1950

the level of a conquered people held down by an occupying army. The party appealed for country-wide strikes on i August against the 'vicious intensification of persecution'; but the people withheld their support. As A. Mopu, one of Durban's

communists, explained after serving a five months' sentence for

pass burning: 'I find the general idea of the Zulus in Durban is that it is no use joining the Party, as people are sent to jail.'

He told them that unless they suffered, went to jail and died in struggle they would never be free. 'They said: "We must have arms. It is no use being killed without weapons." I am being deported 1'12

The Durban demonstrators sweated out their sentences in prison road camps under warders who cursed and flogged on the slightest provocation. Communist prisoners were kept apart, short-rationed and thrashed when they complained. One died in jail of bronchial pneumonia after having been sjambokked and left for three days without medical care. Wolton exposed the conditions in Umsebenzi and was put on trial for ldse-majestd. His witnesses testified to having been flogged themselves, or to having seen others flogged, and he was sentenced to four months' imprisonment for defaming the warder in charge. How many men would run the risk of being beaten, half starved and locked up in stinking cells? Would the party lose its followers by calling for sacrifices greater than they were pre pared to make? The leaders took an optimistic view of the revolutionary potential and blamed setbacks on organizational defects or the slackness and heresies of members. There was a great improvement in political clarity, reported Solly Sachs at a central committee meeting in July, though the party still lagged behind the masses. It had made no headway in the basic indus tries of mining and agriculture; and the AFTU was not yet able to build a broad basis round the existing unions. Taking his cue from the eleventh plenum of the Communist International, Wolton attributed the party's weakness to the 'right danger which consists of opportunism, white chauvinism and passi vity '.13 These were ominous words that heralded a major purge. The axe had fallen in March on Sam Malkinson, the devoted and courageous party leader in Bloemfontein, one of Afrikaner-

Theory and Practice dom's main strongholds. He had turned the township into a 'storm centre' of the liberation movement and attracted hun dreds of recruits, including prominent members of the icu. Pirow had acknowledged his influence by banning him from public gatherings. Wolton, however, deciding that he was a 'Buntingite', dropped him from the central committee, much to the annoyance of the Bloemfontein branch. Roux, then faithfully carrying out the line, explained that Malkinson was theoretically unsound. The branch continued to protest, whereupon the political bureau expelled him 'for factional activities'. 14 The party in Bloemfontein never fully recovered from this self inflicted blow. Disciplinary action was next mooted against Andrews for having appeared on the platform of the Johannesburg United May Day Committee in opposition to the party's non-racial demonstration. At the request of the political bureau, he sub mitted a memorandum on his work as secretary of the Trades and Labour Council. The party, he pointed out, expected its members to seek office in trade unions with a view to promoting its revolutionary programme. This being so, his position as secretary was not inconsistent with the party's principles. He had done what he could 'to present a barrier against reactionary tendencies and racial antagonisms and to encourage and assist the militant elements'. Against much opposition, the TLC had adopted a constitution without a colour bar and accepted the affiliation of unions which included Coloured, Indian and African members. If it was not proper for a communist to be an official of the council, he must necessarily object to his own union affiliating to such a body. It would then fall into the hands of conservative leaders who rejected the party's entire policy.1 5 Andrews argued in effect that a communist was bound by the rules of trade union democracy. It was his duty to put forward a progressive, militant policy. He should neither be censured nor resign his office if the rank-and-file refused to follow him. The political bureau emphatically rejected these views. It issued a statement of 1,500 words in September 1931, announcing the expulsion of Andrews, Tyler, Sachs, Bunting, Fanny Klenerman (Mrs Glass) and Weinbren. Apart from Bunting, all were 447

Class and Colour in South Africa z850--950

prominent trade unionists. They were accused of having drifted away from the party into reformism and social democratic methods of work; of building 'a strong reactionary trade union apparatus, in full support of the class collaboration policy of the reformist Unions'; and of neglecting 'the red trade unions'. Bunting's case was different. He had erred by appealing for leniency when defending political prisoners in court; had attempted to secure Thibedi's reinstatement in the party; and had spoken on the same platform as members of the icu and ANC at the Bantu Club. 16

The specific charges were trivial or related to methods of work rather than disputes over policy. Inactive members could have been left to lapse without a fuss, as was the usual procedure. Wolton wanted to uncover a 'right wing danger' for reasons that appeared in the preamble. It predicted a 'new wave of struggles' against the 'Fascisation of the whole Bourgeois State apparatus'; deplored the failure of Communist parties everywhere to lead the masses; and alleged that the failure was giving rise to 'strong right wing tendencies within the parties of all countries'. So also in the South African party. Its 'right-wing elements' revealed themselves 'in unprincipled opportunistic acceptance of the line of the party in words, whilst rejecting it in deeds', in sabotage, passivity and in 'definite factional activities against the leadership'. Wolton might have believed that only drastic surgery would preserve international communism; and that South Africa should set an example. Sachs, who was then a member of the political bureau, complained that it had never even met to discuss the expulsions. The resolution, he said, 'emanates from two indivi duals who are in charge of the Press, and not from any respon sible party organ or committee!' 1 7 According to Roux, the ex pulsions were ordered by Wolton and Lazar Bach, a young communist from Latvia, who came to South Africa in 1929, joined the party in 1931, and was promoted to the political bureau within a few months. He, too, was a doctrinaire and insisted on a 'hard line' because it seemed to be consistent with the ci's current policy. The expelled members were not accused of being chauvinists




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Theory and Practice or of opposing the black republic policy. As the daily press quickly noted, they had offended by not being 'red' enough. Pirow said they were dangerous revolutionaries, whereas Wolton and Bach took their standard from industrialized countries with a racially hom*ogeneous population and a large, established working class. Like Kadalie, when he expelled communists from the icu and imported a constitution from Britain, Wolton

allowed himself to be guided by external influences with in sufficient regard for local conditions. He insisted that the party

should 'go it alone', without compromising entanglements or commitments to less radical organizations. His fervent faith in the revolutionary mood of African workers and peasants con vinced most party members that his drastic measures were justified. Durban's district party committee approved. The committee in Cape Town went one better by expelling its own 'right-wing elements': J. Pick, Mr and Mrs Plax, Wilfrid Harrison, J. Ray nard and S. Fridman. La Guma was the next to go, although he had been reinstated to full membership only three months previously, on confessing his error in having opposed Wolton during the parliamentary election of 1929. The notice of expul sion, which was signed by his close associate John Gomas, alleged that he failed 'to control revolutionary work in the Red Trade Unions' and that he questioned the party's capacity to provide independent leadership in the trade union movement. 8 He was, in effect, a victim of the 'go it alone' policy.1 La Guma and Gomas were then actively engaged in forming trade unions on a joint income of C4 los. a month. Both assisted a group of garment workers who came out on strike against a wage cut of ios. on a weekly wage of L3 los. or less. Bob Stuart, secretary of the local union, declared that the strike was un official, whereupon La Guma appealed for financial help to the garment workers' union in Johannesburg. Bach intervened, with the result that the party in Johannesburg instructed La Guma to 'pursue an independent line' and refuse aid from any 'non-party' union. He ignored the directive, and filed a coun ter-complaint against Bach who, he said, was 'tactless, bureau cratic and disruptive', the 'cause of past friction and potential 449 C - -



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Class and Colour in South Africa z85o-195o

prestige disruption', and 'a serious menace to the Party welfare,

the chief and progress'.19 Bach remained, while La Guma,

into the architect of the 'black republic' policy, was cast out 1935, when he political wilderness. There he remained until

the slogan: launched the National Liberation League under 'For Equality, Land and Freedom.' became Most of those expelled withdrew from politics or that he would absorbed in trade union work. Andrews declared creeds for the continue to organize workers of all races and TLC in 1932 dictatorship of the proletariat, resigned from the

Bunting alone and went to England for a serious operation. the leader fought hard for reinstatement. He did not hanker after 20 All he ship, he explained in a circular letter to members. emancipa wanted was to do his bit 'in the great war for African tion' and free himself from 'the persistent misrepresentation, for boycott and persecution' to which he had been subjected much real over a year. Because of the propaganda against him,

conducted'; party work had been 'scamped or most inefficiently have while 'party membership and general agitational activity

a small shrivelled almost to a skeleton'. He had been banned 'by

a hearing)'. dictatorship without giving any notice (much less

where Members, he appealed, should insist on a conference delegates could debate the issues and cancel the expulsion. to get No such conference was held. The harder Bunting tried a hearing, the more he was attacked by the political bureau, until 'Buntingism' became as notorious a label as 'Trotskyism' un in party circles. Roux has given a detailed account of the and former worthy methods used to discredit his old 2 friend 1 leader, and to hound him from public life. The story makes painful reading, the more so because Roux, who also sat on the bureau, actively participated in the persecution, even to the extent of informing against him on the merest hint of suspicion that he had joined with Thibedi in setting up an opposition Communist League, allegedly under Trotskyist influences. Bunting was a wolf in sheep's clothing, wrote J. B. Marks on this occasion; a man who had been expelled because of chauvin ism, anti-native and anti-party activities. To this Umsebenzi, then still edited by Roux, added that Bunting was a rich lawyer, 450 V__



Theory and Practice absentee landlord, and prominent son of a British peer who had fought firmly for imperialist domination.2 2 Roux objected to the abuse, and was consequently dropped from the political bureau, leaving it in the hands of Bach, Wolton and his wife Molly, who returned from the Lenin school in 1931. It was not until September 1935, during another round of expulsions, that Roux made his first public act of contrition and apologized for his share in the fratricidal feud. Eight years later, in his biography of Bunting, he gave reasons for his acquiescence: he agreed in the main with the Comintern's policy, did not completely share Bunting's outlook, and knew that he himself would be expelled if he protested. These are honest reasons, yet they do not justify Roux's attempt to shuffle off the ultimate responsibility on to Soviet Russia and the Comintern.2 3 No amount of pressure from these quarters, and no Comintern representative in South Africa, could have forced the leaders to expel any members against their will. Roux, Bach and the Woltons acted freely, believing that what they did was in the interests of the movement. Wolton has not explained his own attitude, although he wrote a book on South Africa which appeared in 1947, fourteen years after he had left the country. The book is negatively revealing. His description of the Communist party, its work and policies, takes up fifty lines. He makes no mention of his role in the party or of his wife's; indeed, never tells the reader that they lived in South Africa.24 He is warm in his praise of Albert Nzula, but does not record that he was a party leader, or that he died in Moscow of pneumonia in 1933. Similarly, when referring to Kotane, Mofutsanyana, Marks and Nkosi, he describes them as trade unionists and never as party members. No word is said about the expulsions in his book. Yet he had the backing of the ECCI, which approved the expulsions in a letter read by J. P. Sepeng, a stalwart from the Potchefstroom branch, to the central committee in December 1931.25 The 'Right opportunist chauvinist Bunting clique', according to the EccI, having opposed the 'whole line of the Comintern', had 'openly become chauvinist agents of Imperial ism, appealing to Pirow and Hertzog against the party'. The 451

Class and Colour in South Africa x85o-r950 accusation, which no one in South Africa could possibly credit, was as groundless as the ECCi's assumption of an imminent revolutionary upsurge. 'The framework of the slave regime is beginning to burst under the pressure of the masses, who are seeking in the cP their guide and leader.' The communists simply did not have the resources needed to carry out the ambitious programme suggested by the ECCI. It reproached them for failing to organize a peasants' revolt, strikes, and illegal cells in factories, mines, farms and reserves; for not having taken over the leadership of the national libera tion movement; for defects of organization, which lagged far behind their political influence. The weaknesses were an index of the people's political backwardness and could not be cured by purely internal party reforms. It might be correct to argue that every struggle for elementary rights and pressing needs 'must inevitably become a revolutionary struggle'. The EC, however, studiously ignored the state's monopoly of armed force, the inability to discover effective forms of resistance against a merciless repression, and the decline of militancy in mass organizations. Sol Plaatje told the Cape Native Voters Association at Aliwal

North that 1931 had been a barren year for the ANC, and

Selope Thema agreed. 'Since 19 12 and during my nineteen years of service in the cause of Bantu freedom, I have never witnessed such inactivity and apathy on the part of our leaders as now.' He would not have them make a revolutionary demonstration on the lines of the Communist party, but the least they should do was to make the whites realize that Africans also formed part of the country's national life. The leaders, he complained, had no patriotism or pride of race. Divided by petty jealousies, they refused to sacrifice personal ambition for the greater ambition 26 of their people. Communists traced the ANC's futility to its policy of avoiding mass struggle. The decision to conduct an anti-pass campaign in 1934 meant only 'this year, next year, sometime, never'. The party called for resistance to the Native Service Contract Act of 1932. It was an abominable measure that legalized the whipping of African lads under eighteen for offences against the master 452

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Theory and Practice and servant laws, authorized African guardians to bind minor children to labour, and aimed at turning share croppers into labour tenants, working from ninety to x8o days a year for the farmer on the days of his choice. Churches protested, whereas the ANC's special conference in January 1933 merely objected to not having been consulted. Seme told Congress in the following April to pray that Hertzog woul