Race and class in the National Union of Distributive Workers: The breakable thread of non-racialism: 1937-53

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dc.contributor.author Desai, R.
dc.date.accessioned 2010-09-14T11:01:00Z
dc.date.available 2010-09-14T11:01:00Z
dc.date.issued 1997-05-05
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/8669
dc.description African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented 5 May,1997 en_US
dc.description.abstract As David Roediger perceptively argues, a highly poetic politics-as captured in the above quote- is what is required in a situation where workers who identify themselves as white are bound to retreat from genuine class unity and anti-racism. The development of non-racial trade unionism has had a long, complex and indeed contradictory history, to which scant attention has been paid. This is no better illustrated than in the history of trade unionism in the retail sector where the National Union of Distributive Workers under CPSA control and the Trotskyist influenced African Commercial and Distributive Workers Union were in operation. In this light the organisational and political relationships between the NUDW and organised black workers in and outside its own ranks are investigated. Organisational and later legal considerations demand separate treatment of African and non-African black workers, as with the exception of Cape Town (where it had a largely African B branch), the union co-operated with independent African unions (namely in Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria). The unions' other B branches were either composed of South African Indians or 'coloureds'. The chapter begins with an examination of the factors that conditioned the NUDW's attitude to race, which demands some attention to the theory that implicitly guided the union. It is followed by an outline of the policy, evolution and history of the 'B' branches, which illustrate the subsidiary character of these branches to the union, the most important of which was the largely African branch in Cape Town. Some tentative conclusions are advanced as to what motivated the parental style relationship between the 'A' and 'B' branches, which are arrived at on the basis of suggestive rather than completely substantive evidence. The notion that African workers in this sector were not as open to class orientated organisation is challenged. The chapter then moves on to discuss the nature of the African workforce on the basis of Hellmen's study of African commercial labour force in a large store, which in the case of the major cities I have assumed to be relatively representative of the country. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseries Institute for Advanced Social Research;ISS 121
dc.title Race and class in the National Union of Distributive Workers: The breakable thread of non-racialism: 1937-53 en_US
dc.type Working Paper en_US

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