The new unionism: Industrialisation and industrial unions in South Africa, 1925-1930

Lewis, Jack
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Hitherto, and since its inception in the 1880's, the labour movement in South Africa had been dominated by craft unions, with the exception of the Mine. Workers' Union, which increasingly drew its membership from semi-skilled and unskilled whites. These unions, with their activities centred, upon the mines, had waged an intermittent and sometimes violent struggle against the mine owners over job reservation, which culminated in the Rand Revolt of 1922. The suppression of the strike by the Smuts government' dealt a shattering blow to the MWU, from which it never really recovered. Trade Union membership in South Africa fell from 108,242 to 81,861 in the aftermath of the strike. The defeat also hastened the collapse of the central coordinating body, the South African Industrial Federation, which was already reeling under the increasingly authoritarian direction of its General Secretary, Archie Crawford. On the railways, members of the AEU who had struck were victimized. The general effect of the failure of the 1922 strike was to make the unions very wary of strike action.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented February 1977
Labor and laboring classes. South Africa. History, Labor unions. South Africa. History