The Germiston by-election of 1932: the state and the white working class during the Depression

Lewis, Jon
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The Germiston by-election of 1932 was significant in itself. At the time it attracted detailed national coverage. It was marked by an intensity of campaigning which often erupted in violence, but also ensured a very high turnout at the poll. Five government ministers and several opposition spokesmen visited the constituency to speak in support of their respective candidates. Moreover there was no shortage of candidates. Five parties stood in the election, and a further four candidates, including one black, proposed to stand at some time or other during the election period. The election was influenced by specifically local factors: particularly by a bitter strike in the clothing industry. "However, the by-election was of truly national significance. Not only did the outcome of the election represent a crushing defeat for the Nationalist/Pact Government of the time, and thus rendered Hertzog more amenable to the idea of coalition. More than this, the by-election raised more general questions about the whole relationship between the 'power bloc1 and the 'white working class', and highlighted very clearly the impact of the Depression on certain sections of white workers.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented August 1977
Working class whites. South Africa, South Africa. History. 1909-1961