Ideology in organized Indian politics, 1880-1948
This paper is an attempt to place in perspective the ideologies which have helped shape South African Indian politics. The history of organized Indian politics from the 1880s to the 1940s is mainly the history of trader politics - an almost unbroken line of accommodation to the demands of the ruling white minority; or, at most, selective reformism. This line has twice been breached though. Between 1907 and 1913, and again in the 1940s, a radical leadership emerged in the Transvaal and Natal which attempted to transform Indian politics. The process of transformation began at the level of ideology. Thus the two periods of radicalism are useful focal points: they demand an examination of not only the new ideologies, but also the old. No attempt is made here to discuss the course of the passive resistance movements which were the end result of Indian radicalism, except insofar as is necessary to explore some of the issues which this paper has sought to address: the articulation of trader and radical ideologies; the potential of radical ideologies to forge cross-class or, indeed crossrace alliances; the extent to which that potential was realized, and the role of the Indian lower middle classes in that realization. The paper begins, however, with a discussion of Indian social stratification at the turn of the century, and in the 1940s. This is meant, first of all, to provide the background to an understanding of the nature of the essentially conservative, entrenched political parties which the radicals attempted to transform. The discussion also illuminates the conditions under which radicalism emerged. Finally it sketches the social and economic conditions of the mass of the Indian people in order to identify their specific interests. The varying extent to which, and the way in which, those interests were represented by Indian politics at different times is in itself a significant commentary on changes in the content of their ideological underpinning.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented 28 March 1983
East Indians. South Africa, South Africa. Politics and government