Stay-aways and the black working class since the second World War : The evaluation of a strategy

Webster, E.C.
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There is a widespread belief, among some who hope for change in South Africa, that if only all Blacks withdrew their labour, the whole structure of South Africa would collapse. It is a subject which has received little academic attention. It is my intention in this paper to examine this notion in three parts.. In Part I a brief history of stay-aways between 1950 and 1961 will be given. In Part II its reemergence in Soweto will be examined. In Part III the limitations of the stay-away as a tactic of working-class action will be discussed and contrasted with the more wide-spread plantbased action of the 1970s. (This is not meant to imply that limitations do not exist in plant-based action.) The Namibian general strike of 1971-2 is excluded from this analysis as its relative degree of "success" demonstrates the uniqueness of that situation - viz. the existence of a reasonably self-sufficient rural base to which striking workers could withdraw. Yet even in Namibia workers could ultimately, says Moorsom, not escape the major contradiction in their strategy "that although access to peasant resources considerably expanded their power to prolong resistance, they could no longer, as a matter of inescapable necessity, opt out of wage-labour indefinitely - the platform of the strike committee embodied a tacit acknowledgement of the irrevocable necessity of wage-labour."
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented April 1979
Stay-away. South Africa, Working class. South Africa