From Tram Shed to Assembly Hall: Solomon Plaatje, De Beers, and the Lyndhurst Road Native Institute in Kimberley, 1918-1919

Willan, Brian
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Little scholarly attention has been devoted to an analysis of the historical evolution of class differentiation amongst Africans in twentieth century South Africa, or to the ideological forms that accompanied this. Such work as has been done in related fields has been concerned not so much to investigate such connections as to trace the "rise of nationalism", a term that in fact provides the title for Peter Walshe's history of the African National Congress, in itself indicative of the extent to which it forms part of that genre of writing inspired by Africa's "independence decade", many of whose assumptions it shares (2). In Walshe's book, the extent to which "nationalism" expressed fundamentally class-based aspirations and attitudes has been obscured. More direct expressions of class interest (which did not necessarily assume a "nationalist" guise) have been neglected; and African political though: and action is - as a consequence of an uncritical acceptance of the stated aims of organizations like the ANC - characterized as "unrealistic", "naive", "inappropriate" and, in terms of these stated aims, as having "failed". The ideological element - taking ideology as constituting a set of beliefs and ideas that serve to explain or rationalize the interests of particular groups or classes as the general interest - is largely absent from the analysis.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented November 1977
Plaatje, Solomon Tshekisho, 1876-1932, De Beers Consolidated Mines