anclondon at gn.apc.org
Tue Apr 11 21:31:00 MDT 1995
>>>>>>>>>> From: Justin Schwartz
<jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
I would have hoped that someone else would bite on a discussion
of affirmative action in this context. Do we want to talk about
the determination of consciousness by social being? Here's a
concrete case. Do we want to discuss interests and overlapping
group membership? No better case could present itself. And this
one matters in terms of concrete politics. As Scott says, it is
even possible we could win this one. So let's hear it, eh?
rom: Scott Marshall <Scott at rednet.org
But more fundementally if you can show the white worker that
racism and prejudice "thus increase 'capitalist' domination over
himeslf" then you are getting at his broader class self
I would like to give a quick rundown of how racism came to South
It was originally populated by black people. The whites came in
1632. They stole the cattle and established a settlement. As
they say 9 months later the first coloured people arrived. There
was no real racism as such. There followed a number of wars of
expansion by the white colonists. In many of these wars the
white "tribe" made alliances with the black tribes. There is
also the story of how some whites got shipwrecked of the coast
and integrated with the local Xosa people.
There were not enough whites to eliminate the blacks or to even
try. Unlike the USA.
Later trade unions were formed. These were mostly of skilled
trades such as printing. There were no black trades unions as
such. The black workers were mostly migrant and had ties to the
Later the real industrialisation started with the discovery of
diamonds and later gold. The miners who came were mostly from
Australia. They were not organised workers but rather
prospectors and freelance. They had brought their racism with
them from Australia where they had come up against the
The trade unions quickly developed racial characteristics. The
mine owners wanted cheap labour and wanted to employ blacks in
skilled jobs. The white workers went on strike against black
advancement. Or rather as it was put by their leaders a
civilised wage for a civilised man. Or no replacement by cheap
labour. On a number of accessions the black workers went on
strike and they called on the white workers to help them, always
in vain. When the whites went on strike they refused to ask or
have the assistance of the black workers.
The socialists of the time sought in vain to bring the two
groups of workers together.
After the 1922 white miners strike there was elections and the
labour party and the white nationalists won at the elections and
racial separation in the workplace was institutionalised. Of
course the British who won the Boer war against the white
nationalists had already agreed to a South African independence
constitution which gave the whites the vote but not the blacks.
The ANC had been formed in 1912. It was preceded by the African
Peoples Organisation. So South Africa was on the path to a
racially divided society.
****************** Well I put this history before you because it
would be difficult to disentangle which came first racism within
the working class or racism fostered by the capitalist class in
order to divide.
****************** The egg or the chicken.
Well to go on with the history. A battle ensued for and against
racism in the trade unions and in the political movements. The
Communist Party ( Although in the early days there was a strong
white membership and leadership) quickly became a black lead
organisation but non racist. White and black from an early stage
were welcome and equal. ( Remember however they were human and
there were problems) The ANC was a black organisation with no
white membership. But to its credit it was never a racist
organisation. In fact it worked even in the early days with the
SACP and as you know at the Kabwe conference opened the
membership to all races.
People like Bram Fisher, Dr Dadoo, and many others were prime
examples of whites and Indians who fought for democracy. These
lessons were not lost on the ANC or the people they represented.
Still racism grew in state circles. Interestingly enough within
the trade unions the government had to bring in legislation to
reinforce the ever present racism.
In the Textile Workers Union in the middle 1950's we had white
workers from Italy who joined the union when they were brought
out to start a knitwear factory. A year later they had organised
the African workers. Two years later they started their own
branch. When the Government brought in legislation against mixed
executives, ie not African-white but (coloured, Indian)-white
they left the union. Ie racism slowly took hold.
But circumstances sometimes alter cases. In the late 1980's (
the race separation in the unions had been repealed under
international and local pressure) there were a number of
instances where white engineering workers left the all white
union and joined the non racial union "Because they fought for
their members unlike the white unions"
Today there is no racist legislation but there are still all
white trade unions. I however know of no all black trade unions.
It is a long struggle, over 300 years and we are not quite there
Now about what you in the USA call AA.
************* We are wrestling with this now. We feel that it is
not discrimination in reverse. We feel that after 300 years the
their has been caught. It is not enough to pardon him on the
basis of confessing his crimes and saying he will not do it
again. The victim must at least have recompense. We are not even
saying that the criminals must return their loot. ( Although
some say they should) but those discriminated against must at a
minimum be given a leg up the ladder.
We are getting stiff resistance. Not necessarily from the white
workers. Some liberals resist, some capitalists. It is mixed.
Now the USA is different, the relative numbers are different,
but there are parallels.
And what of the future when the third world comes knocking more
loudly on the door. After all the rubbish America throws away
each day could keep the third world fed clothed and educated for
weeks. Gatt, passport controls, and boarder police are but a
symptom of the problem of race discrimination on a world scale.
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