Chapter 14

Unity on the Right

The 'kaffir' share market boomed after the strike. Discoveries of new goldfields were announced. The industry, said to have been on the verge of bankruptcy a few months earlier, attracted large amounts of capital. The total dividends paid by the gold mines rose to the record figure of 9,558,000 in 1924. Gold prices continued to fall, and reached the 'danger' point of 85s. an ounce when Britain returned to the gold standard in 1925. Working costs had then fallen by twenty-four per cent, and the wholesale price index by twenty per cent, since 1921, Stores and equipment were cheaper, but the mines effected their biggest economies by substituting the jackhammer drill for the hand drill, and by reorganizing working methods at the expense of African and white employees. The owners exploited their victory by introducing the wage cuts and retrenchrnents that the men had fought to prevent.

White miners lost their cost of living bonus, supervised a larger number of Africans, and took on a bigger load of responsibility after the strike. The mines employed eight Africans to every white worker in 1918-21 and nearly ten to one in 1923-6. An additional 4,000 white men would have found work on the mines if the old ratio had been maintained. A revision of underground work schedules enabled the management to extract more labour from Africans at the same rates of pay. White miners took over from men declared redundant the supervision of pipefitting, tracklaying, rough timbering and pack-building.1 Changes in the contract system reduced the white miner's average wage by 10s. to 32s. 6d. a shift. Average white incomes on the mines fell by twenty-six per cent, and total wage costs by twenty-four per cent between 1920 and 1923. 2 The strikers' defence committee claimed in its impassioned pre-election report that the owners had reduced wages without mercy' and abolished the colour bar. If Smuts won the election, warned the committee, at least 8,000 more whites would be thrown out of employment on the mines alone.3

Though the colour bar clauses were not in fact abolished, Justice Krause, who had drafted the mining regulations in 1910, held in November 1923 that they were invalid. The case before him arose out of the prosecution of a mine manager, HildickSmith, for employing an African stephen' to drive an electric locomotive. Krause pointed out that some of the colour bars were absolute and applied to machinery in all kinds of undertakings, including mills, potteries and brickfields. In 1910, as chairman of the Mining Regulations Commission, he had held the view that wherever the safety of life and limb is concerned only competent White persons should be employed'. In 1923, however, he refused to believe that parliament could ever have contemplated such unreasonable and even capricious and arbitrary' restraints on the right to employ competent coloured persons or on their right to be employed. The Mines and Works Act gave no authority to discriminate between racial groups; and the restrictions were repugnant to the common law. They deprived the native from enjoying the very fruits of his advancement.' Greater repugnance, said the court, could hardly be imagined.4

Krause's judgement confirmed what had been suspected for many years by mine owners and lawyers, and removed the 'unnecessary and artificial restrictions, of which the Chamber had complained during the strike. Qualified Africans and Coloured could now be legally employed in any capacity. Custom, white opinion and trade unions, however, as the Low Grade Mines Commission pointed out, were at least as powerful as any legal restraint. 5 Some 600 white workers lost their jobs through the scrapping of the status quo agreement'. 6 The anticipated substitution of Africans for white mechanics, engine drivers and miners did not take place. 7 As the communists had predicted, Africans gained nothing from the defeat of the strike, while the whites continued to be slaves to the Boss but Bosses to the Slaves'. 8 Skilled wages were depressed, commented Abdurahman, with out any increase in unskilled wages. It was time, he added, for Africans to organize and resort to passive resistance against 'the demands of the overseas vampires whose interest in our country is governed solely by the desire of big dividends. 9

The communists looked to the organization of the working class, including the Africans, for a solution. This was the plain lesson of the 1922 strike, explained Bunting, because Africans ' in increasing measure, are producing the boss's profits, enabling him in increasing measure to flout the white workers. 10 'Betrayed, starved and driven to desperation,' wrote Andrews in July 1922, 'those who are necessary to the boss class' had been 'hurled back to work under slave conditions.' The more active spirits, were thrown into the bastilles to rot and eat out their hearts during long terms of imprisonment'; while the remainder were callously and brutally thrown on the streets to starve'. 11 Loyalty to stricken comrades, hatred of Smuts, and a strategic aim dictated the party's priorities.

The Communist International had launched a campaign for a 'proletarian united front'. South African communists interpreted the slogan to mean the unity of white trade unions and opposition parties against the government. Andrews, Shaw and Dunbar appeared on platforms with Labour and Nationalist party leaders, or sat with them on committees to obtain legal defence for prisoners, a reprieve for men sentenced to death, and relief for the victimized. The united front, declared the party, was a defensive measure against unemployment and the persecution of strikers; but its ultimate aim was to replace Smuts with a people's government. 12

Smuts not only defended the interests of British imperialism, mine owners and Abdurahman's detested overseas vampires; he also articulated the spirit of a budding South African imperialism. While crushing the Rand revolt, he was engaged in attempts to extend the Union's boundaries to the Zambesi. A majority of Rhodesian settlers rejected his invitation to make their territory a fifth province and voted instead for responsible government in a British colony.

The colonial subjects of South West Africa were not given the same right to decide their national destiny. They had innocently believed that South Africa would restore the freedom and territory taken from them by the Germans. Their new rulers were only concerned to provide white settlers with land and labour. The Bondelswart section of the Nama revolted in May against the threatened deportation of their leader Abram Morris, a hero in the liberation war of 1906 against German colonial rule. Police and troops, aided by aeroplanes from Pretoria, bombed and machine-gunned them into submission. The indomitable Morris and more than sixty of his men died fighting. His world had taken on the cramped lineaments of slavery' under the rule of white men who knew no rights other than their own, wrote Freislich, the sympathetic narrator of this Nama epic. Morris could regain freedom only if he destroyed that world by his death. 13

An immediate cause of the rising was an increase in the dog tax from a flat rate of 7s. 6d. an animal to 4 10s. for four on a sliding scale. This was an iniquitous impost on hunters and stockbreeders who found dogs indispensable and earned at most 1 a month when working for a white farmer. It was a labour tax, suggested Abdurahman. No money had been set aside in the budget, he pointed out, for schools, agricultural development or industrial training for the Nama, though 65,000 had been voted for the education of white children belonging to the settler community of 10,000. He recalled his warning, given at the time of the Versailles peace settlement, that the native races of South West could not hope for justice under Afrikaner rule. Bloodshed marked the path of South Africa since Union, and all the Rand's riches or the revenue from a mere dog tax could not compensate for the loss of human life. German submarine atrocities were scarcely worse than the bombing of little men, one in four or five of whom was armed with a rifle. This was misgovernment, if not murder; and the least one could expect was that South Africa would be arraigned before the League of Nations. 14

No external agency could stop the spate of racialism that followed the Rand revolt. The communists were wrong in supposing that defeat would sharpen class consciousness, drive out national or racial antagonism, and imprint the moral of working class solidarity. The labour movement looked for allies not to African fellow workers but to Afrikaner landowners, poor whites and the petty bourgeoisie. British socialists had cooperated early in the century with Afrikaner nationalists to halt the introduction of Chinese and to defeat the Progressives, the party of British supremacy and the Chamber of Mines. Then it was Andrews, as president of the Labour Representative Committee, who had negotiated an agreement with Smuts, as leader of Het Volk. The plot was the same in 1922, though some of the actors had switched their roles. Now it was Smuts who spoke for the Chamber and the British interest; Hertzog, who represented Afrikaner nationalism and a white South Africa; Creswell, who led the labour aristocracy in the fight for colour bars.

The Nationalist and Labour parties entered into an electoral pact. It was born in the Fort, wrote J. W. Jarvis, 15 one of the strikers' leaders. The conception took. place on the bloodstained streets of Fordsburg, Boksburg and Benoni. smash Smuts must be the slogan, said Tielman Roos to Arthur Barlow, and they plotted with Sampson and Madeley to split the English vote by detaching the working man from the United-South African party jingoes. 16 Being anti-capitalist, Labour had more in common with the Nationalists than with the SAP, said Dr. Malan at the party congress in October 1922. When parliament met in the following January, Creswell seconded Hertzog's motion of no confidence in the government, and the debate strengthened their resolve to form a united front. They announced in April that their parties would work together so as to avoid splitting the anti-government vote. They agreed that the major obstacles to cooperation were the Englishman's fear of an Afrikaner republic and the Afrikaner's fear of a bolshevik seizure of property. 17 Republican and socialist principles would, therefore, be put in cold storage for the pact's duration.

Hertzog gave an assurance that if he took office, no member of his party would vote to break the ties with Britain. The Nationalists, he argued with sophistry, wanted independence', which was not the same as secession. Their programme, he pointed out, did not call for a republic; and they were bound by conference resolutions to consult the volk' at a general election or referendum before taking steps to secede. 18 Creswell made his contribution to the alliance at the Labour party's annual conference in January 1923. Never a lover of the socialist objective, he moved its deletion from the party programme so as to make it more palatable to Nationalist farmers and Afrikaner predikants. He met with unexpected opposition from Madeley and delegates from workers' constituencies in Natal and the Cape. 19 Although Creswell failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority for his motion, conference adopted a compromise amendment that postponed the socialist commonwealth to the distant future of an 'ultimate achievement'. The outcome of these manoeuvres, scoffed Henry Burton, the minister of finance, was that Labour promised not to steal the farmers' land for five years, while the Nationalists, in exchange, promised not to rob the British workman of his flag.20

Labour's turn to the right facilitated the penetration of the white working class by Afrikaner nationalism and speeded up the process that led to the party's extinction. Nationalists held their branch meetings on Labour party premises, while leaders of the two parties spoke from the same platform, as when Arthur Barlow and Colin Steyn stood hand in hand and heart to heart' in the hall of the railwaymen's union at Bloemfontein. 21 Hertzog took great pleasure, he said at Ceres, in having convinced the Labour man that the Nationalist was not a terrifying animal, but a person with whom he could work for the country's good. 22 As that conviction spread, Labour ceased to be the artisan's only spokesman.

The pact with Afrikaner nationalism alienated the British from Labour, the more so since it had lost much of its class appeal by watering down the socialist objective. On the other hand, Labour repelled Afrikaners by rejecting the ideal of a republic, and so was left only with the white supremacy drum. Creswell beat it with might and main. Labour's national aim, he told delegates in 1923 at Durban, was to strengthen the white race, stop the kaffir from turning whites out of industry, and 'ransom' Natal for whites by sending Asians back to their real homelands. 23 Year after year, he reminded parliament, Lahour had advocated the extension of white employment in the interests of South Africa. 24 The Nationalists made che same appeal, more powerfully and to greater effect in the Afrikaner's language and idiom.

Hertzog declared his civilized labour policy to the Assembly on 5 February 1924, when speaking to his motion on 'the problem of unemployment and increasing poverty. White men, he said, were fighting a losing battle against 'uncivilized labour , as on the goldfields, and 'must be prevented from sinking down to the level of the native'. Asians, no doubt, had a civilization; yet it was so alien that it could be equally disastrous to the whites. The right of whites to find work was 'the first and most important consideration', and also in the interests of Africans, who would 'be plunged back into the conditions of barbarism, if the whites left South Africa. It should be laid down as a fixed rule that the public service and the railways 'were spheres of employment for our civilized labour', both white and Coloured. Industries that required government licences or permission should also be required to employ the white man wherever possible. Only by raising fences between he races would the white man lose his fears 'and do the right thing by the native. 25

It was one of Hertzog's stock arguments that whites would be 'fair to Africans only after they had been disarmed and mastered by discriminatory laws. Yet, fixing his eyes on Afrikaner supremacy, he never allowed anything so quixotic as inter-racial justice to deflect him from his goal. The ' civilized labour, policy was adopted not to help the African, but to provide sheltered employment for unskilled whites. They carne from rural areas to the towns, competed with Coloured and Africans for pick and shovel work at 6s. or less a day, and violated white supremacy taboos by mixing with them in the meanest residential quarters. Afrikaners for the greater part, they were ignored by craft unions and the Labour party, and tagged on behind the Nationalists, who valued their votes. The urban poor white was nonetheless a potential recruit for a radical non-racial class movement. The Nationalists recognized the threat to white solidarity. Subsidized employlment on public works would isolate him from the dark-skinned labourers and give him a stake in the perpetuation of colour-class discrimination.

The ICUs third annual conference decided to launch a counter-campaign against the white workers, policy of ousting Africans from all branches of commerce and industry, particularly the railways. Tom Mann, then in South Africa at the invitation of the AEU, opened the conference at Cape Town in January 1923. By this time the ICU claimed eighteen branches, all situated in the Cape and South West Africa, and was at the threshhold of its most productive period. Delegates complained of the low wages and shocking conditions of farm workers, who were being paid 10s. a month; of the 4s. a day paid to railway workers; and of the dockers, wage, which was 4s. 6d. except at Cape Town, where it had been raised to 8s. after the strike of 1919. The conference resolved to demand a minimum wage of 10s. for all workers; to organize the African miners, farm and industrial workers in one big union; to conduct a struggle against passes and every other form of discrimination; and to press for representation on all governing bodies. 26

The ICU, according to its constitution, was 'a purely industrial organization aiming for the gradual introduction of political and industrial democracy. It was strictly non-political, assured the Workers' Herald, the union's official journal, in its first issue in April 1923; though the paper belied the claim by denouncing the Third International and all its works. This drew a rebuke from the communists. They also deplored the ICUs attack on the industrial colour bar, and its advice that Africans should undercut white workers. The 'White South Africa' slogan used in 1922, explained the communists, was misleading; it meant only that the Chamber of Mines should not drive whites out of jobs by giving them to others at lower rates of pay. 27

The ICU returned to the charge at its fourth annual conference in January 1924 at East London, on the motion of James La Guma and professor J. S. Thaele. The white labour policy, it declared, injured any reasonable prospect of inter-racial working-class solidarity, violated the principles of trade unionism, and delayed the consummation of labour rule. Conference looked forward to the day when the white unions would open their doors to all workers, under an enlightened policy on the basis of which may be expected friendly cooperation and ultimate fusion of all labour forces into one big union'. 28

Leading members of the miners, union came to a similar conclusion after considering the effects of the judgement in the Hildick-Smith case. The propaganda committee pointed out in a leaflet to members that they had to choose between fighting on their own or in unison with the African miners. A general meeting of white miners held at Johannesburg in September 1923 to discuss retrenchments and the abolition of the status quo, felt that the executive should undertake to organize separate branches for Africans, and make the necessary changes in the union's constitution. This was the 'peep of dawn', claimed the communists; economic facts had forced the men to realize the necessity for inter-racial solidarity. It had always been advocated by the party, on liberal and humanitarian grounds as well as in the interests of the whites. The SAMWU bid fair to prove the most militant of all, and promised the workers' revolution. Africans would no longer be tabooed as helots, and whites would lose their bourgeois leanings in an all-South Africa labour movement. 29

The discussion marked the sunset and not the dawn of hopes for an open miners union. The capitalist press attacked the proposal as 'the white miners' death-knell'. 'If they want to avoid uncivilized outbreaks,' retorted the communists, ' they must not impede industrial organization, but rather welcome it in the interests of their own skins. 30 The SAMWUs executive took fright, and dissociated itself entirely from the suggested organization of Africans. White miners had always opposed the formation of unions among Africans, declared the Mine Worker in its first issue in November 1923; it reminded its readers that the union's delegates had refused to sit at the Durban trade union conference in 1918 if even one Coloured delegate attended. Contrary to the communists, prediction, the miners had no intention of either fighting their battles alone or alongside the African. They took the third course of supporting the Nationalist-Labour alliance, with the expectation that it would restore the statutory colour bar on the mines.

In the face of all the evidence, the communists insisted that white workers were learning the lessons of solidarity, 'however slowly and reluctantly' and would yet discover the need of common action to establish working-class control. Unemployment was bringing the clash between white and black closer. White workers naturally blamed the African for undercutting, but he was not a willing scab. There was a world-wide tendency for cheap Coloured labour to eliminate the white worker. He could resist it only by overthrowing capitalism with the aid of the subject races. The Labour party, said the communists, offered no solution other than job reservation, segregation and 'separate development'. This was symptomatic of the opportunism and reactionary trends that had developed in the party since it lost trade union backing and turned its back on the socialist objective. Labour leaders no longer spoke of class struggle, capitalist exploitation or socialism, which were the very stuff and substance of the movement. Their policy offered Africans less than did Jannie Smuts, yet failed to stop the decline in white living standards. 31

The premises of this analysis amounted to a thorough rejection of Creswell's chauvinism and Labour's electoral pragmatism. Yet the Communist party's second congress, meeting in April 1923, decided by a two to one majority to apply for affiliation to the Labour party. The minority objected that a united front without Africans, Coloured and Indians would compromise the party's principles. This was not so, the platform argued. The united front was an old and well-tried tactic which enabled the party to overcome the difficulty of getting the approval, or even toleration, of the white labour aristocracy for joint action with Africans. The white worker would soon be forced in self-defence to agitate, educate and organize them. Did not the Labour party conference in January include Coloured delegates from the Cape? 32 Only the communists could link white and black workers in a true unity; and to succeed in their mission they had to gain the white worker's confidence. 33

The party had by this time lost most of the trade unionists who once formed the core of the ISL. Its exploits in the Rand revolt brought in few replacements. All the leaders, if not all the members, were whites. 34 They wanted to regain lost ground and obtain a share in the spoils of the anticipated victory over Smuts. Watching events from Moscow, Jones gave this as a reason for the united front. He told Bunting, attending the fourth congress of the Comintern in November 1922, that some contraction might be worth while 'in order to secure a working-class basis'. Jones also influenced Andrews, who sat on the Comintern's executive committee during the second half of 1923. In his last letter to Andrews, written from the tuberculosis sanatorium at Yalta on 13 April 1924, shortly before he died, Jones remarked: 'We have lost the Trade unionists'; and he added, 'Our trouble is isolation ... The point is how to get a foot in again. Now it will be very hard. There may be a chance during the elections to put you up as UF candidate with the LP somewhere. The CP would be justified in a little maneuvering to get this. The CP as an affiliated section, with members in SALP branches, would be the thing of course.' 35 These were tactical objectives within the frarnework of Jones's general strategy, which he began to work out soon after the revolt.

He argued that the struggle in South Africa, unlike the class conflict of Europe, took the form of a 'colonial national movement of liberation'. The appropriate standards to apply were set out in the Theses on the National and Colonial Question. These called for the formation of a bloc by all anti-imperialist forces. Even the reformist Labour party could not avoid being drawn into periodical revolutionary outbursts provoked by capitalist imperialism. Lopes and other alleged 'ultra-leftists' in Cape Town objected that the united front would make them 'bedfellows, of Creswell and his fellow opportunists. This was not so, replied Jones. The object was not to unite with them, but 'to get at the masses, who still followed the reformist leaders. By forcing them to accept or reject proposals for struggle, the communists would expose their true character and emerge with an increased following. 36

This was the Comintern's approved policy. Communists everywhere hoped to recruit new members through the technique of the united front. The significant question for South African communists was different. They had to decide whether Afrikaner nationalism belonged to the anti-imperialist bloc, and whether a 'national liberation movement' could include supremacy parties. Jones ignored the existence of an imperium in imperio: a South African imperialism that kept Africans in a condition of colonial servitude while it cooperated with or opposed British imperialism. He noted that the united front was developing into a pact between Labour and Afrikaner nationalism to the exclusion of the communists. This proved, he said, either that there was no need of a CP in South Africa or that it had incorrectly applied the tactic of the united front. The Nationalist-Labour pact was an anti-imperialist union, which should follow, and not precede, true working-class unity.

Only the CP could accomplish working-class unity, Jones argued, by becoming the link between white and black workers. To do this, it must gain the confidence of the white worker. That, indeed, was the whole problem. The communists had thought that the withdrawal of trade union backing from the Labour party would enable them to break what remained. Instead, white workers remained loyal to its past record and its ties with British labour. We cannot liquidate the Labour Party,' he concluded, ' because the people think it is the trade union party. Trade union control should now be restored under the slogan 'Trade unions back into the Labour Party.' This would enable the communists to cooperate in the daily struggle of the masses.

Having set out his conception of the proper relationship between communists and the Labour party, Jones turned his attention to the problem of bridging the gulf between white workers and Africans. We have somewhat neutralized our sound position on the native question in the past, he argued, 'by our horror of partial demands.' He meant that the CP should modify its unqualified rejection of colour discrimination and look for 'planks of common interest' for both sections of the working class. The Labour party's old demand for the abolition of indentured labour, he suggested, was an excellent plank for the whole gamut of the united front from Jim Sixpence to Creswell.37

Jones should have recognized the absurdity of his basic postulates. It was unthinkable that the Labour or Nationalist party would ever take part in a movement to liberate the African. The idea of an anti-imperialist front between the two parties and African nationalism was a romantic delusion. So was the notion of a united front between them on a limited platform. Creswell's repeated condemnation of indentured labour' was a shabby subterfuge. It barely masked his refusal to condone any relaxation of the colour bar. Africans working in factories and on farms were not indentured', yet he never suggested that they should have the same status and opportunities as whites. One can only suppose that Jones's judgement was warped by his absence from South Africa, the hectic political atmosphere of the Comintern, and his own long illness, then in its final stage. The Rand revolt had raised his hopes of a revolution. He passionately longed for its realization before he died. 'This is the revolution now here,' he exulted in October 1922, Those who were with the masses in daily struggle would lead the revolution. 38

He wrote his last recorded message to South Africa when confined to bed with fierce pains in hips and legs, unable to walk or to sleep without morphia. As his vitality ebbed, so did his confidence in the movement that had been all his life in South Africa. 'As a cold matter of fact,' he told Andrews, there is no room for a CP in white South Africa except as the watchdog of the native, as the promoter of rapprochement, watching, within the broader organizations, for every opportunity to switch the white movement on right lines on this question and scotching every conspiracy to rouse race hatred and strike breaking of race against race.' He referred to the tremendous sacrifices, the wanderings in the wilderness of the last nine years'; and hoped that Bunting with all his wonderful devotion and self-sacrifice of the last nine years, will not feel that his labours have been in vain'. We stand for Bolshevism,' he proudly affirmed, 'and in all minds Bolshevism stands for the native worker. Now we can safely review tactics, if necessary even dissolve temporarily except for a nucleus for the paper, in order to give comrades like Bunting a breathing space.' This should be used to gain admission through the trade unions to the Labour party and 'even into the electoral machine. It would be a great asset to have the govt. pay our organizing and travelling expenses.' 39

Jones loathed racialism, of that there can be no doubt; but he never clearly understood the interactions between racial, national and class antagonisms. It was a gross miscalculation of his to assign to communists the role of Big Brother and 'protector of Africans in a white supremacy party. He underestimated their revolutionary potential as much as he overestimated the white worker's. Blinkered by an unconscious white chauvinism, he visualized the dissolution of the Communist party and not an alliance between it and African nationalism in a genuine liberation movement. His chief error was to imagine that the road to working class power lay through the Labour party. His views carried great weight among the communists, and were largely responsible for their decision to apply for affiliation to the Labour party and to support its alliance with the Nationalists.

Every section of the movement supported the pact, except in the western Cape. Here Communist and Labour party members, competing against Abdurahman's APO for the backing of Coloured voters, hesitated to identify themselves with Hertzog's racialists. Bunting cracked the whip of party discipline. The Comintern's line of taking up 'partial demands, in a united front, he said, was a new method of propaganda and a way of 'penetrating' the masses. 40 Lopes, yielding to the pressure, swung characteristically to the opposite extreme. 'It is now definitely accepted,' he wrote in September 1923, 'that an immediate task before the CP is to assist the Nationalist and Labour parties to political power. Their function, he explained, was to educate the workers through disillusionment, and to obstruct Smuts's imperialist designs. Communists should therefore 'support the Nationalist Party in their political activity and propaganda, even to the extent of joining that party'. 41

Lopes never lived down his excess of zeal. Even Labour men in Cape Town objected that the pact was a dishonourable compromise between parties having nothing in common besides a personal hatred of Smuts and an ambition for office and place. Bunting chided the 'infantile sickness' of the 'Cape Labour Die-Hards'. Echoing Jones, he claimed that the pact was 'a tactic aiming at the overthrow of the orthodox colonial imperialist governrment', and a powerful aid, in the hands of a 'left' Labour party, to the social revolution. 42 The communists tried to present the pact in a Marxist frame by suggesting that it was an alliance between industrial and agricultural workers. 43 Even the most loyal member must have doubted, however, whether Hertzog's farmers really represented the toiling masses on their farms. The party adopted cruder slogans in the hurly-burly of election campaigns. Members were told that they would accomplish a first-class revolutionary task by delivering a blow at Smuts's prestige. Workers, at the sacrifice of all else, BEAT SMUTS,' they cried. Down with Smuts and his gang, and clear the way for the Workers Government. 44

All reactions were predictable. The government and its press launched a vicious attack on the communists, accused them of having engineered the Rand revolt, and tied the bolshevik tag on the Labour party, which beat a hasty retreat, withdrew from all united action with the communists, and turned down their request for affiliation. Archie Jamieson, the LP's general secretary, wrote that Labour's aims conflicted wholly with those of the communists. The CP, he argued, was affiliated to the Third International, wished to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat by violent revolution, and unremittingly expressed a fundamental hostility to his party. Labour's constitution, he pointed out, did not allow the affiliation. The communists retorted that the differences between the parties were marginal, and not inherently contradictory. They would disappear if fully argued. The real difficulty was the colour problem'. Stripped of its 'irrelevant racial matter', the problem would be seen as one of uniting dear and cheap labour in a common fight. It was disgraceful of the Labour party to oppose a united front with communists while forming one with Afrikaner Nationalists. 45

The rebuff did not turn the communists aside from an alliance in which they had no part or any trace of influence. Indeed, it was, they admitted, a new experience to vote for Nationalists or even Labour men with whom they had in common only a determination to end the blood-rule of imperialist Smuts. But it was the duty of all opposition groups, regardless of differences in aim, to defeat the government candidate, irrespective of his antagonist's merits. This was necessary for the sake of the proletarian revolution. 46 It was wrong of Hertzog to threaten the African's vote, or of Tielman Roos to advocate racial segregation, and above all, of the Labour party to exclude Africans from the movement. Without them it would remain a bastard, movement, impotent, false to its own principles, a tool of capitalist imperialism, and indistinguishable from Smuts and Kenya's white settlers. 47 There could hardly be a more severe indictment of the pact. Yet the party freely promised to assist, or at least not oppose, the pact's candidates, and so threw away its only prospect of influencing Labour's policies.

The better course would have been to reject al] white supremacy parties and to concentrate on the long-range aim of building a third force in alliance with the national liberation movements. Conditions were then more favourable than ever before to a radical united front. The new alignments of the white political parties reflected a general state of flux which affected the whole population. Africans were also rethinking their position under the pressure of new discriminatory laws. The African National Congress was at last losing its faith in British imperialism. Meeting at Bloemfontein in May 1923, it denounced the Natives (Urban Areas) Act as a measure that reduced Africans to perpetual serfdom; demanded equal rights with other races; and appointed a deputation to put its views to Smuts. The congress met again in July to hear that Smuts had refused to modify his policy of compulsory segregation, influx controls, and the registration of labour contracts in the towns. Congress then passed a motion of no confidence in his administration and resolved to consider giving its support to a republican form of government. For Britain had consistently refused to honour its pledges to the African people, and pleaded that it had no constitutional right to intervene on their behalf in the internal affairs of a self-governing dominion. 48

Even the APO was turning against Smuts. Squeezed between the entrenched white artisan and African labourers from the eastern Cape, the Coloured in the western districts benefited less than other groups from the growth of industry. The government failed to provide enough schools for Coloured children, discriminated against Coloured passengers and workers on the railways, enforced a strict colour bar in the public services, and neglected the Coloured unemployed. Signs of discontent became obvious in October 1922, when the Wynberg branch of the APO supported the Nationalist party candidate in a provincial council by-election. Abdurahman, deploring the decision, acknowledged that 'there was perhaps no other alternative, except run a Coloured candidate, or abstain altogether from voting'. The APO, he warned, would have to review its policy at the next general election unless Smuts made an earnest attempt to redress the people's many grievances. 49

The constitution barred the Coloured from standing for parliament. They could only abstain or vote for a white candidate. A mass boycott of the polls might have been an effective tactical weapon, but it was never seriously considered by Abdurahman. Its immediate effect would have been to the advantage of the Nationalist-Labour combine, and that, he argued, was immeasurably worse than the Smuts regime. If ever there has been an unholy alliance of political parties,' he declared, 'it is the cooperation of Nationalists and Labourites.' They had nothing in common except an intense hatred of Smuts and a determination to segregate Africans completely.

Creswell had devoted his whole political life to ousting-the black from the mines. Hertzog's party, on the other hand, wanted cheap and servile Africans on the farms. 50 Abdurahman was wrong in supposing that these demands were in conflict, or that Hertzog and Creswell were poles apart on economic issues. On the contrary, the exclusion of Africans from industry dovetailed with the farmers' insatiable demand for labour. This compatibility formed the economic basis of the partnership between white landowners and the labour aristocracy. Abdurahman was right in holding that the subject races would be the only losers under a Nationalist-Labour government. Let us pray,' he urged, that such a catastrophe may be averted.

The communists shut the door on the APO by acting as the left wing of the white labour movement - the greatest enemy of the Coloured, said Abdurahman, in the industrial world. In addition to having led the Rand revolt, communists supported the Nationalist-Labour pact, and repeatedly opposed him in elections. When he defended his provincial council seat in November 1923, his opponents were Wilfrid Harrison, the CP candidate, and two Coloured: C. C. Petersen, the Labour party's nominee, and P. Hendry of the Inter-Racial League, an organisation sponsored by Coloured trade unionists in opposition to the APO. Abdurahman polled nearly twice as many votes as his three rivals, two of whom, Hendry and Harrison, lost their deposits. His victory would have been far less certain if the South African party had also entered the field. It supported him instead and so retained his allegiance.

It was very backward' of the working class of Hanover Street, the communists complained, blindly to support Abdurahman, largely on colour grounds, in spite of his close association with the SAP: and it was backward, of Abdurahman to use working class support in the SAPs interests. 51 The APO hit back. It vilified the Soviet Union, abused bolshevik communism', and urged the government to immunize Africans against the menace by redressing their grievances and suppressing agitators like Bunting. 52 Abdurahman's presidential address of April 1923 rejected the communists' appeal for working-class solidarity. Alas, he said, the greatest exploiters of Coloured labour on the Rand are the white workers, and their solidarity has resulted in our being kept down at unskilled work. A position which we should not tolerate much longer. 53

His address included the perennial survey of injustices to the coloured races since Van Riebeeck's landing at the Cape. He called the post-war settlement and the Act of Union their great betrayal, which had reduced them to political helotage'. They would be cowards, deserving the treatment meted out to 'caitiffs and miscreants and industrial serfs' if they were to tolerate political bondage any longer. The one unerring method to secure redress of grievances ' still open to them was industrial warfare. If organized, they could bring the country to a panic in twenty-four hours' by ceasing work on farms, and mines, in factories and the white man's home. He hoped that unconstitutional methods would not be found necessary; and warned Europeans in all Africa of the insensate folly' of repressing the African. If they persisted in this, they would 'awaken the nationality of Colour, under the banner of freedom and independence. Egypt had struck the first note. She would soon carry the flag of liberty throughout the whole of Africa. The cry of 'Africa for Africans' would then arise. 'Then, just as the past witnessed a great scramble by Europeans for land in Africa, so the future will see a great white scuttle out of Africa.' 54

Abdurahman's words were prophetic, and gave no immediate guide to action. His audience represented at most the Coloured population of 546,000 or 79 per cent of all South Africans. Though the largest ethnic group in the western Cape, the Coloured formed small minorities in the northern provinces, and could not on their own bring the country to a standstill. To be a third force, independent of the white political parties and in opposition to them, the Coloured would have to come to terms with the 4,700,000 Africans, who were poorly organized for industrial action. The ICU had not won a single wage increase since the spectacular success of Cape Town's dockers in 1920. Kadalie himself was showing signs at this early stage of becoming an opportunist politician rather than a militant trade union leader. Disregarding the persistent hostility of Afrikaner nationalism to African aspirations, he followed Hertzog in the 1924 election campaign.

Their association began in 1921, when Kadalie solicited alms for the survivors of the Bulhoek massacre. Hertzog wrote back, enclosing a guinea, and promised to exert all his influence to establish 'between the white and black Afrikaner that faith in and sympathy with one another which is so essential for the prosperity of a nation. 55 Flattered by this sentimental platitude, Kadalie flaunted the letter to demonstrate his respectability and became Hertzog's man. The ICU's annual conference, meeting in January 1924, rebuked Creswell for having said that his pact with Hertzog would lead to a renewal of the colour bar. 56 Kadalie continued, however, to support the pact, and with this in mind attended the annual conference of the African National Congress in May.

Africans were caught between Smuts, the feeder of 'vultures at Bulhoek', who harassed them with new restrictions under the Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923, and the Hertzog-Creswell combine, which threatened to squeeze them even harder in a strait jacket of segregation. The National Congress had repudiated Smuts in May 1923. A year later, Kadalie and Masabalala persuaded Congress to resolve that a change of government was necessary 'in the best interests of South Africa - as though the interests of all South Africans were identical. Armed with this resolution, the two men called on Hertzog, who snatched the opportunity to pick up African and Coloured votes in the Cape. He arranged to have copies of the resolution printed for distribution by the congress delegates; and gave Kadalie an introduction to the Nationalist party headquarters in Cape Town. Here the party press printed, free of charge, 10,000 copies of an election issue of the ICU's paper, the Workers' Herald

Kadalie and Masabalala then travelled, at the Nationalist party's expense, to King William's Town, where the Cape Native Voters' Association was holding an All-African Convention. Kadalie claimed that he induced it after an all-night sitting to adopt his motion for a change of government. The convention, in fact, drew up a list of demands for submission to the different parties, and ended by supporting Smuts. 57 'Jubilant and strengthened by these two political victories,' wrote Kadalie, he returned to Cape Town, and became an important figure' in the election campaign. He canvassed African and Coloured voters on behalf of the Nationalist-Labour pact candidates, and appeared on their platform. His policy was vindicated after the elections, he claimed, when Tielman Roos, the minister of justice in the Pact government, defended the ICUs right to organize African workers in Durban. 58

Any African more politically mature than Kadalie would have refused to put his trust in an alliance between his people's most bitter enemies. They had no more intention than Smuts of allowing African miners, factory hands or farm workers to acquire skills and form trade unions on equal terms with whites. All parliamentary parties competed for votes at the expense of the voteless majority. All endorsed the discrimination introduced by the Apprenticeship Act, the Natives (Urban) Areas Act and the Industrial Conciliation Act - three statutes that did more than any other legislation to depress the African's wages, appreciate his status and isolate him from the rest of the working class. Abdurahman argued that Africans when segregated in urban locations would be well housed and sheltered from the vices of white men and women. 59 The African National Congress was closer to the mark when it said that the Urban Areas Act condemned the people to perpetual serfdom. The act was to become a major instrument of their oppression. It made them perpetual migrants without permanent roots in the towns, put them under the surveillance of a harsh bureaucracy, and exposed them to the risk of being turned out of jobs, homes and towns if they took part in trade union and political activity.

The main purpose of the Apprenticeship Act of 1922 was to open the skilled trades to white youth and keep out other races.60 Committees set up under the act apprenticed young persons with prescribed educational standards to approved employers. Few Coloured and no Africans were apprenticed or admitted to technical colleges. The Industrial Conciliation Act of 1924 introduced a system of collective bargaining between employers and employees, gave trade unions the status and legal protection for which they had clamoured since the beginning of the century, and facilitated the settlement of disputes by negotiation through industrial councils and conciliation boards. The act did not apply to agriculture, domestic and government services. It discriminated against pass-bearing Africans and indentured Indians by excluding from the definition of employee' all those whose contract of service was regulated by the Native Labour Regulation Act of 1911, the provincial pass laws, and Natal's Indian labour statutes. Wage earners who were not employees' could neither belong to a trade union registered under the act nor sit on industrial councils and conciliation boards. Acting in conjunction with the apprenticeship committees, the industrial councils restricted entry into the skilled trades and gave white workers a preferential access to skilled and semi-skilled occupations.

Trade union militants did not in 1924 anticipate these divisive consequences. Little attention was given to the discrimination against Africans, although it delivered a fatal blow to the ideal of working class solidarity. The militants concentrated their attack on the principle of class collaboration which, they said, had been forced on the defeated workers by Smuts and the mine owners in an attempt to tame the unions and stifle rank-and-file movements against the union bureaucracy. 61 Strong national unions, they warned, did not need industrial councils, while smaller and poorly organized groups would be deprived of the strike weapon, their only means of bringing employers to heel.

This was not the prevailing opinion. The movement had taken a hard knock. The combined trade union membership fell from the peak figure of 135,000 in 1920 to 82,000 in 1923. The SAIF, which once represented 60,000 workers, was left with barely 2,000, few of whom belonged to craft unions. They had broken away from the federation to form the Associated Trade Unions of South Africa, with an affiliated membership amounting to only 25,000. The mood of pessimism that followed the debacle, noted Bunting, found expression in a comparative indifference to the bloody memories of last year's outrages and a widespread revival of conciliation and negotiation talk'. 62

Trade union leaders searched eagerly for an accommodation with government and employers; vowed that they, too, wished to avoid strikes; and, like Sampson, warned that the alternative to conciliation was bolshevistic' mob rule. 63 The Nationalist party also joined in the chorus of praise and declared that strikes injured workers, employers and the whole community. 64 Seldom has a major industrial law, conferring wide recognition on unions under state supervision, received so cordial and unanimous a response. Smuts might have thought with his son that he had crushed the too-powerful' mine workers' union; taught the miners a salutary, if bloody lesson'; and put a fear of strikes into them'. 65 He was to discover that he, and not the white workers, had suffered the real defeat. They became junior partners in a racial oligarchy. He lost the elections.

A series of defeats in by-elections reduced his majority in parliament to eight. The climax came in April 1924 at Wakkerstroom in the eastern Transvaal, where the government lost what it chose to make a test election. Smuts petulantly resigned without consulting his cabinet or caucus and went to the country to save it, he said, from Moscow and a backveld republic. 66 The Chamber of Mines undertook to pay its white employees a bonus adjusted to the gold premium, declared that the supply of African workers was probably the chief determinant of the industry's prosperity, and accused Nationalists and Labour of reviving the old, discredited theory that the mines could be run solely by whites. 67 The election was fought largely with banal trivialities, recriminations, charges of bad faith and personal abuse. Yet there was a new note. It was the Nationalist party's first ' Black Peril ' election, and introduced voters to the twin slogans of Segregate the Black and Save the Poor White.

The Nationalist party propagandists made the most of an interpretation by Cousins, the director of census, which alleged an African population explosion; and demanded segregation. The liberal professor Edgar Brookes gave it academic backing and explained that segregationists would withdraw Africans from industry, make room for unemployed whites, and enable Africans to develop agriculture and handicrafts in their own areas. The White South Africa League gained a new lease of life and urged whites of all parties to give preference to their own people in skilled and semi-skilled jobs. Hertzog promised to end the pact after the elections, take away the Cape African's vote, ban the entry of workers from central Africa, and restore the industrial colour bar. A Pact Bulletin issued by the Labour party accused the government of blackening' mines and railways, and of proposing to enfranchise the kaffirs in the Transvaal and the Free State'. Tielman Roos said that the country's greatest curse was the Native. Die Burger said it was the mine magnates. 'Without conscience, or national loyalty, driven on by fanatic worship of Mammon,' they aimed only to exploit the mines at lowest possible cost. The Labour party, with an eye on the Coloured vote, substituted civilized' for 'white' in its election programme, and undertook to protect the worker against Native migration to European centres'; against wages insufficient for the maintenance of civilized standards'; and against the inroads of Asiatic competition'. 68

The poisonous compound of racism, nationalism and socialism blew Smuts out of office. He and three of his ministers lost their seats. The Nationalists won 63, the SAP 53, Labour 18, and independents one. Hertzog could not rule without Creswell, and offered to take him and Boydell into the cabinet. Nothing loath, they called a special conference on 29 June to obtain the party's approval. The Communist party, which had urged workers to support the pact at the polls, now urged delegates in the interests of the toiling masses of South Africa to VOTE AGAINST THE COALITION. French and German socialists had suffered heavily by joining capitalist governments. Labour could never reach its goal, which was to attract workers in town and country and obtain a parliamentary majority, if it became a minority group in a coalition. Two Labour members in a cabinet of eight would be mere hostages; whereas eighteen workers' representatives would hold the balance of power in their hands if they maintained their independence. Workers of the World, UNITE! But not with the forces of reaction!! 69

This last-minute repentance had no effect on the special conference. Creswell told delegates that the party would have less influence, and would nonetheless be held responsible for policy, if it stood outside the cabinet and kept the government in power. Moreover, a cabinet without Labour members would be more likely to ride rough-shod over workers and the English community. 70 The conference gave Creswell his mandate by a two-thirds majority. He became minister of defence and labour; Boydell, the minister of public works and postal services. The communists said that the Labour party had signed its death warrant. The right wing said that the worker's struggle of 1922 had been vindicated.

The Labour party, exultant, strode still further to the right, scattering favours and drawing prominent radicals to its procession. Walter Madeley joined the cabinet; Peter Whiteside accepted a lucrative post on the railway board; and Jimmy Briggs, the party chairman, took his place in the senate. Harry Haynes, hero of the Durban soviet' in 1920, moved into the editorial chair of Forward, the party's journal. 71 Its aim, he declared in the first issue of 11 December 1924, was primarily to fight for democracy'. Two weeks later he agreed that Coloured and African electors were 'rather easily influenced', and publicized a resolution from the Troyeville branch calling for their removal from the common roll.

The Rand strike, Sampson told the House, had given an unmistakable mandate to protect white men against encroachments by Africans and Asians. 72 Labour took up the mandate with unflagging zeal. Frankly, we rejoice that natives are to be "thrown out of their jobs'',' wrote the editor of Forward; and branches submitted colour bar resolutions to their annual conference at Kimberley in January 1925. 73 Gabriel Weinstock, proprietor of Forward and a foundation member of the War-on-War League, moved that only whites should be employed in the liquor trade or be allowed to handle foodstuffs meant for whites. Conference adopted an amendment moved by A. Z. Berman, delegate from the Hanover street branch in Cape Town and a former editor of the Bolshevik, which would bar Africans and Asians from working on licensed premises. 74 A bill to this effect was introduced in February, and Morris Kentridge listed it as one of Labour's achievements. 75

This was more than most communists could stomach. Having never really believed that Labour would be able to implement its white supremacy policy, they were shocked into making a crucial decision about their role in the movement An outward show of unity was still possible in commemorations of past struggles, on May Day or at Brixton cemetery, where workers gathered to pay homage to the martyrs of 1922. The big unions took the lead, while the rear of the procession was brought up as usual', commented Forward, by the one body that never misses any of these occasions, the communists under both the SCP and YCL banners. 76 Communists refused, however, to trail behind the right wing as it jettisoned socialist principles to make room for the racial ideology of Afrikaner nationalism.

The alternative was to identify themselves wholly with the victims of racial oppression. A step in this direction was taken in the Young Communist League, Johannesburg, by two South Africans, E R. Roux (1904-66) and W. Kalk (1902- ), probably the first white communists born in the country. Both were sons of radicals, like many other party members in later years. Willie Kalk was a cabinet maker, whose parents were social democrats from Germany. P. R. Roux, Eddie's father, was a druggist, the secretary of a Labour party branch in Johannesburg, and before that a contributor to Crawford's Voice of Labour. He wrote articles on socialism and debated dialectical materialism with Gandhi, who agreed that spiritual and material phenomena were interdependent. As regards socialism, wrote Gandhi in reply to a letter by Roux, it 'will undoubtedly become a cure for all forms of intoxication when it is accepted just as much on the spiritual plane as on the material. 77

Roux and Kalk argued that the YCLs main job was to preach communism to the young Natives and to bring them into the organization. 78 The proposal met with great opposition from other members, notably E. S. Sachs, a young Lithuanian who came to South Africa in 1914, joined the ISL in 1917, and entered the trade union movement in 1920 as secretary of the Reef Shop Assistants' Union. He agreed that Africans should be recruited, and insisted on establishing a separate organization for them. Roux and Kalk rejected segregation and eventually won their point by appealing to the headquarters of the Young Communist International in Berlin. The same issue cropped up again, though in a different form, at the CP's annual conference in December 1924.

The question here was whether they should again apply for affiliation to the Labour party. Bill Andrews and C. F. Glass, the CP organizer and business administrator, put the case for affiliation largely in terms of the Comintern's policy for Britain. Bunting, supported by delegates from Cape Town and the YCL, opposed the motion, which was defeated by a slender majority. Their main task, said Bunting, was to take the message of communism to the oppressed working class, and establish their mass basis among the Africans. By rejecting affiliation, the conference adopted Bunting's policy and so made a great turn to the left. Bunting and Roux were elected chairman and vicechairman of the party.

Andrews retired from the post of secretary-editor in February 1925 and went back to his trade as a fitter. He had returned in February 1924 from Moscow, sharing Jones's pessimism about the movement's immediate future. The communists were to some extent beating the air, he felt, and would make no headway in isolation from the organized workers. 79 Withdrawing from the political wing, he resumed his role as trade union leader. Crawford's death in December removed his chief opponent in that field. He was elected to the S.A. council of his union, the AEU, in January. In March he became the secretary, and Glass the treasurer, of the S.A. Association of Employees' Organizatians, the successor to Crawford's S.A. Industrial Federation.

Ernest Shaw, the only communist besides Andrews on the Committee of Action in the 1922 strike, joined the Labour party and was adopted by the Van Brandis branch as a provincial council candidate. Glass also defected. He resigned from the central executive in February and from the party in May because, he said, it had become a sect, isolated from the rest of the movement, and regarded with some justification as an anti-white party. All its propaganda seemed to be aimed at stirring up the blacks, for whom the leaders showed a definite bias. Glass took on the position of secretary of the Tailors' Union and joined the Labour party with the intention, his critics hinted, of wrecking it from within. 80

Even Andrews, in spite of his great prestige and acknowledged sincerity, met with suspicion. J. George, his rival for the post of secretary of the SAAEO, and a member of the strike committee in 1922, complained that many communists had shed their red labels since the pact government. Their methods led to famine, hatred and bloodshed, and they should be removed from all executive offices in the movement. The strike of 1922, he alleged, was lost largely through the intervention of these theorists, whose ' instincts of self-preservation were so well developed that when they got the general strike, they forced their way through the nearest police cordon to attain the restful sanctuary of the Fort'. The communists had nearly shattered the Labour party during the war, wrote the editor of Forward, and, as in Britain, ' must be treated as political lepers '. Labour branches in Johannesburg and Natal took the hint, and sent in resolutions demanding the exclusion of avowed communists from the SALP.81

As the right wing struggled to establish a reputation for respectability, the communists gradually began to recognize the great change then taking place in the movement. Like radical socialists before them, they had based their policies on the Marxist hypothesis of the inevitable impoverishment of the working classes. Capitalism, they believed, would grind the white workers down to the African's level until they were forced to take common action against their exploiters. The strikes of 1907, 1913-14 and 1922 were seen as rearguard actions; milestones on the way to social revolution under the white worker's leadership.

In reality, though defeated in battle, the artisan had won the struggle for recognition within the white power structure. New industrial laws, the 'civilized' labour policy, and the Labour party's presence in the coalition government marked his absorption in the ruling elite. The position of the factory operative and unskilled white worker was still in doubt. Left-wing trade unions and Afrikaner nationalism would compete for their allegiance in the following two decades. From 1925 onwards, a wide and unbridgeable gap opened within the labour movement between the party of white supremacy and the party of the oppressed. Ceasing to be the radical wing of white labour, the communists took their place with Africans, Coloured and Indians in the fight for national liberation.


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