If you are having trouble with the NLR website, please provide details here, and we will try to improve the site accordingly.
The White Working-Class in South Africa
At present, there is no liberation movement in South Africa which seriously regards the white working class as a potential ally, because of the benefits that this section of the settler community derives from Apartheid. Some currents within it have recently even revealed symptoms of political sympathy for the extreme right wing of white bourgeois chauvinism.  This social phenomenon has tended to baffle observers. Some bourgeois analysts have seen the existence of a militantly reactionary sector of the working class as a refutation of Marxism: a proof that factors other than class can be the fundamental division in capitalist societies.  This view has even, to some extent, been adopted by Marxists—who, seeking to avoid being categorized as dogmatists in the face of empirical facts, have accepted the thesis that there is a conflict between racist ideology, which has now (so the argument runs) acquired a dynamic autonomy of its own, and capitalist economic forces.  Reformists argue that these economic pressures will triumph and that South Africa will emerge as a more ‘normal’ bourgeois society, whilst revolutionaries argue that the ideology is too strong to be reformed. For its part, the South African Communist Party is also trapped within this problematic and maintains, following the late ‘progressive leader of all mankind’, that class-based action is not now on the agenda and can only be after a successful national revolution eliminates the structures of racial oppression.  However, as an acute recent analysis has pointed out, since international capitalism does not now seriously seek a ‘neo-colonial solution’ to the ‘South African problem’  (because this could only be bought at the expense of widespread disruption within the Republic), racism can only be eliminated by the destruction of the capitalist system as such in South Africa. Arrighi and Saul add: ‘the minimal aspirations of the African people . . . can only be fulfilled by seizing control over the industrial apparatus itself and its reorientation towards the economic and social uplifting of the African masses. Moreover, contrary to what has sometimes been supposed, this . . . clearly cannot be initiated by an African bourgeois “revolution” aiming in the first instance at removing the racialist component of South African capitalism . . . . (Since) the peasantry has been effectively proletarianized  . . . revolution in South Africa . . . can only be a proletarian and a socialist revolution and the liberation struggle will not succeed unless it is restructured in accordance with this premise.’  The present re-emergence of the black proletariat as the leading force in the struggle against the Vorster regime, has made the necessity of adopting a proletarian and socialist perspective of paramount importance. It is to be hoped that a fresh analysis of the local white working class will perhaps contribute towards the development of a new Marxist approach towards the South African revolution.
Subscribe for just £35 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3