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New Left Review I/83, January-February 1974

Sam Mhlongo

Black Workers’ Strikes in Southern Africa

The massive outbreak of black working-class resistance which hit South Africa and South West Africa in 1972 and 1973 was the reflection of structural changes which had been taking place in the settler economies and which have altered the context of the opposition movement. When South Africa left the gold standard in 1933, and even more when the post-1945 boom began, South Africa’s ruling class tried to break out of the country’s almost complete dependence on mining and agriculture. Although capitalist development in general, and foreign investment in particular, suffered setbacks in the aftermath of the Sharpeville shootings (March 1960), the process had been reversed by 1963–4, and this contributed, inter alia, to a further growth in the manufacturing sector. By the mid-1960s investment in the manufacturing sector had overtaken that in mining. Of the total private foreign investment in South Africa in 1968, an estimated 31 per cent went into the manufacturing sector. And by the middle of 1971 manufacturing alone accounted for 23·6 per cent of gnp—roughly equal to the contribution from mining and agriculture combined. [1] For a detailed analysis of foreign investment in South Africa and of the workings of the colour bar, see The South African Connection, by Ruth First, Jonathan Steele and Christabel Gurney (London, 1972). As of December 1973 R1·00 = 58p.

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Sam Mhlongo, ‘Black Workers' Strikes in South Africa’, NLR I/83: £3

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