chapter  11
33 Pages

Liberal reaction

A key question in this process was the struggle for leadership of the African working class that developed during the 1970s. On the one hand, 'liberal' employers and politicians were begging the workers to be patient and trying to gain their support for a policy of limited reform. 'Moderate' black leaders, 'moderate' black trade unions and 'moderate' political organisations were the vehicles by which these ideas were transmitted. On the other hand, efforts were made - fiercely combated by the state - to develop the militance of the African workers into a conscious struggle for power, with the aim of transforming South African society. The essential guideline for such a development, a clear and viable programme, existed only in the most embryonic form. Among the majority of the people there was little clarity as to the precise demands to be fought for, let alone the strategy and tactics by which to achieve them. Differences of opinion and factionalism flourished, while the struggle itself proceeded in a disjointed, pragmatical, but completely determined way. The general mobilisation of the African working class remained a question of the future; yet its answer was steadily becoming clearer.