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Publication Details

Reference
Sitas, Ari  (2005) 30 Years Since the Durban Strikes: Black Working Class Leadership and the South African Transition.. Centre for Civil Society : 1-16.

Summary
The paper explores some of the core themes that arise from a sustained ethnography* that spans the turbulent years of South Africa’s transition to democracy. In focusing on the emerging tensions in what used to be a strong horizontal solidarity of "comradeship" since the 1980s, it explores why the “elastic band” that held the movement together still holds, however stretched, despite divergent socio-economic needs among its members, despite class mobility experienced by significant numbers within its cohorts and finally, despite mounting challenges to its “elasticity.” (1)

It shows how (among the 400 people that the ethnography covered) how the “transition” has proven to be extremely beneficial to 51% of this cohort; how 25% remained "stuck" in the occupational milieu of the 1980s/early 1990s, and, how 22% experienced rapid deterioration of life-chances. In this longitudinal study I trace the shifts in consciousness and notions of solidarity and trace how livelihoods strategies, notions of race and ethnicity and most importantly notions of class get re-defined by the year 2000. It is a small contribution and perhaps, a final curtain-call for a generation of black worker leaders who, since the 1973 Durban strikes- that ushered
the new trade unions on the historical stage-were a core component of the resistance against racial domination and economic inequality in the country. (2)

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