Struggle in discourse : the International's discourse against racism in the labour movement in South Africa (1915-1919)

Caldwell, Marc Anthony (1997) Struggle in discourse : the International's discourse against racism in the labour movement in South Africa (1915-1919). Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




The International, as the weekly newspaper of the International Socialist League, articulated from 1915 to 1919 an ideology which stood opposed both to organised labour and nationalist movements in South Africa. This situation reflected significant historical struggles during this period, which constitutes essential background to the discourse of the International. The International's writers opposed the institution of trade unionism in the labour movement because it was fragmented on the lines of skill and race. They opposed both the National Party and the South African Native National Congress because they advocated racial (and national) rather than working class interests. Instead, these writers, according to their international socialist paradigm, advocated a working class united irrespective of race and skill at the level of industry. To analyse these ideological positions, discourse analysis provides a fruitful method for locating its dynamics in relation to other positions and extra-ideological (contextual) practices: The International's writers g~nerated a socialist position against racism by engaging in an ideological struggle in discourse. They articulated their anti-racist position from international socialism's critique of the 'languages' of both militarism and trade unionism in the discourse of labour. Within the discourse of militarism, the working class was signified as divided between hostile nations. These writers applied this as a metaphor to the division of the local labour movement and criticised the latter accordingly. In their view, just as workers were divided between the nations (nationalism), so they were divided within the nation (racism) in South Africa. One context cohered with the other, and both agreed with imperatives of international capitalism. This was fundamentally opposed to the principles of international socialism which characterised the International's discourse. Within the dominant discourse oflabour, workers were signified as divided between different trade unions on the basis of skills. Furthermore, in the South African context, trade unions organised only white workers, and ignored the far larger proportion of black labour. In this context, the International advocated industrial unionism, and criticised the narrow base of the white trade unions for fragmenting and weakening the working class in South African. The International's writers were thus led by the discourse of international socialism to a new discourse, whereby not white workers alone, but a racially-united working class movement would be the key to a socialist future in South Africa. Their struggle entailed a bid in and over discourse to rearticulate the sign of the 'native worker' within their own discourse as the dominant discourse type. Underpinning their struggle was a fundamental opposition to capitalist class relations.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Labour movement, South Africa, Racism, Socialism, Mass media, Unions
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN4699 Journalism
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Journalism and Media Studies
ID Code:3201
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:23 Aug 2012 12:47
Last Modified:23 Aug 2012 12:47
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