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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Communist Party of South Africa and the African Working Class in the 1940s
Author:Fortescue, Domenic
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
South African Communist Party
Politics and Government
History and Exploration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Ethnic and Race Relations
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/219090
Abstract:The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was unprecedentedly active during the 1940s. From its isolated and ineffectual position in 1940, Communists had established an unmatched presence in the black trade union movement and a considerable influence in South Africa's urban locations by 1945. The transformation of activity that followed the invasion of Russia expanded the Party's membership from a mere four hundred in 1941, to between 2-3,000 by the war's end. Yet for all its activity, and in spite of its increased size during the 1940s, the CPSA failed to establish a mass following among the African working class. This article briefly outlines the growth of Communist activity among African workers and examines why the Party failed to win mass support. It argues that the undeveloped nature of class or even 'race' consciousness, and the Party's inability to tailor its ideology to the predilections of the African working class crucially limited the CPSA's appeal and even its perceived relevance. It further argues that Party membership failed to meet workers' material as well as ideological priorities. Notes, ref.