Die geskiedenis en rol van persorgane in die politieke en ekonomiese mobilasasie van die georganiseerde arbeiderbeweging in Suid-Afrika, 1908-1924

Visser, Wessel Pretorius (2001-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: During the course of the 20th century the press played an absolutely crucial role as a source of information, a medium of communication and propaganda, educator, critic, public watchdog and in forming and influencing opinion. In this respect the press may also be regarded as a reflection of South African society. This study investigates the role that the press played and the influence that it exercised in the political and economic mobilisation of the organised labour movement during the period 1908 to 1924. In view of the racial divisions that have prevailed in South Africa, the focus here is specifically on the white labour movement, because it was this manifestation of the organised labour force that virtually dominated the first few decades of the twentieth century. During this time the black labour movement was still to a large extent under-developed and began to emerge only around the 1920s. Organised labour flourished during the period under review. This period is characterised as one of political turbulence, as well as of large scale and serious industrial unrest, as part of the cathartic process in which the relationship between the state and its subjects in the field of labour took shape. The study adopts as its point of departure the year 1908, when the National Convention began its deliberations on the unification of South Africa, which in turn led to the official founding of the South African Labour Party in October 1909. The Labour Party operated independently until 1924, when the alliance between the National Party and the Labour Party won the election held in that year and formed the Pact coalition government. From an economic point of view there were two clear positions. On the one hand, there were the so-called establishment press organizations. These included Afrikaans-language newspapers, although - because of their ethnic commitments - they were strongly in favour of the protection of the economic position of the Afrikaner workers. On the other hand, there were anti-capitalist press organisations that wished to promote proactive steps in favour of the workers, which in tum often resulted in industrial conflict in the form of strikes. These tensions in the economic terrain spilled over into the political sphere elections, and here too the press played a central role in the often tense relationship between state and subject. In order to understand a meaningful analysis of the social role of the press, the following press organs and study materials were selected: The Star was the mouthpiece of the powerful Witwatersrand gold-mining industry. Die Burger and Ons Vaderland played a great role in the political and economic mobilisation of the Afrikaner working class whose sympathies lay with the National Party. The following labour-orientated and socialist papers reflected and interpreted the political and economic points of view of the labour movement in the period 1908 - 1924: Voice of Labour, The Worker, The Eastern Record, The Evening Chronicle, The War on War Gazette, The International, The Labour World, The Bolshevik and The Guardian. In addition, the role of a number of extremist strike newspapers In mobilising workers during the strikes of 1913, 1914 and 1922, is also investigated. The press played an important role in exposing a number of cardinal issues that dominated the discourse within the labour movement to greater public criticism and discussion. The effect of this was to raise the struggle between labour and capital for hegemony in the political and economic life of South Africa - as happened every time during election campaigns - to the level of the national political debate. Furthermore, the press, and specifically the right-wing labour and left-wing socialist press organs, also reflected the deep ideological divisions in the labour movement. In this respect, it was particularly the views of these press organs on race and the place of black people in the industrial dispensation that determined and influenced their political creeds. The mobilising power of the press was vividly illustrated by the strike papers. By propounding militant extremism these papers often succeeded in sweeping up industrial unrest among workers to the level of violence, which meant that the authorities were compelled to suppress these publications by means of martial law proclamations. It is probable that the SALP, and especially the socialist organisations, on the periphery of the political spectrum, would not have survived for long in South African politics without the communicative support of their mouthpieces.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Gedurende die 20ste eeu het die pers, as bron van inligting, kommunikasie- en propagandamedium, opvoeder, kritikus, openbare waghond en meningsvormer en -beihvloeder, 'n uiters belangrike samelewingsrol vertolk. In hierdie opsig kan die pers ook as 'n weerspieeling van die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing beskou word. Hierdie studie ondersoek die rol wat die pers gespeel het en die invloed wat dit as openbare memngsvormer met betrekking tot die politieke en ekonomiese mobilisasie van die georganiseerde arbeiderbeweging gedurende die tydperk 1908 tot 1924 uitgeoefen het. Gegewe die historiese rasseverdeeldheid in Suid-Afrika, is daar spesifiek op die blanke arbeiderbeweging gekonsentreer, aangesien dit die arbeidsterrein gedurende die eerste paar dekades van die twintigste eeu feitlik oorheers het. Die swart arbeiderbeweging was in daardie stadium nog grootliks onderontwikkeld en het eers om en by die twintigerjare begin ontwaak. Die betrokke tydperk was 'n tydperk van hoogbloei VIr die georganiseerde blanke arbeiderbeweging. Dit word veral gekenmerk as 'n tydperk van politieke onstuirnigheid, asook van groot en ernstige endemiese nywerheidsonrus en konflik, as dee 1van 'n katarsis waardeur die verhouding tussen staat en onderdaan op die arbeidsterrein uitgekristalliseer het. Die vertrekpunt van die studie is 1908, toe die sittings van die Nasionale Konvensie met die oog op die unifikasie van Suid-Afrika 'n aanvang geneem het en ook aanleiding gegee het tot die amptelike stigting van die Suid-Afrikaanse Arbeidersparty in Oktober 1909. Dit strek tot 1924, toe die verkiesingsalliansie van die Nasionale Party en die Arbeidersparty die oorwinning by die stembus behaal en die Pakt-koalisieregering gevorm het. Vanuit 'n ekonomiese oogpunt gesien, was daar twee duidelike stellingnamens. Enersyds was daar die sogenaamde establishment-persorgane. Hieronder ressorteer ook Afrikaanstalige koerante, alhoewel hulle as gevolg van 'n etniese verbondenheid sterk ten gunste van die beskerming van die ekonomiese posisie van die Afrikanerwerkers was. Andersyds was daar anti-kapitalistiese persorgane wat 'n pro-aktiewe optrede ten behoewe van die werkers, wat dikwels op nywerheidskonflik in die vorm van stakings uitgeloop het wou bevorder. Hierdie gespannenheid op ekonomiese terrein het oorgespoel na die politieke sfeer van verkiesings en ook daarin het die pers, in die dikwels gespanne verhouding tussen owerheid en onderdaan, 'n sentrale rol gespeel. Ten einde 'n sinvolle ontleding van die samelewingsrol van die pers te kon doen, is die volgende persorgane as studiemateriaal geselekteer: The Star was die mondstuk van die magtige kapitalistiese, Witwatersrandse goudmynindustrie. Die Burger en Ons Vaderland het 'n groot rol in die politieke en ekonomiese mobilisasie van die Nasionaalgesinde Afrikanerwerkersklas vervul. Die volgende arbeider- en sosialistiese blaaie het die politieke en ekonomiese uitgangspunte van die arbeiderbeweging in die tydperk 1908 tot 1924 weerspieel en vertolk: Voice of Labour, The Worker, The Eastern Record, The Evening Chronicle, The War on War Gazette, The International, The Labour World, The Bolshevik en The Guardian. Daarby is ook die mobiliseringsrol wat 'n aantal ekstremistiese stakersblaaie in die stakings van 1913, 1914 en 1922 gespeel het, ondersoek. Die pers het 'n belangrike rol gespeel om 'n aantal kardinale kwessies, wat die diskoers binne die arbeidergeledere oorheers het, ook aan groter openbare kritiek en bespreking bloot te stel. Sodoende is die stryd tussen arbeid en kapitaal om die hegemonie van die Suid-Afrikaanse politieke en ekonomiese lewe byvoorbeeld telkens tydens verkiesingsveldtogte tot die nasionale debat verhef. Daarbenewens het die pers, spesifiek by monde van die regse arbeider- en linkse sosialistiese persorgane, ook die diepe ideologiese verdeeldheid in arbeidergeledere weerspieel. In hierdie opsig was dit veral hulle rassebeskouings en die posisie van die swart man in die nywerheidsbestel wat die politieke credo van hierdie persorgane bepaal en befuvloed het. Die mobiliseringsmag van die pers is treffend dem stakerblaaie gemustreer. Dem militante ekstremisme te verkondig, kon sodanige blaaie dikwels daarin slaag om nywerheidsonrus onder werkers tot die vlak van geweld op te sweep sodat die owerheid dan genoop was om hierdie publikasies dem middel van Krygswetproklamasies te onderdruk. Synde op die periferie van die politieke spektrum, sou die SAAP, en veral die sosia1istiese organisasies, sonder kommunikatiewe ondersteuning van hulle spreekbuise waarskynlik slegs 'n kortstondige politieke bestaan in die Suid-Afrikaanse politiek gevoer het.

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