Document - 133 ‘.Editorial: The Bloemfontein Trade Union Conference and the Industrial Conciliation Act”, The Militant Worker, October-November 1945

From: South Africa's Radical Tradition, a documentary history, Volume One 1907 - 1950, by Allison Drew

THE all-in Non-European Trade Union Conference held at the location, Bloemfontein on August 4th, 5th & 6th, adopted a resolution to wage a campaign to change the Industrial-Conciliation Act.2 The resolution called for the amendment of this Act so that African workers have the same rights as White and Coloured workers. A further addition to this resolution called for the scrapping of the anti-strike parts in the Act, and to enlarge the scope of the Act so that it covers farm and domestic workers. This resolution was unanimously adopted by the conference.

To carry out this resolution it was decided that the Transvaal Committee of the Council of Non European Trade Unions should undertake this campaign. Two months have already gone past and many unions are wondering why the Tvl. Council is delaying this campaign. There appear to be personal fights inside the Council, which lead to the expulsion of Koza and Poffu. It is a sad state of affairs if an important struggle is held back by bureaucratic differences between the so-called P.T.U. and the Stalinists. It is equally disgusting to see both groups using the same bureaucratic tactics against each other (swamping conference, expulsions) and that the heads of the Transvaal Council -supposed to be responsible officials, could find no other solution but to expel two Council members, and in this way only deepen the division of the workers. Further, loose, untrue statements that Koza and Poffu, two old African T.U. bureaucrats, were 'Trotskyists" can only throw dust into the eyes of the workers. It is time that the problem of such differences is solved in a more unifying way


The position is grave for African workers and their unions. For years they have been demanding full legal recognition under the I.C. Act. And, after a long struggle, the Africans got their reply, on September 21st, from -General Smuts. In an interview with the Trades and Labour Council, Smuts said he agreed to recognise African unions BUT, he said, he was NOT in favour of African unions that are controlled by the workers. He accepted the reactionary colour-bar proposal of De Vries, a member of the S.A.T &.L.C., to PUT AFRICAN UNIONS UNDER THE "TRUSTEESHIP" OF A BODY OF WHITES. This is not recognition! It is an insult and aims at sapping the life out of the African trade unions, destroy their independence and militancy. Smuts, explaining his reasons, said he wants to get rid of the "agitators". He wants his own good boys to run the union of Africans.

The C.M.T. completely rejects this hum-bug recognition. Every union leader, white and black, and all workers, must reject this plan of Smuts. We must carry on to win full legal recognition under the I.C. Act.

Side by side with this struggle for full recognition under the I.C. Act (which means a struggle against a colour-bar in the Act), we must support every struggle against the threat of the government to de-register unions with African members. It is the duty of the Executive of the Transvaal Council of Non European Trade Unions to regard its work as urgent, and immediately to prepare for a nation-wide campaign for recognition, And in this way to justify the trust put in it by the historic conference at Bloemfontein in August, when the representatives of 200,000 Non-European workers voted in favour of an URGENT campaign to amend the I.C. Act.