William H. ‘Bill” Andrews

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Biographical information

William H."Bill" Andrews

Synopsis:

Pioneer of the trade union movement and first General Secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa.

First name: 
William
Middle name: 
Henry "Bill"
Last name: 
Andrews
Date of birth: 
20-March-1870
Location of birth: 
Suffolk ,England
Date of death: 
December 1950
Location of death: 
South Africa

William H."Bill" Andrews was  born in Suffolk, England, on 20 March in 1870 into a working-class family,he left school at the age of 13 years old,he immigrated to South Africa in 1893. He became a railway fitter and in 1902 helped found the first trades and Labour Council.In 1905 he became Amalgamated Society of Engineers(ASE) full-time organizer and this trade union had some branches in South Africa,he also helped to form the South Africa first labor federation.

In 1909 he became the first chairman of the all-white South African Labour Party and three years later was elected to parliament on the Labour ticket from 1912 to1915. He was widely admired as an energetic organiser and forceful speaker. After breaking with the Labour Party on the war issue, he was not re-elected to Parliament in 1915 and turned to organising the anti-war International Socialist League(ISL), which in 1921 joined with other organisations to form the CPSA. Andrews served as secretary and editor of The International.

In November 1922 he was elected to the executive committee of the Communist International and spent May to November  1923 in Moscow.

When he return in South Africa the following year in 1924, he was elected the first general secretary of the South African Association of Employees' Organizations, which later renamed the South African Trade Congress. Although Andrews supported the cause of trade unions for Africans, in the 1920s he did not believe that the Commnist Party of  South Africa (CPSA) should direct its primary energies into organising blacks. This put him into conflict with Sidney Bunting and led to his partial withdrawal from party politics about 1925.During the "Native Republic" phase of the early 1931 he was officially expelled from the CPSA.

In late 1937 he went to Moscow to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Russian Revolution,Andrews was participating as a representative of the Cape Town branch of the friends of the Soviet Union, but in 1938 he was re-admitted, and throughout most of the 1940s he served as chairman of the party's central committee.

In1946 african miners' strike, he was charged with sedition with other Central Committee members but the charges were withdrew by National Party in 1948 election victory,he remained on the Central Committee until 1950 before his death the same year.

He died in December 1950. His biography, Comrade Bill, by R.K. Cope, was published in 1944.


References:
• 
Gail M. Gerhart, Teresa Barnes, Antony Bugg-Levine, Thomas Karis, Nimrod Mkele .From Protest to Challenge 4-Political Profiles (1882-1990) http://www.jacana.co.za/component/virtuemart/?keyword=from+protest+to+ch... (last accessed 03 September 2018)
 
 

Last updated : 03-Sep-2018

This article was produced by South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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