The Durban Moment: Revisiting politics, labour, youth and resistance in the 1970s

Start date: 
Thursday, 21 February 2013
End date: 
Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Durban Moment:

Revisiting, politics, Labour, youth and resistance in the 1970s.

22-24 February, 2013

Rhodes University Grahamstown, South Africa

The ´Durban Moment´ popularly refers to the period in the early 1970s when Durban became the location of processes and events that were to impact significantly on the nature of the liberation struggle in South Africa.

On the one hand, there was the emergence of progressive independent trade unions which began the process of organising workers on the factory floor and building democratic worker controlled unions. On the other hand, a radical new black student movement emerged with a leadership oriented towards action among students and in communities, and influenced by the black power movement, liberation theology and the new left critique of Marxism. These developments were critical in revitalising worker and student struggles and represented both continuities but also a significant break ideologically from the liberation movements of the 1950s.

The intellectual ferment and creativity and increased political activism in Durbanduring the early 1970s years on the part of black university and college students and black workers occurred in parallel with the revitalisation of the Natal Indian Congress that had been part of the Congress Alliance in the 1950s. There were also developments in the education, cultural, and sports arenas and the exiled movements continued to exercise a measure of influence through political prisoners returning from stints in prison and through their underground operatives and formations. Alongside, the altered political terrain resulting from the banning of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress also sought to be occupied by bodies such as the Coloured Labour Party, and Inkatha and the KwaZulu bantustan leadership,

This conference, which is being held on the fortieth anniversary of the 1973 Durban Strikes, provides the opportunity to explore, address and critically engage with numerous issues and questions related to the so-called Durban Moment, including worker, student and youth ideologies, politics and organisation; mass mobilisation, the underground and armed struggle; the theorisation of race, class and gender and its meaning for struggle; the role of the universities and progressive intellectuals; the role of grassroots intellectuals; the causes, contours and outcomes of the worker strikes; participation and democratic accountability, and developments in the education, cultural and sports arenas. 

Due date for Abstract Submissions:                                  30 September 2012

Due date for all Papers:                                                       22 January 2013

(Please note all papers need to be submitted electronically by this date in order for presenters to be able to participate).

Papers may address any themes and issues connected to the ‘Durban moment’, such as:

1.  The Durban trikes, trade unionism, shop floor issues and democracy;

2.  Progressive politics and civil society – the Natal Indian Congress, other progressive political formations, the political underground, Black Consciousness, the Black Peoples Convention, Black Community Programmes, the Black Sash and SPROCAS;

3. Students and youth politics, academics and the education arena; the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO); 

4. The politics of reformism – Inkatha, KwaZulu bantustan, the Coloured Labour Party;

5. The State and  Business;

6. The 1976 Soweto uprising and Durban and the aftermath.