This paper was submitted to the 1973 Durban Strikes Celebrating 50 Years Conference
In the aftermath of the Durban Strikes (1973) the British Trade Union Congress (TUC) began to engage much more closely with the emerging Black trade union movement in South Africa. This led to a visit by leading members of the TUC in October 1973, after which they wrote a report calling on the South African government to recognise Black trade unions. The TUC then began to support Black trade unionists through the provision of places on training courses in the UK, by supplying educational literature, and by offering advice from experts in trade union activities. This paper will analyse the support given and provide specific examples of Black trade unionists with whom the TUC developed particularly friendly relations.
The paper will also discuss the support the British government offered to Black trade unionists, particularly after the South African government officially recognised their legitimacy in 1979. This coincided with a new initiative by the British government which emphasised the importance of forging links with Black South Africans, who it was felt would take up important positions in the country once apartheid was dismantled – something which British policymakers believed would happen in the medium term. This paper will highlight how the British government’s spending on educational and vocational training for Black South Africans trade was increased significantly to meet this objective. Crucially, one of the priority groups this policy targeted was the emerging Black trade union movement. This paper will also demonstrate how British officials worked closely with the TUC to implement this policy, and the importance of the organisation as a conduit for scholarships and bursaries for Black trade unionists who would have been unwilling to take financial support directly from a foreign government, particularly one that maintained such close relations with South Africa.
Dan is a Senior Lecturer in History at Liverpool John Moores University teaching in the areas of imperial, African, and international history. Dan’s research examines UK-South African relations during apartheid, he is particularly interested in how the British government attempted to utilise cultural relations as a means of maintaining influence in the country after its exit from the Commonwealth 1961. Dan is currently in the process of writing his first monograph entitled 'British Cultural Diplomacy in South Africa, 1960-1994', this will be published in early 2024.
Dan was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s (RHS) Martin Lynn Scholarship in 2016 to support primary research in South Africa, an RHS small grant to fund research at the UK National Archives in 2017, and the British Society of Sports History Early Career Researcher grant in 2020, to support research in Oxford and London. His work has been published in a number of leading international and diplomatic history journals.