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

Document 69 - Letter from the Workers' Party of South Africa, Johannesburg, to the Cape Town branch, 22 March 1937


90 PRESIDENT STREET           P.O. BOX 2639


                                                                                                                                             22nd March 1937



C.T. Branch.

Dear Comrade,

The strike of the African Metal Workers Union has been defeated with considerable loss to the Union in so far as we receive an initial setback. The strike was originally undertaken by the workers on these terms: either we will force up wages or else we will seek other jobs. Some of the workers refused to apply for their jobs back again. Others went back only upon my urgent persuasion to try and rebuild the union in this factory.

Others have taken jobs elsewhere after being turned away by Scaw works. This tends to disintegrate the union although most of them continue to pay subs and remain true to the principle of workers' unity. The remainder are still without jobs since the word "Scaw works" on their passes brands them as militants and subjects them to victimisation.

Please keep on collecting as we have to face the problem of finding rent money for hem at the end of the month. Our comrades here have thrown in their last pennies and exhausted their credit, £105 having been subscribed by local party members. Not one penny was received from the European unions or the Stalinist organisations. The reasons for the defeat were: 1) The sectional nature of the strike. 2) Scabbing of Europeans. 3) Natives scabbing through the general in experience of African workers.

I will write to draw the lessons of the defeat later.

Two strikers are now to be charged with violence or threatening under the Riotous Assemblies Act. They are each on £ 10 bail. We have briefed Hansen for twenty guineas and the case starts on 26th March 1937.

The Stalinists did their damn best to sabotage the strike by refusing to publish a notice of it when it broke out, by spreading false rumours during the first few days that the strike was defeated, thus sabotaging collections and finally by publishing a notice in Umsebenzi that the strike was defeated before the Union officially acknowledged defeat, thus trying to destroy our last remaining chances. Far from protesting against the European workers who supervised scabs they actually defend them.

With the present business boom in Johannesburg the workers have reacted to the fading of the unemployment spectre by a wave of militancy. The bold action of the Scaw workers would have been impossible two years ago with jobs so scarce, but today we may expect similar action on a wider scale in many branches of industry.

Your donations of £10.0.0 and £1.2.6 were deeply appreciated by the strikers particularly in contrast to the silence of other organisations.

Did you receive acknowledgement from the I.S. for money sent for Com Trotsky's case?

Yours fraternally,