This paper was submitted to the 1973 Durban Strikes Celebrating 50 Years Conference
Eddie Cottle is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Sociological Research and Practice (CSRP) at the University of Johannesburg. He is a former trade unionist and was the policy and campaign officer for Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), Africa and Middle East Region. He also served as head of collective bargaining support at the Labour Research Service (LRS) in Cape Town.
The Durban Mystery Unraveled: An empirical analysis
The Institute for Industrial Education and other scholars had made inadequate attempts to uncover the causes of the strikes and thus the Durban strikes became “shrouded in mystery”. In other words, existing scholarship could not adequately explain the sudden explosion of the Durban strikes. This was because firstly, no direct connection was made with worker struggles of the 1960s as these scholars and others incorrectly believed that the 1960s was a period of acquiescence. Their notion of acquiescence was based upon a perception of the repression by the apartheid government of the 1960s at the point of reproduction (at community level) which saw a marked withdrawal of political protest and not an examination of the nature of protest at the point of production (the workplace). Secondly, I argue that by not considering an analysis of the role of technology and the changes to the labour process as the main causal factor, these scholars could not explain the magnitude of the strikes across industries within the changing economic situation of the 1970s. This chapter will provide arguments and present evidence as to why the social explosion of Durban 1973 is not a mystery and can be explained.