This paper was submitted to the 1973 Durban Strikes Celebrating 50 Years Conference
The article seeks to contribute to the development of new history on worker education and trade union movement in South Africa. The initial part of the proposed article traces the expanse of trade union movement in South Africa since 1973 as set against the background of the broader struggle for social transformation. The fulcrum herein is that worker education played a role in worker movement. Also, the article submits that the rise of neo-liberal thought, adoption of Wall Street economic agenda, and the negotiated compromise between the ANC and the apartheid State resulted in changes to worker education in South Africa. The definition of worker education remains contested. To this effect, the article seeks to provides Workers College’s conceptual understanding of worker education, which is anchored on the Freirean pedagogy and six pillars viz adult education, popular/empowering education, trade union education, research, community (development) and vocational education. The pillars have shaped the Workers College’s understanding and conceptualisation of worker education. Against this backdrop, the article will compare the tools that were used from 1973 to date as well as the extent to which workers were mobilised. The article will explain how worker education contributed to the development of the 1973 Durban Strikes, methods used, and lessons learnt. To adequately explain the role of politics in shaping the movement, the article locates worker education in the context of the struggle of racial capitalism and class stratification (Economy, education, income, status). The penultimate part of the article identifies significant historical moments where are shop stewards located, how do they view worker education in various historical epochs, that is, during colonialism, apartheid, post-apartheid, COVID-19 and 4IR.
Theoretical framework: The article will use Gramscian theory of hegemony to explain how worker education operates with the ambits of the capitalist state, which is made up of two overlapping spheres, a 'political society' (which rules through force) and a 'civil society'. Deductively reasoning will be used to test the applicability of the salient features of Gramscian discourse to the study phenomenon.
Keywords: hegemony, historical movement, trade union, worker education, worker movement