This paper was submitted to the 1973 Durban Strikes Celebrating 50 Years Conference
THE BRIEF: TRADE UNIONS AND POPULAR RESISTANCE IN THE 1980S AND NEW ALLIANCES AND THE DIFFERENT UNION TRADITIONS
- Working-class organizations/parties and alliance politics before and after 1994.
RESEARCHER: KAIZER MOIKETSI THIBEDI
Kaizer Moiketsi Thibedi is a PhD candidate at the Department of History at Wits University. He holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial and Employment Relations with the University of Turin, Italy. He is a senior CCMA commissioner specializing in mediation of major industry collective bargaining disputes and building workplace relations initiatives. Thibedi has over 40 years’ experience in industrial and Employee relations (as ex-shop steward, union official, Deputy General Secretary of CCAWUSA/SACCAWU, COSATU Central Executive member).
TOPIC: Telling Our Own Stories – Bringing to Life of a Hidden History.
KEY WORDS: independent socialist; CCAWUSA.
It is hypothesized that from time to time there is seismic epoch-like moments similar to the 1973 Durban strikes, that awakens a society from slumber and ignite a fired-up spirit of activism that bring about qualitative change.
In this paper, the process and initial outcomes of researching and documenting a particular aspect of trade union history, as recounted by the role players themselves, is described and discussed. It is the history of what is termed the ‘The CCAWUSA 1980s Independent Socialist Political Perspective’. The nature, practical manifestation and impact of this perspective is addressed, along with challenges in conducting the research. A sizeable reference group of previous union members, shop stewards and union officials of CCAWUSA (Commercial, Catering & Allied Workers’ Union), who promoted and fought for this political perspective, is involved. Emphasis is placed on this history being told and documented by the role players themselves and includes drawing from original union records from the period covered (mid-1970s to early 1990s). It is argued that while much has been written about CCAWUSA and its successor, the South African Commercial Catering & Allied Workers’ Union (SACCAWU), the history of the CCAWUSA independent socialist perspective is largely an undocumented history, with a tendency for it to be ‘glossed over’ or inaccurately portrayed where recorded at all. Within the depths of COSATU and the Tripartite Alliance at the time, this was a hotly contested position and remains so to this day. This has manifested itself in the process of carrying out the research. It is argued that this is a significant piece of history, the details of which have great relevance for the labour movement today. An important dimension to the initiative as such is drawing the historical lessons and addressing the question, ‘how applicable are the lessons for the workers’ movement today?’
NOTE: PROPOSED METHOD OF PRESENTATION: - It is proposed that consideration be given to allow the story to be told by the researcher and a panel of two or three “ex-CCAWUSA/SACCAWU REFERENCE GROUP members” if permissible. This will enrich story telling immensely.