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Race and Class in the Postwar World: The Southern African Labour Congress

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2018

Duncan Money*
International Studies Group, University of the Free State


Understandings of class have often been highly racialized and gendered. This article examines the efforts of white workers’ organizations in Southern Africa during the 1940s to forge such a class identity across the region and disseminate it among the international labor movement. For these organizations, the “real” working class was composed of white men who worked in mines, factories, and on the railways, something pertinent to contemporary understandings of class.

The focus of these efforts was the Southern African Labour Congress, which brought together white trade unions and labor parties and sought to secure a place for them in the postwar world. These organizations embodied the politics of “white laborism,” an ideology which fused political radicalism and white domination, and they enjoyed some success in gaining acceptance in the international labor movement. Although most labor histories of the region have adopted a national framework, this article offers an integrated regional labor history.

Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 2018 

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I am grateful for the helpful comments and suggestions provided by the editorial board of the journal, particularly Barbara Weinstein and two anonymous reviewers.



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