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Black Mine Workers in South Africa: Strategies of Co-option and Resistance

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The gold mining industry played a central role in the establishment of a racial dual labour system under apartheid capitalism. It continues to reflect in microcosm the conflicts and contradictions of the apartheid economy and remains at the forefront of the conflicts and debates surrounding the reforms in labour practices undertaken by the Botha government, notably the recognition of black trade unions. The Botha government has attempted to use this concession, which followed the militant struggles of black labour in the 1970s, against the black working class and the broader political struggle. Attempts are being made to co-opt key elements within the black working class to form a 'labour aristocracy'. This threat is being confronted by the 200,000 strong National Union of Mineworkers. The fastest growing union in South African labour history has scored significant victories against the largest and strongest sector of capital in the economy, the Chamber of Mines. In this struggle, new strategies and tactics are being unleashed by both sides in a grim and escalating battle.

Affiliations: 1: University of Liverpool, Liverpool, U.K.

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