Class conflict, communal struggle and patriotic unity: The Communist Party of South Africa during the Second World War

Lodge, Tom
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The years of the Second World War witnessed a revival in the fortunes of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). At the beginning of the war the Party's following numbered less than 300, it s influence in the trade unions was negligible, it was isolated from other political organisations among blacks, while it s efforts with whites had succeeded neither in checking the growth of fascism or Afrikaner nationalism nor in building class unity. Six years later the Party could count it s adherents in thousands rather than hundreds, it was capable of winning white local government elections, and its members presided over the largest-ever African trade union movement as well as contributing significantly to the leadership of the African and Indian Congresses. From 1945 knowledge of the Party’s development becomes vital for any understanding of the mainstream of black politics in South Africa. This paper will examine and attempt to explain the wartime expansion in the Communist Party's influence, first by referring to the social and economic conditions as well as the overall political environment of the time, and then by discussing the Party's policies and strategies’ CPSA responses to three different sets of movements or organisations will be discussed: movements of the urban poor, of peasants, and of labour. The paper will conclude with an evaluation of the Party's role and development during the period.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented 7 October 1985
South Africa. Social conditions , South Africa. Economic conditions