'We are being punished because we are poor'. The Bus Boycotts of Evaton and Alexandra, 1955-1957

Lodge, Tom
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This article concerns itself with two bus boycotts, one well known, the other less so. They are interesting in themselves, but here it is suggested that they are relevant towards an understanding of South African black resistance in general, and in particular in the context of the 1950s when African political organisations were attempting to mobilise large numbers of people in campaigns which had the ultimate aim of hastening the collapse of the existing political structure. A problem of that period , noted by many commentators both hostile and friendly to the liberation movement, is that despite the Congress Alliance's efforts to articulate its long-term aims through immediate issues: pass laws, wages, and so forth; despite the government's lack of concern to effectively legitimise its authority in the eyes of the masses; despite this being a period of economic stagnation relative to the preceding decade, so wages rose only very slowly and probably declined in real terms, nevertheless, mass response to African political organisation was uneven and often disappointing. Ben Turok, a former activist within the Congress movement, tells us that by the second half of the 1950s, after an initial promise at the beginning of the decade, support for the national movement was falling off in urban areas; that frustration and repression were beginning to promote political apathy (Turok 1973: 333). The boycotts will therefore be discussed within the general context of the problems of political mobilisation.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented March 1979
Boycotts. South Africa , Poor. South Africa , South Africa. Social conditions