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The Militant, 24 August 1946

Government Smashes Strike
of 50,000 in South Africa

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 34, 24 August 1946, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The heroic four-day stride of over 50,000 native gold mine workers in South Africa was brutally smashed by the government on August 16. The Negro miners struck for a minimum wage of $2 a day. Their present wage is 50 cents a day. Fierce clashes followed attempts of the police to escort strikebreakers into some of the 10 mines affected. The police opened fire upon the unarmed natives, killing six, seriously wounding 41 and injuring 405. Strike leaders were arrested as “agitators.”

Preparations for the strike were made early in June. More than 1,000 delegates of the African Mine Workers Union, representing some 300,000 Witwatersrand mine workers, raised the demand for a $2 daily wage. African miners and their union are not recognized by the bosses or the government. The union sought among other things to obtain legal recognition and to abolish the barbarous “contract labor” system – which is nothing less than slave labor.

The $2 a day demand of the miners swept through the whole Johannesburg area. It forced the Johannesburg City Council to propose to the government that a commission be appointed to study the whole wage question.

Some 9,000 native workers in Johannesburg announced their intention of demanding the same wage raise. The slogan extended to other Negro workers, including the Transvaal Municipal African Workers Union. Eighteen Negro unions, not connected with the mines, on August 14 began considering the question of calling sympathy strikes. The Indian passive-resistance council supported the cause of the strikers.

Before the strike was crushed, white miners were preparing to consider action on whether they too should seek higher wages.

The Native Representative Council, which convened on August 14, adjourned “as protest against the breach of faith by the Government toward the African (Negro) people.”

Labor and working class political organizations in this country, including the Socialist Workers Party, have sent cables condemning the government’s strikebreaking actions and repressions against the South African miners.

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