Article from ROAPE Volume 7 Number 19
Resistance and Hidden Forms of Consciousness

Resistance and Hidden Forms of Consciousness Among African Workers
Vol.7 No.19 (Winter 1980), pp8-22
A major weakness in the Interpretations proffered by many ‘radical’ commentators on African labour protest and worker consciousness has resulted from their efforts to define the characteristics of the African proletariat by the use of traditional ‘formula dichotomies’ - the theoretical bases of which have not been elaborated upon adequately for application within an African context. The methodological limitations imposed by these formulas (examples of which are ‘false versus true consciousness’ , ‘economist versus revolutionary consciousness’ , ‘a class in itself or a class for itself’ etc.) have led to an over-emphasis on data which has been easily accessible to measurement, and which has also been familiar and comprehensible within the framework of accepted marxist theory. Consequently there has been too much reliance on data relating to strikes, unionisation and overt political militance, and for the most part a failure to discover and evaluate the silent unorganised, covert responses of African workers. An imbalance caused by analysing overt worker militancy without paying adequate attention to the covert type could result in an overall false conception of labour consciousness. It is therefore necessary to widen the range of resources to include more data illustrative of how local cultural influences and social pressures can shape the workers' perceptions of their own exploitation. These individualistic forms of protest within specific work situations might not be immediately familiar to the observer; neither might they lend themselves easily to categorisation. Nevertheless they will contribute decisively to the overall process of determining worker consciousness at both an economistic and political level.