Debate from ROAPE Volume 8 Number 22
Resistance & Hidden Forms of Consciousness
Robin Cohen makes a useful, if now familiar point, (‘Resistance and hidden forms of consciousness among African workers’ , Review 19) when he argues for the crucial importance of analysing ‘the silent, unorganised covert responses of African workers’ (p.8). In addition to the excellent references Cohen cites, further evidence of ‘informal resistance’ has been published on black workers in South Africa. (For example, D Moodie, ‘The rules are there to protect those in power only’ , History Workshop, University of the Witwatersrand 1978, and S Moroney, ‘Mine Worker Protest on the Witwatersrand 1978’ , and S Moroney, ‘Mine Worker Protest on the Witwatersrand, 1901-1902’ ; Eddie Webster (ed.), Essays in Southern African Labour History, Ravan, 1978; and H Alverson, ‘The Human Dimension of Industry’ , in Morse, S and Orpen, C (eds.) Contemporary South Africa, Cape Town). Although this literature has often not made clear enough what it is in a particular act that defines it as resistance, rather than one of accommodation, ‘informal resistance’ is unquestionably crucial in any understanding of workers' responses to tightly controlled situations. What is of particular interest is that some of this work has now been popularised and circulates within the workers' movement in South Africa (see in particular, Chapter 16 of Luli Callinicos' Gold and Workers, Ravan Press, 1981, which documents forms of early black worker resistance on the gold mines).