Yours for the Union

Class and Community Struggles in South Africa

Baruch Hirson
With a new Foreword by Tom Lodge

New Edition


A ground-breaking history of class struggle and the making of the black working class in South Africa.

Yours for the Union stands as a landmark history of the making of the black working class in South Africa. Drawing on a wide range of sources, it covers the crucial period of 1930–47, when South Africa's rapid industrialisation led to the dramatic growth of the working class, and uncontrolled urbanisation resulted in vast shanty towns which became a focal point for resistance and protest. Importantly, Hirson was one of the first historians to go beyond the traditional focus on the mines and factory workplaces, broadening his account to include the lesser known community struggles of the urban ghettoes and rural reserves.

Written by an author with first-hand involvement in South African labour struggles, Yours for the Union broke new ground with its account of the effort to mobilise urban squatters, domestic workers and rural peasants, and remains an indispensable resource for the study of the South African labour movement.

Author Bio

Baruch Hirson (1921–1999) was a lifelong activist who spent nine-and-a-half years in South African prisons as a result of his opposition to the apartheid regime. Following his release in 1973 he left for England, where he lectured in history at several universities and produced eight finely written, passionately argued books on the history of the left in South Africa. These include Year of Fire, Year of Ash (1984), The Cape Town Intellectuals (2000) and his autobiography, Revolutions in My Life (1995). He also founded the controversial critical journal Searchlight South Africa.

Tom Lodge is professor of peace and conflict studies at the University of Limerick, Ireland. He was formerly professor of political studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He is the author of Mandela: A Critical Life (2006) and Politics in South Africa: From Mandela to Mbeki (2003).

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Tom Lodge
  • Preface
  • 1. The African Worker: Class and Community
  • 2. Desperately Lean Times: The Socio-economic Background
  • 3. Industrial Legislation and Minimum Wages
  • 4. Rebuilding the African Unions, 1932-40
  • 5. Organising Domestic Servants
  • 6. Vereeniging: 'To Hell with the Pick-up!'
  • 7. The Politics of War and the Black Working Class
  • 8. Trade Unions in Strnggle
  • 9. Organising Under War Conditions
  • 10. Rural Protest and Rural Revolt
  • 11. Azikwhelwa! - We Shall Not Ride
  • 12. Umagebule - The Slicer
  • 13. Organising the Migrant Workers
  • 14. The 1946 Miners' Strike
  • 15. Conclusion


‘A key theme in Baruch Hirson’s work is “the enthusiasm, courage and weakness of the workers”. In his view, this courage and enthusiasm was squandered. … South Africa’s working-class communities are still paying the price … and Baruch Hirson’s tragic history is still their story.’
Tom Lodge, from the Foreword


Publication Date: 15 February 2017
264 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback 2nd Edition: 9781783609840
Hardback 2nd Edition: 9781786990648
eBook ePub 2nd Edition: 9781783609819
eBook PDF 2nd Edition: 9781783609833
eBook Kindle 2nd Edition: 9781783609826

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