The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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The formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in August 1983 introduced a new challenge to white minority rule after the banning of the South African black opposition - the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) - in 1960 and the repression of the African trade unions. The revolutionary strategies of the banned ANC and the PAC, aiming at the radical transformation of South African society, and popular struggles in the form of strikes and community-based protest, were a combined assault on the system of domination and exploitation in South Africa. It was the UDF that provided a national "political form" to popular struggles and filled the institutional vacuum created by the banning and the destruction of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). Disbanded in 1991, the period 1983-87 represents a period of heightened activity at local, regional and national levels for the UDF and is thus the focus period of this study.

While a large number of journal articles, book chapters and books were published on the UDF and township politics during the 1980s, most studies have focused on the formation, structure, strategies and policies, leadership and membership, and activities of the UDF. This publication advances the approach by relating these to theories of revolutionary strategy in South Africa. In this study, Houston examines the relation between revolutionary theory and praxis, and the formation of the UDF, its aims, policies and practices.

Further, the UDF was an alliance of a broad range of autonomous organisations of differing class origins and with differing political and ideological agendas that came together having a common cause - opposition to the apartheid system of domination and exploitation. The study therefore also examines the emergence and proliferation of community organisations, central to the strategies of mass mobilisation and organisation, as well as the spread of revolutionary consciousness throughout black civil society. It is argued that, as a result of the shift towards the UDF, some community organisations experienced significant changes in their structures, leadership and membership, and in their strategies and activities. The analysis thus reveals the type of democratic organisations that emerged during the course of the struggle: their structures, membership and practices.

Product information

Format : 148mm x 210mm
Pages : 314
ISBN 10 : 1-8401-4955-8
ISBN 13 : 978-18401-4955-5
Publish Year : 1999

List of tables
Abbreviations and glossary

1. Introduction

2. The United Front and revolutionary strategy and tactics in South Africa

3. Popular struggles and the growth of community organisations, 1960 to 1983

4.The formation, policies and aims, and strategy and tactics of the United Democratic Front

5. Membership of the United Democratic Front

6. Student and youth organisations

7. Trade union organisations

8. Civic organisations

9. Womens organisations

10. Conclusion


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