Solidarity Across Borders: The Transnational Anti-Apartheid Movement

Abstract

This paper focuses on what from a global perspective must be seen as one of the most significant social movements during the post-war era: the transnational anti-apartheid movement. This movement lasted for more than three decades, from late 1950s to 1994, had a presence on all continents, and can be seen to be part of the construction of a global political culture during the Cold War. The paper argues that the history of the anti-apartheid struggle provides an important historical case for the analysis of present-day global politics—especially in so far that movement organizations, action forms, and networks that were formed and developed in the anti-apartheid struggle are present in the contemporary context of the mobilization of a global civil society in relation to neoliberal globalization and supra-national political institutions such as the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The primary sources from which this paper draws consist of three types: (1) interviews with 52 individuals that were involved in anti-apartheid action, mostly activists based in Britain and Sweden (but also a few based in USA and South Africa), journalists, and a few public officials; (2) material from the archives of the anti-apartheid movements in Britain (AAM and ANC London) and Sweden (The Africa Groups and ISAK); and (3) material from press archives in Sweden and Britain. Empirically, the research mainly focuses on two national contexts: Britain and Sweden.

  2. 2.

    Interview with Dorothy Robinson, who was active in the Africa Bureau in the late 1950s and AAM in the early 1960s (London, March 2, 2000).

  3. 3.

    Interviews with Patsy Robertson, Commonwealth Secretariat (London, October 27, 2000): Ethel de Keyser, AAM (London, March 3, 2000): and Mike Terry, AAM (London, March 7, 2000).

  4. 4.

    For example, expenses for NGOs to participate in Committee-sponsored conferences, seminars, and sessions were provided. However, the budget of the Committee was limited and it could only provide expenses for a few anti-apartheid groups that did not have expenses for travel (interview with E. S. Reddy, former Principal Secretary of the UN Committee Against Apartheid [New York, June 21, 2000]; see also Korey, 1998, p. 96).

  5. 5.

    Interview with Jennifer Davis, New York, June 20, 2000.

  6. 6.

    For a theoretical discussion on the interaction between social movements and the UN, see Passy (1999).

  7. 7.

    Interview with Reg September, former ANC Chief Representative in London (Cape Town, February 21, 2001).

  8. 8.

    On the notion of “third space” see Bhabha (1994). The particular definition of the concept used here is quoted from a lecture given by Homi Bhabha, Göteborg, September 19, 2002.

  9. 9.

    Interview with Bo Forsberg and Magnus Walan, Stockholm, September 30, 1999.

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Acknowledgments

This paper summarizes some of the findings presented in the book Anti-apartheid and the emergence of a global civil society (Thörn, 2006), which is based on a research project based at the Department of Sociology, Göteborg University, Sweden. This research project was funded by the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSFR), the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, The Jubilee Foundation at Göteborg University, and Magnus Bergvall’s Foundation.

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Correspondence to Håkan Thörn.

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Thörn, H. Solidarity Across Borders: The Transnational Anti-Apartheid Movement. Voluntas 17, 285–301 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-006-9023-3

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Keywords

  • Global civil society
  • New social movements
  • Globalization
  • Collective action
  • Transnationalism
  • Anti-apartheid movement
  • Political culture