South African and US Labour in the Era of the Second World War: Similar Trends and Underlying Differences



By imposing similar priorities on each of the belligerents, wars provide a valuable setting for cross-national comparison. Despite this, none of the fine comparative studies of the US and South Africa considered the period 1939–45 in any detail.’ In addressing this weakness, an attempt will be made to justify two related conclusions. First, in the period under consideration, although there were important differences between the two countries’ labour movements, similar trends were also apparent. More specifically, it was particularly in this period that, as a consequence of war-related industrialisation and resistance, black workers joined labour movements en masse. Secondly, the claims of exceptionalism that have been made for the working class of both countries are implicitly regarded as unhelpful (because they inhibit valuable comparative enquiry) and with respect to this period they are explicitly rejected as unwarranted.2


Union Membership Union Leader Black Worker African Union White Worker 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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