This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Gurney: The origins of the anti apartheid movement
'A Great Cause'
The origins of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, June 1959–March 1960 by Christabel Gurney
On 26 June 1959 a group of South Africans and their British supporters held a public meeting in Holborn Hall, Theobalds Road, London, to call for a boycott of fruit, cigarettes and other goods imported from South Africa. The meeting was organised under the auspices of the Committee of African Organisations (CAO). The main speaker was Julius Nyerere, then President of the Tanganyikan African National Union (TANU),j11 joined by Kanyama Chiume of the banned Nyasaland African National Congress, Tennyson Makiwane and Vella Pillay from South Africa's African and Indian Congresses, Michael Scott and Trevor Huddleston.j21 None of the speakers had a base in British politics. The choice of date, 26 June, South Africa Freedom Day, is revealing. It clashed with the preparations for a big peace rally on Sunday 28 June in Trafalgar Square, so was an unfortunate choice in terms of the British political calendar. But the meeting was timed to coincide with the boycott of products of Nationalist Party supporting firms launched by the African National Congress and its ally, the South African Indian Congress, in South Africa.
The choice of tactic, like the date, had wholly South African origins. Although boycotts of slave products, particularly sugar, had been attempted at the end of the eighteenth and first quarter of the nineteenth centuries by anti-slavery campaigners,L3] there was no continuous tradition of boycott in Britain. Rather, as the imperial power par excellence, Britain and its agents had been the object of boycotts.Lj In South Africa, on the other hand, the boycott had a long, and sometimes successful, history.
'A devastating weapon'
The South African Congress movement was deeply influenced by the first and biggest independence struggle of modern times, that of India, where Gandhi had led boycotts of political institutions, taxes and foreign cloth and banks. In South Africa mineworkers linked to the Transvaal Native Congress had boycotted concessionary trading stores as long ago as 1918.E The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1953 made a repeat of the Congress Alliance's Defiance Campaign impractical, by imposing stiff penalties on anyone who committed an offence 'by way of protest or in support of any campaign against any law'; so the movement had to consider other forms of action. In 1953 the ANC's national conference in Queenstown instructed Congress to campaign for a boycott of selected businesses in an attempt to force them to train and pay decent wages to Africans and to 'generally recognise their dependence on African purchasing power'.j6j Next year the ANC's New Brighton branch in Port Elizabeth led a boycott of local shops where African customers were badly treated.jfl The boycott tactic was also used in support of striking workers. In July 1954 the United Tobacco Company (UTC) in Durban dismissed its African workforce after it had gone on strike for union recognition. The ANC, South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and Congress of Democrats (COD) called for a boycott of UTC products in response to an appeal from the Tobacco Workers' Union and UTC suffered heavy losses.E For the next few years however the ANC and its allies were preoccupied with other campaigns: the collection of demands for the Freedom Charter and organisation of the Congress of the People in 1955, the ineffective campaign against the Bantu Education Act, attempts to stop removals from Sophiatown and the Western Areas and campaigns to stop the extension of passes to women. Black workers too staged a fight back against the misnamed 1954 Industrial Conciliation Bill, with the formation of the non-racial trade union federation SACTU in 1955 and the launch of a campaign for a minimum wage of £1 a day. But by the last years of the decade the mass arrests of activists, bannings of Congress leaders and restrictions on nearly all forms of public political activity were taking their toll of the movement's ability to act.
Meanwhile two of the most dramatic – and successful – actions of the period, the refusal by residents of Evaton and Alexandra to pay increased bus fares, showed
how the boycott tactic could be used to good effect. In Evaton 2,500 residents who normally travelled the 30 miles to work in Johannesburg by bus, boycotted the buses for just over a year, commuting instead by a slower and less convenient train service. A year later the bus company withdrew the fare increases, agreed to build bus shelters and to run buses to a timetable drawn up in consultation with residents. In Alexandra, 50,000 people walked up to 18 miles to work and back through Johannesburg's white northern suburbs for over three months rather than pay a penny rise in fares. In April 1957 the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce came to a temporary agreement by which it would subsidise fares and two months later the government passed an Act of Parliament requiring all employers to make a monthly transport payment.J9j
The Evaton and Alexandra boycotts were initiated not by the ANC, but by local residents for whom fare increases were an intolerable financial burden. But the Alexandra action in particular alerted Congress strategists to the potential of the boycott weapon at a time when new forms of action were badly needed. Paradoxically in 1958, although the immediate way forward seemed blocked, ANC morale, and membership figures, were high. This was at least partly due to developments in the world outside, where African countries were moving towards independence, making apartheid appear more and more of an anachronism. The ANC leadership calculated that in a violent confrontation with the state it would lose. It believed that apartheid was incompatible with economic growth. A strategy of boycott could be used to accelerate this contradiction; it also had the great advantage of legality. So at the end of 1958, after telling delegates 'new methods of struggle must emerge . . . we can no longer rely on the old forms', the leadership relaunched the boycott, with a new purpose and on a much more ambitious scale. 'The economic boycott', it said, 'is going to be one of the major political weapons in the country'. Looking beyond South Africa, the ANC leaders warned 'The investors in this country and elsewhere must be taught to look at the situation realistically and to adjust themselves or face the consequences of the situation.'J101
At the heart of apartheid were the pass laws, designed to control the movement of Africans into the urban areas. The 1958 ANC conference set up an Anti-Pass Planning Council as well as an Economic Boycott Committee.J111 When it reported, in May 1959, the Council rejected the confrontational approach of refusing to carry passes and advocated instead a campaign of industrial action and boycott. It was not the pass itself, it argued, which should be the campaign focus, but the pass's role in the functioning of apartheid. If passes were discarded or burnt they would just be reimposed. But the economic boycott could be used to hit against the whole pass law system. In particular, the Council stated, 'by withdrawing our purchasing power from certain institutions we can, as Chief Lutuli said, "punch them in the stomach"'.J12] The report added, significantly, 'The economic boycott has unlimited potentialities. When our local purchasing power is combined with that of sympathetic organizations overseas we wield a devastating weapon'.J131
The ANC's implicit appeal for support for the boycott from outside South Africa reflected its increasingly internationalist outlook. Through the 1950s it had developed a growing awareness both of the potential and the need for support from the outside world. Since a multi-racial delegation of ANC President Dr Xuma, H A Naidoo and Senator Hymie Basner had travelled to the UN to support India's protests against the 'Ghetto Act' in 1946, the UN had been a focus for anti-apartheid lobbying. In 1953 it set up a Commission on the Racial Situation in South Africa. In the same year the ANC's Secretary-General, Walter Sisulu, accompanied by Duma Nokwe, left South Africa on a five-month tour which took them to Britain, Holland, Israel, Czechoslavakia and the Soviet Union, to an international youth festival in Bucharest, a student congress in Warsaw, and ended with a five-week visit to China.1141 From London Sisulu wrote to the UN Commission in session in Geneva asking for a travel document to enable him to give evidence in person, but was turned down. The ANC sent lengthy written evidence, however, and the UN Commission issued substantial reports on South Africa in 1953, 1954 and 1955.
More encouraging was the Bandung Conference of Asian and African countries in 1955. The Congress movement was represented by Moses Kotane and Maulvi Cachalia who presented a memorandum arguing 'We are convinced ... that the
Government of South Africa could be forced to reconsider its reactionary and inhuman policy if all the nations who do not approve . . . particularly the Governments of the United States and Britain, would boldly take a firm stand against such practices'.j151 Like Sisulu two years before, Kotane and Cachalia used the occasion of the conference to travel more widely, going first to London, where they met Labour MPs. They visited Cairo, India and Singapore en route to Indonesia and returned to India for talks with representatives of the Indian Congress. Kotane then attended the World Youth Festival in Warsaw and travelled on to China. Throughout the 1950s a trickle of Congress movement members attended youth festivals and international trade union conferences, usually in the countries of the eastern bloc.J161 Solidarity worked both ways. In 1958 the ANC Youth League expressed its 'sympathy with the Negro people in Little Rock and those of Nottingham [sic] Hill'.[171
By the end of 1958 there was real hope that the combination of external pressure from a world in which the balance of forces seemed to be moving in favour of self-determination, and a coherent and organised movement inside South Africa, would crack open the apartheid edifice. In October 1958 the US reversed its policy of abstaining on UN resolutions about South Africa and voted for an expression of 'regret and concern' that South Africa had not modified its racial policy. In independent Ghana the All-African People's Conference, held in Accra in December 1958, called on independent African countries to impose economic sanctions against South Africa, including a boycott of South African goods. The ANC was represented at Accra by a delegation headed by Ezekiel Mphahlele and including Alfred Hutchinson and Mary-Louise Hooper, a Californian volunteer who had been working as an aide to Chief Lutuli. 18 Michael Scott and three members of the Liberal Party also attended the Conference. The ANC had reservations about references to 'our African personality' and 'pan-African socialism' in the pre-conference material; in its submission to the conference it stressed that the ANC's aim was to establish a multi-racial society. It made no mention of sanctions. However Mphahlele chaired the committee that drafted the sanctions resolution and afterwards Chief Lutuli commented 'It heartened us to see that [a boycott] made sense to liberatory forces outside our own country'.j19]
The ANC's Anti-Pass Council's proposal for a boycott was approved at a mass conference held in Johannesburg at the end of May 1959. The conference also agreed to call for a boycott of potatoes, in protest against forced African farm labour. This was widely observed, but was called off, amid some confusion, at the end of August. The ANC's Executive Committee had already decided that a boycott of 'products of Nationalist controlled institutions' should begin on 26 June. The plan was announced at an Africa Day rally addressed by Chief Lutuli in Durban on
15 April.1201 Africans were also asked to observe 26 June as a 'Day of Denial' by not buying anything in the shops, going to the cinema or to beerhalls.
Meanwhile in April 1959 the Africanists in the ANC had broken away to form the Pan-Africanist Congress. The Africanists had advocated a boycott of shopkeepers who were abusive towards blacks, but only as a way of changing their behaviour and not as part of a more general economic boycott campaign.j21] At the PAC's first annual conference in December 1959 its leadership welcomed the All African People's Conference's boycott call stating 'We have supported and encouraged the boycott of all South African goods by countries abroad'.J221 But boycott was not a central part of the PAC's strategy for action within South Africa. At the 1959 conference the leadership made a generalised call for 'a dynamic programme destined to crush, once and for all, white domination'.J231 A few months later this was translated into plans for a campaign to be launched on 21 March 1960, when Africans would be asked to go to police stations without their passes and give themselves up for arrest. This was widely seen as an attempt to preempt the ANC which had designated
31 March as Anti-Pass Day. The PAC leaders were as aware as their former ANC colleagues that confrontation could end in bloodshed. On several occasions in 1959 police had opened fire and killed demonstrators in Natal. On 10 December police shot 12 people dead when residents refused to move from their homes in the 'Old Location' in Windhoek. In the build up to 21 March the PAC's President, Robert Sobukwe, wrote to the Police Commissioner in Cape Town asking him to instruct his
men not to allow themselves to be provoked into violence.J241 The PAC leaders were either reckless or naive. Nevertheless with the advantage of hindsight it is difficult to believe that the ANC's attempts to bring about change through economic and moral pressure alone could have worked. In retrospect it seems clear that within South Africa the boycott tactic had, for the time being at least, come to the end of its usefulness and that the significance of the 1959 call was that it was taken up in Britain and the wider world.J251
'Freedom, nothing but Freedom'J261
Among the white Dominions, independent republics and African and Asian colonies which were the legacy of the British Empire, South Africa was a special case. To the Conservative government it was a sovereign state in whose internal affairs Britain could not interfere. To the British business community it was an important trading and investment partner whose stability was important to the British economy. British people, many of whom had family and friends in South Africa, accepted it as part of the British Commonwealth family, but saw it as a step-child, whose apartheid policies were to be condemned as much for being anti-British as for being anti-black. But to committed Christians, some students, Britain's growing black community and to many on the Left, apartheid was variously a moral outrage, a violation of human rights or a special form of racism or colonial oppression.
As such it became one of the causes taken up by a network of organisations and individuals involved in a ferment of activity on three interlinked issues: the anti-colonial struggle; peace and nuclear disarmament; and opposition to endemic, and growing, racism in Britain. By the end of the 1950s Africa had become a central issue in British politics. Sudan won its independence in 1956, followed by Ghana in 1957. In 1960 sixteen of Britain, France and Belgium's African colonies were to become independent states. But Central Africa, where the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland had been formed in 1953 and white colonists had put down roots, was a more intractable problem. 1959 was a year of crisis; the colonial authorities declared a State of Emergency in Nyasaland and 48 Africans were shot dead by police.
The Committee of African Organisations (CAO) brought together representatives of freedom movements throughout Anglophone Africa. In 1959 it campaigned for the break up of the Central African Federation, collected money for the Kenya Defence Fund, protested against the shootings in Nyasaland and arranged a memorial for Kelso Cochrane, victim of a racist murder in North Kensington .J271 In August it organised a rally against French nuclear tests in the Sahara, with Canon Collins as one of the speakers. The following month it distributed a special leaflet for 'Southern Rhodesia Freedom Day', 12 September.J281 To CAO, all these issues were at least as pressing as the situation in South Africa, where the government had answered the non-violent protest movement against apartheid by arresting the people's leaders and giving them what appeared at least to be a fair trial.
Working with CAO was the Movement for Colonial Freedom (MCF), formed in 1954 as a merger of the British branch of the Congress against Imperialism with committees campaigning on Central Africa, Kenya, British Guiana and Bechuanaland.J291 Fenner Brockway, its chairman, had begun his political life in the Independent Labour Party (ILP), with its peculiarly British brand of Methodist-influenced socialism and long tradition of anti-imperialism.J301 Its General Secretary, John Eber, had been expelled from Malaya by the colonial authorities. By the end of the 1950s MCF had supplanted the Fabian Colonial Bureau as the major pressure group on Labour's colonial policy. It was sponsored by 100 Labour MPs, most of them from the Party's left-wing, and by two of the 'big six' trade unions, the engineering union AEU and the shopworkers union USDAW. Its founding resolution pledged it to campaign for 'the application of the Four Freedoms and the [UN] Declaration of Human Rights including freedom from contempt by the abolition of the colour bar'. It promoted annual meetings about South Africa on Human Rights Day, 10 December, campaigned in the British academic community against the introduction of apartheid into South African universities and pioneered opposition to sports apartheid, working with the South Wales area of the miners union and the Socialist Medical Association to protest against the participation of an all-white South African team at the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games.
The network also involved prominent churchmen, working as exceptional individuals, rather than as representatives of their churches. Trevor Huddleston returned to Britain from a 12-year ministry in Sophiatown, Johannesburg in 1956. His elegy for Sophiatown, Naught for your Comfort, sold over 100,000 copies in its hardback edition and many more in paperback. Back in Britain he was passionately concerned to continue the fight against apartheid as well as doing all he could to oppose racism in Britain, speaking at meetings like the conference called to form a committee to fight race hatred in north London in November 1959.1311 Michael Scott first went to South Africa in the 1920s to work with the priest in charge of Robben Island's leper settlement. Later he testified at the UN on behalf of the Herero people of Namibia and was expelled from South Africa. He set up the Africa Bureau in 1952 as a base of support for lobbyists outside the Left and pressure groups which he described as 'the stage army of the good' and 'the most extreme or near-lunatic fringe'.f321 Both Huddleston and Scott were early advocates of sanctions and boycott. At a meeting attended by 4000 people in Central Hall, Westminster held in April 1956, just after his return to Britain, Huddleston called for a cultural and sporting boycott of South Africa and asked people 'to use economic pressure against the South Arican government'.f33] In 1957 Michael Scott wrote to Kwame Nkrumah, as leader of newly independent Ghana, suggesting that West African countries should boycott South African goods.f341
Christian Action was set up by Canon John Collins in 1946, with the aim of promoting reconciliation with the people of Germany. Collins' concern for South Africa was primarily a humanitarian one. He was profoundly impressed by his reading of Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country. When, in 1952, he received a request from Trevor Huddleston to raise funds for the families of people gaoled for taking part in the Defiance Campaign, he willingly agreed. Two years later Collins visited South Africa as the guest of a South African businessman, anxious to persuade Collins that the racial situation in South Africa was not as bad as he had been led to believe. He returned more determined than ever to support the resistance to apartheid; his first step was to report back on his visit at a meeting, chaired by Victor Gollancz, in Westminster Central Hall. When 156 Congress Movement leaders were arrested in December 1956 he took the initiative in sending money to Bishop Ambrose Reeves in Johannesburg for their defence.1351 He became the paymaster of the anti-colonial movement, serving as MCF's Treasurer and persuading the Labour Party to channel funds through Christian Action's Defence and Aid Fund.
Labour MPs who took up colonial issues were generally left-wingers, but anti-colonialism was not an issue for the Left as a group. An exception (he was not then on the left of the Party) was Anthony Wedgwood Benn, whose father Lord Stansgate had been Secretary of State for India in the 1929–31 Labour Government. Benn records in his diary how he and other MPs handed in a letter of protest to South Africa House at the opening of the Treason Trial.f36] Others were former members of the ILP like Fenner Brockway and Jennie Lee, or had a special interest like Sir Leslie Plummer, whose family had lived in British Guiana. Tom Driberg was unusual as a left-winger who showed as much interest in international as in domestic affairs; he became interested in Africa after Seretse Khama was barred from returning to Bechuanaland in 1950 and was one of six MPs to vote against the Labour government on the issue.[371 Tribunites Harold Davies and Reg Sorensen were active in the Union of Democratic Control (UDC) speaking on South Africa at Labour Party, trade union and Workers Educational Association branches.f38] Barbara Castle made high-profile visits to Kenya and Cyprus; in 1958 she persuaded the Sunday Pictorial, for which she wrote a column, to send her to Johannesburg to report on the Treason Trial .f391 On colonial issues the Labour Party NEC had taken a radical step forward with the adoption in 1956 of its policy document 'The Plural Society' which called for universal suffrage to be established before independence in colonies with mixed European, Asian and African populations. 40 But in South Africa, until at least 1958, the Party had closer ties with the all-white South African Labour Party than with the Congress Movement.141] At the grass roots of the Party the racial attitudes of some working class members had been transformed by the 1939–45 war. 'The lads in Africa' said a conference delegate in 1956 'were accepted
by us as buddies because they were fighting for democracy'.J421 Constituency parties put forward resolutions condemning apartheid at the 1951, 1952, 1955 and 1956 Labour Party conferences.
In 1953 the TUC sent a special mission to South Africa to investigate the position of trade unions; it reported that they were in danger of being destroyed.J431 The TUC was more concerned to protect the interests of those already organised in trade unions than to campaign against apartheid and only a handful of trade union leaders, almost all of them from small craft unions and most of them close to the Communist Party, were concerned with African rights. An exception was the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers, with its record of international solidarity in the Spanish Civil War. The Tobacco Workers leader Percy Belcher spent three weeks in Sofia in 1955 at a conference of the Food, Drink and Tobacco Workers International where he met Mrs Elizabeth Mafekeng, President of the South African Food and Canning Workers Union.J441 Four years later, when Mrs Mafekeng was banished to the northern Cape, he campaigned for her to be allowed to return to her home in Paarl. Harry Knight, General Secretary of the scientific and supervisory workers union ASSET (later ASTMS) played a leading part in MCF. By 1957 the Musicians Union was barring its members from playing in front of racially segregated audiences. In 1958 the draughtsmen's union AESD became the first trade union to sell its shares in South African companies as a protest against apartheid, a new form of action which prefigured later anti-apartheid campaigns.1451
The British Communist Party had a policy of unambiguous support for independence for Britain's African colonies and majority rule in South Africa. In the mid-1950s it had resolved an ideological dispute over the relation of the struggle in the metropolis to the anti-imperialist struggle in the colonies by agreeing that the pursuit of the latter need not wait on the establishment of socialism in the imperial centre. Unlike the Labour Party, therefore, it saw anti-colonial movements as allies in its strategy for building socialism in Britain.f461 Its International Committee had sub-committees covering every area of Britain's former empire, including committees for Africa and South Africa, to which, where possible, it recruited members from the territories concerned, including South Africa. From the early 1950s the Ghanaian Desmond Buckle was a leading member of its Africa Committee and Vella Pillay served on both the Africa and South Africa Committees. 47 After 1957 he was joined by Mac Maharaj on the Africa Committee. The Party saw its role as producing and circulating information which could be used to stimulate solidarity action in the wider labour and trade union movement. From 1947 to 1954 the Africa Committee published an Africa Newsletter and from 1954 to 1957 promoted the more ambitious Africa Bulletin.J481 Its efforts were constrained by its relatively small membership, especially after the exodus which followed the Hungarian uprising in 1956, and by the hostility of the leadership of most of the big trade unions and of the Labour Party, which proscribed members from working with any organisation it deemed to be Communist-controlled. The Africa Bulletin therefore was published under the imprint of the Association of African Freedom, with a Hampstead address. But in the trade union movement at least, the Labour movement leadership's implacable hostility to the Communist Party was not shared by many grass roots activists and the Party did succeed in building some working class support for anti-colonial struggles.
On South Africa, particularly, the Communist Party played an invaluable role both in helping the increasingly beleaguered Congress Movement keep in contact with the outside world, in providing a voice for the underground SACP and in campaigning for support for Congress campaigns. South Africans who travelled to international conferences in the 1950s usually left without passports or money and came via London where they were helped on their way by the Communist Party. The first issue of the African Communist, a journal produced by SACP members, was published within South Africa; thereafter it was printed in London with the Party's help, using the name and address of a British Party member.J491 The Party also used its publications to promote Congress campaigns. In March 1956 the Africa Bulletin reprinted the Freedom Charter, saying 'Father Huddleston is urging every South African to sign the Charter . . . buy a copy from us and support it yourself'. The Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker, gave regular coverage to Congress activities.
In Britain's universities students had been protesting against racial segregation in South Africa since the Royal Family's visit there in 1947. Ten years later they campaigned against the introduction of apartheid into university education in South Africa; over 250 academics from six universities signed a protest circulated by MCF against the so-called Extension of University Education Act.1501 Cambridge University set up its own scholarship for a student from South Africa, with money raised mostly in small donations from undergraduates.M In Scotland, where missionary links with educational institutions in Africa had been especially strong, the Scottish Union of Students protested to the South African authorities at every stage of the apartheid education Bill's progress through the South African Parliament. On the day of the Bill's re-introduction in May 1959 students throughout Scotland wore black armbands and at Glasgow University a fund was launched to help students from South Africa.1521
From the 1940s individual South Africans who were opposed to the regime had been arriving in Britain. An early arrival was Cassim Jadwat who came in 1945, seen off at Cape Town docks by Yusuf Dadoo who urged him to get international support for the anti-apartheid struggle. He worked with the Student Labour Federation to counter a touring South African exhibition 'Meet South Africa' by writing a pamphlet titled 'Meet the Real South Africa' and helped in the organisation of a meeting on South Africa by the India League in March 1949 at Friends House in London at which Yusuf Dadoo and Paul Robeson were the main speakers.j531 M D Naidoo settled in London after appearing at the UN in 1947, returning to South Africa in 1956 where he later passed on contact addresses to other Congress members wishing to travel abroad.j541 He was followed by Communist Party of South Africa members and sympathisers like Max and Saura Joffe, Patsy and Vella Pillay, Cynthia and Simon Zukas and the trade unionists Guy Routh and James Phillips. David Kitson came to Britain in 1947 and set about campaigning in his union, AESD. He and other South Africans spoke on South Africa to Labour Party branches on behalf of the UDC. (The UDC also published a pamphlet 'South Africa – The Facts' by Guy Routh.) Rosalynde Ainslie came to study in 1954 and acted as the representative in Britain of the anti-apartheid quarterly Africa South, edited by Ronald Segal. In the early 1950s a South African Students Association (SASA) was formed, which organised public protests on South Africa with the help of the India League and Indian students living in London.J551 A committee was set up to support the left-wing journal New Age and held fund-raising parties where British sympathisers met South African exiles.j561 The exiled trade union leader Solly Sachs initiated a Fund for South African Democracy to raise money for African trade unions. But by 1957 these initiatives had collapsed, partly because of disputes over the Soviet response to the uprising in Hungary. 57
Late in 1957 the New Age committee was revived and early in 1958 an urgent message was received from the Movement in South Africa warning of its fear that the apartheid government would crack down on the stay-at-home planned by Congress as a protest against the all-white elections in April and result in a blood bath. The message appealed for international action to constrain the South African authorities reaction. In response Vella Pillay and others called a meeting to which they invited South Africans of all political persuasions who they thought would respond to the appeal from home. The meeting set up a South African Freedom Association (SAFA), with Solly Sachs as its Secretary, succeeded at a subsequent meeting by Mac Maharaj, who had arrived in London in August 1957.1581 The stay-at-home was called off after the first day and the immediate threat of bloodshed passed, but SAFA, which soon affiliated to CAO, was to play an important part in initiating the Boycott Movement.
At the end of the 1950s more young South Africans started arriving in Britain in search of education and experience outside South Africa's newly segregated universities. Among them were Kader Asmal, Nanda Naidoo, Joan Nair, Tony and Hassim Seedat, Mana Chetty and Freddy Reddy. Most of them were supporters of the South African Indian Congress. Two of the few African South Africans in London were the poet Mazisi (Raymond) Kunene and Lionel Ngakane; a consequence of apartheid was that only whites, and to a lesser extent Indians, could afford the luxury of going into exile. New arrivals were soon drawn in to a network which met at the
North London home of Patsy and Vella Pillay to discuss the application of Marxist ideas to the situation in South Africa and how to support the struggle back home. An important new arrival in the spring of 1959 was Tennyson Makiwane, a leader of the ANC Youth League and former treason trialist who had been involved in the Alexandra bus boycott. He had just attended the World Youth Festival held in Vienna in April. Alfred Hutchinson, another treason trialist who had worked closely with Walter Sisulu, also reached London from Ghana at about this time.
By the beginning of 1959 the movement against apartheid in Britain had been growing for more than a decade. A network of organisations across the political spectrum, though mainly on the Left, including MCF, Christian Action, CAO, the National Council of Civil Liberties, student bodies, some trade unions, the Communist Party and sections of the Labour Party had taken action against apartheid. They had close links with the committed group of South African Congress supporters in London who provided information and worked with them in their campaigns. Most of those who had arrived in the early 1950s had been close to the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA)4591 But they were well aware of the strength of anti-Communism in Britain, both in the Labour and trade union movement and beyond, and deliberately set out to reach a wider audience. In this they were helped by the arrival in the Spring of 1959 of Tennyson Makiwane who as an African who represented the African National Congress could respond convincingly to the argument that the boycott would hurt those it was intended to help by saying that Africans were suffering already and were willing to pay a further price for their freedom. Other new arrivals like Alfred Hutchinson and Abdul Minty were also important. Abdul Minty had known Trevor Huddleston in South Africa and now drew him in to the new campaign.
There had been attempts to organise boycotts in Britain before, in response to earlier boycotts within South Africa, but these had largely failed. Some time in the mid-1950s South African Congress supporters picketed shops in North London4601 In 1957 Hackney Central Labour Party sent a resolution to conference urging Labour movement members not to buy South African goods; it was remitted and then rejected by the National Executive Committee.j61] Now Congress members living in Britain and their British supporters again took up the idea of acting in solidarity with the boycott campaign in South Africa by launching an appeal for a boycott in Britain. It was the dynamic of events in South Africa that prompted the timing, as well as the idea, of the boycott initiative. This time the campaign was launched under the name of the Committee of African Organisations. And this time, after a slow start, the call for a boycott fell on more fertile ground.
'Don't Buy Slavery'
Exactly when and by whom the decision to launch a new boycott campaign was made is unclear, but CAO's report of activities for 1959 states clearly that it set up a Boycott Sub-Committee in response to a request from the African National Congress and that it worked closely with Tennyson Makiwane representing the ANC and the South African Freedom Movement.j62j That the South Africans turned to CAO, an organisation of African expatriate students and activists, was significant; just as CAO's activities were organised by Africans in exile, the boycott campaign also was essentially South African-driven.
No time was lost in getting things moving. Under the auspices of CAO and with support from MCF, the South Africans held a 24-hour vigil outside South Africa House and the meeting at Holborn Hall on Friday 26 June. On Saturday CAO organised poster parades at several shopping centres where demonstrators held placards telling shoppers 'Don't Buy Slavery, Don't Buy South African' and distributed a leaflet that listed 'Outspan' oranges, 'Cape' apples, avocado pears, onions, wine and sherry and 'Craven A' cigarettes as some of the South African products that shoppers should avoid. The leaflet quoted the ANC's Anti-Pass Council's report saying 'When our local purchasing power is combined with that of sympathetic organisations overseas, we wield a devastating weapon'.j63j
The next pickets were organised by CAO's Boycott Sub-Committee, which was chaired by the Nigerian Femi Ukunnu; Rosalynde Ainslie attended its meetings on behalf of SAFA. Without grass roots of its own, CAO turned to contacts in the labour and trade union movement and the peace movement for support. Its next venture,
on Saturday 11 July, was a picket in conjunction with Finchley Labour Party. Supporters were asked to meet at 11am at Tally Ho Corner in north London.j64] On 19 July Tennyson Makiwane was one of an all-star line up of speakers, with Julius Nyerere, Joshua Nkomo, Kanyama Chiume and Labour's shadow Colonial Secretary, James Callaghan, at a demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Poster parades on three successive Saturdays in August followed: on 1 August with the support of St Pancras and Holborn Trades Council, meeting at Camden Town tube station; on 8 August with Hampstead Peace Committee, meeting at Hampstead tube station; and on 15 August with the local Labour Party, meeting at Brixton Town Hall.j65] The campaign had some success. The film technicians trade union ACTT, the Tobacco Workers Union, Brighton and St Albans Co-ops and the Political Committee of the London Co-operative Society all decided to support the boycott. So did a handful of constituency Labour Parties.f66] But by the end of July CAO's Boycott Sub-Committee was already overstretched. At a meeting on 29 July the committee's Chairman, Femi Okunnu, said that after its initial impact, CAO had not been able to mobilise enough forces to broaden the campaign. It was agreed to approach 'eminent sponsors' for support, but to suspend activities if the committee was not strong enough to make the boycott a platform during the October 1959 General Election campaign. 67
In the autumn the Committee was reconstituted with Dennis Phombeah from CAO as Chair and with a group of young South Africans as a hard-working and enthusiastic core. Another recruit was Patrick van Rensburg of the South African Liberal Party who was approached by Tennyson Makiwane to try to revive the campaign.1681 Van Rensburg was working in Christian Action's basement in Amen Court and threw himself into action with gusto, firing off letters to prospective sponsors. By November the Committee was meeting on alternate Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings and endorsed a plan to hold a delegate conference as a preliminary to a month's intensified boycott campaign early in the new year, when fruit imports from South Africa started arriving.
'A truly national movement ... '
From the beginning it was felt important to get a wide range of sponsors, from the world of the arts as well as trade unions and all the political parties. Among the first to agree were sympathisers like Michael Scott, Trevor Huddleston, Canon Collins, Fenner Brockway and Donald Soper; then came celebrities and academics, among them Brendan Behan, Johnny Dankworth, John Berger, journalist James Cameron, Bertrand Russell, Professor A. J. Ayer and the cartoonist Vicky. Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe, later to become a Vice-President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, readily agreed, but the Liberal Party's leader, Jo Grimond and Clement Davies, its former leader, both refused .M The biggest problem lay with the Conservative Party. The Committee was convinced of the importance of showing that the boycott had support from at least some Conservatives. It had the support of Lord Altrincham (later better known as the journalist and biographer John Grigg), who became very active in the campaign, initially as Chair of its London Committee; but on his own admission he was a semi-detached member of the Party. A letter to Geoffrey Howe, then active in the left-leaning Bow Group, elicited only the response that although he personally sympathised with the campaign's objectives, he was 'frankly doubtful if the boycott could be made to work in this country'.f70] Conservative MP Chris Chataway used his maiden speech to express the hope that the England cricket team would refuse to play a segregated South African team on its 1960 tour and to suggest that 'ordinary people could take actions that governments were unable to'.j71] But he stopped short of backing a consumer boycott. So for the first few months of the campaign Lord Altrincham spoke at every major event.
With the start of the autumn term the campaign took off among students. In November NUS Council called for an 'individual boycott' by its members, with few votes against but many abstentions. 72 At Oxford University, JACARI (the Joint Action Committee Against Racial Intolerance), a co-ordinating group supported by 44 university clubs, decided to campaign for the boycott. Not to be outdone JAGUAR, Cambridge's Joint Action Group for Understanding Among Races, circulated a petition asking colleges to stop buying South African fruit and wine for their kitchens and butteries. At the beginning of December the Cambridge Union
voted by 100 votes to 83 to instruct its kitchen committee not to buy South African. LSE Students Union banned sales of South African food and cigarettes in its hall of residence, followed by London's University College.J731
The previous July the Labour Party's NEC Commonwealth sub-committee had reacted cautiously to a motion from the Isle of Thanet constituency party supporting the boycott, saying that it was a matter for individual choice.[74 The Party did not consider 'colonial policy' to be an important issue when it drew up its plans for the October 1959 General Election campaign. 75 Left politics was dominated by the issues of nationalisation and unilateral nuclear disarmament; the Party was split from top to bottom. Labour lost badly, and unexpectedly, in the October election and the Party looked for an issue around which it could unite. 'We need', declared General Secretary Morgan Phillips, 'something that will make a moral appeal to the country. I therefore suggest that consideration be given to making 1960 an "African Year"'.J761 The Party stumbled into supporting the boycott as a ready-made campaign that fitted in to its 'Africa Year'. It remained cautious, however and was reluctant to take any action that would have a serious impact on the South African economy. The Secretary of its Commonwealth Sub-committee, John Hatch, reported that the effect of the boycott 'is likely to be more political than economic' and proposed that Party members should be asked to observe the boycott 'as a political gesture of solidarity' for one month only.1771 In a statement issued on 16 December the Party called for a boycott of South African goods from 20 February to 19 March 1960, and its International Department Secretary, David Ennals, joined the Boycott Committee. The following week the TUC General Council, responding to a call from the ICFTU, followed Labour's lead and appealed to trade unionists and the general public to 'express by a consumers' boycott of South African goods their personal revulsion against the racial policies being pursued by the government of South Africa'.1781 The ICFTU had asked its affiliates to consider taking the more radical step of refusing to handle South African goods; the TUC fudged by commissioning a document looking at the implications of such a ban. Of the three organisations which made up the National Council of Labour, only the Co-operative Union refused to back the boycott. However, 19 Co-op societies, among them the Manchester and Salford, and South Suburban Co-ops, rejected its advice and decided to take South African products off their shelves during the boycott month.
By December the Boycott Committee had evolved from its origins as a CAO Sub-Committee to become a group still chaired by Dennis Phombeah of CAO, but made up of committed and hard-working South Africans, together with a few others, among them Johnny James from the British Guiana Freedom Association, Yvonne Redman from the Universities and Left Review and Keith White and Joan Hymans from MCF. The South Africans who formed the core of the Committee realised that it needed a broader base with more formal representation from a wider range of British organisations. There was also a feeling that it must be strengthened if it was not to be swept aside when the Labour Party joined the boycott month. The Committee depended heavily on the unpaid commitment of its members, especially its Secretary, Rosalynde Ainslie, and on the goodwill of CAO, which had made available the small back room of its office at 200 Gower Street, in the basement of the building where Dr David Pitt had his surgery. It relied on MCF to help send out mailings and provide speakers to interested organisations. In November Christian Action, which had already given the Committee support in kind, in the form of paper for leaflets and letterheads, had offered to take over the running of the campaign. A majority on the committee were keen to remain independent; it was agreed that a subgroup would meet Canon Collins and discuss a formula whereby Christian Action would be asked to give its support.J791 When Christian Action's proposals were put to the Committee in writing in mid-December, members were divided, with Patrick van Rensburg arguing for acceptance, on the grounds that it was irrelevant who controlled the Movement in Britain, as its links with the Congress Movement and the (South African) Liberal Party were a guarantee of its arriving at correct policies. This was hotly contested by other members who argued that the Boycott Movement was a British campaign and pointed out that the ANC had not yet made any direct call for an international boycott. In a decision crucial to the Movement's future development it was agreed that policy would be 'the result of argument among members in an
essentially autonomous body'. It was also agreed to invite other organisations to send representatives to the committee and that existing members should ensure that they had proper credentials.J801
This decision bore fruit at the 29 December meeting of the Committee (now calling itself for the first time the Boycott Movement Committee) where those present were listed in the Minutes as representing their organisations, and when the Africa Bureau, Christian Action and the National Council for Civil Liberties were formally represented for the first time. David Ennals attended as a representative of both Christian Action and the Labour Party. It was agreed to ask the Liberal Party, the TUC and the London Co-operative Party to nominate representatives: of these only the Liberal Party responded by appointing Tom Kellock. The Communist Party, which had announced its support for the campaign at its 26 June launch, was not invited to send a delegate, presumably because of proscription.J811 The Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker, continued to give full, often front-page, coverage to the boycott and for much of 1960 appeared with the slogan 'Boycott South African goods' stamped above its masthead. At the same time the campaign was put on a sounder organisational footing with the appointment of Tennyson Makiwane as Director, Keith Lye of the Africa Bureau as Deputy Director, and Martin Ennals as Organising Secretary. Rosalynde Ainslie continued as Honorary Secretary and Vella Pillay as Honorary Treasurer. (Patrick van Rensburg, who had been acting as Director, was about to leave the country.) The South Africans on the committee had the vision to see that if it was to grow, the Movement must put down British roots. At the same time they were determined that it would remain aligned with Congress. Later this caused tensions on the Committee; but for now it was able to note that 'this arrangement of personnel linked satisfactorily South African and English participation'.J821
At the end of December the Committee put flesh on its plans for the campaign. It was agreed that there was an urgent need to set up local committees; for legal reasons these were to be autonomous and Keith Lye was given the task of travelling around the country to promote them. David Ennals reported that the Labour Party would write to local parties asking them to take the initiative in forming committees in their areas. The first initiatives taken outside London seem to have been organised by groups focusing on Africa and independent of any other organisation. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Tyneside Africa Council sponsored a march of students and young people, carrying placards saying 'Tobacco Tyrants Rothmans Stuyvesant'.j841 In Edinburgh Tennyson Makiwane spoke at a meeting organised by African students. The campaign also received strong support from the black community. The West Indian Gazette pointed to 'growing evidence that the boycott of South African goods . . . is spreading throughout Britain'. A reader from Huddersfield urged 'If ever there was a time and need for Afro-West Indian corroboration [sic] this is it'.1851
At a well-attended press conference on 12 January announcing the launch meeting, now planned to take place on 17 January, the Committee stressed that the delegate conference would be reconvened after the boycott month (now scheduled to take place 1–31 March 1960) to discuss the next steps in the campaign.J861 Meanwhile letters had been sent to organisations asking them to declare their support for the boycott and to send delegates to the conference. The Committee cast its net wide, at same time showing where it expected to find its strongest support, with letters going first to trade unions, Co-ops, women's organisations and Constituency Labour Parties, followed by local Liberal Parties, Conservative Associations and Young Conservative branches. A different letter was prepared for churches and religious organisations.J871
The 17 January Conference, held in Denison House, Vauxhall Bridge Road, attracted 250 people from 168 organisations,J881 and was chaired by Trevor Huddleston and Dennis Phombeah. Anthony Wedgwood Benn, speaking on behalf of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee, said that the breadth of support for the boycott made it 'the most remarkable political demonstration for many years'; Lord Altrincham said he represented 'not the Tory Party, but many Tories'; and Harry Knight of the supervisory and scientific workers union ASSET said that Oswald Mosley's opposition was proof of the correctness of the boycott. j891 Delegates were
asked to set up local boycott committees, to organise meetings on the boycott, to approach local shops and to picket shopping areas. The Committee signalled its determination to carry on after the boycott month with a session introduced by David Ennals on the theme 'What after March?' The conference was the Committee's first big public event and it was judged to have been a success.
An energetic London Campaign Committee was set up the following weekend and by the beginning of February Martin Ennals reported that there were around 35 local committees, with a further 25 in the process of formation. Over the next four weeks the number of local campaign committees mushroomed to 160. These were said to be broad-based groups, with other areas being covered by local Labour Parties.J901 The extent to which the committees were dominated by Labour Party members is unclear, but there was certainly participation by other political parties, for example, by Plaid Cymru in Bangor, and considerable support from trade union branches and trades councils, like that given by NALGO in Aberystwyth and the South African Action Committee set up by Walthamstow Trades Council.j91j
In February the Committee issued a press statement which attempted to clarify its relationship with the Labour Party. The original South African call for a boycott had clearly been intended to deal a body blow to South Africa's economy. In a statement dictated either by realism or political pragmatism, the Boycott Committee argued 'The boycott in this country is essentially a gesture ... No-one imagines this boycott will bring an unjust and detested system swiftly to an end'. At the same time it made its strongest statement yet about its non-partisanship: 'The Boycott Movement is . . . as everyone working for it will certify, a truly national movement, in which the people of this country are free, for once in a while, to forget their domestic political wrangles in order to devote themselves to a great cause.'1921
In fact the support of the Labour Party and the TUC transformed the scale of the campaign. In February and March the Party organised twenty-seven conferences on Africa nationwide. From the beginning it accepted that the campaign publicity material would be written and produced by the Boycott Movement Committee; this was important in establishing the Movement's expertise and authority. (The Liberal Party asked interested members to communicate directly with the Movement.) Already in February there was a huge demand for the Committee's broadsheet, Boycott News1931 and for leaflets and posters. By mid-February the Committee was told that sales of Boycott News had reached 100,000, with 30,000 more on order and that 700,000 introductory leaflets had been circulated, as well as 550,000 leaflets with a list of goods to be boycotted; 350,000 of these were a special Labour Party version and 200,000 were for general distribution.J941 The AEU ordered 117,000 leaflets. A later report estimated that over two million leaflets were distributed in March and that Boycott News sold 250,000 copies. These were huge quantities, even by the standards of the Anti-Apartheid Movement's heyday in the late 1980s. In addition the TUC printed its own leaflet which it distributed to all its affiliated unions.
Labour Party support meant that Labour-controlled Councils gave serious consideration to the request to boycott South African goods. Liverpool led the way and altogether twenty-two did so, including Staffordshire County Council which had a Conservative majority.] j London County Council voted to boycott produce from South Africa during March. Interestingly several of the towns which supported the boycott were ports with long-established black communities; proposing a boycott in South Shields, a local Councillor said that the port had 'a big population of coloured seamen. We have a good spirit of co-operation here and no colour bar. That is why we oppose South Africa's apartheid policy'.[ 61 As the campaign took off it moved up the Labour Party's agenda. It was decided that Hugh Gaitskell as Party Leader would speak at the March Boycott Month's launch rally and that Africa would be the theme of Labour's party political broadcast on 9 March 1960.
The first edition of Boycott News carried the headline 'A Direct Appeal From South Africa'. In November 1959 Patrick van Rensburg had written to Chief Lutuli asking him to send a statement calling 'freshly and clearly' for a boycott.J971 The South African Liberal Party had been split on the issue, but in November the Party's National Committee passed a resolution approving the boycott 'both here and overseas, as a legitimate political weapon'.j981 So the message carried in Boycott
News was signed jointly by Chief Lutuli and Dr G. M. Naicker, Presidents of the African and Indian Congresses and by Peter Brown, National Chairman of South Africa's Liberal Party. It said that an economic boycott was one way in which the world at large could 'bring home to the South African authorities that they must either mend their ways or suffer for them'.
The response to the campaign placed huge strains on the Movement's very limited organisational capacity. It kept going only because of the energy and commitment of young South Africans like Ruth Bailin, who took on responsibility for the Movement's organisational mailings to the detriment of her teacher training course.J99] Mana Chetty worked shifts on London Underground and used his free travel pass to deliver parcels of leaflets all over London.J100] The Committee was still based in the back room of CAO's Gower Street office and shared a telephone with CAO which was cut off and reconnected only after the Treasurer, Vella Pillay, personally guaranteed payment. There was no space for volunteers to work in and the frenetic activity on the boycott threatened to take over all the space available and to disrupt CAO's other campaigns. The Movement had become a cuckoo in the CAO nest. Financially it was just about coping. It had received a loan of £500 from Christian Action, put out an appeal for funds in the press and asked for donations from trade unions. In mid-February the Treasurer reported that its leaflets and posters were more than covering their cost.
'A great moral and positive weapon'
The boycott month kicked off with a rally in Trafalgar Square on 28 February. Around 2,000 people marched from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square, and up to 15,000 gathered there to hear speeches from Hugh Gaitskell, Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe, Lord Altrincham, Rita Smythe of the Women's Co-operative Guild and Tennyson Makiwane. (Mary Stocks had been asked to speak but was unwell.)j1011 The rally was chaired by Trevor Huddleston and there was a recorded message from the ANC's President-General, Chief Lutuli, calling for a boycott.J1021 Hugh Gaitskell said that the purpose of the boycott was not 'to bring the South African government to its knees but to encourage the white nationalists to adopt a new and better frame of mind towards the Africans'. Lord Altrincham said that Macmillan, in his 'magnificent' Cape Town speech, had blundered when he said 'Boycotts will never get you anywhere'.11031 A shadow was cast over the proceedings by a counter-demonstration staged by Oswald Mosley and his supporters who drove in lorries around the Square. Scuffles broke out between demonstrators and Mosley's henchmen which dominated press reports of the rally. Afterwards the Committee complained to the Press Council and to the BBC about the media coverage.J1041 Demonstrations also took place in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham.
For the next three weeks local groups all over the country held poster and car parades, meetings and film shows, wrote letters to the local press and distributed leaflets to Saturday shoppers. There was wide press and radio coverage and on I March the Guardian editorial commented 'The boycott begins today, and it is an
indication of the organisers' success so far that no-one needs to ask "boycott of what?"' Local Labour Parties took up the campaign. Watford Labour Party's broadsheet, Watford Citizen, asked readers to protest against the three issues highlighted by the Movement: the bannings, the extension of passes to women and poverty wages.j1051 In Darlington, the Labour Party unanimously decided to boycott South African goods.11061 Gillingham Labour Party distributed 20,000 of the Movement's boycott leaflets house to house.J1071 Activity extended way beyond the Labour Party. In the West Wales town of Lampeter theological students marched in support of the boycott.J1081 In West London the Communist-led Acton and Park Royal Confed declared: 'As some of the working class of Great Britain, we feel that by supporting the Boycott it will strengthen the ultimate aim of our South African brothers. Naturally we are aware that this boycott may cause hardships to our native brothers. Despite this, we also believe that as this was a request from them it was only our duty to support them.'j1091
Before the boycott month began the Movement had written to importers of South African goods, but came up against a brick wall. Among retailers, only Sainsbury's responded and after tortuous negotiations agreed to stock alternatives to South
African produce where these were available. This was a stand to which it returned in the 1980s. Insofar as the aim of the campaign was to remove South African goods from shelves, it probably achieved little outside some Co-ops. In Finchley Road, where Hampstead Boycott Committee distributed leaflets, one greengrocer said 'I have never encountered anything like this before . . . I haven't sold a grape and not one single tin of South African fruit has come off the shelf.' More typical was the response of another shopkeeper who denied that his trade had been affected.j1101
The campaign was not asking for government action; it said modestly that it was 'fully mindful of the difficulties involved in official recognition or approval'.J1111 Its purpose was to raise people's awareness of apartheid and to give them a way of taking action against it. The boycott month caught the popular mood. Africa was in the news – Macmillan had toured the continent in January and February, proclaiming the blowing of the wind of change on 3 February. (He was met by women members of the ANC in Johannesburg with placards saying 'We never had it so bad'.) The Lancaster House talks on Kenyan independence were successfully concluded at the end of February; in March Colonial Secretary lain Macleod toured the Central African Federation.j1121 The Conservative Party's third successive election victory left many people disillusioned with parliamentary politics. Some reacted to Macmillan's brand of 'You've never had it so good' Toryism by searching for a cause. For many that cause was nuclear disarmament, but CND's strength as a grass roots movement seems to have helped the Boycott Movement rather than detracted from it and peace activists spread their energies to campaign for the boycott. Among committed Christians and a wide swathe of political opinion, from the centre to the far Left, apartheid became an issue and the boycott was taken up as the main way to act against it. In his speech to the Cape parliament Macmillan had specifically rejected the boycott, saying 'I deprecate attempts which are being made in Britain today to organise a consumer boycott of South African goods'.f. 1131 Conservatives followed his lead but they too now felt that they had to condemn apartheid. Hampstead Conservative Councillors, while rejecting a Labour motion to back the boycott, said there were 'few members of the Council who did not abhor apartheid'; several
abstained in the vote.f. 1141 As a consciousness raiser the boycott month had been a success.
Only in West London, where Oswald Mosley stood as a candidate for the Kensington constituency in the 1959 General Election, was there significant opposition from the ultra right. Fascists smashed the windows of the office of the West London Observer because it reported Boycott Movement meetings and painted slogans at Fulham Labour Party's headquarters where a Boycott Movement exhibition was on display. In Westminster's Porchester Hall they tried to break up a meeting addressed by Ian Mikardo MP. A boycott meeting in Portobello Road had to be abandoned when ultra right hecklers tried to overturn the platform. Chelsea Borough Council refused a booking for Chelsea Town Hall for a Brains Trust with Lady Violet Bonham Carter and Elizabeth Pakenham because of the threat of violence.f. 1151
'An entirely new situation ... '11161
As the month drew to a close, the news of the shootings at Sharpeville flashed across the world. On 21 March sixty-nine unarmed protesters, taking part in a demonstration against passes called by the PAC, were shot dead by police in Sharpeville and nearby Vanderbijlpark in the southern Transvaal; hundreds were injured. Two more demonstrators were gunned down at Langa, outside Cape Town. There had been massacres in South Africa before; striking miners had been shot back to work in 1946. But this time reporters were at the scene and pictures of protesters shot in the back were immediately transmitted to the world's press. Newspapers across the political spectrum denounced the killings; the Daily Sketch turned over its leader column to Trevor Huddleston. The boycott month had created a heightened awareness. The day after the shootings 400 people stood in silence outside South Africa House, among them Labour Party Leader Hugh Gaitskell, James Cameron and Lord Altrincham. For the next six days demonstrators kept up the protest, there were scuffles with police and Martin Ennals and Mavis Singleton, Secretary of the Boycott Movement's London Committee, were among those arrested. On Sunday 27 March, the London Committee, with MCF and CAO,
organised a march from Marble Arch to South Africa House and the Labour Party held a 15,000-strong rally in Trafalgar Square. The AAM produced its distinctive black-and-white badge and thousands were sold in and around the Square. On Monday Christian Action and the NCCL went ahead with a meeting, planned before the massacre, in Central Hall, Westminster, where a big collection was taken for the Defence and Aid Fund. In South Wales delegates at an NUM conference called for a one-day strike in solidarity with demonstrators in South Africa.
At the UN Security Council Ecuador introduced a resolution 'deploring' the action of the South African government and urging it 'to abandon its policy of apartheid'. The US voted with the majority, but in spite of the public outcry in Britain, the UK, with France, abstained.
It is sometimes argued that it was the Sharpeville shootings that transformed the Boycott Movement into the Anti-Apartheid Movement. In fact, almost as soon as the decision to hold the March boycott month was taken, the Boycott Movement Committee was working to ensure that the campaign carried on beyond March and that it had a wider remit. In February it was agreed that local committees should be encouraged to carry on campaigning after the end of March. On 16 March the Boycott Movement committee decided to transform itself into an Anti-Apartheid Co-ordinating Committee 'to co-ordinate activities of all organisations opposing apartheid and in particular those of the committees formed throughout the country during the Boycott Month'. It resolved that 'other campaigns would also be organised from time to time.'J1171(At its next meeting it renamed itself the Anti-Apartheid Committee.) It had already decided to hold a 'recall conference' on 30 April at Unity House, the NUR's headquarters in Euston Road. Local committees were to be asked to carry on the boycott, 'while acknowledging that it is not possible to maintain a full-scale intensive campaign after March 31st'.
But Sharpeville, and the events which followed it inside South Africa, did determine the future direction of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. On 30 March the South African government declared a State of Emergency; in the days which followed, thousands of Congress Movement and PAC activists were detained, as well as leading members of the South African Liberal Party. On 8 April the government moved to ban the ANC and PAC. The organisations were unprepared for the severity of the crackdown, their leaders were in gaol and it was clear that from now on non-violence would be met with guns. Over the next eighteen months the Congress Movement's leaders would reassess their strategy and turn to sabotage as the first step in the attempt to build a guerrilla movement. But for the moment the locus of the struggle had shifted. The Committee in London felt that if apartheid could not be changed from within, it must be changed from outside; the strategy of launching an international campaign of economic sanctions against South Africa in an attempt to cripple the apartheid economy, which had always been in the minds of some of the South African founders of the Boycott Movement, acquired a new urgency and potential.
In a draft action programme the Movement (now calling itself the Anti-Apartheid Movement) proposed a campaign to 'Shun Verwoerd's South Africa', which would demand the withdrawal of British diplomatic representation in South Africa; ask the UN to 'issue a call to member-states to impose economic sanctions against South Africa'; work for international action for an end to oil shipments to South Africa and landing facilities for its aircraft; and impose a cultural boycott.J1181 This went far
beyond the appeal to individuals and organisations to boycott South African goods made by the Boycott Movement. For the first time the Movement suggested that international action against South Africa could be justified on the grounds that apartheid threatened 'the stability and security of the whole of the African continent'. It followed this up with a Memorandum on Sanctions which argued 'the moral pressure of the consumer boycott is no longer enough. The South African Government must be forced to change its policies, by practical presssure' and concluded
.. the only sanctions available, short of military, are economic'. South Africa's race policies were 'no longer an exclusively internal affair of South Africa's but a threat to international peace and security' .f 1191
For a brief period, from January to March 1960, the Boycott Movement mobilised people in Britain to act against apartheid on a scale not seen again until the 1980s. It assembled a remarkable cross-party coalition stretching from the Communist Party, which although not represented on the national committee was active in the London Committee and at the grass roots, to dissident members of the Conservative Party. Its links with the Congress Movement, and particularly the presence of Tennyson Makiwane, as the representative of the African National Congress, gave it a legitimacy which it used to overcome the reservations of the Labour Party which feared both the economic destabilisation which it thought would follow black majority rule in South Africa and the Communist influence which it detected in the South African movement.
In South Africa opposition to apartheid, although weakened by bans and proscriptions, was still above ground and committed to non-violent mass action of a kind which inspired international support from across the political spectrum. In Britain the smug conformity of the 1950s had given away to a new mood of grass roots activism manifested in the campaign against nuclear weapons, and in the movements against racism in Britain and for African freedom. At this moment the South African Congress Movement launched its campaign of boycott within South Africa, which was taken up and used in a different context by its members living in exile and their British supporters. After its election defeat in October 1959 the Labour Party, with a strongly anti-unilateralist leadership, tried to heal its wounds and find a moral purpose by launching its Africa Year. The boycott was represented as a moral crusade with the limited objective of putting pressure on the South African government; it is arguable that this was not inconsistent with Congress's aims in 1959. A strategy which had developed in one country was transplanted and flourished in a quite different political situation. But the shootings at Sharpeville, which for a short time provoked huge international protests, were the prelude to more difficult times. With the liberation movements driven underground the Anti-Apartheid Movement transformed its strategy to call for sanctions in a situation that had changed both in South Africa and in Britain.
The Boycott Movement established some key features which were to characterise the Anti-Apartheid Movement for the rest of its 35-year history. It built a structure which involved other organisations working in related areas, but which made the future of South Africa its main concern. It established itself as a non-partisan organisation which set out to appeal to people of any or no Party affiliation. Most significantly it was an organisation which aspired to be an autonomous and democratically run British mass movement, but which had at its heart its relationship with the Congress Movement. In 1960, as later, this produced tensions. The Anti-Apartheid Movement's policies continued to be South-African driven. Although this may sometimes have led to misjudgements and failings, it is arguable that in an era dominated by the Cold War and, in Britain, by political and economic domestic considerations, this was the only path the AAM could follow if it was to act in solidarity with what was essentially a national liberation struggle.
91 Cambridge Gardens
London W10 6JE
LU TANU had won all the elected seats in the Tanganyika Legislative Council; Tanganyika became independent in 1961.
[J The meeting was advertised in the Daily Worker; the only contemporary report seems to have been that by Herby Pillay in the Bulletin of the Transvaal Indian Congress, July 1959. I am grateful to E. S. Reddy for this reference.
D j T. Brady and E. Jones, The Fight against Slavery (New York, W W Norton & Co Inc, 1975), p. 89. A Question and Answer briefing document issued by the Boycott Movement in 1960 attempted to establish the historical link, answering the question 'Are there precedents for such boycott action?' with the answer 'In Britain, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, writing of the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies: "In 1791, 300,000 persons pledged themselves to abstain from all articles of island produce. The planters were obliged to give way."'
L1 Captain Charles Boycott was ostracised by the local community in County Mayo in 1880 as part of a campaign oganised by the Irish Land League. A boycott of foreign-produced goods was one of the tactics used in Ghana in its independence campaign.
151 V. L. Allen, The History of Black Mineworkers in South Africa Vol. 1 (Keighley, The Moor Press, 1992), p. 276. Afrikaners also used the boycott - against Indian traders in the Transvaal in 1946 in retaliation for India's imposition of a trade embargo against South Africa. See M. Scott, A Time to Speak (London, Faber and Faber, 1958), p. 237.
1 J T. Karis and G. M. Gerhart, Challenge and Violence 1953-1964, Vol. 3 of T. Karis and G. M. Carter (eds) From Protest to Challenge. A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964 (Stanford, Calif., Hoover Institution Press, 1977), p. 16. The resolution is reproduced on p. 126.
Ll K. Luckhardt and B. Wall, Organize ... or Starve! The History of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1980), p. 340. NEC report to ANC National Conference, December 1954. See Karis and Gerhart, Vol. 3, pp. 141-61.
ff Luckhardt and Wall, Organize . . . or Starve!, p. 274. The NEC report to the ANC's 1954 Conference includes a report on the UTC boycott. See Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, p. 153.
191 T. Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945 (Johannesburg, Ravan Press, 1983), pp.153-8. Bus boycotts in Alexandra township had a long history; the first was in 1943. 1101 NEC report to ANC National Conference, December 1958, reproduced in Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, pp. 435-56.
J111 NEC report to ANC National Conference, December 1959, reproduced in Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, pp. 463-92.
L1 .1 Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, p. 292.
1131Ibid., p. 472.
11411bid., p. 15.
L151 B. Bunting, Moses Kotane (London, Inkululeko Publications, 1975), p. 209. LI61 Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, pp. 84-85, n. 31.
1171 Report of Provincial Secretary to ANC Youth League (Transvaal) Annual Conference, October 25-26, 1958, reproduced in Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, pp. 428-31. In 1958 there were race riots in both Nottingham and Notting Hill.
1181 E. Mphahlele, 'Accra Conference Diary' in Fighting Talk, February 1959, pp. 6-8. Alfred Hutchinson's Road to Ghana (London, Gollancz, 1960) is a moving account of his escape from South Africa to attend the conference.
1191 Albert Luthuli, Let My People Go (1962). Fount Paperbacks edition, 1982, p. 196. 1201 Peace News, 1.5.59; Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, p. 293.
1211 Editorial in The Africanist, December 1957, reproduced in Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence,
1221 Report of the National Executive Committee of the PAC, December 1959, reproduced in Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, pp. 548-55.
123 Ibid., p. 555.
1241 Letter from Robert Sobukwe to Major-General Rademeyer, reproduced in Karis and Gerhart, Challenge and Violence, pp. 565-6.
J251 Advocacy of boycott was made a criminal offence under the State of Emergency declared on 30 March 1960.
1261 Letter from Nigerian Second World War volunteer Theo Ayoola, quoted in B. Davidson, Let Freedom Come (London, Little, Brown and Company, 1978).
1271 Daily Worker, 26.5.59.
J281 Peace News, 28.8.59
1291 MCF Archive. Box File 29. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. MCF was formed partly in reaction to the British government's suspension of the British Guianan constitution after the election victory of the left-wing People's Progressive Party in 1953. J301 The ILP supported the Boers in the 1899-1902 South African War and helped Clements Kadalie when he visited Britain in 1927.
1311 Daily Worker, 13.11.59.
[321 Scott, A Time to Speak. Mary Benson, who worked as the Africa Bureau's Secretary, also describes its work in A Far Cry: The Making of a South African (London, Viking, 1989). 1331 Africa Digest, May-June 1956.
1341 Scott, A Time to Speak, Appendix 14. Memorandum to Dr Nkrumah, 1957: South Africa Versus the Conscience of the World.
1351 D. Collins, Partners in Protest. Life with Canon Collins (London, Gollancz, 1992).
1361 T. Benn, Years of Hope. Diaries, Papers and Letters 1940-1962 (London, Arrow Books, 1995), p.223.
1371 F. Wheen, Tom Driberg. His Life and Indiscretions (London, Chatto & Windus, 1990).
J38] I am grateful to David Kitson for information about the UDC. Its Secretary in the early 1950s was Basil Davidson. In 1950 he organised a conference on Africa which crossed the Cold War divide to involve both Marxist academics like Thomas Hodgkin and Labour MPs Reg Sorensen and Fenner Brockway. Later it held a meeting in Caxton Hall on South Africa with speakers including Vella Pillay and Basil Davidson, chaired by Harold Davies MP. J39~ B. Castle, Fighting All the Way (London, Macmillan, 1993), pp. 276–82.
1401 P. S. Gupta, Imperialism and the British Labour Movement, 1914–1964 (London, Macmillan, 1975).
41 In his Secretary's report to the Labour Party NEC Commonwealth Sub-committee on the forthcoming South African General Election in April 1958, John Hatch wrote: 'The most important feature of this from our point of view is the fate of Alex Hepple and Leo Lovell, the two leading Labour Members of Parliament'. Labour Party Archive. LP/CSC/57/35. National Museum of Labour History, Manchester.
1421 Labour Party Annual Report, 1956, p. 159.
1431 The Times, 26.3.54.
1441 Percy Belcher recalled the meeting in a profile of Mrs Mafekeng which appeared in the Daily Worker, 20.11.59.
J451 T. Foley, A Most Formidable Union: the history of DATA and TASS (London, MSF, 1992), p. 91.
J461 It expressed its position succinctly in a pamphlet published on the 1958 All African People's Conference:
. , this struggle is inflicting heavy blows against British imperialism, equally if not more effective than the important economic and political struggles in Britain. It is a common struggle against the same enemy and in our common interests'. Communist Party archive, National Museum of Labour History, Manchester.
147 Communist Party Archive. CP/CENT/INT/67/04.
1481 Communist Party Archive.
J491 Information from Mac Maharaj. The CPGB member was Ellis Bowles. See also Rusty Bernstein, Memory Against Forgetting (London, Viking, 1999), p. 134.
1501 MCF Archive. Box File 10.
J511 The Times, 16.2.60.
J521 Daily Worker, 20.5.59.
J531 Interview with Dr Cassim Jadwat by E. S. Reddy, New York, August 1999. 1541 Interview with Mana Chetty, London, 1998.
L5] Interview with Vella Pillay, London, 1998.
L561 Interview with Saura Woolf, London, 1998.
1571 Information from Mac Maharaj.
1581 Information from Mac Maharaj.
159] The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) dissolved itself in 1950. It re-formed as the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1953, but did not announce its existence publicly until 1960. It was outlawed in South Africa, 1950–1990 and it is therefore difficult to say with any certainty who was, or was not, a member. Makiwane was a member in 1960. (Information from Vella Pillay.)
1601 Interview with Patsy Pillay, London, 1998.
(611 Labour Party archive. LP/CSC.57/24.
1621 AAM Archive. Brief report of the activities of the Committee of African Organisations from the latter part of 1958 to the beginning of 1960.
J631 One of the pickets was reported, with a picture, in Peace News, 10.7.59. The leaflet is in the MM Archive.
J641 AAM Archive. Letter dated 9.11.59 from Femi Okunnu, CAO Publicity Secretary. [651 MM Archive. Letter 'date as postmark' from Femi Okunnu.
J661 MM Archive. List dated 20.7.59 headed 'Supporters and sponsors of the boycott'; Peace News, 31.7.59.
1671 AAM Archive. Minutes of CAO South African Boycott Sub Committee meeting, 29.7.59. J681 P. van Rensburg, Guilty Land (London, Jonathan Cape, 1962), p. 44.
J691 AAM Archive. Letters to Patrick van Rensburg, 2.11.59.
J701 MM Archive. Letter to Patrick van Rensburg.
J711 Peace News, 11.12.59.
12] Guardian, 16.11.59.
1731 Daily Worker 29.10.59; 12.11.59; 23.11.59; 1.12.59.
74 Labour Party Archive. Labour Party NEC Commonwealth Sub-committee, 7 July 1959. LP/SCS.58/22.
J751 A memo circulated to the Labour Party NEC summarising campaign issues for the October 1959 General Election addressed the problem of how to persuade unilateralists to vote, stating that they might do so because 'they support us on other moral issues such as Central Africa, economic aid etc.'. It stated that colonial issues would only be an election issue in Scotland.
176] Labour Party Archive. NEC report, December 1959. Sec. No. 81.
(?7] The Party was probably also influenced by the decision of the South African Liberal Party in December 1959 that the boycott was 'a legitimate political weapon'. [781 TUC press statement, 23.12.59.
79 AAM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Committee meeting, 25.11.59. 1801 AAM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Committee meeting, 16.12.59.
1811 In response to a letter from the London District Communist Party Secretary in March, the London Anti-Apartheid Committee agreed that he or his nominee should be invited to attend its meetings, while stressing that all members of the Committee attended in a personal capacity. The District Secretary, John Mahon, and later Kay Beauchamp thereafter attended meetings of the London Committee.
1821 AAM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Movement Committee meeting, 29.12.59. [831 AAM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Movement Committee meeting, 29.12.59. 1841 Peace News, 4.12.59.
185] West Indian Gazette, January 1960. The West Indian Gazette was edited by Claudia Jones, who was a member of the CAO Boycott Sub-Committee.
1861 MM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Movement meeting, 13.1.60. [871 Ibid.
 AAM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Movement meeting, 19.1.60.
189] Tony Benn helpfully supplied his notes for his speech at the meeting; Daily Worker, 18.1.60.
1901 MM Archive. Anti-Apartheid Movement, undated report.
J911 AAM Archive. List of Anti-Apartheid committees and contacts.
 AAM Archive. Press statement, dated February 1960.
93 Three issues of Boycott News were produced. Issue 3 appeared after the Sharpeville shootings.
(941 AAM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Committee meeting, 17.2.60. (951 AAM Archive. Anti-Apartheid Movement Report, April 1960.
1E Daily Worker, 29.12.59.
1971 AAM Archive. Letter to Chief Lutuli from Patrick van Rensburg, dated 4.11.59.
 R. Vigne, Liberals against Apartheid. A History of the Liberal Party of South Africa, 1953–68 (London, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997). The South African Liberal Party had members of all races. In 1968 it dissolved itself after multi-racial political parties were outlawed. (991 Interview with Ruth Bailin, London, 1998.
J1001 Interview with Mana Chetty, London, 1998.
J1011 According to The Times, 29.2.60, estimates of the number of those present ranged from 6,000 to 15,000. The Times also recorded for posterity that some of the marchers sang a boycott song: 'Don't buy goods from South Africa/Till they drop their wicked plan:fTell your neighbour when you can/Don't buy goods South African.'
J1021 AAM Archive. Anti-Apartheid Movement Report, April 1960.
J1031 Guardian, 29.2.60.
11041 AAM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Movement Committee meeting, 16.3.60. J1051 Watford Citizen, Jan.-Feb. 1960.
J1061 Daily Worker, 23.1.60.
J1071 Chatham News, 22.1.60.
J1081 Daily Worker, 22.2.60
J1091 AAM Archive. Letter from R D Johnson, Secretary of the Acton and Park Royal Confed Committee, 24.3.60.
J1101 Hampstead & Highgate Express, 4.3.60.
11111 AAM Archive. Press statement, dated February 1960.
J1121 R. Shepherd, lain Macleod (London, Hutchison, 1994).
11131 Keesing's Contemporary Archives, February 20-27, 1960.
J1141 Hampstead & Highgate Express, 4.3.60.
J1151 The Times, 10.3.60.
J1161 AAM Archive. MM Memorandum on Sanctions against South Africa, undated. J1171 MM Archive. Minutes of Boycott Movement Committee meeting, 16.3.60. J1181 AAM Archive. The Programme of the Anti-Apartheid Committee, April 1960. J1191 MM Archive. AAM Memorandum on Sanctions against South Africa.