Building Workers’ Education in the Context of the Struggle Against Racial Capitalism: The Role of Labour Support Organisations

  • Mondli Hlatshwayo CERT, University of Johannesburg
Keywords: workers’ education, trade unions, labour support organisations, non-governmental organisations


In South Africa, with few exceptions, scholarship on the modern labour movement which emerged after the Durban strikes of 1973 tends to focus on trade unions that constituted the labour movement, strikes, collective bargaining, and workplace changes. While all these topics covered by labour scholars are of great importance, there is less emphasis on the role played by labour support organisations (LSOs) which, in some cases, predate the formation of the major trade unions. Based on an analysis of historical writings, some archival and internet sources, this article critically discusses the contribution of LSOs and their use of workers’ education to build and strengthen trade unions, which became one of the critical forces in the struggles against racial capitalism in the 1980s. In particular, it critically examines the work of the Urban Training Project (UTP) and the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) workers’ education programmes as a contribution to building the labour movement. The relationship between trade unions which had elaborated structures of accountability and LSOs which were staffed by a relatively small layer of activists also led to debates about accountability and mandates.