Thursday, 8 February 2018

Marcel Paret on Working-Class Fragmentation and Solidarity in South Africa's United Front

Paret, Marcel (2017) "Working-class fragmentation, party politics, and the complexities of solidarity in South Africa’s United Front", The Sociological Review 65(2): 267-284.
Abstract: Recent scholarship laments the growing fragmentation of the working class due to flexible labour regimes and unemployment. This paper examines an emerging effort in South Africa to counter this fragmentation: the United Front project, initiated and led by the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (NUMSA). Drawing on 74 interviews conducted at two different NUMSA-led protests in Johannesburg, the analysis unpacks two sets of tensions. One set of tensions revolves around class politics, which pertain to the divide between unionized workers in relatively stable employment, and impoverished communities ravaged by unemployment. The other set of tensions revolves around party politics, including divisions with respect to the United Front’s opposition to the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Each dimension reveals both crucial sources of solidarity and potential obstacles, showing that forging a broad working-class unity in the current period is complex, but not impossible.