From the same journal

From the same journal

The theory and practice of the agrarian question in South African socialism, 1928-60

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • A Drew


Publication details

JournalJournal of peasant studies
DatePublished - 1996
Issue number2-3
Number of pages41
Pages (from-to)53
Original languageEnglish


This contribution concerns the recovery of a lost history of the South African Left. For decades, South African socialists struggled with the problem of the relationship between rural proletarianisation and peasant aspirations, anticipating more recent scholarly debates on rural development and consciousness. None the less, using a discourse and concepts derived from European conditions, they initially treated the rural black population in polarized and gender-blind terms: either a rural proletariat or a land-hungry peasantry. These polarised conceptions were reflected in an oscillating practice between town and countryside. During the late 1920s and in the 1940s and 1950s, rural mobilisation was the cornerstone of much socialist practice; at other times socialists neglected the countryside. These sporadic efforts impeded the development of a network between those sections of the urban working class, migrant labour force and rural population which might potentially have had socialist aspirations. In the 1940s and 1950s, however, socialists began developing concepts and analyses based on South Africa's own specific conditions. Not coincidentally, this was also a period when, despite the intense sectarianism dividing the Left, the observations of rural activists often coincided and their analyses began to converge.

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