This essay, by Steven Friedman, explores the role of Rick Turner, and others, in building the trade union movement in South Africa after the Durban strikes in 1973.
The worker organisation which preceded, and more particularly that which followed, the Durban strikes was strongly influenced by ideas. Some of this was direct: an intellectual inspired his students to take an interest in the organisation of black workers. The thinker, Richard Turner, was based in Durban and was a physical presence at union offices in the city. But much of it was also indirect – scholars in British universities, most of them South Africans in exile or studying for post-graduate degrees, produced a radical analysis of apartheid which was not designed to stimulate worker action or union organisation but was widely read by young radicals, some of whom entered the union movement.