Remembering The Rand Rebellion of 1922

Remembering The Rand Rebellion of 1922

The Rand Rebellion  also known as the 1922 strike was an armed uprising of white miners in the Witwatersrand region of South Africa, in March 1922. Jimmy Green, a prominent politician in the Labour Party, was one of the leaders of the strike.

Following a drop in the world price of gold from 130 shillings (£6 10s) per fine troy ounce in 1919 to 95s/oz (£4 15s) in December 1921, the companies tried to cut their operating costs by decreasing wages, and by weakening the colour bar to enable the promotion of racially cheapened black miners to skilled and supervisory positions.

ORIGIN OF THE RAND REBELLION

The rebellion started as a strike by white mine workers on 28 December 1921 and shortly thereafter, it became an open rebellion against the state. Subsequently the workers, who had armed themselves, took over the cities of Benoni and Brakpan, and the Johannesburg suburbs of Fordsburg and Jeppe.

The young Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) took an active part in the uprising on grounds of class struggle whilst reportedly opposing racist aspects of the strike, as did the syndicalists. The racist aspect was typified by the slogan; “Workers of the world, unite and fight for a white South Africa!” and by several pogroms against blacks.

Several Communists and syndicalists, the latter including the strike leaders Percy Fisher and Harry Spendiff, were killed as the rebellion was quelled by the Union Defence Force. The rebellion was eventually put down by “considerable military firepower and at the cost of over 200 lives”.

Prime Minister Jan Smuts crushed the rebellion with 20,000 troops, artillery, tanks, and bomber aircraft. By this time the rebels had dug trenches across Fordsburg Square and the air force tried to bomb but missed and hit a local church.

However, the army’s bombardment finally overcame them. Lieutenant Colonel Llewellyn Andersson’s role in creating the Union Defence Force (South Africa) was instrumental in crushing the rebellion.

Smuts’ actions caused a political backlash, and in the 1924 elections his South African Party lost to a coalition of the National Party and Labour Party. They introduced the Industrial Conciliation Act 1924, Wage Act 1925 and Mines and Works Amendment Act 1926, which recognised white trade unions and reinforced the colour bar.

Under instruction from the Comintern, the CPSA reversed its attitude toward the white working class and adopted a new ‘Native Republic’ policy.

The Rand Rebellion was promulgated by white supremacists who were the “majority” occupants of South Africa at the time. This was one of the earliest anti-black movements that the indigenous people of South Africa had to spend so many years fighting against.

Today, South Africa can boast of minimal racism, as the struggle to re-claim South Africa from the oppressive grip of Apartheid has resulted in a society that embraces all South Africans as one and the same.

By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.

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