The development of worker consciousness among the African railway workers in Zambia, 1953-1972

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Mulenga, Friday Eliya
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This study basically attempts to examine the development of worker consciousness among African railway workers in Zambia. Worker consciousness is defined here as the awareness of the workers of their situation, whether of exploitation or gain, at their place of work. The awareness arose out of common experience at work. Common experience led to the development of group consciousness among the.workers and also to the articulation of their interests and aspirations.The study is divided into five Chapters. In Chapter one we introduce the content of the study.We argue that the most important justification for this study is that there are wide gaps in the labour historiography of Zambia, which this study attempts to fill. A review of literature reveals that there has been very little written on these workers, and yet they were important in both the political and economic development in Northern Rhodesia (NR) and Zambia. In Chapter Two we examine the constraints in the development of worker consciousness among African railway workers. We argue that despite the presence of many constraints, by 1953 worker consciousness among African railway workers had developed to an appreciable degree. In Chapter Three, we examine the way worker consciousness was expressed by African railway workers through demands for better conditions of service, higher wages, better housing and sanitation, and an end to industrial Colour Bar. We argue that the development of such consciousness was rooted in their experiences at work, and especially in their struggles for higher wages. Chapter Four examines three major issues: these are African advancement, trade unionism and politics on the railways. We argue that African railway workers, together with African mineworkers, were in the forefront of the struggles for African advancement in industry in NR. However, each group struggled for advancement in its own particular industry without any attempt at unity in the struggle. We have attempted to show that there was an attempt to turn the African railway workers' movement into a political movement.The attempt failed. Also the attempt to turn the Trade Union Congress into a political movement failed. Then we also show that the political movement failed to harness the potential strength of the labour movement in the 1950s and 1960s. This state of affairs exists even today. In the concluding Chapter, six points are made, Basically, the study concludes that there are more interesting and more complex issues in Zambia's labour history than many people have assumed. Therefore, the history of African railway workers proves worthy of study.A major point which comes out in this study is that the African workers in NR did not become sufficiently united to be able to wage a common struggle for their political and economic advancement as workers. As a result of such a state of affairs,even after independence there was not any significant unity in the working groups in Zambia. This helps to explain why the labour movement did not become politically influential. It has remained a threat politically, only because of its potential strength. In spite of this, however, this study shows that the workers' struggles for economic advancement began in the colonial era and still continue today. The African railway workers have been part of these struggles from the beginning.
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