Colour, Class and Community – The Natal Indian Congress, 1971—1994

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  • Publication Date: Nov 2021
  • Dimensions and Pages: 234 x 156 mm Extent: 392 pp
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-715-1
  • eBook EAN: 978-1-77614-718-2
  • PDF EAN: 978-1-77614-717-5
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 385.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 30.00

This book offers … a window into the larger struggles of race, class, and solidarities across
lines of difference. Providing much needed challenges to divisive narratives in the present,
the book offers an honest and meticulously researched story of lessons learnt and paths
taken that must be grappled with by the present generation.
— Neilesh Bose, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Victoria

This is the complex story of how the Natal Indian Congress negotiated a political Indian
identity within a field of black consciousness, non-racialism, and the black African imperatives
of the African National Congress. An exemplary work that is indispensable for understanding
a fragile political landscape.
— Dilip M Menon, Mellon Chair in Indian Studies and Director Centre for Indian Studies in
Africa, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Meticulously researched and intelligently argued, this book is a significant contribution to
the literature on the multifaceted intersections of class, race, and identity in South Africa and
beyond, and speaks to urgent contemporary concerns.
— Parvathi Raman, Founding Chair and Research Associate, Centre for Migration and
Diaspora Studies, SOAS, University of London.

Following a hiatus in the 1960s, the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) in South Africa was revived in 1971. In fascinating detail, Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed bring the inner workings of the NIC to life against the canvas of major political developments in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, and up to the first democratic elections in 1994.
The NIC was relaunched during the rise of the Black Consciousness Movement, which attracted a following among Indian university students, and whose invocation of Indians as Black led to a major debate about ethnic organisations such as the NIC. This debate persisted in the 1980s with the rise of the United Democratic Front and its commitment to non-racialism. The NIC was central to other major debates of the period, most significantly the lines drawn between boycotting and participating in government-created structures such as the Tri-Cameral Parliament. Despite threats of banning and incarceration, the NIC kept attracting recruits who encouraged the development of community organisations, such as students radicalised by the 1980s education boycotts and civic protests. Colour, Class and Community, The Natal Indian Congress, 1971—1994 details how some members of the NIC played dual roles, as members of a legal organisation and as allies of the African National Congress’ underground armed struggle.
Drawing on varied sources, including oral interviews, newspaper reports, and minutes of organisational meetings, this in-depth study tells a largely untold history, challenging existing narratives around Indian ‘cabalism’, and bringing the African and Indian political story into present debates about race, class and nation.

List of illustrations
Introduction
Chapter 1 Repression, Revelation, and Resurrection: The Revival of the Natal Indian Congress
Chapter 2 Black Consciousness and the Challenge to the ‘I’ in the Natal Indian Congress
Chapter 3 Pragmatism, Principle, and Participation: Debates over the South African Indian Council, 1971-1978
Chapter 4 Changing Geographies and New Terrains of Struggle
Chapter 5 Class (rooms) of Dissent: Education boycotts and Democratic Trade Unions, 1976 – 1985
Chapter 6 Lenin and Duma Come to Durban: Reigniting the Participation Debate
Chapter 7 The Anti- South African Indian Council Campaign of 1981: Prefigurative Politics?
Chapter 8 Botha’s 1984 and the Rise of the United Democratic Front
Chapter 9 Letters from Near and Afar: The Consulate Six
Chapter 10 1985: Inanda, Inkatha and Insurrection
Chapter 11 Building Up Steam: Operation Vula and Local Networks
Chapter 12 Between Fact and Factions: The Natal Indian Cabal Conference, 1987
Chapter 13 ‘Caught With Our Pants Down’: The Natal Indian Congress and the Crumbling of Apartheid 1988- 1990
Chapter 14 Snapping the Strings of the United Democratic Front
Chapter 15 Digging Their Own Grave: Debating the Future of the Natal Indian Congress
Chapter 16 Ballot Boxing, 1994: A Punch in the Gut?
Chapter 17 Between Rajbansi’s ‘Ethnic Guitar’ and the String of the African National Congress Party List
Chapter 18 A Spoke in the Wheel
Bibliography
Index

Ashwin Desai is Professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. He is the author of We are the Poors: Community Struggles in Post-apartheid South Africa (2002) and coauthor with Goolam Vahed of a number of works, including Inside Indian Indenture: A South African Story, 1860-1914 (2010) and A History of the Present: A Biography of Indian South Africans,1994–2019 (2019).

Goolam Vahed is Professor in the Department of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Some of his recent books include Chota Motala: A Biography of Political Activism in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands (2018); Schooling Muslims in Natal: State, Identity and the Orient Islamic Educational Institute (2015); and Crossing Space and Time in the Indian Ocean: Early Indian Traders in Natal – A Biographical Study (2015).

This book offers … a window into the larger struggles of race, class, and solidarities across
lines of difference. Providing much needed challenges to divisive narratives in the present,
the book offers an honest and meticulously researched story of lessons learnt and paths
taken that must be grappled with by the present generation.
— Neilesh Bose, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Victoria

This is the complex story of how the Natal Indian Congress negotiated a political Indian
identity within a field of black consciousness, non-racialism, and the black African imperatives
of the African National Congress. An exemplary work that is indispensable for understanding
a fragile political landscape.
— Dilip M Menon, Mellon Chair in Indian Studies and Director Centre for Indian Studies in
Africa, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Meticulously researched and intelligently argued, this book is a significant contribution to
the literature on the multifaceted intersections of class, race, and identity in South Africa and
beyond, and speaks to urgent contemporary concerns.
— Parvathi Raman, Founding Chair and Research Associate, Centre for Migration and
Diaspora Studies, SOAS, University of London.

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