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Accepted Paper:

The Watershed Years of African Labour International Activism: How Labour Diplomacy Affected the Workers’ Struggle and African Unity in the Early 1960s  
Stefano Bellucci (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

Making use of historical documents on the formation of two Pan-African trade union organisations, this paper aims to shed a new light on the causes that led to an historical split within the African labour movement in the early 1960s.

Paper long abstract:

The year 1961 marks a fundamental transition in the international history of African trade unionism: in May, the All African Trade Union Federation (AATUF) was formed, in Casablanca, which then led to the formation of another pan-African organisation and its counterpart, that is the African Trade Union Confederation (ATUC) set up in January 1962 in Dakar. In a year, the pan-African trade union movement evolved and increased its activism, both nationwide and at an international level. The events that led to the emergence of these organisations put to serious test the entire pan-African political movement. Historiography often attributes the unsuccessfulness of the pan-African movement to nationalist appetites for power on behalf of the African political elites. This paper will argue that the demise of pan-African has its roots also in African unionism. Furthermore, it will also argue that the international trade union organisation such as the communist World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the reformist and pro-Western International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions played a major role in the weakening of the pan-African front. This emerges, for example, from the archives of the ITUC, the ILO, national European unions, AFL-CIO, and so on. Hence, this paper concludes that the internationalisation of African trade unions’ activities and their participation in the ballets of “labour diplomacy” weakened not just their “pan-Africanism”, but and especially their role in the struggle for the African workers.

Panel Hist25
The African labour movement at a historical crossroads: past and future of unionism, work and society in Africa
  Session 2 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -