Lessons of Struggle: South African Internal Opposition, 1960-1990

By Anthony W. Marx | Go to book overview

3
After the Uprising: Division and Realignment, 1977-1979

Black Consciousness emerged out of the undercurrents of resistance severely repressed in the 1960s, founded by a new generation of student activists as a movement to reinvigorate popular internal opposition. BC challenged the negative self-image of blacks imposed by apartheid, substituting an assertively positive racial identity aimed at inspiring, if not fully organizing, unity among all blacks opposed to white rule. When the costs of apartheid and recession in the mid-1970s brought to an abrupt halt more than fifteen years of South African economic growth, this popular resentment deepened and spread, as expressed in the only terms then current in the townships, Black Consciousness. The Soweto uprising of 1976, sparked by the rejection of state educational policies implying black inferiority, reflected the ideals and strategy of BC with which blacks had come to identify. Just as BC had emphasized the reawakening of a positive identity over organizing for material benefits, the 1976 uprising was an emotional assertion of anger more than an organized protest for any specific gain.

The anger of 1976 was soon replaced by grief and dismay as the state moved in to crush the revolt. In the wake of the strongest show of state force in more than a decade, BC leaders and their followers began a process of reconsideration. All agreed that BC's goal of redefining racial identity had been largely achieved, with the prevalence of a more positive self-image evident in the assertive popular

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