A Paradox of Victory: COSATU and the Democratic Transformation in South Africa

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University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2010 - Political Science - 210 pages
'Sakhela Buhlungu's work is path break and controversial because he follows his findings rather than pandering to current opinion ...These are ideas that need to be debated in union circles and beyond'¨Dunbar Moodie, Professor of Sociology, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York

'Sakhela Buhlungu pulls no punches. His bleak prognosis is sure to fire debate and controversy...a must-read for anyone interested in the fate of the South African labour movement.'¨Michael Burawoy, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley

A Paradox of Victory, The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) emerged from the anti-apartheid struggle as the largest and most powerful union federation in South Africa. Its member unions were spectacularly successful, and their power and influence was felt in the workplace as well as in broader society. As the country's political adversaries began negotiating, COSATU became an important power broker weighing in on the side of democracy and full rights for workers.

However, since 1994 COSATU has been losing organisational power as hundreds of leaders left for politics and business and thousands of shop-floor activists were promoted out of the unions. The vibrancy of the movement has also been sapped by the effects of class formation and global economic restructuring.

In this provocative account of union activism, Sakhela Buhlungu examines the 'paradox of victory' that confronts COSATU today. Based on the author's participation in and research of unions for more than 20 years, this book openly explores COSATU's successes and failures, and considers the long-term implications of its increasing political influence and diminishing organisational power.

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About the author (2010)

Sakhela Buhlungu is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and the Deputy Director of the Sociology of Work Unit (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. John Daniel has taught at universities in the USA, Swaziland, Netherlands and South Africa, and spent six years in the 1980s as the Africa editor of Zed Books in London. Roger Southall is a Distinguished Research Fellow of the HSRC and was formerly Professor of Political Studies, Rhodes University. Jessica Lutchman is a Researcher in the Democracy and Governance Research Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa.

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