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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .

The National Liberation Struggle in South Africa: A case study of the United Democratic Front, 1983-87
Gregory F. Houston

(Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999)
318pp. Index. Bibl. Hb.:?42.50 ISBN 1-8401-4955-8.

The aims of this book, as expressed by the author, are (1) "to draw a link between revolutionary developments within South Africa during the 1980s and theories of revolutionary strategy and tactics"[p. 2], (2) to look at "the role of the strategy and tactics of the ANC-led alliance? to explain the emergence, nature, role and activities of the UDF" [p.5], and (3) "to examine how revolutionary consciousness was promoted and expanded, leading to the increasing participation? in the liberation struggle" [p. 6]. The author outlines "a Leninist/Gramscian model of united-front strategy", including: (1) the necessity of mass mobilisation and organisation? primarily directed against the ruling bloc; (2) the necessity of creating a broad alliance of social forces? which leads to a democratic revolution; and (3) the necessity for political and ideological struggle in which revolutionary consciousness is promoted and expanded." [p. 20] He analyses the strategy and tactics of the UDF and its affiliates, including student and youth organisations, trade union organisations, civic organisations and women's organisations and explains how these fit into that model.

What interested me, in particular, were the ways in which groups in civil society of South Africa had an impact on each other and on the overall political situation. There are numerous examples given, such as "the prominent role played by trade unionists in the formation and leadership of community organisations" [p. 30] and "the leadership role played by youth in various forms of resistance and their role in mass mobilisation and organisation" [p. 142]. This case also shows that the development, strategy and tactics of the UDF led to a significant move away from racial and ethnic divisions and a unity of purpose in "the struggle for national liberation and the creation of a non-racial, democratic South Africa" [p. 266].

I would recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in the political and social dynamics of South Africa in the 1980s that led to the New South Africa of the 1990s.

Steve Williams
Responding to Conflict, Birmingham, UK, & INCORE

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