Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Richard Turner's Contribution to a Socialist Political Culture in South Africa 1968 - 1978

William Keniston, MA Thesis, 2010

Richard Turner, a banned political science lecturer from the University of Natal, was assassinated on the 8th of January, 1978. In the ten years preceding, Turner had been actively involved in a wide range of activities radically opposed to apartheid and capitalism. Turner was a remarkable professor, who taught his students more through questioning and dialogue than lecture. Turner had a significant impact on left wing white students. He played an important role in encouraging white activists to understand Black Consciousness as a radical politics to be embraced, rather than shunned. Turner encouraged whites to find a role for themselves within a struggle that he saw as driven by Black demands and programmes. In addition, Turner was involved in the emerging trade union movement, following the wildcat strikes in 1973. He participated in creating the Institute for Industrial Education, which had a curriculum focused on increasing class consciousness amongst workers building democratic trade unions.

In stark contrast to the predominantly reformist politics of the time, Turner’s vision
for South Africa called for a profound reshaping of the boundaries of possibility for social change. Turner put forward a socialist critique of South Africa, grounded in a moral and strategic aversion to authoritarianism. Central to Turner's politics was his book, The Eye of the Needle: Toward Participatory Democracy in South Africa, written in 1972. In this book, Turner called for a utopia in which hierarchy is minimized; a de-centralized polity and economy, which would rely on structures of cooperative decision-making and management. 

Click here to download this thesis in pdf.