Nonviolent Resistance a global History 1830-2000



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Week 12. Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa

The anti-apartheid movement that continued from 1945 to 1994 will be examined, focusing on the change from nonviolence to violence around 1960, and then on the nonviolent upsurge lead by the United Democratic Front in the 1980s that culminated in the fall of the apartheid regime.

A DVD will be shown on the township revolt of 1980s.
Core reading:


  • Ackerman & DuVall, A Force more Powerful, chapter 9, pp. 335-368.

  • Kurt Schock, Unarmed Insurrections, pp.56-68.

  • S. Zunes, ‘The role of non-violent action in the downfall of apartheid’, Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 37, No.1, March 1998, pp. 137-170. Also in S. Zunes, L. Kurtz and S. Asher, Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective, Oxford 1999. (3 copies in SRC)

Questions for discussion:



  • What were the main fault-lines in the apartheid regime that could be opened up through nonviolent resistance?

  • Assess Nelson Mandela’s critique of nonviolent resistance – how valid was it in the circumstances?

  • How did the Black Consciousness movement led by Steve Biko in the 1970s relate to nonviolent resistance?

  • How did the United Democratic Front (UDF), which was launched in 1983, relate to nonviolence?

  • Given the strength of the apartheid state, which forms of nonviolent resistance proved most effective in the long term?

  • What brought the eventual downfall of the apartheid regime? Was it influenced by the growing violence in the townships, with ‘necklacing’ of collaborators and so on? Were nonviolent forms of resistance more important? What was the role of international pressure on the apartheid regime?

Further Reading:



  • Warwick library sections JD 116.66 R3; DT 780.D2; DT 763.W2

  • Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler, Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century, pp. 344-45.

  • Jeremy Baskin, Striking Back: A History of COSATU (London 1991). (COSATU was the Congress of South African Trade Unions.)

  • Howard Barrell, ‘The Turn to the Masses: The African National Congress’ Strategic Review of 1978-79’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 18, no. 1, 1992.

  • William Beinart, Twentieth Century South Africa (Oxford 2001).

  • Steve Biko, Black Consciousness in South Africa.

  • William Cobbett and Robin Cohen (eds.), Popular Struggles in South Africa (London 1988).

  • Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, Gandhi’s Prisoner? The Life of Gandhi’s Son, Manilal. Manilal stayed in South Africa and continued Gandhian activities and protests there till his death in 1956.

  • Norman Etherington (ed.), Peace, Politics and Violence in the New South Africa (London 1992).

  • Robert Fatton, Black Consciousness in South Africa: the dialectics of ideological resistance to white supremacy (Albany 1986).

  • Steven Friedman, ‘The Struggle within the Struggle: South African Resistance Strategies’, Transformations, No. 3, 1987.

  • William Gutteridge (ed.), South Africa: From Apartheid to National Unity, 1981-1994 (Aldershot 1995).

  • Brain Hackland, ‘Incorporating ideology as a response to political struggle: the Progressive Party of South Africa, 1960-1980’, in Shula Marks and Stanley Trapido (eds.), The Politics of Race, Class and nationalism in Twentieth Century South Africa (1987).

  • Thomas G. Karis, ‘Revolution in the Making: Black Politics in South Africa’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 62, no. 2, 1983.

  • Leo Kuper, ‘The Problem of Violence in South Africa’, Inquiry, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1964.

  • Karen Jochelson, ‘Reform, Repression and Resistance in South Africa: A Case Study of Alexandra Township, 1979-89’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1990.

  • Shaun Johnson (ed.), South Africa: No Turning Back (Basingstoke 1988).

  • Tom Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945 (New York 1983).

  • Tom Lodge and Bill Nasson, All, Here, and Now: Black Politics in South Africa in the 1980s (London 1992).

  • Tom Lodge, ‘State of Exile: The African National Congress of South Africa, 1976-86,’ in Philip Frankel, Noam Pines, and Mark Swilling, State, Resistance, and Change in South Africa (London 1998), pp. 229-58.

  • Tom Lodge, ‘The interplay of Nonviolent and Violent Action in the Movement against Apartheid in South Africa’, in A. Roberts and T.G. Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics (Oxford 2009), pp. 213-230.

  • Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, (1994).

  • Shula Marks and S. Trapido (eds.), Politics of Race and Class in Twentieth century South Africa (1987).

  • Anthony W. Marx, Lessons of Struggle: South African Internal Opposition, 1960-90 (Oxford 1992).

  • Matt Meyer and Bill Sutherland, Guns and Gandhi in Africa (Trenton 2000).

  • Murphy Morobe, ‘Towards a People’s Democracy: The UDF View,’ Review of African Political Economy, 14, 1987, pp. 81-87.

  • Steven Mufson, ‘Introduction: The Roots of Insurrection,’ in Tom Lodge and Bill Nasson (eds.), All, Here, and Now: Black Politics in South Africa in the 1980s, Hurst and Co., London 1992, pp. 3-17. This provides a good introduction to the background.

  • J. Paulson, ‘School Boycotts in South Africa 1984-87’, in G. Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle, pp. 232-38.

  • Gail M. Presby, ‘Evaluating the Legacy of Nonviolence in South Africa’. Peace and Change, Vol.31, No. 2, April 2006, pp. 141-74. This article is recommended for providing a critical overview of the topic. It includes a critique of Ackerman and Duvall.

  • Robert Price, The Apartheid State in Crisis: Political Transformation in South Africa, 1975-1990 (Oxford 1991).

  • Anthony Sampson, Mandela: The Authorised Biography.

  • Jeremy Seekings, The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa, 1983-1991 (Oxford 2000).

  • Gay Seidman, Manufacturing Militancy: Worker’s Movements in Brazil and South Africa, 1970-85, University of California Press, Berkeley 1994.

  • Gay Seidman, ‘Blurred Lines: Nonviolence in South Africa’, Political Science and Politics, June 2000.

  • Gay Seidman, ‘Guerrillas in the Midst: Armed Struggle in the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement,’ Mobilisation, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2001, pp. 111-27.

  • Dean Smuts and Shauna Westcott (eds.), The Purple Shall Govern: A South African A to Z of Nonviolent Action (Cape Town 1991).

  • Henrik Sommer, ‘From Apartheid to Democracy: Patterns of Violent and Nonviolent Direct Action in South Africa, 1984-1994’, Africa Today, Vol. 43, No. 1, 1996.

  • Bill Sutherland & Matt Meyer; with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African insights on nonviolence, armed struggle and liberation in Africa, Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2000.

  • Sampie Terreblanche, A History of Inequality in South Africa (Sandton 2005).

  • Leonard Thompson, A History of South Africa (Oxford 2000)

  • Ben Turok, ‘South Africa: The Violent Alternative’, Socialist Register, Vol. 9, 1972.

  • Mark A. Uhlig (ed.), Apartheid in Crisis (Harmondsworth 1986).

  • Walter Wink, Violence and Nonviolence in South Africa: Jesus’ Third Way, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia 1987.

  • Donald Woods, Biko.

  • Nigel Worden, The Making of Modern South Africa: Conquest, Segregation and Apartheid (Oxford 2000).


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