International Socialist League (South Africa)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
International Socialist League
FounderDavid Ivon Jones
Merged intoSouth African Communist Party
IdeologyMarxism, De Leonism, Syndicalism[1]
Political positionFar Left

The International Socialist League of South Africa was the earliest major Marxist party in South Africa, and a predecessor of the South African Communist Party. The ISL was founded around the syndicalist politics of the Industrial Workers of the World and Daniel De Leon.[2][3]


"The Hand That Will Rule The World—One Big Union"

Formed in September 1915, it established branches across much of South Africa (excluding the Western Cape). While early attempts to recruit white workers failed, the ISL soon came to the attention of the young African National Congress, (then called the "South African Native National Congress") and several prominent early ANC members attended ISL meetings.[2] By September 1917 of the ISL had helped to form the first black African trade union in the country, the Industrial Workers of Africa. While its founders were mainly drawn from the radical wing of the white working class, the movement would develop a substantial black African, Coloured and Indian membership.

David Ivon Jones was a founder and influential member of the ISL

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the ISL became enthusiastic supporters of the Bolsheviks. Ivon Jones, co-founder of the ISL and editor of the league's organ The International welcomed the revolution with an article titled "Dawn of the World." The article calls the revolution "an unfolding of the world-wide Commonwealth of Labour, which if the oppressed of all lands only knew...would sweep them into transports of gladness."[4] This enthusiasm for the Bolsheviks would ultimately lead the ISL to merge with several other socialist organizations to form the Communist Party of South Africa in 1921.[5]

Merge into the SACP and Legacy[edit]

The ISL became defunct following its merge into the Communist Party of South Africa in 1921 but, provided many notable early figures to the Communist Party. The centrality of the ISL in the formation of the SACP left a political mark on the party for years to come, and was responsible for a strong syndicalist influence on the early politics of the SACP.[6] When the Industrial Workers of Africa, merged into the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union or ICU, in 1920, it too spread the ISL's syndicalist ideas within that union. The ICU would go on to play a major role in rural South Africa,[7] as well as spread into several neighbouring countries.[8]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]




  1. ^ Hirson, Baruch. A History of the Left in South Africa: Writings of Baruch Hirson. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. p7
  2. ^ a b Hirson, Baruch. A History of the Left in South Africa: Writings of Baruch Hirson. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. p7-19
  3. ^ van der Walt, Lucien, Bakunin's Heirs in South Africa: race, class and revolutionary Syndicalism from the IWW to the International Socialist League, Politikon journal, 2004, Vol 30, number 1, pp. 67-89.
  4. ^ David Simelane. “The International Socialist League”, published by Umkhonto we Sizwe (1981)
  5. ^ Hirson, Baruch. A History of the Left in South Africa: Writings of Baruch Hirson. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. Page 45-47.
  6. ^ Lerumo, A. Fifty Fighting Years: The Communist Party of South Africa, 1921-1971. London: Inkululeko, 1987.
  7. ^ Bradford, Helen, A Taste of Freedom: the ICU in rural South Africa, 1924-1930. Raven Press, Johannesburg, 1987
  8. ^ van der Walt, Lucien, The First Globalisation and Transnational Labour Activism in Southern Africa : white labourism, the IWW and the ICU, 1904-1934, African Studies journal, 2007, Vol 66, Issues 2/3, pp. 223-251.