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Hyde, David N. (2000) Plantation struggles in Kenya: Trade unionism on the land, 1947-63. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The following work examines the making of Kenya's plantation proletariat and its social physiognomy in Thika and Kiambu districts from the late forties to the mid sixties. The work proceeds from the value relations of the coffee commodity on the world market and then to production relations within the districts concerned. Select estates within these areas are then identified in order to trace the workings of the law of value from its appearance as prices in the world market to the origins of surplus value and struggles over its extraction within the workplace. The increased rate of exploitation throughout the plantation economy is then identified as the principal subterranean impulse to workers' recourse to trade unionism. There followed a qualitative leap forward as workers on the plantations and in industry moved into simultaneous strike actions in response to the announcement of preparations for African majority government. The formative years of the plantation unions are then reviewed in conjunction with strikes on the coffee estates. The reciprocal impacts of plantation and industrial strikes are emphasised throughout, these have been reconstructed to reveal an uneven vet combined movement of workers in both rural and urban locations, though one which suffered from bureaucratic deformations and distortions. As such this project has revealed a crucial moment in the making of the Kenyan working class along with its inherent contradictions. In opposition to this development, attempts by the State to impose severe conditions on union recognition are examined. The development of corporatism has been considered as part of attempts by the state to control and emasculate the developing working class and its organisations. How and why the bureaucratisation of the plantation unions occurred is investigated as well as analysing its impact on coffee workers during the course of decolonization. The emergence of a syndicalist trend of rank and file, often errant, agitators and the weaknesses of this tendency related to the ideology which it shared with its bureaucratic opponents is also identified. The role of the Kenya Federation of Labour as the principal agency for the incorporation of the plantation unions into the state apparatus is then traced to the advent of the omnibus Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union. This was paralleled by an opposed trajectory emanating from workers themselves which reached its highest point in the 1962 General Strike. The insoluble problems of arbitration which heralded the unstable foundations of post independence corporatism are then investigated. Overall, the thesis points to a fifth column of labour lieutenants that was pivotal to the bourgeois nationalist transmutation of Uhuru. The work also gives clause and subclause attention to the principal ordinances in the context of a wide range of disputes to show how these operated in a concrete setting. 1 he research brings the period 1959-63 into focus, when these laws were being broken on a widespread scale as result of spontaneous strike waves. The associate problems which rent conciliation machinery are contextually discussed throughout. The thesis shows that a defining characteristic of the period was the inability of the labour bureaucracy to restrain and arrest successive strike movements on the plantations and elsewhere in accordance with the rules of conflict resolution defined by colonial labour laws. Finally, the thesis has sought an epistemological break with existent work in the field and for this reason has identified the philosophical roots of past contributions and drawn upon Marx's dialectical method to help resolve the problems of analysis and interpretation that have held back previous research.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:15

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