The 1946-1948 Passive Resistance Campaign in Natal, South Africa: Origins and Results

Ashwin Desai


This article presents an anatomy of the 1946-48 Passive Resistance campaign. It does this by looking at its historical antecedent, the 1913 strike and then more immediately at the battles between the so-called “moderates” and “radicals” for control of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) through the first half of the 1940s. It shows how the “radicals” gained control of the NIC and how this laid the basis for a more confrontational approach that drew on Gandhi’s idea of passive resistance. Against this backdrop, the article seeks to understand why the 1946-48 campaign failed to have any major impact on the South African government. The final part of the article brings into focus the similarities between the 1913 and 1946 campaigns and shows how the latter marked the beginning of the end of a particular line of march for Gandhism. The final part of the article makes some tentative conclusions about the longer term consequences of the 1946-48 campaign.

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