Clements Kadalie, the ICU, and the Language of Freedom

Johnson, David (2015). Clements Kadalie, the ICU, and the Language of Freedom. English in Africa, 42(3) pp. 43–69.



The language of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and its leader Clements Kadalie is examined. The article analyses afresh the ICU archive – the articles, manifestoes, speeches, memoirs and letters of Kadalie and his ICU comrades in the 1920s and 1930s. Two questions guide discussion. How did the language of the ICU challenge the religious, literary and political discourses of white South Africa? And, did the ICU leaders generate a distinctive language of freedom? The theoretical insights of inter alia Walter Rodney, James C. Scott and Howard Caygill into the languages of resistance and liberation inform the discussion of the ICU’s language. In conclusion, the resonances of the ICU’s language of freedom is assessed in relation to the public discourses of post-apartheid South Africa.

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