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Article Published In Vol.3 (May-June-2015)

The Enugu Colliery Workers in Colonial Southeastern Nigeria: ‘Labor Aristocrats’ or Genuine Wage Earners?

Author : Austine Uchechukwu Igwe and Festus Chibuike Onuegbu

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This paper which contributes to the literature on labor union movement in Nigeria under colonial rule examines the reactions of some pan- African scholars in the twentieth Century to the ‘labor aristocracy’ thesis, first developed by Fredrick Engels during the second half of the nineteenth century. The ‘labor aristocracy’ thesis argues that some times, certain privileged members of the working-class behave in ways that subvert the interest of the working class as a whole. This thesis came into prominence among pan- African writers as from the 1960s, and led to a lively academic debate. While Giovanni Arrighi and John Saul were totally in support of the thesis, others such as Peter Waterman and Andrian Peace adopted ‘a middle of the road’ approach in their conclusions. Against this backdrop, adopting diverse sources of data, this essay examines series of working-class consciousness and actions at the coal-mining industry in Enugu, Southeastern Nigeria during the colonial period, and argues that the working-class were totally committed in their struggles that produced positive results. The paper concludes by describing the ‘labor aristocracy’ debate as a myth in most parts of colonial Africa, particularly Nigeria.

Keywords: Labor Aristocrats, Working-class, Enugu colliery, Colonial, Southeastern Nigeria, Strike

 

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