Synopsis: Upon first arriving in South Africa in 1953, Scott sought out an interview with a prominent trade union organizer named Emil Sachs, only to discover he had been first jailed by South African Prime Minister D.F. Malan and then left to England.
Malan Ousted Labor Leader
'Solly' Sachs Victim of African Race Trouble
This is the second in a series of articles by Jack Scott on the race problem in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - One of the men I most wanted to meet in South Africa is a courageous little Jew named Emil Solomon Sachs and on my first morning here I set off in search of him.
"Solly" Sachs is probably the most famous and certainly the most controversial of labor leaders in this strife-torn sub-continent.
He has done more than any other man to lead the working people of South Africa toward trade unions and, in an atmosphere in which hatred hangs like the heavy scent of the autumn flowers, to organize without discrimination.
It was sachs who founded the Garment Workers' Union of South Africa, the strongest of all unions and, as a model for the future, the most feared by those white South Africans who live and profit by exploiting color.
This, regrettably, is a group of wide dimensions. The wealthy gold barons who keep their native workers in compounds, like tools in a shed, are brothers under the skin to the farmers out on the desolate platteland whose precarious existence depends on cheap native labor and "keeping the nigger in his place."
Of all his enemies, Sachs' grimmest battles have been with the aged Prime Minister Malan and his Nationalist Party government, about which there will be more in these articles in the next few day.
Under the soul-deep cynicism known as "eerbare apartheid" (honourable segregation) Dr. Malan and his supporters keep the "non-European" in the role of feudal slaves. There is no room in their philosophy for a trades union which recognizes the "Nie Blanke" as a human being.
I was particularly interested in "Solly" Sachs because of a book he wrote called "The choice before South Africa."
This book is no stronger or no weaker than the long shelf of literature devoted to the explosive subject of South Africa, but for two reasons it is distinguished.
The first is that it was written by a man who was born here and who lived here and who could thus expect reprisals.
There have been many outstanding books written by experts who have come to South Africa, studied its peculiar problems, and published their findings safely beyond the iron grip of Dr. Malan.
"Solly" Sachs was clearly sticking his neck out, and to judge by the picture on the book's flyleaf, it was a pathetically scrawny neck at that.
The book is distinguished secondly, because of the many volumes I've read in these past few weeks about South Africa, this is the most optimistic of all.
The choice Sachs gives the country (and the choice which other objective writers have given it) was expressed in his words as follows: "South Africa will either carry through a democratic revolution or within a generation it will become a nation of poor whites and starving blacks. It is clear that oppressed colonial people must be accorded full democratic rights, or they will take them by force."
Hope of Common Sense
Unlike many others, who look on South Africa as a volcano that will sooner our later erupt, "Solly" Sachs believes fiercely in the lonely conviction that common sense will save the nation and, in fact, that South Africa may yet lead the whole of the African continent to a true democracy.
It took me only an hour to discover that Sachs had been defeated, that Dr. Malan had put the screws to yet another obstacle in the path of what one of his critics has called his "Charter of inhuman wrongs."
I went to the offices of the Garment Workers' Union. They were empty and stripped bare. A passerby directed me to the new headquarters in a more obscure quarter of Johannesburg. I asked for Mr. Sachs and they gave me the facts of life in South Africa today.
It took an act of government to dispense with "Solly" but such acts are a dime a dozen in the Malan government.
Sachs was arrested under the Suppression of Communism Act (he describes himself as a "progressive capitalist" and even his worst enemies scoff at the idea that he is anything but "a pig-headed idealist.")
Sentenced to Jail
He was sentenced to six months in jail, but the Appeal Court reduced this to a suspended sentence. It meant that he was prohibited by order of Malan's Mninister of Justice from attending any gathering except "religious, recreational or social." In short, the death of a labor organizer.
Sachs sailed for England with the wistful farewell announcement that he hoped to carry on his work there, which must have given the British-hating Malan a hearty laugh.
I happened to be lunching later in the day with a representative of one of the mining companies who had volunteered to "put me straight" on the "true picture" in South Africa. When I mentioned the case of Sachs he guffawed.
"Ah, they got Solly right and proper," he said. "Why if the little fellow had joined a bus queue he'd have been put away."