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The Weight of Absence

Rick Turner and the End of the Durban Moment

Billy Keniston

Many key participants in the ‘emerging Trade Union movement’ were once influenced heavily by Turner. Nonetheless, as they moved into the unions, most adopted a mechanistic version of Marxism, and rejected Turner’s idealistic, anti-authoritarian Socialism. There are two different ways to interpret the significance of the ‘Durban Moment’. In one telling, there is a linear progression between the social movements in the 1970s through to the foment of the 1980s, and the end of apartheid in 1994. The other interpretation seeks to understand the unique qualities of the political developments of the early 1970s in counter-balance to the opposition politics that came before and after. The ultimate erasure of Rick Turner’s politics is to claim that they have been assimilated into movements that developed after his death. As long as we believe that Rick Turner’s vision was embraced by those who came after him, we will remain within a cul-de-sac.