This, however, also resulted in a disjuncture with the past struggles that created tensions and blindspots for both movements.
In the case of Black Consciousness there was initially no overt challenge to the historical leaders of the struggle, who were jailed on Robben Island.
It is present in subtle but powerful ways – in ideas, scholarship, people and non governmental organisations, in newspapers such as the Mail & Guardian, and in its facilitation of the emergence of the labour movement.
But, there is a deep cleavage with those who constituted this 1970s New Left and the current labour movement, led by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) since 1985.
The New Left in South Africa can be traced to a formative moment at the University of Cape Town (UCT), the student sit-ins of 1968, resonant with today’s #Rhodes Must Fall campaign.
In both cases students occupied the Bremner Administrative Building, and in both cases spoke to core generational grievances.
The young white activists in the New Left would move to become advisers to assist the rebirth of trade unions, crystallised in the formation of the Federation of South African Trade Unions in 1979.
Among them was Alec Erwin, who later became a cabinet minister under former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
Part of a marginal white youth movement that author, former student activist and political detainee Glenn Moss describes as the New Radicals, students used statistical research to show that companies were drastically underpaying their workers.
These Wages Commissions aided the revival of South African trade unions. Workers in the industrial areas of Durban stopped work and demanded an increase in wages.