Emil Solomon "Solly" Sachs

Researched and Analyzed by Jack Flanagan


Emil Solomon "Solly" Sachs was born in 1900 in Lithuania. After moving to South Africa in 1914, he began working, and joined the "Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA)," the only party that accepted all people no matter what race, as Emil was Jewish, in 1919. He formed the "South African Clothing Workers' Union", was elected to the national executive committee of the "South African Trade and Labor Council," and was appointed Secretary of the "Garment Workers' Union of South Africa." After organizing multiple strikes, he received a banning order for twelve months, which was later reduced to six. Due to his socialist policies, Emil was expelled from the CPSA in 1931 for not being far enough left wing, all the while still being viewed by the South African government as a communist. Nonetheless, Solly worked hard to pass legislation for the working class, especially women and those in the clothing manufacturing areas, by requesting the government to pass legislation, such as the Unemployment Acts, through the many unions he had been involved with. He also ran for office in South Africa, with a short, 475 vote stint in Jeppe with the "Independents' Party." Solly was once again banned after the "Suppression of Communism Act" in 1951, and organized a strike protesting this decision with the Garment Workers' Union. Their efforts failed, resulting in Solly's move to England, where he lived the remainder of his days, as his son, Albie, stayed in South Africa and became a prominent figure in the fight against Apartheid.


Solly Sachs was a trailblazer in racial and class equality in his day. Though this can be traced back to his Jewish roots, he was willing to fight for equality all across the board, including gender roles. Throughout his work with many unions, he created greater balanced opportunities for people of all walks of life. He helped recommend legislation that eventually created benefits for those who were unemployed, while he worked to grant working women the status of an employee, as they could not join a union until the government deemed them employees. The Government's label of Solly as a communist demonstrates how Apartheid used label and fear tactics in order to slow its opposition. Yet, Emil's steps towards equality helped provide a safer, more equal workplace for all, and supplied momentum to the building fight against Apartheid.