by Warren McGregor (ZACF)
Movements for ecological awareness and protection, such as those against climate change, are making important contributions to social understanding regarding the effects of industrial production and consumption. However, many arguments and analyses against ecological destruction and for environmental protection are seemingly not based on a class analysis and not informed by the lives of working class people. Thus many of these analyses do not question the systems of domination that lie at the root of social inequality and ecological devastation: capitalism and the nation state.
BLACK STARS OF ANARCHISM: T.W. Thibedi (1888-1960): The Life of a South African Revolutionary Syndicalist
by Lucien van der Walt
The son of a Wesleyan minister, Thibedi William Thibedi was one of the most important black African revolutionary syndicalists in South African history. Thibedi was a leading figure in the International Socialist League (ISL) and in the Industrial Workers of Africa syndicalist union. Later he played an important role in the early Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), particularly its union work. He was active in all of the key black unions from the 1910s to the 1940s.
Reviewed by Jonathan Payn (ZACF)
Published in 2011 by Pambazuka Press, My Dream is to be Bold: Our Work to End Patriarchy is the welcome result of the work of Feminist Alternatives (FemAL), “a group of feminist activists in South Africa working against sexism and oppression”. The book provides insight into the lives, struggles and ideas of nineteen feminist activists based in South Africa, who organised “to come together over two days and reflect on women’s organising in the context of a patriarchal, neoliberal social and world order”. The book itself is a collection of writings by the nineteen activists, developed during a publication workshop held in Cape Town in June of 2009. The workshop, organised by FemAL, sought “to build collective analysis through speaking to other women, comparing experience, collectively trying to understand that experience and theorise it”.
by Yasser Abdullah *
Beginning in December 2010, a series of uprisings in Arab countries brought hope to workers and the poor – not only in the Middle East but throughout the world. Dictators have been toppled in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and struggles continue throughout the region.
For anarchists the question has always been: will the struggles stop with overthrowing dictators, an important victory but one that cannot end oppression? Or will it go further? Can a mass movement continue the struggle until imperialism, exploitation, capitalism and the state itself are finally destroyed?
by a Syrian comrade
This could to some extent tell my situation when I was inside the “liberated territories” of Syria, that is the territories controlled by the free army, the armed forces of the Syrian opposition. But still it is not the whole truth. It is true that not all the free army militants are devoted jihadists, although most of them are thinking, or telling, that what they are practicing is “Jihad”. The truth is there are a lot of ordinary people, even thieves, etc. among them, as in any armed struggle. My first and lasting impression about the current situation in Syria is that there is no longer a popular revolution going on there – what is taking place there is an armed revolution that could degenerate simply into a civil conflict. The Syrian people, which showed unprecedented courage and determination in the first few months of the revolution to defy Assad’s regime despite all its brutality, is really exhausted now. 19 long months of fierce repression, and lately, of hunger, scarce resources of all types, and continuous bombardment of the regime’s army, weaken its spirit.
by Oliver Nathan
South Africa is an extremely unequal society. The post-apartheid dispensation has seen the situation of the majority poor black working class worsening (characterised by increasing unemployment, a lack of adequate and affordable service delivery and exacerbated by rampant inflation). On the other side of the coin, a few elites have ‘made it’ in capitalism and through the state, often through the elitist forms of ‘Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE)’ and corruption. Inequality in South Africa is easily illustrated when one observes the massive disparities in development, service delivery and wealth between townships and rural areas on the one hand, and suburban areas on the other.
Nationally, South Africa faces a massive backlog in service delivery. Some 203 out of 284 South African municipalities are unable to provide sanitation to 40% of their residents. This means that in 71% of municipal areas, most people do not have flush toilets. A staggering 887 329 people still use the bucket system and 5 million people, or 10.5% of the population, have no access to sanitation at all. It is perfectly understandable, then, why working class and poor people take to the streets in protest against poor and costly service delivery; it is these same people that are impacted most by insufficient and costly service delivery, corruption and municipal mismanagement.
Get Rich or Lie Trying: Why ANC Millionaire Julius Malema posed as a Radical, why he lost, and what this tells us about the Post-Apartheid ANC
by Tina Sizovuka and Lucien van der Walt
This article aims to explain, from an anarchist / syndicalist perspective, the rapid rise and fall of Julius Malema, the controversial and corrupt multi-millionaire leader of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) “youth league” (ANCYL). It is demonstrated that Malema’s posturing as radical champion of the black poor was simply a means to an end: rising higher in the ranks of the ANC, in order to access bigger state tenders and higher paying political office.
The larger political implications of the Malema affair are also considered, especially the role of the ANC – as a vehicle for the accumulation of wealth and power by the rising black elite, which is centred on the state. It is not a party that serves, or can serve, the working class; on the contrary, it is the site of bitter struggles for state contracts and office between rival elite factions. It is a bureaucratic-bourgeois-black nationalist party, lodged in the state.
by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
It has become common knowledge that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Only 41% of people of working age are employed, while half of the people employed earn less than R 2 500 a month . Worse still, inequality is growing with wages as a share of the national income dropping from 50% in 1994 to 45% in 2009; while profit as a share of national income has soared from 40% to 45% . In real terms this means that while a minority live well – and have luxurious houses, swimming pools, businesses, investments, and cushy positions in the state – the majority of people live in shacks or tiny breezeblock dwellings, are surrounded by squalor, and struggle on a daily basis to acquire the basics of life like food and water. Likewise, while bosses, state managers, and politicians – both black and white – get to strut around in fancy suits barking orders; the majority of people are expected to bow down, do as told, and swallow their pride.
by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
The South African state’s oppression of the ongoing wildcat strikes, including at Marikana, is clearly deepening. Over the last few weeks troops were deployed in the platinum belt in what was a barefaced bid by the state to stop the protests by striking workers, and essentially force them back to work. As part of this, residents at the informal settlement at Marikana, and those surrounding Amplats, have been subjected to a renewed assault by the police. Many residents in the process were shot with rubber bullets; their homes were raided; they were threatened; and tear gas, at times, lay over these settlements like a chemical fog. In practice, a curfew has also been put in place and anyone gathering in a group on the streets has been pounced upon by the men in blue. Threats have also emerged from the Cabinet that a crackdown on any ‘trouble-makers’, that are supposedly inciting workers to continue to strike, is going to happen. New arrests have also taken place at Marikana and even workers who are witnesses in the state’s Commission of Inquiry into the events at Lonmin have been arrested and harassed. A number of strikers at Amplats too have been killed or injured by the police.
Alternative Needed to Nationalisation and Privatisation: State Industries like South Africa’s ESKOM show Working Class deserves better
by Tina Sizovuka and Lucien van der Walt
“To assure the labourers that they will be able to establish socialism … [through] government machinery, changing only the persons who manage it… is… a colossal historical blunder which borders upon crime…”
“Modern Science and Anarchism”
Privatisation – the transfer of functions and industry to the private sector – is widely and correctly rejected on the left and in the working class. Privatisation leads only to higher prices, less and worse jobs, and worse services. Given this, some view nationalisation – the transfer of economic resources (e.g. mines, banks, and factories) to state ownership and control – as a rallying cry for a socialist alternative. As the supposedly pro-working class alternative, this cry has resounded in sections of the SA Communist Party (SACP), in the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), in the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) membership, and on the independent Trotskyite and social democratic left.
This article argues that nationalisation has never removed capitalism, nor led to socialism, and it certainly does not have a demonstrable record of consistently improving wages, jobs, rights and safety. Nationalisation, rather than promote “workers’ control” or companies’ accountability to the public, has routinely meant top-down management, union-bashing, bad services and bad conditions.
Who Rules South Africa?: An Anarchist/Syndicalist Analysis of the ANC, the Post-Apartheid Elite Pact and the Political Implications
by Lucien van der Walt
2012 is the centenary of the African National Congress (ANC). The party that started out as a small coterie of black businessmen, lawyers and chiefs is today the dominant political formation in South Africa. It was founded by the black elite who were marginalised by the united South Africa formed in 1910, and who appeared at its Bloemfontein inauguration “formally dressed in suits, frock coats, top hats and carrying umbrellas”. Today it is allied via the Tripartite Alliance to the SA Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
Can the ANC be a vehicle for fundamental, progressive, social change in the interests of the black, Coloured and Indian working classes (proletariat), still mired in the legacy of apartheid and racial domination? This is what Cosatu (and the SACP) suggest.
Red and black greetings, comrades!
It’s been well over a year since the last issue of Zabalaza and much international attention has focused on the socio-economic problems facing the European Union. Despite the ravages of capitalism, and its neo-liberal form, the European ruling classes have responded, generally, with more of the same: increased attacks on the working class through propagating greater austerity measures, and less money spent on social welfare on the one hand, and bail-outs and more tax breaks for the rich on the other. As is to be expected, however, the European working class has not taken this lying down; resistance to austerity imposed from above has been widespread. In recent months we have witnessed, in Greece, a one-day general strike on October 18 and a 48-hour general strike on November 6 and 7. Promisingly, and for the first time in the wake of the global economic crisis of 2008 – we have also witnessed a common European response in the form of a general strike on November 14 that affected Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, with solidarity actions occurring across much of the continent.
- Whose State is it; and What is its Role? by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
- Who Rules South Africa?: An Anarchist/Syndicalist Analysis of the ANC, the Post-Apartheid Elite Pact and the Political Implications by Lucien van der Walt
- All GEARed Up for a New Growth Path – on the Road to Nowhere by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
- Alternative Needed to Nationalisation and Privatisation: State Industries like South Africa’s ESKOM show Working Class deserves better by Tina Sizovuka and Lucien van der Walt
- Get Rich or Lie Trying: Why ANC Millionaire Julius Malema posed as a Radical, why he lost, and what this tells us about the Post-Apartheid ANC by Tina Sizovuka and Lucien van der Walt
- Municipalities, Service Delivery and Protest by Oliver Nathan
- Egypt: the Lost Transition and the Libertarian Alternatives by Yasser Abdullah
- A Close Look at the Syrian Revolution: An Anarchist among Jihadists by a Syrian comrade
Black Stars of Anarchism:
- T.W. Thibedi (1888-1960): The Life of a South African Revolutionary Syndicalist by Lucien van der Walt
- My Dream is to be Bold: Our Work to End Patriarchy reviewed by Jonathan Payn (ZACF)
- Linking Environment Activism and Other Struggles: An Anarchist Analysis by Warren McGregor (ZACF)
Worker Co-operatives, Markets and the South African State: An analysis from an Anarchist Perspective
by Oliver Nathan (ZACF)
Worker co-operatives in post apartheid South Africa have all too often been championed by certain sections of the labour movement and some on the left as part of the solution to the ‘structural unemployment’ facing the popular classes in the current dispensation. Moreover, and often framed in purely ideological, often Proudhonist terms (in particular from the SACP and from various ex SACP members); worker co-operatives are understood as an equitable way of organizing production so that workers have control over the labour process, on the one hand, and ownership of the means of production, on the other.
Certain ‘enabling’ legislation and policy such as the Co-operatives Act of 2005, the National Co-operatives Policy of 2007 and the national Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) stepping in as the ‘custodian’ of co-operative development South Africa has, at least on paper, meant that co-operatives are part of the national development agenda currently embodied by the New Growth Plan (NGP) policy framework. However, if one does some research into how various co-operative development projects, including trade union, state initiated, and community initiated and worker occupation-type co-operatives have fared in the post-apartheid era, one would see the dismal performance of these co-operatives in relation to their original objectives. These are, in particular, providing sustainable employment for their members while at the same time maintaining member control and popular participation in administration and production.
This article seeks to tease out some of the pitfalls of organizing worker co-operatives trying to compete in the market and often with the ‘assistance’ of the state. The benefits and limitations of co-operatives have long been the topic of discussion amongst anarchists and other libertarian socialists. This paper draws on the ideas of Bakunin (as against Proudhon) around the question of how co-operatives relate to and are affected by the state and the market in capitalist society. It subsequently evaluates the realities faced by co-operatives operating in the market through an analysis of ‘worker control’ and ‘social ownership’ in the former Yugoslavian co-operatives and ‘degeneration of worker control’ in the Mondragon Co-operative Complex in Spain. We then move onto the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality’s state sponsored co-operative development project as the South African case study.
Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro – FARJ (Brazil)
The term “organisational dualism”, as it is used in English, serves to explain the conception of organisation that we promote, or what has classically been called the discussion between “party and mass movement”. In short, our especifista tradition has its roots in (Mikhail) Bakunin, (Errico) Malatesta, Dielo Truda (Workers Cause), Federación Anarquista Uruguaya – FAU (Anarchist Federation of Uruguay) and other militants/organisations that have defended this distinction between levels of organisation. That is, a broad level that we call the “social level”, composed of popular movements, and that which we call the “political level”, composed of anarchist militants that are grouped around a defined political and ideological basis.
This model is based on a few positions: that popular movements cannot be confined to a defined ideological camp – and, in this respect, we distinguish ourselves from the anarcho-syndicalists, for example – because they should organise themselves around needs (land, shelter, jobs, etc.), grouping together large sectors of the people. This is the social level or the mass movement, as it has been called historically. The model also contends that, to work in movements, it is not enough to be dissolved – or inserted – in them, even while recognising ourselves as anarchists. It is necessary that we be organised, constituting a significant social force that will facilitate in the promotion of our programme and also in defence against attacks from adversaries that have other programmes. However, one must bear in mind that we do not promote participation in one or other level; anarchists are also workers and are part of this broad group that we call the exploited classes and, therefore, they organise themselves, as a class, in the social movements. Even so, as this level of organisation has its limitations, the anarchists also organise themselves on the political level, as anarchists, as a way to articulate their work and ideas.
The 21st century is a time of both despair and hope: despair at the evils of contemporary society, hope that a new world is possible.
The ideas of the broad anarchist tradition can contribute greatly to this new world. They are integrally tied to an inspiring body of practice in working class, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and civil rights struggles, back to the 1860s. And they are relevant to South Africa today.
Anarchism’s basic aim is the most complete realisation of a revolutionary democratic vision, abolishing hierarchy and exploitation:
- ending social and economic inequality, including by race, nation and gender, to create a society based on free, cooperating individuals;
- revolutionary reconstruction of the family as a site of freedom and cooperation;
- participatory-democratic control of the means of production, coercion and administration, through multi-tendency worker/ community councils, not corporations and states; and,
- self-management at work, global economic participatory planning, and distribution on the basis of need, not markets.
by Red Libertaria de Buenos Aires *
From late 2001 and the beginning of 2002, sectors of the Argentine working class staged an extraordinary experience of struggle. The occupation of companies and the commencing of production without bosses. In the context of an economic crisis, high levels of unemployment, bankruptcy of companies and massive retrenchments, thousands of workers organised themselves to keep their jobs.
Economic and Political Crisis
Between 1997 and 2001 there was a severe economic crisis in Argentina that impacted heavily on the bloc in power. This crisis was surmounted by a popular rebellion on the 19th and 20th of December that, facing a state of siege, forced the resignation of President Fernando De la Rúa and the opening of a process of leaderlessness in the executive branch of the Republic , and an advancement of popular struggle. This rebellion put an end to a series of neoliberal governments in the country, while there was a breakthrough in popular struggle: neighborhood assemblies, movements of unemployed workers and the recovery of factories and businesses by workers.
Picking Up the Slack in Waste Collection and Ecological Protection: the Struggle of Recyclable Waste Pickers in Uruguay and Brazil
by Jonathan Payn (ZACF)
Across South America there is a growing movement – assuming different forms and characteristics, but with similar origins, demands and objectives – that, despite it being located at a strategically important intersection between two critical social issues – class struggle and ecology – seems to me to have received little attention in South African academic and activist circles. And this is true despite the fact that the social and economic conditions that gave rise to this movement prevail in South Africa, as they did – and continue to – in many South American countries. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this movement concerns people largely marginalised by industrial society and so-called ‘brown’ ecological issues – such as the pollution and contamination of rivers and dams surrounding poor communities, most acutely effecting the workers and poor – as opposed to the much more sanitary ‘green’ ecological issues – such as conservation and animal welfare – often associated, in South Africa at least, with liberal white activists from the middle and upper classes .
This is the movement of the catadores, as they are known in Brazil, and clasificadores in Uruguay; the recyclable waste pickers and sorters who, similarly to South Africa, constitute a growing informal sector in the industrial production cycle. This includes all people – not formally employed by public or private waste management services – who collect, transport, classify and sell recyclable waste for a living – or ‘work with scrap’ – thus “reducing demand for natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions” . A category of work which, according to the World Bank, is performed by 15 million people globally – or one percent of the world population  – and has become increasingly common in South Africa in recent years.
The biggest single strike since the 1994 parliamentary transition in South Africa showed the unions’ power. It won some wage gains, but it threw away some precious opportunities. We need to celebrate the strike, while learning some lessons:
- the need for more union democracy
- the need to use strikes to link workers and communities
- the need for working class autonomy
- the need to act outside and against the state
- the need to review our positions: against the Tripartite Alliance, for anarcho-syndicalism
This issue of Zabalaza (no. 12) comes out in a period characterised by significant political changes and transitions. On the international terrain, the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, which began in late 2010 but have continued into recent months, have been a key topic of discussion – in both the mainstream media and in activist circles. There has been a tendency for these to be portrayed in the media simply as “struggles for democracy”. Likewise, the media often reproduce an incomplete version of events – depicting the uprisings as “coming out of nowhere”. In fact, in many cases the demands of the masses have raised far more profound questions about the basic distribution of both wealth and power in society, and are the culmination of struggles that go back some ten years, by both the masses and organised labour, around high unemployment, rapidly rising food prices, poor living conditions, open corruption by the ruling elites, and a lack of basic political freedoms (produced in part by the introduction of neoliberal reforms). In this issue we focus attention on the Egyptian case, looking specifically at the possibilities the situation holds for the future.
- Editorial – Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front
- Take Back What’s Yours: the Mine-Line Occupation –Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
- Andries Tatane: Murdered by the Ruling Classes – Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
- Build a Better Workers’ Movement: Learning from South Africa’s 2010 Mass Strike – Lucien van der Walt and Ian Bekker
- Egypt, “Transition in Order” and a Revolutionary Situation still open – José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
- Without Bosses: the Process of Recovering Companies by their Workers in Argentina, 2001-2009 – Red Libertaria de Buenos Aires
- Picking Up the Slack in Waste Collection and Ecological Protection: the Struggle of Recyclable Waste Pickers in Uruguay and Brazil – Jonathan Payn (ZACF)
- Anarchism in Tunisia: Nicolò (Nicolantonio) Converti, 1855-1939
- Why May Day Matters: History with Anarchist Roots – Sian Byrne (ZACF), Warren McGregor (ZACF) and Lucien van der Walt
- The Spanish Revolution: A New World in their Hearts – 19th of July: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the start of the Spanish Revolution
- What Anarchism and Syndicalism offer the South African Left – Lucien van der Walt
- Organisational Dualism, Active Minority and the discussion between ‘Party’ and ‘Mass Movement’ – Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro
- Worker Co-operatives, Markets and the South African State: an Analysis from an Anarchist Perspective – Oliver Nathan (ZACF)
- Kicker Conspiracy: How football fell foul of the State – Interview with Gabriel Kuhn
Zabalaza 11 has a distinct local flavour to it as compared to our previous issue. This is partly as a result of South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, which has dominated the socio-political landscape this last year. The excessive money spent by the state on preparations for the event (before and during) highlighted, once again, a complete disregard for the plight of the working poor and impoverished domestically and the stark reality of its anti-poor, pro-rich policies. Despite the tournament being ‘sold’ to the public as an economic opportunity not only for South Africans, but Africa as a whole, the major beneficiaries have been a small band of domestic and global economic and political elite.
Zabalaza 11 also focuses attention on the repression suffered by social movements based amongst some of the poorest in South Africa. In response to these attacks and subsequent arrests, the ZACF worked closely with the Poor People’s Alliance to create networks and actions of solidarity with those organisations.
Social movements have also gained and suffered at the hands of the South African judicial system recently. We focus attention on constitutional law and offer both a critique of the use of the state’s legal system by social movements as well as a way forward for embattled movements locally.
by Warren McGregor (ZACF)
Post-1994 South Africa is usually seen and promoted as a country of moral and political exceptionalism. The spawn of negotiations between the bourgeois nationalist and voluntarily neo-liberal African National Congress (ANC) under the guidance of Nelson Mandela and the hierarchy of the vicious apartheid state, post-apartheid South Africa was to provide a shining example of reconciliation and socio-economic progress. During a few dark days in May 2010, these claims were finally and mercilessly put to rest. So it seems and has been for those who survive in and who are social activists at the layer of society most subject to the oppressive nature of the state and capital: the working class and poor. The Landless People’s Movement, a shack and rural township dwellers organisation based in the Gauteng province, suffered attacks at the hands of their fellow community members. These attacks were designed by local community members to harass and expel prominent local activists and to destabilise the organisation and its constructive community work. Most of the LPM’s activism is directed against the state and its representatives at a local and municipal level, and thus an attack on activists can be seen to benefit a larger state desire of quietening social movements throughout the country. Lack of initial police intervention to prevent further attacks on the night of the attacks, and the subsequent arrest of prominent community activists speak to this desire.
The attacks on social movements and activists should be viewed within a socio-economic context that sees South Africa as one of the most unequal societies on the planet (according to its Gini coefficient – the income inequality indicator, literally the gap between the rich and poor). This inequality persists, bred during the last century and exacerbated by the ANC government’s grasping at neo-liberalism. Added to this cauldron of inequality was the morally criminal and immense spending by the state in hosting the recent 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup which revealed what the staging of the event was designed as and who it ultimately will benefits - a capitalist and corporate state project for the benefits of the very few (domestically and globally).
by Lekhetho Mtetwa (ZACF)
It was on Sunday morning, the 28th of April 2010 when people from the bond houses took out illegal connections in Protea South. They were returning from a funeral when they made these disconnections by removing electricity wires.
The person who brought them to my yard, framing me as the one in charge of illegal connections, is a taxi owner named Nkosi. He kept on saying illegal connection meetings are held in my yard, as he often saw people gathered outside my yard connecting. The question is: do I have the powers to stop all people living in the informal settlement from connecting electricity? No! I don’t have any power to stop them. Only Eskom could maybe do that with the help of the state.
I was also threatened that if the main electricity box is burnt, they’ll also burn my shack. On that night people wanted to burn the main box and I contacted the Landless Peoples’ Movement (LPM) comrades to check what was happening outside our shacks. There we found angry community members planning to wake the rest of the people of the informal settlement to go and burn the box. We tried our best to stop them from burning the box and they all listened, although they were not satisfied.