As working class activists, we should share experiences with – and learn from – working class struggles in other places. The ruling class organises worldwide to exploit and dominate our class. So we need to organise resistance to defend our interests everywhere. And we can only benefit from arming ourselves with lessons from different working class movements.
An important example of working class resistance from which we, in South Africa, can draw inspiration is the Brazilian Resistência Popular (Popular Resistance). This organises with unions, student and neighbourhood movements, and it promotes mobilisation and organisation based on grassroots democracy, direct struggle, and solidarity across the broad working class. It exists in various cities, and stresses the importance of people organising themselves, from the bottom up, outside of the parliamentary system, and against the economic and political elites.
by Lucien van der Walt
A global movement, the anarchist and syndicalist tradition has influenced people from all walks of life. A notable figure was Bernard L.E. Sigamoney, born in 1888. The grandson of indentured Indian labourers, who arrived in South Africa in the 1870s, he became a school teacher with a working class outlook.
A hundred years ago saw the First World War (1914-1918) sear the globe: almost 40 million died. South Africa, as part of the British Empire, sent troops and workers to battles in Africa and Europe.
Workshop contributors: Lucky, Pitso, Bongani, Siyabulela,
Nonzukiso, Nonzwakazi, Mzwandile
EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: Today the terms “populism” and “workerism” are widely thrown about in South African political circles. Often, these terms and others (“syndicalism,” “ultra-left,” “counter-revolutionary,” “anti-majoritarian” …) have no meaning: they are just labels used to silence critics. SA Communist Party (SACP) leaders do this often. But in the 1980s, “populism” and “workerism” referred to two rival positions battling for the soul of the militant unions.
These debates, thirty years on, remain very relevant: let us revisit them, and learn. Today’s radical National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) was part of the “workerist” camp, while its key rival, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was identified with “populism.” The early battles over the direction of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) still echo today, although there is no longer a clear “workerist” camp.
The 1976 Struggle and the Emancipation of the Future: Developing Self-determined and Self-motivated Youth despite Looming Fate
by Bongani Maponyane (TAAC, ZACF)
The massacre of South African school children in 1976 continues to be remembered and to influence us today. It showed the brutality of the apartheid state and it left scars still felt by people today.
In the period 1970-75 the number of black schoolchildren in the state system increased by 160%. However, the Bantu Education system and economic crisis meant already low apartheid expenditure could not meet the increasing need.
This was also the time of Steve Bantu Biko, a key intellectual influence through the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). The rising black trade union movement provided another source of inspiration after the defeats of the 1960s.
It is said we live in a democratic country; but, believe me it is for the chosen few. Current Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, was once widely considered a hero of the working class. Today he is a hypocrite and traitor to us, the majority.
From 1994, when his career as a trade unionist ended and his career as a capitalist and state politician began, he has enriched himself at the expense of workers – he is a billionaire by the toil of our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.
Ramaphosa played a major role in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and in the negotiations leading to the 1994 breakthrough. He became African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general in 1991 and ANC deputy president in 2012 – the ally of President Jacob Zuma.
In the years between, his business empire has grown massively. His interests now include a big stake in the Lonmin platinum mines; he is implicated in the 2012 Marikana Massacre of striking miners near Rustenburg. As a result, he had to testify at the Farlam Commission in Centurion, Tshwane, which recently ended.
This makes me wonder what kind of democracy and equality he was fighting for. He was a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, but is now a villain of the parliamentary democratic period. He is covered with an indelible and negative stigma amongst the majority of South Africans.
But one may not be surprised: even his leader and ally, Jacob Zuma, runs the state with filthy hands, part of the large group of corrupt state officials and capitalists that loots our country.
In conclusion, all these so-called leaders are wolves in sheep’s clothing. And all that glitters, dear readers, is not gold! Parliament, rather than being a solution, is a place where the wolves come out to feast. This system of hierarchical rule always changes those people who join it. It is up to us, the working class majority – employed and unemployed – to change the system. Anarchism shows us the way.
Workers in the Public Safety department of the West Rand District Municipality, Gauteng, are experiencing extremely stressful times. This is mainly due to management’s actions. There have been many cases of resignations and stress-related illnesses – and some workers have been affected badly enough to commit suicide.
Management has continually turned a blind eye to the problems. It is a major employer, as the municipality is a large one, covering mining areas like Carletonville, Khutsong, Krudersdorp, Randfontein and Westdriefontein and rural areas like Magaliesberg and Muldersdrift.