The crisis of the statist politics that dominated working-class politics — social democracy, Marxism-Leninism, and anti-imperialist nationalism — and the rise of neoliberalism, has aided the rediscovery of society-centred, anti-capitalist forms of bottom-up change “at a distance” from the state.
This article critically assess the three main modes of “at a distance” politics: “outside-but-with” the state, which combines using the state with popular movements; “outside-and-despite” the state, aiming at disintegrating the system by building alternatives in its cracks; and “outside-and-against” the state, associated with anarchism/ syndicalism, rejects the state for building autonomous working class counter-power that can resist, then defeat, state and capital. While each mode has limits, the anarchist/ syndicalist approach is arguably the most convincing, and its implications are serious. And it directs militants to work within the mass movements of the popular classes.
Modes of politics at a distance from the state: A critical assessment
by Lucien van der Walt
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE “ENABLING STATE”
For much of the last hundred years, the dominant parts of anti-systemic movements focused on winning state power, seeing an “enabling state” as the essential means for social transformation. The idea that radical social transformation meant wielding state power was shared by ever-increasing sectors of the anti-capitalist left, of workers’ movements, and of national liberation forces.
”May Day should be a symbol of international solidarity – that is of a solidarity that is not limited to the frame of the national state, which always fits with the interests of the privileged minorities of that very country. Among the millions of workers who bear the yoke of slavery, there is a unity of interest, regardless of the language they speak and the standard under which they were born. But between the exploiters and the exploited of one country, there is a continuous war that cannot be resolved by any principle of authority and is rooted in the contradictory interests of the various classes. All nationalism is an ideological disguise of the true facts: it may at one time drag the great masses to its lying representatives, but it has never been able to abolish the brutal reality of the things of this world” – (Rudolf Rocker, 1936).
Warren McGregor of Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) says while the South African state has been praised for its rapid response to coronavirus, its lockdown has hugely unequal effects . Many in the working class , poor majority lack proper access to food, health-care, income and jobs. Some employers are attacking labour. There are inadequate measures to cushion the masses, and unacceptable army /police brutality, while big business and politicians get bailouts. We accept the science that lockdowns are needed, he insists. But we must also demand justice, building concrete, realistic actions that can win improvements and build working class counter-power and a popular anarchist consciousness. Continue reading “COVID-19 and the working class struggle: Interview with South African anarchist-communist”→
What does the crisis mean for the working class and poor, and for our struggles and strategic perspectives? The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), South Africa, participated in a recent online panel with sister organisations from across the world on 11 April 2020. For those who were unable to tune in, you can enjoy a video recording here:
Are you bored sitting at home? Feel like you’ve watched everything on every streaming service twice over?
Instead of binging the same series for the tenth time, join Black Rose/Rosa Negra as we launch our quarantine livestream. Over the coming weeks we’ll be hosting a series of live panel discussions on a variety of topics relevant to building popular power in precarious times.
On Saturday, April 11th we’ll be livestreaming a historic panel discussion on the current global health crisis, featuring delegates representing half a dozen anarchist-communist organizations around the world.
Panelists include members of Solidaridad (Chile), Acción Socialista Libertaria (Argentina), Black Rose Anarchist Federation (U.S.), Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (South Africa), Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland), Anarchist Federation (Britain), and Union Communiste Libertaire (France).
All of our livestream events will take place via Zoom webinar. Space is limited, so please register below. If you’d like to tune in, but missed your chance to register, don’t worry! Each one of our livestream events will simultaneously be broadcast via our YouTube channel, which you can subscribe to here: http://tiny.cc/BRRNyoutube
The history of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU), formed in South Africa in 1919, is replete with lessons for today’s movements. The ICU, which also spread into neighbouring colonies like Basutoland (now Lesotho), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Southwest Africa (now Namibia) was by far the largest protest movement and organisation of black African and Coloured people of its time. Influenced by a range of ideas, including revolutionary syndicalism, the ICU had both amazing strengths and spectacular failings. This piece explains.
The roots and principles of anarchosyndicalism are worth revisiting for the practice of worker education in movements inspired by these principles and traditions. Emphasising the democratic practice, working class rooted, organic and critical nature of the pedagogy, the practice seeks to intersect employed and unemployed women and men. Practically, the education provides a platform for post-revolutionary practice of direct democracy at the point of production and, thus, naturally included practical skills such as trades, accounting and sciences.