- Seeing red (and black) at the WSSD
- Keepers of the Flame
- The Global Economy: Whats it all about
- The Rio Farce (the WSSD -10)
- Poverty Leaps in South Africa
- From Protest Movement to Social Revolution
- Political party funding: Politicians for sale
- Unmask the W$$D in Johannesburg and around the World
- Revolutionary Joburg
- S.A. Anarchists go Global…
- A message from our Spanish comrades on the W$$D
Seeing red (and black) at the WSSD
Let us be clear on one thing. The UN’s World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) – which will take place in Sandton from 26 August to 4 September 2002 – will achieve nothing for the working class.
It will provide an opportunity for a lot of speeches by business. It will provide an opportunity for the ANC government to smile at the cameras and pose as friends of the poor. It will be a great opportunity for NGOs to raise funds.
But it will achieve nothing for the working class. Why? – it is not meant to do so.
The WSSD is a follow-up to the ill-fated “Earth Summit” that was held in Rio, Brazil, in 1992. This brought together a 100 “world leaders” who shed many tears about the environmental problems facing the world.
A pious “Rio Declaration” was adopted, which set targets for the reduction of pollution and the phasing out of harmful technologies… and was promptly ignored.
Industrialised western countries circumvented the declaration under pressure from the huge multinational corporations that dominate the world economy. By 1992, these companies controlled 70% of world trade, 50% of foreign investment and 30% of global gross domestic product. Being the main polluters, they were also powerful enough to scupper the vaguely worded Rio Declaration.
At the time, Germany’s powerful chemical industry fought a rearguard action against proposed environmental regulations; Dutch industrialists threatened to leave Holland if a proposed carbon emissions law was adopted; and Californian furniture industries simply moved their highly pollutive factories straight to Mexico.
At the same time, George Bush senior rejected any inclusion in the Rio Declaration of measures that would compel US companies to restructure.
THIRD WORLD ELITES
At the same time, the rulers of the largely non-industrial “third world” sought to recast the Rio agenda in their own image.
On the one hand, they solemnly declared that they were not really responsible for industrial pollution. At the same time, they encouraged massive clearances of the Amazon and Congo rainforests, privatised nature reserves, and enticed western corporate investment by promising NOT to implement pollution laws.
On the other hand, they helped shift the agenda from environmental protection to the vague notion of “sustainable development,” a catch-all, empty phrase which most third world elites interpret as meaning privatisation and desperate efforts to woo multinationals to our shore with cheap labour and deregulation.
RICH MAN’S CLUB
There will be conflict within the official WSSD. We need to be clear about that. There will be conflicts between the representatives of different western power blocs, most notably between those countries associated with the European Union (EU) and the USA.
There will also certainly be conflict between the western powers and third world elites. We can also be sure the ANC government will use the event to posture to the world-at-large as a decent group of human beings who really care about the poor (despite mass evictions, strike breaking, and so on of course).
The West will selectively argue for better “human rights” – and more corporate investment in the third world, while third world elites will defend their brutal regimes and demand more free trade in agricultural goods with the West.
The most we can expect from the thugs of the African Union is that they will wave their NEPAD plan (which advocates mass privatisation of social and economic services and opening the continent to exploitation by multinationals) and at the same time dismiss criticism of the dictatorships that flourish continent-wide, whether in Libya, Zimbabwe or the DRC.
The WSSD will be a site for in-house squabbles between the world’s elite, debates that will take place in lavish centres, 5 star hotels, over R1000 a plate meals, within an area of South Africa that will be locked down to exclude protestors, crawling with police, helicopters, Casspirs etc. Secure from the poor, the rich will squabble about who gets richer, and how… and nothing more.
What about the parallel NGO summit being organised at NASREC by the Civil Society Secretariat?
As we argued in the last issue, this NGO summit, the “Global Social Forum,” is sponsored by the UN to give the main WSSD summit in Sandton an aura of legitimacy. It creates an illusion of participation, when in fact it is perfectly clear from the experience of all previous NGO summits that they are ignored by the real players in the official UN meetings.
Underlining the general contempt the official summit has for the NGO summit is the lack of adequate funding it has attracted, with an expected shortfall of R100 million anticipated months back. Meanwhile, the NGO delegates have found themselves being booked into overcrowded run-down hotels in the inner city… miles away, in every sense, from the real action in Sandton.
Early signs from COSATU and SANGOCO – the main players- are also not encouraging: there is a very real danger of the NGO summit being used to win space for the capitalist ANC in the very heart of the left. That will not do!
PROTEST AND SURVIVE
Nonetheless, the WSSD provides an excellent political opportunity for South Africa’s nascent anti-capitalist movement. The interest generated by the WSSD, the concentration of rich elites in Sandton, the issues the WSSD raises, the global and local media attention it will generate, all mean that the WSSD will be an excellent place to focus the emerging movement.
We can be sure that many, many protestors will be present. This strength can be used to put the real issues that are sure to be sidelined in the WSSD – poverty, capitalism, ecological disaster- in the spotlight. It can also be used to link up movements and individuals. We can share experiences, plan actions, learn from one another, build alliances.
And while we have no illusions that protest at the WSSD will fundamentally change society, it will help build confidence and momentum in the local and international anti-capitalist movement. And it is through this momentum that we can start to really change the world.
So, we can use the WSSD against the WSSD, against the UN, against the elites… despite the best efforts of these bourgeois groups to prevent us from struggling, advancing, and winning.
“Keepers of the Flame: As Moderate Groups Turn Down the Heat, Anarchists Light a New Way for Dissent”
“Unlike modern-day social reformers, who want Nike to let inspectors into their factories or the World Bank to forgive some debt, anarchists explicitly oppose capitalism itself. They don’t attack the International Monetary Fund or the WEF just because their policies exploit the poor, but because their power is illegitimate. They envision an egalitarian society without nation states, where wealth and power have been redistributed, and they take great pains to model their institutions in this vein, with autonomous, interconnected structures and consensus-based decision making. UC Santa Cruz professor Barbara Epstein, an expert on direct action, senses that anarchism has now become ‘the pole that everyone revolves around,’ much as Marxism was in the ‘60s. In other words, even young activists who don’t identify as anarchists have to position themselves in relation to its values.”
A rare good mainstream article on the rebuilding anarchist movement, from a January article in the New York-based Village Voice read the full article here
The Global Economy: What’s it all about?
THE IMF AND WORLD BANK: BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank were born in 1944 at the Bretton Woods conference in order to manage international finance and stimulate reconstruction after World War II. They are dedicated to the integration of countries into a capitalist world economy, advocating free trade in order to accelerate growth. The World Bank exists to make loans for giant infrastructural projects such as road building, airports, power plants and dams. These always involve displacement of local people and environmental destruction. Since the debt crisis of the 80s the IMF has become the debt collector for northern financial institutions forcing developing countries to accept sweeping economic and social reforms known as SAPs (e.g. GEAR).
STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAMMES (SAPS)
Irresponsible lending by commercial banks, reckless borrowing by foreign governments and the onset of the debt crisis in 1982 provided an opportunity for the US to protect its financial interests and, at the same time, reduce the South’s economic threat by radically adjusting their economies. Supposedly imposed to promote growth, stabilise economies, and reduce poverty, the 566 SAPs placed on over 70 countries in the last 14 years have had the opposite effect. Forced into massive debt and unable to keep up repayments, countries have had no choice but to implement the painful measures demanded of them. These usually include slashed public spending, the sale of state-owned enterprises and opening of economies to foreign markets. Dictatorships and similar regimes are often favoured as they are more likely to be able to force the changes on deeply dissatisfied populations.
THE ECONOMISTS AND THE GROWTH ILLUSION
The World Bank and IMF believe that ‘ACCELERATED GROWTH’ is the key to solving all the world’s problems whereby market mechanisms will get rid of inflation, unemployment, poor public services and unsustainable debt. This belief is accompanied by the idea that economic globalisation, the removal of barriers to the free flow of capital around the world, is the best way of increasing economic efficiency.
Increased capital flow through the economy does not end poverty, stabilise populations or protect the environment; it increases the absolute gap between the rich and the poor and makes no provision for peoples’ basic needs.
Most World Bank staff are economists. This means that they translate complex problems into numerical terms, formulating solutions for countries they have never visited and applying neo-classical economic models indiscriminately to places with vastly different histories, culture and politics. The only things to benefit from economic growth are corporate interests. We have to see through these myths if we are to find balanced and sustainable ways to order economic relations.
WHY LOANS JUST CAN’T WORK
The loan system is designed so that borrower countries can never repay their debts. The World Bank demands that borrowers pay them back in the same hard currencies they borrowed in, usually the dollar, but to do so, borrower countries must sell more to the rich countries than they buy from them. Rich countries will not allow this, as it would threaten their economic dominance. Thus the only way to keep up repayments on old debts is to take out new loans (known as the “transfer problem”). When the World Bank, IMF and rich nation politicians talk about poverty relief and improving the developing world’s prosperity, remember that the system itself is designed to create a permanent ‘underclass’ of poor countries. Desperately in debt and having lost their self-reliance they become subservient to the demands of western economic and political interests. This is no accident.
Reprinted (with minor changes by the editor) from the UK Prague Edition of People’s Global Action
* * * * *
Note from the Editors on The Global Economy: What’s it all about?
Although, as it stands, this is a good clear article, we could have some disagreements. Where the last paragraph (Why loans just can’t work) talks about ‘rich’ nations, they forget to mention that even within ‘nations’ the people are divided between slaves and masters and that those of us who are slaves in the ‘poor countries’ need to recognise that our true friends are the slaves in the ‘rich countries’ and not the masters in the ‘poor countries’. Only by uniting across borders will we be able to get rid of all masters and so build a world of equality, freedom and social justice.
The Rio farce (the WSSD -10)
from “Revolt” number 2 (1992), South Africa
The Rio Earth Summit was dominated by the very people responsible for the global ecological crisis in the first place. Solutions were not, cannot, and never will be, found by such groups. Grass roots action is the only answer.
As far as the Greens go, 1992 is being heralded as a turning point. The Rio Earth Summit managed to assemble the “leaders” of over 100 countries at a single place at a single time, to discuss the doomsday cause that the planet is on… but is it all a farce.
For a start, the individuals that sat around the table to discuss environmental degradation are the very same individuals who have caused the problem (i.e. the state leaders backed, no doubt, by campaign contributing multinational bosses). How can the cause of a problem dish out a solution… the only logical solution is the elimination of the cause.
To understand why we are in the situation where the environment is being threatened at all fronts, one needs to investigate and address the issue of the global economy, since environmental degradation is in most, if not all ways, related to the capitalist production and consumption of material goods.
Economically linked multinational enterprises, transnationals (TNC’s) control 70% of world trade, 50% of foreign investment and 30% of global gross domestic product. As they control the markets of almost all industries (from the petrochemical, to pharmaceutical to food) they control the pollution, and associated environmental damage.
20 of the largest pesticide makers control 94% of the world’s agro-chemical sales, a majority of which is sold to debtridden third world countries who have no choice but to purchase due to the mechanization policies of the west. In some cases, banned substances like the dreaded DDT are still being used in third world countries. It comes as no surprise since the third world is seen as dumping ground for dangerous products, like drugs, that the west has banned.
TNC’s are responsible for 50% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in the 6 biggest industrial sectors that together account for more than 80% of the problem. It is clear why, even after the dangers of CFC’s have been shown, TNC’s are proposing a gradual phase out programme instead of an immediate and total ban… PROFIT.
TNC’s are heavily involved in the destruction of tropical forest in Africa, SE Asia and Latin America. The Rio Farce saw the North dictating to third world nations to cease activities that have detrimental effects on the environment while the third world is in a catch 22 situation. It sees the exploitation of natural resources as one of the ways in which it can rid itself of the tightening debt noose that the World Bank and IMF has fixed on it.
The link between the TNC’S, commodity prices and the environment is also clear. When export commodities, prices drop (rice, coffee, cocoa, sugar and cotton prices are 20% lower in 1989 then 1980) poor countries earn less revenue, which means more poverty, less development, and increased destruction of the environment. In the meantime suit and tie jobs in Wall Street, Diagonal Street, etc. play juggler with commodity prices to ensure maximum profit margins… at any cost.
Of course it is in TNC interest to avoid fundamental changes. Last year Germany’s powerful chemical industry saw to it that the State failed to adopt environmental standards; in April Dutch industrialists threatened to locate out of Holland if the government effected its proposed carbon law; the Californian based furniture industry took its highly pollutive factories straight across the border to Mexico where it continued exploiting the environment and at the same time got a double benefit by having cheap Mexican labour at its disposal… thereby exploiting people as well.
Bush refused to agree to any environmental constraints at the Rio Farce that would [have] adversely affected US TNC’s.
TNC’s and their governments at Rio undermined any measures limiting their pollution and timber activities and last year the UN Commission on TNC’s was axed largely due to TNC pressure.
Clearly a solution to environmental problems cannot and will not be handed over on a silver platter by governments or [their] TNC allies (and vice versa) since too many vested interests are involved. Once again grass roots action from below seems to be the only way to slow down and hopefully halt the rape of Mother Earth.
To conclude: “The destruction of the planet cannot be stopped by barricading ourselves against the advancing bulldozers… we need to be in the driving seats of these machines and our destinations should be the multi-story, multi-million dollar offices of the TNC’s, Capitol Hills and Union Buildings of the world.”
Revolt online: http://www.struggle.ws/africa/safrica/revolt.html
Poverty leaps in South Africa
African working class people are worse off than ever, new study shows.
The recent All Media and Products Survey (AMPS) found that the number of people living below the poverty line was grown rapidly in the last 10 years. In 1989, 51 percent of African people earned an income below the poverty line. By 2001, the figure had leapt to 62 percent of African people, 13 million adults.
Amongst Coloureds, the proportion of people below the poverty line grew from 24 percent in 1989 to 29 percent; amongst Indians, from 6 percent to 11 percent; and among Whites, from 3 percent to 4 percent.
At the same time, however, the African middle class grew rapidly. By 2001, roughly one million African adults earned R8000 or more per month. This is roughly a quarter of the high income group, up from just over an eighth (or 16 percent) in 1997. The remainder of the high income group is made up of Coloureds, Indians and Whites.
At the same time, the government has pushed forward relentlessly with its programme of cutting off services to those who cannot afford them.
Research by the Municipal Services Project and the Human Sciences Research Council shows that nearly 10 million people (almost a quarter of the country) have been cut off from water and electricity because they could not pay their bills. Two million people have been thrown out of their homes for the same reason.
THE REASON? MASS POVERTY
Government cut-offs and evictions will not make people pay up money that they do not have.
The anti-poor policies of the government are sowing the seeds of a social upheaval the likes of which South Africa has never seen.
FROM PROTEST MOVEMENT TO SOCIAL REVOLUTION:
deepening the roots of the anti-capitalist movement
The new movement is most readily compared to that of the late 1960s and early 1970s, starting in particular with the French Revolt of 1968 which saw 10-million workers go out on strike, several cities being run by worker-student-resident committees and the near-collapse of the De Gaulle regime. The revolt echoed around the world, with risings as far away as Tokyo and Mexico City and the famous “Prague Spring Revolt” in Czechoslovakia. But although we are seeing mass mobilisations of anti-capitalists in first world cities – the very centre of gravity of the corporate world where history was supposed to have ended with the fall of the USSR – the current movement is qualitatively different to that of 30 years ago.
The first obvious difference is in political form: in the 1960s, the main reference points for non-Stalinist radicals were the 1948 Chinese Revolution, the 1958 Cuban Revolution and the anti-imperialist struggles particularly of Algeria and Vietnam. Even though the global communist movement had fractured after the wrapping up of the Comintern in 1943 and the independent line taken by Titoist Yugoslavia after the war, it was essentially a bipolar world, but one split between two elite statist options: communist versus capitalist. So for young radicals then, Trotskyist sect-building, Guevarist adventurism or Maoist kragdadigheid seemed like realistic projects compared to revolutionary anarchism which had recently been defeated by Castro’s nationalist counter-revolution. But today there are no statist communist options. They have all been revealed to be bankrupt state-capitalist dictatorships and the few embalmed bitter-enders like China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea are slowly succumbing to capitalist “reform”, while most authoritarian guerrilla insurgencies have either fought to a standstill or are contracting peace with their enemies. The new movement today – despite the attempts of a shrill band of embittered lefties and a lard layer of liberal opportunists to suppress and channel worker-poor-peasant demands into ineffective memoranda and spectacle – is mostly a true movement of the base and a school in practical anarchism. Revolutionary anarchism and allied anti-authoritarian practices like council communism and autonomism are today the only revolutionary political forms that find true resonance and respect among protestors. The world today is still essentially bipolar, but today the options are clearer and truer to class structure: capitalism versus anarchism, the statist elites versus the popular base.
THE ANARCHIST POLE OF REVOLT
The second obvious difference is in terms of political content: in the 1960s, apart from the various authoritarian socialist doctrines and liberal reformist sects, the anti-authoritarians were by and large chaotic, anti-organisational and focussed on personal “enlightenment”. This disastrous combination produced a movement that was as poisonous and fractured as it was ineffective: its offspring were terrorism, identity politics and drop-out abstentionism. But today, the anti-authoritarian movement is profoundly political. Although the movement has embraced libertarian guerrilla movements like the Zapatistas in Chiapas, as well as the anarchist tactics of direct action, it has eschewed terrorism.
Authoritarianism remains problematic and insidious, especially where it emanates from supposedly democratic groups, but the overwhelming spirit and practice is participatory-democratic, with much genuine anti-hierarchical content. There remains much that is rooted in shallow soil – spectacle and opportunism – but the spontaneity that the dying old left hates (because it frustrates their attempts at divide-and-rule) has proven a creative, constantly-changing engine. Identity-political sectarianism has been replaced in most cases by an overarching idea of class struggle – with ethnic, gender and other components marching side-by-side. The static navel-gazing of the past has been replaced by dynamic, outward-looking approaches to global problems.
Which brings me to the third obvious difference: the movement’s pro-globalism. In the 1960s, there was the token internationalism of Jayne Fonda visiting Vietnam and the tactical internationalism of the likes of the Red Army Fraction, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Japanese Red Army. Today, although the protests in the North have grabbed more headlines, the movement is intimately involved in mass Southern projects such as the Zapatista Revolt, the Landless People’s Movement in Brazil, anti-dam activism in India, the successful fight in Bolivia against water privatisation, and the battle for cheap anti-retrovirals in South Africa. These Southern movements are arguably far more important than the Northern protests, being rooted in real community struggles and not made-for-TV spectacular actions, but the connection between Southern and Northern revolutionaries, of housewives to guerrillas, of unionists to environmentalists, of First Peoples to activists, is the skeleton of a new internationalist movement that is rapidly modernising anarchism – while at the same time rediscovering the validity of its core concepts.
The seismic shift that has transformed the global revolutionary anarchist movement was the subject of a January article in the New York-based Village Voice entitled “Keepers of the Flame: as moderate groups turn town the heat, anarchists light a new way for dissent”. Its author, Esther Kaplan, put the case well: “Unlike modern-day social reformers, who want Nike to let inspectors into their factories or the World Bank to forgive some debt, anarchists explicitly oppose capitalism itself. They don’t attack the International Monetary Fund or the WEF just because their policies exploit the poor, but because their power is illegitimate. They envision an egalitarian society without nation states, where wealth and power have been redistributed, and they take great pains to model their institutions in this vein, with autonomous, interconnected structures and consensus-based decision making. UC Santa Cruz professor Barbara Epstein, an expert on direct action, senses that anarchism has now become ‘the pole that everyone revolves around,’ much as Marxism was in the ‘60s. In other words, even young activists who don’t identify as anarchists have to position themselves in relation to its values.”
WE HAVE MORE TEARS THAN YOU HAVE TEARGAS
Which brings us to the book On Fire: the battle of Genoa and the anti-capitalist movement (17 contributing writers, One-Off Press, 2001).
This new offering from the AK Press stable which publishes anarchist materials in the UK and the US is a valuable contribution to the debate on the anti-authoritarian involvement in the nascent anti-capitalist movement.
Peppered with powerful black & white action photographs and representing a diversity of views ranging from street-fighter black bloc anarchists and pink-clad peacenik pagans to scholarly autonomist Marxists, it is naturally uneven and goes beyond anarchist orthodoxy – but in doing so helps locate revolutionary anarchism within the anti-authoritarian wing of that movement in a more holistic way. It is a mixture of excited despatches from the barricades, in which one can almost smell the tear-gas, and more studied analyses of what occurred. Central to many of the pieces is the question of the Black Bloc tactic, which is examined both by participants and outsiders. The question for anarchists is not the usual red herring issue of “violence” that is raised by reformists. The use of violence – assuming that it is against legitimate capitalist targets (admittedly a contested term) – is purely a tactical issue, to be employed or dropped as necessary. In the context that our enemies, both state, corporate and are illegitimate terrorist usurpers who readily slaughter thousands in pursuit of profits, smashing a bank’s windows is the mildest of responses. So the real question is about tactics to be employed in protests and the longer-term strategies that the tactics should be building towards, bearing in mind the old anarchist saying that means are ends-in-the-making. In other words, mindful destruction.
It is interesting to note both the criticism of anarchists like “Anonymous” in “Being Busy” that the Italian anarchists did not appear to have organised anything in advance of the G8 Summit, as well as the support for the Black Bloc given by pacifists like “Venus Kamura” in “Love Changes Everything” move the debate well beyond the tired sectoral squabbles we all know so well by now. Kamura’s piece in which she emphasised the importance of direct action is indicative of the way in which anarchism is becoming respected and recognised by an ever-widening circle of activists. I was surprised by how much I agreed with her sentiments, terminological differences aside.
In fact, revolutionary anarchism has now broken out of the ghetto it has been confined in since the crushing of the last significant mass anarchist movement in Cuba following 1958: police estimated 10,000 anarchists demonstrated against the war on Afghanistan in Brussels in January (admittedly police often blur political distinctions, but then again, they also usually vastly under-report the true size of demos). Sure, we are a long way from the 1920s and 1930s when some anarchist organisations boasted up to 2-million members (the CGT in France following the Russian Revolution, the CNT in the Spanish Revolution and the KPAM in the Manchurian Revolution), but revolutionary anarchism is now the heart and soul of the movement that brought 500,000 anti-capitalist protestors out onto the streets of Barcelona in March against “Fortress Europe”. This means both that there is a pressing need to reorient our debates towards an external, sometimes even non-activist (community), audience – and to actively engage with those sectors of the movement that are inherently anti-authoritarian, or are at least grappling with the issue. For these reasons lumping anarchists together with radical pacifists and autonomists for On Fire was a sound initiative.
Probably the weakest article is “What the protestors in Genoa want” by autonomist Marxists Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, authors of the book “ Empire”. It looks like a hastily-cobbled note, written by liberals at a great physical and ideological remove from the struggle.
THAT SLIPPERY COMMUNAL NETWORK-FORM
But the best article is also by an autonomist, Massimo de Angelis, editor of the on-line magazine The Commoner, entitled “From Movement to Society” that poses the crucial question of how to transform the protest movement into a social movement, rooted in society – and that answers Negri & Hardt with: “What in practice this movement has shown it wants is horizontality and participatory democracy”. It is on the issue of methods of organisation and alternatives to market capitalism that De Angelis is on form, noting that: “Our organisational forms are of primary importance: not so much for reaching a goal external to them, but as a social force that constitutes new forms of social co-operation beyond the capitalist market”. This is a fundamentally anarchist perspective: that the way in which we organise will not only form the nucleus of the future society, but will determine its content. And the history of revolutionary anarchism over the past 140 years has clearly demonstrated that contrary to misinformation, it has always been fundamentally about organisation – often en masse – horizontal, federated, self-responsible, directly-democratic organisation. The anti-organisational anarchism of Luigi Galleani has always remained a tiny minority strain.
Importantly, De Angelis ventures further into anarchist territory, admitting that the market is not a “spontaneous mechanism” separate from, or even antagonistic to the state, as many leftists claim: “On the contrary, the state and its repressive apparatus provide the very conditions for the market’s existence, operation and protection…”
Capital, is in fact not separate from the working class, an abstract enemy, but an intimate part of it, the product of its labour. Our enemy is strictly speaking not capital (the fruits of our labour), but capitalism, the system that enables a parasitic non-productive class to live off the capital we produce. And, he notes, our organisational forms must be participatory and horizontal, federated in ever-widening circles regionally and internationally, in order to effectively combat the “utterly militaristic and vertical” forms of states and corporations.
De Angelis said that neo-liberal leaders and the leaders of mass popular organisations alike were “puzzled – if not irritated or threatened – by the network-form of this movement. Many remain perturbed that the participants in this movement do not take this network-form as an expression of the low degree of development of the movement, as an early stage in the process of building a political party better suited to ‘represent’ the aspirations of millions. Such observers are disturbed that, on the contrary, the network-form is taken to be a symptom of strength by movement participants.
Many such observers cannot rid themselves of their suspicion of a movement that does not pose the question of the alternatives to the market in recognisable terms. That is, in terms of a programme which can be packaged, discussed through official media channels within 30 seconds of an average interview, and deliverable to official institutions.” Indeed! We refuse to serve our revolution up on a silver platter for the elites to dissect and consume. Again, De Angelis reaches anarchist conclusions: that the very strength of the movement is its denial of traditional authoritarian, channelled, sanitised forms of dissent and its reliance on free communal relations as the highest form of, and in fact the ultimate aim of, organising.
A NEW WORLD IN OUR SHOPPING CARTS – NOT!
The global anti-capitalist movement which developed in the social vacuum caused by the oxygen-thieves of turbo capitalism after the fall of the Berlin Wall has restored revolutionary anarchism to its rightful place at the centre of popular protest against tyranny – and it has given it tough and complex new challenges that can only be met both by time-tested anarchist principles, tactics and strategies, and on an open relationship with our neighbours on the barricades. Tolerance, a concept so alien to our enemies, must be our watchword with regard to fellow activists, even those who we disagree with (though we reserve the right to trounce those who try to destroy what we build!).
The anarchist world is changing rapidly. From the resurfacing of anarchist organisations such as the International of Anarchist Federations (IAF) in 1968, and the return of CNT exiles to Spain following Franco’s death in 1975, growth was slow and difficult. But today, as the new movement has magnetised and invigorated the international debate on our future, we have surged ahead to poll position. And the quality of thought that we are contributing to that horizontal discussion on alternatives has vastly improved, as have our organisational forms.
The American anarchist scene is a noteworthy example of new organisation. Once plagued by lifestylist pseudo-anarchism and uncritical support for guerrilla movements, the movement has seen a maturing anarcho-communism trend develop with the formation of groups like the North Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), which covers the Atlantic seaboard of the US and Canada, and plans afoot for a similar regional grouping on the Pacific coast (only the southern belt seems to be lagging and anarcho-primitivism still lurks in some quarters). On the global front, the anti-sectarian approach of the growing anarcho-syndicalist, anarcho-communist and Platformist groupings has lead to a new network-form: the International of Libertarian Solidarity (ILS-SIL), which Bikisha Media helped plan at the Other Future international anarchist gathering in Paris in 2000 and of which it is now a part along with Zabalaza Books and the Zabalaza Action Group. These days, the revolution may well be televised – but as the revolutionaries of On Fire indicate, its form, content, breadth and depth will not be driven by parasitic outside interests.
Bikisha Media Collective
Political party funding: politicians for sale
Donations by the wealthy to political parties and politicians are common practice in South Africa and elsewhere. In order to fight elections, parties raise money from private sources. And you can be sure that these private funders expect their monies worth.
This issue has been made very clear by the recent scandal surrounding German fugitive Jurgen Harksen, who allegedly donated large sums to the Democratic Alliance (DA) – allegedly to prevent his extradition to Germany on fraud charges.
Even the ANC has received vast sums from the most questionable sources over the past ten years.
Party coffers got a boost of $50 million in 1990 from the absolute monarch King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in 1990. General Sani Abacha of Nigeria coughed up 2.6 million pounds in 1994, and a further $50 million in 1995. Malaysian President Mahathir Mohamed donated $50 million.
And Mohammed Suharto, the notorious Indonesian ruler, gave $60 million. Of course, we all know that it is pure coincidence that this thug – who came to power on a mound of bodies, including 500,000 Indonesian Communist Party members – received the South African state’s highest award (the Order of Good Hope) from Mandela in 1998.
None of these funders donate money to the DA or the ANC out of the goodness of their hearts. Instead, they expect favours and special treatment.
This is just one of many ways that the rich maintain an iron grip on the fraud called parliamentary democracy.
Unmask the W$$D in Johannesburg and around the world!
(A Call To Action from the Social Movements Indaba in South Africa)
On the 31st of August, tens of thousands of South Africans will swarm the World $ummit on $ustainable Development (W$$D) in Johannesburg. We call on all people concerned about our planet and its people to join us in saying “Enough!” – enough empty promises and lies, enough neo-liberal destruction of the commons, enough impoverishment of people for profit! Join us for international days of action from August 28 through September 2! Show solidarity by organising local actions in your town or city and roar to the “leaders” of the globe:
“OUR WORLD IS NOT FOR SALE!”
The “World $ummit” on “$ustainable Development”: we will not be fooled!
The world plunges into an abyss of economic desperation and environmental catastrophe. In response, as in Rio ten years ago, the global caretakers of the status quo clamour for “sustainable development.” The W$$D is a grand spectacle of promising ideas and powerful rhetoric, designed to manufacture an image of positive, dynamic action. Yet the dry details and technical implementations of the pretty words have revealed the rotten core behind the mask: the same old neo-liberal prescription for a world dominated by corporate capital and ruled by an unaccountable elite. This is the uncomfortable truth: a world devoted to profit can’t sustain people and the planet. The international financial institutions (like the WTO, IMF, World Bank) enforce a world order of the bottom line while the “war on terrorism” justifies growing US aggression against dissent. The W$$D will only reinforce this system. It cannot be rehabilitated. Its logic is clear. If we don’t oppose it, we legitimise its power.
South Africans, host to this year’s summit, experience directly the ugly truth behind the lies. The ANC (and our increasingly despised president, Thabo Mbeki) have maintained a stranglehold on power by conjuring the image of liberation and socialism in every popular campaign, while reassuring the financial sectors with their single-minded pursuit of neo-liberalism, privatisation, and popular demobilisation. Despite its nominal commitment to “redistribution,” GEAR, the neo-liberal macroeconomic policy unilaterally implemented in 1996, has resulted in a million jobs lost, massive social dislocation, water and electricity cut-offs, home evictions and demolitions. In fact, the government is explicit (to the financial press) that it is sacrificing the masses to build a black capitalist class. Eight years after apartheid’s official end, South Africa has moved from third to first on the list of the world’s most unequal societies. This is Mbeki’s “African Renaissance.” This is the “better life for all” he promises with a continent-wide plan called NEPAD (to be consolidated at the W$$D), which is more GEAR for Africa, NAFTA Africanised, subservient to the G8 big boys, neo-liberalism run amuck.
This ideological doublespeak extends to the W$$D itself. Not only has the official decision-making body been dominated by power players behind the scenes, but forces aligned with the South African state have attempted to co-opt the parallel NGO “Global Peoples Forum,” silencing dissent and maintaining the illusion. But the spectacle cannot hold. Here, in South Africa, the lies become obvious. As the government and the banks invade communities, destroying the infrastructure of bare life, the poors of South Africa have arisen in defiance. From the Concerned Citizens Forum in Durban and the Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town, to the Anti-Privatisation Forum in Jo’burg and the Landless Peoples Movement around the country, communities have militantly defended their lives and exposed the deception and repression beneath the pretty words. In the face of police dogs and bullets, so reminiscent of the Apartheid era, peoples power and self-organisation has withstood the might of the state, beginning the difficult process of building a new liberation movement to catalyse the boiling frustration of the country’s majority into active seizure of control of our lives.
Now, we’re going on the offensive. As the NGO globetrotters descend on the glitziest rich suburb of our most unsustainable city, tens of thousands of the usually ignored will seize the moment to express our outrage, propose truly democratic alternatives, and to place our bodies in the way of business as usual. We call on the people of the world to join us: in Johannesburg if you can, or in the streets of your own city in solidarity. Let us make these days of international action!
Moreover, as poor people we have few resources to co-ordinate action and transport even a fraction of those who wish to come. For thousands the inability to raise one euro or one dollar for bus fare will prevent attendance. Fundraising and pledges of support from our comrades around the world will help our young movement in struggle.
Join us in our fight against a world of lies and despair.
We need you. Join us!
Our World is Not For Sale!
Rise up! Resist! Revolt!
Social Movements Indaba
- Bikisha Media Collective
- Anti-Privatisation Forum
- Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee
- Kathorus Concerned Residents
- Working Class Communities Co-ordinating Committee (Vaal)
- Ikageng Community Crisis Committee
- Themelihle Crisis Committee
- Mandelaville displacees / Durban Roodepoort Deeps
- United Civic Organisation of South Africa
- Soldiers Forum
- Vaal Community Forum
- Far East Bank Forum
- Riverpark Forum
- Braam Fischer Forum
- Inner City Community Forum
- Keep Left
- Democratic Socialist Movement
- Palestinian Solidarity Group
- Environmental Justice Networking Forum
- Rural Development Services Network
- Jubilee 2000
- Youth Against Crime and Poverty
- Landless Access Movement of South Africa
- First People
- Friends of the Earth
- Trust for Community Outreach and Education
- Municipal Services Project
Welcome to Joburg, the heartland of the revolutionary industrialised working class in South Africa! Following the discovery of gold here more than 110 years ago, Joburg has developed as the lynchpin of SA’s smokestack economy – and as one of the most unsustainable cities in Africa, with water for industry and the rich having to be piped in from Lesotho, hundreds of kilometres away, while the poor are simply cut off from this basic resource.
But Joburg has a long radical fighting tradition: it was here that “Pickhandle” Mary Fitzgerald lead militant strikers in street-fighting against the police who were defending the bosses’ interests during the 1913 strikes; it was here that aircraft were used for the first time in “peace-time” to bomb civilians, during the 1922 Rand Revolt; it was here that in 1946, thousands of black miners downed tools and rose up against their oppressors; it was here that in 1976, school-children risked death and started an uprising against apartheid capital that echoed around the world; and it was here in 1985, that the final, successful struggle against the racist regime was begun by unions, civics, community militia and popular committees.
Importantly, it was here in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, that the racially-divided workforces of the then-British dominion were united by anarchists like Thomas “TW” Thibedi and Reuben Kaplan of the International Socialist League (ISL) founded the Industrial Workers of Africa (IWA). Based on the anarchist-influenced revolutionary syndicalism of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the IWA was probably the first trade union for black workers in British colonial Africa and it established branches in Joburg and Cape Town. Other IWA anarchists like RK Moodley and Bernard Sigamoney founded the Indian Workers’ Industrial Union (IWIU) in Durban along similar lines in the same year, while two years later, “coloured” IWA militants set up two unions in the diamond-mining centre of Kimberley.
Today, the anarchist direct-action tradition of poor communities, exploited workers and the dispossessed peasantry united against the murderous plans of the ANC mandarins is continuing the fight. Job losses since racist capital transformed itself into bourgeois capital have reached 1-million (with some 40% unemployed), 3,5-million have been cut off from water and electricity and 1,5-million evicted from their homes. Almost 57% of all South Africans are living in poverty, 75% have inadequate food security, and 21,6% of all young children are stunted by malnutrition. Those responsible, our enemies, include Trevor Manuel, the smug Minister of Finance, who also happens to be chairman of the World Bank – and so-called “communist” Ministers Jeff Radebe (state businesses), Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi (civil service) and Charles Nqakula (police), who all act as key Trojan horses in the ANC’s war on the poor. Then there’s fat-cat Joburg Metro Mayor Amos Masondo whose house we fucked up after his hired goon fired shots at our desperate, hungry and broke demonstrators – while he was schmoozing in Hawaii, planning the W$$D talk shop on how to sugar-coat global misery.
The message is simple:
WE WILL MAKE THIS COUNTRY UNGOVERNABLE BY THE PARASITES!
WE KICKED OUT THE RACISTS – AND WE’LL KICK YOU OUT TOO!
S.A. ANARCHISTS GO GLOBAL…
Several South African anarchist projects – Bikisha Media Collective (BMC), Zabalaza Books (ZB) and the Zabalaza Action Group (ZAG, formerly the Anarchist Union) – have signed up as members of the new anarchist network International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS) of which the following organisations are also a part: Al Abdil al Taharouri (AAT, Lebanon), Alternative Libertaire (AL, France & Belgium), Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT, Spain), Organisasion Communiste Libertaire (OCL, France), Réseau No Pasaran (France), Consejo Indígena Popular de Oaxaca – “Ricardo Flores Magon” (CIP-RFM, Mexico), Confédération Nationale du Travail – “Vignoles” (CNT-V, France), Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (FAG, Brazil), Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU, Uruguay), Marmitag (Greece), Organizace Revolucních Anarchistu – Solidarita (ORA-S, Czech Republic), Organización Socialista Libertaria (OSL, Argentina), Organisation Socialiste Libertaire (OSL, Switzerland), Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation (SAC, Sweden), and the Workers’ Solidarity Movement (WSM, Ireland).
Other groups that support the ISL are the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, international), Anacho-Sindico (India), the North-Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC, Canada & the USA), Sibirskaya Konfederatsia Truda (SKT, Russia) and Unione Sindacale Italiana – “Roma” (USI-R, Italy).
This makes the ISL one of the most important players on the international anarchist stage today, alongside the International Workers Association (IWA) – established in Berlin in 1922 as the anarchist unionist alternative to the communist Red International of Trade Unions – and the International of Anarchist Federations (IFA), founded in Italy in 1968, to unite anarchist political organisations. But the ISL is not another international. It is rather an international anarchist network, other anarchist international networks include the Anarchist Black Cross Federation, started in London in 1967 to assist anarchist and class war prisoners, and the Insurrectional Anarchist International (IAI), founded in Italy in 2000, to co-ordinate anarchist resistance in the Mediteranean.
Our participation in the ISL dates back to the BMC delegation sent to Paris for the “Other Future” international anarchist congress organised in 2000 by the CNT-V which saw 6,000 anarchists take to the streets with a forest of red-and-black flags for May Day. There, delegates of 15 participating organisations agreed to form a new network to: a) connect the growing anarchist unions, anarcho-communist, platformist and anarcho-synthesist groups that fell outside the IWA; b) co-ordinate international anarchist engagement with the emerging anti-capitalist movement; and c) for established Northern organisations to assist emergent anarchist organisations in the global South. Last year, at “LibWeek” in Madrid, the decision was realised when the international movement set up the ISL, which has expanded significantly since then. Bikisha Media and Zabalaza Books sent a message of support to Madrid to endorse the establishment of the network of which we are now a part.
The ISL is by no means a paper tiger: so far, the network has helped the FAG-Brazil with finances in setting up a printing works and a community centre. There are also ISL-sponsored projects under way in Uruguay and another planned in Siberia. We should take this opportunity to thank ISL member organisation the SAC-Sweden for their kind donation of funds – under an agreement separate to the ISL – to our anarchist printing project.
Our original message to the founding congress of the ISL read: We as South African anarchists are encouraged by this important initiative – the establishment of an international co-ordinating network to aid anarchist organisations in their engagement with the anti-globalisation movement. Such a network is vital if we are to survive the attacks on our organisations and our class – and if we are to succeed in our fight against neo-liberalism. We would also like to add the names of our two organisations to those endorsing the “Anarchist Declaration for the 21st Century”.
Since the 1970s, our enemies, capital and its siamese twin, the state, have been suffering from one of their inevitable periods of crisis as markets hit natural consumption ceilings and the rate of profit continues to fall. Even the opening of the former Soviet and East Bloc workforce to foreign exploitation, with robber barons breaking down vital industries to steal handfuls of cash, has been unable to stop the slide.
But like hungry bears, our enemies are even more dangerous despite their weaknesses. On the one hand, their claws are sharper: they have developed warfare, terrorism and propaganda to technological and psychological levels never achieved before. On the other hand, we, their prey, are weak: the international working class revolutionary movement, both anarchist and otherwise, has been dispersed and destroyed by decades of fascism. After the Berlin Wall fell, our enemies announced the end of history, claiming that they had achieved the perfect social balance, a balance built historically on millions of dead, and today maintained by millions of lives cheapened by poor working conditions, corrupted by a fouled environment, marginalised by casualisation, raped by patriarchy, excluded by so-called democracy and, if necessary, eliminated by death-squads.
But the bears miscalculated. History is not over. The anti-globalisation movement is the most significant international social movement since the 1960s. There are dangers: professional networks of paid middle-class activists have attempted to turn it into their own club, a collection of narrow sectarian interests. Also, totalitarian and right-wing organisations, whether fascist, religious fundamentalist or authoritarian socialist, are trying to control grassroots actions against the IMF/World Bank, the “free” trade agreements and the multinational corporations. But this is a global movement of the oppressed. Its instinctive nature is anti-authoritarian, workerist and militant. This is the true home of all anarchist revolutionaries today and we fully support all efforts by anarchists to position themselves at the forefront of the struggle and to put their ideas at the centre of the global debates on how to beat the ravages of turbo capitalism.
The anti-globalisation movement must be dominated by anarchist forces and arguments. We as anarchist revolutionaries must throw ourselves wholeheartedly into this struggle. But we must remember our key strategic strength: the united forces of the proletariat, whether industrial or commercial. This means that while community struggles are essential, they can be no substitute for revolutionary organisation in the workplace, at the point of extraction of profit. The traditional working class may have changed, but workers’ status as wage-slaves has not, regardless of how the capitalists have tried to divide their common interests. And it is only the workers who have the technical power and class incentive to stop the engines of capitalism. Only a revolution in the relations of production by organised labour and a seizure of the means of production by the producers can end the terrorism of capital and the state. Assisted by the peasantry and the poor, the workers can and will defeat neo-liberalism, however it disguises itself: racism, housing evictions, neo-colonialism, electricity cut-offs, sweatshops, criminalisation of protest, or other masks.
FOR WORKERS’ SELF-MANAGEMENT, DIRECT ACTION
AND INTERNATIONAL REVOLUTION!
Bikisha Media Collective
& Zabalaza Books
A message from our Spanish comrades on the W$$D
Literal translation from the Spanish text
The WSSD organized by the United Nations, will take place in Johannesburg between the 26th August and 4th September.
This conference is the continuation of the one who took place in Rio in 1992. It aims at being a smoke screen over the degradation of the planet, environmental + social degradation. It also aims at reinforcing an ideological system, in order to be able to face the uneasiness and the movements which have been born out of the current contradictions between the interests of the capitalist civilisation, hierarchical patriarchy and the wishes for freedom and happiness for all inhabitants of planet earth.
Taking this into consideration, we want to propose the creation of a net of ephemeral relationships, we also wish simultaneously to make the protest of all people that identify themselves with the need to give answers on environmental degradation (climatic changes, destruction of forests, desertification, loss of bio-diversity, contamination) and social degradation (impoverishment, exploitation, destruction of cultural diversity, physical and mental alienation)
NET: Because it is totally horizontal each individual, each group is self-sufficient and self-governing.
RELATIONSHIP: because we want an affinity for action, so as to develop a relationship amongst ourselves and so act simultaneously
EPHEMERAL: Because under the present circumstances, the lasting one ends up degrading itself. We will know how to find each other according to our affinities, the way in which to extend this relationship. Currently we plan to simultaneously make a global protest against the conference Rio + 10 and the degradation of the planet, each according to their own wishes, needs and possibilities
WHAT WE PROPOSE:
An exchange of information, of individual and group positions of information data on corporate capitalist multinationals and concrete action.
A united front against possible repression.
A co-ordination in the line of the actions (small and large, soft and hard, massive and individual…)
A visualisation of the protests (for its extension, its simultaneity, its diffusion by each and everyone in his/her own area).
TOOLS WE PROPOSE:
- An ephemeral post list, to subscribe: Email to: noriomas10-alta (A) elistas (dot) net
- To send messages: Email to: noriomas10-alta (A) elistas (dot) net
- A website where to place information http://anarchie.net/noriomas10
- General e-mail: noriomas10- (A) anarchie (dot) net
Maybe also a discussion forum on the internet and maybe some meetings between groups and individuals according to geographic location, a specific meeting or making use of one that is already programmed.
Health and Anarchy
For a free and wild world!
Llavor d’anarchie (Barcelona) (Name of organization)
Carrer (Street)Mestres casals I Martorell 18/baixos
08003 BARCELONA, Estado Espanol -(Spain)
llavorda (A) anarchie (dot) net