- Anarchist? Time to Organise!: Capitalism Won’t Abolish
Itself. It Needs Our Help. Join the Federation!
- Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation:
Interim Skeleton Constitution
- The Workers Struggle at Wits University
- Fat-Cat Nationalism vs. the Ultra-Hungry
- White Workers Feel Privatisation’s Pinch
- Kill the Bill! – the ANC’s Attack on the Workers and Poor
- Zimbabwe: Repression Against the Working Class Mounts
- “The Vision Thing: Were the DC and Seattle protests
unfocused, or are critics missing the point?”
- We Revolt Against the Tyrants! A Report from the Ivory Coast
- A Workers Party: What For?
- Latin American Voices: Leny Olivera
- Some Ideas for Community Action…
Anarchist? Time to Organise!
Capitalism won’t abolish itself. It needs our help. Join the Federation!
The revolutionary anarchist movement in southern Africa is pleased to announce the founding of a regional anarchist federation, uniting the Bikisha Media Collective (BMC), Zabalaza Books (ZB) and the Zabalaza Action Group (ZAG) – which are collectively members of the International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS) anarchist network – as well as the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) and a range of individual anarchist militants. The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation, which will operate under an interim skeleton constitution, the relevant portions of which are reproduced below, until a full Congress is held before the end of the year, effectively has an operational presence in the cities and townships of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and an active involvement in the 200,000-strong United Social Movements (USM) in these centres. We will be electing an acting international secretary and an acting regional secretary as well as a working group to draw up a draft final constitution.
We are not a party or a self-proclaimed vanguard, and we do not see ourselves as an organisation that will lead the anarchist movement, never mind lead the working class to social liberation. We recognise that a successful revolution can only be carried out directly by the working class itself. However, we believe this must be preceded by organisations able to radicalise mass movements and popular struggles, combat authoritarian and reformist tendencies, act as a forum where ideas and experiences between militants can be discussed, and provide a vehicle for the maximum political impact of libertarian communist ideas in our region.
We are not a large organisation, and we have no pretensions about our importance. However, we are convinced enough of our ideas to want to spread them as widely as possible. If you are interested in getting involved and want to find out more by receiving our literature, email the Federation Secretary on zacf (A) zabalaza (dot) net [email address updated 2010] or any of the groups listed on the back page.
ZABALAZA ANARCHIST COMMUNIST FEDERATION:
Interim Skeleton Constitution
Click here to go to the ZabFed Constitution
(out of date link removed – here is the current ZACF constitution)
The Workers Struggle at WITS University
In 2000 the University of the Witwatersrand outsourced its cleaning, catering, grounds and maintenance services. Over 600 workers either lost their jobs or found themselves employed by ‘service provider’ companies at drastically reduced wages. Workers who had previously been paid over R2 000 per month now found themselves receiving R1 000. They were robbed of medical aid, free university education for their children and other benefits. The workers, supported by some students and academics, fought against this attack, but they were let down by the weak response of NEHAWU, the bureaucratic COSATU-affiliated union which was supposed to represent them, and were totally defeated. Workers at most other South African universities have experienced similar attacks over the past few years. (See our pamphlet Fighting Privatisation in South Africa for more on this struggle.)
After NEHAWU had failed them, many of the outsourced workers, particularly cleaners now employed by the Supercare company, joined MESHAWU, a NACTU affiliate. But they found that this union served them no better than its rival. While they bogged themselves down in useless negotiations and accepted a ‘sector agreement’ that gave workers nothing, the MESHAWU bureaucrats told their members to wait patiently and be grateful for what they had. In the meantime what they had was growing less as food prices shot up during 2002.
Late in that year the frustration of the workers was sparked into a new wave of resistance after the Wits branch of the Socialist Students’ Movement intervened. The SSM had originally been established at the University of Durban-Westville; it was started at Wits early in 2002 by a broad group of revolutionaries including both anarchists and Marxists. In August and September 2002 it gave the workers its support in defying the MESHAWU bureaucracy and the bosses, and went on to assist in launching a campaign for better wages and conditions. The Supercare workers took the most active part in this campaign, although gardeners from Sonke were also involved, and catering staff were approached.
The achievements of the workers over the last few months of 2002 include:
- A series of public meetings and the establishment of a committee to co-ordinate the campaign independently of existing unions;
- Marches on campus in which demands for better conditions and restoration of pre-outsourcing wages were presented to Supercare and to Wits management;
- An approach to the Combined Staff Association at the University of Durban-Westville, with a view to setting up a branch of this union at Wits. COMSA, which includes academic and administrative staff as well as manual workers, is independent of the major bureaucratic union federations; it includes a number of revolutionary activists, although unfortunately no anarchists; and it has achieved greater success in facing the challenge of outsourcing than any other campus union in South Africa.
Various student organisations (other than the SSM) have expressed sympathy for the workers, and a campaign to win the support of academics has also been launched. But it is only the workers themselves who can hope to achieve success in this difficult struggle. They face major challenges, beginning with a campaign of intimidation by Supercare management, known for its harsh treatment, even by capitalist standards, even of workers who are not actively resisting. The intimidation campaign includes spying on workers’ meetings; drawing up lists of ‘troublemakers’ (one such list was captured and destroyed by student activists, but no doubt there are others); and trumped-up disciplinary charges and attempted dismissals (in December Supercare tried to dismiss two workers, allegedly for drinking tea; the charge was defeated but no doubt there will be more).
At the same time the workers face all the difficulties and uncertainties of building a new organisation, in which they will themselves make all the decisions and control all the resources instead of handing these over to a bunch of bureaucrats. There are internal tensions and disagreements. Political opportunists are always ready to spread confusion. The connection with COMSA has not yet been consolidated. And, faced with the danger of losing their jobs, the workers are (for now) obliged to defend themselves within the capitalist legal system, with all the extra difficulties that involves. This relates to another matter that will come to a head in 2003: Supercare’s contract with Wits is scheduled for review, and the workers must find a way to change or replace it in order to improve their position.
There are no easy solutions to these challenges; it is up to the workers to fight on with patience, determination and imagination, and to revolutionaries to support them as best we can. But this struggle raises questions of more general interest. How do outsourced workers get organised – neglected by the bureaucratic unions as they tend to be? And how does the revolutionary struggle relate to these bureaucratic unions in general?
We reject the Marxist view that unions are inherently reformist and can play no important role in bringing about revolution. Indeed, it is in just such day-to-day battles as unions engage in that the revolutionary struggle begins; and since the revolution is to be made by the workers themselves, the organisations of the workers are of vital importance. But we do see that bureaucrats and sellouts can and frequently do emerge within unions, gain positions of power and undermine the workers’ struggle; and we recognise that this can happen even in unions that are explicitly revolutionary in their aims. For instance, leading members of the CNT, the anarchist union which was central in bringing about the revolution of 1936, hesitated to follow up the revolution and even violated anarchist principles to the extent of accepting positions in the Popular Front government.
It might seem that withdrawing from bureaucratic unions to start new ones which are more democratic and more open to revolutionary ideas is a positive step. But there is no guarantee that such unions will not also develop in the direction of selling out; and challenging the bureaucracy from within, while difficult, can also be productive. Moreover working-class unity is vital whether for daily struggles or in a revolution, and a split in workers’ organisations is always dangerous. But this does not mean it is never correct or necessary. To take an obvious example, if a racist union excludes black workers, they have no option but to build an independent union of their own and try to win as many white workers as possible; if this union takes a revolutionary direction (as did South Africa’s first black union) so much the better. Perhaps the indifference of ‘mainstream’ unions to outsourced workers justifies a similar direction. It is not always possible to tell in principle which way will work best.
This article has raised more questions than answers. We cannot tell where the struggle at Wits is going or what will be its broader significance. For the moment, anarchists must do all they can to support the Wits workers; make available to them the lessons history has taught us; spread our ideas among them; and be ready to learn from them the lessons of their fight for the great revolutionary struggle.
Fat-Cat Nationalism vs. the Ultra-Hungry
At the ANC’s 51st national congress on 16 December 2000, President Thabo Mbeki lashed out at the so-called “ultra-left” which he accused of adopting a right-wing agenda aimed at undermining the National Democratic Revolution. The NDR is the ANC/SACP’s hoary 70-year-old two-stage theory of pseudo-liberation under which full social, economic and political equality is perpetually delayed by an endless so-called “transitional developmental state”. Under this socially irresponsible, slim-line capitalist state, the aggressive rights of the expanded bourgeoisie are consolidated and the defensive rights of the working class are eroded, all in the name of progress.
In an October 2002 interview, Mbeki correctly described the ultra-left: “it’s a group of people, they define themselves variously – as anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, socialists, Fourth International[ists] – and they have a common platform, which is let us unite to defeat globalisation and let us unite to defeat neo-liberalism, which is a manifestation of the globalisation process.”
But he claimed that the ultra-left opposed the ANC’s “restructuring” of state assets because we mistakenly believe it is actually privatisation under the guidance of a neo-liberal agenda. We who are proudly ultra-left and who call for the socialisation of assets, rather than for elitist privatisation or nationalisation, say Mbeki is the one mistaken for believing that our opposition is based on ideology and not on the reality of what the ANC’s GEAR policy is doing to the poor, the ultra-hungry.
Also, the claim by leaders like Mbeki, the self-confessed Thatcherite, that their ultra-leftist opponents are driven by “ideology” (whereas the state and the corporatists serves on the other hand obviously simply represent “reality” and “common sense”) is a blatant and discredited attempt to camouflage the fact that they do represent an ideology: neo-liberalism. And neo-liberalism, because of the way it voraciously devours the commons, whether in terms of physical space, once-public services or even genetics, is frighteningly close to corporatist neo-fascism. I defy the Alliance to demonstrate the “unreality” of evictions and cut-offs.
The row between the Alliance and its ultra-left critics, both within certain Cosatu affiliates and certain SACP branches and outside it in the United Social Movements in which the ZACF is involved, has been brewing for some time. We are accused by the ANC of encouraging “anarchy and the breakdown of discipline” by challenging the chronic authoritarian baasskap within the Alliance “as a necessary internal expression of democracy and independent thinking”. We are unashamedly guilty on that score, but even high-ranking SACP members have come under withering fire for expressing genuine concerns at the corporate drift of the ruling party.
CRONIN CAPITALISM vs. CRONY CAPITALISM
In August 2002, “Dial-a-quote” Dumisani Makhaye of the ANC viciously attacked fellow ANC National Executive Committee member and SACP leader Jeremy Cronin, claiming that an interview he gave to Irish writer Helena Sheehan in which Cronin warned about the “Zanufication” of the ANC, showed Cronin’s thought to be “ultra-leftist” or “a mix of anarcho-syndicalism, Trotskyism and anarchism”. This was utter rubbish because Cronin is widely recognised as a Stalinist ideologue: it was he who lead the expulsion of Dale McKinley from the SACP. McKinley is now a spokesman for the Anti-Privatisation Forum, of which Bikisha Media Collective is a part.
Cronin, discussing the currents that formed Cosatu in 1985 spoke about the battle between the “workerists” or “syndicalists” who were wary of the ANC’s opportunism versus the “populists” such as the SACP who wanted a cross-class marriage – the same Alliance that is today under such stress due to its neo-liberal, anti-working class policies. In this battle Cronin clearly aligned himself against the syndicalists, so to accuse him of pro-syndicalist views is nonsense – unless, of course, one is such an elitist that anything that even makes empty gestures in favour of the productive classes is met with deep antagonism and a smear campaign.
The most nefarious of Makhaye’s assertions is the claim that the ultra-left and ultra-right are not opposed, but “two sides of the same coin”. To state that South Africa’s anti-fascists, anarchists, autonomists, left-communists and Trotskyists are identical to the white supremacist AWB or the Boeremag is the kind of double-speak we rather expect of a low-rent spin-doctor trying to tar honest critics with a dishonest brush.
But then, it is not surprising that those who believe in maintaining a privileged parasitic elite to rule the productive classes – whether Africanists or nationalists – pretend that the only “movement” that ever counted was the one that allowed them into the inner circles of the waBenzi.
CIGAR-SMOKE & MIRRORS
After Cronin was shamefully forced to grovel and apologise, the attack continued in October 2002 against ultra-left forces outside the Alliance, when the ANC Political Education Unit (PEU) launched a scurrilous attack on the democratic revolutionary forces of the Landless People’s Movement, the Social Movements Indaba and allied anarchist, communist and socialist groups.
In a nutshell, the ANC alleged that we are “counter-revolutionaries” acting in cahoots with neo-liberal forces including the arch-capitalist Democratic Alliance to defeat the NDR! Yes, the coming of bourgeois democracy and the defeat of apartheid was a huge advance for the people, but the struggle cannot end there. While the ZACF advocates instead an international social revolution by a Front of the Oppressed Classes themselves, we would rather see that as advancing true social transformation beyond the half-hearted NDR, with its in-built antagonism to social equality.
Although the PEU correctly identified neo-liberalism, and its opponents (“communists, socialists, anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists”), and our views of the self-enrichment attitude of the new elite, it defied logic – and the lived experience of the South African working class under ANC rule – by claiming the ANC was anti-neoliberal.
The PEU’s line of argument was torturous and sickening. First it appealed to xenophobia, claiming that the presence of a few foreign activists in our ranks means that the ultra-left is controlled by foreign interests! Then it claimed we were trying to mobilise the bourgeoisie and the corporate media – hardly ultra-left friendly forces – against the government! Later it played the race card, claiming that the overwhelmingly black, coloured and Asian community-controlled United Social Movements was trying to entrench white privilege!
Beating us with a stick in one hand for allegedly campaigning “on the same political platform elaborated and publicly presented by the political representatives of colonialism, white minority rule and white capital”, it pretended to hold out a carrot with the other hand, claiming the “rights to demand that the communists, socialists, anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists should support us as we pursue our struggle for the victory of the continuing national democratic struggle.” Claiming that the ANC voting bloc and “the people” were the same thing, the PEU said that to be outside the ANC was necessarily to be against the people.
The pro-exploitative nature of that “struggle” is then laid out, when the PEU stated: “Like its sister parties globally, the SACP has never adopted what would be a fundamentally incorrect position, scientifically, ideologically and politically, that our national liberation movement should transform itself into a socialist movement for the destruction of the capitalist system. It is therefore very wrong for the anti-neoliberal movement to try to impose on the ANC and our government its own anti-capitalist programme.”
So while we are slandered as being ultra-left and ultra-right at the same time, the heroic Alliance magically manages to be simultaneously pro-capitalist and anti-neoliberal! The shrill and paranoid tone of this attack against us, combined with their outright lies about the nature of the continuing struggle for bread and dignity in South Africa, shows the fat-cat “liberators” up for the frauds they are.
Bikisha Media Collective (ZACF Gauteng)
White Workers Feel Privatisation’s Pinch
Even White workers have begun to feel the pinch of government’s neo-liberal capitalist policies. Hundreds of residents in the low-income Claremont, Coronationville, Montclare and Newlands areas have been living without electricity for almost eight years after Johannesburg City cut supplies due to low payment.
GEAR: WAR ON THE POOR
Electricity and water cut-offs are part and parcel of the ANC government’s neo-liberal GEAR policy. Government aims to cut tax on the rich, cut its spending on social services, and restructure its social services into profit-making operations. This policy has simple aims: to boost the power of big business and to transform the State into a straightforward trade union for the rich.
In other words, the GEAR policy aims at robbing the poor to pay the rich. Even researchers at the government-funded HSRC unit have found that 10 million people have suffered water cut-offs and 5 million have faced eviction from their houses in the last ten years.
WHITE AND POOR
And even residents in mainly White blue-collar Johannesburg neighbourhoods have felt the pinch. Apartheid helped keep White workers afloat until the 1980s, when the PW Botha regime began to flirt with privatisation. With the new government married to the GEAR policy, conditions have worsened rapidly.
In these affected areas, electricity meters have been removed, and only residents’ protests in early January helped prevent water supplies being cut-off. Families owe debts of up to R15,000 for rates and services, but many simply cannot pay as unemployment rises, school fees climb, and wages fall.
Many of the residents were registered with Johannesburg’s poverty relief programme, which is supposed to exempt the poor from cut-offs. But the programme, which was introduced after the 2000 municipal elections, has been cancelled by the municipality.
While White capitalists have enjoyed a windfall under the new government, and the White middle class has mortgaged its soul to 4X4s, coffee shops and liberal pleading, White workers have seen their conditions worsen sharply. Between the 1970s and early 1990s, the income of the poorest 4 out of 10 Whites fell by nearly half.
RESIST TO EXIST
There are many obstacles to uniting workers across the colour line in South Africa. Successive governments have driven a deep wedge between workers, and trust between the races does not come easily. Hate, national pride, competition for a shrinking number of jobs, and capitalist propaganda all keep workers divided.
But the common experience of subjugation – and of resistance – helps lay the foundation for some unity.
And the new elite of Black and White capitalists needs to be taught a lesson – and Working class struggle is the best teacher.
No cut-offs should be tolerated, no evictions should be permitted, no lying politicians should be elected. We must organise a form of refusal, of disobedience, of resistance.
CAN’T PAY, WON’T PAY
Community organisations, neighbourhood centres, union locals are the units of the working class army in its struggle for liberation. If the capitalists and politicians want to wage war on the poor, then they must expect a tough fight. If they want a social war, let’s give them one.
Kill the Bill! – The ANC’s Attack on the Workers and Poor
It has become increasingly clear to any activist that international repression is on the increase; both as a reaction to, among others, the massive anti-capitalist riots at the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy (with solidarity actions around the globe) in June 2000, which saw the murder of 22 year old Italian anarchist activist Carlo Giuliani by forces of the Italian state and, more significantly, since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
The United States Government has jumped at this opportunity (or played a part in its’ orchestration) to implement new ‘anti-terrorist’ laws internationally, which could also be used to justify increasing repression and criminalisation of global resistance and national liberation movements.
Ever eager to sell-out the South African working class, to which it owes its wealth and power, and ultimately the African working class as a whole; the ANC has been quick to follow suit. Since S11 Government has re-introduced an anti-terrorism bill, originally abandoned because of widespread reaction due to its human rights infringements, into parliament. If passed into law, the Bill could be used to justify the criminalisation and imprisonment of community activists and organisations, radical workers and unions (if we still had any) and many other libertarian and anti-capitalist structures. In fact, anyone who opposes the status quo could, at one time or another, fall victim. Because its definition is so vague, it can be used in constituting almost any initiative directed against the ruling establishment as “terrorism”.
The very same factors which are influencing an increase in class inequality and indeed struggle in South Africa are systematically being implemented around the world; privatisation, evictions, cut-offs, retrenchments, massive cuts in social spending (education, health care etc.), war mongering etc.
The working classes’ natural response to this oppression and exploitation has been to fight back. This is evident internationally; from the armed uprising of the Zapitistas in Chiapas, Mexico; to the emergence of the new social movements in South Africa. From the Black Bloc tactics at anti-capitalist riots in Europe and the US; to massive general strikes in Venezuela and the Argentines’ “Fuck you!” to their rulers.
The international working class is once again raising its’ middle finger to our oppressors, and with it we can expect an iron fist of repression.
This is a matter which’ does not simply affect anarchists or socialists, trade unionists or community activists. It affects us all, the world over:
For those at the top of the power structure the escalating level of global repression and silencing, or attempts to silence popular dissent, represent the levels to which our class enemies will go in order to maintain, and increase their control. It also symbolizes the true feeling within the ruling class, that of fear!
They are afraid because they know, more so than our own class, that we are responsible for their power. Because we the working class produce the worlds wealth, yet we enjoy none of it.
From the point of extraction, we are in the mines, forests and on the farms, dripping sweat, blood and tears as we tear out our Earths’ vital organs for raw materials to produce the capitalists’ wealth.
In the factories we too process the raw materials into products, which our bosses then sell for massive profit whilst paying us shit.
Also, at home, we make up a large part of the market, to which the capitalists’ sell back the stolen products of our labour.
We are responsible for the day-to-day running of both the production and distribution of almost everything in ‘our’ society. With the exception of laws and prisons, war and poverty, exploitation and oppression etc. Which only exist to defend power and wealth and increase capitalists’ profit.
The jobs that our bosses and managers do could, for example, be just as easily performed by a rotational delegation of immediately recallable shop-floor representatives elected by, and answerable to, their fellow workers.
This is why they are scared, this is why they are building more prisons and this is why the ANC is reviewing the new ‘Anti-Terrorist’ Bill (ATB), because they are scared of our power.
Only by carrying forward with the program for the implementation of Stateless Socialism, of Anarchism, can we stand a chance in the face of a suicidal capitalist onslaught the likes of which the world has never seen. And build a new world free of misery, want and suffering.
We must organise and harness this power to meet and over- come the repressive new face of 21st Century capitalism.
We must organise ourselves into regionally and internationally federated workplace and community based councils to challenge those in power and regain control of our lives and our workplaces. To seize the means of production and distribution and operate them in the interests of all.
We must develop revolutionary working class militias to confront and expel the police and armies from our communities and defend ourselves from both foreign and internal occupation. They serve only to enforce the will of our irreconcilable class enemies.
We must organise industrial actions in solidarity with both local and international struggles; for better working conditions, higher wages, free education and healthcare, an end to evictions and cut-offs etc.
We must embark on massive international campaigns of civil disobedience and direct action, from industrial actions and sabotage to armed defence of our communities to loosen, and ultimately break the noose that the State and capitalism have tightened around our necks.
These are the tactics the international working class used to overthrow the racist Apartheid regime, because they were proven to be the most effective, and these are the tactics that have been used in uprisings throughout history. Because they reflect the true aspirations of the working masses, freedom, equality and social justice.
This is where the power of the working class, and the seeds of a new world lie.
Only through anti-authoritarian, directly-democratic, decentralized and non-hierarchical organisation(s) and means of struggle will we be able to counter and overcome international repression, which is undoubtedly going to get worse as our struggles advance, by making it difficult for the State and its agents to infiltrate our movements and imprison or remove our ‘leaders’ because we have none. We have only mutual aid, co-operation, solidarity, working class unity and a will to fight!
Through these means of organisation we will be able to build a power structure from the bottom up and not the top down as is presently the case. A structure that will be strong enough both to combat the coming repression and overthrow the system of capitalism as a whole, which puts the wealth and power of a few before the lives and needs of billions. And usher in a new, free and equal, Anarchist, society.
Organise, Unite and Fight. Kill the Bill!
by an activist of the
Anarchist Black Cross /
Zimbabwe: Repression Against the Working Class Mounts
Zimbabwe is a dictatorship under the iron fist of Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. This has been underlined once again by the regime’s crackdown against opponents in March this year.
More than 400 opposition supporters have been arrested, beaten and in some cases tortured by police and the army. Over 250 people have required hospitalisation, and at least one person has died. Women have been sexually assaulted in the repression.
The repression takes place against the backdrop of a two-day general strike for basic political freedoms on the 18 and 19 March, and attacks by hired ZANU-PF supporters against voters in two heated by-elections in Harare.
Two days after the general strike, Mugabe announced that he would be a “black Hitler 10-fold” in crushing his opponents
A REIGN OF TERROR
The regime’s crackdown on the working class and poor began soon after it took power in 1980. In 1980 to 1981 a huge strike wave shook the country. The government responded by taking over the unions, removing wage negotiations from union control, and appointing union officials.
When the unions began to show some independence from around 1987 onwards, Mugabe responded with police terror, an approach he continues to this very day. Having lost control of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Mugabe has settled for repression. More recently, he has set up a yellow “Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions” which specialises in beating up strikers.
TRUTH, LIES AND NEO-LIBERALISM
The dictator’s supposedly radical rhetoric has confused far too many activists here in South Africa.
Mugabe claims to be against neo-liberal policies, but in 1991, with his blessing, his regime implemented a Structural Adjustment Programme that makes GEAR look like a tea party.
In 1993, for example, health spending was cut in half, unemployment began to soar to 6 out of 10 people, and government officials gorged themselves at the public trough. Mugabe himself looted the government fund for low-income housing in order to build a mansion for his secretary. Meanwhile wages fell to the levels of the early 1970s and inflation shot through the roof, taking bread out of workers’ mouths.
The Structural Adjustment Programme was only dropped from 1997 onwards because the workers in the ZCTU launched a series of general strikes against his policies. In the face of fierce repression, the workers fought and won… for a while.
The more recent so-called land reform policy is cut from the same cloth. It was never motivated by concern for the poor. Its only aim was to increase the wealth and power of Mugabe’s faction of the ruling elite.
DELETE THE ELITE
Like all dictators, Mugabe is convinced that the people love him, a message his advisors pour into his aging ears day after day. Mugabe was convinced that the strike wave was planned by a secret cabal of White farmers, British agents and gays. When the ZCTU set up a moderate opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), from 1999 onwards, he blamed this non-existent cabal.
Sinking deeper into fantasy, he blamed his humiliating defeat in a popular referendum in 2000 on the same group. The so-called farm invasions began soon after, and were carried out by hired gangs that forced farm workers to join his fake trade union, and who attacked May Day rallies.
The aim of the desperate and unstable dictator was two-fold. First, he was turning on a section of the elite who he suspected were plotting against him: the White farmers. Second, he aimed to grab resources to pay his thugs and reward his cronies.
The real beneficiaries of the land grabs have been his so-called “war veteran” private army and wealthy Blacks like his wife, Sally Mugabe, and his information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, each of whom have received several farms. In the meantime, nearly half a million farm workers have lost their jobs, and the grim spectre of starvation hangs over nearly two million people.
GIVE MUGABE THE BOOT
It is time to clear our eyes of the myths surrounding Mugabe, and to support the Zimbabwean working class in its struggle against the dictator. There should be no illusions in the MDC, which has a very moderate programme and is influenced by neo-liberal policies.
But this should not blind us to the issues at stake. The working class and poor of Zimbabwe are at war with a brutal warlord. In this struggle, we stand with the working class and poor, and against the regime. We stand for the creation of a situation of basic political freedoms that will allow the working class movement to develop, and for a revolutionary anarchist current to emerge and flourish.
For anarchists to support the warlord against the workers would be a disgrace and a sell-out.
This means, simply, that we want Mugabe out. Not because we have illusions in the MDC, but because the Mugabe regime is more of an obstacle on the road to a real revolution in Zimbabwe.
Our aim is anarchist communism, and towards that end we want, we fight for, every small reform that will strengthen the working class and poor, our class, and allow our anarchist ideas to spread.
Mugabe must go to hell, so that the working class and poor can fight to build heaven on earth.
“The Vision Thing: Were the DC and Seattle Protests Unfocused, or are Critics Missing the Point?”
by Naomi Klein (Extracts)
“So how do you extract coherence from a movement filled with anarchists, whose greatest tactical strength so far has been its similarity to a swarm of mosquitoes? Maybe, as with the Internet itself, you don’t do it by imposing a preset structure but rather by skilfully surfing the structures that are already in place. Perhaps what is needed is not a single political party but better links among the affinity groups; perhaps rather than moving toward more centralisation, what is needed is further radical decentralisation.”
Klein takes on the critics who complain that the new movement lacks a unifying vision, but rather only targets, to which she answers that we should be thankful: “At the moment, the anti-corporate street activists are ringed by would-be leaders, anxious for the opportunity to enlist them as foot soldiers for their particular cause.” Klein sees the possibility of something truly new emerging, rather than repeating the unworkable centralised movements of the past…
Taken from a review of a Naomi Klein article by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortizgoes. The essay was first published in the July 10, 2000 issue of the Nation.
We Revolt Against the Tyrants!
A Report from the Ivory Coast
Since the death of the dictator Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the pretenders to the throne of the Ivory Coast are legion and use all the stratagems and dubious ideologies to seize power: republicanism, ivoirity (national preference), or death squads, attacks…
With the attempt at a coup d’etat on the 19 September, 2002, one can think that Gbagbo (the new despot, elected official with difficulty in October 2000) would not today be in power without the assistance of French President Jacques Chirac. It should be said that Houphouet-Boigny knew well how to sell Ivory Coast during his reign.
Racketeers (primarily French) for a long time invested in juicy markets with the help of their military and financial support for the dictator. Agricultural products (coffee, cocoa, cotton) especially interest the French. Manufactured goods are sold in all West Africa, where they very often constitute the only alternative to the more expensive French products.
Then, to paralyse the economy of the Ivory Coast, is to touch that of the whole sub-region. For example, since the failed coup d’etat missed in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso suffers an oil shortage for motorcycles – the most used means of transport by the population, which is not without consequences. The current crisis is significant, it shows the race of the despots for power but also the dominating role of the French State in Africa.
Today the Ivory Coast is again returned to war, it is France which referees, which says “who does what” and “with whom” (Agreement of Marcoussis, January 2003). In the event of dissension, it kills (30 Ivorians were killed by French soldiers on January 6, 2003). During this time, the African people live in misery, unemployment, lacking water and food, with limited access to health care and education…
Vis-a-vis that, resourcefulness and mutual aid are the bases of survival. Popular revolts are also very numerous: student demonstrations that denounce corruption, demonstrations of districts against expulsions, against cuts of water and electricity. Each African knows that he risks his life while going in the street. How many dead and wounded to leave this misery and to denounce corruption? Nobody makes the calculation!
It should be noted that they do not ask for voting rights, nobody died for this con trick! Those in power, it doesn’t matter which ideology they are, are not content with filling their pockets, but keep their compatriots in a hole. They racketeer, imprison, torture and kill any person acting publicly for the right to live in dignity. “Social peace” is necessary to capitalism, and as the life of an African is not worth anything…
France supported all the dictators and African presidents, and is thus accessory to all their crimes. Today it is a new turn that is taken with the xenophobia that is spreading across the Ivory Coast. The “foreigners” are once again a safety-valve for economic problems. One needs a culprit for misery; then fashion indicates a “Dioula”, a “Burkinabé” (just like in France it is no good being “Arab” or “Gypsy”). Let us stop following blindly and refuse the war in Ivory Coast.
an Ivorian anarchist
This is a translation (from French) of a text about the actual situation in Ivory Coast, written by an Ivorian anarchist. It was first published it in Le Combat Syndicaliste – newspaper of the anarchist union, the CNT-AIT in France.
A Workers Party: What For?
With growing disillusionment and anger at the ANC, talks have once more started about forming a new workers party. Is this the way to go? Can a new workers party provide us with a decent standard of living? Can it give us control of our lives at work or in the communities? We think not.
LETS HAVE A LOOK
In Belgium, the workers recently found it necessary to take to the streets in a general strike to protest plans by the coalition Socialist-Social Christian government (each closely linked to the two largest labour federations) to enact a “social pact” to hold down wages and slash social spending. A similar pact was recently pushed through by Spain’s socialists.
In Canada, the labour-backed New Democratic Party lost nearly all its seats in national elections in the past, apparently because of widespread disgust with its role in enforcing capitalist austerity in the provinces under NDP rule. In Ontario local unions refused to allow the provincial NDP government to participate in Labour Day celebrations. The NDP won provincial elections in 1990 on a platform of labour law reform, pay equity, progressive tax reform and public auto insurance. But when corporations threatened to use their economic power in a sort of general strike by capital, the government quickly threw in the towel. The “labour” government abandoned public auto insurance, abandoned most of its labour law reform package, and gutted social service spending. Ontario workers understandably concluded that they could get these sorts of anti- worker policies from any capitalist government, and so did not vote for the “socialist” NDP in the federal elections.
These are not isolated examples. Every worker and socialist party in the world that workers have voted into office has ended up betraying them. This is because worker parties are incapable of addressing the real cause of anti-worker governments.
As Sam Dolgoff, an American anarchist labour activist and author of The Cuban Revolution: a Critical Perspective wrote in his book The American Labour Movement: A New Beginning:
“A capitalist democracy is a competitive society where predatory pressure groups struggle for wealth and prestige and jockey for power. Because such a society lacks inner cohesion, it cannot discipline itself. It needs an organism that will appease the pressure groups by satisfying some of their demands and prevent conflicts between them from upsetting the stability of the system. The government plays this role and in the process… the bureaucratic government apparatus becomes a class in itself with interests of its own….
Labour parties are no more immune to the diseases inherent in the parliamentary system than are other political parties. If the new Labour Party legislators are elected they will have to “play the game” according to the established rules and customs. If they are honest they will soon become cynical and corrupted… Most of them, however, will find their new environment to their taste because they have already learned to connive when they were operating as big wheels in their own union organisations… A course in the school of labour fakery prepares the graduates for participation in municipal, state and national government…
Tactics must flow from principles. The tactic of parliamentary action is not compatible with the principle of class struggle. Class struggle in the economic field is not compatible with class-collaboration on the political field. This truth has been amply demonstrated throughout the history of the labour movement in every land. Parliamentary action serves only to reinforce the institutions responsible for social injustice – the exploitative economic system and the State.
The strength of the labour movement lies in its economic power. Labour produces all wealth and provides all the services. Only the workers can change the social system fundamentally. To do this, workers do not need a labour party, since by their economic power they are in a position to achieve the Social Revolution… As long as the means of production are in the hands of the few, and the many are robbed of the fruits of their labour, any participation in the political skulduggery that has as its sole purpose the maintenance of this system amounts to both tacit and direct support of the system itself.”
Rather than diverting workers’ resources and energies into forming yet another political party, sincere working-class activists would do far better to build genuine, class-conscious unions and to work with their fellow workers to build a new society through direct action in their communities and at the point of production. Worker parties can play no part in this struggle.
Based on an editorial for the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review by Mikhail Tsovma (translated by Jeff Stein). Recommended reading on this topic would be The Failure of Socialism by Alexander Berkman, available for R1,50 from Zabalaza Books
Latin American Voices: Leny Olivera
(Tinku Youth, Network of Autonomous Groups, Cochabamba, Bolivia) Speaking during the Anarchist Days 2 meeting at Porto Alegre, Brazil, 27 January 2003.
I identify as Quechua because my father speaks Quechua [one of Bolivia’s three major indigenous languages]. I work in a cultural group, but it’s not just cultural: we also work with social topics. I like to work there because in our group we do a variety of things: we work in ecology; problems in our society; the music that revitalises our culture. I continue working there because I think it should be very integral, because at school I never learned why poverty exists in all the world, why some people don’t have anything to eat, and many things about our culture. I think I learned more things on the streets in my group than at school or worse, the university. Now I’m studying through a university but don’t think that the things that I learn – it’s simple, technical things – it’s useful, but it’s just technical things. It was disappointing for me because there is no social consciousness to help our society according to our career.
I study computer science and it’s just like a tool for me. And other aspects like social consciousness and other things I learn in the streets, on marches and going to the communities – because we also play music from our communities and we are learning little by little more things to remember. And, well, about anarchism, what I understood about it was that, first in Bolivia this word is like a mess, it’s a bad word in some of the countries. But for me it’s excellent – but I see also that it’s difficult. I couldn’t see a person that was anarchist 100%. It’s difficult to take out all of the structures that we have in our minds, but it’s a good step to recognise that we have to take it out. I think it’s an important thing, but the problem is that since we are at school, and they put in our minds a lot of structures, a way of thinking with this global system.
It’s very terrible; that’s why I say that I’m in the process of destroying those structures. I believe in anarchism, but I am trying to be [anarchist] because I should change more and I’m conscious that I have more structures [to destroy]. I also see that I have changed in some aspects too. We don’t have many contacts in Bolivia with groups that are anarchist so we are just like the little ones that speak loud about it because it’s about all of us as I told you. The ones that say they are anarchist, they are also for example macho; the men have something that should change more. It’s difficult to say I’m anarchist because it should change more. So for me it’s like this and that is a good option because we are accustomed to be guided by someone, to just do what someone says and we’re not free. For example in Bolivia most of the people think there should just be leaders to change something. I think that all of us can do it; it’s more powerful that everyone can act because all of us can do it. So, we are working on that but I think it’s a process.
Some Ideas for Community Action
These are a few ideas which are open to being added to, changed, and adapted to reflect the needs of particular communities.
Despite the efforts of politicians and professionals to lump together working class communities as problem areas to be policed, those of us who live in these communities often see things differently. For us the problems we encounter daily are often not of our own making. Poverty, inadequate housing and crime are problems that come with the way society is structured. By taking control of our own communities, and deciding for ourselves how we should manage them, we are not only getting rid of the parasites who cause our problems but also starting on the path to a new type of society where each of us can be free to live our lives as we choose.
This is action to benefit all of us living in the community not simply those with the loudest voice, the more threatening manner or the most money. Some of the ideas may seem unrealistic at first glance, but most of them have worked in one form or another before.
Some principles of community action:
The people who live in a community are the ones who know best when it comes to improving that community.
Organisation in communities can only benefit all residents if it is from the base upwards. Beginning with the individual, household, street and outward to the wider community.
All residents, from the youngest to the oldest, should be encouraged to offer their opinions and solutions. Some people may feel intimidated or frightened by the idea of speaking in community assemblies. Alternatives such as written contributions or a clearly acknowledged advocate could be a way of encouraging people to participate while their confidence grows. If certain people choose not to participate that is their decision and should be respected.
Even the most well meaning of community workers, social workers, and other professionals to be found in our communities are working to an agenda set for them. If they live in the community then they should participate as individuals with their own, and the communities, best interests at heart.
Activists, be they anarchist or otherwise, who endorse community action and wish to participate by moving into a community should do so with the long term interests of that community in mind, and not selfish temporary lifestylism. They are there to help empower, not to dominate or exist as a group separate from the community.
A COMMUNITY MEETING PLACE
A community meeting place is essential to any community transformation. This kind of social centre can act as the focal point for community action, bringing together all groups within the community in a safe space. To be able to do this the centre should ideally be located in a central position where the community can easily access it, but also difficult to access for those, like the police, who are likely to threaten the community from outside. In the early stages of action chances are an ideal location will be difficult to find. Using empty or unused buildings (see HOUSING below) is the perfect opportunity to show what is possible. Accurate information about the legality of reclaiming property should be distributed as widely as possible. Not just in libraries, waiting rooms, union offices, busses, trains, but also through local free sheets and internet/intranet forums. The sharing of information and experience should be seen as another essential part of any community action.
As well as being a meeting place the centre or centres could also act as a community resource and distribution point (see DISTRIBUTION & RE-DISTRIBUTION below). A few examples, amongst many, are a community food co-op, a swap shop and a practical resource centre where people can share their practical hands-on experience with others.
Community assemblies are the forums where local decisions are made, decisions that have a direct impact on the whole community. While the obvious areas of decision making are likely to be things such as transport, housing, crime, social care etc., as self-management develops in the community other issues such as what types of workplaces the community wants are likely to become more pressing. The more people realise they can manage their own communities the more likely they are to realise they can also self-manage their workplaces.
The form of assemblies is likely to be dictated by the size and geography of a community. However it should be argued that one overiding principle of the assembly is that anyone who has something to say is allowed the time to do that. Likewise if the meeting is to be structured then the role of chairperson should be rotated to ensure the assembly is not dominated by any one person or group. People who have no experience of this type of meeting should be encouraged to become actively involved.
While, ideally people would attend assemblies in person, in reality this may not always be possible. The use of community radio and local intranets are some examples of how assembly proceedings could be relayed to people in real-time. Local internet systems could work particularly well, allowing people to feed back their views directly to an assembly.
Poor housing, shoddy repairs, lack of choice and long waiting lists are some of the issues faced by working class people. Rather than appealing to landlords to improve things another option is to create resident action groups. These can be independent groups rather than the resident/tenant groups set up by landlords. Using forms of direct action to highlight issues around housing is a move away from appealing for help towards empowering people to demand something is done. This sort of politicisation of a community can be seen as the first stage. Once a community begins to organise for itself then the options for other ways of organising housing and repairs for themselves is a step closer. The use of rent/mortgage strikes is one way residents could begin to flex their collective muscle (see COMMUNITY DEFENSE below)
Reclaiming empty or unused buildings is another strategy that could be used to practically address the lack of housing in a community. Rather than relying on landlords to allocate property those who need it should be encouraged to recover and make use of empty buildings. Information on the legal issues could be made widely available, and the sharing of the skills needed to successfully reclaim a building could be one of the things on offer at the social centre.
Creating a community food co-op is one way of not only bonding a community, but also a positive way of offering good, affordable food and other goods. In the early stages this would probably involve the co-op buying goods directly from fruit and veg markets, from wholesalers or directly from the producers ie. farmers. While the production of all the goods a community needs is unlikely to be done locally, the growing of fruit and vegetables is one thing that could be produced in the community.
Wasteland and other unused land could be reclaimed by the community and seeded for popular small-scale food production. It’s likely the skills needed in growing food are already present in a community with people who already enjoy tending to their gardens, growing their own food etc.
As local authorities seem intent on selling off land currently used by schools and nurseries etc., a community moving onto this land and using the play grounds or playing fields for other uses such as food production is a way of people not only spoiling a local councils plans, but also directly benefiting themselves.
DISTRIBUTION & RE-DISTRIBUTION
Creating new methods of distribution is essential if a community is to effectively manage itself. The distribution of locally produced food via a free-shop is one way of achieving this. Other goods that are not produced locally will need other methods of distribution. The idea of swap-shops, where people can take items they no longer use and look for items they need is one method of re-distribution which is practical and simple to organise; a bring and buy without the use of money.
Another method of distribution is a ‘tool pool’ where essential community items can be shared as and when they’re needed. This could start with the items needed for producing food locally, and then spread to other items the community decides would be best distributed in this way. For example local transport, such as bikes, is one area where the idea of a ‘pool’ has worked before.
The distribution of information is another area where local and direct community alternatives can work effectively. The facility to create local news sheets is now available to anyone with access to a computer. Experiments in ‘pirate’ and activist radio stations have also begun to make the idea of local community radio stations a reality. Likewise experiments in linking communities via a community intranet show the possibilties for further distributing information.
CARE & SUPPORT
Communities are, of course, made up of individuals with a whole variety of different health and social needs. In the early stages of a community managing itself most of the medical needs will still require people using medical facilities outside of the local area.
There are however some areas of social care which people can organise for themselves. One example of this could be a local meals service, where those who are unable to cook for themselves have meals cooked for them at the social centre and delivered by volunteers. Another idea is for street volunteers who agree to take responsibility for checking that people in their street or building who are housebound are okay. Some of these ideas for social care are just common sense things that people already do for each other now. In other cases it’s a matter of building on the care networks that have always existed in working class communities.
Childcare is another area where care networks are often already in place. Extended families have often shared childcare responsibilities in working class communities. Crèches and after-school groups are an area where those with young children can organise for themselves, involving people they know and trust.
CRIME & COMMUNITY DISPUTES
Most, but not all, crime is a result of the type of society we live in now. Inequality breeds crime while the police feed off it. In encouraging a community to self-manage one of the essential requirements is that those who feed off crime, the police, are dispensed with, and community alternatives developed.
The use of mediation, someone independent bringing together the aggrieved parties, is one way of dealing with community disputes which is becoming more popular. The use of mediation could be extended to include other anti-social behaviour. Initially, however, persistent anti-social behaviour like drug dealing, loan sharking etc. is likely to require a more direct community approach. This could take the form of those affected joining together to inform the person or people that they are not wanted in the community and should leave. A community united in condemning anti-social behaviour can be a powerful deterrent. Where the people involved are known to be violent or carrying weapons then a less direct, but equally confrontational approach may be taken. It’s certainly not unknown for the likes of drug dealers and loan sharks to trip over balconies in working class communities. It’s not a pleasant thought, but sometimes the misery and suffering inflicted by these individuals’ forces people to more extreme solutions.
While the help of professional mediators may be welcomed in a community, many of the skills needed for mediation could already be there in the community. People who have brought up a family, with all its problems, are the perfect example of this.
If a community decides they would feel safer with people checking on certain trouble-spots then a possible solution is for a street to organise a rota of residents who would feel comfortable in doing that. Perhaps each night a different person from each street could get together with, say six others from neighbouring streets, until any trouble calms down. Taking the dog for a walk, and helping your community!
Community defence is about people in a community joining together to collectively deal with politically motivated attacks on them themselves. If a community decides to organise a rent or mortgage strike then it’s likely that landlords and banks will employ bailiffs and police to try to disrupt it. A good example of the type of community defence that could be used here is the anti-poll tax groups who defended people in the community when they were threatened by bailiffs.
As a community grows in confidence, and starts to assert its own self-management not only in the community but in workplaces then more particular forms of community/workplace defence are likely to be discussed and decided on.
Community Anarchist Discussion & Solidarity Zone