Red and black greetings, comrades!
It’s been well over a year since the last issue of Zabalaza and much international attention has focused on the socio-economic problems facing the European Union. Despite the ravages of capitalism, and its neo-liberal form, the European ruling classes have responded, generally, with more of the same: increased attacks on the working class through propagating greater austerity measures, and less money spent on social welfare on the one hand, and bail-outs and more tax breaks for the rich on the other. As is to be expected, however, the European working class has not taken this lying down; resistance to austerity imposed from above has been widespread. In recent months we have witnessed, in Greece, a one-day general strike on October 18 and a 48-hour general strike on November 6 and 7. Promisingly, and for the first time in the wake of the global economic crisis of 2008 – we have also witnessed a common European response in the form of a general strike on November 14 that affected Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, with solidarity actions occurring across much of the continent.
These global conditions have unleashed greater waves of opposition to socio-economic and political domination. Yet, as with protests and uprisings elsewhere over the last few years, most have resulted in technical alterations at most, and not in the fundamental dismantling of systems of exploitation and domination. The sooner the working class realises that elections can never bring about freedom from social and economic oppression, the sooner we can march towards a free and equal, or anarchist society.
Inspired by the Arab Spring, the year 2011 was – in the West at least – characterised by the emergence of a number of “Occupy” movements modelled on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not surprisingly, however (and with the notable exception of Occupy Sandy, which played a significant role in providing popular self-managed emergency response and relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy in the United States) – a lot of these have by now faded away without being very successful either in winning improvements for the popular classes or building sustainable movements in struggle. This, again, highlights the centrality of ideas in the class struggle and the necessity for strategic perspectives of building a revolutionary working class counter-power and counter-culture.
Similarly, 2012 was marked by massive student struggles in Quebec, Canada, that also saw workers and communities coming out in a general strike alongside students. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, we do not publish anything on the Quebec students’ strikes in this edition of Zabalaza. However, we intend to publish an analysis thereof by a comrade from the ZACF’s sister organisation in Montreal, Union Communiste Libertaire (UCL), in Zabalaza #14.
Locally, the South African ruling class has continued its assault on the rural and urban working class (the organised, unorganised and unemployed). A range of measures have been proposed or implemented in an effort to alter labour and community laws – won through bitter struggle – that offer workers a semblance of protection from the bosses and communities a bit of say in their locales. One example is a Constitutional Court ruling holding unions liable for property damage during strikes and protests. Ideologically the working class finds itself unable to buttress these challenges. Its leaders and spokespeople continue to offer tried and failed ideas and strategies to counter economic deprivation and political weakness. Inevitably they promote nationalism and other such reactionary ideologies, seek to promote reliance on the state.
Climate change and environmental degradation were on the agenda for a range of activists at the end of 2011 as South Africa hosted the COP-17 conference. We look at working class priorities and their relation to fights for ecological conservation and improvement, and conclude that these must be intrinsically linked to secure a better future – one of safe and healthy work and leisure.
More recently, the police massacre of 34 striking mine-workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in Rustenburg unleashed a wave of condemnation, but confusion still abounds. In this issue we address the role of the state as the defender of property and privilege in capitalist society. Since Marikana, wildcat strikes and sit-ins have spread across the platinum belt and into other mining sectors. In the Western Cape province farmworkers – who, together with mine-workers, perhaps suffer the harshest consequences of the legacy of apartheid – have also gone out on strike in pursuit of improved living and working conditions and higher minimum wages. As with Marikana and the strikes in the mining sector, their just struggle has been met with harsh repression at the hands of the state and farm bosses. Unfortunately at this stage we cannot offer a South African anarchist analysis of the strike wave that predated and followed the Marikana massacre – for a variety of reasons. Partly we feel that the significance of this period in our history and for future warrants a far deeper and closer look than was possible. Conflicting reports and analyses continue to be released almost daily, many of which are not drawn from honest reflection and study. However, we hope to look more closely at the strike wave in more detail in the next edition, after the dust has settled.These are times of oppression and uncertainty for the working class. They have also further revealed the confusion and disorientation within the ranks of the authoritarian left. We are offered fertile ground for anarchist agitation and education. We need to seize it! Anarchism has always stressed the necessity of directly democratic organised, coordinated struggle and commitment. As such it was with great enthusiasm that the ZACF sent a delegate to the 10th anniversary of the Brazilian Forum of Organised Anarchism (FAO) and the First Congress of the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (CONCAB) in Rio de Janeiro this past June. At this auspicious event, the FAO was reconstituted as the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (CAB). The CAB brings together nine especifista anarchist political organisations in what is the next step in the process of building a national anarchist organisation in that country.
In August we also had the opportunity to send two delegates to Switzerland to the 140th anniversary of the St. Imier International Anarchist Congress. Here we participated in an international meeting of the Anarkismo network – which brings together over 30 organisations from 18 different countries – in an attempt to charter a course of united global anarchist action.
Comrades, the road ahead is hard, but the path is clear: the world ripens again for the ideas of anarchism. We, the popular classes (the working class and peasantry), scream out for a way forward: a movement beyond endless suffrage and revolutionary betrayal. Let us arm ourselves with the correct tools in which to defeat domination in all its forms: capitalism and the state, racism and sexism, and many others. This, the ZACF contends, must involve continuing to return to our roots in the Bakuninist wing of the First International: a strategic orientation towards serious, critical theoretical understanding which then informs organisation, strategy and tactics.
In memory of this history of struggle, we begin in this edition a series of articles on “Black Stars of Anarchism”: anarchists and syndicalists of black African descent around the world who, rejecting nationalism and the narrow politics of identity, have united the struggle against racism and imperialism with the class war against capital and state. In this edition we tell the story of the great South African syndicalist militant T.W. Thibedi, whose efforts nearly a century ago to organise black workers around class politics still deserve to be remembered as a revolutionary alternative to nationalism and class collaboration.
Such an understanding and strategic orientation, based on critiquing both the past and present, is surely the ammunition we need to beat back the devastation of economic oppression (capitalism in all its forms, whether state or free market-orientated) and political domination (the state and other relations of authority between and within classes).
It is with regret that we heard of the death on 28 January of our friend and comrade Alan Lipman, age 88, who with his wife Beata were among the drafters of the 1955 Freedom Charter. Alan and Beata resigned from the Communist Party in 1956 in disgust at the Soviet invasion of Hungary. He and some African Resistance Movement guerrillas firebombed the offices where the apartheid state was collecting data on black women to put them on the dompas, so the couple fled into exile in the UK where he got involved with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Returning to SA in the democratic era, the couple got involved with their local ANC branch, but were soon very disillusioned with the ruling party’s venality. Although he maintained a life-long friendship with Walter & Albertina Sisulu, he became a confirmed anarchist and addressed a ZACF/Anti-Privatisation Forum meeting at the Orange Farm squatter camp in 2006 on what he called “the Anti-Liberation Movements” (ANC/SACP). His autobiography, “On the Outside Looking In: Colliding with Apartheid and Other Authorities” (2009) was first published by zabalaza.net. We shall miss his quiet wit, gregarious spirit and sharp mind. Hamba Kahle, Comrade Alan!
As we close this editorial and prepare for publication, bombs and white phosphorous continue to rain death and destruction on the men, women and children of Gaza, Palestine. We also publish here an article by an Egyptian comrade written on the eve of the Egyptian presidential elections. Whether the outcomes of these elections will retain the pro-US and pro-Israeli policies of the Mubarak regime, or support the overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian aspirations of the Egyptian popular classes – hundreds of whom have crossed the Rafah border, some illegally, to support their Palestinian brothers and sisters – remains, however, to be seen.
The Struggle Continues!
Forward to International Popular Class Unity!
Forward to Anarchism and to the free
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front