The rise of an authoritarian populist politics, which presents itself as against the “Establishment,”” for the “common” people and “anti-globalisation,” is happening worldwide — and there are dangerous signs in South Africa. The populist upsurge sees voters reject big, established parties that embraced neo-liberalism after the economic crisis of 2007, in the context of a retreating working class and left. The author argues that the solution is to build from below for a new society beyond the state, class rule and capitalism based on self-management and production for need.
The crisis of the statist politics that dominated working-class politics — social democracy, Marxism-Leninism, and anti-imperialist nationalism — and the rise of neoliberalism, has aided the rediscovery of society-centred, anti-capitalist forms of bottom-up change “at a distance” from the state.
This article critically assess the three main modes of “at a distance” politics: “outside-but-with” the state, which combines using the state with popular movements; “outside-and-despite” the state, aiming at disintegrating the system by building alternatives in its cracks; and “outside-and-against” the state, associated with anarchism/ syndicalism, rejects the state for building autonomous working class counter-power that can resist, then defeat, state and capital. While each mode has limits, the anarchist/ syndicalist approach is arguably the most convincing, and its implications are serious. And it directs militants to work within the mass movements of the popular classes.
Warren McGregor of Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) says while the South African state has been praised for its rapid response to coronavirus, its lockdown has hugely unequal effects . Many in the working class , poor majority lack proper access to food, health-care, income and jobs. Some employers are attacking labour. There are inadequate measures to cushion the masses, and unacceptable army /police brutality, while big business and politicians get bailouts. We accept the science that lockdowns are needed, he insists. But we must also demand justice, building concrete, realistic actions that can win improvements and build working class counter-power and a popular anarchist consciousness. Continue reading
What does the crisis mean for the working class and poor, and for our struggles and strategic perspectives? The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), South Africa, participated in a recent online panel with sister organisations from across the world on 11 April 2020. For those who were unable to tune in, you can enjoy a video recording here:
The event was hosted by Black Rose / Rose Negra Anarchist Federation (U.S.). Cde Warren McGregor of ZACF makes many valuable points: a transcript of his points will follow in another post. Other participation was from Acción Socialista Libertaria (Argentina), Solidaridad (Chile), Union Communiste Libertaire (France) and Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland).
ICU meeting July 1929, South Africa
The history of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU), formed in South Africa in 1919, is replete with lessons for today’s movements. The ICU, which also spread into neighbouring colonies like Basutoland (now Lesotho), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Southwest Africa (now Namibia) was by far the largest protest movement and organisation of black African and Coloured people of its time. Influenced by a range of ideas, including revolutionary syndicalism, the ICU had both amazing strengths and spectacular failings. This piece explains.
The roots and principles of anarchosyndicalism are worth revisiting for the practice of worker education in movements inspired by these principles and traditions. Emphasising the democratic practice, working class rooted, organic and critical nature of the pedagogy, the practice seeks to intersect employed and unemployed women and men. Practically, the education provides a platform for post-revolutionary practice of direct democracy at the point of production and, thus, naturally included practical skills such as trades, accounting and sciences.
Mandla Khoza (“MK”), 1974-2019: ZACF anarchist-communist, militant in South Africa and Swaziland (Eswatini)
Comrade Mandla Khoza (or “MK,” as his friends and comrades knew him) passed away on Friday 26 July in his home town of Siphofaneni, Swaziland (Eswatini). He had long suffered from sugar diabetes. He leaves behind four children. One of the pioneering members of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) founded in South Africa on May Day 2003, MK was committed to a social revolution that would place power and wealth in the hands of the working class, the peasants and the poor. As he would often say: “It doesn’t matter if you change who sits on the throne: you have to get rid of the throne itself.” This obituary commemorates his life as a militant.
Across South Africa, municipalities are in crisis. They are under-funded, anti-working class, anti-poor and anti-township, and riddled with corruption by elites. The working class is oppressed by the state – as well as the private bosses – and we say “Enough is Enough!”
We need to build an alternative: organs of counter-power, which can demand changes and lay the foundations for a deep redistribution of wealth and power to the mass of the people: the working class and poor.