The anarchist tradition – including syndicalism,anarchist trade unionism – provides a coherent approach to issues of strategy, tactics and principle. It is a rich set of resources of the working class today, not least the black working class in South Africa, which remains, in important ways, not just subject to capitalist exploitation and state repression, but also racial/national oppression.
But to have a discussion about anarchism’s relevance to black working class strategy in the face of ongoing capitalist restructuring, we need to dispel myths about anarchism and syndicalism, to reclaim the revolutionary core of the anarchist tradition.
We need a serious discussion on how to reform the unions – still the largest, formal, class-based organisations – and what role they can play in a radical redistribution of wealth and power to the popular classes. These are profoundly political questions. This article argues against reliance upon the state and parties, and for re-building unions (and other workers’ movements) to maximise direct action, autonomy, and education, laying the basis for direct workers’ control over production and the economy. This requires a serious, organised, non-sectarian project of democratic reform and political discussion that spans the unions, including a rank-and-file movement, disconnecting from the state in favour of working class counter-power and patient work to construct a counter-hegemonic apparatus.
The purpose of this pamphlet is giving a coherent, comparative analysis on how anarchists and Marxists view the concept of “class,” and the political implications of each approach. Class is the nucleus of both Marxism and anarchism; however the conceptualisation of class is different for both. In pointing out these differences, it is my hope that I will convincingly show how and why the anarchist conceptualisation of class is more comprehensive and more useful, providing a more holistic analysis of many related aspects of class, and a more practical political guide..
Lekhetho Mtetwa, a member of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) discusses his role in the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), formed in South Africa in 2001. While the LPM was affiliated to Via Campesina, and linked to the Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra: MST), its activities centred on urban squatter communities, rather than farm occupations or organising alternative agrarian systems. Then-living in a squatter camp in Protea South, Soweto, Mtetwa served as the local secretary; by 2013, this was the key LPM branch. Several attempts were made by political parties to capture Protea South LPM, using patronage and promises, leading to the eventual implosion of the branch. Mtetwa provides an essential analysis of the rise and fall of the LPM, and the role that anarchists can play in such social movements.
This article, with the guidance of anarchism as a theory, provides a critical analysis of Zimbabwe and its current state, arguing against simple analysis and going beyond individual politics. The real, underlying problem is a society governed by a class system under the control of a predatory state that cannot survive a day without the exploitation of its people. It is essential to organize and educate the masses for a revolution they can claim as their own, against all forms of oppression and that builds on everyday struggles to improve the deplorable conditions of Zimbabwe.
Trade union renewal is essential but should not be reduced to democratising structures or new recruitment methods.
Renewal should centre on a bottom-up movement based on rank-and-file reform movements, and the direct action of workers as a precondition for radical redistribution of power and wealth to workers, community assemblies and councils in a self-managed, egalitarian order based on participatory planning and distribution by need. It must be rooted in an anarcho-syndicalist understanding that unions can profoundly change society.
When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa falls within the 15 biggest polluters in the world. But there is also a class dimension when it comes to pinning down which sections of society are responsible for air pollution – the major polluters in South Africa are the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top state bureaucrats) and their state and corporations (including state corporations), continuing an economy based on cheap black labour, mining and externalising costs. State-backed”empowerment” firms — for Afrikaners from 1948, and blacks from 1994 — are deeply involved.
Interview with Warren McGregor of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), South Africa: What is anarchism? Who really rules South Africa? Should we form a “workers party”? How does anarchism address racial and national oppression? How can we build working class counter-power? What is the state of the left? How do we link fights for reforms to revolutionary transformation and counter-power? Where does anarchism come from and what is its history in South Africa? Where to now?
Warren McGregor is an activist born in the Coloured townships of the Cape Flats, now resident in Johannesburg, where he is involved in working class and union education.
Leroy Maisiri (LM): First of all thank you so much for your time, and making room for me in your busy schedule. Please kindly begin stating your name and any political affiliations you have with organisations or movements within the left.
Warren McGregor (WM): It’s a pleasure, but please call me “Warren.” I am a member of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), as well as of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective (TAAC), and I identify myself politically as an anarchist.
Racism has been a curse in South Africa, and remains embedded in the society. But how scientific are racist ideas? Where do they come from? And how can we fight racism and create a truly equal and fair society? What do we as revolutionary anarchists think?
Racial conflict, inequality, and hatred are not natural, but fed and reared by capitalism and the state. To really change the system, we need a massive programme of upgrading education, health, housing and services; an end to the racist heap labour system; a challenge to the ideological (ideas) control that splits the working class; and a radical redistribution of wealth and power to the working class and poor –which in South Africa, means primarily the black working class and poor –as part of a social revolution.