Interviews with and by the ZACF
Mutiny Zine recently interviewed Jonathan, international secretary of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), about the police massacre of workers who were on strike at the Lonmin company’s mines in Marikana in South Africa. For information about ZACF, see https://zabalaza.net/
Interview with Warren of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front done at the St. Imier international anarchist meeting about the importance of forging both organisational and personal ties with comrades around the world. In addition Warren sheds some light on the origins of anarchism in Africa. Interviewed by Adrien of the ZACF’s sister organisation Motmakt from Norway.
Transcript of the interview
Motmakt: I’m here in beautiful St-Imier, Switzerland. And we have taken refuge from the sun and are drinking a little bit of beer and are having a great time. I am here with Warren from the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front, and I was wondering Warren how did you hear of the St-Imier conference?
An interview by Organização Anarquista Socialismo Libertário (Sao Paulo, Brazil) with Jonathan P. and Warren McGregor, two militants from the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF)
OASL: Could you briefly describe what the ZACF is, and what model of organisation you chose to enact?
ZACF: The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front , ZACF or just Zabalaza (which means “struggle” in the African languages of isiXosa and isiZulu), is a specific anarchist organisation, or a political organisation. The ZACF identifies with the platformist tradition within anarchism, or in Latin American terms, with Especifismo.
Zabalaza is a unitary organization, with membership open only to committed anarchist communists, who agree with our goals and principles, and are able to show them in practice.
As an organization that identifies itself with the platform, while recognizing its limitations and weaknesses, we demand a certain level of theoretical and strategic unity and collective responsibility. This is mainly due to our own experience, when we discovered that a smaller but more firmly united organization, with a greater level of strategic and theoretical unity and collective responsibility, can achieve much more than a large organization with very little common understanding of its goals and objectives, little strategic and tactical unity, and therefore little collective responsibility.
This is how we understand the distinction between the specific anarchist organization, an organization open only to militants of a particular tendency within anarchism, and the organization of synthesis, bringing together those who identify themselves as anarchist, even if their interpretations of anarchism is completely different, even opposed.
In this interview, realised between August and October 2010, the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro (Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro – FARJ) talks about its understanding of concepts such as especifismo, organisational dualism, social insertion and the role of the anarchist political organisation in relation to social movements and the class struggle.
It also deals with the recent entry of the FARJ into the Forum of Organised Anarchism (Fórum do Anarquismo Organisado – FAO) and the social effects of Rio de Janeiro being selected as a FIFA 2014 Host City, as well as sometimes difficult questions, such as finding a balance between necessary levels of theoretical and strategic unity, and the need to grow as an organisation.
- This text can be downloaded as a PDF pamphlet here
Interview with co-author of “Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics
of Anarchism and Syndicalism”
Richard Estes and Ron Glick interviewed Lucien van der Walt, co-author of Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, on their show “Speaking In Tongues,” KDVS, 90.3 FM, University Of California, Davis. The interview took place on September 25, 2009.
The interview covers issues like defining anarchism, anarchism and trade unions today, the issue of centralisation, anarchism and globalisation then and now, the Soviet Union and Communism, the Spanish Civil War, anarchism and immigration today, the relationship between class struggle and other forms of oppression, anarchism after Seattle, and anarchism and postmodernism.
Dearest readers: We’re absolutely thrilled to bring you this wonderful new interview with Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, the authors of AK’s stunning new book Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. In recent months, we’ve posted excerpts from the book, and a roundup of recent reviews, but with today’s post, we’re able to bring you, for the first time, Michael and Lucien’s own thoughts on the book, its genesis, and its usefulness in our current context. Read and enjoy!
AK PRESS: There has been quite a buzz around Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. This is, am I right, volume one of what you call Counter-Power. Can you tell us a bit about what how people have responded to the book?
LUCIEN VAN DER WALT: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re very happy with it. Of course, not everyone agrees with us on everything: that’s only to be expected, and anyway, we make it clear in the opening chapter that we want debate and welcome critique. Some folks, of course, don’t like the book at all—but no book can please everyone! Anyway, we want to stir things up a bit.
Answers by Michael Schmidt, International Secretary of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (South Africa) to questions put by “Situation”, newspaper of Autonomous Action (Russia), December 2008.
1. The history of worker and anarchist movement in South Africa began more than 100 years ago. Could you tell Russian comrades about the history of your struggles (about organisations from the beginning of the 20th century like International Socialist League etc)?
South Africa would have remained an agrarian backwater colony similar to Kenya if it were not for the discovery of diamonds in 1867 and of gold in 1886. These two events saw a massive influx of capital, infrastructure and of a mostly white industrial working class. The new white working class was overwhelmingly race-protectionist, what was called “White Labourite” and early trade unions were built on those lines. But a small radical tendency with strong anti-racist, anarchist and syndicalist leanings (starting with the Socialist Club of Port Elizabeth in 1900) eventually saw the establishment of a local section of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1910. It was operative mostly among tramway workers in the gold-mining town of Johannesburg, the old Boer capital of Pretoria and the British-dominated port of Durban but despite its anti-racism did not manage to break out of the white ghetto. But although the IWW (SA) shut down in 1913, rank-and-file syndicalist ideas spread during the general strikes of 1913-1914, within the anti-war movement during World War I, and by 1917, the Indian Workers industrial Union (IWIU), organized among Indian indentured stevedores, hotel workers and cane-cutters in Durban, was established along IWW lines. The IWIU was backed up by the formation later in 1917 of the Industrial Workers of Africa (IWA), also based on the IWW’s revolutionary syndicalist, anti-racist class-struggle concept. The IWA is believed to have been the first black trade union in British-colonised Africa and by 1919 was flanked by similar syndicalist unions, the mostly “coloured” (mixed-race) Horse-Drivers Union in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley, and various unions in the port city of Cape Town. These revolutionary syndicalist unions were established by a group of white, black, coloured and Indian syndicalist militants from the Industrial Socialist League, a 1915 revolutionary splinter from the reformist socialist International Socialist League, and the IWA, IWIU and associated unions were so influential that for a period, they shifted the Transvaal section of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC, later renamed the African National Congress, ANC) in a syndicalist direction. By 1921, these unions formed the core of the new syndicalist-oriented Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU). Although the ICU’s constitution was also IWW-based, it was amore ideologically mixed union, and its radicalism was compromised by elements of black nationalism, Garveyism and communism. The first communist party in Africa, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was established by syndicalist militants in 1920, but like the first communist parties in countries such as Brazil and France was very libertarian and syndicalist. A rival Bolshevik CPSA – Communist International (CPSA-CI, the fore-runner of today’s South African Communist Party, SACP) was established the following year, adhering to Lenin’s 21 points and attracting many original CPSA militants. The revolutionary remainder of the CPSA renamed themselves the Communist League. The ICU peaked in 1927 with about 120,000 members. Importantly, it spread beyond South Africa to establish branches in South-West Africa (Namibia), and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The Southern Rhodesian branch survived well into the 1950s, but the South African parent organization disintegrated in the late 1920s, bringing an end to South African anarchist-influenced syndicalism. Neighbouring Mozambique (like Angola, the Azores, and Portuguese Guinea) was a place of exile to which many Portuguese anarchists were deported in the 1890s and early 1900s. Some of them established an exile anarchist organization, the Revolutionary League, in the port capital of Lorenco Marques (Maputo) in the early 1900s. By the early 1920s, a significant syndicalist element had arisen among Mozambican workers under the influence of the powerful anarcho-syndicalist General Confederation of Labour (CGT) in Portugal (the Portuguese movement was proportionately larger than the Spanish movement). But the Mozambican movement apparently had no contact with the South African movement because of the language barrier, appeared not to have broken out of the white worker ghetto, and was suppressed from 1927 by the Salazar dictatorship. So ended the “glorious period” of anarchist and syndicalist organizing in South Africa. Most dissidents expelled from the Bolshevik CPSA in 1928 for their syndicalist sympathies became Trotskyists instead of returning to the anarchist and syndcalist fold. But rank-and-file syndicalism (usually called “workerism” by the communists) reappeared from time to time as a minority strain. In the 1950s, for example, a South African section of the tiny libertarian Marxist international called the Movement for a Democracy of Content (MDC) was established and played a key role in the Alexandra bus boycott. Some dissidents from the SACP who left over the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary moved in an anarchist direction (one of them, Alan Lipman, is close to the ZACF). The rise to power of the National Party in 1948 took what was an already polarized racial situation and divided people further. A whole raft of repressive legislation was introduced that outlawed the Communist Party, geographically carved up the country into ethnic enclaves (the infamous Group Areas Act), racially segregated public amenities such as parks, beaches, buses and toilets, and made mixed marriages and inter-racial relationships a crime. This was an extension of segregationist laws which had been in operation since colonial times. Between 1910 and 1960, in real terms, black wages stayed static and the black working class was mostly resigned to its fate under racial capital – except for the 1949 miner’s strike, the 1950s passive resistance campaigns aimed at the pass laws (which restricted the movement of black men, and later, black women) and other apartheid legislation which culminated in the signing of the 1955 Freedom Charter, and the 1961 turn of the ANC (desperate after its attempts at legal, peaceful reform failed) towards a limited, ineffective armed struggle (an ANC propaganda tool rather than proper armed resistance) led to the arrest of Nelson Mandela and other middle-class ANC/SACP leaders.