Class Struggle without Borders: The Recolonisation of Africa and the Future of the Left

Talk given by comrade MS of the WSF * at the University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia, August 1998

I would like to thank the Socialist Caucus for extending an invitation to a speaker from the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) in South Africa. I would also like to thank the University of Zambia for hosting me this evening.

I am a member of the Workers Solidarity Federation. Let me start by saying what the WSF is not. We are not a political party that runs in elections. Nor are we a trade union. We are a libertarian socialist (anarcho-syndicalist) political organization. We believe that socialism must come from below through the direct action of workers and peasants. We support all forms of struggle against privilege and oppression. However our main focus is on the trade unions, which we see as a crucial mechanism for bringing about radical – and necessary – social change. Our membership base is predominantly amongst Black students and Black workers.

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Anarchism, Racism and the Class Struggle

Racial oppression remains a defining feature of the modern capitalist world. It is manifest most spectacularly in violent attacks on immigrants and minorities by fascist gangs. More important to the fate of these communities has been the systematic and increasing discrimination by capitalist states, manifest in attacks on the rights of immigrants, cuts in welfare services, and racist police and court systems.

How can racism be defeated?

An answer to this question requires an examination of the forces which gave rise to, and continue to reproduce, racism. It also requires a careful analysis of which social forces benefit from racial oppression.

By racism is meant either an attitude denying the equality of all human beings, or economic, political and social discrimination against racial groups.

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South Africa after Apartheid

Article in Le Mode Libertaire by WSF * delegate to the October/November 1997 congress of the International of Anarchist Federations, Lyon, France.

Historically, South Africa epitomized the poverty and oppression associated with capitalism and racism. The first non-racial elections to parliament in April 1994 gave many hope for the redress of the injustices of the past. The holding of elections open to all people, and the replacement of racist laws by basic democratic and civil rights was a big victory for the struggle in South Africa. But the new government of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) has consistently failed to address the demands of the Black working class for equality and the redistribution of wealth

INEQUALITY

In South Africa, 47% of Black African households live on, or below, the poverty line. Yet the ten richest South African families are together worth R18 billion. In South Africa there is an unemployment rate of 30%, but managers in big companies earn up to R900,000 per year. 5 big companies control 801@,@ of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and 120,000 (mainly White) farmers own 87% of the land.

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Anarchism and the ‘New’ South Africa

An Interview with the South African WSF *

Q. Most readers of Red and Black Revolution will be familiar with the main organisations on the left in South Africa, such as the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP). Can you tell us something about the tradition of libertarian ideas and struggle?

A. Anarchism and Syndicalism do (or at least did) have an important place in South African history, although this is typically hidden or obscured by official and “radical” versions of the past. Before the founding of the SACP in 1921, libertarian ideas were common on the revolutionary left. A section of the US syndicalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World, was established here in 1911, growing out of an organisation called the Industrial Workers Union . The Industrial Workers Union, in turn, was set up by the conservative craft-dominated (and, one must add, racist) Witwatersrand Trades and Labour Council (WTLC) at the behest of Tom Mann, the British revolutionary, who visited South Africa in 1910. The IWW (SA) was aligned to the Chicago (anti-parliamentary section) of the IWW (US), and the Voice of Labour – a radical local paper with which it was closely associated – carried articles by American anarchist-syndicalists like Vincent St. John. The IWW (SA) mainly organised amongst unskilled poor Whites (and also among groups like the bookmakers). They launched several strikes but collapsed in or about 1913. Some syndicalists were also active within the WTLC, although it must be stressed that they opposed that organisation’s racist politics – for example, they organised amongst Black miners as well as White.

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All in the Name of the Beautiful Gain

Phansi Fifa, Phansi!A ZACF statement on the 2010 Soccer World Cup
in South Africa

The 2010 Soccer World Cup must be exposed for the utter sham that it is. The ZACF strongly condemns the audacity and hypocrisy of the government in presenting the occasion as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for the economic and social upliftment of those living in South Africa (and the rest of the continent). What is glaringly clear is that the “opportunity” has and continues to be that of a feeding-frenzy for global and domestic capital and the South African ruling elite. In fact, if anything, the event is more likely to have devastating consequences for South Africa’s poor and working class – a process that is already underway.

In preparing to host the world cup the government has spent close to R800 billion (R757 billion on infrastructure development and R30 billion on stadiums that will never be filled again), a massive slap in the face for those living in a country characterized by desperate poverty and close to 40% unemployment. Over the past five years the working poor have expressed their outrage and disappointment at the government’s failure to redress the massive social inequality in over 8000 service delivery protests for basic services and housing countrywide. This pattern of spending is further evidence of the maintenance of the failed neoliberal capitalist model and its “trickle down” economics, which have done nothing but deepen inequality and poverty globally. Despite previous claims to the contrary, the government has recently admitted this by doing an about turn, and now pretends that the project was “never intended” to be a profit making exercise [1].

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People must empower themselves, not wait for government

ZACF on the recent Young Communist League (YCL) Statement
on the Unjustifiable Increase of Bread.

“We call on government to empower our people, especially through community cooperatives with the necessary inputs for bread production, namely land, tractors and seeds to plough wheat.” – this was the demand made by the Young Communist League (YCL) in their recent Statement on the Unjustifiable Increase of Bread.

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) agrees with the YCL that “This increase will have negative consequences on the majority of our people, especially the working class and the poor youth who rely on bread as a source of living.” We support the YCL and Cosatu in defying this price increase. We regard the vast and repeated increases in the bread price – and in the prices of maize meal, other grains and food in general – as a direct attack by capitalist profiteers on the very survival of workers and the poor. An attack against which workers and the poor need to defend themselves.

But the YCL does not seem to recognise the inherent contradiction in its statement.

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ZACF Statement on the “racist anarchists” of Potchefstroom

Right-wingers in the South African town of Potchefstroom removed street-signs with the names of liberation figures and replaced them with those of Boer leaders. But the Potch City Council attributed the actions to “racist anarchists”.

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) of South Africa and Swaziland notes with concern that the removal and defacement of street signs in Potchefstroom has been attributed without proof by Potchefstroom City Council spokesman Kaiser Mohau to “racist anarchists”. We presume that Mohau is simply politically naive in putting about his mistaken attribution of these acts of vandalism. However, his comments have the unfortunate effect of besmirching the good name of the small, but active anarchist movement in southern Africa.

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