South African ‘Workerism’ in the 1980s: Learning from FOSATU’s Radical Unionism

FOSATU LogoBefore there was the Congress of South African Trade Unions, today’s COSATU, there was FOSATU. FOSATU was set up in 1979. There had been strikes and struggles in the 1970s, starting with a big strike wave in Namibia from 1971-1972, which was then a South African colony, then a big strike wave starting in Durban 1973, which spread around the country. Although we remember 1976 for the bravery of the youth and students, we must remember that the 1976 uprising also involved general strikes by the black working class, mass stay-aways.

And as the working class started to flex its muscles, and to organise new, independent unions, the need for unity was felt. In 1979, at Hammanskraal, FOSATU was set up. The flag of FOSATU was red, black and gold, with a hammer, a spanner and a spade. FOSATU grew quickly, despite repression by the apartheid state. Leaders and activists in FOSATU were banned, jailed; some, like Andries Raditsela, were murdered by police. There was continual intimidation, and employers would fire workers for going on strike or “agitating” at work. Unemployment is not just about money: unemployment is a weapon of the bosses, and this weapon was used many times against FOSATU.

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Anarchism and Counter-Culture: the Centrality of ideas

Anarchism and Counter-Culture: the Centrality of ideas

A presentation at the Johannesburg leg of the Afrikan HipHop Caravan

Goethe Institute, 20 February 2013

by Warren McGregor


Poster_hiphopcaravan.inddOne may ask what a presentation on anarchism has to do with hip-hop. I contend that within these two movements exist shared ideas and sentiments, building blocks of a deeply critical and self-conscious political culture. Both share a deep anti-establishment ethos; a mistrust of established institutions of social and political control. Both come from and are based amongst the oppressed.[1] At its core, hip-hop shares with anarchism its desire for political and social change via people’s movements and expression.

A fuller discussion and appreciation of anarchist culture, however, and its message of grassroots community and individual empowerment, can, I think, serve to broaden the already rich tapestry of hip-hop culture and its impact on those it serves to educate.

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SPEECH: Working Class Struggle, Blazing a Path to Freedom

FAU book graphic439 1Talk by Lucien van der Walt at 24 Sept 2012, Heritage Day event, Joza Township, Grahamstown

NOTE: Heritage Day is a post-apartheid South African national holiday; unlike most, it has no clear link to major struggles in the past, although there are efforts to position it as a more “political” day. The talk below was given by Lucien van der Walt at an event organised by Sakhaluntu Cultural Group in Grahamstown, for black youth.

Thank you all for coming. Thank you, chair, for the invitation. Thank you, organisers, for the event today. Today looks like a great day, a great day to look forward.

But before we look forward, we must look back as well. Unless you know where you come from, you will never know where you can go.

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Anarchist Economics (a Brief Introduction)

The bosses need us ...we don't need them!by Warren McGregor (ZACF)

Comrades, this presentation covers the themes of global redistribution, economic growth of a new type, and renumeration and what these may mean in an economy based on anarchist principles. I was mandated to examine how these themes related to the two required readings for this week:

(i) Read’s Kropotkin: Selections from his Works, and
(ii) Albert’s Parecon

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Black Flame launch in Mexico

Black Flame coverBlack Flame co-author Michael Schmidt held a mini-launch of the book at a colloquium with professors of journalism and international affairs at the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Guadalajara, Mexico, on October 26. Schmidt was invited to Mexico to train Tec students in covering conflict in transitional societies, especially given the drug war currently ravaging Mexican society. Extracts of his talk, “The Journalist as Activist,” in which he located activist journalism within the Mexican anarchist tradition, follow:

“¡Más vale morir de pie que vivir de rodillas!”

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Audio: Social Struggles in South Africa

Thu, 11/12/2009 – AndrewNFlood

Listen to the audio file on Indymedia Ireland

We recently hosted Jonathan of the South African Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) in Dublin. He was doing a speaking tour of Ireland and Britain on the subject of ‘After Apartheid: Social struggle in South Africa’. I’ve just uploaded the audio of his Dublin talk, its linked below. Jonathan is another person I’ve ‘known’ online for quite a long period so it was good to meet him IRL at the London anarchist bookfair which provided the first date for his talk.

The opening section of the talk looks at the very recent repression of the shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo at the Kennedy road informal settlement. Several people were killed and over 1000 displaced when an ANC led gang targetted the settlement and a meeting that was in progess there. The rough notes I provide below will give you some idea of the areas covered in the audio file., they include a quite detailed history of the South African left.

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Will the Workers and the Poor Benefit from the 2010 World Cup?

This text is based on a Red and Black Forum workshop given by the ZACF, held on 5th May at Khanya College in Johannesburg, about the relevance and impact of the 2010 Soccer World Cup for the poor and working poor in South Africa.

South Africa’s success in winning the 2010 bid for the World Cup has been announced with great fanfare. The World Soccer Cup is the second biggest international sports events in the world, second only to the Olympics.


Now, there are a number of positive things about this:

  • Soccer is basically a working-class sport, in South Africa as well as in the rest of the world, and, if the tickets are affordable, there will be some great matches for local fans
  • The State has promised – and this is probably quite true – that some jobs will be created
  • As part of the build-up to 2010, the State will be spending billions of rands on improving transport and health services. There will also be some improvements in housing, although mainly around the areas near the sports stadiums, and finally, of course, there will be new stadiums as well as significant amounts of money for improving some existing stadiums
  • For the first time ever, the World Cup will be held in Africa
  • We don’t agree with that view of certain sectors of society that the State will not be able to get the country ready in time for the World Cup. It probably can get things ready in time. In fact, one of the noticeable trends of recent years is that semi-industrial countries can run major sports events (there have been, or are, major events in these countries: Malaysia 1998, China 2008, India 2010 etc.)

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Xenophobia, Solidarity and the Struggle for Zimbabwe

Speech made by a ZACF member at the “Freedom in our Lifetime” resistance festival in Newtown, Johannesburg, 10 December 2006

How to fight for freedom in Zimbabwe? How to avoid another Mugabe coming into power? How to fight poverty, inequality, unemployment? How to create equality and decent lives for all? These are the burning questions we must face.

There are two main issues we have been asked to talk about today: xenophobia and solidarity. Let’s look at each of these, and then explore them, and look for answers to the burning questions.

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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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