Imperialism

One Year after the 2015 Grahamstown Riots against Foreign Traders: Attacks Hurt Working Class and Poor, Only Capitalists and Politicians Benefit

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by Lucien van der Walt (ZACF)

*Text commissioned by Unemployed People’s Movement, Grahamstown, October 2015.
*Edited version: November 2016.

grahamstown-riotsA year ago, starting 20 October 2015, around 75 small shops were looted, some burned down, in the eastern townships and downtown area of the small Eastern Cape university town of Grahamstown/ iRhini, South Africa. The attacks targeted Asian and African immigrants, many of them Muslim, and displaced 500 people. These riots were largely ignored by the media.

The text below is a slightly revised revision of a briefing I was asked to write at the time for the local Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM). The UPM played a heroic role in opposing the attacks and assisting the displaced. The text’s general points remain relevant to the working class’s fight against prejudice and racism. And the riots of 2015 should not be forgotten.

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How Imperialism and Postcolonial Elites have Plundered Africa: And the Class Struggle, Anarchist-Communist Solution

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by Lucien van der Walt

Published in “Tokologo: Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective”, numbers 5/6, November 2015

africa_plunderedRoughly 50 years ago we saw the dismantling of most of the European colonial empires in Africa. High hopes greeted the “new nations” that merged – and certainly, a move from colonial rule, with its racism and external control and extractive economies, was progressive.

However, many of the hopes were soon dashed. Politically, most independent African states moved in the direction of dictatorships and one-party systems, normally headed by the nationalist party that took office at independence – and, over time, the military became a major player too. Many of these states were highly corrupt, even predatory, and the gap between the rising local (indigenous) ruling class, and the masses, grew ever vaster.

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“Seek Ye First the Political Kingdom”? Learning from Kwame Nkrumah’s Failures in Ghana

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by Tokologo African Anarchist Collective (TAAC)

Published in “Tokologo: Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective”, numbers 5/6, November 2015

CONTRIBUTORS: LUCKY, MTHAMBEKI, NKULULEKO, NONZUKISO, PITSO, SIXOKA, WARREN

dr-kwamenkrumahGhana, West Africa, was a British colony called “Gold Coast” until 1957. It became the first independent country in “black” Africa after reforms and struggles in the 1940s and 1950s. The new president, the brilliant Kwame Nkrumah, and his Convention People’s Party (CPP), had fought for independence. Now they aimed at major changes in the society, even speaking of socialism. And Nkrumah proposed a united African government for the continent: Pan-Africanism.

But by the mid-1960s, hopes were fading. There were good reforms in education and services and self- respect for Africans that helped remove colonialism’s damages. But the CPP has become a dictatorship, with a personality cult around Nkrumah. Unions and struggles were suppressed. The economy was in trouble. A new elite hijacked independence and resources. When the military seized power in 1966, people celebrated in the streets. Today Ghana is one of the poorest African countries.

What went wrong and what can we, anarchists in Africa, learn from this experience?

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Imperial Wars, Imperialism and the Losers: A Critique of Certain ‘Labour Aristocracy’ Theories

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by Lucien van der Walt

concentration-camps_Boer WarAs the 100th anniversary of the outbreak in August 1914 of World War One fades, let us remember that imperialism harms all working class people – including those in imperialist and Western countries, and the white working class.

It is often said that Western workers benefit from imperialism, or imperialist profits, or that welfare in the West is funded by imperialism – but all of these claims fall in the face of realities like World War One (1914-1918). This war – between Germany and Britain and their respective allies – was, at least in part, fought for a re-division of the European-ruled colonies.

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Zabalaza #14 (August 2015)

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Zabalaza #14
Zabalaza #14

[Download the PDF here]

Contents:

Southern Africa

International

Black Stars of Anarchism

Book Review

Theory

Counter-Culture

  • Anarchism and Counter-Culture: The Centrality of Ideas by Warren McGregor (ZACF)

Regular:

Zabalaza #14 Editorial: Where to, South Africa? Anarchist-Communist Reflections

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Zumaby Tina Zisovuka (ZACF)

In 2013, Zabalaza/ ZACF took a decision to redirect our energies into certain aspects of our work that we felt were more urgent and immediately important at the time, given the challenges and conditions we were facing. The bad news is that this decision took its toll on our publishing work, which partly explains the long gap (over two years) between issues of our journal. The good news is that this reorientation has paid off elsewhere: hiccups notwithstanding, over the past two years our militants have participated in various new initiatives in and around Johannesburg, where we have witnessed a renewed and growing interest in anarchism. The inclusion of several new names in this issue is a much-welcomed reflection of these changes.

Over the past two years, there have been many important developments that deserve special consideration. We have tried to include our own, anarchist, appraisals of these where possible, although in some respects we have fallen unavoidably short. It is precisely because South Africa’s burning social and national issues remain unresolved (in fact they cannot be resolved within the existing capitalist and political party systems established in 1910 and 1994), that the country continues to undergo social turbulence, seen in strikes, union splits, struggles over symbols, and sadly, anti-immigrant attacks.

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South Africa and the DRC: Has Rhodes passed on the baton?

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SA troops_0

In the heat of the struggle for statues like that of Rhodes – the arch-symbol of British imperialism – to be pulled down, and in the midst of the horror of the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa, few people seemed to notice an announcement by Jacob Zuma that South African troops will remain at war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for another year.

Of course, Zuma made this announcement on behalf of the South African ruling class – comprised today of white capitalists and a black elite mainly centred around the state, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and ‘traditional’ royal families. In this there was a real irony that while Rhodes’s likeness was falling from its perch at the University of Cape Town, and immigrants from other parts of Africa and Asia were being attacked because of sentiments stoked up by a rehabilitated relic of apartheid (the Zulu king, Zwelithini), the South African ruling class felt brash enough to say they will be continuing their own imperialist war in the DRC.

Like in all wars, including those promoted by the likes of Rhodes, it is not the ruling class that are actually doing the fighting in the DRC, but the sons and daughters of the working class. Reflecting on the First World War, Alexander Berkman noted that the working class are not really sent to war to save the poor or workers, but to protect and further the interests of the rulers, governors and capitalists of their countries1. This applies equally so today in the case of South African troops’ involvement in the DRC. Indeed, what South Africa’s war in the DRC shows is that the South African ruling class don’t just exploit and oppress the working class in South Africa, but the working class in many other areas in the rest of Africa. It also shows that both at home and abroad they will use violence to do so, including trying to turn different sections of the working class on one another, by amongst other things tapping into nationalism, racism, ethnic chauvinism and xenophobia.

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