Lessons from the 1984-85 Vaal Uprising for Rebuilding a United Front of Communities and Workers Today
When we talk about people’s power we are not thinking about putting our leaders into the very same structures. We do not want Nelson Mandela to be the state President in the same kind of parliament as Botha. We do not want Walter Sisulu to be Chairperson of a Capitalist Anglo-American corporation.
So said a United Democratic Front pamphlet called “Building People’s Power” that was produced in the 1980s. It continued, “We are struggling for a different system where power is no longer in the hands of the rich and powerful. We are struggling for a government that we will all vote for.” The UDF, formed in 1983, was a coalition of anti-apartheid community, church, worker, youth, sports and other groups. Along with forces like the “workerist” Federation of South African Trade Unions it played a key role in resistance.
What the UDF wanted sounds like almost the exact opposite of what actually happened: more than 20 years later, it is not Sisulu who is chairperson of Anglo-American Corporation, but the ANC’s Cyril Ramaphosa, the Butcher of Marikana, who is a shareholder on the capitalist Lonmin Corporation. Even though people have the right to vote now, fewer and fewer people are actually voting because they don’t get what they vote for; and power and wealth are still in the hands of the rich and powerful.
What went wrong, and what lessons we can draw? What are some of the similarities between the 1980s and today? What is the way forward?
Renewal and crisis in South African labour today: Towards transformation or stagnation, bureaucracy or self-activity?
South African unions are large but fragmented, substantial but politically weak. They represent different political traditions and all are marked by serious organisational problems. They have little impact on the official public sphere. The unions need to work towards realizing a stateless, classless, self-managed society without hierarchy, based on political pluralism and freedom.
[Download the PDF here]
- South Africa and the DRC: Has Rhodes passed on the baton? by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
- Class Rule Must Fall! More Statues, More Working Class by Leroy Maisiri
- For How Long can South African Elites Keep Misleading the People? by Philip Nyalungu
- SPEECH: Working Class Struggle, Blazing a Path to Freedom by Lucien van der Walt
- The General Approach of Anarchists/Syndicalists to the United Front and NUMSA by Jakes Factoria and Tina Sizovuka
- In the Rubble of US Imperialism: The PKK, YPG and the Islamic State by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
- The State of Climate Change by Bongani Maponyane (ZACF)
- Building a Mass Anarchist Movement: The Example of Spain’s CNT by Thabang Sefalafala and Lucien van der Walt
- Imperial Wars, Imperialism and the Losers: A Critique of Certain ‘Labour Aristocracy’ Theories by Lucien van der Walt
Black Stars of Anarchism
- Domingos Passos: The Brazilian Bakunin by Renato Ramos and Alexandre Samis
- Review: Spanish Revolution Remembered: Peirats’ “The CNT in the Spanish Revolution” by Jakes Factoria
- The Anarchist Road to Revolution by Bongani Maponyane (ZACF)
- Putting Politics into Practice: The Importance of Democracy and Education in Unions by Pitso Mompe (ZACF)
- Anarchism and Counter-Culture: The Centrality of Ideas by Warren McGregor (ZACF)
In this section we address questions that have been posed to ZACF militants. We are sharing these discussions because we think these are important and pertinent issues in Southern Africa. If you have questions you would us to address in our next issue, please get in touch!
In this column, comrade Themba Kotane, a union militant, asks:
Will the United Front (UF) address the crises we are currently facing in South Africa? I am concerned about how the UF works and who leads it. In my own view we don’t need a leader, we need to all have equal voice. How can we build the UF as a basis for a stateless, socialist, South Africa?
Jakes Factoria and Tina Sizovuka respond:
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.