Archive: “Libertarians, the Left and the Middle East” webpage

Many of the webpages of the 1990s and early 2000s have since disappeared. This is particularly the case with sites using free hosting, like www.geocities.com and http://members.tripod.com/. In some cases the service was closed, and in other cases, sites were deleted or lapsed.

A notable loss was “Libertarians, the Left and the Middle East”, http://members.tripod.com/~stiobhard/east.html, accessed 15 November 1999. It was written by “Stiobhard” and had some interesting material on anarchism, past and present. Below is material we have been able to salvage, from copies saved to local computers.  There does not seem to be an archived copy or snapshot at the main archive sites. The portions below do not include the pages on the Middle East — only Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia — and also do not Continue reading “Archive: “Libertarians, the Left and the Middle East” webpage”

[reference points]:”Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle” (Alfredo Bonanno)

The text below was another important influence on the position taken by the main South African anarchist groups from the 1990s on the question of national liberation struggles: critical engagement and intervention, in solidarity and in order to influence, national liberation struggles. More on this issue here. For another key text, here. The text below is Alfredo M. Bonanno’s Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle, … Continue reading [reference points]:”Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle” (Alfredo Bonanno)

[reference points]: “Against Imperialism: International Solidarity and Resistance” (Endless Struggle #12, 1990, Vancouver)

The text below was an important influence on the position taken by the main South African anarchist groups from the 1990s on the question of national liberation struggles: critical engagement and intervention, in solidarity and in order to influence, national liberation struggles. More on this issue here.

Against Imperialism: International Solidarity and Resistance

A Discussion on Anti-Imperialism, National Liberation Struggles, & Extending Social Struggles to an International Level of Resistance

Endless Struggle #12, Spring/Summer 1990, Vancouver, pp. 13-15, 24

PDF here, text below.

(Credit for text mark-up: SB, JF).

“It is our opinion that our failing to have any significant presence in the reality of present day struggles is largely due to complacency & lack of up to date analysis of problems in an increasingly complex social structure” (Bratach Dubh collective, intro. to Anarchism & the National Liberation Struggle, by Alfredo Bonanno)

The following article was part of a discussion on International Solidarity & Revolutionary Resistance presented at the Regional Anarchist Gathering held in Jan.26-29/90 in Vancouver, Canada.

The first half of this article is a brief introduction to the historical development of imperialism, including the rise to dominance of US capital in the global economic order. The second half discusses national liberation struggles, their contradictions & limitations, & an anarchist perspective to these struggles. It certainly isn’t definitive in total, but we hope it provides a starting point for discussion. A lot hasn’t been analysed, such as the present global economic thrust towards mobility in production, significant changes in capitalist production (i.e. technology, flexibility), & the relationship between these factors & the class struggle in the advanced capitalist countries corresponding with the national liberation struggles. It is beyond the scope of this article to fully address these, nevertheless, if anarchist or autonomist struggles are to have any impact, a complete re-assessment of our analysis & methods is necessary. Developing this means addressing ourselves to an analysis against capital- something which this article also mentions.

 Anarchists tend to reduce anarchism to mere anti-statism or opposition to authority, a superficial & all encompassing “anti-authoritarian blanket” draped over all social struggles. Instead of extending an analysis to patriarchal & capitalist exploitation, which by its nature demands an international struggle, anarchists have restricted their perspective (if at all) to the most blatant products of this: sometimes in the “life-stylist” approach by boycotting multinationals, at other times in the pursuit of “alternative economic communities”. Capitalism is acknowledged, but only as some kind of background setting with no specific structures or conditions. When the Economic Summit of the G-7 (the seven leading industrial countries consisting of the US, Canada, Japan, W. Germany, Britain, France & Italy) was held in Toronto in June /88, the movements lack of anti-capitalist analysis was clear: “Protesting the 7 leaders is somewhat of a red herring, seeing as it’s not just these 7 who are the problem, but all leaders & capitalism itself” (from Ecomedia Toronto, our emphasis). In this, the world economic order, dominated primarily by US capitalism, & its structures the IMF & World Bank, in which the G7 maintain dominant positions, is reduced to a problem of “leaders” & “capitalism” remains as something lurking in the background. The article continues on, making the point of resistance a question of who controls the streets rather than one of who maintains the levels of exploitation: “But many anarchists came out to support the days actions because the issue turned from one of protesting the leaders to… reclaiming the streets of our city, which have been blocked off for us for the length of the Summit”.

This is a reflection of the fact that most anarchists don’t see various social struggles (ecological, anti-sexism, anti-racism) as having a basis in class struggle. But this isn’t to say that these social struggles are irrelevant or secondary to the class struggle, as some Marxists (as well as some anarchists) do, but rather the opposite: these social struggles make up the basis of the class struggle. In the minds of those who delegate these social struggles to a secondary position it is commonly argued that capital Continue reading “[reference points]: “Against Imperialism: International Solidarity and Resistance” (Endless Struggle #12, 1990, Vancouver)”

A few notes on the question of national liberation struggle in 1990s South African anarchism and syndicalism

One of the key issues that the re-emergent anarchist and syndicalist current in South Africa in the early 1990s had to face was the fact of national liberation struggle against apartheid. This was no “pure” class struggle. How should it relate? Two views were present in the English-speaking anarchist milieu of the time, then dominated by US and UK publications. One was purism, which basically … Continue reading A few notes on the question of national liberation struggle in 1990s South African anarchism and syndicalism

1997 march on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)

The Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) was actively involved in the student struggle, often participating in actions by the South African Students Congress (SASCO) or the Socialist Student Action Committee (later, Socialist Worker Students, later Keep Left). Below is a newsclipping of a regional SASCO march in Gauteng, in which WSF participated. That did not mean uncritical support for … Continue reading 1997 march on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)

Nigerian, Sierra Leone and South African anarchist and syndicalist links in the 1990s

The 1990s upsurge of anarchism found one expression in South Africa, where the anarchist and syndicalist tradition re-emerged after a break of decades. But this was not unique in English-using African countries. A substantial section of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was formed among diamond miners in Sierra Leone, but destroyed in the country’s ongoing civil war in 1997, leading members ending up … Continue reading Nigerian, Sierra Leone and South African anarchist and syndicalist links in the 1990s

Factoria, Sizovuka, “The General Approach of Anarchists/Syndicalists to the United Front and NUMSA” (2015)

The General Approach of Anarchists/Syndicalists to the United Front and NUMSA

b1028by Jakes Factoria and Tina Sizovuka (ZACF)

FROM: Zabalaza number 14, from here

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:

What the UF will do, will depend on which perspectives win out in it. Our general anarchist/ syndicalist perspective is that the UF (as well as the unions, like the National union of Metalworkers of SA, NUMSA) should be (re)built, as far as possible, into a movement of counterpower, outside and against the state and capital.

This means UF structures and affiliates should be developed into radical, democratic structures (in the workplaces and in communities) that can fight now against the ruling class, and that can eventually take power, directly. The UF should be (re)built into a direct action-based, direct democratic-structured movement for anarchist revolution. That means building structures in communities (street and ward committees and assemblies) that can replace municipalities, and developing the unions in the workplaces (through shopstewards committees and assemblies) into structures that can take over and run workplaces. This is not such a foreign concept in recent South African history: NUMSA’s predecessor, MAWU, was involved in the movement for “people’s power”, which took many steps in this direction during the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s.

For this to happen, a second step is needed: mass movements like UF and unions must be infused with a revolutionary counterculture. This means the masses are won over through anarchist political education, which is partly about building up the confidence and ability of workers and poor people to run society, including the understanding amongst the majority, that the tasks ahead are bigger Continue reading “Factoria, Sizovuka, “The General Approach of Anarchists/Syndicalists to the United Front and NUMSA” (2015)”

Payn, “NUMSA and the ‘United Front Against Neoliberalism’” (2014)

NUMSA and the ‘United Front Against Neoliberalism’ By Jonathan Payn Part 1 in a series of four articles on the concept and history of the United Front This article first appeared in Workers World News The resolution adopted by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) to form a ‘United Front against neoliberalism’ – as well as its decision not to endorse the … Continue reading Payn, “NUMSA and the ‘United Front Against Neoliberalism’” (2014)

Payn,” ‘Xenophobia’, service delivery protest and government failure: The case of Thembelihle” (2015)

‘Xenophobia’, service delivery protest and government failure: The case of Thembelihle

Jonathan Payn

Like in 2008, the recent wave of anti-immigrant violence and looting of foreign-owned stores that followed King Zwelithini’s statement that foreigners must “pack their bags and leave” quickly spread to cities and townships across the country. Unlike other places in Johannesburg, however, there were no reports of xenophobic violence in Thembelihle and, although the violence spread to numerous parts of Soweto in 2008, this adjacent township was unaffected then too. This article, based on an interview with an activist from the Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC), looks at how working class self-organisation and solidarity helped curb or prevent the outbreak of xenophobic attacks and attempts to draw lessons for preventing future attacks.

xenophobicattacks.jpg

When anti-foreigner looting and violence broke out after a 14-year-old boy was shot dead in Soweto on January 19 this year while looting a foreign-owned store activists from the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, fearing that looting and violence would spill over from Soweto into the neighbouring township, went into action to try and prevent this from happening. First, they went around to the foreign-owned stores and called the owners to a meeting on the Wednesday following the shooting in Soweto to appeal to them to attend a mass meeting called by the TCC for the Sunday to explain to the community

Continue reading “Payn,” ‘Xenophobia’, service delivery protest and government failure: The case of Thembelihle” (2015)”

Payn, “Class Struggle, ‘Xenophobia’ and the Local Elite” (2015)

Class Struggle, ‘Xenophobia’ and the Local Elite

Jonathan Payn

First published in Workers World News

The xenophobic violence and looting following King Zwelithini’s statement that foreigners “pack their bags and leave” spread to cities and townships across the country. However, the recent attacks are not an isolated incident; nor is Zwelithini solely responsible for fomenting it. Local elites – particularly those linked to the ruling party – also encourage anti-immigrant attitudes and actions. This article, based on discussions with Abahlali baseFreedom Park activists, looks at how local elites stimulate ‘xenophobia’ to protect their class interests, as well as how progressive working class activists have responded.

Xenophobia and local elites

Freedom Park is among few townships where development is underway; Continue reading “Payn, “Class Struggle, ‘Xenophobia’ and the Local Elite” (2015)”

Payn, “United Working Class Action and the Workers’ Council Movement in Germany, 1920-1923” (2014)

United Working Class Action and the Workers’ Council Movement in Germany, 1920-1923

Jonathan Payn

First published in issue 88 of Workers World News

Part 4 in a series of articles on the concept and history of united fronts.

A “revolutionary alternative from below” that was not quite to be but holds pertinent lessons for movements today.

In 1919, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) organised the suppression of workers that, together with soldiers, had overthrown the German imperial government in the 1918-1919 German Revolution and brought an end to the First World War. The SPD restored capitalist and state power but, despite being brutally repressed by the SPD, the German working class continued to struggle against the government until 1923.

Right-wing forces also wanted to oust the SPD-led government, recapture direct state control and reverse the results of the Revolution.

United action against the Kapp Putsch

In March, 1920, right-wing military forces occupied Germany’s capital, Berlin, under the leadership of Wolfgang Kapp and the SPD-led government fled. All left parties, excluding the KPD (German Communist Party), called for a general strike to counter the coup and defend democracy. Soon, the strike had spread across the country.

Continue reading “Payn, “United Working Class Action and the Workers’ Council Movement in Germany, 1920-1923” (2014)”

Payn, “Anti-militarist United Fronts and Italy’s ‘Red week’, 1914” (2014)

Anti-militarist United Fronts and Italy’s “Red Week”, 1914

Jonathan Payn

First published in issue 87 of Workers World News

Part 2 in a series of articles on the concept and history of the United Front.

The United Front tactic – aimed at uniting masses of workers in action and winning Communist leadership for the working class – was adopted as policy by the Communist International (Comintern) in 1921 and will be discussed later in this series. However, there are important examples of working class unity in action which predate Comintern policy and bear relevance to the united fronts discussion. One often-cited example is the united front to defend the gains of the February Revolution from a military coup in Russia in 1917, which will be discussed in the next article in this series.

Before looking at this, however, there is another example of proletarian unity in action – that didn’t seek to win Communist leadership – which warrants attention; that of a revolutionary worker-peasant alliance. This conception of united front action found expression in Italy’s anti-militarist “red blocs” and it is to these that we now turn.

Prelude to Rebellion
In the early 1900s, there was strong worker and peasant opposition to Italian colonialism and military involvement in Eritrea, Abyssinia and Libya, and to the repression of the Italian working class by the state’s armed forces. Continue reading “Payn, “Anti-militarist United Fronts and Italy’s ‘Red week’, 1914” (2014)”

Payn, “The 1917 Russian Revolution and United Front” (2014)

The 1917 Russian Revolution and United Front

Jonathan Payn

First published in issue 88 of Workers World News

Part 3 in a series of articles on the concept and history of the United Front.

In the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolshevik Party, together with other revolutionaries, overthrew the Provisional Government established in February and – together, initially, with left Social Revolutionaries – seized power. How did the Bolsheviks – a minority just eight months earlier, when the February Revolution overthrew the Tsar and established the Provisional Government – come to power so quickly? How did this small force emerge from relative obscurity to win large sections of the working class to its programme and take power? Herein lies the root and essence of United Front policy in a traditional Marxist sense.

Soviet Democracy and Revolution in February
During the February Revolution, workers, peasants and soldiers spontaneously rose up and seized land and factories throughout Russia establishing workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils – mass democratic organs of working class counter-power. These councils, known as soviets, elected their own delegates and had representatives from different political tendencies from (reformist) Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries to (revolutionary) anarchists and Bolsheviks. Through the soviets workers co-ordinated strikes and other forms of struggle, using them to govern themselves as a class. They were, in effect, united fronts organised from below by the working masses in pursuit of specific demands: food, land, democratic reforms and an end to the war.

In a few short weeks the Tsar, whose family had ruled Russia for generations,

Continue reading “Payn, “The 1917 Russian Revolution and United Front” (2014)”

Maponyane, “Our War Cry is “We Have Had Enough” (ZACF, TAAC) (2017)

OUR WAR CRY IS “WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH” Bongani Maponyane (ZACF/ TAAC) 13 July 2017 Recent repression in South Africa, like the sentencing of four protestors from Boiketlong township to 16 years in jail for alleged violence, shows what we face. The black working class is victimised and unfairly charged. This is due to the fights and popular unrest in township communities, against unfair, corrupt, … Continue reading Maponyane, “Our War Cry is “We Have Had Enough” (ZACF, TAAC) (2017)