Interview: Lucien van der Walt, 2010, on Johannesburg anarchism, Wits 2001, NEHAWU, Anti-Privatisation Forum

Interview from the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) archives,  created by Dale McKinley, held at the South African History Archive (SAHA), at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. In this interview Lucien van der Walt talks about his background, the anarchist and left movement in Johannesburg in the 1990s and 2000s, and experiences in the APF, a major coalition of post-apartheid movements founded in 2000. He also draws some lessons … Continue reading Interview: Lucien van der Walt, 2010, on Johannesburg anarchism, Wits 2001, NEHAWU, Anti-Privatisation Forum

1993: “The Fire Next Time: Lessons of the Los Angeles (LA) Uprising”

This was an introduction written by Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg in early 1994 for an U.S.-originated pamphlet called No Justice, No Peace: An Eyewitness Account of the Los Angeles Riots. The 1992 riots followed the Rodney King case and — while cast in the media as a “race riot” — involved large numbers of Hispanic and white … Continue reading 1993: “The Fire Next Time: Lessons of the Los Angeles (LA) Uprising”

[Archived webpage]: The Workers’ Library and Museum (Johannesburg)

Previous posts have looked at the Workers’ Library and Museum (WLM) in Newtown, Johannesburg, and mentioned the role of anarchists (mainly, Bikisha Media Collective) in it from the late 1990s into the early 2000s: see here. The WLM webpage from those days is long gone, but happily, there is a navigable snapshot of it here (off-site).     Continue reading [Archived webpage]: The Workers’ Library and Museum (Johannesburg)

VIDEO: The Newtown power complex before the Workers Library and Museum

There is an interesting video, captured from a VHS, from a report on the TV station M-Net, on the Newtown power complex in what looks like the late 1980s. The Newtown power complex, in downtown Johannesburg, was the site of the old municipal power station. It was all but abandoned by the late 1980s: the state of the building attests to this, and so does … Continue reading VIDEO: The Newtown power complex before the Workers Library and Museum

Repost: “Notes and posters from the Workers’ Library & Museum that was…”

Several posts on the history of the Workers Library and Museum (WLM) and the role of anarchists in this body in the late 1990s and early 2000s can be found on this site: see here. There is an interesting account of this period by a one-time member of the Bikisha Media Collective (BMC) here (off-site link). Continue reading Repost: “Notes and posters from the Workers’ Library & Museum that was…”

22 January 1998: Email from WSF requesting solidarity against repression in Zimbabwe

The Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) actively tried to build links with Zimbabwe, providing a free subscription of its paper Workers Solidarity to the library at the University of Zimbabwe (then still the site of a radical student movement), sending copies for sale at the late, lamented Grassroots  Books in Harare, and doing its best to distribute its analyses of the Zimbabwean situation to activists in … Continue reading 22 January 1998: Email from WSF requesting solidarity against repression in Zimbabwe

Early 1990s reading groups — and “Vrye Weekblad”

The early 1990s saw a new interest in anarchism in South Africa, one expression of which was the emergence of reading and discussion groups. Elsewhere this site collects materials from the reading groups associated with a wing of the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM). But there was certainly some such groups in Durban. There was also reportedly a group around this time at Stellenbosch, among young … Continue reading Early 1990s reading groups — and “Vrye Weekblad”

[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

“Education is a Right, Not a Privilege!”: WSF leaflet for university struggles (1997)

This was issued by the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), in early 1997, and condemned proposed cuts by the state to public universities.  It holds up very well: 20 years onwards, the university system is underfunded, marked by job insecurity and outsourcing, and substantial exclusion of black working class students. The division between historically advantaged (“white”) and historically disadvantaged … Continue reading “Education is a Right, Not a Privilege!”: WSF leaflet for university struggles (1997)

WSF poster for 1997 meeting: “What are the Origins of May Day?” (24 April 1997)

Talk was at the University  of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) was active. WSF was the direct predecessor of today’s Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF). Continue reading WSF poster for 1997 meeting: “What are the Origins of May Day?” (24 April 1997)