“Friend are you not a worker?” – T.W. Thibedi / IWA Leaflet, April 1919

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This Native Council is for all those who call themselves Country Workers.  Black African open your eyes, the time has come for you all who call themselves Country Workers that you should join and become members of your own Council. It is not to say that we workers stop you from joining any other Councils, but you must know what you are in the Country for (rich or poor). All workers are poor therefore they should have their own Council.

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Item 1: Friend are you not a worker?

Item 2: Is it not true that we Black People do every work in the country?

Item 3. If so why do you not become a member of the Industrial Workers of Africa?

Item 4. Why should all workers be pressed down by the rich where they all do the work of the Country?

Item 5: Why should you be kicked and spat at whilst working.

Item 6: How is it that you black workers asking for bread from the  Government as their children, are arrested and sent to gaol?

Item 7: O! Oh! Workers your children died in Gerinan East Africa and West. Others were drowned in the sea. Upon that you are still burdened and compelled to carry 100 (hundred) Passes in your father’s country.

Item 8: Workers come together and be united and join your own Native Council. Why are you afraid to become members of the Industrial Workers of Africa whilst you call yourself Workers?

Send your news and your adresses to:-

T.W. THIBEDI

P.O. Box 2972, JOHANNESBURG.


Industrial Workers of Africa leaflet, April 1919, by T.W. Thibedi. Thibedi was a leading figure in the International Socialist League (ISL) and the Industrial Workers of Africa syndicalist union.

Source: Baruch Hirson, 1988, “David Ivon Jones: the early writings on socialism in South Africa”, Searchlight South Africa, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 107

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About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014) and 'Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' (co-written with Michael Schmidt, AK Press 2009).