South African anarchist appeal and analysis – 1993

South African anarchist appeal and analysis - 1993

South African anarchist appeal and analysis published in Rebel Worker, magazine of the ASF, Australia, 1993

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Dear Comrades,

Greetings from South Africa. Recently we set in motion actions which will hopefully result in the formation of the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement which, to our knowledge, will be South Africa’s first anarchist organisation to operate in the open.Due to our severe lack of experience, we are sending out a plea for any form of aid we can receive. We urgently need advice, literature, and if possible, funds. We hope that you will be able to assist us or to put us in contact with someone who can.

We apologize for the impersonality of this letter, yet we feel that in order to obtain a reasonable response, it is best for us to contact as many groups as possible.

Thanking you in advance, yours in solidarity,

Renato and Elli,
outdated contact details removed

Following are our thoughts on South Africa:

Parhaps the most inluential of the developments has been the unbanning of certain political parties, among whom can be found movements as inramous as the African National Congress (A.N.C.).

Essentially the concept of free speech is relatively new in South Africa. The last 40 years have been dictated to us by the National Party. Everything from their Christian National Education policy to their secret police has been designed to suppress and oppress. It is only recently the cracks have begun to appear in their Armor. In all honesty they have at most another three or four years of power before disappearing like so many of their enemies mysteriously did.

As Anarchists they pose us little threat as we should in fact be looking ahead to the inevitable dictatorship which is to be conslructed by the African National Congress.

Right from the beginning the A.N.C. has made it crystal clear they will sell out both their ideals and supporters to obtain power. When the AN.C. first re-entered the political arena they openly allied themselves with the South African Communist Party. Once threatened with losing the support of big business they quickly embracsd capitalist ideals.

Today, while Mandela sits inside his $250,000 house and reminisces over his daughters recent $10,000 wedding, his “brothers” sleep in tin shacks. While they catch busses or walk 25 miles to work, he rides in one of his two Mercodes Benz’s…but that’s politicians for you. And that is truly who the A.N.C. is there for, money-grabbing megalomaniacs like Mandela.

Oddly enough recent revelations of A.N.C. torture camps have done litte to tarnish their image. ln all honesty they are the lesser of two evils but surely we deserve better.

So now the question arises, who else is there to represent the South African people in this farce some would call a democracy?

Surely not the ineffective stagnant liberal Democratic Party who represeent the free market ideals of the rich. If shove comes to shooting let’s hope we don’t have to turn to the extreme right Afrikaaner Weerstand Beweeging or their black counterparts the Azanian Peoples’ Liberation Army.

If ever there has been a need for an anarchist solution it is here in South Africa. However, massive problems face our movement. How do we break through to people of color who tend to distrust us? The National Party has ensured that this will be no easy task. Unfortunately, in the current political climate it is not possible for us to take our message onto the streets without facing prison terms on charges as ridiculous as treason. And then of course there are the problems of fundlng and our lack of knowledge. Even with all this against us we are hopeful that we will overcome in the long-run. If not, South Africa is destined to remain a puppet of the first world as conditions steadily deteriorate.


The appeal above appeared in a number of English-language newspapers in the West. It includes a basic analysis of South Africa in the transition period of the early 1990s. The authors (as the appeal indicates) would initiate a loose Johannesburg-based group called the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM). ARM lasted from 1993-1995. The remainder of the ARM founded the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) in April 1995, a Platformist group.

Source: Rebel Worker: paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, Sydney, Australia, vol. 12, no. 9 (108), Oct 1993, p. 12

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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).