“Revolutionary Organisations” – ARM / Backstreet Abortions distro – 1994

This pamphlet is a reprint of chapter 7 of Unfinished Business: the politics of Class War, a book published in 1992 by Britain’s Class War Federation in conjunction with AK Press. It takes an openly Platformist approach  to the question of anarchist organisation, which was a major reason why the pamphlet was produced by people associated with the class struggle wing of the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) in Johannesburg. The pamphlet, described as the 1994 South African edition, used as its distribution address/ contact point the (unfortunately named) “Backstreet Abortions” Distribution,  also associated with ARM at the time.   As with other materials issued at the time, production values were pretty low.

The Class War Federation was well known among South African anarchists for its tabloid-style paper Class War, which was locally circulated, as was the the Class War compilation edited by Ian Bone, Alan Pullen and Tim Scargill, entitled Class War: a decade of disorder (Verso, 1991).  The Federation deeply impressed the class struggle wing of ARM, as well as its immediate predecessors. For instance a Class War poster, showing a burning police car and captioned “Our Contribution to Global Warming,” was the cover image for the one-off South African anarchist paper Revolt.  Class War’s forthright opposition to liberal reformism, lifestylism, and orthodox Marxism, its stress on working class power and struggle, and its clear writing  struck a powerful cord; so did its ability to reach large numbers of people.  Although it is now clear that not all of Class War members agreed with Unfinished Business, and that the Federation was not very Platformist in practice, the Federation’s impact on what would become the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) should not be underestimated.

ARM - Revolutionary Organisations

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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 have long been 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 or published 100s of papers conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 4 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and produced five books. 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. My books includd include 'Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives' (2018, co-edited with Kirk Helliker), 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' and '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).