“Revolutionary Trade Unionism: road to workers freedom” – ca. 1997 – Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF)

A leaflet written by the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF), for union activists. It takes a generally pro-trade union line but argues that the existing unions must be reformed to be more democratic structurally, and more revolutionary, ideologically. In effect, it advocated transforming the existing unions into unions on anarcho-syndicalist lines, as vehicles for a current battles, as well as a final showdown in the form of a revolutionary general strike. Another version here.

As the contact details showed, the WSF was now active both in Johannesburg and Durban. It’s lively Durban branch would play a growing role in the production of pamphlets and posters, especially in the Zulu language.


Revolutionary Unionism cover

Get the PDF here


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,' 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).