“South African Anarchists Organise” – from “Workers Solidarity” (Ireland) no. 47, 1996

“South African Anarchists Organise” – from “Workers Solidarity” (Ireland) no. 47, 1996
In 1989 one of the first anarchist organisations in modern African history came into existence.  This was the Awareness League of Nigeria.  The AL had a membership of over 1000 people at the time of its formation and, despite the severe repression in that country, it has continued to function as one of the organisations fighting the military dictatorship there.

Now a further organisation has begun to work for the objective of anarchism in Africa – this is the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) of South Africa.  The WSF was formed in 1994 and it publishes a newspaper called Workers Solidarity.

The first issue of this paper contains major articles on Anarchism, the Student Struggles in South Africa, the current situation in Nigeria and the recent local elections in South Africa.  In a short article on the 1994 General Election the WSF note that the election – and the formal ending of apartheid – was a massive advance for the struggle in South Africa allowing for freedom of association and speech for the right to strike and protest.

Further on, however, they warn that the legacy of apartheid is still with us.  2.3 million South Africans suffer from malnutrition.  Only 45% live in houses.  Only 2 out of every 10 Africans finish school At the same time, 5% of the population own 80% of the wealth.  The WSF notes that the ANC government has set itself very limited goals to redress this.

The WSF is, at this stage, a very young organisation.  Yet, its very existence at this time in South Africa is proof positive that anarchist ideas are growing again as an important force on the left.  Anarchists and socialists everywhere will wish them the very best.  The WSF can be contacted at PO Box 1717, Rosettenville, Joburg 2130, South Africa.  Please send a donation if you want a copy of their paper, Workers Solidarity.


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).