Letter from Sam Mbah to WSF, 1999

Letter from the late Sam Mbah, of the now-defunct Nigerian anarcho-syndicalist formation, the Awareness League, to the South African-based Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF). Dated 12 April 1999, the letter  arrived in South Africa around the time the WSF was heading for dissolution. In the letter, the WSF was granted the right to republish Sam Mbah and IE. Igariwey’s classic text, the 1997 African Anarchism: the history of a movement (See Sharp, Tucson, USA); the letter also mentions a planned speaking tour of South Africa by Mbah (which fell through), and a proposed Pan-African Anarchist Conference in South Africa (including Africans from the diaspora). The WSF and the Awareness League always sought to build close ties, but these were primarily by post and, given unreliable services and serious repression in Nigeria, somewhat sporadic; email was not used, mainly because this was extrenely rare in Nigeria at the time.The 1990s WSF actively pursued links with other African anarchists and syndicalists, mainly in (officially) English-speaking countries: it had a section in Zambia, shipped materials to Zimbabwe;  regarding West Africa, had contacts with the Awareness League and a short-lived Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union amongst diamond miners in Sierra Leone (also in contact via post);it had some erratic contacts with Egypt. Mbah, sadly, passed away from heart problems in late 2014. By all accounts, the Awareness League disappeared in the 2000s,

Mbah’s letter is here



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).