WSF, 1996/ 1997/ 1999, “What is Anarchism? A South African Anarchist Pamphlet” (and variants and spin-offs)

This text was published by the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) in South Africa in the late 1990s The first edition appeared in 1996. The 1997 version (2nd edition) was then reissued by the WSF successor organisations, the Bikisha Media Collective (BMC) and Zabalaza Books in 2003 in the current format. It is not clear what changes, if any, were made in 2003. The cover  is an image of two comrades at the 2001 WCAR protests in Durban. There was a 1997 spin-off called Only the Workers can Free the Workers, a 1998 one, Breaking the Chains: A History Of Libertarian Socialism in 1998, and then a 1999 (3rd) edition,  What is Anarcho-syndicalism? (see below).

The 1997 text placed a heavy emphasis on South African issues, and included extensive South African perspectives on student movements, the unemployed, imperialism, race in South Africa, the issue of trade union reform, and so on. It also included some material on “anarchism in action”in Russia and Spain. The 1997/ 2003 text is currently still in print by Zabalaza Books, as well as by Black Cat Press in North America: see here. The text drew some sections drew directly on a 1980s pamphlet by the Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) in Ireland, to which WSF was closely linked. But it added extensive South African material, and also expanded the “anarchism in action” part.

Meanwhile, a shorter variant was published in 1997 (also reissued by BMC and Zabalaza Books in 2003), as Only the Workers can Free the Workers, which is available here. An expanded 3rd edition was written by Lucien van der Walt,  now called What is Anarcho-syndicalism?, for the February 1999 WSF conference. This was notable for providing a greatly expanded and global history: the discussions of Spain and Russia were now just part of a larger story starting with the movement’s orgins in the First International, with material on the 1880s, the rise of syndicalism globally from 1890s, discussions of the 1920s and 1930s, and the movement after 1945, as well as thematic discussions  of the history of anarchism and syndicalism in fights against imperialism, women’s oppression and racism. A longer version of the history, by the same author. was issued by the “WSF National Secretariat” as Breaking the Chains: A History Of Libertarian Socialism in 1998, later expanded into books etc.

Get the PDF of the 1997 text here. Note that the text was found at the Zabalaza Books website, which has materials going back to the 1990s, and is located here. Note that is a PDF, and laid out in a format designed to be printed out as a folded, stapled A5 pamphlet.

Get the 1998 Breaking the Chains: A History Of Libertarian Socialism here.

Get the 1999 text here. This is the Word version recovered from older discs and may not be the 100% final version.

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