2001: Leninism versus anarchism in “NUMSA Bulletin” (South Africa)

A bit of an oddity: an anarchist text in a 2000s publication by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). NUMSA has a (deserved) reputation as a radical unions, but while its roots lie in the anti-capitalist and anti-nationalist “workerist” tradition of the 1980s, by the mid-1990s the union was firmly aligned to the South African Communist Party (SACP) and defined itself as Marxist-Leninist. Its regular magazine in the 1990s and 2000s was the NUMSA Bulletin, which included sophisticated debates on theory and policy. It was surprising to find in this magazine — in the midst of series on socialist theory, dominated with expositions of SACP theory  — a 2001 piece on “Organisations for Socialism: introducing a debate” which gave anarchism a platform. The piece opened by noting that “since its birth, the working class movement has debated intensely, the question of organisations most appropriate to bring about socialism,” then contrasted anarcho-syndicalist conceptions and party-centred views, and then recalled that “Rosa Luxemburg in her 1904 pamphlet, Organisational questions of Russian Social Democracy, took issue with Lenin’s ‘ultra-centralism.'” The body of the text was Grigori Zinoviev’s 1920 speech to the Comintern on “the centrality of the party in a socialist revolution,” followed by “an anarchist critique of the Leninist model of organisation.” This was not a Marxist-Leninist  caricature, but a reprint of a solid critique by leading contemporary Scottish anarchist writer Iain McKay (it was taken from a then-current version of his online Anarchist FAQ – specifically from a section refuting Marxist critiques). The introduction even hoped “that the two articles will spark a debate on the forms of organisation appropriate for the current period,” and raise issues like “the role of unions in the struggle for socialism,” and “the role of other working class structures, such as political parties, soviets, factory committees, co-operatives and civics in the road to socialism” (it also, however, promised to “to publish a Marxist-Leninist critique of anarchism in the next edition of Numsa Bulletin).

Get a PDF of the text here

Thanks to cde “SL” for drawing this to our attention some years back!

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