Labour history Group (1984), “Organising at the Cape Town Docks”

This 1984 text, Organising at the Cape Town Docks, is notable for its discussion of the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of Africa in Cape Town from the late 1910s, and its links to the rise of the massive Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU). The ICU was influenced by syndicalism (among other things).

Get the PDF here.

A Xhosa translation, Abasebenzi Basedokisini Ekapa, can be found here.

Organising at the Cape Town Docks was produced by the “Labour History Group” based in Cape Town. The Group issued a series of pamphlets on the history of the working class in South Africa in the early 1980s, covering the period from the 1910s into the 1970s.  The focus was on trade union history: presented in a clear, simple style, their accessibility was increased by translation from the English originals into Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu (with a few planned for Sotho). This was a project in historical memory: arming the wave of radical unions that surged from 1973 onward, with knowledge of its past and lessons for its future. Such publications were part of the great upsurge of popular and working class struggles from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, when a flourishing alternative media and network of radical education centres complemented and was part of mass movements.

The “Labour History Group” authors were not named although in hindsight its possible to make some shrewd guesses for specific texts. This text was probably written by anti-apartheid activist Debbie Budlender, who wrote a thesis roughly on the same issues, with the same arguments, as the pamphlet’s.

 

Labour History Group, 1984, “Abasebenzi Basedokisini Ekapa” (Xhosa translation of “Organising at the Cape Town Docks”)

The “Labour History Group” based in Cape Town issued a series of pamphlets on the history of the working class in South Africa — more precisely, on some notable events in trade union history. For more on this group and its context, see here.

This particular pamphlet, entitled Abasebenzi Basedokisini Ekapa is a Xhosa translation of Organising at the Cape Town Docks, which you can read here.  It is of especial interest for its discussion of the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of Africa in Cape Town from the late 1910s, and the rise of the massive Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU), which was influenced by syndicalism (among other things).

Get the PDF here.

 

 

 

“Social Blunder” zine #5 (1990)

There was a fairly substantial zine scene in late 1980s South Africa around the largely white (and Indian) punk and hardcore scene.  Some zines invoked “anarchism” or its symbols, but most were subcultural, devoted to music, tape swapping and “scene” reports and personalities. Almost none discussed anarchism in any real way, or tried to concretely link it to South Africa’s burning class and national questions. Political issues tended to dealt with at an abstract level — individual freedom, dislike of the universal military conscription applied to young white men, a nominal anti-racism — beyond environmental and animal rights issues.

Social Blunder, produced by two Indian brothers, HG and NG, in Lenasia township, south of Soweto,  was the great exception. It was overtly anarchist, class struggle and political, and wanted punk to be a source of genuine rebellion, issue #5 asking whether it was to be a trendy “safety pin routine” or a “real punk revolution” with “real anarchist bands” “speaking out against the never ending list of social problems and crimes against mankind and the environment?… Where today are the anarchist workshops? … militant youths with more than just a circled A on thier [sic.] backs?”  It is not surprising that HG would co-found the radical Azanian Anarchist Alliance / AAA in 1991, which probably the first organised anarchist group the country had seen in decades (more on AAA here).

Get the PDF of issue #5 of Social Blunder here (large file).