WSF poster for 1997 meeting: “What’s ‘Left’? Is there an Alternative to Capitalism Today? An Introduction to the politics of the WSF” (13 February 1997)

Talk was at the University  of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) was active. This was a public meeting for new members / supporters and for other interested people. WSF was the direct predecessor of today’s Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF).

 

 

WSF, 1997, “Only the Workers can Free the Workers: A South African Anarchist Pamphlet”

This text was published by the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) in South Africa in 1997, and is a shorter version of What is Anarchism? A South African Anarchist Pamphlet: author of both was Lucien van der Walt: details here. The emphasis was on South African issues, and accessible writing. It was republished in 2003 in its current format by WSF successor groups, the Bikisha Media Collective (BMC) and Zabalaza Books. It is not clear what changes, if any, were made in 2003.

Get the PDF here. This 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 text here. This is apparently the same text as the PDF (not checked).

There was also an Afrikaans translation of the pamphlet, for distribution in the Western Cape. It differs slightly from the English version, and presents itself as an introduction to the WSF in the title and in the opening. Its in a PDF here and in text here.

 

 

 

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 What is Anarcho-syndicalism? here. This is the Word version recovered from older discs and may not be the 100% final version.

WSF (1999): “Libertarian Socialism (Anarchism): What we Believe – Libertarian Socialism and Workers Control”

WSF (1999): “Libertarian Socialism (Anarchism): What we Believe – Libertarian Socialism and Workers Control”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

The WSF is founded on the basic principle that the Working Class (the workers, the unemployed, ordinary soldiers, and the families of these groups) must FIGHT the bosses and politicians and top government officials. The society we live in is based on the rich exploiting the poor.

The rich – the bosses and politicians and top officials – live off the sweat of the Working Class. The rich are what we call the Ruling Class. Together they RULE the country. Your vote means nothing. The real decisions are made by the Ruling Class. The government is not a democratic structure Continue reading

WSF (1999): “International Struggles” (Russia – Workers Sieze & Run Factory/ Korean Workers Stop Retrenchments Through Mass Strike”

International Struggles

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

 

RUSSIA – WORKERS SIEZE & RUN FACTORY

RUSSIA after the fall of the USSR state capitalist dictatorship that pretended to be communist has become a group of private capitalist kingdoms run by a series of Mafia thugs where extreme fascist parties flourish and the ordinary people get poorer by the day. The workers and the poor are suffering under an International Monetary Fund plan that slashes social funding while giving the exploiters a free hand. Even people with jobs don’t get paid for months on end.

Last year, massive strikes, lead by miners, virtually shut down the entire country. Another rose among the thorns is the revival of the libertarian socialist (anarchist) movement and the tradition of true soviets (workers’ councils) which the Bolsheviks believed they had crushed forever in 1921. But the Russian secret police, the FSB, heirs to the feared KGB, have been cracking down on anarchist activists in Moscow and Krasnodar, Continue reading

WSF (1999): “Zimbabwe Unions to Launch Workers Party: Is This the Way Forward?”

WSF (1999): “Zimbabwe Unions to Launch Workers Party: Is This the Way Forward?”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

It was announced in March 1999 that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is planning to launch a workers party to contest the 2000 elections. According to the announcement, the unions want a “strong and vigorous political party that could address these issues affecting us”. Clearly, this party is designed to intervene primarily in elections.

Workers Solidarity magazine has always covered the Zimbabwe workers’ movement in detail because we admire and respect the struggles of our fellow workers against hardships, the war in the Congo (costing 6 milion Zim dollars a day), and the repressive Mugabe regime. In March 1998, the unions organised a two-day stay-away against VAT. In August, September and October 1998, there were general strikes on a weekly basis against rises in the fuel price.

When DRC dictator Laurent Kabila arrived in early November 1998, he had to be protected from the working class with riot cops.The country is in a deep crisis — it is here that the working class must act to win a decent future: land, bread and peace.

SOCIALISM

The call for a workers political party reflects the growing power of the working class. It is quite clear that the unions are strong enough to launch a mass party that could win the elections. However, is a workers party the way forward in Zimbabwe?

We do believe in the importance of workers having political organisations to fight for socialism. In our view, the role of a revolutionary political organisation is to win the leadership of ideas: to win the majority of workers to the struggle for workers control, land and freedom. Won to such a programme, the working class can make the revolution through its mass organisations, such as the trade unions.

ELECTIONS?

However, the ZCTU’s proposed party is seen simply as an electioneering organisation, Continue reading

WSF (1999): “Reclaim Our Unions! No! to the ‘Checkoff'”

WSF (1999): “Reclaim Our Unions! No! to the ‘Checkoff'”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

WHAT IS THE “CHECKOFF”?

The checkoff system is the system where the bosses act as bankers for the union by taking union fees out of our wages and handing them over to the union. This is “protected” in the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

WHY “NO!” TO THE CHECKOFF

The checkoff system is a sign of the present position of the unions and their relationship with the bosses. Firstly, the checkoff breaks direct contact between union members in the workplace and the union officials. Secondly, it makes the union seem more like an outside thing that we hire, rather than our own organisation that we take part in and control and thirdly, it involves management in internal relationships that are none of its business.

If union treasurers receive money from the company for fees collected by checkoff, they might be more worried about the happiness of the company than our happiness

When we pay our fees, how do we know Continue reading

WSF (1999): “Your Boss Is A Killer! Figures Show 3 People a Day Die in Work-related Accidents”

WSF (1999): “Your Boss Is A Killer! Figures Show 3 People a Day Die in Work-related Accidents”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

Figures show that 3 people die every day from accidents at work. This is according to the Department of Labour. Yet this same Department does nothing to stop this slaughter on the shop-floor. It just turns a blind eye.

In 1997, 863 workers died at work.  666 workers lost an arm or a leg. 1606 workers had bones broken. 1 out of 4 workers injured were so badly hurt that they were off work for 4 weeks or more. In 1993, more than 22 million person-days were lost at work due to accidents – this is 5 times more days than were lost to strike action. These figures are too low. Many more accidents do not get reported.

Also, these figures do not include injuries from the mines. Up to 50,000 workers have died on the mines in the last 80 years. Also, the figures do not include ailments that take longer to show up, such as the effects of exposure to poisons at work over a long period.

The bosses are criminals! These figures are from the Department of Labour’s (DoL)own reports. The DoL also admits that most accidents involving machinery are due to “failure by management to ensure the correct operational procedures being applied to workers”.

But the DoL is not going to help us workers. In fact, in 1996, prosecutions for breaking health and safety laws fell by 66%. There are only 93 inspectors to enforce health and safety regulations in the whole country. Even where these inspectors find infringements of the law, they usually do not take further action. The worst that happens in a first offence is usually that a letter is sent to the boss in question asking him or her to obey the law. We should have no illusions in the Department of labour. It pretends to be a friend to the workers but is in fact a supporter of the bosses.

We must ORGANISE OR DIE! – only through strong unions can we challenge the slaughter on the shop-floor by fighting for better conditions.

Your boss is a health hazard! Health before profits! Organise or die!

WSF (1999): “Victory! BTR-SARMCOL Workers Win 13-year Battle”

WSF (1999): “Victory! BTR-SARMCOL Workers Win 13-year Battle”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

ON MAY DAY 1985, workers at the BTR-Sarmcol rubber factory at Howick outside Maritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, embarked on a wildcat strike. The following day, the bosses fired all 970 strikers, members of the then Metal and Allied Workers Union, which was not recognised by plant management. And so began the longest and one of the bloodiest labour battles in South African history. The community of Mophomeni was torn apart by the resulting conflict between strikers and the scabs hired by management to replace them. Since 1985, 39 people have been killed in fighting related to the dismissals. The dispute came at a very dangerous time in the province, when the first Inkatha units were returning from secret death-squad training in the Caprivi Strip in Namibia. The IFP-ANC battle for the heartland was about to begin and the laid-off workers at Mophomeni were in the thick of things.

SHOP-STEWARDS MURDERED

In December 1985, MAWU chief shop-steward Phineas Sibiya, a key Continue reading

WSF (1999): “Fight Privatisation”

WSF (1999): “Fight Privatisation”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

Privatisation is the policy of the ANC government and is organised by ministers such as Stella Sigcua, who has promised that the process will speed up. In the middle of August, Minister of Public enterprises, Stella Sigcau, said that privatisation must go faster in South Africa. She says that the big government-owned companies must be sold to big business companies.

The government companies that are going to be sold include

* ISCOR (iron and steel)
* ESKOM (electricity)
* Post Office
* Railways
* Sun Air
* Water services
* Government services like ambulances.
* Egoli 2000– government services in Johannesburg are set to be privatised by ANC.

Workers must fight privatisation because it means

* retrenchments and flexibility in privatised jobs

* It is not empowerment because it only helps the rich.

* cuts in social services (water, refuse collection, sewerage, electricity, trains etc.) to poor areas

Public sector unions are the key to fighting ANC’s privatisation plans. This requires trade union independence.

SAMWU: Fighting Privatisation In South Africa

In South Africa, the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) has been at the forefront of efforts to fight privatisation. SAMWU has managed to block the privatisation of refuse removal in Khayalitsha, Cape Town. It has also fought against privatisation in Nelspruit and on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast.

But every step of the way the union is being undermined by the ANC Continue reading

WSF (1999): “South African Labour Market Too Flexible, Says Report”

WSF (1999): “South African Labour Market Too Flexible, Says Report”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

The bosses and government always SA labour is highly protected. However, a recent report by the International Labour Organisation, which is part of the UN, says that despite advances in worker rights since parliamentary democracy came in 1994, our laws on firing workers and contract work and working conditions are more flexible than the international average, showing up the bosses’ lie that the SA labour market is too inflexible.

WSF (1999): “Strikewave! South African Labour Flexes its Muscles”

WSF (1999): “Strikewave! South African Labour Flexes its Muscles”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

1998 was a record-breaking year for strike activity in South Africa, and this year looks set to be even more active on the militant labour front.More than 3-million persondays – the highest figure since the 1994 elections – were lost to capitalist exploitation last year as a wave of industrial unrest swept the country. The year was characterised by long, intense and often violent strikes, despite calls by COSATU to settle the issues at stake as soon as possible so as not to scare off foreign investment. But as can be seen with the looming shutdown Continue reading