“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).

Azanian Anarchist Alliance – undated -“Anarchy and Organisation: For all those that think anarchism is purely a personal thing”

This text, written in 1991 or 1992, was a response to people who viewed “anarchism” as a personal lifestyle choice and/ or opposed formal organisation. It argued that, on the contrary, “Anarchism is not just a way of living one’s life. It is the most radical espousal of total social revolution. Anarchists wish to create a society which is libertarian, classless and stateless… Anarchism begins when people organise to change the world…” The Azanian Anarchist Alliance favoured, instead, a revolutionary organisation, and also published some texts influenced by Platformism: Revolutionary Organisations (based on a chapter from Class War, Unfinished Business) and The Role of the Revolutionary Organisation (by the Anarchist Communist Federation) (see here).

Get the PDF of “Anarchy and Organisation” here (2 pages).

Azanian Anarchist Alliance – 8 August 1991 – “Boycott Unilever”

A leaflet (also printed as a poster) for an unsuccessful protest against Unilever, which was recruiting at the University of the Witwatersrand under the heading “Discover a New World at Unilever.” The print quality of the pamphlet is not very good. The boxes in the middle were sourced from a booklet included in the Chumbawumba album of 1986, Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, which exposed multi-national corporations (like Unilever), the aid industry and the oppression of the colonial and formerly colonial world. (Materials like this booklet were a major influence on the Azanian Anarchist Alliance / AAA).

Get the PDF here..

Some notes on the “Azanian Anarchist Alliance,” 1991-1993

The Azanian Anarchist Alliance (AAA) was a small group at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), in Johannesburg, South Africa, formed in 1991. It was probably the first organised anarchist group in the country in decades.

One of the founders, HG, co-published the radical zine Social Blunder with his brother NG, in the Indian townshipof  Lenasia, south of Soweto and Johannesburg. The group’s politics were a mix of class struggle, radical environmentalism, anti- apartheid and third worldism. The group tried to promote anarchism in various ways. On 8 August 1991, the group called an unsuccessful protest against Unilever, which was recruiting at Wits. That year it also published the pamphlets Anti-Mass, Sam Dolgoff’s Relevance of Anarchism to Modern Society, and Peggy Kornegger’s Anarchism: the Feminist Connection. These were typed up from the few compilations of anarchist texts available locally, and given short introductions in an effort to link them to South African conditions. In 1992, the AAA produced Revolt magazine: there was only one issue, but it was numbered as #2.

In 1992, EG and RL established the “Backstreet Abortions” distribution in Johannesburg, and produced the zine Internal Conflict. They were also linked to the 1994 zine No Sensation. “Backstreet Abortions” carried AAA pamphlets, these now including (besides those listed) Revolutionary Organisations (based on a chapter from Class War, Unfinished Business), Alfredo Bonnano’s  Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle (this was billed as a “South African edition,” with a long introduction added), the Anarchist Communist Federation text, The Role of the Revolutionary Organisation and Ten Days that Shook Iraq (a Council Communist-influenced text from the UK). Class War (or the Class war Federation) was a British group, as was the Anarchist Communist Federation: both groups had a huge influence on AAA, which had collected a fair number of their papers, Class War and Organise!

EG and RL initiated the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) in 1993, a loose group that shared the address of “Backstreet Abortions.” Around this time AAA was wrapped up.

Early 1990s: “Revolt,” “Unrest,” “Profane Existence” and the “AYF” information kit …

One of the first active anarchist formations in South Africa after 1990 was the small Johannesburg-Lenasia-based group around Revolt and later Unrest magazines (or “zines”), a group that at one stage styled itself the “Azanian Anarchist Alliance.” Both “zines” were one-offs (one issue only was published of each, despite the numbering on the covers …). As with other anarchist groups at the time, the overseas anarchist press was an important influence, mainly UK and USA papers like Black Flag, Class War, Love and Rage, Organise! for class struggle anarchism, and others.

Profane Existence, a “political punk” magazine from Minneapolis in the USA, also bears mention. Formed around 1989, the Profane Existence group’s publication provided (in the early 1990s), an important source of anarchist ideas, and had some affinities with the British group Class War (in at least one letter column controversy, the editors even described themselves as part of the Class War Federation). The collective was also linked to a Minneapolis section of “The Anarchist Youth Federation” (AYF, founded in 1988).  The AYF published material in Profane Existence, and provided an information packet to people interested in forming similar groups elsewhere; its leaflet was influenced by the style of Class War.

The Unrest group had a copy of the AYF packet and was certainly influenced by its contents and ideas, which were a mix of materials from the AYF, other US papers like Reality Now, and other material; notably it included material on the “Black Bloc,” an idea and tactic from the quasi-anarchist Autonomen in Germany, which later became a major feature (from the late 1990s) in Western anarchism.  Some of the Unrest group joined the early Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM), as part of ARM’s “class struggle” wing. When that wing was reconstituted as the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF), Unrest was formally incorporated into the WSF paper, Workers Solidarity.

Below is a partial and incomplete scan of the AYF package, as sent to South Africa: click on the image for the PDF.

AYF pack (Unrest)_Page_01

“Revolutionary Organisations” – ARM / Backstreet Abortions distro – 1994

This pamphlet is a reprint of chapter 7 of Unfinished Business: the politics of Class War, a book published in 1992 by Britain’s Class War Federation in conjunction with AK Press. It takes an openly Platformist approach  to the question of anarchist organisation, which was a major reason why the pamphlet was produced by people associated with the class struggle wing of the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) in Johannesburg. The pamphlet, described as the 1994 South African edition, used as its distribution address/ contact point the (unfortunately named) “Backstreet Abortions” Distribution,  also associated with ARM at the time.   As with other materials issued at the time, production values were pretty low.

The Class War Federation was well known among South African anarchists for its tabloid-style paper Class War, which was locally circulated, as was the the Class War compilation edited by Ian Bone, Alan Pullen and Tim Scargill, entitled Class War: a decade of disorder (Verso, 1991).  The Federation deeply impressed the class struggle wing of ARM, as well as its immediate predecessors. For instance a Class War poster, showing a burning police car and captioned “Our Contribution to Global Warming,” was the cover image for the one-off South African anarchist paper Revolt.  Class War’s forthright opposition to liberal reformism, lifestylism, and orthodox Marxism, its stress on working class power and struggle, and its clear writing  struck a powerful cord; so did its ability to reach large numbers of people.  Although it is now clear that not all of Class War members agreed with Unfinished Business, and that the Federation was not very Platformist in practice, the Federation’s impact on what would become the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) should not be underestimated.

ARM - Revolutionary Organisations

Get the PDF here




The Rio Farce – “Revolt” magazine, 1992

The Rio farce

Revolt number 2 (1992), South Africa.

The Rio Earth Summit was dominated by the very people responsible for the global ecological crisis in the first place. Solutions were not, cannot, and never will be, found by such groups. Grass roots action is the only answer.

As far as the Greens go, 1992 is being heralded as a turning point. The Rio Earth Summit managed to assemble the “leaders” of over 100 countries at a single place at a single time, to discuss the doomsday cause that the planet is on… but is it all a farce. Continue reading