A few notes on the Anarchist Awareness League and the Durban Anarchist Federation – 1993-2003

The Anarchist Awareness League was formed in Durban in 1993. It was mainly involved in publishing leaflets, pamphlets and posters. At some point it became part of a new Durban Anarchist Federation, along with a “green” and feminist collective. In 1997 the Anarchist Awareness League was re-established. Renamed the Anarchist Workers Collective (AWC), it joined the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) that year. there had been a Durban WSF section founded in 1996, but it was short-lived (and by this time) defunct.  The Anarchist Awareness League / AWC was renamed “Land and Liberty” in 1998, and then Zabalaza Books in 1999 after WSF closed. When the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (later Front) was formed in 2003, Zabalaza Books  was a founding collective.

Letter on Chiapas, 1996, from Durban Anarchist Federation

Letters page, Mail and Guardian, Johannesburg, 12 July 1996. Letter by member of Durban Anarchist Federation, who had visited the Zapatista zone in Chiapas. Note: the Durban Anarchist Federation, which went through various names and in 1997 largely merged into the Workers Solidarity Federation. Activists from the Durban Anarchist Federation also set up what is today Zabalaza Books, a South African anarchist publishing project that continues today as part of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front milieu.

Praiseworthy Zapatistas

I WAS pleasantly surprised by the unusual editorial subtlety which linked the crisis of conscience South African organised labour is experiencing with the refreshing innovations being forged by the Zapatista movement in southern Mexico (June 28 to July 4).

It was obvious long before 1994 that Cosatu’s biggest looming battle would revolve around the inherent paradox of their erstwhile ANC/SACP equals becoming their masters under a democratic dispensation.

The greatest genuine threat to ANC dominance will come from within its own ranks, perhaps a new, radical workers’ movement grown out of Cosatu.

In February this year, I paid a month-long fact- finding visit to Chiapas and the Guatemalan highlands. The Zapatistas understand that the only ones who can free the people are the people themselves, not some kind of elite, dictatorial vanguard, whether state-capitalist (communist) or private-capitalist. Unlike most liberation movements, they have retained their sense of humour and humanity and bucked tradition by having an unusually high number of women in combat commands. Also, there are many similarities between their experience and ours.

The Zapatista way has for the first time put true empowerment and human rights at the top of the Mexican and regional political agendas.—- Michael Schmidt, Durban Anarchist Federation, Bishopsgate