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.

 

 

 

A. Lerumo, 1971, “Kadalie of the ICU” – ‘African Communist’ no. 44

Reference: A. Lerumo, 1971, “Kadalie of the ICU,” African Communist number 44. 

Get the PDF here.

This piece is a lengthy, insightful review of My Life and the ICU, the posthumously published autobiography of Clements Kadalie (1896-1951). Kadalie, a Malawian immigrant and ex-school teacher, was a leading figure in the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU). Founded in 1919, the ICU spread like wildfire in southern Africa from the 1920s . Itwas at least partly influenced by revolutionary syndicalism, as well by the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), Garveyism, Christianity and social democracy. For more on the ICU, go here, and for more on the ICU and syndicalism, start here.

“A. Lerumo” was a pseudonym for Michael Harmel (1915-1974), a leading theorist and writer for the CPSA (re-established as the underground South African Communist Party, or SACP, in 1953). The African Communist, founded in 1959 and still published, is a SACP journal for Marxist-Leninist thought.

Profiles: Ousi Lawrence Zitha, 1969-2013, South Africa, TAAC

Ousi Lawrence Zitha came from Kliptown,Soweto. A factory worker much of his life, he lost his job in 2006, and became involved in anarchist political schools/ Red and Black Forums, and joined ZACF-linked Tokologo African Anarchist Collective (TAAC).

The following appeared as Nobuhle Dube, 2014, “Obituary of Ousi Lawrence Zitha,” Tokologo: Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective, number 3, p. 3. (You can get the full issue here, offsite).

Comrade Lawrence was born on 7 July 1969 in Kliptown before moving to Ceza in KwaZulu-Natal. He attended Ceza Primary and Nghunghunyone Secondary, matriculating in 1986 with exemption (excellent at that time).

He was employed by Nampak Polyfoil as a factory worker until 2006. He was an activist, and became involved with anarchism in 2011.

He passed away on 13 June 2013, suffering from chronic kidney failure. He is survived by his mother Johanna Zitha, two brothers (Jaby and Bongane Zitha) and his sister (Gladness Zitha), not forgetting his nieces and nephews.

May he rest in peace.

Interviews: ZACF Interviews Two Libertarian Socialist Activists from Zimbabwe, 2008

From here

A member of the ZACF poses the same set of questions to two activists from Zimbabwe.

The first interviewee, Biko Mutsaurwa, is an anarcho-communist from the Uhuru Network and facilitator for the Toyi Toyi Artz Kollektive in Harare.

The second interviewee is Comrade Fatso, AKA Samm Farai Monro, a cultural activist and artistic facilitator for Magamba! The Cultural Activist Network.

The interviews were conducted in Johannesburg on 21st of June, 2008 – the day before MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced his decision to not participate in the June 27 presidential election run-off.


Interview with Biko Mutsaurwa, anarcho-communist from the Uhuru Network and facilitator for the Toyi Toyi Artz Kollektive. Conducted in Johannesburg on 21st June 2008 by the ZACF.

ZACF: Have you heard about the regime’s alleged 3-stage election scheme (“electoral cleansing”, falsify the vote, declare a state of emergency)?

Biko: About the regimes intentions to outrightly rig the Zimbabwe electoral outcome I could say that i am convinced merely from watching the regimes reactions to the 29th March elections results that Mugabe has refused to accept that he was defeated in that election. The state media has continued to propagate the myths that there was no election winner. So I’m clear that their intention was to rig the election. With regards to how the regime is actually intent on cleansing after the elections, decimating the middle lay of activists within the Movement for Democratic Change I could say that I have second hand information, actually I got it from my mother who was forced-marched to a ZANU PF rally this Wednesday, 18th June 2008 where war veterans from the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association addressed that rally and they came to say that they were not there to campaign but they were there to inform the people that ZANU PF was not going to accept the electoral victory of MDC and also that they were going to come back to beat up the residents of Chitungwiza, where I stay with my family, primarily because Chitungwiza has been traditionally voting for the MDC.

ZACF: Can you tell us something about conditions on the ground in Zimbabwe, the extent of repression etc.. We’d like to hear about something else other than the repeated arrests of Tsvangirai & other MDC big-shots.

Biko: The arrests of senior MDC leaders comes in the wake of ZANU PF’s realisation that this time around the MDC leadership is prepared to call upon the masses of Zimbabwe to rise up and defend their vote using peoples power.The specific incident that gave rise to this awakening in terms of ZANU PF’s Continue reading

Interview: Lekhetho Mtetwa, 2013, on Soweto anarchism, Landless Peoples Movement (LPM)

A 2013 interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), focused on his work in the Landless Peoples Movement (LPM), a post-apartheid social movement. The name notwithstanding, the LPM was mainly involved in urban squatter communities, not amongst farm-dwellers and farm-workers.

Full reference details are included in the PDF.

Get the PDF here.

Interview: Lucien van der Walt, 2010, on Johannesburg anarchism, Wits 2001, NEHAWU, Anti-Privatisation Forum

Interview from the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) archives,  created by Dale McKinley, held at the South African History Archive (SAHA), at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. In this interview Lucien van der Walt talks about his background, the anarchist and left movement in Johannesburg in the 1990s and 2000s, and experiences in the APF, a major coalition of post-apartheid movements founded in 2000. He also draws some lessons from the APF experience.

PDF of interview here.

Full reference details for interview: Lucien van der Walt, 23 March 2010, Interview, Johannesburg. Interviewed by Dale McKinley, Johannesburg.The Anti Privatisation Forum collection, AL3290, South African History Archive (SAHA), Constitution Hill, Johannesburg.

More on SAHA, an independent archive, here.

Index to APF collection here (register online for access to all materials).

 

New Nation (1990): “South African Working Class Organisation and the Downfall of the Smuts Government”

New Nation, 1990, “South African working class organisation and the downfall of the Smuts government,” 10-16 August, Matric History section of Learning Nation supplement.

A discussion of the struggles of the working class movement from 1920-1924 which examines the role of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) from 1919, the 1920 Bulhoek Massacre, and the 1922 Rand Revolt in the fall of the Jan Smuts government in 1924.

A good account from the old anti-apartheid weekly, but — as always — rather silent on the the role of anarchism and syndicalism — a factor in both ICU and the 1922 revolt.

Get the PDF here

 

Biography: Lucien van der Walt, 2011, “Thibedi, Thibedi William (1888–1960), South African revolutionary syndicalist and Communist,” in DAB

Lucien van der Walt, 2011, “Thibedi, Thibedi William (1888–1960), South African revolutionary syndicalist and Communist,” in Emmanuel K. Akyeampong and Henry Louis Gates, Jr (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of African Biography, Oxford University Press.

Get the PDF here.

[Archived webpage]: The Workers’ Library and Museum (Johannesburg)

Previous posts have looked at the Workers’ Library and Museum (WLM) in Newtown, Johannesburg, and mentioned the role of anarchists (mainly, Bikisha Media Collective) in it from the late 1990s into the early 2000s: see here.

The WLM webpage from those days is long gone, but happily, there is a navigable snapshot of it here (off-site).

 

 

VIDEO: The Newtown power complex before the Workers Library and Museum

There is an interesting video, captured from a VHS, from a report on the TV station M-Net, on the Newtown power complex in what looks like the late 1980s. The Newtown power complex, in downtown Johannesburg, was the site of the old municipal power station. It was all but abandoned by the late 1980s: the state of the building attests to this, and so does the fact that the council’s main interest (in the video) is to move some old trees from the premises, to another owned by the municipality. The decrepit building visible from 03.34 (time on video) was the old housing section that was refurbished as the Workers Library and Museum (WLM) in the 1990s. (Below the video you can see a photo of how the building looked before used as the WLM, and how the WLM looked in its early years).

 

Before becoming the Workers Library and Museum…

The Workers Library and Museum in its early years