“Anarchism and Syndicalism in an African Port City: the revolutionary traditions of Cape Town’s multiracial working class, 1904–1931” – by Lucien van der Walt, 2011

The Cape Town docks in 1919, site of the joint strike between the syndicalist Industrial Workers of Africa (IWA) and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU).

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This paper examines the development of anarchism and syndicalism in early twentieth century Cape Town, South Africa, drawing attention to a crucial but neglected chapter of labor and left history. Central to this story were the anarchists in the local Social Democratic Federation (SDF), and the revolutionary syndicalists of the Industrial Socialist League, the Industrial Workers of Africa (IWA), and the Sweets and Jam Workers’ Industrial Union. These revolutionary anti-authoritarians, Africans, Coloureds and whites, fostered a multiracial radical movement – considerably preceding similar achievements by the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in this port city. They were also part of a larger anarchist and syndicalist movement across the southern African subcontinent.

Involved in activist centers, propaganda, public meetings, cooperatives, demonstrations, union organizing and strikes, and linked into international and national radical networks, Cape Town’s anarchists and syndicalists had an important impact on organizations like the African Political Organization (APO), the Cape Federation of Labour Unions, the Cape Native Congress, the CPSA, the General Workers Union, and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU). This paper is therefore also a contribution to the recovery of the history of the first generation of African and Coloured anti-capitalist radicals, and part of a growing international interest in anarchist and syndicalist history.


Source: Lucien van der Walt, 2011, “van der walt – Anarchism and Syndicalism in an African port city – the revolutionary traditions of Cape Town’s multiracial working class, 1904-1931,” Labor History, Volume 52, Issue 2, 137, pp. 137-171

“Murder! Murder! Murder!!! The Bullhoek Massacre” – W.H. Harrision, 1921

Christians Slaughter Their Christian Brethren. Great Empire Day Celebration.

How appropriate and how much in keeping with the Matabele Massacre and other of their brutal empire-building tactics. And the Bullhoek tragedy was either by fate or circumstances enacted on their very Empire Day.

We accuse the responsible Government, whose forces are headed by a brutal assassin, of murdering unarmed strikers in Johannesburg, 1913, slaughtering unarmed Natives in Port Elizabeth, 192o, and their latest debauch is the gruesome mutilation of hundreds of Natives who were Christians and a passive community. Continue reading

“WAR!” – Wilfred Harrison, War on War League, Cape Town, 1914

War! A familiar word, a necessary phenomenon, we are told, to maintain, our libertarian traditions and national civilisation. We admit it because it is customary to admit prevailing conditions without question or analysis. Head hunting or warfare in primitive times was customary, and also considered essential to man’s religion and destiny; then between individuals, now between organised nations, the same instinct is there, the same purpose, the same atrocious acts.

A distinct analogy between primitive and modern warfare; but the primitive method has been analysed and admitted to be barbarous, brutal and inhuman: modern organised warfare is still customary, lawful, just and heroic! The former was renounced because the perpetrators lived in a condition of savagery. The latter is accepted because the man, and not the deed, is considered a civilised product.

It is today NOT murder, it is war! So let us give it the necessary analysis and for the moment cast aside sentiment. Continue reading