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.

8 September 2002: “South African Anarchists Join International Libertarian Solidarity”

South African Anarchists Join International Libertarian Solidarity Network
September 8, 2002 – statement by Bikisha Media Collective & Zabalaza Books

More on International Libertarian Solidarity Network here and here.

Several South African anarchist projects — Bikisha Media Collective (BMC), Zabalaza Books (ZB) and the Zabalaza Action Group (ZAG, formerly the Anarchist Union) — have signed up as members of the new anarchist network International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS) of which the following organisations are also a part: Al Abdil al Taharouri (AAT, Lebanon), Alternative Libertaire (AL, France & Belgium), Confederacion General del Trabajo (CGT, Spain), Organisasion Communiste Libertaire (OCL, France), RÈseau No Pasaran (France), Consejo IndÌgena Popular de Oaxaca — “Ricardo Flores Magon” (CIP-RFM, Mexico), Confederation Nationale du Travail — “Vignoles” (CNT-V, France), Federacio Anarquista Ga?cha (FAG, Brazil), Federacion Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU, Uruguay), Marmitag (Greece), Organizace RevolucnÌch Anarchistu-Solidarita (ORA-S, Czech Republic), Organizacion Socialista Libertaria (OSL, Argentina), Organisation Socialiste Libertaire (OSL, Switzerland), Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation (SAC, Sweden), and the Workers’ Solidarity Movement (WSM, Ireland).

Other groups that support the ISL are the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, international), Anacho-Sindico (India), the North-Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC, Canada & the USA), Sibirskaya Konfederatsia Truda (SKT, Russia) and Unione Sindacale Italiana — “Roma” (USI-R, Italy).This makes the ISL one of the most important players on the international anarchist stage today, alongside the International Workers Association (IWA) — established in Berlin in 1922 as the anarchist unionist alternative to the communist Red International of Trade Unions — and the International of Anarchist Federations (IFA), founded in Italy in 1968, to unite anarchist political organisations. But the ISL is not another international. It is rather an international anarchist network, other anarchist international networks include the Anarchist Black Cross Federation, started in London in 1967 to assist anarchist and class war prisoners, and the Insurrectional Anarchist International (IAI), founded in Italy in 2000, to co-ordinate anarchist resistance in the Mediteranean [sic..

Our participation in the ISL dates back to the BMC delegation sent to Paris for the “Other Future” international anarchist congress organised in 2000 by the CNT-V which saw 6,000 anarchists take to the streets with a forest of red-and-black flags for May Day. There, delegates of 15 participating organisations agreed to form a new network to: a) connect the growing anarchist unions, anarcho-communist, platformist and anarcho-synthesist groups that fell outside the IWA; b) co-ordinate international anarchist engagement with the emerging anti-capitalist movement; and c) for established Northern organisations to assist emergent anarchist organisations in the global South. Last year, at “LibWeek” in Madrid, the decision was realised when the international movement set up the ISL, which has expanded significantly since then. Bikisha Media and Zabalaza Books sent a message of support to Madrid to endorse the establishment of the network of which we are now a part.

The ISL is by no means a paper tiger: so far, the network has helped the FAG-Brazil with finances in setting up a printing works and a community centre. There are also ISL-sponsored projects under way in Uruguay and another planned in Siberia. We should take this opportunity to thank ISL member organisation the SAC-Sweden for their kind donation of funds — under an agreement separate to the ISL — to our anarchist printing project.

Our original message to the founding congress of the ISL read:

We as South African anarchists are encouraged by this important initiative — the establishment of an international co-ordinating network to aid anarchist organisations in their engagement with the anti-globalisation movement. Such a network is vital if we are to survive the attacks on our organisations and our class — and if we are to succeed in our fight against neo-liberalism. We would also like to add the names of our two organisations to those endorsing the “Anarchist Declaration for the 21st Century”.

Since the 1970s, our enemies, capital and its siamese twin, the state, have been suffering from one of their inevitable periods of crisis as markets hit natural consumption ceilings and the rate of profit continues to fall. Even the opening of the former Soviet and East Bloc workforce to foreign exploitation, with robber barons breaking down vital industries to steal handfuls of cash, has been unable to stop the slide.

But like hungry bears, our enemies are even more dangerous despite their weaknesses. On the one hand, their claws are sharper: they have developed warfare, terrorism and propaganda to technological and psychological levels never achieved before. On the other hand, we, their prey, are weak: the international working class revolutionary movement, both anarchist and otherwise, has been dispersed and destroyed by decades of fascism. After the Berlin Wall fell, our enemies announced the end of history, claiming that they had achieved the perfect social balance, a balance built historically on millions of dead, and today maintained by millions of lives cheapened by poor working conditions, corrupted by a fouled environment, marginalised by casualisation, raped by patriarchy, excluded by so-called democracy and, if necessary, eliminated by death-squads.

But the bears miscalculated. History is not over. The anti-globalisation movement is the most significant international social movement since the 1960s. There are dangers: professional networks of paid middle-class activists have attempted to turn it into their own club, a collection of narrow sectarian interests. Also, totalitarian and right-wing organisations, whether fascist, religious fundamentalist or authoritarian socialist, are trying to control grassroots actions against the IMF/World Bank, the “free” trade agreements and the multinational corporations. But this is a global movement of the oppressed. Its instinctive nature is anti-authoritarian, workerist and militant. This is the true home of all anarchist revolutionaries today and we fully support all efforts by anarchists to position themselves at the forefront of the struggle and to put their ideas at the centre of the global debates on how to beat the ravages of turbo capitalism.

The anti-globalisation movement must be dominated by anarchist forces and arguments. We as anarchist revolutionaries must throw ourselves wholeheartedly into this struggle. But we must remember our key strategic strength: the united forces of the proletariat, whether industrial or commercial. This means that while community struggles are essential, they can be no substitute for revolutionary organisation in the workplace, at the point of extraction of profit. The traditional working class may have changed, but workers’ status as wage-slaves has not, regardless of how the capitalists have tried to divide their common interests. And it is only the workers who have the technical power and class incentive to stop the engines of capitalism. Only a revolution in the relations of production by organised labour and a seizure of the means of production by the producers can end the terrorism of capital and the state. Assisted by the peasantry and the poor, the workers can and will defeat neo-liberalism, however it disguises itself: racism, housing evictions, neo-colonialism, electricity cut-offs, sweatshops,  criminalisation of protest, or other masks.



— Bikisha Media Collective & Zabalaza Books

Photo: ZAG members, with visitors from syndicalist Solfed (UK), undated

The Zabalaza Action Group (ZAG, known at one stage as the Anarchist Union) was formed after the dissolution of the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) and its membership were largely ex-WSF. ZAG subsequently became a collective of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF, later the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front). This photo comes from the first half of the 2000s. ZAG / ZACF sitting, also standing right (with big black bag).

ZAG Umlazi (with SolFed UK)


“Against the World Conference Against Racism Fraud”: leaflet by Bikisha and Anarchist Union, 2001

The leaflet below was distributed widely by the (Johannesburg-based) Bikisha Media Collective (BMC), and the (Durban-based) Anarchist Union (later Zabalaza Action group, ZAG) in 2001 (UPDATE 28/03/2018: AU may have had an active member in Port Elizabeth as well). Large numbers were put out at the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) United Nations summit, held from 31 August until 8 September 2001 in Durban, South Africa. The somewhat unconvincing and unnecessary argument for the absolute novelty of racism (i.e. that racism only emerged in the 1600s, which is not accurate and not essential anyway to the case made) does not detract from the many strengths of the text (including its stress on the links between racism and the class system, including in the modern period). It reads very well, almost 13 years later.

Get the PDF version here. This PDF was updated (in lay out only) from the version handed out at the WCAR.

Against the WCAR fraud

Anarchism, Racism and the Class Struggle


According to South Africa’s ruling elite, the problem of racism is basically a problem of ignorance. “Education”, according to Barney Pityana of the Human Rights Commission, “will cure racism”. This argument sounds appealing, but it is inaccurate and misleading. Most importantly, this view conveniently ignores the role of the CAPITALIST SYSTEM in inventing and perpetuating racism. Since capitalism emerged in the 1500s, it has committed many crimes against humanity. But few of these crimes are as vile as racism. Perhaps that is why Barney Pityana – as a defender of capitalism and the ANC government’s privatisation policies – wishes to hide capitalism’s dirty laundry with his stress on “education”.


Capitalism developed as a world system based on the exploitation of workers, slaves and peasants – black, brown, yellow and white. Continue reading

Anarchist banners at World Conference Against Racism, Durban, 2001

The World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), a United Nations summit, was held from 31 August until 8 September 2001 in Durban, South Africa. It provided a major focal point for protestors: South African anarchists were present both as activists in the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) and as members of the (Johannesburg-based) Bikisha Media Collective (BMC, an APF affiliate), and the (Durban-based) Anarchist Union (later Zabalaza Action group, ZAG). Here are some photos, taken on a digital camera at the time, which show anarchist banners at the march. Digital cameras have, happily, improved in later years.






Industrial Workers of World pamphlet, Durban, early 2000s

After the dissolution of the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) in 1999, there were a number of new anarchist initiatives.  In Durban, Zabalaza Books and the Anarchist Union (later the Zabalaza Action Group, ZAG) were the most important. Durban activists linked to these projects also established a short-lived South African Regional Organising Committee (ROC) of the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of World (IWW). That is,  the Durban-based IWW was formally linked to the main IWW in the United States.  The Durban-based ROC did not have much success in forming IWW unions. Note: address details on second last page of the PDF.

Note: A later attempt at a South African IWW, this time based  in Cape Town, took place in the early 2010s, with similar results.

PDF link is here.

iww cover

“No War But The Class War! Against capitalism, imperialism and fundamentalist terrorism” – BMC / ZAG Leaflet, 2001

This leaflet was issued by Bikisha Media Collective in Johannesburg, and the Zabalaza Action Group (ZAG, formerly the Anarchist Union) in Durban.  Both had historical links to the Workers Solidarity Federation, and would help form the subsequent Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (later Front; ZACF). Distributed at anti-war actions in Johannesburg central and at the University of the Witwatersrand. Responded to the September 11 2001 bombings in the United States, and the subsequent US war escalation. Issued 2001.

UPDATE: here is a PDF of the leaflet as first issued. This version  endorsed by Anarchist Union, not ZAG.

No War But The Class War!

Against capitalism – Against the US government –
Against state and fundamentalist terrorism

South African anarchist statement on the New York / Washington DC attacks – September 2001

The WTC attacks

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre (WTC) and the Pentagon by suicide bombers, leading to over 6,500 deaths have grabbed world attention.

We revolutionary anarchists condemn the attacks and extend our condolences to the families of those injured or killed. The death of thousands of ordinary civilians – including many ordinary workers – is not acceptable. The use of civilian aircraft for such an operation is authoritarian and coercive and shows the contempt of terrorists for human life. It also shows that the terrorists are anti-working class: attacking people just because they are “American” regardless of their class position is reactionary and xenophobic.

After all, US workers are also victims of US capitalism. Bill Gates personally has more wealth than the bottom 45% of US households. In 1999, top executives earned 419 times the wage of a blue-collar worker, up from a difference of 42 to 1 in 1980. This is directly due to the vicious implementation (and often racist) of neo-liberal / privatisation policies within the US itself.

Down with US terrorism

At the same time as we oppose the terrorism of the bombers, we oppose equally the terrorism of all states, especially the US government This capitalist military-industrial machine has been involved in more than 216 armed interventions against other countries and regions. Continue reading