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.

Announcements
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.

FOR WORKERS’ SELF-MANAGEMENT, DIRECT ACTION AND INTERNATIONAL REVOLUTION!

NO PASARAN!

— Bikisha Media Collective & Zabalaza Books

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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.

ZACF tabling: 2010 Jozi Bookfair

Pic 1The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) ran a stall at the 2010 Jozi Book Fair in Johannesburg alongside other black-oriented and left-wing publishes.  It was described as “an anarchist political organization that works to promote libertarian socialist ideas and practice within popular social movements and trade unions. Through our publishing arm, Zabalaza books, we publish and distribute a wide variety of books, pamphlets and leaflets on topics such a revolutionary history and theory, women’s liberation, ecology, revolutionary syndicalism etc.”

More here

Mirror here.

 

 

 

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 1996 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

South Africa, and South African anarchism, through West African eyes [1997]

South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and unions (both strengths and limitations), and South African anarchism and syndicalism, were mentioned several times in Sam Mbah and IE. Igariwey’s 1997 classic text, African Anarchism: the history of a movement (See Sharp, Tucson, USA). The authors, Nigerian militants, highlighted the South African movement as one of the oldest and most important in Africa (not much was known of the time, at least amongst English-speakers, of the very important currents that had existed in North Africa, or impacts elsewhere in the continent). The 1990s South African movement, in turn, was deeply impressed by the then-1,000 member anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League in Nigeria, of which Mbah and Igariwey were leading lights; the League joined an anarcho-syndicalist international, the International Workers Association, in 1996, a body claiming direct descent from the 1922 “Berlin” international set up after anarchists and syndicalists broke ties with the Communist International / Comintern. Mbah, sadly, passed away from heart problems in late 2014.

From African Anarchism:

Chapter 1: What Is Anarchism?

“Anarchism as a social philosophy, theory of social organization, and social movement is remote to Africa — indeed, almost unknown. It is underdeveloped in Africa as a systematic body of thought, and largely unknown as a revolutionary movement. Be that as it may, anarchism as a way of life is not at all new to Africa, as we shall see. The continent’s earliest contact with European anarchist thought probably did not take place before the second half of the 20th century, with the single exception of South Africa. It is, therefore, to Western thinkers that we must turn for an elucidation of anarchism.

Anarchism derives not so much from abstract reflections of intellectuals or philosophers as from the objective conditions in which workers and producers find themselves. Though one can find traces of it earlier, anarchism as a revolutionary philosophy arose as part of the worldwide socialist movement in the 19th century….”

Chapter 3: Anarchistic Precedents in Africa

“As for outright anarchist movements, there have existed and still exist anarchist groups in South Africa — notably the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement in Johannesburg, and the Durban-based Angry Brigade [this was apparently one of the incarnations of the Durban anarchist movement that later ended up in the Workers Solidarity Federation and in Zabalaza Books — SAAHSA]. South Africa’s pioneer anarcho-syndicalist organization, however — known as the Industrial Workers of Africa — Continue reading