Shawn Hattingh and Mandy Moussouris, 2018, “The Humans who Control the Machines are the Real Threat”

Shawn Hattingh and Mandy Moussouris, 2018, “The Humans who Control the Machines are the Real Threat,” Business Day, 27 March, from here

The late Stephen Hawkins had the following to say about the onset of the so-called 4th Industrial revolution: “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.”

What Hawkins was highlighting in this statement is that in a different society, machines could be of benefit to all of humanity. However, in the current class based capitalist society, machines pose a dire threat to the majority of people and the onset of the 4th Industrial Revolution will lead to the vast inequalities that already exist increasing exponentially.

World Bank statistics show that currently automation is responsible for 17% of production and services, in 15 years this is projected to rise to 40%. A common held belief by most of the middle class is that automation is a threat only to blue collar workers but this is becoming more and more untrue. The full computerisation of bank tellers, clerks, bookkeepers and pharmacists jobs is an increasing reality and will soon start affecting the work of teachers, doctors, pilots and architects. To understand why mechanisation and automation is being rolled out today; and why this poses such a threat, it is important to understand how they have been used under capitalism in the past and for what purposes.

An important feature of the introduction of machines historically is that a small elite have owned Continue reading

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Shawn Hattingh and Mandy Moussouris, 2018, “An Experiment for a Better Life is Under Way”

Shawn Hattingh and Mandy Moussouris, 2018, “An Experiment for a Better Life is Under Way,” Business Day, 5 March, Business Day, from here 

The Rojava Revolution lays down tracks to building a better, more democratic and more feminist society.

The world is facing an economic crisis on a scale last seen in the 1930s. It has resulted in living conditions and incomes of workers and poor people — and increasingly the middle class — being eroded by governments through austerity and by businesses through rationalisations and wage freezes.

Like the 1930s, this crisis is triggering the rise of extreme right-wing regimes and right-wing populism. It is also resulting in an increase in global conflict and threats of war, with Syria a key example.

But in the heart of the raging war that is Syria, there is a glimmer of hope.

In the north of Syria bordering Turkey and Iraq, the Kurdish and Arab people Continue reading

Shawn Hattingh, 2014, “Exploding Anger: Workers’ Struggles and Self-Organization in South Africa’s Mining Industry”

Shawn Hattingh, 2014, “Exploding Anger: Workers’ Struggles and Self-Organization in South Africa’s Mining Industry,” in Immanuel Ness, editor, 2014, New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism , PM Press, Oakland, CA, pp. 97-114, 281-282, 295-298

Get the PDF here

 

Nigerian, Sierra Leone and South African anarchist and syndicalist links in the 1990s

The 1990s upsurge of anarchism found one expression in South Africa, where the anarchist and syndicalist tradition re-emerged after a break of decades. But this was not unique in English-using African countries. A substantial section of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was formed among diamond miners in Sierra Leone, but destroyed in the country’s ongoing civil war in 1997, leading members ending up displaced in Guinea to the north. In Nigeria, the anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League emerged in 1990, claiming over 1,000 members, and joined the syndicalist International Workers Association in 1996. Its roots were in Nigeria’s large (mainly Marxist) left, and its development is partly described in a book issued by two League members,  Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey, African Anarchism (published 1997, See Sharp Press in the USA: See Sharp version available here; also in an interview with Mbah in 2012, here).

Yet there was very little direct contact between the West African groups, and those of South Africa: news of one another was often second-hand, there was no direct contact by email (email use was a rarity for many African people at the time, even in South Africa), only the South Africans had a website (the Workers Solidarity Federation / WSF had a basic website from around 1995,  on the then-popular, now-dead Geocities system; the WSF’s sister group in Ireland, the Workers Solidarity Movement / WSM,  put the then-available materials on the Nigerians and Sierra Leoneans on a basic site, which is still online here); communication between the groups, such as it was, was by snail mail, which was very erratic.

The Awareness League gained global attention when a number of its members were jailed in 1992  on the eve of a short-lived transition from military rule. The anarcho-syndicalist Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA) in the United States of America built an international campaign, reliant on the then-key methods of spreading news in the anarchist and syndicalist milieu: snail mail. This meant mass mail-outs (of letters to groups), plus press statements that got picked up by anarchist and anarchist-friendly papers (these papers were also widely distributed by mail, the custom being that each group or paper would send free copies to a number of other groups).

So the South African Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) read about the campaign in American anarchist papers, got letters from the WSA (see scanned copy of a WSA package sent to the South Africans here: this includes material by the League) and both ARM and WSF wrote about the Awareness League (here, here, here). The Nigerians meanwhile wrote about the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) in African Anarchism . ARM and WSF regularly sent materials and letters to the Awareness League, but only in 1999 did it get a direct letter from Sam Mbah. News about the IWW in Sierra Leone reached WSF through email contacts in the West. The South Africans sent letters and materials, but never heard back.

The Sierra Leone IWW did not survive the civil war; the Awareness League dissolved in the 2000s, and the stalwart Mbah passed away in 2014; and neither formation had obvious successors; while the WSF dissolved in 1999, it was replaced by projects like the Bikisha Media Collective, in turn absorbed into the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Fedeation (later, Front, the ZACF), in 2003.

A 1990s Durban-based group in South Africa, the Anarchist Awareness League, was obviously named after the Nigerian group: see here. This, too, ended up in ZACF.

Moussouris, “Love, Liberty and Learning: The Problem with Skills in Revolution – An Anarchist Perspective on Trade Union Education in COSATU” (2009)

Moussouris, Mandy, 2009, “Love, Liberty and Learning: The Problem with Skills in Revolution – An Anarchist Perspective on Trade Union Education in COSATU” (Honours research dissertation, in Industrial Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand).

Get the PDF here.

Moussouris, “Between Class Struggle and the ‘Developmental State’: COSATU and the Sector Job Summits” (2007)

Mandy Moussouris, 2007, “Between Class Struggle and the ‘Developmental State’: COSATU and the Sector Job Summits, Lessons in Corporatism,” paper presented at “Labour and the Challenges of Development” conference, Global Labour University, University of the of the Witwatersrand, 1-3 April.

Get the PDF here.

Moussouris, “SAFTU: The tragedy and (hopefully not) the farce” (2017)

SAFTU: The tragedy and (hopefully not) the farce

Mandy Moussouris

Pambazuka, Jun 15, 2017

The labour movement has been unable to de-link itself from its archenemy: capital. As its structures bureaucratise, as its leaders become career unionists, as it opens investment companies and pays staff increasingly inequitable salaries, it increasingly mirrors the very thing it is fighting. If the South African Federation of Trade Unions is to meet its promise, it must be fundamentally different from the organisation it was born out of.

“History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce” – Karl Marx

The tragedy of the disintegration of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) happened slowly. As tragedies go, COSATU’s has been far less dramatic than most; it has rather been a sad slow and painful unravelling of a once vibrant and powerful organisation over 20 odd years. The unravelling of an organisation that forgot that the whole is made up of the sum of its parts; that continuously made the mistake of allowing personalities to undermine democracy, ambition to undermine equity and bureaucracy to undermine equality and democratic participation.

COSATU’s decay has had a significant impact on the South African working class. The impact has reverberated across the country in a myriad of ways and has been the result, both directly and indirectly, of COSATU’s failure to effectively and democratically represent the working class. This has been the case partly because of its alliance with the ANC and partly because of its (and the trade union movement in general’s) inherently defective organisational structure and patriarchal culture.

From the same ashes comes the rising of a new phoenix – a new hope for the South African working class – the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). But the labour movement, broadly, has never been good at learning from its mistakes and this time around appears to be no exception. We can no longer make the mistake of thinking that changing the world is as simple as changing the colours of a flag. If we are to learn anything from history, it’s

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