WSF (1999): “International Struggles” (Russia – Workers Sieze & Run Factory/ Korean Workers Stop Retrenchments Through Mass Strike”

International Struggles

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

 

RUSSIA – WORKERS SIEZE & RUN FACTORY

RUSSIA after the fall of the USSR state capitalist dictatorship that pretended to be communist has become a group of private capitalist kingdoms run by a series of Mafia thugs where extreme fascist parties flourish and the ordinary people get poorer by the day. The workers and the poor are suffering under an International Monetary Fund plan that slashes social funding while giving the exploiters a free hand. Even people with jobs don’t get paid for months on end.

Last year, massive strikes, lead by miners, virtually shut down the entire country. Another rose among the thorns is the revival of the libertarian socialist (anarchist) movement and the tradition of true soviets (workers’ councils) which the Bolsheviks believed they had crushed forever in 1921. But the Russian secret police, the FSB, heirs to the feared KGB, have been cracking down on anarchist activists in Moscow and Krasnodar, Continue reading

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Hattingh, ” Class war and imperialism in Greece” (2012)

From ZCommunications here

Class war and imperialism in Greece

Hattingh, “Venezuela and the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’: Beacon of hope or smoke and mirrors?” (2012)

From ZCommunications here 

Venezuela and the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’: Beacon of Hope or Smoke and Mirrors?

by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)

April 23, 2012

Introduction

For many people on the left, within and outside of Southern Africa, the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is seen as a beacon of socialist hope in a sea of capitalist despair [1]. The reason why many leftists feel so strongly attached to this project, and promote it as an alternative, is because they have come to view it as a move by the Venezuelan state towards creating a genuine, free form of socialism [2] or at the very least an experiment that profoundly breaks with the tenets of neo-liberalism [3] [4]. Many articles have, therefore, been written lauding the state’s nationalisation of some industries [5], its land distribution programmes [6], and its attempts to supposedly create participatory democracy in workplaces (through co-management and co-operatives) [7] and in communities (through community councils) [8]. Linked to this, a great deal has also been made of the state using some of revenue generated by the Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to roll out social services such as education, subsidised foodstuffs and healthcare [9]. Much ink has, consequently, been spilt arguing that all of these are socialist inspired moves and passionate calls have been made for other states, like the South African state, to adopt Venezuelan style ‘Socialism for the Twenty First Century’ [10].

This article, however, questions the assumption that the Venezuelan state is embarking upon a path to create a truly egalitarian and free socialist society. It will, therefore, be argued that Venezuela is not in a transitional phase to socialism; rather it is a capitalist country where the private sector and important state-owned companies seek to maximise profits. Indeed, it will be argued that while some welfare is handed out by the state, this often sits side by side with other policies that are outright neo-liberal. In order to make the argument that Venezuela cannot be considered as heading in a socialist direction, this article will engage and examine issues around the state’s nationalisation programme, its relations to multinational corporations, its community councils project and its social service programmes. Coupled to this, the nature of the economy will be looked at, including ownership patterns, and it will be critically considered whether or not the relations of production that define capitalism are being transformed into more socialist relations based on direct democracy, mutual aid and self-management in workplaces and communities. In fact, it will be argued, from an anarchist perspective, that unfortunately relations that define class rule and capitalism are not being eroded away by the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’: instead of an egalitarian society arising, it will be considered how and why an elite still exploit and oppress the working class. It will, therefore, be critically considered how and why class rule and capitalism, and even elements of neo-liberal capitalism, in Venezuelan society are not in the process of being eroded away. Far from being a beacon of hope the ‘Bolivarian process’ may be more correctly identified as a case of smoke and mirrors.

The Quagmire of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’s’ Rhetoric

There is no doubt that both the supporters and opponents of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ feel passionately about the figure of Hugo Chavez and place him firmly at the centre of the ‘revolution’. Continue reading

Hattingh, ” South Africa’s rulers have blood on their hands, again” (2013)

From ZCommunications here

South Africa’s rulers have blood on their hands, again

 

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

WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

ecently, SADC (the Southern African Development Community) has been in the news a lot. In particular, SADC has intervened militarily in both Congo and Lesotho. SADC is a regional coalition of governments, and its members are the governments of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SADC pretends to stand for “democracy” and “development”. But the truth is different. Many of the SADC governments, such as Swaziland and Zimbabwe, have a long history of political oppression. And all of the SADC governments are anti-worker. In October 1997, SADC issued a statement called the Windhoek Declaration. This statement said that “the private sector [is] the locomotive of economic development,” and that “business requires … a climate in which it can develop safely, freely and profitably“.

What this means is that the bosses will play the main role in the economy, and that government must keep the bosses happy.

In practical terms, the statement means policies such as GEAR: privatisation, cuts in health and education spending, cuts in public sector jobs, more VAT and PAYE, less company tax, and low wages and few labour laws to protect workers (“flexible” labour). All of these policies mean less jobs and less money for the working class.

Zimbabwe’s form of GEAR (called ESAP) has seen mass cuts in education spending (down to the level of 1980), health care (down 39% in 1994-5), and jobs (22,000 jobs lost in the public sector; 33,000 in private industry).

WSF (1998): “Lesotho: Was it revolution?”

WSF (1998): “Lesotho: Was it revolution?”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

From our correspondent on the spot

The tiny mountain state has been in the news over the past weeks following the September 22 military invasion by South African and Botswanan troops and the subsequent looting spree, which saw the centre of Maseru, reduced to a smoking ruin. The invasion took place after mass protests against a rigged election spilled over into the virtual collapse of the government and a split in the army.

WHOSE PEACE?

The invasion was widely named a “peace mission” by the bosses’ media. But SA Defence Minister Joe Modise virtually admitted at the funeral of one of the eight working class South African soldiers killed in the fighting that the operation was meant to be the first field test of the new integrated SANDF “as a fighting force”.

The claim by the Southern African Development Community (coalition of bosses governments) that the intention was to “restore democracy” (a vague term that can be used to justify almost anything) is shown up as a lie by the fact that the SA military was preparing for the invasion a full six months before the electoral crisis even began in May.

Newspapers owned by the capitalist elite – and even the SA Communist Party (SACP) – have backed the lie, claiming that “anarchy” had broken out in Lesotho. Had law and order collapsed? Had government been replaced by direct democracy and worker control?

THE PEOPLE ARMED?

Was the mutiny by rebel soldiers in the Lesotho Defence Force in the week before the invasion actually a class war in defence of democracy?

Well, the mutiny definitely had a class character. Privates and non-commissioned officers ousted the fat-cat generals, including Lt-Genl Mokhule Mosakeng, at gunpoint, first jailing them, then forcing them to flee into exile in South Africa. This was a brilliant example of direct action by the exploited. The soldiers were upset that democracy in Lesotho had been undermined by the top brass who had been bought off by the politicians, with bribes like the “gift” of farms in the Free State. In other words, poorly paid working class soldiers (27 of whom were killed by SANDF troops in the invasion) revolted against their corrupt, undemocratic bosses. The argument that the mutineers intended to seize power for a military government (thus justifying the invasion) is not true. The intention of the mutineers seems to have been to force a serious review of democratic process in Lesotho, not to stage a coup.

The unexpectedly strong resistance to the invasion showed how passionately they believed their cause was right. Unfortunately, this class war was severely crippled by the opposition parties who used the mutiny (which carries the death penalty) to prop up their own dubious claims to take power in Lesotho i.e. to be the “legitimate” exploiters of the Basotho people.

CHAOS?

Was there chaos or violence when there was no government? In other words, was the collapse of the government a bad thing?

No. Even the petit-bourgeois store owners who lost their businesses in the looting were convinced that while the government in Lesotho had in fact been paralysed since the disputed May election, the Basotho people ran the territory themselves, without any need for a parasitic elite telling them what to do. This was not libertarian socialist economics at work, however, because capitalism remained unchallenged, but the anti-political, self-organising social aspect of socialism from below was in full swing.

The fact is that for six months, there was no effective governance in Lesotho – yet there was very little chaos or disruption. The violent backlash in the last days of September was in direct response to the foreign military operation to suppress Basotho civil initiative and protect South African economic interests in Lesotho.

CLASS WAR?

Was there a class war or grassroots political reason for the rioting and looting?

Well, the rioting seems to have begun because the SANDF invaded the palace grounds, a place viewed as a sanctuary by many Basotho. The rioting was heavily influenced by this cultural mistake by the SANDF, and by political opportunists who fanned the flames. But there was a lot of genuine street opposition to foreign military powers intervening in the workings of Lesotho society, no matter how troubled. The looting was largely “opportunistic”, not class- conscious: help yourself to a new TV while you can. But in a country where even the aid organisations admit the poor benefit hardly at all from the millions pouring into state coffers, it is hardly surprising that the poor will seize what capitalism denies them.

The world’s workers build the entire global economy and all its products. They must seize these products, but more importantly, also take over the means of production which make the goods (the factories etc). Only this will allow a systematic and permanent social change, as opposed to a bit of “affirmative shopping”. This is what the Basotho resisters failed to do, concentrating on selfish short term gains.

The class aspect was notably lacking in that many of the looters were themselves middle class. Also, the political, rather than economic (or class) nature of the redistribution of wealth was evidenced in the way petit-bourgeois shops were targeted (for their goods), and government offices were torched (for the symbolism of trashing the ruling party), but the really big exploiters like the banks, the United Nations, European Union and the US embassy all remained untouched.

ARMED CRIMINALS?

What about the LDF rebels arming “criminals”? Was it a criminal revolt?

Well those who seek true democracy under the global fascist oligarchy known as capitalism know they will be criminalised and demonised by that exploiting elite. So what? If true people’s power is constrained by chains of law, then the people become illegalists as a matter of course. It is our right to fight, no matter what the bosses say! Faced with armoured troop carriers, the mutinous soldiers handed out assault rifles to youths that helped attack the invaders. This showed the working class defending its right to settle local issues locally, a basic libertarian socialist principle. It also broke down the traditional state barriers in which soldiers in a standing army defend privilege against the uprisings of the poor. In Lesotho, the mutineers adopted the direct-action tactic of arming the poor against invading states. In the end it fell short of the libertarian socialist concept of autonomous working class militia, i.e.: the people armed. But it has armed a broad spectrum of Lesotho’s workers and poor. They will be a lot harder to defeat in future than a few thousand soldiers in their barracks were this time around.

REFORM OR REVOLUTION?

What about the real revolutionary project: the construction of a directly democratic society managed by councils of workers and the poor?

Here the water is very muddy. Unlike the Albanian revolt of 1997, when the Western powers invaded to prevent the people achieving grassroots democracy through this sort of initiative, there is not much evidence in Lesotho of the libertarian socialist principle of building the new in the burnt-out shell of the old.

It is notable that virtually the only printed and broadcast views from outside the government came from the opportunist opposition parties, not from the rebel soldiers, the armed populace, or the “criminal” redistributors. This is the in-built bias of capitalist media, which speaks in the garbled lies of the elite and tries to prevent working people from discovering the true nature of such events.

But one area in which democratic construction was evident was among the mutineers, whose delegates angered Modise by telling him (after he called them treasonous and threatened them with force shortly before the invasion) that they could not make decisions themselves, but would have to consult the entire mutineer force first.

This is the principle of participatory democracy. And Modise hated it! Modise also betrayed his class position through his anger at having to deal with corporals who told him in no uncertain terms what they thought of his version of “restoring democracy”.

So, was there the replacement of government by workers power in Lesotho? The answer is that yes, in several quarters, especially among the mutineers, such principles were tactically (if not consciously) upheld. But it does not

matter what terms are used. What matters is whether real tactics and strategies destroy exploitation, empower the oppressed and give every worker and poor person direct political, social and economic control over their lives. When all is said and done, the state was peacefully immobilised for half a year and there was a great deal of direct action, participatory democracy and class-consciousness.

But there was also a crucial failure to address capitalism as a source of oppression, and a tendency to allow opportunistic party politics to shape the civil struggle

The revolt may have been crushed. But its spirit hasn’t – and the political landscape in Lesotho has changed irrevocably. Ties have been forged between workers, soldiers and rural people that did not exist before. Many of these people are now heavily armed.