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(en) Brazil, "Anarchist News Agency" ANA interview with a South African anarchist (pt)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 13 Dec 2004 16:47:55 +0100 (CET)

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ANA has always sought to provide information on other anarchist
areas, and taking advantage of the fact that the South African
anarchist Jonathan Black, a fine activist and regional secretary
of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF), will shortly
be visiting Brazil, we spoke with him about the current libertarian
panorama in South Africa which, incredible as it may seem, is still
holding anti-apartheid fighters prisoner.
> Agência de Notícias Anarquistas > How is the anarchist movement today in South Africa?
> Jonathan Black < There is a small anarchist movement in South Africa which has
been experiencing a revival since about the early nineties, but is still in its
infant stages, although libertarian ideas have become more popular particularly
in the popular social movements during the last five or so years. There are
also Marxist dominated youth organizations in Swaziland, members of which have
begun to express an interest in anarchism.

ANA > What activities does your group engage in?

Jonathan < The main body of organized anarchism in South Africa is the Zabalaza
Anarchist Communist Federation, which had its first official congress in
Johannesburg this year. The activities of the ZACF - which is made up of the
Black Action Group, Bikisha Media Collective, Zabalaza Books, Anarchist Black
Cross and formerly the now defunct Zabalaza Action Group - include propaganda,
education and outreach in the form of writing, publishing and distributing
anarchist literature and holding political education forums as well as
participation within the popular social movements and community and prison

ANA > What is your main area of activity?

Jonathan < At the moment our main struggles include trying to organize
demoralized and disillusioned outsourced workers at WITS University,
participation in the popular social movements in the struggles against water
and electricity privatization and evictions, and organizing prisoners.

ANA > Are there many magazines, papers or books published there?

Jonathan < The ZACF produces ‘Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African
Revolutionary Anarchism’ as well, albeit sporadically, as ‘Black Alert: Paper
of the Anarchist Black Cross - Anti-Repression Network’. We also write and
produce various anarchist pamphlets and critiques relevant to South African
class struggle and history such as ‘Class Struggles in South Africa: From
Apartheid to Neo-liberalism’ as well as re-producing many contemporary and
classic anarchist theoretical and practical texts. Zabalaza Books has also
recently started publishing an edition of the book African Anarchism by
Nigerian anarchists Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey of the Awareness League as well
as Hungary ‘56 by Andy Anderson.

ANA > Are there any anarchist centers (cultural centers)?

Jonathan < There is one very small anarchist run community center in the
township of Motsoaledi in Soweto which has a small study room and library that
stocks anarchist and educational literature, as well as showing political
education and entertainment videos to community members. Activists there also
cultivate a community vegetable garden and have started providing a day school
for small children. There are also some other activist run community centers
that are not specifically anarchist but do stock anarchist literature and are
influenced by our ideas. One of the main priorities of the ZACf in the near
future is to set up an anarchist run community center/infoshop from which we
can distribute our materials, hold workshops etc.

ANA > Is there an anarchist tradition in South Africa?

Jonathan < During the early 1900s there was a relatively large anarchist
tradition in the form of the anti-parliamentary Communist Party of South Africa
(not to be confused with the reformist Communist Party of South Africa –
Communist International), the Socialist Club, the International Socialist
League, the Industrial Workers of Africa, the Industrial Workers of the World
South Africa section and the Industrial Socialist League; all founded in South
Africa between 1900 and 1920. As well as the Revolutionary League in Mozambique
and the anarcho-syndicalist unions allied to the General Confederation of
Labour in Portugal, which dominated the Mozambican labour scene in the 1920s.
These traditions were sadly wiped out by two world wars and the nationalist
regime, not to be revisited until the apartheid regime began to decline and
with it the "Suppression of Communism Act".

ANA > Who were some of the "important" anarchists in your country?

Jinathan < Notable anarchists of South Africa are those militants such as
Thomas "TW" Thibedi, Bernard Sigamoney, Henry Kraai and Talbot Williams who
founded the Industrial Workers of Africa and associated unions in South Africa
between 1917 and 1919.

ANA > Could you describe for us some anarchist projects in South Africa?

Jonathan < At the moment one project that I feel passionately about and would
like to put more emphasis on is a support campaign for imprisoned
anti-apartheid ex-combatants and political prisoners who are still languishing
in state dungeons across South Africa. The campaign is to bring attention to
the plight of these prisoners in the hope that, if we can generate enough
public support, these people can be granted amnesty. Some of these prisoners
are becoming very interested in anarchism and we hope that through them, in
addition to the prison organising which they are now involved in, we can also
reach their families, who have first hand experience of the repressive role of
the state, and their communities.

ANA > Is the anarchist movement in your country basically made up of black

Jonathan < The majority of the proletariat in South Africa is black however,
largely due to the race history of South Africa with the lack of access to
information of most underprivileged classes and especially for ‘non-whites’
during apartheid, until recently the majority of conscious anarchists was in
fact white. And, with a few exceptions, it wasn’t really until during the
United Nations World $ummit on (un)$ustainable Development in Johannesburg in
2002 that we established contact with black township anarchists in South
Africa, who had only just recently begun to be exposed to anarchist ideas
largely as a result of our propaganda work carried out within the social
movements. Also since recently some black political prisoners are now becoming
increasingly interested in anarchism, or now identify themselves as anarchists.

ANA > What are the main problems facing anarchism in South Africa today?

Jonathan < The main problem of the anarchist movement of South Africa, which
may be evident from above, is that – although we do have contact with the
popular social movements and with grassroots community activists - there is not
any mass based anarchist or libertarian movement or tradition in South Africa.
The mass based movements being dominated by reformists and authoritarian
socialists, our biggest obstacle is to demonstrate a practical alternative to
authoritarian socialism and parliamentary politics, but this is made very
difficult by our small numbers and the limited scope of our influence, which is
largely due to lack of funding.

ANA > And what are the prospectives for the future?

Jonathan < The ruling ANC government is doing a very good job of disillusioning
people in the role of politics in advancing peoples social conditions and with
the Trotskyite dominated leadership of the Anti-Privatisation Forum – which
formed out of the working class as a popular social movement – wanting to
register the APF as a ‘Mass Workers Party’ and run in elections (the idea of
which has been hotly debated from what appear to be two opposing camps forming
within the social movements i.e. one libertarian and autonomous the other
authoritarian and hierarchical), a good opportunity could present itself for
anarchists to try and rally all those activists who are opposed to
participation in parliamentary politics together as a popular front of
oppressed classes, along the principles of direct action, equality etc. I also
feel that one of the most important prospects for the future is to set up an
anarchist social/ cultural center in a location easily accessible by the
working class as I feel this is one of the only ways for us to get our
materials to reach more people.

ANA > Can you tell us something about anarchism in the rest of the African
continent. In which countries does an anarchist movement exist?

Jonathan < In Nigeria there has existed for quite a few years now (about a
decade?) the anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League, which I believe at one stage
had about 1,000 members, although I think this may now have declined. In about
the year 2000 or 2002 they set up their own radio station, but I am not sure if
this is still operational. The Awareness League joined the anarchist
international, the IWA-AIT at the Madrid congress in December of 1996.

In Kenya there is the Anti-Capitalist Convergence of Kenya, which as far as I
know is modeled on the Washington DC Anti-Capitalist Convergence and was
started by anarchist/libertarian communists, Marxists and other socialists with
the intention of trying ‘to reach the general public with revolutionary ideas,
propaganda and actions’.

I believe also that the French section of the IWA, the CNT AIT, have some
contact with anarcho-syndicalists in Algeria, there is also apparently an
anarchist group active in the trade unions in Morocco and the Australian
anarcho-syndicalist magazine Organise reported that the XXI IWA congress in
December 2000 was told that an organisation was emerging in Zaire/Democratic
Republic of Congo. There are reportedly also some, possibly very few,
anarchists active in Uganda, Sierra Leone and Egypt.

In addition to this we have had contact with Marxist-influenced revolutionaries
and others from the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and the Students Union
of Swaziland who have expressed great interest in anarchism as a means of
struggle against the monarchist Tinkundla regime, and with whom we hope to
develop further relations.

ANA > Do you feel isolated from anarchists in the rest of the world?

Jonathan < In general the international anarchist community has been very
supportive and we maintain regular contact with numerous anarchists and
organisations around the world, as well as having had the opportunity to meet
with a number of anarchists from different countries like Sweden, America,
Iraq, UK, Switzerland etc. who have visited South Africa. The ZACF is also a
member of the International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS) anarchist network so
our International Secretary maintains regular contact with other ILS groups as
well as the fact that international anarchists often contact Zabalaza Books
about republishing our materials.
I personally feel more isolated with regards to the anarchist movement on the
rest of the African continent as well as in the global South in general, where
I think communication is harder than in the North.

ANA > What expectations do you have for your visit to Brazil? Do you know
something about anarchism over here?

Jonathan < One of my expectations is to try and begin to bridge the
communications gap that exists between the anarchist movements of the South, by
establishing networks of anarchists between the various places I visit in
Brazil and South African and hopefully other African anarchists.
I believe also that the social conditions of Brazil are very similar to those
in South Africa and I would like to see how the Brazilian anarchists involve
themselves in the popular social movements, and how they organise around things
like housing rights and education and then apply what I have learnt to the
struggles in South Africa.
I would also like to spread awareness about the conditions of South Africa
after 10 years of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ (increasing inequality,
neo-liberalism etc.) and try and generate solidarity for our campaign for
anti-apartheid political prisoners.

ANA > Thanks for the interview, any message?

Jonathan < Thanks for giving me a chance to speak a bit about the small but
growing anarchist movement in South Africa, I look forward to meeting and
making many friends with our Brazilian anarchist comrades. Let’s increase the

Jonathan Black: blackalternative -A- africamail.com
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation: http://www.zabalaza.net
Anti-Capitalist Convergence of Kenya:
Anarchism in Uganda: http://www.geocities.com/ugandanarchism//index.html

Agência de Notícias Anarquistas-ANA -
CP 78 -
E-mail: a_n_a@riseup.net


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