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Ten years into our new bourgeois democracy and the ANC
released a triumphalist analysis of its achievements entitled
"Towards a 10-year Review". But one has to go further back and
look at the continental soil within which the roots of the
"miracle" transition from racial class rule to deracialised class
rule grew. Our analysis here is mainly extracted from an
interview with the ZACF published by the 36-year-old British
anarchist journal Black Flag.
Long under the whip of hyper-extractive
colonial regimes, the development of the
entire spectrum of left-wing revolutionism in
Africa has been slaved firstly to the late or
very narrow development of an industrial
working class in a handful of countries - and
secondly to the development of bourgeois
national liberation struggles. In the first
case, it was only countries such as South
Africa, Algeria and Egypt where colonialism
established significant settler populations
(many of them labourers from Europe, or
indentured labourers from India and Asia) to
run sophisticated economies based on min-
ing, commercial agriculture and their associ-
ated infrastructure. It is no accident that it is
in these countries that anarchism first
gained a foothold more than a century ago,
finding its highest expression in the IWW-
influenced revolutionary syndicalism of the
Industrial Workers of Africa (IWA, founded
1917) and of the Indian Workers Industrial
Union (IWIU, founded 1919) in South Africa.
A notable exception to the trend is in the
then-Portuguese colony of Mozambique,
where it appears that an anarcho-syndicalist
trade union tendency allied to the powerful
Portuguese General Confederation of
Labour (CGT) flourished into the late 1920s
in the complete absence of a domestic com-
munist party.
Two factors contributed to the decay of
the "first wave" of revolutionary syndicalism
& anarcho-syndicalism in Africa. Firstly, as
with other Anglophone countries (former
British colonies), the lack of specific anar-
chist organisations crippled revolutionary
syndicalist organisations in meeting the
challenges of Bolshevism and of emergent
petit-bourgeois black nationalism (the ANC
for instance), so the Industrial and
Commercial Union (ICU, founded 1918) that
the IWA and IWIU gave birth to, spread as
far afield as Zambia and peaked in 1927, but
collapsed in ideological confusion thereafter.
Secondly, from the early 1930s, much of
Africa started to fall under fascism:
Mozambique, Angola and other Portuguese
territories under Salazar's regime after
1927; Libya, Ethiopia and Eritrea under
Mussolini's Italy in the late 1930s; Morocco
and Spanish Sahara under Franco's Spain
from 1936; Algeria, French West Africa (and
Madagascar?) under Vichy France during
the war; and Belgian Central Africa under
the Rexist regime during the war. The post-
war acceleration of national liberation strug-
gles thus took place in a vacuum - but also
in a condition of largely Soviet or Maoist
seduction and patronage, while parts of
Africa remained under fascist control into the
mid-1970s (Angola and Mozambique).
The concept of "African socialism" as
defined by continental so-called liberation
leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius
Nyerere, Amilcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto,
Eduardo Mondlane, Ahmed Ben Bella and
others has been hugely influential in the
mal-development of the continent, both ide-
ologically and economically. Some post-lib-
eration countries experimented initially with
a form of statist decentralisation, notably
Libya under Muammar Gadaffi and Tanzania
under Nkrumah while on the opposite side of
the spectrum were the hyper-authoritarian
Marxist regimes of the likes of Mengistu
Haile Mariam's Ethiopia or the outright neo-
fascism of Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt.
The primary external "socialist" influences
(based on direct military/political/economic
investment) were the old USSR and to a
lesser extent Cuba, China, North Korea and
East Germany. The collapse of the Soviet
Bloc had a big impact on the sustainability of
the façade of "socialism" across much of the
continent. Some regimes, like that of
Mengistu, have collapsed. Others like
Frelimo in Mozambique, have transformed
themselves into bourgeois-democratic
regimes. Still others like Zambia under
Chiluba have capitulated wholesale to neo-
liberalism. The evaporation of funding from
foreign "communist" states was instrumental
in provoking the collapse of unsustainable
African "socialism".

The collapse of apartheid and the end
that brought to cross-border conflicts in
Namibia, Angola and Mozambique in partic-
ular, the defeat of the old US client regimes
like the former Zaire (now the Democratic
Republic of Congo) and proxy forces (like
UNITA in Angola), and the exit of dictators
like Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya and Hastings
Banda of Malawi has brought the Cold War
in Africa to an end. But the raping of the
DRC by trans-national corporations, under
the cover of military conflict between nine
countries, the exposure of the fraud of elec-
toral politics through the corruption of new
"democratic" regimes like that of Frederic
Chiluba of Zambia, and the last-ditch
scorched-earth stance of "socialist"
dinosaurs like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
have kept tensions high. Adding to this is
the smooth sub-imperialism of South Africa's
Thabo Mbeki and his neo-liberal "New
Partnership for Africa's Development"
(NEPAD) that has ushered in a whole new
era of struggle on the continent.
Lacking sustained
anarchist/libertarian/syndicalist mass organ-
ised traditions, the continent has not proven
a rich environment for the revival of anti-
authoritarian organisations. Where they
have arisen, it has perhaps been only in part
because of the ideological vacuum created
by the collapse of the validity of "socialism",
and perhaps more because of specific local
conditions: in Sierra Leone, it was the pitiful
working conditions in the diamond mines
that gave rise to the IWW section there;
while in Nigeria, leftist opposition to military
rule helped forge the Awareness League. In
South Africa, the legitimacy crisis of the
reformist SACP and the erosion of worker
gains by neo-liberalism have helped spur
some interest in anarchism. But levels of
interest and involvement in anarchist organ-
isations on the continent are extremely low
(by comparison to Latin America or Eastern
Europe, for example) and should not be
Today, there are significant structural,
legal, economic, political and social changes
in the "free" South Africa - but also a widen-
ing wealth gap that for many black inhabi-
tants means very little has changed in real
terms. The scattered black homelands and
their duplicate bureaucracies (including their
armed forces) have been consolidated into a
unitary state. A new human-rights-based
constitution and the scrapping of all overt
racially discriminatory laws has established
a bourgeois parliamentary democracy in
which the ANC is by far the dominant party
with a 2/3 majority that they hope to consol-
idate in this year's general election. Less
overt racial laws, those that are class-based
and biased in favour of big business have,
however, ensured that the black majority
remains landless, impoverished tenants in
their own country. The country's protection-
ist economics - reinforced by sanctions iso-
lation - has been replaced by an open-door
policy that has allowed cheap imports to
flood the country, leading to the loss of some
1-million jobs since 1994. Probably the
hardest-hit is the clothing-manufacturing
sector that has long been a stronghold of
workerist organising, as well as organised
agriculture. Wildcat strikes have been most
marked in the motor manufacturing sector,
and in the late 1990s there were a spate of
lockades of arterial roads by radicals in the
transport sector. Labour battles between
progressive and reactionary unions lead to a
few murders in the ports and mining sectors.
Unemployment stands at perhaps 40%, but
we will discuss labour in more detail later.


The fault-line of racism (closely duplicat-
ed by class) is the fundamental reality of
South African life after three centuries of
white supremacist rule and deliberate under-
development of the ruled, whether indige-
nous, Asian, brown or black. This is an
inescapable fact and one that has troubled,
challenged and enlightened our movement
right from the start when we were essential-
ly two underground organisations in the
dying days of apartheid. While the laws
dividing people along colour lines have
changed, inequality and the wealth gap are
increasing. Some 75% of all SA homes lack
food security and one can find children
suffering from malnutrition-related dis-
eases like marasmus and kwashiokor
on the doorsteps of our cities.
HIV/AIDS has taken a huge toll and
thousands of child orphans now find
themselves the heads of their house-
holds, caring for their infant siblings as
best they can. Some 62% of all blacks,
29% of all coloureds, 11% of all Asians
and 4% of all whites currently live below
the poverty line, a dramatic increase
during the "decade of democracy".
Some 3.5-million have been evicted
from their homes since 1994, often at
gunpoint, while millions more have had
their water and electricity cut off by
municipalities who are far more inter-
ested in cost-recovery than the health
of their residents. Many black people
have commented on how life under the
old apartheid regime was in some ways
better in that there was more job secu-
rity and there were state subsidies in
services, which have been eroded by
the neo-liberal GEAR (Growth Employment
And Redistribution) economic policy of the
ANC, which is a home-grown structural
adjustment programme that even surprised
the IMF and World Bank with its austerity.
As the ZACF, our overarching approach
as revolutionaries is class struggle - but that
in the SA context this so closely replicates a
struggle against white supremacism that the
two have to work in tandem, without the
class issue absorbing or downplaying the
importance of race. As a "multi-racial"
organisation that has deliberately united
activists from divided backgrounds, our main
difference with the Western anarchist move-
ment is that we do not feel the need for sep-
arate organisations for people of colour. We
must say that we welcome the founding of
ethnic organisations such as the Anarchist
People of Color (APOC) network in the US,
or the Popular Indigenous Council of
Oaxaca - Ricardo Flores Magon (CIPO-
RFM) in Mexico - where such organising
appears to be crucial to establishing the
validity of anarchism in marginalized com-
munities. But in a majority black region
where we have for too long been separated,
racially-specific organisations would send
out totally the wrong signals to the
oppressed classes.
The racist white ultra-right has gone into
a significant decline following the failed pre-
1994 election Afrikaner Resistance
Movement (AWB) invasion of the
Bophuthatswana bantustan and the last-
gasp election bombing campaign. The cur-
rent treason trial against the Farmer Force
(Boeremag) is demonstrating how weak and
pathetic the white right is, despite grandiose
plans of blowing up dams and seizing con-
trol of the armed forces - all of which came
to naught. Still, racism is a deeply
entrenched reality in many farming areas
where black labourers have been murdered,
tortured or shot at, often for the mildest of
supposed infractions. On the other hand,
studies have shown that most murders of
white farmers are criminally and not politi-
cally motivated. Right-wing vigilantism and
murder has become a problem, both with
the black/white Mapogo a Matamaga organ-
isation in the northern provinces and the
PAGAD Muslim/criminal organisation in the
Western Cape, but both seem to be pretty
quiet now. The main thing to recognise is
that the mainstream right-wingers, both
white and black, are now all in parliament.
And not a single parliamentary party is
opposed to neo-liberalism. So for many
black, coloured, Asian and indigenous South
Africans, their historical experience of mar-
ginalisation, joblessness, poverty, malnutri-
tion and racism is unchanged, perhaps even


The ANC remains a member of the
Socialist International - yet President Thabo
Mbeki is a self-described Thatcherite. The
ANC still talks at its public rallies of its
"national democratic revolution" - and in the
boardrooms about market fundamentalism.
It has fired on peaceful demonstrations at
home - and cosied up to noxious dictators
like Gadaffi, Suharto, Mugabe, Musharraf,
Kabila and Castro abroad. These contradic-
tions are supposedly resolved by what the
ANC claims is a "developmental state" theo-
ry. Now clearly, the party has to deal with
the basic provision of infrastructural services
in order to do three things: encourage for-
eign direct investment; secure their voter
base; and improve the overall skills levels of
the black working class so as to ensure a
significantly large domestic market and a
skills base to enable manufacturing to take
the economic lead from primary industries
like mining, agriculture and fishing. The
ANC leadership has embraced the neo-lib-
eralism that has meant stupendous wealth
for some 300 black dynasties-in-the-making,
the 5% of the Johannesburg Stock
Exchange that represents "black empower-
ment". It was mid-way through former
President Nelson Mandela's term that
the ANC shut down its quasi-socialist
pretensions (the Redistribution and
Development Programme, RDP) and
instead wholeheartedly embraced
GEAR. In essence, the ANC is leading
its working-class voters on a merry
dance, a sort of "liberation lang-arm",
headed for the poorhouse.
It is important to recognise that the
ANC does not rule alone (a common
misconception abroad, we find), but
previously in cahoots with the Zulu
chauvinist Inkatha Freedom Party
(IFP), and also the anti-communist Pan
Africanist Congress (PAC). In the
Western Cape at provincial level, it has
even been in bed with the retread New
National Party (the old apartheid gov-
ernment). These alliances of conven-
ience have tilted the overall political
balance of the ruling clique in the direc-
tion of centre-right, which is despica-
ble, given the decades of socialist rhetoric
that motivated millions of South Africans
(and their foreign allies) to back the "libera-
tion" movements against apartheid. Today,
Mbeki's ANC is a blatantly capitalist party
(although like Lula in Brazil and Chavez in
Venezuela, it talks left while acting right). It
introduced GEAR, which calls for cuts in
social spending, privatisation, the casualisa-
tion of labour etc. With the socialist rhetoric
of the past discarded, the ANC is revealed to
be true to its original class interest: it is the
party of an emerging bourgeoisie, of chief-
tains and technocrats from the black middle
class who wanted to have a bigger slice of
the capitalist pie.
The Communist Party alongside
COSATU - which at some 1.8-million mem-
bers is the biggest trade union organisation
in South Africa - is in an alliance with the rul-
ing ANC, the Tripartite Alliance. The SACP
basically toes the ANC party line and uses
their influence to gain votes for the
arty, and in return high-ranking SACP party
officials have seats in government. The rank
and file of the SACP is pretty inactive with
many members abandoning the party to join
the social movements and other members
who don't like the direction the party is tak-
ing being expelled. The role of SACP in its
own view is to provide a "critical socialist
engagement" with the ANC regime, but its
critics say its real role is to provide "red
cover" for the ANC's anti-working class poli-
cies. On the other hand, despite the fact
that key ministers are communists - police
(which glories under the name Safety &
Security, SS), public works, public enterpris-
es, the office of the presidency, water affairs
& forestry - the SACP clearly is a sub-
servient organisation. This was shown by
the ANC forcing SACP deputy general sec-
retary Jeremy Cronin to apologise for warn-
ing about the possible "Zanufication" of the
ruling congress, meaning it was starting to
take on the dictatorial attitudes of Mugabe's
ZANU-PF party. We characterised the spat
as one between "Cronin capitalism and
crony capitalism"! Cronin himself, a loyal
Stalinist (and don't Stalinism and
Thatcherism go well together?) booted a
real Bolshevik, Dale McKinley, out of the
SACP for, essentially being too communist.
McKinley is today spokesman for the Social
Movements Indaba, the umbrella of the
social movements within which the ZACF
Although COSATU is the most progres-
sive of the four big labour federations, it has
been compromised in its struggles for the
interests of the rank-and-file; instead of
organising workers for struggle the congress
has preferred to negotiate with bosses
behind closed doors. Like the SACP, the
high-ranking COSATU officials are also
using their positions to get comfortable seats
in government and to canvas for the ANC.
With the fall of apartheid, workers on the
shop floor have been dissuaded from taking
militant action, and a once strong fighting
union has become a lapdog for the ruling
elite. One of the main compromises made
by COSATU is its endorsement of a Labour
Relations Act that, while supposedly guaran-
teeing more labour rights, in fact places so
many mediation obligations before
aggrieved workers that it is extremely diffi-
cult to embark on a legal strike. Also,
COSATU is party to NEDLAC, a cross-class
labour/government/business policy forum
that tends to lock it into agreements with the
ruling class.
Then there is the growing practice of
organised labour investing in capitalist com-
panies or investment schemes, leading to
possible conflict of interest problems if
labour disputes arise at the companies
invested in. In addition to this, the forced
amalgamation of COSATU's more radical
and powerful unions (chemical, and trans-
port in particular) with defunct and backward
ones (paper & pulp, and another transport
outfit, respectively) created mega-unions on
paper, but diluted the radicalism and effec-
tiveness of these progressive redoubts of organ-
ised labour. This, combined with the erosion of internal
democracy by the imposition of "democratic centralism"
to silence comment from the floor, the expulsion of revo-
lutionary leaders and shop-stewards and the bugging of
union offices by suspected ANC internal intelligence
agents have neutered the power of COSATU.
This also lead to an anarchist change of
tactics away from the anarcho-syndicalism
represented by the Workers' Solidarity
Federation (WSF), shut down in 1999 in
order to reorient ourselves more towards
building serious militants outside the com-
promised unions, but inside poor communi-
ties of the unemployed and underemployed.
But times are changing: COSATU has, on its
own version, aided in the defeat of the right-
wing within the ANC that wanted to margin-
alize worker interests; has taken a stridently
independent line at loggerheads with the
ANC on the Zimbabwean question; has
extended an olive branch to the once-
spurned radical social movements (see our
report in this journal on the Social
Movements Conference); and continues to
mobilise hundreds of thousands of workers
in strike actions, the latest being the 50,000-
strong National Union of Mineworkers strike
in March 2005 as we write this.


South Africa has a very specific condi-
tion that makes it distinct from the rest of
Africa. As the continent's most powerful
economy, it is also its most important sub-
imperialist power, acting as a sort of region-
al policeman and continental viceroyalty on
behalf of British imperialism. The distinction
of the UK as our imperial power is as impor-
tant - and neglected - as the recognition that
Brazil is the sub-imperialist power in Latin
America, operating on behalf of US inter-
ests. Remember, even if the UK is junior to
the US, post-colonial Britain continues to
dominate relations in Anglophone Africa,
which include four key regional economies:
Egypt in the north, Nigeria in the west,
Kenya in the east and South Africa in the
south. The only other imperialist power that
wields quite as much influence in Africa is
France, but France had only one key region-
al economy, Algeria, and lost much control
there after "liberation", leaving it with the
purely extractive raw material / cheap labour
pools of the Francophone west. As the main
continental sub-imperialist power, post-
apartheid SA has: pushed the neo-liberal
New Partnership for Africa's Development
(NEPAD); restructured the Organisation of
African Unity (OAU) as the neo-liberal
African Union (AU); invaded its neighbour
Lesotho in 1998 to falsely "restore democra-
cy" (i.e.: crush a pro-democratic mutiny and
claim it was a coup attempt); hugely expand-
ed its own multinationals like Anglo
American into the interior, often as buy-ins to
privatisation; and advanced exploitation by,
for instance, enclosing huge areas of north-
ern Mozambique by pushing peasants off
the land and settling white racist commercial
farmers there.
SA's infrastructure, economy - and
armed forces - make it a formidable capital-
ist adversary to the working classes of our
neighbours north of the Limpopo River. So
the SA situation is intimately tied to being in
the sub-imperialist centre on the one hand -
and on the other to having a large industri-
alised working class with a very recent insur-
rectionary history. The class in SA also has
an appreciation of the promises of commu-
nist liberation fresh in its memory - while it
stares down the barrel of ANC-driven neo-
liberalism. Otherwise, the wars in central
Africa (DRC and southern Sudan in particu-
lar) are winding down, while West African
regions like Sierra Leone (where until
destroyed by the civil war, there was a
3,000-strong IWW section) and Liberia con-
tinue to bleed. Still, the DRC "peace" deal
has foolishly endorsed rule-by-the-gun by
simply recognising all combatants as legiti-
mate claimants to a slice of the pie. This,
the continuing attracting of plundering coun-
tries like Angola and the DRC of diamond
and oil wealth by foreign (and African) multi-
nationals, and the continued presence of
interahamwe Hutu militia in the Great Lakes
region make it appear that central instability
is likely to continue for some time. And
when the guns fall silent, there is still class
rule, so no true peace. There is only one
remaining colony - Western Sahara, which
remains under Moroccan occupation - so the
dynamics of national liberation are long
faded. Essentially, we all face the same
neo-liberal enemy today, but many of our
neighbours do it without basic human rights,
infrastructure, the means of living beyond a
medieval average age of 40 - and without
any libertarian revolutionary tradition within
living memory.


It was the opposition to privatisation by
the SA Municipal Workers Union (a
COSATU affiliate) that helped spark the new
wave of resistance to capitalism. The
unions may be hamstrung at the moment,
but the bite of neo-liberalism is taking its toll
on the shop floor just as much as in the
township streets, so we believe it is only a
matter of time before they experience a
resurgence of rank-and-file militancy. In
about 2000, several new anti-neo-liberal
resistance strands (those opposing the pay-
ment of apartheid foreign debt, or the pri-
vatisation of municipal water, for example)
united to form a constellation of new radical
and progressive social movements. After
holding the fort for several years in a political
wilderness where criticism of the ANC/SACP
was virtually unheard of (maintaining a prop-
aganda initiative and running the Workers
Library & Museum in Johannesburg as an
independent working class space), the anar-
chist movement got directly involved in the
new social movements, helping found,
alongside comrades of various revolutionary
persuasions, the Anti-Privatisation Forum in
Johannesburg. Today the movements
embrace an estimated 200,000 supporters
across SA - as compared to the SA
Communist Party's largely inactive 16,000-
paper membership.
It must also be pointed out that it was
comrade B and the late comrade Mandla of
the ZACF collective, the Shesha Action
Group (SAG) in Soweto who started
Operation Khanyisa, meaning "light", the
operation that illegally re-connected some
25,000 homes in Soweto. These "guerrilla
electricians" are literally heroes to the mil-
lions of poor people who have had their
lights cut off by state power supplier Eskom
since 1994. We as the ZACF do not adopt a
rose-tinted view of these social movements,
for they are very uneven in theory and prac-
tice, are currently in a period of disorienta-
tion and retreat, and embrace reactionary as
well as progressive and revolutionary ele-
ments. But they, hopefully in alliance with
resurgent militants within COSATU's rank-
and-file, have enormous potential to form
the core of an emergent working class
power that will be able to challenge the
barons of neo-liberalism with the aim of put-
ting large swathes of the economy in the
hands of the producers.
* A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism
"From each according to ability, to each according to need!"

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