Lucien van der Walt. “Alternatives from the Ground Up: Globalization School Input on Anarchism/ Syndicalism and (Black) Working Class Self-Emancipation in Post-Apartheid South Africa”

Lucien van der Walt, 2016, “Alternatives from the Ground Up: Globalization School Input on Anarchism/ Syndicalism and (Black) Working Class Self-Emancipation in Post-Apartheid South Africa,” WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, 19 (2): 251-268. Get the online text here, and the PDF here.

ABSTRACT: This commentary, an input at a Globalization School debate in Cape Town, engages current labor and Left debates on building alternatives, drawing on the experiences of the radical wing of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and on anarchism and syndicalism. It argues for a strategy of bottom-up mobilization based on debate and pluralism, and building structures of counter-power and a revolutionary counter-culture that can prefigure and create a new social order. The aim is to foster a class-based movement against exploitation, domination, and oppression, including national oppression, that can win reforms through self-activity, unite a range of struggles against oppression, and develop the capacity and unity needed for deep social change. This should be outside parliament, the political party system and the state. The outcome, ultimately, would be the replacement of capitalism, the state, and social and economic inequality, by a universal human community based on self-management, the democratization of daily life, participatory economic planning, and libertarian socialism.

**This is a lightly edited transcript of Lucien van der Walt’s input at the 2010 Globalization School in Cape Town, for the public debate “How Do We Develop an Alternative?” Co-panelists were Mazibuko Jara (Conference of the Democratic Left, now national secretary of the United Front), Zico Tamela (South African Communist Party, SACP), and Lydia Cairncross (Workers Organization for Socialist Action). It was very well received, with clapping and cheers at many points. Lucien van der Walt is a South African writer and sociologist, long involved in the working class movement. He is the author of numerous works, and editor of “Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1870–1940” (with Steven Hirsch, preface by Benedict Anderson, 2010/ 2014, Brill). The Globalization School is an annual event by the Cape Town-based International Labor Research and Information Group (ILRIG), attracting 150–200 activists from unions and social movements.


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