Lucien van der Walt

September 8, 1972 — ?

Revolt Library People Lucien van der Walt

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September 8, 1972 — ?


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About Lucien van der Walt

Lucien van der Walt (born 8 September 1972) is a South African writer, professor of Sociology and labor educator. His research engages the anarchist/syndicalist tradition of Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin; trade unionism and working class history, particularly in southern Africa; and neo-liberal state restructuring. He currently teaches and researches at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, and previously worked at the University of the Witwatersrand. His 2007 PhD on anarchism and syndicalism in South Africa in the early 1900s won both the international prize for the best PhD dissertation from the Labor History journal, and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa prize for best African PhD thesis.

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This person has authored 33 documents, with 342,731 words or 2,460,512 characters.

I think the previous panelists have put forward some pretty powerful arguments. So, I must start by thanking these comrades. We are addressing the issue of “How Do We Develop an Alternative?” and, more precisely, at how unions and community movements can develop this alternative. And by that, of course, we mean an alternative to the existing system, which traps millions upon millions in misery. We need to be very careful not to reduce our critique of the current system to a critique of the system for creating poverty, for not creating enough jobs, for not building enough houses. We must not forget that, originally, socialism stressed creating better material conditions for the working class, the peasantry, and the ... (From :
Anarchism and syndicalism have been major forces internationally in the struggle of the popular classes against all forms of oppression and domination. I mean here the working class, the peasantry and the poor. And by working class, I mean the term broadly: all those who rely on wages and lack power, including workers, the unemployed and their families, and I include here "blue" collar, "white" collar and "pink" collar workers, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or other division. To be working class is to be exploited, regardless of income level or skill, and dominated, regardless of job title. Of course, most parts of the working class (and the popular classes more generally) face additional forms of oppression, notably in South... (From :
Abstract Examining the theory and practice of ‘mass’ anarchism and syndicalism, this paper argues against Daryl Glaser’s views that workers’ council democracy fails basic democratic benchmarks and that, envisaged as a simple instrument of a revolution imagined in utopian ‘year zero’ terms, it will probably collapse or end in ‘Stalinist’ authoritarianism—Glaser also argues instead for parliaments, supplemented by participatory experiments. While agreeing with Glaser on the necessity of a ‘democratic minimum’ of pluralism, rights, and open-ended outcomes, I demonstrate, in contrast, that this ‘minimum’ is perfectly compatible with bottom-up council democracy ... (From :
Abstract This paper examines the development of anarchism and syndicalism in early twentieth century Cape Town, South Africa, drawing attention to a crucial but neglected chapter of labor and left history. Central to this story were the anarchists in the local Social Democratic Federation (SDF), and the revolutionary syndicalists of the Industrial Socialist League, the Industrial Workers of Africa (IWA), and the Sweets and Jam Workers’ Industrial Union. These revolutionary anti-authoritarians, Africans, Coloreds and whites, fostered a multiracial radical movement – considerably preceding similar achievements by the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in this port city. They were also part of a larger anarchist and synd... (From :
“The anarchist program concerning the national liberation struggle is very clear: it must not go towards constituting an ‘intermediate stage’ towards the social revolution through the formation of new national States. Anarchists refuse to participate in national liberation fronts; they participate in class fronts which may or may not be involved in national liberation struggles. The struggle must spread to establish economic, political and social structures in the liberated territories based on federalist and libertarian principles.” Alfredo Bonanno, 1978. * * * * * This important pamphlet attempts to develop an anarchist internationalist position on the ever present reality of... (From :
The history of the broad anarchist tradition in North Africa has yet to be written, and must therefore be pieced together from a wide variety of sources. Modern, developed Egypt was – and still is – largely confined by its desert wastes to a narrow fertile funnel embracing the capital of Cairo on the Nile River and the Nile delta port cities of Alexandria and Port Said. Originally part of the Ottoman Empire, it became an autonomous Ottoman province under the dynasty of Mohammed Ali from 1805, but the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 proved too much of a temptation for imperialist Britain, which occupied the country in 1882. In “Egypt and Tunis,” Max Nettlau argues, “Italian Anarchist émigrés and ... (From :
This pamphlet provides an excellent introduction to the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin, the “founder” of anarchism… We do not see Bakunin as a god who never made mistakes. Of course he was not perfect. He was a man, but a man who gave his all for the struggle of the oppressed, a revolutionary hero who deserves our admiration and respect. From Bakunin, we can learn much about revolutionary activism. We can learn even more about the ideas needed to win the age-old fight between exploiter and exploited, between worker and peasant, on the one hand, and boss and ruler on the other… On Bakunin: Introduction to the South African Edition (2004) by Lucien van der Walt This pamphlet provides an excellent introdu... (From :
In the Beginning… This is a book about the history of anarchism. It is a history of nearly 120 years of unbroken workers struggle. It is a history of sacrifice and bravery by ordinary people fighting for a world without bosses and oppression. Anarchism – also known as libertarian socialism, syndicalism, or free communism – was not born in the mind of an intellectual or a philosopher. Instead it was born in the struggles of the working and poor people for a world free of oppression and exploitation. This is how a group of exiled Russian militants expressed this issue: Anarchism … (derives) from the direct struggle of workers against capitalism, from the needs and necessities of the wo... (From :
The South African working class is on the retreat. It is not defeated, but is falling back in the face of a major neo-liberal offensive by the democratic government elected in 1994. A vicious “homegrown Structural Adjustment Program,” called “GEAR” or the Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy, is in place, and it has directly contributed to a million jobs lost, to cuts in social services, and to rapidly growing class inequality. The disarray caused by GEAR is matched only by the political confusion prevailing within the trade union movement: having voted the ruling African National Congress (ANC) into power, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is massively disorientated by the ANC&rsqu... (From :
The Spanish Revolution began in the aftermath of a failed fascist coup by General Franco on the 18 July 1936. The coup, which was sponsored by conservative sections of big capital and the Church, failed in most of Spain in the face of armed resistance by workers and peasants, which was organized primarily by the giant revolutionary Anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the National Confederation of Labor (C.N.T.). "Within hours of the Franco assault, anarchist workers and peasants seized direct control over rural land, cities, factories, and social service and transport networks" (Breitbart 1979a: 60; also Geurin 1970: 130-1). This outcome was the direct result of the strength of a mass Anarcho-syndicalist worker and peasant movement (Amsden 197... (From :
South African unions, centered on the 2 million-strong Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), have consistently articulated a policy vision that breaks with crude neo-liberalism. This is remarkable – but is it enough? Just how viable and desirable is this vision, particularly as the neo-liberal era lurches into a serious slump? And is there an alternative? This question is posed particularly acutely by the hammer blows of the global recession from 2007. Despite the rather predicable pretense that South Africa is unaffected (notably by Trevor Manuel), the country is far from immune. 2009 saw world economic growth fall to just over 1 percent, trade growth to just over 2 percent, with 50 million job losses worldwi... (From :
This article responds to criticisms of the broad anarchist tradition in International Socialism, an International Socialist Tendency (IST) journal.[1] I will discuss topics such as the use of sources, defending revolutions and freedom, the Spanish anarchists, anarchism and democracy, the historical role of Marxism, and the Russian Revolution. The articles I am engaging with are marked by commendable goodwill; I strive for the same. Paul Blackledge’s article rejects “caricatured non-debate”.[2] Ian Birchall stresses that “lines between anarchism and Marxism are often blurred”.[3] Leo Zeilig praises Michael Schmidt’s and my book, Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndical... (From :
Now that the comparative and transnational turns are well under way, it seems high time to apply these methods to one of the modern era’s most internationalist movements, the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW or Wobblies). While framing histories within national boundaries is understandable and useful, many subjects benefit from repositioning them comparatively as well as transnationally. Reframing labor history within a global, comparative, and transnational framework directs attention to cross-border linkages, activities, and processes that a ‘‘methodological nationalism’’ obscures. For far too long, labor historians—even of the obviously internationalist Wobblies—have st... (From :
Andrew Dunbar (1879–1964) Andrew Dunbar was general-secretary of the IWW in Johannesburg, established in June 1910. A hefty Scots immigrant who arrived in 1906, he worked in the Natal railways as a blacksmith, leading a mass strike in 1909. This cost him his job, and he went to work on the Johannesburg tramways. These were the IWW’s stronghold, with a powerful presence among the white workers, and led big strikes in 1911. In 1912, Dunbar was ousted from the IWW, which faded away soon afterwards. From 1914, he was in the War on War League, which set up the revolutionary syndicalist International Socialist League (ISL) in September the next year. The ISL campaigned for One Big Union, and fought against the oppressive... (From :
Freedom for all, and a natural respect for that freedom. Such are the essential conditions of international solidarity. – Bakunin Foreword Over the last few years, the resurgence of revolutionary anarchism has caught the attention of the world. The role of the anarchists in the anti–globalization movement, at Seattle, Prague, Gothenburg, Genoa, La Paz, and Porto Allegre – where we have been in the forefront of militant resistance – has been widely reported in the media. The New York Times recently proclaimed “Anarchism: the idea that refuses to die,” whilst SAPA, not to be outdone, blamed the anarchist “black bloc” for the disruption of the G8 summit in Genoa... (From :
Trade union renewal is high on the agenda in many countries, but we need to think carefully about why we want it. Union renewal is a profoundly political and ideological issue.We need to have a clear understanding of how we got into the current mess where many unions are bureaucratic, inefficient and struggle to respond to urgent issues. We need to think carefully about what we want to achieve, not just in terms of how we organize – but what we aim at in the long run. We need to have some theory about what unions can be, and should be. If we have to ask the question of why we should revitalize or expand unions, we have to decide what we want from unions in the first place. We also need to tackle the issues of the relationship b... (From :
Introduction This article aims to explain, from an anarchist / syndicalist perspective, the rapid rise and fall of Julius Malema, the controversial and corrupt multi-millionaire leader of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) “youth league” (ANCYL). It is demonstrated that Malema’s posturing as radical champion of the black poor was simply a means to an end: rising higher in the ranks of the ANC, in order to access bigger state tenders and higher paying political office. The larger political implications of the Malema affair are also considered, especially the role of the ANC – as a vehicle for the accumulation of wealth and power by the rising black elit... (From :
ABSTRACT: The discussion below is a lightly edited transcription of a talk given by the author at the Aye Carmela, Rua das Carmelitas, in São Paulo, Brazil, on 2 November 2010. This article provides a global perspective on the history and theory of anarchism and syndicalism, arguing against views that treat anarchism as simple ‘anti-statism’ or a natural human ‘impulse’, in favor of the argument that the current is a socialist, working class tradition dating to the International Workingmen’s Association (the ‘First International’), 1864–1877. An international movement in intent, conception and membership from the start, it drew on a range of modernist, rationalist socialist ideas, and d... (From :
This study of recent anti-imperialist resistance in Kurdistan, looking back to the anarchist resistance in the Ottoman heartland in the period before the formation of the Turkish state, consists of extracts — kindly proof-read in part by Will Firth — from the forthcoming book by Schmidt & van der Walt, Global Fire: 150 Fighting Years of International Anarchism & Syndicalism, Counter-power Vol.2, AK Press, USA, scheduled for release in about 2011. Introduction: Second-Generation Anarchism in Anatolia: The Kurdish National Question Anarchism in Turkey [1] — once a significant radical force that contested Ottoman imperialism over its Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, Arab, African and Jewish subject peoples &mda... (From :
The Rise and Fall of the “Enabling State” For much of the last hundred years, the dominant parts of anti-systemic movements focused on winning state power, seeing an “enabling state” as the essential means for social transformation. The idea that radical social transformation meant wielding state power was shared by ever-increasing sectors of the anti-capitalist left, of workers’ movements, and of national liberation forces. However, by the 1990s, state-centric models, whether social democratic, Soviet-Marxist or antiimperialist nationalist, were in crisis. By the 1970s already, they had become marked by economic failures, non-achievement of many of their stated goals, and the inability to sustain... (From :
This is an edited transcript of a talk at the 11th Global Labor University Conference: “The Just Transition and the Role of Labor: Our Ecological, Social, and Economic Future,” September 28–30, 2016, Johannesburg, South Africa. Thanks very much for having me on the panel, along with comrades Hilary Wainwright, who has been a key figure in the British feminist and socialist movement, editor of Red Pepper, Ozzi Warwick of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union in Trinidad and Tobago, and Martin Egbanubi of the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labor Studies, Nigeria. There is quite a nice link between the different inputs, with their stress on self-activity and the immense creative potential of working class and... (From :
Government has introduced various welfare measures to alleviate poverty. Cosatu [Congress of South African Trade Unions] has called rather for the introduction of a universal basic incomes grant. Lucien van der Walt argues that unions have been sidetracked by technocratic demands and that the demand for welfare should be linked to the struggle of the working class to reinvent society. — Union policy on welfare has become centered on technical questions such as funding, targeting and delivery and has strayed from considering how these questions relate to labor movement strategy. In short, policy has replaced politics, and issues like welfare have become linked from the project of building the working class movement as a popular ... (From :
Seattle And All That Riot police battling youth. Armed forces locking down a major American city. Tens of thousands under anti-capitalist banners. Western youth and workers physically battling the WTO and imperialism. These potent images of the “battle of Seattle,” November 30, 1999, were seared into the minds of militants the world over, inspiring millions upon millions fighting against the class war from above that some call “globalization.” Followed by further mass protests in Washington and Davos, and two massive international coordinated actions on May1, 2000 and September 26, 2000, Seattle marked, by any measure, an important turning point for the global working class and peasantry. “The Idea Th... (From :
Debates in the labor movement and in the socialist left more generally tend to pay relatively little attention to the nature of the state as a structure, and point to a fairly vague understanding of the role of the state in the economy. Debate on the state as a structure tends to focus on issues like personalities, policies and parties. This does not pay much attention to the larger system – the structured organization – of the state in which these three elements operate. That structure exists continuously despite changes in personnel, policies and politicians, and shapes all of these. Looking at the deeper nature of the state requires looking beyond what is most obvious. Debate on the state in the economy tends to... (From :
The son of a Wesleyan minister, Thibedi William Thibedi was one of the most important black African revolutionary syndicalists in South African history. Thibedi was a leading figure in the International Socialist League (ISL) and in the Industrial Workers of Africa syndicalist union. Later he played an important role in the early Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), particularly its union work. He was active in all of the key black unions from the 1910s to the 1940s. According to Eddie Roux of the CPSA, Thibedi was a “genius at getting people together, whether workers in a particular industry, women, location residents, or whatever was needed at the moment”. The ISL Hailing from the small town of Vereeniging,... (From :
The anarchist movement has a long tradition of fighting imperialism. This reaches back into the 1860s, and continues to the present day. From Cuba, to Egypt, to Ireland, to Macedonia, to Korea, to Algeria and Morocco, the anarchist movement has paid in blood for its opposition to imperial domination and control. However, whilst anarchists have actively participated in national liberation struggles, they have argued that the destruction of national oppression and imperialism can only be truly achieved through the destruction of both capitalism and the state system, and the creation of an international anarcho-communist society. This is not to argue that anarchists absent themselves from national liberation struggles that do not... (From :
When we celebrate May Day we seldom know or reflect on why it is a holiday in South Africa and in many parts of the world. Sian Byrne, Warren McGregor and Lucien van der Walt tell the story of powerful struggles that lie behind its existence and of the organizations that both created it and kept its meaning alive. Faced with neo-liberal globalization, the broad working class movement is being forced to globalize-from-below. Working class internationalism is nothing new; we need to learn from the past. May Day or international workers day started as a global general strike to commemorate five anarchist labor organizers executed in the United States in 1887. Mounting the scaffold, August Spies declared: ‘if you think that ... (From :


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