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Anarchism, Ethnicity and the Battle of the ANC Clones

category southern africa | miscellaneous | press release author Tuesday October 28, 2008 16:18author by Jon - Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Frontauthor email zacf at zabalaza dot net Report this post to the editors

ZACF Statement on the use of the term "Anarchist" by Mosiuoa Lekota

Once again we, the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), have to defend our political tradition from bourgeois politicians, this time on both sides of the ANC split, and explain to them what exactly is meant by a term that they throw about without actually knowing its meaning.

This time we are referring to the statement made by Mosiuoa Lekota, when commenting on ANC supporters' chants of "Kill [Mbhazima] Shilowa, kill Lekota" outside a rally he addressed in Orange Farm on Thursday 23rd October, that the leadership of the ANC were "anarchists" leading South Africa down a path of possible genocide, further stating: "When you allow dangerous elements to gain momentum you allow tribalism to fester." (

Lekota is wrong on so many counts that its hard to know where to begin.

Firstly, anarchists in South Africa have consistently rejected the ANC as a bourgeois-nationalist movement which has deceived the workers and poor of the country, while forging an alliance with the biggest working class organisation, Cosatu, insisting that all South Africans - regardless of their class and social standing - have something in common and share common interests. We have consistently rejected the ANC's nationalist class collaborationist politics and maintained that the South African workers have nothing in common with the ANC fat-cats on either side of the split. That anarchists in this country would now somehow have infiltrated the ANC is absurd. And even if we had joined the ANC, we would not be concerned with ascending the ladder to leadership positions.

Anarchists believe that leadership must be by example, that it must always be held accountable to the grassroots from which leadership, in the anarchist sense, must necessarily originate, and that so-called leaders must act by mandate and do not hold any executive decision-making power. We reject the methods, used by the ANC, of ascending to political power, thus removing themselves from the people they claim to represent, becoming completely detached from reality on the ground, and abandoning all sense of accountability. The executive powers of the ANC national executive committee and Luthuli House, which make decisions that effect the whole country without so much as a mandate or any process of consultation with the people on the ground, is authoritarian and inherently anti-anarchist.

Another instance where Lekota demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of the term "anarchist" is with regard to the genocide the ANC's "anarchist" leadership is supposedly leading us towards. Not only are we against politics driven by nationalism, such as those of the ANC, but we are also against politics driven by ethnicity. The use of ethnicity as a mobilising tool within the ANC, particularly by the Jacob Zuma faction, is incredibly worrying to us and here we may actually share the same concerns as Lekota that "Those 100% Zuluboy T-shirts are extremely dangerous, [...] do you remember what happened in Rwanda?" But, again, it is absurd to attribute this increase in ethnically driven politics to an "anarchist" leadership in the ANC.

Indeed, far from leading towards genocide, the ZACF has warned of the danger that ethnically driven politics could lead in this direction. Examining this year's xenophobic violence in the September issue of Zabalaza (, we noted that attacks on immigrants could open the door to battles between South African ethnic groups, and could lead to far worse slaughter in the future. At the same time, we found the roots of this violence in the nationalist policies of the ruling class, in the state's deliberate and consistent exclusion of non-South Africans. We found that the nationalist politics of exclusion enjoyed consistent support from ruling class politicians – both factions of the ANC and the opposition, among which we highlighted the IFP and the DA. We noted that, while all these politicians denounced the pogroms, they all actually support violence against immigrants – as long as it's done by the state, not by angry workers and poor people in the street. And we contrasted ruling class politics with the very different ideas of the revolutionary working class.

Anarchists are internationalists. We of the ZACF believe that the working class is international, that it knows no boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, race or gender. We therefore strongly oppose any politics which seeks to divide or mobilise the working class along those lines in order for squabbling political elites like Zuma and ex-president Thabo Mbeki, or Lekota and president Kgalema Motlanthe, to more easily rule over us.

This tendency within the ANC to mobilise support along ethnic or so-called tribal lines is indeed disturbing. Like Lekota – but more sincerely - we recognise what it could lead to, and we are therefore committed to fighting such politics every step of the way, and to building an internationalist movement of the exploited and oppressed that recognises no divisions except those between the rich and powerful minority ruling class, of which Lekota, Motlanthe, Mbeki and Zuma are a part, and the poor and struggling majority working class, in which we firmly root ourselves as revolutionary anti-capitalists.

It should also be noted that ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe's statement, at a recent debate at Wits university, that "at Polokwane we saved the ANC from anarchist control" only serves to further demonstrate that neither side of the ANC know what an anarchist actually is, nor what anarchism stands for. They consistently throw the term at each other as a means to denouncing the other, without recognising that neither faction has any anarchist element, and that they are both creating chaos, not anarchy. In fact it raises the question as to what exactly is the difference between these two factions? Do they differ, for instance, on economic policy, or on improving the lives of the poor majority? No! Lekota, Zuma and Motlanthe all served in Mbeki's neo-liberal cabinet. They are practically clones of one another. They are all behind his pro-capitalist, anti-worker policies. Zuma and Motlanthe have repeatedly assured their capitalist friends that nothing is going to change. Lekota tries to put across the idea that he is breaking with the ANC in the name of the Freedom Charter – but does he say anything about the Charter's proclamation that "the people shall share in the country's wealth"? The silence is deafening – and Zuma's faction has not drawn attention to it, no doubt for fear of annoying the capitalists, or of drawing attention to their own commitment to keeping wealth in the hands of a few. There is virtually no difference between the factions, and both have slung the "anarchist" epithet at the other as a term of abuse. They seem to think "anarchist" means the same thing as "thug" - but really they are the thugs: politicians and capitalists. Anarchists do not promote robbery of the working class: that's what capitalists and politicians do. Anarchists do not promote ethnic violence: that's what capitalists and politicians do. On these questions and many others, we stand against both ANC factions.

ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema has also once again shown his lack of understanding of what anarchism actually is with his statement, when referring to Lekota and his allies, that: "They would rather shamelessly drag the entire nation to the abyss of anarchy in pursuit of their narrow, self-serving interests". Even Karl Marx, a bitter opponent of anarchism, said that anarchy was the same as what he termed the "higher phase of communism", and that it was the highest possible model of human social organisation; a stateless and classless society. For Malema to refer to it as an abyss is, again, absurd. He is either ignorant or wishes to poison people's minds with falsehoods because he knows that, were the working and poor majority to know the true meaning of anarchism, he and all his cronies - on both sides of the ANC - would be out of a job. Perhaps, like many others, he confuses "anarchy" with chaos – but it is hard to believe that this disgrace to the young people of South Africa, who considers his loyalty to Zuma an excuse to commit murder, would have anything against chaos.

Perhaps the working class and poor of South Africa, from where both factions of the ANC draw the majority of their support, should endeavour to find out more about anarchism and what it actually stands for. On doing so and formulating their own opinion we are confident that very many would withdraw their support for either faction of the squabbling ANC elite and, true to the principles of anarchism, place their support and effort behind the building of independent and directly democratic organisations of the working class; the collective self-management of independent working class mass organisation, without and against bosses and politicians, being the only force truly capable of delivering "a better life for all".

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