Editorial of Tokologo #5/6
Welcome to the first double issue of Tokologo, combining issues 5 and 6. This marks our third year of publishing by the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective and its study circles.
2015 has been a turbulent year. On the one side, the horrors of attacks on immigrants and foreigners continue. In April, attacks broke out, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal, spurred directly by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini's inflammatory statements. One of the big failures of the 1994 transition was that much of the old Bantustan/ homeland apparatus remained in place, with the continuing power of chiefs and kings. Again, in October, this time spurred by rumours and the taxi associations, there were riots in the Eastern Cape.
We disagree with the idea that the attacks are simply a matter of hate and fear ("phobia"). Working class and poor people get drawn into these attacks because they are desperate for jobs, money and housing, and because they are told, day in and day out, that the "foreigners" are taking these from them. This is clear from the articles in this issue. Of course, riots allow looting and venting of frustration, an illusion of power. The idea that the attacks are just criminal activities is too simple. They clearly target certain groups. And the idea that the attacks are some "Afrophobia" coming from a bad attitude is also mistaken. Asians like Bangladeshis are also attacked.
It is the ruling class that misleads poor people into these attacks: it's divide-and-rule and must be stopped. On the other side, great displays of the power and potential of the working class. In Grahamstown, the Unemployed Peoples Movement tried to stop the violence. Meanwhile, many neighbourhood-based struggles continue, including this year in many Coloured townships. The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) is now expelled from the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU), and is looking at building an alternative that will help link these up. But how and for what? NUMSA is divided, sometimes speaking of a movement for socialism, sometimes a new union federation of "rebel" unions - and moderate non-COSATU unions, like the Federation of Unions of SA (FEDUSA). And sometimes NUMSA hints of forming a new workers party.
The NUMSA-initiated United Front is growing. It has at least 300 affiliates. It has approached the university and technikon student movements to propose a national student summit. But it is not simply a NUMSA front, it has its own dynamics, and has not adopted NUMSA's Marxism- Leninism. And privately, militants in the UF complain of NUMSA not providing the support people hoped.
Meanwhile the clock is ticking. Hard choices need to be made.
As will be clear from articles, we are completely opposed to the idea of forming a new workers party, whether on a radical or a moderate ticket. Elections and state power cannot free the working class. Only direct struggle, self-managed bottom- up movements, and direct worker-community control of the means of production and force, and self-administration, can change society - rather than lead to a new elite taking power. This is the lesson of South Africa since 1994, and of Ghana in 1957, when it became the first independent state in West Africa, as our articles show: don't vote, organise counter-power from below!
We are for the UF, we are for NUMSA, but we call for a programme of working class autonomy and anarchist- communism. Because there is no way Africa can recover from its bleeding state, and be a place of dignity and equality and development for its working class, poor and peasant masses, without a radical break with the post-colonial state, the political and economic ruling class, and imperialism.
And let us be clear: fighting for working class/peasant power does not mean ignoring issues like women's oppression, imperialism or racism. As we explain in the article on women's oppression: you can only unite the masses to change society by fighting all forms of oppression and division; but you can only end all forms of oppression and division by building working class/peasant counter-power and counter-culture to make a real revolution that changes society completely.
In October, COSATU, then NUMSA, held mass political strikes against "corruption." This is a worthwhile demand, but corruption is built into the system. The system needs to go. The problem is not a few corrupt politicians and capitalists. It is a system built on the theft of the means of life, land, time, raw materials and equipment from the working class, of daily theft by exploitation, of endless attacks on the people by the blue-garbed army of the rich (police), and of attacks through unemployment, bad services and misery. Even if every politician and capitalist was "honest," these basic crimes remain. So to end corruption, end the corrupt capitalist/ state system!
The student movement also showed massive power. Earlier this year, the movement was quite a small one, centred on issues of racism and transformation at a few elite universities: UCT, Rhodes, Stellenbosch, the University of the Witwatersrand. The demands were a mixed bag, as were the movements, and the focus was on (the very important) issues of affirmative action, symbols and language. Left currents pushed for inclusion of workers' issues like outsourcing - the reality is the vast majority of our people will never, in the current system, go near a university except as a cleaner or a driver. But government budget cuts to universities, which cause rising fees, provoked an explosion bringing in tens of thousands.
New layers came in, blacks and whites joined together, there were massive confrontations and showdowns with police. For much of 2014 and 2015, media coverage has focused on the elite universities, on groups like the Black Students Movement at Rhodes and Rhodes Must Fall at UCT. These campuses and groups are very important. But what became clear in 2015 was the historically dominant student formation, the left-wing SA Students Congress (SASCO), remains central. And that black working class students, poorer campuses, and campus workers, were setting the pace.
A small victory: a fees freeze nationally. On some campuses: workers will be insourced. But the crisis is not over. To win free education requires confronting the state. To fund it: R70 billion at least, because the rising fees are driven by neo-liberal budget cuts. In the early 1990s, R8 of R10 spent at "Rhodes" University came from the state, and today it is R5. Meanwhile numbers have doubled. The lost R3 is made up with spending cuts, rising fees and low wages. The problem is not, as some student movements think, a few bad VCs running the varsities and techs, but is part of neo-liberal crisis-ridden capitalism, based on pay-more- get-less, promote-the-rich and loot-the-public. So the fight is a fight against the state and the capitalist class.
But it is more than fees. Driving the pressure for getting into university is mass youth unemployment, driving the fear of rising fees is the growing difficulty accessing university. SA's problems will not be solved with bursaries, but with mass job creation for useful work, a massive overhaul of the failed schools system in the townships, a massive increase in access to techs, and more universities, more techs, training people to reconstruct the country on the lines of socialism-from-below, giving everyone what they need, as human beings - not wages based on the job you do or don't do. For now: we fight for free education for the working class and poor and for a Workers' and People's Scientific University, not a "world-class university" or an "African university."
This means fighting for a new society: anarchist-communism, which rips up the apartheid legacy, the state and capital, and puts power in the hands of the working class and poor. We stand in a long tradition, and our heroes come from all places: see the article on cde Bill Andrews, previous issues having looked at comrades like Bernard Sigamoney and T.W. Thibedi. This is what we stand for: please see our documents in several languages, African as well as English, and if you agree, JOIN WITH US. CONTACT US. ATTEND OUR POLITICAL SCHOOLS. READ OUR MATERIALS.