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Bill Andrews and South Africa’s Revolutionary Syndicalists

category southern africa | history | opinion / analysis author Tuesday April 05, 2016 16:44author by Lucien van der Waltauthor email tokologo.aac at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

Published in Tokologo: Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective, numbers 5/6, p. 24

If W. H. "Bill" Andrews (1870- 1950) is remembered today, it is usually as a founder and leader of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA, today the SACP). In that role, he served as party chair, member of the executive of the Communist International, leading South African trade unionist, visitor to the Soviet Union, and defendant in the trial of communists that followed 1946 black miners' strike.

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However, in his earlier years, Andrews was a leading figure in the revolutionary syndicalist International Socialist League (ISL). Born in Britain, Andrews was a skilled metal worker and came from the unions. After a brief stint in parliament for the SA Labour Party, Andrews joined other radicals in the newly-founded ISL in 1915.

In CPSA/ SACP writings, the ISL usually appears as a sort of CPSA-in-the-making, made of solid Marxists. The reality is that the ISL was - like many on the radical left worldwide - part of the broad anarchist tradition: in this case, it championed revolutionary syndicalism. It stressed uniting all workers, black and white, in One Big Union to smash capitalism and the state, and national/ racial oppression, and put the workplaces under direct workers' control.

Andrews worked inside the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) (absorbed many years later into the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, NUMSA), helped run the ISL paper, "The International," and was sent abroad by the ISL to attend a (failed) socialist peace conference in Stockholm in 1917. After his return, he was appointed paid ISL "industrial organiser" to promote revolutionary syndicalism through workers and shop stewards' committees. His major aim then was to form a rebel Witwatersrand Shop Stewards' Council. Although he stressed the importance of winning white workers, then the majority in unions, he actively supported efforts to organise Indian and black African workers and their strikes.

In 1921, like many of his comrades he helped found the CPSA, where he played a leading role despite being expelled from 1931-1938. He passed away in Cape Town in 1950, a grand old man of the Left, and remains an SACP icon.

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author by Alternativa Libertaria/FdCA - Ufficio Relazioni Internazionalipublication date Wed Apr 06, 2016 21:27Report this post to the editors

Bill Andrews ed i sindacalisti rivoluzionari in Sud Africa
category southern africa | history | opinion / analysis author Tuesday April 05, 2016 17:44author by Lucien van der Waltauthor email tokologo.aac at gmail dot com Segnalare questo messaggio alla redazione

Pubblicato su Tokologo: Newsletter del Tokologo African Anarchist Collective, numbers 5/6, p. 24

Oggi, W. H. "Bill" Andrews (1870- 1950) viene solitamente ricordato come fondatore e dirigente del Partito Comunista del Sud Africa (PCSA, oggi SACP). In quel ruolo egli fu segretario del partito, membro dell'Esecutivo dell'Internazionale Comunista, dirigente sindacale sudafricano, visitò l'Unione Sovietica, imputato nel processo ai comunisti che seguì allo sciopero dei minatori neri nel 1946.

Tuttavia, agli inizi, Andrews era stato una figura dirigente nella Lega Socialista Internazionale (ISL) di ispirazione sindacalista rivoluzionaria. Nato nel Regno Unito, Andrews era un metalmeccanico qualificato e proveniva dagli ambienti sindacali. Dopo una breve esperienza parlamentare per il Partito Laburista sudafricano, Andrews aderì insieme ad altri radicali alla ISL rifondata nel 1915.

Nella letteratura del Partito Comunista sudafricano, l'ISL appare di solito come una sorta di esperienza propedeutica al partito, composta da solidi marxisti. In realtà la ISL faceva parte- al pari di molte altre esperienze di sinistra radicale in tutto il mondo- della grande tradizione anarchica: in questo caso del sindacalismo rivoluzionario. La ISL puntava all'unità dei lavoratori, neri e bianchi, in un solo grande sindacato per abbattere il capitalismo e lo Stato, l'oppressione razziale e nazionalista, per mettere i posti di lavoro sotto il controllo diretto dei lavoratori.

Andrews aveva lavorato all'interno della Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) (confluita molti anni dopo nel sindacato metalmeccanico sudafricano National Union of Metalworkers of SA, NUMSA), diede una mano a gestire l'organo della ISL, "The International," e venne inviato all'estero dalla ISL per partecipare ad una conferenza pacifista socialista (non riuscita) a Stoccolma nel 1917. Al suo ritorno venne nominato funzionario della ISL nel ruolo di "organizzatore sindacale" per promuovere il sindacalismo rivoluzionario tra tutti i lavoratori e tutti i comitati di rappresentanti sindacali. Il suo scopo principale era quello di formare un Consiglio dei Delegati sindacalista rivoluzionario nella regione di Witwatersrand. Sebbene desse molta importanza alla sindacalizzazione dei lavoratori bianchi, all'epoca in maggioranza nei sindacati, si adoperò attivamente per organizzare i lavoratori neri e quelli di origine indiana nei loro scioperi.

Nel 1921, insieme a molti altri suoi compagni, contribuì a fondare il Partito Comunista del Sud Africa, in cui svolse un ruolo dirigente nonostante l'espulsione subita dal 1931 al 1938. E' morto a Cape Town nel 1950, un grande vecchio della sinistra, tuttora un'icona del SACP.
Lucien Van del Walt
(traduzione a cura di ALternativa Libertaria/fdca - Ufficio Relazioni Internazionali)
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