[ANALYSIS]: +PDF Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “What Anarchist-Syndicalists Believe: Understanding and Defeating Racism”

Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “What Anarchist-Syndicalists Believe: Understanding and Defeating Racism,” Workers Solidarity, volume 2, number 2, third quarter 1996.

Written for an anarchist magazine in South Africa, this article argued that racism needed to be understood as an immense social evil, closely linked to the development of capitalism and the modern state — and associated processes of as conquest, genocide and cheap labour — and required a socialist solution. It also argued, as I have argued elsewhere, that racism is against the basic interests of the larger working class, although, again as I have argued elsewhere, that there are situations, like apartheid South Africa, where small sectors “received massive and real gains from the racist system.” Even this, however, was “because of the bosses need to strengthen racial capitalism.” A large part of the focus was, obviously, in South Africa,  but this was located in global processes.

pdflogosmallGet the PDF here.


We Anarchist- Syndicalists fight all domination and exploitation. We are for Stateless Socialism (Anarchism), grassroots democracy and individual freedom. The fight against racism is a central part of our program.

Racism is not natural or inevitable. It is rooted in class society.

Racism developed alongside capitalism and the modern State Read more of this post

[ANALYSIS]: Lucien van der Walt, 1994, “The Fire Next Time: Lessons of the Los Angeles (LA) Uprising”

I wrote this in 1994 (or somewhere there) as an introduction for a pamphlet published by the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) group at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). The pamphlet focused on the 1992 riots in Los Angeles in the USA, which followed police brutality against people of colour.  As it was an imported pamphlet (from the US), and largely a narrative (people did this, people did that), the collective felt it needed an introduction that drew out analytical and strategic issues, or “lessons,” which explained the events,  the issues to which they were responding, and the general line of an anarchist/ syndicalist strategy for black liberation in the USA, and how it articulated with class and other struggles.


At a meeting at the First A.M.E. Church during the first hours of the rioting, the mayor, clergy, and community leaders were booed and ignored by much of the audience. A young Black women charged the podium, and took control of  the microphone. “We can’t rely on these people up here to act … I believe they have our best interests at heart, but we cannot rely on them … You know what we need to do … ”  (from Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist News monthly June 1992. New York)

The LA uprising of 1992 was a class rebellion in the heart of capitalist America. Triggered by the acquittal of four White cops videotaped beating a Black truck driver, Rodney King, the uprising spread through dozens of American cities, and even internationally: in Berlin, masked youths battled police under banners calling for the destruction of capitalism and proclaiming “LA did the right thing.” While people of many different backgrounds participated in the action, there is no doubt that poor Blacks, one of the most oppressed segments of the US working class led the way. This shows that Black liberation must be central to any real  working class challenge to the system. By the time the  military and police forces of the regime managed to put down the uprising, there had been 58 deaths (mostly Black), 4,000 injuries, 12,000 arrests, 10,000 businesses destroyed and countless shops looted.

The bulk of this pamphlet provides an eyewitness account of the revolt as it happened in Los Angeles itself. A final section looks draws out some of the significance of the uprising. In this introduction we argue that this sort of rising can and should be turned into a revolutionary attack on the State and capitalist system. We also suggest what Anarchist revolutionaries can do to achieve this.

Its quite clear that capitalism and the State lie at the heart of the oppressive and marginalised experiences faced by working class people in America’s inner-cities. Lower class Black Americans were supposedly “emancipated” over a 125 years ago but racism and poverty is still an everyday experience.  “Of Black men between the ages 20 to 29. 1 in 4 will go to prison or be placed on probation. 60% of women in prison are women of color. Poverty and the absence of other opportunities to escape it compel many Black youth to turn to gangs, drugs, and anti- social crime … Half of all Black and Hispanic youth of South Central LA belong to gangs. in Central LA, half of the Black families fall below the poverty line, and youth unemployment hovers at 50%.” (Love and Rage June 1992).

This oppression is clearly rooted in a racist capitalist order that has roots in the Slave trade, where racism was used to justify the sale of human beings. Today, racism still serves the ruling class who divide working class people into fractions on the basis of differential levels of treatment(eg. different wages, jobs, social services), with Blacks and women at the bottom of the heap. This hampers united resistance, and it makes for super- exploitation of disempowered sections  of the workforce.

At the same time, the extreme poverty of the inner- cities is linked to capitalism’s incessant hunger for profits, as usual at the expense of people. The inner- cities were mostly built around large factories which have since migrated from the high taxes and wages of the cities to suburbs and third world countries, Here unions are often repressed, wages low, and environmental controls non- existent. At the same time as inner city wages fall, the corporations are making huge profits and the bosses receiving record pay increases (LA Today … 1992, Minneapolis, p1). In the USA, the top 4% earns as much as the bottom 50% of the population (Plain Words, 1994, New Jersey, p4).

Quite obviously then, we need to destroy capitalism and the State once and for all. We need to establish a new society based on grassroots worker and community councils, and distribution and production according to need not profit. This is anarchism or free socialism (as opposed to the State capitalist dictatorships set up by the Marxist “communists” since 1917).  This must be the task of the working class (white- and blue- collar workers, workers’ families and youth, the unemployed and the rural poor).

Why? Firstly, only a productive class can set up a truly free society, for the simple reason that only a productive class does not need to exploit and dominate others in order to survive. Secondly, class position fundamentally shapes the experience of oppression. The Black middle/ upper class (professionals and capitalists) that led the civil rights movement has expanded rapidly, living off the sweat of all American workers. While between 1967 and 1990 the proportion of Black families at the lowest income level grew by 50%, the percentage of high income Black families more than doubled (New York Times, September 25, 1992). Not surprisingly, the Black middle class and capitalists firmly supported the military occupation of the ghettos, because working class fightback was not in their interests.

Clearly, the arguments of Black nationalists that all Blacks should unite across color lines is very wrong, basically because Blacks do not have the same class interests. Working class Blacks have more in common with working class Whites, also at the !@#$%^&* end of the bosses stick, than the Black midde/upper class.

But we do not take a simplistic “class unity” line.  Precisely because of the historic divisions in the working class, its especially oppressed segments (like women, Blacks, and homosexuals) need to organize themselves to be able to put their own specific problems firmly on the agenda of the revolutionary working class movement. This is the basis for principled class unity, and a revolution that will smash all oppression.

What can Anarchists do to turn revolts such as the LA uprisings in a revolutionary direction? Firstly, we must get involved with and support all genuine working class resistance. At the same time, however, we need to spread the ideals of revolutionary Anarchism through the working class.

In practical terms this means debate as equals, and cheap revolutionary literature. In both cases we must argue against authoritarian (or top-down) politics on the left and right, spread information about resistance, and draw the lessons of earlier struggles. We must argue that the working class take direct action to secure its own particular interests (eg. for housing, jobs, peace, and freedom), and to ultimately smash the system. In no case do we assume, as the Marxists do, that our analysis gives us the right to speak for or act in the place of the working class (this is called vanguardism — the belief that a certain left-wing “party” has the right to rule the ruling [sic.] class, as in Russia).

Secondly, we need to start to build practical alternative structures which demonstrate the viability of Anarchist politics. Some of these demonstrate new ways of organizing production and distribution: collective childcare facilities, community- run clinics, free shops that redistribute old clothes, community gardens, local newspapers, workers theater etc. Other counter- institutions will play a more confrontational role: street committees, revolutionary trade unions that aim to seize and democratically administer the land and factories, and self- defense units which are internally democratic and accountable to the community. In no case do we place any faith in the parliamentary system.

If we build the revolution today, the next mass rising has a very real chance of become an insurrection that can provide a sustained revolutionary challenge to the system.


L.V. [Lucien van der Walt]

[TALK] Message from Lucien van der Walt to the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) 2015 graduate class at Wits University, Johannesburg, 11 March 2016

Message from Lucien van der Walt to the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) 2015 graduate class at Wits University, Johannesburg, 11 March 2016

redfistDear comrades,

It is with deep regret that I am not here with you in person – please know that I am here with you in heart and soul.

In the face of this society based on injustice and inequity, on exploitation and oppression, a society with burning national and social questions, struggle is needed.

The right to life is not given, it is taken. Every right we have, every gain we have made, has been through struggle. It is through struggle and will that we remake the world. It is by courage and love that we can stand tall.

The highest gift is freedom, and we must defend it with honour, with faith.

It is the working class alone, which can provide, through its power, its numbers, its social role, and the justness of its struggle, the force to end the injustice and inequity, the exploitation and oppression, and answer the national and social questions with justice and equality and solidarity.

It is the working class alone, which can usher in a new society, based on freedom and equality, on democracy – real democracy – where we live and work, not just through voting every 5 years. A universal human community, based on meeting needs, on ending inequality and oppression, based on self-management and freedom.

So I appeal to you, to never give up, to struggle, to fight on.

To fight and win, and, in the words of a great revolutionary, to win, but not “in order to repeat the errors of the past years, the error of putting our fate into the hands of new masters; we will conquer in order to take our destinies into our own hands, to conduct our lives in accordance with our own will and our own conception of the truth.”

It has been an honour and a privilege to teach you.

I look forward to remaining in contact, and I salute your achievements.

Thank you.


[NEWS] D. Sikwebu and J. Mdumo, 2011, “Opening Doors of Learning to Workers” (‘NUMSA News’)

Dinga Sikwebu and Judy Madumo, July 2011, “Opening Doors of Learning to Workers ,” NUMSA News, 2011

Report on the course I co-teach, and which I helped design, and co-coordinate, for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

pdflogosmallGet the PDF here.


NUMSA class of 2010In April and June [2010], a group of Numsa worker leaders caused a stir at the University of the Witwatersrand as they walked around corridors of the uni­versity in their colourful union t-shirts and caps. A worker at the university cafe­teria who could not contain her curiosity asked one of the Numsa members whether a union conference was being held at the university. She was surprised to hear the answer. They said that they were students at the institution. Clearly, the cafeteria worker could not imagine active unionists being university students at the same time.

Eighteen Numsa worker leaders are registered with the university and are do­ing a Sociology department certificate course in social theory and research. They were on campus in April and June as part of four week-long block-releases from work. The course is part of the union’s campaign to make uni­versity education accessible to workers.

Numsa’s 8th national congress in 2008 decided that the union should actively devise ways to open the doors of institutions of higher learning and ensure that workers have access to uni­versity education. Since then, the union’s  education  department has been negotiating with vari­ous universities to implement the congress resolution. The Wits cer­ tificate course is the fruit of these negotiations. The course, equivalent to a first-year sociology module, started last year and 13comrades graduated at the end of the year. Seven of these union members are registered for bachelors’ degrees at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Wits and Unisa.

Certificate in social theory and research
Block 1:  Debates on working class strategies
Block 2:  How capitalism works
Block 3:  Global capitalism
Block 4:  Alternatives to capitalism

“This certificate empowers us to advance the struggle of the working class. It enlightens us on contradictions that exist within capitalist society,” said one of this year’s students, Western Cape treasurer Vuyo Lufele. The course helps in heightening participants’ understanding of how capitalism works, a sentiment that was echoed by other participants. “Most of us were not aware of environmental and ecological issues,” said Ekurhuleni treasurer Gabriel Kheswa. “After the course we will not only con­centrate on production-related issues but also environmental issues.”

While this year’s intake is happy with the political nature of the course, some students in the group are still uncertain about how the course will equip them do deal with shopfloor issues. “To be honest the course is brilliant for worker leaders. The only issue is that what we have done up to now has not fo­cused on an analysis of the shopfloor,” says participant and Springs local secre­tary Leepile Khumalo. The Isipingo local secretary and national deputy secretary of the  Numsa   national  youth  desk, Khonzeni Mkhize, has a similar view. “The course is beneficial except that it should  accommodate crisis in compa­nies,” Mkhize said.

[Analysis]+ PDF: Lucien van der Walt, 2000, “Fighting the Privatisation at Wits” (university restructuring)

An older article, published in the Revolutionary Socialist of Cape Town.

Lucien van der Walt, 2000,” “Fighting the Privatisation at Wits,” Revolutionary Socialist, July/August 2000, p. 13.

pdflogosmallGet the PDF here.


Lucien van der Walt, 2000,” “Fighting the Privatisation at Wits,” Revolutionary Socialist, July/ August 2000, p. 13.


Mural at Wits:
1976 : Hector Peterson killed by apartheid
2000: Masophe Makhabane by neo-liberalism.

NEO-LIBERALISM has come to higher education with a vengeance. The tide of outsourcing of workers and services has finally reached the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) after swamping institutions as varied as Fort Hare, RAU and the University of Cape Town.

Wits management decided in Feb­ruary [2000] to replace 620 secure  public sector, unionised, support service sec­
tor jobs with outsourced casual la­bour. And it has vowed to in1ple1nent this decision despite growing opposi­tion fron1 workers, students and a section of academics. Wits management has also begun issuing final letters of demand to students not yet fully paid up on fees, heralding a wave of financial exclusions and evic­tions from the residences.

Nehawu, the main union representing manual staff, bears the brunt of the retrenchments. But the union recognised from the start that this is not just a struggle against job losses. It is also a struggle for the soul of higher education: the ‘Wits 2001’ plan to reposition Wits as a ‘world class university’ will recreate the university as a corporate  institution orientated to the needs of the wealthy. Fees will rise, workers’ conditions and rights will be undercut, and research and education will be orientated towards the needs of big business.

This is explicitly spelled out in Wits’ 1999 Strategic Plan, which calls for the ‘formation of a university company
for optimisation of revenue opportunities from intellectual prope1ty and from entrepreneurial activities’. It also
advocates the promotion of’ revenue generating activities’ and ‘opportunities for entrepreneurial approaches
across the university’. Courses, academics, workers and students deemed unprofitable will be downsized as
Wits focuses on profitable ‘core’ activity: research and training. Up to 52 academics from the arts and social
sciences face retrenchment from October this year.

What lies behind this drive at Wits? The short answer is capitalism. The global capitalist crisis that began in the 1970s has driven capitalists into a period of cutthroat competition. The crisis is characterised by a drive to cut
labour costs and to find new, ‘safe’ and profitable areas for investn1ent. This includes stock market specula­tion and an attack on the public sector, aiming both to reduce state inter­ference with capitalist operations and to open up state and parastatal assets and services to the market.

Higher education is one such sec­tor. It has become  more  and more deregulated, competitive, and tied to the interests of corporate capital. State subsidies have fallen, while the better positioned institutions have sought to reinvent themselves as ‘market universities’  able to deliver a handsome profit to their management and its

This is the [pressure] behind the restructuring of higher education in South Africa. The ANC government’s neo-liberal GEAR programme, adopted in 1996, explicitly calls for cuts in subsidies to higher education and ‘greater private sector involvement’. For Wits, this has meant an income decline of about 30% over the past 5 years.

One of the most hard-line of the retrenchment advocates on the Wits Council, for example, is Saki Macozoma, member of the NEC of the ANC and MD of Transnet, where he is driving the restructuring and mass downsizing of that state company. It is also well known that education minister Kader Asmal has reassured [Wits’] Vice Chancellor Colin Bundy, a one-time Marxist, and now born-again neo-liberal, that government supports the Wits 2001  programme.The same message is sent by government’s use of riot police in Durban, which led to the death of student protester Masophe Makhabane.

Wits 2001 has important political implications. Instead of simply fighting a dyed-in-the-wool, apartheid-era lib­eral administration, we are now up against neo-liberalism with the bless­ing of the ANC and with our hands tied by the 1995 Labour  Relations Act, which prohibits strikes around retrenchment  and dismissals.

In this situation, class politics is crucial. An understanding of the class content of neo-liberalism (labour pay­ing for capitalism’s crisis) and the role of the capitalist class institutions driving the process (including the capitalist state) requires class tactics and class struggle.

Working class solidarity and trade union mobilisation is the key to de­railing Wits 2001, to create another knot of resistance to the neo-liberal agenda. So union activists at Wits have set out to link Wits 2001 to the iGoli 2002 plan to restruc­ture Johannesburg, trying to show the links between the Wits issue and privatisation generally. Stu­dent groups such as Lesedi So­cialist Study Group and SASCO have done important solidarity work with Nehawu on this issue.

At the end of the day, it is union muscle that can stop Wits 2001. If we are to return to transformation from below in higher education, we need to centre ourselves on the bedrock of union power. We need to widen and deepen union power: organising the higher grades and casual labour into the unions, centring all key union decision-making and activity on the shopfloor, and transforming the poli­tics of the unions towards that of radical anti-capitalism fron1 below.

The immediate task is the defence of Nehawu. The medium-term task is to escalate union power and union combativity  against  capitalism  and the state. The long-term vision must be a ‘workers’ university’, self-gov­erned by the working class in its own interests through ·the institutional framework of radical unions in a free and libertarian society. Rock the shopfloor!

Lucien van der Walt is a member of the Bikisha Media Collective.

[ANALYSIS] +PDF: Hattingh & van der Walt, 2015, “The Kurdish Question: Nationhood or Autonomy,” in ‘Ndivhuwo’

Shawn Hattingh and Lucien van der Walt, 2015, “The Kurdish Question: Nationhood or Autonomy,” in Ndivhuwo: Journal for Intellectual Engagement, number 3, 2015, pp. 70-72.

Ndivhuwo is published by Mzwanele Mayekiso, former 1980s anti-apartheid activist and treason trialist from the “people’s power” movement, author of “Township Politics: Civic Struggles for a New South Africa” (Monthly Review Press, 1996) etc. More here.

pdflogosmallGet the article PDF here.

Text below.

The Kurdish Question: Nationhood or Autonomy
Shawn Hattingh and Lucien van der Waltkobane-solidarity

Taking a look at the existential crisis of the Kurdish in Turkey and elsewhere [this article looks at the limits and possibilities of national liberation struggle. It shows how the current Kurdish struggle in Rojava is assuming revolutionary features influenced partly by anarchism, and its inspiring fight against oppressive forces — including the extreme right ISIS movement. It also looks at some of the limits of what is taking place. In closing the article argues that the revolutionary outcomes in Rojava, as opposed to the limits and failures of much of the “Arab Spring,” shows that strong organisation and an emancipatory programme, based among ordinary people is essential — not vague demands for “democracy.”]

p. 70
The Kurds are a nationality concentrated in a territory that straddles four states: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. For months Kurdish militia have been fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) in Kobane on the Syrian and Turkish borders and have been subjected to ongoing attacks by the Turkish state.

The Kobane (part of Rojava in Northern Syria) conflict is one episode in the longer struggle by the Kurdish national liberation struggle. It is also increasingly associated with a revolutionary reconstruction of society in the region of Rojava, influenced in some ways by anarchism, that is, the tradition of Bakunin and Kropotkin.

Indeed, left-wing ideas like anarchism, and, Marxism-Leninism, have a lengthy history among the Kurds, of which developments in Rojava are one part. National liberation struggles have historically taken many forms. Evidently, nationalism – the doctrine that the whole “nation” must unite across class divisions, to secure a nation-state that can express the “national” will – has played a key role. But nationalism is only one of a number of possible responses to national oppression, and it has only sometimes achieved dominance.

Systems generating national oppression, such as imperialism and colonialism, have, historically, evoked responses ranging from collaboration, to liberalism, to religious millenarianism, to radical right-wing currents, to left movements like Marxism and anarchism/ syndicalism. Conflating national liberation with nationalism misses this complexity, and the far more radical roads that have sometimes opened up.

This crucial distinction – between national liberation struggles, and nationalism – is essential to understanding the evolution of the Kurdish national liberation movement, and the challenges Read more of this post

[SPEECH] Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “What’s “Left”? Is There An Alternative To Capitalism Today?””

Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “What’s  “Left”? Is There an Alternative to Capitalism Today?,” talk given at a public meeting hosted by the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF), at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 22 August 1996.

Comrades, the starting point of this talk today is that we need an alternative to capitalism. We need an alternative to capitalism.

Capitalism: A Disaster for the Majority of the World’s Population

Capitalism has repeatedly failed the majority of the world’s population. According to recent reports:

*358 billionaires have more assets than the combined incomes of countries home to 45% of the world’s people.
*the richest 20% of the world’s population gets 85% of the world’s income. 30 years ago, the richest 20% only got 70% of  the world’s income,

Capitalism has failed the majority of our people too:

*50,000 mainly White commercial farmers own nearly 99% of all private farming land in Africa
*5% of the population owns 88% of all personal wealth.
* 70% of the population lives below the breadline

This is what capitalism is all about — a profit system  in which the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. And capitalism is also the major cause of problems like racism. Capitalism in South Africa was and is built on the super- exploitation of the African working-class. As if this isn’t bad enough, Read more of this post


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