[Analysis in translation] [+PDF] Lucien van der Walt e Michael Schmidt, 2015, “Imperialismo e Libertação Nacional”

Lucien van der Walt e Michael Schmidt,  “Imperialismo e Libertação Nacional”itha-teoria1

Neste texto, um trecho do livro Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism [Chama Negra: a política classista e revolucionária do anarquismo e do sindicalismo de intenção revolucionária], Michael Schmidt e Lucien van der Walt realizam uma discussão sobre o imperialismo e a libertação nacional no anarquismo. Tomando como base alguns de seus grandes clássicos, eles mostram quais foram as distintas noções que visaram opor o imperialismo e realizam, também, uma comparação destas noções com aquelas do marxismo ortodoxo.

Source: IATH – Instituto de Teoria e História Anarquist/ IATH – Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (Brazil)


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[Analysis in translation] [+PDF] Lucien van der Walt, 2015, “Contrapoder, Democracia Participativa e Defesa Revolucionária: debatendo ‘Black Flame’, anarquismo revolucionário e marxismo histórico”

itha-historia1Translation into Brazilian Portuguese of Lucien van der Walt, 2011, “Counterpower, Participatory Democracy, Revolutionary Defence: debating Black Flame, revolutionary anarchism and historical Marxism,” International Socialism: a quarterly journal of socialist theory, no. 130 , pp. 193-207, which is here.


Lucien van der Walt. “Contrapoder, Democracia Participativa e Defesa Revolucionária: debatendo Black Flame, anarquismo revolucionário e marxismo histórico”

Source: IATH – Instituto de Teoria e História Anarquist/ IATH – Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (Brazil)

Este texto constitui uma síntese da resposta às críticas do anarquismo realizadas na revista International Socialism; ele foi publicado na edição de número 130 desta mesma revista, visando aprofundar o debate sobre o anarquismo e o sindicalismo de intenção revolucionária (ou apenas “sindicalismo”, conforme tradução deste texto). Respondendo aos críticos marxistas, van der Walt passa por questões como luta armada, democracia, organização política e Revolução Russa, além de evidenciar similaridades e diferenças entre o anarquismo e outras correntes socialistas, especialmente as variantes históricas do bolchevismo.

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ENTRY [+PDF + TEXT] van der Walt, Ulrich, Hyslop, Bezuidenhout etal 2009, “(Transnational) Workers’ Movements”

Philip Bonner, Jonathan Hyslop, Lucien van der Walt, Nicole Ulrich and Andries Bezuidenhout, 2009, “Workers’ Movements”, Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier (eds.), The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History, Palgrave Macmillan, London, New York, pp. 1121-1128.

pdflogosmallPDF is here, and the full text follows the abstract

ABSTRACT: Overviews the movements and struggles of the popular classes over the last 3-4 centuries, covering slaves, serfs,  servants, workers and unemployed, free and unfree. Stresses the importance of global processes and connections, with close attention to the periods of proto-globalisation (17th and 18th centuries), the first  modern globalisation of the 1880s into the 1920s, the “deglobalisation” that followed, and the second modern globalisation from the 1970s onwards. Rejects narratives of neat “north” versus “south” and identity politics models, stressing divisions across and within societies, between those above and those below, based on common processes of class formation and experience globally, and highlighting remarkably wide solidarities, from the “Atlantic working class” of proto-globalisation era to the anarchists and socialists, to the struggles today.


p. 1121

Workers’ movements

The current vogue  of ‘globalization’, popularly used to describe a wide range of contemporary phenomena of international integration ranging from free trade to cosmopolitan cultures to current workers’ movement responses, has the singular merit of directing attention to the importance of international processes in the making of workers’ movements. Global interconnec­tions are a decisive element of modernity and capitalism, and contemporary globalization is only one phase in a larger histor­ical trend in the last four centuries. This suggests the importance of understanding popular class formation as an international process shaped by global forces, whose sig­nificance varies over time. It is useful to reconsider workers’ movements from the perspective of what Marcel van der Linden calls ‘transnational labour history’, which questions the use of the nation-state as basic unit of analysis for understanding labour history.

In relativizing and historicizing the nation-state, transnational labour history directs attention towards examining work­ers’ movements from a global perspective, stressing the role of transnational processes and interconnections in shaping labour his­tory and the importance of comparative


p. 1122

analysis. A national focus was character­istic of both old labour history, focused on institutions and leaders, and new labour history, which examined cultures and identities. Thus, E. P. Thompson’s master­ work took the ‘English working class’ as its focus; it did not really examine the imperial and international context that Thompson’s own material indicated was an important influence. Thus, without discounting the importance of ‘national’ factors in workers’ movements, transnational labour history questions assumptions that workers’ move­ments necessarily develop into national­ level movements, or are primarily shaped by forces operating within the boundaries of the nation-state, and thereby raises ques­tions about the standard practices of fram­ing labour histories as a series of national narratives. Transnational workers’ move­ments are not, we argue, the exceptional moments of interconnection in a history of workers’ movements Read more of this post

JOURNAL [+ PDF]: van der Walt, “Bakunin’s Heirs in South Africa: Race, class and revolutionary syndicalism from the IWW to the International Socialist League, 1910-1921”

Lucien van der Walt, 2004, “Bakunin’s Heirs in South Africa: Race, class and revolutionary syndicalism from the IWW to the International Socialist League, 1910-1921”, Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies, volume 30, number 1, pp. 67-89.

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ABSTRACT: The historiography of the socialist movement in South Africa remains dominated by the interpretations developed by Communist Party writers, and this is particularly true of the left before Communism. This article defines the key arguments of Communist writers regarding the left in the 1910s, and develops a critique and reassessment, stressing the centrality of revolutionary syndicalism and anti-racism in the early socialist movement on the basis of a detailed examination of primary materials. It shows how the early left was less the scions of Marx than the heirs of Bakunin, and argues for the reinsertion of the history of the early South African socialist movement into the broader history of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism.

REFERENCE [+PDF] Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Anarchism and syndicalism, Southern Africa”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest

Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Anarchism and syndicalism, Southern Africa”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest, Blackwell, New York, pp. 147-155.

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Anarchism and syndicalism, Southern Africa


Lucien van der Walt


p. 147

Anarchism, and particularly its syndicalist variant, played an important role in early labor and socialist politics in Southern Africa. Emerging in South Africa in the 1880s, and in Mozambique in the early twentieth century, it reached its apogee in the 1910s. Movements influenced by syndicalism continued in the 1920s, and spread to Southwest Africa (now Namibia), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) by the 1930s. The history of anarchism and syndicalism in Southern Africa, largely confined to a minority of the working class, provides a case of how this internationalist movement developed in the context of British and Portuguese colonialism and a racially divided working class.



Capitalism and Imperialism


The region that became South Africa was marginal to the world economy before the 1860s, mainly significant for the port at the Cape of Good Hope and agricultural exports from Western Cape farms. Port Elizabeth emerged Read more of this post

REFERENCE [+PDF] Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Plaatje, Solomon Tshekisho (1876–1932)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest

Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Plaatje, Solomon Tshekisho (1876–1932)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest, Blackwell, New York, online edition

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Plaatje, Solomon Tshekisho (1876 –1932)

Lucien van der Walt

Solomon Tshekisho “Sol” Plaatje was an African intellectual, publisher, and prominent early nation- alist. Like many other early African leaders, he was born to a Christian peasant family at Doornfontein, near Boshof in the independent Afrikaner republic, the Orange Free State (OFS). His father, Johannes Kushumane Plaatje (1835 – 96), was a Lutheran deacon, and Sol grew up on the Lutheran Berlin Missionary Society’s station at Pniel in Britain’s Cape Colony. Christianity would leave a deep imprint upon him, as would the example of the qualified franchise system in the Cape, which allowed a significant minority of Africans and Coloreds access to the voters’ roll. A talented pupil, he received additional private tutoring and assisted the missionaries as a teacher at the age of 15. A Tswana-speaker, he would eventually speak eight languages fluently. Nonetheless, with only three years of formal schooling, Plaatje lacked the impressive qualifications of many other members of the African elite.

At the age of 17, in 1894, Plaatje left to work in Kimberley as a postman, where he married teacher Elizabeth Lilith M’belle (1877–1942) four years later. Typical members of the small African elite, they looked to inclusion in a larger British world based on equal rights. Moving to Mafeking, he became a clerk and court interpreter. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902), British-held Mafeking came under siege. The African elite were generally supportive of the British, and Plaatje was no exception, preparing intelligence reports with African spies. In 1902 Plaatje established a bilingual paper, the Koranta ea Becoana (Bechuana Gazette), which ran until 1908. In 1903 he played a key role in forming a South African Native Press Association. Koranta was succeeded by Tsala ea Becoana (Friend of the Tswana) in 1910. Tsala ea Becoana closed in 1912, but was quickly followed by Tsala ea Batho (Friend of the People), which ran to 1917.

Plaatje also worked as a labor contractor for the mines from 1909. The African elite’s hope that the British victory in 1902 would lead to the extension of the Cape system to the neighboring colony of Natal, and the defeated Afrikaner republics of the OFS and Transvaal, was dashed by the Union of South Africa Act (1909) which merged the four territories. The Cape franchise was not extended to other provinces, nor could any person of color sit in the national parliament. Subsequent state policies were as devastating, with the 1913 Land Act placing African peasant and commercial farmers under enormous pressure.

Plaatje and others were impelled to act. While he did not attend the 1909 South African Native Convention, he did attend the 1910 convention, and was a founding member of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC, from 1923 the African National Congress) (ANC) in 1912, serving as its first general secretary. The SANNC was founded by the embattled African elite; its first executive included 12 ministers of religion, a building contractor, a teacher, and a labor recruiter and interpreter; an “upper house” of chiefs was also established. Nor did it initially advocate universal suffrage. Figures like Plaatje generally viewed major capitalists as potential sponsors of the African cause, not as foes (the De Beers Company did, indeed, donate Plaatje a meeting hall in Kimberley in 1918). When the state crushed the militant strikes by white workers in 1913, 1914, and 1922, the SANNC applauded its actions.

Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to dismiss men like Plaatje as unconcerned with the African working class, or to see their declarations of loyalty as unconditional. Plaatje stressed loyalty to the Empire and the Crown while criticizing colonial discrimination against Britain’s loyal black subjects; he repeatedly raised labor issues in his press, even if he rejected class struggle “rowdy- ism.” When the Transvaal SANNC developed a radical tendency – centered on African militants like Reuben (Alfred) Cetiwe, Hamilton Kraai, and T. W. Thibedi, all members of the syndicalist International Socialist League and Industrial Workers of Africa – Plaatje viewed the emergence of such “black Bolsheviks” as lamentable. Yet he conceded that such syndicalists were “the only people from whom we have any sympathy and support.” Likewise, following the passage of the Land Act, he toured the OFS and Cape to document its impact on ordinary Africans, later compiling this material into a damning indictment, Native Life in South Africa (1916).

Plaatje’s political style was typical of the early SANNC and the early African nationalists in South Africa more generally: appeals to reason and Britishness, delivered through deputations, the press, and petitions. This moderate approach was shared by contemporaries like Abdullah Abdurahman, leader of the Colored-based African Political Organization. In 1914 Plaatje was part of a SANNC deputation to England to protest the Land Act: this was cut short with the out- break of World War I, upon which SANNC resolved in “patriotic demonstration” to “hang up native grievances . . . till a better time” and meanwhile to “tender the authorities every assistance” (Rall 2003). Plaatje stayed on in Britain at his own expense, writing Native Life and compiling books of Setswana proverbs and folklore, which were published in 1916. En route to South Africa in 1917, Plaatje, a great admirer of Shakespeare, translated Julius Caesar into Setswana, the first of several such translations. He was subsequently offered the SANNC presidency, but declined the post, partly due to family pressures.

In 1919 SANNC sent a second delegation to Britain to plead the Africans’ case to the king and the Versailles Peace Conference. Plaatje was again included. He spent his time completing his novel (the first in English by an African from South Africa), Mhudi: An Epic of South African Native Life a Hundred Years Ago (published in 1930). The deputation was not a success.

Plaatje visited North America from 1920. One stop was the Tuskegee Institute (he was a great admirer of the late Booker T. Washington); he also met W. E. B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. Nonetheless, much of his time was spent with the interdenominational Christian Brotherhood, a section of which he had established in Kimberley in 1918. He returned to Britain in 1922, where he was involved in some sound recordings and film production, and came back to South Africa the next year. Here he worked as a journalist, writing for the white and black press, including Umteteli wa Bantu (Mouthpiece of the People), and was a prolific writer of letters to the press. He became vice president of the Cape Native Voters’ Association, joined the Independent Order of True Templars, visited the Belgian Congo, and was offered the editorship of Umteteli. Nonetheless, while he remained very well-respected and continued to publish and translate substantial works, he was no longer an important leader.

Plaatje died in 1932 of pneumonia and bronchitis. His funeral in Kimberley was attended by 1,000 people. Today, Plaatje is considered a quintessential early African nationalist leader, as a talented intellectual hemmed in by racial inequalities, and, above all, as an important novelist, historian, and journalist. In 1992 his house and grave were declared National Monuments, while Kimberley itself is today part of the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

 SEE ALSO [in this encyclopaedia]: Abdurahman, Abdullah (1872–1940); Communist Party of South Africa, 1921–1950; Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand (1869 –1948); Sigamoney, Bernard L. E. (1888 –1963); South Africa, African Nationalism and the ANC; South Africa, Labor Movement

References and Suggested Readings

African National Congress (ANC) (1981) Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje: First ANC Secretary-General (1876 –1932). Online at http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/people/plaatje/. Accessed July 15, 2008.

Rall, M. (2003) Peaceable Warrior: The Life and Times of Sol Plaatje. Kimberley: Sol Plaatje Educational Trust.

Willan,   B.   (1984)   Sol   Plaatje:   A   Biography. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.

Willan, B. (Ed.) (1996) Sol Plaatje: Selected Writings. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.


REFERENCE [+PDF] Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Kadalie, Clements (ca. 1896–1951)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest

Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Kadalie, Clements (ca. 1896–1951)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest, Blackwell, New York, online edition

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Kadalie, Clements (ca. 1896 –1951)

Lucien van der Walt

Born in or just before 1896 at Chifira village near the Bandawe mission station in Nyasaland (now Malawi) to a chiefly lineage, Clements Kadalie was educated by Presbyterian missionaries at the Livingston Missionary Institution and qualified as a teacher in 1912. Dissatisfied with his opportunities, Kadalie left teaching in 1915, moving to Mozambique and then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he worked as a clerk in various jobs from 1916 to 1917. During this time, he was radicalized by white prejudice and the color bar.

In 1918 he arrived in South Africa and went to Cape Town, where he met sympathetic white trade unionists like Alfred F. Batty, head of a left-wing breakaway from the segregationist South African Labor Party. He also encountered the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Socialist League (not to be confused with the syndicalist International Socialist League). Unable to speak any of the local African languages, he was often assumed to be an African-American and was associated with the local Colored community in his personal life.

In January 1919 Kadalie formed the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU), initially a union for Colored dockworkers, holding the post of secretary. The union attended the 1919 congress of the Cape Federation of Labor Unions but did not affiliate. Kadalie’s charisma and oratory skills played a key role in ICU fortunes, and Kadalie became a full-time official from 1920 onwards. In December 1919 the ICU cooperated with the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of Africa in organizing an unsuccessful strike by African and Colored dockworkers in Cape Town.

In 1920 the ICU merged with other African general unions and the Cape section of the Industrial Workers of Africa at a conference in Bloemfontein, which aimed to form One Big Union. The union expanded rapidly from the mid-1920s onwards, achieving immense success among African farm workers and tenant farmers, despite ongoing official harassment. In 1927 it claimed a membership of 100,000 and was represented by Kadalie at the International Labor Conference in Geneva. The ICU also established sections in South West Africa (now Namibia) in 1920, Southern Rhodesia in 1927, and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1931.

However, weak structures, substantial corruption, infighting, and repression saw the ICU decline rapidly in the years that followed. The 1926 expulsion of Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) members like Johnny Gomas andT. W. Thibedi was another blow. ICU ideology  – a mixture of the ideas of Marcus Garvey, revolutionary syndicalism, and other currents -was unstable and the union lacked a clear strategy. Kadalie’s attempts to reform the union, with the aid of liberals and British labor, failed. From 1928 onwards the ICU splintered, with Kadalie leading the Independent ICU faction. The ICU faded away in the early 1930s, although it was later revived in Southern Rhodesia. Kadalie moved to East London and became a provincial organizer for the nationalist group, the African National Congress (ANC). Visiting Nyasaland in 1951, he contracted an infection and died soon after his return to South Africa.

 SEE ALSO [in this encyclopaedia]: Communist Party of South Africa, 1921– 1950; South Africa, Labor Movement

 References and Suggested Readings

Roth, M. (1999) Clements Kadalie, 1896 –1951. In They Shaped Our Century: The Most Influential South Africans of the Twentieth Century. Cape Town: Human and Rousseau.

Skota, T. D. M. (Ed.) (1966) The African Who’s Who: An Illustrated Classified Register and National Biographical Dictionary of the Africans in the Transvaal. Johannesburg: Frier and Munro.

REFERENCE [+PDF] Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Barayi, Elijah (1930–1994)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest

Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Barayi, Elijah (1930–1994)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest, Blackwell, New York, p. 349

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Barayi, Elijah (1930 –1994)

Lucien van der Walt

p. 349

Born in Lingelihle in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Barayi joined the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1948. The ANC, the country’s main African nationalist organization, was adopting an increasingly con-frontational position, and developing into a mass-based party. The ANC Youth League, then influenced by Pan-Africanism, and the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), played an important role in the organization’s revival and growing militancy. Barayi worked as a government clerk, and joined the Youth League following a racial clash with white youths. He was active in the 1950s civil disobedience campaigns of the Congress Alliance, comprising the ANC, the Colored Peoples Congress, the (White) Congress of Democrats, the Indian National Congress, and, from 1955, the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). Arrested during the 1952 Defiance Campaign, he was jailed for a month in Cradock, and he was among those arrested in the state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre of March 21, 1960, and held for four months.

Following his release he moved to the Witwatersrand where he worked as a mine clerk, mainly in the Brakpan and Carletonville areas. He was a founder member of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), formed in 1982, and its vice-president until his death. The NUM was a successor to the African Mineworkers’ Union formed in 1930 by S. P. Bunting and T. W. Thibedi; the NUM claimed 110,000 members by 1984 (Baskin 1991), and helped establish the Congress of South African Trades Unions (COSATU) in 1985. Barayi was COSATU president until 1991, and notable for his strong stand against apartheid, and played an important role in aligning the NUM to then-underground ANC. Barayi was involved in the 1987 NUM strike – this was the biggest single industry-wide strike in South Africa to that date, but defeated  and in the civil disobedience and union campaigns of the late 1980s. The ANC was legalized in 1990, and Barayi was a candidate on its list of election candidates for the first all-race election in April 1994, but died in January that year.

SEE ALSO [in this encyclopaedia]: COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions); South Africa, Labor Movement

 References and Suggested Readings

Baskin, J. (1991) Striking Back: A History of COSATU. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.

New York Times (2006) Elijah Barayi, African Nation- alist, 63. November 9.

National Union of Mineworkers (n.d.) Tribute to the Late Comrade Elijah Barayi, Former NUM Vice President. National Union of Mineworkers website. Available at www.num.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=38&Itemid=77#two (downloaded November 1, 2006).


REFERENCE [+PDF] Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Bain, J. T. (1860–1919)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest

Lucien van der Walt, 2009, “Bain, J. T. (1860–1919)”, International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest, Blackwell, New York, pp. 331-332

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Bain, J. T. (1860 –1919)

Lucien van der Walt

p. 331

Born in Dundee, Scotland to a working-class family in 1860, J. T. Bain ( James Thomas Bain, Jimmy Bain) served in the British army in South Africa and India, before returning to Scotland. There he learned socialism from Thomas Carlyle, William Morris, and John Ruskin, and trained as a fitter, moving to the Transvaal in 1890. He formed the Witwatersrand Mine Employees’ and Mechanics’ Union in 1892, better known as the Labor Union, and pioneered socialist ideas,

distributing the Clarion to miners, and publish- ing the Johannesburg Witness in 1898 and 1899, the first socialist paper in South Africa. Bain’s politics were a mixture of segregation and socialism: the Labor Union, for example, supported the color bar, and Bain worked as a spy for Paul Kruger’s Transvaal government. Bain fought for the Transvaal in the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899 –1902), and was captured by the British, narrowly escaping execution for treason when it was discovered that he had Transvaal citizenship. After the war, Bain helped revive the unions, initiated a local Independent Labor Party, and worked with Archie Crawford, the two men leading a march of several hundred people from Johannesburg to Pretoria on May 1, 1907 to demand the government employ white labor at fair wages. The delegation was rebuffed, the movement collapsed, and Bain became involved in the founding of the South African Labor Party (SALP) in 1909. His relations with Crawford soured around this time. Bain secured a job on the railways in Johannesburg, stood unsuccessfully for the SALP in the 1910 general elections, and worked as an organizer for the Transvaal Federation of Trade Unions, formed in 1911.

Bain played a central role in the 1913 general strike, during which he advised workers to come armed, and briefly adopted the syndicalist view that it might be necessary for the strikers to take over, and run, the mines. Prominent in the 1914 general strike, he was deported to Britain for his troubles, along with Crawford and others. In 1919 workers at the Johannesburg power station struck against retrenchments, and, at the urging of Bain, established a Board of Control to administer the municipal workshops and services from the council chamber. It ran the light, power, and tram services for several days, before the municipality conceded the strikers’ demands. Bain died later that year, a venerated and complex figure.

SEE ALSO[ in this encyclopeadia]: South Africa, Labor Movement

References and Suggested Readings

Gitsham, E. & Trembath, J. F. (1926) A First Account of Labour Organization in South Africa. Durban: E. P. and Commercial.

Hyslop, J. (2004) The Notorious Syndicalist J. T. Bain: A Scottish Rebel in Colonial South Africa. Johannesburg: Jacana Media.

Rosenthal, E. (Ed.) (1966) Southern African Dictionary of National Biography. London: Frederick Warne.

p. 332

Ticktin, D. (1973) The Origins of the South African Labour Party, 1888 –1910. PhD thesis, University of Cape Town.

Walker, I. L. & Weinbren, B. (1961) 2000 Casualties: A History of the Trade Unions and the Labour Movement in the Union of South Africa. Johannesburg: South African Trade Union Council.


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