[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.


About Lucien van der Walt
I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014) and 'Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' (co-written with Michael Schmidt, AK Press 2009).

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