Lucien van der Walt, 2017, “Alan Robert Lipman, South Africa (1925-2013),” Southern African Anarchist & Syndicalist History Archive, 27 April. Online at https://saasha.net/2017/04/27/obituary-alan-robert-lipman-1925-2013-by-lucien-van-der-walt/

Alan Robert Lipman, born 6 June 1925 to a Jewish South African family, and raised in Johannesburg and Vrede, passed away on the 27 January 2013.[1] He trained as an architect at the University of the Witwatersrand following a stint in the South African military in the Second World War.

Lipman was a rebel. A member of the radical ex-soldiers’ movement, the Springbok Legion, he joined the Communist Party of South Africa in 1948 as a university student. He was in a cell of the underground South African Communist Party in the 1950s, and was Durban editor of the SACP-linked Guardian. He played an active role in the anti-apartheid movement. He was close to African National Congress (ANC) figures like Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela, and was involved in drafting the 1955 Freedom Charter, a key ANC and SACP text.Declared a “named” Communist supporter by then-Minister of Justice, C.R. Swart, Lipman’s writings were restricted, and he was prohibited from attending meetings.[2]

Lipman was also one of the few who broke with the SACP over the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. He left the party, but continued to be involved in the anti-apartheid movement, later gravitating to the National Liberation Committee / African Resistance Movement. Formed 1960, this was a mixture of leftists and radical liberals, and he was involved in its brief armed struggle.

He fled to Britain in 1963, where he worked in architecture, and then in Sociology at the University of Wales, Cardiff.[3] Disillusionment with Marxism-Leninism, and skepticism towards authoritarianism, and the influence of figures like 19th century libertarian socialist William Morris (1834-1896) moved Lipman towards an anarchist position.[2] He was actively involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and played a key role in its Welsh, then its national, leadership.[3]

Returning to South Africa in the 1990 at the request of ANC leader Walter Sisulu (released from Robben Island in 1989), he self-identified as an anarchist. He was appointed Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand. He distanced himself from the official liberation movements, and was particularly critical of President Thabo Mbeki, champion of the ANC’s embrace of neo-liberalism and narrow nationalism.[5]

Lipman’s projects after his return included re-designing (with Henry Paine) the housing complex at the remnants of the then-closed Johannesburg municipal power station in Newtown, Johannesburg. The redesigned complex became the home of the Workers’ Library and Museum, a progressive labour service organisation,[8] which later partnered with (then merged into) the left-wing Khanya College. This work won several awards, adding to the honours he received in his venerable years.[4]

A champion of justice and equality, Lipman knew, and was respected, by many people. He remained a prolific writer and continued to engage with popular struggles, and made links to the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front.[6] He spoke, for example, at a two-day workshop held by the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front for the now-defunct Anti-Privatisation Forum, at the Orange Farm Crisis Committee headquarters, 21 May 2006.[6]

In his view: “I spent 35 years of my life supporting the liberation struggle but the ANC is now an anti-liberation movement. Now we need a real ‘People’s National Congress’ – under people’s control – to take back real liberation forward.”[6] His later work appeared regularly in the Sunday Independent and South African Institute of Architects, occasionally in the anarchist paper Zabalaza,[6] [7] and in his 2009 autobiography, On the outside looking in: colliding with apartheid and other authorities.[2]

He was survived by his wife of sixty-four years, Beata; two children and three grandchildren.[1][5]

[1] https://www.leadingarchitecture.co.za/professor-alan-robert-lipman-1925-2013-architect-anarchist-academic-teacher-writer-critic-activist/

[2] Lipman, Alan Robert. 2009. On the outside looking in: colliding with apartheid and other authorities. Johannesburg: Architect Africa Publications, pp. 102-103.

[3] Obituaries at http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/archframes.php?archid=2280

[4] http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/bldgframes.php?bldgid=8467

[5] http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/alan-robert-lipman

[6] Alan Lipman, 2006, “The Anti-Liberation Movements,” Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary  Anarchism, #7, at https://saasha.net/2017/04/27/talk-alan-lipman-2006-the-anti-liberation-movements

[7] Alan Lipman, 2008, “Xenophobia, Nationalism and Greedy Bosses: An Interview with Alan Lipman,” Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary  Anarchism, #9, at https://saasha.net/2017/04/27/interview-alan-lipman-2008-xenophobia-nationalism-and-greedy-bosses-an-interview-with-alan-lipman/

[8] More on the Workers Library and Museum, and its links to the left, can be found here http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/bldgframes.php?bldgid=8467 and here  https://lucienvanderwalt.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/notes-and-posters-from-the-workers-library-museum-that-was/

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