Lucien van der Walt, 1993, “The Fire Next Time: Lessons of the Los Angeles (LA) Uprising”

This was an introduction written for a pamphlet called No Justice, No Peace: An Eyewitness Account of the Los Angeles Riots, which was reprinted in two South African editions, one from Backstreet Abortions distro, one from ARM, both based in Johannesburg. Some bits hold up well.


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 woman 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 Newsmonthly 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 Read More »


Lucien van der Walt, 1994, “Chimurenga! The Lessons of the Zimbabwe Liberation War”

Lucien van der Walt, 1994, “Chimurenga! The Lessons of the Zimbabwe Liberation War,” Unrest, number 1, pp. 16-17, 23.


THE VICTORY OF a seemingly militant ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) in Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence elections, following a long guerrilla war (the “Chimurenga“) against White colonialism, was greeted with jubilation. Today [i.e. 1994], the hopes raised have dissipated; modern Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) is marked by continuity with colonial social and economic structures. This article examines, from a radical perspective, why the national liberation struggle failed to achieve its basic goals, and the lessons this holds for struggle today.


Land, central to the war, remains in the hands of White commercial farmers and a Black elite, whilst most Zimbabweans are condemned to a life of poverty.

Independence has brought them few benefits; wage levels are in fact those of twenty years ago; unemployment is growing; and the living standards of the urban poor, 30% of the population, are declining. An International Monetary Fund /World Bank imposed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) aggravates and intensifies these hardships, bringing rising prices, reduced buying power, and cuts in social services like education.

Meanwhile the politicians and State bosses award themselves pay hikes, encourage investment by the exploitative multi national corporations, and strengthen diplomatic ties with the imperialist West. The ruling class (White farmers and Black elite) sustains its power and privilege by repression. Only recently was the 25 year long State of Emergency lifted, whilst police permission is necessary for large political gatherings, strikes can be banned, the press is suppressed, and the Central Intelligence Organisation harasses dissidents.


The failure of the ZANU government to deliver is sometimes lamed on “external” factors. For example, the independence constitution, agreed upon by guerrilla leaders and the colonialists, placed strong restrictions on land reform [1].

But this explanation assumes the new regime really did want to change Zimbabwe in the interests of the masses. In fact, we will show below, nothing could be further from the truth. Others, mainly Marxists, say that the outcome results from he fact that the war was fought by peasants. Actually there is nothing inherently conservative about peasants, as peasants have played a leading role in fighting for radical aims e.g. Mexico 1911.


For a proper explanation let us look at what actually happened the Zimbabwe war.

Rhodesia was a White settler colony set up in 1896, which featured the rapid, State directed development of a racial capitalist system in which Whites had a monopoly of economic and political power [2] [3]. Just as all White classes were racially privileged, workers included, all Black classes ere discriminated against.

The 1950s saw struggles by Black trade unions, peasant communities, and nationalist groups for national liberation. A nationalist perspective (cross class alliance to achieve a “national” State and economy) predominated in this national liberation movement.

The response of the White State was mainly repression. ZANU, and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union), the two main nationalist parties, were banned, after which they turned to armed struggle, with incursions from 1966 on. Inflexible, conspicuous, and isolated from the peasants, these early campaigns were failures [2] [4].

Change came when, in 1972, operating from a FRELIMO (Front for Liberation of Mozambique) liberated zone, ZANU’s army, ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army) began to mobilise and politicise the Black peasantry in eastern

Zimbabwe as part of its war effort. This strategy of “peoples war” created what was effectively a peasant insurrection and turned the tide against the colonial regime [2][5]. War intensified through the 1970s. From 1976, ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army), the ZAPU army, also recommenced operations, mainly in the southwest. ZIPRA did not however try mobilising the peasants [2] [6].

Under pressure from the guerrilla war, and an international isolation campaign, the regime tried on a number of occasions to negotiate an end to the war. Finally, in the 1979 Lancaster House agreement, it made its terms with ZANU and ZAPU, and a new constitution was written, and date for independence elections set.


By this time, some very important developments had taken place in ZANLA zones.

Here the guerrillas had set up a sophisticated system of non State grassroots decision making bodies. These “people’s committees” (hurundwende), at village, ward, and district level, provided support for the guerrillas, political mobilisation of the peasants, and civil administration [2] [5] [6]. Health, education, and other self help schemes were also sometimes initiated by the hurundwende [5]. At a separate level of mobilisation, the guerrillas used young men (mujhibas) and women (chimbwidos) secure the area, collect peasant contributions, carry messages, and (in the case of the chimbwidos) cook and clean [5].

Mujhibas and chimbwidos also organised regular, nighttime village meetings (pungwes) at which the guerrillas explained why they were fighting, and taught nationalist slogans and songs [5], thus building a culture of resistance.


The war therefore involved the creation of grassroots structures and beliefs independent of, and in opposition to, the White State. These events could have laid the basis of a new, revolutionary society of direct democracy, production for use, and distribution for need.

Why did this not occur?

The activity and further development of the hurundwende was limited by the fact that Black peasant lands were scattered amongst White areas, and thus not only quite vulnerable to attack, but unable to generate and maintain a fully operating alternative infrastructure. Furthermore, hurundwende were absent from many areas, and had no city counterparts [5][2].

Even where they did exist, no attempt was made to restructure production in a non-capitalist direction [5]. And hurundwende were also usually dominated by “respectable” local community members: rich peasants, Black businessmen, professionals [5][6]. The middle class also dominated leadership positions in ZANU, ZAPU, ZANLA and ZIPRA. Its class power was reinforced by the authoritarian structures of the guerrilla armies, which were directed by central councils situated outside Zimbabwe.

As for the ideology propagated by the guerrillas and the parties, it fell far short of a radical social critique. The nationalists aimed not to overthrow, but to establish capitalism with a Black face, an ambition reflecting the frustrations of the Black middle class leadership [1] [7].

Armed struggle was adopted as a last resort to achieve this.

Even ZANU, which in the latter stages of the war claimed to be socialist, believed that a “national democratic” stage had to take place first [1].


By 1976, a substantial opposition to this programme emerged in a number of cases amongst guerrillas, women of all ages, landless young men, and poor peasants [2] [6].

They seized empty farms, rustled White owned cattle, and vigorously participated in the hurundwende. Women challenged lobola (bride wealth), polygamy, demanded male involvement in child rearing and State provided nurseries, leadership training, better education, and guerrilla training. Guerrillas and poor peasants evicted 100s of rich peasants, occasionally attacked wealthy homesteads, and expressed increasing hostility to Black businessmen.

However, these class conscious, anti-patriarchal [i.e. anti the domination older men, over women and youth] tendencies never came to predominate in the national liberation struggle. For one thing, no alternative political programme to that of the nationalists emerged. Secondly, the Black middle class was able to contain these contradictions: they used their influence in the hurundwende to bolster patriarchy, and businessmen also set up working arrangements with the guerrillas.[6]


The settlement reached at Lancaster House was not the betrayal but the climax of the nationalist programme, as it gave the Black middle class opportunities in the State, State corporations, and private sector.

Subsequently, this group moved rapidly to consolidate its position. First it incorporated the hurundwende, guerrilla forces, trade unions and women’s groups into the State and ZANU. Second repression was freely used against dissent.

Thirdly, the Black bourgeoisie “reconciled” itself with its White counterparts, buying commercial farms, assuming senior positions in private corporations, and giving the White upper class prominent positions and a large say in the running of the State.


At present urban workers and students, spurred by disillusionment, hardship, and SAP[neo-liberal Structural Adjustment], are at the forefront of struggle with the regime. At the same time the growing frustration of the land-hungry peasantry alarms the boss class.

The regime has sought to deal with the unrest by repression, for example, closure of the University [of Zimbabwe], and breaking up protest meetings. It has also promised to speed up the pace of land reform, a small victory, although major change is unlikely given the crisis in the ruling class this could cause.

Unfortunately, the ongoing struggle is presently tending to reformism, and many believe the solution is to simply vote ZANU out of office. This strategy is flawed. The lessons of the Zimbabwe war, for South Africa as much as for Zimbabwe, are that: struggle must aim to overthrow of capitalism and State; that national liberation needs a class perspective; that struggle needs revolutionary ideology and independent nonheirachical grassroot bodies.


[1] A. Astrow, 1983, Zimbabwe: a revolution that lost its way? Chapter 6

[2] L. Cliffe, 1981, “Zimbabwe’s Political Inheritance” in C. Stoneman (ed.), Zimbabwe’s Inheritance

[3] M. Loney, Rhodesia, Chapter 3

[4] J. Saul, 1979, “Transforming the Struggle in Zimbabwe” in his State and Revolution in Eastern Africa.

[5] Cliffe, L., Mpofu, J. and B. Munslow, 1980, “Nationalist Politics in Zimbabwe” in Review of African Political Economy, no. 18

[6] D. Phimister, 1988, “The Combined and Contradictory Inheritance of the Struggle in Zimbabwe,” in C. Stoneman (ed.) Zimbabwe’s Prospects

For current developments, see Virginia Knight, May 1992, “Zimbabwe: the politics of economic reform” in Current History; as well as magazines like Southern African Political and Economic MonthlyAfrica Today, and Africa Confidential.

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Lucien van der Walt, 1994 “Introduction” to Alfredo Bonnano’s “Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle”

This first appeared as Lucien van der Walt, 1994, “Introduction to the South African Edition,” in Alfredo Bonanno, Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle, ARM, Johannesburg, South African edition. The text below is the slightly revised version from the 2019 3rd South African edition, which is available in full HERE.

TO CITE: Lucien van der Walt, 2019, “Introduction to the 1994 South African Edition (revised),” Alfredo Bonanno, Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle, Zabalaza Books, Johannesburg, third South African edition,  pp. 4-6.

Introduction to the 1994 South African Edition (Revised)

by Lucien van der Walt

This pamphlet represents an attempt to develop an anarchist internationalist stance on the ever present and ever controversial issue of the national liberation struggle (NLS), and, more broadly, the “national question” itself. We can broadly understand the NLS to mean a struggle against a relationship of exploitation and domination involving a NATIONAL group. Such a struggle is of obvious importance to us as anarchists, because we are opposed to all oppression, and believe that it must be ended by revolutionary action.

The topics covered by Bonanno range from internal colonialism, imperialism, class identity, to incisive critiques of certain Marxist positions on this issue. However, two main arguments are made in this text. Firstly, he argues that only revolution, based on libertarian and federalist structures, can make possible the free association of human groups, thereby solving the national question.

Secondly, and far more importantly for our purposes, Bonanno makes the case that anarchists should fully support national liberation struggles (i.e. against imperialism and internal colonialism) insofar as they are the struggles of the oppressed classes (workers and peasants) themselves. This is because different classes within the oppressed nation have different interests and therefore also end goals within the NLS. That of the national aspirant capitalist-cum-politician class is to exploit and dominate their compatriots. This is obviously no solution at all for the oppressed classes.

What Bonanno is pointing to is that NLS can assume a variety of forms: ranging from revolutionary class struggle against oppression, aiming at the institution of an anarchist society, to a nationalist (class alliance) form, typically concerned with forming a national state. This may be the division of an existing state into several new ones (as in Czechoslovakia), or the reshaping of an old state into a new form (as in South Africa), but whatever the form of the new state its function is that of all states: to serve ruling class interests.

As it stands, the pamphlet has only one real problem. Although Bonanno repeatedly refers to “exploitation”, no mention whatsoever is to be found of “domination”. Yet as anarchists, we are not merely opposed to “exploitation” but [unequal – editor] power relations themselves. It is precisely this that distinguishes us from other socialists, and it is precisely for this reason that we favour federalist and libertarian forms of organisation.

But the pamphlet is still clearly highly relevant to South Africa. Firstly, Black people have long been engaged in what might be conceptualised as a national liberation struggle against post–colonial white settlerism or “colonialism of a special type” (i.e. South Africa, although independent, retains within itself the features of White colonialism). Secondly, since the end of the Second World War at least, nationalism has the primary form taken by resistance to Apartheid–Capitalism (see O’Meara in M.T. Murray (editor) South African Capitalism and Black Political Opposition, esp. pp. 389 – 392). Nationalism is exemplified in the politics of the African National Congress (ANC), Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) and even the South African Communist Party (SACP); the SACP believes that a “national democratic revolution” must be achieved before class revolution can take place. (Previously, Black nationalism was largely confined to Black intellectuals and petty businessmen).

And finally the importance of a class perspective on national struggle and nationalism is increasingly obvious as the country moves, by means of the “reform” period, into a situation where the majority of Black people are left out of the “new South Africa”, whilst at the same time a small elite of Black mangers, politicians, businessmen, professionals, and skilled, often unionised Black (male) workers are absorbed into the barely changed structures of State and capital i.e. the White ruling class (see Morris, February 1993, in Work in Progress, no.87, pp. 6 – 9). This is a clear case of class interests and divisions shattering the “nation”. It might be worth noting that the White nation is also fracturing in class lines as the White upper classes withdraw from White workers the privileges (e.g. job reservation, high wages) that used to buy the acquiescence of the latter…

What follows is an attempt to extend Bonanno’s analysis to the problems of building a revolutionary anarchist movement. Theoretical clarity is an essential part of this task (see Bratach Dubh Preface in this pamphlet). So let us examine the relationship between nationalism and class carefully.

We must recognise two factors. Firstly, as anarchists we must recognise that national oppression (like racism, sexism etc.) means that specific sections or fractions within the oppressed classes are doubly oppressed: both because of their class position and as a nationality. Three points follow. First, this means that within the oppressed classes (which are multi-national) certain groups are subject to relations of [national – editor] oppression. Second, because national oppression has its own independent reality (from class oppression etc.) and is obviously not confined to any one class, it (like other non-class oppressions e.g. race etc.) can and does provide the basis for cross class alliances class (which are not in the long term interests of all [oppressed – editor] classes). Third, it means that the unity of the oppressed classes cannot be assumed: that they may be easily and deeply divided.

Secondly we must not be blind to the fact that nationalism really does give people in the oppressed classes something. “This ‘something’ is identity, pride, a feeling of community and solidarity and of course physical self-defence” in the face of very real oppression (Class War, Unfinished Business, pp. 50, 156 – 7). And nationalism (called “ethnicity”) can provide a very effective principle of organising for sectional gains and material benefits for members of all classes involved (see N. Chazan et. al., Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa, Chapter 3; also Nelson Kasfir, in Kohli (editor), State and Development in the Third World). In South Africa, Afrikaner nationalism was not only supported by White Afrikaner farmers, traders, professionals, and financiers, but also by White workers because it successfully addressed their poverty, oppression as Afrikaners (most semi- and unskilled Whites were Afrikaners) and very real fears of Black competition in the job market etc. (see L. Callinicos, 1993, A Place in the City, pp. 110 – 131, esp. pp. 120 – 123).

So, how do these points bear on anarchism? If we are to forge an effective and successful movement, we must, firstly recognise that the movement must be based on the oppressed classes. But we must recognise and challenge oppression within the class by specific and systematic work across all working class organisations (e.g. actively fighting racist attitudes), and by championing demands and struggles that unite the workers and the poor against the oppression that all share (e.g. low wages) and that also specifically fight the extra oppression that some face (e.g. fighting racist pay gaps, discriminatory housing and services etc.). We need to link a range of popular organisations into a broader revolutionary mass movement – a revolutionary front of the oppressed classes, that fights all oppression, but steers clear of cross-class alliances with elites – involving “many different groups and individuals… They will have different experiences and approaches and each will be good at different things” but will communicate and co-operate with one another (Class War, Unfinished Business, pp. 135-6). Federalist structures are ideally suited to this task.

At the same time we must strive to unite the oppressed classes, (guarding against the selfish manipulation of division by the bosses and the ambitious), to fight in their own class interests i.e. for the overthrow of the ruling class. Thirdly, we must combat the solidarity etc., given by nationalism with class identity, pride, community, solidarity, history, culture and achievements (Class War, Unfinished Business, pp. 50).

Finally, our role as revolutionaries. Our aim is to build a revolutionary and libertarian worker-peasant movement, (based on the oppressed classes, BUT recognising oppression and struggle within the class), which will strive to increase the militancy of struggles, to build a culture of revolution, and to build a situation of counter power, of peoples power.

In this way we can make the revolution!!!

Forward to a society based on direct democracy, not power, and need not greed!!!



Lucien van der Walt, 1998, “The Life of Bakunin”

Lucien van der Walt, 1998, “The Life of Bakunin,” Internal Bulletin of the Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF) of South Africa, number 2, March/April 1998, pp. 11-13, republished as “The Life of Bakunin: Anti-imperialism, Anti-capitalism, Anti-statism,” Anarkismo, 1 June 2014, HERE , which is copied below .

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1873) can be seen as the founder of libertarian socialism (anarcho-syndicalism). His ideas are our ideas. Like him, we believe in free socialism from below, in revolutionary trade unionism, women’s freedom, an end to national oppression, and a free socialist society based on grassroots worker and community councils.

As we wrote in the introduction to our  booklet Basic Bakunin

“We do not see Bakunin as a god who never made mistakes. Of course he was not perfect.”

“He was a man, but a man who gave his all for the struggle of the oppressed, a revolutionary hero who deserves our admiration and respect.”

“From Bakunin, we can learn much about revolutionary activism. We can learn even more about the ideas needed to win the age-old fight between exploiter and exploited, between worker and peasant, on the one hand, and boss and ruler on the other.”

“The greatest honor we can do his memory is to fight today and always for human freedom and workers liberation.”

Born in 1814 in Russia, Bakunin quickly developed a burning hatred of oppression. In his 20s, he became involved in radical democratic circles.

At this time he developed a theory of which saw freedom being achieved through a general rising of the working masses, linked to revolutions in the colonies.

He was involved in the revolutionary rising in 1848- in Paris, France; and the revolts of the subject peoples of Eastern Europe.

For this he was persecuted, hounded by the rich and powerful. Captured, he was sentenced to death twice.

However, the Russian government demanded his extradition, and so he was jailed for 6 years without trial in the Peter and Paul Fortress. Release from jail was followed by exile in Siberia.

In 1861, Bakunin escaped. He spent the next 3 years in the fight for Polish independence.

But at this time, he began to realize that formal national independence -the creation of an independent government- was not an adequate guarantee for the liberation of the working and poor masses.

Instead, the fight against imperialism had to be linked to the fight for a real socialism- socialism under the control of the workers- libertarian socialism created from below, sweeping aside the bosses’ governments and capitalism through worker-peasant revolution.

In 1868, Bakunin joined the (First) International Workingmen’s Association. This was a federation of workers organizations, parties and trade unions.

Bakunin soon came to exercise a profound influence on most of the sections, notably those in south Europe and Latin America.

Bakunin’s politics of socialism from below soon brought him into conflict with Karl Marx, another well-known figure in the International.

Karl Marx argued that socialism had to come from above-the workers must try to use the government to bring about socialism, and run candidates in elections.

Bakunin disagreed. He looked forward to the replacement of the bosses’ State by free federations of free workers. Bakunin warned that any attempt to impose socialism from above through a dictatorial government would lead to a “red bureaucracy”, a new “aristocracy” who would step into the shoes of the bosses and oppress the workers. Bakunin has been proven right by the disaster in the Soviet Union.

Failing to defeat Bakunin through democratic methods, the Marxist minority resorted to a campaign of disgraceful lies and slanders. At two unconstitutional congresses, “packed” with Marxist delegates from non- existent organizations, Marx managed to expel Bakunin and change the aims of the International to his aims.

At the next conference- a genuine, representative conference- the delegates overturned Marx’s decisions and rejected the charges against Bakunin. In fact, Bakunin’s political positions were accepted. Because Marx refused to accept this democratic, majority decision, the International split in practice.

Worn out by a lifetime of struggle, Bakunin died prematurely in 1873. His legacy, however, is enormous. As the “founder” of libertarian socialism(anarchism/ syndicalism), Bakunin’s ideas would influence generations of revolutionaries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. His writings and ideas are as relevant today as ever.

His warning that socialism from above would degenerate into oppression and exploitation, his profound insights on the tasks of the workers movement, his points on the struggle against imperialism and women’s oppression-all of these are as important and true as ever.


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[ANALYSIS]: Lucien van der Walt, 1992, “The Violence: The State’s Bloody Hands,” ‘Revolt’

One of the first things I wrote, an undergrad student and activist at the (stormy) time.

Lucien van der Walt, 1992, “The Violence: The State’s Bloody Hands,” Revolt, number 2.

More people are dying in Apartheid’s fall than at its height. The cause of the violence is not “tribalism” but a destabilisation campaign by the State and its Inkatha ally. The solution is not, however, a new government…

[Background note: between 1990 and 1994 – the years between the unbanning of major anti-apartheid parties such as the African National Congress, the Pan-Africanist Congress and the SA Communist Party – a wave of political violence against mass democratic structures and organised labour swept the country. Such violence had taken place in Natal since the late 1980s; now it spread with terrifying speed to the Witwatersrand/ Reef industrial heartland. This article examines how much of the violence was orchestrated by the Apartheid state and its armed wings and vigilante and moderate allies as a low-intensity war against the mass democratic movement, and draws out the strategic implications of this analysis.]

While the politicians play around at negotiations, our communities have experienced the worst features of violence in their daily lives, be it on the trains, taxis or busses, on their way to and from work; during nightwatches and at funerals; at work, at home; even during festivities.

Daily, they are terrorised by marauding impis [militias], faceless hitmen in unmarked cars, drive-by-shootings and other random attacks. More than 7000 have died since De Klerk announced the “new” South Africa.


Capitalist and state controlled media call the violence ethnic conflict between Zulu speakers and Xhosa speakers, linking the first group with Inkatha, the latter with the African National Congress (ANC). This “explanation” has no basis in reality.

Not only is there no history of conflict between the two [ethnic groups] but the violence does not assume a neat “Zulu-Xhosa” pattern: in Natal it is between Zulu-speakers; on the Reef people besides Zulu and Xhosa speakers have been killed; Inkatha has no problem with attacking non-Inkatha Zulu-speakers. In any case these ethnic groups are arbitrary and artificial apartheid categories with no independent social role or any imminent reality. And most Africans reject these labels. Nor is the ANC unlike Inkatha, an ethnic organisation; outside of Natal the ANC is supported by the majority of Zulu-speakers and Inkatha has a number of white members. Also, conflict does not purely involve ANC and Inkatha.

Ethnicity is NOT a cause of the conflict; to the extent that any element of ethnicity in involved it has to be understood as the product of apartheid social engineering and Inkatha’s Zulu “Nationalism.”


The apartheid system has deliberately promoted divisions in the black working class between squatters, hostel dwellers and residents of formal township housing.

And apartheid’s constant, brutal crushing of grassroots, democratic community structures has meant that when conflicts arose, there were no meaningful channels negotiating an end to violence. Finally South Africa is characterised by incredible poverty, inequality and suffering.

But [while] these sorts of conditions provide fertile ground for violence of the sort we have today to develop, they do not themselves cause the violence. Such conditions are the lot of most people in the world, after all.

Clearly there is an additional factor involved … it is the State and its allies.


The South African Defence Force (SADF) is a crucial cause of the violence.

For years, Military intelligence (MI) has sponsored so called “moderate” groups against the democratic mass movement and organisations.

Aid to these groups – often nothing more than gangs of violent vigilantes seeking control of the townships for opportunistic purposes – has included funds, equipment, structural aid, and in not a few instances, paramilitary training.

MI front companies – posing as educational or religious organizations – provided the interface between the “moderate” and the military. Military involvement is often a lot more direct then this.

Ex-5 Reconnaissance Regiment (5 Recce) Sergeant Felix Ndimende revealed in July 1991 the elite unit’s involvement In a number of covert operations in South Africa during the “reform” period. These include some recent train attacks.

5 Recce was closely linked to the bandit Renamo movement in Mocambique, to the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) state death squad and to MI. Its stated mission is to “inflict the maximum disruption on the enemy of the state by means of special actions”.

Another elite unit, 32 Battalion, rampaged through Phola Park squatter camp in April. Residents were shot, beaten, and at least 4 women were raped, one to death. Its commanding officer described their actions as “heavy handed”. Heavy handed???

At least 20 CCB members remain on the SADF payroll, despite a Harms Commission implicating members in political violence. None have been charged.

Further military involvement is suggested by countless reports of masked whites taking part in attacks and by the dumping of false ANC and Cosatu pamphlets in Reef hostels to incite Zulu speakers [against the ANC and Cosatu].


The South African Police (SAP) wades in just as much gore. They have repeatedly and actively colluded with violent groups in attacks.

There is substantial evidence of police involvement with gangs like the 3 Million of Kroonstad and the Saddam 5 of Pholomeng. This support appears to have been in return for the criminals harassing anti-apartheid groups.

One survey found that in 46 of 257 incidents in which aggressors were identified, the police and Inkatha [Zulu nationalist movement – see below] co-operated in violent acts.

Amnesty International’s new report “South Africa: State of Fear” (1990-1992) details what collusion involves. A case study of violence in Brontville details how the police escorted, and fought in support of, marauding Inkatha impis, disarmed residents prior to the attack and failed to answer calls for help. They even arrested the victims of violent assaults for resisting!

A Supreme Court judge recently found that senior policemen had worked with Inkatha warlords in Natal to plan and execute a brutal attack on a funeral wake which left 11 dead. The trial revealed not only that the attack on Trust Feed in 1988 was not an isolated case but an elaborate cover up going all the way up the command structure.

They regularly fail to act upon warnings of impending attacks, take preemptive actions like disarming dangerous groups, even fail to assist residents under attack.

Only one person has yet been convicted for involvement in the more than 48 attacks on trains since September 1990, in which 115 died and 570 have been injured.

At least 8 people who pressed charges of police brutality have been killed, most in mysterious circumstances, at least one after refusing a bribe to drop charges from strangers in an unmarked car.

A recent newspaper investigation has revealed a top secret SAP base linked to the planning of assassinations in the Southern Transvaal. The discovery comes at a time of a silent war against ANC aligned activists involving assassinations, attacks on houses and abductions.

The SAP attempt to suppress the report revealed that the operation exists in 11 regions around the nation. All indications are that this network is the (officially disbanded) feared security police operating in near total secrecy with vast resources and independent structures.

A secret Koevoet base was uncovered at a disused mine hostel in the eastern Transvaal by the Goldstone Commission. The Commission was acting on a tip that the officially disbanded police counter insurgency unit had been ferried in to participate in the Boipatong massacre. The unit had previously operated in Namibia.


Inkatha has been prominently involved in the Reef and Natal violence. This violent organisation has been assisted and supported by the state throughout.

Formed in 1975 in the KwaZulu bantustan, the IFP has artificially utilised ethnicity as a vehicle for gain and power .Its significant role in the government has in fact given the organisation control over part of the state apparatus.

Thus it controls the region’s KwaZulu police (KZP) and its education system, using the latter to inculate [its version of] “Zulu culture” via Inkatha Education.

Revolt against local authorities in townships reached Natal by the mid 80’s. Here Inkatha controlled many townships and so there was the possibility at the revolt directed specifically at Inkatha.

Inkatha’s subsequent need to maintain its support, in light of the above, or at least the appearance of it, was a major cause of the Natal conflict.

In this conflict both the KZP and SAP supported it.

The SAP’s support was active – as the Trust Feed case shows – and passive: in 1987, for example, whilst 734 opponents of the IFP wore detained for involvement in violence, no Inkatha supporter was, despite the organisation’s involvement in at least 125 deaths.

The “reform” period forced Inkatha to try transforming itself into a national political current capable of hammering its interests through at the negotiating table. The Reef violence is closely linked to its attempts to do so.

Inkatha’s penetration of the Transvaal has been characterised by violent consolidation of bases in hostels and in some squatter camps. Initially areas of limited ANC presence were targeted, but with increasing confidence Inkatha has begun moving into ANC strongholds.

It seems Inkatha must foster terror to undermine its opponents so it can grow at their expense. Thus it attacks targets in communities and trains.

Inkatha’s central role in the violence is clear. According to a recent survey, Inkatha and hostel dwellers are responsible for 90.5% of deaths and 80.3% of injuries (the ANC and township dwellers’ been 9.5% and 19.7%).

Not only is Inkatha in control of part of the State but Inkatha has been supported by the larger State both in Natal and on the Reef. We have already listed numerous examples of the SAP’s role.

Inkatha was one of the larger “moderate” groups the MI supported. An ex-central committee member has revealed how MI provided Inkatha with equipment and funds; trained the leadership secretly for more than 2 years; and trained Transvaal leaders weeks before the bloody push onto the reef.

And at least 200 Inkatha members were trained in what they described as “offensive warfare” in 1986. They were later incorporated into the KZP and several are wanted by the SAP for murder. They may have been ferried onto the Reef to agitate and mobilise for [Inkatha] hostel leaders.

Other supporters in Wesselton have received military training whilst Inkatha-aligned paramilitary units have also been trained in the Western Transvaal.


Clearly what we are experiencing is a domestication of the destabilisation strategy that the State has employed so brutally in Mocambique, Angola and Namibia.

This strategy is thus clearly employed in order to forestall the emergence of a new social order.

Whether in fact De Klerk is in cahoots with the securocrats or whether they are acting in their own capacity is not really important.

The real point is that it is the State which is responsible for the violence, that the State is as usual responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands who sought nothing more than freedom and a better life.

And whether or not South Africans get the vote or not, the security establishment will still exist, and still be at the government of the day’s fingertips … be it a PAC, ANC, NP, IFP, etc.

Violence by the state is not some sort of unusual or abnormal condition which can be solved by a change of government or voted away.

Violence is a totally central aspect of the State because the State is nothing less than the organised power of the ruling class over our class, the working class.

All states – “democratic”, “socialist” or whatever – serve a ruling class and use violence all the time (and in a variety of forms) to keep this power. Look at recent events in the US, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Israel, South Korea…

Peace can never come from or through the State because the State can never be peaceful and there is nothing you can do make it nonviolent.

That is why the Peace Accord – signed by ANC bosses, Inkatha, and the State – has accomplished absolutely fuckall for peace.

You cannot sign treaties or negotiate with tstotsis [gangsters] busy attacking and robbing you and cannot join them and expect to spend your time picking flowers and mowing lawn.

Peace and real change can only come from below, and go hand in hand.

This means direct action against our rulers, the permanent abolition of the State, and taking direct and democratic over our lives in all areas including at work and in our communities – in other words *anarchism*.

The Reef train boycott in March did more in two days to stop train attacks then two years of simpering negotiations, meaningless accords and strongly worded memorandums.

The community self defence units which patrol and barricade our neighbourhoods at night are a positive stop in this direction.

So are the civics: the organisations of direct democratic self government at street, zone and area levels. And so is the refusal of white conscripts to serve in the army and police (only 4000 of 10000 conscripts turned up for the July 1992 intake).

Stats and other info were obtained from the references below: Rupert Taylor “The myth of ethnic division”, Race and Class 33,2 1991; Amnesty International, South Africa: State Of Fear (1990-92); John Aitchison, The Pietermaritzburg Conflict, University of Natal, 1989; 1990-92 issues of New Nation, The Weekly Mail, The Sunday Times (a more detailed reference is available on request).

[ANALYSIS]: Lucien van der Walt, 1992, “New World Order in Africa,” ‘Revolt’

One of the first things I wrote, an undergrad student and activist at the (stormy) time.

Lucien van der Walt, 1992, “New World Order in Africa,” Revolt, number 2.

The New World Order is on our doorstep with the US imperialists setting themselves up in Botswana and Zambia. Washington, following the end of the Cold War, is placing renewed emphasis on projecting itself into Third World “flashpoints.”

Recent reports in left wing journal Work in Progress * show just how close to home the US “new world order” really is: Botswana is being groomed as a forward staging base for the US in the region whilst Zambia’s “democrat” President Chiluba has recently signed a military agreement with the US for the training of military personnel in technical fields.

Earlier this year the Botswana state announced plans to build a R 1,000 million air-base development atRead More »

[RESEARCH REPORT]: Lucien van der Walt, 1999, “The Social Security System in South Africa”

Note: Report commissioned by the moderate Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), via the Sociology of  Work Unit (SWOP). It must be stressed that this report takes an essentially social-democratic  position, given the client. I subsequently wrote a substantially revised, rather more radical version (I should publish it one day). The report was written five years into South Africa’s parliamentary-democratic transition, and outlined the history of social welfare in South Africa (including its racist features), and the way in which the post-apartheid state (in its early years), deracialised welfare but applied harsh austerity measures (that gutted the reforms). In later years, spending on welfare has increased, but remains completely unable to remove the deep inequality within the country.


Get the PDF here.


SUGGESTED CITATION: Lucien van der Walt, 1999, “From Apartheid to Neo-liberalism? Social Security and Security and the Condition of the Working Class in South Africa”, research report for Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), presented at “Enhancing the Trade Union Role in Social Security Systems in English-speaking African Countries”, ICFTU – African Regional Organisation (ARO), Nairobi, Kenya, 15-17 September.

[ANALYSIS]: Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “No to New Pass Laws: Solidarity with Immigrants”

Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “No to New Pass Laws: Solidarity with Immigrants,” Workers Solidarity, volume 2, number 2, third quarter 1996.

The new South African government adopted a harsh line towards immigrants from an early period. Some blamed this at the time on Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, head of the Zulu national Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) — a party rooted in the old KwaZulu bantustan, and which was part of the new Government of National Unity (GNU). However, the policies lasted well after the end of the GNU, and did not start with the IFP. The bitter harvest of laws and propaganda against immigrants, in a country where nationalism and  poverty are pervasive are obvious: waves of pogroms, widespread hate, and the reinforcement of the system of a divided workers and cheap black labour power upon which South African capitalism rests.

pdflogosmallGet the PDF here.


For centuries bosses and rulers have set out to divide and rule the workers and the poor. We are divided by racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnicity etc. More recently bosses have used xenophobia- the hate of foreigners and immigrants.

The bosses’ newspapers and TV lie to us and tell us that so -called “illegal” immigrants or “aliens” are taking jobs and causing crime. The government passes harsh laws to victimise the immigrants. Last year alone 157,084 people were deported from South Africa. These people lost their homes, their jobs, their belonging. Families were split up.

In mid 1996 parliament passed the new Aliens Control Amendment Act. One of the main forces behind this act was Gatsha Buthelezi, Home Affairs Minister [IFP leader, part of the GNU/ Government of National Unity].

The new Act steps up police harassment and deportation of immigrants. It is a blatant attack on Black working-class people and we should mobilise to fight it.

All immigrants now have to apply to the South African Embassy for permits to enter the country. But the laws have been made to effectively keep working- class and poor people out .

Immigrants are expected to pay R 5 580 for a permit Read More »

[ANALYSIS]: Lucien van der Walt, 1998, “Every Worker Must Condemn Attacks on Foreigners”

Lucien van der Walt, 1998, “Every Worker Must Condemn Attacks on Foreigners,” Workers Solidarity, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998.

Written for a progressive magazine in South Africa, this was produced after the first violent outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa in 1998. This took place in the context of mass unemployment and a concerted campaign by the state and capitalist media to scapegoat the rapidly-growing number of black African immigrants. The immediate trigger was a march by the “Unemployed Masses of South Africa” (UMSA) group, which then had links to the centre-right Democratic Party (now the Democratic Alliance) in Johannesburg. UMSA also campaigned for free trade zones and labour flexibility. While UMSA is long gone, violence against immigrants remains a horror in South African society — and elsewhere across the world.


pdflogosmallGet the PDF here.


On September 3, 1998, a march organised by the conservative “Unemployed Masses of South Africa” organisation murdered three immigrants on a train near Pretoria, The marchers were carrying placards with signs such as “We Want Jobs, Not Foreigners”, and threatened to “take steps”. These “steps” included the brutal murders of three Senegalese: one was thrown out of a window, and hit by an oncoming train; the other two were electrocuted on the train roof when they tried to escape.

Every worker must oppose this thuggery. It is the bosses who fire the workers, not the immigrants. The foreigners are workers, like ourselves. They have the same concerns as we do- so why should we murder our fellow-workers? If we spend our time hating the immigrants, we forget the real enemy, the bosses who mercilessly oppress and exploit us. The bosses are mostly South African- but this does not give us anything in common. Instead of fighting immigrants, we must fight the bosses who control the country. And in this fight, we must unite with the immigrants. So long as the immigrants are unorganised, discriminated against, and terrorised by the police, they can be used by the bosses against other workers.

It is the old game of divide and rule. The bosses want Read More »

[DEBATE/ PAPER]: Lucien van der Walt, 1999 paper, “Some Comments on the National Question From an Anarchist/ Syndicalist Perspective” (revised)

Revised version of paper prepared by Lucien van der Walt for Lesedi Socialist Study Group, Wits University, 16 May 1999

We need to distinguish between several clusters of issues:

  • National oppression, the national question and the basis of national liberation struggles;
  • The causes of national oppression;
  • Nationalism as an ideology of an existing States;
  • Nationalism as a right-wing form of national liberation struggle;
  • The possibilities for revolutionary national liberation that opposes nationalism.


This typically lies at the root of the national question. Issues of cultural and linguistic and other diversity are a fact of human life. This diversity is not in and of itself problematic, it is part of the rich heritage of human history. Nor is such diversity inherently a basis for conflict. In most circumstances, the tendency is towards cultural cross-influences: what culture can be said to be pure of influences from all others? What language is unique and does not borrow words and phrases and grammar from others?

It is national oppression — discrimination against, and subjugation of, a particular group — which provides the basis for the raising of specifically national grievances and demands, centred on opposition to discrimination and subjugation. The oppression is national, in that it is applied to a “national” group or nationality, usually defined as having a common national identity, or nationality, and applies to all members of that group. These national criteria in people’s minds tends to overlap with long-standing characteristics of race, religion, language etc. That is, the oppressed nationality is usually seen as having inherited, or at least deeply historical roots. In cases like South Africa, the racial question and the national question are, for all intents, identical

National oppression is undertaken primarily by the State and capital, but this sometimes supported by sections of the working class of what is now seen as the oppressor nationality (in South Africa, for all intents, this is seen as identical, with the oppressor race). Which forces undertake the national oppression is separate from the question of who benefits from national oppression.Read More »

[LEAFLET #2] “Stop Retrenchments! Don’t Privatise Wits,” 2000 (for Lesedi Socialist Study Group)

Lesedi - stop Wits 2001- second leafletThis is the second of the leaflets I put together for the Lesedi Socialist Study Group at the University of the Witwatersrand, in 2000, a part of the battle to stop outsourcing. For the first leaflet and the context, see here.

Click on the image for the PDF, or click here.

[LEAFLET] “Stop Bundy! Stop Retrenchments!,” 2000 (for Lesedi Socialist Study Group)

BLesedi - stop Wits 2001efore the battle for #insourcing was the battle to stop outsourcing … I wrote this leaflet for the Lesedi Socialist Study Group in 2000. The LSSG was a broad left group at the University of the Witwatersrand. We were from various radical traditions, ranging from Marxism-Leninism to Trotskyism to anarchism/ syndicalism, and had a background in the big student battles of the 1990s. In 1999, we were trying to move the organisation into a new mode of direct engagement with conflicts, and the key issue we faced then was the neo-liberal Wits 2001 plan, which included massive outsourcing. Colin Bundy was the then-Vice Chancellor.

Click the image for the PDF or click here.


[ANALYSIS]: 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 progressive 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 »