Rethinking “Workerism” and the FOSATU Tradition, 1979-1985

Rethinking “Workerism” and the FOSATU Tradition, 1979-1985 by Sian Byrne

Author: Sian Byrne

PDF File Size: 1,23 MB

Download PDF

This paper is concerned with unpacking key aspects of the politics of the influential “workerist” current that emerged within the trade union movement, notably in the Federation of South African Trade Unions (Fosatu), the largest independent union federation in South Africa from 19179-1985. This current dominated the main black and non-racial trade unions, played a central role in the anti-apartheid struggle, and was notable for its scepticism about the ANC and SACP, preferring instead to build an independent working class movement. Examination of “workerism” is not a new area of focus within left and labour circles, since workerism was highly controversial and featured, most notably, centrally in the “workerist-populist” debate in the 1980s. Yet it remains strikingly under-examined, with its core project obscured in key accounts.

Paper presented at the Durban Movement Conference
Rhodes University, 21 – 23 February 2013

Continue reading “Rethinking “Workerism” and the FOSATU Tradition, 1979-1985”

[Leaflet] The 1973 Strikes and the birth of a New Movement in Natal

[Leaflet] The 1973 Strikes and the birth of a New Movement in Natal by Nicole Ulrich

Author: Nicole Ulrich

PDF File Size: 166 KB

Download PDF

Nicole Ulrich reflects on the birth of the modern non-racial trade union movement in the early 1970s in South Africa, and draws lessons for the social movements of today.

From: Khanya: A Journal for Activists, No. 8, May 2005

Continue reading “[Leaflet] The 1973 Strikes and the birth of a New Movement in Natal”

The Relevance of the ICU of Africa for Modern Day Unions and Liberation Movements

The Relevance of the ICU of Africa for Modern Day Unions and Liberation Movements by Warren McGregor

Author: Warren McGregor

PDF File Size: 2,26 MB

Download PDF

The history of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU), formed in South Africa in 1919, is replete with lessons for today’s movements. The ICU, which also spread into neighbouring colonies like Basutoland (now Lesotho), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Southwest Africa (now Namibia) was by far the largest protest movement and organisation of black African and Coloured people of its time. Influenced by a range of ideas, including revolutionary syndicalism, the ICU had both amazing strengths and spectacular failings. This piece explains.

Presentation at the launch of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU) Centennial Exhibition, William Cullen Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 17 August 2019
Author’s note: the following is based on a 15 minute spoken presentation delivered by the author at the event. It was not meant and should not be read as an exhaustive historical or critical account of the ICU.

Continue reading “The Relevance of the ICU of Africa for Modern Day Unions and Liberation Movements”

[Leaflet] Education for Revolution: Anarcho-Syndicalist Pedagogy for South Africa

[Leaflet] Education for Revolution: Anarcho-Syndicalist Pedagogy for South Africa by Mandy Moussouris and Shawn Hattingh

Authors: Mandy Moussouris and Shawn Hattingh

PDF File Size: 446 KB

Download PDF

The roots and principles of anarcho-syndicalism are worth revisiting for the practice of worker education in movements inspired by these principles and traditions. Emphasising the democratic practice, working class rooted, organic and critical nature of the pedagogy, the practice seeks to intersect employed and unemployed women and men. Practically, the education provides a platform for post-revolutionary practice of direct democracy at the point of production and, thus, naturally included practical skills such as trades, accounting and sciences.

Shawn Hattingh is from the International Labour Research and Information Group and Mandy Moussouris writes in her personal capacity
From: South African Labour Bulletin, volume 43, number 1, pp. 17-19.

Continue reading “[Leaflet] Education for Revolution: Anarcho-Syndicalist Pedagogy for South Africa”

Prefiguring Democratic Revolution?: ‘Workers’ Control’ and ‘Workerist’ Traditions of Radical South African Labour, 1970–1985

Prefiguring Democratic Revolution?: ‘Workers’ Control’ and ‘Workerist’ Traditions of Radical South African Labour, 1970–1985 by Sian Byrne and Nicole Ulrich Author: Sian Byrne and Nicole Ulrich

PDF File Size: 783 KB

Download PDF

During the 1970s and early 1980s, sections of the trade union movement questioned the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party’s (SACP’s) narrow vision of freedom, which was based on the capture of the colonial state by a nationalist elite. Located within a distinct political current that prioritised participatory/direct-democracy and egalitarianism workers were regarded as the locus of transformative power in society, and their organisations were viewed as prefiguring a radically democratic future. This article examines the very different kind of radical anti-colonial engagement offered by ‘workers’ control’ in the 1970s and ‘workerism’ in the early 1980s that was developed by the Trade Union Advisory Co-ordinating Council (TUACC) and the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU), respectively. Keen to draw lessons for the trade union movement today, this article outlines the key characteristics and limits of these traditions that facilitated their decline in the post-apartheid context.

Sian Byrne & Nicole Ulrich, Prefiguring Democratic Revolution? ‘Workers’ Control’ and ‘Workerist’ Traditions of Radical South African Labour, 1970–1985, first published in the Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 2016

Continue reading “Prefiguring Democratic Revolution?: ‘Workers’ Control’ and ‘Workerist’ Traditions of Radical South African Labour, 1970–1985”

Building Trade Union Democracy as Prefigurative Politics in South Africa

Building Trade Union Democracy as Prefigurative Politics in South Africa - Nicole Ulrich

Author: Nicole Ulrich

PDF File Size: 847 KB

Download PDF

This pamphlet is an extract from the book Strategy: Debating Politics Within and at a Distance from the State – Eds. John Reynolds & Lucien van der Walt published by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa

Continue reading “Building Trade Union Democracy as Prefigurative Politics in South Africa”

The State, Accumulation and Class Formation after Apartheid

The-State-Accumulation-and-Class-Formation-Lucien-van-der-Walt

Author: Lucien van der Walt

PDF File Size: 1,02 MB

Download PDF

This pamphlet is an extract from the book Strategy: Debating Politics Within and at a Distance from the State – Eds. John Reynolds & Lucien van der Walt published by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa

Continue reading “The State, Accumulation and Class Formation after Apartheid”

Economic Policy from Below: an Anarchist Critique of the COSATU Unions’ “Radical Reform” Project

Economic Policy from Below: an Anarchist Critique of the COSATU Unions’ “Radical Reform” Project - Warren McGregor

Author: Warren McGregor

PDF File Size: 813 KB

Download PDF

This pamphlet is an extract from the book Strategy: Debating Politics Within and at a Distance from the State – Eds. John Reynolds & Lucien van der Walt published by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa

Continue reading “Economic Policy from Below: an Anarchist Critique of the COSATU Unions’ “Radical Reform” Project”

The Political Party System: No Friend of the Working Class

The Political Party System: No Friend of the Working Class - Warren McGregor

Author: Warren McGregor

PDF File Size: 952 KB

Download PDF

This pamphlet is an extract from the book Strategy: Debating Politics Within and at a Distance from the State – Eds. John Reynolds & Lucien van der Walt published by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa

Continue reading “The Political Party System: No Friend of the Working Class”