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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Building Working Class Unity in South Africa: Lessons from United Fronts in Germany, Italy and Russia

Building Working Class Unity in South Africa: Lessons from United Fronts in Germany, Italy and Russia cover

Authors: Jonathan Payn, Jakes Factoria, Tina Sizovuka and Warren McGregor

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This pamphlet is a collection of articles exploring the concept, history and anarchist/syndicalist approaches to United Fronts – and their relevance and potential for building working class unity in South Africa – written in the context of the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa)’s resolution, following its historic 2013 Special National Congress, to break with the ANC-led Alliance and form a ‘United Front against neoliberalism’

First Zabalaza Books edition, July 2019

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