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

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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

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People’s Power, Workers’ Control and Grassroots Politics in South Africa: Rethinking Practices of Self-Organisation and Anti-Apartheid Resistance in the 1980s

People’s Power, Workers’ Control & Grassroots Politics in 1980's South Africa

Authors: Lucien van der Walt, with Sian Byrne and Nicole Ulrich,
Jonathan Payn and Daria Zelenova

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This special section (#) features three lightly edited transcripts of presentations at a workshop hosted by the International Labour Research & Information Group and the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre in the Drieziet extension, Orange Farm squatter camp, south of Soweto, South Africa, on 24 June 2017. It was attended by a hall full of community and worker activists, including veterans of the big rebellions of the 1980s.

# This piece originally appeared in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 71 (Fall 2017)

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