Thursday, May 29, 2008

The following statement on the part of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front, a South African platformist organization, has received wide publicity in the more "class struggle" oriented segments of the anarchist internet. It concerns how at least some South Africans are fighting back against the wave of xenophobic violence that has ,unfortunately, engulfed their country recently. What the South African comrades state is almost a truism, that the poor and working class have to unite against their real enemies rather than attacking each other on the basis of national origin. This obvious conclusion has, sadly, had to be repeated over and over for the century and a half since socialism came into being.
Molly thinks that there is another conclusion to be drawn from events such as this and the heroic actions of those who oppose such pogroms. Over the last few decades there has been rhetorical overkill on the part of many leftists saying that the "class basis" of progressive politics is obsolete and has to be replaced by something else. In developed countries this has often taken the form of a replacement of the "working class" as the "subject of history" with a hodgepodge of "new movements" that somehow substitute for the "outmoded" "international proletariat". By some rather magical thinking these "new movements" have some mystical basis of unity that transcends the ever present temptation of some in such substitutes to integrate themselves into the ruling class as fast as they possibly can. Of course such rather artificial and ideologically constructed "alliances" have never led to any large movements beyond the "dog's dinner" of some Green Parties. And the reader should acquaint themselves with the process of "integration with the ruling class" and how fast it has proceeded, in the case of Green Parties that actually approach political influence. Our own Canadian Green party is instructive.
While the "new movements" have yet to achieve anything separate from influence and integration with the ruling class other substitutes for the old socialist idea of international labour actually have been more successful. These substitutes are nationalist , even if they may sometimes disguise themselves under the rhetoric of "anti-imperialism". These movements have actually come to power in countries that represent the majority of the world in the course of the 20th century. They have achieved considerable gains even in cases where they have not come to power. They draw upon a powerful substratum of human psychology that will always exist whether we like it or not. In a rather inchoate way the traditional socialist movement recognized such sentiments as evil and directed its educational efforts, with varying degrees of effectiveness, towards its eradication- in the name of "proletarian internationalism". Well Molly has her own opinions on how such anti-social (in one sense of the word) sentiments can be mitigated rather than "eradicated". She also has her own opinions about the effectiveness of state directed efforts towards this goal- the history of post-Soviet eastern Europe is an obvious empirical demonstrations about how generations of communist propaganda failed to eliminate even the lowest expressions of such xenophobia.
The present state of South Africa was born of one such "liberation movement", and it should be instructive that such a state is susceptible to such outbursts from its populace. The theorists that claims that the "old-fashioned" idea of class is "outmoded" should really look towards such glaring examples of the practical results of their ideas, whether they be in Africa (and not just South Africa), Asia, eastern Europe or even the developed countries. One may criticize "class based" politics until the cows come home. Molly also has her own opinions about how the way that modern "class-struggle" anarchists view social class is rather simplistic and incomplete, and not just because it doesn't throw in enough "other oppressions" but rather that it is simplistic in its economic and power outlook. All that being said, the substitutes for the "woiking class" have had ample time-decades- to prove themselves much more wanting than the supposedly outmoded idea of "class struggle" that they had the arrogance to pretend they could replace. The South African comrades call upon the old but proven idea of socialist internationalism to argue their point. They deserve applause.
Anyways, after this rather long-winded prologue, here is the article.
South-Africa, Johannesburg, Don't fight your neighbours for their houses - Fight the government for houses for all!
Over 5000 people from South Africa and Zimbabwe to the Congo and Ethiopia marched through Johannesburg on Saturday, 24th May in protest against xenophobic violence, which ravaged South Africa during the previous two weeks leaving more than 50 dead and an estimated 35, 000 immigrants displaced from their homes.The march, which proceeded through some of the areas in downtown Johannesburg effected by the violence, was organised by the Coalition Against Xenophobia; a new umbrella group of social movements, faith-based organisations and NGOs.Protesters called for Africa to unite, saying that the struggle against poverty and exploitation knows know borders, and received a large amount of support from spectators and passers-by - which is partly to be expected given the high numbers of immigrants living in the areas through which the march passed, but which also suggests that a lot of ordinary South Africans do not support the xenophobic violence.
Members of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front participated in the march, distributing 1000 leaflets on the xenophobic violence; which we believe is a result of both the bourgeois nationalism promoted by the ruling ANC and its failure to fulfill promises of 'a better life for all'. We supported the march because we thought it was important to send a message of solidarity to immigrants living in South Africa, and to show them that they are not alone, but also to show those responsible for the violence that many people do not accept that foreigners are responsible for the lack of service delivery, for poverty, for the high levels of crime or for the increase in food prices. Most importantly to assert a sense of African working class solidarity.
We, like the Coalition Against Xenophobia, believe that the outbreak of xenophobic violence is a result of the poverty in which the majority of South Africans are forced to live. We believe that it is not immigrants who are responsible for the miserable conditions people are forced to endure, but the government. Since coming into power in 1994 the ANC government has pursued economic and social policies which favour the rich over the poor; pitting the poor against one another in a fight for insufficient resources when it is actually the government that is to blame for failing to fulfill its promises, and failing to deliver the housing, electricity, water and other basic services which it promised us.
As anarchist communists we believe that, rather than fighting poor people from other countries, the workers and poor from South Africa must unite with immigrants in their communities to put pressure on the government and force it to fulfill its promises and provide adequate service delivery for all, both South Africans and foreigners. It is not immigrants who are stealing jobs and houses, it is the government which is not creating enough jobs, and not providing adequate housing in the first place - while ANC fat cats are enriching themselves. We need to fight the government and force it to meet our demands for jobs, housing and services; not our immigrant brothers and sisters who are also struggling to survive poverty and unemployment.
Although the ZACF supported the march against xenophobia, we do not believe that protesting the violence after it has happened is sufficient. We believe that is is necessary to build a mass working class movement which is capable of defending immigrants from violent mobs which do not recognise that it is the government and the capitalist system - which makes the rich richer, and the poor poorer - which are to blame for their suffering; not the immigrants. We need a movement which can establish working class community-based safe havens for immigrants, where they can go if they are attacked and where they know that they will be defended by those communities. A movement which can intervene and prevent further violence being committed against our working class and poor brothers and sisters just because they are from another country.
We need a mass working class movement that can challenge government and force it to concede to our demands for housing, jobs and service delivery. Social movements such as the Anti-Privatisation Forum and Landless People's Movement have been trying to build such a movement for years, but the xenophobic attacks indicate that they have not yet achieved a mass base, which could have prevented this outbreak of violence from happening. The ZACF is committed to working within and supporting movements such as the APF and LPM in an effort to build a mass-based movement of the workers and poor capable of both defending themselves and their communities from attacks; both internally, from reactionary community members, and externally, in the form of state repression and economic domination; as well as advancing the struggle of the workers and poor for proper housing, jobs and service delivery for all - regardless of their country of origin.

No comments: