African labour and social militancy

… Marxist framing and revolutionary movement-building – Published on Pambazuka, by Patrick Bond, Jan 27, 2017.

it is a great period to be a revolutionary activist in Africa. Yet the sense of stop-start progress and regress in so many sites of struggle reflects in part how poorly the working-class, poor, progressive middle class, social movements and other democrats have made alliances. The African uprising against neoliberalism hasn’t yet generated a firm ideology. In this case the best strategy would be a critical yet non-dogmatic engagment with the various emerging forces on the left … //

… Another dataset – based on subjective impressions not objective event reports – is the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual survey of 14 000 business executives in 138 countries that informs its Global Competitiveness Report.[2] One survey question relates to labour-employee relations, and whether these are “generally confrontational or generally cooperative” on a scale of 1-7. In the 2016-17 report, the WEF found the most cooperative labour movements were in Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Denmark and Sweden (scoring above 6.1).

The least cooperative was, for the fourth year in a row, the South African proletariat (with 2.5). Other African countries with very militant workforces are Chad (3.5), Tunisia (3.6), Liberia (3.7), Mozambique (3.7), Morocco (3.7), Lesotho (3.7), Ethiopia (3.8), Tanzania (3.8), Algeria (3.8), Burundi (3.8), and Zimbabwe (4.0). These dozen were in the top 30 countries in terms of labour militancy. The most placid African workforces were found in Rwanda (5.3) at 18th most cooperative, Mauritius (4.8) and Uganda (4.6). In general, African workers are the least cooperative of any aggregated in the world’s continents … //

… Was Numsa’s insurgency just a ‘moment’ – or a future movement? … //
… The deep roots and fragile surface of South African communism: … //

… Conclusion: a whirlwind to catch:

The African uprisings since 2011 have taught progressives that in the pro-democracy and social justice scenarios of mass demonstrations that made several countries so fertile for a change of state power – Gambia (2017), Burkina Faso (2014), Senegal (2012) and Tunisia (2011), for example – the moment of change comes without warning. There is typically a build-up in social grievances and an explosion. The aftermath includes a profound threat of counter-revolution, which in Burkina Faso was repelled in 2015, but which in Egypt and Libya have been successful in suppressing democratic, progressive social movements since 2011 (in both cases with Western imperial aid and arms to the counter-revolution).

Will South Africa find itself, as Moeletsi Mbeki predicted, facing “Tunisia Day” – a kind of joyous (yet threatening to elites) uprising such as January 2011 – as early as 2020? Can Africans update the threat, to encompass the extraordinary advances that have become evident in post-dictator regimes, or in sites like South Africa itself where the overthrow of (Moeletsi’s brother) Thabo Mbeki’s AIDS-denialist policies in 2004 raised life expectancy from 52 to 62 thanks to nearly four million people getting medicines for free?

The sense of stop-start progress and regress in so many sites, including South Africa, reflects in part how poorly the working-class, poor, progressive middle class, social movements and other democrats have made alliances. The Africans uprising against the neoliberal Africa Rising strategy of export- and resource-dependency, hasn’t yet generated a firm ideology. Such an ideology was much more apparent when in the 1960s-70s the phrase “self-reliance” accompanied much leftist discourse. The Lagos Plan of Action even reflected this ideological approach.

It may be that an eco-socialism associated with Ubuntu philosophy and deglobalising economies will emerge. It may be that some uniquely South African version of the Marxist-Leninist framing will come from Numsa. Nothing can be readily predicted in the current conjuncture. The only strategy it seems to me worth following is a non-dogmatic appreciation of the various forces, so that whatever principles, analysis, strategies, tactics and alliances that do emerge on the left can be treated with both respect and comradely critique.

The debate over Numsa may not yet have arrived at that healthier stage of inquiry, but at least there is a debate and an inquiry – the first steps to reclaiming some sort of profound ideological breakthrough so that the pessimism of the Fanon and Cabral warnings becomes a genuine Afro-optimism worthy of the ongoing struggles by so many African activists.

(full text).

(Patrick Bond is Professor of Political Economy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa).

some Related Links
… on trade unions and the political left in Africa:

  • Introduction to the Special Edition on the labour movement in Africa, on Pambazuka, by Shaun Whittaker, Jan 26, 2017: in the face of multiple crises of profit-driven socio-economic systems that have driven millions of people in Africa into hopeless poverty, the urgent questions of our time are quite clear: How do we change the balance of class forces in favour of the working class? What are the radical reforms around which a program of mass action could be initiated? How do we form mass workers’ parties all over the continent? What about organisations of the jobless, the landless and the homeless, the feminist structures, the youth?
  • The lost moments? Trade union revitalisation and the prospects of an eco-socialist working class politics in South Africa, on Pambazuka, by Devan Pillay, Jan 26, 2017: The labour movement is at a crossroads, as the country grapples with a major political crisis rooted in capitalism. This requires the labour movement to re-evaluates past strategies and seriously considers a new politics that grapples with issues of top-down, patriarchal forms of organisation, and forges broad counter-hegemonic alliances that question economic growth paradigms which threaten the planet;
  • History of Labour Movements in South Africa, on South African History Online SAHO, last updated: July 28, 2016, 7 pages;
  • Pan-Africanism, feminism and finding missing pan-Africanist women, on Pambazuka, by Ajamu Nangwaya, May 26, 2016: there are numerous women in the African Diaspora who have worked for the liberation of Africans under the banner of Pan-Africanism. They must be rescued from political obscurity. Pan-Africanism as a revolutionary ideology must firmly embrace feminism;
  • Book: Trade Unions and Party Politics, Labour movements in Africa, Björn Beckman, Sakhela Buhlungu, Lloyd Sachikonye (eds), on (the external publishing arm of the Human Sciences Research Council HSRC), publishing year 2010;
  • Paper: Trade Unions in Africa, weak but feared, on Library Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, by Hubert René Schillinger, March 2005;
  • labor movements, developing contries – Asia and Africa, on Encyclopedia Britannica/Kids, … Union movements were often part of the struggle for liberation from foreign domination. With the end of foreign domination, relations between unions and the newly independent governments and political parties underwent considerable change, and union power decreased … (full text);

Other Links:

Alan Watts Conversation with Laura Huxley, 61.04 min, uploaded by Earthbound, Jan 31, 2017 … after meeting Jeddi Krishnamurti in 1948 Aldous Huxley wrote Island, a response to his former book Brave New World. In this exchange between Huxley’s widow and Alan Watts, Huxley’s wife discusses the life, the false myths, and her husband’s final days …;
on en.wikipedia:
Posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD;
Alan Watts (book: wisdom of insecurity);
Laura Huxley (book: Between Heaven and Earth, Recipes for Living and Loving);
Aldous Huxley (novel: Brave New World);
the Huxley family;
Between Heaven and Hell (novel),  a Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death, with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley is a novel by Peter Kreeft about U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and authors C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) meeting in Purgatory and engaging in a philosophical discussion on faith. It was inspired by the fact that all three men died on the same day, November 22, 1963 …;

ECB head Mario Draghi admits for first time EU may break-up, on True, by Graham Vanbergen, Jan 31, 2017;

Faits à l’image de Dieu, dans Mein privater Garten, April 1, 2007;

… and this:

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