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Publication Details

Reference
Schmidt, Michael  (2004) The President from the sky and the auntie who says no!. Centre for Civil Society : -.

Summary
A Summary of the Discussions at Recent CCS/SoDS Social Movement Conference

The growth of new social movements in post-apartheid South Africa has attracted a lot of media, academic and police attention over the past decade. The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) and School of Development Studies (SODS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban has specialised in studying these movements and, funded by the Ford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies, put together a project which saw a range of academics between June 2003 and July 2004 analyse 17 of the movements, most of them new, but several of long standing, namely:

1. The Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC), Western Cape
2. The Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), Gauteng
3. The Concerned Citizens' Forum (CCF), Greater Durban
4. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
5. Environmental groups
6. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intergender (GLBTI) groups
7. The Homeless People's Federation (HPF)
8. The Jubilee 2000 anti-debt campaign
9. The Landless People's Movement (LPM)
10. The Mapogo-A-Mathamaga vigilante organisation
11. The People Against Gangsterism & Drugs (PAGAD) vigilante organisation
12. Regugee groups
13. The Self-Employed Women's Union (SEWU)
14. The Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC)
15. The South African National Civics Organisation (SANCO)
16. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)
17. The women's movement

The resulting papers, most of which have been posted on the CCS website, will be compiled into a book. The CCS organised the Social Movements Conference to bring together a range of academics, activists and representatives of the COSATU, SANCO and the South African Communist Party (SACP) to debate five broad themes that cut across these 17 movements.

The conference was significant in that it was the first time since the falling-out over control of the social movements march prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 that activists and ANC alliance partners sat down together and debated the issues of the day. The first day of the debates reflected the bitterness of this relationship, with activists and Alliance partners tearing strips off each other, but the second day proved to be more contemplative, though serious differences of practice and opinion remain between the two camps.

The results of the debate will be used to inform the writing of the concluding chapter of the book. Those themes were: a) tactics & strategies; b) organisation, resources & leadership, c) relations with the state, parties and other organisations, d) identity, deprivation & mobilisation, and e) the role of the social movements. I will start with the concluding debate and then refer backwards to specific points which arose during the earlier debates. I found that an amalgamation of part of the summaries given by Patrick Bond (CCS) and Firoz Khan (Isandla Institute) to be the most useful framework for analysing the two days of debates at this conference. Bond said he saw several "universal debates" emerging within the social movements.1. "PRO-GOVERNMENTAL v ANTI-GOVERNMENTAL FORCES": IS THERE A POSSIBLE COMMON "LEFT PLATFORM"?
Project co-director Adam Habib (Human Sciences Research Council, HSRC) in his introductory remarks stated that: "The social movements occupy a continuum from the counter-hegemonic to the rights-based," from those which advocated "the overthrow of the state and the establishment of socialism" to those that worked within the system. Bond said he saw this as "a temporary problem" that would be resolved either by a combined state strategy of concessions and repression, with the resulting demobilisation of the new social movements, or by a split in the ANC Alliance itself.

Such a split has been long anticipated by opponents of the Alliance or of some of its constituent organisations, but the Alliance has shown itself to be resilient against such a challenge. Certainly, it appears that a dramatic vertical split, separating the Alliance into its components, is highly unlikely while a less obvious, slower horizontal split, with all Alliance partners bleeding membership at the grassroots level, is a process that is already underway.

On the other hand, the carrot-and-stick approach of the ANC-led government - allowing trickles of free water, but sending in the goon-squads when people protest pre-paid meters, or railing against the "ultra-Left" for being in cahoots with reaction, then appealing to such activists to side with the government - is well-established. Personally, I do not see this as a temporary problem, but a durable one that cuts to the heart of what the ANC terms the "developmental state" and the contestation over its role and relation to civil society.

It is interesting that the state-as-entity in its own right (as distinct from the government) has become a point of debate once again, especially in the light of how it either accelerates or impedes social progress. Activists' ideological attitude towards the failed state-capitalist command economies of the former Soviet Bloc tend to colour their views of the state. It was clear from the debates that the refusenik attitude of the activists continues to gall the Alliance partners, who accuse the activists of undermining the "democratic state", while themselves being accused in turn of advancing an "anti-worker" neoliberal agenda.
In the red corner (red being the colour common to their T-shirts), the most outspoken critics of the "democratic" and "developmental" nature of the state and current government policies were AEC militant Ashraf Cassiem, independent researcher Ashwin Desai, Peter Dwyer of the Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC), APF spokesperson Dale McKinley, and LPM national organiser Mangaliso Kubheka. Their basic position was that massive job-losses, water & electricity cut-offs, all under the ANC's Growth, Employment And Redistribution (GEAR) economic austerity programme were hurting the poor, and that the government had unreasonably turned its guns and dogs against those protesting this situation.

In the yellow corner (yellow being the colour common to their flags), the most outspoken critics of the supposed "imposition" of foreign socialist ideology onto the social movements were Michael Sachs, of the office of the ANC secretary-general, SACP spokesperson Mazibuko Jara, Young Communists League (YCL) executive Buti Manamela, Donovan Williams of SANCO, and Neil Coleman of COSATU. Their basic position was that the ANC government had made massive strides over the past decade in securing labour, gender and basic amenities rights despite the crippling legacy of apartheid, and that the social movements' anger at government was misdirected, becoming, by opposing the ANC's new democratic order, de facto anti-democratic, so they should rather join forces.

Sihle Mkhize, of the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA), the LPM and a board member of the National Land Committee (NLC), noted that the new social movements "were described as ultra-Leftist, but their activities were largely within the ambit of the [South African] Constitution." Mkhize recalled a point made earlier by McKinley (APF) that despite the ANC's attempts to criminalise the social movements, 99% of all criminal charges brought against activists over the past 10 years, some for offences as serious as arson and attempted murder, had resulted in acquittals.

I (for the ARN) noted that while the social movements of the apartheid era had been established as a deliberate anti-state counter-power (popular civics, street committees, militia etc), the new social movements were often springing up in massive squatter camps where the state simply did not exist, bar perhaps the odd police raid for illegal immigrants. People with no experience of the state other than a policeman's boot once in a while had either no, or at the very least an estranged, relationship with the state, but it was really the vacuum of any state structure in these areas that generated the development of mutual aid movements to address social concerns where the state had no capacity.

Thus many social movements were extra-state rather than anti-state, a product of vacuum rather than of adversarial relations, as they have often been seen by the ruling party. In other words, they have adopted a "counter-hegemonic" position out of necessity, not ideology. The formation, development, structure, aims and alliances of such movements were markedly different from those in more formal serviced areas: the difference being between people fighting for access to water and those fighting against cut-offs. Khan (Islandla Institude) made a similar point, noting that the new social movements sprang up as a result of the "deficiencies of developmental planning practice", of the disjuncture in democratisation of the apartheid state that saw "citizens still suffer routine violation of their rights" despite their "formal status".

Ngwane (SECC) said that the ANC had been attempting to disrupt the realignment of the working class - as a class in its own right with its own identity, separate from the interests of the expanded bourgeoisie - by diversions such as sport and patriotism, but that "the unions, COSATU and the social movements must oppose this." He earlier said that: "The ANC leads the attack on the working class. That is notwithstanding the good that it has done. This does not preclude alliances with COSATU and SANCO rank-and-file. The ANC has found itself having to rely on heavy-handed policies instead of hegemony. In South Africa, there is race identity, nationalism, gender, class, youth, etc. What we need is a 'new person' to overthrow capitalism - and this will only happen through struggle."

Ngwane's point was taken up by Sachs (ANC), who suggested that alliances could be struck between the social movements and progressive members of the administration, saying: "Surely, the Jo'burg City Council is not a monolithic bloc of neoliberal guys waging a war on the poor? The political elite is not the same as the economic elite." He noted that the recent Diepsloot "rebellion", as he termed it, had been waged in part between local ANC and SANCO factions. But he warned against the "European proposition" that what mattered today was no longer the contest between Right and Left, but between "centres of power and the periphery". He claimed that the ANC government had a higher expenditure on social services than European governments at the height of their welfare states, so the government could not be regarded as a "mechanism for neoliberalism".

The theme of some form of engagement between social movements and the Alliance was probably best expressed by Coleman (COSATU) who noted: "One shouldn't gloss over serious differences [but] we need to distinguish between strategic and tactical alliances. We need to engage. There is no monolithic state, no monolithic government or monolithic Alliance... We need to build a Left platform within the ANC and the Alliance and without it. In 2002, relatively progressive decisions were made at the ANC Congress."

Coleman earlier provided the delegates with a brief historical sketch, from COSATU's perspective, of recent ideological shifts in the Alliance, saying: "The period from 1996 [the year of the ANC's shift from the social-democratic Redistribution and Development Programme to the neoliberal GEAR] until 2001, COSATU was hammered by Right-wing forces in the ANC [some of whom even wanted to] cause a split in the Alliance, but in 2001 and 2001, those forces were defeated. Then from 2002 until now, we've focussed on issues of economic policy. And we made a breakthrough yesterday on the anti-terror legislation. The possibility of a new developmental path is being explored."

Coleman claimed that "COSATU has relied on the power of its constituency, rather than on its historical relationship with [the ANC] government." His overarching message to social movements was that with "a refusal to engage, the danger is that you cede the ground to other forces. Without a national platform between Left forces and a Left-of-centre government, all your gains are under threat." Bond suggested that a new common Left platform could be "de-commodification", based on a combined struggle for free basic services, and against cost-recovery, privatisation and their offspring.

The point was made earlier by Sakhela Buhlungu (Sociology of Work Programme, SWOP, at Wits University, who produced the study on the APF) that COSATU largely addressed the concerns of the fully-employed, while the social movements focussed largely on the unemployed, leaving casualised labour unrepresented. Coleman responded that "within our affiliates, there is an increasing engagement with casuals." This suggested to some delegates that flexibilised labour was a possible field of convergence between the organised labour and social movements. Peter Alexander (Centre for Sociological Research, Rand Afrikaanse Universitieit, RAU) said that the self-defined working class was expanding to include beggars, sex-workers and home-keepers, but warned that the broader the concept of the class became, the further one moved from the Marxist labour theory of value.

Alexander emphasised the fact that COSATU had recently been able to mobilise marches of some 100,000 workers around the public sector wage negotiations, so the social movements could ill afford to divide the working class by ignoring them. Dinga Sikwebu (organiser, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, NUMSA, at Iskor) said: "My interest is in the unity of the working class... it's easy to say 'NUMSA is a sweetheart union', but why are our members in Soweto not finding themselves in the APF?"

Buhlungu (SWOP) noted that organised labour and the social movements could at least co-exist peacefully in parallel, "instead of shouting at each other as if they are contesting the same things." But Cassiem (AEC) pointed out that a conceptual gap existed between the way social movements and organised labour approached alliances, saying that the AEC had made approaches to COSATU, but COSATU had "wanted leadership-to-leadership contacts, while we want to access the floor." He warned that while the Alliance partners wanted to disregard the social movements, their own memberships would decline if they ignored the issues being raised by the poor.

Khan recalled a quote that "the ballot-box is the enemy of revolutionaries", but the debate is far from resolved. The most recent and controversial example of co-operation between social movement and Alliance forces is the decision by the LPM to join the SACP's "Red October" land reform campaign. This came in for some withering criticism, and was staunchly defended in turn. This could be viewed as the first of Khan's forms of engagement: pressing for a national land summit in partnership with an Alliance member, while mobilising the peasantry autonomously at the base.

Desai (independent) said: "This LPM thing confuses me... is it entryism into the SACP to turn it into a communist organisation?" This raised a lot of laughs. Someone else (my handwriting failed me here) asked whether the LPM saw it as likely that the SACP would go as far as land invasions if necessary, stressing that they would eventually become necessary. Kubheka (LPM) said the LPM's "No Land, No Vote" campaign earlier this year had seen President Thabo Mbeki "coming down from the skies begging for votes. The LPM is not going to be aligned with any political party... If the SACP is genuine, we're with them, but if not, even if the train is going 200km/h, we'll jump off."

Kubheka said: "Only if the SACP is with us are they a true communist party. They mustn't wear the T-shirt of Ché Guevara if they are playing, because that man wasn't playing!" Manamela (YCL) appealed for a common front, saying that the "unity of the UDF [United Democratic Front] lead to the defeat of racial oppression. If we fight, we'll never get anywhere." McKinley responded that the basis of unity had to be a class position, one that the Alliance had "buried" since democracy.

So if I could suggest a possible resolution to this debate (though none was drawn collectively by the conference), it is that both "sides" recognise that their opposites are not monolithic and that a common Left programme is certainly possible - at least at rank-and-file level, and especially desirable between the Social Movements Indaba (SMI) umbrella formation and other social movements on the one hand and COSATU and other organised labour on the other.

Clearly, the SMI sees COSATU's membership of the Alliance as bedevilling the possibility of this realignment taking place, while COSATU sees itself as sufficiently autonomous of the ANC and powerful enough in its own right for this not to be a problem. In terms of terrain, there appears to be definite reasons for the two forces to converge expand to deal with the concerns of casualised and self-employed labour, and with the common theme of decommodification. This convergence, it must be pointed out, aspires to be horizontal (within the working class) and not vertical (a cross-class pact).

Now that I have dealt with the main point of convergence, let us examine the main point of divergence, as phrased by Bond:2. "INSURGENT AUTONOMISM OF THE MULTITUDE v PROGRMATIC SOCIALISM".

Bond did not explain his terms, but an elastic definition of programatic socialism could embrace the social democrats of the Alliance (if one accepts Sachs's assertion that "all of us here belong to a common progressive movement"). Moving leftwards across the spectrum one would find a range of Trotskyist formations, while the autonomists (much as they dislike being pigeon-holed) and the anarchists represent the insurgent multitude line. But in practice, all South African Left revolutionaries would employ a shifting combination of both programme and insurgency, recognising the constantly-changing tensions between the masses and a revolutionary minority with a set programme.

The debate on how this relationship should work ideally is as old as socialism itself, but within the specific context of the social movements, the Alliance partners have largely taken the view that while the movements themselves are genuine expressions of working class discontent, they have been distorted by the imposition of ideology by a small group of activists. The activists on the other hand say that they have naturally brought their ideological and other resources to the aid of the movements, deep levels of democracy and working class leadership within the movements have ensured it is not an activist-run show. My own view is that the Alliance crudely misrepresents activists as driven by impossibilist ideological purism, but itself as driven by some sort of "ideology-free" principled pragmatism.

The insurgent multitude position was perhaps best expressed by Dwyer (AIDC), who said the Alliance "needed to put to bed the fear that they [the social movements] are a mob lead like sheep by charismatic leaders. The people are not against leaders, but against leaders who are not under their control... Take care not to reduce these organisations to their leaders, because they are much more complex." Cassiem (AEC) described AEC meetings as "organised chaos" which operated according to democratic rules that were not immediately apparent to outsiders. "We are not social movements, we are not NGOs; our members are our communities." Bobby Peek (environmental group Groundwork) maintained the legitimacy of direct action, saying that "engagement can happen in a variety of ways, militant as well as [formal]."

The programatic socialism position was expressed by Jackie Cock (Department of Sociology, Wits, who compiled the report on environmental movements), echoing Coleman (COSATU) in favour of cross-class collaboration: "To renounce formal politics is to leave formal bourgeois state power uncontested." Sachs (ANC) said: "The problem in South Africa with academics associated with the social movements is that they are close to Northern [hemisphere] analyses, but not to local analyses," adding that a definition of the social movements seemed to require the participation of "middle-class intellectuals and NGOs."

Jara (SACP) said: "Historically, there is a tendency in the country on the Left and outside the ANC: to what extent has that tendency driven the social movements?"Sachs had earlier said "the discourse that says the central divide is institutions versus the masses is not able to survive," criticising the "new Left that is outside of and in opposition to institutional power", saying this position put them in opposition to the liberation movements.

Desai (researcher on PAGAD), hit back at Sachs' theory of the Northern origins of the theories being applied by SA intellectuals to the domestic social movements: "Sachs says our ideas come from Europe. Where does GEAR come from?.. Is Washington closer to us because it's full of African-Americans?... Social movements are challenging the trajectory, nature and form [of GEAR]. A living politics is what is outside the Alliance." McKinley (APF) responded to Sachs, saying the transition to democracy had failed to deal with "the fundamental question of private property. Privatisation is not an issue; it's fundamental to life.

McKinley went on to say: "We have a loyalty to the content of the liberation struggle, while the Alliance has a loyalty to the form. These grandmothers didn't come out of some small Trotskyist sect that wants to smash the state. It's not an anti-ANC or anti-Alliance thing, its anti-capitalist; there's a difference between those." He said the state had "institutionally marginalised" the social movements. "The amazing thing is the social movements are reclaiming those [socialist] traditions while the traditional Left is disavowing them."
"The big question," said Habib (HSRC), "is who makes the choices?", claiming that "the role of leadership, of an advanced cadre and of resources is crucial" to the emergence, development and sustainability of social movements. Dwyer later put it differently, saying: "Leadership is also about the auntie in Chatsworth who says 'No!'" He did warn, however, that "people who were against structure, were often in leadership" - a problem that we anarchists call "the tyranny of structurelessness", the avoidance of responsibility and the pretence not to be in command thanks to amorphous, mandateless organisation. Dwyer said it should be acknowledged that "these organisations are ideological terrains and politics with a small 'p' can't be pushed out because it'll come back in the side door."
John Appolis (the independent General Industries Workers' Union of South Africa, GIWUSA) said that within the social movements, "there is a healthy tension between different layers of leadership and between those who come from different political traditions: the Black Consciousness Movement, the PAC and new activists. The social movements require new working class organic intellectuals [ie: not professional academics]." Sikwebu (NUMSA) said it should be recognised that many leaders of the unions were "veterans from the '70s. They are bearers of traditions."

Sophie Oldfield (Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town, who did the study on the AEC), also said that the different traditions that activists came from coloured their relations with the state and its "new mechanisms of accumulation by dispossession [privatisation]." But under these conditions, social movement engagements with the state had often tended to be entanglements with the police, plus defensive court actions, Desai (independent) noted: "The state responded to the social movements with mass arrests, criminalisation..."

Dwyer (AIDC) made the point to me privately afterwards that no-one liked being told that their traditions were irrelevant or foolish. It is a valid point that the Alliance should bear in mind when it demands that social movements surrender their ideologically distinct traditions and become absorbed into its project. The movements should also bear it in mind when they claim that the entire membership of the Alliance at all levels has abandoned its historic liberatory mission.

Independent researcher Stephen Greenberg (who compiled the report on the LPM) said that the "social movements emerge out of direct grassroots action" rather than some imposed socialist ideology. Cock (Wits) asked whether the demand for decommodification could unite a "new socialist movement". Lesbian activist Donna Smith (Forum for the Empowerment of Women, FEW) recalled that at a life-skills-training workshop on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, "one young girl said 'the Constitution means nothing to us because we are fighting for survival'." The black lesbian community had no social spaces of its own in the townships, yet regularly suffered from extreme violence, rape, victimisation, unemployment and psycho-emotional health issues, as well as HIV/AIDS.
These conditions, rather than formal politics or ideology, forged their identity and their activism. As Alexander (RAU) said, the movements were "not just conjured up by Ashwin and Dale." It was noted by other activists, that the social movements had been absent from recent social upheavals such as Harrismith and Diepsloot, indications that the grassroots are under extreme pressure of pauperisation that is not linked to any ideology, but that also such insurgent sparks, lacking ideology and an overarching project, died out swiftly in the night. They were united merely by what Cock (Wits) - who had examined a failed social movement, the Steel Valley Crisis Committee - called "carnival bonds", lacking any long-term commitments, research skills at community level (relying too heavily on outsiders), and international links.

One bond that maintained longer-term commitments within the movements was identity, which was central to many new organisations and could not be simply welded to a class-war approach, although as Pat Horn (International Alliance of Street-traders' Networks, StreetNet) said, quoting a Latin American colleague, "Even the syndicalistas [revolutionary unionists] see they need the feministas." Teresa Dursuweit (School of Geography, Archaeology & Environmental Studies at Wits, who did the study on the GLBTI movement) warned that there was "something prescriptive about saying that working-class identity is primary." She noted the fear in the GLBTI community of "dissolution into a broader movement" that often appeared to be dominated by a "masculinist agenda".

Dirsuweit's point was well-made: questions asked of the panel on identity on which she and Smith (FEW) sat tended to stray well away from the topic. McKinley (APF) picked up on this theme, however, admitting that social movement activists were weak on the question of values like equality for women: "We're hypocrites in our movement; we preach values, but can't practice them in our personal lives." The point was made that although women predominated in many of the social movements, especially in rural areas, their voices were seldom heard. Andile Mngxitama (National Land Committee, NLC) said he worried about "the question of race in the new resistance", fearing the issue of racism had been left to Thabo Mbeki, but he did not expand on this view.

Buhlungu (SWOP) noted that organisations like the APF were not undifferentiated, with strong debates already experienced around possible participation in the local government elections, with more looming ahead of next year's local elections (the SECC having already decided, he said, to participate). This debate has proved particularly fiery, with a range of different opinions emerging, roughly divided between: a dual strategy of building an electoral front in council, to give profile to the grassroots struggle; or an exclusive concentration on grassroots struggle, either because electoralism is seen as premature or as a corrupting diversion.

Khan (Isandla Institute) said the new movements also arose because of "a contestation between technocratic knowledge and grassroots knowledge" and that if one protested outside the formal, legal channels, "you're busted, arrested." This amounted to "representative rather than substantive justice and the marginalisation of the poor." If the state wanted to call itself developmental, Khan said, the challenge was to "tilt the institutional resource base in favour of the poor." Engagement existed in three forms, he said: actively bargaining at the top and applying pressure from below; a passive "politics of patience" that allowed matters to develop both within the state and outside it; and an adversarial "break with corporatist negotiations" by an emergent radicalism.

It seems clear that the social movements engage in all these three forms, shifting according to circumstance, but that a very real divide, based on a complex interplay of class, identity and struggle tradition, exists between the programatists (especially of the government) and the insurgents. I would suggest that though this divide can be crossed, and capital has shown itself very adept at compromising the militant working class, it is a divide that history has shown should never be crossed. 3. WHAT ROLE CAN, DO & SHOULD THE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS PLAY?

Horn (StreetNet) said that the answer to the question: "Do social movements empower the poor?, was 'not yet'. The social movements need to give them representation and a voice". She said she noted a "discomfort on issues of membership and accountability. It's not just how open and democratic you are. It's not about permanent revolutionaries speaking on behalf of the poor instead of the poor speaking for themselves. Do social movements facilitate democratisation? Yes, they may, but pluralism is a mixed thing. Do social movements advocate a redistributive agenda? I'd say 'yes'. Even if they don't go all the way to Pretoria, they are still part-way there. In terms of the level of effectiveness of the social movements... perhaps we should act more on the SADC [Southern African Development Community] level. We have to have a more strategic engagement with Africa and within the World Social Forum."

Mercia Andrews (Trust for Community Outreach & Education, TCOE) said: "In the last decade, the South African Left has made impressive gains: it has rebuilt campaigns and a working class leadership has emerged... and the South African mass movement has broken out of our isolation with the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements. The rebuilding of these movements goes across the spectrum; they are not just anti-ANC, this is important for us as activists. For me one of the most important issues is that there is often a gap between content and form. We may be weak and small, but that does not mean we are wrong: ebbs and flows are the nature of these structures.

Andrews went on to say: "We tend to romanticise the movements [perhaps recalling Desai hailing the "sense of romance" in the mobilised communities]. It is good when we talk to the galleries but not when we talk to ourselves. We need to ask questions about our small size, our lack of resources, our reliance on a small group of leaders. These movements have been built systematically with a lot of graft by activists who've been working for a long time." Or, as Stephen Friedman (Centre for Policy Studies) said: "The only reason HIV/AIDS is such a nice, easy issue [to explain to the public] is it was made so by the hard work of [activists]."

Andrews said; "We have to push, we have to cajole, we have to move it along. Some of the richness of the previous period of struggle has not carried through. We need to change the tone of COSATU's debate so it's not just about wages. The big challenge to us is that these organisations that exist rely on a very few organic intellectuals and activists... We haven't been sufficiently observing the global anti-capitalist struggle in which spaces have been built for alliances; they are not as polarised as we are here... we need to co-ordinate our activities and strategies."

In my view and that of the ARN, the lessons of the conference were threefold:

a) a recognition that vast common ground exists between the social movements and organised labour in which they should collaborate, autonomously and horizontally between grassroots affiliates and rank-and-file members, to build working class unity and autonomy, outside of the capitalist bourgeoisie, and against it whenever necessary. We cannot prescribe to the movements whether this collaboration can be extended to allegedly progressive individuals within the administration: that decision needs to be taken by the constituents themselves, though we would warn against collaboration with bourgeois forces, noting that it is irrational to expect a rape victim to find common cause with their rapist;

b) a recognition of the importance of dealing with the problems some of our constituencies have with poor internal democracy, organic leadership and access to adequate resources, in ways that give greater voice to our poor and marginalised;

c) a recognition that the social movements, however uneven, are an organic part of the proud, pluralistic traditions of a century of anti-capitalist anti-racist working class struggle that has constantly renewed the true, egalitarian southern African liberatory project and will continue to do so as long as class rule remains the order of the day. We are not anti-democrats, but ultra-democrats.



Social Movements Conference
Johannesburg, October 28 & 29, 2004

- Michael Schmidt, Anti-Repression Network, ARN ("a bad and opportunistic journalist", according to the SACP's Umsebenzi, October 2004, who shall avoid over-editorialising and attempt to allow all parties to speak in their own words here!)

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