John Reynolds and Lucien van der Walt (eds.), 2019, Strategy: Debating Politics Within and At a Distance from the State, Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa. Free for download, and sharing, published under copy-left.
What are the routes for societal transformation? What are the possibilities for the exercise of working class political agency? Should we organise through or in partnership with the state, including through parties? Or should we build working class counter-power outside and against the state? More people now live under elected parliamentary governments based on universal suffrage than ever before. The transition from apartheid in 1990-1994 was part of a global wave of democratic reforms, including across sub-Saharan Africa.
But everywhere, public trust in state institutions and faith in politicians is at an all-time low. Inequality, conflict, rage, corruption and unemployment are everywhere. Right-wing populist movements, which position themselves as an alternative to a corrupt Establishment, have taken off globally. The South African state has become a renewed focus for debate, especially in light of revelations of what has been called “state capture,” the split in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) over political party affiliations and South Africa’s ongoing economic crisis. Outside the unions, the country continues to experience waves of community-based protests centred on confrontations with local municipal government. Strikes and protests are the major routes through which the popular classes seek to win change, but they do not last forever and often do not translate into sustained change.
These developments all raise questions about working class strategy. The collection is a contribution to an ongoing conversation, and to the renewal of working class movements. It is based on inputs at the 2019 Vuyisile Mini Winter School for activists from unions and other workers’ organisations, and which was held in Makhanda, South Africa by the Neil Aggett Labour studies Unit (NALSU) at Rhodes University. The papers address these issues from a wide range of perspectives. They debate the nature, form and effects of the state, and ground the questions of strategy in a wide range of organising experiences, including amongst the self-employed, farm-workers, big industrial unions, political parties and the anti-apartheid struggle both locally and globally. Authors including Laura Alfers, Colm Allan, David Fryer, Mazibuko Jara, Gilton Klerck, Ayanda Kota, Warren McGregor, Lalitha Naidoo, Kanyiso Ntikinca, John Reynolds, Nicole Ulrich and Lucien van der Walt. This collection was made possible by the support and efforts of all contributors, and staff, of the workshop participants and comrades, and of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, which funded the 2019 Vuyisile Mini Winter School and this publication.
This collection is part of NALSU’s Labour Studies: Working Class Education Series, which publishes texts generated for worker, popular and union education programmes and projects with which NALSU is involved. These include the annual Vuyisile Mini Winter Schools, and the short course programme on Policy, Theory and Research for Labour Movements. These texts are published online, as well as in hard copy, for broader distribution to unions and other movements, as well as labour service oganisations and labour studies institutions.