Lucien van der Walt, [2008] 2019, “Foreword,” to “Freedom for All: An Introduction to Anarchism” (Zabalaza Books)

Lucien van der Walt, [2008] 2019, “Foreword,” Freedom for All: An Introduction to Anarchism, Zabalaza Books, Johannesburg, second edition, pp. 3-4, from HERE.


Freedom for all, and a natural respect for that freedom. Such are the essential conditions of international solidarity. Bakunin

Over the last few years, the resurgence of revolutionary anarchism has caught the attention of the world.

The role of the anarchists in the anti–globalisation movement, at Seattle, Prague, Gothenburg, Genoa, La Paz, and Porto Allegre – where we have been in the forefront of militant resistance – has been widely reported in the media.

The New York Times recently proclaimed “Anarchism: the idea that refuses to die,” whilst SAPA, not to be outdone, blamed the anarchist “black bloc” for the disruption of the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy.

But what is the anarchist movement? What does it want? Where is it going? And how can you get involved?

This South African pamphlet, based on the excellent work of Black Panther–turned–Anarchist Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, answers these questions.

Anarchism is not about violence or chaos.

Anarchists are libertarian socialists: we want the abolition of the capitalist system that systematically impoverishes billions, that crushes individual freedom, that twists and destroys human lives in the interests of profit for the few, that threatens the future of life itself through an ever–increasing ecological crisis.

But this is not enough. The problem of capitalism is not simply a problem of poverty. It is a problem of social freedom.

Capitalism does not just impoverish economically. It also destroys communities, solidarity, freedom, equality and human dignity.

It produces and reproduces horrific forms of social and economic oppression, such as racism and discrimination against women.

Capitalism and the state control us through undemocratic workplaces, schools, and local governments, through structures that serve to systematically disempower ordinary people, enslaving us to a profit system that concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a ruling class of big capitalists and politicians. They cannot benefit the majority because all governments and all corporations serve the ruling class first and foremost, and act as organs of repression against ordinary people.

For this reason, we believe in the need to replace capitalist governments with confederations of workplace and community councils based on direct democracy, participation, immediate recallability and strict mandates. These structures will allow self–management throughout our lives as opposed to the fraud of parliamentary democracy that does nothing but provide jobs for ambitious politicians and sell–outs.

It is only the working class and peasantry – organised within and across countries, across race, national and gender lines on an anti–capitalist, anti–statist, anti–racist, anti–imperialist and anti–sexist programme – that can crush capitalism and their [sic.] governments.

Through the use of direct action – not elections or lobbying, not praying to leaders – rooted in mass organisations based on internal democracy – we can begin to challenge the capitalist “order” and build organs of mass counter power that can supplant capitalism, burying it so that we and our children can begin to live a decent life, as human beings. We must organise on an anti–authoritarian basis, as opposed to the capitalist model of organisation: sitting passively and taking orders from leaders, bosses and central committees.

Only the working class can free the working class. By “working class” we do not just mean blue-collar workers: all people who work for others for wages and lack power are workers, no matter their jobs, and includes workers’ families, the unemployed and, more generally, the poor.

Dictatorship and authoritarianism are never progressive, and have, time and again, destroyed working class movements. Authoritarian politics –including mainstream Marxism– has consistently throttled the self–initiative and self–organisation of the masses in favour of a small vanguard of incompetent leaders. And these leaders have, at best, only succeeded in establishing new dictatorships and new forms of capitalism, as happened in the Soviet Union and as continues to happen today in Cuba and China.

We need an alternative to capitalism. Sweatshops, casual labour, racism, imperialist war, poverty, massive unemployment, privatisation, child prostitution on the streets, growing police brutality, neo–liberalism. These are the face of capitalism in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.

This pamphlet, and the ideas it expresses so clearly, point to this alternative.

Read it, study it, and get involved!

Lucien van der Walt

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