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Anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism in Africa

Lucien van der Walt

3.8.23 18:00

This talk will provide an overview the two main phases of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism in Africa. The focus will be on southern Africa, and North Africa, but there will be some mention of developments in the eastern and western regions. Tracing the African history of the anarchist/ syndicalist current from the 1860s onwards, it will pay close attention to how it was shaped by the larger context as well as by specific national and regional dynamics. The first phase, from the 1860s-1930s, developed against the larger backdrop of Western colonial expansion, and an early epoch of globalisation; the second phase, from the 1990s onwards, started in the wave of struggles against authoritarian African regimes, and the onset of neo-liberal globalisation.

The talk will outline some of the major themes in the history of the movement and some of the most significant developments. It will pay close attention to its engagements with popular, especially working-class, movements, how it dealt with issues of imperialism, race, and nation – and the different positions taken over time on the issue of whether earlier African cultures had libertarian or anarchistic elements. Countries mentioned include Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Swaziland (eSwatini), Tunisia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Lucien van der Walt is a writer, labour educator and professor at Rhodes University, South Africa. He is a co-author of „Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: The Praxis of Class Struggle, National Liberation and Social Revolution“ and „Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism“. He has written extensively on the history and theory of left, union, anarchist and syndicalist movements.