Against Chauvinism, Against Nationalism!

Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front – ZACF
May 23 2008

As the media, the politicians and the “experts” rack their brains in search of the cause of the “criminality” and “xenophobia” that has killed 42 people in 10 days and driven [at least] 15,000 from their homes, organisations of the working class have come closer to the truth than any of these wise men and women.

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front supports and replies to the Abahlali baseMjondolo Statement on the Xenophobic Attacks in Johannesburg.

Abahlali baseMjondolo [the South African shackdwellers’ movement] tell how “the anger of the poor can go in many directions”. They tell how fury is stirred up by “the rats and the fires and the lack of toilets”, by unemployment, homelessness and mandrax. They tell how people are “damaged” in a world where few are rich and many are poor.

The demon that has been unleashed in Gauteng, that is spreading to Mpumalanga and other provinces, is the demon of poverty. It is the child of the demon of capitalism, of the demon of exploitation.

But another demon has also been unleashed. This is the demon of NATIONALISM.

Abahlali point out that all the poor, all the workers, face “the same kind of oppression”. They call on all the poor and the workers to join in struggle against this oppression. The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front joins this call.

But against this unity of the working class appears another unity, a false unity, the unity of nationalism. This is a false unity between the rich and the poor, between the oppressor and the oppressed. It is a false unity that divides those who should be united. It proclaims that because the master and the slave were born in the same country, they have something in common, from which the slaves of other countries must be excluded.

The ZACF does not deny or reject bonds of language, culture and tradition. But in the greatest of struggles, the struggle against poverty, exploitation and oppression, we proclaim that class unity, the unity of all the oppressed and exploited, must come first.

When Winnie Madikizela-Mandela declares that those who attack foreigners are not real “South Africans”, she calls up the demon of nationalism. She says that to be South African is good, and not to be South African is bad. She presents herself as a leader who can decide who are the real South Africans. And like so many politicians, she would surely say we should be “proudly South African” – as if where you are born is the most important thing to be proud of.

These are the divisions that keep us in slavery, that stop us uniting against our true enemies. Our true enemies – the real criminals – are the capitalists and the state, the robbers who exploit us and the politicians who lie to us. Always these partners stand together against us, and seek to stop us standing together against them. They so fill our heads with lies that some of us even think the insane rise in food prices is somehow the work of foreigners – when clearly it is the work of the small band of capitalists of all countries who control the world’s food.

Poverty and oppression can never be resolved through capitalism or the state.

The ZACF agrees with the greatest part of Abahlali’s analysis and supports the bulk of their demands. But we have one difference. We cannot join in their call for “a police force that serves the people”. No police force can be anything other than a force of repression, a force for the state to keep itself on top and the masses at the bottom, a force for the defence of the rich against the poor. Again and again the police have shown this against the movements of the poor, arresting, torturing and murdering us. Not to mention their attacks on immigrants. When the politicians condemn poor South Africans for attacking foreigners, it is because they wish to preserve this power of violence for themselves and their forces alone.

We can and do fight to stop the worst police repression. And any of us, in fear of our lives, will seek the help of the police when there is no alternative. We cannot blame anyone for seeking refuge with the police, or for calling them in to prevent imminent attacks.

But we hope for something better. If there is no alternative, let us try to create one. Let us build our movements to the point where immigrants – or women facing rape, or gay and lesbian people facing chauvinistic violence – do not need to seek the dubious help of the police. Let us build strong, organised working class communities that can defend themselves and their comrades against repression and chauvinism.

And let us build our movements to the point where they can fight oppression in every form, everywhere. The dockworkers of Durban recently prevented a shipment of weapons from passing through South Africa to the Mugabe regime – but the weapons reached the butcher of Harare by another route. With a stronger movement, an international movement of the working class, we could halt all future shipments. We could cease quarreling over the supposed ideals of tyrants and topple tyranny. We could cease fighting over who should get a house, and demand and obtain houses for all. We could cease blaming our brothers and sisters for “taking jobs”, and demand and get jobs for all. We could cease seeking scapegoats for soaring food prices, and force a halt in the rise in prices as a step towards food for all. We could win ID books for all – or better still, a world in which none will need ID books. We could tear down the Lindela concentration camp. And building a global movement that reaches across every border, we could proclaim to the whole world:


About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2021 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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