Blockading Public Roads: Anarchy and Reactionary?

Benson ka-Ngqentsu, Brian Bunting District (Cape Town Metro, Western Cape Province) Secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), recently released a statement condemning the Abahlali baseMjondolo organisation and claiming that ‘blockading public roads’ — one of the tactics employed by the organisation — is ‘anarchy and reactionary’.

The SACP is a partner in the Tripartite Alliance — consisting of the SACP, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) — which dominates the state and much of civil society in post-apartheid South Africa. It has a colourful history: in 1922, white miners were mobilised by the Party using the slogan “Workers of the world, unite and fight for a white South Africa!” In 1993, its then leader, Chris Hani, was assassinated. (Fascist bizarro Arthur Kemp has been linked to Hani’s murder: see nutzis are W E I R D : Arthur Kemp / BNP, August 30, 2009.) Its current leader / General Secretary (since 1998) is Blade Nzimande, who’s also the Minister for Higher Education and Training.

In reference to the SACP, Richard Pithouse (‘Solidarity, Co-option and Assimilation: The necessity, promises and pitfalls of global linkages for South African movements’ [PDF]) writes:

The South African Communist Party’s long standing authoritarianism, mechanistic economism and current willingness to work to legitimate the ANC’s project of deracialising domination make the party the necessary enemy of people seeking to reconstitute anti-capitalist projects in South Africa. The cultish fundamentalism of other established left sects that don’t involve themselves in mass movements renders them irrelevant. In the political space that has emerged from these realities it is perhaps not surprising that many young left intellectuals have uncritically embraced the practice of the anti-capitalist movements in the North and the ideas of their key philosopher Antonio Negri. Of course this mistake is not of the same order as the previous generation’s attraction to Stalinism. On the contrary the anti-capitalist movements in the North have often developed innovative forms of non-vanguardist democratic organisation that allow for internal diversity and a large degree of spontaneity. We have much to learn from them. But, nevertheless, a narrative fashionable in the metropole is again being imposed on actual histories and modes of struggle (and non-struggle) by people with privileged access to the metropole. The result of this is always to disregard the agency and experience of the dominated even in the very moment of insurgency. We need to become militant in our insistence that theory be subordinated to the lived experience of political life in the way that the tool is subordinated to the artist.

To which it might be possible to add that: the ideas of the ‘key’ philosopher Antonio Negri have been uncritically embraced, critically examined, ignored and/or rejected by many young left intellectuals in the North, as well as the social movements in, through and by which their ideas are often articulated; the “innovative forms of non-vanguardist democratic organisation” that Pithouse identifies as being a property of these movements arguably owe quite little to Negri outside of these articulations; fashions, whether intellectual or otherwise, come and go.

Blah blah blah who cares.

Back to Abahlali baseMjondolo:

Blockading Public Roads: Anarchic and Reactionary?
Abahlali baseMjondolo
October 18, 2010

We have noted the statement by the South African Communist Party that declares that blockading public roads is “anarchy and reactionary.”

If road blockades are anarchistic and reactionary then it is clear that anarchy and reaction are very popular in South Africa. Communities, organizations and movements across Cape Town and across South Africa have been blockading roads for years. We are not the only people that have blockaded roads in Cape Town in the last days. Many of the road blockades in Cape Town in recent days are not organized by us. But our campaign does endorse the road blockade as a legitimate tactic. We think it is quite significant that new communities are supporting our campaign all the time. We have already been invited to visit four new communities that want to join our campaign during this weekend. The rebellions that use road blockades as an important tactic are spreading everywhere. There is real popular support for disrupting business as usual in a system that oppresses the poor. When the SACP condemn us they condemn the struggles of the people across the country. That philosopher called Karl Marx once wrote that communism is the real movement that abolishes the state of things. He didn’t write that communuism is the vanguard that disciplines and condemns the real struggles of the people.

We also note that:

When we have been evicted the SACP has been silent.

When we have have been arrested the SACP has been silent.

When we have suffered in fires and floods the SACP has been silent.

Yet when we take to the streets the SACP condemns us!

What kind of communism is this? What kind of solidarity is this?

To make matters worse everyone knows that the SACP supported the struggles in Khutsong which were much more militant in their tactics than the struggle that we are now waging in Cape Town. Clearly for the SACP the real problem that they are having with Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape is not our tactics but the fact that we are organizing outside of the ANC and that we refuse to vote for the ANC or for any political party. Local government elections are coming and the ANC is panicking about the fact that while there is tremendous popular anger and protest in Cape Town they have lost control of it. The popular anger and protest in Cape Town is under the control of ordinary people and no political party likes that.

The SACP say that they are on the side of the poor but we don’t see them struggling with the organizations of the poor. We only see them trying to discipline our organizations from above and telling us to vote for the ANC!

Everybody knows that around the world Stalinist Communist parties always function to defend states against popular struggles. This was true in Budapest in 1956, in Paris in 1968 and its true right now in Kolkata. We are not anti-communist. We are for a living communism. We are for a communism that emerges from the struggles of ordinary people and which is shaped and owned by ordinary people. We are for a communism built from the ground up. We are for a communism in which land and wealth are shared and managed democratically. Any party or groupuscle or NGO that declares from above that it is the vanguard of the people’s struggles and that the people must therefore accept their authority is the enemy of the people’s struggles. Leadership is earned and is never permanent. It can never be declared from above. It only lasts for as long as communities of struggle decide to invest their hope in particular structures. Often there are many legitimate and democratic structures involved in the same broad movement of struggle at the same time. This is why we always insist that the autonomy of all democratic poor people’s organizations must be respected and welcomed.

We […] know that many ordinary members of the SACP live the same challenges as us and that we have a common interest in the same struggles. Like everyone in their right mind we support some of the positions that the SACP has taken in the battles within the ANC – like their position against the tenderpreneurs and before that their position against AIDS denialism. But we are critical of their hostility to freedom of expression. We are also aware that some people in the SACP, like Dominic Tweedie, have, in alliance with the most regressive faction of the middle class left, supported and propagandized for the repression against our movement. We have no choice but to condemn those members of the SACP that support the repression of autonomous struggles.

We are happy to meet with the SACP but our autonomy as an organization is non-negotiable. That includes our autonomy to refuse to support the ANC in the coming elections.

We note that while they condemn our endorsement of the road blockade as a tactic they also say that they will support our march on parliament. We welcome their support on our march but they will need to understand that we do not allow political parties to take over our protests. We are very clear that we will be protesting and not voting when the local government elections come.

~ Statement issued by Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape, October 16, 2010. See or for more infos.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, or AbM, is a shack-dwellers’ movement in South Africa. It campaigns to improve the living conditions of poor people and to democratize society from below. The movement refuses party politics and boycotts elections. It’s key demand is that the social value of urban land should take priority over its commercial value and it campaigns for the public expropriation of large privately owned landholdings. For more infos see R Patel, ‘A Short Course in Politics at the University of Abahlali baseMjondolo’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Vol.43, No.1, 2008 (PDF) | Richard Michael Pithouse, ‘Abahlali baseMjondolo and struggle for the city in Durban, South Africa’, Cidades, Vol.6, No.9, 2009 (PDF).

And here’s the Trololo that started it all:

Abahlali BaseMjondolo’s tactics reactionary – SACP
Benson ka-Ngqentsu
October 15, 2010

Benson ka-Ngqentsu calls on organisation stop vandalising public property

Blockading Public Roads is anarchy and reactionary

As the SACP in the Brian Bunting District (Cape Metro), we are serious outraged about the attitude and protesting method used by Abahlali Basemjondolo in the area of Khayelitsha. If this is the modus operand they use in their struggles, their campaigns will always be characterised as opportunistic, anarchist and populist and that they are using genuine concerns of the workers and the poor of Khayelitsha.

As the SACP, the vanguard of the working class and the poor, ours amongst other things is to fight for decent houses, decent jobs, health, clean drinking water, free and quality education etc. And we must therefore campaign for what we do not have and defend what we already got.

Our struggle is also to defend state property such as public roads, libraries, schools, clinics, police station etc. In our view all these properties are meant to benefit the workers and the poor direct, and destroying them when you wage your struggle is total reactionary and anarchist.

Against this background, as the SACP we call on Abahlali Basemjondolo under the leadership of Mr. Poni to refrain from using these kinds of tactics when they wage in their struggles because amongst other things they are playing in the hands of the enemy. As the working class and the poor we should at all times direct our struggles to our oppressors and its administration and public roads are neither our oppressor nor our enemy.

As the SACP we shall always be in the forefront of fighting for service delivery and we will always condemn all those who are anarchist and reactionary and vandalise the already existing infrastructure in our communities. Lastly, the SACP’s doors are open for engagements with any forces or organisation in society and we have [learnt] that there is a service delivery march planned to Western Cape government and we shall support that march.

~ Statement issued by Benson ka-Ngqentsu, SACP Brian Bunting District Secretary, October 15, 2010.

See also : anarchy is a fag! (September 25, 2007).

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 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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9 Responses to Blockading Public Roads: Anarchy and Reactionary?

  1. Grumpy Cat says:

    Hi All

    For what it is worth Pithouse and Abahlali baseMjondolo seem to draw some inspiration from Badiou – and he does from them. Who I assume @ndy you have even less time for than Negri.

    As for discussion about Negri the forthcoming From Empire to Commonwealth should be pretty exciting and interesting.

    Also I am not sure why you would use a picture of (what I assume) to be people in North running down a road for an article about a political debate in South Africa.

    rebel love

  2. mikey says:

    Abahlali baseMjondolo’s response makes me smile so much, awesome-ness!

  3. @ndy says:

    Nah. I got time for Fat Tony, So too, Mister Badiou. Srsly. Take my mother-in-law, please.

    As I was saying: I dunno about the general view of AbM inre Badiou, or vice versa.

    Patel writes:

    Shackdweller communities are among the most impoverished and exploited on the planet. With nearly 1 billion people living in them, one might consider them to be hotbeds of radicalism. Yet, in fact, very few settlements have become disobedient. Using the work of S’bu Zikode of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Shackdwellers Movement (South Africa) and the work of Alain Badiou, I show how politics is lived in Durban’s shacks, and show how Badiou’s thoughts supplement a series of uniquely African instances of politics.

    Conference looks neat.

    Re picture. It’s of kids in Amsterdam reclaiming the streets a coupla years ago. I use it as a visual ref to Pithouse’s article inre the influences of North upon South and vice versa, and also as a veiled ref to the recent passage of a law in the Netherlands outlawing squatting. Global commons ‘n’ all that.

    In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see.

  4. Toaf says:

    Agree with Mikey. Excellent response from AbM. The movement’s embrace of non-violence should earn it respect and support, not condemnation.

  5. mikey says:

    @toaf, its not the choice of non-violence that made me smile, rather it is quotes such as these:
    “If road blockades are anarchistic and reactionary then it is clear that anarchy and reaction are very popular in South Africa.”
    “We are for a communism that emerges from the struggles of ordinary people and which is shaped and owned by ordinary people. We are for a communism built from the ground up.”
    BTW @ndy, this new layout does not make me smile, found the old one easier to navigate.

  6. @ndy says:

    Re new layout. OK, but I had the old one for, like, over two years, and I was bored with it. And I haven’t settled on a new design yet… just experimenting and coming across big bad bugs.

  7. @ndy says:

    @Toaf: Youse can’t comment on yr blog, but on food prices, riots, and so on and so forth:

  8. Pingback: From the squatter camps of South Africa | Bristol Anarchist Bookfair

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