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A South African Revolutionary Passes: Jabisile Selby Semela, 1958-2018

category southern africa | the left | press release author Donnerstag August 30, 2018 08:14author by ZACF - ZACFauthor email zacf at riseup dot net Report this post to the editors

Selby Semela, a leading figure in the 1976 revolt against apartheid, political exile, and author (with Sam Thompson and Norman Abraham), of “Reflections on the Black Consciousness Movement and the South African Revolution”, passed away on Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, aged but 60 years.
Selby Semela, 1958-2018
Selby Semela, 1958-2018

A South African Revolutionary Passes:
Jabisile Selby Semela, 1958-2018

by ZACF
Born January 23, Pimville, Soweto, South Africa, he played a key role in the 1976 student and worker revolt against the apartheid regime. The trigger was the imposition of Afrikaans-language teaching in the wretched segregated schooling system set aside for the black African working class and poor youth. But the revolt was a broader response to apartheid, including the low wages and intense workplace racism faced by parents, and the early onset of neo-liberalism: the state was rapidly raising rates and charges in townships while cutting education money.

The revolt spread across the industrial heartlands of the Witwatersrand and the Vaal, and then into the Western Cape — including here many Coloured working class youth, mostly Afrikaans-speaking. It was part of a wave of struggle beginning with mass worker strikes in the early 1970s. The struggles of 1976-1977 escalated into three general strikes, massive confrontations on the streets with the army and police, and tragically, 575 deaths (451 at police hands alone).

In later years, many political parties have claimed ownership of the revolt, or pretended their undergrounds caused or led it. In truth, it was young men and women like Semela — who was key to the African Student Movement, then the Soweto Student Representative Council (SSRC) — who played the key role. Politically, many were influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), which stressed changing minds as the basis of change; and some by the bottom-up democracy promoted by the new unions.

Semela, like others, fled the country into exile. Others, like BCM leader Steve Biko, were killed. From exile, Semela campaigned tirelessly against apartheid, promoting boycotts, disinvestment, and sanctions.

In the 1979 “Reflections on the Black Consciousness Movement and the South African Revolution”, he was sharply critical of the vanguardist, top-down tendencies to hijack struggles in pursuit of state power, of what he called “the old spinster-huckster organisations”: the African National Congress (ANC), the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). He was also dismayed by the BCM’s turn towards political party and militarism after 1976. He argued that “the BCM’s official proclamation as an organisation spells out unfailingly that in its true colours as ideology and hierarchy, it is an enemy of real black proletarian struggle in South Africa.” At the time he was influenced by Situationism, an anti-statist, anti-Leninist socialist tradition that emerged in the 1960s; it stressed self-activity, workers’ councils (soviets) and an end to alienation.

At the time of his death, Semela lived in Columbia, Maryland, and leaves behind his wife (Mary), sons (Linda Mathe, Rise, Naledi and Mohapi), grandchildren (Lwandile, Molemo, and Warona), his brother (Tumelo) and his aunts (Mary Ntilane, Mavis Moloi, and Dora Simela).

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zacfront_symbol_1.jpg imageThe “Democratic Left”: A Small Step Towards United Working Class Struggle 02:46 Mi 23 Feb by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front 0 comments

From 20 to 23 January 2011, working class and revolutionary militants from throughout South Africa, including a ZACF delegation, gathered in Johannesburg for the Conference of the Democratic Left (CDL). The gathering ended in the launch of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) as a loose alliance of organisations and individuals in struggle.

In explaining our relationship to the DLF, we will here summarise our reservations, while explaining why they are outweighed by the genuine achievements of the CDL. The reservations cover three main areas: attitudes towards the state and elections; leadership structures; and the DLF programme and demands. (We are also less than enthusiastic about some new terms that have become popular in the CDL and DLF, such as “eco-socialism”; but this is largely a matter of language, which we will not discuss in detail here.)

textIn Solidarity with Cosatu and the Workers of the World 20:26 Fr 16 Mai by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front 0 comments

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) recognises that the crisis in Zimbabwe, ongoing xenophobic attacks and rising food prices are of great importance to the working class, both in South Africa and internationally. Resolving these crises in favour of the poor and working poor will require mass direct action and solidarity. [ Italiano]

textZACF statement on the "racist anarchists" of Potchefstroom 18:10 Mi 27 Jun by Jonathan Payn 3 comments

Right-wingers in the South African town of Potchefstroom removed street-signs with the names of liberation figures and replaced them with those of Boer leaders. But the Potch City Council attributed the actions to "racist anarchists".

textSWAZILAND: Rush hour for liberation movement 19:08 Do 07 Dez by International Secretary ZACF 0 comments

Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation statement on alleged armed struggle tendency of Swaziland pro-democracy movement.

imageClass struggle, the Left and power – Part 2 Sep 08 by Jonathan Payn 0 comments

The first part of this series stated that, despite various well-intentioned efforts by forces on the extra-Alliance and independent left over recent years to unite working class struggles in South Africa, these largely have and will continue to fail to resonate with the working class, help build unity in struggle and form the basis of a new movement because of the theoretical understandings of class and power – and their strategic implications – on which they are founded and which are prevalent on much of the left. This article will give a basic overview of these theoretical understandings of class and power and their strategic implications and limitations and why it is therefore necessary to refine and develop understandings of class and power more capable of responding to the context of the neoliberal restructuring of the working class in order to advance the class struggle in pursuit of socialism. [Part 1]

imageAfter the election dust settles: Class struggle, the Left and power Jun 25 by Jonathan Payn 0 comments

Twenty-five years into democracy the black working class majority in South Africa has not experienced any meaningful improvements in its conditions. The apartheid legacy of unequal education, healthcare and housing and the super-exploitation of black workers continues under the ANC and is perpetuated by the neoliberal policies it has imposed. The only force capable of changing this situation is the working class locally and internationally. Yet to do so, struggles need to come together, new forms of organisation appropriate to the context are needed; and they need both to be infused with a revolutionary progressive politics and to learn from the mistakes of the past. Outside the ANC alliance, there have indeed been many efforts to unite struggles – but these have largely failed to resonate with the working class in struggle and form the basis of a new movement. Nowhere is this more evident than with the newly-formed Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) – which got less than 25 000 votes in the national elections, despite the fact that the union that conceived it, Numsa, claims nearly 400 000 members. [Part 2]

imageA Workers’ Party and Elections or Class Struggle? Feb 26 by Warren McGregor 0 comments

The question of state government elections and running a Workers or Socialist political party continues to be raised in the working class movement and the Left globally. As we may know, there was excitement about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party in Britain, left political parties in certain parts of Europe and Latin America and, more recently, certain shifts to more centrist positions in the United States amongst a section of the Democratic Party calling themselves “Democratic Socialists”. In South Africa, many workers and some activists seem cautiously optimistic by NUMSA’s formation of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party that will seek to participate in the 2019 general elections.

imageLeft unity, left cooperation or a working class front? Jul 21 by Warren McGregor 2 comments

A call for socialist Left unity is heard widely today in South Africa, but is usually taken as a call for unity of praxis (unity in theoretical programme and action). This is sometimes framed as transcending old divides (these seen as outdated, divisive or dismissed as dogmatic), and sometimes as unity in order to have action (rhetorically set up as the opposite of “arm chair” theory).

What do we as revolutionary anarchists think?

imageSouth African ‘Workerism’ in the 1980s: Learning from FOSATU’s Radical Unionism Dez 13 by Lucien van der Walt, with Sian Byrne and Nicole Ulrich* 0 comments

A lightly edited transcript of a presentation at a workshop hosted by the International Labour Research & Information Group (ILRIG) and the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre in Drieziek extension 1, Orange Farm township, south of Soweto, South Africa, on 24 June 2017. It was attended by a hall full of community and worker activists, including veterans of the big rebellions of the 1980s.

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imageThe “Democratic Left”: A Small Step Towards United Working Class Struggle Feb 23 ZACF 0 comments

From 20 to 23 January 2011, working class and revolutionary militants from throughout South Africa, including a ZACF delegation, gathered in Johannesburg for the Conference of the Democratic Left (CDL). The gathering ended in the launch of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) as a loose alliance of organisations and individuals in struggle.

In explaining our relationship to the DLF, we will here summarise our reservations, while explaining why they are outweighed by the genuine achievements of the CDL. The reservations cover three main areas: attitudes towards the state and elections; leadership structures; and the DLF programme and demands. (We are also less than enthusiastic about some new terms that have become popular in the CDL and DLF, such as “eco-socialism”; but this is largely a matter of language, which we will not discuss in detail here.)

textIn Solidarity with Cosatu and the Workers of the World Mai 16 ZACF 0 comments

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) recognises that the crisis in Zimbabwe, ongoing xenophobic attacks and rising food prices are of great importance to the working class, both in South Africa and internationally. Resolving these crises in favour of the poor and working poor will require mass direct action and solidarity. [ Italiano]

textZACF statement on the "racist anarchists" of Potchefstroom Jun 27 ZACF (southern Africa) 3 comments

Right-wingers in the South African town of Potchefstroom removed street-signs with the names of liberation figures and replaced them with those of Boer leaders. But the Potch City Council attributed the actions to "racist anarchists".

textSWAZILAND: Rush hour for liberation movement Dez 07 Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation 0 comments

Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation statement on alleged armed struggle tendency of Swaziland pro-democracy movement.

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