Popular Struggles in South Africa

Popular Struggles in South Africa:
Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South
and The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa

A report on current and future liberation movements in South Africa with
Trevor Ngwane, Luke Sinwell and Manny Ness

On 16th August 2012, thirty-four black mineworkers were gunned down by the police under the auspices of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) in what has become known as the Marikana massacre. Luke Sinwell’s The Spirit of Marikana tells the story of the uncelebrated leaders at the world’s three largest platinum mining companies who survived the barrage of state violence, intimidation, torture and murder which was being perpetrated during this tumultuous period. What began as a discussion about wage increases between two workers in the changing rooms at one mine became a rallying cry for economic freedom and basic dignity. This gripping ethnographic account is the first comprehensive study of this movement, revealing how seemingly ordinary people became heroic figures who transformed their workplace and their country.

The urban poor and working class now make up the majority of the world’s population and this segment is growing dramatically as the global population expands to 10 billion by mid-century. Much of the population growth results from the displacement of rural peasants to the urban cores, resulting in the vast expansion of mega-cities with 10 to 20 million people in the global South. The proliferation of informal settlements and slums particularly in the global south have created the conditions in which urban areas have become the principal sites of social upheaval as people seek to improve their living conditions. Drawing from case studies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, the various chapters in Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South map and analyze the ways in which the majority of the world exists and struggles in the contemporary urban context.

Trevor Ngwane and Luke Sinwell will discuss the current situation in South Africa where trade union militancy has spread more broadly in the five years since Marikana, the anti-austerity student movement remains strong at most universities and other schools, and socialist parties are experiencing growth and are at times uniting to fight the neoliberalism of the post-apartheid state.

Mgcineni ‘Mambush’ Noki (imagined in the wall painting wearing a green blanket) was one of the 34 mineworkers killed by the South African police on August 2016 while on strike demanding a ‘living wage’ in the most potent episode of state violence against civilians in the post-apartheid period. Mambush and the others live on as the insurgency grows broader and deeper in South African society and beyond.

Through detailed case studies, Urban Revolt unravels the potential and limitations of urban social movements on an international level.

“A superb addition to the literature on the contemporary global crisis and its micro manifestations.” —Patrick Bond, BRICS: An Anticapitalist Critique

The urban poor and working class now make up the majority of the world’s population. Much of the population growth results from the displacement of rural peasants to mega-cities. The proliferation of informal settlements and slums, particularly in the Global South, have created conditions ripe for social upheaval as people seek to improve their living conditions and win basic human rights. Drawing from case studies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, the chapters in this book map and analyze the ways in which the majority of the world exists and struggles in the contemporary urban context.
“What emerges from this collection is a complex picture of resistance, which nevertheless provides nuanced hope for a universalist project of social transformation…. The result is often a refreshing and accessible journey into urban revolts that the reader may have less familiarity.”
—Leo Zeilig, African Struggles Today: Social Movements Since Independence

“Capitalism itself is in crisis so it means, as Marx said, the CEOs of the world, government leaders, have now become personifications of capital. They no longer have any control. They speak for capital. They are just meant to trample on our rights willy nilly. They did that in Greece until a left party took over and then now they are turning the screws on that left party. It’s harder in countries such as the USA where socialism is a swear word as it is in Eastern Europe.”
—Trevor Ngwane, Counterfire, 2015

“Fanon somewhere quotes Marx on how the social revolution “cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future.” The EFF, the student movement and the working class movement has to find a way forward without going back to nationalism as an ideology of struggle. The struggle against imperialism has to break out of the discourse of colonialism without denying this history and its legacy…at its heart will be proletarian internationalism rather than bourgeois nationalism.” —Trevor Ngwane, 2016

Trevor Ngwane is a scholar-activist who is active in the Socialist Group and the United Front, organizations that seek a pro–working class pro-poor future for South Africa and the world. His PhD thesis recently awarded by the University of Johannesburg is titled “Amakomiti as democracy on the margins: Popular committees in South Africa’s informal settlements.”

Luke Sinwell is a senior researcher with the South African Research Chair in Social Change, University of Johannesburg. He has published widely on social movements and popular protest. His latest book is an ethnography called, The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa (Pluto Press, 2016).

Immanuel Ness is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He has authored and edited of many books including: Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class (Pluto Press, 2015) and Ours to Master and to Own: Worker Control from the Commune to the Present (Haymarket Books, 2011). Ness is co-editor of the third world political economy quarterly, Journal of Labor and Society.

Copies of Urban Revolt, The Spirit of Marikana and Southern Insurgency will be available for purchase.

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