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
Monday, March 6, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
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 Ngwaneand, Luke Sinwell and Manny Ness 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 have united to fight the neoliberalism of the post-apartheid state.
Mgcineni ‘Mambush’ Noki (imagined in the wall painting wearing a green blanket) was 1 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.
“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 South African socialist and anti-apartheid activist. He previously worked as a sociology lecturer at Wits University where he helped found the Wits Workers' School, to teach literacy to the campus cleaners and gardeners. He was the National Education Officer for the Transport & General Workers Union of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. He is a member of the Socialist Group, an affiliate of the Democratic Left Front and United Front. Trevor was born in 1960, the same year the ANC was banned in South Africa. He is a co-editor with Luke Sinwell and Manny Ness of Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South.
Dr. Luke Sinwell, a trained anthropologist, spends a significant amount of time writing and editing books about grassroots militants, but believes that he is at his best while standing by their side in a common struggle for social and economic justice. Luke’s most recent engaged research project was centered around the meaningful relationships that he and his fieldworkers built with trade unionists during the longest strike in South African mining history. This culminated in an ethnography called, The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa (Pluto Press: 2016). He is currently a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Social Change, University of Johannesburg. He is a co-editor with Trevor Ngwane and Manny Ness of Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South.
Immanuel Ness is a political economist and professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He edits Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society and is the author of numerous works including Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism and Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class. He is a co-editor with Trevor Ngwane and Luke Sinwell of Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South. He has worked and organized in the food, maintenance, and publishing industries.