Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Fallist Politics Critiqued at Racism Conference


Achille Mbembe, left, speaks at the IAJ / AKF Reporting Racism Conference in October 2016


Time will tell what themes dominate the news in 2017 in South Africa, but the scourge of ingrained social racism and the structural enablers of white privilege hogged headlines in 2016. I covered the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism  / Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Reporting Racism Conference in October for ProJourn's Southern African Cities of Refuge Project. Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Sibongile Khumalo sang for us and there were some particularly strong presentations, especially Joe Thloloe recalling Black Wednesday 1977, Achille Mbembe and Micah Reddy on today's Fallist movements, Karen Turner (Temple U, USA) on the self-interrogation of journalism students regarding race and ethnicity in the light of #BlackLivesMatter, and David Smith on allowing a plurality of voices on-air to combat hate radio in Africa. Here is a brief story on the Mbembe-Reddy debate:

Michael Schmidt

The race debate in the electronic age is like a virus in terms of it being a disease, a contagion, consisting of outbursts, and spreading like wildfire, resulting in sets of things burning, stated Prof Achille Mbembe at the Reporting Race Conference held in Johannesburg over 18 – 19 October 2016.
A Cameroon-born, Sorbonne-educated philosopher, Mbembe of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), has argued for academia to be “decolonised” by reaching beyond Western knowledge sources, yet he is a leading liberal critic of the “Fallist” student movement.
The conference, hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and the High Commission of Canada, is the conclusion to a series of debates on race, and marked the 39th anniversary of the “Black Wednesday” closure on 19 October 1977 by the apartheid state of 18 organisations and three newspapers, and detain Black Consciousness journalists and activists.
Mbembe argued that the #FeesMustFall movement had foregrounded racism in problematic ways: “Liberalism is anathema for a lot of those young activists today… because of its perceived complicity with racism,” he said. “The idea of a constitutional state is central to our dispensation, and is typical of liberalism. But they do not only reject the racism of liberalism… it is a wholesale rejection of liberalism.” He said it was worrying that the students spurned electoral representative democracy as either corrupting, or as inherently illegitimate – claiming that their call instead for “a direct democracy that is structureless, that is horizontal” was a “zero-sum game” with violence its only tool and 100% compliance with the radical line demanded “or you are a heretic,” winding up “inviting the worst horrors of state violence.”
I challenged Mbembe on the fact that the "violence" debate was a red herring as the state itself had often initiated violence as in the Marikana Massacre and with the police in several cases actually starting riots with Fallist students. I also questioned his blanket deligitimisation of the liberatory aspects of Fallists politics and praxis, saying while I recognised the problem within the movement of intolerance, lack of class analysis, and what anarchists call the "tyranny of structurelessness," and would have liked to see more positive construction – strongly promised in 2015, but faltering in 2016 –  he could not ignore the positivity of the movements' direct democracy and horizontalism where these were practiced.
Mbembe did not quite answer my stance on state violence when he responded that there were only two routes for struggles for justice to take: “moral struggles when the fight is about abiding by a set of irrefutable principles like freedom and equality” which could neither be won by – nor defeated by – violence; and “purely political struggles that are framed by the principle of force.”
But he conceded: “Rainbowism did not end racism. There is a bitterness in these [student] texts that the idea of non-racialism that was the basis of the struggle has not brought racism to an end, therefore there is a rejection of non-racialism and the idea of rainbowism, which is seen as doomed.”
Mikah Reddy, the media freedom and diversity chief at the Right2Know campaign, responded that Mbembe’s critique of identity politics which had come under fire by the Fallists, was very popular as an end in itself, which lead to a politics in which all minorities were “ring-fenced” and anyone else who tried to engage with the experiences of those within the fences were seen as “trespassing.”
Earlier, Wits media studies lecturer Dr Glenda Daniels had said she felt “like a scab” in that while she supported the Fallists’ decolonisation debate, she also had a duty to work with those students who wanted to study. Yet police were only allowing white students onto campus and keeping the black students at bay as presumed protestors: “This is racial profiling.”
Press Council Executive Director Joe Thloloe spoke powerfully in closing of his experiences of detention in 1977 and his disbelief at emerging from jail months later into a world in which Stephen Bantu Biko and Robert Sobukwe were dead. Yet he found striking parallels with today’s student unrest, saying that he felt he was watching “a replay on our screens” of scenes from his youth.
Opening the conference on 18 October, former President Kgalema Motlanthe had used the example of the racial reconciliation achieved by the Blue Bulls holding their Super 14 semi-final tournament at Orlando Stadium in Soweto in 2010 to argue that “we will not be able to stop racist attitudes until we have dealt with the infrastructure backlog.”
A moment of silence was held for veteran photojournalist Juda Ngwenya, who covered the civil war in Liberia and the democratic transition in South Africa, and who died on 19 October.

[ENDS]

Monday, 2 January 2017

Celebrating 30 years as an anarchist, 1987 – 2017


Celebrating 30 years as an anarchist, 1987 – 2017 

Time flies when you’re having fun; I can’t believe it’s 30 years since I was liberated from two years of indentured labour in the apartheid SA Defence Force and became an anarchist. There was a guy called Cliff in the Army whose girlfriend was a German anarchist; back then, that was pretty exotic and the idea intrigued me. 
As a young student I quickly gravitated towards the alternative movement which was anti-militarist, anti-fascist and pro-gender diversity, and began to read books on anarchism ordered through Deep South Distribution (Cape Town). 
Between Vanegeim and Bakunin, I found the first obtuse and the second engaging, confirming an early bias towards pro-organisational, class-struggle, collectivist anarchism, but I also used the Natal Mercury newspaper morgue to research The Angry Brigade, indicative of what became a sustained interest in insurrectionary anarchism too. The two tendencies, mass and insurrectionary anarchism, constitute what Lucien van der Walt and I later defined as “the broad anarchist tradition”.
It was inevitable that, working in Durban, I would encounter, then join, the Anarchist Awareness League founded by Shane Freeman – and with that began a lifelong affiliation with anarchist organisations regionally and globally. Within seven years of becoming an anarchist, I was involved in forming the first of eight regional and three international, multiracial anarchist organisations and initiatives I have started over the years. I was also involved in founding five press freedom initiatives, and three African anarchist journals. This strong focus on organisational construction has underpinned my activism in the townships and further abroad.
Four years after that, I performed my first duties as an international delegate, to Zapatista-held Chiapas. Overs subsequent years, I would not only return to Mexico, but conduct work and activism in 42 other countries on six continents, marking my perspectives as deeply transnational, though my primary focus is Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ten years after becoming an anarchist, I started writing my first pieces for the anarchist press, on the struggle for democracy in Swaziland, a path that would eventually lead to the publication of three books on anarchism – one of which is a political science set-work in US and SA universities – and two on Southern Africa’s transition to democracy from an anarchist perspective. I am currently working on three new books on anarchism, two on journalism, and two multimedia projects, with more in the pipeline.
Although in recent years, my work and activism has, on balance, shifted away from journalism towards press freedom and human rights, I have become, thanks to my past 16 years of research in nine languages for the Counter-power project, the leading expert in the history of the global anarchist movement since its origins in the trade unions of the First International in 1868. 
I am exciting about my current research into anarchist history, theory, tactics and strategy, and look forward to many more decades of constructive work in the cause of the broad anarchist movement for direct democracy, autogestion, free association, and horizontal, federated, mass-organised proletarian counter-power.

1987 – 1992: Researched anarchism as a young anarcho-punk
1992 – 1993: Joined the Anarchist Awareness League (AAL)
1993 – 1997: With the AAL and other collectives, co-founded the Durban Anarchist Federation (DAF)
            1996: DAF delegate to the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), Chiapas, and Guatemalan Civil War
1997 – 1999: Joined the Workers’ Solidarity Federation (WSF)
            1997: Started writing for the WSF journal Workers’ Solidarity
            1998: WSF delegate to Socialist Caucus (Zambia), and co-founded with Wilstar Choongo the Anarchist Workers & Students’ Movement (AWSM), intended as a WSF affiliate
            1999: WSF delegate to both factions of the Confédération Nationale du Travail (CNT), France
1999 – 2003: With former WSF members, co-founded Bikisha Media Collective (BMC)
                      BMC delegate, elected treasurer, Worker’s Library & Museum (WLM)
            2000: BMC co-delegate to the CNT Vignole’s Autre Future (France), met Federation Anarchiste (FA) & Alternative Libertaire (AL) 
                      Work began on what becomes Counter-power
            2001: With BMC and other organisations, co-founded International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS-SIL)
                      With BMC, co-founded and started writing for its journal Zabalaza
            2002: Founded the Anarchist Black Cross – Southern Africa (ABC-SA) and its journal Black Alert
                      With the ABC-SA, founded the Anti-Repression Network (ARN)
            2003: BMC delegate to founding conference of the Encuentro Latino Americano de Organizaciones Populares Autónomas (ELAOPA), and to ILS-SIL summit (Brazil)
                      With ZACF and other organisations, co-founded and started writing for the anarkismo.net website
                      With Black Action Group (BAG), Soweto, co-founded the Phambili Motsoaledi Community Project (PMCP)
2003 – 2010: With ABC-SA, BMC, BAG and other collectives, co-founded the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF); elected international secretary
             2004: ZACF delegate, distributes anarchist materials (Rwanda)
                       ZACF delegate to Anarchist Round Table (New Zealand)
             2005: ZACF delegate to Civil Society Conference (SA)
                       Five Waves (which becomes Cartography) published (SA)
                       Trip to Iran to meet with Edris as ZACF delegate cancelled
             2006: ZACF delegate to al-Badil al-Shuyu’i al-Taharoui (BST) and to cover Summer War (Lebanon) 
                       ZACF delegate to ZACF (Swaziland)
             2007: ZACF delegate to cover Darfur War (Sudan)
                       ZACF restructured as Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF)
             2008: Work began on Mass-Line Anarchism
                       With ZACF and CNT-Vignoles, founded the Afrique Sans Chaines journal
                       Published in Die groβen Streiks (Germany)
                       Anarquismo Búlgaro em Armas (Mass-Line Vol.1) published (Brazil)
             2009: Black Flame (Counter-power Vol.1) published (USA)
                       Black Flame launched (SA & Mexico)
                       ZACF delegate to ex-Socialist Caucus (Zambia)
             2010: Founded the Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa (ProJourn) on a mirror of the ZACF constitution; elected admin secretary
                       Black Flame launched (Canada), and ZACF delegate to Common Cause (CC) Ontario, Union Comuniste Libertaire (UCL) Quebec & Organización Popular Anarquista Revolucionaria (OPAR) Mexico
2011: With ProJourn, founded The Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists
          Work starts on The People Armed
          Met ex-North Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), USA
          Met Mötmakt (Norway), and Alternative Libertaire (AL) & Confederation des Groupes Anarchiste (CGA), France.
2012: Delegate to the General Assembly of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), Sweden, and met the Sveriges Arbetaren Centralorganisation (SAC)
          Founded the Southern African Cities of Refuge Project (SACRP)
          Cartographie de l’anarchisme révolutionnaire published (Canada)
          As a former Clive Menell Media Fellow, co-founded the Menell Media Exchange (MMX) in SA
          Invited to present on anarchist history at the 140th anniversary International Anarchist Gathering at St Imier (Switzerland), but unable to afford costs
2013: Failed to get a visa to meet persecuted anarchist Brahim Filali (Morocco)
          Interviewed for Ni dieu ni maître: Un histoire de l’anarchisme (France) and met Alternative Libertaire (AL)
          Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism published (USA)
          Planning started on Not Night, but An Absence of Stars
          Schwarze Flamme published (Germany)
          Failed to meet Libertarian Socialist Movement (LSM), Egypt
          Co-founded the Institute for Anarchist Theory & History (IATH-ITHA), Brazil; elected council member
2014: SACRP delegate to the General Assembly of ICORN (Slovenia)
          Cartography launched in Slovenia and met Federacija za Anarchistično Organiziranje (FAO)
          Cartography launched in Australia & New Zealand and met Anarchist Affinity, Jura Books, and the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (Australia), and Rebel Press (New Zealand) 
          
          Work began on Radio Freedom (Zimbabwe)
          SACRP launched in Johannesburg and Cape Town to promote ICORN
          Met with Embat and corresponded with Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT), Spain 
          Work began on The People Armed, Isandlwana – a Love Story, & on Black Crowbar
          Drinking with Ghosts published (SA)
2015: Drinking with Ghosts launched (SA)
          SACRP hosted ICORN delegates in Cape Town to promote it as a City of Refuge
          A Taste of Bitter Almonds published (SA)
          SACRP delegate to Safe Havens 2015 (Sweden)
          Met the Sveriges Arbetaren Centralorganisation (SAC) and Mötmakt (Norway)
          Work resumed on The People Armed
2016: International panel of anarchist historians drafted onto The People Armed project
          Planning started on Unexploded Ordinance, and Death Flight
          Bitter Almonds launched (SA)
          SACRP relocated Zimbabwean human rights defender to Windhoek (Namibia)
          SACRP delegate to civil society conference on the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia & Related Intolerance (SA)
          SACRP delegate to Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) conference (SA)
          SACRP delegate to IAJ/AKF Reporting Racism Conference (SA)
          SACRP delegate to Safe Havens 2016 (Sweden)
2017: Final phase of writing of Wildfire (Counter-power Vol.2) under way
          Planning on Death Flight: Apartheid’s Forgotten War-Crime under way

[ENDS]

Friday, 30 December 2016

Anarchist Battle Honours 1903 - 2015


ANARCHIST BATTLE HONOURS (a work in progress)

By Michael Schmidt

1903, 19 August: Battle of Czarevo, Thrace. A small force of the Leading Combat Body of the Macedonian Clandestine Revolutionary Committee (MTPK), some 2,000-strong under the anarchist Mikhail Gerdzhikov, armed with antique rifles defeated a Turkish garrison of 10,000 well-armed troops, established a revolutionary liberated zone in the Strandzha Mountains of Thrace, centred on the Czarevo Commune (today Vassiliko), and though it was suppressed after 20 days, precipitated the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

1906, 1 – 3 June: Battles of Cananea and Veracruz, Mexico. The Mexican Liberal Party (PLM) anarchist Práxedis Guerrero commanded the operation. Some 93 copper mills across the two states went on strike, company buildings were burned, the hated rurales, the rural police, were put to flight and the prisons were opened. The strikers were defeated by Mexican troops, supplemented by 275 Arizona Rangers and a private army sent by the American capitalist Rockefeller.

1910, 30 December: Battle of Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico. A mere 32 well-armed Mexican Liberal Party (PLM) cavalrymen under the anarchist Práxedis Guerrero took the town. Although they were soon defeated by a force of 600 Federal Army troops and Guerrero was killed, this event sparked the Mexican Revolution and was followed by PLM victories in Mexicali, Guadalupe and Tijuana.

1914, mid-July: Battle of the Federal District, Mexico. Anarchist and other guerrillas of the Zapatista Liberation Army of the South (ELS) – which peaked at 27,000 guerrillas – linked to the Industrial Union of North and South America (UIANS), moved out from their base in Morelos and drove the forces of General Victoriano Huerta’s US-backed military dictatorship to the gates of the capital. Huerta resigned and went into exile.

1918 – 1919, January – January: Liberation of Eastern Ukraine. The armoured train of the Free Combat Druzhina – the term referring to a band of warrior equals – under independent anarchist Black Guard commander Maria Grigorevna “Marusya” Nikiforova, installed revolutionary Soviets consisting of anarchists, Bolsheviks and Left Social Revolutionaries in the cities of Kharkov, Aleksandrovsk and Yekaterinoslav. Their actions installs a social revolution in the eastern Ukraine and lays the groundwork for the rise of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU).

1918, October 5: Battle of Dibriviki, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) defeats the Austro-Hungarian Army.

1919, March 15: Liberation of Berdyansk, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine forces (RPAU) capture the port city of 47,000 residents from Deniken’s White Army. 

1919, March 29: Liberation of Mariupol, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces capture the port city of 45,000 residents from Deniken’s White Army. 

1919, April 29: Battle of Vámospércs, Hungary. The anarchist-communist Leo Rothziegel leads his 400-strong Red Guard and 800 armed workers into Hungary to support the revolution there. But Hungarian Communist Party (MPK) leader Béla Kun sent them to fight the French and Romanian forces and at the Battle of Vámospércs, Rothziegel was killed.

1919, September 26: Battle of Peregonovka, Ukraine. Some 8,000 infantry and cavalry lead by Nestor Makhno’s 500-strong Black Squadron of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) – then totalling 110,000 guerrillas organised in four corps – routed the White Army expeditionary corps under General Anton Denikin, including the 1st Simferopol Officer’s Regiment (cavalry) under Major-General Gvosdakov, the Labinsk Officer’s Regiment, and the Litovsk Regiment and including canon and machine-gun detachments, resulting in the collapse of the White’s western front and the saving of revolutionary Moscow from White reaction.

1919, October 5: Liberation of Aleksandrovsk, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces capture the city of 52,000 residents from Wrangel’s White Army. 

1919, October 28: Liberation of Yekaterinoslav, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces defeat Symon Petluria’s Ukrainian nationalist army and liberate the city of 220,000 residents.

1920, November 9: Battle of the Perekop Isthmus, Crimea. Red Army and Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces lead by Nestor Makno’s Black Squadron breached the “impenetrable” Isthmus, defended by 750 machine-guns, 180 cannon, 48 tanks, several armoured trains and several thousand elite White troops, driving back the Kuban Cossacks under General Fostikof and digging in, allowing the Red Army to capture the Crimea. The rout lead to the total evacuation of all of General Pavel Wrangel’s 100,000-strong White Army from the Crimea and the final collapse of White reaction in Russia.

1920, 14 March – 5 April, Rühr Uprising, Germany. The 50,000-strong Rühr Red Army (RRA) – which includes communists, left communists and elements of the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers Union of Germany (FAUD) – responds to the right-wing Kapp Putsch of 13 March by defeating the proto-fascist Freikorps, especially in the key Battle of Essen on 19 March, and taking over the cities of the industrial Rühr. After the defeat of the putsch, the Uprising and its councils was brutally suppressed by the Reichswehr – and even elements of the Freikorps who had supported the putsch. 

1920, 21 – 28 October: Battle of Ch'uongsan-ri, Manchuria. Some 3,000 troops – including anarchists – of the Korean Independence Army (KIA) under the command of the anarchist-sympathetic general Kim Jwa-Jin, of the Shinmin Autonomous Prefecture, destroyed the 28th Brigade of the 19th Division and a reserve detachment of the 50,000-strong Japanese Imperial Army in Manchuria, a stunning blow for the liberation movements that opened up the field to anarchist organising in the region, latter enabling the establishment of an anarchist liberated zone in north-east Manchuria, under the Korean People’s Association in Manchuria between 1929 and 1931.

1921, January: Battle of Julianikh, Siberia, Russia. Between 5,000 and 10,000 guerrillas of the Anarchist Federation of the Altai (AФA) under I.P. Novoselov engaged the forces of the Red Army, but were defeated.

1921, 7  17 March: Kronstadt Uprising, Russia. Calling for a "third revolution" against Bolshevik tyranny, anarchists, Left Social Revolutionaries, Maximalists and dissident Bolsheviks comprising the 10,000-strong Kronstadt Soviet at this vital naval base guarding the approaches to St Petersburg. Selected elements of the Red Army, primed with counter-revolutionary propaganda, assaulted the fortress and summarily executed many of the revolutionaries who were unable to escape.

1923, March 26: Battle of Yambol, Bulgaria. During the fascist seizure of power, a small force of anarchist guerrillas of the Bulgarian Anarchist Communist Federation (FAKB) fought a bitter battle for two hours against Yambol city’s two regiments of troops, only to be crushed by an artillery regiment from a neighbouring town.

1929    1931, 21 July  July: Defence of the Back Dragon Commune, north-eastern Manchuria. The forces of the Korean Anarchist Federation (KAF), Korean Anarchist Communist Federation (KACF) and the Northern Army of the Korean Independence Army under Kim Jwa-Jin combine into a "Black Dragon Army" that defends the free zone   comprised an area of some 350,000km², about three times the size of the free zone controlled between 1918 and 1921 by the Makhnovshchina in Ukraine  against communist, nationalist and Japanese imperialist forces.

1929-1933, Berlin and Upper Silesia, Germany. The Free Workers Union of Germany (FAUD) forms its own paramilitary organisation, Black Ranks (Schwarze Scharen), several hundred strong, to defend its premises, members and marches from attack by the Nazis. 

1936, July 19: Battles of Barcelona and Madrid, Spain. Right-wing military coup d’etat defeated in the streets by ad-hoc anarchist guerrilla forces led by the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI).

1937, March 8 – 23: Battle of Guadalajara, Spain. A 20,000-strong force of the People’s Republican Army (including anarchist Cipriano Mera’s 14th Division and the International Brigades’ Garibaldi Battalion) with 40 artillery pieces, 75 armoured vehicles and 80 aircraft defeats Francisco Franco’s 15,000-strong nationalist Army of Africa rebels and their 35,000-strong Italian Fascist Corps of Volunteer Troops (CVT) allies with 270 artillery pieces, 140 armoured vehicles and 62 aircraft, preventing the encirclement of Madrid.

1938 – 1945: Resistance to Japanese Imperialism, Korea: The anarchist Korean Youth Wartime Operations Unit, who had been fighting the Japanese since 1938, was incorporated into the newly founded Korean Liberation Army as its 5th Detachment (later, its 2nd Detachment) in 1941.

1939, February: Battle of Puigcerdá, Spain. A tiny force of 150 anarchist CNT/FAI guerrillas valiantly acted as a last-ditch rearguard and defended more than 400,000 defeated Republicans – civilians and guerrillas – fleeing Spain, in a last-ditch suicide stand against the advancing Francoist forces. All were killed, making Puigcerdá the anarchist Thermopylae. 

1939, March 7 – 12, Counter-coup of Madrid, Spain. Cipriano Mera’s IV Army Corps defeated Spanish Communist Party forces of the 1st Corps of the Army of the Centre that were planning a coup, supporting a National Defence Council that consisted of anarchists, socialists and left republicans. Recognising the war was lost, the aim of the National Defence Council was to negotiate a surrender and prevent a defence of Madrid that would cause needless loss of life.

1941 – 1945: Resistance to the Nazis and Soviets, Central & Eastern Europe. Anarchist cells existed within the Red Army such as a group called the Kronstadt Accords in the Red Army in eastern Germany and Austria, which is said to have included Kronstadt and RPAU veterans. Elsewhere, anarchist partisan groups struggled against both the Axis and the Soviets from 1941 onwards. The nationalist Ukrainian National Army mentioned frequent encounters with Ukrainian anarchist partisans in 1944 to 1945. These seem to have included RPAU veterans as well as youth: an anarchist youth organisation called Alarm (Nabat) was formed in Ukraine, organised an armed uprising in 1943, and held a vital bridgehead, earning it the praise of the Red Army, although after the war its founder, V.I. Us, was jailed for twenty years by the Soviet authorities, the sentence later being reduced. 

1943, 19 April – 16 May: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Poland. Anarchist partisans of the underground Polish Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) and the Syndicalist Brigade of the Syndicalist Organisation “Freedom” (SOW) participate in the doomed Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, crushed by the Nazis while nearby Soviet forces sat immobile. Only a handful survive, some anarchist guerrillas becoming recognised by the Jews as “Righteous Among Nations” for their sacrifice.

1943 – 1945: Resistance to the Nazis and Fascists, northern Italy. By the end of 1943, there were some 9,000 armed partisans fighting against the Nazis and Fascists in the north, most of them Italian Communist Party and Action Party members, but including anarchists from historic strongholds like Carrara. By the spring of 1944, partisan forces had soared to between 20,000 and 30,000, and by summer to 82,000, with the total rising to about 100,000 by the end of the war – up to 60,000 were killed, wounded or captured. Still, in 1944, the long-supressed anarchist movement had revived to the extent that the Upper Italy Libertarian Communist Federation (FCLAI) was founded and participated in the resistance in the north.

1944, 19 – 20 August: Liberation of Foix, La Madeleine, Cahors and Toulouse, France. Anarchists of the 14th Spanish Guerrilla Corps attacked German convoys, liberated towns and seized the Nazi headquarters at Foix, capturing 1,200 German soldiers. A group of thirty-two Spaniards and four Frenchmen attacked a convoy of 1,300 Germans armed with six tanks and two self-propelled guns at La Madeleine, killing 110 Germans, wounding 200 and forcing the surrender of the rest – all for the price of three wounded Maquis. The anarchist Liberty Brigade liberated the town of Cahors and other centres, and 6,000 anarchist fighters took part in the liberation of the city of Toulouse.

1944, 24 – 25 August: Liberation of Paris, France. The first Allied troops into Paris were the 114 anarchist CNT and FAI veterans of the old Durruti Column, organised as the 9th Armoured Company – a division of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division under General Leclerc – and driving tanks and armoured half-tracks flying the Spanish Republican flag and with names redolent of the Spanish Revolution painted on their sides: “Durruti”, “Ascaso”, “Casa Viejas”, “Teruel”, “Madrid”, “Belchite”, “Guadalajara” and “Guernica”. Having hit the beaches at Normandy on the night of July 31/August 1, 1944, as one of two armoured divisions in the US 3rd Army that defeated three SS Panzer divisions and linked up with the Canadian forces at Falais, the 9th took the honours in Paris, accepting the surrender of General Dietrich von Choltitz and his 17,000-strong Nazi garrison. The 9th then fought its way across Europe, campaigning in Alsace-Lorraine, helping to liberate cities such as Strasbourg and numerous towns, fighting in Germany, passing through the Dachau concentration camp just after it had been liberated by the Americans and concluding its campaign only when it seized Hitler's “Eagle’s Nest” mountain retreat at Berchtesgarten in Bavaria, being the first force to enter this innermost sanctuary of elitist Nazism.

1944, 19 – 26 October: Battle of the Val d’Arán, Catalonia, Spain. Anarchist maquis like Antonio Téllez Solá, believing the Allied invasion of Europe presages them turning against Franco, joined Communist partisans in organising the 204th Division, numbering up to 7,000 guerrillas, which invades Spain via the Val d’Arán in order to precipitate this. They take several towns but are faced by 40,000 Moroccan troops, plus battalions of the Spanish Army, Guardia Civil and police. Many are caught or killed in combat with these state forces, but others including Téllez escape back into France.

1944 – 1945, 26 December – 13 February: Siege of Budapest, Hungary. Anarchist partisans of the Libertarian Front (SF) destroyed two units of the Hungarian Danube River Fleet in Budapest and blew up a munitions dump, although other anarchists were captured and executed after an attack on Nazi Party headquarters. The anarchist partisans, probably numbering about 500, then participated in the final battle for the capital in which they aided two Soviet assault groups numbering 170,000 in defeating the fascist Arrow Cross die-hards and their Nazi allies numbering 180,000.

1940s – 1950s: Resistance to Nationalism and Maoism, Yunan Province, China. Continuous guerrilla campaigns were carried out in the southern Yunan province of China, near the border with Burma and Vietnam, in the 1940s and 1950s by a force commanded by the anarchist Chu Cha-pei, modelled on those of the Makhnovists and RPAU.

1954 – 1957, 1 November  ?. Algerian Liberation War, Algeria. Members of the Libertarian Movement of North Africa (MLAN), which operated in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, participated in the liberation war against French colonialism, mostly by smuggling arms and uniforms, acting as drivers and couriers for the main rebel armies of the Algerian National Movement (MNA) and the National Liberation Front (FLN). Sadly, the FLN betrayed the MLAN and its Algerian Section was destroyed in 1957 between the FLN and the French forces.

1958, 19 – 30 December: Battle of Yaguajay, Cuba. Anarchist, 26th of July Movement (M26J) and other partisans of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE) in the Second Escambray Front numbering about 500 men descend from the Escambray Mountains, besiege this key provincial town and, in conjunction with anarchists of the Libertarian Association of Cuba (ALC), seize it from the 250-strong Cuban Armed Forces garrison.

1959, 1 – 8 January: Battle of Havana, Cuba. Anarchists and others of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE), the underground anarcho-syndicalist General Confederation of Labour (CGT), the “official” Cuban Workers’ Confederation (CTC), the Workers Revolutionary Union (URO), Revolutionary Worker, Libertarian Association of Cuba (ALC), and the Federation of University Students seized Havana. Armed with only 500 rifles, five machine guns and several tanks, they occupied the University and the Presidential Palace. When Castro announced the formation of a “provisional government” in the town of Santiago de Cuba, the DRE and its revolutionary allies scoffed, and refused to allow his 26th of July Movement (M26J) access to the Presidential Palace. Nonetheless, they permitted his forces to enter Havana, accompanied by “captured” army tanks and troops on January 8, 1959. 

1965 – 1982: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Western Europe. In 1965, Spanish exile anarchist youth formed a multinational First of May Group (GPM) which engaged in bloodless kidnappings, and the machine-gunning of the embassies of repressive regimes. In 1971, the Iberian Liberation Movement (MIL) was formed in Spain and France, based in Barcelona and Toulouse, launching its first attack in Barcelona the following year. By 1974, most MIL members were behind bars, so those still at large merged their forces with those of the GPM to form the Groups of International Revolutionary Action (GARI). On 3 May 1974, GARI kidnapped Spanish banker Angel Baltazar Suárez in Paris in an attempt to secure the release of 100 anarchist prisoners in Spain and to force Franco to return seized CNT funds. Suárez was released unharmed after a 3-million franc ransom was paid out of the union’s funds, but police arrested nine GARI militants in Paris. In 1978, GARI militants combined with factions known as Autonomous Co-ordinations and New Arms for Popular Autonomy to form a new anarchist-influenced guerrilla group called Direct Action (AD).

1968 – 1971: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Britain. The Angry Brigade conducts a series of spectacular bombings and sabotage actions – intended to be bloodless – aimed at Spanish fascist, British industrialist and class war targets.

1971 – 1976: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Uruguay. The 500-member Uruguayan anarchist Federation (FAU) argued that Uruguay had become a “constitutional dictatorship”, forcing it to operate as a secret organisation, so it expanded its combat capacity into a proper armed wing, the 100-strong Revolutionary Popular Organisation – 33 Orientals (OPR-33). Over the next five years – a real dictatorship being imposed in 1972 – it will conduct bank expropriations, bloodless kidnappings, and armed defence of striking factories controlled by the 400,000-strong National Convention of Workers (CNT) it created.

1976, 24 – 27 September: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Anarchist guerrillas of Libertarian Resistance (RL) – some of whom had been trained in Palestine – and the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation’s Revolutionary Popular Organisation - 33 (OPR-33) participate in the fight against the imposition of the Videla dictatorship. All but a handful are killed in a joint operation by the Argentine State Secretariat for Information (SIDE), operating with officers of the Uruguayan Military Intelligence Service under “Operation Condor”.

1979, 16 January – 11 February: Iranian Uprising, Iran. Anarchist forces of the 300-strong Workers’ Liberation Group (JS, or Shagila) of Iraq and the 500-strong Scream of the People (CHK) of Iran combine to support the neighbourhood shoras and worker kommitehs created during the Iranian Revolution. Their revolutionary movement peaks in July but is then defeated by the Khomeinist counter-revolution, and of those arrested, most are executed. By late 1979, anarchist opposition combat groups are still reportedly operating in Tehran.

1989 – 1992, 9 March – 27 April: Dismantling of the Soviet Union. From the fall of the Berlin Wall, resurgent anarchist organisations in Russia and just about all of the Soviet satellite states participated in the dismantling of the USSR. These actions are mostly peaceful, but do involve frequent clashes, sometimes armed, with fascists and nationalists.

2014, 20 February – June: Resistance to Nationalists and Fascists, Ukraine. The Black Guard squads of the Revolutionary Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists – “Nestor Makhno” (RKAS) engage in resistance to both the Russian-backed separatist paramilitaries of eastern Ukraine and to Ukrainian-backed fascist paramilitaries like the Azov Battalion, but the RKAS is forced underground.

2014 – 2015, July – 25 January: Defence of Kobanê, Rojava. Elements of the anarchist groups Social Rebellion (SI), and Revolutionary Anarchist Action (DAF) fight as part of the United Liberation Forces (BÖG) in defending the Rojava Revolution against the fascist Islamic State, lifting the siege of Kobanê.

[ENDS]

2016: the Year in Review

Working as the official minute-taker the at Safe Havens 2016 in Sweden, flanked by my friends Nigerian author Jude Dibia and HIAP's Eleni Tsitsirikou.

Troubling year, 2016: we lost Prince and David Bowie, and gained Trump as US president-in-waiting, and Erdoğan's state of emergency, but I was incredibly fortunate to do some fascinating work:

Jan: Submitted my report to ICORN and ProJourn on Safe Havens 2015, started planning on Unexploded Ordnance: Untold Southern African Stories, finished writing my 6th book, Isandlwana - a Love Story, started a research group for my multimedia project The People Armed: Anarchist Fighters Verbatim which is already partly complete.
Feb: Worked as a fixer on the 2015 Mt Sumi Massacre in Angola for the BBC, started work on the revision of Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism for its Spanish and Arabic translations (I have been offered Farsi and Amazigh translations too).
Mar: Interviewed by radio station ChaiFM on A Taste of Bitter Almonds, resumed the primary rewrite of Wildfire: Global Anarchist Ideological and Organisational Lineages, marking the 16th year of research and writing into this companion volume to Black Flame (2009).
Apr: Published on Africa's new-generation air forces, A Taste of Bitter Almonds launches at the Roving Bantu Kitchen and at the University of Johannesburg, started work on the alternate "six waves" version of Cartography.
May: Lead author of an official civil society submission to the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development on the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, started writing a new book concept, Notes for a Funeral, started planning my first novel, Jeanne & Giles.
Jun: Lead author of first survey of trans-diverse communities in four Southern African countries, Drinking With Ghosts and A Taste of Bitter Almonds long-listed for new national book award, relocated persecuted Zimbabwean human rights defender into exile in Namibia for the World Organisation Against Torture.
Jul: Published on the future of Africa's cities and on visions of mapping Africa, covered and presented at Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network summit, covered 2nd IAJ Racism Conference, hosted a talk at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre commemorating the 22nd Anniversary of the "100 Nights" Rwandan Genocide following the first South African screening of Beate Arnestad's documentary Telling Truths in Arusha.
Aug: Started work with the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network on getting Joburg on board ICORN, covered the Menell Media Exchange 2016 (I helped found the initial MMX in 2012), resumed work on Wildfire, started the rewrite of the Anarchist Communist Mass-line series as a single book, delivered copies of my anarchist books to comrades opposing the dictatorship in Swaziland, initiated a group around the film project The Dispossessed.
Sep: Covered Africa Aerospace & Defence 2016, published on the failures of BRICS in the arms industry, finalised the design of my website (thanks Angela!), worked on the Mass-line series, approached by Polisario regarding covering its new campaign for the liberation of Western Sahara from Moroccan colonialism.
Oct: Lead author of Durban AIDS Conference report on decriminalising gender, published on reassessing genocide and ethnic boundaries in Africa and on a comparative analysis of SA now and 1960s Italy, sold books at the Rocking for West Papua gig in support of that country's liberation from Indonesia, covered IAJ/AKF Reporting Racism Conference, briefed by SABC 8, worked on Wildfire, documentary Neither God nor Master: A History of Anarchism in which I am interviewed is screened to acclaim in Sweden, submitted songs to four local bands for EPs they are working on.
Nov: Worked on Wildfire and on the Mass-line series, presented at and covered SA's first-ever conference on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones), started discussions on a Japanese translation of Black Flame, getting Cape Town on board ICORN comes a step closer with the signing of an agreement between the mayors of Cape Town and Malmö.
Dec: Published on the late Fidel Castro's politics and on SA's new city coalition politics, landed research grant into apartheid SA's worst war-crime, attended Safe Havens 2016 in Sweden as report-writer, submitted my report on Safe Havens 2016, resumed work on Rasha Salti's and my multi-arts project Not Night, but An Absence of Stars, worked on Wildfire and the Mass-line series, continued support work on Radio Freedom (Zimbabwe) as I had throughout the year.

I am tentatively hopeful for an even more challenging and constructive workload in 2016 ;)

[ENDS]

Castor's pale shadow


[Extract from Notes for a Funeral, a work in progress]

Castor is holding court in what used to be the hair salon, with the fading placards of exotic West African hairdos still stuck on its windowfront. He sits on a cracked white plastic chair on the scrubbed linoleum floor, a girl on each arm. “You’ve been downtown,” he says to the plump one sitting on the steps leading to the wired-closed back room, she with the fake gold baubles holding high her piled braids; she smiles in the manner of simple girls, understanding his compliment on her new coiffure. Castor flashes his even white teeth about with ease. His face is open, his hands hang loosely in between his legs and he’s easy to like; not me, the one with the squinty eyes and the too-blonde stubble that refuses to become a beard; in my washed-out blue-and-white trackpants, I am all tendons and nerves; the lanky youths at the door don’t look me in the eye; but rather focus on their broken takkies or get sucked into Castor’s glow. They call him Captain in recognition of his easy leadership skills; they call me Whitey as a straight-faced descriptive, nothing more, Castor’s pale shadow. 
His Sparrows flutter about the run-down winter playground outside; he calls them his Sparrows because the young boys have this strange way of running, their heads thrust forward, their skinny shoulder-blades squeezed together and their arms trailing out of sight behind them. Swooping through the township like this, darting here and there, they indeed look like the little birds, but they are really just emulating the older boys who developed this mannerism deliberately, a method of moving swiftly, unpredictably, running with their arms behind their backs so that no-one could see if there was a pistol or kwatcha or not; but the threat was often real enough and the older folk stayed indoors when they saw the flocks gathering like birds on a wire. 
I wasn’t always sure myself, sometimes catching a flicker of a sneer in the glint of a Sparrow’s eye out of the corner of my eyes; I was wary of their sharpened bicycle spokes and years-worn paint-etched screwdrivers that would likewise flash in and out of view. Not that they would harm the lieutenant who was never called by that title, but sometimes things got confused in a fight, or the stream of our oaths was troubled by undercurrents of petty jealousies or vicious rumours; one can never be too careful. 
The next thing you know, and Castor has shucked off the fawning girls, and the boys flit around him, storming near, then looping far; more like bats, I think, the left side of my mouth twisting. Castor gives me a quick penetrating look, and then he is off and running with that lupine gait. I am taken by surprise; he hasn’t consulted me, but this morning he was talking incessantly about the newspaper report of the suddenness of that attack on a quiet street in Denmark; unpredictability is his skill; so without warning, he is heading down the district road, his Swallows in tow, clearly bent on an ersatz mission. I shake off my clumsiness and lope after them, a few stragglers swirling around me; we take a right turn at the dirt farm road where a fire is burning itself out under the straggly stands of bluegums, and my little group suddenly realises he is not taking the curve of the district road, down towards the river, but heading straight towards the highway. So we break across the smoking veld, to intercept them, the hot ashes scorching my feet, soot smearing my pant-cuffs. Along the way, we run into a cross-path that is tumbled full of rocks from a forgotten rain. There we merge with a group of primary school girls in their black pinafores; their faces shining they chant “Sticks and stones can break my bones…” There is going to be a war today.

[ENDS]

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Doing the Timeslip in Lost Highway

Renée Madison and Alice Wakefield would be versions of each other - except that they coexist in the middle timeline of Lost Highway

By Michael Schmidt

David Lynch’s noir film Lost Highway (1997) has a notoriously confusing plot (film synopsis here) but I’m going to give it a go. Stripping away supporting characters including screen-time-consuming ones such as the mechanic’s girlfriend Sheila who winds up jilted and the wife’s old friend Andy who winds up dead, we are left with three essential characters: the main protagonist is jazz saxophonist Fred Madison and, as we shall see, his variant(s), his dispassionate brunette wife Renée Madison and her variant(s), and vicious porn producer / gangster Dick Laurent, aka Mr Eddy.
Aside from the anomalies which I shall shortly discuss, the plot is in fact linear as we follow Fred from waking up to answer his door-buzzer to hear the fatal words “Dick Laurent is dead”. This initial version of Fred – let’s call him Alpha Fred – does not know the name Dick Laurent, and his mysterious caller has vanished. The first of six anomalies occurs later when, on waking up from a nightmare, Alpha Fred hallucinates briefly that his concerned wife’s face is supplanted by that of a Mystery Man.
The second anomaly occurs when, at a party thrown by Andy, Fred is approached by the same Mystery Man who mockingly demonstrates to him that he is both standing in front of him at Andy’s – and simultaneously able to answer the phone at Fred’s house. 
This rattles Fred as he has by this time received the second of two video tapes, this one showing the vision of an intruder who filmed Fred and Renée while they were asleep, an incident that provokes them to call in detectives to watch the house. Alpha Fred asks Andy who the Mystery Man is and is told he is a friend of Dick Laurent – apparently the first time Alpha Fred has heard the name.
The third anomaly is that the third video tape received by Fred shows him crying out in agony in their bedroom over the bloodied body of Renée, giving the impression that he saw the tape after Renée was murdered. Did he film himself doing it and then send himself – or an unsuspecting or innocent version of himself – the tape? Either way, his shock is swiftly escalated by his trial, conviction for murder and sentencing to the electric chair.
However, while in prison awaiting execution, Apha Fred suffers from migraines and further hallucinations that culminate in the first of two disjunctures which jolts Alpha Fred out of his primary timeline and into an alternative, though not necessarily parallel, universe: awaking in his cell, Alpha Fred appears to have been transfigured into motor mechanic Pete Dayton – to the consternation of his jailers.
Pete – who may also be called Beta Fred – is dating Sheila but got himself into some sort of, to his parents and Sheila, literally unspeakable trouble and wound up in jail on a traffic violation. With the wrong man behind bars and with Pete’s memory a blank, the confounded authorities release Pete but put a tail on him. 
Pete returns to work and there meets overzealous customer Mr Eddy who takes him for a violent joyride with two of his thugs. On later bringing in a second of his cars for repair, Mr Eddy is this time accompanied by Alice Wakefield, a woman that, but for her shorter blonde hair, is the spitting image of the murdered Renée. We would be tempted to call her Beta Renée – but it turns out later, that in this alternate timeline, Renée exists separately to Alice and that they cohabit the same timezone as friends of both Andy and Mr Eddy, with Alice working as a porn star for Mr Eddy.
Alice initiates an affair with Pete behind Mr Eddy’s back. Growing suspicious, Mr Eddy telephones Pete and puts onto the line the Mystery Man who has a conversation with Pete that mirrors that which Alpha Fred had with the Mystery Man at Andy’s. Spooked, Alice and Pete rob Andy in order to raise getaway money and Andy is killed in the process. They drive into the desert looking for a fence to give them cash for the goods they stole from Andy’s.
The fence is not at his cabin, and after making love on the sand, a second disjuncture occurs when Alice walks into the cabin never to be seen again while Pete, dusting himself off, is transformed into Fred again, or perhaps this should be Gamma Fred. This version of Fred is on the warpath because a brunette woman who seems to be Renée, and thus his wife (or perhaps Gamma Renée), is sleeping with Mr Eddy – Dick Laurent. 
Gamma Fred follows them to a motel and, when Renée leaves, assaults and kidnaps Dick, taking him out into the desert where with the assistance of the Mystery Man, he cuts Dick’s throat before a dying Dick is shot dead by the Mystery Man who then disappears. 
So far so good in that we have had only one alternate timeline disjointed from the primary narrative – which remains linear – in which the characters assume different personae and roles, while the Mystery Man is revealed to be rather an alter ego of Fred/Pete, apparently one that enables him to kill.
But then Gamma Fred returns home, presses his own doorbell, thereby waking Alpha Fred, and telling him over the intercom that “Dick Laurent is dead.” The timeline has thus looped, with Gamma Fred, having completed the loop, initiating Alpha Fred’s sequence with which the movie began. This is the fifth anomaly.
But there is one more, for Gamma Fred’s presence at the house is noted by the detectives that Alpha Fred called in after the second video tape. So it appears that the point of initiation is either not the same as in the initial narrative – or this timeline is slightly different, with potentially different outcomes. 
Is Renée still alive at the point when Gamma Fred presses the buzzer? Will she – as Gamma Renée who slept with Dick – be murdered by Alpha Fred/Gamma Fred/Mystery Man later? Has she been spared that fate now that Alpha Fred’s rival has been eliminated by Gamma Fred? Is she perhaps now a Delta Renée with no relationship to Dick? Or does she even exist in this apparently new timeline?
So in essence we have an initially linear plot in which the characters are midway disjointed temporally into another timeline where they play different roles, before returning to their initial timeline, but which then loops back to initiate its own sequence – though not in an identical manner to the original timeline, suggesting the possibility of several outcomes along various timelines enacted by variants of the three primary characters. Quite sci-fi for a noir movie!

[ENDS]

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Revisiting democratic South Africa's first land claim

Saul and Aletta Titus at home in Elandskloof, photographed by Jason Jardem for the 2014 GroundUp story here: Elandskloof 18 Years After Restitution

[Extract from A Taste of Bitter Almonds]

Elandskloof Valley, Cedarberg Mountains, Western Cape, 7 August 2002

Aletta Titus is 62 years old. She wears a blue short-sleeved worker's smock buttoned over a navy-blue jersey, for an icy wind is blowing down her valley this morning. An amber fringe of hair sweeps out from under her yellow doek, and she squints at me in the glaring sunlight through her round tinted spectacles, he face lined and pinched. Her work-worn hands grip the steel tubing of her wire-strand front gate. Behind her stands an apricot tree that in this fruit-farming district is unremarkable but for two facts; first that the tree is dead, yet has not been uprooted but has rather been left to stand and rot; and secondly that for Titus, the tree is a symbol of the hardships of her personal 45-year-battle to reclaim her farm, for six decades ago, in keeping with her people's traditions, as a newborn, her umbilical cord was buried at the root of the tree, a metaphorical lifeline tying her to her ancestral lands in this rugged valley two hours drive north of Cape Town.
Talking to myself and Sunday Times Cape Town bureau photographer Ambrose Peters, Titus is grumpy. She may be a beneficiary of democratic South Africa's first successful land claim for people dispossessed on racial grounds after the 1913 Land Act that assigned 80% of the country's land – including most of the prime arable ground – to the then 1-million whites and the rump to the 8-million blacks, but six years on, she still lives in an electricity-less timber shack built by her husband next to the ruins of her parents' old stone house. The dispossession of the black majority and the indigenous minority accelerated in the 1950s during the forced removals of people of colour from "black spots" that sullied the white landscape, the precursor to the establishment of consolidated semi-autonomous Bantustans in the 1970s (which implied the disenfranchisement of Bantustan residents as South African citizens). An ambitius plan under the ANC to tilt the balance back in favour of the dispossessed has seen, over the past six years, more than 332,000 people restored to 427,000 hectares of land. But 4,5-million people still await restitution, a process which has the impossible target of concluding in two years' time, another 15 million live in the former Bantustans, and another 7-million live on the farms. But the land restitution programme has been bedevilled by right-wing white farmer intransigence against change, the market-related "willing-buyer/willing-seller" policy that has cost the taxpayer R377-million, bureaucratic red-tape, critical skills shortages, and a rose-tinted spectacle vision of the nature of "community" that was unwilling to apprecite how estranged neighbours torn apart half a century ago wereunlikely to be rejoined with each other and their stolen land without bitter infighting.
When the community was uprooted and dispersed, leaving their buried umbilicals behind, one group of 50 families tried their best to retain their ties, working as labourers on the neighbouring farm of Allandale while agitating for a return to their land under the aegis of the "Watchfulness Committee" lead by John Januarie. Others, however, fled to the four winds, to Worcester, the West Coast, the Kouebokkeveld, and Cape Town where they acquired the habits, skills and better education of urban workers, and gradually lost their bucolic farmers' sensibilities, green thumbs, and weather-eyes. As Titus tells us: "The big story is the conflict among us.Most of us [original] Elandsklowers are dead; most of the children were born outside of the valley; there is a big gap between us; those who have been in the city can't fit in."
But it's more than just about generational drift and urbanised youngsters losing their feel for farming: families grow; and diverging communities disagree. The original 79 evicted families have now swelled to 308 claimant households. Meanwhile, the Committee's Januarie died in a decade ago in 1992, four years before the land claim was settled – and his successor on what was renamed the Elandskloof Property Association, Sampie Carolus, was from the Worcester group, a better-educated group that, according to what Elzbeth Engelbrecht of the Surplus People Project, an NGO that helped midwife the land-claim, told me, started exercising an undue influence on the Association and the claim process. And Elandsklowers are so narrowly xenophobic that it beggars belief: Oerson Januarie, the current Association leader who replaced Carolus was born in the valley – but he married Liza, a woman from Citrusdal, a mere 17km away; yet she says that she is often told she cannot talk at meetings because she is "an outsider." Faced with a community that was so fractious that, as Engelbrecht put it, was "so conflictual there was nothing they could do," the Land Claims Commission avoided the claimants themselves, but was then forced to rely on an Association riven by nepotism and factionalism as their representatives, and development in the valley ground to a halt. Most of the fertile lands in the valley are lying fallow, the old Dutch Reformed Church which was – shockingly, by the God-fearing standards of the Nationalists' respect for churches – used as a sheep-shearing shed during the community's decades in the wilderness is still not restored, and the schoolhouse is a hollow ruin with sagging floors, its walls daubed with graffitti.
Chief Land Claims Commissioner Dr Wallace Mgoqi told me that he views the land restitution process as "a cornerstone of reconstruction and development" that needs to "reduce poverty and contribute to economic growth." But he admits that the state's R1,440-a-household planning grant and R3,000-a-household discretionary restitution grant are not enough to ensure that once on the land, people put down roots in a sustainable way. The Commission does have poster-farm success stories such as the fruit and nut orchards in Limpopo or the game farms in KwaZulu-Natal where successful operations were taken over voetstoets by properly-capacitated claimants. But for underdeveloped farms, there is a rocky road ahead: the white farmers who supplanted the evicted blacks decades ago were given a leg up by a semi-socialist agrarian economy managed by produce control boards, their markets shielded by protectionist tariffs; but the re-emergent black farmers today have to deal with slender handouts and tough globalised competition with few protections.
Yet Mgoqi stressed to me that the tough task of forging a new sense of community is the chief impediment to the success of his programme: "Forced removals dispersed people all over the place and they lived in complete isolation. The process of restitution forces them to come together by reason of the fact that they all belong to that piece of land... and they then have to relate in a new way that may be completely different to what they were used to... The major challenge that faces them now is to become a coherent community." He also fears that failure will give ammuntion to the revolutionaries, saying that donor organisations should be linked to claimants to ensure the sustainability of farms "to bring sobriety to the fire-eaters who want to push recklessly for land invasions." 
Engelbrecht claims that today, the Elandsklowers have finally achieved "a sense of integration" in that those claimants living outside the valley have realised they must step aside and allow decision-making on development to be driven by those who have returned. Peters and I take a drive around to ascertain the full extent of the valley, reaching right up to a ramshackle old house on the watershed screened by scraggly bluegums, and are informed that civil lawsuits might see the extent of the restored claim quadrupled in size, making it more sustainable for a community that has also quadrupled over the decades. As we drive and trudge along, we see spanking-new community-owned tractors turning the veld's sod over for new orchards and vegetable fields. The state has allowed the community to harvest the traditional medicinal herb boegoe from neighbouring state forests, and Januarie has sent the local spring water for scientific analysis to see if it is viable as a source for entry onto the lucrative bottled-water industry. The Elandskloof has now been earmarked as a provincial priority project for the R15,000-a-household grant for the construction of proper housing, electrification and other services have been ordered to keep pace with the housing construction, and once the church is restored, there is a plan to link it to Genadendal, the country's oldest mission station, on a tourist "Mission Station Route". As Titus tells us, the Elandsklowers "must first get the inclination [to act] as a community" before they can develop the valley where their and their ancestors' umbilical cords are buried to its full potential.

[ENDS]