Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives

SKU: 9781629639437
Authors: Lucien van der Walt and Kirk Helliker • Preface by John Holloway
Series: PM Press
ISBN: 9781629639437
Published: 07/05/2022
Format: Paperback
Size: 6x9
Pages: 192
Subjects: POLITICAL SCIENCE / Anarchism • African • Political Economy & HISTORY / Africa / South / Republic of South Africa
Price:
$19.95

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For decades, most anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements identified radical transformation with capturing state power. The collapse of these statist projects from the 1970s led to a global crisis of left and working-class politics. But crisis has also opened space for rediscovering alternative society-centered, anti-capitalist modes of bottom-up change, operating at a distance from the state. These have registered important successes in practice, such as the Zapatistas in Mexico, and Rojava in Syria. They have been a key influence on movements from Occupy in United States, to the landless in Latin America, to anti-austerity struggles in Europe and Asia, to urban movements in Africa. Their lineages include anarchism, syndicalism, autonomist Marxism, philosophers like Alain Badiou, and radical popular praxis. This path-breaking volume recovers this understanding of social transformation, long side-lined but now resurgent, like a seed in the soil that keeps breaking through and growing. It provides case studies with reference to South Africa and Zimbabwe, and includes a dossier of key texts from a century of anarchists, syndicalists, insurgent unionists and anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. Originating in an African summit of radical academics, struggle veterans and social movements, the book includes a preface from John Holloway.

Praise

“Yes, universities may produce assemblies which serve the people. So, in 20012 at Grahamstown, South Africa, did Rhodes University (despite the name), and in that service produced a people’s knowledge to transform the economic, material, social, family, political, educational, and spiritual institutions of capitalism at their core, without hierarchy, racism, oppression, or chauvinism of any kind. With sober care, practical acumen, and passionate eloquence the knowledge from that assembly is presented here. Absorb this knowledge and sense the future!”
—Peter Linebaugh, author of The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (with Marcus Rediker)

“Capturing state power is regarded as the dominant means to achieving social transformation. This excellent collection challenges this prevailing perspective through examining societal and social movements in South Africa and Zimbabwe that have advocated and achieved tangible change from below without seizing state power. Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt offer a compelling counternarrative that is indispensable to the literature on social movements.”
—Immanuel Ness, City University of New York, author of Organizing Insurgency: Workers’ Movements in the Global South

“Moving beyond the disillusion and cynicism engendered by liberation movements of the global South which ‘triumphed’ and then betrayed everything they professed to hold dear, the contributors to this volume explore what could happen when and if ‘bottom-up’ labor, gender, and livelihood social movements stop lusting after the capture of state power. Mainly based in South African and Zimbabwean studies, the authors construct an exciting dialogue with the ideas of Mexico-based sociologist and philosopher John Holloway. Can there really be independent survival strategies against the twin malignancies of late capitalism and state turgidity? This is a must-read about the scope and health of 21st century social formations, trying to walk new paths of equitable human flourishing.”
—Teresa Ann Barnes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of Uprooting University Apartheid in South Africa: From Liberalism to Decolonization

“In the 1980s and ’90s, people who sought a world of equality, liberty, and socialism looked to Zimbabwe. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, after the fall of apartheid, even more looked towards South Africa. Tragically, the ruling parties in both countries—and which had led the liberation struggles in each—have proven epic failures and profound disappointments. Hence, it is high time to revisit historical social movements and more fully analyze recent ones that never placed their hopes in state power. This collection brings together fascinating research on the history of anarchist, community, rural, and worker movements from the early 20th century into the 21st that believe another world is possible.”
—Peter Cole, author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area

“In the light of the unfulfilled expectation of overcoming class and race inequality through state-centered national liberation movements and African state socialism this book edited by Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt offers a fascinating insight into the seldom told history of alternative socialist currents in Southern Africa.”
—Dario Azzellini, Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico, author of If Not Us, Who? Global Workers against Authoritarianism, Fascism and Dictatorships

“A must read for all people-centered movements aiming to transform society. This book could not have been written at a more opportune time, as ‘socialism’ returns to the world stage after a period of much disrepute and gross misinformation. It introduces us to past and present struggles in Southern Africa that do not see the capture of the state by vanguard parties as an adequate form of struggle., and that devise new ways to deal with the changes in capitalism.
—Zarina Patel, is editor of Awaaz magazine and author of The In-Between World of Kenya’s Media: South Asian Journalism, 1900–1992

“Time and again socialist movements have debated how best to achieve change. Some, like the anarchists and syndicalists, argued that it could only come from below, by means of working-class direct action, solidarity, and self-organization. The majority, with mainstream Marxists at the fore, argued that workers should take part in state politics and stand in elections. The judgment of history is clear: the former were right and, as predicted, rather the conquer state power, it conquered them. This excellent collection of essays brings a welcome South African and Zimbabwean perspective on this debate and will be interest to all those seeking to learn from history rather than repeat it.”
—Iain McKay, editor of Direct Struggle against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology

About the Authors

Lucien van der Walt is professor of Industrial and Economic Sociology at Rhodes University, South Africa. A prize-winning scholar, he is involved in labour education and has published and spoken widely. His main areas of research are anarchism and syndicalism, labour and left studies and history, and the political economy of neo-liberalism.

Kirk Helliker is a research professor in the Department of Sociology at Rhodes University in South Africa, as well as founder and director of the Unit of Zimbabwean Studies in the department. His main research interests are land reform, civil society and political transformation with particular reference to Zimbabwe. His books include the edited volumes The Political Economy of Livelihoods in Contemporary Zimbabwe and Everyday Crisis: Living in Contemporary Zimbabwe, and the authored Fast Track Land Occupations in Zimbabwe in the Context of the Zvimurenga, all in collaboration with Sandra Bhatasara and Manase Kudzai Chiweshe.

John Holloway is a professor of sociology at the Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades in the Benemérita Universidad Autùnoma de Puebla, Mexico. He has published widely on Marxist theory, on the Zapatista movement and on the new forms of anticapitalist struggle. His book Change the World Without Taking Power has been translated into eleven languages and has stirred an international debate. His book Crack Capitalism (Pluto, 2010) takes the argument further, suggesting that the only way in which we can think of revolution today is as the creation, expansion, multiplication, and confluence of cracks in capitalist domination.

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