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Anarchism and syndicalism, Southern Africa

Lucien van der Walt


Anarchism , and particularly its syndicalist variant, played an important role in early labor and socialist politics in Southern Africa. Emerging in South Africa in the 1880s, and in Mozambique in the early twentieth century, it reached its apogee in the 1910s. Movements influenced by syndicalism continued in the 1920s, and spread to Southwest Africa (now Namibia), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) by the 1930s. The history of anarchism and syndicalism in Southern Africa, largely confined to a minority of the working class, provides a case of how this internationalist movement developed in the context of British and Portuguese colonialism and a racially divided working class. The region that became South Africa was marginal to the world economy before the 1860s, mainly significant for the port at the Cape of Good Hope and agricultural exports from Western Cape farms. Port Elizabeth emerged in the east, mainly an export point. Both were part of Britain's Cape Colony, the farms worked by Colored workers (descended from slaves and servants), and Africans. The neighboring Natal Colony had an important port, Durban, whose hinterland had sugar plantations, worked largely by indentured Indians. The interior was a patchwork of agrarian African kingdoms and Afrikaner republics (notably the Orange Free State and Transvaal). Diamond discoveries at Kimberley in 1867 ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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