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Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front

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The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF, also known as ZabFront or simply as Zabalaza), formerly known as the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZabFed), is a platformist-especifista anarchist political organisation in South Africa, based primarily in Johannesburg. The word "zabalaza" means "struggle" in isiZulu and isiXhosa. Initially, as ZabFed, it was a federation of pre-existing collectives, mainly in Soweto and Johannesburg. It is now a unitary organisation based on individual applications for membership, describing itself as a "federation of individuals".

The ZACF is rooted in the The Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft), by the Dielo Truda group, but does not accept the document uncritically. The ZACF is also inspired by the pamphlet Towards a Fresh Revolution, written by the Friends of Durruti group of CNT members during the Spanish Revolution, as well as by Georges Fontenis' post-war pamphlet Manifesto of Libertarian Communism. More recently it has come under the influence of South American especifismo.[1]

ZACF members are expected to be committed, convinced anarchist communist militants who must be in general agreement with the platformist principles of theoretical and tactical unity, collective responsibility, and federalism.[1][2] Its activities include study and theoretical development, anarchist agitation and participation in class struggle activism.[1]

As a platformist-especifista organisation, the ZACF subscribes to the idea of an "active minority". This means that the ZACF, unlike certain anarcho-syndicalist organisations, does not seek to build purely anarchist mass movements or unions; nor does it seek to turn existing social movements into anarchist-only movements.

Rather, in the tradition of social insertion championed by the FARJ (Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro, now part of the Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira or CAB), the ZACF works within existing movements in order to fight for the "leadership of anarchist ideas," the implementation of anarchist principles within such movements, and a revolutionary anarchist programme. This is because the ZACF holds that the strength of trade unions, social movements and other organisations of the working class lies in their ability to unite the greatest number of workers regardless of their political, religious or ideological affiliations.[1] At the same time, such movements can only undertake a revolutionary transformation of society when they are won to revolutionary anarchist positions.

Prior to becoming a unitary organisation, the organisations which formed the ZACF were:

  • The Anarchist Black Cross; [1]
  • The Bikisha Media Collective;
  • The Black Action Group;
  • The Zabalaza Action Group; and
  • Zabalaza Books (which remains in existence as a branch of the ZACF) [2]


The ZACF is the most recent in a rather short line of South African anarchist organisations stretching back to the early 1990s, from which it has inherited some members. Following the destruction of the semi-syndicalist Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union of Africa (ICU) in the 1930s,[3][4] anarchism (including its syndicalist variant) only began to re-emerge as a movement in South Africa with small anarchist collectives, established primarily in Durban and Johannesburg, in the 1990s. In 1993, the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) was established in Johannesburg; its student section included militants from the anti-apartheid movement.

In 1995, a larger movement, the Workers' Solidarity Federation (WSF), replaced the ARM. The WSF incorporated a Durban-based collective which published the journal Freedom; it also produced its own journal entitled Workers' Solidarity. The WSF was in the tradition of platformism, as opposed to the far looser ARM, and focused mainly on work within black working class and student struggles. It established links with anarchist individuals and small anarchist collectives in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zambia; and helped to establish a short-lived Zambian WSF.

In 1999, for a range of reasons, the WSF dissolved. It was succeeded by two anarchist collectives: the Bikisha Media Collective and Zabalaza Books. These two groups co-produced Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism,[5] which has since become the journal of the ZACF.[6] In the late 1990s and early 2000s, activists in these structures were involved in struggles against privatisation and evictions, and Bikisha was formally affiliated to the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), with a Bikisha member serving as APF Media Officer.

On May Day in 2003, the ZACF was formed; initially as the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation/ZabFed. The early ZACF was essentially a regroupment of local anarchist groups, bringing together a number of new anarchist collectives in Gauteng and Durban, along with the Bikisha Media Collective and Zabalaza Books. In 2007, in order to strengthen its structures, the ZACF was reconstituted as the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front. By this time, the ZACF also had members in Swaziland, and was running a small social centre in Motsoaledi squatter camp in Soweto.

While committed to promoting syndicalism in the unions, ZACF work was in practice largely focused on the so-called "new social movements", formed in South Africa in response to the perceived failures of the African National Congress government post-apartheid.[1] The ZACF was involved in the campaigns of the Anti-Privatisation Forum and the Landless People's Movement. It has also been involved in solidarity work with Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign.[7] In addition to such work, the ZACF is active in organising workshops and propaganda.

Following the formation of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) in 2011, the ZACF has become a member organisation. However, it is critical of the mostly middle-class composition of the DLF's leadership, and of the electoral ambitions of some DLF affiliates.[8] Like a substantial section of DLF supporters, the ZACF was critical of the DLF's organising processes up to, and during, the protests at 'COP-17' in Durban, that is, the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which it argued were top-down and manipulated.[9]


In a Black Flag interview this was said about the class/social composition of the ZACF's membership:

The Front's groups are made up of both blacks and whites who are majority working class, some of whom are unemployed or students. Current membership is pretty equally divided between black and white, but there are far more black people living in "squatter camps" and townships who have expressed a genuine interest in anarchism than white people living in suburbs. A typical member would be in their early 20s, casually employed and male. We expect female membership to climb as our community projects prove their worth and also hope to attract indigenous*, Asian and coloured activists. (*NB: "indigenous" refers to Bushmen, Griquas, Khoekhoen and other self-described "yellow" First Peoples who lived in South Africa before black people arrived).

Later on the Zabalaza Debate Forum it was stated that

The ZACF is comprised of "black" and "white" members in roughly a 50/50 mix, with a presence in the "black" townships of Motsoaledi (Soweto), Dlamini (Soweto) and Umlazi (Durban). We do not currently have any "Indian" membership. As for our activities on the ground, I refer you to our announcement, posted today to this forum entitled "ZACF restructured."

Links to other organisations[edit]

The ZACF, then still ZabFed, was part of the short-lived International Libertarian Solidarity (the ILS).,[10] as were its predecessors Bikisha Media Collective and Zabalaza Books.[11]

Following the disbanding of the ILS, the ZACF became part of the platformist-especifist Anarkismo network.[12] As such, the ZACF has close links to the member organisations of the Anarkismo network; particularly with the Workers' Solidarity Movement (WSM) in Ireland, the Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira (CAB) in Brazil, Common Struggle — Libertarian Communist Federation (formerly NEFAC) in the United States, the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (FdCA) in Italy, the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) in Uruguay, Alternative Libertaire in France and the Federación Anarco-Comunista de Argentina (FACA) in Argentina. It has also had intermittent contact with the Awareness League in Nigeria and with numerous smaller anarchist collectives in Africa.[13][14] It retains contact with syndicalist unions linked to the erstwhile ILS, such as the Confederación General del Trabajo in Spain.

In a Black Flag interview when the organisation was still known as ZabFed, the ZACF's international links were summarised as follows:

In Africa we have had intermittent contact with the Awareness League in Nigeria although this is hard to maintain, as is the case throughout the third world, due to the lack of access to communication. We have also recently established contact with the ACCK in Kenya and anarchists in Uganda as well as members of the SWAYOCO in Swaziland. Internationally the ZACF is a member of the International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS) network and has links with other ILS affiliates across Latin America, North America, Europe and the former USSR. Historically, our closest international links have been with the Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) of Ireland, with the Swedish Workers Central Organisation (SAC), with both the CNT-AIT, the CNT-Vignoles and the Francophone Anarchist Federation in France and the CGT in Spain. In recent years, closer ties have been established, often via the ILS, with the Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC) of the USA/Canada, the Anarchist Communist Federation (FdCA) in Italy, Rebel (Auca) of Argentina, the Gaucha Anarchist Federation (FAG) and their associates in Brazil, Tinku Youth of Bolivia, the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU) and the CIPO-RFM of Mexico. We are in contact with the Cuban Libertarian Movement in Exile (MLCE) in Mexico and in France, with the Iranian underground and the Iraqi exile movement -and with numerous other organisations - including ABCs - spanning the globe from Costa Rica to New Zealand, from Chile to Russia.


The ZACF publishes Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism. This journal is the organisation's theoretical journal and contains ideological and analytical articles aimed to benefit the anarchist communist movement in general, and the southern African anarchist communist movement in particular. Additionally, it publicises and promotes the official line of the ZACF as determined by the organisation's membership. The ZACF's other major publication is, the official website of the organisation.[6]

The following is a list of all editions of the Zabalaza journal thus far published:

Zabalaza Books[edit]

Zabalaza Books is an anarchist publishing project linked to the ZACF. It is an anarchist literature mail order project that publishes and distributes classic and contemporary anarchist books, pamphlets, music, and videos in the southern African region. It originated as an underground collective in the 1990s at the end of apartheid. The topics covered include anarchism, revolutionary unionism, women's liberation, revolutionary history, national liberation and decolonisation, and many others. It distributes much of the literature in a PDF format on its website.[15]

Contact info[edit]


Postnet Suite 153
Private Bag X42
South Africa

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

This article contains content from Wikipedia. Current versions of the GNU FDL article Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front on WP may contain information useful to the improvement of this article WP


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 ZACF. 'What is the ZACF?'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  2. Dielo Truda group [1926] (2006). Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft), Ireland: Nestor Makhno Archive. URL accessed 5 January 2012.
  3. Giliomee, H. and Mbenga, B. (2007). New History of South Africa. Cape Town: Tafelberg. pp. 248-250.
  4. Schmidt, M. and van der Walt, L. (2009). Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counter-Power vol. 1). Oakland and Edinburgh: AK Press. pp.164-170.
  5. South African Struggle Archives. 'Anarchism, revolutionary syndicalism and anti-authoritarian movements in South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 ZACF. "Constitution of the ZACF". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  7. CNT. (2011). 'Zabalaza: A Voice for Organised Anarchism in South Africa'. Barcelona: CNT. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  8. 'The "Democratic Left": A Small Step Towards United Working Class Struggle'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  9. Towards a Truly Democratic Left, Jonathan Payn, December 2011
  10. 'Anarchist Organizations'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  11. InterActivist Info Exchange. 'South African Anarchists Join International Libertarian Solidarity Network'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  12. ZACF. 'Anarkismo Network'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  13. 'About Us'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  14. African Struggle Archive. 'Anarchism in Africa'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  15. Zabalaza Books. 'About Us'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.