The Industrial & Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) – a trade union, rural peasant movement, and urban squatters’ movement – formed on the docks in Cape Town in 1919. Within a decade, the ICU had expanded across Southern Africa without regard for national borders and counted people from various African countries and the Caribbean in its leadership, as well as people who were Indian and mixed race. The largely forgotten history of the ICU is well worth recovering in a time of escalating chauvinism and xenophobia. Our Dossier #20 offers an introduction to this extraordinary popular movement.
This dossier offers a sparkling introduction to Fanon’s life and work, stressing the contemporary political traction of his radical humanism, and noting that his work carries an ‘irrepressible openness to the universal’ and an axiomatic commitment to ‘recognize the open door of every consciousness’. It examines, in particular, Fanon’s contribution as a theorist of praxis committed to move beyond the ontological and spatial ordering of oppression and undertake a form of insurgent and democratic praxis in which ‘a mutual current of enlightenment and enrichment’ is developed between protagonists from different social locations.
In South Africa, grassroots activists talk of ‘the politic of blood’, referring to ongoing assassinations and other forms of repression. This dossier shows how grassroots activists and trade unionists have been subjected to ongoing repression by the state, beginning under apartheid and continuing under the rule of the African National Congress (ANC), much of which has never been fully acknowledged outside of activist circles.
The ideas of the radical Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire had a profound impact on popular struggles in South Africa. Initially taken up by Steve Biko and others in the Black Consciousness movement in the early 1970s, Freire’s ideas spread to the trade union movement and to the community movements. Today, Freire’s ideas continue to be used in progressive organisations in South Africa and to guide the work of many people undertaking political education work.