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Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front

Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front
Founded 1 May 2003 (2003-05-01)
Headquarters Johannesburg
Ideology Anarchist communism, platformism, especifismo
International affiliation Anarkismo
Colours Red and black
Politics of South Africa
Political parties

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

The ZACF is rooted in the post-war pamphlet Manifesto of Libertarian Communism. More recently it has come under the influence of South American especifismo, a tendency which originated in the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU, or Uruguayan Anarchist Federation).[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 ideological affiliations. At the same time, the ZACF believes such movements can only undertake a revolutionary transformation of society when they are won to revolutionary anarchist positions.[1]


  • History 1
  • Links to other organisations 2
  • Publications 3
  • Zabalaza Books 4
  • Repression and other challenges 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


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 merger of the International Socialist League (ISL) and Industrial Socialist League into the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in 1921, and 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. It also 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. The early ZACF was essentially a regroupment of local anarchist groups, bringing together a number of new anarchist collectives in Gauteng and Durban (including a local chapter of the Anarchist Black Cross), along with the Bikisha Media Collective and Zabalaza Books.

In 2007, to strengthen its structures, the ZACF was reconstituted as the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front based on direct individual affiliation in a unitary structure, rather than the looser federal system in place. By this time, the ZACF also had members in Swaziland, and was running a small social centre in Motsoaledi squatter camp in Soweto. Effectively, in its first phase, ZACF was built through the affiliation of groups, and members came into Zabalaza through the groups, each with somewhat different structures, aims and recruitment systems. With the December 2007 restructuring, members joined ZACF, and then the groups. The 2007 restructuring also saw the ZACF became South African only, with a separate Swazi anarchist group set up in 2008 that remained closely allied to, but distinct from, ZACF. ZACF policy throughout has stressed the need for a non-racial formation, with members of all races, and opposed separate organisations on the lines of race or gender.

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 (ANC) government post-apartheid.[1] The ZACF was involved in the campaigns of the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) and the Landless People's Movement (LPM). 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 Durban, that is, the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which it argued were top-down and manipulated.[9] By 2012, ZACF had effectively left the DLF.

Links to other organisations

The ZACF, then still ZabFed, was part of the short-lived [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–especifista São Paulo and the Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (FAG, or Gaúcha Anarchist Federation) in Rio Grande do Sul. (The latter three are members of the Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira, or Brazilian Anarchist Coordination.) 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 (CGT, or General Confederation of Labour) in Spain.


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]

Zabalaza Books

The former logo of Zabalaza Books.

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 PDF format on its website.[15]

Repression and other challenges

The fortunes of the ZACF have varied over time. Repression has affected its sections in the black townships, most recently in the form of attacks on ZACF militants in the Khutsong township west of Johannesburg on the 16 and 17 October 2015. This is not the first instance: previous incidents saw comrades threatened in Protea South, Soweto, a member jailed in Johannesburg, threats of violence within Swaziland, and the arrest of a South African member at the Swazi/ South Africa border post.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e ZACF. 'What is the ZACF?'. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  2. ^  
  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. ^ a b ZACF. "Constitution of the ZACF". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  7. ^ 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.

External links

  • Official website
  • Zabalaza Books
  • Position Positions of the ZACF, adopted 2003
  • Position Paper against "Separate Organisations" (by race, gender etc.) of the ZACF, adopted 2003
  • Zabalaza: a Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism
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