Congress Militant: The paper as a revolutionary organiser
Congress Militant, paper of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency (MWT) of the ANC, was published between the late 1980s and 1996 (when it was replaced by Socialist Alternative). As the more propagandistic accompaniment to the theoretic journal, Inqaba ya Basebenzi (published in exile from 1981) the paper played a crucial role in the organisation of the MWT of the ANC inside the country. Linked to and modelled on similar papers published by national sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International, Congress Militant also drew on the experiences of revolutionary papers produced in South Africa over the course of the 20th century. Initially produced semi-clandestinely, and more openly from the early 1990s, thousands of copies of each issue were sold across the country. This presentation will reflect on two central aspects of the paper: its production and role as organiser, both of which were fundamentally influenced by radical political ideas and praxes. An Editorial Committee, comprising mainly full-time organisers, had overall responsibility for the production of the paper and its political positions. Many articles, however, were written by worker and youth activists, which process often involved collective writing exercises. Organised as sites of both political education (including literacy education) and deliberation over strategies and tactics of struggles, this programme of ‘writing from below’ was arguably the life-blood of the paper. Inspired by Lenin and Trotsky’s writings on revolutionary papers as party organisers, Congress Militant was used as propaganda tool in struggles (here the presentation will focus on two campaigns: the organisation of Self-Defence Units in the early 1990s and a campaign to radicalise the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union), recruiter, fund-raiser and as the scaffolding for the organisational structure of the MWT of the ANC. The presentation will explore the dynamics inherent in the co-existence of the commitment to participatory practices in the production the paper with the objectives of articulating and propagating ‘a line’, the formulation of which ultimately rested with the Editorial Committee.
Noor Nieftagodien is the South African Research Chair in Local Histories & Present Realities and Head of the History Workshop at Wits University. He is a member of the Editorial Collective of Amandla!, an activist magazine published since 2006, and serves on the boards of the South African History Archives, the Alternative Information and Development […]