Network of Resistance Meetings: Overview

KC JOURNAL NO 23 APRIL 2010

In this article, Nerisha Baldevu* gives an overview of the discussions in the

Within the context of Crisis and Resistance, Winter School 2009 brought together a range of activists and organisations in differents areas of struggle for two-day meetings of networks of resistance. The primary aim of these meetings of networks and prospective networks was to strengthen national and regional movements of activists organising in the various sites of struggle. In turn, these networks would contribute to the building of a radical social justice movement. Eight Networks of Resistance meetings took place at the House of Movements between Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 August. A ninth network meeting, of small and independent publishers, took place on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 August, at Museum Africa. A total of 206 School participants attended these 9 meetings, with a large representation from other African countries.

Southern african farmworkers network

As an already established network with regular activities, the SAFN used the opportunity presented by the network meeting to further strengthen itself by drawing new countries such as Angola and Rwanda into the discussions and debates. It further used the meeting to deepen its understanding of the impact of the global crisis on farmworkers in the region. The network identified the following as key issues to be prioritised in the next while:

  • Access to land and related questions of evictions and housing
  • Women’s lives and their place in the agricultural economy
  • Child labour
  • Violence against women and children As a way forward in beginning to address these issues, the network agreed to the following:
  • Khanya College would do a summary of legislation dealing with security of tenure;
  • Khanya College would summarise sections of country constitutions dealing with land;
  • The network would begin documenting member stories and strategies to share with all in the network.

Network of resource Centres

As a first meeting of organisations with resource centres, this meeting provided a platform for the sharing of ideas and discussions on the challenges resource centres face. These included:

  • The lack of a reading culture particularly in black communities, and the necessity of re- source centres identifying and implementing strategies that develop and foster a culture of reading;
  • The need for resource centres to begin engaging the communities they serve, to market and pro- mote themselves, increase user numbers, and to encourage community contributions;
  • The importance of resource centres stocking literature in indigenous languages, and promot- ing indigenous writing;
  • Using information technology to promote themselves, while at the same time, catering for communities without access to technology;
  • The need to establish proper systems within re- source centres for lending and tracking material

As a way forward, the meeting agreed to closer co- operation between the resource centres represented, exchange visits for the purpose of learning and identifying best practices, the development of a referral system for users, and the exploration of the possibility of seeking joint funding.

Network of regional Social movements

Participants in this meeting used it as an opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of the impact of the crisis, the nature of the struggles and forms of resistance taking place in the different countries. On the impact of the crisis and resistance, the meeting noted the following:

  • In general, the impact of the crisis was similar in all the countries, although at times, the effects were difficult to distinguish from the general ongoing crises, as in Zimbabwe.
  • All countries present experienced job losses, price hikes, lack of service delivery, decreasing revenues to the state and frequent civil unrest.
  • Corporations and governments throughout the region blamed the crisis for cuts that hit workers and the poor the hardest.
  • The responses to the crisis were likewise difficult to distinguish from general resistance to the structural reasons behind the crises.
  • Civil society was noting areas where cuts were unneccessarily blamed on the crisis, such as retrenchments in companies still making profit and cuts in delivery and workers rights.

On the issue of regional solidarity, the meeting noted the following:

Xenophobia was on the rise.

People leaving their countries of birth did not form resistance networks or movements against the conditions in those countries in the countries in which they settled. This applied in particular to Zimbabweans in South Africa.

The various national social forums and the regional Southern African Social Forums have been fruitful, strenghtening civil society and creating lasting links and cooperation between participants.

SASF is frequently mistaken for an organisation or a network, and treated as such rather than a space.

There was a commodification of resistance resulting in the creation of mercenary activists who lived on hopping from one forum to another.

Based on this discussion, the meeting concluded that there was a need for the creation of a Network of Regional Solidarity that would:

  • Build solidarity in the region
  • Build and strengthen organisations
  • Support direct practical actions
  • Create space for discussion
  • Take forward Social Forum resolutions
  • Be a platform for the sharing of information on strategies and tactics

The meeting also discussed the structure and values of, and participation in, the network, and agreed to take this proposal back to their organisations, and to continue discussions online, and when opportunities to meet presented themselves.

Network on resources for movements

One of the key strategic issues that face social movements and their support organizations is that of resource mobilization and resource management. The issues under consideration in this meeting included:

  • The clarification of what we mean by resources for movements (is it just money?);
  • What political principles should guide our resource mobilization strategies (should we accept funds and other resources from any quarter?);
  • How we mobilize resources?
  • How do we build self-reliance on the part of movements and their members?
  • How we manage the resources we mobilise?
  • What political principles should guide the way we manage these resources.

Over the last few years the issues of resource mobilization and resource management has emerged as a major issue in the relationship between social movements and the support organizations (service organizations or NGOs) who have been instrumental in resource mobilization up to now. In the main, this debate has taken the form of a debate about the role of service organizations in the process of movement building. While this issue is related to the issues raised above, it has obscured the strategic and political issues relating to resource mobilization. The consequence of this is that the resource mobilization and management strategies and practices of social movements is in most cases no different from those of the service organizations they sometimes criticize. Among the social movements we do not see any approaches to resource mobilization and management that show serious and systematic thinking about the political basis of how this issue is approached. In many social movements the issue of resource mobilization and management have led to splits, to undemocratic practices and sometimes to corruption.

Within the social movements and the service organizations themselves, the people who in most cases are responsible for resource mobilization (in particular fundraising), and those involved in resource management (the administrative staff of the organizations) are seldom involved in the political work of the organizations. This is particularly the case with the people who are mainly responsible for resource management, the financial administrative staff. This problem is most manifest in the service organizations, even in those who espouse a radical and democratic politics. The meeting discussed the above issues and resolved that, while it is difficult for social movements and NGOs to not rely on donor funding, it is still a goal that we should strive for.

Network for Community museums

Participants at this meeting reflected on the question of whether a community museum movement existed in South Africa. All participants agreed that such a movement was necessary, and resolved to initiate it.

The meeting noted the following issues:

  • Ownership of the history of communities: Professional historians usually write this his- tory, and this usually implies an exploitation of community memory and resources;
  • Government co-option often threatens to destroy the grassroots movement.
  • Community heritage movements needed to be strong so that developers could not destroy sites and exploit the heritage of the area (e.g. District 6 and Workers Museum).

While the meeting did not result in the formation of a network, it did agree on closer cooperation between organisations towards the formation of a network, and a range of activities for that purpose. The meeting also agreed on the need for a network to address the following issues:

  • Governance
  • Education of members and communities/herit- age awareness
  • Fundraising/sustainability

network of theatre activists and Performers Participants at this meeting identified the following challenges:

  • Producers are interested only in profits
  • Exploitation of the the people’s stories through capitalist productions
  • Institutions do not promote African plays, and have European agendas and programmes instead
  • South African theatres are profit-orientated
  • The need for artists to document their ideas and creative programmes to protect them against exploitation
  • The need for artists to be educated on legal frameworks and copyright issues The meeting agreed to the following priority areas:
  • Strengthening of indigenous language in theatre
  • Building solidarity among artists so as to im- prove their working environment
  • The need for artists to enter the management level
  • Targeting own communities as audiences

The meeting agreed to the following as a way forward:

  • To build solidarity through networking (e.g. chatter boxes, multimedia communication)
  • To engage the market on theatre issues
  • The use media to market theatre
  • To create a real national tour that goes be- yond the central urban areas like Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg etc, so as to reclaim our spaces, particularly in the Eastern Cape

Network of activists against Xenophobia

Participants of this meeting noted the following as the causes for divisions within the working class:

  • Physical and psychological ‘borders’ and barri- ers that lead to xenophobia and hatred include national borders, race, religion, tribalism, sexual orientation, social class, level of literacy, culture and language, and political ideologies
  • The global economic crisis has resulted in the contraction of world economies, retrenchments, the repossession of property, and the reduction in the provision of social services.
  • The already poor working class has been hardest hit by the crisis, and is struggling to survive, leading to anger and frustration. In the absence of strong working class organisations to direct their anger to the right culprits i.e. capitalists, they vent their anger on immigrant communi- ties, leading to xenophobia Participants agreed it was necessary:
  • Challenge the issue of thresholds in Bargaining Councils and other institutions of bargaining.
  • Formulate demands of independent unions and engage other unions who are not necessarily mem- bers of the union.
  • Engage and formulate a response to the NEDLAC agreement on the current economic crisis.
  • Build solidarity in action between independent unions.

The meeting further agreed that:

  • GIWUSA will take the lead in the establishment of the Forum and engage other sympathetic unions.
  • Unions need to adopt a more social approach and draw experiences from other international labour organisations.
  • The unions will continue engaging each other on issues that confront them and explore possibili- ties of joint work.
  • They will convene another meeting of independ- ent unions in the near future.

* nerisha baldevu works at khanya College and is a member of the Editorial Collective.

  • To combat xenophobia by developing strategies and campaigns, and mobilising resources;
  • To educate and inform the public;
  • To mobilise immigrant organisations and com- munities, social movements, students, media, NGOs and CBOs, etc against xenophobia.

Network of Independent unions

Participants at this meeting identified the following challenges facing independent unions:

  • The question of thresholds in bargaining councils and other institutions of collective bargaining, and how to challenge them. As these thresholds are out of reach for independent unions, the majority of workers are excluded in the bargaining processes.
  • The proliferation of unions in different industries.
  • Organising strategies that are no longer applica- ble in view of the changes in the workplace and the current economic crisis.
  • The need for member education on the crisis and how to defend their interests.
  • Labour brokers

As a way forward, the meeting agreed to establish a Forum of Independent Unions. The meeting identified the following tasks for the Forum:

  • To act as a political mouthpiece of independent unions on labour related matters.
  • Challenge the issue of thresholds in Bargaining Councils and other institutions of bargaining.
  • Formulate demands of independent unions and engage other unions who are not necessarily members of the union.
  • Engage and formulate a response to the NEDLAC agreement on the current economic crisis.
  • Build solidarity in action between independent unions.

The meeting further agreed that:

  • GIWUSA will take the lead in the establishment of the Forum and engage other sympathetic unions.
  • Unions need to adopt a more social approach and draw experiences from other international labour organisations.
  • The unions will continue engaging each other on issues that confront them and explore possibilities of joint work.
  • They will convene another meeting of independent unions in the near future.

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