Theme and programme
Over the last 12 years the Winter School has been an important point of convergence for organisations as a platform for debate, discussion, political theory, skills workshops, networking and building solidarity. In 2009, the College changed the format of the school from a week long closed conference to a 10-day educational festival. This enabled the College to expand the audience of the school by opening it to the broader public. This format enables more activists to participate in the school, greater programmatic flexibility with the content of the school, and the opportunity to firmly profile the institution as a whole in the public domain. Khanya College’s Annual Winter School is also an opportunity for the development of regional solidarity, popular democracy, organisation and mobilisation.
The Winter Schools of 2009 and 2010 analysed both the global economic crisis, and crisis of resistance. These themes enabled the School to critically examine why the working class has been unable to defend itself against the decline in its living standards, and in many instances (both in South and in Southern Africa) against the closure of democratic spaces in these countries.
The global economic and financial crisis that erupted in 2007–2008, arose from the globalisation of production and finance over the past 25 years. The response of the ruling classes have been to shift the burden of the crisis on to the working class through amongst others, the restructuring of state assets, cuts in public expenditure, increased taxation, the privatisation of basic services, attacks on workers’ pensions and social benefits and unemployment. This in effect results in the consistent transfer of wealth to a tiny financial elite as ruling classes and political elites use the economic disaster they created as an opportunity to impoverish the working class, poor peasants and the poor in general, even further.
A fragile working class
While the working class and the poor are forced to struggle because they cannot live under the current economic and social conditions of deprivation, these forces have been unable to stop the decline in its living standards and rebuild and replenish their organisations and its resources. While popular protests, especially for basic service delivery, have occurred throughout the country, these have been uneven. The impact of the restructuring, the retrenchments, the high unemployment and the generalised impoverishment has taken its toll and weakened the working class and the poor and led to a ‘crisis of resistance’.
While some communities boycotted the recent local government elections, and others put up alternative candidates, a cohesive strategy to the elections eluded the movement as a whole. Many organisations struggle with internal issues such as the lack of resources, corruption and accountability, and the absence of consistent political work in communities. Many NGOs and community organisations within the social justice movement have closed.
From CRISIS TO RESISTANCE
The social movements that emerged around 2000 in the region quickly reached their peak, in terms of levels of organisation and mass support, before a period of protracted decline set in. The decline occured before the current global financial crisis and led to the complete demise of some of the movements, while others have continued to limp along, their future uncertain.
The new and young leadership thrown up by the social movements did not have time to develop a clear theory about the nature of the present period, and what it means to build organisation in such a context. The emerging movements have yet to learn how to sustain their organisation in a period of political decline, and more critically, how to build a new cadre in this period. In sum, the new leadership has still to confront what it means to build a new movement.
Against this background, the most urgent tasks facing the social justice movement are:
- the need for clarity of analyses of the current period and the sources of the problem; and
- the need for clear perspectives on how to re-unite and rebuild the working class, the poor and their allies to defend themselves and to strengthen its resistance in the context of current challenges.
Strategies for movement building
For many popular movements there is a strategic impasse: the movements have no immediate or medium to long-term strategy of how to turn around the cycle of decline and weakness?
Besides the skills workshops for activists, the Winter School 2011 includes a focus on developing strategies for movement building, in particular, a focus on what constitutes the elements of a strategy. Each network for resistance will focus on developing a strategy for movement building.
The school will also highlight the particular popular education methodology developed by Latin American activist, Paolo Freire. Freire developed the methodology as part of the struggle of oppressed people, of working people, in their struggle for liberation.
Despite the uneven nature of the networks, the school will also provide them with the space to debate and to develop and integrate their work.
Khanya College Winter School Team
July – August 2011 Programme Co-ordinator: Maria van Driel
Logistics Co-ordinator: Elias Kodisang
WINTER SCHOOL EVENTS 2011
- Conference on Political Economy, 28-29 July 2011, House of Movements.
The Conference is hosted by the Khanya Journal, a project of Khanya College and discusses the ‘Environment, Cop 17 and Resistance, ’ in preparation for the UN Conference, COP 17, on the environment that takes place in Durban later this year.
- Cultural Festival, 31 July 2011, Museum Africa
This festival includes theatre, music and poetry by community activists.
- Skills Workshops, 1-2 July, House of Movements
Activists will be able to participate in 16 different skills workshops.
- NGO/CBO Fair, 3 August, Museum Africa, with Foundation for Human Rights
This is an opportunity for NGOs/CBOs to host a stall and highlight their work, and engage with other organisations, and/or to host a Roundtable discussion and debate issues relevant to their sector and broader civil society.
- Film festival ENVIRONMENT AND RESISTANCE, 3 August, Museum Africa – with Uhuru Productions
- Networks for Resistance, 4-5 August, House of Movements
The Networks provide space to engage with other activists and networks. The focus is on developing strategies for movement building, and the elements of a strategy. Each network will have an opportunity to develop towards a strategy specific to their needs.
- JOZI BOOK FAIR, 6, 7 and 8 August, Museum Africa
The annual book fair is for everyone – women, children, and men. This is an opportunity to meet authors, participate in Roundtable discussions, and engage South African, African and international literature, art and culture.