Towards the All College Conference
It’s been more than 10 years since Khanya College decided to build social movements as its basic orientation. The strategy of building a new social justice movement through focusing on the (then) emerging social movements was taken in 2000 at the All College Conference held at the Orchards Conference Centre, near Norwood, Johannesburg. Staff members attended the conference, the board of trustees, and activists from movements that the College worked with at the time. Over the last decade this overall strategic orientation has provided a compass that has guided the many activities of the College, and it has also defined the profile of Khanya College within the broader social justice movement and in the broader public as well. After this extended period of building a social justice movement through a focus on the new social movements, a strategic review of the past decade has become necessary as a platform on which to map out the College’s orientation over the next decade or more.
The context to the All College Conference 2012
Since the anti-globalisation movement made its public statement by closing the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, there have been major achievements, changes and shifts in the global and local struggles for social justice. Khanya College’s All College Conference in 2012 must be located against the background of these achievements, changes and shifts.
Following the end of legal apartheid in 1994 the decade of the naughties (2000s) saw the emergence and growth of the new social justice movements. Prominent among these were the Treatment Action Campaign, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, the Anti-Eviction Campaign, and the Landless People’s Movement. There was also a proliferation of many localised movements across the country. These movements were involved in many national mobilisations such as during the World Conference Against Racism (2001), the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) and the mobilsations against the war in Iraq (2003). During the naughties countless other local mobilisations in communities made South Africa a country with the highest number of social protests. In this period countless community formations were established and national networks were forged. In 2000 the All College Conference anticipated this resurgence, and managed to position itself in the ‘eye of the storm’.
By the middle of the naughties signs that the new social movements were running out of steam were evident. Although the formation of the Social Movements Indaba had promised a more national and sustained mobilisation following the WSSD in 2002, by 2006 this had failed to materialise and a period of sustained decline of the social movements had began to set in. The decline of the movements could be seen on a number of levels, including a failure to mount a coherent, coordinated and unified response to the local government elections in 2006, a similar failure to mount a response to the national elections in 2009, a failure to intervene and influence the rising levels of localised protests in the country, and a failure to build a new cadre with a shared vision and character. The decline of the new social movements was all the more pronounced given the rising levels of spontaneous protest across South Africa’s townships.
By 2010 it was evident that the ‘new social movements’, now reaching their tenth year, were in crisis. The transition from decline to crisis went beyond the declining levels of intervention in struggles. Important organisations and networks that had made up this movement ceased to exist (the LPM, the SMI and Jubilee SA are cases in point), and the future organisational existence of others was in serious doubt (the APF being a case in point). A more important and defining feature of the crisis of the new social movements was the failure to produce a layer of cadre that has survived the period of resurgence and decline, and that could be a basis for rebuilding a movement. While this feature needs a more extended analysis, what became clear by the end of the naughties was that a large majority of the activists that were thrown up by the resurgence of the first years of the naughties, had been lost to the movements.
Achievements in the context of resurgence, decline and crisis
The story of the new social movements over the last decade is also one of political and historical achievements. These achievements form a critical historical backdrop to any path that may be charted in building a social justice movement in the coming decade. Among a number of important achievements, two key achievements need to be highlighted:
Firstly, the emergence of the new social movements at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the naughties defeated attempts by the leading groups in the ANC to maintain an historical and cultural monopoly of traditions of social justice struggles. Even as the ANC abandoned its struggle policies and adopted neoliberal policies, it continued to portray its newfound neoliberalism as a continuation of its traditions of struggle. The loyal criticism by the trade unions notwithstanding, the leading groups in the ANC managed to win the trade unions to the hegemony of neoliberalism. The new social movements were critical in the struggle to prevent the emergence of a “national” consensus around neoliberalism. The new social movements, while not always leading social struggles against neoliberalism, at least provided a legitimation of social protest against the new neoliberal social order in South Africa.
Secondly, through waging a number of social struggles in the naughties, the social movements won a number of victories that slowed down and sometimes deflected the ruling class’s neoliberal programme. The victories in the struggles for anti-retrovirals, the victories in the right to housing, water and electricity, and against wholesale privatization, constitute a number of partial victories that are reflected in various court rulings and government legislation.
NGOs in crisis
A parallel movement to the crisis of social movements was the continuing weakening of civil society, or NGOs, in South Africa. Most NGOs have turned ‘inwards’ and are focused on survival in the light of funding cuts, retrenchments, and the absence of any collective platforms from which to respond to developments such as the service delivery struggles.
Khanya College has not been immune to this context of social movement and NGOs weakness and crisis. The crisis in Khanya took on various forms, including a struggle for funding resources, and a struggle for a cadre building perspective and practice within Khanya College. Over the last decade, a number of staff left the College after differences over political orientation, internal political culture, approaches to leadership development and work regime and accountability. As with the social movements, these struggles did not prevent important achievements being registered in the last decade. These achievements, among many others, include:
- The consolidation of the College’s place in the new social justice movement. This can be seen in the presence of the College in a leading capacity in all the major social justice mobilisations of the last decade.
- The role the College has played in the formation and building of key social justice networks in South Africa and the region. These include the South Africa Farmworker Network, the Network of Community Museums, the Southern Africa Social Forum, the network against Xenophobia, and others.
- The launch of the House of Movements, dedicated as a space for providing support infrastructure for the social justice movement.
- The launch of the Workers Museum as a museum of migrant labour following a struggle with the City of Johannesburg.
- The launch of the Setsi sa Mosadi women’s centre, which incorporates a women’s advice centre.
- The launch and consolidation of the Khanya College Annual Winter School (now more than 10 years old) as a space for the convergence of social movements in the Southern Africa region.
- For close to 10 years, over and above numerous publications, the College has produced a journal for activists, which has now seen more than 28 editions.
The developments in the social movements, and within Khanya College form an important backdrop to the All College Conference in 2012. Besides these historical developments, the All College Conference must be located with the contemporary context of continuing economic crisis and the crisis of the ruling party, the ANC.
The All College Conference: composition, agenda and process
The primary purpose of the conference is to review the strategic orientation of the College over the last decade, and to map out its orientation and work for the next period. This primary purpose influences the composition and agenda of the conference, and process leading to the conference.
The conference will be attended by all the staff of the College, the Board of Trustees, as well as by the College’s political allies and partners. Key among these will be representatives from a number of social movements from South and Southern Africa. A number of NGOs that are involved in building a social justice movement, and donor partners that have supported the social justice work of the College will also be in attendance. Invitations will also be extended to individuals who have been associated with the College over the last decade of building social movements.
The agenda of the conference
As with the All College Conference in 2000, the conference will be divided into two broad areas of discussion – a review of the last decade of the College’s work, and charting out perspectives for the next decade. The following will be the key items on the agenda of the conference:
- A review of the strategic orientation adopted at the 2000 All College Conference
- A review of the programme and activities of the College over the last decade
- A discussion of the challenges of institution and organisation building
The College will then chart the work of the College in the next period, including:
- Confirming, modifying and refining the strategic orientation of building a social justice movement.
- Discuss and debate the College’s role and strategies for movement building in the next decade.
- Discuss key programmatic design and content against the backdrop of the strategic orientation.
- Debate and discuss the institutional design for the College.
- Debate and discuss the organisation/institution building strategies for the College.
- Debate and discuss the funding and resourcing model for the College.
The process towards the All College Conference began with an evaluation of the work of Khanya College over the last three years. The evaluation focused on both the activities of Khanya College as well as on the internal institutional functioning of the College. A number of activists and organisations have already participated in this process which we intend to continue in the next phase. An evaluation report produced by the evaluators will form a basis for aspects of the discussion at the All College Conference. Following the evaluation report, a number of other steps will lead to the All College Conference:
- The board of Khanya College will hold a retreat as part of the process and will draw up the final agenda for the conference.
- The staff will hold a number of internal seminars focusing on various topics that will be discussed at the conference.
iii. A number of seminars on the state of social movements that are open to activists from the social movements will be held.
- A booklet on the history of social movements over the last 10 years will be produced.
- A paper reviewing the last decade of movement building and Khanya’s role will be produced.
- Research will be undertaken on options for institutional design and funding model for the College.
vii. Political allies and partners will be engaged about their participation in the College.
The progress of preparation for the conference will be posted on a special page of the Khanya College website – www.khanyacollege.org.za. Papers and other relevant documents will be posted on the site on a regular basis. The final date and agenda for the conference will also be posted on the site and communicated with prospective participants.