what extent does the South African Labour Bulletin (SALB), coming
out of one of the dynamic new national labour movements of the 1970s-80s,
communicate a new kind of internationalism, and communicate this in a new
way? And how can this be analysed in a more than impressionistic manner?
`Approach' and `style' are here conceptualised in relation to the communication
of labour internationalism. Background on SALB is provided. Its international
coverage is examined in terms of quantity and quality, with quality being
considered in terms of approach and style. A comparison is made between
SALB's international coverage and that of its South African feminist counterpart,
Agenda. A general conceptual and normative framework is provided
in terms of a `global solidarity culture', seen as an alternative to a
globalised communication and culture. Policy conclusions are drawn with
respect to the future of the little, left, local journal in the age of
`Benetton internationalism and email universalism'.
A new communications model for a new internationalism?
paper could be seen as being about a `form', `aspect' or `activity' of
internationalism. But I see communication as less an aspect than the core
of the new internationalisms. This requires a little explanation.
firstly, the position taken by Mark Poster (1995) in relation to the Internet.
For him, communication must be understood less as a hammer (a tool) than
Germany (a space, a community). In the case of global solidarity communication,
this space and community should perhaps be thought of as less like Germany
(a historically-determined, culturally-defined and already-occupied space)
than Utopia (a community to be imagined, a space yet to be settled).
secondly, covers a broad area, even as applied to traditional labour internationalisms.
It includes, or has included, conferences, visits and exchanges, Mayday
celebrations, publications of many types, photos, film, TV programmes,
video tapes, drama, song, painting and monuments.
solidarity communication, thirdly, has, like political solidarity, many
axes, directions, levels, forms, breadths and extents. Today, for example,
internationalist communication increasingly includes the computer-mediated
kind, with its own many such dimensions (for labour see Waterman 1992b,
Lee 1997, for the highly computer-conscious Zapatistas in Mexico, see Cleaver
so far, finally, as `communication' implies values as well as channels,
I would argue the necessity for some kind of `global solidarity culture'
(GSC) as an alternative to a globalised one. A global solidarity culture,
for me, implies the creation of transterritorial relations that enrich
and empower popular and democratic communities or collectivities by exchanging,
sharing, diversifying and synthesising their ideas, skills and arts. The
strength of the dominant pattern of international relations and communications
lies in finance, machinery, institutions, arms, territory, and their tendency
to stratify, segment, oppose, oppress and destroy. Information is here
a resource to be hoarded, sold, controlled and used to reinforce the concentration
of wealth and influence. The strength of a GSC is asymmetrical. It lies
precisely in the use and furthering of international communication and
culture as a cooperative, constructive and creative relationship between
people. Unlike a globalised culture, a GSC would not be something coming
from one or two countries or a handful of companies, nor one which homogenises.
It would, on the contrary, provide both space for and stimuli to the local
and particular, valuing difference and variety - at least in so far as
these were not themselves racist, chauvinist, sexist, militaristic and
this paper I will deal primarily with one labour publication in one country.
The publication is a small-circulation labour-movement magazine rather
than a trade-union one. It is also a political journal rather than a popular
or semi-popular magazine. It has, however, a privileged role, both in its
country of origin and internationally. The South African Labour Bulletin
(SALB), originating with and heavily-supported by left labour academics,
has played a major role within the South African labour movement over a
period of some two decades. It is, however, also one of the few platforms
existing internationally for discussion on labour and socialist
internationalism, prints contributions on and from many parts of the world,
and is both closely read and widely respected amongst union officers and
labour specialists internationally. As a country, finally, South Africa
seems to appropriately incorporate the contradictions of both North and
South in an age in which this opposition is being overlaid and criss-crossed
question to be considered here is the manner and extent to which this magazine,
coming out of one of the dynamic new national labour movements of the 1970s-80s,
communicates a new kind of internationalism, and communicates this in a
new way. It is possible to investigate this in a more than impressionistic
manner. In what follows, I will conceptualise `approach' and `style' as
related to the communication of labour internationalism. I will provide
some background on SALB. I will then consider its international coverage
in terms of quantity and quality, with quality being examined in terms
of approach and style. I will, finally, make a comparison of the SALB's
international coverage with that of its South African feminist counterpart,
Agenda. This should serve as an appropriate bridge between our consideration
of the old (and new) labour and socialist internationalisms on the one
hand and the new ones of women and feminism on the other.
here, indicates theory, ideology or worldview, as customarily related to
a state, party, movement, a revered past society or a desired future one.
Relevant approaches to the foreign and international (F/I) in the South
African case are listed below (`foreign' is material focused primarily
on foreign countries/regions; `international' is that concerned
either with relations between countries/regions, or with the international/global
level). Relevant approaches would here seem to be the following:
Thirdworldist: pro-national-liberation, anti-imperialist, anti-TNC,
anti-right-authoritarian, and party-vanguardist (the party or front as
the true representative of the people or nation to the outside world: this
being the traditional position of the African National Congress, or ANC); -
Social-Democratic or Social Reformist: incremental and institutional
global reformist but not anti-capitalist (the traditional position of the
Socialist International, the Western trade union internationals, of various
elitist global commissions and of many European development funding agencies);
anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, pro-worker, with this sometimes taken
to include the urban and rural poor (traditional position of the New Left
after 1957 or 1968, as well as of many Third World solidarity groups in
anti-capitalist, proletarian-apocalyptical, state-socialist and party-vanguardist
(traditional position of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other
proletarian-, peasant- or popular- apocalyptical, plus vanguard-internationalist,
in the sense of seeing a particular present or future ideological tendency
or party as the privileged bearer of internationalism (Trotskyists and
Civil Society: a multi-levelled, multi-faceted, multi-directional internationalism,
recognising a multiplicity of problems, subjects and movements, aware of
globalisation, oriented to the development of an alternative sense of global
community/culture, institutionalised in some kind of global civil society
or alternative world order (many international ecological, peace, women's
movements, international NGOs).
here, has to do with communicative strategy: a rhetorical posture, a relationship
with, or address to, a putative readership. Three styles relevant to the
labour, socialist, nationalist and democratic press historically might
The Rhetorical/Denunciatory, addressed to mass or crowd emotion
and desire, posing the writer/reader relationship in terms of prophet and
believer (typical of early labour, socialist and nationalist movement media).
Whilst not necessarily identical to the polemical, this style does tend
to pose issues in terms of a binary opposition, with the self/other relationship
equally posed in terms of virtue/evil and the desired outcome in terms
of victory/defeat. -
The Agitational/Mobilisational, addressed to organised will and
capacity, posing the writer/reader relationship in terms of organiser and
member (typical of `early-organised' mass movement media). Whilst this
may be expressed in ideological terms, or in the polemical mode, it lends
itself to a more sophisticated and technical presentation.
Informational/Analytical, addressed to individualised reason and
reflection, posing the writer/reader relationship in terms of teacher and
student (typical of `established' union, socialist and nationalist party
media and, for that matter, the establishment bourgeois-liberal one). Allows
for the presentation of detailed information as well as for theoretical
these writer/reader relations are essentially hierarchical ones, in which
that hierarchy is customarily neither questioned nor revealed. These relations
are those, as stated, of Prophet and Believer, of Leader and Follower,
of Teacher and Student. A fourth hypothetical style might be:
the Critical/Self-Reflexive, addressed to the stimulation of critical
and creative capacities, concerned to reveal the subject position and values
of the writer, or to place the writer on the same plane as what is written,
and to require or stimulate critical and creative capacities amongst readers.
is not essentially hierarchical. Nor is it, essentially egalitarian. It
is, however, subversive of hierarchy and therefore egalitarian in at least
is no necessary one-to-one relationship between approach and style, although,
for example, the Informational/Analytical style may predominate in contemporary
international Social-Democratic discourse, and the Critical/Self-Reflexive
has not been typical (`criticism and self-criticism' notwithstanding) of
the international Communist or Marxist-Leninist one. Nor is there a one-to-one
relationship between historical moment/period and predominant style, although
certain correspondences have been suggested. I do, however, consider that
the appropriate style today for international and internationalist communication
should be this fourth one. It seems to me that the only sound basis for
a global solidarity culture under conditions of a globalised information
capitalism is dialogue between groups operating predominantly in the critical,
creative and self-reflective mode. In saying `appropriate' I allow for
the possibility and, indeed, necessity for other styles, in so far as these
address other such other human needs and capacities as the affective or
expressive - or are required by other media. `Style', finally, should be
considered an attribute not so much of individual messages as of the medium
that carries them. This could, for example, mean that whilst an individual
article might be in any of the above styles, that of an internationalist
publication should, today, be the Critical/Self-Reflexive.
celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1994. It began in Durban in 1974, in
close association with labour studies specialists at the University of
Natal and the Institute of Industrial Education, both in Durban. The latter
was a response of radical, mostly-white, academics to the Durban strikes
of 1973 that signalled the birth of the new unionism in South Africa. SALB
first appeared as a slim, dull, cyclostyled A5 periodical. But, although
university-based, it was from the beginning movement-oriented, attempting
to make analytical, theoretical and strategic materials accessible to at
least labour leaders. SALB was largely inspired by a non-dogmatic New Left,
critical of Communism, Social Democracy and Radical Nationalism (at least
in terms of the ANC fixation on guerilla warfare and an eventual insurrection).
Like other such socialist, church, liberal and democratic intellectuals
around the world at this time, this group opted primarily for the provision
of services to the growing working-class movement. It has been close, successively,
to the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU, 1979-85) and the
Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU, founded 1985), the
two central organisations of the rising South African union movement. But
it has always remained independent of these, has sometimes given the lead
in new thinking, sometimes been sharply critical. It has also provided
space for different union and socialist tendencies, and for strategy debates
- also often sharp.
has always received foreign funding, this coming primarily from progressive
development-aid agencies rather than directly from foreign and international
trade unions. SALB survived the suppression of various issues, the banning,trials
and exiling of various editors and contributors, as well as the assassination
of Rick Turner, its initial guiding spirit. It also seems to have survived
post-apartheid collapse of other alternative periodicals as development-cooperation
funding was either withdrawn or switched to the newly-elected government.
Early 1995 its total circulation was just under 2,400. Distribution broke
down more or less as follows: national 1,520, international 850. This must
be an exceptionally high foreign distribution for what is basically a national
labour journal. Of the national distribution, 641 go to workers and unions
on an individual or bulk basis; 205 go to corporations (which pay an exceptionally
high corporate rate). Of the international distribution, 770 are distributed
in bulk, presumably also ensuring a regular income. SALB claims to be dependent
on subsidies for under eight percent of its total revenue.
sample survey of COSATU's 25,000 shop-stewards in 1992 suggested that five
percent - say 1,250 - were readers of this rather serious journal (Pityana
and Orkin 1992). It came sixth in a ranking of preference, being proceeded
(in this order) by three commercial glossies and two popular alternative
publications. A 1994 sample survey/consultation with SALB readers throughout
COSATU, revealed a relatively high value placed on it in comparison with
other alternative periodicals, popular or serious. It also suggested that
the international material was reasonably well received.
coverage: quantity and quality
existence of a computerised index, covering Volumes 1 to 16 (1974 to 1991)
makes it possible to state that of a total of some 1,916 items indexed
over this 18-year period, some 287, or 14.3 percent, have fallen into the
F/I category. My own calculation of recent volumes (1993-94) suggests that
a number-of-pages comparison gives a higher percentage of F/I than would
a number-of-items count: 15 percent for 1993 and 23 percent for 1994. What
seems to determine whether or not there is an annual above-mean F/I coverage
is whether or not there is a signalled `focus', or a concentration of articles,
on F/I matter, in a particular volume. Identification of these concentrations
also requires a specification regarding the F/I category, since in recent
years there have been numerous foci, or on-going discussions, on `socialism',
`social-democracy' and `democratic socialism', which - whilst addressed
to South African circumstances - have usually had an international character,
implicit or explicit.
a national labour magazine, it is clear that SALB has a persistently high
interest in foreign, international and strategic or theoretical matters
of a far more than national nature. We can here make a comparison with
Quadernos Laborales, a Peruvian labour monthly, similarly oriented
to, but autonomous from, the major left union confederation in Peru. In
1986, when I interviewed journalists from the NGO responsible for the magazine,
they were apologetic about its failure to cover foreign and international
material. During the following seven or eight years, Quadernos Laborales
devoted perhaps one page out of 30 to F/I material, usually news briefs.
far as the foreign is concerned, there has been a heavy bias toward
close neighbours. Thus Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and
Swaziland received heavy attention in Vols.1-7 (1974-82). The particular
interest in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was evidently due to the questions its transition
from a racist/isolationist to an independent `socialist' regime raised
for South African labour and unions. If 1974-82 marks a first period for
foreign coverage, 1986-94 marks another. Whilst Africa received its last
`Special' appearance with another Zimbabwe issue in 1986, Volumes 12-18
see increasing attention to - though no special focus on - Western Europe,
Australia, Latin America, the (ex-)Communist/Socialist world (East Europe,
Russia, Grenada, Nicaragua, China). The dramatically growing interest in
Brazil was due to the increasingly-recognised parallels between the Brazilian
and South African labour movements (for which see Seidman 1994). But in
many other cases interest was evidently due to a perceived positive or
negative relevance for South Africa.
first international issues of SALB were Vol. 5, No. 8 (May 1980)
and Vol. 9, No. 6 (May 1984), both issues also including such foreign material
as that on Nigeria or Brazil. However, both issues paid highly-critical
attention to the internationally-dominant Western unions, represented by
the `European' International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
and the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations
(AFL-CIO). Both of these were already intervening heavily in South and
Southern Africa. The first issue arguing for `a new labour internationalism'
was Vol. 15, No. 7 (April 1991). This seems to have begun a debate on and
around the ICFTU that continued in Volumes 16 and 17. Strategic issues
with international implications may have earlier found place in SALB (e.g.
discussion on the anti-apartheid strategy of disinvestment). But it was
from 1990, with the legalisation of the ANC and SACP and the approaching
end of the apartheid era, that theoretical/strategic reports and debates
- the latter with much international reference and many foreign participants
- really took off.
about `socialism', `social-democracy', `social contracts/pacts' and `democratic
socialism' mark the period 1990-94. But so do articles and debates about
globalisation and internationalism. Indeed, it is my feeling that the SALB
was leaning heavily in the direction of a social-reformist dispensation
locally at the same time as it was leaning heavily toward an alternative
to such internationally. Evidence of the first would require a systematic
content analysis of the national coverage. But, for the international,
article titles and number of pages suggest that SALB was not so much reporting
or analyzing as promoting a new kind of labour internationalism
related to a new understanding of the international. A number of items
on globalisation were accompanied by extensive reports on or from new international
labour fora or groups. Much of this came from the Indian Ocean (stretching
geographically from South Africa to Australia, but with a political extension
to the Philippines). But it also came from another axis that included a
West-European partner. This was between the South African COSATU, the Brazilian
CUT and the Italian (ex-)Communist federation, the CGIL. Here it was reported
that the three organisations had agreed during a forum
work for a new form of labour internationalism which could challenge the
global domination of capital by building an alternative to the neo-liberal
project. Such an internationalism should be based on a pro-active or strategic
unionism which engages in industrial and social restructuring in each country.
At its centre is a project for democratisation and social justice [...]
Once the project of strategic unionism is adopted, it has to be extended
into the international arena. it has to commit itself to the tough, ambitious
fight for social regulation of the global economy. (Vol. 17, No. 5, 1993:72-79)
far as this did represent not only a high interest in the international
but a new orientation toward such, we now need to relate it to other approaches.
are now considering the material in terms of the typology mentioned above.
My conclusion is that the original and continuing orientation of the SALB
editors and writers has been a Democratic-Socialist Internationalism.
This is suggested by: 1) the continual critique of not only international
capitalism but of state-authoritarianism (left as well as right); 2) the
critique of bureaucracy and authoritarianism within the international labour
movement; 3) the sympathy for shopfloor worker movements, West, East and
South; and 4) the welcoming of and support to a democratic and labour internationalism
without geographical or political frontiers. An early indication of this
orientation is provided in the `Editorial Notes' for the issue with the
special focus on the New Internationalism':
is potential for militant, democratic trade union movements to emerge as
a powerful force on the international stage with the capacity to reinvigorate
and give new meaning to international solidarity... [T]he militant democratic
organisations will have to start sharing experiences and strategising collectively.
This could be one step forward in a struggle - together with other progressive
organisations - for a new world order dominated, not by the interests of
imperialism, the multinationals and finance capital, but by the interests
of the ordinary citizens of our planet. (Vol. 15, No. 7, 1991:1).
sentence here contains hints of what I have called a Global Alternative
approach. There have always been such other notes or approaches expressed
within SALB, beginning with the first `Focus on International Labour' (Vol.
5, No. 8, May 1980).
voices, both from within South Africa and from Europe/Australia, have been
increasingly heard in the debates around the international trade union
movement and the future of South Africa and its trade unions. In the argument
of Alan Fine, Assistant Editor of the South African Business Day
and correspondent of the ICFTU's Free Labour World:
African socialists have, at this stage, given the absence of any credible
socialist model anywhere in the world, little realistic option but to pursue,
in the short to medium term, what amounts to a social-democratic agenda
[...] The irony is that - as the experience of western and northern Europe
shows - the more comprehensively these goals are achieved, the more will
wither on the vine of improved quality of life the revolutionary consciousness
of the working class on which the socialist revolution depends. (Vol. 16,
No. 3, 1992:85)
Internationalist notes have also been struck in recent years, particularly
in the `Special Focus' on the meaning of a New Internationalism. Here an
unnamed correspondent argued for a new international organisation or alliance,
based on COSATU, the Brazilian CUT, the Filipino KMU and the Organisation
of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU):
new emergent and largely non-aligned trade union movements such as COSATU,
CUT, OATUU, KMU and others are potentially in a powerful bargaining position.
Their strength includes the support of extensive networks of worker activists
in the established unions of Europe and North America. If their strengths
are shared and consolidated, the non-aligned trade unions, together with
union activists within the unions affiliated to the ICFTU and WFTU, could
play a decisive role in campaigning for...the establishment of an international
democratic trade union alliance...the free flow and exchange of information...specific
campaigns reflecting the needs of the working class internationally...This
would be a logical development...towards worker-controlled internationalism.
(Vol. 15, No. 7, 1991:39. Emphasis in original).
Communist Internationalist note has hardly been heard, since the
unbanning of the SACP took place simultaneously with the collapse of the
state-socialist project internationally. Perhaps its first and last expression
in SALB was in the famous paper by the SACP General Secretary, `Has Socialism
Failed?'. In defending the theory of Communism both from its practitioners
and from its critics, Joe Slovo (who died early 1995) declared:
crucial connection between socialism and internationalism and the importance
of world working-class solidarity should not be underplayed as a result
of the distortions which were experienced. These included excessive centralisation
in the era of the Comintern, subordination of legitimate nationalist aspirations
to a distorted concept of `internationalism', national rivalries between
and within socialist states (including examples of armed confrontation).
Working class internationalism remains one of the most liberating concepts
in Marxism and needs to find effective expression in the new world conditions.
(Vol. 14, No. 6, 1990:16. Emphasis in original).
other Marxist-Leninist voices have been heard in SALB, though more
in the debate on socialism than in any on internationalism. However, Adam
Habib and Mercia Andrews, of the Workers Organisation for Socialist Action
(WOSA), hit an appropriately international, apocalyptical and workerist
note (but simultaneously a nationalist `weak-link' one?) when they declared:
South African and international working class movements are today at a
crossroads. Faced with the attacks on socialism by the bourgeoisie, it
is important that socialists respond in a concerted way to regain the moral
highground that socialism to date has occupied. The collapse of Stalinism
also heralds the possibility of a realignment of political forces within
the socialist camp. This is imperative more so than ever before, for the
South African working class is in a position today to establish the first
society on the face of this earth to be based on the principle of `from
each according to his ability, to each according to his need'. (Vol. 15,
No. 3, 1990:93).
a distinctive Global Alternative note (i.e. one pointing beyond
labour, socialist or third-world internationalism), this has been struck
to a some extent in the discussion following the issue that frontpaged
the New Internationalism. Thus, Jeremy Brecher extended his analysis of
`bridge-building' (between unions, communities and the new social movements)
from the US to the North American Free Trade Agreement level when he stated
labour movement, along with environmentalist, small farmer, consumer, and
many other allies, has mounted major campaigns to oppose these agreements...
Labour, religious, and other popular organisations on both sides of the
US-Mexico border have held a series of meetings and developed their own
alternative proposals for a North American development pact which would
protect workers, small farmers, consumers, and the environment while allowing
for jointly-regulated economic integration. (Vol. 17, No. 4, 1993:72).
seem, in sum, that whilst leaning in the direction of a Democratic-Socialist
Internationalism, SALB has also been providing a platform for an international
debate on labour strategies and for one on labour internationalism. Let
us examine this matter further.
spoken of SALB as providing some kind of a platform for different approaches
to the foreign and international. The same may be true for style,
as specified earlier above.
Rhetorical/Denunciatory. An example of this is provided by the British
Trotskyist, Alex Callinicos, denouncing social democracy and energetically
promoting `struggle' (though presumably not of the `empty sloganeering’
alternative to social contract is struggle - or rather...struggles... It
was, after all, struggle that built the workers' movement in South Africa
[...] The struggle needs to be continued...[D]espite all the formulations
about `combining negotiations and struggle' - negotiations are becoming
a substitute for mass struggle... Struggle...is...essential...to challenge
a capitalist system which is in crisis, not just in South Africa, but all
over the world [...] Of course, `struggle' can degenerate into an empty
slogan...debate should instead be concentrating on the question of how
to take the struggle forward. (Vol. 16, No. 6, 1992:67.)
i.e. denunciatory, passages or items have abounded in the debates about
labour internationalism and socialism during the last few years. Here is
one from a letter by Dan Gallin, General Secretary of the International
Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), criticising the South African Congress
of Trade Unions (The ANC's traditional union ally from the 1950s to the
in exile represented never more than a small clique of parasites living
off Soviet subventions who put more energy into defending their sectarian
turf...than into fighting apartheid. (Vol. 16, No. 2, 1991:5).
Agitational/Mobilisational. Many of the contributions quoted earlier
are written in this particular style, in so far as they are intended to
move readers to a particular form of organisational action. Consider this
passage, from a largely informational/analytical item, by Latin Americanist,
This style is exemplified by the Brecher item above. Whilst it could be
taken to implicitly favour the kind of action it is analyzing, this is
not expressed in overtly argumentative or persuasive form. Here is a piece
that is, perhaps, more question-raising. It was written by Argentinean
Ronaldo Munck in response to the Roxborough article:
accepting the bleak economic scenario painted... I am not sure labour's
alternatives are that limited. In particular, I believe the option of the
social contract or social pact could be usefully explored. [...] Like most
of social reality, the social contract is a contradictory phenomenon [...]
Also, we need to ask whether a strategy for the labour movement can ignore
the vital role played by the so-called `new' social movements...in the
struggle for democracy [...] On balance, the price paid for not
pacting seems greater than the risk involved in participating in some kind
of democratic social pact [...] What is not clear is how the trade unions
might broaden their traditional role to embrace...the `new' social movements
[...] We certainly [also] need to challenge the situation whereby capital
works with a broad international project, while labour remains imprisoned
within its national boundaries... (Vol. 17, No. 1, 1993:62-66)
Critical/Self-Reflexive. Curiously enough, the only individual item
which would seem to fit this bill would be the previously-mentioned re-evaluation
of socialism (actually Communism) by SACP Secretary, Joe Slovo (Vol. 14,
No. 6, 1990). In so far as he criticised both the (ex-)Communist world
and the SACP (for its previously uncritical identification with this) he
provoked an extensive and energetic discussion in the SALB. However, even
the limited self-criticism in his article is hardly reproduced either by
contributors to this particular debate, or in other items on the problematic
past of institutionalised internationalism. Thus, none of the political
Social-Democrats seem to have felt it necessary to analyse, far less criticise,
past national Social-Democratic collaboration with their own warring states
and oppressing empires. And such new and startling admissions as were made
on one occasion by ICFTU leaders, concerning past collaboration with corrupt
unions and dictatorial regimes (Vol. 17. No. 1, 1993:67-71), were neither
accompanied nor followed by any more serious self-reflection.
the disarray of the unions lies a failure of the Left... Revolution is
not on the cards. What then is left? [...] The answer, at least in the
short run, must be defensive [...] What does this mean in concrete terms?
[...] 1. Accept some neo-liberal advantages [...] 2. Work within
corporatist institutions [...] 3. Co-operate with governments and
employers [...] 4. Form alliances with conservative union leaders
[...] These are dark times. We must have the courage to look reality in
the face. We must conserve our strength in the hope that a time will come
when labour can once again take the offensive. (Vol. 16, No. 4, 1992:37.
Emphasis in original)
has published large numbers of interviews, which have often given space
and voice to those whose persons or organisations have been elsewhere criticised
in the journal. Thus, although Mike Allen, a British international labour
journalist, sharply criticised the SALB Special Focus on `the new internationalism'
for its `blatantly leading questions' (Vol. 16, No. 2, 1991:61), both he
and many other officers/supporters of the ICFTU have been provided with
considerable space to both defend the ICFTU and criticise its detractors.
This means that the SALB has been contributing to, or even creating, not
only a democratic South African public sphere but also a global
one. Given the customary absence of any debate, or even discussion, in
the periodicals of the traditional labour internationals, this is no mean
could be argued that, in so far as it has provided a platform or arena
for a variety of approaches and styles, the SALB exemplifies a Critical/Self-Reflexive
mode of internationalist labour communication. The matter is more complex.
Part of the definition of this style was `to stimulate collective critical
and creative capacities amongst readers'. Whilst occasional letters from
rank-and-file activists in the Bulletin do deal with F/I matters, most
of the discussion remains amongst academics and politicians, South African
coverage in `Agenda'
the SALB compares favourably, in quantity, breadth, approach and style
with other national and international labour periodicals, a comparison
with its feminist opposite number should prove instructive. Here we will,
regretably, have to dispense with illustration and make do with a summary
of the evidence.
the South African feminist journal, has existed for a much shorter time
than SALB, and has a more limited national reach and international impact.
It has a similar size, format and frequency of appearance. It has an academic
origin and base. But it has a more academic address than SALB. Many of
its founders, editors and contributors share the same democratic-socialist
origins as those of SALB. A number of them, indeed, were academic labour
specialists, and even involved with SALB, before they became drawn to the
women's movement. The similarity to the SALB can therefore hardly be considered
analyzing Agenda I found it necessary - because of its more academic
nature - to recognise and allow for a specific `theoretical/strategic'
(T/S) sub-category amongst the `foreign/international' (F/I). This was
due to the considerable proportion of such material in the journal, much
of which makes exclusive or heavy reference to F/I literature or debates.
F/I+T/S material takes, over the years, one-third of total space
in Agenda! This compares with the SALB total F/I which in no
single year was more than one-quarter. Even if we subtract the T/S,
almost one-quarter of this feminist journal is still devoted to F/I material.
If we look at Agenda coverage in percentage terms, Foreign material
would be 9.8, International 14 and Theoretical/Strategic 10.5. Whichever
way we look at it, then, Agenda is a very internationally-oriented
journal. The extent of this is something of which neither readers nor observers
seem aware. Thus, one evaluation, using rather narrow criteria, only records
four percent as `International' (Budlender 1994:11). And whilst survey
material suggests readers have no great interest in `the international',
neither do they seem to have any particular objections to it.
My findings suggest that the Global Alternative approach is the
implicit one in the many Agenda articles concerned, as it was and
is, with facing up to power differences between women (inter)nationally,
and seeking for (inter)national relations between women that recognise
and respect difference. But it is not easy to find explicit statements
illustrating this position. Agenda has evidently understood this
kind of material in terms of relations within or between the women's
movement and women, feminisms and feminists, with the international nature
of the relationships remaining implicit or obscure.
The Critical/Self-Reflexive mode was much in evidence in a prolonged
Agenda discussion about feminist conferences, in which Black/White,
Academic/Activist, and even Black American/Black African conflicts came
to the fore. It was these conferences that eventually led to an Agenda
workshop and special issue that dealt with both `difference' and `representation'.
The workshop was intended precisely to reach women activists beyond the
editorial, authorial and readership constituencies (see Agenda 19,
1993). This event involved unionists, rural organisers, academics, a poet,
and one of the (foreign?) funders. It was, in fact, one of a series of
workshops and panels organised by the journal, occasionally involving foreign
visitors. A related article on feminist conferencing by Susan Bazilli (No.
9, 1991:44-520 had already dealt, amongst other issues, with the following:
1) allowing for those who feel the need to `speak bitterness', but avoiding
polarisation; 2) organising events not dependent on the capacity to write
papers; 3) avoiding territorial and competitive claims with respect to
the struggle and knowledge; 4) ensuring outreach to those unable to attend;
5) attending to the (differentiated) gender politics of conference place,
space, financing, time, paper or presentation, accessibility, language;
6) recognising that preparatory `networking' can exclude as well as include;
and, finally, 7) avoiding formation of an elite of `conference goers'.
This sohisticated critique of the conference form not only breaks with
the dominant academic paradigm but also that of that of the subaltern one,
as customarily exemplified by the labour movement. It shows, moreover,
an implicit awareness of the significance of communicative form
in the emancipatory process, even when it does not name such. It is difficult
to imagine SALB revealing or expressing similar concerns.
the light the new shines on the old
us consider a little further the light that Agenda shines on SALB.
first point to be made concerns the movement Agenda relates to.
Second Wave (since the 1970s) women's and feminist movements are not, in
general, incorporated into such structured and hierarchical national or
international institutions and procedures as is even the South African
trade-union movement. Like other alternative social movements (ASMs), furthermore,
that of feminism is not directed to `taking power', `getting into government'
or `controlling the commanding heights of the economy'. Whilst it evidently
addresses itself to political domination and economic exploitation, it
is primarily oriented toward the expansion and enrichment of civil society,
nationally and globally. In so far as the existence of a meaningful national
democracy is increasingly recognised to require a surpassing of national,
regional or bloc borders (Held 1991), it may be that the national/foreign
or local/global distinction is either challenged or blurred. This seems
to be the case with Agenda.
second point here is that the South African feminist movement, like others,
challenges the customary private/public and personal/political oppositions
so necessary to the control of women - and workers! In so far as it insists
that there must be an explicit and principled relationship between the
personal and the political (increasingly extended to the professional),
the politics of, and in, women's movements are likely to be `humanised'
- at least in the sense of people being required to put their bodies where
their mouths are. For feminist publications this may mean more stress on
inter-personal relations - also at international level - than we are accustomed
to from the old labour or, for that matter, the new labour movements. It
should also mean that such publications are under some pressure to develop
the Critical/Self-Reflexive mode. This again seems to be the case
is no evidence, thirdly, however, that the invisibility of F/I coverage
in Agenda is due to any kind of post-nationalism, or any kind of
post-inter-nationalism. It is probably due to a shared sense of
community with women's movements and feminism globally, sharpened, perhaps,
by the relative lack of such with other progressive movements locally.
This kind of internationalism is known also from `pre-nationalist' labour
movements, and it has been common to early and contemporary feminist movements
too (Waterman Forthcoming: Ch. 6). In South Africa, moreover, we also have
to take into account the ethnic composition of both journals' editors
and writers (if not always readers), since leftwing South African whites
have been prominent or dominant amongst them. Such people share a sense
of community with the left internationally. Whilst South Africa evidently
has unique racial characteristics, we should not forget the foreign origins
and internationalist values of early labour and socialist leaders (Waterman
Forthcoming: Ch. 2). In so far as these matters are not reflected upon,
by either SALB or Agenda, the internationalism could disappear,
or narrow down to the Third World, or even Southern Africa, as the labour
and women's movements become more extensive, ethnically representative,
and incorporated within the rapidly-developing institutions and processes
of state-nationalist development in South Africa.
must be said, fourthly, about the function of these journals as platforms
for the creation of a new kind of internationalism, or as contributing
to some kind of alternative international public sphere. They evidently
do this in different ways. I have suggested that, in the absence of any
other such international labour forum, SALB provides one. Agenda
possibly provides such a space for South Africa, but there are multiple
international platforms in the international feminist and women's movements,
and Agenda does not in any case have an equivalent international
presence to SALB. Yet, on the other hand, as I have also suggested, access
to SALB debates appears more limited than those of Agenda, and the
latter has gone beyond itself in order to spread debate wider. There remains,
further, the question of whether either of these journals can provide an
effective (inter)national forum for communication and discussion of foreign
and international issues when internationalism remains invisible (Agenda)
and communication transparent (both).
the internationalist journal under information capitalism
need, finally, to return to our limited subject of analysis - one or two
tiny-circulation political journals, largely inaccessible to supporters
of the movements they concern themselves with. What role can they possibly
play in an era of globalised mass media?
has been observed, in Latin America, that
high level of literacy is no longer the inevitable stepladder to modernity.
Music and the television image, rather than the printed word, have become
the privileged vehicles for the exploration of Latin American identity
and the nature of modernity. (Franco 1994:17)
new forms are accessible to more people and thus lend themselves better
to a participatory culture and to a cross-cultural one. The future role
of the little left journal, as a medium of internationalism, must, surely,
therefore increasingly be a matter of the service they can provide to other
internationalist media or projects. I would thus argue that it is in the
interest of internationalist journals, in South Africa and elsewhere, to
sponsor or join coordinated national and international media networks that
allow for discussion both up and down the new social movements and between
them. In so far as journals may consider themselves, or even be considered
more widely, as the privileged bearers of alternative national or international
culture, they may indeed find themselves being shifted to the periphery.
Whether or not they consider this a threat or an opportunity will depend
on whether or not they share the evaluation of Jean Franco. Talking of
the displacement of the literary intelligentsia in Latin America, she notes
shift from apostlehood to the nomadic margins - which is certainly appropriate
in the era of Benetton internationalism and email universalism. The conclusion
is not as paradoxical as it seems. In the age of global flows and networks,
the small scale and the local are the places of greatest intensity. (Franco
an attractive and provocative notion, providing `small scale' does not
exclude alternative use of the Internet's gigaspace and that the `local'
is extended from locales (for example, the market in the barrio
of Magdalena in Lima, Peru) to subjects (for example, Black lesbian women)
and issues (for example, workers in the transnational office cleaning industry).
last point. Journals such as SALB and Agenda are still seen, both
by their promoters and by those they reach, as a means to an organisational
end. We urgently need to see them in the earlier-cited terms of Mark Poster
- in terms, therefore, of places, spaces, communities. This means seeing
such media as potent creators of internationalist meaning and feeling,
with such being understood as itself a source of power. This does not mean
that international organisation and action are today redundant. Nor that
ASMs cannot be analysed in political or organisational terms. It means
that they will be energised and renewed - and repeatedly challenged - by
the force of information, ideas, sounds and images.
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