On 22 October attention was drawn to various recent developments – What you don’t know can hurt you.   It seems that someone out there was listening and the leader of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) was interviewed on Wednesday.   It is clear that the DSM has been closely associated with the ‘strike committees’ which resulted in ‘wildcat’ strikes.

A ‘wildcat’ strike can be seen as a strike undertaken by employees without the support of their trade union, assuming that there is a trade union, or in violation of a valid collective agreement.

Constitutionally employees, not trade unions, have the ‘right to strike’ and unlike the USA the strike can never be ‘illegal’, but it can be ‘unlawful’ if there is a breach of a binding collective agreement.   Strikes that are ‘unprotected’ simply mean that employees forfeit certain rights.  For further information on the rights that are forfeited see  Collective bargaining is the means to achieve LRA purposes.

Courtesy of Wikipedia we able to learn something about the origin of the ‘wildcat’ strike.

The historically anarcho-syndicalist movement have embraced traditional symbols which represent the union of anarchist ideal (non-state) with labour movement and with socialist projects (communitarian society and collectivist economy).

The ‘red-and-black flag’ is the symbol of the anarcho-syndicalist and anarcho-communist movements.   Black is the traditional color of anarchism, and red is the traditional color of socialism.   The red-and-black flag combines the two colors in equal parts, with a simple diagonal split.   Typically, the red section is placed on the top-left corner, with the black on the bottom-right corner of the flag.   This symbolizes the co-existence of anarchist and socialist ideals within the anarcho-syndicalism movement, and to symbolize the more socialistic means of the movement leading to a more anarchistic end.

One of the most famous variations of the anarcho-syndicalist flag is that of Spain‘s Confederación  Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labor, CNT), which still exists today.   The CNT, along with the Federación  Anarquista Ibérica (Iberian Anarchist Federation, FAI), a major militant faction within the CNT, was a major player in the popular anarchist movements in Spain of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.   This group has its own version of the red-and-black flag with its initials on the flag.   CNT is in the red, while FAI is in the black– the color of anarchy– as the FAI was founded in 1927 to keep the CNT dedicated to anarchist principles.

Another variation on the red-and-black theme is the red-and-black Africa used mostly by the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF or ZabFront), an especifista anarchist political organisation in South Africa.   The ZACF was inspired by the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists.   ZACF members share a basic agreement in terms of theoretical and tactical unity, collective responsibility, and federalism as suggests by the Platform.   In historical terms the Platformist tradition starts with The Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, and in the post-war period many include documents like the Georges Fontenis’ pamphlet Manifesto of Libertarian Communism.

The black cat

The ‘black cat’, also called the “wild cat” or “sabot-cat”, usually with an arched back and with claws and teeth bared, is closely associated with anarchism, especially with anarcho-syndicalism.   It was designed by Ralph Chaplin, who was a prominent figure in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).   As its stance suggests, the cat is meant to suggest wildcat strikes and radical unionism.   The IWW (or the Wobblies) was an important industrial union, and was the first American labor union to recruit and organize women and people of color, and played a critical role in the fight for the eight-hour work day and in free speech fights all over the country in the early 20th century.   Their most famous and influential years were from 1905 until they were largely suppressed by the Palmer Raids.

The origin of the black cat symbol is unclear, but according to one story it came from a IWW strike that was going badly.   Several members had been beaten up and were put in a hospital.   At that time a skinny, black cat walked into the striker’s camp.   The cat was fed by the striking workers and as the cat regained its health the strike took a turn for the better.   Eventually the striking workers got some of their demands and they adopted the cat as their mascot.[1]

The name Black Cat has been used for numerous anarchist-affiliated collectives and cooperatives, including a well-known music venue in Austin, Texas (which was closed following a July 6, 2002 fire) and a now-defunct “collective kitchen” in the University District of Seattle, Washington.

As a symbol, the black cat has historically been associated with witchcraft, ill omens, and death.   It dates back to ancient Hebrew and Babylonian cultures.   The witchcraft usage has persisted into modern times; anarchism shares the black cat symbol with witchcraft and Wicca, though the latter two generally do not represent the cat with its back arched in a fighting stance.

Natasha Marrian’s article  Workers’ party ‘will contest 2014 election’ was first published in Business Day today and here are some random extracts, thanks to Business Day.

A SOCIALIST, worker-based party, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), is preparing to register and contest the 2014 national election, its leader, Mametlwe Sebei, said in an interview on Wednesday.

The party — fashioned as a grassroots, Marxist organisation — is working closely with “strike committees” from platinum mines in the Rustenburg area which have led wildcat strikes this year, demanding improved wages and working conditions.   It is capitalising on the social distance that has sprung up between workers and established trade unions, such as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which has strong ties to the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The new party is fashioning itself as the voice of mining workers, and that of the poor communities surrounding the mines.   The party prefers a “bottom up” approach — where the people at grassroots level lead — to political representation, in stark contrast to the Congress of the People — also punted as an alternative to the ANC — which self-destructed in fights over who should lead the party.

Mr Sebei said the DSM “took a decision at the beginning of the year that the working class of Rustenburg are at the forefront of the revolt of the working class”.

“They are the ones that are going to break the entire alliance that until now has been used to hold in check the working class,” he said in an interview after a meeting of the national strike committee in Rustenburg this week.

The DSM has in the past worked through trade unions because unions were at the forefront of worker struggles, were democratic and well placed to fight for socialism.

However, it soon dawned on the DSM that the NUM, which is affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), was a “lost case” and that its shop stewards’ relationship with mine bosses was “toxic” to the interest of the workers, Mr Sebei said.

The DSM is campaigning for a mass worker party, which would include the youth and poor communities and would demand that the commanding heights of the economy be in public hands.

While Cosatu has largely dismissed the DSM as “counter-revolutionaries” and “flies”, the workers themselves have welcomed its support.

A strike committee member from Anglo American Platinum, Joseph Khoza, said the NUM and Cosatu had betrayed workers.