Current Research

Jun 18, 2020

ILRIG’s Research and Education Work

Through ILRIG’s education programmes and research we aim to bring the experiences of working and poor people in other countries to Southern African organisations, and to draw on this information to assist working class formations explore different ways of organising based on direct democracy that can begin to build a counter-culture to capitalism, class rule, patriarchy, racism and the nation state.

Since 2002 ILRIG has convened an annual Political School – a week-long event which draws activists from all over Africa and elsewhere to an occasion combining debate and learning and cultural events.

In addition to publishing popular booklets on international issues, ILRIG also produces a Bi-monthly newsletter called Workers World News. We also host open public forums on the last Thursday of each month and provide organising and reflective spaces for community movements at a provincial level in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

The Context of ILRIG’s Work

The context globally and in South Africa has radically changed over the last few years. The system of globalisation has been in decline and a form of neoliberal authoritarianism at a national level has begun to emerge in many countries in the world.

The capitalist crisis has also deepened and the ruling classes and states worldwide have increasing attacked the working class. Inequality between classes as a result is at an unprecedented level historically. While this has seen some rise in progressive struggles, it has not been uniformly so. Indeed, a fragmented working class now exists due to neoliberalism. Politics based on identity have often taken the place of class struggle and any unified progressive project is hard to maintain. Neoliberalism has also attempted to create individualised workers and consumers and a section of the population that is unemployed, which has made it difficult to undertake collective organising as differences are emphasised as opposed to commonalities.

In this fragmented and crisis ridden context, regressive politics that have tapped into anger and fear have also arisen. As part of this, demagogic politicians and parties have provided a false sense of belonging to sector of the population based on the most regressive ideas of ultra-nationalism, racism, sexism, authoritarianism, bigotry and even fascism. This has included politicians in Brazil, Philippines, and the United States of America.

Humanity and our fellow beings also face an existential crisis in the form of climate change and the mass extinction of species brought about by centuries long class rule, states and capitalism. In terms of the ecology, we are at a cross-roads and if we go down the road of continued capitalism the results will likely be catastrophic.

In South Africa the working class, and black working class in particular, faces continued racial oppression and exploitation as a class. In recent years this has had major implications:

  • Unemployment has reached record levels in 2020, especially as COVID 19 has exacerbated the capitalist crisis
  • Informal settlements and poor housing conditions are rife
  • The reorganisation and flexibilisation of production and work, resulting in a small layer of permanently employed workers in contrast to a majority of unskilled, casualised, informalised or unemployed workers
  • The generally negative impact of these developments on women in particular, and the increased incorporation of women into waged work, but in informalised, poorly paid and vulnerable working conditions
  • Communities that are fragmenting under the pressure caused by neoliberal capitalism and its ideology of individualism
  • The rise of xenophobia under conditions of poverty and increased competition caused by neoliberalism
  • The rise of an authoritarian populism that is specific to South Africa and that will potentially lead the working class down a dead end road.

There is, however, also hope. Resistance still continues in South Africa. This, however, needs to galvanise into a mass movement that can offer the working class a home based on progressive ethics, values, practices and principles in which feminism is central and the humanity of all is recognised and cherished. This is vital: if such as home cannot be built regressive politics will thrive.

Hope also exists in experiments internationally, such as the Rojava Revolution, that are based on egalitarianism, women’s liberation, the ecology and a caring society. Seeds in fact exist everywhere which could flourish into new movements that could not only save the world, but change the world for the better.

Through its work, ILRIG provides tools of analysis for activists to deepen their understanding of the above context, chart a way forward for self-organising based on progressive principles, values and ethics and to share information and insight into radically democratic working class mass movements internationally and a revolution in the case of Rojava to also inspire. It is this that shapes the current research areas of ILRIG.

Current Research Areas

  • Workers and community members embarking on new or different forms of organising, including under COVID 19, and the need for progressive principles, ethics, values and practices to underpin this
  • Documenting and capturing the stories of activists involved in new forms of organising in South Africa, in particular women
  • Changes in capitalism, the restructuring of the working class and implications for organising, in particular women who form the majority of precarious workers and the unemployed
  • Alternatives to capitalism and national states, with a focus on Democratic Confederalism and the Rojava Revolution
  • Land occupations and service delivery protests in South Africa
  • Changes within capitalism and the political terrain in South Africa, and the links and implications for land, housing, and community/service delivery struggles. In particular research has focused on how neoliberalism and cost recovery mechanisms for basic services mean the burden of the reproduction of the working class has fallen more and more on working class women, and black working class women in particular
  • The impact of neoliberalism on education
  • The links between capitalism, climate change and COVID 19
  • Women’s oppression, social reproduction and capitalism, including under COVID 19
  • Women’s activism in community movements and worker formations
  • The shifts from neoliberal globalisation to neoliberal nationalism and the implications, including the rise in authoritarianism, ultra-nationalism and populism