Article from ROAPE Volume 32 Number 103
Class and Protest in Africa: New Waves
This article considers the relationship between working class struggle and popular protest in Africa over the last 40 years. We argue that the form and content of class relations which developed in the period of nationalist struggle and early ‘national development’ have been fundamentally restructured by the process of globalisation. From the late 1970s, a great wave of widespread popular protest and resistance was noted around the world, including Africa. The strikes, marches, demonstrations and riots that characterised this wave of protest and resistance (often termed ‘bread riots’ or ‘IMF riots’) usually involved a variety of social groups and categories and did not always take place under a working class or trade union banner or with working class leadership - if this term is used in its narrow sense. A broader array of popular forces did, however, challenge not only the immediate austerity measures introduced as part of structural adjustment and ‘economic reform’, but also the legitimacy of the reforms themselves and even, sometimes, the governments that introduced them. They also frequently identified the international financial institutions and agencies that led this concerted effort to further enmesh ‘the developing world’ and the ordinary people who live there, into the uneven process of capitalist globalisation in the interests of major transnational corporations and the states that gain most from their operations.