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"It is certainly not our task to build up the future in advance and to settle all problems for all time, but it is just as certainly our task to criticise the existing world ruthlessly. I mean ruthlessly in the sense that we must not be afraid of our own conclusions and equally unafraid of coming into conflict with the prevailing powers."
Karl Marx, 1844



Oupa Lehulere was born in Cape Town in 1960. After primary school he went to Fezeka High School in Gugulethu. Fezeka High School had a history of political activism, with many senior students active in Black Consciousness-inspired student organisations. Oupa’s first introduction to resistance politics was the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools in 1975. But it was in 1976 with the students’ uprising that he became politically active. Although new to student politics, Lehulere became one of the student leaders who organised and directed the student uprising in Cape Town which took off on 11 August 1976. Since 1976, Lehulere has been involved in all the various uprisings in 1980 as a student leader, in 1985 as a student activist at UCT, in the 1990s as an activist linked to communities and the labour movement; and since then as an activist in the social movements that arose in the 2000s. Lehulere was introduced to Marxism in the late 1970s and has since framed his political activism in the broad Marxist traditions. The introduction to Marxism interested Lehulere in Marxist theory and has since led to an activism that has put theoretical questions and strategy at the centre of his political activism. Since the mid 1990s Lehulere has been based at Khanya College, a movement building institution that arose out of the turbulent 1980s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Lehulere taught academic courses – sociology and economics – at Khanya College. Since the mid-1990s his work has focused more on cadre formation and political education in the labour movement and the social movements.


This website brings together the political and theoretical writings by Oupa Lehulere. The writings stretch over a period of more than 30 years. Lehulere’s interest in Marxism and theory began in the late 1970s when he joined Marxist study groups in Cape Town. In the mid 1980s as an activist, Lehulere spent a lot of time grounding himself in the Marxist classics and this triggered his interest and commitment to an activism that was grounded in the unity of theory and practice.

The idea of this website is therefore to bring together numerous writings that cover the political controversies within the mass movement at this time. The writings assembled here can broadly be understood as covering three major historical periods in the development of the mass movement.

The first period is the transition from apartheid capitalism to post-apartheid capitalism. This period covers the years broadly from the tail-end of the 1980s to the end of the 1990s. The focus of writing in this period was dominated by the debate about the character of the South African transition and the negotiated settlement that framed this transition. The second part of the writings of this period trace the ANC in power and its capitulation to white monopoly capital and its global allies.

The second period covers Lehulere’s writings from 2000 to the early 2010s. These writings mainly focus on the political and theoretical work of building new mass movements against the backdrop of the capitulation of the traditional mass organisations of the working class to capitalism. In this context, the bulk of the writing focus on attempts to understand and develop new strategies for what became known as the new social movements.

The third period broadly covers the writings from the Marikana moment to the present. These writings are framed by the fracturing and the collapse of the social movements that emerged in the 2000s, and like in the 2000s they focus on theoretising and strategising the building of mass movements in the context of fracture and decline.

An additional body of work to be added later, is an archive of writing by a range of activists from the late 1980s to the 1990s. In the late 1980s Lehulere joined a group of young militants who could see the unfolding betrayal of the working class by the ANC and the SACP. These militants had organised themselves into the Workers International League of South Africa (WILSA). Like many similar groups in the country, WILSA produced a large body of theory which followed the development of struggles in the mass movement. Although WILSA dissolved in the mid 2000s, it has left the working class and its militants a rich heritage of the theory and practice of left politics. These WILSA Papers will form the core of the archive of this site.

Overall, the intention of this site is to make accessible one element of a body of theory that is not generally promoted and entertained in the mainstream publishing houses. It hopes to provide through the writings of Lehulere and the WILSA Papers, a different perspective of how the transition unfolded and how South Africa arrived where it is today. For while it is generally recognised that the South African transition has been a betrayal of working class aspirations, this is generally understood as a product of chance and bad individuals. The perspective presented in this site shows that the place that South Africa finds itself in today was not a product of chance or bad individuals. In the Marxist tradition in which Lehulere writes, he shows that the evolution of class forces over the last four decades has produced South Africa’s current decay as a necessary outcome of that evolution.

"Ideas that enter the mind under fire remain there securely and forever." - Leon Trotsky

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