The need for an Alternative Press
The alternative press is an anti-capitalist press for the working class. The participants in the winter school were given an overnight reading titled ‘The Alternative Press’ by B Mpofu, to better understand the alternative press; how it was formed and how it ended up collapsing.
Lehulere made a presentation on alternative media and how it survived during apartheid era and managed to run the press. And he questioned why the working class press could make it when things were hard for them but now they cannot make it when situation is in favour of them, He said since the new anti-apartheid government took over they have been zero alternative press.
From the 1990s the alternative media started to disappear or mostly joined the mainstream media, noted the facilitator and further added that in South Africa, only the Mail & Guardian has links to leftist press as it is a descendant of the Rand Daily Mail which was a paper for miners. The Mail & Guardian is itself very weak in serving the interest of the working class.
The participants took some time giving some possible reasons why there is practically no press for the working class in South Africa today. Some participants argued that in South Africa the emergence and spread of working class media had basis in apartheid which by its nature forced many people into activism and or resistance.
Once a more democratic form of government with one liberation movement as a governing party had been achieved, the papers needed to change their focus and so their content because they became irrelevant. Through some debate, this position was shown to be inconsistent with reality since working class people still face a lot of the challenges that they faced and which moved them to resist oppression.
Newspapers of the left in this country declined and even disappeared due to a number of reasons, especially their reluctance to accept advertisers using their platforms to reach out to labourers and the communities in which they live. Lehulere argued that “the mass media and press was a working class media”, recognising the fact that for media to be for the mass of the people, it was the mass of the people that took the initiative to creates mass schooling and improved literacy levels. With a number of people able to read and write, mass media became possible. These initiatives in all the cases have of course been taken over by the upper classes who are also wealthier and are better placed to produce mass media and even run mass schools on a more consistent level.
The activities that have been taking place at this winter school is like training for the participants because most people here have not have had any platform on which to report their community struggles and stories.
The most important thing about this school is that when it ends, comrade participants should have a full understanding about alternative media and what we are trying to start in their communities. Participants now will be aware of the challenges that face alternative media while they are organising their media and the working class itself.
In conclusion of the discussion, it became obvious that the main basis for the emergence of an alternative press is the struggles of the working class. In this way, it was shown that the need for the alternative media is still there because working class people in South Africa are still protesting for basic services like water and cheaper electricity rates. There is mass youth unemployment and unemployment in general and the precarity of work.
Working class people now live in deeper poverty and repression through police brutality has reached apartheid-levels with the Marikana massacre of 2012 a most notable act of the sitting government on top its GEAR policy which has set back the working and the poor many times over while the standard of living has dropped with the increase in Value Added Tax.
By Malena Phake, Tshepo Matoko and Siyabonga Mviko