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  • Transformation 100
  • Lindy Stiebel (bio), Rachel Matteau Matsha (bio), and Kira Erwin (bio)

For anything or anyone to reach a centenary point is an enormous feat – and so it is with this issue which is Transformation's 100th, appearing in the journal's 33rd year of existence. How did we as an editorial team get here? How did the journal – one of the few independent academic journals not managed by a professional publisher in South Africa – get here? And has the journal still got anything relevant to add to public debate around the pressing issues of our day, based as we are on the south eastern edge of Africa? As with all centenaries, a longer view is now possible because there is a significant history to draw upon.

In the beginning, as all good narratives start, Transformation was a journal established across a variety of disciplines to discuss the nature of change in Southern Africa, and to provide a forum for analysis and debate about South African society in transition, as well as the surrounding region, for academics from across the world. The primary focus of the journal was on contemporary society whilst, however, acknowledging the need to locate day-to-day movements and emerging broader patterns in an historical context. Of course, the late 1980s in South Africa marked the most intense final years of the struggle against apartheid, and issues of a transforming society dominated political debate, especially on university campuses. Gerhard Maré, a sociologist, Bill Freund, an economic historian, and Mike Morris, an economist, founded Transformation in 1986. Maré came from the journal Work in Progress which he had co-founded, Morris from some years in the independent trade union movement, and Freund from living and researching in other parts of Africa. All three were based in Durban at the then University of Natal. The editorial of issue No.1 is worth outlining again here: [End Page i]

Transformation is a new South African journal intended to serve as a forum for analysis and debate about this society and the surrounding region. Change seems to be definitely on the South African agenda. 'Reform' is the catch phrase of the day. Its material content will have major political and economic implications for our lives. Whether it will be fundamental, and how far reaching it will be, is the concern of all those involved in this country.

Attention is intensely focused on the daily rush of events as the balance of forces and the nature of consciousness shifts. However, without clear analyses of objectives and forces impeding or facilitating advances, such struggle is in danger of becoming 'all movement and no direction'. There is, therefore, a fundamental need to situate these day to day movements and the emerging broader patterns into a current and historical framework for analysis and criticism. History, more than ever, has its own particular pertinence for all struggles to create a new future.

Contemporary conditions in South Africa are altering rapidly. The balance of class forces that has shaped this society's past is undergoing a fundamental restructuring. New class initiatives are apparent with every twist and turn of struggle. Fresh contradictions and struggles for different alliances pervade all the social forces on the historical stage. As part of this process capital is reorganising its agenda in order to bring about political restabilisation and a renewed basis for sustained accumulation. There is a new terrain of state reaction, intervention and ideological experimentation.

One striking aspect of the new terrain of mass politics is the openly expressed interest in socialist ideas and practices. The two catch phrases in this new mass politics are 'socialism' and 'democracy'. Sometimes they are counter posed as a political choice between 'workerists' and 'populists'; sometimes they are fused as a struggle for 'democratic-socialism'. Yet the whole question of what these concepts mean has not been seriously broached. Sectarianism, dogmatism, and violent resolution of differences of opinion too often characterise political discussions.

Transformation will examine these issues in a spirit which is intended to spur debate and encourage the exposition of different considered positions but without any partisanship other than the conviction that there is no settled and established...


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