Massacre of striking miners in South Africa
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 9; Winter 2012-2013)
On July 18 the world bourgeoisie celebrated “Mandela Day”, established internationally by the UN in November 2009 under the sign of peace, freedom, reconciliation, etc. In South Africa, more than 12 million children sang hymns to Mandela before going to class, the wholepopulation was called upon to devote 67 minutes of their time (corresponding to 67 years of Mandela’s activism) to helping others. The IMATU Union requested that this day where they celebrate “the 67 years of his life Mandela has given for the rights of humanity, equality, justice and democracy enjoyed today by all South Africans” become a public holiday, so that individuals can give much more than 67 minutes to useful causes....
All these disgusting proclamations only serve to hide the fact that Mandela and his ANC party now in power have historically worked to keep not only capitalism, but even – in the name of “reconciliation”, – the status of economic and social domination of the white bourgeoisie intact in South Africa . Apartheid is gone, legally blacks have the same rights as whites, but the reality of exploitation, oppression, poverty and racism has not changed for the overwhelming majority of the population of South Africa. The only difference is that a thin layer of bureaucrats, businessmen and capitalists could integrate into the bourgeoisie, that black union bureaucrats are maintained, sometimes handsomely, to betray the interests of workers and that black mercenaries were recruited to “improve” the activity of the police.
On Thursday, August 16th this was again demonstrated by the police massacre using automatic weapons of 36 striking miners in Marikana at Lonmin, which mines metals in the platinum group. There were also many injuredand more than 250 strikers were arrested. The country had not experienced such a massacre since the days of apartheid ...
Reinforced by the massacre and thinking that the strikers were prostrated by the bloody repression, they issued an ultimatum: return to work or dismissal.
The miners at Lonmin – a multinational based in London and employing 20,000 people at its operations across South Africa – have been on strike since Aug. 10 for a salary increase from 4,000 to 12,500 rand (480 to 1500 US $). The conditions of life and work of the miners are particularly difficult; they toil for starvation wages “housed” in desolate slums without running water, medical care is practically nonexistent, etc.
Before the massacre Thursday, clashes between strikers and nonstrikers had already killed 10 people. The main miners’ union, the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers), whose collusion with the employers is denounced by the workers, and which was hostile to the strike, on August 13 launched an appeal to the army “to restore order” (1): the strike was in fact not legal under the labor code. A striker interviewed by the press commented: “The NUM has deserted us, it is working with the Whites and piling up money. They forgot about the workers” (2).
While the management said it was negotiating a return to work, about 3000 strikers gathered on a hill to block the entrance to the mine, saying they would not budge. To defend themselves they had obtained or assembled makeshift weapons: sticks, knives, machetes. The police, heavily armed and who, according to the strikers, were assisted by leaders of the NUM (3), have used various means to end the rally deemed “illegal”: barbed wire, tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets before firing live ammunition against the workers.
In order to justify themselves, the police affirm – against all evidence – that they acted “in self-defense” against gunfire from the miners. With the goal of preserving democratic forms, the ANC government announced that there would be an investigation to determine what really happened. But there is no need for an inquest to understand that this is a massacre perpetrated to break a strike, and that the government and the big trade union organizations associated with it, promote capitalist interests!
The NUM leader has accused the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), a small union, composed of former members of the NUM, which lead the strike, of being the cause of violence: “That is why we say the ringleaders must be arrested” he added (4). For its part, the South African CP which includes many union bureaucrats, also called on August 16 for the arrest of the leaders of the AMCU, the shootings being “a barbaric act coordinated by the AMCU”! According to him the leaders of AMCU were expelled from the NUM “because of their anarchy” (5)....
As for the largest Trade Union Confederation COSATU, linked to the ANC of Mandela and to which the NUM belongs, it issued a press release onAugust 16 , which expresses its condolences to the families of the victims. But what crocodile tears these are: not a word of criticism of police violence! The only thing that these Trade Union bureaucrats condemn is the “violence and intimidation”... of the AMCU! The COSATU communique called on the leaders of the union organizations to meet, not to respond to the police massacre, but to deal with a “coordinated political strategy to use intimidation and violence (…) in a concerted drive to create breakaway ‘unions’ and divide and weaken the trade union movement.” (6)!
The collusion of the trade union apparatus with the capitalists, which is so abjectly expressed here, can be illustrated by one fact: the former chief fat cat of COSATU, Cyril Ramaphosa, is now a member of the Board of directors of Lonmin! During the period when he led the Trade Union Confederation, he amassed a considerable fortune, as the price for his services to South African capitalists ...
The world capitalist economic crisis also affects South Africa, exacerbating capitalist exploitation and the misery of the masses. Poverty is still endemic despite the rhetoric, extreme poverty having even doubled in 10 years. The unemployment rate, which is on the rise, officially reached the 25.2%, while nonofficial estimates put it at 40% (–73% for those less than 35 years old!) (7). Wages are very low and working conditions often bestial.
This degradation of the situation of the workers and the masses has been responsible for a resurgence of strikes and unrest for many months. What the politico-economic mafia of the ANC, the Union apparatus and the bourgeois in general are afraid of, is that this agitation will lead to a generalization of the struggles and the organization of the working class.
The leaders of AMCU lament that the police, instead of helping people, are killing workers (8). But when the weapons of propaganda and soothing hymns of democratic pacifism to Mandela, are not enough to appease the proletariat, the bourgeoisie will never hesitate to let their bullets fly.
This grim lesson learned in blood is one that the proletariat not only in South Africa but throughout the world will never forget. The confrontation between classes is a social war, which is sometimes open, sometimes concealed, but which can only end by the violent destruction of the bourgeois power, the seizure of power by the proletariat and the overthrow of capitalism. So that the skirmishes of today aid in preparing the great struggle of tomorrow which will avenge the countless victims of capitalism, proletarians of all countries will need to start by breaking with the sellout unions and parties which, by advocating collaboration between classes, disarm them when confronting the capitalists, when they are not working directly with them.
This is the first step toward being able to defend themselves and to find the path of the intransigent class struggle against capitalism
Class Solidarity with the Lonmin Miners!
August, 17th 2012
(1) http://www. lemonde. fr / afrique / visuel_ interactif / 2012 / 08/17/une-semaine- de- violences- dans- un- conflit- minier- en- afrique- du-sud_ 1747167_ 3212. html
(4) See “The Guardian”, 8/17/12
(6)http://www.cosatuorg.za / show. php? ID=6421
(7) http://www.iol.co.za/business/business-news / cosatu-shocked-by-unemployment-stats-1.1292074# .UDHP2PK17Q http://www.npr.org / 2012/05/28/153883339 / over-half-of-youth-unemployed-in-south-africa
(8) http:// mg.co.za /article/2012-08-18-malema-miners-were-killed-to-protect-cyril-ramaphosa-shares
International Communist Party