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South Africa after Marikana massacre: Strike wave and new workers' organisations challenge old compromises

Thousands of Amplats mineworkers rally in Rustenburg, South Africa.

By Leonard Gentle

November 12, 2012 -- International Labour Research and Information Group -- Over the November 10-11, 2012, weekend striking mineworkers of the Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) corporation gathered at a mass rally in Rustenburg and howled their defiance of a series of ultimatums issued by the company. At De Doorns, farm workers are on a "wildcat" strike -- the latest of a series that has become a feature of the South African landscape over the last three months, knocking the African National Congress conference in Mangaung off the front pages. Something is stirring from below … and it is time we got beyond the fear and trepidation that have become the stock response in the media.

BRICS bloc’s rising ‘sub-imperialism’: the latest threat to people and planet?

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa pose prior to the BRICS summit in New Delhi on March 29, 2012.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

November 22, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The heads of state of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) network of governments are coming to Durban, South Africa,  in four months, meeting on March 26-27 at the International Convention Centre (ICC), Africa’s largest venue. Given their recent performance, it is reasonable to expect another “1%” summit, wreaking socioeconomic and ecological havoc. And that means it is time for the first BRICS countersummit, to critique top-down “sub-imperialist” bloc formation, and to offer bottom-up alternatives.

After all, we have had some bad experiences at the Durban ICC.

South Africa: What has Hurricane Sandy taught the ruling elite?

Storm surge from the cyclone in Durban, March 2007.

By Patrick Bond

November 6, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- What did Hurricane Sandy teach us in South Africa, just as $30 billion of state funds are being committed to the dig out of vast new Durban port capacity over the next three decades, plus billions more nearby for petro-chemical industry expansion in Africa’s largest oil-refining complex?

Not much, judging by the dunces I’ve met during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which on October 31 included an Open Day for discussion sponsored by the biggest investor, the state-owned Transnet port and railroad operator.

Africa’s largest harbour, Durban is facing stiff competition: from Maputo in Mozambique for shipments to the huge Johannesburg market; and from other ports along the coast attempting to set up regional freight hubs and export processing zones. Transnet and Durban municipal officials are reacting like clumsy dinosaurs.

South Africa: Latest ANC/police attack on militant miners condemned

SACP's Blade Nzimande leads COSATU members prior to clashes with striking Anglo Platinum miners. October 27, 2012, Rustenburg, North West. Photo by Greg Marinovich, Daily Maverick.

Statement by the Democratic Left Front (South Africa)

October 29, 2012 -- The Democratic Left Front condemns the police for shooting workers in Rustenburg on October 27. Two workers who work at Amplats were hit by live ammunition, and one, hit in the chest, is in a critical condition in hospital. Eleven other mineworkers were injured by rubber bullets. The DLF also condemns Blade Nzimande, SACP general secretary and minister for higher education, for condoning this shooting by the police. This so-called “Communist” defends the shooting of workers in the interests of the capitalist bosses.

South Africa's political economy after the Marikana massacre

Marikana miners protest against the August 16, 2012, massacre by police.

For more on the Marikana mine massacre, click HERE.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

October 18, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When a ruling party in any African country sinks to the depths of allowing its police force to serve white-dominated multinational capital by killing dozens of black workers so as to end a brief strike, as happened in South Africa in August, it represents not just human rights and labour relations travesties. The incident offers the potential for a deep political rethink.

But that can only happen if the society openly confronts the chilling lessons learned in the process about the moral degeneration of a liberation movement that the world had supported for decades. Support was near universal from progressives of all political hues, because that movement, the African National Congress (ANC), promised to rid this land not only of formal apartheid but of all unfair racial inequality and indeed class and gender exploitation as well. And now the ANC seems to be making many things worse.

There are five immediate considerations about what happened at Marikana, 100 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg, beginning around 4 pm on August 16, 2012:

South Africa: (Updated) Marikana Lonmin workers win 22% wage rise, but the struggle for justice goes on

victory-for-marikana

Amandla! editorial

September 20, 2012 -- Amandla! -- A heroic struggle has tasted its first victory. The reported wage settlement with the mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine -- site of the terrible August 16 massacre of workers by police -- of R11, 000 is a massive victory, nothing less than the murder and sacrifice of so many workers dictated.

With an unholy alliance of Lonmin bosses, the bosses of the entire platinum sector, the army, police, government and even the leadership of the South African Communist Party and the pro-government National Union of Mineworkers rangeed against them, Lonmin workers can turn from their wage struggle to the struggle for justice with enormous pride and their dignity restored. This struggle has already rewritten the history of the international labour movement. In the eyes of the world, Marikana is not a place but an expression that workers' struggle -- class struggle -- is not yesterday's language and ideology, but lives in the struggles of the exploited and oppressed from below who continue to fight the good fight.

South Africa: 'The SACP has become a vanguard of ANC power factionalism'

South Africa's ANC president Jacob Zuma (right) dances with SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande.

By Dale T. McKinley

September 10, 2012 -- South African Civil Society Information Service -- If ever we needed to be reminded of Milan Kundera’s famous axiom that, "the struggle … against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting", then it is in respect of the post-apartheid history of the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Why? Because it is a history that shows us, in so many different ways, how and why the SACP has gradually but systematically become a vanguard of African National Congress (ANC) factionalist politics as opposed to its self-proclaimed role as an independent, progressive force representing and leading the "national democratic, anti-capitalist struggle" of the working class.

South Africa: "A travesty of justice" -- miners charged with murder after police kill 34; Metalworkers condemn state murder


The Democratic Left Front's Vishwas Satgar interviewed on the Real News Network, August 31, 2012. Transcript below DLF statement. More at The Real News.

STOP PRESS, September 2, 2012 -- Following national and international outrage, South African prosecutors have provisionally dropped murder charges against 270 miners whose 34 colleagues were massacred by police. Acting national director of prosecutions for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Nomgcobo Jiba said that after having sought an explanation from the department's lead prosecutors, she had taken the decision to review the charge.

A final decision would be taken on the charges after a series of investigations into the shootings had delivered their findings. The workers have been held in custody since they were arrested on the day of the shooting -- August 16 -- at Lonmin's mine in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. Courts will start releasing them after police verify their addresses. The first batch of at least 140 miners is due to be freed on September 3 while the rest should go home on September 6.

South Africa: Hamba Kahle Comrade Neville Alexander (1936-2012)

August 30, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal publishes a number of tributes to Neville Alexander, a great South African revolutionary, who died on August 27, 2012. Following the tributes is an extensive biographical essay by the South African History Online project.

* * *

Tribute to Neville Alexander from comrades and friends of the Workers' Organisation for Socialist Action (WOSA)

August 29, 2012 -- Comrades and friends who have known Neville Alexander through the Workers Organisation for Socialist Action mourn the passing of this great socialist and revolutionary. Neville Alexander dedicated his life to the struggle against oppression and injustice and for the upliftment of his fellow human beings.

From the early days of student struggles to his arrest and imprisonment on Robben Island to his latter years working on language and education, Neville Alexander’s deep humanitarian spirit, his respect for the ordinary people and his humility were always present.

South Africa: Marikana massacre – a turning point?

Marikana mineworkers on strike for higher pay.

For more coverage of South Africa, click HERE.

By Martin Legassick

August 27, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The massacre of 34, and almost certainly more, striking mineworkers at Marikana (together with more than 80 injured) on August 16 has sent waves of shock and anger across South Africa, rippling around the world. It could prove a decisive turning point in our country’s post-apartheid history.

Marikana is a town situated in barren veld, dry brown grass in the winter, with occasional rocky outcrops (kopjes, hillocks). The Lonmin-owned mines – there are three, Karee, West and East Platinum – are situated on the outskirts of the town. Alongside two of them is a settlement of zinc-walled shacks festooned with lines of washing called Enkanini, where most of the mineworkers live.

South Africa: 'Sorting fact from fiction at Marikana' -- Terry Bell on the massacre of mineworkers

For more coverage of South Africa, click HERE.

August 27, 2012 -- Terry Bell is a widely respected labour reporter and activist based in Cape Town, South Africa. His "Inside  labour" columns in Amandla! magazine and on his blog, Terry Bell Writes, are essential reading for those interested in developments in South Africa's labour movement. Below, with Terry Bell's permission, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal posts some of his recent columns dealing with Marikana massacre and the background to it.

* * *

By Terry Bell

August 23, 2012 -- Terry Bell Writes --  The deaths at Lonmin amount to the bloodiest tragedy of the post-apartheid era. As a result, the blame game is in full swing and is likely to continue in the weeks ahead.

South Africa: (updated Aug. 29) Justice now for the Marikana workers and community!

August 24, 2012 -- In the aftermath of the terrible Marikana massacre on August 16, 2012, a number of statements have been released by South Africa's left condemning and explaining the murder of more than 34 minerworkers on the day, and a number of others in the weeks previously. Below Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal publishes a selection of the most significant. They include an article by veteran South African Communist Party member and former ANC government minister Ronnie Kasrils and statements by the Democratic Left Front (and a report of a public meeting), the South African Municipal Workers Union, Amandla!, Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Unemployed Workers Movement and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. More will be added as they come to hand.

See also "South Africa: The massacre of our illusions … and the seeds of something new".

* * *

South Africa: The massacre of our illusions … and the seeds of something new

By Leonard Gentle, director of the International Labour Research and Information Group (South Africa)

August 23, 2012 -- ILRIG -- The story of Marikana has so far been painted shallowly as an inter-union spat. In the first few days after the August16 police killing of  34 striking mineworkers, employed by the Lonmin mining corporation, and the shock and horror of watching people being massacred on TV, there have correctly been howls of anger and grief. Of course no one wants to take responsibility because to do so would be to acknowledge blame.

Some pundits have even gone the way of warning at anyone “pointing figures” or “stoking anger”. That buffoon, African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema, stepped forward as if scripted, and promptly lent credibility to those warnings. So South African President Jacob Zuma’s setting up of an inquiry and his call for a week of mourning for the deceased and their families could come across as “statesmanlike”.

South Africa: The ANC's 'second transition' to what?

A demonstrator protests against the passing of the Protection of Information Bill, known as the "secrecy bill", outside parliament in Cape Town, November 22, 2011. Photo: Mike Hutchings / Reuters.

By Vishwas Satgar, Johannesburg

July 13, 2012 -- Amandla! --The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa's ruling party for almost two decades, held a policy conference in June. There are many ideas and policy perspectives up for discussion but the "big idea" framing the discussion is captured in a 47-page long document entitled: The Second Transition? Building a National Democratic Society and the Balance of Forces in 2012.

South Africa: Who will surf the protest wave?

Johannesburg's Orange Farm revolts against local elites.

By Patrick Bond

July 17, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The recent surge of unconnected community protests across South Africa confirms the country’s profound social, economic and environmental contradictions. But if activists fall before a new hail of police bullets, or if they lack an overarching, unifying political strategy, won’t their demonstrations simply pop up and quickly fall back down again – deserving the curse words "popcorn protests" – as they simply run out of steam, or worse, get channelled by opportunists into a new round of xenophobic attacks?

It’s been a hot winter, and we’re just halfway through July (the Centre for Civil Society’s Social Protest Observatory keeps tabs at http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za). Consider evidence from just the past two weeks, for example, in Johannesburg’s distant Orange Farm township south of Soweto, where residents rose up against city councillors and national electricity officials because of the unaffordable $250 installation charged for hated pre-payment (i.e. self-disconnection) meters, not to mention a 130% increase in electricity prices.

South Africa's Democratic Left Front: 'Solidarity with the women and workers of Greece'

Statement by the Democratic Left Front (South Africa)

July 2, 2012 -- The Democratic Left Front (DLF – South Africa) expresses its full solidarity with the women, workers, progressive mass movements and the SYRIZA party of Greece as they face the deep effects of the EU-inspired austerity onslaught. The Greek austerity plan involves cuts of 11.6 billion euros ($14.5 billion) by 2014. This amount will come from brutal cuts in budgets for health, wages and pensions. It will also mean hundrends of thousands of job losses in the Greek public sector. This austerity plan is meant to make the workers and the poor pay.

South African workers and unemployed people have faced a similar onslaught for the last 18 years under neo-liberal African National Congress (ANC) rule.

In the June 17 elections, the anti-austerity SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) came a close second with 26.9% of the vote. The right-wing New Democracy won the elections with more than 29%, amid huge blackmail and threats from major European governments and financial institutions.

South Africa: Interview with Soweto socialist councillor

Operation Khanyisa Movement banners at a march in Johannesburg, 2008.

April 5, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following interview appears in the South African left magazine Amandla!. The latest issue has just been released. Click here for the full contents. The new issue of Amandla! features analysis of the African National Congress' centenary.

The contradictions of Ronnie Kasrils: The leftist spy who came in from cold Pretoria

Ronnie Kasrils speaks out against Israel's apartheid policies, March 5, 2009.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

March 26, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- ‘I don’t have the stomach or the taste to serve any more at this level,’ said the normally ebullient minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, as he quit after 14 years of service to the South African government. It was late September 2008, just after Thabo Mbeki was replaced in palace coup.

Kasrils’ intelligence service was by then an international laughing stock, with spy-versus-spy intrigue spilling out wide across the political landscape. His own troops were locked in unending, ungovernable, internecine battles against each other’s factions, using hoax emails, other disinformation and extraordinary political contortions unknown in even the ugliest Stalinist traditions of the African National Congress (ANC). Recall that Mbeki’s police chief Jackie Selebi was also the head of Interpol, and to have the mafia penetrate such high levels made South African security farcical at best.

COSATU general strike shakes South Africa

By Ashley Fataar, Cape Town

March 12, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- March 7 saw South Africa’s largest protest in several years when more than 200,000 workers took to the streets in 32 towns and cities across the country. More than 1.5 million workers stopped work.

The strike – called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to protest against the growing role of labour brokers and the introduction of road tolls -- was prompted by worsening poverty and working conditions in South Africa. There has been a steady decline in the wage share of national income, down from 56% in 1996 to less than 47% today.

After the Durban climate talks: State and market climate failures amplified by civil society failure

Durban, December 3, 2011. Photo by Anne Petermann/GJEP-GFC.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

February 28, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In 2007, former World Bank chief economist Nick Stern termed climate change the worst "market failure" in history – since those who pollute with greenhouse gases are not charged, and since they threaten future generations and vast swathes of natural life – and at that moment, even the 1991 ravings of another former World Bank chief economist, Larry Summers, made sense.

"I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up that", according to a memo with Summers’ signature, although actually Summers was a mere plagiarist of Harvard economist Lant Pritchett’s genius, insiders allege.

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