Workers Vanguard No. 958
7 May 2010
On the Killing of Fascist TerreBlanche
Black Oppression in Neo-Apartheid South Africa
For a Black-Centered Workers Government!
The following article was written by our comrades of Spartacist South Africa.
JOHANNESBURG—The killing of Eugene Terre’Blanche, leader of the white-supremacist, fascist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement—AWB), allegedly by his two black employees, including a 15-year-old, has raised black-vs.-white racial tensions to a level not seen at least since the killing of Chris Hani, a leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP), in 1993. The Saturday, 3 April killing happened at Terre’Blanche’s Ventersdorp, North West Province, farm as a result of a dispute over unpaid wages, as low as R300.00 [$40] per month, owed to the two workers. The older of the workers, 28 years old, says they acted in self-defence.
The reactions from right-wing Afrikaner racists, the mainly white bourgeoisie, its mouthpieces in the bourgeois media and the tops of the ruling capitalist Tripartite Alliance—the African National Congress (ANC), SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)—ranged from anger and threats of revenge to condemnation of the killing and eulogising Terre’Blanche in the name of “calm.” (The government is particularly worried about bad international press with the World Cup looming.) To this end, President Jacob Zuma appeared on TV the night after the killing, grotesquely mourning the death of “a leader of his standing.” Zuma’s partner in the nationalist popular front, the reformist SACP, echoed his calls for “calm” and expressed “regret and shock” over the killing in a wretched 5 April statement, “Our Condolences to the Terreblanche Family.”
In contrast, most of the black masses received the death of this white-supremacist with joy and relief, but also fear over a backlash by racist farmers and other whites. Unlike the SACP, which denounces the accused farm workers as murderers and calls on “their own” capitalist government to “act swiftly” in meting out punishment, we stand for the right of farm workers and other workers to self-defence, which is a question of survival given the racist attacks regularly carried out by their bosses. Free the accused! Drop all the charges!
This racial polarisation shows the total bankruptcy of the ANC/SACP/COSATU project of “nation building” and exposes as a rotten sham their rhetoric about the “rainbow nation” and “non-racialism.”
A very small, mainly farm-owning section of the predominantly Afrikaans-speaking white population rejected the 1994 “power sharing” deal between the Tripartite Alliance led by Nelson Mandela’s ANC and the white minority government of F.W. De Klerk’s National Party. They opted to fight for a whites-only republic where they can exercise self-rule within majority-black South Africa. This is the program of Terre’Blanche’s AWB. These racist farm owners not only refused the 1994 political deal but have also refused to implement laws meant to ameliorate the slave-like conditions of black workers on those farms. These workers are denied rights to join unions or even vote. When they are dead, the farmers refuse their families permission to bury them on the farms they have worked all their lives in case those graves are used as evidence for future land claims. Often existing graves are willfully destroyed by these deranged racists. More than a million farm workers have been evicted from the farms with total impunity since the dawn of neo-apartheid capitalist South Africa in 1994.
Other atrocities farm workers are subjected to include getting shot for being “mistaken” for dogs, baboons and warthogs; being dragged behind vans on concrete roads with pieces of flesh plucking off; being thrown alive into a lion’s den; the list never stops. The week following the death of Terre’Blanche saw seven farm workers’ heads cracked by their employer with an iron rod in revenge for the killing simply because they are black. Outside Ventersdorp, a young black woman was brutally raped—to avenge the killing—by her employer, Henning Buys, who only paid R1,000.00 for bail and left without his blood samples being taken by the local police. Black farm workers’ lives continue to be living hell in the master-slave relationships with their employers in 16 years of the “new” South Africa.
The response of both blacks and whites showed a country characterised by such deep racial divisions that even the death of a leader of such a fringe racist white organisation like the AWB can lead to fears of an imminent racial war. The leaders of the AWB and other white organisations blamed the ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, for fuelling racial tensions by singing the old anti-apartheid struggle song with the lyrics “kill the boer.” [“Boer” is Afrikaans for “farmer.” It is also used to refer to Afrikaners in general.] Both the SACP and COSATU tops condemned the killing, labeling it as criminal irrespective of what they know about the conditions of farm workers, which they only offered as a secondary comment. Both organisations blamed Terre’Blanche for opposing democracy and reconciliation. So they see their priority as defending the neo-apartheid capitalism they help administer and which perpetuates the immiseration of the black masses.
It is this continued immiseration of the black masses and the explosive anger at the base of society that explain the racial polarisation, whatever slogan Malema chants. Nationalist demagogues like Malema do take advantage of such prevailing circumstances to further their own privileges and bourgeois-nationalist political careers. In fact, the victims of nationalists chanting such slogans as “kill the boer” are the farm workers, who face immediate retribution from their “boer” employers. Also, the most likely to suffer as a result of the “narrow nationalism” which Malema and his ilk promote are immigrants from other African countries.
One of the main factors contributing to the untenable relations on the farms is the failure of the land redistribution program of the bourgeois ANC/SACP/COSATU government, which is based on a “willing seller, willing buyer” arrangement. Less than 6 percent of the land has been transferred back to black people, while the white minority, which forms less than 10 percent of the population, owns more than 70 percent of the country’s urban and arable rural land. In line with their commitment to capitalist relations of private property, most black nationalist organisations call for allocation of more land to small farm owners. In counterposition to this program of breaking up large, mechanised commercial farms into smaller, unproductive pieces, we are for the expropriation of the large, white-owned farms and for their transformation into collective and state farms under workers rule. Farm workers are going to be central in achieving this goal, which is indissolubly bound up with the socialist revolution to be led by the mainly urban proletariat. To address the lack of housing and related problems, we stand for the expropriation without compensation of all privately owned urban land and the building of racially integrated residential areas as part of a massive public works program.
Problems of poverty facing the majority of the South African black population extend beyond the farm environment, as South Africa overtakes Brazil as one of the most unequal societies in the world. They are currently expressed in the rebellious township service delivery protests that are spreading like wildfire throughout the country. The masses’ frustrations over the lack of satisfaction of very basic human needs like electricity, water, houses, roads, etc. are met by state violence with cops firing rubber bullets at and arresting tens and tens of protesters.
Students from poor backgrounds are struggling against financial exclusion from institutions of higher education. Currently thousands of members of the National Union of Mineworkers are on strike against pending retrenchments [layoffs] and for recovery of at least two months’ worth of unpaid salaries in the provinces of Gauteng and North West. These workers are employed by Aurora, a “black empowerment” mining company run by the relatives of former and current presidents Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma. These black exploiters were also trying to buy more mines in Zimbabwe. So it is clear that the ruling Tripartite Alliance elite have direct interests in the continued superexploitation of black labour that the “new” South Africa shares with its apartheid predecessor.
Writing in the City Press (11 April), Andile Mngxitama, a representative of Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) nationalism, effectively captured the reality of black oppression in the “new” South Africa as revealed in the light of Terre’Blanche’s death:
“Ventersdorp is South Africa
. This dorpie [small town] eloquently tells the story of the criminal neglect of black people by the ANC government in the past 16 years. Go see for yourself the demeanour of black residents. They are tense and fearful, a powerful symbol of black powerlessness, because the ruling party has made a pact with the devil.”
But Mngxitama’s conclusions reveal the bankruptcy of BCM’s brand of nationalism, no less than that of the mainstream ANC, by pushing illusions that solutions to the problems facing the oppressed majority can be realised by pressuring the ANC: “It must simply use its political power to change things. The problem is not the white racists, but the refusal of the ANC to use its political mandate to end racism.” This is no surprise, as Mngxitama wastes a lot of ink in his bourgeois press articles telling black people they are oppressed, which they already know, while his only proposals for what to do about this oppression are for blacks to overcome an oppressed “state of mind.”
We of Spartacist South Africa, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), remain steadfast in our conviction that the economic and social emancipation of the black majority can only be achieved through a proletarian socialist revolution and the creation of a black-centred workers government as a link in the chain of world socialist revolution. This is the South Africa-specific application of Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution and a central lesson of the epoch-making Russian Revolution of October 1917.