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Workers Hammer No. 221

Winter 2012-2013

Smash neo-apartheid misery through socialist revolution!

Lessons of South African miners struggles

Break with the bourgeois Tripartite Alliance!

For a black-centred workers government!

The victory of strikers at South Africa’s Marikana mine in September 2012 sparked a wave of strikes, many of them wildcats waged in defiance of the official trade union leadership, which crippled the platinum industry, drastically cut the country’s gold output and spread to other industries. As was the case after a bitter two-month battle at mines owned by the British-based conglomerate Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), many workers won improvements in wages and reinstatement of those fired for striking.

South Africa is governed by the Tripartite Alliance, which is dominated by the capitalist African National Congress (ANC) but includes the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the COSATU trade union federation. In power for nearly two decades, the Tripartite Alliance has presided over the continuation of apartheid-era standards of living for the mass of the population and savagely repressed protests. Amid rumblings over corruption and an investigation into the massacre of striking Marikana mineworkers, the ANC recently held a conference to elect its party leader. South African deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, who was sold as an alternative who would do something about poverty and corruption, unsuccessfully challenged current South African president Jacob Zuma. As our comrades in Spartacist South Africa (SSA) have insisted, the working class has no stake in contests for the leadership of this bourgeois party.

Liberation from capitalist oppression can be accomplished only through the working class taking power. A first step in alleviating the poverty of the South African masses would be seizing the mine shafts, machinery and mountains of capital — now mainly in London, New York and other banking centres — which the mining bosses have heaped up through more than a century of superexploitation of mainly black labour. Such a programme requires an internationalist perspective, seeking allies in the imperialist centres devastated by the long economic downturn as well as other countries where the masses have strongly identified with the struggle against white supremacy in the past.

We print below the presentation by comrade Kate Klein at a Spartacist League forum in London on 13 October 2012. It has been edited for publication.

* * *

When the platinum miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa won a significant pay increase after six weeks on strike, it was a bittersweet victory. Thirty-four of their comrades had been shot dead in cold blood by police on 16 August. As one miner had remarked to CNN, they had to hold out, otherwise their comrades would have died in vain. That the cost of winning a pay rise in South Africa’s mines is so blood-drenched captures the reality of life for the black masses in the “new”, “democratic” South Africa.

The Marikana strike set off a wave of class struggle. Gold and platinum miners have downed tools demanding a wage they could support their families on. Yesterday a three-week strike of 20,000 truck drivers ended with a wage increase of 27 per cent over three years. Up to 100,000 miners have struck since August. Since 12 September, workers at the Anglo American Platinum mine in Rustenburg have been on a wildcat strike, and one worker was reportedly shot dead by the cops. On 5 October Amplats — the world’s largest platinum producer — sacked 12,000 workers. The strikers are holding firm and the mine is shut. The South African bourgeoisie is nervous — Amplats said it has lost 1.1 billion rand (£78 million) in income due to the strikes.

Meanwhile the state is increasingly clamping down on all kinds of protest. A journalist for the Daily Maverick (5 October) reports on protests in the informal settlement of Makause on the East Rand, outside Johannesburg. The leader of the protests says that when he applied for a permit to march against police brutality, the cop in charge “said that the police were ready for us and that if we marched, Makause would be turned into another Marikana”. There are numerous reports of deaths from cop shootings, apart from those at Marikana.

When we protested the Marikana massacre, both here and in the US, we echoed our comrades of the SSA, who wrote in a 23 August statement (printed in Workers Hammer no 220, Autumn 2012): “Make no mistake: the blood of these massacred workers is on the hands of the leaders of the ANC/SACP/COSATU Tripartite Alliance and their government.” The SSA stated: “Workers revolution will avenge the victims of the Lonmin massacre!” In other words, there will be no justice for these miners shot down like animals by the cops who are the guard dogs of the South African capitalist class until the capitalist state is torn up in a proletarian socialist revolution and replaced with a black-centred workers government.

Tripartite Alliance: a nationalist popular front

The Tripartite Alliance ruling South Africa is dominated by the African National Congress and includes the COSATU trade union federation as well as the South African Communist Party. All three of these entities rely on the political authority gained in the working class from the struggle to bring down the apartheid regime, which culminated in the power-sharing deal between the ANC and the white Afrikaner National Party that brought the Tripartite Alliance to power 18 years ago. Apartheid, the system of rigid and brutal racial segregation and subjugation of the black masses as well as the coloured (mixed-race, partly Malay-derived) and Indian population, was ended. But while that political superstructure was gone, what remained was the capitalist economy based on the exploitation of mostly black labour. So the promise that was held out by the ANC of Nelson Mandela during the anti-apartheid struggle — a promise of a new, democratic South Africa where the black masses could claim their birthright — never materialised.

Instead, today in South Africa the chasm between the handful of wealthy and the millions who live in squalor is wider than that in Brazil. According to greatly understated official statistics, about a quarter of the employable population is jobless. Wages for those who actually have jobs are miserable; jails are stuffed with black and coloured youth and deaths in custody are frequent; the healthcare system is a sick joke, with AIDS and other diseases rampant; a large proportion of those who actually have homes live in tin and cardboard shacks without clean water or sanitation. Tribal and ethnic rivalries and anti-immigrant violence is stoked by the bourgeoisie to keep the masses divided; anti-woman backwardness epitomised by lobola, the bride price, is rife.

In the mining industry, the heart of the South African economy, life for the workers is little changed from the days of apartheid. If you work as a rock driller you are doing backbreaking, deadly dangerous work for a pittance. Last year there were 123 deaths in the mines, and if you aren’t crushed to death by falling rock the chances are good you’ll get tuberculosis, which among miners is up to six times what it is in the general population. You’re probably a migrant worker, so your family who depend on your meagre wages are far away. You see them a couple of times a year; your home while you work is a squalid, filthy hostel living on top of other miners or a miserable shack; the company provides you with meals consisting of stale and rancid food. The conditions for the working class are not the only thing that hasn’t changed: South Africa today is ruled by the same white capitalist class with a sprinkling of new black faces. We call it neo-apartheid capitalism.

The dominant partner in the coalition government, the ANC, is a bourgeois-nationalist, not a working-class, formation. This capitalist government rules on behalf of the Randlords who own the enormous wealth, in particular the mining industry. There was a mystique during the days of the anti-apartheid movement, both in South Africa and internationally, that the ANC was a party of liberation that would bring equality to the black working people. In fact, the ANC at its inception 100 years ago was petty-bourgeois in character, dominated by a would-be black elite. It stood for the interests of an aspiring black bourgeoisie (even though until recently there were no black capitalists). So when the ANC made a deal with the white ruling class that prepared the changeover in 1994, it was the logical outcome of the ANC’s programme.

Apartheid was not brought down by the ANC’s guerrilla fighters, heroic as many were. It certainly was not brought down by the disinvestment campaigns and boycotts of liberals and leftists in the US and Europe. It was the class struggles waged by the powerful, mainly black trade union movement, organised from the mid-1980s largely in COSATU, that shook the apartheid state to its foundations and convinced key sections of the white ruling class and their senior partners in London and Washington that they needed to change. They needed to co-opt (bribe) the leadership of the ANC and the South African Communist Party to restore order. A key factor in the ANC coalition coming to power was the 1991-92 counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, which for decades had supported the ANC materially and diplomatically. As the Stalinist regime of Mikhail Gorbachev fell apart, and in the context of militant labour struggles in South Africa, the ANC embraced “power sharing” with the racist apartheid rulers, a section of whom accepted that ANC rule no longer threatened the white capitalists’ hold on power.

The Tripartite Alliance is a popular front — a bloc between bourgeois (capitalist) parties and reformist workers parties on the basis of a common programme. That programme is defence of bourgeois democracy, ie capitalism. In a popular front, the reformist workers parties accept the limits of the programme of their capitalist “ally”. So in South Africa the leaders of COSATU and the SACP work to subordinate the interests of the workers to the interests of the capitalist exploiters. The workers are betrayed from the word go. You could see it very clearly with the Lonmin strike — the bureaucrats in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the leaders of the SACP were active against the strike and on the side of the bosses, denouncing the strikers, justifying the massacre and blaming the workers for “violence”. They were serving the bosses and their ANC front men, not the workers. For the working class to be able to fight for its historic interest — the establishment of a workers state — it must have a leadership independent of all wings of the bourgeoisie.

Nationalism and class collaboration

To justify their class collaboration, the workers’ misleaders like the SACP tops find it useful to promote the ideology of nationalism — the lie that the black African people all have a common interest that stands higher than class divisions. As if ANC president Jacob Zuma and other millionaires have the same interests as the exploited mineworkers. At moments like the Marikana massacre, the lie looks pretty tattered, but nonetheless it is the glue sticking the Tripartite Alliance together.

One example of how this lie works is the notion that black police in post-apartheid South Africa are part of the working class. This illusion is reinforced by the fact that some cops in the “new” South Africa formerly served as armed fighters in the ANC’s struggle against apartheid. Black cops under apartheid were despised because it was obvious they served the racist oppressor. But now, the line of the ANC and its reformist supporters is that the state, with its majority-black “democratic” government, serves the masses. So a white cop may still be a racist Boer but a black cop is your “comrade”. It’s elementary for Marxists that cops are not workers but are part of the apparatus of the capitalist state, which exists to maintain through organised violence the system of exploitation of the working class by the capitalists.

If anyone here is familiar with the Socialist Party in Britain, you might know that they say cops and prison guards are “workers” — and were thrilled to bits when the head of the prison guards union here joined their wretched organisation. Well, the Socialist Party’s comrades in South Africa, called the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), regard the cops as workers and fellow trade unionists. The whole world watched these “workers in uniform” on TV screens, doing their job: shooting to death striking workers in cold blood. (The DSM didn’t just vote for the ANC, the class enemy, but were actually for many years, until 1996, a tendency inside the bourgeois ANC. So much for class independence of the proletariat). The DSM has been quite visible of late in coverage of the miners strikes, where they are involved in a strike committee in Rustenburg.

We raise the demand for cops and prison guards out of the trade unions. There’s a class line there. As the SSA wrote in its 23 August statement:

“We reject with utter contempt the bourgeois propaganda lumping together the workers massacred on 16 August with the two cops and two security guards who were killed during the preceding week, allegedly by striking mineworkers. We do not pretend to know the precise circumstances surrounding these deaths, but one thing is for sure: we shed no tears over the death of the bourgeoisie’s professional strikebreakers.”

A few weeks ago, Spartacist South Africa comrades were assaulted and their literature burned outside the national congress of COSATU. They were denouncing the Marikana massacre as well as exposing the betrayals of the COSATU leadership and had placards that included “Cops and security guards out of the unions!” and “Break with the bourgeois Tripartite Alliance! For a black-centred workers government!” This obviously hit a nerve with the COSATU tops. Because while the leaders of the COSATU unions are pro-capitalist and work to tie the workers to their exploiters, within the ranks of the unions there are many subjectively revolutionary workers who must be won to a revolutionary programme. The same is true of the South African Communist Party, whose membership overlaps with the unions as well as with the ANC. The SACP is an example of what Lenin called a bourgeois workers party — it has a working-class base but a pro-capitalist leadership and programme.

As I mentioned earlier, all the leaders of the Tripartite Alliance blamed the massacre at Marikana on the striking workers. The trade unions that compose COSATU were built at tremendous sacrifice in the hard class battles workers waged under apartheid. Today many leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle from the 1970s and ’80s are bureaucrats in COSATU or officials in the government that is unleashing the cops on strikes and protests. They have become integrated into the post-apartheid black elite, their payoff for upholding capitalist class rule. You can see this clearly with the tops of the NUM, the largest component of COSATU. During the weeks leading up to the Marikana massacre, the NUM leaders called for a crackdown on the miners strike. The general secretary, Frans Baleni, called for “a special task force” or the military to “deal decisively with the criminal elements” in the strike; another NUM leader denounced the strikers as thugs who needed to be met with force. After the massacre, these traitors defended the cops. The NUM bureaucrats denounced the wage demand of the Marikana strikers for R12,500 per month as “unrealistic”. Meanwhile, Baleni earns R77,000 per month.

Another prime example of what are referred to as “gravy trainers” — the post-apartheid black elite — is Cyril Ramaphosa. He was an ANC leader in apartheid days and a founder and leader of the NUM. He was one of the negotiators who came up with the power-sharing deal. Today he is one of the richest men in South Africa and owns some $250 million worth of industry that includes a stake in Lonmin.

With the NUM hated by many mineworkers, some strikes are taking place without an official union leadership and are being led by committees of miners forming in the heat of battle. There is also an alternative mineworkers union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has been involved in some of the actions such as at Lonmin and Implats, where by one estimate 20,000 miners have quit the NUM. AMCU was formed in 1998 by former NUM members and today reportedly has over 30,000 members nationally. Prior to the outbreak of the current strike wave, the NUM accounted for some 300,000 of the country’s half a million miners.

We defend AMCU against state repression, and we defend the right of the mineworkers to be represented by AMCU if they want that. At the same time, revolutionaries generally favour organising workers in one union in a given industry to maximise their strength against the bosses.

At any rate, the problem at bottom is not mainly one of what form of union organisation workers have but of the politics, the programme, of their leadership. In the course of hard class struggles like what is occurring now, the workers need to oust the bureaucrats who tie them to the ANC and put in place a different kind of union leadership: a class-struggle leadership needs to be forged. This kind of leadership would mobilise the unions’ power in a broader struggle against capitalist misery, uniting workers, the unemployed and other oppressed layers against the common enemy. For example, it would fight the mass unemployment among especially black youth through a programme of jobs for all by dividing the available work among all labourers with no loss in pay. The building of such a leadership is an indispensible part of the fight for a revolutionary party.

Almost one-fourth of the workforce at Marikana of something like 9000 are employed by labour brokers. These workers did not get the pay rise won by the strike. Labour broking and other forms of casualisation serve to undermine trade union organisation, with workers getting a fraction of the price of their labour in pay while the broker-parasites pocket the rest. These workers receive no social benefits like medical aid or pensions and are subject to firing at any time. As the SSA wrote a year ago in an article titled, “For a Class-Struggle Fight Against Labour Broker Parasites!” (Spartacist South Africa no 7, Winter 2011): “The fight to defend brokered workers should be tied to a struggle to organise the unorganised and to defend immigrant workers and others of the most oppressed layers in the working class.”

British imperialism in South Africa

When we protested the massacre of the Lonmin miners at Marikana in August, we cited in the call for the demo that Lonmin Platinum was formerly the British-registered London and Rhodesian Mining Company (Lonrho), whose brutal exploitation of black African labour dates back to apartheid days. So notorious was Lonrho and its top boss, Tiny Rowland, for bribing African nationalist regimes that none other than early 1970s Tory prime minister Edward Heath dubbed it “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. Quite a statement coming from the chief of British imperialism, which has found it “acceptable” to loot Africa for centuries, including raking in huge profits from South African mines today.

British capital from the outset dominated the mining industry. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer founded Anglo American in 1917 and took control of the De Beers diamond mining empire in the 1920s. De Beers was founded in 1888 by quintessential British colonialist Cecil Rhodes, whose ethos can be summarised by his own words: “Africa is lying ready for us, it is our duty to take it” — a large chunk of which he did, (including Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe). Anglo American is today a British-based, gigantic mining conglomerate that owns platinum, iron ore, copper and nickel mines, among others. Last year they took over the Oppenheimer family’s shares in De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer.

It was the discovery of diamonds in 1867 and especially of gold in the mid-1880s which spurred the transformation of South Africa into an industrial economy from one that had been principally agrarian. By the 1880s, the mining companies were European-owned and financed. With the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, in which the British imperialists defeated the Boers, who were mainly Dutch-derived, white farmer-settlers, British domination of the mining industry was consolidated. The Boers, or Afrikaners, had long exploited indigenous African labour for their farms. But it was the British colonialists who cemented the colour bar in every aspect of the economy and society.

The constitution of the Union of South Africa, established in 1910 with the British takeover of the Boer republics, entrenched white supremacy. The basis of it was the need of the Randlords (mine owners) for a limitless supply of cheap labour. The existing pass laws, which the Boers had used to ensure availability of labour for the farms, were extended as part of the system to force agrarian black populations to become migrant labour for the mines. A key piece of legislation introduced by the British was the 1913 Natives Land Act, which set up “reserves” outside which Africans could not buy or rent land. This laid the basis for the “homelands” under the later apartheid system, as a result of which the indigenous black population was relegated to about 13 per cent of the land. A 1918 law, the Status Quo Act, fixed the colour bar in the mines, where white miners had fought for monopoly of the skilled jobs and to keep the black workers in the worst-paid and most dangerous work.

After World War II, the severe weakening of the British Empire led to the coming to power in 1948 of the Afrikaner Nationalist regime, which strengthened and rigidified the racist police state established by the British under the banner of apartheid (separateness). It was under the Afrikaner regime that massacres of black protesters occurred, which many commentators recalled when the Marikana workers were killed — like 1960 in Sharpeville, when 69 black activists were mowed down for protesting the pass laws, and the 1976 slaughter of protesters in the Soweto uprising. Most of the cadre of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress were imprisoned or driven into exile. While giving them no political support, Marxists defended the ANC and the other nationalist organisations against murderous apartheid repression.

At its inception in 1912, the ANC was led by tribal chiefs and rural leaders, and its membership was drawn from the tiny black middle class, eg lawyers, church-connected intellectuals. The ANC suspended all protest during World War I, pledging loyalty to the Empire, and set about organising recruitment for the British Army (as did Mahatma Gandhi, then a lawyer in South Africa, among the Indian population there). An early ANC leader, JL Dube, had travelled in the US and was influenced by Booker T Washington, the pro-imperialist, pro-segregation US black misleader of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (For further reading, see “Early Years of the Communist Party of South Africa”, Spartacist South Africa no 7, Winter 2011.)

Perspective of permanent revolution

The workers of South Africa will not get decent wages, working conditions, homes, schools and hospitals by the gradual workings of the capitalist system under the Tripartite Alliance or any other bourgeois government. The solution we Trotskyists fight for is a workers revolution to smash the capitalist state and replace it with a black-centred workers government. Such a thing does not come about spontaneously, no matter how militant the workers are, no matter how many strikes take place. It requires the leadership of a revolutionary party. The model for South Africa, and for Britain for that matter, is the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, in which the workers overthrew the capitalist class and established the dictatorship of the proletariat — workers rule. The Bolshevik party of VI Lenin and Leon Trotsky made possible that world-historic victory by leading the workers in struggle and politically defeating the reformist parties — parties like the SACP — who sought to bury the revolution.

Our programme for a black-centred workers government is an application to South Africa of Trotsky’s perspective of permanent revolution. Trotsky explained that in the colonial and semicolonial world, where capitalism developed belatedly, the democratic tasks associated with the bourgeois revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries can be achieved only by the working class in power, which would be faced with the need to collectivise the means of production. The democratic tasks cannot be carried out by the bourgeoisie in such countries because in the era of imperialism, that class is too weak, too dependent on the imperialists and too fearful of the masses to carry them out. This is seen in South Africa with the subordination of the ANC to the imperialist-dominated world market. Adequate housing for the millions in the townships, squatter camps and villages, electricity and clean water for the entire population, free quality education, genuine equality for women — these desperate needs require the socialist transformation of the economy and society under a dictatorship of the proletariat, fighting to promote socialist revolution internationally.

The same is true for much of the world — the Indian subcontinent, the Near East, Africa and Latin America — where capitalism came late. You can see it in Egypt. Without a revolutionary party to mobilise the workers in a fight for the overthrow of capitalism, the courageous struggles of early 2011 brought about not a revolution but a new military dictatorship and the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood — not liberation but the continuation of dire poverty, the oppression of women and minorities and the alliance with US imperialism.

The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 proved that the workers, when led by a revolutionary vanguard, can take state power and run society in the interests of all the exploited and oppressed. But on its own the Soviet workers state that was forged by that revolution could not hold out forever against the relentless pressure of imperialism, finally succumbing to capitalist restoration two decades ago. A key turning point was in the early 1920s, when revolutions in the advanced countries, notably Germany, were defeated and the Soviet state was left isolated in all its poverty and backwardness. By 1923-24, a bureaucratic layer that had congealed in the Bolshevik party in these conditions, headed by JV Stalin, was able to effect a political counterrevolution which usurped political power from the workers.

From the mid 1920s, the history of the international working-class struggle against capitalism is full of betrayals by Stalinism, whose anti-Marxist dogma of “socialism in one country” meant pursuit of the illusion of “peaceful co-existence” with world imperialism. The Stalinists opposed and sabotaged the struggle for international proletarian revolution, which Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks and all revolutionary Marxists understood as essential to building socialism — a society of material abundance. In many cases, workers paid with their blood for the treacherous policies of their leaders. An example was the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27, where Stalin’s Communist International ordered the Chinese Communists to liquidate into the bourgeois-nationalist Guomindang, which then turned on and massacred thousands of Communists and militant workers.

Beginning in 1935, the Stalinists promoted the policy of the “popular front”, which made this programme explicit: class collaboration with the “democratic” bourgeoisies. They promoted the very programme that had to be defeated by the Bolsheviks in order to lead the workers to power in 1917. Popular-front betrayals were committed in France and Spain in the 1930s, Chile in the 1970s and many other places. In every case where revolutionary opportunities existed, the popular front meant that such openings were squandered by the Stalinist misleaders at enormous cost of lives of communists and workers.

For a black-centred workers government!

These betrayals are the political tradition of the SACP. The forebears of today’s SACP adopted the Stalinist dogma of “two-stage revolution”, which they translated as the “national democratic revolution” that would somehow “grow over” into the socialist revolution. The “two-stage” schema tells workers and the oppressed to subordinate their interests to those of the “progressive” bourgeoisie in the first stage of the revolution, while the second stage — socialism — is relegated to the distant future. In South Africa, it means the subordination of the SACP to the capitalist ANC. In that country, where the capitalist class is mainly white and the working class mainly black, there is therefore a major overlap between class and race, which distorts the fundamental class divide. The SACP uses this to advance its class-collaborationist alliance with the ANC.

As Trotsky observed about this overlap in an April 1935 letter to his South African comrades: “Insofar as a victorious revolution will radically change the relation not only between the classes but also between the races and will assure to the blacks that place in the state which corresponds to their numbers, thus far will the social revolution in South Africa also have a national character.” A black-centred workers government would unite the different tribal and language-based groups along with the Indian and coloured populations and would also include those whites who would accept a government based centrally on the black workers. Our task in South Africa is to break the advanced layers of black workers from the SACP and its class-collaborationist strategy, winning them to the Marxist programme of socialist revolution.

Among the working masses there is no shortage of militancy, anger and the will to fight. There is also no shortage of opportunists and demagogues muddying the waters. Recently you will have read about Julius Malema, the former ANC Youth League president who is the loudest anti-Zuma voice in the ANC milieu (though he was expelled from the ANC earlier this year). Malema is a demagogue who spouts racialist crap in order to divert workers from a class understanding of the neo-apartheid order, so he is serving the purposes of the ANC in any case. He is allied to Zuma’s rival in the coming elections, Kgalema Motlanthe. Malema’s popularity rose after the Marikana massacre, when he capitalised on the just anger of the workers and raised the call for nationalising the mines. As our South African comrades wrote of Malema’s nationalisation policies, these are “bourgeois reform schemes which would not end the superexploitation of the mineworkers” but instead promote “joint share holdings between the current mine owners and the government (with a majority share for the latter), meaning that the bourgeois state becomes a partner in directly exploiting the workers” (“Populist Demagogue Malema and the ANC”, Workers Vanguard no 1006, 3 August 2012).

The SSA raises the demand for expropriation of the mines, establishing workers control and economic planning throughout the country through a black-centred workers government. In other words, any call for expropriating the mines and industry has to be linked to the fight for working-class state power. The DSM, like other fake socialists, raises the call to “nationalise the mines under democratic control of workers and communities!” But they do not couple this with a fight for workers to take state power, so this is classic reformism. It’s not new — as Trotsky wrote to his German comrades in 1931 (contained in the collection of his writings called The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany): “Control can be imposed only by force upon the bourgeoisie, by a proletariat on the road to the moment of taking power from them, and then also ownership of the means of production.”

South Africa is a colonial-derived state. In Southern Africa as in many other parts of the world — all over Africa, the Near East, the Indian subcontinent — the British and other imperialist powers drew borders usually where they would divide tribes or peoples to create maximal conflict among the populations. The British colonialists and the apartheid rulers alike knew how to pit Xhosa against Zulu, and the nationalism promoted by the ANC/ SACP has also served to fuel national, tribal and other divisions among the masses. Apartheid South Africa brutally exploited migrant labour from elsewhere in Southern Africa. The peoples of these surrounding countries made numerous sacrifices to support the struggle against apartheid. But immigrants from countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi continue to be discriminated against and subjected to deportation. We raise the same slogan in South Africa that we raise everywhere: Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! A socialist federation of Southern Africa is the only framework in which the poisonous tribal and ethnic divisions reinforced by imperialism can be overcome.

When we insist that the fight for a socialist transformation in South Africa is necessarily linked to the struggle for workers revolution in the imperialist heartlands — in the US, Britain, Germany, Japan — a lot of people say, oh that’s impossible. And no one could say it’s not a huge and difficult task. But each of these societies is class-divided. In each there is a working class whose historic interest is to overthrow capitalism. A workers revolution in South Africa would resonate very powerfully with workers internationally, not least with black workers in the US. Under a workers government, South Africa’s industrial and mineral wealth, as part of an international planned economy, would be used to develop the vast resources of the African continent for the benefit of the former colonial slaves.


Workers Hammer No. 221

WH 221

Winter 2012-2013


Ireland: outrage over death of woman denied abortion

For free abortion on demand!


Golden Dawn fascists feed on economic crisis

Capitalists bleed Greek working class

Down with the European Union!

For a workers Europe!


One of these things is quite like the other...


Quote of the issue

The Communist International and Britain



On Israel and the US


On Britain and the creation of Pakistan


The struggle to forge Communist parties

The Comintern and black liberation in the US


The struggle to forge Communist parties

Britain 1919: class struggle, racism and Labour reformism


Smash neo-apartheid misery through socialist revolution!

Lessons of South African miners struggles

Break with the bourgeois Tripartite Alliance!

For a black-centred workers government!