The demand for a living wage has ended in the cold-blooded shooting down and murder of some 50 mine workers in Marikana by the South African Police force. One can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that their deaths are a direct consequence of the ruling party’s subordinated policies.
Further they were killed firstly because two policemen were amongst the ten people who had died earlier but also because the ruling oligarchy continues to hold Black lives cheap.
“Before rigor-mortis could even set in on the bullet-riddled bodies of the mine workers, platinum figures surged to a one-month high at the world’s No. 3 producer of the metal, raising concerns that supply would be more limited than previously thought,” reads the banner headline on Google News as well as every other business website. Even in death the shattered bodies of the Black worker accrues profit for the rapers of continents and destroyers of nations with the eager support from the ANC government and its storm-troopers.
The mechanics of exploitation are simple – the bosses feel threatened with a loss of profit by workers demanding a fair wage in exchange for their labour. They appeal to the ANC and its tripartite partner, COSATU to rein in their members’ demands; the workers join or form alternate structures to challenge the existing union bosses. The police or soldiers are called in to settle a labour dispute as swiftly as possible. Did we miss something here? – Oh yes, the blame for these deaths will be placed at the doorstep of the workers who had legitimate demands and who felt betrayed by the union they had always supported, in this particular case the COSATU-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
The Socialist Party of Azania knows with certainty that to eliminate exploitation and to create an environment where a living wage can be earned by the Black working class, requires nationalisation all the natural resources for the benefit of all. The ANC however, as government, has made sure that the issue of nationalisation, the real first building block for socialism, dies an early and sudden death. This is the precondition of the IMF/World Bank gurus that the so-called “free market economics” should be enforced on all countries of the world. Simply put: profit is always put before the interests of people and never vice versa.
We have now entered that phase of our history where the securo-centric nature of the state will do all in its power to crush the rising forms of dissent and rebellion that the poor and desperate workers of this country embark upon. They will protect the “assets” of the multi-national corporations with no compunction for the lives of the Black worker, the Black woman/man or the Black child. We are at the end of the day merely collateral damage in the defence of Imperialism.
We all must with immediate effect, move to assist the shattered community in Marikana, by firstly helping them to bury their deceased, and then secondly assist them to build a base of resistance to the brutal machinery of both state and capital that seeks to keep them in perpetual slavery.
The CODESA’s “Lock-out” Clause has come back to haunt us. At the close of the negotiated settlement that was CODESA [Convention for a Democratic South Africa, the “negotiated settlement to end apartheid in South Africa” in the early 1990s], the Black majority and Black workers came out completely short-changed.
The negotiating parties had on the one hand agreed on the legalisation of Black poverty through the “property clause.” This clause to this very day makes the fight against poverty a pipe dream. Under the present political framework, it is impossible even to dream of economic freedom for the vast majority of our people. CODESA condemned particularly Black people, the Black majority to landlessness, homeless, joblessness and above all poverty and want. That is a fact. White privilege and position remains firmly in place, protected by a government that is not white in the main. Black disadvantage will remain a feature for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, they also agreed on the “Lock-Out clause” that was aimed at emasculating the labour movement and steal the hard-won victories and gains that impacted on collective bargaining through isolating workers who engage in any labour actions. It also allowed scab labour to become a permanent feature under such conditions.
The “Lock-Out clause” was deliberately designed to set up workers against workers. It is not surprising that during labour actions, we often find workers fighting against one another. This clause was also a way of making workers vulnerable to all forms of attacks by the bosses and the government in situations where they deem their interests being threatened and need to remain protected. If workers were to remain in their places of employment during labour actions, their safety would be guaranteed by the safety of the bosses’ businesses and properties. In such a situation labour negotiations would be swifter and the bosses would not be recalcitrant, but as things stand it is not so. The bosses are always ready and willing to unleash murderous force against workers.
The Marikina massacre is the direct outcome of CODESA, where workers are first expelled from the premises of the mines where they are employed and further forcefully removed from wherever they choose to assemble. Any resistance is thereafter met with absolute brute force and sometimes by deadly force like it is in the case in Marikina. Protection of property is always placed way above any interests including human life.
Marikina has poignantly raised two issues: One is the “Lock-Out clause” itself, but the other is the issue of the independence of the labour movement, which ought to be free from both the bosses and the government. In this particular case this involves the historical union which is a friend of the government and in past instances has shown itself to be sympathetic to the bosses and has a result lost considerable confidence of the workers. Rather than seeking its soul and breaking from the subordinating interests that are holding it in a deathly embrace, it has found solace in the bosom of its class enemies.
It is therefore not surprising that it is accused by the workers that rather than stand by their democratic demands, the union finds itself selling out, settling far less than what workers expected.
While we do not advocate divisions in the labour movement, we however, believe that their interests will be better served by a united labour movement. The way to unity is through independence from the bosses and government. Every time the labour movement is subordinated, it always works to its own detriment.
Today, the Platinum mines have become what gold mines were to the economy of our country. South Africa is the leading Platinum producer in the world, and Platinum brings unbelievable wealth to their white owners and token Blacks. Despite this great wealth they continue to exploit workers who to date have not made any unreasonable demands. However, the mine bosses continue to pay them less than a living wage. Their demand for R12 500-00 a month is reasonable and will not leave a hole in the pocket of the bosses. For the demand of R12 500-00 a month, a reasonable demand, they have had to pay with the lives (more than 50 killed). Even the extremely repressive Apartheid regime would have thought twice about such prospects.
For a strike that had gone on for some time, one would have thought a caring government would have found better ways of dealing with the striking workers rather than the ultimate brute force they resorted to. The mine bosses and the police knew quite well that tempers had run high and that workers were already weary of the delaying tactics of the bosses, yet they went there with itchy fingers ready to mow down workers with legitimate demands.
The very fact of being locked out is provocative, and it gets worse when there are those who remain buddy-buddy with the bosses who have locked you out. It is those who, for political and dubious economic interests, are very often willing to lay prostrate on the ground to allow the bosses to have their way with them.
We reject any intention that wants to put blame on the workers who have legitimate rights to fight and defend their interests. Had the mine bosses heeded the demands of the workers, had the government and its law enforcement institutions listened, the massacre could have been avoided – but then in a capitalist state such as ours, profit is everything and there is no sanctity for human life.
Finally, we are unashamedly on the side of the workers and we had time and again raised the issues that today has brought the crisis that is facing the country. We believe this crisis represents in its full extent how imperialism and its interests continue to place enormous burdens on the lives of workers and the Black majority. We once more appeal to the labour movement to take its full responsibility to defend and advance the full interests of the working class.
By the Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA).
Head office: Unit 8, Renaissance Center
Gandhi Square, Johannesburg, 2001
P.O. Box 11039
Johannesburg, South Africa 2000
Tel. (011) 838-4823