JOHANNESBERG, SOUTH AFRICA, October 11 — The wildcat strikes and rebellions of 80,000 miners have spread across seven of this country’s nine provinces to include 30,000 truckers and a pending walkout of 190,000 government workers for higher wages. Port workers may soon join in. It is a massive assault on the racist apartheid system that still permeates South Africa in the form of the war between the two opposing classes.
Striking miners have mobilized to stop scabs; truckers have torched scab trucks. The bosses are retaliating with mass firings. When Anglo-American Platinum, the world’s top producer, fired 12,000 strikers after workers refused to attend company “hearings,” and said it would hire scabs to replace them, one worker declared that could happen only “over our dead bodies.” (Associated Press, 10/11) Another warned that, “Those who are dismissed will make sure there will be no operations and that [hiring of scabs] will cause a massacre just like at Marikana” (BBC News, 10/9) where, on August 16, cops murdered 34 miners. (See CHALLENGE, 9/19)
The rebellious Youth League, which is opposing the re-election of African National Congress (ANC) leader, President Jacob Zuma, said of the firing that Anglo-American Platinum “has made astronomical profits on the blood, sweat and tears of the very same workers that today the company can just fire with impunity” which it said is “a representation of white monopoly capital…uncaring of the plight of the poor.”
While workers were on a hill near the company’s Rustenberg mine protesting the firings — and demanding the indictment for murder of the racist police who massacred the Marikana miners — cops fired rubber bullets and tear gas and murdered still another worker. The strikers have been out since September 12 and are demanding a monthly wage hike of up to 400 percent, from $500 to $2,000.
Bokoni Platinum fired another 2,160 strikers who wildcatted on October 1 and Gold Ore International fired 1,400 more at its Ezulwini operation.
Meanwhile, the original rock-drill operators at the Marikana mine rejected a company offer to return to negotiations which was accepted by the ANC-allied union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The wildcatters have held solid, with 96 percent staying out. (Reuters, 10/9) On October 3, 3,000 marched through the streets near the Lonmin mine, the largest protest since the racist massacre.
Under the current neo-Apartheid regime of the ANC, the country’s unemployment rate is 25 percent while President Zuma urges the miners to return to work, calling the strikes “illegal.” Zuma’s tiny black elite is allied with what the New York Times reported (10/14) is a “white-dominated capitalism [that has] remained in place.” The Times also said there are “reports that the government is paying for $27 million in renovations to Mr. Zuma’s private village home.”
A glaring example of this alliance occurred when miners, fired in June after a wildcat strike, joined those laid off two years ago to try to stop scabs entering the Gold One International mine, formerly managed by the Aurora company. It turns out that Aurora was bought two years ago by a group including Zuma’s nephew and a grandson of Zuma’s predecessor Nelson Mandela. The two allegedly never paid for the mine but stripped it of its assets, while failing to pay tens of thousands of dollars owed to miners thrown out of work. (AP, 10/11) Apartheid of the rich against the working class rolls on.
Meanwhile, capitalism’s exploitation rules. The Times says (10/14), “Schools in townships and rural areas are a shambles. Hunger and disease still gnaw at the poorest. Unemployment is rife. [25 percent] And the misery is not equally shared: South Africa also has one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality. A tiny wealthy black elite has emerged, while millions more remain in poverty.”
Any wonder that truck driver Morris Sello told the Times, “I am very disappointed in this government….They are stealing…and leaving us with nothing.”
The strikers who have launched this massive movement are threatening the profits of a huge industry netting billions off their exploitation. South
Africa has proven mineral reserves worth three trillion dollars. It holds the world’s largest reserves of manganese, chrome, and platinum and among the largest reserves of gold, diamonds, coal, aluminum, iron ore and vanadium. (The Examiner, 10/5)
South Africa produces 75 percent of the world’s platinum and is number four in chrome production. The struck Goldfields company is the world’s fourth largest gold producer.
It is our class that produces all this value reaped from our labor but most of which is stolen by the owners of the means of production as their profits. The militancy of these striking workers has shown the world a microcosm of the potential power of the working class to shut down that production and the flow of profits that come from those huge mineral resources. However, the bosses control state power, the government, and in this case have Zuma in their back pocket.
The working class needs to smash that state power and the profit system along with it. This can only happen if workers join and are led by their own revolutionary communist party whose goal is to do just that. We will establish a society run by and for the working class, without bosses, profits, racism, sexism and imperialist wars. That is the aim of the Progressive Labor Party which is establishing itself on five continents and must be brought to these miners and to all workers fighting the horrors of capitalism.