“I never thought I’d see this in my South Africa in a million years.” That’s how one young reporter, speaking for many, expressed his horror at the racist police massacre of 34 striking miners, the wounding of 78 others and the arrest of 259 outside the Lonmin platinum mine on August 16.
This horror is compounded by the fact that one of the most inspiring and heroic struggles of the later 20th Century was the mass struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. Workers and students organized a movement of millions under the most Nazi-like terror, led by the African National Congress (ANC). Miners, auto and transit workers and students led strikes and walkouts while their leaders were either in prison or in exile. They carried out armed struggle.
But rather than fight for communism, the ANC came to power almost 20 years ago after reaching an accommodation with the racist bosses and bankers and disarming the workers and youth. This horrible betrayal was celebrated with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after more than 25 years.
On August 10, 3,000 miners, mostly rock drillers, went on a wildcat strike demanding a tripling of their poverty wages (they earn $300 to $500 a month). Lonmin, the world’s third largest platinum mining company has a “bad track record, with high levels of fatalities” and keeps workers in “very poor living conditions. Children suffer from chronic illnesses due to sewage spills caused by broken drainage.” (Associated Press, 8/17)
Last week, The ANC government sent black and white police to set up a barricade of razor wire encircling the miners. The miners, armed with machetes, spears and clubs, outflanked the cops and tried to stop scabs from breaking the strike. The police gunned them down.
This fight is as much against the ANC as it is the mine operators. As one official of a new, radical miners’ union said, “We made the ANC what it is today, but they have no time for us. Nothing has changed.” (NYT, 8/17)
Back when the ANC made peace with Apartheid, workers and youth were waving red flags and demanding more guns. The most militant youth movement called themselves the “Comrades.” The Lonmin massacre is a grim reminder that there can be no peace with the racist profit system. The bosses and cops must be destroyed. A communist society that meets the needs of the international working class must be built on their graves. The heroic Lonmin miners are giving us a lesson in blood. We in Progressive Labor Party support them. We oppose their foes. We fight for communist revolution, from South Africa to the U.S.