Marikana, South Africa, September 19 — Strikes by thousands of miners have spread across the northern mining areas. They’re reacting to the August 16 police massacre at the Lonmin platinum mine and supporting the 3,000 miners who wildcatted on August 8. The striking rock drillers have now won an increase from $500/month to $1385/month.
However, the walkout still includes 15,000 gold miners, six other Anglo-American platinum mines, the world’s top producer, and chrome miners. There have also been protests at Eskon Holdings, producers of 90 percent of the country’s energy.
On September 12, 3,000 miners marched to the original mine at Marikana. Their strike has cost the bosses a half billion dollars in lost output (Chicago Tribune, 9/17).
The sellout National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) signed an agreement with Lonmin, which is meaningless since the strikers rejected the paltry 16 percent “increase” and are holding out for their original demand: a doubling and tripling of wages to $1,500 a month (Reuters, 9/17). The NUM is allied with the governing African National Congress (ANC) which the striking minors quit to join the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.
Cops raided a striking miners’ hostel, seizing spears, machetes and other weapons and arrested 38. The cops later dispersed protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. When the cops dragged off a pro-miners speaker expelled by the ANC, miners pelted them with stones.
The Wall Street Journal reported (9/13) that the military was put on alert because they feared soldiers who had struck in 2009 for higher wages may support the miners. The Journal also reported (9/17) that 800 miners had suffered deaths last year.
This massive miners’ rebellion has exposed the fact that racist apartheid still rules South Africa, under a capitalism enforced by a tiny black elite allied with the white-owned corporations. The law the ANC government used to indict the strikers was passed under the old apartheid system. And the massacre mirrored all the brutalities of the past Nazi regime.
The miners have set a striking example for the international working class, of the need to take up arms to fight the capitalist ruling classes’ state apparatus arrayed against them. What is needed is communist leadership to turn this class war into a war for communist revolution. This is what the Progressive Labor Party is fighting for around the world.