Tag Archives: south africa

Upcoming Film Screening on Post-apartheid Struggles in South Africa

After the Marikana massacre last August, South African miners rose up, forming self-organized workers’ committees across the platinum belt. This wave of militancy spread into other sectors, first gold and coal, and then eventually transport, dockworkers, and most recently, agricultural workers in the Western Cape. Not since the late 1980s have we seen militant wildcat waves like those that have transpired since August 2012, and for this reason Advance the Struggle engaged in solidarity work with the strikers. From a 150-person rally in downtown Oakland to our work with the South African Miners’ Solidarity Committee, we have consistently pushed this kind of work.Poster La Pena Final fixed

Our comrades Zach and Gerald gave a talk last fall on the history of labor militancy and resistance during and since the end of apartheid, and we continue our educational initiative by promoting the following documentary by two young radical filmmakers from Berkeley, Shweta Kumar and Gabrielle Forte. Their independently produced film Empty Promises explores community mobilization in South Africa’s informal settlements against eviction and failure of service delivery by the local government. The documentary addresses the following questions: Why do community members mobilize? Which factors lead individuals to protest? How do individuals define their aims/objectives? And where do members place themselves in relation to the police and local government?

Kumar and Forte interview activists, leaders, and community members from six informal settlements in Johannesburg and Durban in an attempt to portray the political landscape of post-apartheid South Africa. The film was independently funded and made in collaboration with the Socioeconomic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI).

On Thursday, March 7 at 7 pm, come see the premier of their documentary Empty Promises with both filmmakers in attendance! Admission is only $5, and it all goes down at La Peña Cultural Center at 3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. Join AS, Kumar, and Forte for another evening of post-apartheid militancy!

1 Comment

Filed under Event Announcements, Flyers

The Problematic of the Union in the U.S. – What is to be Done? (Part 2)

Many people reading the blog have only the read the first position paper on unions and not the second. We are releasing the second to make clear there are two position papers being discussed in Advance the Struggle. We wanted to share both so people can see the discussion going on. Please feel free to comment, and or critique both pieces.

c80dc23073c111e2831222000a9e08e7_7          

Revolutionaries, Unions and emerging Class Struggle.

“Trade Unions work well as centres of resistance against the encroachment of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class, that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”  -Marx

Thesis:

So few revolutionaries are implanted in the landscape of over 14 million US union members,  making a key task the formation of revolutionary cells amongst the rank and file of unions, which would  engage in three types of political work; 1) day to day organizing and base building amongst the rank and file of that union, 2) form new working class organizations outside of the unions (like solidarity unionism or independent committees) and, 3) in rupturing  moments of capitalist attack, like the “Wisconsin moment,” to lead classwide offensives against capital.

  Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Analysis/Theory, Debates, History, International Labor History, Racial Unity in the Class Struggle, US Labor

“Socialism means freedom”… “no strike is illegal!”: Mineworkers, the ANC and the class composition of South Africa

“Socialism means freedom”… “no strike is illegal!”

by A.S. Read

Proletarians around the world should be looking at the situation that has unfolded in South Africa over the last three months. Some 80,000 mineworkers have engaged in wildcat strikes spanning the myriad mining industries from platinum to gold to iron-ore to diamonds and coal. And although the South African ruling class, led by the ANC, is doing everything in their power to promote the illusion of this labor struggle coming to an end (more on this below), on Nov. 10, 2012 miners from the Anglo-American Platinum mine in Rustenberg held a mass rally to build support for their two month long strike. Not only is this wave of labor strikes far from over, its been challenging writing an update as fresh news from comrades directly involved in this struggle comes daily and sometimes hourly. Thus I will attempt to provide as much content as possible in the form of an update. Before highlighting all the latest from the workers and their inspiring actions, its important to identify some important statistics from “post-Apartheid” S.A.

Ben Fogel, a militant in the Eastern Cape of S.A. recently wrote a piece on the autonomous organizing being done from a strategic perspective. The following is taken directly from that article and provides some important statistics: 

South Africa, despite 18 years of majority rule, continues to be one of the most unequal societies on an increasingly unequal planet and is in crisis. Around half the population, mostly black Africans, live below the poverty line.[2] Almost half of all black African households earned below R1670 a month in 2005–06, while only 2 percent of white households fell in that income bracket.[3] South Africa, as of 2011, ranked as the second most unequal country in the world after Namibia—according to the Gini measure.[4] Unemployment consistently hovers unofficially at around 40 percent, and among 18–25 year olds, it is now over 60 percent.[5] Millions of households, despite some improvements still lack access to basic services; the education system still equips most blacks for little other than a future as unskilled labor. This is despite the existence of the much lauded “progressive constitution” with a bill of rights which supposedly insures access to basic socio-economic rights.[6] Essentially South Africa is fucking unequal and black African working class and unemployed Africans continue to be the worst off.” 

Read the entire article here: http://insurgentnotes.com/2012/10/marikana-a-point-of-rupture/

This quote contextualizes a bit of the current class composition of S.A. and reveals a working class powder keg set to explode on the facade of “progressive” South Africa. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the ANC-led “black bourgeoisie” and all its governing structures: Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), South African Communist Party (SACP), National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and of course the media are all putting out unimaginable propaganda in the attempt to label this unrest as anything BUT class struggle. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Analysis/Theory, Resistance News

Two Talks by South African organizer: Mineworker Strikes, Class Struggle after Marikana

 

You’ve probably heard about the class struggle unfolding over the past few months in South Africa. An unprecedented wave of wildcat strikes has all but shut down much of the mining sector since August, with workers resisting wage cuts, layoffs, and hyperexploitative working conditions. When the South African Police Service massacred 34 strikers in broad daylight, the workers were not deterred; instead of backing off, the strikes spread across the entire mining sector, with iron ore and gold miners joining their platinum mining comrades in struggle against the multinationals that own and profit from these oppressive conditions. Now the struggle has spread into Namibia, Botswana, the Western Cape, and elsewhere, and strikers have self-organized workers’ committees across the platinum belt.

So what does all of this mean for class struggle in South Africa? How are these workers’ committees being organized, and why is this (as the Financial Times recently claimed) potentially the most effective strike wave to hit South Africa since the demise of apartheid?

Mazibuko Jara, a long-time organizer from South Africa’s Eastern Cape and one of the founders of the Democratic Left Front, will be giving two presentations on this new wave of class struggle:

On Thursday, Nov. 15, he will be speaking at a forum organized by UC Berkeley’s Center for African Studies at 4 pm (575 McCone Hall). While admission is free, we highly encourage people to make donations to the strike fund for these unprotected workers’ committees. Please give generously; every last dollar will help prolong this struggle.

On Friday, Nov. 15, Mazibuko will be speaking at La Peña in Berkeley (3105 Shattuck Ave) at 7 pm. Admission is on a sliding scale of $5-20, but please give as much as you can: every dollar raised will go to the workers’ committees. Additional donations are highly encouraged.

We hope to see you at one or both events. A luta continua! Forward to a living wage for all workers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Event Announcements

“That’s Why I’m a Communist” – Trade Unions, Social Struggle and the State in South Africa


My mother was a kitchen girl//My father was a garden boy//That’s why I’m a communist//I’m a communist//I’m a communist! – Popular apartheid-era song still sung today

The recent armed conflicts between miners and police in South Africa are part of a long legacy of class struggle against the capitalist state.  Recently we in AS along with our comrades in La Pena 2nd Gen organized a forum to tap some of our comrades’ knowledge on the incredible history of South African working-class resistance, both against apartheid and against the neoliberal African National Congress.

The first presentation “The Birth of the Modern Trade Union Movement in South Africa”, by former Black Panther Gerald Smith, is a very useful initial overview of South African history from a class struggle perspective; it’s also a more specific history and analysis of Black labor militancy in the 1980s under apartheid.  Learn something from his dynamic speaking style!

The second presentation, “Social Struggles and the Capitalist State in South Africa since 1994″, by UC Berkeley PHD student Zachary Levenson, focuses on post-apartheid history.  Levenson recently returned from 6 months in South Africa and describes the terrain of struggle and nature of the capitalist state after apartheid.

Check it out and tell us what you think!

Leave a comment

Filed under History, International Labor History, Videos

Blood Shed of the Innocent – Sounds of the South

Artists from political hip-hop collective Sounds of the South

With the chorus of ‘eighteen years and we’re still the victim’ this song from political hip-hop collective Sounds of the South represents in English and native tongues the hypocrisy of the post-Apartheid regime in South Africa. The African National Congress was a political party central to ending apartheid, making use of political strikes as one of its most powerful tactics. This tactic must be used here in the USA. But without a communist goal, all the best tactics in the world will loop back to capitalism and all its horrors.

Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa under the ANC but its plain to see the dictatorship of capital still reigns supreme. The National Union of Miners has always been a pillar of the ANC, but today they work hand in hand with capitalists to put down workers’ righteous struggle. With our own black president, with our own popular “Democratic” party, and with our own sell-out unions, we in the US feel South African proletarian pain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Music

Dying for a Raise: Mumia on the Marikana Massacre

March on 9/5/12 against the murder of 34 strikers – copyright Alexander Joe AFP/Getty Images

(Audio at Prison Radio).

The Massacre in Marikina, South Africa, of striking mine workers has caused dismay and disbelief the world over.

Thirty four miners were slaughtered, and 78 others wounded by a hail of police gunfire.

How could this be in today’s South Africa?

How could this happen in a post- apartheid South Africa?

How could this happen in a predominantly Black government, led by the African National Congress (ANC)?

 

The spectacle tells the tale: black police, clad in blue overall uniforms, were called by the Lonmin Mine Co. officials, to stand against Black miners holding a wildcat strike demanding better wages and improved working conditions.

 

Miners at Lonmin Platinum are paid on average R4, 000 (=$480 U.S.), and were demanding a raise to R12, 500 (=$1,500) per month.  These strikers, several thousand rock-drill operators, were trying to live and raise families on $120 –per week!

 

When they refused police orders to disperse from a nearby hill, the cops attacked them with automatic weapons fire.

Who do you think they worked for: their people – or the mine operators and owners?

Whom did they serve and protect?

 

In Marikana, in South Africa’s North West Province, lies a mine boasting one of the world’s richest veins of platinum.  Indeed, South Africa is home to some 80% of the world supply of platinum, one of the world’s most precious and strategic metals.

 

And striking miners are dying for a pittance, while owners and investors are making billions!

 

The cops of capitalism serve those who can afford their services.

 

Period.

 

Marikana, North West Province, South Africa joins Sharpville for police and state massacres of Africans.

 

Just as Sharpeville sparked resistance, let Marikana now do the same!

 

–© ’12 maj

Leave a comment

Filed under Resistance News

Apartheid and Class Struggle: Comrade Gerald’s Presentation Notes

Our comrade Gerald Smith will be presenting tomorrow, Friday September 7th, 7pm @ La Pena (event sponsored by 2nd Generation La Pena).  He’ll join Zach Levenson in presenting on the current situation in South Africa (see Zach’s piece which was posted a few days ago) and the history of resistance to apartheid and post-apartheid oppression & exploitation.  Here are Gerald’s presentation notes for your study/discussion.

————————–

Apartheid—a system of legislated racial oppression which literally means apartness—grew out of the requirements of British mining interests at the end of the 19th century. After grabbing the land of the indigenous African population (thereby destroying the basis of their agrtcultural and pastoral, pre-capitalist economy) the colonialists consigned them to the role of migrant laborers hired only for short-term contracts and forbidden to settle in the vicinity of their jobs.

This poses a profound contradiction for the South African ruling class. Historically they (and their international investors) have paid only a fraction of the labor costs of their competitors. Their rate of return on invested capital has been proportionally higher—even after deducting the military and administrative costs of running a police state. This differential represents the ‘‘secret’’ of the vitality and dynamism of South African capitalism. The rulers of this bestial system, who have profited from it for generations, are determined to retain their competitive advantage and are adamantly opposed to granting real equality to the black population. But they are deeply divided over how to best protect their privileged position.

A key strategic question black workers in South Africa confront in their struggle for power is the ‘‘white question.’’ In North America ‘‘white supremacy’’ is primarily a form of false consciousness with which the master class deludes white workers into imagining that the racist oppression of blacks is somehow in their interests. In South Africa however, the white population as a whole has substantially benefitted from over a century of white supremacy in a direct material fashion. Whites are the object of considerable generalized hatred by the oppressed black masses. Nonetheless a revolutionary leadership of black workers would seek to ensure that the social polarization which must accompany the struggle for power occurs as much as possible along class lines—not racial or national ones. This is why communists have raised the slogan: Not black against white, but class against class.

The spirit of the 11-day 1984 San Francisco longshore boycott against South African cargo (in solidarity with the struggles of black workers and youth in Botha’s racist hell-hole) was continued on March 10, when twenty-five longshoremen refused to cross a militant picket line set up at Pier 80 in San Francisco. The Campaign Against Apartheid (CAA), a Berkeley-based student group, called for this blockade to prevent the unloading of the Nedlloyd Kembla’s South African cargo. The CAA timed the action at Pier 80 to coincide with a week of international labor protest against apartheid called by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

The development of powerful trade unions rooted in South Africa’s black proletariat is one of the brightest chapters in the recent history of the international working class. Nowhere on earth have workers struggled against more desperate conditions or faced a more powerful, intransigent opponent. In the face of a fiercely racist state, armed to the teeth and supported by the overwhelming bulk of the privileged white population, black workers in the apartheid hell-hole have organized themselves into one of the most powerful trade-union movements in history and wrested a series of concessions from the white rulers. Their struggle has inspired workers and the oppressed around the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis/Theory, History, Racial Unity in the Class Struggle, US Labor

The Content of Politics: Social Movements and their Interlocutors in Post-Apartheid South Africa

— Zachary Levenson

Originally appearing in Against the Current 160, Sept/Oct 2012

A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN continued stuffing an old tire with bits of straw, refusing to stop as two younger men pleaded with her not to ignite it. She didn’t seem to take them seriously, presumably because one of them was wearing a Democratic Alliance (DA) shirt, the reigning party in the Western Cape and largely despised by black voters. It was hard to hear the substance of the debate over the chanting of struggle songs and vigorous toyi-toyiing, not to mention the crowd shouting down officers in an SUV marked “Anti-Land Invasion Unit.”(1)

It was only after a well-known leader of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign told her that a fire would provoke arrests that she relinquished the kindling. With the burnt asphalt of Symphony Way easily visible from the previous few days’ protests, it seemed obvious where this was going, but this time no tires were torched; the critics of the tactic won out.

Instead, residents of Blikkiesdorp and Tsunami formed a line and continued dancing, blockading the thoroughfare through Delft South on the eastern periphery of Cape Town just east of the airport.

This was one of hundreds of so-called “service delivery protests” that have occurred over the past decade in South Africa. As the post-apartheid promise of housing for all — a guarantee enshrined in the country’s constitution — proved to be empty rhetoric, residents in shack settlements around the country have begun to demand change.

With grossly inadequate access to potable water and sanitary toilets in major metropolises including Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, not to mention the unlikelihood of legal electricity connections, the number of such protests has grown remarkably over the past few years, combining demands for municipal service provision with disgust over the dysfunctionality of post-apartheid housing delivery.(2)

According to analyses now circulated around the internationalist left, South Africa has the highest per capita number of uprisings of any country, a rapidly intensifying “rebellion of the poor” marking it as the “protest capital of the world.”(3)

But even if a purely quantitative analysis of these gatherings suggests escalating unrest, does their content match the hype? While certainly one can find instances of cumulative organizing and the emergence of sustained challenges to a rapidly degenerating welfare state, can these protests reasonably be described as “rebellions”?

I asked the woman who was prevented from lighting the tire what she was hoping to achieve and why she thought this might be an effective tactic. She told me that all of this — the blockade, the tires, the confrontation with police — was an effort to attract the ward councilor for Delft South.

Trying to Get Attention

Hardly a rebellion in the standard sense then, this was actually an attempt to engage an elected official, as heterodox as it might appear. According to numerous residents with whom I spoke, the councilor had never set foot in Blikkiesdorp despite having been in office for the better part of a decade. All they wanted, I was told, was to get answers.

Lest this be dismissed as an isolated incident, I witnessed similar modes of engagement by peri-urban shack residents across the country. Last November, 700 members of the youth league of Abahlali baseMjondolo, reported to be the country’s largest shack dwellers’ organization, marched on Durban’s City Hall through the pouring rain, and I marched with them. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis/Theory, News Analysis, Resistance News

Resistance in South Africa: Apartheid and After

Resistance in South Africa: Apartheid and After


In the wake of the Marikana massacre, left groups of all stripes are calling resistance inevitable. What does opposition to post-colonial capitalism look like in South Africa today? How has the anti-apartheid labor militancy of the 1980s translated into anti-capitalist struggle since the transition?

Come see former Black Panther Gerald Smith and Berkeley sociology Ph.D. student Zachary Levenson discuss these issues at an open forum at La Peña on Friday, September 7 @ 7 pm. Smith was instrumental in organi

zing Bay Area solidarity actions with the anti-apartheid struggle and will speak about black labor militancy in the 1980s. Levenson recently returned from 6 months in South Africa and will describe the terrain of struggle and nature of the capitalist state after apartheid.

This event will also be a fundraiser for the more than 250 miners arrested (and by some accounts tortured) for striking over garbage wages. Initially the intent was to get them bail money, but most are being denied bail; in a worst case, this money will go to their families.

FREE: Donations for Arrested Miners’ Fund – 7pm In the LOUNGE

This event is sponsored by La Peña 2nd Generation and Advance the Struggle

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis/Theory, Flyers, News Analysis, Resources

EMERGENCY Rally and Protest: Solidarity with South African miners murdered during strike

Please Forward Widely:
Inline image 2Inline image 3
SOLIDARITY WITH SOUTH AFRICAN MINERS
Emergency Rally & Protest
Friday August 24th 2012 @ 5pm 
Oscar Grant Plaza (aka Frank Ogawa Plaza)
 
Protest the murder of 40 striking mine workers by the South African Government.  Stand in solidarity with the mine workers as they continue their battle with the Lonmin Platinum Mine and the murderous government police force.  Workers in all countries must come together to resist these atrocities carried out by the state in the interests of International Capitalism.  As working class organizations we strongly believe that:“an injury to one IS an injury to all.”
 
We’ll see you Friday at 5pm. Thank you.
 
Initiated by Advance the Struggle in conjunction with the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and State Repression. Please contact us if your organization would like to be included as an endorser: bay.strikes@gmail.com
Inline image 1
 
From Oakland to South Africa, 
one struggle, one fight!

Leave a comment

Filed under News Analysis