AT the TUC in Brighton two weeks ago a resolution was adopted condemning the shooting of miners by police and at the same time, reaffirming support for the South African NUM and COSATU. I was not surprised. I think delegates were relieved that the obscene charging of surviving strikers with the death of their colleagues had been dropped, and that they could condemn the shootings without having to face the capitalist character of the South African government or examine the relations with it and the mine companies of union leaders and political leaderships we had supported.
I say "we", remembering the night we rounded off a branch meeting by going round the corner to a party at the ANC offices; the funds raised for elections, and the hostility which met those of us on the Left who sought a hearing for dissident African freedom fighters and socialist trade unionists.
Things have changed, and are changing, both in South Africa and here. A while ago I was in a jampacked meeting to hear two youth and community activists whose tactics in the cities could probably teach us a few tricks.
But the old residue remains, and at my union delegation's meeting before the Brighton congress began one brother warned us of "dark forces"(!) at work in South Africa, trying to undermine the relationship between the South African Communist Party and the ANC. I don't think he quite got the terrified response he might have hoped for,(some people previously quite close to the SACP seem ready to end that relationship). But he was sincere, and I am sure he and others will be shocked and horrified to see the declaration below which has been forwarded to us by some South African comrades:
MINEWORKERS DECLARATION 19th September 2012 Marikana
We, the striking mineworkers, delegates from various Platinum, gold and other mines and mineworker communities, gathered here today, declare the following:
1. We stand in solidarity with the mineworkers, ex-mineworkers and their families in the rest of South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, DRC, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, in West Africa, in Chile, in China, in India, in Italy, Spain and the rest of the world;
2. We remember the hundreds of thousands of mineworkers who have died on the mines all over the world; we remember those who have died because of mine sickness such as silicosis. We remember all who face a daily death who still work in the mines. The capitalist mine owners become rich at our expense.
3. We remember the dead, the injured, shot down by the police on the 16th August 2012
4. The ANC government is not our government; it is the government of the mining bosses, of the capitalists. This is the same in every country in the world- the government is the government of the rich.
5. The police are not there to protect us and our families but to keep us as slaves to the mining bosses and their cruel system of exploitation.
6. Our children have no future, we live shacks, the water is polluted, sewage runs in the streets, the few who work earn slave wages, because the mine bosses steal trillions of Rands and dollars worth of wealth from South Africa and the rest of Africa, every year. The migrant labour system is still there, it is just run by new bossboys, the ANC government;
7. The mines, factories and commercial farms should therefore be taken over, without compensation to the capitalists, and run by the workers,
8. Parliament is a talkshop, covering the dictatorship of the owners of the mines and the international banks; the government and parliament are their local managers;
9. Black Economic Empowerment or Indigenization is a tool to by the international mining bosses and banks to bribe a section of the local middle class to manage this slavery system for them;
10. No worker representative or official should get more than the average wage that skilled workers have achieved; all representatives and officials must be subject to instant recall by the workers;
11. The striking mineworkers general meetings will decide as a collective when the strike is stopped, suspended or when we take a step forward or a temporary step back;
12. We stand in solidarity with the striking mineworkers at KDC Goldfields and any other mine that is on strike; we warn the bosses to meet their demands or face a full scale general strike on the mines; we call for a war committee of workers delegates from all mines to be strengthened and to continue to co-ordinate our struggles;
13. We stand in solidarity with the striking coal mine workers in Italy and Spain
14. We thank all the working class and activists around the world who came out in protest in support of us- you have shown the real meaning of ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’.
15. We call for all workers to immediately remove all their shopstewards and leaders who sides with the ANC government and the bosses. Workers’ take control of your unions
16. At the same time we also call on all workplaces and working class communities to elect worker’s representatives, irrespective if they are in a union or not, permanent or casual, local or immigrant and in the community, the delegates should include the youth and unemployed. All representatives should be subject to instant recall by the constituency that elected them.
Our demands remain: • The families of the workers massacred by the police and the mine bosses must receive the wage and full benefits of that worker, as if he was alive; • A minimum of R12500 for all mineworkers in Africa. Workers are free to fight for more, such as R16070. All wages must rise when prices rise and not be bound by any agreement to wait for a year or years. • Arrest the police and their commanders who perpetrated the massacre. • Arrest the Lonmin bosses for their complicity in the Marikana massacre • An end to stealing by the mine bosses through transfer pricing; bring back the wealth that the mine bosses have stolen- here are the funds for jobs for all at a living wage, decent houses and services for all, free, quality health care for all, for free, liberatory education for all; equal pay for equal work- an end to casualization and labour broking. • Arrest all the mine bosses for theft .Stop the plunder of the wealth in Africa by Anglo American and other imperialist monopolies • Nationalize all the land, mines, banks, commercial farms, Sasol, Petro-SA, without compensation to the capitalists, place these under workers’ control. This creates the basis for sharing all work among all who can work, for ending all unemployment and low wages, for disbanding the ghettoes and building integrated decent housing and service for all, for free, quality health care for all, for free, liberatory education for all. • Disband the police and the army; for the general arming of the masses
The above programme sets the basis for the setting up of a working class party, that unites the working class fighters in South Africa, Southern Africa, Africa and around the globe. It is this new party that will lead the struggle for working class power and a Socialist workers’ state, indeed a federation of Southern African Socialist states and a Socialist Africa. The pace at which the workers’ states are integrated to become a unity will be determined by the respective working classes themselves, although we realize that the Anglo American and other mining monopolies keep us divided in different slave camps but for their sole benefit. No struggle for workers’ power in Africa can succeed if the workers in the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and in other countries do not also embark on the struggle for working class power on their own home soil.
Our mothers were kitchen slaves, our fathers were mineworkers, we want the current and future generations to be free. That is why we are Socialist; that is why we are Communist; that is why we are Trotskyist.
I don't know the precise provenance of this document, whether it was produced entirely from the miners' own discussion, or penned by political activists and submitted for their approval. But whatever the influence at work it certainly does not read like something the companies or right-wing forces would provide, if they were secretly backing the strikers' union just to split the movement, as some people have suggested. This is not the language of the UDM or other right-wing unions that we know!
As for that last paragraph about "our mothers" being kitchen slaves and so on, as our comrade in South Africa explains that poetic language is authentic:
"In the marches here, people sing: my mother was a kitchen girl, my father was a garden boy, that's why, that's why I'm a Socialist, that's why I'm a Communist'. maybe you don't know this song. At the parliament march, workers adapted the song to - my mother was a kitchen girl, my father was a mineworker, that is why I'm a Socialist, that's why I'm a Communist'- things just spring up in struggle".