No to the mining bosses’ strike-breaking offensive! No to worker-on-worker violence – unite in mobilising for a general strike for R12 500!

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) condemns the strike-breaking offensive launched by Lonmin this week and calls on workers in the platinum sector to counter the employers’ divide-and-rule tactics by rallying the support of all mineworkers, poor communities and workers across South Africa behind their demand for a R12 500 living wage. It is clear that the platinum bosses, with Lonmin at the head, with the full backing of the government are attempting to deal the strike a mortal blow this week. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has made clear that the government is, once again, availing its police to serve the mining bosses against the workers. A state of emergency in all but name is likely to be unleashed on Marikana in particular as from tomorrow to back up the divisive attempts by Lonmin, soon to be followed by Impala Platinum and Amplats, to effect what they call a ‘mass return’ to work tomorrow (Wednesday May 14).

WASP also condemns the assault and murder of strike-breakers. Since Sunday, at least three Lonmin workers have reportedly been murdered and several others assaulted. Whether these acts are the work of striking workers or agents provocateurs out to provide the justification for a police clamp-down, they express the tragic division of workers which serves only the bosses. The strength of the strike can only be secured through genuine workers’ unity, which must be based on democratic workers’ control over the strike and clear direction. This, again, is the only basis on which the R12 500 demand can be won. Since the beginning of this strike, WASP has warned of the danger of division and called on AMCU to mobilise the support of all mineworkers and mining communities along with workers and working class communities across SA. A general strike is what is posed if we are to defeat the mining bosses.

They are hell-bent on defeating this strike – but not because they “cannot afford” the R12 500. According to the Labour Research Service, the average annual profit of just nine of the major mining companies was R39 billion in 2011 – enough to pay each mineworker R88 000 a month, or to increase the mining workforce times four, creating jobs for 2.3 million workers, on R12 500 a month. Amplats just rewarded its CEO Chris Griffith with R4m bonus, to mention one example of the obscene riches of the preachers of poverty.

As Lonmin CEO Ben Magara told media at a press conference on Monday, the problem with the R12 500 is that “we’d be setting a precedent if we accede to the demand”. The mining industry, the backbone of the SA economy, is built on ultra-cheap labour and massive profit margins as well as total disregard for the environment and the development of the wider economy and society. They are prepared to use every trick in the book not to rock that boat. To give in to the AMCU-led workers would also be a serious political set-back for the bosses and the government – they are out to kill not only this strike, but the very idea that workers’ mass action has the power to force meaningful concessions out of them.

WASP applauds AMCU’s decision to set up a strike fund. However, for the fund to be effective in sustaining the unity and determination of the strike, it needs a serious cash injection that can be paid out to the tens of thousands of workers who are taking strain after almost four months without pay. We call on AMCU to use the funds accumulated through the membership fees of its over 100 000 members to sustain the striking workers.

WASP was formed by mineworkers’ strike committees together with the Democratic Socialist Movement, which played a key role along with the strike committees in leading the strike wave which followed the Marikana massacre in 2012. WASP contested the elections that took place last week as one of the means by which to build a new political party for workers and poor people. Although we did not get enough votes to win a seat, we are determined to continue the battle to build a party that can unite the working class under the banner of struggle and socialism. WASP stood in the elections on the R12 500 demand as well as on the struggle for the nationalisation of the whole mining industry under democratic control by workers and communities, linking these issues to the need to overthrow the capitalist system and create a socialist society.

WASP stands for building strong, worker-controlled and fighting trade unions. We do not support the ‘WAU’, which we believe is a creation of the bosses and the government to divide and confuse workers. We have concerns over issues such as corruption, democratic workers’ control and fighting strategy when it comes to the AMCU leadership but we urge all AMCU members to stay inside AMCU and organise to investigate and correct any such wrongs. In particular, we cannot afford division when faced with a major battle such as this strike. It is precisely for that reason, however, that we must defend democratic and free discussion and engagements within the union and allow all the best fighters to play a part in taking the struggle forward.

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