South African ‘Communist’ Party and the ANC blame WASP for platinum strike killings
The latest chapter in the concerted strike-breaking efforts by the anti-worker troika – the mining bosses, the state and the ruling party – is the accusation that the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) is behind the intimidation and violence linked to the now four-month-long platinum strike. These allegations – as reckless as they are unfounded – were levelled against WASP live on SA FM radio by the South African ‘Communist’ Party’s Solly Mapaila. He was supported by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who called into the show. (Mantashe was last year leading the charge against leading WASP member Liv Shange whom he claimed was responsible for the so-called anarchy on the mines.)
This is in line with last week’s claims by the North West police department that ‘political parties’ were fueling strike violence, as well as information WASP has received that the government’s security cluster is holding WASP responsible for intimidation and violence linked to the ongoing platinum strike.
It is clear that the ANC government and the mining bosses, with state forces at their disposal, as soon as the elections were out of the way set in motion a plan to break what is now the longest-ever strike in SA’s democratic history. The media has let a torrent of criticism rain down on the strikers and their union, AMCU, for the hardships they and their families go through four months into ‘no work – no pay’ as well as for allegedly being responsible for the harm their action is said to be causing what is hypocritically referred to as ‘our’ economy
With President Zuma adding to the media howl against the strikers by denouncing the mineworkers’ trade union AMCU as ‘irresponsible’, the three platinum giants – Lonmin, Amplats and Impala Platinum – moved onto a new strike breaking offensive with an sms campaign to ‘assess workers’ willingness to come back to work’. Lonmin immediately after the elections announced its police-supported plan to break the strike (which is protected under SA law). A few days before the planned ‘mass return’ on May 14, four people – three Lonmin workers and the wife of one of the workers – were killed in Marikana. This was quickly labelled strike violence, and followed by assurances by the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, that SAPS presence in the area would be dramatically stepped up to protect workers returning to work.
The ‘law and order’ regime that has since been imposed on the area is not dissimilar to the virtual local state of emergency instituted in the run up to the Marikana massacre and afterwards. The head of the SAPS’ Independent Complaints Directorate has even warned that he hopes that the police will not be ‘forced’ to fire on workers this time. In a clearly coordinated campaign, the Minister and the National Commissioner of Police, Riah Phiyega, held a press conference in Marikana on the day of the supposed grand opening of the Lonmin shafts. While they proudly held up 5000 arrests made in the area since the August 2012 police massacre on striking workers as evidence that they were ‘not afraid to act’ (against workers), the ‘mass return’ was an abject failure.
At the same time the police in the North West province circulated the claim that ‘political parties’ were behind the strike violence, and WASP was informed by journalists that the state ‘security cluster’ was holding the party responsible for the intimidation of strike-breakers. It is hardly a coincidence that the police’s claims are now echoed by the ANC and its ally the SACP, which have grown increasingly inseparable from the state machinery. The apparent effort by the SACP to step in as the storm troopers for the bosses and the capitalist state is a sign of the government’s sense of alarm over the growing public support for the workers and outrage at the insolence of the bosses – e.g. the Amplats bosses who just rewarded themselves bonuses of R76.4m – and the government’s collaboration with them. As in 2012, when the SACP denounced the Lonmin-workers’ independent action not as a strike but a criminal campaign orchestrated by a ‘Pondoland vigilante mafia’, it is these so-called communists’ job to ensure the strike is defeated.
The first target for the generals of the propaganda war against the strike is, as always, the truth: support for the strike must be equaled with support for killing strike-breakers. The truth is, of course, that WASP has consistently supported the mineworkers’ struggle for a R12 500 living wage while we have as consistently opposed and worked against intimidation and violence as methods of the struggle. While it has not been proven that the recent murders in Marikana are actual cases of strikers killing strike breakers, this is a common tactic in SA – one which the ANC- and SACP-aligned NUM, not least, has allowed to set root. Throughout the involvement of WASP and its founder, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), in workers’ struggles we have fought against this misguided method as it only furthers division amongst workers and invites police and other state repression. Instead, as in the case of this strike, WASP calls for maximising the efficiency of the struggle for a living wage by calling on AMCU to mobilise the support of all its members, local communities and of all mineworkers and of workers in other sectors – the workers’ movement at large – with the appeal for a general strike for R12 500 and for the use of the mining wealth to eradicate unemployment and poverty. This is the kind of strategy that has the power to sustain the struggle – and that is the real threat which the ‘troika’ wants to break.
WASP secured a right of reply on SA FM – you can listen to the interview with WASP’s Liv Shange here.