LALIT notes with horror the murder of over 35 platinum mine workers by the South African police at Marikana on Thursday 16 August, and supports the workers and their families in the struggle against the mine bosses and the State. LALIT also notes that the Lonmin mine bosses are threatening workers with the sack if they do not go back to work, and they threaten this before having settled the dispute that led to the deaths, and without workers having even buried their dead work-mates.
This shooting is a direct result of the repressive legal framework in South Africa that allows the police to drive workers from their “workplace” when they are on strike, and then drive them from assembling anywhere. The so-called “lock-out clause” agreed at the CODESA (Convention for a Democratic Society, the negotiated settlement after the apartheid regime) allows brute force to be used when there is resistance, as happened in the case of Marikana where workers remained on a hill, waiting for negotiations. The protection of property thus continues, after the end of Apartheid, but in the logic of capitalism, to be placed above any interests, including those of human life.
The shooting is also a direct result of the excessive powers of the capitalist class in general in South Africa, and the platinum bosses in particular. The strike action at the British firm, Lonmin’s Marikana mine, the fourth largest platinum mine in the world, aimed to force the bosses to respect agreements on higher wages. Workers gathered on a hill next to the mine shaft, demanding negotiations, but the police fired at the workers, killing over 35 and injuring twice as many. The long history of worker-oppression in the mining sector, an extractive sector that extracts enormous profits, much of which is exported to Europe, continues. It used to be diamonds, then gold, now platinum. In platinum mines, workers work over a mile underground in unbearable heat, pitch black darkness, and claustrophobic airless conditions, with not infrequent rock collapses, causing accidents. There are often conflicts at work, especially as the COSATU-affiliated union, the NUM, being close to the ANC government, has become increasingly blind to workers’ demands.
Workers now in the post-apartheid era find themselves up against the same old bosses, and a State apparatus still using the military. But the bosses are now joined by a new class of black businessmen, politicians and Union bureaucrats of the “Black Economic Empowerment” strategy. The ANC government had first, as crises deepened, been called upon to bail out the bosses; it has turned a blind eye to the impoverishment of working class communities; and finally set the police on the workers, with semi-automatic arms. The shooting of mine workers at Marikana means the ANC government has put itself in the long line of “the State” in South Africa taking the side of the bosses in perpetrating massacres on the working-class: before Apartheid, from in Bulhoek in 1921 over the movement against the “dog tax” to the arial bombardment of white miners during their 1922 strike, from the massacres of miners in 1946 to the shooting, during Apartheid, in Sharpeville in 1960; from the shooting in Soweto in 1976, to that in Langa in 1985, from Boipatong in 1990 to, after the end of Apartheid, the Marikana shooting in 2012.
Yet the workers continue to struggle. Despite the COSATU unions, close to the ANC Government, having abandoned the working class in order to support the ANC-run State, workers have continued to mobilize. The class struggle re-asserts itself.
LALIT also notes that the price of platinum that had been in the doldrums, has risen with the closure of this mine, causing speculation by the capitalists, as the poor are still burying their dead.
LALIT pledges its support for the Marikana workers against the capitalist class and its State.