14 September 2012

For International Solidarity with South African Miners!

On August 30, some 100 protesters marched outside the South African Consulate in New York City to denounce the August 16 police massacre of 34 striking mineworkers and the arrest of some 270 workers at Lonmin Platinum’s Marikana mine in South Africa. This united-front protest, initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee, demanded: “Free Jailed Miners—Drop All Charges! Victory to the Striking Miners!” In an effort to generate support for the embattled miners, the PDC—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—appealed to trade unions and leftists as well as black and immigrant organizations with diverse political viewpoints for unity in action.

Some of those who endorsed the demonstration represent unions that have been under attack in the U.S., like Dan Coffman, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 in Longview, Washington, which fought against the multinational EGT’s union-busting drive, and Kevin Gundlach, president of the South Central Federation of Labor in Wisconsin, which has been under state government attacks.

Other endorsers included Steve Hedley of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union in Britain; Kenneth Riley, president of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 in Charleston; the New York City chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; Kareem Lover of Harlem’s Circle of Brothers; the International Haiti Support Network; the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee; and black academic Cornel West. Among those attending the protest were the Internationalist Group, which endorsed and spoke, and the League for the Revolutionary Party. One of the speakers was Matthew Swaye, a young activist of Stop Stop and Frisk who has been targeted by the NYPD for filming cops going after black and Latino youth.

Kevin Harrington, vice-president of Transport Workers Union Local 100 in New York, brought solidarity greetings, and a number of transit workers were present. He remarked that the attack on South African mineworkers is against “the right of workers to organize and is an attempt to smash trade-unionism,” adding that such attempts are also “alive and well in the U.S.”

An SL spokesman noted: “This massacre exposes the truth that the blood of black workers is just as cheap today under the neo-apartheid capitalism of the ‘new South Africa’ as it was under apartheid.” He commented that the Tripartite Alliance government “only offers a continuation of capitalist exploitation and oppression. Similarly, in the U.S. the bourgeois parties—Democrats, Republicans and Greens—represent the interests of the capitalist exploiters. We say: Break with the parties of capital! What’s necessary is an internationalist multiracial workers party!”

A PDC speaker remarked: “August 16, 2012, will go down in history for one of the bloodiest crimes ever committed against the workers movement in South Africa.... The pain and suffering of this gruesome mass murder must be burnt into the memory of the working class—here and internationally—and all other opponents of capitalist oppression, as a reminder of the lengths to which the bourgeoisie and its repressive state machine will go to protect their class rule and profits.”

The Marikana slaughter recalls the most infamous apartheid-era slaughters—Sharpeville 1960 and Soweto 1976—which caused massive international outrage. However, in response to this latest massacre the AFL-CIO tops and much of the left have alibied the perpetrator—the Tripartite Alliance government of the African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party and the COSATU union federation—which sent its police to protect the mine owners’ profits. A statement by the AFL-CIO called “for calm to return to the platinum mine...so that miners can return to work.” We say: Victory to the miners’ strike, which has continued and grown after the vicious attacks by the police!

Other demonstrations and acts of protest took place internationally. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers sent a letter to South African president Jacob Zuma recalling its support to the anti-apartheid struggle and commenting: “We did not organize against such tyranny only to see such blatant attacks on workers unfold under the government of the ANC.” During a protest organized by labor and community activists on August 25 at the South African Consulate in Toronto, a comrade of the Trotskyist League of Canada called for cops out of the unions and for a black-centered workers government in South Africa. In London on August 31, the Spartacist League/Britain protested outside the England-South Africa cricket match along with representatives of the Foil Vedanta Campaign, an organization fighting against destruction brought about by the British-Indian mining giant Vedanta. In highlighting the criminal history in Africa of the London-based Lonmin company, an SL/B speaker stressed the significance of “solidarity from workers in Britain, not least the black and Asian population from former British colonies.”

In leaflets and chants, our comrades have raised the call: An injury to one is an injury to all! For international labor solidarity with the striking miners! 

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1008, 14 September 2012)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.