From Marikana, South Africa, to Oakland, California: The struggle for workers’ power

Bay Area events: Thursday, May 1, 7 p.m., ILWU Hall, Henry Schmidt Room, 400 N. Point St. at Mason, San Francisco; Friday, May 2, 12 noon, UC Berkeley, McCone Hall Room 575; Saturday, May 3, 2 p.m., Black Repertory Theater, 3201 Adeline, Berkeley, one block south of Ashby BART

Marikana mine worker Mgcineni Mambush Noki, 30, from Mqanduli spoke w mighty voice, then killed in massacre by The Sowetan
At a meeting of the miners prior to the massacre, Mgcineni Mambush Noki, 30, from Mqanduli spoke with a mighty voice. He was one of the miners murdered by police. – Photo: The Sowetan

The fall of apartheid in South Africa in 1994 was a watershed victory. It culminated decades of struggle by the Black and Colored South African masses, a struggle supported by millions in the U.S. and around the world. The victory brought to power the Tripartite Alliance government of the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

Now, two decades later, the ANC-led Tripartite government represents big business’ interests – especially the interests of U.S. and European-based banks and corporations. This has led the government to brutally attack workers who fight back against austerity. Indeed, in 2012, at the Marikana mine, this government massacred 34 striking miners at the behest of the mine owners.

Black poverty has worsened. Inequality has worsened. Trade union officials collaborate with employers against workers, youth and the unemployed. Does this sound familiar? Isn’t the situation similar in the U.S., with union officials not fighting employer and government attacks on workers, like the machinists at Boeing?

But in South Africa, there’s an exciting new development: For the first time since the fall of Apartheid, there’s a serious challenge to the Tripartite government’s rule, and it comes from the largest and most militant union in Africa. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has broken with the COSATU leadership and called for South Africans not to support the ANC in this year’s elections. It is currently building a workers’ party and united front to lead the struggle against the capitalist onslaught of deregulation, privatization and strike breaking.

A policeman gestures in front of some of the dead miners after they were shot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg
Police approach the bodies of the 34 miners they shot dead on Aug. 16, 2012. – Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

We are privileged to present Brother Mphumzi Maqungo, the national treasurer of NUMSA and past chair of NUMSA’s autoworker shop steward network, to discuss these developments.

Meet him at these Bay Area events: Thursday, May 1, 7 p.m., ILWU Hall, Henry Schmidt Room, 400 N. Point St. at Mason, San Francisco; Friday, May 2, 12 noon, UC Berkeley, McCone Hall Room 575; Saturday, May 3, 2 p.m., Black Repertory Theater, 3201 Adeline, Berkeley, one block south of Ashby BART.

For updates or to get involved in building for these events, contact the May Day Committee in Solidarity with South African Workers at Reach us directly at 510-325-8664 or 415-282-1908.

Greetings on May Day from Mumia Abu-Jamal to the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, brought to the Bay by the ILWU and Transport Workers Solidarity Committee

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Sisters and brothers of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union and of your guests, the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), I greet you all as militant, historic labor unions who have in the past, the present and I’m sure in the future, continue the noble struggle for the working class in both countries.

As I write these words, I’m mindful of the horrors brought to us by the unholy alliance between capital and the state exhibited in all its ugliness in the Marikana massacre of Aug. 16, 2012.

NUMSA has rightly called this event a turning point in history, which finds its shameful echoes in the Sharpeville massacre of anti-apartheid protesters 1960 and the Soweto massacre of school children in 1976. There, school kids took to the streets in protest of new rules forcing the teaching of Afrikaans, the language of white, Dutch descendant settlers in South Africa to Black students. They knew that such a language would be of little use anywhere else in the world other than South Africa.

NUMSA graphicHere in Marikana, Black mine workers were protesting for a few measly dollars from a foreign mining concern, Lonmin mining. Living at virtually starvation wages, workers fought for a living wage from a consortium making millions off of their labor.

The owners gave orders to South African police to answer their demands with death. The ANC government, in many ways put in power by memories of events like Sharpeville, passed the orders down, and 34 miners and metal workers were executed in defense of capital.

This was indeed a turning point, but not for South Africa alone. This was a global turning point. We hope that this puts a stake into the vampire of neo-liberalism. For when events such as this happen, it shows us the true face of neo-liberalism – that of conservatism and capitalism – with a smile.

Welcome, NUMSA. May you grow in numbers and militancy.

From Imprisoned Nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal

May Day 2014 endorsers

ILWU Local 10, Eddie Conway, former leader Baltimore Black Panther Party, Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Socialist Organizer, Oscar Grant Foundation, Local 510 Sign and Display Workers Union, Larry Pinckney, member of Black Activist Writers’ Guild, Freedom Socialist Party, Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, Oakland Education Association, Socialist Action, Melvin Dickson, Commemorative Committee of Black Panther Party, Socialist Viewpoint, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, Eugene Ruyle, Niebyl-Proctor Library (for identification purposes only), San Francisco Peace and Freedom Party, Oakland Socialist Group, Communist Workers Group, CDPH Inter-Union Organizing Committee