The Marikana Massacre: The government that pulled the trigger and the workers who survived it

Revivifying what are only recent memories of massacres by the state during the apartheid era, the Marikana massacre occurred on 16th August 2012, when policemen shot down 112 striking mineworkers, killing 34. Resistance by the ANC and the press to label the incident a massacre (‘Marikana shootings’ was the preferred terminology) at once exposed the easy analogy between Marikana and previous mass shootings at Sharpeville or Soweto, the fraughtness of South Africa’s difficult reckoning with its past, and how violence and the covering up of violence remains an intrinsic part of South Africa’s political structures and institutions.

Luke Sinwell, co-author of The Spirit of Marikana  a fascinating recent history of post-Apartheid South Africa, emphasising the crucial role of workers in changing history – has written here about the fight for justice by the workers that survived the massacre and the prosecution of 72 police for their role in the events.



The recent decision taken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to prosecute 72 police for their role in the events related to South Africa’s Marikana massacre is welcome, but it may obscure the truth that the African National Congress (ANC) government pulled the trigger. The Sprit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism tells the story of the agency of those workers who survived it.

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The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois and Black Lives Matter

In this essay, Bill Mullen, author of the forthcoming W.E.B. DuBois biography Revolutionary Across the Colour Line, considers the historical precedence set by DuBois’ thought. This survey of DuBois’ radicalism (evidenced in his advocating of the redistribution of public wealth, his alignment with Pan Africanism and solidarity with working class movements worldwide) allows us to contextualise the political motivations of the Black Lives coalition network, following the recent publication of their agenda. 

Mullen WDBJust weeks ago the Movement for Black Lives in the U.S. released its political platform.  The six-part document called for a wide range of reforms of American capitalism: a universal health care system; a constitutional right to free higher education; cuts in military expenditures and re-investment in local infrastructures; a progressive restructuring of tax codes to ‘ensure and radical and equitable redistribution of wealth;’ a guarantee of the right of workers to organise. The document also called for the demilitarisation of U.S. police, an end to capital punishment, and the end of surveillance of Black communities by law enforcement.1

The Movement for Black Lives platform is a document the late W.E.B. Du Bois would have would have proudly endorsed.  Indeed, in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, Du Bois published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper The Atlanta Creed, a bullet point program for Black equality and liberation.  The ‘Creed’ called for ‘Business for Public Welfare, and not for Private Profit;’ ‘No monopoly of land, materials, or machines in private hands;’ ‘Political power not for jobs but for public recognition of the Negro’s right to share equally and proportionally in all public expenditures; for protecting all labour in wage and work; and for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor through taxation and nationalisation.’ Most boldly, Du Bois called for Socialism: ‘We believe in the ultimate triumph of some form of Socialism the world over; that is, state ownership and control of the means of production, and equality of income; we believe that the ultimate power in the state should rest in the hands of those who work, and that the state should be ruled by them.’2

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Video: David Whyte presents How Corrupt is Britain?

In this book trailer David Whyte, editor of How Corrupt is Britain?, explores the nature of corruption in Britain, and how it affects a number of our most venerated institutions. David discusses the public sector, big business and the police, as well as giving an overview of the endless litany of political scandals and incidences of high profile corruption that the book covers.

Read the Guardian article by George Monbiot here.

More videos are avilable to watch on the Pluto Press YouTube channel.


David Whyte is Reader in Sociology at the University of Liverpool.  He is an internationally established author on the subjects of state power and corporate power, having written books such as Crimes of the Powerful: A Reader (Open University Press, 2009) and has co-authored three books and co-edited four collections on this subject.


How Corrupt is Britain? is available to buy from Pluto Press here.

Police Impunity and Beyond

Lesley J. Wood

People gather outside the funeral service for Eric Garner at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty)
People gather outside the funeral service for Eric Garner at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty)

Police brutality feels like an epidemic. In the last two weeks in the US, thousands have been in the streets marching and raging against the impunity of police in Ferguson after the grand jury decision not to indict the white police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, a young unarmed Black man. Facing pepper spray, flash bang grenades and mass arrest, protesters in 90 cities grieved as they occupied the highways and streets. In the midst of this, another white police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old Black boy in Cleveland. Then yesterday, a grand jury in New York City refused to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold, despite clear video evidence. The streets filled with people chanting Garner’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe’, in despair. The question is, when a system is so fatally flawed, where to turn for justice?

When it comes to shooting Black men, the oversight bodies are far too weak to make a difference. In New York City during the 2011-12 period, the Civilian Complaint Review Board closed 2,518 cases of complaints against police officers, only 27% of which were full investigations, and only 74 of these 671 (3%) were found to be substantiated (CCRB Report January – June 2012). In Washington DC, none of the 579 complaints against officers in 2012 led to criminal conviction. Instead of using police oversight bodies, people are turning to lawsuits to seek redress. In this regard, complainants are more successful, but through cash settlements and not the enforcement of new policies and practices related to changes to police behaviour. Continue reading

Cecily McMillan – The Occupy Activist Convicted of Assaulting a Police Officer

by Lesley J. WoodCrisis and Control

‘The recent news that Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan has been convicted in the second degree assault of a police officer (from an incident from St. Patrick’s Day 2012), and sentenced to three months in jail, and five years of probation has attracted a great deal of attention. On the day of her conviction, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart joked that the mainstream media seemed to find a harmonious balance in the fact that since one Wall Street banker, Kareem Serageldin (who plead guilty), went to jail, one Occupy Wall Street activist might also face jail time. Of course, he closed by joking that, despite the dramatically different impact of Wall Street crimes when compared to those of McMillan, “that seems fair.”

Fairness has nothing to do with it, of course. It’s only surprising that something similar hadn’t happened sooner. There has been a steady move towards the militarisation of protest policing and the criminalisation of protest. We’ve become accustomed to seeing police use arrests in order to stop protesters from getting into the streets, and to remove protesters once they are there. During the first months of Occupy Wall Street protests, New York City police carried out over 2000 arrests. They also pepper sprayed, beat, corralled, kettled, and surveilled protesters who were simply occupying spaces not intended for such uses. This style of protest policing is notable in the flagship ‘liberal democracies’ of the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. Indeed, on a transnational scale, police have adopted a strategy John Noakes and Patrick Gillham call “strategic incapacitation.”

This approach treats most protesters who communicate their intentions to police in advance of their protest actions – and comply with police directives – as cooperative, often forcing said protesters to stay behind barricades, or to take convenient, non-disruptive march routes, always staying ‘low-key.’ But if activists decide not to negotiate with police or communicate their intentions, they are labelled as uncooperative and unpredictable, and thereby understood as a threat. Such labelling militarises police strategy, where the goal becomes the pre-emption and/or containment of this threat. This was clearly and repeatedly the case with Occupy protests, as well as the recent protests tied to Trayvon Martin in California, student debt and tuition in Montreal and London, the NATO summit in Chicago, police brutality in the UK, and the G20 and G8 summits in numerous cities. Unsurprisingly, increasing numbers of protesters don’t trust the police, and don’t want to negotiate with them. As a result, their protest is criminalised, and they are more likely to be arrested, TASERed, pepper sprayed, and barricaded.

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Migrants – Know Your Rights

In light of the government’s vile new initiative of employing bill-boarded vans to intimidate undocumented migrants into ‘going home’, now seems a particularly good time to publicise these ‘Know the Law’ leaflets (see below). Former barrister and Pluto author Frances Webber‘s interviewed Indira Kartallozi and Phil Miller, two activists involved in the campaign to ensure migrants ‘know their rights‘ during a stop-and-search.

Laws and police powers are always subject to change (usually not for the better), so be aware that the following information was published by the Institute of Race Relations in July 2012.

For up-to-date legal information, groups such as Green and Black Cross and Newham Monitoring Project are a good first port of call. The following article appeared on the IRR website last year. You can buy Frances’s book, Borderline Justice: The Fight for Refugee and Migrant Rights (Pluto, 2012), from our web shop for just £17.50 including free UK P&P.

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Campaign launched against police stop and search powers

A collective of sixteen organisations has launched a campaign against current stop and search policy, with particular emphasis on Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order act (1994) – which allows police to conduct a stop and search without reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed, or intends to commit a crime.

The groups have sent an open letter to Home Office ministers Theresa May and Nick Herbert, and Bernard Hogan-Howe (the present Commissioner of the Metropolitan police). It highlights the racially discriminatory character of the implementation of recent stop and search legislation, particularly Section 60. The negative impact on young people of these police powers to stop and search, without even the safeguard of reasonable suspicion, compounds their ineffectiveness. The collective points out that current discriminatory use of stop and search powers requires corrective steps to be taken, as required by Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. The forthcoming Association of Chief Police Officers ‘Best Practice’ review of stop and search hardly fits the bill, and the collective calls for community scrutiny of this police review process. The letter asks that the Metropolitan police reveal details of a forthcoming stop and search policy, ‘Stop It’, and initiate a consultation with communities on changes to stop and search, which these organisations see as necessary for community safety.

Pluto believes this campaign to be both urgent and necessary. Stop and Search powers have long been used to intimidate activists and curtail public protest in the UK, however, as the collective points out, their implications for young people – and particularly ethnic minorities – are felt much more severely.

The letter can be read in full below. For more information about the campaign, or to add your voice to those who are demanding a better and fairer engagement between police and young people, go to Continue reading