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.

——————–

marikana

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.

Continue reading

Reading List: Left Wing African Movements

We have compiled a list of books that explore Left Wing Social Movements from the African continent or by African people. We chronicle the diverse labour movements, social thoughts and political economies of Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria and Zanzibar and follow the fight for political freedoms across the rest of the world.

The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others by Mya Guarnieri Jaradat

Jaradat TU

Drawing on a decade of courageous and pioneering reporting, Mya Guarnieri Jaradat brings us an unprecedented and compelling look at the lives of asylum seekers and migrant workers in Israel, who hail mainly from Africa and Asia.

From illegal kindergartens to anti-immigrant rallies, from detention centres to workers’ living quarters, from family homes to the high court, The Unchosen sheds light on one of the most little-known but increasingly significant aspects of Israeli society. We hear of Sudanese hunger strikers in Israeli detention centres, Eritrean refugees staging non-violent protests calling for Israel to process asylum applications and agitations opposing poor medical care and educational provisions. By highlighting Israel’s harsh and worsening treatment of African migrants, The Unchosen presents a fresh angle on the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling into question the state’s perennial justification for mistreatment of Palestinians: ‘national security’.

Related titles:

Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide by Ben White

Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance by Marwan Darweish and Andrew Rigby

Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel by the Activestills Collective

 

The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa by Luke Sinwell and Siphiwe MbathaSinwell SOM cropped

On the 16th August 2012 on a platinum mine in Marikana, the South African Police Service opened fire on thirty-four protesting black mine workers. This would come to be known as the Marikana massacre; one of the most lethal uses of force by South African security services since the apartheid era.

Through oral testimonies and exhaustive fieldwork, Sinwell and Mbatha create a gripping account of the incidents that followed. What began as a simple dispute over pay became an emblem of working class resistance in South Africa. The Spirit of Marikana is a testament to the mine workers’ heroic resistance against the cronyism of mine bosses, the government authorities and the crooked union establishment. Continue reading

Immanuel Ness – Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class

Earlier this month at the Historical Materialism conference in London, we caught up with Manny Ness,  Professor of Political Science at CUNY, New York, co-editor of our new Wildcat book series, and author of Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class.

In this video Manny talks about his new book, and the exciting developments in workers’ movements around the world – specifically focusing on China, India and South Africa.

 

Immanuel Ness is Professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He is author of Guest Workers and U.S. Corporate Despotism and Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labour Market and numerous other works. He is editor of the International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Working USA: The Journal of Labour and Society.

————————————–

Southern Insurgency is available to buy from Pluto Press here.

BRICS bankers confirm they won’t undermine Western financial decadence

As the 7th BRICS Summit comes to a close in Russia, Patrick Bond discusses the financial aspirations of imperialism in these countries. His book, BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique is published next month. 

‘The main point of the summit of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa this week Bond BRICSwas host Vladimir Putin’s demonstration of economic autonomy, given how much Western sanctions and low oil prices keep biting Russia. In part this sense of autonomy comes from nominal progress made on finally launching the bloc’s two new financial institutions.

But can these new banks address the extraordinary challenges in world finance? For example, more than 60% of Greeks voting in last Sunday’s referendum opposed the neoliberal dictates of Brussels-Berlin-Washington, thus raising hopes across Southern Europe and amongst victims of ‘Odious Debt’ everywhere.

Meanwhile, bubbly Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets were crashing by $3 trillion from peak levels in just 17 days, a world-historic meltdown, at a time Chinese housing prices were also down 20% over the prior year. Beijing’s emergency bail-out measures represent vast subsidies to financiers, just like those used in Washington, London, Brussels and Tokyo since 2007.

Change is urgently needed yet the BRICS’ finance bureaucrats – especially two leading appointees from South Africa – won’t deviate from orthodoxy. Ongoing financial turbulence should offer a gap for the $100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), which is anticipated to open its doors next month. However, it carries not only a strange name that even many insider experts often get wrong, but is dollar-denominated and structurally hard-wired to support the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

To illustrate, according to CRA rules agreed at last year’s BRICS Fortaleza summit, after 30% of a country’s quota is borrowed – based on double the amount of its own contributions (China at $41 billion, and Brazil, Russia and India at $18 billion each, and South Africa at $5 billion) – then the borrower must next sign a neoliberal IMF agreement.

For South Africa this could prove painful in the period ahead, after Pretoria finds itself borrowing from the CRA to repay the country’s soaring foreign debt. Inheriting $25 billion in apartheid Odious Debt in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s government worked diligently to repay. But over the past decade, outflows of profits, dividends and interest soared as the largest Johannesburg-based firms (Anglo American, DeBeers, etc) shifted their financial headquarters to London.

The foreign debt ballooned to its present $145 billion, the same level compared to the size of the economy that was hit thirty years ago when PW Botha’s apartheid regime declared a default. To repay short-term debt in a crisis would soon exhaust the $3 billion Pretoria is permitted to immediately access from the CRA, and then the IMF will march in.

Continue reading

The Warnings of Fanon and Cabral: An introduction to A Flawed Freedom

By John S. SaulSaul T02841

How real has been the much celebrated “liberation of southern Africa” that culminated in South Africa’s embarking on its post-apartheid future almost exactly twenty years ago to the day? My new book for Pluto, A Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Liberation, raises this question quite precisely and suggests that it cannot be answered simply or straightforwardly. For the outcome of the “thirty years war for southern African liberation” was as much failure as success, the major winners of that “war” being global capitalism on the one hand and the newly ascendant local black elite, riding on the back of the ANC’s “success” to power and privilege of their own. In effect, southern Africa has merely been recolonised by capital with the lot of the vast mass of these territories’ populations still poor and politically marginalized!

Of course, as I point out in my conclusion to the Pluto book, related issues had already been raised forcefully with reference to the first wave of African “liberation” that, in the 1950s and 1960s, saw so many territories in the northern part of the continent realize their freedom from colonialism (principally as it had been imposed on Africa by the British and French): the assessment that, most often, the struggle for such national liberation had brought merely a “false decolonization.” Frantz Fanon was the clearest of voices articulating such a position, most notably in his celebrated text The Wretched of the Earth. Thus, for Fanon, the new African elites that inherited power then did little to actually liberate their countrymen from the yoke of global oppression by capitalism – these elites merely comfortably stepping into the privileged positions of intermediaries:

‘The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary. Seen through its eyes, its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission lines between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the masque of neo-colonalism. The national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent, and it will play its part without any com- plexes in a most dignified manner. But the same lucrative role, this cheap-jack’s function, this meanness of outlook and this absence of all ambition symbolize the incapability of the national middle class to fulfil its historic role as a bourgeoisie.’[i]

Continue reading

Patrick Bond, “South Africa’s Resource Curses and Growing Social Resistance”

The following article appeared as “Review of the Month” in Monthly Review’s April edition and is kindly reproduced with their permission. Patrick Bond is the author of Elite Transition (Pluto, 2000), a fully revised and updated Second Edition of which will be published later this year.


mr-065-11-2014-04-133x200

The African National Congress (ANC), led during the 1990s by the late Nelson Mandela, is projected to be reelected in South Africa’s May 7, 2014 national election by a wide margin, probably with between 50 and 60 percent of the vote. But underneath the ruling party’s apparent popularity, the society is seething with fury, partly at the mismanagement of vast mineral wealth. The political and economic rulers’ increasingly venal policies and practices are so bad that not only did ANC elites play a direct role in massacring striking mineworkers in August 2012, but corporate South Africa was soon rated by PriceWaterhouseCoopers as “world leader in money-laundering, bribery and corruption, procurement fraud, asset misappropriation and cybercrime,” with internal management responsible for more than three quarters of what was termed “mind-boggling” levels of theft.1

With such degeneration from above, the country’s impotent socialist left was pleasantly surprised last December when the largest union in Africa, the 342,000-strong National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (“Numsa”) split away from the ANC. Numsa pledged to organize mineworkers and any other disgruntled workers, and steadily to reconstruct a new South African left from below, including radical social movements once derided as “ultraleft” (because from the early 2000s they had already broken with the ANC). The “Numsa Moment”—which I think can be contrasted to some local trade unionists’ “Lula Moment” advocacy, akin to Brazilian labor corporatism—is of enormous importance, especially if it leads to a “united front approach” and the “movement towards socialism” as promised in Numsa’s “Breaking New Ground” congress of 1,300 shop stewards, just a week after Mandela’s death.2 However, up against such a strong and prestigious national liberation movement, whose most famous leader stayed in the ANC until the end of his life, Numsa and its new allies are not yet contesting power in the next election. They must work hard on local alliance-building, and the underlying socioeconomic conditions must continue to deteriorate, if Numsa is to rekindle the confidence of older revolutionaries and create a new generation of activists. Continue reading

Mira Hamermesh’s Maids and Madams screening at the BFI – March 6th

maids-and-madamsPluto author and film-maker Mira Hamermesh’s award-winning documentary examining the relationship between black maids and their employers in 1980’s South Africa is being screened at the BFI on 6th March.

Shot in South Africa, the subtly understated Maids and Madams examines the tragedy of apartheid through the emotional relationship between the black household worker and the white employer. Winner of the Prix Italia, it shows how apartheid begins at home – where white-aproned black maids tend the children of their white madams, while their own children stay neglected, jealous and without prospects in crumbling, remote townships.

The screening will include a Q&A with Sir Jeremy Isaacs. More details about this fantastic event can be found on the BFI website, here.

The River of Angry Dogs: A Memoir

Mira Hamermesh’s memoir, The River of Angry Dogs, was published by Pluto in 2004. It is available to buy from our website for just £13 (including free UK P&P).

Hamermesh T01141In the book, Mira gives a vivid account of her remarkable life. As a young Jewish teenager she escaped the horrors of German-occupied Poland with only her natural creativity, a rebellious spirit and a talent for good fortune to rely on. Of the millions of words written about WWII, few come from women, and even fewer recount such adventure. Spared the experience of the ghetto and the concentration camp that claimed most of her family, Mira’s story is a life-affirming account of a life lived to the full, and a meditation on survival and coincidence, that pays homage to other people’s courage.

Recounting her escape into Soviet-occupied Poland, Mira shows how her status as a refugee has continued to influence her throughout her life. The journey led her across Europe and eventually to Palestine in 1941; her account of that region, before the establishment of Israel, provides a fascinating insight into the historical setting for today’s conflict.

Having settled in London where she studied art and married, she eventually won a place at the celebrated Polish Film School in Lodz. At the height of the Cold War Mira Hamermesh commuted across the Iron Curtain – her experience of a divided Europe offers many insights into the political factors that affected people’s everyday lives.

Mira’s theme of political conflict, so often explored in her films, is brought to life here in an intimate account that will live long in the memory.