Flag and Symbol
Media & Artwork
Documents
Events
Conferences, Congresses and Anniversaries
Campaigns
Leadership Structures
Offices/Staff
Vacancies
Contacts
African Communist PDF Archive
African Communist Digital Archive
Bua Komanisi
Eastern Cape Bulletin
Umsebenzi Online
Umsebenzi Online Articles
Umsebenzi
Voice of the Proletariat - Northern Cape Publication
YCL
ANC
COSATU
International
Feedback Form
Links
 
Google Groups

Subscribe to

Umsebenzi Online

Alternatively visit this group.

Subscribe to

Communist University

Alternatively visit this group.

Contact us
Tel:  +27 11 3393621
Fax: +27 11 3394244
+27 11 3396880

info@sacp.org.za

PO Box 1027,
Johannesburg 2000,
South Africa

The latest Umsebenzi Click here to view the Latest Umsebenzi. [PDF]

The latest Umsebenzi Online

RED ALERT
Why the assassin must not be granted parole
Read more

The latest African Communist Click here to view the Latest African Communist. [PDF]


September 1999
 

Contents
Defend Workers Jobs
Job Loss Crisis - what needs to be done?
Public Sector Wage Dispute 
What is happening to our Economy?
We Must Struggle for a Strong, Active State
Political Education - Globalisation is Imperialism
SACP Action Plan
The SACP 78th Anniversary
Obituary
Mineworkers Under Seige
Local Government Workers
Workers Struggle snapshots
Gender and Globalisation
The Struggle for Womens Liberation
Women, HIV/Aids and Capitalist Profiteers
International Workers Struggles 


Defend Workers' Jobs 
Deepen the national democratic revolution

During one of the plenary sessions at the 10th Party Congress of the SACP in July 1998, one delegate stood up to question the reliability of the statistics on job losses, basically arguing that these statistics are exaggerated. Another delegate quickly responded by pointing out that he, himself, was the very statistic - a victim of retrenchment  - that the other delegate was questioning. If we are to accept that the statistics on job losses are unreliable and exaggerated, it equally means that the statistics about job creation are equally unreliable.  What this debate captured is the fact that the number of job losses are not merely statistics but human devastation and the destruction of workers' only means of livelihood, irrespective of the numbers! One worker retrenched is already too much. This debate also captured what was going to become a job loss bloodbath in a year's time!

An anti-capitalist, class struggle
The scale and extent of job losses amounts to what can only be called an intensified attack on the labour movement. It is for instance, very informative that all the opposition parties have been conspicuously silent about these retrenchments. This goes to prove that all these parties are quietly celebrating at this scale of retrenchments, as they hope this will break the power of organised workers, thereby securing South Africa as a capitalist society. As we had argued before, one thing that binds all the opposition parties together is that they are anti-worker and anti-working class. Therefore as the SACP we are proud that we have steadfastly, and on a principled basis, stood side by side with the workers in their struggles to defend their jobs. In fact our Central Committee of 17-18 July 1998 took a firm resolution for all our Party structures to support the workers' struggles to defend their jobs and halt these retrenchments.

These job losses have been preceded by an intensified ideological attack on organised workers as being responsible for the crisis in the economy. Organised workers have been attacked as an elite, only concerned about their own narrow interests. These attacks have surprisingly been echoed by even some of our own comrades in the movement, thus unwittingly adding credibility and weight to the bosses' ideological attack on the working class. The SACP therefore strongly believes that it is now time for workers to stand up and intensify their struggle against retrenchments. Even more importantly, it is now time that organised workers intensify the struggle to unite workers across trade union federations, as a step towards the realisation of the goal of one giant worker federation in our country. The job loss crisis must be turned around into a platform to mobilise all workers into a common front against this capitalist onslaught.

The current job loss crisis and the rampant globalisation should be a reminder that it is in fact a result of capitalism. This is also a reminder that the only counter to this assault on workers is to intensify the struggle for socialism. As long as our society remains capitalist, workers will always face these kinds of difficulties. Therefore a struggle against job losses is at its core a class struggle.

This requires that we intensify our efforts to build the political confidence of the working class and deepen its political consciousness. Deepening the political consciousness of the working class means equipping workers, as the leading detachment of the working class, with the political understanding and appreciation of its historical duty to lead a class-based national democratic revolution as a foundation for a transition to socialism.

It is also important that as we celebrate August as the women's month we also focus on the question of building and deepening the political consciousness of women workers, poor rural and urban women. Because of the position that women occupy in society and in the economy, they are the most vulnerable to economic crises. This is as a result of the fact that the economy is built on hierarchical patriarchal relations. Women are the most susceptible to retrenchments, contracting out and casualisation of labour. It is also women in the rural areas and in urban informal settlements who normally bear most of the burden of unemployment and poverty. They are the ones who have to look after hungry children, whose watery eyes stare at them as a result of hunger, despair and hopelessness. The working class must therefore take a lead in deepening the struggles for gender transformation both inside and outside the workplace.

Deepening the unity of working class forces
It is because of these struggles facing the working class and organised workers in particular that give an added significance to the COSATU Special Congress. This Congress must be convened as a true worker parliament to reposition and rebuild COSATU as one of the major forces in deepening and consolidating the national democratic revolution within the context of a struggle for socialism. As COSATU holds its Congress it must borne in mind that it is only the working class that can lead the national democratic revolution to its logical conclusion - the building of a workers' government.

Much more importantly, COSATU's slogan "An injury to one is an injury to all" has become even more relevant and important in the present period. An attack on any one affiliate of COSATU through privatisation, retrenchments, downsizing, outsourcing and casualisation should be defended by all the affiliates of COSATU. Otherwise isolated struggles by each of the affiliates will ultimately weaken and destroy COSATU itself. Therefore one of the critical questions at this all-important Congress is how to deepen the unity of the federation so that it acts as a united force and prepare for intensified struggles to build an even stronger labour movement in our country. Our guiding slogan should be that there can be no strong COSATU affiliate without a strong COSATU, just as there can be no strong COSATU without strong and united affiliates!

The immediate and key strategic challenge to the working class and organised workers in particular, is the struggle for job creation. Within this challenge there should be an intensified struggle to defend workers' jobs, as there can be no job creation without a simultaneous struggle for job retention. A combination of state and working class power should aim at halting the current job losses. But this struggle must not be waged defensively, rather we should aim to turn the current job loss crisis into an opportunity to pursue and implement progressive economic policies. This includes strengthening the developmental character of the state, building a strong Alliance and rolling back the power of the capitalist market in the provision of basic social services.  An attack on the working class is an attack on the national democratic revolution!

Public Sector Wage Dispute 

Negotiations for a skilled, motivated and effective public sector 

Leading Party comrades find themselves (in their capacity as ministers and trade union leaders) on both sides of the public sector wage negotiations.  Rather than seeing this as a cause for embarrassment or hesitation, the SACP, along with its alliance partners, sees in this reality a challenge.  The SACP Central Committee of the 17th and 18th of July discussed this question extensively.

We stated that the exact wage increase this year should be a matter of negotiation between unions and government.  But we noted that the whole public sector wage negotiations process needed to be reviewed in the coming months.  Government has tabled a fixed amount, budgeted in a transparent process through parliament.  There are good arguments for this, but it makes any meaningful negotiations difficult if government's first offer is, also, more or less its final offer.

In future years, we need to ensure that public sector unions are brought into a negotiating process before the budget goes through parliament.  We also need to ensure that the wage bill is guided by clear policy, which must also now be developed as a priority.

But the current public sector wage negotiations raise other issues as well.  The public sector, contrary to what is sometimes claimed, has not grown in the last five years.  It is down from 1 270 112 in September 1995 to 1 100 784 in December last year.  There are critical shortages in key strategic areas - in the coming one to two years there will be a shortage of some 10 000 teachers, for instance.  Moreover, key areas like education and policing are labour intensive.  A classroom under a tree is not desirable, but it is possible if there is a dedicated teacher.  A hi-tech classroom without a teacher is useless.  We need a proper skills audit of the public sector, and we need to be able to make informed decisions about the size of the public sector we require.

If we have critical developmental priorities then we must have the political will to raise the resources required.  VAT is sometimes mentioned, but it is not the only tax - we have recently dropped company tax from 35% to 30% with little evidence that private companies will invest the 5% saved in productive, job-creating activities.  There are also the billions that could be saved from the Government Employees Pension Fund.  Let some of this be invested in service delivery infrastructure, so that we can also release funds to pay for a skilled, motivated and effective public sector.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR ECONOMY?

The difference between GEAR and reality

Both the SACP and COSATU have vigorously opposed GEAR since it was introduced in 1996. However, the broad political debates around GEAR often lose sight of the very specific social and economic consequences that it has wrought on the people of South Africa. Below, we provide some statistics to give content to those consequences.

GEAR PROJECTIONS THE REALITY
  1996 1997 1998 1996 1997 1998
Annual GDP Growth 3,5% 2,9% 3,8% 3,2% 1,7% 0,1%
Formal Job Creation +126,000 +252,000 +246,000 -71,000 -126,000 -186,000
Rate of Private Sector Investment +9,3% +9,1% +9,3% +6,1% +3,1% -0,7%
Real interest Rates 7% 5% 4% Remains in double figures
Private Savings (% of GDP) To rise to 21% by 1998 Fell from 20% in '96 to 17% in '98
Current account
Deficit
To remain stable Increased from -1,3% in '96 to -2,1% in '98
  • The South African outflows of foreign direct investment ($2,3 billion in 1997) were far higher than what came in ($1,7 billion in the same year) - this trend continues!
  • The value of the South African Rand has collapsed from 3,5 to the US dollar in mid-1996 to 6 to the US dollar in 1998, while GEAR predicted it would stay relatively stable
  • GEAR has cut the tax rate for big business from a figure of 48% in 1994 to 30% in 1999
  • GEAR has liberalised foreign exchange rules, turning a blind eye to massive capital flight and has allowed some of South Africa's largest and richest businesses (e.g., Anglo-American, Old Mutual, SA Breweries) to shift stock listings to London
  • GEAR has kept VAT (a regressive tax) on basic goods - goods whose prices have risen substantially over the past three years - thus negatively affecting the poorest of the poor

WE MUST STRUGGLE FOR A STRONG, ACTIVE STATE

Active participants in change

As the SACP we are indeed proud of the achievements of the ANC-led government over the past five years. We are also proud to claim that we have not been spectators in this struggle to create a better life for all.  Communists have been an integral component of the forces for change and transformation in our country.  We have rolled up our sleeves and involved ourselves in government, in building mass organisations, in development committees in the urban and rural areas, and generally in ensuring that our people as a whole are part and parcel of this huge transformation effort.

Those, a diminishing number in our country, who try to evoke the "spectre" of Communism, should leave the realm of speculation and judge communists in South Africa on the actual performance of our comrades in numerous positions of responsibility - and not just those in government, or legislatures. All over our country, there are Communists who are school principals, staff nurses, trade union leaders and shop-stewards, SRC activists, participants in community policing or development forums, school governing bodies or rural water committees. They are all actively contributing, as Communists and patriots, to the reconstruction and development of our country.

Defending and extending the public sector
One of the most important lessons of the last five years is that the enormous progress made in the social upliftment of our people has been as a result of an aggressive state-led programme of development and social delivery. The provision of water, electricity, phone connections, houses, clinics and educational facilities to millions of our people has not been as a result of any ideologically-driven privatisation process.  The resources harnessed from the private sector have made a larger impact on the social conditions of our people, where these have been closely guided and led by an active state. These achievements have been buttressed by participation of communities through hundreds of local development committees and forums. This reinforces our belief that it is only an active, developmental state, acting in concert with the mass of our people, that is key to the implementation of the RDP. This role of the state underlines the importance and correctness of our struggle to roll back the market in the provision of social services and the realisation of a better life for all.

Our 10th Congress Party Programme commits us to a struggle to defend and extend the public sector: "It is in the context of ensuring that the state is able to set an active social and economic agenda that the SACP opposes all ideologically driven attempts to privatise public sector enterprises and resources. The private sector is not, by definition, 'more efficient' - and especially not in meeting basic social needs... Public resources must not be sold off simply to foster a new black elite. The public resources within the public sector must be used actively for development" (p.50). It is this struggle that we need to take forward in order to advance and deepen the national democratic revolution and lay a firm foundation for socialism.

POLITICAL EDUCATION 
Globalisation is Imperialism

Capitalism is a changing system with a history. For over one hundred years we have been living in the imperialist phase of capitalism. Imperialism is an advanced stage of capitalism. It is associated with three main features:

  • growing monopolisation of the economy by a handful of corporations;
  • the increasing export of productive capital to undeveloped parts of the world, extending capitalist exploitation and oppression globally;
  • the growing integration of finance capital with productive capital, leading increasingly to the dominance of finance capital.

Monopolisation

Capitalism is associated with an accumulation process. By the end of the 19th century this process resulted in a growing concentration of power and resources. Concentration occurred at two levels:

    at the level of the production unit: instead of scattered small and medium- sized workshops, increasingly production was organised into large, integrated units. For instance, blast furnaces, coking plants, steelworks and rolling mills were now combined into one huge factory. To start up production, it now required millions, instead of a few thousands. (While small capitalist enterprises have continued down to the present, their sphere of activity has become more and more limited);

    at the level of the firm or company: precisely because production was now organised on a large factory, production line basis, there was also the coming together of many distinct capitals in the modern joint stock company or corporation.

The earlier period of capitalism was a competitive stage of capitalism. Thousands of small firms competed with each other on the same market. Competition drove down prices, as each small firm competed with the others. Capitalist propaganda still presents capitalism as a "competitive" system operating on a "free market". In fact, competition and free markets have long since ceased to be the dominant features of capitalism. Huge, global transnational corporations dominate and manipulate the markets. They set their own prices, and they suppress competition as much as possible.

The Export of Productive Capital

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the growing accumulation and concentration of capital resulted in over-accumulation. In the main capitalist countries, like Britain, there was a need to find new markets and new investment opportunities. In the last decades of the 19th century, there was suddenly a vast movement of capital into Africa, the East, the Middle East and Latin America. This was the period of the "scramble for Africa".

There had been European colonial settlements in Africa before this period. The earlier European colonial settlement was mainly associated with mercantile capitalism. Mercantile capitalism was linked to long-distance trading. Companies, like Jan van Ricbeeck's Dutch East India Company, used sailing fleets to travel thousands of kilometres to purchase in the East goods  that were scarce in the West - spices, cotton and silk. These could be sold at huge profits back in Europe. The early European colonial settlements in Southern Africa (like Cape Town and Lourenco Marques/ Maputo) were designed to protect and service these valuable trade routes.

The colonial domination of Africa (and other parts of the globe) from the late19th century had a different character. Now it was not just trade, but millions were actually invested in plantations, mines, railways and harbours, and later in manufacturing in African and other colonial societies. By 1914, between a quarter and one'-third of British capital was now invested overseas.

Of course, this was less about "developing" these colonies. It was more about profiting from the vast natural wealth and from "cheap" labour. Although vast sums of money were invested, it was always in a very skewed way. Infrastructure was built not for the all-round development of the society, but to ensure the most rapid plundering and export of minerals, for instance.

It was precisely in this period that South Africa, as a politically unified country, came into being. By the end of the 19th century, what was going to be "South Africa", was still a cluster of feudal Boer republics, independent African tribal states, and two British-controlled colonies centred on three ports (Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban). The imperialist development of diamond and gold industrial mining in the interior, in the last 30 years of the 191 century, created the need to "unify" these huge investments in the Boer-controlled interior with the ports. British imperialists were also concerned to build cost-saving infrastructure and to ensure a unified labour market dispensation. This is what underpinned the Anglo-Boer war (1 899 - 1901). The ultimate victory of the British Colonial army created the conditions for the Union of South Africa (1910).

The scramble for Africa, and other imperialist attempts to control the undeveloped world, led rapidly to intra-irnperialist rivalry. The major corporations in the developed capitalist countries scrambled to extend their own control over the resources of the rest of the world.  This was the major cause of the First World War (1914-1918). In the middle of this First World War, Lenin underlined the imperialist nature of the war.

In his famous work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin noted all of the main features of imperialism. He noted how:

  • capitalist over-accumulation in the developed capitalist countries had led to increasing export of productive capital;
  • this had required larger companies; which had led to:
  • growing monopolisation; and a scramble between imperialist powers to control the world's resources

There was one more important feature of imperialism that Lenin also underlined:

Finance Capital

The development of imperialism just over 1 00 years ago brought with it the need to assemble vast financial resources. There was a need, for instance, to float huge, multinational corporations, capable of investing millions in the development of infrastructure for deep- level gold mining on the Rand. In the earlier phase of capitalism, small productive capitals borrowed money from banks when they needed to set up a new workshop. But productive capital and finance (or banking) capital were largely separate operations.

Now, increasingly, productive and finance capital intermingled. Control over finance capital provided strategic information. Bankers were no longer content just to lend money, when strategic knowledge about new goldfields opening up in South Africa, for instance, could be used to reap millions through direct investment. For their part, the captains of industry were no longer just engineers or geologists or former artisans who understood production. Increasingly they were experts in putting together vast monopoly consortiums. The separation between banking capital and productive capitalism capital began to disappear.

In the course of the 20th century this tendency, noted by Lenin in 1915, has gathered speed. Indeed, more and more finance capital has started to dominate capitalism. As Richard Barnet, an American writer, notes:

"The Global Financial Network is a constantly changing maze of currency transactions, global securities, Mastercards, euro-yen, swaps, and an ever more innovative array of speculative devices for re-packaging and reselling money. This network is much closer to a chain of gambling casinos than to the dull grey banks of the past. Twenty- four hours a day, trillions of dollars flow through the world's foreign exchange markets. No more than 10 percent of this staggering sum has anything to do with trade in goods and services. "

The trillions of dollars that move around the globe each day (as blips on computer screens) completely dwarf the international flows of more stable foreign productive investment. The blood-sucking, financial tick that once lived on the back of the productive cow has now completely overgrown and overwhelmed its host.

This situation lies at the heart of the latest phase of imperialism, which we often call GLOBALISATION.

The SACP 78th anniversary

The 78th anniversary of the SACP took place amid excitement and celebration in visible Party programmes throughout the country. Despite the increasingly difficult conditions for the struggles of those who believe in a socialist society, the anniversary events involved thousands of our members and other supporters of the Party of socialism.

In KZN there were numerous events, culminating in a well attended rally at Cato Manor in Durban. Seminars and mass meetings were held in the major urban areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town, and several other smaller events took place in towns and rural areas around the country.

It is always important for all socialists, especially the workers, to take ownership of the history of your Communist Party. Amidst the neo-liberal onslaught it is, now more than ever, necessary for the Red Flag to be hoisted high, with the pride and dignity it deserves.  Through understanding and analysing our historic struggles, we will be much better able to chart a viable and dynamic way forward.

VIVA THE PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS! 
ANOTHER 78 YEARS OF SOCIALIST STRUGGLE! 
FORWARD TO SOCIALISM!


OBITUARY 

Grace Gloria (Bongani) Mabunda

The SACP mourns the death of Comrade 'Bongi' Mabunda, a former member of the SACP Northern Province Provincial Executive Committee. Comrade Bongi passed away on 1st August, at the age of 30years.

Comrade Bongi held a B.Proc and LLB degree from the University of the North, and since 1994 had worked in various positions in the public service. At the time of her death she was working with the Public Works Department. She was involved, from an early age, in the liberation movement, having been active in the Federation of Transvaal Women in the late 1980s, the SACP, ANC and as a member of NEHAWU. She is survived by her mother, three brothers, one sister and a daughter.

Comrade Bongi was known for her dedication, hard work, warmth and selflessness. She was an inspiration to all who knew her.

Hambe Kahle Bongi!

LOCAL GOVERNMENT WORKERS 

GEARing up for new challenges 

What is happening?

In the months since the overwhelming electoral victory of the ANC-led Alliance, there has been a great deal of movement and change going on at the level of local government. Plans are being put into place (for example, the Igoli2002 Plan for Greater Johannesburg) and decisions on service delivery being taken, that will impact heavily, both immediately and in the longer-term, on workers and the poor.

In many smaller municipalities, such as Scottburgh on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, as well as in larger mega-city structures, such as Greater Johannesburg, local government authorities are undertaking "restructuring" plans that have very little to do with a progressive, developmental transformation of local government. Instead, we are witnessing the implementation of GEAR at the local level, with all of its assumptions about "efficiency", "fiscal discipline", "business management" and the role of the private sector in service delivery. Furthermore, this "restructuring" is being undertaken unilaterally, without any real attempt to encompass strategic discussion within Alliance structures or serious negotiation with SA Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU).

The Example of IGOLI2002

Indeed, all across our country, the neo-liberal inspired agenda of 'downsizing', 'commercialisation' of service delivery, privatisation and managerialist governance seems to have quickly replaced the progressive, developmental agenda (as contained in the RDP), driven by a strong and extended local 'state'. Let's look at the IGOLI2002 plan for Greater Johannesburg as a good example of this kind of local government 'transformation'.

Similar to the adoption of the GEAR macro-economic policy at national level, IGOLI2002 is the product of a unilateral, internal local governmental process, in conjunction with private consultants specifically hired (at great cost) to provide "expertise".  Besides ignoring the basis for the political Alliance between the ANC (as the governing Party), the SACP and COSATU - collective discussion and political decision-making as a means of implementing a common strategic vision as outlined in the RDP - IGOLI2002 seeks to implement the logic behind GEAR -  reducing the budget deficit at all costs and seeking salvation in the arms of the private sector.

Where to?

Workers in SAMWU have been waging valiant struggles in many different municipalities against privatisation and the kind of 'transformation' that has led to job losses, a lack of people's participation in implementing a developmental agenda and empowerment of the private sector. These struggles need to be supported by the full organisational and political strength of the SACP and COSATU. But, just as importantly, the forces of the working class and poor must ensure that the Alliance drives an RDP-vision and practice of local government transformation. We must constantly contest the neo-liberal dogma that private sector management and a weakened state is the recipe for growth, efficiency and delivery,

This means that basic service delivery at the local level must be the preserve of a strong and accountable public sector. On this, we cannot compromise. Indeed, it will be around this struggle that workers can forge both unity and strength, across sectors and including a broad front of other progressive forces.

MINEWORKERS UNDER SEIGE

What's really behind the 'gold crisis'?

The attention given to the recent drop in the international gold price, and the resulting job losses in the mining industry, have obscured a much deeper crisis of capitalism. And, it is the workers on South Africa's mines who are paying the biggest price.

The recent drop in the gold price (which we have been told is mostly the result of Western banks and other financial institutions getting rid of some of their gold reserves) is part of a much longer-term trend that is the direct result of capitalist speculation and imperialist game-playing. In the last several years, capitalist speculators have used gold as a means to make huge amounts of money on the world's trading floors. This has resulted in severe political and economic pressure being placed on gold-producing countries in the developing world, most often designed to ensure that they follow the structural adjustment programmes (SAPS) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

Under the guise of relieving Third World debt, western capitalists are now selling off gold reserves. But what is this Third World debt, that is being relieved? In the 1970s, Western private banks were awash with petro-dollars. They indulged in massive lending sprees to Third World countries. We are told that capitalists deserve to make big profits because they have to take risks. But when the Western private banks found that their loans were completely unrecoverable, they were not prepared to pay the price for their miscalculated risks. They ran to the IMF, and the IMF rescued the private banks, by taking over responsibility for the Third World debt. Through the 1980s and 1990s the IMF has imposed barbaric conditions on Third World countries, forcing them to privatise, liberalise, deregulate and slash social spending. All of this has been done to squeeze the last cent out of poor countries. Now the squeezing has gone so far that many of these countries are poorer than they were 20 years ago. There is no way that they can pay off their debt. The debt burden has got bigger. This is why the IMF is now looking for an alternative route to just squeezing. This is why it is proposing to sell gold.

But once more, it is a convenient short-cut for the big western capitalists. Instead of the wealthy countries of the First World writing off the debt, paying for their bad risks, they are once more forcing Third World countries (in this case gold producing countries, like South Africa and its neighbours) to act as shock absorbers. It was the First World's hit and run that put the Third World into hospital. Now they are saying they will help to relieve the hospital fees by robbing gold producing countries.

The result of all this over the past few years, has been to put tens of thousands of workers on South African mines out of work, with many more jobs threatened. It is not the mine bosses (like Anglo-American) who are paying the price - they have merely passed on the pain to the workers. For example, when it was recently announced that the ERPM mine on the East Rand was to close (with the loss of over 5000 jobs), the bosses blamed the fall in the gold price. However, it soon became clear that the bosses had been mismanaging the mine (while receiving high salaries) and stood to gain from the mine's closure. The resulting plan by NUM to rescue the mine and save the jobs at risk, clearly shows that increased worker control and management is the answer to the capitalist-generated crisis in the gold industry, as well as in other industries under threat from capitalist profiteering.

The SACP has made a call to the South African government to take an even firmer stand against any present and future gold sales. We want the unwise lenders to pay the cost for their unwise loans, not us. Additionally, the SACP has called on all countries of our region, and on working class and progressive forces around the world, to join together in opposing this cynical short- cut by western capitalists.

The SACP understands that it is the working class, in this case the mineworkers of our country, who have the ability and will to confront the capitalist agenda. It is therefore an organisational and political  challenge for the SACP and COSATU to mobilise workers to wage class struggle to defend jobs and  to extend worker control of our economy.

WORKER STRUGGLE SNAPSHOTS 

NUMSA workers strike at Columbus Steel

At the time of going to press, hundreds of National Union of Metalwokers of South Africa (NUMSA) members at the Columbus Steel works in Mpumalanga were still out on strike. The legal strike over wage increases has been going on for over a month. Management at Columbus have refused to budge from their wage offer (7,1% + 0,6% individual performance -based increments), while NUMSA is holding to its demand for a 7,7% inflation-linked increase plus an improvement factor of not less than 2%.

During the third week of the strike, management called in the police to disperse workers toyi-toying in front of the plant. True to form, the police attacked the workers, resulting in at least two workers being hospitalised with gunshot wounds and over 200 being arrested and refused bail. Showing that they have yet to embrace worker rights or democracy, Columbus management labeled the actions of workers, "a danger to society". NUMSA leader, Dumisa Ntuli responded by saying that "it seems to us that the traditional methods of dealing with strikes are still being used by police despite changes in the country."  A LUTA CONTINUA!

SACCAWU blacklists Shoprite-Checkers

In a letter delivered to the managing director of the grocery-giant, Shoprite-Checkers, the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) has informed the group that it will be"isolated" through a campaign of "full blown rolling mass action that will take various forms including international black listing and boycotts."

SACCAWU General Secretary, Bones Skulu, has warned Shoprite-Checkers that workers will not tolerate the massive retrenchments and casualisation undertaken by the Group. Labeling such actions as "so-called restructuring" and "ill-informed", Skulu called the Shoprite-Checkers moves, "an offensive against the workers and trade unions." Accordingly, SACCAWU intends to engage in a series of "consultations" before embarking on their intended actions.

Worker wage demands put in perspective

While much controversy has surrounded the recent wage strikes undertaken by public sector unions, much less attention has been paid to the announcement that top politicians might be in line for a sizeable salary increase.  According to recommendations made by the commission for remuneration of public office bearers, reappointed MP's, MPLs, premiers, MEC's and Cabinet members should be given a 10% increase. This is the same amount demanded by the public sector unions for workers, but which government has said it cannot afford.

If the increases are implemented, reappointed ministers and premiers will receive R547,657.00 per year. Reappointed Deputy Ministers and MECs will receive R 445,128.00 per year and reappointed MPs and MPLs will receive R290,654.00 and R279,920.00 per year, respectively. At the same time, government has announced that it awarded a R20 million tender to provide luxury cars for cabinet ministers, premiers and MECs. The list of cars which can be "chosen" ranges from a BMW529I to a Mercedes Benz E320 to a Audi A4 2,8. The cost of such cars range from R230,00.00 to R280,00.00 each.

GENDER AND GLOBALISATION

Gender and Economic Policy

In developing policy, it is important to analyse the ways in which gender shapes a society's ability to respond to macroeconomic changes and, how macroeconomic policies interact with gender relationships in society in turn.  In other words, it is important to understand the relationship between gender relations and economic policy as an interactive, mutually reinforcing one rather than a one-sided relationship where women are 'impacted on' by economic changes.  The economy is built on hierarchical gender relations, and at the same time, gender relations are shaped by the unequal world economic system.  It is also of relevance to note that not all women are affected equally, their experiences differ according to their race, class, age, marital status and religion.  Thus, it is necessary to examine the common experiences of women on the basis of gender divisions and the specific ways in which different groups of women experience economic change.

The gender-neutral terminology of economics disguises the inherent 'male bias' in economic policies.  Gender hierarchies influence the ways in which women participate in the labour market and the ways in which policies are developed and implemented.

Defining productivity

The ways in which the economy and productivity are defined and quantified are not gender sensitive.  The economy is defined primarily in terms of activities that are undertaken to earn money.  Much of the work that women do is invisible, or it assumed to be 'natural' or of little value.  Most of the tasks and occupations undertaken by women are located within the household and are not viewed as productive.  They are seen as not creating goods and services that are paid for and are not viewed as a direct contribution to the economy. The jobs in which women predominate often do not "produce" specific and measurable products (e.g. cleaners, domestic workers, nurses and teachers).  These jobs often involve a largely reproductive, rather than productive element.

Women's labour is not counted in official statistics, yet no economy could function without women's paid and unpaid labour.  In fact, it is a myth that women contribute less than men to the economy.  Studies that have been undertaken on time use highlight the disproportionate amount of time spent by women on unpaid labour.

Women tend to be located in low wage, low status, poorly organised and vulnerable employment.  There is a mutually reinforcing relationship between the subordinate status of women which influences how their work is regarded and the fact that lower-status occupations are reserved for lower-status workers, i.e. women. There is a gender division of labour within the 'productive' paid economy and in the 'informal' unorganised sector, which is largely linked to the 'domestic' role of women.

The focus on concepts of productivity, "economic restructuring" and "industrial restructuring" tends to ignore and undervalue the work of women since it focuses on manufacturing for export, excluding services, retail and the informal sector, in which women predominate.

Globalisation of the World Economy

The increasing focus on export-led growth in countries of the South, since the Second World War, has had a profound effect on women's work.  With the increasing internationalisation of capital and production, multinationals began to subdivide the labour process.  Export-processing zones (EPZs) were established in many regions of the South.  EPZs provide enormous incentives to capital through the suspension of import duties and taxes, as well as labour and environmental laws; infrastructure and capital are provided at no cost or heavily subsidised.  In many countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America women form the majority of the labour force in EPZ's particularly in the clothing and micro-electronic industries.

The process of industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture has led to unemployment and underemployment, migration to the cities, and in some cases emigration to other countries.  Women are particularly vulnerable to unemployment, and often resort to self-employment outside of the formal sector.  Women in the 'informal sector' tend to be located in inter-related areas, including the preparation of goods for sale in the market, domestic service, sub-contracting and home production

Feminisation of labour

In poor countries the ratio of men to women in the labour force has remained roughly the same over the past few decades.  In rich countries, women's share of the labour force has increased by about 5% since 1950.  Although there has been an overall increase in the proportion of women in the paid labour force, this is uneven.  In Sub Saharan Africa women's share of the labour force has decreased as a result of economic contractions which have been spurred on, in most cases by structural adjustment programmes.

The increase in women's labour force participation has not led to better access to higher paid jobs, nor has it lessened discrimination.  In fact some studies reflect a decline in labour standards and occupations for women. According to one study:

Women are considered not only to have nimble fingers, but also to be naturally more docile and willing to accept tough work discipline, and naturally more suited to tedious, repetitious, monotonous work.  Their lower wages are attributed to their secondary status in the labour market which is seen as a natural consequence of their capacity to bear children - they will be either unwilling or unable to continue in employment much beyond their early twenties (Elson & Pearson, 1997:193).

Increasing levels of women's employment may have some positive elements in drawing women into the 'public sphere', however this is undermined by the type of jobs they are drawn into and the extent to which they maintain the subordination of women in society and the economy.  Furthermore, while more women make up the world's labour force, there is a simultaneous process of increasing impoverishment of women, particularly in countries of the South.

Feminisation of poverty

Women make up 70% of the poorest people, the number of rural women in poverty has increased by fifty per cent in the last twenty years and women also represent the highest proportion of the unemployed. Women, more than men have limited ownership of income, property and credit.  When family or household resources are diminished, women compensate by increasing their workload or curtailing their own consumption.  Women bear the brunt of poverty and of 'managing' poverty.

Poverty is often measured by household which does not reflect the gender dimension of poverty. While there have been increasing numbers of women drawn into employment in many countries, women are increasingly impoverished.  The growing inequalities in the world economic system affect the most marginalised and disadvantaged sections of the population most viciously.  The fact that women are particularly affected is due to their structural position in the economy, in society and in the household.

Neo-Liberal Policies in the South: Structural Adjustment Programmes

The modernisation of agriculture is a worldwide phenomenon.  Mechanisation and the introduction of advanced technology is mostly used to produce cash crops which are controlled by men.  Thus, men's farm labour tends to be reduced, but not women's.  It opens up economic opportunities for  men and shifts men's work away from the home.  At the same time, women's farm work increases because they became entirely responsible for subsistence production and lose control over crops that may have started to be profitable.

Since women's lives are straddled between the productive and reproductive spheres, they absorb the brunt of the pressures of stabilisation and adjustment.  The prioritising of export over domestic production is felt most acutely at the household level.  Given the social role of women, meeting the needs and interests of women is crucially linked to overall poverty alleviation in any society (Evers, 1993:3).

A study by USAID identifies five ways in which structural adjustment programmes have negative consequences for women in particular.  Firstly, female poverty is increased, secondly, women act as 'shock absorbers' by increasing their unpaid labour and curtailing their own consumption to compensate for decreased household income.  Thirdly, women are more directly affected by cutbacks in social welfare spending and public programmes.  Fourthly, gender quality is eroded by shifts in the employment market and reductions in childcare.  Finally, public sector cutbacks in employment affect women heavily since the public sector and government employ large numbers of women.

The fact that women pay the price for structural adjustment programmes is not accidental, in fact these policies depend on the transfer of social costs from the state to women through the extension of women's unwaged work in the home, community and economy.

Little attention has been paid to the patriarchal ideology which maintains and perpetuates and even worsens women's position in the workplace, in the home and in society.  In many cases neo-liberal policies have rolled back the progress made in obtaining gender equality through child care and health care policies and programmes, employment for women in the public sector in particular and the eradication of trade union organisation to protect the rights of vulnerable workers, especially women.

( This article was written by SACP Greater Johannesburg DEC member, LIESL ORR - it is a shorter version of a Research Report produced for NALEDI - references are not cited)

The struggle for women's liberation

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

There are always two sides to revolutionary struggle - theory and practice. On the one side, theory gives us a description of the problems we face, provides an analysis of the forces which maintain social life, defines the problems we should concentrate on, and acts as a set of criteria for evaluating the strategies we develop. On the other side, practical struggle is the attempt to give living meaning to our theory, to find out what kind of activity is best suited to the conditions we find ourselves in, and to actually change our society.

In relation to our struggles for women's liberation in particular, it is of fundamental importance to have a clear understanding of what underpins that struggle. Communists recognise the need for a broad women's liberation movement that is active, independent and can take on many diverse forms. However, it is not necessarily the character of such a movement that determines its politics, but the other way around. In other words, it is the political goal of a women's movement that should define its character.

For communists, that politics is the politics of class struggle. While all women are oppressed, those who suffer the greatest degree of class exploitation - working class women - generally suffer most from gender oppression.  To successfully build a mass movement fighting for women's liberation requires a clear class orientation. It also requires clarity about the nature and direction of all other theories/arguments concerning women's oppression.

The tendency of our liberation movement to subordinate the struggle against women's oppression to a broad-based national democratic revolution needs to be acknowledged and corrected. It is the combination of a confident theory and creative practice that will go a long way to ensuring that the struggle for women's liberation is at the centre of our struggle for socialism.

We can take this struggle forward through:

  • collective political and social action around day-to-day issues that affect women, with specific focus on the areas of crime, domestic abuse and sexual harrassment
  • placing positive pressure on decision makers at all levels of the public and private sector to adopt policies and other initiatives that address gender inequalities and assist in empowering women in the workplace and in productive activities
  • organising through networks of women and other MDM formations, especially in the rural areas and the informal sector
  • organising in co-operatives for economic empowerment that are not dependent on the individualist, capitalist "market"
  • strengthening the links of international solidarity amongst working and poor women across the globe
  • recruiting and organising more women into COSATU trade unions and the SACP, with full and equal integration into political and organisational

WOMEN, HIV/AIDS AND CAPITALIST PROFITEERS

AN INTERVIEW WITH CDE THENJIWE MTINTSO

POOR WOMEN ARE MOST AFFECTED

We didn't realize as South Africans, as the ANC in particular, the extent of the problem until the statistics that were released last year by then-Minister of Health Dr. Nkosazana Zuma. She received the news with shock that 33 percent of South Africans are HIV-positive and that a very high percentage are younger women below the age of 35. We also have a higher percentage in prisons. It is quite worrying for South Africans, because we still have serious problems in relation to health in our country.

We have put in place legislation and policies that are meant to address these inequalities in terms of access to health, but we don't have enough. The legacy of apartheid is such that it is going to take us a long time to actually reverse this, especially for the poor communities, particularly in the rural areas. And when you talk about the rural areas you are talking about women primarily, because they are the ones who tend to be left as men go into the urban areas to seek employment. And because of patriarchy in our society, they are the ones who have got to take care of the sick and of the health needs of their families.  So the burden is primarily on the women.

This is quite a serious problem. We don't know the extent of the consequences of this because we have not yet started counting the deaths from HIV/AIDS. We are still talking statistics. We have set in place primarily preventive and educational programmes. But you must also know we are dealing with backward communities. The rate of illiteracy is high. Violence against women is strong. Women fear challenging their partners because they know the kind of violence that will erupt. So they succumb. A woman cannot force her partner to use condoms, whether she is married or unmarried.

There has not been the politics of keeping to monogamous families in our societies, so you find that our men, and our young men, have more than one relationship. If the man is infected, it implies he infects five others. This is one of the reasons why you get a higher rate among women.

There is also the cultural belief that if men sleep with virgins or young women then they get cured. Rape is on the increase. Because sexuality and sex education are subjects that are still taboo in some of the rural families, you have problems when you go around trying to teach people.

TRYING TO MAKE MEDICINE ACCESSIBLE

It is in this context that our health department came up with the Medical Amendment Act, to  look at the production of generic medicine, and what is called "parallel imports" as well as "forced licensing." All these [practices], in our understanding, are within the World Trade Organization regulations and the clause that deals with "intellectual property." Our aim here was to make medicine accessible to our poor people.

If companies like Glaxo (ed.'s note - a large multinational pharmaceutical company that produces the drug, AZT) for example, were producing certain medicines abroad and selling them cheaper in Canada than they were selling them in South Africa, our minister should be able to order these medicines from Canada, which is a parallel import. And if people had patent rights to certain medicines, and either were not producing them or were producing them expensively in South Africa, then the minister had a right to ask other companies to produce them cheaper.

In terms of prescription, if people were prescribing these expensive medicines, the health minister and the doctor and the patient had the right to go and get the cheaper medicine. These were some of the elements of this act that allowed our minister and our doctors to do that.

The pharmaceuticals saw red. Their argument was that it was going to be piracy. And it's not true. Their other argument was that we were going against TRIPS [the World Trade Organization's rules on intellectual property rights], and that is not true. But the American government came fully behind these pharmaceuticals.

PROFITS OVER LIVES

The truth of the matter is that it's profits that they are defending. So the lives of people are less valuable than the profits these big pharmaceuticals are going to be making in South Africa. And now we are being taken to the Constitutional Court by the pharmaceuticals backed by the American government. We have not been able to implement the Medical Amendment Act.
Many of our people are in danger of dying because of a lack of access to cheaper medications.

You actually find a high percentage of HIV/AIDS victims are in Africa. But there's nothing that shows that in fact there has been any piracy in terms of medication to treat those people. The fundamental thing is the profits for the pharmaceuticals, and the American government is on the side of the profits, not on the side of the poor.

If it were piracy, which fortunately it is not, we would say it would be justified. We are not dealing with only South Africa. It is a continental problem. Zimbabwe next door is in crisis. So any alternative access to cheaper medicines would benefit not only South Africa but the whole continent. But we are being denied that. Here you are talking about this global village. Vice
President Al Gore and then-Deputy President Thabo Mbeki shared a platform wearing these [HIV/AIDS] badges and together said, "We've got to be committed" as societies, as the world, to fight this scourge of HIV/AIDS. The U.S. government is denying exactly that.

 (* This interview was conducted while Cde Mtintso was on a visit to the USA, by Workers World newspaper)

INTERNATIONAL NEWS BRIEFS

Capitalist profiteering from the destruction of Yugoslavia

Corporate and financial capital is making a killing (literally) on Yugoslavia. As the bombs have rained down on the people and infrastructure of the Balkans, the main centre of capitalist speculation, the Dow Jones stock exchange in the USA has skyrocketed - jumping nearly 10% since the beginning of the year. Likewise, corporate profits, which had been expected to decline or stagnate in the first half of this year, have increased 18% for the largest 100 US corporations overt his same period. A statement from the Business Council (a body representing the top executives of monopoly capital) captured the buoyant mood: " This is really the best of times... I don't think anyone (here) has seen better times."

 The US military-industrial complex has seen its order books filled, in direct proportion to the ever-increasing destruction of Yugoslavia. As if this were not enough, the US Congress recently passed an 'emergency appropriation" of US$13 billion to pay for the imperialist war, most all of which will find its way into the coffers of the US corporate world. And the cherry on top of the cake - most of this public money will be taken from the budgets of Social Security and other public monies designated for education, health, poverty and hunger programmes.!

The Israeli elections - what next?

In the recent Israeli elections, Ehud Barak of the Labour Party succeded in ousting the right-wing incumbent, Binyamin Netanyahu by a fairly wide margin of votes. At the same time, there were major gains for the centre-right religious Shas party and smaller gains for other minor parties representing a wide range of social forces in Israeli society.  Many left observers, while welcoming the defeat of Netanyahu, have pointed out that Barak's victory will not necessarily guarantee progress on the key issue of Palestianian statehood. They point out that the two main priorities for Barak and his new coalition government, which includes the Shas party, will be: i) pulling the Israeli army out of the mess in south Lebanon (leaving Syria to "clean up") and; ii) rebuilding a national concensus in Israel (by trying to bring the disparate domestic social forces together). The potential price for this approach is acceptance of the three "No's" - no to the dismantling of Israeli settlements, no to Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem and no to a withdrawal to pre-1967 cease-fire lines. It remains to be seen exactly how Barak will go about balancing the various demands from within, and outside Israel. Even more central, will be the response of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other Arab states in the region. The volatile politics of the Middle East is not about to disappear.

Is there a "hidden agenda" behind the Ethiopia-Eritrea war?

Most mainstream media reports of the ongoing war between Ethiopia and Eritrea have described the battles as a "border war" over disputed territory. However, mounting evidence now suggests that the continuation of the war is more the result of a Tigrayan ethno-regionalism - the attempt of a small component of the multi-ethnic Ethiopian state to assert itself, at the expense of both Eritrea and other nationalities in Ethiopia itself. After overthrowing the Mengistu regime in 1991, the Eritreans and Tigrayans (in the form of the EPLF and TPLF respectively) went their separate ways - the EPLF setting up the new Eritrean state and the TPLF taking over power in Addis Ababa. But, the TPLF, which now dominates the Ethiopian state, proceeded to publish a new "political map" of Tigray that incorporated some of the territories over which the two states are now at war, including access to the sea through the only route available - Eritrea.  Reports now indicate that the dominant Tigrayans are using a pan-Ethiopian discourse to mobilise hundreds of thousands of peasants and poorly trained soldiers in an attempt to achieve this "hidden agenda" - with devastating human and ecological consequences.

INTERNATIONAL WORKER STRUGGLES

Brazilian

Workers Party struggles to exercise people's power

In the Brazilian elections that took place last year, the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) won a narrow victory in the state of Rio Grande. The PT was brought to power by a coalition of organised workers, the poor and other progressive sections of the population in this state that had been governed by the right-wing for over four years.  The administration of PT governor, Olivio Dutra soon set about tackling the inherited mess left by the right - a severe debt crisis (despite massive privatisation by the previous administration), financial chaos resulting from poor tax collection from corporate capital and investment incentives given to large automakers, General Motors and Ford.

The PT administration has met these challenges by suspending all investment incentives and redirecting the resources  (R2,8 billion) to health, housing and education expenditure as well as for specific job creation in the agriculture and fishing sectors. They have also refused to be intimidated into paying enormous inherited debts, but have rather made regular payments according to what is affordable. In order to sustain the popular momentum of such radical changes, the PT has instituted a continuous process of consultation between the state and the people through a participative budget process at municipal level. As the PT Communications Secretary, Lucio Costa says:

"We must do the opposite of what the Chilean left did under Allende. Back then the Communist Party tried to limit popular mobilisation, to let the government 'get on with its job'. The challenge facing us is the exact opposite. We need to mobilise the population around the participative budget ... this means organising, in each town, a coalition of left parties, the trade unions, the churches and the resident associations... otherwise, we will be defeated"

Besides popular mobilisation to sustain radical social and economic transformation, the PT has made a "clean hands" government one of its top priorities. This has meant, among other things, cutting the government's refreshments bill from R200,000 per month to R20,000 per month and surrending the governor's palace to a department that supervise the particpatory budget. All public sector workers are given the opportunity to participate in the day-to-day decision-making and running of the state.

Despite these measures the PT still faces an uphill battle. The political right and their big capitalist friends continue to make every attempt to sabotage the programmes for popular participation and resource redistribution. The PT however is confident about the challenge - "Our contribution and the originality of what we are doing here, is to build a solid system of direct democracy which involces large sections of the population in the social and political struggles that can create the possibilities for a rupture."

Columbia

Columbia on edge of all-out conflict

In recent weeks, the long-running battle between the right-wing, military-dominated Columbian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC-EP) has exploded. After peace talks earlier in the year were abandoned after the government and its para-military vigilantes went on a killing spree, the FARC stepped up its attacks on major cities and towns across the country. Last month, over 100 people were killed as a result of clashes between the guerillas and government soldiers.

Although the FARC is a predominately rural-based guerilla movement, it is generally supported by millions of workers and poor who have borne the brunt of the corrupt, neo-liberal and militarist policies of successive governments.  Alongside the fighting, there have been a series of strikes and other worker actions in response to the indiscriminate killing of union and civic leaders and the hrash neo-liberal measures taken by the government to please western capitalists, particularly the USA.

Columbia is now the third largest recipient of US military aid (often disguised as assistance for anti-drug campaigns), and the Columbian government has just signed an accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a R18 billion loan, supposedly designed to lift Columbia out of its present economic and social crisis. Indeed, the US government has become so worried about the possibility of the government being overthrown that it has dispatched hundreds of special military forces to bolster the Columbian government's efforts to crush the rising popular struggles.

Indonesia

Democratic struggles continue in Indonesia

Despite the victory of pro-democracy forces in the recent national elections, the militarised regime of President J.J. Habibie has continued to resist the democratic transfer of power. In recent weeks, the regime's military and police have violently broken-up several demonstrations launched by the People's Democratic Party (PRD) and have threatened to crush those mobilising the masses. In the Indonesian occupied island of East Timor the military and their local vigilante groups also continue their reign of terror, designed to intimidate East Timorese into voting against a referendum for autonomy and/or independence from Indonesia.

It has become clear that the Habibie regime (which relies heavily on the support of the military) is trying to frustrate the long-awaited transition to democracy. It was only in early August that the regime finally accepted the results of the national elections, in which Habibie's ruling GOLKAR party came a distant second (despite massive vote-rigging and intimidation). And yet, over three months after the elections, the regime and its military backers continue to try every trick in the book to hold onto power as long as possible, and consolidate their grip on the real levers of power.

Russian

workers go on offensive

It is no secret that since the capitalist restoration in Russia, it is the workers who have been hardest hit. The 'bandit' capitalism that has taken hold has resulted in mass privatisation, widespread corruption and an all-out assault on the rights and working conditions of workers. All across Russia, workers have found themselves unpaid for months (in some cases, for years) and forced to work in appalling conditions with no recourse.

Despite massive strikes and other actions designed to change such a situation, most Russian workers remain impoverished and without hope for the future. Increasingly, this has led to situations where workers of particular factories/plants have been left with no other option than to take complete control of their factories and plants. In the town of Yasnogorsk (in the Tula region), workers have finally won most of their demands after they occupied their machine plant, during which they ran production, shared the profits and fed the town for over a year. A similar situation has developed in the town of Sovietsky (in the Leninigrad region), where workers of the Vyborg Pulp and Paper Mill have occupied and run their plant for the last eighteen months. Despite the use of violent thugs hired by the capitalists to try and break the workers will, which led to open fighting, the workers have stood firm, and continue to control the plant.

These valiant worker struggles have sparked other actions all across Russia, the most recent being in the town of Kimovsk (also in the Tula region) where over 3000 workers, who have not been paid for the last seventeen months, are on strike and threatening to take over their factory. One of the leaders of the strike had this encouraging "battle cry": "We will unites with the workers of Yasnogorsk and thousands and thousands of workers all over Russia. We will take everything in our hands."

China

workers strike over 'restructuring'

The changes that have been taking place in the Chinese economy, including the privatisation and 'downsizing' of state-owned enterprises, have not gone by without ongoing responses from workers. In May, thousands of workers employed in the state Housing Department went on strike over the privatisation of their jobs, partially succeeding in reversing some of the plans. Last month, in Huainan city, over 2000 workers engaged in a 5 day sit-in demonstration at the Anhui Paper Manufacturing Factory. They were protesting the closure of the plant and the loss of much of their own money, which they had been forced to invest in a share-purchase scheme as part of an earlier 'restructuring' exercise designed to privatise the company 'through the back door'. When other workers in the city embarked on solidarity strikes, the local authorities sent in armed riot police, who attacked and injured many workers. This has resulted in large scale demonstrations and marches by thousands of workers in the city, carrying banners that read "Give us back our factory", "We demand a livelihood" - the battle continues.

US

Steelworkers fight back over wage disparities

During April and May, over 7000 workers at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) Corporation on the US east coast went out on strike over wage demands. Like most other US workers, the NNS workers have, over the last several years, experienced a decline in the real wages. This has happened against the backdrop of record profits being made by corporations and massive salary increases to top corporate executives. Similar to the present situation with SA public sector workers, the NNS workers were demanding inflation-related increases in order to keep up with the rising cost of living. Management attempts to break the strike with scab labour and co-option failed.

Costa-Rica

Striking public sector workers raise the stakes

In a wage dispute very similar to South Africa's, the entire public sector workforce of 90,000 went out on strike over inflation-related increases. Claiming that the government's offer of 5,2% was insufficient, given the 7,5% inflation rate, the workers refused to budge. In a creative and unprecedented move, five union leaders went on a hunger strike to support the worker demands. At the time of going to press, the outcome of the labour and associated hunger strike was not yet clear. (story taken from Business Day - 05/08/99).

Print