Location South Africa South Africa

SAFTU-led General Strike Commences in South Afrika

A planned general strike by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) and allies has begun, and by all accounts, it has the makings of a seismic blow to the moribund political establishment in South Afrika that has plagued the people with austerity, corruption and wage cuts, while bowing to white monopoly capital and neo-liberal pressure. Workers throughout the country have answered the call by joining in actions against the state, leading a devastating shutdown that has now affected a significant portion of the country’s economy. Nico Vermeulen, the director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers in South Africa (NAAMSA), has affirmed that almost all of the country’s car manufacturers have succumbed to the shutdown. With international brands among those affected (Toyota, Ford, BMW, etc.) the imperial bourgeoisie is also feeling the effects of South Afrikan class struggle. Beyond car manufacturers, the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) has reported that, in a survey of over 350 businesses, 35% of companies were affected, and 8% were experiencing a complete shutdown.[1]

The crippling labor action comes as a result of the criminally excessive austerity measures which threaten to reduce the current national minimum wage to just $1.61, far below the estimated living wage in the country. Even non-affiliated unions have begun striking, who have found their only ally in SAFTU, who is likely to receive a great political boost from their so-far successful strike against neoliberal criminality from the tripartite alliance. Others have also joined the call, with the EFF announcing just yesterday their support for the strike, urging all supporting workers to join in the effort to oppose the neoliberal policies of Ramaphosa’s government.[2] At only a little over a year old, SAFTU has left a high watermark for future revolutionary class struggle in South Afrika. Indeed, we are beginning to see the formation of an embryonic revolutionary bloc in South Afrika, consisting of the most revolutionary proletarian organizations and parties, that may one day be capable of seizing state power.

Against SAFTU and the strikers are, of course, the ANC and its tripartite alliance, the most notable opposition coming from COSATU, the largest national-level labor alliance in the country, who continues to support the reduction of wages and introduction of anti-worker taxes to cope with the free-falling South Afrikan economy. COSATU’s rank and file are not entirely decided on this policy, however, and many of their affiliated workers and unions are enraged over government double-talk and delaying tactics in the negotiations.[3] That has not proven enough to shake the loyalty of COSATU to neoliberal robbery, who, let us remember, were not only responsible for Ramaphosa’s rise, but are now charged with sustaining him lest they risk yet another turnover in the national leadership. This is all more evidence to the fact that COSATU has reached its complete end as a real organ of proletarian class struggle, a process we would argue began a long time ago. Nevertheless, their indecision and overall disunity on the question of destructive anti-worker policies in the country has made them exceedingly vulnerable at a time when a younger, more militant and actually communist labor alliance is capturing the hearts and minds of the working class.

Although exceedingly destructive, the tripartite alliance will unquestionably survive this strike. But it has exposed just how deep the fault-lines run within the ruling coalition. The SACP has remained startlingly quiet, and has had an increasingly tenuous relationship with Ramaphosa’s government since his accession. The party itself is still captained by corrupt revisionists and neoliberal stooges, but the trepidation that saturates every move within the ruling coalition invites us to look upon its moribund character. While the EFF and SAFTU hold a direct line to the proletarian and populist impulses of the country, the tripartite alliance can barely hold a direct line amongst its constituent parts. All associations with outside coalitions and organs become destructive to the health of the ANC, and internal contradiction mars every decision of remote importance. It is safe to say, even with the strike in its earliest phases, that this has been a resounding success for a meteoric proletarian faction. Their mere existence leeches popular support from the rightist ANC government, to stay the course means unavoidable catastrophe for them.

Notes:

  1. “South African Strike Shuts Plants, Disrupts Public Transport” (Bloomberg)
  2. “EFF stands in solidarity with SAFTU regarding the strike to be held on the 25th of April” (EFF)

3. “Public sector wage strike puts Ramaphosa in a bind” (News24)

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