Worker Struggles

Bernard Sigamoney, Durban Indian revolutionary syndicalist

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Bernard Sigamoney

 

by Lucien van der Walt

A global movement, the anarchist and syndicalist tradition has influenced people from all walks of life. A notable figure was Bernard L.E. Sigamoney, born in 1888. The grandson of indentured Indian labourers, who arrived in South Africa in the 1870s, he became a school teacher with a working class outlook.

A hundred years ago saw the First World War (1914-1918) sear the globe: almost 40 million died. South Africa, as part of the British Empire, sent troops and workers to battles in Africa and Europe.

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Our History of Struggle: the 1980s “Workerist-Populist” Debate Revisited

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FOSATU LogoCompiled by WARREN MCGREGOR (TAAC, ZACF)

Workshop contributors: Lucky, Pitso, Bongani, Siyabulela,
Nonzukiso, Nonzwakazi, Mzwandile

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: Today the terms “populism” and “workerism” are widely thrown about in South African political circles. Often, these terms and others (“syndicalism,” “ultra-left,” “counter-revolutionary,” “anti-majoritarian” …) have no meaning: they are just labels used to silence critics. SA Communist Party (SACP) leaders do this often. But in the 1980s, “populism” and “workerism” referred to two rival positions battling for the soul of the militant unions.

These debates, thirty years on, remain very relevant: let us revisit them, and learn. Today’s radical National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) was part of the “workerist” camp, while its key rival, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was identified with “populism.” The early battles over the direction of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) still echo today, although there is no longer a clear “workerist” camp.

FOSATU founding congress
FOSATU was launched on 14 and 15 April 1979 at Hammanskraap. Workers’ democracy and control were the core tenets upon which FOSATU was founded.

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Traitor to the Working Class Majority: Cyril Ramaphosa

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Traitor to the Working Class Majority: Cyril Ramaphosaby Siyabulela Hulu-Hulu (TAAC, ZACF)

It is said we live in a democratic country; but, believe me it is for the chosen few. Current Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, was once widely considered a hero of the working class. Today he is a hypocrite and traitor to us, the majority.

From 1994, when his career as a trade unionist ended and his career as a capitalist and state politician began, he has enriched himself at the expense of workers – he is a billionaire by the toil of our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

Ramaphosa played a major role in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and in the negotiations leading to the 1994 breakthrough. He became African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general in 1991 and ANC deputy president in 2012 – the ally of President Jacob Zuma.

In the years between, his business empire has grown massively. His interests now include a big stake in the Lonmin platinum mines; he is implicated in the 2012 Marikana Massacre of striking miners near Rustenburg. As a result, he had to testify at the Farlam Commission in Centurion, Tshwane, which recently ended.

This makes me wonder what kind of democracy and equality he was fighting for. He was a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, but is now a villain of the parliamentary democratic period. He is covered with an indelible and negative stigma amongst the majority of South Africans.

But one may not be surprised: even his leader and ally, Jacob Zuma, runs the state with filthy hands, part of the large group of corrupt state officials and capitalists that loots our country.

In conclusion, all these so-called leaders are wolves in sheep’s clothing. And all that glitters, dear readers, is not gold! Parliament, rather than being a solution, is a place where the wolves come out to feast. This system of hierarchical rule always changes those people who join it. It is up to us, the working class majority – employed and unemployed – to change the system. Anarchism shows us the way.

CSAAWU: Plea for assistance

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Help keep CSAAWU’s doors open – An injury to one is an injury to all!

CSAAWU

Dear Comrades,

We are writing to you out of solidarity for CSAAWU, a union based amongst farmworkers in South Africa with which we have relations. In 2012/3 South African farmworkers rebelled against the deplorable conditions in the sector – for which hundreds were dismissed and victimized. CSAAWU is one of the few unions that organises in this difficult and under-represented industry. In the aftermath of the rebellion it took a decision to take up the struggle, including by defending close to 100 workers in the labour court.

Unfortunately the union lost two of the cases and has been issued with cost orders in excess of R600 000 (US$ 53 500 or EUR 43 000). This is a very high amount in South Africa, one that is potentially fatally crippling for a smaller union like CSAAWU. (Anyone needing more information can have a look at this article)

We are therefore forwarding you their plea (see below) and hope that you will consider supporting their request for help. Please also considering forwarding this to sympathetic organisations and/or publishing it widely.

Red and Black regards,

The ZACF

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