JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, May 19 —
“Shock” is the expression being used after the eruption of violence on a scale not seen since the end of apartheid. “Anger at substantial immigrant populations — fellow blacks mainly from Zimbabwe and Mozambique — has seen at least 22 people killed in the past week since the first incidents in the northern Johannesburg township of Alexandra. The killing has now spread through the country like wild-fire…” (London Times online, 5/19)
The violent anti-immigrant pogrom has been fueled by the same lies directed against immigrants in Europe and the U.S. — they “steal jobs, cause crime,” etc. Racist gangs have employed the weapons used against traitors during the anti-Apartheid era, like “neck-lacing” (burning tires around victims’ necks).
This racist violence is not “shocking” if we understand the real cause. Racism and inequality are universal aspects of capitalism, from Paris to London to New York to Johannesburg.
Since the African National Congress (ANC) took power following the dismantlement of the old apartheid regime, the lives of some black politicians and petit-bourgeois elements have improved, but life is harder for the majority of black workers. Last year, mass workers’ strikes reflected this situation. “People are having to find scapegoats, this is about competition for diminishing resources…. President Mbeki has tried to de-racialise the economy but only a very small number at the top have really benefited,” said Sipho Seephe, President of the South Africa Institute of Race Relations. (London Times) “Some 40 percent of the population — 80 percent of which is black — is little better off than at the end of apartheid in 1994.”
Another important lesson is that there is no half-way solution to the evils of a worldwide capitalist system involved in endless wars, continuing economic crises and the need to divide and super-exploit more and more workers to reap super-profits. Once the imperialists and capitalists realized the old apartheid regime couldn’t control South Africa’s angry workers and youth, the ANC came to power. Nelson Mandela, Mbeki and Jacob Zuma (the next President) — supported by the “Communist” Party of South Africa (with a substantial base among its most militant workers and youth because of the “C”P’s role in fighting apartheid) — became capitalism’s managers. They provided some cosmetic changes but without changing the essence of racist exploitation.
Zwelinzima Vavi , leader of the COSATU union federation, spoke at a protest organized by the ANC-CP-led federation outside parliament. He said it’s not the Zimbawean exiles causing the problems for poor South Africans, even blaming capitalism. But only 100 people protested, showing the lack of credibility of COSATU, which since 1994 has supported the ANC governments and its free-market capitalist policies, and now backs the new ANC President Zuma.
The racist gangs are murdering immigrant workers in the same townships where heroic battles against apartheid were waged in the past, a direct product of these sellouts’ pro-capitalist policies. Now the struggle to build a society without racism and capitalism is now more difficult than ever. But it’s the only struggle which will eventually extricate workers here and worldwide, out of this capitalist-created hell.