Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Southern Workers Assembly: An Historic Step Forward!

Jobs * Social Security * Labor Rights
Medicare and Medicaid * Peace and Justice

On Labor Day, 2012, 300 trade unionists, workers and community activists packed the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, to participate in the Southern Workers Assembly. The purpose of this gathering was to promote organizing the South, repealing anti-labor legislation, and strengthening the fight against racism.

By all accounts, this was an historic gathering and attendees left it united and in high spirits. The event received wide media coverage.

Below are the opening remarks by Saladin Muhammad, Coordinator of the Southern Workers Assembly, recently retired International Representative for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, and member of Black Workers for Justice.

*  *  *  *  *

Southern Workers Assembly: A Call to Action for Workers to Organize Labor in the South!

Why are we here? And what is our charge as Southern workers? Are we here mainly as a form of protest against the failed policies of the Democratic Party regarding worker rights? Both parties have failed the working class in this regard and more.

The Southern Workers Assembly is a call to action by rank-and-file workers to unite, organize the South and speak in our own name. Southern workers cannot wait for the Democratic Party, and certainly not the Republican Party, to enact some progressive labor laws before we can begin a serious effort to organize ourselves into a labor movement. Unfortunately, this has been a serious error on the part of the U.S. labor movement for too many years.

During the 1950s and '60s, the power of an organized and united labor movement in the South was needed to help fight against the racist system of Jim Crow, which greatly divided and created deep wounds and lasting scars within the working class that capital will always try to exploit. This is why a social movement is needed to organize labor and the working class in the South. We want the Southern Workers Assembly to be a launching pad that begins a process of building a South-wide social movement to organize labor.

In an economy and society where having a job is a requirement for providing ourselves and families with the basic necessities of life, worker rights become human rights. Thus a social movement to organize labor in the South must become a major part of the human rights movement, and must be organized with the same energy and sacrifice of the civil rights movement that helped to bring about some progressive reforms for Black and working people.

However, a human rights labor movement must also be a transformative movement that seeks to reorganize the economic, social and political relationships that determine the value of labor, the distribution of the wealth created by labor and technology, and that protects the lives of the people and sustainability of the planet. Capitalist globalization and its impact require that our labor movement have a basic vision of transformation as we organize to build power.

History has also shown that the failure of the U.S. national labor movement to make a concerted and coordinated effort to organize labor in the South has been a major factor allowing the most conservative political base within the U.S. from being effectively challenged by the organized power of Southern workers.

This has affected the class consciousness and confidence of Southern workers about our power to challenge corporate power, which clearly dominates and dictates the decisions and policies of the state and local governments throughout the South.

Corporate power has not only super-exploited the labor of Southern workers, it is also responsible for the underdevelopment and negative environmental impact on many working class communities, especially African American, Latino, Native American and poor white, because of the billions in incentives and tax breaks that were diverted from community development and given to the corporations to locate in the South.

The massive disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina in parts of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005 is an example of what happens when corporate wants are prioritized over the infrastructure and human needs of the people.

Now that the South has reemerged as a major region in the global economy, where U.S. manufacturing, foreign direct investment and finance capital is becoming concentrated --  a Wall Street South -- the South will be a major force in the shaping of U.S. labor and social policies. Efforts to pass anti-immigration laws are developing rapidly in the South, to create another source of super-exploitation that is based on the race and ethnicity of the working class.

The U.S. prison industrial complex, in addition to jailing mainly the unemployed from the Black and Latino working class communities, provides super-exploited labor for major corporations. This is largely why there have been Draconian laws such as 3-strikes, you're out, and crime bills enacted over the past 20 years by both Democratic and Republican administrations. The so-called "legal status" and stigma permanently branding the formerly incarcerated forces many to have to work for little or nothing, if they can get hired at all. This is a major reason forcing many back into crime and the high rates of recidivism.

Dividing the working class and the oppressed peoples in every way possible is the main strategy of corporate power. The U.S. labor movement must not see the independent worker-led organizations and initiatives of the oppressed peoples as something that divides the working class. They exist to take up the struggles against the special forms of oppression and exploitation that impact our lives, and that have not been taken up effectively within and by many of the trade unions.

The struggle to respect the right of these organizations to exist as part of the labor movement -- while they are also leading the fight for self-determination as oppressed peoples -- must be a main aspect of the struggle against racism to be waged within the U.S. labor movement and the working class, if we are to build a powerful and transformative labor movement inside the U.S.

Of the 100 million people living in the South, the largest region of the U.S., African American and Latino together make up close to 40%. Fifty-seven percent, or more than 20 million Black people, and 40%, or more than 18 million Latinos, live in the South. Black and Brown unity is therefore critical to forging and anchoring the unity of a strong Southern labor and working class movement.

Having pointed out the weaknesses of the U.S. labor movement in failing to organize the South, and the role of the South today in the global economy, it is important to make clear that this in no way is meant to suggest that workers in the South have not been organizing and resisting. Your presence at the Southern Workers Assembly is a testament that we are organizing and fighting.

However, our organizing and campaigns have been mainly local and unconnected to a broader framework that projects a South-wide movement. This has made it difficult to develop and promote a workers' fight-back climate, and has weakened and discouraged sustained efforts to organize unions in the South.

There will be many challenges in building this movement that we must educate and prepare ourselves for. The crisis impacting labor over the past 30 years from the restructuring and globalization of the economy, and the attacks on unions resulting in a loss of membership by many, has led to an unhealthy competition between unions, which have divided the working class by fights over union jurisdictions, raiding and splits in federations and national unions.

A Southern labor movement must build structures that unite workers within the same sectors, regardless of the national unions or organizations they are affiliated with, to democratically work out an independent plan for concentration and organizing within those sectors. It is from this base of organizing that we must win the support from national and international unions for organizing labor in the South.

Organizing in the South greatly needs the support of a strong rank-and-file movement within the national unions who work to build support from their local and national unions for the development and sustaining of a Southern Labor Alliance, including actions of national labor solidarity as we saw with the Charleston, South Carolina dockworkers' struggle and the Wisconsin public sector struggle that closed down the state's capital. Organizing the South must become a clarion call for the U.S. labor movement to go on the offensive.

We want to leave this Southern Workers Assembly with some basic framework in place that allows us to move to the next step in holding meetings to begin to map out a plan for forming a Southern Labor Alliance and launching a social movement campaign to organize the South.

Let's get to work here today in our brief period at the Southern Workers Assembly.

Onward toward a Southern Labor Alliance!

 - - -

Issued by the Emergency Labor Network (ELN)

For more information write or P.O. Box 21004, Cleveland, OH 44121 or call 216-736-4715 or visit our website at Donations gratefully accepted. Please make checks payable to the ELN and mail to the above P.O. Box.

43rd Contingent of the VB - CUBA REPORT BACK PARTY! October 19th 6-9pm

Help get the word out about our annual NYC report back! Flyer attached. Details below. Contact for more information.
Come learn about our travel to Cuba, and our Cuba solidarity work!!

When: Friday, October 19, 2012 6:00-9:00 pm
Where: Unity Hall – 235 West 23rd Street, 2nd Floor (between 7th & 8th Avenue)

What: Presentations about Cuba, Dancing, Food, Cash Bar, Raffle, and Items for Sale!
Suggested Donation: $10 includes one plate of food (while it lasts) 

All proceeds fund scholarships for the Brigade!

For 43 years, the Venceremos Brigade has traveled to Cuba to stand in solidarity with the Cuban people, to end the unjust US embargo and to exercise the constitutional right to travel anywhere in the world.

Donations are made payable to: VB Education Fund
Mail to: Venceremos Brigade; Ansonia Station; PO Box 230527 New York, NY 10023
Veneremos! We Shall Overcome!



 The Hypocrisy of American Democracy


Practicing Dictatorship at Home Through Voter Suppression and Preaching Democracy Abroad
America is fond of lecturing other countries and continents, such as China, Russia, and especially Africa, about the practice of democracy in these countries and continent.  People are increasingly asking how could America be lecturing others about democracy when one of the two major parties in the country are embarked on suppressing the practice of democracy and see nothing hypocritical on the issue of democracy in other parts of the world.  Yet, since the Republican Party seized more governorships and state houses of assembly in the 2010 elections, they have enacted laws designed to suppress the votes of Blacks, Latinos and college students.  These are the groups that normally vote for the Democratic Party, and in essence, in this presidential election year, for President Barack Obama.  One Republican official in the state of Pennsylvania, a state that is leaning towards President Obama, publicly stated that the Republican Party in that state decided to enact voter suppression laws because it would help its presidential candidate, former Governor Mitt Romney to win the state. (Read More)

Chika A. Onyeani
African Sun Times:
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Monday, September 24, 2012



Councilman Fernando Cabrera at (347) 590-2874 and 

NYCEDC's president, Seth Pinsky at

Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr. (718) 590-3500

From: "Cutman L.G" <>
Date: September 21, 2012 9:14:52 PM EDT

Dear Community Residents, Business, Institutions, and all other interested parties:

WE NEED A MASSIVE TURNOUT ON OCT 11, 2012 For Mercado Mirabo &
The International Hip Hop Museum.

This is to inform you that the Community Board will be hosting a community input meeting regarding the potential redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory.

This meeting will take place at Monroe College's King Hall Auditorium, located at 2501 Jerome Avenue, on Thursday, October 11th from 6:30PM to 8:30PM.


Please send this to everyone around Planet Earth and have them sign the Petition.

Mercado Mirabó: Stars at the Armory

Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Date: 09/19/2012
The Mercado Mirabó project proposes an open air market that would also feature movie theaters, basketball courts, a climbing wall, and a national hip-hop museum.
La propuesta del Mercado Mirabo es un proyecto de un mercado al aire libre que también contaría con salas de cines, canchas de baloncesto, una pared para escalar y el sótano albergaría un museo nacional de hip hop.


Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment: Why the Young Woo Proposal is Better


The landmark Kingsbridge Armory, long vacant, will finally see redevelopment soon. Three years after Mayor Bloomberg's abomination of a proposal to convert it to a mallfell through, two better proposals have come to light.

The first proposal – and the one with the most preliminary official support – is theKingsbridge National Ice Center. In short, this plan features a whopping nine ice rinks for such activities as ice skating and hockey; it'd be the largest (indoor) ice center in the world if built. The plan also calls for construction of a public school and hotel on nearby property.
Make no mistake – I think the ice center proposal is awesome; however, there's another proposal that I believe is better.
Meet Mercado Mirabo – the redevelopment plan envisioned by Young Woo & Associates. The plan for Mercado Mirabo – a.k.a. "a market you can see" – calls for a mixed-use facility featuring recreational sports (e.g. soccer, basketball), rock climbing, a local market and shops, a food court, a movie theater, and even a hip-hop museum!
I've always favored some sort of mixed-use recreational facility for the Armory (like thePark Slope Armory); methinks Mercado will have more to offer on the recreational side than the ice center. Because of this (and the fact that this could create more permanent Bronx jobs than the ice center), I favor Young Woo's proposal.
At issue is the number of permanent "living wage" jobs created by each proposal; "living wages" in NYC are a minimum of $10/hr+bennies OR $11-11.50/hr w/o bennies. Given that my precious home borough is the poorest in the nation, such an infusion is more than welcome. The Ice Center planners' pledge to pay employees no less than the living wage makes it more attractive in the eyes of local politicians, but the cats at Young Woo pledge to outdo even that – offering the same amount or possibly more living wage jobs (and more overall jobs) than the Ice Center.
In short, both proposals are great; in the long run though, methinks Mercado Mirabo offers more and will attract more cats to the Armory. As such, I hope they choose Young Woo's plan for the Armory's redevelopment.


THE BRONX, September 11, 2012—Legendary DJ Afrika Bambaataa brought the "Hip Hop Fede

ration," an alliance of Hip Hop royalty that appears to be growing week by week, to the offices of Youngwoo & Associates, the group bidding to transform the Bronx'ʹs Kingsbridge Armory into "Mercado Mirabo". Youngwoo & Associates redevelopment plan is based on creating a modern-­‐‑day community "ʺplaza" or "town square" – brining a diverse mix of creative marketplace, food, entertainment and cultural space, and sports and recreational uses.

Last month the Bronx native, pioneer and "Godfather of Hip Hop" signed a letter-­‐‑of-­‐‑ intent to help create an international center for hip hop at Mercado Mirabo, including creating a museum and performance space celebrating the art form, if Youngwoo & Associates' proposal is selected by the NYC EDC.

"An international museum of hip hop, located in the Bronx where the movement started, will attract worldwide recognition to the Bronx and bring visitors from around the globe to visit Mercado Mirabo and explore Bronx." said Afrika Bambaataa. "Mercado Mirabo is a place where people from the neighborhood will actually want to come to with their family to spend the day playing sports, watching a movie, interacting with other cultures and maybe catch a concert or special performance."

"Youngwoo & Associates' plan will not only preserve and honor the culture of hip hop, but will also create a unique cultural and community center for Bronx residents that provides job creation, professional support and general business opportunities for the neighborhood and beyond," said Grand Wizard Theodore.

Mr. Woo noted that "The addition of a hip hop museum further completes our plan to make Mercado Mirabo an iconic cultural destination that will draw millions of new visitors into the Kingsbridge neighborhood to experience unique and exciting offerings such as the world's first advanced 4D cinema, the largest rock-­‐‑climbing wall, concerts, sports exhibitions and more," Mr. Woo added

Mr. Bambaataa and the Hip Hop Federation plan to meet with the Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. as early as tomorrow to champion the Mercado Mirabo project. "The people of The Bronx do not yet appreciate all the details in Youngwoo & Associates plan." said Grand Master Mele Mel, adding that "The Bronx needs to know that the two options for the Armory are either to bring an ice-­‐‑hockey center or Mercado Mirabo." In addition to meeting with Ruben Diaz, the Hip Hop Federation called upon other political leaders to meet with them as true representatives for the community. "We are from the Bronx, born and raised. We next hope to meet with Councilmember Cabrera, Mayor Bloomberg and the EDC so that they actually consider what the people of the Bronx will really want with the space and choose Mercado Mirabo."



September 18, 2012
6,242,391 Unique Visitors

Bronx legends meet with Borough President Ruben  Diaz Jr., discuss Kingsbridge Armory hip-hop museum 

Melle Mel says hip-hop better Bronx fit than hockey


Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 6:00 AM


Hip hop artist Melle Mel


Rendition of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center.

"The Message" rapper Melle Mel and other hip-hop legends sent Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. a message: they disagree with his support for an ice sports center at the Kingsbridge Armory.
They met with Diaz last Thursday to promote an alternate armory redevelopment proposal that includes a hip-hop museum. The Bronx is widely recognized as the "birthplace of hip-hop."
But the museum boosters left empty-handed. Diaz will continue to back the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. He endorsed the $250 million plan last month.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation controls the long-vacant armory and has yet to select a proposal.
Mel, born Melvin Glover, wondered about Diaz playing politics and called the ice center a poor fit for the "Boogie Down" borough.
"The Bronx has a certain identity that should be maintained," said the rapper, whose 1982 record "The Message" is a hip-hop classic. "You don't open a soul food restaurant in the Connecticut suburbs. You don't see ice skating in the Bronx. It should fit the accent of the community."
But Diaz spokesman John DeSio said the ice center bid is "the better project" based on "economics, not politics." The borough president prefers the proposal because it guarantees "living wage" jobs and because it includes an ice sports education program for local Bronx youth.
The plan is backed by Wall Street bankers, New York Rangers hockey hero Mark Messier and gold medalist figure skater Sarah Hughes.
With nine indoor rinks, the ice center would attract more than 1.5 million visitors from outside the Bronx annually, according to the businessmen behind the plan.
But a hip-hop museum would also draw tourists to the borough, said Bronx turntable pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, who supports the other leading bid. Hip-hop is a global phenomenon, he noted.
"We want to bring it back to the Bronx," said the "Planet Rock" deejay, born Kevin Donovan. "The international community wants to come see that."
Mel and Bambaataa are consultants for Mercado Mirabo, an armory redevelopment proposal submitted by the West Village firm Young Woo & Associates.
In addition to the hip-hop museum, Mercado Mirabo calls for shops, restaurants, basketball, a fitness club, a climbing wall, a movie theater and an artisan market for local entrepreneurs.
Mel believes the market would empower Bronx residents and help existing neighborhood businesses reach new customers.
He described the ice center as "another Yankee Stadium" that would cater to wealthy outsiders.
The museum boosters plan to meet with City Councilman Fernando Cabrera next. The Council will vote on the fate of the armory after the EDC selects a bid. Diaz and Community Board 7 will issue recommendations.

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PEACE I urge everyone who is in support of the Mercado Mirabo proposal please send an e-mail or/and call the following individuals and them know how you feel about the National Ice Center proposal which is not what the community wants nor needs. Use the email and phone numbers below to show your outrage and displeasure with his choice. There is another proposal that offers the Bronx a more divers
 e mix of sports, entertainment and retail shops that he has not considered. We need you to help us make him and other Bronx officials know that we are not going to accept this decision!

Councilman Fernando Cabrera at (347) 590-2874 and 

NYCEDC's president, Seth Pinsky at

Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr. (718) 590-3500

This is for your records,research (study) on all knowledge that you get,if you can. This is Information -Outformation to you.

Report from the Sept 13 Blow the Whistle Actions Around the Country

Report on September 13 Blow the Whistle Actions Around the Country
Break the Silence!  Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk and Mass Incarceration!

On September 13, whistles blew all across New York City; and in Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities across the U.S.  People blew the whistle on Stop-and-Frisk, on 2.4 million people warehoused in prison, on the torture-like conditions so many are subjected to in those prisons and on the discrimination faced by formerly incarcerated people even after they've served their sentences.
Moving stories came to light in the build-up to September13th and on the day itself.  In the wake of police in the Bronx gunning down Reynaldo Cuevas on September 7th as he fled from a robbery, whistles sounded the burning rage of people at this foul murder.  In a Brooklyn neighborhood, people confronted a cop with whistles and chants of "stop-and-frisk" in defense of a young man who was being harassed for dropping a piece of candy wrapper on the ground.
On September 13th in Anaheim, California, family members and friends of four youth murdered by police there gathered to Blow the Whistle on police murder.  At California State University-Northridge (just outside LA), students posed with Blow the Whistle signs and whistles.  In Oakland, California, students at two high schools wore stickers saying: "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide" and blew whistles.  At the end of the day in Harlem, people marched to two projects where we were met by residents wearing their whistles and waiting for the march to arrive so they could join in blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk.  These projects had been the scene of frequent clashes between youth from the different projects, but on this day, four youth from one project went with the march over to the other project to get out whistles and join their neighbors in blowing the whistle on all the abuse the cops bring down on people.
These whistles marked determination to refuse to any longer suffer abuse from the criminal "injustice" system in silence. They were a way for the people who bear the brunt of this injustice to stand up and resist this abuse. A way for people to stop blaming themselves for this abuse  and to start having each other's back and looking out for each other in the face of this abuse. These whistles can be another nail in the coffin of stop-and-frisk.
On September 13th, our resistance to the way the police and the whole criminal "injustice" system come down on the people got taken to another level.  The Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) is dedicated to sustaining the way that blowing the whistle on police abuse has become a form of collective mass resistance, and to spreading the sense of engaging in this kind of resistance more broadly in society.  We understand that anyone who stands up to resist all this could be targeted for retaliation.  We also know whole generations of young people have already been targeted — targeted by racial profiling, being put on the road to living their lives going in and out of prison, robbed of any hope for the future.  Blowing the whistle on all this abuse is an important part of breaking the pipeline that puts so many of our youth on that road.
Going forward, SMIN will be blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk and all the injustice the authorities bring down on people.  We will blow the whistle as we to mobilize support for our demand to Drop the Charges on the Stop "Stop-and-Frisk" Freedom Fighters and Stop the Prejudicial Prosecutions of 'Noche' Diaz.  As part of doing this will be raising the funds necessary to mount a powerful legal and political defense of these freedom fighters.  Two fund raisers are currently planned -- one on September 29th in Hadley, Massachusetts, and another in Manhattan on October 30th.  (For more information or to help make these benefit events, and the fight to win these legal cases, successful, contact SMIN.)  We will blow whistles as we mobilize for the upcoming October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation
If you are tired of the way the police harass, disrespect and brutalize young people; if you are horrified at the way so many people are warehoused in prisons across the country, if your heart goes out to the millions of people who are forced to live their lives enmeshed in the criminal "injustice" system, then you need to join us in building a fight to END MASS INCARCERATION AND ALL ITS CONSEQUENCES!
Contact Information:

Stop Mass Incarceration Network

The "Stop Mass Incarceration: We're Better Than That!" Network is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice, a 501c3 tax-exempt organization.  Tax-deductible contributions accepted, and checks should be made payable to the "Alliance for Global Justice", with "Stop Mass Incarceration Network" in the memo line and sent to the address above.  Contributions also accepted online at

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SOCIALIST PARTY OF AZANIA (SOPA) on Marikana Settlement and Its Implications; Marikana, the Labour Movement and the South African Situation

Head office: Unit 8, Renaissance Center
Gandhi Square, Johannesburg, 2001
P.O. Box 11039
Johannesburg, South Africa 2000
Tel. (011) 838-4823



Yesterday, the 18th September 2012 the bosses at Lonmin finally made an offer that was decent and acceptable to the workers. This happened after a long, protracted and deathly strike in which 45 workers died, more than eighty were wounded, more than 279 were arrested and charged for various crimes including murder. This settlement deal embarrasses, first COSATU which had called the demands of the workers unreasonable and unrealisable, also the ruling ANC whose cowardly and murderous policemen shot and killed miners.

The LONMIN wage deal has been finalised without COSATU playing a major role and its leadership including Vavi have expressed disappointment and concern that such a deal will undermine all existing agreements including the Labour Relations Act. The fact that workers chose to go with a union that did not at the time have the majority membership was not fully recognised by management, also completely rejected all the NUM interventions has put COSATU and the government in a fix. While Vavi has acknowledged the fact that the COSATU leadership lifestyle is far removed from that of ordinary members and also they live in opulence while members can hardly make it, he has warned that the agreement that was won by workers and their union, AMCU through struggle, is in fact dangerous and it is precedent setting for all workers who will now reject their unions for upstart unions.

What is meant here is that this particular struggle of workers has opened real possibilities and workers can now dump their subordinating and betraying unions for those who care for the interests of the workers who have set them up.

Despite the fact that they did not get the R12 500-00 they demanded, LONMIN was made to come closer to that by agreeing to an unprecedented whopping 22% increase to reach the more than R11 000, and a R2 000 once off bonus at the end of the month. LONMIN also agreed to take all workers back including all those who were arrested and charged. While they claim to await the outcome of the judicial inquiry, they have been forced to accede to the demands of the workers.

This is indeed a great breakthrough for the Marikana workers. The LONMIN bosses mourned the fact that they were literally forced to sign an unreasonable agreement, while in the six weeks that workers were on strike they have lost R15 million a day. The truth is, workers called LONMIN's bluff and succeeded. AMCU responded by saying that LONMIN could have saved themselves the trouble and losses had they chosen to settle earlier and the miners also, would have not died.

Had workers not chosen the path they took, the reality is, there would not have been any benevolence and magnanimity on the part of the bosses. They would have not won these gains now or ever. The capitalist system represented by LONMIN and the government was unmoved even in the face of death and suffering of the workers. They remained recalcitrant, arrogant and always committed to extracting whatever profits and exploiting workers.

Finally, this wage deal settlement happened at the time when COSATU was holding its elective congress. Despite the Marikana crisis and the role played by its leading union the NUM, COSATU and its alliance partners continued to blame workers and other sinister forces for the problems. They appointed their own commission of inquiry to investigate the murders. The best they could do was to blame 'the militarised police' not their command which is the government. They rewarded their leadership by returning all of them unopposed.

We as the Socialist Party of Azania believe that there will be hard times ahead. The ANC led government was provided with an opportunity, albeit painful, of nationalising a foreign owned mine that that in so many ways of undermining the sovereignty of our country and also was directly responsible for the death of so many citizens. In any country that loves its people, the licence of LONMIN would have been revoked. We continue with the call of the nationalisation of the mines and the support of all the workers who continue to fight for their democratic rights and the unions that represent them.    

* * * * * * * * * *



In about a week COSATU is going to go to its congress. Unlike in past congresses, it will not be a celebratory congress but one which will be about soul searching and to find out how so many things could have gone wrong, also why is it nothing was done to avert the disaster or change the fortune for the better. South Africa, after the callous massacre in Marikana, is in a crisis, a crisis of such enormous proportion that many people believe that fortunes of the South African 'miracle' have forever changed. We entered a space where the government will not hesitate to use lethal force on those who disagrees with it.

Many had thought the callous murder of Andries Tatane in Ficksburg was just a freak accident but there is a growing body of evidence that attest to the fact that our "police service" which was supposed to be much acclaimed has reverted back to being a "police force." They are both callous and brutal. They have accounted, though low key, to more than 3500 deaths since 1994. 

However, the crisis is more than just state violence, though state violence is also symptomic of the depth of the crisis. It is first a labour crisis of great proportions, a political crisis that put into question all which up to now have been celebrated, including the most liberal and democratic constitution in the world, and finally it is an economic crisis that has first played itself out by the more than 400 annual service delivery protests throughout the entire country but also the spate of labour protests and actions particularly in the mining sector, where there has been no visible transformation whatsoever.

South African miners (we mean Black miners, white workers only constitute 1% of COSATU's membership), are the least paid in the world. What is real and cannot be denied is the fact that unemployment, homelessness, poor education - general poverty and want is what define the Black majority in the "democratic" South Africa.

Since its formation in 1985, COSATU has enjoyed unparalleled growth and support and it was rightly referred to as the unquestionable voice and defender of the workers. The ruling ANC party found itself in an unassailable pole position because of the unquestionable support it received from COSATU as a member of it tripartite alliance. In turn the ANC rewarded COSATU leaders by giving them ministerial cabinet positions that made them party to policies that disadvantaged workers and the Black majority.

COSATU has, in this situation been made a gate-keeper to policies that emanate from the offices of the Brettonwoods institutions that clearly attack the interests of workers, sovereignty of the country and the Black majority.

Unions, including COSATU are set up to advance the interests of workers, to force and win concessions from the bosses and government, to defend the gains which include both civil liberties and democratic rights, all won through struggle. Their uncontested terrain is collective bargaining. They act, speak and represent to the fullest the mandate of those whom they represent. These are the first and key tasks of the labour movement. Unions cannot act in such a way that they are perceived to betrayed or acted against their members  or workers for that matter in favour of the bosses.

This is the crisis that COSATU and its affiliate unions face today. Marikana has its roots in these perceptions. In the past years workers suffered great blows from the bosses and the government, which is understandable, but the hardest was the indirect blows that came through their union leaderships which have refused to stand firmly on their demands but subordinated to the whims and positions of the bosses and the government. COSATU leader, Zwelinzima Vavi refers to the Marikana massacre as 'a full political statement' because more often than not, it is the COSATU unions' leadership that have undermined the demands of the workers they represent or settling at far less than what the workers mandate was. This has deepened the struggle for a living wage.

There are so many challenges that face South African workers including the fact that the government has not transformed the townships which were set up by the Apartheid regime as labour reservoirs - people being forced to live very far away from their places of employment and with no efficient public transport system available. There are still people who literally spend their time travelling to and fro to work - an average of three hundred and fifty kilometres a day.

This problem has reared its head in most COSATU unions, like the teachers union, the public sector unions, the transport unions and tele-communications unions amongst others. Workers have expressed their unhappiness in this state of affairs and some of them have openly expressed their displeasure at being subordinated to the bosses or government. There is a general perception that the COSATU leadership has only one target, that of being part of the ruling oligarchy. This has resulted in COSATU unions losing members or new rival unions being formed. This situation challenges our traditional positions on the labour movement.

In Marikana, for instance, NUM, one of the major COSATU union and a leader in the mining sector, unequivocally said R12 500 was both too much and unreasonable and pleaded due process, sided with management and the police even after the massacre had occurred. It took almost two weeks for Vavi to come out clearly that R12 500 was not only reasonable but too little when compared with the work the miners do. NUM and Vavi had endorsed the police version of the massacre and even called for people to be prosecuted to a point of being charged for murder. However, NUM, particularly, its leadership is being evicted by workers in most mines.

Vavi has had his own Damascus road experience when he said:"Singing the ruling party's praises will not do the federation or the country good. When the union is engaged in a protracted battle with the government, the grass suffers. Equally when the government is involved in the never ending love affair with the government. The grass  still suffers." Despite these revelations, we do not think any such lessons are learnt and understood, as a strong COSATU lobby group is busy trying to remove him as secretary general. Quite clearly, what Vavi is saying is that COSATU must understand that their salvation and redemption as a labour federation lies in its independence.

They use the same attack he has used on Julius Malema when he called him "a wealthy, essentially right wing leader, who demagogically exploits any perceived weaknesses to encourage workers to leave their union, their only means of defence," to attack him. For his part Malema has recently called Vavi, 'the only revolutionary left in COSATU.' These attacks and counter attacks epitomises the crisis that exist in COSATU and even in the ANC. There is merit in calling for the unity of all workers and their organisations but that merit does not exist when the labour unions desert the very workers they are supposed to defend.

The reality is, the COSATU unions are fast losing ground to independent trade unions that are formed out of their own failures and compromises. There are several sectors where COSATU is no longer dominant and there will be more if the status quo continues. In Marikana it is said that 'workers chose death over "wage slavery" accepted by the leadership of NUM. This is exacerbated by the fact that union leaders who refuse the workers to demand more, earn infinitely and riotously more than these workers. How do you compare an annual salary of R36 000 or even R60 000 per annum to that of R1.4 million a year for the president of the NUM? Is there no longer any morality?

The labour Research Service's Directors Fees Survey indicated that the average remuneration of CEO's in the mining sector during 2011 was R20.2million per annum and amounts to R55 000 a day. Yet the union (NUM) and the bosses were agreed and told the workers that the demand of R12 500 per month was unreasonable. This clearly is the conspiracy of the union leadership and the bosses against the workers. The new union in the mining sector, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which stood full square with the workers, almost 28 000 of them in the Rustenburg mining area (the same place where Lonmin is) continue to be isolated by the bosses and COSATU which agrees to go into negotiations with unions which at the moment do not have members at the mines.

A "Peace accord" was signed with these sweetheart trade unions like the openly rightwing "Solidarity" and the United Association of South Africa.  This, despite the fact that AMCU is the fastest growing union, not only in the North West but in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and particularly in all the platinum mines. The president of AMCU, Joseph Mathunjwa was greatly outraged by such a move especially since most of the striking workers believe AMCU is their legitimate union.

This clearly shows how far COSATU is willing to go in order to try and preserve its labour hegemony particularly in the mining sector. How does any union ever justify violence against the workers even if they differ with them. At the centre of all their problems is their twin  tripartism, first that of itself with the ruling ANC and the South African Communist Party then that of itself, big business and the government - these limit and subordinate the labour movement's ability to actively fully represent the interests of the workers. The labour movement gets muddled up in issues often outside the armpit of the workers' struggle.

The second crisis, is that of politics. As pointed out in so many discussions, the political patchwork that was CODESA continues to bedevil the Black majority. Even after 18 years of paying the Apartheid debt, subordinating our sovereignty and our economy to the Brettonwoods institutes, poverty remains a defining feature of the Black majority. The real outcomes of CODESA are starting to play themselves out for all to see.

 It is no secret that Black people, the country's majority were both the subject and object of their liberation struggle, which really meant that they were supposed to be the great beneficiaries of the freedom struggle. However, that has not happened, they now belong to the most unequal society in the world punctuated by the fact that it is recorded that they are worse off than they have ever been even under Apartheid.

Those who crafted the agreements were fully aware that they were sacrificing everything for the sake of the so-called 'unqualified franchise'- the right to vote, they also knew that the success of that ploy will represent nothing but a pyrrhic victory. The lots of Black people will not have changed- they would not have moved. So in reality it has to be expected that the violence such as that of Marikana was inbuilt in the system right from the beginning. Where there is general poverty, where there is unemployment and generalised lack, the only way out for the trapped Stalinist bureaucracy will be violence. It is a tried and tested method in such situations. The real way out though, is breaking with imperialism with all its empty promises and trappings. Without such a break, very little can be achieved now, or even in the near future. It is in this context and such a consideration that the Black majority have to set up a Black Republic, a product of real and untrammelled democracy. 

Finally, the economic crisis that South Africa is facing, largely because of policies that are subordinated and dictated upon by imperialism led in the main by U.S. imperialism, is in so many ways part of the world economic crisis. Despite promises of growing the economy by creating sustainable jobs, only the opposite has so far happened. The economic crisis that has grabbed European countries in a deathly stranglehold has also had devastating effects on the South African economy. More than a million jobs have been lost in the period while very few jobs have been created.