Friday, August 28, 2009

South Africa: Solidarity with soldiers of SANDU

Yesterday, 26 August, around 2000 rank and file soldiers of the South African National Defence Force, who were members of SANDU, which is their trade union, marched on the Government offices in Pretoria to demand a 30% wage increase. They were met by police who used teargas and rubber bullets against them. Several were arrested and all face suspensions and possible dismissal. (See updates below on the clampdown on the military union.) We reprint the message of solidarity sent by the WIVL to SANDU. Solidarity statements from HRS (US) and CWG (Aotearoa) follow.


Workers International Vanguard League condemns in the strongest possible terms the brutal suppression of the soldiers march yesterday to the Union buildings. Soldiers should have the full right to protest as well as the right to strike. It is a disgrace that rank and file soldiers earn such low wages while the officer corp and generals earn huge pay packets, sitting in their comfy armchairs while sending soldiers into life-threatening situations. We fully support the right of soldiers to elect their leaders in the army and that their leaders should be subject to instant recall.

We fully support the demand for a 30% salary increase, a demand which is fully justified and fair. The current Governor of the Reserve Bank recently received a 28% salary increase but he decrees that workers must be 'reasonable' and limit their demands to the 3-6% so called inflation band. In other words, the official inflation is used as a tool to force workers to lower their demands, while actual inflation for workers is much higher than the CPIX. We can see from this that the problems that the soldiers face are the same as the rest of the working class.

We condemn the lukewarm response of the Cosatu leaders to the brutalization of the soldiers yesterday; they only noted 'with concern' the actions of the police, merely describing them as 'excessive'. A true workers leadership would have immediately have called for broader solidarity action from the rest of the working class in support of their demands and have demanded the immediate release of the 2 soldiers who were arrested, and the lifting of the suspension of the protesters. However they are silent. The Cosatu leaders rush to meet the Minister of Defence (Sisulu) instead of meeting with the soldiers and those who have been smashed by the state repressive forces.

On the 28th June there was a military coup in Honduras; well you may ask, what has that to do with the soldiers demands and your protests? The fact is that there is a US military base in Honduras, which means that the Obama regime is involved in the coup. The lesson to be learnt is that imperialism is so desperate to solve its crisis of falling profits that they have to suppress the working class even more; this means that their usual methods of controlling us, through parliament and flowery constitutions, are not enough; they have started a period of greater offensive against the working class, using military coups, police brutality, gangs of hired thugs, etc.

The shooting of protesters in communities, of the municipal strikers for merely tipping over the garbage, here in South Africa is part of the world imperialist attack. The gold mines are owned by the Bank of New York; our Reserve Bank is controlled by JP Morgan Chase. Our economy is mainly controlled by US imperialism. The government is in reality the agent of imperialism here. This is why they guarantee that every year over R200 Bn leaves SA just in declared profits, while the masses live in starvation. This poses immediate challenges for us all. When we meet or organise, can we still operate as before? We need to defend our right to meet, to march, to protest. We need to defend ourselves from the armed attacks of the brutal police and other fascistic agencies.

There is a second major lesson that we need to learn and that is that under these times of crisis of the capitalists, the trade union leaders, such as those of Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa, close ranks with the capitalist class and act against the interest of workers. At a time that the entire working class should have been on strike for 30% or more increases, the Cosatu leaders persuade workers to lower their demands; they persuade workers not to go on strike, they sign low wage agreements and bind their members, like the municipal unions to 3 year agreements which mean that in the next 2 years their members cannot strike when they receive what is in effect a wage cut.

Even worse, when workers are mobilising to strike, the Cosatu leaders divide the working class by not mobilising any concrete solidarity, and even break ranks to sign for peanuts and weaken the strike, such as when the railway workers went on strike recently (Satawu signed for 8% and abandoned the rest of the workers to strike on their own). The only reason why Cosatu leaders want unions of the soldiers to join them is not to increase working class solidarity, but on the contrary, to use their skills to betray the workers demands and struggles.

The third major lesson to learn is that when SA soldiers are sent to other parts of Africa (Lesotho, DRC, etc), they are being used by the imperialist forces to not only guard their mining and other assets, but to act against the local working class in these respective countries. The war in the DRC has led to over 4 million people being killed; all the imperialists were interested in was not 'peace' for the people, but to rape and plunder as much of the countries resources as possible. Imperialism and their local agent, the SA government, uses you when they need to safeguard the profits of the bosses, but once you have done this, they dump you aside.

To counter the divisive tactics of the SACP-ANC-Cosatu leaders, we need to be better organised, we need to unite with the base of Cosatu and other unions, in action on the ground.

We need to draw the lesson from Madagascar, where the soldiers united en masse with the working class, disobeying their generals order to shoot on worker protests; they took control of the military bases and said loudly and clearly that they are with the people.

What we need are workers and soldiers action committees to defend this current struggle of the soldiers for a living wage and other demands; we need to unite to defend communities for their struggles for jobs for all, for bread, for decent housing for all, for free adequate health care for all; for increasing wages when prices increase. This is the same fight. it is the same fight as the workers in Bolivia and Peru against the imperialist grab of their resources. It is the same fight as the Chinese and Zimbabwean workers against exploitation.

We demand:

1. the immediate unconditional release of the 2 arrested soldiers;

2. the immediate lifting of the suspension of all soldier protesters;

3. 30% increase in wage for soldiers and the entire working class; increase the soldiers wage to a minimum of R5000; wages must increase when prices increase;

4. Recognise the soldiers defence unions and the right to strike and protest;

5. Adequate houses for all;

6. Reduce the working week without loss of pay and share all jobs among all those who can work.

7. Down with all military operations by the SANDF in Africa; unite with the working class to defend the masses against the plunder of Anglo American and other gangster monopolies.
Workers of the world unite; we have nothing to lose but our chains!

Send messages of solidarity to The National Executive of the SANDU, c/o Jeff Dubazana ; please cc messages to
Shaheed Mahomed

UPDATE: 28 August

Workers International Vanguard League condemns the decision by the government to dismiss the soldiers who took part in yesterday's protest. The refusal of the courts to even grant the soldiers the right to march to the Union buildings show that the courts are the agents of the capitalists. The Obama coup in Honduras on 28 June 2009 shows that world imperialism is moving over to greater control by force and trampling on the few democratic gains the working class has made. US imperialism controls the bulk of the SA economy through Anglo American and other global gangsters. The shooting of unarmed community members dying of the cold in shacks, the shooting of municipal workers for throwing over trash cans, and now the shooting of unarmed soldiers are all part of a global capitalist attack on the working class.
The army generals received 10,5% salary increases as well as improved benefits in January this year, backdated to about October last year, while each time the defence workers unions have been stonewalled by the government, claiming time and again that they have 'no mandate'. Soldiers are expected to suffer and starve in silence while the MP's argue about which model of Mercedes Benz to buy. If the soldiers had the right to strike, this matter would have been resolved long time ago. The government is so busy bailing out capitalists who have stolen hundreds of billions of Rands of wealth from SA over the decades, that they have no time for the demands of the working class.
Even though the protest on Wed was called by Sandu, we understand that Sandu, Sasfu as well as non-unionised soldiers took part in the protest. Even the pro-boss ILO regulations support soldiers right to protest and state that where the right to strike is limited there should be alternative mechanisms in place; and even if there are illegal strikes (which this was not), there should be protection from arbitrary dismissal. The government is a signatory of the ILO but throws away even a pretence of fairness when the profits of big capital are deemed under threat.The lukewarm response from the Cosatu leaders has opened the door for the government to mass dismiss soldiers. We call on members of Sasfu, Sandu and non-unionised soldiers to unite against the mass dismissal; we call on the entire working class to rally to the defence of the soldiers cause. They have been the only ones who have been brave enough to demand a wage increase that was really required, namely 30%. We call for joint soldier- worker committees to be built in every community, to unite the struggle of the soldiers with the struggle for adequate housing, for an end to retrenchments, for jobs for all and a shortening of the working week without loss of pay (so that all who can work, can share the work), with the rest of the working class struggle for a living wage increase. We call for wages to increase each time prices increase! Let us stop the retail and food gangsters in their tracks!
We call for an urgent national meeting of delegates from all workplaces (unionised or not), working class communities (including the unemployed) and of delegates of soldiers to plan a programme of action to defend the soldiers and all sectors under attack by imperialism!
We reject the notion that SA soldiers are the last line of the defence of the country; the SA soldiers have been dispatched to the DRC and other countries, where they protect imperialist assets even if millions are killed around them- this is imperialism abusing the soldiers while the fatcats of Anglo American sit in their comfy mansions in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, etc, out of harms way.
Workers and soldiers unite to help throw off the yoke of imperialism on the African continent. workers of the world unite, we have nothing to lose but our chains!

UPDATE 30 August

Workers International Vanguard League has received evidence that the military unions have been attempting since at least May LAST YEAR, to negotiate wage increases fo the soldiers. Each time they were met with governmentnegotiators that had 'no mandate'. The fact that the fat generals received their increases in January this year means that the government was not serious about any negotiations with the rank and file soldiers and that they have been looking for an excuse to bash the unions. Te demand of 30% for the lower ranks and 15% for the upper ranks by the soldiers, goes against the divisions between the upper elite and the foot soldiers, so characteristic of capitalist society.
The current crisis of imperialism needs greater supression of the working class and the creation of a more openly oppressive professional army of mercenaries. Imperialism and their lackeys in the state were looking for an excuse to purge the army of any elements who might side with the working class. This trend to a professional army is one which came after imperialism drew the lesson of the war in Vietnam and the weakness (for them) of a conscipted or civilian based army. The war in Iraq, with its 300 000 mercenaries, is evidence of this world trend to more fascistic methods.

This explains why the police and the courts were so brutal in suppressing any protest. The ground is being laid for integration of more fascistic types into the army and makes us believe that the petrol bombing of the military vehicle last week could have been the work of an agent provocateur. If the state appoints Dramat as head of the Hawks- whose only claim to fame is being part of a intelligence crackdown on Pagad (where infiltration and framing of activists were of the order of the day)- this explanation seems not only likely but probable and could even become a more widespread tactic by the state to crackdown on the rsing tide of resistance. It also shows the methods of the FBI and CIA are alive and well in SA.

Down with the upper layer of officers of the Praetorian (like the elite in Roman times) army of the Afrikaner bourgeoisie, the Angloamerican and the bourgeoisie of the ANC!
Down with the assassin layer of officers that oppresses and massacres the nations of Southern Africa for the interests of American and British imperialism!
For the election and removal of the chiefs of the army by committees of the rank and file soldiers!
For committees of soldiers, armed workers and peasants!
For the Socialist United States of Southern Africa!

August 30, 2009

From: Humanists for Revolutionary Socialism (HRS).

To: To 
Our oppressed soldier brothers, workers in uniform under state attack in South Africa in care of the Worker’s International Vanguard League (WIVL).

We denounce the South African state for its unconscionable behavior towards you and its illegal actions against you and your brothers.
 It is important for soldiers to know that there is worker opposition here in the “belly of the beast” to their ultimate bosses, our own main enemy, the U.S. capitalist class. We demand all U.S. imperialist forces (overt and covert) out of Africa now! Their only purpose on your continent is to further the exploitation of your people and the appropriation of your resources.

We stand opposed to them and all their plans to put you in harm's way and keep you hungry. We stand opposed to the obscene fat Boer and English generals who live off your sweat and to all the sadist and martinet junior officers that make your life hell.
 We denounce all the bourgeois authorities and the way their police 
"support the troops" with tear gas and gunfire. We denounce them and phony union leaders who stand with them when they deny your basic democratic rights to protest and to struggle for living wages and conditions. We know "leaders" like these. We call them class traitors.

The soldier's fate, as rank-and-file soldiers, is tied up to ours
 as workers in ways that cannot be dissolved, as the history of all 
modern revolutions shows. The political forces of the yes men for American and British imperialism, together with the Stalinists of the
 South African Communist party, have stalled out and sold out your proletarian revolution, and with it your national liberation. They
 move you around the African map in support of every imperialist scheme to rob one locality after another. These political forces of yes men 
are the ones who want to prosecute you now. It is they who are denying 
you the pay you need to feed and clothe your families!

Brothers! You are living under conditions of the slave-owner's tyranny.
 The South African bourgeoisie wants you to do their imperialist masters' dirty work on YOUR continent. They want you to do this for the kind of chicken feed pay they paid the non-white colonial levies (draftees)
 they led to slaughter in the past! They want you to do all the dying 
defending their class and the rule of the laws of their class' dictatorship. They want you to die for them like a Gunga Din, fighting his own oppressed people when they rise up in righteous revolt. 

You have organized! You are our Union Brothers now, no matter what 
our top COSATU and AFL-CIO misleaders say! You declare you will never surrender. That is a tremendous source of strength for us! We in the HRS and your champions, the WIVL, will go every mile of the way with you! For you will come to find that for you, as for us, the Socialist Revolution will be the only road out of the crisis of human survival and development!

We stand behind all your demands in the Proposed Agreement and demand the dropping of all charges against the jailed Brothers! For
30% raises NOW covering all 12 months of 2009! For immediate new Collective Bargaining talks to begin as soon as this Trade Agreement 
is in effect! For an across-the-board 5% raise increment on April 1,
2010! For a 1% check off for all those in uniform payable to THE UNION, etc. We support your demands in detail! And we demand the reinstatement without prejudice of any kind to their records for all the Brothers who were discharged/dismissed!

We stand behind all the demands raise by the WIVL on your behalf.
 Your situation is part of and not something different than a generalized South African crisis within a world crisis of capitalism/imperialism. Understood this way we know an injury to one of you is an injury to us all. To advance the struggle the following additional demands are endorsed and recommended for adoption by the soldiers and their supporters

1. Down with the Praetorian layer of officers of the army of DeBeers, Anglo-American and the bourgeoisie of the ANC.

2. Down with the assassin layer of officers that oppresses and massacres the nations of Southern Africa at the command of American and British imperialism.

3. For the election and for the right of recall and substitution of the chiefs of the armed forces by Committees of the Rank-And-File Servicemen to assure the military acts only in the interests of the working class, the oppressed and poor peasants.

4. For Committees of Soldiers, Armed Workers and Peasants.

5. For the Socialist United States of Southern Africa!

To the National Executive of SANDU.

Dear comrades of the SA National Defence Union,

The Communist Workers Group of Aotearoa/NZ sends its revolutionary greetings and proletarian solidarity to your members who are being arrested and suspended for protesting your poverty wages.

We strongly support your right to fight for a living wage, and for the right to protest and demand this and other necessities of life. We salute your militancy and your slogan "we will never surrender". This is a slogan that the whole working class should take up internationally.

We can see that you are not alone in South Africa, nor around the world, where there are many mass struggles against the global economic crisis, and the attempts by the capitalist parasites to make us bailout their system with the food out of our childrens' mouths. It is obvious that for us to live capitalism must die!

The capitalist system is in crisis, and the only thing stopping its downfall is the capitalist ruling class which uses the treacherous union leaders to hold the masses down, and weaken and divide them, while the state forces and paramilitaries prepare to smash them.

The way to end the system is for the workers in uniform to refuse to obey orders to shoot the workers out of uniform, and to join with them to occupy the workplaces, take control of transport and communications, and form armed defence committees to defeat the officers, the mercenaries, paramilitaries etc., and to fight for a Black Socialist Republic of South Africa.

In Solidarity

Dave Brown (for CWG - member of the International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction).
Aotearoa/New Zealand

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