South Africa - workers defeat apartheid

Submitted by Anon on 5 March, 2006 - 12:03

A strike wave began in Durban in 1973 involving nearly 100,000
workers. It shook the racist apartheid regime (where only the white
minority could vote). Students played an important role, assisting
and doing research for workers.

From the early 80s, there was a massive upsurge in working class
struggle. On 1 May 1986, 1.5 million workers "stayed away" from work
to demand an official May Day holiday - the largest strike in South
African history.

The strike wave swiftly made organisational gains. The COSATU trade
union federation, formed in 1985, claimed 795,000 workers in 23
unions with over 12,000 shop stewards. By 1994 union membership was
3.5 million - a density of 26 per cent.

These struggles made the apartheid regime untenable. The AWL believes
that if COSATU and other workers' organisations had formed a
political party, they could have won power in their own right.
Instead, most subordinated themselves to Mandela's African
Nationalist Congress and the Stalinist South African Communist Party,
which came to power in 1994.

AWL supported the workers' movement against apartheid, making direct
links between workers in Britain and their sisters and brothers in
South Africa. We advocated an independent workers' party and backed
the socialist candidate Neville Alexander who stood against Nelson
Mandela in the 1994 elections.

What's happened since has vindicated our approach. Workers are still
savagely exploited and oppressed a decade after the fall of apartheid.
But they remain the force to challenge the ANC government. There are
signs that South African workers are again stirring. In August 2001
two million workers went on a national strike against the ANC's
privatisation programme. And in June 2005 two million took part in a
national strike against poverty and unemployment.

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