The massacre of striking workers in South Africa is not simply a human tragedy. It shows what can happen when the logic of capitalism remains, even in a society that has emerged out of momentous uprisings from below.
What we see in South Africa today is a government born out of struggle presiding over the brutal exploitation and oppression of workers and the poor.
How can this happen? How do we ensure that our struggles change the world and lay the basis for a genuine socialist society?
The revolutionary socialist tradition is based on the self‑activity of workers. This is because only they have the sheer economic and political power to challenge bosses and the state. But such mass struggles also transform those involved.
This is true in battles to win reforms within capitalism, as well as when these burst out into revolutions that fundamentally challenge the whole way society is run.
The struggle of the miners shows just how much workers have to fight for in South Africa. Miners left the traditional trade union, the NUM, because they are not satisfied with what it was delivering for them.
Yet they have found themselves criticised by the NUM and the Communist Party for having raised “unrealistic” expectations—and are even accused of provoking the violence themselves.
The tremendous struggle to bring down apartheid achieved its goal, but it did not win socialism. Those now in power preside over a reformed system and defend it against challenges from below.
But for socialists, when police shoot down workers on strike in cold blood, there is only one side to be on.
The strikers work long hours in dangerous conditions to drill for one of the world’s most valuable commodities. And yet they are the ones struggling to survive.
They measure the quality of their lives by their ability to feed their children and have a home to live in. Their treatment exposes a divide between a political tradition rooted in the everyday struggles of ordinary people and one centered on reforming the system.
We are on the side of the most militant workers and activists who are fighting for their futures. We celebrate the fact that they are unwilling to put up with their conditions—and that they defy all those who tell them they should back down.
We take their side because it is they who embody the hopes and dreams of all of those who took part in the courageous battles to bring down apartheid rule and fight for better society.
They deserve the support and solidarity of workers across the world—and they deserve justice.