This is not only the biggest strike since the end of apartheid, it is also the first time that masses of workers and their leaders have openly and clearly taken on the African National Congress (ANC) government.
People talk about “the employers”, but they also know that the ANC stands behind them.
Before this strike wave there was a sort of double game from the unions. They spoke about anti-working class policies from the government, but they didn’t want to talk about who was implementing them.
The identification of the ANC in this way is a significant political step forward. It is fuelling a crisis inside the ANC – in particular with its alliance with the Cosatu trade union federation and the South African Communist Party.
The present splits at the top of the ANC represent an uncertainty about how to rule and how capitalism can deal with the challenges from below.
Our rulers are not sure how neoliberalism can contain this resistance. Many debates are opening up and around this strike there is class differentiation – the bosses support the ANC, while the masses support the strikers.
For such strikes to be fully effective they need to be kept active and pushed further.
I look forward to coming to London in July for the Marxism 2007 festival where we can discuss the lessons of events like this strike, and the struggle against war and for socialism.