Socialist Worker

South African general strike shows victory is possible

Issue No. 2058

The South African mass public sector workers’ strike ended last week with much improved pay rises for over a million workers.

The 7.5 percent rise which union leaders settled for fell short of what many argued was still possible. But it was a big step forwards from the 6 percent the government had originally offered. And workers won other benefits as well.

As always, the biggest achievement is in the fighting spirit and the political development of the masses. As the unions’ statement said, “The combination of unity and militancy means that never again will the employer dare to treat us with the callous indifference they have displayed in the past and during this dispute.”

In the wake of the strike, power workers, metal workers, miners and panel beaters are all ready to start their own battles. The class battles have moved to centre stage, and there is intense debate over how to fight neoliberalism and its implementers – the ANC ministers.

British workers can learn from the example of the postal workers last week, but also from the determined resistance of African workers.

Cameron and Brown

Mirror images

Spare a thought for the Tories. It wasn’t so long ago that their leader David Cameron was being hailed in the mainstream press as all but guaranteed to restore Conservative fortunes.

But Gordon Brown’s first week in office has seen Labour lurch to the right and cut the ground out from under Cameron’s feet. Even the Daily Telegraph joined the applause, saying, “Brown’s new Cabinet is radical and bold”.

Cameron’s response has been to simply and shamelessly mirror Brown’s moves. Beneath these absurd games lies a more serious trend.

The policies of New Labour and the Tories have been converging for some time around worship of the free market and neoliberalism. Now they are converging in style and thinking too.

Mainstream parties are increasingly turning to “politics without politics” – presented as nothing more than neutral decisions taken by experts.

In truth these decisions systematically favour the rich and defraud the poor.

The convergence of Cameron and Brown underlines the need for a radical political alternative that can fight for the rights of workers. Respect’s stand in the Ealing Southall by-election later this month is about providing that alternative.

George Bush

Get out of jail free

If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime – unless you’re a mate of mine. That was George Bush’s message last week when he overturned a 30-month jail sentence passed against former vice-presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Libby was sentenced for lying to investigators looking into claims that White House officials had leaked a CIA agent’s identity to the media. Bush’s clemency towards Libby contrasts with his well documented sadistic glee when it comes to executing working class prisoners.

But double standards are nothing new in US justice. This is a system that is happy to protect convicted right wing terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles.

He was released from US custody earlier this year, despite admitting to a string of bombings in Cuba and being wanted for blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all 73 people on board.

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Article information

What We Think
Tue 3 Jul 2007, 18:28 BST
Issue No. 2058
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