WSF (1995): “Winnie’s Dismissal: An Attack On Struggle?”

WSF (1995): “Winnie’s Dismissal: An Attack On Struggle?”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 1, number 1, May-June 1995. Complete PDF is here

In April, Winnie Mandela, Deputy Minister of Arts, Technology and Culture was dismissed from the Government of National Unity. Winnie was one of the so- called “populists” in the ANC.

She is well- known for her criticisms of the gravy train and of the ANC’s failure to deliver on its promises. This was why she was freed, and not because she was “undisciplined” or “corrupt”.

But who was behind the attack? The capitalist press had a field day trying Winnie, just as it had when similar charges were placed against Peter Mokaba. The racist NP also jumped on the band wagon.

Because of this, some believe that the bosses want to attack and discredit Winnie (and the ANC) before the local elections. It has even been suggested that the bosses’ newspapers are trying to dictate to the ANC government.

ANC LEADS
But the truth is that the ANC never defended Winnie against these attacks. It was the ANC who led the offensive. Winnie was a thorn in the ANC’s side. She was an embarrassment who was “undisciplined” enough to condemn the fact that the ANC Ministers and MPs had achieved nothing in their period of office, except enrich themselves from the state coffers. The ANC was purging the populists.

The idea that the bosses are somehow scared of the ANC and want to undermine it before the local elections is ridiculous. The ANC has proved a loyal defender of the bosses against workers struggle. Rocky Malebane Metsing’s claim that the capitalists were trying to undermine the so- called “national- democratic revolution” is just laughable.

CAPITALISTS
We do believe that other GNU ministers like de Klerk are more worthy of dismissal. De Klerk and his cronies in the NP are guilty of large-scale terrorism against the Black working class. These racists must of course be punished.

But sacking de Klerk or the NP will not change the nature of the GNU.

The ANC gives priority to capitalism over dealing with the legacy of apartheid. This is because it is part of the capitalist state apparatus. It wants to “stabilize” South Africa, attract foreign investment and restore economic growth. This will supposedly help fund the RDP and benefit the historically oppressed.

So it has been the ANC ministers who have been the prime actors in the crushing of working class struggles. The ANC holds the Police, Education and Labour portfolios.

NO ALTERNATIVE
Winnie raised important issues facing the working class. But she does not offer an alternative for her impoverished supporters. She is herself a rich person. She is as much a beneficiary of the GNU gravy- train, earning R360 000 a year.

When push comes to shove she will stand against socialism and defend the capitalist wage system. We must make the revolution for ourselves!

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About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' and 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014).