WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

ecently, SADC (the Southern African Development Community) has been in the news a lot. In particular, SADC has intervened militarily in both Congo and Lesotho. SADC is a regional coalition of governments, and its members are the governments of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SADC pretends to stand for “democracy” and “development”. But the truth is different. Many of the SADC governments, such as Swaziland and Zimbabwe, have a long history of political oppression. And all of the SADC governments are anti-worker. In October 1997, SADC issued a statement called the Windhoek Declaration. This statement said that “the private sector [is] the locomotive of economic development,” and that “business requires … a climate in which it can develop safely, freely and profitably“.

What this means is that the bosses will play the main role in the economy, and that government must keep the bosses happy.

In practical terms, the statement means policies such as GEAR: privatisation, cuts in health and education spending, cuts in public sector jobs, more VAT and PAYE, less company tax, and low wages and few labour laws to protect workers (“flexible” labour). All of these policies mean less jobs and less money for the working class.

Zimbabwe’s form of GEAR (called ESAP) has seen mass cuts in education spending (down to the level of 1980), health care (down 39% in 1994-5), and jobs (22,000 jobs lost in the public sector; 33,000 in private industry).

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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,' '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) and 'Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' (co-written with Michael Schmidt, AK Press 2009).