WSF (1998): “Every worker must condemn attacks on foreigners”
From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here
On September 3, 1998, a march organised by the conservative “Unemployed Masses of South Africa” organisation murdered three immigrants on a train near Pretoria, The marchers were carrying placards with signs such as “We Want Jobs, Not Foreigners”, and threatened to “take steps”. These “steps” included the brutal murders of three Senegalese: one was thrown out of a window, and hit by an oncoming train; the other two were electrocuted on the train roof when they tried to escape.
Every worker must oppose this thuggery. It is the bosses who fire the workers, not the immigrants. The foreigners are workers, like ourselves. They have the same concerns as we do- so why should we murder our fellow-workers? If we spend our time hating the immigrants, we forget the real enemy, the bosses who mercilessly oppress and exploit us. The bosses are mostly South African- but this does not give us anything in common. Instead of fighting immigrants, we must fight the bosses who control the country. And in this fight, we must UNITE with the immigrants. So long as the immigrants are unorganised, discriminated against, and terrorised by the police, they can be used by the bosses against other workers.
It is the old game of DIVIDE AND RULE. The bosses want workers to fight immigrants to make the unions weak. As soon as we organise the immigrants, and fight for their basic human rights, we become stronger, and the mighty working-class movement for socialism grows. AN INJURY TO ONE WORKER IS AN INJURY TO ALL WORKERS.
IT IS A LIE THAT FOREIGNERS ARE TAKING OUR JOBS
ONE: This thing of immigrants causing crime is a blatant lie. In 1996 only 257 Mozambicans, 65 Zimbabweans and 94 Lesotho citizens were arrested for criminal offences. And only ONE Zairian and SEVEN Nigerians were arrested for drug dealing. This shows that the vast majority of crime is by South Africans. The main reason why immigrants are arrested by the police is for not having the proper papers. That is, they are arrested for not carrying a pass. This is absolutely unacceptable in a post-apartheid South Africa.
TWO: Immigrants actually benefit the country they come to. Many have skills or money, and create work for other people. Immigrants also buy goods in the economy, and this helps boost the economy and create jobs in the industries that produce these goods.
THREE: Foreign workers have helped to build this country. Even today these workers are very important to the mining industry which is the lifeblood of the economy. It is the mining industry which raises money for the country to import the machinery needed to industry and farming. So these immigrants are important to sustaining the amount of jobs we have at the moment.
FOUR: Unskilled immigrants do work for very low wages. However, this problem is caused by greedy bosses who want to sweat blood from workers. The solution to this problem is not to attack the immigrants. It is precisely because the immigrants have no rights, and are always living in fear of the police that they are willing to accept these bad wages. If they try to organise for better conditions, then the boss threatens them that he will call the police. If South African workers also oppose the immigrants, they become even more vulnerable, and therefore even more attractive to greedy bosses. The solution is to organise the immigrants into the trade unions and fight for their rights. If we oppose the immigrants we play into the bosses’ hands, we do their dirty work of making the immigrants into cheap labour.
FIVE: We are all workers and we must stand together. If we are divided, we are weak. A working class united will never be defeated. Therefore if we organise and unite with the immigrants we will be stronger. If we are with the immigrants, all workers will benefit because the bosses will not be able to divide us and rule us. We all have the same basic interest: organising to fight for a better life. We are one class of people.
SIX: On principle we must oppose all racism in the workers movement. We must not be like the white workers in 1922 who went on strike against the black miners getting jobs. No! We have long fought against racism. Let us not now be racist against other workers just because they come from another country or because they speak another language.
SEVEN: Workers don’t own the country- the bosses do. And the government acts to help the bosses. If we think of ourselves first and foremost as South Africans, then we can easily forget that our real enemy is not the foreigners, our real enemy is at home-the bosses. We are not one nation with one common interest- the South African nation is deeply divided into rich and poor, and to fight for a common South African interest is to fool ourselves.
South African and foreign workers must unite against the bosses. All people should be free to go where they please, without a dompas in the form of an ID book.
WSF (1996): “No To New Pass Laws: Solidarity With Immigrants! ”
From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 2, number 2, third quarter 1996. Complete PDF is here
For centuries bosses and rulers have set out to divide and rule the workers and the poor. We are divided by racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnicity etc.. More recently bosses have used xenophobia- the hate of foreigners and immigrants.
The bosses’ newspapers and TV lie to us and tell us that so -called “illegal” immigrants or “aliens” are taking jobs and causing crime. The government passes harsh laws to victimise the immigrants. Last year alone 157,084 people were deported from South Africa. These people lost their homes, their jobs, their belonging. Families were split up.
ANTI-WORKING CLASS LAWS
In mid 1996 parliament passed the new Aliens Control Amendment Act. One of the main forces behind this act was Gatsha Buthelezi, Home Affairs Minister [IFP leader, part of the GNU/ Government of National Unity].
The new Act steps up police harassment and deportation of immigrants. It is a blatant attack on Black working-class people and we should mobilise to fight it.
All immigrants now have to apply to the South African Embassy for permits to enter the country. But the laws have been made to effectively keep working- class and poor people out .
Immigrants are expected to pay R 5 580 for a permit to enter the country and a extra R 360 for a work permit. People found living in South Africa illegally are fined R 4 000 or a one year prison sentence, or both. Of course these people can also be deported.
No working- class or poor immigrant can afford to pay this. This means that only the rich are allowed to enter our new country.
In practice the police only raid black immigrants. This effects all black workers and poor. If you are black and found without you ID document the police will arrest you. The police never ask rich or white people for their ID documents to check if they are “illegal” immigrants.
For more than 50 years Black South Africans were harassed, thrown in jail, and pushed around under the pass laws. Now Buthelezi wants the same thing to continue happening to us and too Black people from other countries. Immigration laws are no different to pass laws. Black workers are still not able to chose to live or work where they like.
Immigrants who acquire permanent residence rights are not allowed to move from one province to another for a year after their application is approved. They will even have to pay the Home Affairs Department R 360 to apply for permission to change jobs!!
CRIME AND JOBS
The government has justified keeping poor and working class immigrants out by arguing that immigrants cause crime and take away jobs.
This is a lie! Crime and unemployment are the direct result of the bosses system. It is the bosses which throw workers out of their jobs. It is the bosses who do not invest money into job creation. It is the poverty caused by capitalism which forces people into crime.
WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE.
Do not be fooled. Lets turn our anger on the real enemy: the bosses and the rulers. We the working-class create wealth. We make the factories, the schools, houses, roads. The bosses live off our sweat, and we starve.
We should live better than we do now. Put aside the false divisions of immigrant versus South African. Unite all workers and poor people in mass trade unions and civics. And fight back!