Phil Bonner, 1982, “The Transvaal Native Congress 1917-1920: The Radicalisation of the Black Petty Bourgeoisie on the Rand” (‘Africa Perspective’ version)

Phil Bonner, 1982, “The Transvaal Native Congress 1917-1920: The Radicalisation of the Black Petty Bourgeoisie on the Rand,” Africa Perspective (first series), 20: 41-62.

Get the PDF here.

Outside the Pass Office - From Bonner - 1982 - Africa Perspective

Interview: Alan Lipman, 2008, “Xenophobia, Nationalism and Greedy Bosses: An Interview with Alan Lipman”

Alan Lipman, 2008, “Xenophobia, Nationalism and Greedy Bosses: An Interview with Alan Lipman,” Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary  Anarchism, #9, pp. 12-13.

For more on Alan Lipman, see here and here.

Get the PDF here.

Introduction: Alan Lipman served as an early member of the underground SACP, which had been re-established in 1953 after its predecessor, the CPSA, was outlawed in 1950. He and his wife Beata worked in an SACP front organisation planning the Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter in Kliptown in 1955, and Beata beautifully hand-lettered the official version of the Charter. But after intense disagreements over Soviet imperialism with SACP leader Michael Harmel, the couple split with the Party in 1956. Alan engaged in an act of sabotage against the records office of the hated new pass system for black women. The couple fled into exile in 1963, narrowly avoiding being swept up in the Rivonia Treason Trial. In exile, Alan became involved with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and later shifted towards a libertarian socialist position. The Lipmans returned to South Africa in 1990 and although he initially ran as an ANC ward candidate, he became disillusioned with the neo-liberalism of the ANC and later became associated with the ZACF with whom he conducted a well-received workshop in Orange Farm in May 2006.

Alan Lipman at his home in Johannesburg
Alan Lipman at his home in Johannesburg

As far as I understand, xenophobia means dislike, even hatred, suspicion of strangers. And it’s been an instrument of oppression used by those in power for centuries. When people are angry, starving, impossibly housed, can’t get health services, can’t get education for their kids, can’t get education for themselves, they’re angry. And where do they turn that anger? Ideally they turn that anger against those who benefit most from their misery but, in actuality, that’s quite difficult; and when that does happen that’s a revolutionary situation. But mostly people turn their anger against strangers in their midst or foreigners.

The Brits have hated the French for centuries, and vice versa; and the French and the Germans and vice versa; the Brits and the Portuguese and vice versa and you can go on and on and on and on; the Scots and the English; and the Welsh and the English. It’s not a phenomenon that has to do only with colonialism, although it’s intense when it’s in a colonial or ex-colonial situation, as we know from the history of India, the history of China, the history of South America and the history of Africa.

So it seems to me that this word xenophobia which the press has picked up, whilst it’s an accurate description of the hatred, dislike and suspicion of strangers, is also a useful concealment of what the real misery of the South African masses is: a lack of opportunities for employment, for housing, for education, for health services and for all the other things that we know about, and that they know about all too clearly in their daily lives. So the word xenophobia has been picked up and used as a kind of smooth covering of something which is misdirected anger. It’s anger directed at their most obvious strangers in their midst, instead of anger directed at what I would call the ruling class, which in SA has been rich whites, like you and me, because we are rich in comparison – I’m sorry to say that to you – and certainly an ANC upper clique which has promised the world. Every election it has been “A better life for all”, hasn’t it? And every election it’s been “A better life for my mates, and for me”. So it seems to me that what xenophobia is, or the term xenophobia, is a cover-up for misdirected anger which should have been directed at the ANC, the ANC top leadership – and that goes quite far down in the ANC. Where else in the world would you get a minister talking about the Chinese people in South Africa in the way that our minister recently spoke about Chinese people? Which was racist, insulting, abusive and what the hell, there’s not even been an apology, no attempt to understand it. You know why? Because she belongs to the upper clique, which has been lining its pockets and lining its homes with smart furniture, and the motor cars and all the other things; all the copying of the white ruling class habits.

So xenophobia to me is an attempt, not consciously necessarily, but an attempt by some consciously, to divide the people and to direct their anger in an entirely false direction. There may be a few people from Zimbabwe, or the Congo, or Malawi or from other countries, who are better educated than most of the poor in South Africa and who had a better chance to get jobs or small businesses as as result of that – but that isn’t a whole group of people. It certainly is not the Zimbabweans who fled from the best pal of our President, you know, fellow gangsters.

So on the question of xenophobia I’m deeply suspicious and terribly hostile. While there are serious problems facing the world: problems of escalation of fuel prices (and that’s another question of why fuel prices have escalated); problems of serious climate change caused by human actions (not your action, not my action, except we drive motor cars – I presume you’re here by car, and so would I be) which is accelerating whatever natural processes are going on. So those are serious issues; the fact that there’s not going to be enough fuel for your car or my car at the prices that we can afford to pay. It may be five years away, it may be three years away, it may be even less. It’s going to change all sorts of things in our lives. The fact that climate is changing, and that’s happening quicker and quicker and quicker. The Arctic bloody ice is melting, and the sea is beginning to rise; I don’t know how long cities like Durban will exist. Those are serious issues which our governments – if we call them governments; our rulers – should be paying attention to. But they don’t even pay attention to xenophobia, the top rulers. What does Mbeki do? He went off to some bloody conference in Japan.

Oh and by the way, just the other day it was published in the paper about the meal that the delegates to that conference in Italy about food shortage; the meals that they had and the food shortage that is going on. It’s cartoon copy-book nonsense: pheasants and caviar and all sorts of crap – probably tastes good, I don’t know I haven’t tried it – fed to these guys by something like 35 chefs from all over the world. That was their meal, and the next minute they’re sitting down discussing food shortages. There’s no food shortage. There’s food profits making food shortage, yes. Okay, so those are the real issues, or the real international issues that we should be confronting. Or we should be confronting South Africa’s behaviour at the United Nations recently in supporting what’s been going on in Burma. These are the sort of things we should be talking about. South Africa’s actions in not allowing the Zimbabwe issue to be discussed. Now whether the Zimbabwe issue is as bad as it’s painted, and I think it’s probably worse, is another discussion all together. But these are the things that attention should be paid to, but we whip up a call about xenophobia and what happens?

Our ministers say it’s ‘criminal elements’ as though there aren’t criminal elements in all popular uprisings. Of course criminals will take advantage of that. And another issue; what makes them criminals? How come they’re criminals? So I’m not impressed with the xenophobia charge at all. I’m impressed that the anger that people have shown has been again channelled in another direction.

It’s the displacement of the genuine, profound, legitimate anger of the people; who have had no promises fulfilled, who are poor and worse off, despite what the polls tell us; I was just reading about some poll or other that tells us that the working classes think they are better off in South Africa – bullshit, they’re worse off. And they’re worse off under the leadership of a Communist Party that isn’t communist, and a trade union organisation that is barely trade unionist.

What do you think about government allegations of third force involvement in whipping up the xenophobic violence in order to destabilise the country ahead of next years presidential elections? Was it just an attempt to shift the blame and avoid accepting responsibility?

If I was a member of a third force, and I wish I was an active member of a civil society third force, I would take advantage of popular unrest as well. I’ve been called an agitator for most of my adult life, my father called me an agitator when I was 10 years old and I’ve been called an agitator ever since. That could be a third force of course. I would agitate, I would agitate against this government. If that’s called third force, okay, I’m a member of a third force. I welcome anger and opposition against oppressive conditions. The government will say ‘third force’, ‘criminal elements’, ‘our political enemies’, all sorts of things. Of course they’ll say that. Our government behaves exactly like my three decades of experience in Britain and Europe, how governments do there. When Tony Blair says things the next minute you’ll hear it coming out of the mouth of Mbeki. They’re the same. There should be more than a third force opposed to our government, there should be a popular uprising.

With Jacob Zuma’s ascendency to power within the ANC there seems to have been a correlating increasing attitude of chauvinism through the country, with an increase in hate crimes and attacks being perpetrated primarily against poor black lesbians. Do you think the xenophobic pogroms could have anything to do with Zuma’s rise and the culture of chauvinism associated with him?

I think it is something to do with Zuma’s probable ascendency. What does Zuma offer? He offers the actions. Okay, let’s agree he wasn’t guilty of rape, and I reserve my opinion on that. Let’s say he didn’t rape that young woman; he certainly took advantage of a young woman who was the daughter of his best fried, so there’s something strange about that. He certainly paraded his sexism, he paraded his dislike, his hatred, his fear of gays; and that goes for male gays and woman gays. So, Zuma’s no choice, we’re faced with a very strange situation. We either support the smooth, sophisticated, hypocritical Mbeki or we support the very likely crookery of Zuma, and that he had something to do with the arms deal – and who didn’t in government – is not disputed. What’s in dispute is whether he is guilty of a technical crime or not. That he was an associate of Schabir Shaik he doesn’t argue against, and the Shaiks don’t argue against that. So yes, Zuma is a poor choice of a leader – if we need leaders, and that’s another question, as you well know. Zuma’s a poor choice of a leader. We had the choice of either the smooth sophistication of Mbeki or the rather crude homophobic allegiances of Zuma. So it’s a pretty sad situation.

A minister was quoted on the radio a while back as saying that, in the Freedom Charter, when it says that South Africa belongs to all who live in it what is actually meant is that South Africa belongs to all who were born here. This obviously could lend itself to xenophobic interpretation. You and your wife were involved in drafting the Freedom Charter; can you tell us what the tone and the sentiment and understanding were at the time of writing it?

The sentiment and understanding at the time, and the sentiment and understanding since then for people who supported the ideas, or some of the ideas of the Freedom Charter, was that South Africa belongs to the people. The people who are in it, who are alive in it. All the people. Not the people who were born here. I was born in South Africa, my father and mother were born in South Africa. So bloody what? What does that make me? Any different from anybody else? And my wife was born in Germany. So I’m a better South African than she? It’s crap. It’s bullshit. It’s divisive talk that comes from the top. You’ve just given me a better example than the ones I’ve cited of the sort of non-communist, non-socialist, non-democratic ideas that are being spouted by our cabinet members.

Could you tell us what you think has been the role of nationalism in perpetuating the kind of thought that leads to xenophobic attitudes?

Nationalism is a disease. There were circumstances, during occupation of the Nazis, that right-wing nationalists joined in the opposition against the Nazis,and that would apply to most imperial situations. Opposition against the British occupation of and exploitation of India, came also from right-wing Indians. So there have been cases where nationalists have supported popular movements, or been party to popular movements, but nationalism is a disease and xenophobia is just the worst symptom of that disease. I don’t need nationalism, I’m not a patriot. What have I got to be patriotic about? Of course I love South Africa. I love the climate, I love the people, I love the beauties of South Africa, of course. But when I was living in Britain I loved the people and beauties of Britain as well, but that doesn’t make me a British nationalist or a South African nationalist. Nationalism is the polite term for xenophobia, they’re the same bloody thing. And when business people and top ANC spokespeople talk about nationalism what they’re really talking about is xenophobia, because it’s the same thing.

I think you touched on the role of nationalism in the ANC, as a bourgeois-nationalist cross-class party that hijacked the struggle and diverted it away from what could have been a popular revolution into the two-phase National Democratic Revolution. The first phase already having been reached and the second phase looking like a distant dream on the horizon. What do you think about the role of this class collaboration in the NDR?

I’ve learned to become very suspicious of nationalism. I’ve learned to become very suspicious of the people who spout nationalism. Earlier on in my life I was taken in by that, I’ve been taken in very badly; I’m a gullible old man. I even went to Israel in 1948 and took part in the murder and the displacement – I only lasted six months there – of the Palestinian people, and I’m deeply ashamed about that. I’m also ashamed about supporting, earlier on, the ANC: African National Congress, about supporting nationalism in the Congress. I’m now, not only guilty but hostile and immediately suspicious of people who talk in national or nationalist terms. They don’t need to. And as I said, I’m proud to be human. It’s difficult enough to be a human being in an alien society, and this society is alien to me, in a humanistic way. This society is not humane, it’s exploitative down to the core. So I strive, in my own personal life, to be human; because we’re not human, we’re divorced from ourselves, we’re alienated from ourselves, from what we really are.

The ANC is actually a nationalist party, so why do they talk at the same time about African Renaissance and that Africa must unite?

The talk about African Renaissance is largely down to people like Mbeki who, I think, had dreams – and I think they were imperialistic dreams – about Africa rising against the Western dominance. That Africa was colonised by the Western powers is history, it’s absolutely so. But also the people he thought would support him in this renaissance, where he propagated the ideas of renaissance, were at meetings of the African leadership. Now the African leadership, as Fanon rightly pointed out to us, that leadership is corrupt as hell. It’s deeply deeply corrupt. It’s almost endemic in its corruption. What they mean by renaissance in actual terms is making more money for themselves, more power for themselves. Power is the important thing, power brings money. And that’s what the African Renaissance is. You’ve noticed he’s stopped talking about the African Renaissance over the last few years, because African Renaissance doesn’t have any appeal to anybody any longer; except a few so-called intellectuals. Don’t be taken in by the African Renaissance. It’s a weird term anyhow: if he’s talking about African Renaissance why does he take the ‘renaissance’? Which was a bourgeois expression three centuries ago. Why does he take that phrase, why doesn’t he take a phrase that comes out of Africa? Like ubuntu. Don’t believe a word Mbeki says, if Mbeki says “I want to go to the toilet” I don’t believe it.

Alan Robert Lipman, South Africa (1925-2013) (by Lucien van der Walt)

Alan Robert Lipman, South Africa (1925-2013)

By Lucien van der Walt, 2017, for Southern African Anarchist & Syndicalist History

Alan Robert Lipman, born 6 June 1925 to a Jewish South African family, and raised in Johannesburg and Vrede, passed away on the 27 January 2013.[1] He trained as an architect at the University of the Witwatersrand following a stint in the South African military in the Second World War.

Lipman was a rebel. A member of the radical ex-soldiers’ movement, the Springbok Legion, he joined the Communist Party of South Africa in 1948 as a university student. He was in a cell of the underground South African Communist Party in the 1950s, and was Durban editor of the SACP-linked Guardian. He played an active role in the anti-apartheid movement. He was close to African National Congress (ANC) figures like Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela, and was involved in drafting the 1955 Freedom Charter, a key ANC and SACP text.Declared a “named” Communist supporter by then-Minister of Justice, C.R. Swart, Lipman’s writings were restricted, and he was prohibited from attending meetings.[2]

Lipman was also one of the few who broke with the SACP over the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. He left the party, but continued to be involved in the anti-apartheid movement, later gravitating to the National Liberation Committee / African Resistance Movement. Formed 1960, this was a mixture of leftists and radical liberals, and he was involved in its brief armed struggle.

He fled to Britain in 1963, where he worked in architecture, and then in Sociology at the University of Wales, Cardiff.[3] Disillusionment with Marxism-Leninism, and skepticism towards authoritarianism, and the influence of figures like 19th century libertarian socialist William Morris (1834-1896) moved Lipman towards an anarchist position.[2] He was actively involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and played a key role in its Welsh, then its national, leadership.[3]

Returning to South Africa in the 1990 at the request of ANC leader Walter Sisulu (released from Robben Island in 1989), he self-identified as an anarchist. He was appointed Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand. He distanced himself from the official liberation movements, and was particularly critical of President Thabo Mbeki, champion of the ANC’s embrace of neo-liberalism and narrow nationalism.[5]

Lipman’s projects after his return included re-designing (with Henry Paine) the housing complex at the remnants of the then-closed Johannesburg municipal power station in Newtown, Johannesburg. The redesigned complex became the home of the Workers’ Library and Museum, a progressive labour service organisation,[8] which later partnered with (then merged into) the left-wing Khanya College. This work won several awards, adding to the honours he received in his venerable years.[4]

A champion of justice and equality, Lipman knew, and was respected, by many people. He remained a prolific writer and continued to engage with popular struggles, and made links to the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front.[6] He spoke, for example, at a two-day workshop held by the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front for the now-defunct Anti-Privatisation Forum, at the Orange Farm Crisis Committee headquarters, 21 May 2006.[6]

In his view: “I spent 35 years of my life supporting the liberation struggle but the ANC is now an anti-liberation movement. Now we need a real ‘People’s National Congress’ – under people’s control – to take back real liberation forward.”[6] His later work appeared regularly in the Sunday Independent and South African Institute of Architects, occasionally in the anarchist paper Zabalaza,[6] [7] and in his 2009 autobiography, On the outside looking in: colliding with apartheid and other authorities.[2]

He was survived by his wife of sixty-four years, Beata; two children and three grandchildren.[1][5]

[1] https://www.leadingarchitecture.co.za/professor-alan-robert-lipman-1925-2013-architect-anarchist-academic-teacher-writer-critic-activist/

[2] Lipman, Alan Robert. 2009. On the outside looking in: colliding with apartheid and other authorities. Johannesburg: Architect Africa Publications, pp. 102-103.

[3] Obituaries at http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/archframes.php?archid=2280

[4] http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/bldgframes.php?bldgid=8467

[5] http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/alan-robert-lipman

[6] Alan Lipman, 2006, “The Anti-Liberation Movements,” Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary  Anarchism, #7, at https://saasha.net/2017/04/27/talk-alan-lipman-2006-the-anti-liberation-movements

[7] Alan Lipman, 2008, “Xenophobia, Nationalism and Greedy Bosses: An Interview with Alan Lipman,” Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary  Anarchism, #9, at https://saasha.net/2017/04/27/interview-alan-lipman-2008-xenophobia-nationalism-and-greedy-bosses-an-interview-with-alan-lipman/

[8] More on the Workers Library and Museum, and its links to the left, can be found here http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/bldgframes.php?bldgid=8467 and here  https://lucienvanderwalt.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/notes-and-posters-from-the-workers-library-museum-that-was/

 

 

WSF (1998): “Every worker must condemn attacks on foreigners”

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 (1998): “Land and Freedom: The struggle for the land: ‘Farm killings’: The real criminals”

WSF (1998): “Land and Freedom: The struggle for the land: ‘Farm killings’: The real criminals”

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

The real violence on the land is not criminal attacks on farmers- it is the farmers’ exploitation and oppression of workers and labour tenants.

CONSERVATIVE

According to the conservative Citizen newspaper, there were 114 farm attacks in the between March and May 1998. White farmers and right-wing groups have used this situation to demand more government protection, and have promised to set up private armies with helicopters and assault troops for self-defence. The Freedom Front has warned of race war on the land. The Conservative Party as usual thinks there is a “communist plot” and has produced obviously false documents to prove it. However, there is little evidence that there is a secret armed struggle movement on the land.

In the face of these right-wing threats, the ANC government has fallen over itself to reassure farmers that 90% of all crimes have been solved.

WRONG

What is wrong with this picture? For one thing, very few “farm attacks” involve murders, despite what the media claims. Even the Citizen admits only 6 people were killed in over 30 “attacks” in May 1998.

Second, the real violence on the land is NOT the farm attacks- it is the reign of crime against workers and labour tenants and their families by the FARMERS.

CRIME ON WORKERS

The media has systematically ignored mass evictions of farm tenants and farmworkers, particularly in KwaZulu Natal and the Northern Province- here farmers, fearing land reform, and introducing new labour-saving machinery, have thrown tens of thousands of workers out of employment.

UNION BASHING

Violent and repressive labour relations remain the norm on the farms. Before the 1995 Labour Relations Act, farmworkers had no rights to form trade unions and organise for better conditions. But little has changed since. COSATU has established a farmworkers’ union, which claims 30,000 members- the South African Agricultural Plantation and Allied Workers’ Union (SAAPAWU) is. But SAAPAWU is mainly based on the plantations, particularly in forestry which plantations linked to paper companies.

WHAT IS VIOLENCE?

If we talk about violence on the land, we must talk not just about a tiny number of farmers falling victim to crime. We must talk about brutal incidents such as the farmer and his sons who were recently charged for dragging a worker behind a tractor for several hundred meters, or the shooting of six month old Thobile Angeline Zwane near Benoni in April this year. These are the tip of the iceberg. These cases are also unusual- because these cases were actually prosecuted- most such violence goes unreported.

RICH VERSUS POOR

We must also talk about the violence of oppression and exploitation. When tens of thousands of people are thrown off the land into destitution, when millions of workers and tenants receive incomes of under R300 a month, are we not talking about a crime? Are we not talking about the crime of rich versus poor? Who are the worst criminals in the countryside? Robbers with guns, or robbers with farms? 68% of the rural population lives in extreme poverty, yet about 87% of all land is owned by about 100,000 farmers.

The worst crimes in the rural areas are not attacks on farms but attacks on millions of farmworkers and labour tenants. Although some actions like actual murder are illegal, it is NOT illegal to evict farmworkers or to pay low wages or for a tiny minority to own all the land and to exploit the millions who live on it. In fact, this is bosses’ justice- you can be arrested for refusing to be evicted from the farm you have lived on all your life- you can be arrested for squatting on unused land if you have no place to go.

Attacks on farmers are the product of rural poverty. People with no way of surviving through honest work are often forced into crime.

WORKERS JUSTICE

The real way to end rural crime – the real way in fact to remove crime more generally- is to create the basis for a better life for all. The way to fight back for justice for workers is to fight for better conditions and land redistribution. This will NEVER come through politicians. ANC land reform policy is based on the idea that workers must buy land back from farmers. How can we buy it if we have no money?

The only way forward here is MASS ACTION and TRADE UNIONISM by the workers. ONLY THE WORKERS CAN FREE THE WORKERS. Fight for LAND AND FREEDOM.

FARMERS BASHING UNIONS, EVICTING WORKERS

The majority of the estimated 5 million farmworkers remain unorganised. This is partly due to the problems of organising small groups of workers scattered over large areas. More importantly, farmers have been strongly opposed to unions. In May 1998, for example, nine SAAPAWU members were evicted from “Alpha Farm” for “drunkenness and laziness”. According to COSATU, the eviction was enforced by seven armed men in paramilitary uniforms. The men, who claimed that “evicting farm workers was their job”, threatened the workers, and assaulted one. Overall, fifty workers were evicted. This is clearly union bashing. Farmers -both the old White agricultural unions and the National African Farmers Union- have opposed even the mild and flawed laws to protect tenants.

When farmers act this way, they are continuing a long tradition of repression and violence against Black workers- a pattern that helped break the last big union on the farms, the ICU (Industrial and Commercial Workers Union) in the 1920s.

There have been more than 763,000 jobs lost in the farming sector over the past four years, according to the Central Statistical Service’s figures released in August 1998. The figures showed a reduction in the number of employed down from 1,4-million to just 637,000. According to Graham Macintosh, chairman of the bosses’ Kwazulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) job losses will continue. This is because the farmers are competing on regional and international markets, and are therefore trying to cut costs.

BRAZILIAN LANDLESS SHOW THE WAY FORWARD!

Brazil is perhaps the only country in the world with a higher level of inequality than South Africa (not that any countries fare well). Today less than 3% of the population owns almost two thirds of all farmland. More than half of the farmland, however, lies unused.

In the last elections, the usual lying promises were made that there would be land redistribution. But nothing has been done by the government (no surprise there, all governments serve the rich).

Landless peasants and workers have taken the best step – they took matters into their own hands. The story starts in 1985, when a small group of desperate peasants squatted on unused plantation land. They managed to defend themselves against attacks by police and hired thugs for two years. The government then agreed to give this land to the peasants, who have set up a co-operative (worker controlled) farm employing 1,432 people.

If the politicians were hoping this would be the end of matters, they were dead wrong. The 1985 occupation helped spark a mass movement of landless peasants and workers. This is called the MST- the Movement of Landless Workers.

In 1997, 60,000 people marched for two months to the capital city Brasilia to demand land redistribution. They were also marching to commemorate the anniversary of a massacre at El Dorado dos Carajas. In this massacre 19 people occupying a farm were killed by military police. Since 1988, over 960 people have been killed in land disputes. However, there have been many successes. 200,000 landless families have successfully taken back 7 million hectares of land. At the moment, another 50,000 families are camped near empty land. Even the urban homeless have been inspired to squat unused city buildings.

The MST has even set up a national pirate radio station, calling on the poor to organise themselves, and not rely on the government’s promises.

Workers of South Africa! The road will be long and hard, but why don’t we learn from our Brazilian comrades? Don’t wait for the government! The poor must take back the land!

ONLY WORKERS’ REVOLUTION CAN SOLVE LAND QUESTION

In the end, however, full land redistribution will never take place while we live under the capitalist system. Under capitalism, all wealth (land and factories and mines and buildings) is held by the bosses. In other words, unequal land ownership is built into the system. And it is protected by all the power of the system: courts, government, political parties, big business. Government is a tool of the bosses and defends unequal land ownership.

Only when workers create a libertarian socialist society will land go the workers. In the early days of the Russian Revolution (1917), and also in the Spanish Revolution (1936), workers solved the land question by chasing the farmers away and running it through village committees. In the Spanish case, 7 million workers took the farms and ran them through worker collectives. Such change requires a revolutionary workers movement on the land.