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(en) South Africa, An anarchist Journal Zabalaza: #7 - A FREE WORKING CLASS NEEDS FREE MINDS:,MAY-BEE ANOTHER DAY

Date Thu, 04 Jan 2007 10:55:20 +0200

Most workers know increasingly little about May Day. Many have simply forgotten it's meaning, and some are disillusioned. Instead of calling it "Our day" many mindlessly speak of "Worker's Day," and think "Long weekend". And the bosses give workers time off, appearing lenient and generous, making the workers seem ungrateful, with no excuses to complain.
Taking advantage of the apathy, enterprising bosses cash in on soccer events, brewery production and other activities. They benefit from the pain of workers and their communities, and take control of the minds and lives of the masses, and distance them from discussing - and questioning - their endless miseries.

Yet the workers are the ones who produce everything, yet have neither control nor ownership of anything. We own our labour, but without food, cannot exist at all. So, we are bound to sell our labour for next to nothing, to the bosses who control everything we need to survive.

And the bosses have made it impossible for the working class people to think and do things independently through laws and media under their control. They use these as tools to protect and advance their interest at our expense. Social needs are distorted by profit and power; the wealth of society is not used to keep us alive, happy and healthy, but to divide us.

In recent years many entertainment enterprises have been booming, particularly in the south of Johannesburg region. The youth and the unemployed are drawn into immoral activities, and accept highly exploitative jobs just to make sure they don't miss the weekends, especially the long ones.

Drinking beer and being a soccer fan has become a national hobby, and used as a sign of patriotism: "love your country and be proud of the black government". Even commemorations of human rights milestones like Sharpeville, June 16 and Women's Day get drawn into the circle of unthinking entertainment, escape from hard realities and empty patriotism.


Community radio stations were set up to convey the views of ordinary people, allowing previously disadvantaged opportunities to express themselves. The Kwaito music style seemed to be a promising weapon to raise issues and awareness, because of its origin within black townships and its reflection of our lives in the communities.

But this has not happened. Kwaito has been commercialised, and has nothing to do with advancing the minds and lives of the people. The everyday hardships of communities are presented as a hip lifestyle choice, something to laugh about.

Instead of raising political issues, DJs and Kwaito glorify the hardships of people, and make a living - like soccer and media stars - ambassadors between the rich and poor, earning large amounts of money and middle class lives.

Major companies move in Nike, Sasol, Coca Cola, Absa, Vodacom, Nokia, MMW etc. - as sponsors, shaping people's minds, and leaving no stone unturned. The masses, particularly the youth, who adore these stars, take them as role models. But few can make it out of poverty, they end up frustrated, with time wasted and nothing achieved during a vital period of their lives. Rather than explore, improvise, demand and enjoy life to its fullest, they become mentally crippled and caught up in social and family demands.


Those who are unemployed are faced with a pitiless situation of mental and physical slavery. Their families close doors on them, calling them loafers who belong nowhere in society. They are driven to the job market, with its crumbs and exploitation. Like sheep, they wait at the slaughtering pens, hoping to be next under the knife when the bosses need new blood.

Many dream of work, and slaves to capitalism. The bosses appear as kindly people who care and doing everything to save lives by doling out a tiny number of jobs. And their mask of sympathy soon falls away.

Workers are thrown on the street for asking for clarity on contracts, and the other workers learn to take care never to slightly upset their masters, because there are hundreds other unemployed workers waiting and starving, ever ready to jump to slaughtering pens. The workers fight amongst each other, and the bosses become kings and queens, on guard 24 hrs a day. The governments back up the bosses, and the workers demands for safety and a living wage are drowned out by the bosses' demands for higher profits - despite already having sucked the workers dry.

The bosses are automatically excused for job losses and the workers are the scapegoats. We are constantly reminded to protect our jobs, and avoid trouble, because getting a job is almost impossible. Workers' rights are walked over: the bosses alone decide, because if their interests are not respected they will leave the country; other bosses won't set their foot in the country. This would leave the workers alone, and stranded, with no one to turn to and ask "Please, I want to be your slave".

Wages are cut, as an excuse to employ more workers, or as an excuse to retain existing workers. Workers' confidence is shattered, and their basic needs become unthinkable: women give birth at work to keep their jobs safe.


It is common for bosses to prefer workers coming from countries devastated by civil wars and famine. These workers are desperate, rightless, often "illegal," and easy prey to bosses who can avoid any responsibilities to cover for workers' health and safety. The immigrant workers are not citizens, and the labour laws do not apply. This way bosses don't have to worry about the precautions and safety equipment and measures expected by the labour laws.

Because of these workers' extreme desperation, they have to accept anything the boss decides. They have no one to turn to. The government plays its part, smashing any possibilities for these people to raise their heads, by randomly harassing and arresting them for identity documents.

South African workers are pitted against the immigrants, told that they are lazy, and instructed to "ask Mandela" for a job. In a situation of mass unemployment, this provides breeding grounds for xenophobia and hatred from South African workers against their fellow workers from neighbouring countries. Blaming immigrants, rather than bosses, for their misery, some South African workers call the immigrants insulting names, and inform the police who the immigrants are, and where they stay. This behaviour is driven by the jealousy and hatred that is the by-product of poverty.


But this is not only happening to the immigrants. Amongst the African workers there is a good deal of prejudice and distrust, especially in the townships, hostels and squatter camps where migrants from different parts of the countryside converge to find jobs. Many treat their shacks as temporary camps, and long to return to the country.

The mindset of ethnic rivalry and the belief in a return to the country makes it difficult for these communities to challenge the government policies affecting our lives. Ideas like " This is not our home, we are only here to work, as long as we have a place to sleep," and "There's no use to fight for people who'll turn their back on you tomorrow, and "We cannot be ruled by such-and-such nationality" are common enough. Such sentiments were the grim centre of the cloud that hovered above the ANC versus IFP massacres in the 1990s.

These ethnic divisions were also used during the rise of the mining industry, where jobs were allocated on an ethnic basis, and workers were housed in different ethnic hostels. People from a particular ethnic group were, for example, often mine police. The chiefs played a role too, recruiting people, providing written permission to work on the mines, and the government did not allow the workers to settle in town. They were always reminded that they belonged in the countryside and were harassed and arrested by the police for pass offences.

So working class people's identities were deeply shaped by where they came from, and the language they spoke. Whether immigrant, or Zulu, or Xhosa, the worker often saw fellow-workers as aliens stealing jobs, as traitors who stole the national wealth. Today we see this with xenophobia, but also with the view that the ANC is a Xhosa party, and that its capitalist policies were somehow caused by Xhosas - rather than the ruling class.

The chiefs remain powerful, and the politicians use ethnicity and other legacies of the past to lead the working class astray. This allows them to implement their neo-liberal policies, without collective questioning from the masses who vote these crooks into power. And all of this is presented as in the ordinary people's interest.

It is called democracy and gender-equality because a few wealthy black people drive fancy cars and mingle with wealthy Whites. The people are told anyone can get rich: "just listen to the your black government"; if you are poor, it is your own fault.


These mental illusions - "get rich quick," "the immigrants steal jobs," "the struggle is over" - must be identified and rooted out so we can become healthier and strong again. Surely we need to take care of things that benefit our communities at the end of the day, and leave aside anything that has a possible threat to our lives.

Surely the working class can take back its traditions, with community soccer teams and genuine community media controlled collectively by the people. These must be used as weapons to defend and protect ourselves from the enemy.

Every human being must know and be aware on the tricks of the class enemy. Those who choose to become traitors must do so - but not at our expense.

web site link: http://www.zabalaza.net/index02.htm
pdf of #7 - http://www.zabalaza.net/pdfs/sapams/zab07.pdf
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