Union members called for a strike against security company G4S to begin Wednesday, January 30, but the company was able to obtain an injuction against the strike late Tuesday night. The workers and union complain that the company's wage proposal will only deepen their poverty.
Last July, G4S recognized the Textile and Securtiy Services Workers Union in Malawi, and by October, the union and the company started to negotiate an agreement for G4S’ 13,000 workers there.
G4S is the largest private sector employer in Africa , and the second largest private employer in the world. But the role they are playing in Africa is to maintain the poverty of their workforce, rather than to use their economic might to raise standards across the continent. Today, G4S employees in Malawi can barely afford to eat and rarely live in decent housing.
These security guards are at the bottom of the world's pay scale. With a daily wage that is much less than a cup of coffee in the US or Europe, their total pay, including allowances for housing, is about $30 a month. These guards typically work for 60 hours a week, and yet barely surpass the $1 per day per person established by the World Bank as the measure for "extreme poverty". (Once families are taken into account, the income per person falls far short of even extreme poverty.) Adding further insult, they work for 12 hours a day and are paid for only 10 under the G4S policy to reduce pay by half for overtime hours. Most of the workers can't afford to take any transportation and therefore many walk an hour and a half each way to work. Families can't afford school books for their kids and they can't afford to put basic foodstuff on the table. A "living wage" is not even within reach.
G4S has proposed a pay increase for 2008 of only 12%- an amount which is less than the increase in the cost of living in Malawi in 2007. In Blantyre, the city where many guards live and work, prices for the "Basic Needs Basket" increased by 23% (as announced in November by the Centre for Social Concern.) It is hard to believe, but G4S is proposing a cut in real wages for workers who are already barely scraping by.
In the past, wage increases for G4S workers in Malawi have been in the neighborhood of 20% in order to keep pace with the inflation generated by chronic currency devaluation. The workers perceive this year’s proposed increase to be much lower as punishment for their support for the union.
G4S Malawi is a profitable and successful enterprise, earning a designation as the G4S southern Africa "Business Unit of the Year" in 2006.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
South Africa is particularly rich in mineral resources and is one of the leading raw material exporters in the world. Rightly so, South Africa can produce all the minerals necessary for her economic independence. Gold, diamonds, platinum, chromium, manganese, uranium, ire ore and coal make up 60 % of it's main exports. The country is also number one globally in exporting platinum, chromium, vandium and manganese. Africa is also the world's largest gold producer. It has enormous gold ore reserves representing 40% of global reserves.
However, 95% of South Africa's gold mines are underground operations. Declining grades of the mines and the increased depth of mining and a shift in the gold price, costs for these operations had begun to rise and as a result production has been steadily falling. The gold mining industry is the largest sector of mining industry. It constitutes around 60% of South Africa's mining labor for.
As of 2007, the South African mining industry employs 493,000 workers
In 2005 the total gold production was 294,671 kg
the total iron ore production was 39.5 Mt
the total chromium production was 7.59 Mt
the total manganese production was 4.61 Mt
the total platinum production was 302, 000 kg
the total coal production was 245 Mt
the total diamond production was 15.8 million karats
Mine workers are under-paid and over-worked. Declining grades of mines and increased depth of mining as lead to an increase in workplace injuries and deaths. Issues of mine safety received increased scrutiny during 2007, in large part due to multiple worker deaths. During 2006, 199 workers were killed during workplace accidents, and 191 have been killed during 2007. Around 200 workers die yearly in South African mines. One incident on October 4 2007 resulted in 3,200 workers being trapped for several hours.
Ultimately, class, racism and capitalism are at the root of most of the problems in South Africa. Capitalism is a society that is divided by class and is dominated by the corporate community and upper class. The working class thus consists of all the people in society who do not own property and therefore have to sell their labor power - the ability to do work- to a boss in order to earn a living.
The interests of the working class are fundamentally opposed to the ruling elite - the corporate community and upper class. The companies must seek ways to make profits, even at the detriment of their employees, the very people who are responsible for creating their wealth.
Disregard for safety precautions aids capital by continually accumulating profit, yet it hurts the working class, specifically miners, who suffer fatal injuries in high numbers. Cuts in wages and refusal to accommodate union demands for wage increases, further harms the working class by lowering their standard of living at the expense of increased revenue for mining companies.
The working class therefore has a direct interest in improving all aspects of the mining industry, whereas capital does not. The solutions lie within the working class since it's success is in its best interest.
Is There an Alternative?
Anarchist-Syndicalist and libertarian communist theory holds that the best people to run an industry are the workers and users of that service. Worker safety is held hostage to profitability and bureaucracy. Rather than private ownership and a monopolization of decision making roles by owners and managers, public ownership of the means of production through a decentralized system of federated workers and neighborhood councils would prove far superior. These councils would act as channels to allow participants to exercise direct democracy and gives ordinary citizens the ability to control their own lives.
Strategy to Get Us There
There are many different tactics that can be utilized to the bring increasing power into the hands of South African miners. Fighting for an increase in wages, shorter working hours and improved working conditions ensure a more efficient and happier workforce, while at the same time, increasing class consciousness and working class militancy. Miners must self-organize to demand these rights and be prepared to take direct action to hit the corporations where it hurts the most, their bank accounts.
Direct actions such as mass rallies and protests with the support of the community and strikes would be ways to achieving these ends. The key is strengthening rank and file organizations of miners and creating mass organizations in neighboring communities that will struggle alongside these worker controlled groups. This is as anarcho-syndicalist theorist Rudolph Rocker notes, as creating "not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself"; that these self-managed organizations embody the structure of a future society.
Sala kahle(Stay well in isiZulu)
Saturday, January 26, 2008
People must empower themselves, not wait for government
"We call on government to empower our people, especially through community cooperatives with the necessary inputs for bread production, namely land, tractors and seeds to plough wheat." - this was the demand made by the Young Communist League (YCL) in their recent Statement on the Unjustifiable Increase of Bread.
The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) agrees with the YCL that "This increase will have negative consequences on the majority of our people, especially the working class and the poor youth who rely on bread as a source of living." We support the YCL and Cosatu in defying this price increase. We regard the vast and repeated increases in the bread price – and in the prices of maize meal, other grains and food in general – as a direct attack by capitalist profiteers on the very survival of workers and the poor. An attack against which workers and the poor need to defend themselves.
But the YCL does not seem to recognise the inherent contradiction in its statement.
The YCL stated its concern "that government is not protecting our people and allows the capitalist market to undermine our struggle of building sustainable livelihoods as a results of excessive prices of bread and other basic commodities", but they are missing the point. If government did anything other than protect market interests, the YCL would have reason for concern. But that is not the case; the government is protecting the interests of the market at the expense of the people it is supposed to serve. This is what us anarchist communists have been saying all along, and this is where we differ with the state socialists. Government cannot, and will not protect the people from the capitalist market, as the very purpose for government is to protect the capitalists, or capitalism, from the people.
Government, by its very nature, disempowers people by controlling and regulating their lives, limiting their freedom to move and live as they please and by making decisions that affect people's lives without first consulting them. By acting on our behalf, and denying us the opportunity to act for ourselves, governements - of all colours and ideological leanings - undermine our ability for individual and collective empowerment.
Meaningful and lasting empowerment cannot come from anywhere other than through the self-organised and self-managed activity and mobilisation of the people themselves, of a people in search and in struggle of a better life for all.
Whatever workers and the poor have won from the bosses or the government – higher wages, shorter hours, electricity, water, houses, lower rent, the defeat of the apartheid regime – they have won in struggle, not because the government decided out of a sense of responsibility or the goodness of its heart to give us these things. If we want bread, we must fight for bread.
As a result of our struggles or otherwise, the government might back a community cooperative, as the YCL suggests, by providing it with the "necessary inputs for bread production, namely land, tractors and seeds to plough wheat". But if we just rely on the government and do not continue the struggle, what is likely to happen is that those people will be expected to operate their cooperative according to market values, and sell their produce on the market instead of feeding themselves and their community. Government might subsidise a few small cooperatives, the participants in which might have access to a better life, but the government will never socialise all the "necessary inputs for bread production", and so the vast majority of the people, those in urban areas for example, will not benefit from these symbolic acts of empowerment.
If we do win support for co-operatives, or cheaper bread, or even free bread, we must carry on the fight. As long as the government and capitalists are in place, whatever we force them to give us, they can still try to take back.
For anarchist communists the only way to empowerment, and the only way for people to protect themselves from the capitalist market is to organise collectively to rid the world of that market; a market that tramples on the needs and rights of the many to satisfy the profits of the few.
We hold that people must collectively organise themselves, across all the industries of the land - both urban and rural - in every school and in every township, to take control of the "necessary inputs of bread production" and the necessary inputs to satisfy all our needs, and place them under the collective ownership and control of the people. No government, whether socialist or not, can ever do this as the sole reason for existence of government is to protect the rich from the poor, and so it is up to the people themselves to create a better life for all. To create a free socialism, without bosses or politicians.
Let us wait no longer for government to act, let us act ourselves. The anarchist revolutionary Emma Goldman once said "If they don't give you bread, take bread." Today we take bread; tomorrow we take the farms, the factories, the railways, the roads, the ships, everything that we ourselves built, that was taken from us, that we need to run our own lives. Onward to the collective appropriation of all the necessary inputs for a better life for all.
You cannot empower people, people must empower themselves.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
What is the State?
The state refers to the legislature -parliamentary control- an the familiar state organs - the courts, the army, police, and the wide of administrative services. Also included in the state is public education, policy-making organizations and such state organs that control the economy, such as the national banks. According to Karl Marx, it is the"centralized State power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature...[and]parliamentary control.. the national power of capital over labor, a public forced organized for social enslavement". Peter Kropotkin claims, "The State..includes the existence of a power situated above society, but also of a territorial concentration as well as the concentration in the hands of a few of many functions in the life of societies..A whole mechanism of legislation and of policing has to be developed in order to subject some classes to the domination of others". The power vested in it, places the state above and alienated from society, serving the interests of the upper class. It is a structured hierarchy objectively at the service of the top layer of the bourgeoisie or upper class.
The state therefore serves two purposes. One as it's role as an coercive and repressive institution. Which, the police and military being the forefront of those operations. The other role is the organizing of bourgeois democracy: through the combination of certain institutions, laws and policies.
As a capitalist state, the state functions to repress worker's power and pursue interests of the upper class and maintain social harmony. As a racist state, the state functions to repress black power, black organization and movements which can cause social upheaval to the detriment of the power elite, which is for the most part white male. The state of black america, therefore ironically, is due to 400 year old battle...The State vs Black America.
Legislature, Judiciary and the Prison Industrial Complex
Blacks represent 13 percent of the population, but comprised 35 percent of drug arrests, 55 percent of drug convictions, 74 percent of drug prisoners and 50 percent of those waiting on death row. Prosecutors sought the death penalty 70 percent of the time when an African American killed a White person, but only 19 percent of the time when it was reversed. Another telling statistic is the fact that blacks constitute 13 percent of the population, but were 67 percent of the juveniles in adult courts and 77 percent of the juveniles in adult prisons. In the Jena 6 case, Mychal Bell was originally charged with attempted murder, which was later brought down to aggravated second degree battery, with the "dangerous weapon" used in the attack was argued to be his shoes. After legal maneuvering, rallies, appeals to have him free on bail, Bell was subsequently sent back to juvenile detention for "violating his probation".
Under the infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws it was a 5-year minimum sentence for possessing 500g of powdered cocaine, while the amount of crack needed for a five year sentence is only five grams, a 100:1 ratio. Being that crack cocaine was a cheaper drug to produce and buy, it was popular in the urban ghetto. Which in turn caused Blacks to represent 84 percent of crack cocaine convictions, causing further harm towards the state of Black America.
The Police and Military
The fact that Blacks comprised 17 percent of drivers on the state of Maryland highway, but 70 percent of drivers stopped by police is a powerful example of racial profiling and repressive tactics utilized by the Police on Black America, and Black males in particular. Police brutality, is a term used to describe the excessive use of physical force, assault, verbal attacks, and threats by police officers and other law enforcement officers, and is a term well understood in Black America. There exist numerous documented cases of the police's function as a coercive and repressive institution through the usage of police brutality.
On Halloween (2007) Rayshawn Moreno and other teens on hit an unmarked police car with an egg. The Officer grabbed Rashaywn Moreno into the cop car, where he was taken to a secluded, remote area, stripped of his clothes, beaten by the officers and left for dead. While, Sean Bell died in a hail of 50 bullets fired by undercover police officers after hitting an unmarked police car. Likewise, Amadou Diallo, died from the 19 of 41 bullets fired at him because cops mistook his wallet for a gun. In March 1991, Rodney King was brutalized by 3 cops as 23 other officers wached as he was beaten with batons and shocked with stun guns.
Police brutality, in some cases, especially in regards to the urban riots of the 60's, have had to rely on the coercive and repressive functions of the military to quell social upheaval. For example, a patrolmans' attack on Marquetet Frye in Los Angeles led to the Watts Riots. The conflict resulted not only in 34 deaths and $40 million in damage, but also the National Guard being called to control the riots.
This was just a brief example of how a few apparatuses of the state are used in a coercive and repressive way against Black America. It highlighted, legislation specifically targeting black men in the urban ghetto, in the form of Rockefeller Drug Laws. Which resulted in a explosion of inmate population and added to the disproportionate number of African Americans incarcerated. It showed many cases of recent police brutality and harassment centered in the Black Community, which has a psychological effect on it's residents. It also, showed how when the police cannot contain urban unrest, the military(our troops?) are ready to contain the rebellions.
There are many other state organs, such as policy forming organizations, that play a role in the repression of rights of Black America and it's continual exploitation. More also can be said of public education and it's role of perpetuating the cycle of violence in poverty in the black community. For example, 40 percent of African American males are illiterate and research indicates that illiteracy is the biggest predictor of crime, 90 percent of African-American male inmates are illiterate.
All in all, the evidence makes a compelling case that the state is not only against workers, but disproportionately against blacks more so than whites. Thereby, drastically affecting the state of black america in the realms of politics, social, and economics.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Tennis shoes were used as dangerous weapons on Dec. 4, 2006 when six black students at Louisiana’s Jena High School fought white schoolmate Justin Barker, LaSalle Parish District Attorney J. Reed Walters told a courtroom this summer.
So hundreds of miles away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, youth members of the NAACP have launched a drive to encourage people to turn in their dangerous weapons -- sneakers, or tennis shoes as they are called in the South.
“We want used sneakers. We want the rank, stank, dirty sneakers. We want to send a message,” said the Rev. Elisha B. Morris, youth advisor for the Philadelphia Youth Council NAACP. “We’re going to box the sneakers up and ship them to the district attorney in Jena, Louisiana.” The group also wants each person who donates sneakers to contribute $2 for the Jena Defense Fund.
The effort is in response to charges brought against six black youths following the 2006 fight. Initially, Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw faced charges attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with the fight. A juvenile was also charged.
Bell was tried as an adult and convicted before an appeals court overturned that action and said Bell’s case should be handled in juvenile court. He is now going through proceedings in juvenile court, which are not public.
Posted by blackstone at 9:15 AM
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Defending the San Francisco Eight and the Liberty City Seven is defending the democratic rights of the African community in general.
SAN FRANCISCO, California — Prosecutors in the San Francisco Eight (SF8) case announced that they would be dropping conspiracy charges against five of the eight former Black Panther Party members.
Six of the eight men — Richard Brown, Richard O'Neal, Ray Boudreaux, Hank Jones, Francisco Torres and Harold Taylor — were arrested on January 23, 2007 and hit with charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco cop. The other two, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, had already been held as political prisoners for more than 30 years in New York state prisons when they received these charges.
Some of the men had originally been charged in 1975 but were released because it was exposed that the State had fabricated the case against them by torturing the men until it got false statements out of them.
The recent arrests are part of the U.S. government’s attempt to paint a black face on “terrorism” because it recognized the need to contain the African working class — the most consistently revolutionary sector of society within U.S. borders — in the face of the mounting struggles by oppressed peoples around the world to end U.S. and European imperialism’s parasitic grip on their resources.
It is undeniable that the case of the San Francisco Eight has been impacted by the U.S. government’s recent loss in the case of the Liberty City Seven — seven impoverished young Africans manipulated, entrapped and locked up in Miami, Florida by the FBI on fabricated terrorism charges in June 2006. A jury outright acquitted one of the seven and could not convict the rest of the young Africans that former U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzalez claimed were “homegrown terrorists… as dangerous as al-Qaeda.”
The strength that would have emboldened the U.S. government’s case against the SF8 with a conviction of the LC7 has instead become weakness. The government’s attempt to give a black face to terrorism has been beaten back.
However, the fight is not over. While the charges of conspiracy have been dropped against five of the SF8 (making it necessary to dismiss the case against Richard O’Neal who only faced that charge), the State intends to continue with the ridiculous case. It even contends that while the three year statute of limitation for the conspiracy charges have expired, that expiration doesn’t apply to Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim and Francisco Torres because they were imprisoned and taken out of the state of California as prisoners.
It will take African masses and other freedom-loving people mobilizing in defense of the San Francisco Eight and the Liberty City Seven — who the State intends to retry — to not only free these African men, but to defend the national democratic rights of the African community.
Uhuru News is the online voice of the International African Revolution. It is dedicated to giving voice to the struggles of the African working class from around the world through its programming in an effort to unite and inform the struggles of African people and forward the International African Revolution.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Senegal is a country located in western Africa. It's population numbers over 11 million, with 70% living in rural areas. Approximately 54% of all Senegalese households live below the poverty line. Thus, similar to most Sub-Saharan countries in Africa, Senegal suffers from numerous health problems typically associated with severe poverty.
Poverty, and various health problems, follow the same geographical distribution and reach high points in rural areas. This is due to the fact that the poorest live in the poorest sanitary conditions. Only 48% of Senegal have access to improved sanitation conditions. In Kolda, the poorest area, only 27% has access to piped water and 7% to toilets.
The Under Five Mortality Rate is 139 per 1000 live births in the year 2000 and estimates of maternal mortality rates(MMR) have are estimated to be around 690. The correlation between poverty and health can also be seen in accordance to Infant, Under Five and maternal mortality rates. From statistical samples, it is clearly evident that these rates increase in the poorest areas as well.
Malaria is Senegal's most serious concern and is the leading cause of death for children under five years old. The Global Fund reports that a total of 800,000 people have been diagnosed with malaria as of July 2003, meaning that approximately 8.9 percent of Senegal’s total population is infected with malaria (Global Fund 2004). According to the United States Pharmacopeia, the problem impinges on every region of the country and is exacerbated by the free flow of poor quality antimalarial drugs and increasing parasite resistance to traditional first-line drug treatment.
Tuberculosis is another concern of Senegal. Close to 9000 cases were reported in 2000 and 5832 were considered contagious. According to the UNAIDS 2002 update Senegal had an HIV/AIDS prevalence of 1.43 percent, with an estimated 27,000 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2001, 24,000 being adults (aged between 15-49) (UNAIDS Country Profile 2004).
These startling figures are due to many medical and social failings, including, but not limited to, inadequate nutrition and healthcare, poor access to improved water supply and sanitation and of course, poverty. Only 40 percent of the population of Senegal has access to health services. However, healthcare personnel are concentrated in the two largest cities of Senegal, Dakar and Thiès, leaving the majority of the rural population poorly or uncovered. Not only that, but Senegal suffers from "Brain Drain", an epidemic where skilled and qualified people(including doctors, nurses, dentists) leave Senegal in search of a more stable life in France or another Western country.
Is There No Alternative?
A revolution in which society is reorganized where the people are in control must remedy this situation. It can do so by providing an alternative economy. One where there is equal distribution of health services and resources being made to the whole population of Senegal. It will also provide a stable society to prevent "Brain Drain", as well as increasing and perfecting medical services to provide the best possible service to the population. This equitable allocation alone can cut cases of malaria and tuberculosis, as well as the infant, under five and maternal mortality rates.
Diego Abad de Santillan, in his work After the Revolution, notes, "There will be no private doctors, since the entire profession will be at the service of all. They will be incorporated, however, along with dentists, pharmacists, etc., in respective Councils and form similar organizations as in other branches. The Council of Sanitation will create schools and research institutions, and will also take care of public health in the cities and in the country." What specific role or function, a "Council of Sanitation" is to play, is to be determined in the future by the Senegalese. Yet, from this passage we can gather that an anarcho-syndicalist strategy upholds the anarchistic values of self-management and anti-authoritarianism. An alternative economy will need to incorporate these and other anarchistic values into new institutions to provide equitable circumstances and services to the Senegalese.
An anarcho-syndicalist strategy holds that self-managed workers organizations and mass organizations will form the basis of a self-managed society. These new values and institutions, which vary greatly from the ones of capitalism, allowing for advances to be made and services to be exchanged not for profit, but for the benefit of all Senegalese. Thereby reducing hunger, poverty, child mortality and achieving universal primary education, improved access to water, sanitation, and healthcare services.
Ba suba ak jam(Goodbye in Wolof)