Leaflet of the Workers And Socialist Party (WASP, CWI in South Africa)
South Africa is once again ravaged by horrific xenophobic attacks on migrants from across Africa – ten have been killed in mob violence in the past week. At the same time, the rape and murder of Uyinene Mretywana has been a call to struggle against gender-based violence (GBV) – the violence inflicted on women, LGBTQI+ communities, and children. The list of victims from hate crimes grows every day. Communities are looking for answers while the government dines with the rich at the World Economic Forum and tweets: women should “speak out and not allow themselves to become victims by keeping quiet”.
Was the government not listening the past few years as a mighty movement led by women rages against GBV? We have been in the streets and in the courts demanding to be heard! Across the world, women have been protesting under the banners of #MeToo, #NotOneMore, #TheTotalShutdown. Rape Crisis, Sweat, Powa, and others campaign tirelessly against GBV. Ramaphosa has called conventions on GBV. Yet we are told that the silence of women is allowing their victimization. This victim blaming is a key part of the problem and is echoed in the government response to the xenophobic killing and looting: Bheki Cele said police “will not apologise” for the xenophobic raids on small businesses.
Government also says prevention is key to turning this tide of GBV. It promises harsher sentences, which will not end the systemic violence. They also plan a 10% cut across the board in public sector salaries, on top of other budget cuts. Their capitalist policies undermine women and fuel violence and oppression.
Eradication, not prevention!
Eradication of GBV would include a huge expansion of public services, creation of decent jobs, housing. Without an income, access to essential services, a home to feel safe in, how do women even begin to “speak out”? And when society keeps confirming the myth that women are second class humans through second class pay, unpaid labour, commodification and control of our bodies and sexuality – is it any wonder that many men buy into their entitlement to our bodies and our very lives?
When government treats migrants as criminals by refusing asylum to refugees, through police harassment and apartheid-style passport controls; when it blocks migrants from accessing housing, jobs, services; when “leaders” from Mashaba (DA) to Ramaphosa (ANC) and king Zwelithini point out “foreigners” as the cause of unemployment and poverty; when the bosses exploit all this by offering low-paying insecure jobs, and corrupt officials by selling “free” services and housing – is it not clear that the ruling elites are consciously fueling the divisions that have resulted in open street violence?
We should all be angry
Many are angry – about the war on women, the massive unemployment, lack of housing, dysfunctional schools, under-resourced healthcare, the hunger and desperation, drug epidemics, ongoing racism, and corrupt officials destroying our planet and gambling with our future. We should all be angry that South Africa is the most unequal society on Earth, that we’re not yet free from this failing capitalist system. We need a general strike, against the roots of these failures – not violence against African brothers and sisters who have been forced to run from war and hunger through the failures of the very same global system. No SA-born worker will win from killing or chasing away migrant workers. Every worker, resident, street trader and student needs to unite and fight for living wages, jobs, housing and education for all. To replace this system with a society where the wealth is owned by all of us, democratically controlled and used to meet the needs of the majority.
Violence is a symptom, Capitalism is the problem
Today’s violence is a direct consequence of a decaying capitalist system. It promotes a system of dominance between sections of the working class, masking the centuries of violence perpetrated by those in power. It is the legacy of colonialisation, imperialism, neo-colonialism. Still today the divisive fabric upholds the extraction of profit for the 1% through the exploitation of the labour power of the 99%. The apartheid state attempted to divide the working class by tribe, homeland and tradition. Today, the capitalist politicians try to survive the crisis of their system through dividing us. They stoke the flames of xenophobia and sexism, leading many of us to live in fear. We must refuse to be divided and conquered. We must fight together to stop the rapes and murder, to end sexism, racism and capitalism.
The bosses will not save us
This government will not deliver. Jobs exist: houses, schools, clinics, roads, transport need to be built; food needs to be produced. However, the resources for these human necessities are locked up with the big banks and private business. Nobody has to be unemployed or hungry here. We have to fight to take control of the economy. Not of the spazas or RDP houses, but the mines, the banks, the big farms and corporations. Nationalised under the democratic control of workers and communities, these resources would make a true expanded public works programme possible, with living wages and without tenderpreneurs. It’s time for all working class women and men to unite around a programme which takes on the root of the crisis. We must fight to make sure this moment in the global movement against women’s oppression and gender-based violence, strikes at the foundations of the system which perpetuates it.
It is up to us to forge the fighting unity of the working class in a party of mass struggle – uniting the struggles of workplaces, communities and the youth on a socialist programme. A socialist SA, a socialist Africa and a socialist world must be our aim. Only that will allow us to do away with all oppression and violence.
On our way there, through mass struggle we can push back both xenophobia and GBV, by making clear that unity and solidarity are our only strength in really changing this sick society and by forcing concessions from the 1%.
WASP fights for:
- Mass protests to unite workers, communities and students in the struggles against hate crimes like xenophobia and GBV.
- Expand public services to ensure free and safe shelter and health care for people fleeing abuse, invest in specialised health care for survivors of GBV and for perpetrators.
- Zero-tolerance against gender based violence, sexual harassment and xenophobic violence – create street committees/community watch committees to call out, condemn and stop it.
- Training on GBV for all law enforcement and court officials, invest in special courts and cleanse SAPS of perpetrators of secondary victimisation.
- Equal pay for equal work, stop the 10% wage cut and the race to the bottom – unions must organise women and migrant workers, act against bosses who abuse vulnerable migrant workers. For a real expanded public works programme, and a R12 500 minimum wage.
- Stop the police harassment of street traders and immigrants, amnesty for “illegals”.
- Implement the right to asylum, overhaul the Home Affairs immigration systems under democatic control of workers and communities including refugees and migrants, root out corrupt officials.
- Free, high quality education for all from pre-school to tertiary. Paid parental leave and free quality childcare for everyone.
- Nationalise the commanding heights of the economy under democratic control and management by workers and communities – use the resources to end unemployment, homelessness, poverty, sexism, racism and xenophobia.
- A socialist world without division by gender, nationality, “race” or tribe, war, persecution or poverty.