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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 June 2005

Workers and poor rise up against poverty

THE G8 countries' debt relief programme is soaked in cynicism and hypocrisy.

Weizmann Hamilton, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM - CWI South African section)

It is presented to the world as a genuine attempt to assist countries governed by an irresponsible, corrupt and greedy elite who have squandered aid given in the past and must take full responsibility for the dire situation in which their countries find themselves.

It is for this reason that the aid comes with "conditionalities" - conditions that the debtor countries must comply with before they qualify for aid.

But the devil, as they say, lies in the detail.

The real motive for the aid programme is not to allow the debtor countries the room for economic development that would free them from dependence on the West.

It is in fact the very opposite - to open them up for further plunder and to secure the cooperation of the ruling elites for the neo-recolonisation of their countries by imperialism.

Total annual US aid for all of Africa is about $3 billion, equivalent to about two days of Pentagon spending. About $1 billion pays for emergency food aid, of which half is for transport.

Salaries of US consultants

About $1.5 billion is for "technical co-operation," essentially salaries of US consultants. Only about $500 million a year - less than $1 per African - finances clinics, schools, food production, roads, power, Internet connectivity, safe drinking water, sanitation, family planning and lifesaving health interventions to fight malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

The US administration's claim that budget restraints prevent more spending on Africa is the most cynical of its contentions.

George Bush has cut taxes by more than $200 billion a year mainly for the wealthiest Americans, and has raised military spending by $200 billion a year.

But when $20 billion is needed to keep the poorest of the poor in Africa alive and put the continent's economies on a path toward long-term growth, there is no money available.

"Private-sector development"

The debt relief conditionalities include a commitment by developing countries not only to tackle corruption, but to "boost private-sector development" and eliminate "impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign".

It is the rigorous adherence to these 'neo-liberal' capitalist policies that has plunged Africa and the "developing" world into a state of permanent underdevelopment, poverty, social disintegration and war.

In South Africa the ANC government's compliance with the pressure of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and its own commitment to creating a black capitalist class, has seen an enormous increase in the unequal distribution of wealth.

The fastest growing inequality is now within the majority black population itself as a new black elite is indulging in an orgy of self-enrichment previously the exclusive preserve of the white elite.

The privatisation of Telkom has cost 30,000 jobs; the lowering of tariff barriers at a rate faster than that demanded by the World Trade Organisation has cost 100,000 jobs in the clothing and textile industry.

Dollar millionaires

The number of dollar millionaires in South Africa grew 21.6% to 37,000 last year, making the country home to more than a third of the 100,000 dollar millionaires in Africa according to the 2005 World Wealth Report by Merrill Lynch.

Now the ANC is proposing to 'liberalise' the labour laws so that provisions against unfair dismissal and minimum wages do not apply to all young workers and those employed by companies with 200 or less workers. Given that this applies to 90% of workers, this proposal amounts to an attempt to smash the Labour Relations Act.

The Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (Cosatu) called a general strike for 27 June in protest. The DSM is campaigning for workers to take Cosatu out of the Tripartite Alliance (ANC, Cosatu, Communist Party) and to campaign for the formation of a mass workers' party on a socialist programme.

As part of the campaign for the socialist transformation of South Africa, the African continent and the world, the DSM demands

Strike

IN A magnificent show of force on 27 June, two million workers in South Africa went on strike, with 500,000 demonstrators marching in 20 town and cities across the country.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) called the general strike in protest at the "jobs holocaust" and to demand the devaluation of the currency, the Rand.

The bosses and the government predicted a flop. But they were rocked back on their heels by a solid demonstration of working-class power and solidarity. The mining industry was crippled along with the clothing, textile and automotive and engineering sectors whose workers are currently engaged in wage negotiations that may lead to strike action.

The combativity of the workers follows on from countrywide demonstrations demanding delivery of basic services since last September, as well as student protests against unaffordable tuition fees and exclusion from tertiary education institutions.

This has combined with the open divisions in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after the dismissal of the deputy president on corruption charges.

These developments have hardened the mood against the government and the bosses.

CWI demands:


Nigeria

Resisting neo-liberal attacks - fighting for a socialist alternative

THE DEMOCRATIC Socialist Movement (DSM) in Nigeria is the second biggest section in the Committee for a Workers' International. DEMO, from Lagos, explains how the DSM has played a key role in mobilising the workers and poor masses in general strike action against the Obasanjo government's massive price hikes in fuel and its anti-labour laws.

WHILE AFRICA pays $15 billion yearly to service its debt to the rich nations and financial institutions, it receives less than $13 billion as aid with strings attached. Nigeria's situation is much more pathetic. Its annual debt payment is equivalent to $14 per person while receiving aid of just $2 per person.

Nigeria has made payments of $6.9 bilion but its debt has increased by $7.4 billion.

Fraudulent loans

The working masses who originally benefited nothing from these fraudulent loans are now repaying them with sweat and blood. But just as under the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism, the working masses are not absorbing these ceaseless attacks on their living conditions meekly.

There have been seven massive general strikes led by the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) in the last six years. This is apart from some pockets of strikes, picketing, and protests in different parts of the country by the youth and poor working class.

To gag this wave of resistance, the regime promulgated a new Trade Union Act in March 2005 forbidding workers, especially from "essential services" like Education, Health, Airways etc., from embarking on strike.

Central trade union organisations like the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) have also been legally banned from organising strikes over issues unless they are included in workers' contracts of employment. This is despite the fact that less than 20% of the population is engaged in contractual employments.

Since the new law was passed, between 6-8 June, there has already been a three-day warning strike by University of Ibadan Educational workers (both academic and non-academic) to protest against four months' unpaid salaries, and a hike in fees amongst others issues, with the authorities unable to victimise the workers.

Struggles

The working class struggles have brought many opportunities to kick out the regime and defeat its anti-poor policies. However, the labour leaders' lack of a viable working-class alternative has prevented maximum gains being made.

The DSM has been fully involved in all these struggles. Amongst other things, we have been campaigning for these general strikes to be organised so that all basic issues affecting the daily lives of the working masses, not just the hike in fuel prices, are included in the demands.

We've equally being campaigning for the formation of struggle/action committees at local and national levels for the effective democratic coordination of these strikes.

The DSM has also been campaigning for the labour movement to create a viable mass party of the working people committed to mass struggle on a daily basis to fight to protect the interests of the working people. It should also have the ultimate strategy of capturing political power from the present, ruinous capitalist class to form a workers' and poor peasant government.

Some of the DSM leaders have played key roles in the organisation of the general strikes through the Labour-Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) formed by the NLC.

During the May Day 2005 celebrations organised by the trade union movement, we were given special recognition to address a rally and to march under our own banner. But overall, the labour movement is still mainly dominated by labour leaders without an independent working class alternative.

However, the combination of unrelenting neo-liberal attacks on working people's living conditions and the potency of our ideas can favour a socialist working-class alternative.

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In The Socialist 30 June 2005:

Workers and poor rise up against poverty

Sri Lanka: The struggle for survival and justice goes on

Capitalism means poverty and exploitation

CWI - who we are - what we fight for

Iraq sinks deeper into the quagmire

How can we change the world?

Fight for a socialist plan

Socialism 2005

ISR - youth on the march

The struggle for socialism in Scotland

Make Homophobia and Capitalism History!

Organising against the two-tier workforce

Labour declares war on the NHS

Fiery speeches but bland policy statements


 

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