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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 May 2013

South African economy: Mass sacking threat demands mass action

Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, South Africa) reporters

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) has denounced Amplats' (Anglo American - the world's largest platinum producer) cold-blooded plans to slash 6,000 jobs.

WASP stands in solidarity with the Amplats workers who are threatening strike action in protest.

With every worker supporting between six and ten dependants and each mining job estimated to generate another 26 jobs in the wider economy, these job losses spell disaster for mineworkers, their families and working class communities.

If the Amplats rentrenchment plan succeeds, mass retrenchments are likely to follow across the economy.

WASP therefore calls on all Amplats workers, the National Workers Committee and the unions in the mining industry to mobilise for united, well-organised and effective resistance.

In particular, all the federations of labour, should organise a 24-hour general strike as the starting point for a campaign of rolling mass action to unite the entire working class to defeat the retrenchments at Amplats and elsewhere.

Timing

Amplats has been condemned by other capitalists for allegedly capitulating under the pressure of the unions and the government in limiting the job cuts to 6,000 from the original 14,000.

Investors have been determined to claw back the concessions they were forced to make after the strike wave that swept across the mining industry in the latter half of 2012.

In fact, Amplats has not reneged on its investor-dictated mandate to cut production and retrench 14,000 workers.

It has simply changed the timing. The 6,000 retrenchments are merely the first instalment.

As part of the restructuring of the entire industry the mining bosses are contemplating up to 200,000 job cuts over the next five years.

Hence, Anglo Gold Ashanti has announced mechanisation of production and Sibanye Gold has announced that 5,000 workers in its Gauteng mines are "in surplus", while 3,000 will be fired as the Beatrix West mine is shut down.

With the sharpest fall in the gold price since 1983, the Chinese economy slowing markedly and continued recession in the USA, Europe and Japan, more mining companies are likely to follow suit.

This is in a situation where South Africa's real unemployment rate is 38% (as opposed to the official rate at 25.2%).

Despite the fact that these fabulously wealthy mining companies have been hugely profitable for decades, and are easily able to pay the justified wage demands of the workers, a media storm of vicious anti-working class propaganda has accompanied the jobs threats, which deliberately omits or distorts the facts about the profitability of the mines.

With no end in sight for the global economic crisis, the bosses fear that demand will decline. They are thus putting measures in place now to protect their profits against short, medium and long-term decline.

The real agenda of the Amplats bosses, the Chamber of Mines and the entire capitalist elite is to break the back of workers' unity and resistance and to restore the pre-Marikana (where 34 striking miners were gunned down by police, last August) balance of forces.

Workers have correctly concluded that the recent killing of miners, starting with the assassination of AMCU (independent union) workers' leader Mawethu Steven, is no coincidence.

The same modus operandi is at work now as last year: sinister killings, which never really ceased, by unknown forces that the police have yet to identify and arrest, to create an atmosphere of terror, and division among workers.

With the workers divided, the bosses hope to push through their cuts on jobs and production, and to comfortably sit out the strikes they expect as wage negotiations now begin.

The only alternative for the workers is to unite and fight back if the capitalists are not going to walk over the broken bones of their workforce on the way to the recovery of their system.

More cuts

With South Africa's economy in crisis, we can predict that the government - rather than taxing lavish company profits to increase its income - will try to cut public spending.

This means wage freezes and probable retrenchments in the public sector and certainly no further expansion of the social welfare net.

WASP believes the crisis in the mining industry is a mirror of the crisis in the capitalist economy as a whole.

The only way not just to save but to create jobs is for the mining industry along with the commanding heights of the economy to be nationalised under the democratic control and management of the working class.

It would then be possible to plan the economy to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority.

WASP

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) was launched on Sharpeville Day (21 March) to a packed hall of over 500 Pretoria municipality workers; mineworkers' delegates from a dozen mines in gold, platinum, coal and iron ore; and executive members of the 20,000-strong revolutionary transport union Natawu. The launch received extensive coverage in the South African media.

The initiative to launch WASP was born directly out of the experiences of the mineworkers in the course of their 2012 strike action.

The brutal repression and collusion of the state, the mine bosses and the corrupt union leaders, culminating in the Marikana massacre, crystalized one clear sentiment in the minds of millions: 'the ANC government does not care about us and we need our own political alternative'.

At a meeting at the end of last year, six of the rank and file strike committees that sprang up during the strikes, along with the Democratic Socialist Movement, agreed to take the step of launching WASP.

The mineworkers' national strike committee voted unanimously to back WASP at its meeting on 9 March.

WASP aims to unite the struggles of workers, communities and young people under one umbrella. WASP stands for the nationalisation of the mines and other sectors of the economy under democratic workers' control and management and intends to contest the 2014 general election.

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