The 2010 Mass Strike in the State Sector, South Africa : Positive Achievements but Serious Problems
The August-September 2010 mass strike in the South African state sector demonstrated remarkable working class unity across racial and ideological lines, as 1.3 million workers of all colours stopped work for four weeks despite severe economic recession. The strikers' determination reflected growing frustration with low wages and at the glaring political corruption and enrichment of the elite, plus the drive - by African, coloured and Indian workers specifically - to attain living conditions breaking decisively with the oppression and immiseration of the apartheid past. Yet the strikers' partial victory was tarnished by tactics that divided strikers from the larger working class - notably, hospital disruptions - and a failure to raise demands that linked union and community struggles against both neo-liberalism and the apartheid legacy. The top-down manner whereby the strike was ended makes workers cynical about their own unions, demonstrating the alarming bureaucratisation and centralisation that has arisen, in large part, due to union leaders being enmeshed in the African National Congress (the neo-liberal governing party) and state industrial relations machinery. Unions should re-orientate towards other working class movements, outside and against the state, to fight for a libertarian and socialist transformation, from below. The ideas of anarcho-syndicalism - raised at the 2009 COSATU Congress - provide a useful starting point.