Sisters and Brothers of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union and, of your guests — the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), I greet you all as militant, historic labor unions who have in the past, the present, and I’m sure in the future, continue the noble struggle for the working class in both countries.
As I write these words, I’m mindful of the horrors brought to us by the unholy alliance between capital and the state exhibited in all its ugliness in the Marikana massacre of August 16, 2012.
NUMSA has rightly called this event a turning point in history, which finds its echo in the shameful Sharpeville massacre of 1960 and the Soweto massacre of school children in 1976. There, school kids took to the streets in protest of new rules forcing the teaching of Afrikaans, the language of white, Dutch descendant settlers in South Africa to Black students. They knew that such a language would be of little use anywhere else in the world other than South Africa.
Here in Marikana, Black mine workers were protesting for a few measly dollars from a foreign mining concern, Lonmin mining. Living at virtually starvation wages, workers fought for a living wage from a consortium making millions off of their labor.
The owners gave orders to South African police to answer their demands with death. The ANC government, in many ways put in power by memories of events like Sharpeville, passed the orders down, and 34 miners and metal workers were executed in defense of capital.
This was indeed a turning point, but not for South Africa alone. This was a global turning point. We hope that this puts a stake into the vampire of neo-liberalism. For when events such as this happen, it shows us the true face of neo-liberalism—that of conservatism and capitalism with a smile.
May you grow in numbers and militancy.