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category southern africa | workplace struggles | opinion / analysis author Wednesday May 04, 2005 18:11author by ? - ZACF Report this post to the editors

South African anarchist perspective on fighting privatisation

Tens of thousands of working and poor people facing evictions, disconnections and attachments of property. This situation of misery is directly linked to the process of privatisation. Privatisation is the process of turning government services and government companies into profit-making activities.

PRIVATISATION VERSUS PEOPLE
Privatisation is an issue that affects the working class directly. At every election time, we are visited by politicians who promise us the earth. After the elections, business as usual continues with tens of thousands of working and poor people facing evictions, disconnections and attachments of property. This situation of misery is directly linked to the process of privatisation. Privatisation is the process of turning government services and government companies into profit-making activities.

This means a few simple things:
§ Less jobs and lower wages, with less benefits
§ Outsourcing
§ Sky-rocketing prices for services
§ Evictions and cut-offs and attachments if we get behind in payments

PRIVATISATION = PROFITS THROUGH POVERTY
So, for instance, electricity payments increase because ESKOM wants to make more money and recover its debts. This is done in order to make the company more profitable. It is also to make the company attractive to big business: ANC and SACP government minister Jeff Radebe has vowed to sell DENEL, ESKOM, TELKOM and SPOORNET to the big companies by the end of 2002. Radebe hopes that big business in South Africa - companies such as Anglo-American and Sanlam and overseas companies - such as Suez-Lyonnaise - will buy these companies.

GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE
In makes no real difference, in practice, if these companies remain owned by the government or become owned by big business. The basic problem already exists: the drive by government, led by the ANC, to turn government companies and government services into sources of profit. ESKOM is 100% government owned. Yet it cuts off nearly 15, 000 people a month in Soweto alone. Government is co-owner of Servcon, the company that enforces evictions on the East Rand. TELKOM is 70% government-owned, yet it has raised telephone charges over 30% over the last 5 years.

The point is simple. When we fight privatisation, we do NOT think that government ownership of these companies and services is a solution. On the contrary, there is NO difference anymore whatsoever between government-owned companies and privately-owned companies. Both are profit-driven, anti-worker and anti-union in nature. This means our struggle is a struggle against BOTH big business AND the government.

GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP IS NOT SOCIALISM
We should also add that there is nothing "socialist" about government-ownership of companies. Some of the most anti-worker companies in history have been government-owned. For revolutionary anarchists the question is clear: socialism means workers self-management; self-management is the exact opposite of state control; and repressive state control cannot in any sense be described as workers selfmanagement.

Therefore we are not against privatisation because we love the government and fear it is losing power because of privatisation. We hate the government, to be honest. The real reason we hate privatisation is because it hurts the working class. And that is more than enough reason.

WHY IS PRIVATISATION HAPPENING?
Privatisation is happening because big business around the world is facing an economic crisis. This economic crisis is similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s. This time the Great Depression is taking place in slow motion: there is a long-term economic decline on a worldwide scale since the 1960s, which has become most noticeable since 1973. We are still living in the crisis.

Big business is trying to make the working class pay for the crisis through a set of neoliberal policies such as privatisation and casualisation. In other words, anti-working class policies such as privatisation exist to drive down the wages and living conditions of the working class in order to restore the profits of big business. This means that these policies are NOT caused by a few rotten politicians, or ignorant managers: instead these policies are the evil heart-and-soul of modern day capitalism. Therefore, our fight against privatisation is a fight against CAPITALISM itself, a fight against the profit-making system of low-wage jobs, expensive goods and services, undemocratic workplaces, war and racism.

THE FRAUD OF ELECTIONS
We revolutionary anarchists call the elections a fraud. Not because they were rigged, but because the elections are NOT democratic. At no point whatsoever were the politicians given a mandate from the masses to implement privatisation. At no point whatsoever were the politicians given the right to get fat at our expense, to evict and disconnect us, to cut-off our rights and our lights.

Clearly, the government does not serve the people. It serves big business and the rich. This is shown by the fact that every government in the world is implementing neo-liberal policies, and in no case with a mandate from the working class. We should not participate in this rotten system, this political Mafia. The bosses and the politicians are in it together, the rich ganging up on the poor.

WORKING CLASS MUST RULE
Therefore it is our right to fi ght the government and aim to replace it with a new system that serves the people. This should be a system of worker and community councils based on mandated delegates. Instead of voting every five years for a lying politician, we should have the right to immediately recall dishonest representatives. Instead of leaving all decisions to a few so-called experts, we should have the right to participate wherever possible in decisions that affect us. We should have the right to control our workplaces, as well as our communities and schools.

Is this possible? Yes, history shows examples of working class people taking control and running the world democratically, whether the Paris Commune, the Spanish Revolution, Hungary 1956, or "peoples power" in 1980s South Africa. The working class should own the means of production for our own benefit.

OUR AIMS
Our fundamental aim is destroy the situation of privatisation and to end the system of capitalism that gave rise to the problem. Our aim is for workers and communities to take over and directly control the government companies and services (as well as the private companies and services). Direct action, not elections, is the key. We aim to collectivise these companies, to take them over and place them under direct worker/ community control and self-management through revolutionary action.

Long live the working class.
OUR LIVES WILL BE BETTER WHEN THE RICH ARE OVERTHROWN.

OUR DEMANDS
§ We call to intensify Operation Khanyisa: the working class must take matters into its own hands and refuse to allow disconnections to continue
§ We call for a boycott of service charges by working class people
§ We call on workers and communities to have the power to veto all relevant decisions by government companies and services
§ We call for a halt to retrenchments, enforced through workplace occupations

CAN'T PAY - WON'T PAY

Brought to you by BIKISHA MEDIA COLLECTIVE and the RED AND BLACK FORUM

As revolutionary anarchists, we believe in a revolution by the working class that will overthrow the bosses and their governments, and create a society run and controlled by those who actually produce the wealth of the world. We believe that it is possible to live without government and to put in its place councils and assemblies where the "ordinary people" can decide what happens to this wealth. We believe in the equality of all and that maximum solidarity is needed between workers and other oppressed groups if we are to defeat those who live off our sweat.

BMC
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Private Bag X42, Braamfontein, 2017, South Africa

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Revista "Socialismo Libertário" num. 2

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