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People must empower themselves, not wait for government

category southern africa | the left | opinion / analysis author Saturday January 26, 2008 22:15author by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front - ZACFauthor email international at zabalaza dot netauthor address Postnet Suite 47, Private Bag X1, Fordsburg, 2033, South Africa Report this post to the editors

ZACF on the recent Young Communist League (YCL) Statement on the Unjustifiable Increase of Bread. [ Ελληνικά ]

"We call on government to empower our people, especially through community cooperatives with the necessary inputs for bread production, namely land, tractors and seeds to plough wheat." - this was the demand made by the Young Communist League (YCL) in their recent Statement on the Unjustifiable Increase of Bread.

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) agrees with the YCL that "This increase will have negative consequences on the majority of our people, especially the working class and the poor youth who rely on bread as a source of living." We support the YCL and Cosatu in defying this price increase. We regard the vast and repeated increases in the bread price – and in the prices of maize meal, other grains and food in general – as a direct attack by capitalist profiteers on the very survival of workers and the poor. An attack against which workers and the poor need to defend themselves.

But the YCL does not seem to recognise the inherent contradiction in its statement.

The YCL stated its concern "that government is not protecting our people and allows the capitalist market to undermine our struggle of building sustainable livelihoods as a results of excessive prices of bread and other basic commodities", but they are missing the point. If government did anything other than protect market interests, the YCL would have reason for concern. But that is not the case; the government is protecting the interests of the market at the expense of the people it is supposed to serve. This is what us anarchist communists have been saying all along, and this is where we differ with the state socialists. Government cannot, and will not protect the people from the capitalist market, as the very purpose for government is to protect the capitalists, or capitalism, from the people.

Government, by its very nature, disempowers people by controlling and regulating their lives, limiting their freedom to move and live as they please and by making decisions that affect people's lives without first consulting them. By acting on our behalf, and denying us the opportunity to act for ourselves, governements - of all colours and ideological leanings - undermine our ability for individual and collective empowerment.

Meaningful and lasting empowerment cannot come from anywhere other than through the self-organised and self-managed activity and mobilisation of the people themselves, of a people in search and in struggle of a better life for all.

Whatever workers and the poor have won from the bosses or the government – higher wages, shorter hours, electricity, water, houses, lower rent, the defeat of the apartheid regime – they have won in struggle, not because the government decided out of a sense of responsibility or the goodness of its heart to give us these things. If we want bread, we must fight for bread.

As a result of our struggles or otherwise, the government might back a community cooperative, as the YCL suggests, by providing it with the "necessary inputs for bread production, namely land, tractors and seeds to plough wheat". But if we just rely on the government and do not continue the struggle, what is likely to happen is that those people will be expected to operate their cooperative according to market values, and sell their produce on the market instead of feeding themselves and their community. Government might subsidise a few small cooperatives, the participants in which might have access to a better life, but the government will never socialise all the "necessary inputs for bread production", and so the vast majority of the people, those in urban areas for example, will not benefit from these symbolic acts of empowerment.

If we do win support for co-operatives, or cheaper bread, or even free bread, we must carry on the fight. As long as the government and capitalists are in place, whatever we force them to give us, they can still try to take back.

For anarchist communists the only way to empowerment, and the only way for people to protect themselves from the capitalist market is to organise collectively to rid the world of that market; a market that tramples on the needs and rights of the many to satisfy the profits of the few.

We hold that people must collectively organise themselves, across all the industries of the land - both urban and rural - in every school and in every township, to take control of the "necessary inputs of bread production" and the necessary inputs to satisfy all our needs, and place them under the collective ownership and control of the people. No government, whether socialist or not, can ever do this as the sole reason for existence of government is to protect the rich from the poor, and so it is up to the people themselves to create a better life for all. To create a free socialism, without bosses or politicians.

Let us wait no longer for government to act, let us act ourselves. The anarchist revolutionary Emma Goldman once said "If they don't give you bread, take bread." Today we take bread; tomorrow we take the farms, the factories, the railways, the roads, the ships, everything that we ourselves built, that was taken from us, that we need to run our own lives. Onward to the collective appropriation of all the necessary inputs for a better life for all.

You cannot empower people, people must empower themselves.

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