ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, January 1975


Basker Vashee

Class Struggle in Southern Africa


From Notes of the Month, International Socialism, No.74, January 1975, p.4.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Basker Vashee writes: The extraordinary events of the past fortnight in Southern Africa are a culmination of an intense class struggle for power. For once that impregnable citadel of white capitalist power in Southern Africa seems to be floundering; as unheard of concessions are being granted to the oppressed black majority in Rhodesia. The black nationalist leadership, imprisoned for ten years, are now legally allowed to take part in political activities, although to markedly restricted circumstances.

The situation came about as a result of three major developments. The FRELIMO victory in Mozambique, after the April coup in Portugal, was a stinging blow to the stability of both South Africa and Rhodesia. Secondly, in the past year the Zambian economy took a heavy beating, as a result of sanctions against Rhodesia. Trade with South Africa had been increasing.

The price of copper, Zambias main export, was subject to fluctuations and in spite of high international prices, costs were soaring. It became vital for Zambia to restore cheap coal supplies for the mines, from Rhodesia. Thirdly, the intensity of the guerilla war in Rhodesia was increasing. The militants of both Zapu and Zanu were finding a politically responsive peasantry to train militarily and engage in the ‘armed struggle’. In the cities the mobilization of workers in cells was for once confronting the overstretched Rhodesian security forces.

These immediate events hastened the promotion of ‘détente’ between South Africa and black Africa, it was almost a year ago that the US state department began initiating a meeting between the SA premier Vorster and certain black leaders in West Africa. Zambian officials have been visiting Pretoria on and off throughout the year, and the South African government found these contacts important in its peace making bid with FRELIMO in Mozambique. This policy of ‘détente’ also, coincided with the increasing militancy of black workers in South Africa. The continuing strike movement could either be ruthlessly repressed or absorbed by the granting of piecemeal concessions which are now pathetically being considered as a prelude to a breaking down of Apartheid. The fact is that the ruling Afrikaner Nationalist Party have a larger industrial and financial stake in South Africa then ever before and its creaking movement to concede to workers demands is a reflection of .its contracting rural economic base.

It was, however, the head of the largest industrial and mining conglomeration in Southern Africa, the Anglo American Corporation, Mr Harry Oppenheimers empire, that let the cat out of the bag. In a statement a week ago he blandly stated that ‘detente’ was crucial to the continuation of gold supplies from South Africa. The majority of the black workers in the gold mines came from outside South Africa, mostly from Mozambique. If a neo-colonial solution could be found in Rhodesia and South Africa relinquished control over Namibia, they calculated that their labour supply will continue. Such a formulation would also stabilise the Southern Africa industrial complex. With not undue modesty, Oppenheimer also pointed out that AA Corp also owns the Wankie Colliery in Rhodesia and has a major stake in the Zambian copper mines. The industrial complex itself, with its base in SA, embraces all the countries of the region, including countries furtiier north in Africa. It is a profitable complex, with its combination of high technology and cheap black labour.

Not surprsingly British, American and Western European capital is dominant.

The first test for this calculated ‘deal’ must be in Rhodesia. Most nationalist militants will not accept a complete ceasefire with the Rhodesian security forces, even if South Africa withdraws its troops. The expected five months of legal activity can mobilise the workers and peasants in a united Party that could not accept anything less than majority rule. No one believes that any nationalist leader could at the end of this period, survive a compromise. For socialists the task is to organise its presence within the militant movement.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 24.3.2008