South Africa: Organised xenophobia – how should the working class respond?

The majority of people have reacted with horror at the violent death of Elvis Nyathi, stoned and burned to death by a murderous mob in Diepsloot, South Africa. According to his wife, the mob had broken into their dwelling and demanded R300. When she offered them the only money she had, R50, they turned on him, pursued him as he fled, cornered him and took his life. The Marxist Workers Party (MWP) condemns this act of unbridled barbarism. We express our sympathy and solidarity with his family and indeed the entire Diepsloot community amongst whom he had lived in peace.

Nyathi happened to be Zimbabwean and of course killed for that reason. But he could easily have been South African. In the 2008 outbreak of xenophobic violence, of the 63 who lost their lives, 21 were South African. Of course, the lives of the other 42 immigrants were no less valuable than those of the South African killed. This wave of xenophobic violence, which has only just begun, is taking place under even worse social conditions than those of 2008 when capitalism first exposed its barbaric underbelly.

It is a warning particularly to the black working class amongst whom these events are so far confined, but which can break out into other racial and ethnic communities in future. The events in the predominantly Indian town of Phoenix during the July riots are a warning of what is possible. Inherent in it is the possibility of not only even worse pogroms against immigrants, but of inter-ethnic and even racial conflict amongst South Africans themselves.

As the July riots also showed, criminal gangs lurking in the crevices of a capitalist system in crisis, which have no particular political agenda, are always poised to take advantage of such upheavals adding to the mayhem.

Working class people have absolutely nothing to gain from such reactionary developments. The majority of working and middle class people, even those susceptible to the appeal of the xenophobic messaging, do not support the violence and recoil from it in revulsion. But in the climate created by the xenophobia, and the social conditions in which it breeds, it requires only a small minority to act. As the violence and mayhem is unleashed, the majority look on horrified but passively, paralysed by a lack of leadership.

As we explain below, responsibility for this wave of social and political reaction lies squarely on the shoulders of the ruling economic and political elite – the capitalist class and their servants, the ANC government. To their criminal role has now been added, with greater stridency, the voice of opposition parties old and new.  The leaders of some of them, just like their political antagonists in the ruling ANC, are directly or indirectly implicated in the rampant corruption that has aggravated the economic and social crisis.

Only the working class can halt this xenophobia. These events are a warning to the working class to organise to combat this phenomenon and the social and economic crises the crisis-ridden capitalist system has created. The even worse pogroms that may come will induce greater paralysis, deepen the sense of helplessness and divide and weaken working people even more. Most important of all, xenophobic attacks will solve absolutely nothing.  A divided working class will be even weaker in the face of the attacks by the capitalist class and their government that the crisis of their system obliges them to escalate.

How is xenophobia connected to the social, economic and political crisis?

Operation Dudula’s xenophobia is repulsive. But under the pressure of the ever-deepening crisis of capitalism the reactionary role that Dudula could play is not automatically limited to potentially spearheading a repetition of the 2008 and 2015 explosions of xenophobic violence.

Over the last seven years SA capitalism’s stagnation has continued. Two ‘technical’ recessions preceded the biggest collapse in economic output since 1945 under the blows of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Two years later and the economy is still smaller than before the pandemic. Since 2015 GDP per capita has decreased – people have gotten poorer. Unemployment has headed only upwards. More than 46% of the working-age population is now unemployed. Since 2015 another generation has been denied a future. Youth unemployment is 70%. The lockdowns’ repeated disruptions to the school calendar has increased dropouts. Informal and small businesses have been devastated too. Now inflation is picking up. The rising prices of basic goods is squeezing living standards further even before the full-effects of the war in Ukraine are felt. The disintegration of local government has continued. The services it should provide to communities are missing in action. The police forces are dysfunctional and riddled with corruption. In the vacuum crime, drugs, gangsterism and gender-based violence have become epidemic. Across the board there is a growing social collapse.

During the last explosion of xenophobic violence in 2015, Jacob Zuma was in power. The ‘Radical Economic Transformation’ faction and its ‘state capture’ project was only just beginning its descent from power. Since then the ruling class’s political crisis has gone from bad to worse. Ramaphosa’s ‘new dawn’ came to nothing. Seven years of debilitating factional conflict within the ANC, but increasingly spilling out of it, culminated in the unrest of July 2021. This revealed like never before that the RET faction had gathered around itself, to borrow a phrase from Trotsky, “all the putrid vapours of disintegrating bourgeois society”. It mobilised criminal networks and mafias posing as so-called “business forums”; the xenophobic murderers of the All Truck Drivers Forum; the tribally-based criminal networks of the hostels and supporters within institutions of the Zulu monarchy; thugs masquerading as MK veterans; the SANDF “Cadres” group within the army; and the anti-democratic ‘rogue’ elements created in Zuma’s ‘deep state’ centred on the State Security Agency.

Corruption has continued unabated. The pandemic itself became a new license to loot. The masses’ anger and frustration with all the capitalist politicians and parties has grown relentlessly. In the November 2021 local government elections quantity transformed into quality. The ANC’s vote sank below 50% for the first time in the face of massive voter abstention. The DA and the EFF were incapable of capitalising on the ANC’s losses. They shed huge numbers of votes themselves. The established capitalist parties are panicking and growing more and more desperate. A new crop of political opportunists is growing-up in the likes of ActionSA, the Patriotic Alliance etc. The crisis of the main parties and the huge vacuum of working class politics rewards them with a role out of all proportion to their real social support.

These are the processes that have both created Operation Dudula and set the stage that it has emerged on to.

Operation Dudula Politically Exploits Poverty and Destitution

The capitalist ANC government’s “solution” to the crisis, especially after the 2008 global financial implosion, has only deepened it even further. It placed the burden of the crisis on the shoulders of the working class by intensifying austerity with eye-watering cuts in social spending, on education, health, social services and housing especially, whilst cutting taxes for the rich. The result is soaring unemployment, a growing housing backlog and collapsing local government services in health and education. It is reflected in the mushrooming of informal settlements, growing overcrowding, deepening poverty in urban and rural areas alike, collapse in service delivery and infrastructure.

The relative success of migrant small businesses is due to the cheaper goods compared to the supermarket chains and mega stores in urban and rural areas; longer opening hours and even credit to customers. This has created conflicting class attitudes towards them within communities. The poor prefer the custom of foreign-owned spaza shops whose businesses consequently flourish. Small entrepreneurs on the other hand, often the victims of predatory pricing by big stores, extortionate interest rates by financial institutions and a lack of state support despite the establishment of a ministry dedicated to small business, leading to a high business failure rate, look upon foreign-owned businesses with envy. Despite their widespread presence in working class communities, foreign migrant communities are not integrated with the local communities, socially, economically or politically.

In these conditions, Operation Dudula is able to falsely blame foreigners for mass unemployment and crime, especially drug dealing. It demands that foreigners must be expelled from the country so that 100% of jobs and informal and small business opportunities can go to South Africans. Over this ‘core message’ is peppered anti-establishment and even semi-class rhetoric that appeals to people’s enormous anger at corruption, the ANC-government and all capitalist politicians in general.

Operation Dudula criticises the police for inaction against criminals and ‘illegal’ foreigners but claims its intention is only to help the police by reinforcing them with Dudula activists and ‘operations’. This posture as defenders of ‘law and order’ is mixed with nationalist rhetoric about reclaiming South Africa’s “sovereignty” from foreigners. Operation Dudula explains the misery and desperation of the masses as a result of South Africans being disenfranchised in their own country. South Africans are forced to the back of the queue for jobs, housing and services by foreigners who enjoy more rights than them.

In longer interviews Dudula’s leader, Nhlanhla Lux, mixes this right-wing populism with the cause célèbres of the black petty bourgeoisie. This includes ‘radical’ posturing on the ‘return of the land’ and calls for the unity of black people. This reflects the petty bourgeois class character of the Operation Dudula leadership. They are entrepreneurs and small business people. Lux himself is an avid golfer and claims to be a trained pilot. His family background is that of the so-called “comrade tsotsis” of the 1990s – the same pro-ANC criminal networks that evolved, particularly in KZN, into the RET faction’s main base. Descriptions of Lux as a “toy soldier” or a “political entrepreneur” sums-up the Dudula leadership.

There is little in Operation Dudula’s rhetoric that would be out of place in the mouths of ActionSA, Patriotic Alliance, or even ANC politicians.

Tapping into an inchoate anti-party mood it styles itself a grass roots “movement”. In contrast with the inaction and broken promises of out-of-touch politicians and unresponsive political parties Operation Dudula is on the streets promising immediate solutions to burning problems – anti-foreigner marches, door-to-door checks on foreign-residents’ documents, evicting foreign traders from malls and markets and marches to large workplaces pressuring managements to disclose the number of foreign-workers they employ and demanding plans for their replacement with South Africans.

Capitalist Parties Stoke Xenophobia to Reverse Electoral Decline

Although Operation Dudula rejects the idea of being a political party, its actions have fed into and been adopted by the ruling ANC and the more prominent opposition parties even as they hypocritically pose as opponents of Operation Dudula’s violent excesses.

Capitalist politicians from all the parties have repeatedly played with the dangerous fire of xenophobia over the years. Today, lacking any solutions to the economic and social disaster their policies have created, the main capitalist parties are trying to shore up their electoral sport by supplementing the economic and social exploitation of the working class with political exploitation. The temptation to do so by scapegoating foreigners is irresistible across the capitalist political spectrum. The ANC government itself has been stoking the flames anew with proposals to remove the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit and to amend legislation further restricting the rights of foreign-nationals to work and own businesses in South Africa. ANC spokesperson, Pule Mabe, has described Operation Dudula as “a constructive and progressive” community forum. Several other ANC leaders, including ministers, have also indicated their support.

The DA tolerated Mashaba’s xenophobic outbursts for years when he was the DA City of Joburg mayor. Now the DA is competing with their ex-member in that space, demanding that governments of foreign nationals should pay for medical treatment in SA. The flames of xenophobia the EFF fanned through its highly publicised foreigner quota workplace inspections, licked the party itself as Operation Dudula vigilantes violently raided the home of one of its own members in Soweto. The climate for this was inflamed by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi during his stint in his previous portfolio as Health Minister, spreading fake news that foreigners are overwhelming public hospitals.

But none of this has done anything to arrest the capitalist parties’ decline in support. Even to those parties that enjoyed some relative successes in November’s election Operation Dudula appears to be tapping a mood that even they could not. ActionSA, the Patriotic Alliance and even Azapo are opportunistically falling over each other to associate with Operation Dudula.

The despicable xenophobia competition amongst the capitalist parties, is rooted in their loss of electoral support across the board. In the 2021 local government elections, only 31% (12 million) of the eligible voting population cast their votes. Having failed to win support for their capitalist policies, all these parties are attempting to shore up their electoral support by capitalising on the despair of the destitute and the marginalised.  With the newly formed ActionSA and Patriotic Alliance fishing in the same anti-immigrant waters, all the capitalist parties have reinforced each other’s xenophobia.

The capitalist class, alarmed over the decline of their main parties — the ANC, debilitated by its factional civil war and the stalling of a divided DA – are making contingency plans for a pro-capitalist coalition government given the possibility that the ANC may not be able to form a government on its own in 2024. Former Financial Mail and Business Day editor, Peter Bruce reflects the ruling class’s priorities – to stabilise capitalist rule. However distasteful Mashaba’s xenophobia may be Bruce confesses, Mashaba is not my favourite guy but he’s a capitalist who wants to create other capitalists, a free marketeer…”.[1]

In similar vein, Financial Mail columnist Justice Malala, reveals the despair gripping the capitalist ruling class.  “The ANC has lost its way … its leader has chosen the appeasement of his comrades above a strong stand for SA,” Malala paints a scenario of the RET seizing control of the ANC, losing the 2024 elections, rejecting the outcome, capturing the IEC and rigging the elections. For that reason he makes a plea for ActionSA, despite its internal bickering, not be allowed to fail.  “I find ActionSA’s utterances on immigration deplorable and xenophobic, but that does not mean this party is not key to the strengthening of our democracy…. Mashaba has at the very least shown himself to be a strong proponent of the rule of law, non-racialism and economic prosperity.”[2]

By pitting the poor against the poor, xenophobia can be regarded with benign neglect by big business. It is after all but a modern incarnation of the divide-and-rule policies that had served capitalism so well under colonialism and apartheid. This is why ActionSA is raking in millions in big business contributions. Bruce wishes that Mashaba could one day determine the country’s political destiny.

Reactionary Pole of Attraction

Nor is big business the only social force, with a vested interest in the success of these reactionary formations. The IEC report on party political donations reveals that the Numsa Investment Company, under the influence of its RET-supporting secretary general Ivin Jim, has betrayed every principle of working class solidarity and internationalism by donating hundreds of thousands to the ANC, the EEF, the ATM and the Patriotic Alliance thereby allowing workers funds to finance xenophobia.  These are all different electoral vehicles of the aspirant black capitalist class. The connection between this and the attempt to retain the capture of Numsa by these forces even at the cost of the destruction of the country’s biggest union and that of Saftu, is not coincidental. It is located within the logic of capitalism, whatever variety the RETs inside and outside the ANC prefers.

Operation Dudula is also acting as a pole of attraction for elements of the coalition of RET forces behind the July riots, to rally around. The All Truck Drivers Forum for example has supported Dudula’s marches. The sinister use of social media to try and whip-up moods, set the terms of debate in the media and spread misinformation was a hallmark of the RET faction as far back as the Zuma presidency. It was used again in the July unrest. A campaign is again underway around the #PutSouthAfricaFirst hashtag and others such as #WeWantOurCountryBack and #ForeignersMustGo. News24 reporters investigating the July unrest identified that “seeding violent conflict within easily splintered communities was part of the master plan…”. The circulation of anonymous WhatsApp voice notes threatening to attack Indian families, for example, was part of the background to the Phoenix massacre.

There is every reason to think that the RET faction would seek to harness Operation Dudula to their agenda. In the July unrest the “master plan” was to create anarchy to portray the government, and Ramaphosa in particular, as weak, helping to clear the way for his removal and their return to power. The furore around Operation Dudula has already prised open cracks in the Ramaphosa camp with key allies such as Thandi Modise putting forward positions on foreign-nationals at odds with Ramaphosa’s. Thandi Modise is Defence Minister. The Cadre Group in the SANDF stands for the deportation of all foreigners within 90 days.

Operation Dudula does not have to have been created by the RET faction, or be controlled by it, for it to serve such an agenda. The fact that Lux achieved national prominence defending Maponya Mall in Soweto against the July unrest is entirely irrelevant.

With the weeks ticking-down to the ANC’s December conference a new attempt to destabilise the country is a possibility. There is a real danger that the orchestrated and coordinated methods of the July unrest will be used to initiate a new wave of xenophobic violence far exceeding the severity and scope of 2008 and 2015. Instigation and organisation of xenophobic violence is nothing new. But up to now this has been limited to localised political and patronage networks. But Operation Dudula, regardless of the intentions of Lux, can potentially become a vehicle for the instigation and organisation of xenophobic violence on a national scale whilst serving as a front for other reactionary organisations. Dudula’s provincial launches do not need to attract thousands to lay the foundations for networks of the type that seeded chaos in July 2021. Against the background of the accelerating social collapse, the conscious whipping-up of xenophobia, and the absence of any alternative, matches can again be thrown on to the wells of anger and discontent in impoverished and desperate communities.

Consciousness & Crisis

The conditions for reaction to build its potential social base are being strengthened by disintegrating capitalism. The economic and social crisis also tells a story of the declassing and lumpenisation of growing sections of the working class. The capitalist workplace demands a collective response to exploitation against an enemy defined first and foremost in terms of class. Ejected from the workplace however, or never having been allowed to enter it, millions are forced into the struggle for survival as individuals. Who is to blame for their suffering is no longer as straightforward. In such a state, as the July unrest vividly demonstrated, this social layer is vulnerable to manipulation and of being mobilised behind anti-working class political agendas.

Operation Dudula is exploiting a mood amongst a layer of the working class and poor, borne of utter desperation, that something, anything, must be done and it must be done NOW – “we cannot suffer another day!” The furious rejection of the label “xenophobic” at Operation Dudula ‘operations’ reflects the crude idea that, “Yes! Of course we understand all of our problems cannot be reduced to foreigners, but the quickest way to ease the immediate pressure on jobs, housing and services, for us to get some relief, no matter how small, would be for these people just to go home!”

The anger at capitalist politicians is also increasingly felt toward the trade union leaders. The enormous frustration at the lack of leadership and outright betrayals is becoming palpable. New corruption scandals have been revealed. Absolutely nothing was done during the pandemic to arrest the jobs bloodbath. The two ‘general’ strikes called in 2020 flopped miserably. The attack on public sector pay was surrendered without a struggle undermining the entire collective bargaining system. Anti-working class court precedents have reinforced other anti-trade union legislation introduced with the cooperation of the majority of trade union leaders. The trade union leaderships are unwilling to lift a finger to organise serious solidarity action with the strikes that do take place – Clover, Sibanye etc. The bosses dig in because they can, weathering damaging strikes to break the back of trade union organisation.

On the political front, the Cosatu leadership calls on workers to vote for the ANC. The Saftu leadership has squandered the momentum created out of the 2018 Working Class Summit towards the creation of a mass workers party. The SACP 2.0 grouping in the Numsa leadership has consciously sabotaged this process. Now they have been exposed as funders of anti-working class political parties, including xenophobes cheering on Operation Dudula!

The tectonic shifts that have taken place in society since the last wave of xenophobic violence, and the confused and complex consciousness this has given rise to, has largely failed to register on the trade union leaders and the wider left. In response to Operation Dudula’s emergence it has been business as usual so far. The complete failure of the trade union leaders to put up a serious fight against the disaster of the last several years is the decisive factor in the growing boldness of reaction and the emergence of organisations like Operation Dudula.

Operation Dudula is the newest symptom of the growing boldness of reaction in South Africa in the face of the huge working class political vacuum that has been allowed to persist. The vacuum in working class leadership is reflected in Operation Dudula in a distorted borrowing of methods from the class struggle – marches, the submission of memoranda to management, self-organisation and direct action. On a recent Dudula ‘operation’ in Johannesburg targeting a Pic N Pay supermarket protestors invoked the spirit of the 1956 women’s march and the 1976 youth revolt!

Incapable of recognising their own culpability, they are equally incapable of comprehending what can develop within their own ranks as result of their inaction. More than once over the past few years xenophobic slogans have appeared on trade union banners, including Saftu affiliates. Burning with frustration at leaders who refuse to lead struggle even some organised workers can begin to think of Operation Dudula, “At least someone is doing something! Until you are willing to lift a finger do not criticise.” To other workers abandoned by the trade union leaders and thrown on the scrap-heap of unemployment, the idea of marching to workplaces to create vacancies through ejecting foreigners, can, out of desperation, seem to offer a way forward compared to the total inaction and betrayals of the trade union leaders.

Despite the dangers in the situation the capitalist reaction’s position is precarious. Operation Dudula is not a mass movement. The RET faction is forced to operate in the shadows, its unpopularity underscored by the collapse in the ANC vote in KZN in November. It is only the massive vacuum of working class leadership and politics that is allowing these forces any influence over the working class and poor.

Moralism

But if the Operation Dudula movement is not a mass movement at this stage, neither unfortunately, is the opposition to it. The organised working class and the trade unions, themselves disorientated by xenophobic infections, are completely absent. The mainly middle class left-led NGO-type formations, have a predominantly moralistic approach. Instead of taking a class approach and campaigning for the unity of the working class of all African countries against their common enemy – the corrupt capitalist elites in SA and their countries of origin, they champion an abstract and false identity of the unity of all Africans – the capitalist exploiters and working class slaves alike. This is unlikely to resonate amongst those seduced by the Operation Dudula leaders’ message and has no prospect of either tearing them away from them, nor inoculate the rest of the working class against the toxin of xenophobia and its blood relatives, racism and tribalism.

The facts they raise are correct. Migrants are not responsible for crime, poverty, mass unemployment and inequality. There are of course criminals amongst migrants as there are in all communities in all countries under capitalism. Crime is SA is overwhelmingly committed by South Africans. There are now more than 12m unemployed in SA. Only about 1 million of the estimated 3 million migrants in SA are in some form of employment. Therefore, even if every single migrant were to be deported it would make no significant difference to the destitution facing the working class majority into which the middle class is being dragged down into as well.

But to this must be added the capitalist crisis the ANC government has presided over. It must also be pointed out that governments under the rule of corrupt elites on the African continent for decades since independence, have been engaging in tit-for-tat deportations of hundreds of thousands utilising EU “Aid” provided for this purpose, without resolving a single problem facing those countries. In the most repugnant of these actions Cameroonian soldiers sent back Nigerians fleeing from Boko Haram’s barbarism, including beheadings, with the words “go and die in your own country”.

The false claims of the xenophobia leaders about the economy must of course be countered. The SA economy is being looted by big business in collaboration with foreign-owned multinationals which dominate the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with 40% share ownership. Foreign-owned multinationals like Arcellor Mittal are responsible for exploitation, retrenchments and dictating protectionist economic policies and import parity pricing that push up the steel prices and drives local steel manufacturers out of business. The bosses exploit migrants who are prepared to accept the pitifully low salaries and jobs insecurity to survive.

Just 10% of the 2,000 multinationals operating in SA are responsible for 90% of the R400bn smuggled out of the country every year in illicit capital flows according to Judge Dennis Davis, appointed by SARS to investigate this theft. The government is committed to even greater cuts which affect amongst others Home Affairs, leading to the closure of refugee centres, staff shortages and the mountainous backlog of asylum applications.

Operation Dudula’s greatest crime is to act as the defenders of the capitalist class and its government and to divide the working class. It is turning the anger of its followers towards the migrant victims of the crimes committed by the capitalist class and its ANC government, disempowering the working class in SA itself and poisoning relations with workers in the Southern African region on whose backs the SA economy was built. The ANC government and big business must also share responsibility for the economic collapse in e.g. Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the DRC. They have colluded with the political elites in these countries and facilitate SA companies pillaging their resources.

These facts, most of which are not generally known even amongst labour movement activists, must however, be explained patiently; not presented as nails to be hammered into the skulls of the wilfully ignorant.

Way Forward

The organised working class needs to work to re-establish itself as the decisive reference point in communities. It needs to take back the initiative on unemployment and crime. The trade union movement should be leading marches to workplaces, uniting workers with the unemployed, to demand, among other things:

  • Workers’ economic planning to end unemployment. Struggle for a reduction of the working week to 30 hours with no cuts in pay. Demand democratic control of hiring and firing and the re-design of shift patterns by workers’ representatives. Share out the work with the unemployed.

Re-establishing the leadership of the working class requires a struggle to politically and ideologically re-arm the trade union movement, renew its leaderships and create the basis for reuniting a fractured movement. This could include:

  • Campaigning for a policy of “Once a member, always a member”. Retrenched workers to retain union membership and full democratic rights in union structures.
  • Expand the campaigns to organise the unorganised majority of workers, for example EPWP, CWP, CHW and ECD workers.
  • Organising the chronically unemployed under the leadership of the trade union movement by building unemployed-workers and unemployed-youth locals in communities.
  • Re-organise workers in the trucking, farming, mining and hospitality industries to cleanse them of criminal mafias and xenophobia. Build regional links between workers across the sub-continent
  • Campaigning for a policy of “One working class, one struggle!” Lay the foundations for the unity of the divided trade union movement by building workplace, industry- and sector-wide action-committees that unite the workers of all federations, unions, and those not members of unions.
  • Struggle against bureaucracy and careerism! The culture of trade union leaders as CEOs must be ended through salary and wage control of all officials determined democratically sector-by-sector. Trade union investment funds must be abolished and all investments cashed-out into fixed-interest savings to fund membership benefits, strike and solidarity funds.

A campaign to re-build the working class’s basic organisations would need to simultaneously fill the political vacuum with a mass workers party armed with a socialist programme.

  • The 25/6 June 2022 reconvened Saftu-led Working Class Summit must set a date for the launch of a mass workers party on a socialist programme – May Day 2023. Campaign for it to be a genuine parliament of the working class and its mass organisations.
  • Build a unifying, democratic and open socialist mass workers party on a federal basis, allowing unions, community structures, youth campaigns and the existing working class political groups and parties to affiliate.

By opening up a political front in the class struggle, direct action in the workplaces and communities could be complemented by campaigns to:

  • Fight all retrenchments and closures. Struggle for the nationalisation of job shedding big businesses under democratic workers control, enforced through workplace occupations.
  • Defend the right to strike and organise! Scrap the LRA amendments. Organised mass defiance of unjust labour laws that prevent workers defending themselves. Fight for the passing of a trade union freedom bill increasing the powers of trade unions, drafted by workers’ representatives.

Under the umbrella of a new workers party organised workers could take the initiative in linking-up with genuine community organisations where they exist and helping to create them where they do not:

  • Build democratic, accountable, mass community organisations in every community. Build direct links with workplaces and trade unions. Link-up all community organisations in a country-wide socialist civic federation to unite and co-ordinate service delivery protests and campaign and fight for free, accessible, and high quality services, housing, health and education
  • Make communities safe! Organise against crime, drugs and gangsterism. Organise community watch programmes in every community, including patrols of crime ‘hot spots’; mass community mobilisations against gangsterism and organised crime. Campaign for free, accessible and high-quality community drug rehabilitation programmes linked to guaranteed jobs for recovering addicts.
  • Encourage the integration of migrant communities and SA small business, and social and cultural collaboration
  • Encourage working class anti-capitalist political organisation amongst migrants to assist in the struggle against injustice, oppression and exploitation in their home countries to which the majority wish to return by linking up with trade unions and anti-capitalist political formations there.
  • For community-controlled policing! Struggle for working class oversight and control of policing through organised community and trade union participation in Community Policing Forums, including worker-representatives of police unions and private security unions. Campaign for the election of station commanders, district and provincial commissioners and magistrates and judges; community control of hiring and firing in SAPS to combat corruption and the waste of police resources. Dismiss all perpetrators of bribery, harassment, rape and torture. Abolish the militarised tactical and public order policing units used to suppress working class protests. This will assist both migrant and South African communities to collaborate in identifying the criminals in their midst, whatever their nationality.

An explosion of xenophobic violence is possible any day. The platforms could also be used to call on the organisations of the working class to prepare for a rapid response when it comes by:

  • Lay foundations for democratic community self-defence groups organised on a non-national, non-ethnic, non-tribal basis. At the first hint of reactionary organisations attempting to instigate xenophobic pogroms they must mobilise.

Only the working class, united and organised around the ideas of socialism, using the weapons of the class struggle, can arrest the growing social collapse and offer an alternative to Operation Dudula and all the “putrid vapours of disintegrating bourgeois society”.

The ANC’s embrace of xenophobia is merely the logical progression of its degeneration from an organisation that was founded on African unity to fight the tribalism the colonial powers wanted to rest on as capitalism was entrenched. But its nationalism struggled to raise itself to the level of the black unity of African, Indian and Coloured espoused by the Black Consciousness. The tribalism that even in exile it never succeeded in totally eradicating has now resurfaced with a new virulence as corruption has seeped into the marrow of its bones and it faces the possibility of no longer being able to govern on its own and the collapse of their corrupt patronage networks.  Xenophobia is merely the outgrowth of its reactionary nationalism. The ANC has proven that is has led society to the dead end its capitalist policies were always destined to. The opposition parties themselves offer no alternative.

The vacuum the forces of xenophobia are filling, must be filled by the working class organised to overthrow – the capitalist system which in its decay, is creating the conditions for a war of all against all. Only a mass workers party on a socialist programme can overcome this.

For a socialist SA, a socialist federation of southern Africa and African unity on a socialist basis!


[1] TimesLive, 7 November 2021

[2] BusinessLive, 09/02/22

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