Lessons from Marikana: Class Collaboration with Capital, or Class struggle against Capital?

"For the sake of the company, its many thousands of employees and the industry which supports them, we need to find a sustainable peace accord which allows people to return to a working business."

Just under two weeks after 34 miners were brutally killed by police after embarking on a wildcat strike, these were the words of the acting-CEO of Lonmin, Simon Scott, calling for a peace accord between workers and management. Ironically, there was no indication of any concessions on the company's part to workers reasonable demands for a mere R12 500.

These words were echoed just beneath the mountains of where our national assembly seats. Cabinet ministers, members of parliament and the media alike, all called for an urgent peace accord to remedy the situation at Lonmin mine. The inter-ministerial committee became chief advocates of this peace accord. Like street performers, they went around the country, the world, pleading with everyone that they met, assuring them that a peace accord is the only solution to this 'tragedy' as they call it.

The NUM leaders joined the performance and held a press conference on Tuesday (04/09/2012). “The NUM is committed to finding a peaceful solution,” NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni told reporters in Johannesburg.

What do they mean by 'peace accord'?

Under capitalism, society is divided into classes based on their role in production, and these classes are central to capitalist economies. Often these classes come into conflict as has happened at Lonmin mine. The ruling class in an attempt to reconcile these antagonisms, evokes feelings of quasi-nationalism as a means to put a stop to the revolt by workers. They do so not as an attempt to abolishing inequality, but to maintain social hierarchy which they see as a necessary element of the capitalist system.

What is class collaboration?

Class collaboration is the principle of social organization based upon the belief that the division of society into a hierarchy of social classes is a positive and essential aspect of civilization.

Whereas the doctrine of class struggle urges the working classes to overthrow the ruling class and the existing social order for the purpose of establishing equality, the doctrine of class collaboration urges them to accept inequality as part of the natural state of things and preserve the social order. Furthermore it holds that the State 'reconciles' class antagonisms in society, and that the strife which gives rise to Communism can be harmonized.

This is exactly what the State is advocating; the collaboration of the working class and capital for the "prosperity of the nation". Such has been resonated by the right-wing in the alliance, at the expense of workers demands.

Already class collaboration has been rejected  by some affiliates of COSATU, chief amongst them the National Union of Metal Wokers of South Africa which is one of the few voices of the left within the alliance.  In a statement released by its Central Committee, it unequivocally calls for class struggle as the only solution.

"We see no solution to the violence against workers on the mines apart from nationalisation in defence of the lives of all South Africans."

It further calls for the nationalization of mines as means to address the ongoing impasse as we have reported yesterday, not a peace accord like some believe.

As events unfold, we are more than convinced that South African workers are moving on the right direction. In the direction towards self-realisation as a class that is capable of overthrowing the domination of the capitalist class.