Against Xenophobia! For Working People’s Unity!
Joint statement of International Socialist Tendency organisations in Africa
- International Socialists across the African continent categorically condemn the wave of xenophobic violence which rocked South Africa over the last week. These attacks against fellow poor working people and accompanied retaliatory action in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Zambia and other countries are unjustified and senseless.
Xenophobia and racism have grown over the last decade of a global economic crisis. Rightwing politicians and interests have tapped into the frustration and anger of millions of people who have been thrown into the abyss of hopelessness and frustration.
- Nationalism, racism, ethnicism and all forms of anti-foreigner politics are aimed at dividing the working-class, our communities and the unemployed. The enemies of poor South African working masses are not poor people from other countries.
They are the rich local capitalists and their foreign imperialist partners.
They jointly run the big corporations, which make billions of Rands every year exploiting both local and foreign workers, while millions of poor people lack access to quality healthcare, education, land, decent housing and jobs or living wages when they have one.
Their conglomerates, in the mineral-energy complex, telecommunications and retail services (several of which are listed on the London Stock Exchange, for example) export profits to advanced capitalist countries, instead of reinvesting these in employment for the South African working-class.
Meanwhile, these same corporations have contributed significantly to the collapse of small-scale industry, particularly in the informal economy and the rural economy, in neighbouring countries to South Africa, with the might of large-scale production. This has become a major push factor for emigration of working-class people from these countries, where they join poor South African workers in townships and shanties, trying their best to eke a living.
In daily life a South-African poor person has much more in common with a poor person from another country than with the rich living in luxury mansions in Sandton.
- The South African government must bear full responsibility for the present spate of xenophobic attacks that has left at least five people dead over the last one week. Earlier, after a series of “South Africa First Foreign Drivers Must Fall” strikes and protests organised by the All Truck Drivers Forum in July, Human Rights Watch called on the government to “take urgent measures to protect foreign national truck drivers from violence, intimidation, and harassment in the country’s cycle of xenophobic violence.”
It equally drew attention to the fact that “more than 200 people – mostly foreign truck drivers – have been killed in South Africa since March 2018”, as at the time, and as well showed that “the government has done little to address the attacks despite issuing a National Action Plan to combat xenophobia on March 25.”
- The reason for the government’s practical inaction, despite verbal commitments to fight xenophobia, before now, is not far-fetched. Making sections of working-class people believe that their enemy is the “foreign worker” or poor peasant, deflects their anger against the systemic exploitation of all working people by capital and the full support of the South African government (like all other capitalist governments) for this system, which is directed against South African workers as much as workers from other lands.
Government officials have actively helped to water the seed of xenophobia over the years. It is also quite disheartening that even within the midst of this avoidable fratricidal violence, the South African Commissioner to Ghana, Lulu Xingwana, reduced the problem to a need for all capitalist governments on the continent to create jobs in their countries so that “we don’t all flock to one country”.
- This is a misrepresentation of the problem, which further highlights the chauvinism of government officials in South Africa. As activists across the world challenging anti-migrants’ sentiments in Europe, United States and Australia, have stressed time and again, migration is a fundamental human right. Indeed, historically, we are all migrants.
But even this merely begs the issue. At the heart of the current dynamics of migration within and across continents, as well as the lack of jobs (with more and more of available jobs being precarious) is the crisis of capitalist development. With particular reference to Africa, it reflects the failure of the post-colonial African nationalist capitalist class from Nasser, Nkrumah and Mandela to Mugabe, to break the bondages of neo-colonialism and capitalism. This class fears the revolting workers and peasants more than imperialism with whom it eventually compromises on a class basis as a junior partner.
Attempts to misrepresent the root cause of the problem, which is the nature of capitalist “development”, is not limited to xenophobia or anti-foreigners’ politics. In various countries on the continent, different sections of the class of rich people have tried to divert attention from the failure of the system they represent by politicising ethnic differences. In Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria, for example, the Fulani have been demonised as harbingers of insecurity.
- The decade-long global economic crisis, as well as the existential climate disaster that is upon us confirm that capitalism is a social-economic system which destroys the livelihoods and very lives of the vast majority of the human population and the Earth. There is a pressing need more than ever to overthrow this system and, in its place, build international socialism, rooted in working-class people’s solidarity and self-conscious action to build a new borderless world. This requires concrete action by working-class organisations to ensure decent jobs, living wages, land, and social protection for all, as well as ending privatisation (which is the transfer of public wealth to private capitalists), and ensuring rural development and quality social services (free education and universal health care) are available to workers, poor farmers and the unemployed in our urban and rural communities;
- Such solidarity and self-conscious class action of working people is required here and now as well, to stop the spread of xenophobia in its tracks. We welcome the actions being taken by several working-class and youth organisations such as the “Say No To Xenophobia” demonstration by university students in Kano, Nigeria on 7 September, and the #ShutDownXenophobia march scheduled for 14 September in Johannesburg by the People’s Coalition Against Xenophobia, which brings together trade union representatives, civil society organisations, community groups and individual activists.
Organised labour across the continent must bring its weight to bear in providing leadership for massive mobilisation against xenophobia and all forms of chauvinism. This must be tied to the struggle for decent jobs, land, social protection and quality social services for all.
We thus call on the trade union movement (including the national trade union centres, regional bodies of global union federations, trade unions and informal workers’ organisations), socialist groups and civil society organisations to take collective action NOW!
- This could entail organising a Continental Day of Action In Defence of Working People’s Unity, as soon as possible. This however has to be an integral part of renewed class-based politics which builds the unity, solidarity and struggle of the working-class in fighting for decent work, living wages, respect and democratic control of society across the continent, as part of the global movement of the working-class, with the aim of overthrowing the capitalist system which is at the heart of the woes of working-class people across all lands.
Workers of all lands unite and fight! We have nothing to lose but our chains, and a world to gain!
International Socialist Organisation, Botswana
International Socialist Organisation, Ghana
Socialist Workers and Youth League, Nigeria
Keep Left, South Africa
International Socialist Organisation, Zimbabwe
Issued 11 September 2019