The fanatically racist Vorster regime has unleashed a reign of terror against Black militancy in South Africa.
During October, thousands were arrested, hundreds imprisoned indefinitely without trial under the notorious Terrorism Act, eighteen Black organizations liquidated, and two major Black newspapers closed.
This pogrom revealed the extraordinary desperation of a doomed regime in the face of wave after wave of massive riots and boycotts that followed the prison murder of Steven Biko, Black Consciousness leader.
Biko was the 20th freedom fighter to perish in jail. His murder was calculated to smash the sustained protests sweeping the country ever since the 1976 student boycotts, but the murder boomeranged, and the current repression is a last-ditch attempt to stem the ascending revolutionary tide.
Permanent Revolution at Work
Each repressive reflex of the regime strengthens the revolt.
The government sent bulldozers into housing settlements and razed them to the ground in an attempt to drive out militants. But the Blacks refused to retreat to outlying tribal homelands.
Hundreds of Soweto teachers resigned en masse in sympathy with a student boycott in October. Increasing numbers of white students support the Black student militants. Black students are joining the guerilla forces and penetrating further into the interior. White moderate newspapers advocate liberalizing the race laws. And Black workers are beginning to join the students.
This initial breakdown of rigorous social divisions is a dire threat to the apartheid system, which is the mainstay of the handful of ruling white capitalists who own 90% of the country’s land and resources.
The impoverished majority population of 18 million Blacks is cruelly restricted to small, desolate areas, refused citizenship, and denied the products of their indispensable labor. Thus, the liberation movement’s demand for an end to racial partition implies the massive expropriation of the capitalists and the death of the entire, bankrupt social system.
Imperialist Fear and Trembling
Human rights rhetoric notwithstanding, the interimperialist controversy over South Africa is simply a tactical matter. They all intend to preserve South African capitalism and save their own enormous investments. United States capital is a major buttress of the troubled South African economy — 300 known U.S. corporations operate there.
Hence the White House threat of an arms embargo is empty sermonizing, The U.S. ruling class is deeply apprehensive that unless token concessions are made, a civil eruption of such magnitude will be provoked that all will be lost.
But the apartheiders fear that the slightest concession will engender a flood of social demands that capitalism cannot grant. The regime scoffs at the proposed arms embargo.
“They must not think that if they shout at us we will tremble,” says Defense Minister P. W. Botha, “or that to boycott us will impoverish us and bring us to our knees.”
The racists clearly signal their intent to fight to the death with hard line brutality — and they have acquired nuclear arms.
Whether or not concessions are granted, the South African government cannot contain the social upheaval without destroying itself.
Mounting international support for a Black South Africa — and deepening solidarity of South Africans themselves under the onslaught of daily police attacks and wholesale demolition of their community — serve notice to the world that total dismantling of the monstrous machinery of apartheid is on the order of the day.