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Strike wave challenges pro-business ANC policies

Since the 1994 elections, the African National Congress has pursued a course that is betraying the poor urban and rural Blacks and other workers who brought it to power. Instead of taking the bold steps necessary to meet the demands of this constituency for jobs, improved living conditions, and land, the ANC is bending to pressure from South African capitalists and international investors to preserve economic apartheid.

Workers in retail, metals, and public service have waged an intense series of strikes despite ANC opposition to wage increases. As before, police have moved brutally against them. Destitute farmworkers, largely Black women, have occupied plots of land and insisted on an end to white-monopoly control of agriculture. Mass demonstrations have demanded drinkable water, materials and sites for housing, and decent education and healthcare.

These valiant survival struggles will either force the ANC to break with the capitalists, or they will serve to develop an alternative leadership willing to continue with the South African revolution until it satisfies the needs of poor and working people. The movement for economic justice deserves the same sustained international support which helped bring down legal apartheid.

Zapatistas still a force

A year after the Zapatista uprising, the failure of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to meet basic demands for democracy and liberty has vindicated the rebels’ refusal to disarm.

The PRI hoped elections held in 1994 would improve its corrupt image. Instead, as stories of the usual, widespread electoral fraud have surfaced, social unrest has grown. Ten thousand people protested the inauguration of President Zedillo on December 1 in Mexico City.

On December 8, the PRI was forced to install its candidate for governor of Chiapas in a ceremony surrounded by riot police, while across town 4,000 people gathered for the alternate swearing-in of the opposition candidate, Amado Avendaño, supported by the Zapatistas. Avendaño, who lost in a rigged election, has promised to establish a rival government.

As the year ended, the Zapatistas renewed their pledge that peace will not come to Mexico until justice is obtained – or until the PRI steps down.

Market reforms creating misery

Two decades of “market reform” have moved China steadily toward capitalist restoration. Some initial gains the reforms made in living standards are long gone, and workers and farmers are vigorously protesting the effects of privatization.

Economic hardships are immense. Millions of people roam the country looking for jobs. At least one estimate puts total unemployment at more than 200 million, while inflation of 20 percent ravages incomes.

And once again famine threatens China, as huge numbers of people are forced to abandon farming because of rapid land development and skyrocketing rent. Agricultural productivity is also declining due to a deteriorating irrigation system and the impossibility of applying advanced techniques to a crazy-quilt of tiny private farms. Officials report 10,000 industrial actions and several hundred “riots” in 1993.

The conditions that turned the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989 into a huge movement, as workers joined students to protest job insecurity, inflation, and lack of democracy, persist. Capitalism will not be able to entrench itself in China without causing even more wrenching social dislocations – and thus provoking another massive mobilization for change, whose demands only democratic socialism will be able to satisfy.

Sinn Féin gambles on cease-fire

By adopting a unilateral cease-fire, the Irish Republican Army has tossed the ball squarely into the court of the British government. Sinn Féin chief Gerry Adams says that the time is right for a negotiated settlement to “the troubles.”

Will the gamble payoff? A cease-fire can be a legitimate political/military tactic. But Sinn Féin’s record – of betraying principles important to its workingclass constituency (like abortion rights), trying to be all things to all people, and being dazzled by the blandishments of ruling class politicians-does not inspire confidence.

The test is not in how many times Adams is invited to Clinton’s White House, or how much foreign investment is gained, or even how man y concessions Britain makes. The test is in whether the cease-fire weakens or strengthens the centuries-old movement for an end to British colonialism – the only force with the power to finally convince the British establishment that the cost of its subjugation of Northern Ireland is too high.

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