As socialists, one of our most basic duties is solidarity with workers in struggle. The striking platinum miners of Marikana who saw 34 of their comrades murdered by the South African police should be an obvious case for solidarity. Not so for the Communist Party of Britain or for its daily newspaper the Morning Star.
An article in Morning Star of 1 September by John Haylett was subtitled as a look at the corruption in the platinum industry but in fact was a regurgitation of the South African governments smears against the workers and their union, the AMCU.
It claimed, without backing it up with evidence, that the breakaway union the AMCU was set up by bosses to split the established union, the National Union of Miners (NUM). There was no mention of the fact that the retired General Secretary of the NUM is on the board of Lonmin, the British company that owns the Marikana mine. A NUM leader, from the protection of a police armoured car, called on the miners to go back to work with no concessions or increase in pay.
Haylett never quotes the miners themselves. Instead he quotes cabinet ministers or the NUM leadership, who are trying to portray the miners as duped by outside agitators and populist politicians of Julius Malema's breakaway faction of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
The miners are paid £500 a month and live in barrack like dormitories or shanty towns whilst doing dangerous back breaking work. Any decent union leaders should be agitating for a strike.
That the Morning Star is taking the government side against the miners is a result of the paper's politics. It has slavishly supported the coalition government of the ANC and South African Communist Party throughout its 18 years in power, even as all the wealth was left in the hands of the white bourgeoisie and tiny number of black ANC and Union leaders.
This has left the vast majority in townships, a 45% rate of unemployment, and dire poverty. As the leadership of the ANC, SACP, and the Unions became part of the ruling class, the Morning Star kept up with the apologetics. Now it finds itself excusing a murderous strike-breaking government.
Unfortunately it matters what the Morning Star says, because its ideas infect large parts of the trade union movement and the Labour left. Unite The Union, for instance, has called on all its branches to subscribe and use it as the basis of branch discussions and educationals.
The miners of Marikana deserve genuine solidarity. The Morning Star deserves only the dustbin of history.