The struggle of the 1000 soldiers victimised by the state, continues

On the 7th October 2013 the SA National Defence Force Union, Sandu, took another step in its battle to get all 1000 soldiers victimised in 2009, reinstated. A part of the case was put to the Military Court, outlining 4 basic areas:

·         Calling for all the charges to be dropped;

·          Calling for the awol charges to be dropped;

·          Challenging the multiple charges such as linking awol and public violence

·          Requesting further details of the charges (there is no detail of which soldier has done what and when)

The judge quickly dismissed all of Sandu’s pleas. Thus the vast majority of the 1000 soldiers are still on suspension with full pay since 2009. Sandu is planning to take the matter further in the courts.

Summary of the case of the soldiers:

1.       The rank and file soldiers were mostly underpaid, several were living in shacks; many also lived in army quarters which were (and still are) run down and in a terrible state of repair. The generals ,meanwhile, were highly paid (and still are) and many of them were overnight capitalists, beneficiaries  of the ANC’s BEE schemes;

2.       For years the soldiers’ representatives tried to raise and correct these problems;

3.        Matters came to a head when frustrated soldiers organised a march to the Union Buildings to raise their grievances; Sandu applied for and obtained permission for the march; the soldiers obtained permission from their superiors for time off for the march; during the night before the march, the generals obtained an interdict to stop the march; the march organisers tried to gather soldiers as they arrived to brief them of the court’s decision, aiming then to disperse them; while this process was happening, the military police violently intervened and broke up the gathered soldiers; even police reports of the march are clear that the soldiers were peaceful before the police acted against them; there are reports of agent provocateurs having entered the march and either instigated acts against the military police vehicles or themselves having engaged in such acts. The aim of this instigation was to discredit the protesting soldiers so that the state could crush the revolt and then gain absolute control over the armed forces.

4.       About 1000 soldiers who had gathered for the protest were suspended; initially Sasfu (SA Security Forces Union, a Cosatu affiliate) condemned the protest until they realised that some of their members had also participated and were also suspended; then the Sasfu leaders started to raise criticisms of the way the state handled the matter.

5.       There was immense grassroots anger among the soldiers; instead of organizing more protests, Sandu turned to the courts where the matter has been stuck for the past 4 years, despite on the odd occasion that the union won orders of court for the soldiers to return to work; at every occasion the top command of the army opposed the return to work of the 1000 soldiers; some 70 have been allowed back but even they are under pressure. Meanwhile the state dramatically raised the wages of the rank and file soldiers and begun to address some of the housing problems (a call went out for all soldiers who were unemployed to register, then they were fast-tracked and given RDP houses). While seeing to the benefits of the soldiers, the state also accelerated their attempts to smash the military unions.

So if the soldiers have done nothing wrong, why are they being victimized by the state? It raises the question: who really controls the state and why do they act this way?

The nature of the capitalist state

First let us turn to Lenin to help describe the nature of the state in his work State and Revolution:

‘ …the state is an organ of domination of a definite class which cannot be reconciled to its antipode (the class opposed to it)’

‘ it consists of special bodies of armed men who have at their disposal prisons, etc

‘A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.’

‘The exploiting classes need political rule in order to maintain exploitation, ie, in the selfish interests of an insignificant minority, and against the vast majority of the people’

The state is not neutral, it acts for those who have the wealth in capitalist society and its chief instrument of control is the standing army and the police; the aim of the state is to keep the masses in domination for the capitalist class.

International monopoly capital owns and controls the wealth in SA

Before 1994 and indeed since then most of the wealth on the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange) and most of the mines, commercial farms, banks and factories are in the hands of 5 monopolies: Anglo American, Liberty Life, Old Mutual, Rembrandt and Sanlam. The dominant player is Anglo American, ie US imperialism.

Before 1994, the SADF was used as an armed instrument to discipline capitalist governments across the entire Southern Africa to keep the masses under the control of US imperialism.

The core that protected Anglo American before 1994 is still there

In the lead up to the 1994 elections, the SACP’s Joe Slovo made the case for the so-called ‘sunset clauses’, namely that all the members of the apartheid state would remain within in for at least 5 years after the elections. Thus the core of the security apparatus and armed forces that protected the domination of the masses by Anglo American, would be retained.

The integration of the MK, Apla, SADF and old Bantustan forces started at the negotiation talks (Codesa)  and officially ended in 2003. This process was overseen by the British military (BMAT). Although most of the generals come from the ranks of the ANC, their selection depended upon approval by British imperialism, ie they had to show that they had unshakeable loyalty to act as an instrument of violence in the service of the capitalists against the masses.

The Codesa talks lay the basis for the army to continue the role as the last resort of protection of Anglo American and other monopoly capitalists. One of the fundamental principles that was adopted at Codesa and that is still enshrined in the SA Constitution, is the property clause. This property clause states that the state should protect existing private property, ie the wealth that was gained through theft and plunder, by the monopoly capitalists, should remain in their hands and that ultimately, if this property came under threat, the army would act to protect it against the masses, ie protect the handful of capitalists from the majority of the masses.

The rank and file soldier from the old SADF was not represented at the Codesa talks- the corrupt officer caste that was loyal to big capital, was represented at these talks; the rank and file MK, Apla, Azanla and self defence committees were not represented at Codesa, the ANC middle class elite was represented. Many ex-MK, Apla and other rank and file forces were sidelined in the integration process; many who were integrated, were harassed and frustrated so that they took the package and left the armed forces. Thus, the minute the integration process started, imperialism, through its control of the top of the armed forces started to undermine the progressive elements within the army. Even the clause of the Constitution that no member of the security forces should obey a ‘manifestly illegal instruction’ is being daily undermined by the imperialist control of the state (see for example, the overnight creation of a militarised police division and its use in planning and executing the Marikana massacre). This shows that when imperialism is faced with a revolution, they will pose as ultra democratic, in order to maintain their control, but when the tide of revolt weakens, they undermine every concession they made.

The army is really being controlled by Anglo American

The re-organization plans (2010 and 2020) were designed precisely to undermine the progressive remnants within the army and to strengthen the reactionary element, these were plans to roll back the progressive gains forced by the masses up to 1994. These plans and the victimization of the 1000 soldiers are part of an alliance of the elite of the ANC and PAC in the army, with the old reactionary top officers from the old apartheid regime. Anglo American realizes that if the masses revolt, their last protection is the army- they require absolute loyalty- they do not want any soldier who will question whether defence of Anglo American is legal or not, is right or wrong- Anglo American wants soldiers to act as unthinking robots to shoot down the masses, including the mine workers, if ever there is a revolt against them. This is why we say that it is Anglo American that is the main decision-maker that is behind the victimization, not only of the 1000 soldiers, but of the whole process to undermine, frustrate and remove all the progressive soldiers from the army. Anglo American will not stop until all progressive soldiers are out of the army. This is why they will not stop until all the soldier unions are either smashed or turned into elements that support the aims of imperialism, namely a conveyor belt to ensure that when the masses rise up, that the soldiers will not question the imperialists’ commands to shoot them.

The way forward

The virtual disappearance of the peasantry and the greater proletarianisation of the masses means that the rank and file of the army is made up of workers in uniform. Thus the class divisions in capitalist society reflect themselves in the army structure- the rank and file against the generals. Every rank and file soldier is also a victim of high food, transport, housing, electricity and education costs. The children of the soldier have no future under capitalism.

Anglo American is plundering the DRC, plundering Africa. The soldiers should become more organised to refuse deployment as a security force for Anglo American across Africa and indeed, in SA too. We call for rank and file committees of soldiers to be established- the reinstatement of the 1000 soldiers should be the starting point, but the end of the victimization of the rank and file soldier should be the unifying call.

The heads of the armed forces were implicated in the corruption in the Arms deal, in Guptagate, in the Marikana massacre- they should all go. The rank and file soldier’s place is in the struggle against the capitalist system. Anglo American wants the soldier to be deployed on the mines against the mineworkers- we say that soldiers should support the total expropriation of all the mines, without compensation, and for these to be placed under workers’ control.

The place of the rank and file soldier is in the struggle against capitalism, uniting with the masses in struggles for decent housing, for jobs for all, for an end to exploitation, etc. On the other hand, the broader workers’ movement needs to champion the cause of the soldiers against the generals. Workers, (employed or unemployed, or local or immigrant) and soldiers unite, we have nothing to lose but our chains! We have a world to win. Forward to Socialism

Issued by Workers International Vanguard Party, 1st floor, Community House, 41 Salt River rd, Salt River, 7925. Ph or sms 0822020617 or email, or find us on facebook.