The two major civil service unions on strike against the South African government have vowed to intensify pressure in coming days, in a struggle pitting more than a million members of the middle and lower ranks of society against a confident government leadership fresh from hosting the World Cup.These developments provide an example of how adaptable capitalist ruling classes can be when faced with major obstacles--in this case, the worldwide opposition to apartheid. After years of fighting to maintain this system, the white South African ruling class decided to co-opt Black leadership by formally ending the system and bringing into the government compliant and cooperative Black African leaders. Thus the system was saved and only the color of the faces have changed.
Along with many smaller public sector unions, educators from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and nurses from the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) continued picketing schools, clinics and hospitals, leading to widespread shutdowns starting on August 18. Skeleton teams of doctors and military personnel were compelled to send non-emergency cases home.
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up