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Time to rethink violent strike action.

19 January 2013, 09:28

As the culture of violent strike action continues to attract massive popular support amongst the poor majority of our nation; it is ironical that the more the masses strike, the further they aggravate their problems instead of the intended amelioration.

Hardly 5 months has lapsed since the unfortunate death of 34 miners in Marikana yet the Western Cape Agricultural region is embroiled in a long strike that has also had its fair share of destruction. The sight of burnt cars, burnt plants, looted shops, blocked roads, and wild chases between strikers and the police has been the order of the day in this region for a fortnight. Yet what is particularly poignant is that this sight pretty much depicts most parts of our nation, from Limpopo to Cape Town.

With the spectre of yet another strike looming after the proposed decision by Amplats to shed off 14000 jobs plus the undiminishing service delivery protests that have become part of an everyday sight one important question arises from this: are violent strikes good for the poor in any way?

It is understandable that poverty amidst gross inequalities evokes frustrations amongst the many that remain poor. Add the 18 years of unfulfilled promises and the compressed but simmering disappointments of unrealized expectations then the results are violent outbursts at anything in sight of the strikers. Even their fellow workmates and or innocent service providers that bring the minimum services to their communities fall victim to this understandable anger but are violent strikes helping the cause of the poor in any way?

The empirical evidence suggest that violent strikes though increasingly getting popular, are in actual fact further entrenching poverty amongst the already poor. Areas that are popular for service delivery protests like the township locations of most major cities further remain poor. In fact due to their violent nature, they are further alienated in meaningful developmental projects due to the omnipresent risk of violent destruction of those projects.

Although in some cases the violent strikes are able to put the plight of the poor firmly on the national agenda, the little gains of violent strikes are further outweighed by the long-term losses for the poor. True, last year the striking mining workers were able to break out of the normal channels of collective bargaining and scored salary increases but the imminent jobs losses now are worse than the meager gains they scored 5 mines ago.

You do not have to be an esteemed economist to understand that inflation is concomitant with salary hikes under our economic mode of production. The derisory pay rise that we violently strike for is eroded by the subsequent inflation rise thereby further alienating the poor from his/her expectations.

Is it not time then for the poor to find alternatives that reward better than self-destructive violent strikes?

The capitalist mode of production that forms the bedrock of our economic system yields skill. It is this characteristic of the economy that my fellow people should emphasize instead of toyi-toying and destructing the few infrastructure that we have. By striving to educate our selves and becoming competent within an economic system of set rules, we stand to gain more as has long been proven in this mode of production rather than attempting to change rules of a system that we do not have control over. It is understandable that a huge section of us is still reeling from the effects of separate development but its time to accept that maybe the struggles that we fought for were for our children and hence send them to school.

It is also time we come to terms with our illusion of democracy that delivers things on a silver platter. That is just but a fallacy. Democracy only gives equal opportunity but because the capitalist mode of production is still intact, the only way to get favorable yields is through getting educated and acquiring skill. Neither government, any government for that neither matter, nor business will deliver the biblical manna.

We need to better our selves rather than embark on violent behavior that is threatening the viability of enterprise in South Africa.

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