Here we publish an interesting letter we have received which reveals how many people, even from a privileged middle class background, are drawing radical conclusions on the basis of their own experience. Although we don't necesarilly agree with all the points made, we publish it here for the interest of our readers.
I was born into a middle class, white, Afrikaner family in 1976, the year of the Soweto uprising. Looking back, I had a happy childhood and grew up in Bloemfontein, the same city where Bram Fischer was born and died a year prior to my birth.
I had a happy childhood and had the opportunity to attend a good government school with all the facilities required for a good academic and sports environment. There were teachers for every class, we were never more than thirty children in a class and there were advanced programmes for top performers and remedial education for those who struggled.
Bloemfontein’s suburbs were also a pleasure with well sized unfenced homes and plots, lovely gardens and virtually no crime. It was safe enough to send a ten year old child by foot to the shop after sunset. As a family we had the opportunity to go away on a holiday at least once a year, even if only to a municipal resort.
My experience with black South Africans were limited to interaction with the domestic worker and gardener and I developed the misconception that the majority of South Africans were white and Afrikaans. This fallacy was shattered in 1994. In later years I would think that Bloemfontein was a model apartheid city: the townships and industrial areas were kept well outside the city limits and the largest township was approximately forty-five kilometres from the city. Black workers had to travel in and out on a daily basis using busses and other forms of public transport.
When I started reading more about the migrant worker system and mining which existed in South Africa and which has had an impact on individuals, families and communities to this day – I concluded that a similar type of thinking was behind the design and geographical placement of the townships. In the case of the mines, capitalism regarded migrant labour as cost-effective and profitable, while at the same time ensuring a long term supply of labour by limiting education in the so called homelands and not allowing families, but only the workers, to live close to their places of work. This was a dehumanizing and destructive method of increasing profit at the expense of the workers and their families.
The Marikana massacre of 2012 was not the first time that the South African government has acted with force against South African mine workers in support of capital. In 1946 the African Mine Workers Union was suppressed by force resulting in numerous deaths and the 1922 Rand Rebellion supported by the Communist Party of South Africa, was suppressed by twenty-thousand soldiers resulting in more than 200 deaths.
It became clear to me that race and capitalism were closely linked in South Africa and that the apartheid government needed the capitalist’s money to continue its policy of separate development and the capitalists required the support of the apartheid government to ensure high levels of output and higher profits.
And so it was that during my first year at university I befriended an Anglican monk, a quiet, humble man who for the first time introduced me to the real South Africa. He had spent some time in Sophiatown and was an acquaintance of people like Steve Biko and Helen Joseph. He always used to tell me that if things did not change in 1994 we both would have been arrested by the security police because of our friendship. He died in 2013 but he has had a profound effect on my life.
For the first time in my life I visited an informal settlement. For the first time in my life I had tea and lunch with families in Soweto. For the first time in my life I visited the graves of struggle heroes at Avalon Cemetery. For the first time in my life I started interacting with black South Africans.
And so a journey started on a path of learning about our common humanity, equality, dignity and value, common dreams and dreams for our families. And slowly I came to realise that as long as the greed and the unquenchable hunger of capitalism existed, new systems of exploitation will keep on rising up, new capitalists will continue arriving on the scene to reap the harvest which they did not labour for and that the only way for us to work towards achieving a future of sufficiency would be through socialism and ultimately through communism.
When I described something about my upbringing and the privileges I was afforded, probably because government denied the majority so many rights, then at the times it would have been regarded as white privilege, and probably still is as I have benefitted from educational opportunities which may make it a bit easier to get a job than someone without that education.
I believe that as socialists we should now continue the struggle to achieve a communist society where everyone will have guaranteed employment, good education and free healthcare in a society where violent crime should be virtually non-existent. What was afforded to some should be available to all in a unified society.
A friend said that she does not believe that a capitalist can ‘convert’ to socialism, and I wholeheartedly agree. But a middle-class person who discerns the fallacies of capitalism and the merits of Marxian socialism is completely able to join the revolution towards a transformed society - just a Bram Fischer, Che Guevara, Camilo Torres Restrepo and Fidel Castro embraced Marxism.
Stand up, all victims of oppression,
For the tyrants fear your might!
Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
For you have nothing if you have no rights!
Let racist ignorance be ended,
For respect makes the empires fall!
Freedom is merely privilege extended,
Unless enjoyed by one and all.
So come brothers and sisters,
For the struggle carries on.
Unites the world in song.
So comrades, come rally,
For this is the time and place!
The international ideal
Unites the human race.
The Internationale (L’Internationale) – Billy Bragg