“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela
Had Nelson Mandela been alive, today, the 18th of July 2018, a day which marks the centenary of his birth, the world would have gathered in South Africa to witness the simplicity of a man known as a giant. Nelson Mandela never saw himself as anything different from humanity, neither did he define himself as anything outside humanity. Therefore, if giants were to exist, they would have characterized the struggle for liberation and not the man.
The quote by Nelson Mandela defines Madiba’s meaning of life and equally what he made of his life. He did not live merely because he had to, but he made a difference in the world and that is why the world celebrates him. He was alive not merely because of his friendship with air, but because he moved, he was alive to reality. In the words of Rosa Luxemburg, “those who do not move, do not notice their chains”. Therefore, Madiba was a man that moved, and that is how he realized the need to lose his chains.
Metalworkers are also alive to this reality of loosing chains. In actual fact, the Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (LIMUSA) came into existence because of metalworkers who understood the chains of capitalism and the importance of unity of workers, the slogan “one industry one union”, one federation and the importance of the vanguard party in loosing the chains. Mandela himself was liberated even before he went to jail, simply because his mind was liberated. The fact that workers are still chained by capitalism through unemployment, the low wages that they receive after the exploitation of their labour, the persistence of capitalists in the quest to replace their labour power with machine power, and all other injustices, provokes the realization of liberating the mind. LIMUSA’s existence came as a result of metalworkers understanding the need for one federation, COSATU. The formation of another federation never made sense to LIMUSA members because that was simply going to divide the working class. This was also the case with a trade union which succumbed the power of metalworkers to one man in defence of patriarchy
Marx made his lessons clear when he said, “workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains”. There is nowhere in the entire writings of Marx where he advocates for workers to rather be chained by elites who works for capitalists in our ranks as an alternative to the chains of capitalism. Liberation simply means losing the chains and not opting for alternative chains.
Metalworkers today can no longer go on strike, they are no longer as united and strong as they used to be, simply because the so called biggest union has succumbed power to one elite who is controlled by business, hence the so called biggest union operates like a federation on its own. Businesses operates to get profit, hence business bosses do not mind hijacking even organs of workers such as unions through their chess pawns, so that they can abandon principles and organize everywhere to get more subscriptions and feed the pockets of bosses. Whether fortunate or unfortunate, what is clear is that liberation cannot be defined along such lines.
Mandela was equally an internationalist in his own right. He once reminded South Africans and the world that “we must also know that even before liberation in 1994 there [in South Africa] were people with resources who tried to share with those who were deprived”.
In the honouring the legacy of Nelson Mandela, and equally in advancing the struggle of the working class, LIMUSA continues to advocate for the struggles of the people of Swaziland, Palestine, Western Sahara, Venezuela and Cuba. Mandela fought for democracy for a large portion of his time on earth, and it is in that spirit that we condemn the undemocratic regime in Swaziland. The struggle for democracy in Swaziland is equally our struggle.
We will forever call for the freedom of the people of Palestine from the most brutal regime in the world, the Zionist regime in Israel. It is the most unjust and cruel that humanity has ever seen in our life. We will continue to mobilize metalworkers to support and pledge their solidarity with the people of Palestine.
We equally condemn the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco. It is disheartening that the last remaining colony in Africa, which is Western Sahara is occupied and colonized by another African country.
As we remember Nelson Mandela and his contributions to the struggle for democracy which led to the democratic transition in 1994, the words of Karl Polanyi come to mind, when he said that “to separate labour from other activities of life and to subject it to the laws of the market was to annihilate all organic forms of existence and to replace them by a different type of organisation, an atomistic and individualist one.” LIMUSA has therefore dedicated the day of the centenary of Nelson Mandela to children. Children were very close to Nelson Mandela’s heart, and he understood their existence as the future of any society.
We equally understand why unity is very important in the year of Madiba’s centenary. We understand unity in the perspective of uniting the movement and South Africans behind a common course. Unity does not demonise previous leaders, nor does it isolate those who supported previous leaders. It changes the purpose from being about individuals to being about a united force behind a common purpose.
Issued by LIMUSA General Secretary
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