Frederick Douglass

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them..." Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Botswana Strike Aftermath Update, July 5

The post-strike repression has been less than I expected and feared. So far as I know, this is the worst.

Botswana teachers not allowed to strike, fall under essential services

Gaborone - Botswana's government said on Monday it had amended legislation classifying essential services workers to include teachers in an effort to prevent more civil servants from striking.

Making the announcement through a government gazette, Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Peter Siele said that veterinary services, teaching services, diamond sorting, cutting and selling services and all supporting services connected to them have now been placed under the essential services.

Diamond cutting? Veterinary services?

Hats off to the brave civil servants of Botswana. They didn't achieve their goal, but they put up a helluva fight.

Two things made this strike remarkable: The first is the numbers, over forty percent of that arid, sparsely populated land are public sector employees; the second is that in most cases when unions strike against employers, even private ones, they confront the government which is invariably partnered with the upper class and work both openly and covertly against the strikers. In this case the government was literally partnered with the upper class. The diamond industry dominates Botswana, and the government co-owns the monopoly diamond producers, Debswana. The other owners are the giant banking families, the Oppenheimers and the Rothschilds. So the union had strength of numbers, and their adversaries had unlimited resources.

When Karl Marx said that capitalism comes to us dripping in blood, he might have been thinking of the Rothschilds. Over the centuries this family has acted with sociopathic ruthlessness in pursuit of their riches (by no means uncommon behavior for members of their class). One couldn't have a more dangerous foe.

The strikers never broke, their leadership gave up, choked, or were co-opted. Once this occurred, the police became more aggressive than before with those workers who refused to capitulate. It was over.

It's easy to look back now and say they never had a chance, but their determination was nothing short of inspirational. I was beginning to think they might prevail, I guess I got carried away a bit.

The Great Civil Servants Strike Of Botswana never got much attention from the international media, and when it did it was derisive or dismissive or condescending, nothing unusual there. There wasn't even much talk of it in union and/or radical circles, not the ones in which I travel anyway. Although it is yet another defeat, this was one of labor's great efforts. The strikers maintained an extraordinarily high level of solidarity. On more than one occasion I thought "well they are done now" only to find our Botswanan brothers and sisters had weathered yet another assault. State terror didn't work against them, neither the police nor the SWAT teams of the Special Forces. They put up one helluva fight.

So to the valiant teachers, nurses, librarians et al of Botswana I offer my condolences. But be consoled in the knowledge that our day is coming. And when it does, you can take some satisfaction in the fact that you have lit the way.,+fall+under+essential+services.html