Don Franks of the Workers Party has posted an interesting speech on Indymedia, on his activity during the 1981 Sprinbok Tour of NZ. The speech was delivered at a recent meeting at Victoria University. Franks was a member of the Maoist leaning Workers Communist League in 1981, so was in good position to understand the methods and motives of the protest movement.
Here are some excerpts.
An important year in many respects, 1981 was just one small part of the huge international struggle against apartheid, which went on for very many years.
New Zealander’s struggle against South African racism is well documented in Trevor Richards’s book Dancing on our bones. Although I don’t think this work does justice to the political contribution of John Minto, I recommend the book as an indispensable part of protest history.
New Zeal The book reveals Richard’s own commitment to Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong Thought”
The year of big demonstrations was preceded by years of constant political slog; thousands of teachins, articles, debates, pickets, posters and paper sales. HART produced a regular paper, HART NEWS, which sold on the streets in large numbers. One Friday night I had a competition with Penny Bright to see who could flog off the most, we sold 100 papers each.
New Zeal What’s this? Communist competition. This is how the Marxist-Leninists work. Chipping away, always keeping their real philosophy hidden.
Of course, for many, probably, most antiapartheid activists, helping blacks win “the same rights as us” was the beginning and the end of the matter. It is a dreadful irony that for many blacks in South Africa today, working and living conditions are no better than they were under apartheid, because of the Rogernomics type reforms John Minto tried to warn them against.
New Zeal South Africa is run by the South African Communist Party. Don Franks and co helped bring this about. The SACP/ANC government are currently working on land confiscation which will further impoverish their country. While relatively free market in some areas, (current Marxist-Leninist tactics in the third world) they are retarding economic growth and wrecking their rugby through widespread affirmative action programmes. Without the likes of Franks and Minto, I believe most South Africans would be richer and freer than they are today. Not a hint of an apology from these socialist wreckers though.
That’s not to say that the struggle wasn’t worth it, the point is that the struggle against capitalist injustice is not completed, either here or in South Africa.
HART had some success because it was principled, clear where it stood and what it demanded. They had a policy of not sitting down when it was necessary to enter the offices of police or politicians. Sitting down could lead to a softer atmosphere, shared cups of coffee and the creation of a friendly relationship where compromise was more likely to flourish. Having been party to that setup too often in union situations, I think the standing tactic makes a lot of sense.
New Zeal Interesting tactic. Certainly shows goodwill doesn’t it?
Most of my own antiapartheid energy before and during 1981 was expended among workers in the trade union movement. There is a prevailing myth that industrial workers were 100% pro tour. Some union leaders were reluctant to provide a principled lead. But where determined political work was put in, positive results were gained. Anti apartheid resolutions and live bodies for demonstrations came from factories where communists were agitating.
New Zeal Would the disgraceful conduct destruction of ’81 have occurred without the “communists”? Not on your nelly.
Many of the big ’81 demonstrations were held on public roadways, as a deliberate attempt to stretch the resources of the police.
New Zeal It din’t seem to matter that it also disrupted traffic, cost the taxpayer heaps and aggravated, inconvenienced and intimidated the public.
To some extent the ’81 Tour became a test of strength between leftists and liberals against a Tory government with an obnoxious Prime minister. However, I believe the protesters main motive from start to finish was a genuine sense of solidarity with oppressed South African Blacks.
New Zeal If Don Franks genuinely cared about the SA black people, why is he doing nothing to overthrow the SACP who are in many ways far worse than the old regime?