SAR, Vol 8, No 5, 1 May 1993
Solidarity forever? As we have sought, in recent issues of SAR , to articulate "new terms of solidarity" to define the links between southern Africans on the ground and people in "the North" who continue to be concerned with southern African-related issues we have noted two principal themes. One is our mutual concern, South and North, to ground new forms of democratic self-assertion that enable the most progressive forces within civil society - women, workers, cooperatives and civic associations, among others - to empower themselves and have a more profound impact on process and policy. A second is our shared sense of heightened vulnerability to the machinations of world-wide market forces that seek, in the name of "global restructuring," "structural adjustment" and "free trade," to impose their "logic" upon us.
A key social actor with proven potential to underpin both the drive towards genuine democratization and the challenge to the unfettered run of global capital is the trade union movement. One virtue of the articles mounted in the present issue of SAR is to demonstrate that this is true, not as some abstract deduction from haloed leftist orthodoxy, but in ways that are quite visible at both ends of the South-North nexus.
Building unions capable of focusing an effective working-class presence within the southern African countries isn't an entirely straightforward exercise, of course. For example, Gretchen Bauer finds Namibian unions still struggling with their own limitations of skills and resources, and with the ambiguities of their relationship to the country's ruling party (SWAPO), as they seek to define a role for themselves. Meanwhile, as Adriane Paavo shows, Mozambican unions have been freed from the Frelimo party's too smothering past embrace only to find themselves wrestling with some difficult legacies from that experience. Moreover, not unlike their counterparts in Zimbabwe (as described by Lloyd Sachikonye), such unions must deal with the accelerating contradictions of an economy in the throes of advanced structural adjustment and acute recolonization.
Perhaps these are the inevitable growing pains attendant upon what is otherwise a promising process of popular empowerment. Time alone will tell. Meanwhile, in South Africa itself, trade unions have long since established themselves as powerful actors within the popular-democratic movement. They have also been seen as, potentially, the cutting edge of resistance to the enforced imposition of a neo-colonial pattern on the post-apartheid economy. But as leading Canadian trade unionist, Sam Gindin, found on a recent working visit to South Africa, this, too, is easier said than done. Interviewed in our pages, he underscores the relentless pressures - epitomized in such terms as "globalization" and "competitiveness" - working against the mounting of equitable and transformative socio-economic policies there. Establishing parallels between the situations that confront workers in South Africa and Canada, he suggests that South African unions have merely bent, not broken, under the weight of such pressures.
More than that, he suggests ways in which South African trade unionists and Canadian trade unionists can deepen their solidarity by drawing out these parallels and trading reflections on their own experiences - diverse experiences to be sure, but framed by the workings of a single global economy. In doing so he helps put flesh on the bones of the "new terms of solidarity" relevant to the trade union sphere. But so, too, does the moving account by Canadian mineworker Gerry LeBlanc of his visit to South Africa, where he found lessons of his own to bring back and share with his fellow Canadian workers. As Sam Gindin concluded his interview with us: "When trade unionists meet there is a commitment that develops [and] there's nothing more powerful than that. . . . You can mobilize workers around solidarity." Amen, Brother Gindin.
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As usual, there's also more than our thematically-linked articles in the present issue. Bruce Kidd, after long and noble years of anti-apartheid activism on the sports front, finally visits South Africa, registers eloquently what has already been accomplished - and finds that the struggle to realize egalitarian sporting practices must continue; Jim Cason and Bill Martin survey expertly the present landscape of solidarity work in the U.S. and come up with a list of heavy-duty challenges of their own; and Judy Head looks at the vexing issue of AIDS in South Africa and some of the ways in which the democratic movement is seeking to confront that scourge. Sobering reading for a May Day celebration, no doubt. But, hey, what better occasion to think about fighting back?
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Southern Africa Report
Contents - Vol 8 No 5
"Unions: The May Day Issue"
Editorial: Solidarity Forever? - 1
Defining a Role: Trade Unions in Namibia - 8
by Gretchen Bauer
Starting Over: Rebuilding the Workers' Movement in Mozambique - 12
by Adriane Paavo
Bearing the Brunt: Labour and Structural Adjustment in Zimbabwe - 16
by Lloyd Sachikonye
Worker to Worker: A Canadian Unionist in South Africa - 18
by Gerry LeBlanc
A Constituency for Southern Africa? The State of the U.S. Movement - 20
by Jim Cason and Bill Martin
AIDS in South Africa: The Democratic Movement Responds - 25
by Judith Head
CIDA Pulls the Plug - 28
by Judith Marshall
No Level Playing Field: Bruce Kidd in South Africa - 31
by Bruce Kidd
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