ANC's Neo-Apartheid Capitalism
AIDS Ravages South Africa
Free HIV Drugs for All!
Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 838, 10 December 2004.
We reprint below an article from Spartacist South Africa No. 4 (Spring/Summer 2004), newspaper of the South African section of the International Communist League.
The bourgeois nationalist African National Congress (ANC)-led Tripartite Alliance is celebrating "10 years of democracy" and heralding a rollout of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to people with AIDS. Behind the hype is the same criminal obstruction of treatment and rejection of science that has plagued official HIV/ AIDS policy from the outset. The brutal reality of South Africa is the convergence of HIV-denial with the capitalist profit system. Still, whatever ARV drugs are distributed is welcome because some lives will be saved, prolonged and improved in quality—no small thing to those living with HIV/AIDS.
The development of ARV treatments has transformed lives across the globe. Yet [President Thabo] Mbeki and the ANC tops have led a cruel and ideologically reactionary campaign against these treatments that has crippled the implementation of ARV therapy such as would be possible even within a capitalist framework. This has meant an acceleration of the epidemic in South Africa. The deaths of at least a thousand people a day can be laid at the feet of the ANC mass murderers.
Fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic requires a mobilisation of society and all of its scientific and medical resources. But extreme social inequality and unequal access to medical care are the reality under capitalism. Uganda, India or Brazil are all countries of massive destitution where diseases that are routinely treated in advanced industrial countries are still fatal. Even the most "rational" AIDS policy in such circumstances still entails a death sentence for untold numbers of people. In South Africa, the Milpark Hospital casualty unit in a wealthy Johannesburg suburb and the same facility in Baragwanath hospital near Soweto are in two entirely different worlds. We say: Open the private hospitals! For free, quality health care for all!
The powerful South African working class must take up the fight against this neo-apartheid government for ARVs. COSATU, NACTU, FEDUSA and other union federations should agitate on behalf of their members and all of the afflicted for lifesaving therapies to be made available to all, to tear up the intellectual property rights documents, and demand the immediate procurement and production of the necessary ARVs! The working class should take up the fight for the expropriation without compensation of the pharmaceutical companies as a vital public health measure. But the COSATU union bureaucrats and the South African Communist Party (SACP) are the foremost obstacles to working-class struggle in this country, and play a key role in the government, administering capitalist austerity. This drives home the urgent need for a class-struggle leadership in the unions to break the working class from the Tripartite Alliance.
As communists with an internationalist proletarian vision, we know that only the expropriation of the bourgeoisie can eliminate the vast social inequalities of capitalism. This fight for revolutionary socialism must be consciously undertaken through the struggle for the complete political independence of the working class from all capitalist parties. The critical and urgent task is the construction of a Leninist-Trotskyist party.
ANC Criminal Obstruction Continues
On 19 November 2003, the Cabinet approved a plan calling for "at least one service point in every health district" in a year and "one service point in every local municipality" in five years. They promised anti-retroviral treatment for those with a CD4 count below 200 and/or who have AIDS symptomatic illnesses, requiring the upgrading of the health care system and the recruitment and training of "thousands of health professionals." Substantial monies have been allocated, although only a portion will go directly to the purchase and distribution of drugs.
The government's plan is a measure to dampen unrest at home and market the "new South Africa" abroad, not a fundamental change of heart. After his February state of the nation address, Mbeki denied the HIV/AIDS death toll, saying there are not proper mortality figures to know "what are the things that kill South Africans." In March, Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel said that it was a waste to spend money on ARVs, which he termed "a lot of voodoo." Meanwhile, the Health Minister has intensified her campaign pushing the African potato, suggesting that traditional medicine may replace ARVs. Any implementation by the Mbeki government will be grudging and access to ARV drugs will be "akin to a lottery and will depend on where you live" (Mail & Guardian, 27 February-4 March).
In fact, except for the highlighting of the "role of traditional healers," most features of this plan will be honoured in the breach. (With this pandemic, any concession to the "legitimate" role of traditional medicine runs counter to scientific necessity.) The government specifically projected over 53,000 people would be on ARVs by the end of March 2004. As of June, only 3,667 were receiving ARVs through the national plan and four provinces had not even started distribution. This is a tragically small number when considered against the estimated 5.3 million people in South Africa who are infected with HIV. The central government only began the procurement of ARVs in February, exacerbating an acute crisis in distribution. One Health Department official justified these delays by explaining that they resulted from a trade deal with India and Brazil that would allow South Africa to become a major AIDS drugs exporter according to the "broader principles of black economic empowerment" (This Day, 3 March). The ANC is more than willing to crucify infected South Africans of all colours on the cross of domestic pharmaceutical profits.
The government's promise to upgrade medical delivery is hollow. The public health care system is collapsing. The Health Department has been plagued by critical vacancies for most of last year. The ANC has failed to implement even the modestly scaled post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) programme providing ARV to rape survivors. Commenting last year on a mother-to-child prevention programme started in 2001, a Mail & Guardian article proclaimed: "Shambles at AIDS baby treatment sites" (27 June-3 July 2003). At a 25 January AIDS forum organised by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), a health care worker vividly described overcrowding, shortage of nurses, and the absence of refrigeration or medicine for TB, diabetes or blood pressure. If your baby is sick, you may get some panado syrup [pain reliever] and are told to figure out the rest yourself. In rural areas, magnify this 100 times. Even according to the Health Department, "public health care has been chronically under-funded for the past five years" (Mail & Guardian, 20-26 February).
A report previously suppressed by the government reveals that 46 per cent of all hospital patients in the country are HIV positive. 16 per cent of health workers are likely to die from AIDS between 2002 and 2007 if they don't get ARV. A compelling course of action would mandate that ARVs be immediately procured to save lives now to sustain the key health sector. But profit, not social necessity, drives the calculations of the ANC government.
Ruling as black front men for the white capitalists, the ANC regime has laid off thousands of workers (with unemployment among Africans running at 50 per cent), kept education as a privilege for the children of a few ANC cronies and the white racist ruling class, and shut down hospitals. They've made their calculations that all lives are not of equal value, that only the unskilled, unemployed and subsistence farmers and women will be hit. They have decided that the casualties of HIV/AIDS can continue to mount, with the grim reaper cutting down any movement demanding treatment.
This calculating hostility to the poor and defenceless is not only criminal, it is tragically wrong. This disease strikes at society's productive population, especially the working class. At least 100,000 students are without teachers because of HIV/AIDS. And yet another long-suppressed government study reveals the devastation of workers in public service. A staggering 46 per cent of adult deaths are AIDS related. The utter devaluation of human life by the ANC further underscores the brutality and inherent irrationality of the capitalist system.
South Africa Torn Apart by AIDS Crisis
Protests in South Africa have cast an intense spotlight, including internationally, on the ruling party's perfidy. The "new" stance of the ANC government is partially a concession designed to head off further struggle against its reactionary policies, especially by the working class. It's significant that unions like the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) worked out agreements with the bosses to get ARVs to strategic layers of the proletariat (in auto, gold and platinum mining) that will keep capitalism churning out profits. While these are piecemeal efforts derived from the strategic interests of the capitalists, they also reflect searing anger and resentment at the base of society.
The divisions on HIV/AIDS within the ruling ANC and South Africa as a whole run deep. A University of Cape Town economist wrote: "The cabinet was probably forced into announcing a treatment programme by the sheer weight of public pressure and by concerns to defuse the issue before the 2004 elections" (Nicoli Nattrass, The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa, 2004). In September 2003, Mbeki told the Washington Post he had no personal knowledge of anyone who had the virus or had died of AIDS. In a reply that resonated widely, the Afrikaner satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys said: "He lies and so condemns his nation to death.... Like when Steve Biko died the then-apartheid minister of ‘Justice' Jimmy Kruger famously said: ‘It leaves me cold.' South Africa leaves Thabo Mbeki cold." That October the TAC, which had earlier launched and then suspended civil disobedience that had infuriated the regime, received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights for struggle in the "best traditions of the anti-apartheid movement." The chairman of Anglo-America, the mining giant, chimed in lauding the TAC's leadership.
Africa and Imperialist Hypocrisy
For their own reasons, a number of South African and foreign capitalist interests prefer Mbeki adopt an official policy formally consistent with medical science. Indeed, relieving the opprobrium in which AIDS policy was viewed by the Anglo-American imperialists and the United Nations was a factor influencing the decision to announce ARV distribution. But if the imperialist powers embrace this seeming change, it is because the regionally powerful South Africa is their preferred instrument for intervention on what they call the "hopeless" continent. The ANC's extending asylum to U.S.-deposed Haitian president Aristide, opposing the war in Iraq, and supporting the Palestinian leader Arafat cannot mask the fact that the ANC is a junior partner to the bloody Bush gang. Under their rule, the South African capitalists have sharply increased investment in sub-Saharan Africa and provided troops for imperialist "peacekeeping" schemes. After the Iraq war, U.S. president Bush visited South Africa and declared that Mbeki is his point man on Zimbabwe.
The recent period has seen intensified jockeying between imperialist powers over the control of Africa. The U.S. is setting up "anti-terrorist command centres" in the eastern African countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. According to journalist Pierre Abramovici, U.S. forces have also recently been involved in a series of military operations in the Sahel, the buffer zone between the oil fields in North Africa and those of the Gulf of Guinea (Le Monde Diplomatique, July 2004). Using the "war on terror" as a pretext, the U.S. imperialists have strengthened their ties to African officer corps and are moving in to protect sources and supply lines for important primary resources like manganese, cobalt, chrome, gold, industrial diamonds and (especially) oil. Over the next ten years, Africa is projected to become the U.S.'s second most important supplier of oil after the Near East, and the imperialists are greedily eyeing reserves from western and central Africa, especially Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola. In response, France and other European countries have moved to reassert their "influence" in former colonies, like the Ivory Coast.
Along these lines, a Pentagon official made clear that a key ingredient in regional African security "is national militaries that are capable and competent and not dying of AIDS." The forging of a special relationship with the South African military and restoring its combat readiness is a priority of the American imperialists. Recently, results of soldiers coming forward for one HIV test showed an astounding 87 per cent rate of positives, and estimates for overall infection rates range from 23 to 40 per cent. It was thus mutually satisfactory then that the U.S.'s National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave $35 million (mainly for ARVs) to the South African National Defence Force.
The U.S., Britain and other imperialist governments, despite hypocritical criticisms of Mbeki, act as enforcers for the extortionate drug monopolies. The Bush administration has waged an international campaign against generic ARVs and condoms, and manipulated billions in aid money to promote U.S. pharmaceutical interests and a reactionary Christian agenda of opposition to abortion and preaching abstinence. Since the patents for each component are held by different companies, only the generic ARVs provide necessary medication in one pill (2 or 3 in 1). This is a qualitative enhancement in economically backward countries, where access to medical treatment and transport is limited.
Cheap drugs to treat AIDS don't get to Africa because the capitalist bloodsuckers on Wall Street and in the City of London don't want them to. This doesn't stop the same pharmaceutical giants from dumping all sorts of drugs not yet approved for the West on African countries. Or worse, in the late 1990s, 15 studies on mother-to-infant transmission funded by the U.S. and the UN used a placebo instead of AZT—this, when AZT was known to effectively block this type of HIV transmission. 1,502 infants were expected to die, echoing (if not replicating!) the infamous, racist U.S.-funded Tuskegee experiment where poor blacks in the rural south were denied the known treatment for syphilis. It's within this context that Mbeki's rants about using Africans as "guinea pigs" can get a hearing from Africans outraged by the suffering they've endured.
Because they perpetuate the conditions of economic impoverishment and cultural backwardness, the imperialist powers are ultimately responsible for the horrific scope of the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. The 1980s saw a mounting economic crisis throughout most of the continent, which was compounded by IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programmes carried out at the behest of the imperialist bankers. The wholesale economic devastation of the continent has been deepened further by the destruction of the Soviet Union, which had acted as a counterweight to American imperialism. During the Cold War, many "Third World" regimes were able to garner economic and military aid by playing off Moscow and Washington. Driven by economic desperation and the manifest bankruptcy of African nationalism, there has been a resurgence of national, tribal and clan rivalries, leading to almost continuous warfare throughout the continent, supplemented by tribal and clan massacres. In turn, these have been cynically manipulated by the imperialists and African politicians for their own ends. The UN, the IMF, and French imperialism bear significant responsibility for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, and intervention by the UN into Darfur, Sudan is not a solution. From HIV/AIDS to "humanitarian" relief for Sudan, the crocodile tears of concern for the plight of Africa is imperialist hypocrisy: All U.S./ UN/British and French troops out of Africa! UN/South African troops out of Burundi and the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]! Hands off Sudan!
Women's Oppression and the Pandemic
In South Africa the face of HIV/AIDS is the African woman. As we said in Spartacist South Africa No. 1, devoted entirely to AIDS, the woman question is the burning social question here today:
"More than with any other disease in modern history, every step in the search to control and cure HIV/AIDS has been hampered by the profit-driven capitalist system and all the backward, repressive, racist and anti-woman ideological crap that comes with it.... And because it is a sexually transmitted disease, the special oppression that women suffer under capitalism creates a major obstacle to a cure. All the guilt, shame and repressive taboos about sex that are designed to subjugate women via bourgeois morality also play a major role in sabotaging a scientific response to AIDS."
African women between the ages 15 to 24 are two and a half times as likely to be HIV-infected as their male counterparts. This disparity is partially the result of the biological fact that HIV is more easily transmitted from men to women. Sexual activity also generally starts much earlier for women, typically with partners five to seven years older (increasing their chances of infection), and often as "survival sex" for groceries, transport or school fees. This is only made worse by the widespread male insistence on nyama enyameni (flesh on flesh) and the common belief that AIDS is a "woman's disease."
The horrific gang rape and murder of TAC AIDS activist Lorna Mlofana in a shebeen [township bar] toilet is emblematic of the degradation and oppression of women and its intersection with HIV/AIDS. She was beaten and killed after telling her attackers she was HIV-positive. Her doctor at the Khayelitsha clinic said Mlofana, a 21-year-old mother of a 3-year-old boy, had been taking anti-retroviral drugs for the past two years and was a healthy woman who courageously talked about the disease to educate and counter the stigma associated with it. We solidarise with the TAC's vigorous protest of this atrocity.
There are some 50,000 reported cases of rape per year in South Africa. Just under a third of high school girls indicate they are victims of rape, and 70 per cent say they have been coerced into having sexual intercourse. The myth that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS has become a further catalyst in escalating incidents of rape of young girls. One South African journalist who was raped and fought bureaucratic obstacles to get AZT to prevent HIV infection said: "We won't end this epidemic until we understand the role of tradition and religion—and of a culture in which rape is endemic and has become a prime means of transmitting the disease to young women as well as children." Mbeki labelled the journalist "racist" for this observation. In fact, traditional views are frequently comingled and overlap with the religious doctrines of the Christian church and missionaries wherein sex is made a "moral" issue, thereby reinforcing the stigma of AIDS. The control of this pandemic is inconceivable without a profound struggle against this retrograde social backwardness.
The oppression of women and children is bound up with the role of the bourgeois monogamous family under capitalism, where women are treated as property of men, slated to raise the next generation of wage slaves. The oppression of women may take an even more extreme form in the traditional African family, especially when polygamy is still sanctioned. The only solution is the destruction of the capitalist system by the working class, expropriating the capitalist class through victorious socialist revolution, and preparing the way for a classless society. Then the material basis would exist for replacing the family through collectivising household drudgery and child rearing.
The oppression and abuse of women is reinforced by the anti-working-class, anti-woman, anti-poor practices of the regime. There is a huge gulf between official policy as embodied in the "most progressive constitution in the world" and reality. Only 45 per cent of the 309 designated abortion clinics actually provide this vital procedure. Women stuck without employment outside the home care for the sick and dying, while the swelling ranks of AIDS orphans battle for survival. The ANC has never taken a public stand against the prevalent lobola (bride price) in which women's status is reduced to property, or female genital mutilation, still practised openly in rural areas and secretly in the townships.
Bourgeois Nationalism Is the Main Obstacle to Revolutionary Consciousness
The Western-educated Mbeki and many ANC bourgeois nationalists embrace conspiracy theories and AIDS denial. Mbeki and his ministers employ sinister race-baiting in their attacks on proponents of ARVs. In one public incident, the Minister of Health labelled the combative TAC leader Mark Heywood as a "white man" who tells "our Africans" that "you must toyi toyi [martial protest dance] here." In a speech at Fort Hare University in 2001, Mbeki slanderously ascribed the view to AIDS scientists that Africans are "germ carriers, and human beings of a lower order" who must "adopt strange options, to save a depraved and diseased people from perishing from self-inflicted disease." Likewise, the ANC expounds on the "African Renaissance" and energetically promotes the authority of "tribal leaders" and "traditional healers."
The ANC government's cynical refusal to recognise the crisis around AIDS is also underpinned by its elemental hostility on the gay question. It is common to hear that homosexual sex is not "African." The association of AIDS with homosexuals, drug users, or any other particular group has always been the ideological cover for the concrete failure to fight it. There is no such thing as a "homosexual disease" or a "heterosexual disease." HIV is a virus. We fight for full democratic rights for gays and lesbians.
Likewise, the ANC-led government orchestrates and manipulates an anti-immigrant backlash. Today, it is immigrants and asylum seekers at whose feet the scourge of AIDS is falsely laid. These migrant workers, including "illegal" immigrants, are a living link between the South African proletariat and the workers throughout the region. Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
Mbeki et al.'s "Africanist" denunciations of Western science, race-baiting and touting of "African solutions" are intended to disguise the fact that the bourgeois-nationalist ANC regime is the main political agent of world imperialism and the South African capitalist class. The ANC's nationalism is a wellspring for retrograde consciousness on HIV/ AIDS and women's oppression. To break the chains of neo-apartheid capitalism, and achieve genuine national and social liberation, the working class must transcend the ideology of nationalism, the false belief that the black African people—brutally oppressed by the white rulers of South Africa—all have a common interest which stands higher than class divisions. All working people in this country—Zulu or Xhosa, Indian or Coloured [mixed-race], immigrant or native born, African or white—have a common interest in fighting against ANC capitalist austerity and neo-apartheid.
Break with the ANC-Led Tripartite Alliance!
The Tripartite Alliance between the misnamed SACP, COSATU and the ANC is a nationalist popular front through which the African working class and dispossessed are chained to their exploiters. The SACP and COSATU have acted as a medium for pressure at the base of society that low cost ARVs be made available. They have utilised differences over the epidemic in the ruling party to push for a formal change in the government's position on ARV distribution. But simultaneously, they are part of a division of labour that marshals support for the ANC and keeps any expression of disgruntlement with the HIV-denialist Mbeki regime confined to "safe" limits. They thus seek to shackle the oppressed to their literal executioners.
At last year's COSATU conference, the SACP/COSATU tops dismissed the idea of a split in the Tripartite Alliance and announced a long-term (to 2015) programme of cooperation. Opponents of the Alliance were told that their identities were known and they should get out. The COSATU tops and SACP quite consciously did not use the national stage to galvanise South African society on HIV/ AIDS. Any display of indignation was buried as the Minister of Health and other ANC luminaries were in attendance. Instead Blade Nzimande, SACP general secretary, addressed COSATU on the need to renew the ANC by a massive workers infusion into it for the upcoming elections. An obligatory resolution calling on the government to dispense ARVs was passed. But the truth was captured by a reader of Spartacist South Africa and COSATU member, who explained to us that within COSATU itself there are inadequate structures to deal with the epidemic even as its members are dying daily.
The SACP is integral to the administration of the capitalist state, which is an instrument for the suppression of the interests of the working class and oppressed. The chairman of the SACP is Minister of Safety and Security with direct control over the police, and Ronnie Kasrils is the minister in charge of the National Intelligence Agency that has been in the vanguard of intimidation and worse of the "social movements." The SACP's role in covering the ANC's flank on HIV/AIDS will prove to be one of the singular betrayals in the sordid history of class-collaborationist (popular-front) politics.
Acting as a political auxiliary to the ANC is the TAC, a militant single-issue pressure group arising out of the mass desperation of the situation. The ANC regime has employed repression against the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) and detention and torture against the Landless Peoples Movement (LPM). TAC, another one of the "social movements," is seen to be more acceptable because of its craven political support for the ANC. (Although this didn't stop COSATU tops from warning the TAC that their short-lived civil disobedience better not challenge the "authority" of the state.) Given the unprecedented destructive scope of the epidemic, a denialist regime that withholds medicine that could save the lives of thousands, and the intransigence of the drug companies on pricing and cheaper generics, "rampant, militant protest would seem a given." But, as even the bourgeois press notes in the course of praising this group's tactics, they are merely a "whisper" on the "sliding scale of a people's revolutionary cause" (Sunday Independent, 7 December 2003).
On January 25th, the TAC held a "People's AIDS Forum" at Johannesburg City Hall to build a "real partnership for implementation" with the government. At this event, the leadership policed the audience to stifle militant expressions of outrage. A person with AIDS spoke and, pointing her finger at ANC Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, said: "We are bleeding and the government is doing nothing." When she finished, a group of youth converged to the front of the hall toyi toying and chanting "Manto and Mbeki are selling us out. We are going to give them one minute to get out." This prompted the TAC to say that the woman's sickness was the source of her words, so for the TAC the government was not the enemy. When Shilowa got up to speak, the chanting and toyi toying began again: "The Black Elite is causing this suffering." Shilowa's speech was an insult and youth in the back of the hall started making placards: "African potato, olive oil, she must taste it first" and "Phansi nge Beet Root" [Down with beet root]. Another read "If you want votes go to the nearest cemetery." TAC members roamed the hall collecting the offending placards.
The TAC's whole strategy exemplifies the limits of keeping the struggle for decent health care and living conditions within the confines of capitalism, especially when the vast majority of the world's population lives in poverty. Politically loyal to the ANC, their "watchdog" strategy of pressuring the regime has turned them into political cops suppressing the immense and justifiable rage against the government. Disenchanted TAC activists must break with single-issue activism and with the ANC and struggle against the capitalist profit system of exploitation, poverty and war.
A "Left" Opponent of Revolutionary Marxism
Posturing to the left of the ANC/SACP is the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), affiliated with the Committee for a Workers International of Peter Taaffe. The DSM has opposed Mbeki's HIV/ AIDS denial and criticised the TAC for, among other things, defending the profits of drug companies. They say "the battle against AIDS cannot be won in the Courts, but in the struggle against capitalism itself" (Izwi Labasebenzi, June 2002). They criticise TAC leader Zackie Achmat's public posture as a "loyal ANC member bewildered by the apparently inexplicable position of his leader, Mbeki...." This might lead some to give credence to the DSM as bona fide defenders of the downtrodden. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a group that spent some 20 years (!) inside the ANC as the so-called Marxist Workers Tendency (MWT), to attack Achmat for his slavish loyalty to the same ANC takes some truly self-serving memory loss. Ignoring the clear print of the Freedom Charter, they repeatedly state the ANC's capitalist programme began in 1996 with the imposition of GEAR. But the ANC did not just recently go bad. It has always been explicitly capitalist. The MWT stayed inside the ANC when it negotiated the historic betrayal of the African masses in 1994. They were in the ANC when the Mandela government unleashed repression against the national nurses strike and fired 6,000 in the Eastern Cape in 1995. Their current opposition to the ANC, including on HIV/AIDS, does not diminish the responsibility they bear for the crimes of the ANC, which they helped put into power.
Forge a Leninist-Trotskyist Party!
South Africa is an example of what Marxists call combined and uneven development. The technologies to build nuclear reactors and chronic outbreaks of cholera have an uneasy coexistence. On the streets of Durban, purveyors of muthi (traditional medicines) offering mystery powders and ground bones as cures for the ravages of AIDS are found side by side with the advanced technology necessary to operate one of the world's most active industrial ports. Modern industrial and mining complexes were built through the superexploitation of the black toilers by the white capitalist class. The privileged white minority enjoys living standards comparable to the wealthiest enclaves in North America and West Europe, including having access to the best medical care money can buy. But a powerful working class exists that will be the gravedigger of the neo-apartheid social order.
In South Africa, with its significant economic development in the crucial urban centres and its relatively advanced medical care, ARVs could be distributed on a massive scale. Less developed Botswana is distributing ARVs free to 17,400 people, which is, however, only a fraction of its 260,000-strong HIV-positive population (the government estimates that 100,000 people are in immediate need of ARVs). But even the most rational and humane policy under neo-apartheid capitalism may well not be enough to save the lives of millions of people in this country, including entire sections of the South African proletariat. Poverty, homophobia, women's oppression and "traditional institutions" will continue to plague any approach to this disease, strongly affecting who is treated. The availability of drugs and the rational utilisation of technology are hamstrung by private medical services and profiteering pharmaceutical companies. In rural areas, the absence of infrastructure, transport and refrigeration presents additional obstacles to be overcome.
South Africa has the most powerful proletariat on the continent. There are in its ranks many adherents of a socialist vision of society. This proletariat has not been defeated in battle, although its liberation was "negotiated" away at least temporarily. The powerful strikes against privatisation over the past three years have not raised the basic call for free ARVs for everybody now! This would destabilise the ANC and South Africa in a profound way, so deeply is the country fractured by this crisis.
Massive unemployment and land hunger, the displacement of the African population in townships, the migrant labour system with its single-sex hostels—the entire edifice of social inequality—these are the core characteristics of neo-apartheid capitalism today. If it is to fight for its own liberation against capitalist exploitation, the South African working class must lead the battle against the obstruction of the Alliance on AIDS. It must oppose the brutal oppression of women, immigrants and the rural poor. It must take up the cause of the millions who languish in the country's impoverished shantytowns.
Spartacist South Africa is dedicated to the task of building a revolutionary internationalist vanguard party as the critical step in unchaining the power of the South African proletariat. It will struggle against every manifestation of social oppression and police tyranny. It will be, in Lenin's words, a "tribune of the people." The South African working class must be an instrument of its own emancipation and all the oppressed by sweeping away capitalism in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the scourge of HIV/AIDS cannot be eliminated within the colonial-derived boundaries of the South African state. The survival of socialist revolution on the subcontinent requires its international extension to the metropolitan bastions of imperialism in the West and Japan. This is the task to which the International Communist League is dedicated. Then and only then will the necessary social resources and the most advanced medical and scientific techniques be employed in the service of all humanity to truly tackle the plague of HIV/AIDS.