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On Sunday 27th January, more than 50 representatives from miners’ strike committees, community groups, trade unions and left political organisations met at the invitation of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). The agenda of the meeting was the development of the new Workers & Socialist Party in the build up to its formal launch on 21st March – Sharpeville Day.
Weizmann Hamilton from the DSM outlined how WASP had been born out of a meeting on 15th December 2012 between miners’ strike committees – thrown up by the workers in the course of the unrest in the mining sector last year – and the DSM. Hamilton explained that the Marikana massacre had been a watershed and that the gap between the masses and the ANC government and their allies was now unbridgable. As such, a political alternative for workers, communities and youth across the country is desperately needed. WASP represents the beginning of that process.
The meeting unanimously endorsed this perspective, reaffirmed the launch date for WASP, agreed a target of one million signatures in support of WASP (see campaigns page) by the one year anniversary of Marikana on 16th August, and agreed to form an interim working group made up of delegates from the supporting organisations of WASP to begin developing a manifesto and spreading the idea far-and-wide in the run up to the launch.
The working group will hold its first meeting on Saturday 2nd February in Johannesburg. Please contact WASP for more info.
Strike Committee Resolution for a Mass Workers Party on Socialist Programme
The events of August 16, when 34 workers were slaughtered in the worst massacre since Sharpeville, by the police of the democratically ANC government, has drawn, in the blood of the martyrs of Marikana, the clearest lines between the classes — between the bosses and the workers. On the one side we have the working class and our allies, communities fighting for decent basic services and against corruption as well as working class students fighting against exclusion from tertiary education because of debt and unaffordable fees. On the other side are the bosses, their government, and the state, assisted, unfortunately, by the leadership of the trade unions including Cosatu.
One of the most important lessons of Marikana is that, as the working class, we may have the right to vote, but we are politically disenfranchised. The increases demanded by the Lonmin workers were not unaffordable. The bosses, the government and the police were united in their determination to crush the strike for political reasons—because, on behalf of all workers, we rose up again the entire system of capitalist exploitation and the institutions that enforce it. We had to be slaughtered because we wanted to put an end to our exploitation. In refusing to continue to be slaves, we were challenging the entire basis for the social and political order agreed at Codesa — that in exchange for the right to vote, we would agree to continue to be slaves, governed by the capitalist ANC government and policed by the trade union leaders.
It is time we, organised workers, working class communities and students came together united in struggle against capitalism on the basis of a socialist programme, against the bosses and their government, around common demands and one programme of action. We call upon the working class as a whole to unite its forces under the banner of the new Workers and Socialist Party to engage in this class war that has been declared by the bosses and their government in a fight to the finish until poverty, slave wages, exploitation and oppression have been eradicated.
South Africa is rotten ripe for an alternative. Locally and internationally capitalism is in a severe and protracted crisis that is not showing signs of recovery. Like their counterparts internationally, workers here have shown their willingness to struggle against the consequences that the crisis is wreaking on livelihoods as seen in the recent strike wave on the mines and the in the ongoing struggles throughout the country since and before the Marikana massacre. For us as socialists, the task of contributing towards the working class rising to the task of ending this system is a race against time. The uniting of the working class struggles in new mass organisations that can serve as our weapons in the battles to come is a life-and-death question – if the working class fails to give a lead, it will open the door for reactionary forces like the xenophobic killings in 2008 demonstrated.
The Democratic Socialist Movement together with several mineworkers’ strike committees took the initiative to get this process going by founding the Workers and Socialist Party on December 15, 2012. We are writing to your organisation to invite you to work with us in developing the Workers and Socialist Party manifesto, programme, principles, structures and campaigns. We envisage the WASP as a vehicle for forging working class unity; a broad, federal structure in which each member organisation would retain its independent identity. We believe that your participation in this project is very important and hope that you will take up this call to engage and contribute, starting with a joint meeting we propose for January 26 (see below for more details).
We aim to launch this new party of workers and working class communities on Sharpeville Day (March 21) this year. Our campaign plans include a series of rallies, a drive to collect one million names in support of the party and a campaign to recall councillors who do not deliver on their mandate.
The Workers and Socialist Party will be based on a programme to unite workers, working class communites, youth and students in struggle to combat the poverty wages, sub-human working conditions, mass unemployment, the failure to provide even the most basic housing and services, from water and electricity to health and education – all the suffering that is the reality of this capitalist system. The working class can only defend itself against the capitalist attacks through struggle – in SA we have been forced to fight at a rate of three protests per day in the past three years. But only a socialist transformation of society – taking over the commanding heights of the economy, e.g. the mines, the banks, the land and the factories, under the collective ownership and management of workers and communities, democratic planning of production and development on an international basis – can in the end decide these battles in favour of the working class. The ANC government’s massacre on striking workers in Marikana in defence of the bosses’s economic dictatorship over society has showed millions that it is time for an alternative. All that the ANC and all other parties in parliament have to offer us increasingly brutal ways of holding us down to protect the bosses’ interests. Worldwide, a capitalist future means no future at all for the vast majority.
We want the Workers and Socialist Party to bring together all the forces of the ongoing struggles in the workplaces, communities and institutions of learning, in united nation-wide coordinated action. Also the Workers and Socialist Party should campaign on a socialist programme to contest the national election in 2014. For us, participating in the elections, in councils and parliament, will be an important terrain of struggle which must link to and strengthen the key struggles that take place outside these institutions. The Workers and Socialist Party will differ from all other parties through its socialist programme of struggle, and through its principles of leadership rotation, of subjecting all its elected representatives to the right of immediate recall, and of accepting none of the privileges that today’s politicians are bathing in – a workers’ representative on a workers wage! The battle to expose corruption will be one of its most important tasks.
We are urging organisations, unions and social movements to discuss and adopt the resolution, attached, as part of building support for and participating in the formation of the Workers and Socialist Party. Developments in SA and the rest of the world are relentlessly bringing us towards decisive upheavals. The ruling class, with all the powers at its disposal, is preparing for battle. The present contest between revolution and bloody counter-revolution in Tunisia and Egypt is an image of the near future for the world. In SA, at the mines’ frontline of class struggles, Harmony Gold and Amplats have launched the first attacks in a ruling class offensive to attempt to press workers back into a political and mental jail. We do not have the luxury of time but have to act now to start preparing the forces of the working class. We look forward to democratic and comradely engagement with your organisation as we move from words to action in response to the challenges before us.
Please join us in a meeting to discuss the way forward in building a genuine working class voice on Saturday January 26, at 11h00, Johannesburg (venue to be confirmed telefonically).
Mametlwe Sebei and Liv Shange
Democratic Socialist Movement
Tel 072 657 6750 / 074 105 96 22