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The #outsourcingmustfall campaign is winning! Yesterday, after 10 days of strike action, University of Pretoria management signed an agreement meeting all of the workers’ demands. Salaries will be more than doubled immediately from around R2,500 now to R5,500, rising to R10,000 by the end of 2018; workers will now be able to access campus medical facilities for free and workers’ children will be eligible for free education at the institution. Workers will participate in a commission to oversee the phasing out of outsouring with an agreement that no worker who participated in the ‘unprotected’ strike will be victimised. Today, UP workers returned to work as part of the agreement.
The determination, unity and fighting spirit of the workers made this victory possible. With the ANC and Blade Nzimande capitulating to further student protests with the scrapping of registration fees for this year it is certain that outsourcing’s days are numbered. The other institution managements, including Medunsa, Tshwane South College (TSC), Tshwane North College, TUT and Unisa are under enormous pressure to follow UP’s lead. This is the time to step up the pressure. The ANC-led Tshwane municipality, whose outsourced workers are also participating in the strike, under the striking workers’ pressure, but also under the pressure of this year’s fast approaching local government elections has also indicated it is willing to negotiate.
Today striking workers will march to Unisa, TSC and Tshwane municipality; tomorrow a night vigil will be held at Unisa and on Saturday a mass march to Union Buildings will take place.
The Workers & Socialist Party initiated the #outsourcingmustfall campaign in November last year. In the wake of the victorious student movement that defeated tuition fee increases, outsourced workers at colleges and universities across Tshwane held mass meetings and organised themselves into the #outsourcingmustfall campaign alongside outsourced workers from Tshwane municipality and government departments in the city.
Unfortunately, the EFF has been spreading lies and falsehoods about the origin of the struggle against outsourcing and their role for their own narrow gain. This has meant they have been willing to sacrifice the unity of workers in struggle leading to unnecessary complications at some institutions and unnecessarily exposing workers to the threat of victimisation. All the strikes that have taken place at Tshwane colleges and universities this year were and are an integral part of the #outsourcingmustfall campaign despite any claims the EFF may now be making. The strike followed months of discussion and planning amongst workers at mass meetings in Burgers Park. Now that victory is in sight thanks to the tireless sacrifice of the workers, the EFF comes along to claim the credit! Workers will not forgive the EFF’s dishonesty nor their attempt to use workers’ issues to promote their own egos. It went entirely against the open spirit in which the campaign was organised.
The role of WASP in the campaign has led to the usual paranoid delusions from the ANC and sensationalism in the media. In The Star, WASP is reported as “working towards overthrowing the ANC government”. This distorted sensationalism arose because WASP Executive Committee member Mametlwe Sebei told the media that “we want to see the ANC government go” and “overthrow the whole system of capitalism”. This is all true! WASP is committed to building a mass party of the working class to unite the struggles of workers, communities and the youth. Such a party could lead a mass democratic movement to replace the pro-capitalist government of the ANC with a workers government that with the mass involvement of the working class and poor would democratically reorganise society along socialist lines so that the wealth that is presently in the hands of the few can be used to raise living standards for all, creating jobs, building houses, hospitals and schools. This transparent and democratic process is very different from The Star’s attempt to portray WASP as leading some conspiracy!
The ANC-led Progressive Youth Alliance, in a further betrayal of the students, has described those behind #outsourcingmustfall as “dark forces” trained by US imperialism’s CIA! The laughable implication is that WASP is such an imperialist tool. Sebei’s refusal to dignify with an answer a question from a Star journalist about WASP being “controlled” or “funded” from abroad was used to suggest he is hiding something. WASP has international links and we a are proud of them. We are an affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), uniting us with socialists and working class activists fighting for socialism in more than forty countries on every continent. Internationalism is a centuries old tradition in the working class movement.
As we have seen before, the ANC leadership is so out of touch with the working class that they cannot comprehend that workers can organise themselves for struggle. It is the ANC government that has managed the South African economy fully in lines with the neo-liberal dictates of world imperialism for the last twenty years.
This point and this mudslinging at workers will not be lost, especially in Tshwane, as the local elections approach. The ANC is showing clearly why workers should stand their own candidates in that election.
Thousands of workers at more than 20 campuses of the University of South Africa (Unisa), the University of Pretoria, Tshwane University of Technology, Tshwane North College, Tshwane South College and the Medical University of South Africa (Medunsa) engaged in a third day of strike action today. Marches have taken place across the city as workers have marched from campus to campus calling out other workers to join them. Students are mobilising in support of the workers.
Workers have submitted memoranda to university and college managements demanding (1) immediate permanent employment, (2) R10,000 p/m minimum wage and full benefits, (3) opposition to any retrenchments and the permanent employment of all recently retrenched workers.
On Tuesday outsourced workers at the Tshwane municipality joined the strike and marched alongside college and university workers to the municipality buildings to submit their own memorandum.
Outsourced workers at national government departments in Tshwane are also organising as part of the campaign and will soon be submitting memoranda. Outsourced workers in the private sector are also mobilising. A Tshwane-wide mass movement of the working class is developing against the modern day slavery of outsourcing.
Cleaners at universities and colleges are paid as little as R2,000 p/m for 40+ hour weeks. In national government departments, permanent security guards are paid R13,500 per month; their outsourced colleagues are paid just R4,500 for the same work. Workers demand equal pay for equal work and a living wage. The parasitic ‘tenderpreneur’ layer who profit from the outsourced contracts must go! They profit from the workers’ hard work whilst doing nothing.
Throughout November and December, in the wake of the victorious student movement that defeated tuition fee increases, outsourced workers at colleges and universities across Tshwane held mass meetings and organised themselves into the #outsourcingmustfall campaign alongside outsourced workers from Tshwane municipality and government departments in the city.
#outsorcingmustfall held its first Tshwane-wide mass meeting on 09 November 2015 and is organised and led through independent workers’ committees elected by workers’ in each workplace. The first mass meeting was initiated by the Workers & Socialist Party (WASP), whose predecessor, the Democratic Socialist Movement, helped found the independent mineworkers’ strike committees that led the post-Marikana massacre strike wave in 2012.
WASP appeals for the mobilisation and support of all students, permanent workers and communities across Tshwane. The victory of this movement will raise the living standards of the working class. As we have always known, it is only our own action that can take us forward!
Over the last three months of 2015 the ANC government was subjected to the most humiliating defeats of its twenty one years in power – the first inflicted on it by the magnificent October student uprising; the second in December by the capitalist class, taking advantage of the generalised revulsion against it in society. 2015 was the ANC’s “annus horribilis” – a horrible year, worse than 2007, the year of the ousting of Mbeki and its biggest split since its birth in 1912.
Not since Marikana has the subservience of the ANC government to the capitalist class been displayed in all its full nakedness, as in its capitulation to the demands to reverse the appointment of David van Rooyen as Finance Minister. 2015 could not have concluded in a more humiliating manner for Jacob Zuma in particular. Within four days a power play turned into a spectacular demonstration of impotence and abject weakness.
A president originally mandated by the coalition that brought him to the ANC’s presidency in 2007, to ensure the ANC shifted its focus from the rich to the poor, placed his tail meekly between his legs and answered the call to heel of his capitalist masters.
ANC deputy-secretary general Jesse Duarte’s statement that Zuma’s somersault was a demonstration of leadership and a willingness to listen to the people is comparable to Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s farcical attempt to convince the public that the Nkandla swimming pool was built for fighting fires. Nhleko’s act could at least invite howls of derision. As devoid of credibility as Nhleko’s, Duarte’s attempt to present Zuma as standing on his feet when he was in fact on his knees could only invite disbelief.
Zuma’s capitulation not a triumph for democracy
Political commentator Steven Friedman finds in this something to celebrate. It shows democracy works he claims triumphantly, unintentionally lending credibility to Duarte’s dishonest spin.
What unfolded over those four days in December was the exposure of the essence of SA’s bourgeois parliamentary democracy – its mask torn away to reveal the economic dictatorship of the capitalist class underneath it. They trampled underfoot the “presidential prerogative” behind which the cowardly ANC leadership had so sheepishly taken refuge as they sought to face both ways – distancing themselves from Zuma and at the same time adopting a posture of unity behind him.
Friedman is probably most heavily influenced by the #Zumamustfall protests. The truth is that the impact of the demonstrations was exaggerated by a sympathetic media which gave them a level of coverage not commensurate with their size. Given the numbers, class and racial composition – a few thousand, middle class with an unusually large numbers of whites – these demonstrations would not, by themselves, have been capable of forcing Zuma to act.
The issue was not settled by the sparsely populated street, but in the boardrooms of big business. Respected journalist John Battersby pointed out in Africa Confidential ,(re-published by Biznews 24/12/15) that Zuma was forced onto his knees by the “markets” — white monopoly capital in collaboration with a faction of their black apprentices in SA. Against the background of the carnage unleashed on the markets by investors, they issued Zuma with the equivalent of a démarche (a demand usually issued by diplomats prior to hostilities between governments), that is an ultimatum.
“These concessions followed a meeting on 13 December of Radebe (Minister in the Presidency) and Mkhize (ANC Treasurer General) with an extremely high-powered business delegation that included the Barclays Africa Group Chief Executive Officer, Maria Ramos; Goldman Sachs’ South Africa head Colin Coleman; Investec Bank’s global Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Koseff; Imperial Holdings’ CEO, Mark Lamberti; Sanlam CEO Ian Kirk; Business Leadership South Africa Chairman Bobby Godsell; Toyota Europe CEO Johan van Zyl and FirstRand CEO Johan Burger.
“They presented a four-page document itemising how, if Nene’s sacking stood, the rand would continue its plunge, foreign investors would flee, the cost of borrowing by the state and state corporations such as Eskom and Transnet would become exorbitant and inflation would soon hit the poorest people hard. This was the decisive meeting, insiders say, and Gordhan’s appointment was announced about two-and-a-half hours after it ended.
“The business community had also been pressuring the ANC leaders who came to Zuma. Other key figures whose influence would have been felt in the lobbying prior to the reversal were former SA Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni, Godsell, former Eskom boss Reuel Khoza, Eskom Chairman Brian Molefe, and banker Martin Kingston, CEO of Rothschild in South Africa. Before the business people made their démarche on the Sunday, ANC leaders had met at the home of former President Kgalema Motlanthe, who lost to Zuma in the 2012 ANC presidential election.”
The reaction of the “markets” was entirely driven by capitalist self-interest. No more now than at any time since 1996, when the neo-liberal GEAR (Growth Employment and Redistribution) policy was first imposed on the country by the ANC government as willing agents of imperialism and their local collaborators, is big business in the slightest concerned with the impact of Zuma’s actions on the poor as their ultimatum so hypocritically claimed.
The capitalists saw Van Rooyen’s appointment as a serious breach of the command and control centre from where they exercise their dictatorship over the economy – Treasury. The “independence” the constitution provides to the Reserve Bank and Treasury, which is housed under the Ministry of Finance, is a fiction promoted to conceal the fact that these institutions are under the direct management of the most trusted representatives of the capitalist class — holy ground around which an exclusion zone from the democratic playground of parliament must be maintained.
Bourgeois democracy – a mask for capitalist dictatorship
It is not for nothing that constitutional experts describe SA as a “constitutional” as opposed to a “parliamentary” democracy. It is not parliament that is sovereign, but the constitution. The bricks and mortar out of which this cornerstone of the capitalist economic dictatorship, masked by parliament, is built, include amongst others, the “independence” of Treasury and the Reserve Bank, presidential prerogative and the property clause which, because it cannot be amended without at least a two-thirds majority (possibly 75%) is in reality, along with the constitution as a whole subject to a minority veto.
Explaining the relationship between class and democracy under capitalism, Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917 points out: “….the omnipotence of ‘wealth’ …. does not depend on defects in the political machinery or the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capitalism has gained possession of this very best shell, it establishes its power so firmly that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois democratic republic can shake it. (State and Revolution)
Elsewhere in the same work, Lenin makes the following comments on Marx’s observations of the Paris Commune of 1870 when the first workers revolution was attempted: “Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich–that is the democracy of capitalist society…Marx grasped this essence of capitalist democracy splendidly when, in analyzing the experience of the Commune, he said that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!”
UF call for direct presidential elections naive
The call by the United Front Interim Secretariat – echoed by former Cosatu General Secretary Vavi – for direct presidential elections and a constituency-based system for parliamentary elections, reflects a shocking level of naivety about the nature of capitalist democracy and a failure to comprehend what unfolded in front of their very eyes in December 2015.
Neither system would shift power even one inch into the hands of the working class majority. On the contrary, any directly elected president – unless they represented a genuine socialist party — would be insulated from their own party, (assuming he/she represented one), or from any political party that the working class may form. The only beneficiaries of such an arrangement would be the capitalist class who would now be able to exert their influence more directly without the nuisance of the mediation of a political party or a dispensable fiction called “presidential prerogative”.
The UF leadership’s call would in fact undermine multi-party democracy and the ability of the working class to collectively counter the power of such a directly elected president. The UF leadership put forward this position as an alternative to calling for a mass workers party or for socialism, preferring to see the workers move forward as an amorphous “movement” – without a programme, a democratically elected leadership or an organisation around which to mobilise – that too many of the UF leaders advocate. It is a shameful abdication of responsibility. It is yet another example of a complete lack of confidence in the working class and socialism based on a belief that a better capitalism is possible. This is what has left the UF dead-in-the-water as escalating service delivery protests and the #feesmustfallmovement of students passes it by completely.
What junk status would mean
The demonstrations that followed Nene’s sacking brought together the entire country, workers (passively), the middle class (actively) and the capitalists around a common cause: #Zumamustfall. Since then the calls for Zuma to go, either by way of recall by the ANC itself or by mass action, have become more widespread. In the US and UK the bourgeois press has published harsh comments about Zuma. But Zuma was condemned for entirely different reasons by the capitalists on the one side and by the middle and working classes on the other.
Small business Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s suggestion that the markets had been deliberately manipulated as part of a plot to overthrow Zuma is the paranoid exaggeration of a loyal follower of the worst leader the ANC has had certainly since the end of apartheid. The markets reacted blindly to a perceived threat to the policy regime that had created the conditions for their parasitic exploitation of the country’s resources, not to topple Zuma. That Zuma did not expect the markets to react in this way is the greatest indictment against him. It reflects a pitiful level of ignorance of the state of the economy and of the social, political and economic capitalist architecture post-apartheid society is founded on that the ANC helped to design and over which it presides.
Whilst investors were pre-occupied by losses in shares amounting to hundreds of billions of rands overnight, for the working and middle classes it is the slow economic growth, the sharp decline in the value of the rand as well as the likelihood of the country’s credit rating being reduced to junk status that they were most alarmed about. Investors, especially the parasitic type that dominates the Stock Exchange, can always take flight to chase better yields elsewhere. For the working class and increasing numbers of the middle class there is nowhere to go. With the economy performing at its worst since 1994, the threat of massive job losses hangs over the country. The steel and engineering sectors already face up to 200 000 job losses and the industry itself could be wiped out completely. Anglo American is currently retrenching 84 000. Lonmin’s shares have plummeted by 90% placing tens of thousands of jobs at risk.
The weak rand had already lost 25% of its value against the US$ over the year before Zuma sacked Nene. It then lost a further 5% immediately after reaching its lowest level in history before recovering slightly. Since then the convulsion on the Chinese stock markets the rand has sunk even deeper than the historic ‘Nene’ lows and is now one third lower than a year ago.
Against the background of a 140% increased in the price of maize over the past year drastic increases not only in the price of the staple, pap, but also meat products lie ahead in the coming months. The worst drought in 40 years has continued beyond the November/December planting season affecting both white maize (for consumption) and yellow maize for animal feed. The estimated 40-50% shortfalls in maize production will have to be made up through imports that will become necessary by May. The cost of imports will place further strains on the fiscus and pressure on a current account already in deficit. This will be worsened by the bail-outs that farmers will need to stay in business. Agriculture employs 1m. Bankruptcy means job losses. In a country where 12m go to bed hungry every night, there is now the spectre of food shortages and even starvation.
A weaker rand also means that the cost of servicing government debt will increase placing further pressure on the budget deficit that has passed the critical 4% mark that by itself could trigger a further ratings downgrade. A wider budget deficit will increase the pressure on the government to cut state spending with the focus particularly on the public sector wage bill that the neo-liberal-controlled Treasury and capitalist commentators have been complaining about bitterly for years.
A downgrade of the country’s credit rating to junk status will precipitate a flight of capital which would in turn make the rand fall further, fuel inflation and trigger a rise in interest rates. Not only would higher interest rates push the economy into recession, it would also increase the cost of consumer household debt which already constitutes 75% of annual household income. This would add potentially tens of thousands more to the existing 19m highly indebted. It would accelerate house, car and furniture repossessions.
Whilst the capitalists have cheered the re-appointment of Gordhan as Finance Minister, neither the working class nor the middle class have anything to celebrate. It was on Gordhan’s watch that, in 2012, SA received its first ratings downgrade since 1994 after the currency plunged 30%. His successor, Nene himself, however badly he may have been treated by Zuma, was following the same policies as Gordhan and Trevor Manuel before him. Nene oversaw the reduction of SA rating to just one notch above junk status.
All of them are loyal servants of the anti-working class neo-liberal capitalist GEAR policy undemocratically imposed on the country in 1996. They are all responsible for SA now being the most unequal society on earth with no solution to the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Black elite in struggle for control of Treasury
The battle for the Treasury has brought to light the deep factional divisions within the ANC. Zuma’s Gupta-centred faction attempted to break the grip of the Ramaphosa-faction over the economic management of the country. Dressing up his faction’s interest in pseudo anti-imperialist language, Zuma is attempting to shift SA’s economic relations away from the West towards China, Russia and India through SA’s BRICS membership. A telling, revolting sign of the politically corrupting influence on SA’s foreign policy of ingratiating itself with China, is not the refusal to allow the Dalai Lama’s to attend Archbishop Desmond’s Tutu’s birthday; it is the fact that a foreign policy briefing document described the 1989 Tiananmen Uprising as a American-backed counter-revolution.
Zuma’s dismissal of Nene was the equivalent of a palace coup against a department that his faction had come to view as a government-within-a-government. His aim was to break the grip on Treasury of the Ramaphosa faction which is much more closely aligned to white monopoly capital and the West. At the heart of this battle is the proposed R1.5trillion nuclear procurement deal with Russia – the biggest in SA history – which Treasury, supported by the National Development Plan Commissioners is opposed to because of the dire state of budget and current account deficits and rising government debt.
The nuclear deal promises Zuma’s faction undreamt of wealth. The inevitable aggravation of the fiscal crisis it will contribute to, will be passed onto the working class. For Zuma personally such levels of patronage, combined with strategic, that is, factional “cadre deployments” in key government departments, State Owned Enterprises, the Police, National Prosecuting Authority, Intelligence Services and the judiciary as well as the hypocritical campaign for a woman president, are calculated, amongst others, to secure the possibility of immunity from prosecution for corruption after the end of his second term in 2019 especially if he is succeeded by his ex-wife Nkosazana Zuma.
The working class has no friends amongst the various political and business factions at war with each other for control over the management of the economy. Gordhan’s appointment will not stop the plundering of the economy by the capitalists that cost the economy 25% of GDP in 2012. All that his appointment has done is to buy more time before the downgrade to junk status, the conditions for which were present already, having accumulated since the world economic downturn in 2008. Zuma’s ingratiating himself with China and Russia will merely provide passage into this looting by a Chinese state in a headlong rush towards the restoration of capitalism and corrupt Russian oligarchs.
A plague on all their houses! Treasury may have been off-limits to Zuma; he may not have direct control over the markets. But he is in his second term as president of the ANC and the country. Zuma shares a common purpose with the ANC he leads and the capitalists they all serve. He must take full responsibility. To that extent the #Zumamustfall demand is absolutely correct.
However, it will make no fundamental difference in ANC policy if Zuma were to be removed whether by mass action or by a recall by the ANC itself. Renowned political columnist Allister Sparks, who is calling for Zuma to go, is proposing Ramaphosa, the butcher of Marikana, as the best alternative candidate. This proposal from someone who describes himself as a “social democrat” that is, favours capitalism that hides its steel fist in a velvet glove, shows the cold blooded indifference of the strategic advisors of the capitalist class. They want someone in charge who has earned their trust. They do not care whether he is a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker. And what better credentials could Cyril Ramaphosa have presented to his masters than the heads of 34 mineworkers? What the capitalists want is someone who is a committed enemy of the working class. However deep the divisions amongst them may be, all the ANC’s factions are united in their support for its pro-capitalist policies.
From #Zumamustfall to #Socialismmustrise
If the events of the past three months have thrown a spotlight on the ANC’s inner decay, it has also demonstrated the willingness of the oppressed to struggle. This is shown not only by the ongoing workplace struggles involving workers in the municipal sector, farms, and the mining industry but also the ongoing service delivery protests.
But the most spectacular struggle was undoubtedly that of the students in the magnificent October 2015 uprising. That struggle had an electrifying effect on society with overwhelming support and sympathy for its demands, its non-racial character and its discipline especially in the initial stages. The storming of parliament – the first such event in the post-apartheid era – symbolised the beginning of a process of questioning of its relevance as the institutional embodiment of the voice of the people whilst a terrified, impotent ANC used it as a refuge from the anger of the people. Fuelled by the authoritarian reaction of university authorities and their unashamed mimicking of apartheid kragdadigheid, the consciousness of the students moved rapidly from the questions of race to questions of class. By the end they were questioning the basis of the negotiated settlement and the entire post apartheid order itself.
The new academic year will see a resumption and intensification of the struggle of the students who have no faith in the government’s commitment to a zero percent fee increase let alone free education. They will find the university campus workers, whose demands the students gave pride of place to alongside their own, ready to join forces in a much more organised way. These struggles have galvanised workers in precarious jobs — outsourced, under short term contracts or employed through labour brokers. The students must be saluted for placing worker exploitation at the forefront of their own campaign. WASP and the Socialist Student Movement have taken these struggles one step further in the initiation of the #outsourcingmustfall campaign to which there has been an enthusiastic response on and off Tshwane, Bloemfontein and Cape Town campuses.
EFF Moves to the Right
These student struggles will form the backdrop to the 2016 local government elections and will undoubtedly have an impact on them. The ANC faces the very serious threat of losing control of the major metros – Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and/or Johannesburg. Should that happen it would increase the tensions in the ANC to breaking point as the prospect of the ANC vote falling below 50% in the 2019 national and provincial elections would become very real. The sheer terror of losing lucrative government posts, control of the levers of government and access to state resources will give a sharper edge to the conflict within an ANC already deeply divided. This would be aggravated by the ANC being forced to enter into the previously unthinkable – coalitions with the DA and even the EFF, first at a local government level and in 2019 at national and provincial level.
The EFF clearly is preparing for such a scenario. Its march to the JSE where it denounced white monopoly capital, and its trip to the UK to woo white foreign investors, are two sides of the strategic coin: to maintain its base in a state of mobilisation ahead of the 2016 and 2019 elections and to begin a toenadering with big business. While maintaining its radical rhetoric, the EFF has systematically diluted its policies from the blood red socialism of its pre-election campaign language, to a pale pink social democratic reformism.
It has abandoned wholesale nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy in favour of share ownership. Shockingly, the EFF motivates share ownership as a way to discourage workers’ demands for nationalisation and to curb strikes. This is a strike-breaker’s charter. When the EFF first entered parliament it offered the ANC its 6% of the vote to get, together with the ANC’s 62%, across the two thirds majority line to change the constitution to enable them to nationalise the land. It has now come full circle from an anti-capitalist to a pro-capitalist position keeping its radical rhetoric to continue to fool its supporters and adapting it polices to reassure its new capitalist friends. Acutely aware of the rapidly declining support for the ANC, the strategists of capital would have no compunction about embracing the very same Julius Malema who they only yesterday portrayed as the greatest threat to the country as the admiring commentary of conservative economic journalist, Dewald Presley indicates.
The 2016 Local Government Elections
The ANC, both in the person of president Zuma – for whom distrust has shot up from 37% in 2012 to a record 66% today — and as a government, has suffered a debilitating and irreversible blow to its authority. Its degeneration has sunk to such depths that the questioning of its credentials, its role in the Codesa negotiations and in the struggle against apartheid now extends to Saint Mandela himself. The pace of the decline in its political standing, organisational cohesion and ideological coherence, in slow motion until August 2012, increased to a trot after the Marikana massacre, is now proceeding at full gallop. Along this road lies eventual implosion.
The unstable period that has now opened up allows for many possibilities. The loss of any of the metros could trigger a process for Zuma’s recall. Zuma has been significantly weakened by the collapse of the coalition that brought him to power. The Tripartite Alliance is dead, fragmented into its component parts, all of them divided in turn. The SACP complains of “red-baiting” – a witch hunt of communists reminiscent of the rooi gevaar paranoia of the apartheid regime. Such is the level of distrust that general secretary Blade Nzimande, who along with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe – all SACP central committee members – were rumoured to be headed for the chop from the cabinet has complained bitterly about his and other SACP members’ phones being bugged as if he they are “enemies of the state”. Cosatu, despite expelling its biggest affiliate, Numsa for disloyalty to the ANC and Zuma, has declared for Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma. The SACP and Cosatu were allowed to address the ANC’s traditional January 8 festivities only after strong protests. The ANC, SACP and Cosatu can only be described as the best of enemies.
The Premier League has not been able to reproduce the level of support Zuma enjoyed at Polokwane and Mangaung. Most significantly, Zuma’s base in KZN is split down the middle. The provinces of two leaders of the Premier League, the North West’s Supra Mahumapelo and Mpumalanga’s David Mabuza have strong opposition forces within their ANC provincial structures.
Zuma’s only advantage is a slim one — that only his faction is organised. But an ad hoc coalition “to save the ANC” cannot be ruled out. The possibility of new parliamentary party configurations in which the EFF could act as a prop for a weakened ANC, keeping alive the very party that expelled its leader effectively precipitating the process for its birth, can also not be ruled out. Coalitions involving the EFF, the ANC or a split away from it, the UDM and Cope are possibilities at least after 2019.
For the working class the challenge is that this alphabet soup of possible coalitions will seek their vote for the purpose maintaining the capitalist system that enslaves them.
Vacuum on Left Remains
When the Democratic Socialist Movement (WASP’s predecessor) recognised that following the Marikana massacre, the conditions for a mass workers party had matured, they took the initiative, together with the national strike committee of the mineworkers, to launch WASP in March 2013. WASP’s presence in the political arena had a significant impact on the workers movement, and served as a catalyst for the formation of the EFF, and helped sharpen the ideological and political outlines of the resolutions of Numsa’s December 2013, Special National Congress, to launch a United Front, unite the left under the Movement for Socialism and to explore the formation of a workers party. In spite of the fact that WASP alone met all the criteria for a workers party set out in Numsa’s SNC documents, (in that WASP is democratic, socialist, has a track record of struggle, and is working class) the Numsa leadership ignored WASP’s appeal to take its rightful place in the leadership of the party. WASP nevertheless participated enthusiastically in all the efforts to form the United Front and Movement for Socialism, arguing consistently for all these initiatives to be provided ideological coherence with the strategic aim of establishing a mass workers party on a socialist programme. In this spirit WASP also accepted the EFF’s invitation for talks in which we proposed a united front. Unfortunately the EFF walked away from the talks after we had rejected their proposal to liquidate WASP.
Two years since Numsa’s SNC, the UF is dead-in the-water; the Movement for Socialism has failed to take off, and the workers party remains a debate in the Numsa Central Committee. This is a disappointment not so much for WASP, as has been suggested by one Numsa leader, but for the working class as a whole especially the advanced layer many of whom were bewildered at the Numsa leadership’s failure to join forces with WASP. The 1.3m votes the EFF received in the 2014 elections is a negative confirmation of the objective need for a left alternative to the ANC. That the EFF was unable to better the 1.3m votes Cope had received in the 2009 elections confirmed the limits of its appeal. The 12m who did not vote did not see it as an alternative.
A large segment of the EFF’s vote was not given to it out of conviction but by a desire to punish the ANC. In addition to doubts amongst organised workers in particular about the EFF because of the corruption allegations against its leader Julius Malema, there was scepticism about the EFF’s commitment to socialism. This scepticism is being vindicated by the EFF’s recent shift to the right and its conciliatory attitude towards big business.
The December events demonstrate, as did the xenophobia outbreaks earlier this year, how other social forces can take advantage of a vacuum on the left. In blackmailing Zuma for their own class aims, the capitalists were able to give an undemocratic putsch the appearance of acting in concert with the people against a Zuma isolated both within his own party and reviled in society.
A mass workers party would have been able to appeal to the 12m who did not vote. It would have been able to cut across the xenophobia. It would have mobilised the working class masses and placed itself at the head of the #Zumamustfall protests, made a class appeal to the middle class, black and white, and wrested the initiative from the reactionary middle class leaders. It would have sympathetically provided the middle class protestors with an education in the class realities of capitalist society, and help them overcome their illusions in capitalism. This would have been the best way to expose their reformist leaders and draw them behind the working class. This would have been much better than giving the appearance of standing on the sidelines doing nothing but criticising the protestors for suffering illusions in the idea that the removal of Zuma alone would change anything as the Numsa leadership has done.
The middle class #Zumamustfall illusions are merely the expression, in inverted form, of the same illusions that placed the Numsa leadership in the forefront of the struggle to elevate Zuma into office in the ANC at Polokwane in 2007. Experience disabused them of their illusions in the individual Zuma, woke them up to the reality that he was no more than the leader of a corrupt pro-capitalist ANC and that the answer lay in breaking with the ANC and capitalism and mobilising for a socialist SA. The Numsa leadership should place this experience at the disposal of the middle class in the same way as they would workers and the poor who still have illusions in the ANC. In this way it would have been possible to unite the middle class behind the working class.
The October student uprising showed that events will not wait for any political force, including Numsa. The student movement has not only achieved the first defeat of this pro-capitalist government through mass action, but has achieved more on labour broking in one month, than Cosatu and all its affiliates, past and present, had in more than a decade of struggle against it. Most precious of all the student movement has also set a magnificent example of worker/student unity.
WASP has warned before that history will provide opportunities for the formation of a mass workers party. But such opportunities must be seized when they are presented or they will pass. No force, however radical, is historically destined to be the architects of a mass workers party. Unfortunately what has been dubbed as the ‘Numsa Moment’ appears to have passed.
Whilst WASP has for the past two years been focussing its energies on assisting Numsa in meeting its historical obligations, we have continued to seek other avenues to build a mass workers party. Our strategic objective remains to unite communities, students and workers within and across the three main theatres of struggle in the service delivery, education workplace struggles.
Amongst students, the Socialist Youth Movement has taken the initiative to unite the struggle nationally through the formation of a Free Education Movement. WASP has initiated the formation of the #outsourcingmustfall campaign organising workers both on and off campus. As we go to press, the Tshwane #outsourcingmustfalll workers have embarked on an indefinite strike. WASP has undertaken similar initiatives in Bloemfontein and Cape Town.
As capitalists tremble worldwide, workers on the move
Internationally the capitalist class is filled with foreboding over the prospects of its system. US foreign policy lies in tatters in the Middle East where it has ruined the lives of millions, created the biggest migration of refuges since World War 2 and spawned the rise of the barbaric ISIS.
Economically the measures taken by the Chinese regime to manage the economic slowdown are clearly not succeeding. The Chinese slowdown has had a serious effect on particularly African and other emerging markets dependent on commodity exports and led to the worst emerging market crisis since 2008. Only the US has seen a recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. But it is a joyless recovery whose benefits are accruing mainly to the rich 1%. Without having recovered from the 2007/8 great recession, a new recession looms.
In the US there is now a radicalisation amongst the masses reflected in the rise of the Blacklivesmatter movement, the re-election of Seattle councillor Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative, sympathisers of the Committee for a Workers International and the phenomenal levels of support for avowed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination race.
The radicalisation of the working class is reflected in the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party in the highest vote for a leader in its history; in the rise of Podemos in Spain; in mass boycott of water charges in Ireland. Despite suffering one of the biggest betrayals in modern history by Syriza, the Greek working class is far from defeated. They have a rich tradition and have already taken to the road of struggle against the Syriza traitors.
In Africa the temper of the masses is shown by the uprising in Burkina Faso that overthrew the regime of Blaise Camparo that came to power on the bones of Thomas Sankara. In Latin America the masses are learning the bitter lessons of reformism, of making half-a-revolution as in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, and compromising outright with capitalism as in Brazil. The world over the working class and the poor are determined to find the way out of the barbarism of capitalism. Arguably the most important lessons of the Arab Spring is that the masses need a party to lead the revolution. No matter how determined and heroic, without a mass revolutionary workers party with a socialist programme the revolutionary opportunities will pass and the counter-revolution will gain the upper hand as they have to some degree in Tunisia and with cold brutality in Egypt.
The working class can emancipate itself only by its own actions, its own policies, its own programme and its own party. A mass workers party on a socialist programme would unite the student movement, the service delivery protests and workplace struggles into one mighty movement. The #Zumamustfall campaign must be linked not only to #ANCmustfall but also adopt the banner #capitalismmustfall and #socialismmustrise. This must be the first step towards a mass workers party on a continental basis in Africa and worldwide.
Cleaners, kitchen workers, security workers, gardeners and other out-sourced workers at colleges and universities across Tshwane are getting organised. Throughout November and December hundreds of workers attended mass meetings, formed committees and founded the #outsourcingmustfall campaign which is now organised on more than 20 Tshwane campuses. Out-sourced workers at Tshwane municipality and national government departments are also getting organised and taking part in the campaign.
The mighty student movement that forced university managements and the ANC government to abandon fee increases in 2016 also won many agreements to end out-sourcing. Workers are demanding the same in Tshwane – where no agreement has been made, #outsourcingmustfall demands one; where agreements ‘in principle’ exist, #outsourcingmustfall demands their immediate implementation. But simply ending out-sourcing is not enough. The poverty wages and lack of benefits must end. #outsourcingmustfall demands that all in-sourced workers receive a minimum wage of R10,000 with full benefits. At the University of Free State workers won a 100% pay rise as part of the in-sourcing agreement with management, with the Socialist Youth Movement (WASP’s youth wing) playing a leading role.
The Workers and Socialist Party is playing a full part in the #outsourcingmustfall campaign. We call on Tshwane students and permanent and academic staff to give their full support to the campaign as the colleges and universities re-open after the holidays.
We, the security, landscaping, cleaning and other outsourced workers are resolved as follows:
1) To demand an immediate end to outsourcing of jobs in all the above-mentioned universities and colleges, termination of all contracts with service providers and employment of all the outsourced workers by the university/college on a permanent, full-time and decent basis.
2) To demand an immediate implementation of the minimum wage of R10 000 across the board. Our wages have been stagnant, if not falling in the past decade and half of outsourcing in most institutions and families starving, whilst the principals and other fat cats at these institutions and the ‘tenderpreneurs’ parasiting on our hard work have become filthy rich.
3) Moratorium on retrenchments of all workers employed in contracts and/or immediate reinstatement of all the workers recently retrenched through termination of contracts with service providers.
4) To declare that nothing about us without us shall henceforth be valid and morally binding on us. In pursuit of this declaration, we resolved to constitute ourselves into #outsourcingmustfall campaign, with elected and accountable representatives in each and every institution through which we shall negotiate and without which no agreement binding shall be concluded.
5) To convey our unwavering support to all the demands of the #feesmustfall movement for free, quality education and decent learning conditions in all the institutions and pledge solidarity for all their future actions in pursuit of these and other legitimate demands for people’s education.
6) To appeal for solidarity and active support from all the students, administrative and academic staff of the university/college to our demands, struggle and any action we may be forced to take in pursuit of the above demands.
7) To afford you another three days, in addition to more than a decade and half you had of applying your learned minds to the injustice of your actions and slavery of the outsourced workers.